DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - The Mummy's Curse

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While there have been many "Mummy" movies, 1944's "The Mummy's Curse" represents the end of a cycle for the brand name, winding down the saga of Kharis and the monster's longstanding drive to reclaim the bride he lost centuries ago. The second of two "Mummy" efforts in 1944, "The Mummy's Curse" makes a few puzzling storytelling choices as it tries to find a way out of the narrative mess it's made, but it all feels a bit anticlimactic, gradually running out of energy instead of concluding with pure horror.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Mummy's Ghost

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Speeding up the sequel process, 1944 was a big year for the "Mummy" series, offering two pictures in six months, establishing a serial-like release schedule to entice audiences to stick around for more Kharis (Lon Chaney Jr.) madness. The first effort is "The Mummy's Ghost," which refocuses Egyptian horrors to suburban Massachusetts, following Kharis's hunt for his lost lover, Ananka, whose soul has been transferred to Amina (Ramsay Ames), a local woman who's overwhelmed by all the monstrous attention as the Mummy attempts to reclaim his long dead bride.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Mummy's Tomb

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Perhaps learning their lesson in 1940's "The Mummy's Hand," Universal Pictures goes all monster, all the time with 1942's "The Mummy's Tomb," which wisely introduces the wrath of Kharis (now played by Lon Chaney Jr.), the titular nightmare, from the get-go, hitting the ground running for a change. While a throwaway effort that's only an hour long, "The Mummy's Tomb" course corrects a few ideas to help keep the franchise staggering along, with the production making sure to keep its greatest asset within striking distance for a change. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Mummy's Hand

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Arriving long after 1932's "The Mummy," 1940's "The Mummy's Hand" is the first effort from Universal Studios to revive one of their signature monsters for a fresh round of terror and franchise construction, using the war-torn decade to build up the brand name, figuring out ways to return to Egypt and sustain the chills. While a business plan is in place with "The Mummy's Hand," the picture plays a bizarre game of delay, showing more interest in the fumbly, bumbly antics of archaeologists than the titular creature, who doesn't even make his grand entrance until the final act.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Son of Dracula

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After dealing with one kid in 1936's "Dracula's Daughter," the horror franchise finds more family trouble in 1943's "Son of Dracula." Of course, there's no real connection between the "Dracula" movies, as attention to series detail isn't valued. It's a brand name, and one that introduces Lon Chaney Jr. as the titular vampire, preserving all the dead-eyed menace the character is known for, but now enjoying a few technical upgrades to shock audiences. And the film needs all the visual help it can get, often struggling mightily with a lukewarm screenplay filled with exposition that rarely leads to excitement.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Dracula's Daughter

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Losing the leadership of Bela Lugosi, 1936's "Dracula's Daughter" tries to return to the Bram Stoker saga with a new direction of evil, but the production plays one too many funny games to help revive the brand name for a sequel. Messing with time and character, "Dracula's Daughter" is best appreciated as its own creation, tackling the subject of monster movie loneliness with a uniquely feminine perspective, adding a sense of psychological warfare to chiller expectations. It's not a successful continuation, but "Dracula's Daughter" has its own thespian achievements that support the feature, better off as a study of isolation and need than a follow-up to Lugosi's legacy. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Malibu High

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Marketing materials for 1979's "Malibu High" paint the picture as an R-rated romp featuring nude women and dirty old men, accompanied by a cheeky tagline about a failing high school student and her plans to restore her GPA without doing homework. The actual "Malibu High" is a bit crazier than simple sexploitation, emerging as a sort of distant relative to Luc Besson's masterwork, "La Femme Nikita," only with a very limited budget, little command of tone, and pronounced displays of goofballery at every turn. What begins with teen angst ends with a series of assassinations, keeping the feature on high alert as screenwriter Thomas Singer attempts to manage a crazy story that blends sex, violence, and bad grades, enjoying the permissiveness of the late 1970s to fill the tale with numerous couplings, disco, drugs, and bullets. It's not a particularly cohesive endeavor, but it's memorable, delivering all the B-movie nonsense a person can stand. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Hearse

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1980's "The Hearse" is one of the last gasps of horror from the 1970s. Before the tidal wave of gore and sexualized teenagers served up for the slaughter, there were weird stories with Satanic inspirations, pitting hapless characters against unholy forces they don't understand. The feature strives to make something unsettling about a haunted car and evil influence in a small town, but there's not a lot of truly terrifying incidents to savor in "The Hearse," which tries to get plenty of mileage from the vision of the titular car ruling rural roads, but director George Bowers isn't motivated to move the plot along, working on his cheap fright film tricks and atmosphere instead. It's a game attempt to generate an unusual four-wheeled cinematic nightmare, but the production takes it time before it reaches the unknown, and doesn't do much with it once it gets there.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Indian Fighter

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1955's "The Indian Fighter" is one offering in a wave of Hollywood westerns where the concept wasn't to vilify Native American characters, but try to understand the concerns of the First Nation as it dealt with the terror of settlers. With star Kirk Douglas around, deeply felt sympathies aren't readily available, but the production at least makes an attempt to be gentle around cultural divides, delivering a story that's big on action and debate, but also wrestling with a love story that doesn't belong in the mix.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Sheik

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It's important to watch 1921's "The Sheik" with awareness of its age. It's the film that brought star Rudolph Valentino to stratospheric heights of fame, greatly complicating his burgeoning career with an iconic display of matinee idol charisma. It's also a picture that carries an uneasy appreciation for Stockholm Syndrome-style romance, created during a time when such a union wasn't open season for 1,000 think pieces on big screen sexism. "The Sheik" is period escapism, and it mostly comes together thanks to Valentino and co-star Agnes Ayres, who manage to make a credible connection in a story that needs something a bit more than soapy romanticism to penetrate the senses.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Marjorie Morningstar

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There's a long tradition of Hollywood melodramas, and there's always been an audience for them. However, 1958's "Marjorie Morningstar" takes considerable patience to sit through, working the subgenre in full with its depictions of shattered dreams, poisoned romances, and troubled families. An adaptation of a Herman Wouk novel, the feature does a reasonable job packing plot into two hours of screentime, but casting is often too odd to ignore, finding Gene Kelly fighting visible awkwardness as the 46-year-old actor tries to make believable magic with 20-year-old Natalie Wood. While the stars have been wonderful before, they fail to summon a proper pitch of melancholy to keep "Marjorie Morningstar" alert and appealingly sudsy. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Return of Sabata

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The good news is that Lee Van Cleef has come back for 1971's "Return of Sabata," picking up where he left off in the 1969 original, reclaiming the character's cold stare from Yul Brynner, who portrayed the gunslinger in 1970's "Adios, Sabata." Van Cleef's return is welcome, reuniting the squinty actor with one of his best roles, but the celebration is half-hearted at best, as "Return of Sabata," while retaining the Looney Tunes approach of the series, remains largely stuck in neutral, trying to cut through substantial exposition to find the fun again, taking far too long to get going.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Adios, Sabata

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After the unexpected success of 1969's "Sabata," producers scrambled to put together a sequel, ready to cash in on a cult legend in the making. However, star Lee Van Cleef couldn't return to duty, necessitating a casting change to Yul Brynner, who's pretty much the polar opposite of Van Cleef in every way. However, this lead actor shake-up doesn't bring 1970's "Adios, Sabata" down, forcing director Gianfranco Parolini to rework the iconic nature of the titular character, who's presented as more of a matinee cowboy for his second outing, with Brynner showing more flair and care for costume fringes than Van Cleef would be comfortable with.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Broken Arrow

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1950's "Broken Arrow" has the distinction of being one of the first westerns to approach Native American characters with a degree of respect. It's a movie about tolerance set during one of the least tolerant times in American history, attempting to reexamine and reconfigure the traditional "Cowboys vs. Indians" simplification of history. Its ambition to rise above the competition is fascinating, giving "Broken Arrow" a boost in dramatic possibility, with director Delmer Daves (helming an adaptation of a Elliot Arnold novel) taking characterization as seriously as he can while still serving up elements of action and romance that act as comforting familiarity while the feature works to introduce new ideas of cultural awareness.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Daredevils of the Red Circle

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Part of the Republic Movie Serial factory, 1939's "Daredevils of the Red Circle" attempts a different approach to the creation of big screen heroes. Turning to the world of acrobatics to find a trio of men willing to put themselves in the line of fire to stop evil, the production finds an engaging starting point for action and adventure, following the exploits of characters who are accustomed to dangerous feats of survival. "Daredevils of the Red Circle" generally keeps up with serial interests in near-misses, silliness, and cheap suspense, but there's craftsmanship from directors William Witney and John English that impresses, keeping 12 chapters filled with cartoonish violence and villainy, occasionally broken up by charged encounters and canine courage. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - The Mephisto Waltz

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Movies about the Devil and Satanism became big business in 1970s, preying on fears of organized evil and spiritual corruption. The subgenre would really strike oil with 1973's "The Exorcist," which raised panic over unholy business to monumental levels, but it started small, with 1971's "The Mephisto Waltz" attempting to raise small-scale hell with its tale of manipulation and fantasy. Based on the Fred Mustard Stewart novel, the picture submits a rather complicated inspection of Satanic suspicion, making it alarmingly slow-going as director Paul Wendkos labors over details, not a greater flow of suspense. "The Mephisto Waltz" is more of a tempered look personal doom, requiring a general relaxation of expectations as the production tries to pore some psychedelic melt from the 1960s into a horror experience for a new decade of terror.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Making Contact

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Today, we know director Roland Emmerich as a craftsman of Hollywood blockbusters, eagerly attempting to achieve massive success with big- budgeted fantasy actioners. He's had a rough period recently, guiding massive disappointments like "Independence Day: Resurgence" and "White House Down," but Emmerich appears to love the possibility of big screen scale, trying to make escapism with as much noise and stupidity as possible. However, he wasn't always like this, with 1985's "Making Contact" (a.k.a. "Joey") returning to a time in the helmer's early career when all he wanted to do was ape his creative inspiration, Steven Spielberg. Armed with enough homage to make Amblin Entertainment lawyers nervous, Emmerich sets out to create the best "E.T." and "Poltergeist" rip-off he can, using "Making Contact" to share as much Spielberg love as possible, shamelessly lifting every move from the maestro, down to cinematographic moves and the setting of suburban America. In true Emmerich fashion, he's made a spectacular mess of everything, and while his heart is in the right place, his filmmaking vision is cross-eyed at best, as little to nothing about this tedious feature makes any sense.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Optimists

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Imagine if Mike Leigh directed a Disney movie, and that's close to the viewing experience provided by 1973's "The Optimists." The production wins points for its interest in the bleak corners of life, trying to live up to its titular promise with a sincere take on relationships and broken dreams, watching director Anthony Simmons laboring to make some magic with lead Peter Sellers, asking him to lift considerable dramatic weight. It's difficult to label "The Optimists" as an all-ages charmer, but Simmons certainly wants it to be, aiming to achieve a bittersweet tone of connection in a hauntingly unforgiving world.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies

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A follow-up to the 1965 hit, "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines," 1969's "The Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies" (also known as "Monte Carlo or Bust!") looks to sustain a sense of widescreen pandemonium, taking a European car race to the extremes of slapstick comedy. Co-writer/director Ken Annakin certainly maintains a vision for the production, and his management of style and action is impressive, able to keep a ragtag group of characters in focus as they tear around multiple locations. But just over two hours of silly business? "Jaunty Jalopies" pushes its luck when it comes to asking the audience to endure a marathon of mischief. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Papa's Delicate Condition

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What a strange movie 1963's "Papa's Delicate Condition" is. It hopes to be a family feature, pitting star Jackie Gleason against a Disney-esque collection of children, animals, and stymied adults, but at the core of this dramedy is a study of alcoholism, with the title not referencing the lead character's desire to please, but his heavy drinking. Going from light to dark with whiplash-inducing speed, "Papa's Delicate Condition" doesn't necessarily challenge Gleason, who spends most of the picture playing up his industry persona, periodically reaching within to depict a sick man stuck in a cycle of reckless behavior.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com