Movies Till Dawn: All Creatures Great and Small

* indicates that this title is also available to rent, stream, or purchase on various platforms. Please note that streaming options may differ from these home video presentations in terms of visuals, supplemental features, etc.

The Great Alligator* (1979, Severin Films)  Displeased with American real estate developer Mel Ferrer’s plan to disrupt his kingdom – a sprawling kingdom located in a faux Africa (played by Sri Lanka) – with a luxury hotel, the river god Kroona takes the form of an enormous alligator and eats his way through Ferrer’s staff and guests, with only photographer Claudio Cassinelli and anthropologist Barbara Bach to oppose him. As Brett Gallman’s review for Oh, The Horror rightly notes, this Italian-made creature feature takes its cues from not only “Jaws” but also the then-popular Eurocult trend of Forbidden Jungle Adventure/Horror, as evidenced by the indigenous tribe that worships Kroona, a mix-and-match crew of Black, Asian, and white performers in dusky makeup and primitive gear that seem pulled from a Depression Era Tarzan film. Though racial sensitivity may not be director Sergio Martino’s strong suit, he does know how to deliver entertaining exploitation, and lets his sizable but stiff Kroona model chew its way through the cast with abandon; he also ups the ante by also pitting the survivors against the local tribe, who are (understandably) ticked off by the outsiders’ decision to kill off their god. With Richard Johnson in Crazed Old Coot mode and little Silvia Collatina from “House By the Cemetery” as a filter-free grade-schooler; Severin’s release offers the first-ever release of “Great Alligator” in 4K UHD (a standard Blu-ray is also included) with a host of extras, several of which are ported over from a previous Code Red release. These include interviews with Martino, Collatina, production designer Antontello Geleng, and DP Giancarlo Ferrando, all of whom recall the film with varying degrees of amusement and affection. Production sketches and a video essay by Lee Gambin round out the set.

This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse* (1967, Arrow Video) Having survived his demise via supernatural forces in “At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul,” undertaker/egomaniacal psychopath Ze do Caixao/Coffin Joe (writer/director Jose Mojica Marins) returns to his tiny Brazilian village to renew his campaign for an heir via kidnapping and torturing local women. The accidental death of one unwilling candidate who was with child spurs an astonishing vision of Hell which briefly puts Joe on the path of the angels, but it proves too little, too late for even the Catholic Church to redeem such an unrepentant sinner. Second in a long series of surreal horror films about Marins’ Nietzschean boogeyman ups the unrelieved sadism of its predecessor, with its cast subjected to very real spiders and snakes as well as various grisly deaths; at times, the blurred axis between real and imagined suffering positions “Corpse” as a forerunner of the “extreme” haunted house scene or endurance test films by the likes of August Underground or the Massacre Video crowd. Ze is also given more screen time to expound his crackpot philosophies, which may try some viewers’ patience, and the ending, apparently forced on Marins by the Brazilian censors, is a bum note, but the vision of Hell – an incredible nightmarescape of screaming bodies frozen into walls of ice, capering demons, and Marin pulling double duty as Satan himself – more than makes up for any shortcomings. Arrow’s Blu-ray, part of its “Inside the Mind of Coffin Joe” set, bundles “Corpse” with Marins’ outrageous horror anthology, “The Strange World of Coffin Joe,” with Ze as master of ceremonies and star of the concluding story; Marins is featured in commentary for both films, detailing the sometimes extreme lengths needed to complete the film and run-ins with censors, while Stephen Thrower provides a feature-length interview about Marins’ life and the major * themes in the Ze films. A second featurette draws a link between Ze and American TV horror hosts of the 1950s and Ze’s transition from movie character to real-world figure on television, in comics, and other medium. Trailers for both films are also included.

Basket Case* (1982, Arrow Video) I covered Arrow’s Blu-ray release of writer/director Frank Henenlotter’s grindhouse favorite back in 2018; of the film, which concerns the gruesome fates that befall various residents of New York’s 42nd Street when they ask an odd young man (Kevin Van Hentenryck) about the contents of his oversized wicker basket, I wrote that it contains “gallons of gore and acres of bad taste, but it’s also frequently funny, remarkably inventive in terms of wringing maximum production value from a microbudget… and in its own very warped way, [it is] a bittersweet parable about familial bonds and guilt.” Arrow’s new release is perhaps the ultimate presentation of the “Basket Case” universe, which comprises three supremely deranged films: the Limited Edition set includes a 4K restoration by the Museum of Modern Art (a flabbergasting notion unto itself), numerous commentary tracks by and interviews with Henenlotters and members of the cast and crew, a feature-length documentary about the trilogy of films, visits to the filming locations, early short films by Henenlotter, video essays on conjoined twins, a short tribute film – essentially anything and everything imaginable in regard to this truly unique, disturbing, and often hilarious film.

The Quatermass Xperiment” (1955, Kino Studio Classics) A joint American-British space mission returns to Earth with two of its three-man crew mysteriously vanished and the third, Victor Carroon (Richard Wordsworth), a shell of his former self – a description which proves frighteningly apt, as Carroon’s body is now home to an alien organism with the ability to absorb anyone it encounters. Genuinely chilling black-and-white sci-fi horror film, based on the popular UK television serial of the same name by Nigel Kneale, that helped to establish Hammer Films’ legacy as a studio with a bold new take on horror (they eventually released two sequels). Co-writer/director Val Guest’s matter-of-fact approach – as no-nonsense as Brian Donlevy’s Americanized take on the brusque scientist Bernard Quatermass – and emphasis on the clash between the ordinary (the drab settings, Jack Warner’s sympathetic cop, Carroon’s parade of victims) and an implacable alien menace sets the film apart from the space opera approach of the period, as does the sheer hideousness of the creature, which puts Carroon through the tortures of the damned (depicted silently but unnervingly by Wordsworth, especially in an encounter with a young Jane Asher) as it saps away his humanity for its own purposes. The grown-up tone and unfiltered horror of “Quatermass” – which earned the film an X certificate in England – would have considerable influence on a generation of horror and science film directors to follow, including David Cronenberg and John Carpenter, who offers an affectionate assessment of the film on Kino’s Special Edition Blu-ray. The disc also features a new and observant commentary track by historian Gary Gerani (who discusses the TV “Quatermass”) along with a vintage track with Guest and historian Marcus Hearn. Guest also turns up in an vintage interview with Hearn and a making-of featurette, while a second featurette details what United Artists trimmed from “Quatermass’ for its Stateside release as “The Creeping Unknown.”

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 Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, 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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