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||Vampires, Mummies & Monsters: Roger Corman's Cult Classics All-Night Marathon
1971-1988 (2011) - Shout! Factory
Released on DVD on September 27th, 2011
Since its inception over a year ago, Shout! Factory has experimented with a number of different ways of presenting their line of Roger Corman's Cult Classics. Prestige titles like Battle Beyond The Stars get the features-packed special edition treatment (and how awesome is it that Shout! considers Battle Beyond The Stars to be a prestige title?). They've also presented a number of double and triple feature discs.
More recently, they've introduced four-movie sets billed as All-Night Marathons. Have you ever been to a novelty shop or some tourist trap souvenir store that sells paper bags full of tchotchkes as Mystery Grab Bags?
|The All-Night Marathon discs are the DVD equivalent of the Mystery Grab Bag. There might be something cool but there's probably a whole lot of crap. Buy the bag and take your chances.
The latest horror-themed Grab Bag, Vampires, Mummies & Monsters, is a typically bizarre assortment of low-and-no-budget oddities from New World. Let's walk through them one by one, shall we?
The Velvet Vampire - At an L.A. art gallery, young married couple Lee and Susan (Michael Blodgett and Sherry Miles) meet the mysterious and sexy Diane Le Fanu (Celeste Yarnall). They accept her invitation to join her at her desert home out toward Palm Springs for a weekend of sunbathing, dune buggying, and implied partner swapping. But once they arrive, strange things start happening. Could it be that Diane is actually a centuries-old vampire?
If any of this sounds familiar, that's likely because you've read the story Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu or seen The Vampire Lovers, Daughters Of Darkness, or any of the other films inspired by it. Director Stephanie Rothman does a good job adapting the tale to a very 70s milieu. Yarnall is undeniably a gorgeous, seductive vampire. A shot of Diane stretched out nude with her late husband in a coffin is both creepy and erotic.
The weak link here is the couple. Blodgett is a selfish, insensitive prick and Miles is one of the most insipid and irritating characters in horror movie history. You'll be rooting for Yarnall to drain their life-blood from the get-go. Despite them, The Velvet Vampire is reasonably good fun. I kept hoping for it to make the leap to underrated gem but it never quite got there. Even so, it's an entertaining flick worth checking out. Film Rating: B-
Lady Frankenstein - Joseph Cotten stars as Baron Frankenstein. He's on the cusp of bringing his creature to life when his daughter Tania (Rosalba Neri or, as she's credited here, Sarah Bay) returns home, now a fully qualified surgeon in her own right. Frankenstein's Monster, a pizza-faced waterhead, immediately kills his creator, then strolls out into the countryside to slaughter more townspeople and nubile nude women. But Tania has the perfect solution: put the brain of Frankenstein's assistant (Paul Muller) into the body of his studly but slow farmhand. Dad's reputation is redeemed, the first creature now has a formidable opponent, and as a bonus, she gets some hot creature lovin'. Score!
Directed by longtime Corman associate Mel Welles (he played Mr. Mushnik in the original Little Shop Of Horrors), Lady Frankenstein is arguably one of the goofiest Frankenstein movies ever made. The bizarre makeup on the creature is... well, it's memorable, I'll say that much. As a backdrop for having a few beers and providing MST3K-style commentary with your friends, Lady Frankenstein is kind of fun. As a movie, it's really a mess.
Impressively, Shout! Factory went to the trouble of assembling a longer cut of the movie, including both the theatrical and extended versions on the disc. The video and audio quality is considerably worse for wear in the extended clips, cobbled together from what appears to be both TV and international prints. Even so, the effort is appreciated and this is likely the closest you'll ever get to a complete version of Lady Frankenstein. Film Rating: D
Time Walker - Despite a brief heyday after the release of the classic Karloff original, mummies never really took off as horror movie villains. Even the Brendan Fraser series was more of a fantasy-adventure franchise than horror. So how to make the mummy scary and interesting for the oh-so-sophisticated audiences of 1982? Simple! Make the mummy a strange visitor from another planet.
Yes, the mummy retrieved from King Tut's tomb turns out to be an alien. Revived by massive doses of X-ray radiation, the mummy sets out to retrieve five stolen crystals that power a transmitter which will take him home. Unfortunately for the people who have them, the mummy's bandages are covered with a weird green mold that burns flesh at the slightest touch.
If I had seen Time Walker when I was about 7 years old, I might have had fond memories of it, all of which would have been destroyed by watching it again as an adult. The toxic mold does make for some briefly shocking sequences. But for the most part, the movie is slow-going and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. In its most hilarious moment, the movie concludes with an overly optimistic "To Be Continued..." title card. Needless to say, Time Walker II has yet to materialize. Film Rating: D+
Grotesque - What the hell? Linda Blair stars in and serves as associate producer for this exercise in how not to make a coherent film. She plays the daughter of a Hollywood makeup effects artist who has retired to the California mountain resort Big Bear. She arrives with her friend for a visit but a gang of "punkers" are also in town. The punkers heard that her dad's hiding a big secret in his house, which they naturally assume is cash or jewels or dope.
From here on out, there will be spoilers, so if you want to experience Grotesque with fresh eyes, stop here. Anyway, the punkers stage a home invasion, killing every single person except for Linda Blair in about five minutes. Blair manages to escape and spends the rest of her screen time running blindly through the snow. As it happens, dad's big secret was a hideously deformed young man, whose face looks like it's slowly sliding off his head. Set free from his hidden bedroom, he starts killing the punkers.
At this point, Tab Hunter turns up out of nowhere as Blair's plastic surgeon uncle. He joins the cops in their search for survivors. They find Blair near death and come across Melty-Face just as he's about to finish off the last two punkers. The cops shoot and kill Melty-Face and while Hunter tries to intervene, he doesn't bother explaining who he is or to contradict the punkers' assertion that they were innocent victims of the monster.
Suddenly the movie is about Tab Hunter and his frustrations that the cops can't pin anything on the punkers. He quickly puts together a revenge scheme (don't forget he's a plastic surgeon!) and kidnaps the punkers. Oh, as for Blair? Yeah, she died in surgery. Shame about that. Anyway, there's one last howler of a twist before the film actually melts in the projector and it turns out all of this was just a movie being screened for the cast and crew by Frankenstein and the Wolfman because... well, why not.
At best, Grotesque feels like four completely different movies inexpertly cut together. At worst, it's like they were shooting the movie in sequence and whenever a day's work didn't turn out as hoped (which was apparently every day), they scrapped the whole thing and went in a new direction. The end of the movie suggests this is meant to be a comedy and while parts of it are hilarious, I don't think the laughs were intentional. This is a real head-scratcher of a movie and an absolute must for devotees of bad cinema. Film Rating: F+
Shout presents the four films across two discs and the results are sporadic. The Velvet Vampire looks best but Time Walker and the theatrical portions of Lady Frankenstein are also in fairly good shape. All receive anamorphic widescreen transfers except for Grotesque, which gets a slightly shoddy 4:3 presentation. The Velvet Vampire boasts an audio commentary by Celeste Yarnall and Time Walker has new interviews with co-star Kevin Brophy and producer Dimitri Villard. All of the movies include trailers except Grotesque. Grotesque gets no special features. Poor Grotesque.
All in all, this is another solid entry in the Roger Corman's Cult Classics line. None of these are the best titles in the New World library but if you're in the right mood and you're hanging out with friends, they're a fun way to spend an evening. Please watch responsibly.
Film Ratings: See Above
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/C+
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