Movies Till Dawn: A Month of Monsters, Part 1 (Special Twilight Zone Marathon Edition)

product_images_modal_carriecovernm72dpi__7b573dd700-6d9f-461e-b999-985bf65ce0a3_7dCarrie” (1976, Shout Factory) Teenaged misfit Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) discovers that her newfound telekinetic powers can provide her with a wealth of new experiences: the strength to stand up to her religious fanatic mother (Piper Laurie), the confidence to accept a date to the prom, and finally, a devastating means of revenge against the students who tormented her. Brian DePalma’s adaptation of the novel by Stephen King is a remarkable feat of suspense and technical bravura, but the split screen flourishes, pyrotechnics and electric-shock scares (the coda, where Sue Snell visits Carrie’s demolished home, remains a heart-stopping sequence) never overwhelm the exceptional, Oscar-nominated performances by Spacek and Laurie or the cast of then-up-and-comers, including John Travolta, Nancy Allen, Amy Irving, William Katt and P.J. Soles. Shout Factory’s 40th Anniversary double-disc Blu-ray features a 4K scan of the original negative and is packed to the rafters with new and previously released extras, including interviews with DePalma, writer Lawrence D. Cohen, Spacek and the rest of the cast (though not Travolta) and numerous production entitites, as well as a visit to the locations (Santa Paula, Palisades Charter High School), a conversation with Betty Buckley about the misbegotten “Carrie” musical, and numerous trailers, radio spots and behind-the-scenes photos, all of which make it an essential get for DePalma/”Carrie” devotees.

The Twilight Zone – Long Distance Call” (1961, CBS/Paramount Home Video) A toy 81nq27xjetl-_sl1500_telephone allows a young boy (Billy Mumy) to stay in touch with his grandmother (Lili Darvas), even after she’s passed away. The last of six “Twilight Zone” episodes to be shot on videotape, which lends a sort of eerie veritas to the story, penned by one of the series’ best writers, the late Charles Beaumont, and William Idelson. Included, as with all the other TZ episodes included in this column, on the new 25-disc “Complete Series” set.

 

 

product_images_modal_jcbrcover72dpi__7b3fdb9096-aae4-4bb7-a4f1-6e76f70a069a_7dJeepers Creepers” (2001, Shout Factory) Squabbling siblings Justin Long and Gina Phillips discover, far too late, that the mysterious figure in the rusty truck that nearly ran them off the road in central Florida is not only killing people, but also stockpiling their bodies for a far more awful purpose. Francis Ford Coppola produced this modestly budgeted but effective and grisly creep show, which has the economic storytelling and morbid payoff of a great E.C. Comics story, and one of the more inventive monsters in recent memory; Shout Factory’s double-disc special edition compiles new commentary by director Victor Salva and his stars with a wealth of extras from previous DVD editions, including production featurettes and more.

living_dollThe Twilight Zone – Living Doll” (1963, CBS/Paramount Home Video) Bad stepdad Telly Savalas discovers that his new daughter’s favorite doll, Talky Tina, can not only converse, but also has some decidedly negative views of his parenting skills. June Foray – the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel and dozens more animated figures – provides the sweetly malevolent tones for Talky Tina in this memorably unsettling fifth season episode, penned by Jerry Sohl from a story by Charles Beaumont.

product_images_modal_jc2brcover72dpi__7be2a48ca2-d85c-4912-9ff2-dda790734bfd_7dJeepers Creepers 2” (2003, Shout Factory) A high school football team, stranded in farm country, has the very bad luck of crossing paths with the Creeper (Jonathan Beck) on the last day of its cicada-like feeding cycle. Director Victor Salva disposes with the slow-building suspense of the first picture in favor of a body count scenario, albeit one delivered with breakneck energy and some show-stopping set pieces (a terrifying dash through a field, with a winged Creeper in pursuit, is a standout); the picture also benefits from Ray Wise as a farmer whose obsessive pursuit of the monster (which stole his son) becomes, quite literally, Ahab-esque, complete with harpoon. The two-disc special edition details the challenging shoot (filmed at Tejon Ranch) and abundant special effects, and includes commentary by Salva (who’s working on a third Creeper pic) and the cast.

33-2The Twilight Zone – Little Girl Lost” (1962, CBS/Paramount Home Video) Richard Matheson adapted his own short story for this parental nightmare with Charles Aidman (who narrated the ‘80s “TZ”) and Sarah Marshall as a frantic couple whose daughter (Tracy Stratford, also in “Living Doll”) has disappeared from sight, but can still be heard from within the walls of their home.

Return of the Living Dead” (1985, Shout Factory) Genre-bending zombie comedy best product_images_modal_rotldcover72dpi__7b2056846a-8553-49d9-af27-6570e5fb06e1_7dsummed up by two lines of dialogue: “Did you see that movie, ‘Night of the Living Dead’? Did you know that story was true?” To wit: punker Thom Mathews and avuncular co-worker James Karen discover that bodies stored in the basement of their medical supply company are not only the walking corpses depicted in the George Romero film, but, as they discover after breaking open a container, also still very much alive and hungry. Writer-director Dan O’Bannon (“Alien”) transforms a straightforward script for “Night” sequel from John Russo and Russell Streiner into a blackly comic gross-out that connects the streaks of gallows humor, bad taste and anti-establishment attitude at the heart of horror and punk culture. Shout Factory’s two-disc Blu-ray is a treasure trove of new and previously released material, with four commentary tracks, new featurettes on the special effects and soundtrack (featuring Dinah Cancer, Chris D, Mark Robertson and Roky Erickson), visits to the original locations (Moulton Ave, N. Myers Street), and interviews with the cast and crew, as well as the workprint version, which, while badly worn, includes 20 extra minutes of footage.

midnight-sun2The Twilight Zone -The Midnight Sun” (1961, CBS/Paramount Home Video) Unpleasantly prescient doomsday scenario, in which humanity waits, and sweats, as the Earth draws closer and closer to the sun. The sting in the tail of this third-season episode, penned by series creator and host Rod Serling, is particularly sharp and bitter.

 

The Terror” (1963, Film Detective) Jack Nicholson stars as a Napoleonic soldier who falls 81ggid-2pil-_sl1500_for Sandra Knight (his then-wife), an ethereal young woman married to the Baron (Boris Karloff), who years before murdered his own wife (also Knight) for her adulterous affair with another man (also Karloff). Confused? You aren’t alone. Audiences have been puzzling for decades over this low-budget supernatural thriller, conceived by Roger Corman as a means of fulfilling two remaining days on Karloff’s contract to AIP. Cobbled together using sets from “The Raven,” Corman’s previous picture with Karloff and Nicholson, and additional footage shot by, among others, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman and Nicholson, “The Terror” doesn’t make a lick of sense, but even in its threadbare state, it delivers enough Gothic trappings – windswept castle, whispers in darkened corridors, and of course, Karloff – to satisfy Saturday afternoon creature feature devotees. Those used to grainy public domain presentations of “The Terror” will be pleased by the Film Detective’s crisp Blu-ray restoration.

to-serve-man3The Twilight Zone – To Serve Man” (1962, CBS/Paramount Home Video) A representative (Richard Kiel) of an alien race offers help to all mankind, as dictated in the titular manifesto; Lloyd Bochner accepts their offer to visit their home planet, only to discover the real, awful purpose for their visit. Though dampened by years of pop cultural reference, the reveal still lands a gut-punch. 

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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