22 December, 2006

Best DVDs 2006 (continued)

I'm not including BU's SUCCUBUS or their RED LIPS SE as among the year's best DVDs simply because they contain only the cut US English dubbed versions of these films. TWO UNDERCOVER ANGELS and KISS ME MONSTER are toned down in terms of personal style and footage from the Spanish language versions. The latter even contains footage not shot by Franco! It was nice to have a good looking, letterboxed DVD of SUCCUBUS, but the very evocative end music is deleted. The restoration of the complete ending and a German language track would be essential for what I would term a definitive DVD. On the plus side these discs do contain very interesting related interviews with Jess Franco and a very welcome short documentary on Jack Taylor by Uwe Huber on the SUCCUBUS disc.

We'll conclude with a favorite non-Jess Franco DVD presentation:

HOLLYWOOD LEGENDS OF HORROR COLLECTION [Warner Video]. Spread over three "double feature" discs, six very worthy 1930s horrors from Warner Bros. and MGM offer compelling alternatives to the better known "Universal Classics" : THE MASK OF FU MANCHU, not the first {and Jess Franco would pretty much finish off Dr. Fu Manchu with his 1968 stock footage fest THE CASTLE OF FU MANCHU] but the most perfectly appointed Fu Manchu with Boris Karloff as the definitive incarnation of the pulp icon. With elegant direction by Charles Brabin, Cedric Gibbons' lavishly macabre set design and Myrna Loy as his sadistic daughter, Fu Manchu is given a lush environment in which to conduct his exquisite tortures and plan world domination with the help of his death ray and Genghis Khan mask. Immortal fun with an excellent commentary by Greg Mank. On the same disc is Tod Browning's outre MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935), also restored from orignal camera negatives, which proves to be something of a revelation. An ultra-stylish (more consistently so than Browning's much more famous 1931 DRACULA) vampire movie that turns out not to be a vampire movie after all. MARK... is more of a deconstructive commentary on DRACULA (complete with Bela Lugosi and the armadillos!) and a droll satire of the cliches of the genre.

The second double feature: DOCTOR X (1932), presented in a rarely seen two-strip Technicolor print (where the ghastly greens and oranges merge into a kind of involuntary expressionism) deals with cannibalism and a mad scientist (is there any other kind?) who has developed synthetic skin. THE RETURN OF DOCTOR X (1939)is worth seeing for the bizarre frission of seeing Humphrey Bogart as a bloodlusting zombie! The late director Vincent Sherman contributes to the commentary track.

A third disc contains another Tod Browning oddity, THE DEVIL-DOLL (1936), with the great Lionel Barrymore, and MAD LOVE(1935), meticulously directed by the legendary cinematographer (METROPOLIS, DRACULA) Karl Freund and featuring the delirious American film debut of Peter Lorre. I will NEVER listen to another audio track by the person who does the MAD LOVE commentary...enough said! The three discs are all packaged with their original color posters and include vintage theatrical trailers.
This boxset is essential for serious collectors of vintage horror.

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