Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Lorber / Scorpion Releasing - PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, THE BUBBLE and TO ALL A GOODNIGHT on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Kino Lorber / Scorpion Releasing - PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, THE BUBBLE and TO ALL A GOODNIGHT on Blu-ray

Mario Bava is one of those "cinema guys" as Quentin Tarantino once called them. He mentioned Bava in the same sentence as Samuel Fuller and Nicholas Ray. I can totally see what he means lumping these directors together. All three of them are the kind whose films can often jump off the screen at you. All three gentlemen seem the kind of guys who have celluloid pumping through their veins. They see movies in such a unique, stylish and visceral way that once you've seen their movies you are a fan for life. Bava is a particularly wonderful stylist and his movies are generally these pieces of moving gothic artwork. His sense of frame composition, camera movement, lighting and production design are all so fantastic. PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES is one of his more notably influential films in that it has of course been cited as having some probable impact on Ridley Scott's film ALIEN. Both films have an innate sense of dread about them that is quite evident throughout. Dread and paranoia are prominent parts of both. In the case of PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, the film has such colorful and dashing design to it (in terms of costumes, sets and lighting) that it's as if Bava is creating a science fiction dreamscape - or rather "nightmare-scape".

Special Features:

-The truly glorious thing that's included on this disc is an audio commentary by Mario Bava expert Tim Lucas. Lucas was of course the author of the amazing tome Mario Bava: All The Colors of the Dark. There have been fewer more complete texts ever written on a filmmaker than this book and as you might expect, Lucas knows more than any human imaginable about him. If you've ever experienced a Lucas commentary on a Bava film you know how thorough he is. His tracks are the epitome of what a commentary can and should be. He brings in so much detail about the production, the actors, the locations and Bava himself that you really feel like you've taken an academic course after you listen to one. This track is no exception and should be quite draw for fans.
-Also included are a couple Trailers From Hell commentaries from Joe Dante and screenwriter Josh Olson. These are both quite awesome as well and a welcome addition to the disc. As far as I'm concerned, Trailers From Hell should be included on every DVD/Blu-ray release for any film they've ever talked about. Especially the Joe Dante and Josh Olson commentaries. Along with Larry Karaszewski and Allan Arkush, these guys are my favorite "Gurus" over at Trailers From Hell.
Here's Dante's TFH on PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES by way of example:

THE BUBBLE (1966; Arch Oboler)
From Kino's Site:
"THE BUBBLE is the "eerie and enjoyable" (Los Angeles Times) science-fiction spine-tingler that shocked audiences and revolutionized the cinematic world of 3-D! The eye-popping thrills and chills begin when a plane carrying pregnant Catherine (Deborah Walley) and her husband Mark (Michael Cole) is forced to land in a mysterious remote town. The townspeople are quite strange, indeed: they repeat certain phrases and movements ceaselessly and stagger through the streets like brain-dead automatons. Then there is an even more terrifying discovery - the zombie inhabitants live under an impenetrable dome, trapped like insects in a jar. Can Catherine, Mark and their newborn baby escape The Bubble, or will they become mindless drones trapped in a human zoo? THE BUBBLE introduced the ground-breaking Space-Vision 3-D system, which pioneered a new way of both shooting and exhibiting 3-D film. These single-strip 35mm stereoscopic techniques were used in almost all major 3-D features for the next thirty years, making THE BUBBLE not only an "amazing" (Hollywood Reporter) sci-fi thriller, but also an important milestone in the history of cinema. Now fully restored from the 35mm negatives by the 3-D Film Archive."
Equal parts Twilight Zone episode and classic period 3D showcase with a dash of WESTWORLD, THE BUBBLE is a pretty unique overall experience. 
I really couldn't be more pleased to see classic 3D films like this coming to 3D Blu-ray. I'm fine with the current 3D films these days (though I rarely choose the 3D option lately), but there's just something neat and charming about these older films made during the 50s and 60s. I've seen many of them theatrically as part of the Egyptian Theater's fantastic 3D Film Festivals (sadly now discontinued), but I always felt it was truly a shame more people couldn't experience these movies in a decent 3D presentation outside of that small event. Kino's 3D Blu-ray of THE BUBBLE looks quite good and does a nice job of showing off how the film might have looked in a theater way back when. THE BUBBLE is a cool choice for 3D in that it's already kind of a trippy film and adding the 3D into the mix only makes it more so. It really does feel like a drug movie from a time when that might have had a broader appeal. It is really a movie that kind of takes its time letting things play out as our main characters get more and more of  a sense that they are in a little town that is very strange and just not right. 
This is Kino's first foray into old-school 3D in the form of a 3D Blu-ray release and the result is quite nice indeed. Transfer looks good and the 3D is quite immersive (as it often was with these older films). I am very anxious to see them do more releases like this.
(the disc does also come with a 2D version of the movie as well by the way)

TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT (1980; David Hess)
TO ALL A GOODNIGHT has the distinction of being a very early (if not the first) "killer Santa Clause" movie. David Hess and Jennifer Runyon were the two things that attracted me to this movie. I've had a crush on Jennifer Runyon for years. It was a bit more prominent during my teenage years, but I remember it as one of my earlier on-screen crushes ever. She was in one of the opening scenes in GHOSTBUSTERS which was a movie I (and many many others) had a severe obsession with as a youngster. When she appeared in the movie during that E.S.P. ability test that Bill Murray was giving I remember being immediately captivated by her.
So anyway, having not seen her in too many other movies, it was a trip to see her in a pre-GHOSTBUSTERS role wherein she was much more prominently featured. She's purdy and stuff.
I must admit that I am something of a slasher apologist. They just have a nostalgic appeal to me even when I stumble across one that I haven't seen before and it is less than meticulously crafted. TO ALL A GOODNIGHT has all the standard bits of business that relate to the slasher genre. It's got an inciting incident (the impetuous for the killer's motivation), a house full of horny sorority girls, some skeevy dudes and even a creepy caretaker guy. Oh and a killer in a Santa Clause outfit. The film was directed by notorious actor David Hess, who worked made a name for himself with movies like THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, HOUSE AT THE EDGE OF THE PARK and HITCH-HIKE. This was Hess only narrative feature as far as directing went and he unfortunately doesn't show the greatest aptitude for the craft. He does kind of a poor job building any suspense with any of the scenes involving the killer. He also pulls kind of an Ed Wood in that he shoots day for night, but doesn't bother to make it look like night at all. The script and performances are a little rough too. All that said though, there is a certain charm to the movie that may only appeal to slasher apologists. All the amateurish pieces come together in a way that I still found entertaining despite its ineptitude. I think it has something to do with the period the film was made in. This type of late 70s/early 80s era slasher film has some strange built-in appeal for me that I can't even really quantify. Maybe I get a little tired of the overly self-aware horror of today and watching something as stumbling and unsophisticated as this is refreshing in a totally strange way. I mentioned Ed Wood and while TO ALL A GOODNIGHT isn't as campy as some of Wood's much beloved classics, Hess' skills as a director reveal themselves to be only a notch or so above Wood's. There are definitely a bunch of things that don't make too much sense. All that said though, I can't deny that I found the film to be diverting enough. Slasher completists are certainly the core audience. It sure as hell ain't no BLACK CHRISTMAS, but it'll do in a pinch, even if it is a little bland in parts.

Special Features:

- This Blu-ray features a new interviews with actress Jennifer Runyon (13 mins), actress Katherine Herngton (10 mins) and writer/exec producer Alex Rebar (14 mins). The Rebar interview is the best of the three as he has the most insights into the details of this very rushed, low-budget and tricky shoot. All of the interviews have a big warning about spoiling plot points in the movie so it is recommended that you watch the film before checking these out.


A Jennifer Runyon TV interview circa 1984-85:

A Jennifer Runyon career retrospective audio interview:

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