Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman (Limited Edition) – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1955 (Creature with the Atom Brain), USA, 1956 (The Werewolf), USA, 1957 (Zombies of Mora Tau), USA, 1957 (The Giant Claw)
Directors: Edward L. Cahn (Creature with the Atom Brain, Zombies of Mora Tau), Fred F. Sears (The Werewolf, The Giant Claw)
Cast: Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, S. John Launer, Michael Granger, Gregory Gaye (Creature with the Atom Brain), Don Megowan, Joyce Holden, Eleanore Tanin, Kim Charney, Harry Lauter, Steven Ritch (The Werewolf), Gregg Palmer, Allison Hayes, Autumn Russell, Joel Ashley, Morris Ankrum, Marjorie Eaton, Gene Roth (Zombies of Mora Tau), Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum, Louis Merrill, Edgar Barrier, Robert Shayne (The Giant Claw)
Release Date: September 13th, 2021 (UK), September 14th, 2021 (USA)
Approximate Running Times: 69 Minutes 10 Seconds (Creature with the Atom Brain), 79 Minutes 32 Seconds (The Werewolf), 69 Minutes 4 Seconds (Zombies of Mora Tau), 74 Minutes 11 Seconds (The Giant Claw)
Aspect Ratios: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Creature with the Atom Brain, The Werewolf), 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Zombies of Mora Tau, The Giant Claw)
Rating: 12 (UK), NR(USA)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (All Films)
Subtitles: English SDH (All Films)
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £60.00 (UK), $99.95 (USA)
"Zombies! Werewolves! Atomic Mutation! Intergalactic Avians! Let this quartet of classic terrors take you back to the golden age of B-Movie Monsters!
A mob boss hires an ex-Nazi scientist to reanimate his dead thugs in Creature with the Atom Brain. An auto-accident survivor is used as an experimental subject to create a vaccine for nuclear fall-out with hair-raising side-effects in The Werewolf. Treasure hunters get more than they bargained for in the search for a cargo of diamonds that went down with a sunken ship when they discover the zombified crew members are guarding the loot in Zombies of Mora Tau. Meanwhile, an enormous bird from outer-space descends to chow down on the people of planet Earth in The Giant Claw!" - synopsis provided by the distributor
Video: 4.25/5 (Creature with the Atom Brain, The Werewolf, The Giant Claw), 4/5 (Zombies of Mora Tau)
Here’s the information provided about the transfers, “The restored masters were produced by Sony Pictures.”
Creature with the Atom Brain comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 34.8 GB
Feature: 20.9 GB
The Werewolf comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 35.4 GB
Feature: 24.1 GB
Zombies of Mora Tau comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 26.5 GB
Feature: 20.4 GB
The Giant Claw comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 29.1 GB
Feature: 21.8 GB
The sources for four films are in great shape. Contrast, black levels and image clarity looks strong throughout. There are no issues related to compression and grain looks natural. That said, The Giant Claw uses stock footage that does not look as good as the bulk of the film. Also, when it comes to special effects shots, there are instances where the image does not look as crisp as it does for the bulk of the film.
Each film comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and each film comes with removable English SDH subtitles. All of the audio mixes are in great shape. There are no issues with distortion or background hiss, dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. Range wise all the mixes sound very good considering their low-budget origins.
Extras for Creature with the Atom Brain include an image gallery (27 stills), a trailer for Creature with the Atom Brain (2 minutes 11 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), super 8 version of Creature with the Atom Brain (19 minutes 27 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with film historian/critic Stephen R. Bissette titled Sam Katzman: Before and Beyond the Cold War Creatures (63 minutes 57 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an introduction by film historian/critic Kim Newman (8 minutes 33 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic Russell Dyball.
Extras for The Werewolf Include an image gallery (14 stills), a trailer for The Werewolf (1 minute 57 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), super 8 version of The Werewolf (7 minutes 27 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), a visual essay exploring the oft-overlooked role of women in the films of Sam Katzman by film historian/critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas titled Beyond Window Dressing (23 minutes 35 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an introduction by film historian/critic Kim Newman (7 minutes 33 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic Lee Gambin.
Extras for Zombies of Mora Tau Include an image gallery (29 stills), a trailer for Zombies of Mora Tau (1 minute 55 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), a visual essay exploring the intersection of mythical horror creatures and the rational world of science in the films of Sam Katzman by film critic Josh Hurtado titled Atomic Terror: Genre in Transformation (19 minutes 48 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an introduction by film historian/critic Kim Newman (7 minutes 35 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic Kat Ellinger.
Extras for The Giant Claw Include an image gallery (23 stills), a trailer for The Giant Claw (2 minutes 3 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), super 8 version of The Giant Claw (6 minutes 29 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), a brand-new visual essay examining the theme of Cold War paranoia in Sam Katzman monster movies by film critic Mike White titled Family Endangered! (12 minutes 51 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an introduction by film historian/critic Kim Newman (12 minutes 27 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critics Emma Westwood and Cerise Howard.
Rounding out the extras is reversible cover art for each film, two double-sided posters, twelve lobby card reproductions (three for each film), an eighty-page booklet with reproduction stills and artwork from each film and an essay for each film written by Stephen R. Bissette and a sixty-page booklet with cast & crew information for each film, an essay titled Sam Katzman: The Sultan of Schlock written by Laura Drazin Boyes, an essay titled Only Screams Can Describe It: Creature with the Atom Brain written by Neil Mitchell, an essay titled Science Versus the Supernatural: Sam Katzman’s The Werewolf written by Barry Forshaw, an essay titled A Twilight Zone Between Life and Death: Zombies of Mora Tau written by Jon Towlson, an essay titled Turkey in the Sky! The Appealing Legacy of The Giant Claw written by Jackson Cooper and information about the transfers.
What sets apart the films that comprise Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman from other B-cinema is that they’re all a vision of a singular producer named Sam Katzman. Where most B-cinema is a by-product of independently made cinema, most of the films produced by Sam Katzman had the backing of major Hollywood studios. That said, though he worked with limited budgets, his films far exceeded other B-films from this era.
Creature with the Atom Brain: This is the type of film that you’re either going to fully embrace or quickly tune out. Creature with the Atom Brain comes from a simpler time, that by today’s standards feels more distant than it is. And though some of its flaws can-be attributed to how primitive technology was in the 1950’s. It’s positives far outweigh its negatives. Most notably a premise that taps into the fear about atomic radiation.
Screenwriter Curt Siodmak wrote Creature with the Atom Brain’s first-rate. His other notable screenplay’s include The Wolf Man (1941), I Walked with a Zombie and Donovan’s Brain. The narrative revolves around a mobster and a reluctant German scientist who he has forced to help him exact his revenge by using atomic energy to turn corpses into zombie killing machines.
From a production standpoint, Creature with the Atom Brain is a film that far exceeds its very limited budget. The premise is well-executed and the narrative most along at a good momentum. Also, though the characters are one-dimensional, the performances are better than expected. And though the premise that's rooted in science fiction, the visuals have a Film noir like quality.
That said, though there are many dated elements in Creature with the Atom Brain. The result is a solid film that fans of the 1950's should thoroughly enjoy.
The Werewolf: Since 1941’s The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney Jr. the werewolf has been one of horror cinema’s most reliable characters. And though most films that followed pale in comparison to The Wolf Man (1941). There are few films that stand apart from the pact by putting a new spin on the all too familiar Werewolf mythos. Case in point The Werewolf, a film that mixes The Wolf Man (1941) with 1950’s fear of atomic radiation.
The narrative revolves around a man who after a car accident is unknowingly injected with a serum that transforms him into a werewolf when he’s enraged. From there the locals try to capture the beast that’s wreaking havoc, while the mad scientist who injected the man with serum tries to get to him first.
When compared to other horror from the 1950’s, The Werewolf takes an opposite approach tone wise. Though there are elements that's associated with B-cinema like the mad scientist character. Very early on, The Werewolf establishes a serious tone that elevates above a by the numbers horror film.
From a production standpoint, there’s not an area where The Werewolf does not deliver and then some. The premise is superbly realized, the well-executed narrative does a great job maintaining tension and a finale provides a perfect coda. Also, the cast are very good in their respective roles, especially Steven Ritch in the role of the protagonist who’s become a werewolf. And the visuals are overflowing with atmosphere. Ultimately, The Werewolf is a solid horror film that’s as potent today as it was sixty-five years ago.
Zombies of Mora Tau: Eleven-years before the zombie sub-genre would have one of its hallmark films Night of the Living Dead. There were a few films that dabbled in the zombie sub-genre, mostly with varied results that were underwhelming. Case in point Zombies of Mora Tau, a zombie film that never fully exploits its premise.
The narrative revolves around a group of unscrupulous treasure hunters who are looking for diamonds that are on a sunken ship. Along the way, they meet superstitious locales and come face to face with a horde of zombies determined to protect the diamonds.
From a production standpoint, Zombies of Mora Tau suffers from many elements that are synonymous with impoverished B-cinema. And though the premise is ripe with possibilities, its execution leaves a lot too be desired. And a weakly constructed narrative does not help matters. Also, the performances are best described as serviceable. Ultimately, Zombies of Mora Tau is a film that zombie fans will find a chore to sit through.
The Giant Claw: What aspires too be a Ray Harryhausen like special effects extravaganza, ends up being a Z-grade knock off that lacks everything that’s become synonymous with Ray Harryhausen special effects. Interesting aside, Ray Harryhausen had worked with producer Sam Katzman on Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. Unfortunately, due to budget limitations Ray Harryhausen would not work on The Giant Claw’s special effects.
Everything about The Giant Claw screams Z-grade cinema, cheap special effects, recycled footage and a haphazard plot that takes a backseat to a crudely designed marionette monster. That said, despite all its shortcomings The Giant Claw is an oddly entertaining film that fans of cinema to bad it’s good.
Arrow Video has long been known for their extravagant limited-editions. And with Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman Arrow Video delivers what is arguably one of their best limited-edition releases to date. Arrow Video’s Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman is an exceptional release that comes with solid audio/video presentations and a wealth of insightful extra content, highly recommended.
Written by Michael Den Boer