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The Bootleg Files: White Zombie

BOOTLEG FILES 708: “White Zombie” (1932 horror film starring Bela Lugosi).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On public domain labels.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A copyright infringement accusation at the beginning of its production and a lapsed copyright after its release.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: There has yet to be a truly pristine commercial release of this title.

When “White Zombie” opened in New York in 1932, the critics were scathing in their denunciations. Words like “ridiculous,” “ludicrous,” “failure” and “Worst Movie of 1932” peppered the reviews. And while the critical slams did not scare away audiences, it nonetheless saddled the film with a negative reputation that required decades of repeated screenings and new generations of film scholars to mitigate the initial wave of abuse.
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Bela Lugosi Forever

Just in time for Halloween! This episode of “The Online Movie Show” celebrates the life and legacy of Bela Lugosi, peeling away the urban legends and highlighting the iconic actor’s greatest achievements. Film historian James L. Neibaur, author of “The Monster Movies of Universal Studios” and an upcoming biography on William Beaudine, a frequent Lugosi director, is the guest on this episode, which can be heard here.

The Universal Horror Collection: Volume 1 [Blu-Ray]

When “The Universal Horror Collection” was originally announced, it was titled the “Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi Collection” by Shout Factory. One can only assume that they’ve managed to retain the rights to many Universal movies obscure and classic, thus changing their new series to “The Universal Horror Collection.” With that broad a title, the sky is apparently the limit for Shout Factory and what they can do with these volumes. Since this was originally a Karloff/Lugosi four movie set, the whole of the films included star the pair of horror icons. With Volume 1 of “The Universal Horror Collection,” fans will be elated to see that they’re starting us off on the right foot.

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The Return of the Vampire (1943) [Blu-Ray]

Although Universal eventually did follow up Tod Browning’s “Dracula” from 1931 with their own “Dracula’s Daughter” and “Son of Dracula,” the unofficial sequel has always been 1943’s “The Return of the Vampire.” When Columbia Pictures sough to revive Dracula for the big screener, Universal halted their efforts, prompting Columbia to basically deliver the follow up to Dracula but under a variety of different names and different circumstances. With “The Return of the Vampire” we have a great spiritual sequel that stars Lugosi returning as Dracula, but–not Dracula.

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The Trail of Dracula (2016) (DVD)

trail_drac_dvdIt’s funny how I know so much about Dracula and still can’t get enough of the character or the concept no matter where I turn. Intervision’s “The Trail of Dracula” is an hour long look in to the history of Dracula through the ages. There are tons of interviews and accounts from the creation of Bram Stoker’s novel, and the unauthorized adaptation called “Nosferatu,” right down to his pop culture influence in the modern age like “Vampire Hunter D” and “Castlevania.” While I would have loved a more thorough examination of the vampire legend and its various incarnations of cultures all around the world, “The Trail of Dracula” explores how Dracula eventually was crafted.

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Glen or the Bride of the Night of the Plan 9 from Outer Space (2015)

belalThe winner of the Best Picture Award at this year’s New England Underground Film Festival, this amusing 25-minute from filmmaker Jesse Berger slices and dices scenes and dialogue from four anti-classics from the notorious Edward D. Wood Jr. – “Glen or Glenda?”, “Bride of the Monster,” “Plan 9 from Outer Space” and “Night of the Ghouls” – into a wonderfully warped blend of lunacy that perfectly captures the inane spirit of Wood’s work in a fraction of their running time.

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Scared Silly: 13 Classic Horror Comedies (DVD)

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For the Mill Creek compilation “Scared Silly,” the company brings together the roots of horror comedy with a thirteen movie set that’s well worth the cash. Some of it is the same old material you’ll find in other collections, but considering the sub-genre, that’s nothing to sneeze at. On Disc One there’s 1961’s Creature from the Haunted Sea starring the googly eyed sea weed monster, as directed by Roger Corman. It’s a classic you can’t help but giggle through.

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Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)

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Director Ron William Neill’s “Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman” is a sequel to “The Wolfman” and a prequel to “Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” One of the many future crossovers for monsters, Neill’s movie is often incoherent, but at least delivers on the promise of the wolf man meeting Frankenstein. They only do battle for about four minutes in the finale, but technically they cross paths, so your expectations should be low for this sequel. The reasoning for bringing the characters together stretches all ideas of logic and suspension of disbelief. So “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” is really a process of asking the audience to willingly ignore its inconsistencies and wait for the monsters to meet up and fight.

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