Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Kino Lorber Studio Classics - TALES OF TERROR, COVER UP and AT WAR WITH THE ARMY on Blu-ray ""

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Kino Lorber Studio Classics - TALES OF TERROR, COVER UP and AT WAR WITH THE ARMY on Blu-ray

TALES OF TERROR (1962; Roger Corman)
The horror anthology has always been something of a red-headed stepchild subgenre even amongst the somewhat marginalized horror genre at large. The idea that people either burned out on anthologies or always had trouble connecting with them remains to be seen, but is is nonetheless a very intriguing subgenre. There are many excellent anthology horror flicks out there that are quite good. That said, it does also seem to be a place where one can find many examples of anthologies with maybe one or two good bits and a lot if filler. Thankfully, Roger Corman had the good sense to establish a working relationship with Richard Matheson for his "Poe Cycle" of films. Matheson is not only a favorite writer of mine, but he also has many other fans (including Steohrn King). Beyond his books a d stories, Matheson is responsible for many of the great Twilight Zone episodes ever made. This is rather fitting in that TALES OF TERROR (though based on several Poe short stories) has the feel of a Twilight Zone anthology. All of three of these tales have the surreal and macabre edge of Poe, but the dread of Matheson's best stuff. It's a lovely union. That coupled with the always spectacular (in my mind) Vincent Price as a featured player in each of the three stories makes this movie a sure fire winner for fans. All three parts have their pluses, but the best of the group (& and Corman's own favorite) is "The Black Cat". This one features both Vincent Price and Peter Lorre and it is truly sublime. Price plays a haughty-taughty expert wine taster and Lorre and dispicable drunk. When their paths cross it makes for great cinema indeed. 

Special Features:
This particular Kino Lorber Studio Classics disc is pretty stacked with extras. It's like Criterion-level stacked.
-First up is an interview with Roger Corman himself. This 11 minute chat with the legendary man himself is illuminating as always. He discusses his collaboration with Richard Matheson and how they were looking to change things up a bit with this movie as it was after the success of a few prior Poe films and they feared repeating themselves. This led to the idea of an anthology based on several Poe short stories. They also decided that adding humor would be a good idea. TALES also  has the honor of containing one of Roger Corman's favorite comedy scenes in all the Poe films. Corman also touches on his recollections of working with each of the actors (and the black cats as well).
-Also part of the supplements here is a Trailers From Hell commentary on the TALES OF TERROR trailer by Roger Corman in which he discusses many similar things to the above interview. 
-The truly glorious thing that's included on this disc is an audio commentary by the great Tim Lucas. His tracks are the epitome of what a commentary can and should be. It is a truly epic audio essay with almost very few pauses or breaks throughout the entire running time of the film. He brings in so much detail about the production, the actors, the locations, effects and Corman 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 of Corman, Price, Rathbone, Lorre or the Poe films in general.
-As if the Tim Lucas track wasn't enough, there is a second commentary included as well. This track is by Vincent Price historian David Del Valle and also Actor David Frankham. While a bit more casual and not quite as packed with information as the Lucas track, this one is an amusing listen nonetheless. The combination of a Price expert and an actor who actually worked with Price in real life makes for a cornucopia of stories and anecdotes which are all quite entertaining.

Bonus - Roger Corman and Vincent Price on horror films:

COVER UP (1949; Alfred E. Green)
I'm a sucker for new film noir films on Blu-ray. Something about the format and the crispness of a good-looking black and white transfer just jibes well with me. COVER UP joins CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY as part of the very niche genre of "Christmas Noir". There's something quite fitting about noirs that take place over the holidays. I think that a lot of us may associate that time of year with some darker stuff anyway so it's easy to see why the two things go well together.
Dennis O'Keefe stars an insurance investigator (a very film noir profession) in a small tone checking into a man's mysterious suicide. He meets a gal on the train on the way in and they hit it off a bit. William Bendix plays the sheriff of this little burg and I have to give the movie some credit as it helped me get over my Bendix problem. I first saw Bendix in THE BLUE DAHLIA with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Something about the character he played in that film bugged me so much that it put me off not only the movie, but Bendix himself for a little while. It wasn't until I finally saw MACAO and Bendix in that one, that I started to turn a corner with him. Dennis O'Keefe is an actor that I hadn't given much creedence to before this. I found him a little bland. He's good here though and reminds me a bit if a young Dana Andrews in his manner and speech. All in all, this is a neat little second tier noir flick that fans of the genre will certainly appreciate. Transfer looks good and the disc is worth a pickup.

AT WAR WITH THE ARMY (1950; Hal Walker)
I take a decent amount of pride in the fact that my son (16) not only knows who Jerry Lewis is, but is also a very big fan of his. You see, I started showing him Jerry Lewis and the Marx Brothers when he was still pretty young (maybe 8) and much to my surprise he really took to them. We ended up watching a huge amount of Jerry's solo films and then started to work our way back through the Dean and Jerry stuff. It was a fun little journey and I got to see a lot of movies is never watched before because of it. We never got around to AT WAR WITH THE ARMY though. 
I noticed early on in the movie a musical number which would seem to have inspired the Monty Python gang in the creation of their famous "Spam" sketch. That used to be one of my favorites of the Python bits when I was younger so it was kinda neat to see the place where they might have gotten the germ of the idea. How I never knew it before is beyond me, but such are the great minor pleasures in life. A nice ice cold IPA and finding the nerdy origins of a Monty Python skit.
AT WAR WITH THE ARMY comes very early in the Martin & Lewis collaboration. It was their 2nd or third film together and though they are still kind of working out their on-screen personas, the roots of what they would come to be know for are certainly there. There are several songs here and the movie feels a bit more like Hope and Crosby (but not a road movie really) than some of their other efforts. Certainly an amusing diversion of a movie and one that fans of both Dean and Jerry will want to check out to see them during their cinematic infancy as a duo.

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