Saturday, September 25, 2010

Warner Archive Collection and The Green Slime

On Tuesday I was looking at Glenn Erickson's DVD Savant site when I saw his note about the email he received from George Feltenstein, VP of Warner Brothers' classic film catalog:
The Warner VP has hinted lately that many of the WB/MGM films on my Savant DVD Wish List will be popping up in the Warner Archive Collection, and five or six more desired titles did indeed surface this week: Atlantis the Lost Continent, The Power, Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold and the Italian-American They Came to Rob Las Vegas. I wonder what hidden gems will be popping up for Halloween?
That last line had me curious. What other gems, indeed? I held out hope for some of the other great pre-1986 MGM films that are owned by WB, especially one I've been waiting on for quite a while.

That night I checked DVD Drive-In and found a confirmation. Listed at the top of the news, they announced that two '60s Italian sci-fi films, War of the Planets and Wild, Wild Planet, are due from the Warner Archive Collection in October, along with Kinji Fukasaku's Gamma dai sango--Uchu dai sakusen (Gamma III--Operation Outer Space), better known by the title The Green Slime.

A quick aside about the Warner Archive Collection -- various representatives from Warner Brothers Home Video have insinuated that they wish to release everything they have from their catalog titles, in some fashion. Last year they started the Archive Collection, a method of releasing catalog titles on DVD that may not have the commercial appeal to support pressed discs sold at retail. The Archive makes these lesser-known catalog titles available by direct download or on-demand DVD-Rs which are sold on their site and also through

The first releases used a generic blue background package with a still or publicity photo on the covers. Sometime this year they started using the original poster art on most new offerings, and it appears that they have changed to this for some of the older releases as well. I'll write more about on-demand discs in a future posting.

The highlight of this for me is that The Green Slime will finally be available on a legal Region 1 DVD. On the Classic Horror Film Board, film historian Tom Weaver mentioned that he was told the disc source is a brand new anamorphic 2.35:1 scope master, scanned in HD from a "beautiful" inter-positive print.

Fukasaku, who would later become world-famous for his Yakuza films and Battle Royale, directed this at Toei Studios in a contentious collaboration with Italian and American (MGM Studios) producers. The shrinking budget and the shortened shooting schedule might show on screen, but this is still one of the great Japanese science-fiction films of the 60s, a psychedelic trip of bizarre aliens and outer space action.

"...struggle for survival in the infected remains of a diseased universe...Rated G."

The trailer makes a good mini-movie all by itself. I get a sense of Lovecraftian nihilism from it, but that suits the movie just fine. Also check out the commentary for the trailer by director John Landis over at Trailers From Hell.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vampire Circus

As mentioned here at the beginning of May, Synapse Films has the DVD and Blu-Ray rights to several Hammer horror films that have not yet been released on disc in Region 1.

Synapse just announced to DVD Drive-In that Vampire Circus will be released as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack by the end of the year (scroll down the main page for the news story). There are some great bonus features included -- more than on many other Hammer discs.

I haven't seen Vampire Circus, I only know it by reputation and reading about it. This disc, and the others in the collection from Synapse, fill a glaring omission in the collection of available R1 Hammer films.

Today DVD Drive-In announced more great cult classics on the way to DVD, including one of my most wanted films -- more on that next time.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

So long, Starlog, and thanks for all the fish

Another item from the Drafts bin. When Starlog ceased publication in April 2009, I had intended to write a short retrospective about it. I started writing this draft posting and gave it a suitably geeky cliche title (see above). I did not get around to finishing it.

I only needed to wait 17 months and, look, today James Maliszewski posted his own retrospective article on Grognardia, written more eloquently than I would have. Maliszewski's opinions match my own, more or less, although I do miss the magazine more than he does. Rather, I miss the idea of Starlog more than the print magazine, at least the way it was in the 70s/80s. I haven't picked one up since the very early 90s. By then there were more outlets for fandom information, and Starlog became more slick and glossy but with less substance -- much in the same way that Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood used to report on film production news.

I liked the homegrown fanzine feel of the early issues. A large percentage of pages were given over to classic Golden Age sci-fi and fantasy then, with the sort of articles that you now only see in Filmfax. I remember the multi-issue serialization of "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell, Jr. and part of David Gerrold's first Chtorr book.

Another important aspect of Starlog was its use as a source for new sci-fi and fantasy movie news. An issue might have one or two still photos and a short article on the making of a new movie, and then we would have to wait another month for more news, another still or some production art. Quite a contrast from today, when any leaked movie news is blogged, Flickr'd or Tweeted around the world almost instantly. It's great having more and more fan news available, but I believe we may have lost something special in the process.

As noted in the comments for that story on Grognardia, blogger John Z. has been reviewing every issue of Starlog -- take a look at the archive for The Starlog Project.

The more things change...

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Red Letter Media review of Star Trek 2009

Red Letter Media, the folks who brought you the video reviews of the Star Wars prequels, is back this week with their video review of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek. The character of "Harry Plinkett" seems to have some affection for the film, which is quite different from the way he feels about the Next Generation movies and the Star Wars prequels. He still manages to take a biting look at its flaws, and gives an explanation as good as anything else I've seen about how Hollywood really works and how Trekkies are not going to get another movie like those with the original cast(s).

Be aware that as with the other reviews in this series, some of the language and images are NSFW. The videos do not appear to be on YouTube yet, so I'm linking to the main RLM page and the story about it at, where you can watch the two-part ST09 review embedded in the page.

Looking forward to his Revenge of the Sith review...