Monday, December 27, 2010

December '10 Classics on Disc


Vampire Circus (Synapse Blu-ray) - One of the most genuinely haunting Hammer horror films, this deranged vampire movie from 1971 is set in a small Austrian village in the 19th century, and is scary enough to make you ignore acting that’s both stiff and overripe, and plotting that’s threadbare. Director Robert Young is no slouch when it comes to pushing the right dramatic buttons, and dead children, the plague, and a traveling circus combine for what could be called the anti-Twilight. These are not heroic monsters, and with beauties like Adrienne Couri and Lynne Frederick in their prime, Vampire Circus has all the elements of an oddly enjoyable B movie. Synapse Films’ new release contains both a DVD and Blu-ray disc of the film; the Blu-ray version looks superb; fun if unessential extras include the Making Vampire Circus documentary and two retrospective featurettes.

All in the Family—Complete Season 8 (Shout Factory), the best-ever network comedy series’ penultimate season, ended as Gloria and Mike left for California, and again showcased the show’s superb ensemble (Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers will never be equaled as an acting quartet in a sitcom); in Baseball’s Greatest Games—1960 World Series Game 7 (A&E), the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski became a folk hero for beating the hated Yankees in the bottom of the ninth—the original TV broadcast of the game, and official World Series Film, are included (best extra: player interviews); A Charlie Brown Valentine (Warners) isn’t a Peanuts classic, but there’s enjoyment to be had watching Charlie again strike out with the Little Red-Haired Girl (lone extra: another Peanuts show, Someday You’ll Find Her Charlie Brown); Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s massive, four-hour Elsewhere (Icarus Films) is an eye-opening journey to 12 remote areas of the world from Finland to Siberia and Sardinia to Greenland, all brilliantly shot with the director‘s HD camera; Harry Potter, Years 3 & 4 (Warners Blu-ray), comprising HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban and HP and the Goblet of Fire, respectively, aren’t “Ultimate Editions” for nothing: each three-disc set contains the film, extras and a 48-page, full-color photo book (best extra: Creating the World of Harry Potter full-length documentaries); The Quintessential Guy Maddin (Zeitgeist) collects a quintet of films (Archangel, Careful, Twilight of the Ice Nymphs, Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, Cowards Bend the Knee) by a Canadian director whose idiosyncrasies are an acquired taste at best—one which I’ve, sorry to say, yet to acquire (best extra: Maddin’s audio commentaries); Brett Ratner’s noisy 1998 action flick Rush Hour (Warners Blu-ray) partners odd-couple cops Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker—remember him?—in a pale imitation of 48 Hours, down to the title (best extra: additional scenes); Sister Smile—The Tragic Tale of the Singing Nun (MVD) dramatizes the strange but for the most part true story of the Belgian nun who had a hit record, then slid down toward an uneventful death (lone extra: two Deutsch short films); Space 1999—Complete First Season (A&E Blu-ray), which debuted on television in 1975, is a futuristic adventure that might be only for unfinicky sci-fi fans, but its splendid hi-def restoration (video and audio) will interest others as well (best extra: behind-the-scenes featurettes).

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