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Doogan's Views at The Digital Bits!
page added: 10/17/01
updated: 10/19/01




Everything you love goes away...

It's true, and it's sad. I get lots of e-mails about discs people want but can't find. The Criterion editions of John Woo films, Spinal Tap and Robocop are just a few examples. Later DVD adopters (or folks who just decided to pick up the previous version now because the new one pretty much sucks) are now victims of their own lateness. But it's not just relegated to DVD. I, for example, have loves of my own and find myself spat upon by the sellers of the world. When I was just a boy, I loved, loved, loved Boo Berry cereal. Man, did I love it. Then one day, from out of nowhere, it was gone. I cried like a little bitch to my Mom, and she asked the store owners about it and they just shrugged saying it wasn't available anymore. Count Chocula and Frankenberry were hardly substitutions. It was time for me to grow up and move on. But that's easier said than done. Today, I can find it again. But it's just not the same.

My recent bout with unavailability, most of you actually helped out with. That was my new trading card collecting thing. I needed so many, but couldn't find them. Not on Ebay, not in the farthest corners of this seedy little Internet world we live in. But you guys valiantly came to my rescue and offered me some of the cards I was looking for - not all, because that would be too easy. No, I still can't find a few stragglers, and that's life I guess. It keeps you going to have a hobby in this world.

But this next loss I'm having a difficult time with. If you know me, you know that I'm not a big eater. All the body fat I have I got from not moving around enough today after a childhood and teenage life of moving around a lot. So, in my self-centered mind, the two foodstuffs I really enjoy should always be there. The first, Jelly Belly Sours, make me happy on rainy days. I pop them like they were Flintstones Chewables. And thankfully, I don't see them going away any time soon. The other edible love of my life WAS Hydrox Cookies put out by Sunshine. Those died a long while back, but were picked up by Keebler, who changed them a good bit and redubbed 'em Droxies. Why? I have no idea. But they kinda sorta were the Hydrox I knew as a kid and they were always waaaaaaay better than Oreos in my opinion (and that's my opinion - don't snipe me if you jerk off at the Oreo altar, I'm not trying to insult you). The other day, to my shock, surprise and horror, I couldn't find a bag of Droxies anywhere. Not at Cub Food, Publix or Kroger. I checked five other stores in the Metro Atlanta area and came up with nothing. That was a punch in the gut. But my question is this, if you've already grown up and moved on, what's next? What new lesson am I supposed to take with me now that my foodstuff best friend has passed on? What solace am I supposed to garner from this? I know that there are bigger things going on in the world, but it's these little things that make the big things in life easier to handle. When your small comforts are gone, it's that much easier to think about explosions, anthrax and the most evil thing of all: corporations that change their line-ups to suit themselves. Today, I am sad.

Okay, so let's cast aside the sad crap and get to some disc reviews. I present the Doogan's Views reviews (coming right at you) for today October 17th, 2001. Shine on Droxies, shine on.


Häxan/Witchcraft Through the Ages (Criterion)

Häxan/Witchcraft Through the Ages
1922 and 1968 (2001) - AB Svensk Filmindustri (Criterion)

Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/A-

Specs and Features:

104 mins (1922 version) and 76 mins (1968 version), NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), audio commentary with Danish silent film scholar Casper Tybjerg (with index), 1941 director's introduction for re-release, Bibliotheque Diabolique (photo and text walk-through of artwork used in film), production stills, outtakes, film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (22 chapters for 1922 version/16 chapters for 1968 version), languages: musical score (DD 5.0 and 2.0 - with index), subtitles: English


Boo! Alright, it's not the scariest film ever made, but Häxan sure is mesmerizing. Made in the 1920s, Häxan is part documentary, part social commentary and part film fiction, where filmmaker Benjamin Christensen goes "underground" to present his findings on the subject of witchcraft. Told like a movie version of a government findings report straight down to its chapter headings, Christensen shows us the history and origins of witchcraft and takes us on through the rise, fall and current state of affairs for people who might have sold their souls to the horned one. We're treated to the love-ins with Satan, the conjorings and the folklore. And it's both wild and mildly disturbing, especially when you consider this to be a film made and released in the early 1920s. The cinematography is utterly beautiful and the special effects, although badly aged over the years, make their point very well.

Criterion presents this film in full frame, with restored color tints, and it looks really great. No doubt about it. There are a few print issues, but so what. The transfer is dead on, without any artifacts and with good solid colors and deep dark blacks. The sound is a newly restored collection of musical cues that would have been played at the showings of this film, as per the filmmaker's wish. Of course, it wouldn't always be followed through on, but these numbers show what the film would have sounded like if you were watching it with Christensen. The mix is done up in a nice Dolby Digital 2.0 and a much more atmospheric 5.0.

The extras are pretty sweeping, with the 1968 version of Häxan, entitled Witchcraft Through the Ages, edited down from the original and featuring a strong narration by beatnik icon (and one of my favorite authors) William S. Burroughs. It follows the same through line, with a less personal bend. It's a standard black and white presentation, without color tinting and a slightly tighter frame. You'll also find an archived introduction from Christensen filmed for the 1941 re-release of Häxan. It's very interesting, shows the director 20 years later and gives even more witch stories to further the legend of the film. The Bibliotheque Diabolique is a walkthrough of some of the art used in the opening portion of the film and includes a nice representation of the Satan statue featured years later in the film The Exorcist. Ooooooo scary. Rounding out the disc are a short collection of outtakes and a stills gallery. Be sure to put this one on your Halloween rental list.

Häxan/Witchcraft Through the Ages
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Angel Eyes

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Angel Eyes
2001 (2001) - Warner Bros.

Film Rating: C-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/C-

Specs and Features:

103 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, audio commentary with director Luis Mandoki, cast and crew filmographies, film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (29 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned


Speaking of scary movies, how about Angel Eyes? Although not scary in story or form, it's scary that it was ever made in the first place. If you liked the film, move on to the next review. If you haven't seen it yet, read on my brothers. Angel Eyes starts off with a terrible car accident. From the driver's prospective, we see J-Lo (or Jennifer Lopez for the unhip) tending to him telling him to not let go and stay with her. Flash forward a few years and we see Jim Caviezel wandering the street and oddly bumping into Ms. Lopez. He eventually saves her life when a mass cop killing drive-by ends badly for the perps. From there, a very sad and slow moving film unfolds and we see that two people with sad slow moving lives are sometimes meant for each other. And when it is all over, all we see is that sad slow stories make for even more sad slow moving films. And this is one slow moving film. There isn't a whole lot of meat on this thing. Maybe if the actors were better and had more charisma it could have been a better film. Strap on the side stories that are SUPPOSED to make us feel for the characters and you have a car wreck worse than the one in this movie.

Angel Eyes is presented as a single-layer disc with anamorphic widescreen video. It's a very nice transfer with nice colors and well-rendered blacks. Sound is a soulful Dolby Digital 5.1 and does a nice job. The extras are pretty annoying though, starting with a commentary track from the director, who had to have been recorded at the highest possible volume inside a tin can. If you can get through it, let me know if he says anything of value - I turned it off after about ten minutes. There're also some sucky menus and a cast and crew filmography section that really needed to be better researched. Check Victor Argo's listing and see if you can find out who they confused him with. I wasn't expecting much from this disc, but from Warner, I would have expect more quality.

Angel Eyes
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Exorcism

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Exorcism
Special Edition - 1974 (2001) - Synapse Films

Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/B-/B+

Specs and Features:

94 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:05:40 in chapter 13), audio commentary with director Jess Franco and Kevin Collins, alternate "clothed" opening sequence, theatrical trailer, stills gallery, video interview with Jess Franco, Lina Romay and Kevin Collins Easter Egg (in Special Thanks section), film-themed menu screens, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD mono), subtitles: none


If you like your Euro trash bordering on porn, well... here's a film for you. Synapse is calling it Exorcism. You may actually know it as any number of titles. Either way you cut it, this disc may be one of the most definitive representations of Jess Franco's works on any home video format. Culled together from about a million and one sources, Synapse tried to present this film as best they could - and that's saying a lot when you see the film. It could be the most watchable version of this film ever put into your home. Yes, the print is tired and scratched in spots, but the color and tone is top-notch to say the least. It's an anamorphic widescreen transfer at 1.66:1, representing the film very nicely.

Now... when I say that this is the definitive disc for Francophiles out there, I mean that looking at the extras. First off, we get a very rare indeed commentary track from Mr. Franco, that takes us through the film and into areas of his other films as well. It gets hard at times to understand him but moderator Kevin Collins helps out a great deal by restating what Franco said in the form of question extensions. Also on the disc is an alternate "clothed" version of the opening sequence, which (even clothed) still shows us that the ass can be a terrible thing sometimes. You'll also find a trailer and an extensive stills gallery. And for those looking for an Easter egg, there's a nice long one in the Special Thanks section of Jess Franco, Kevin Collins and the star of this film, Lina Romay, shot about a year ago at a convention being interviewed. The video suffers from accentitis and poor audio quality from the original master, which is no fault to Synapse. All in all, this is a very nice DVD presentation from the company who seems to love Jess Franco the most.

Exorcism: Special Edition
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


Rat

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Rat
2001 (2001) - Paramount

Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B+

Specs and Features:

91 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 52:48 in chapter 11), audio commentary with producer/director Steve Barron and actress Imelda Staunton, Behind the Rat "making of" featurette, Casting the Rat featurette, theatrical trailer, production notes, cast and crew biographies and filmographies, DVD newsletter, film-themed menu screens, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English and French


Here's a really cute film for you folks that love hidden DVD gems. Rat is the unassuming story of a bread delivery man who wakes up one morning as a rat. The news reports it, his neighbors quietly stand outside the house full of curiosity about it and his own family seems rather unfazed by the whole thing. It's only when a freelance reporter comes into their lives, pitching them a tell all book, to be followed by a "fill-em" and then a book about the "fill-em", that they start to bat their eyes about their situation. Well, that and the fact that a rat can't collect unemployment. This is a very cute flick about family life that anyone can enjoy. But don't go in expecting Stuart Little - it's not that type of vermin story. This is a rat that doesn't talk but likes his Guinness.

Universal helps the experience along by giving us a nice, rich anamorphic presentation and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. The film is a visually impressive mix of traditional and avant-garde camera work and it shows up nicely in the DVD. The sound is not going to blow you away, but it supports the film incredibly well. Extras are two behind-the-scenes featurettes, one on the production and another on the rat casting sessions. You also get a slow paced, but informative commentary with director Steve Barrow and the star of the film, Imelda Staunton, who plays the rat's wife. I know that doesn't sound right, but I'm still giggling about it anyway. There are also some short production notes, cast and crew information and the film's trailer. If you're not in the mood for a horror film, this might just float your boat.

Rat
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Toys

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Toys
1992 (2001) - 20th Century Fox

Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/C-

Specs and Features:

121 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 52:58 in chapter 7), theatrical trailers (4 for Toys plus Miracle of 34th Street, Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone and Jingle All the Way), 2 TV spots, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned


Toys, toys. They are nightmare walkin', psychopath talkin'. Colors. Oh, wait wrong movie. Toys is not a horror film, and it's not a very good film either. But it's cool looking and fun in a very uninspired but creative way. Robin Williams stars as the young man left to help run his father's toy factory after he passes away. The new boss is the toy maker's brother who is a retired three-star general. He wants to make war toys, but that's not really what this company is about. So when Williams finds out his uncle has been secretly making toys that can be used as wartime weapons, he and his band of friends devise an attack plan to break it up from the inside out. All of this is set in a world of giant toys, huge dollhouse sets and toy making machines that look like tin toys from the 1920s. There's very little point, but it's a cute fable nonetheless.

Fox gives us Toys as a anamorphic widescreen transfer that's a bit soft with some artifacted blacks. It's not the best transfer in their collection, but it's still watchable. The sound is a very nice Dolby Digital 5.1 with active surrounds and good centered dialogue. Extras are light with 4 trailers and 2 TV spots for Toys and a collection of Christmas and Williams theatrical trailers in their Fox Flix section. By the way, be warned... the climax of the film takes place in a make believe Manhattan where major damage is done by a toy airplane. The time may not be right for Toys on DVD, but if you have an open mind, it's a good holiday flick.

Toys
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


The Blob (1988)

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Blob
1988 (2001) - Columbia TriStar

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/C-

Specs and Features:

95 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, theatrical trailers (for The Blob, John Carpenter's Vampires and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0), Spanish and Portuguese (DD mono), subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai, Closed Captioned


Boy, this one is dated. Heck, it's even more dated than the original. I still like it though. What you have here is a reimagining of The Blob even before Burton thought he made up a concept. Kevin Dillon stars as a young punk destined to do battle with a pile of goo that falls from the stars. You all know the drill - an old man finds a fallen meteor, touches it and it starts to eat him. Dillon finds him but is bumped into by rival school chums who join the adventure. People start dying, the government steps in, a horrible revelation about the goo is made and then it's us against them in a battle to the finish. Cut to credits.

The thing that wildly dates this film are the in-between-the-ages special effects. It's too early for digital and this film is way too cool for miniatures. What we have here are some really horrible mattes and worse blue screen effects. But the twists are kinda cool, the acting isn't too bad and Frank Darabont's name is attached (so it has to be at least okay). If you love your Sci-Fi on the cheesy side, give this disc a spin.

This is a rare, single-sided, strictly anamorphic transfer from Columbia. The colors are nice, but there are a few weak blacks here and there, with source issues and grain problems that pop up. It's in no way a bad disc, but this is a film that has seen better days. The soundtrack is only Dolby Digital 2.0 and it's fine for that. The only extras you'll find on the disc are some trailers and animated menus. The Blob is a standard film with standard treatment on DVD. Couldn't expect more than that I guess.

The Blob (1988)
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


Boogeymen: The Killer Compilation

Boogeymen: The Killer Compilation
2001 (2001) - FlixMix (Universal)

Program Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/B+

Specs and Features:

58 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), audio commentary with actor Robert Englund, Name That Frame trivia game, Legends of the Boogeymen text character histories, theatrical trailers (for Hellraiser, Wishmaster, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Leprechaun, Child's Play 2, Candyman, The Ugly, The Guardian, The Dentist, Phantasm, The Puppetmaster and Halloween), FlixMix Recommends with video trailers (for Jurassic Park 3, The Mummy Returns and American Pie 2), Jack Frost 2 Easter egg clip, FlixMix Animated Trivia subtitle feature, DVD-ROM features, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned


I don't have too much to say about this one, because I'm not quite sure I like the idea behind the disc. It's simply a clip show, with little rhyme or reason, made up of characters from popular horror films over the last ten or so years. The simple fact it got made in any way, shape or form is a testament to the tenacity of someone out there. I never, in a million years of being a horror film fan, ever thought you would be able to get all these characters together on a "best of" video. But surprisingly, most of the great ones are here: Freddy, Jason, Leatherface and Chucky. But hang onto your hats, because there's also Simon (who?), Wishmaster (why?) and Camilla (huh?). Actually, their inclusion is sort of a good thing. Simon is the focus of a really great and, more often than not, unseen film called The Ugly, which is on DVD and should be seen by all fans if you can get your hands on it. Wishmaster is just plain dumb, you know it and I know it. Camilla is the tree chick Druid thing from William Friedkin's The Guardian. Most of these more obscure horror films deserve to be saluted but A) they aren't really boogeymen and B) categorizing the characters in all of these films that way is just plain silly. I think the problem I have with this "film" is that it's something more akin to a pre-game line-up show for a sports event, complete with jamming music, headshots and stats. A clip follows this rah-rah from each appropriate film and it all winds down with a credits index (that includes Jack Frost 2, which I didn't even know existed and it's nowhere to be found in the show). The idea of putting something like this together is pretty genius, but the execution is way less than admirable. It could have been a neat historical look at the genre or something like that, but instead it looks like something you'd see on SportsCenter. Oh, well. What are you going to do?

UPDATE: the Jack Frost 2 clip is actually an Easter egg on the FlixMix Recommends screen. Click to the right from the Jurassic Park 3 trailer and a Jack Frost 2 logo should appear. Click enter and enjoy some, uh, "snowballs". Thanks to Mike and Chris for the info.

The video and sound quality are fine. It's a clip show, so don't expect to blow your theater up with it. You'll find a commentary track with Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), spouting facts that aren't quite right and talking only during the clips. He knows a lot, but not as much as he thinks he does. A subtitle feature full of trivia will point out when he's wrong, while also giving nuggets worth holding on to. There's a Name That Frame game with no pay-off (even if it's a little bit fun), and trailers for just about every film on the disc except the New Line titles. This is one for the serious horror fans only, and would maybe make a good gift for that kid who's either just getting involved in the genre or who never let go.

Boogeymen: The Killer Compilation
Buy this DVD now at DVD Planet!


So there it is, my second "column" in two weeks. Looks like I might be able to keep a regular pace up, huh? Check in again next week, when I'll be looking at some more flicks on DVD and questioning my role in the Universe.

Until then, keep spinning those discs!

Todd Doogan
todddoogan@thedigitalbits.com


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