Horror, but not a
home video's DVD release of "The Tingler," is a fortieth anniversary
trip down schlock horror memory lane.
Produced and directed
by horrormeister/showman William Castle, The Tingler stars Vincent Price
as a rather mild mannered scientist/doctor whose research into the nature
of fear uncovers a nasty little crab-like creature (the title creature),
that lives in one's spine and manifests itself at moments of sheer terror.
Ludicrous? Of course!
The Tingler's main
claim to fame upon its release was its use of "Percepto," a
typical Castle gimmick designed to sell the movie experience. It was the
wiring of certain theater seats so the audience members sitting in them
would receive a mild electric shock (actually, according to the documentary
on the disc, it was more like a vibration than a true shock) at certain
points during the action.
There aren't a lot
of scares in this flick, yet it remains a classic of 1950's "schlock
horror." This is probably because the movie is tongue in cheek and
the whole concept can only be referred to as "campy." And there
isn't really a villain in this piece. Everyone in the cast, with the exception
of Price's philandering wife, is a likable enough person and even the
one murderer revealed through the course of the flick isn't entirely unsympathetic.
Guess that's why they
needed to wire the seats....
The final scenes in
which the Tingler gets loose in a movie theater are hilarious to contemplate
as you sit comfortably in your home theater. The real movie theater, the
one in which 1950's moviegoers were seated, would have been completely
blacked out when Price blacks out the onscreen theater and exhorts moviegoers
onscreen and in real life to "scream for all they're worth."
It's hard not to laugh...
Still, "The Tingler"
remains at least a minor classic and watching the fortieth anniversary
DVD release is, as one of the reviews quoted in the liner notes says,
"an enjoyable piece of hokum."
The disc is widescreen
and Dolby Digital mono, and audio/video quality are probably as good as
one can expect considering the low budget nature of the source material.
Extras on the disc include an entertaining "making of" retrospective
in which the film and its creator are put into historical (or is it hysterical?)
Columbia also includes
the "Drive in Theater" version of the "scream scene"
edited into the film for outdoor moviegoers. There are also the theatrical
trailers, cast/filmmaker bios, chapter stops, and a decent set of liner
notes inside the package.
The Tingler, from
Columbia Tristar Home Video
approx. 82 minutes, widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Digital mono, black and
white (with a dab of color)
starring Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts,
Pamela Lincoln, Phillip Coolidge
Written by Robb White, Produced and Directed by William Castle
Night is one of the better vampire flicks, and the DVD is one of the relatively
few these days that offers viewers the choice between widescreen and pan-and-scan.
Fright Night is the
tale of 17 year old Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), an imaginative
kid with a penchant for the horror flicks offered up on the local TV station's
"Fright Night" broadcasts. Imagine Charley's chagrin when the
old house next door is purchased by someone who stores a coffin in the
house, isn't seen during the day, and who regularly hosts pretty women
- who later turn up dead.
the mid-1980's society in which Charley lives isn't about to embrace his
warnings that there's a vampire loose in the neighborhood. In fact, his
attempts at sounding the alarm result in his ridicule and give him the
reputation as being some kind of whacko.
Charley is right,
of course, and eventually convinces Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), host
of "Fright Night" and ex-movie-vampire-hunter, to help him slay
the beast, but not before some people close to him have their own run
ins with the prince of darkness.
Fright Night stars
Chris Sarandon as Jerry Dandridge, the vampire, and he brings the perfect
blend of affability, sex appeal, and deep menace to the role. Amanda Bearse,
who went on to co-star in "Married...with Children" plays Charley's
- and Jerry's - love interest.
The movie is alternately
funny and scary and the production values are, for the most part, first
rate. Special effects were handled by Richard Edlund's "Boss Film
Effects" company, the same people who wowed audiences with their
work in such films as "Ghostbusters"
The cast turns in
uniformly good performances in this ensemble piece (McDowall is particularly
good as the fake vampire killer who's out of his league when it comes
to real vampires), and Brad Fiedel's music is appropriately creepy.
video should be complimented on including both widescreen and pan-and-scan
version on the same disc - though they're on opposite sides of the disc,
which means the widescreen/"fullscreen" labeling is etched in
tiny letters around the disc's spindle hole. This is very hard to read.
A better solution
would be to put 'em both on one side (there's plenty of room considering
this is a 106 minute movie with limited extras) and let viewers access
them from an onscreen menu.
Picture and sound
quality are terrific. The movie remains in its original Dolby Surround
(not 5.1 digital) configuration, and this is fine.
Other extras include
decent liner notes, chapter stops/listing, and the trailer.
In an era in which
horror movies usually mean either graphic slashing violence or unbridled
sexual content, it's nice to see a "good old fashioned" horror
flick that relies on writing, acting, music, and mood to create its thrills.
Fright Night, from
Columbia/Tristar Home Video
106 minutes, widescreen (2.35:1) and Pan and Scan versions, Dolby Surround
Starring Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse, Stephen Geoffreys,
and Roddy McDowall.
Produced by Herb Jaffe, Written and Directed by Tom Holland.
of the Living Dead
George Romero's 1968
classic was shot on a budget of about $1.98US, and it showed. Despite
that, however, it was the most frightening movie I'd ever seen - and ever
have seen. Remakes generally fall short of their originals and, while
the new "Dead" follows the original storyline quite closely,
it doesn't pack quite the visceral wallop of the grainy black and white
As a DVD, however,
it's quite good, and gives you a lot of insight into the making of - and
philosophy behind - the updated film.
Night of the Living
Dead follows a group of people who hole up in a newly abandoned farmhouse
to escape the title creatures - recently deceased people who don't have
the decency to stay dead but, instead, walk the earth and feed upon the
Starring Tony Todd
and Patricia Tallman, the remake features updated makeup effects that
outdo the original's, and a positively creepy musical score that enhances
the tension very well. The first half of the movie is a very good remake,
following the original (at least, as far as my memory can recall back
to 1968). But rather than just reshoot the original screenplay, George
Romero couldn't resist updating things a bit (understandably), and ends
up messing with success.
One thing that's different
is Patricia Tallman's part of Barbara. In the original she pretty well
goes into a state of shock near the beginning of the film and doesn't
really come out of it. Now, however, she's a much stronger, 1990's-type
woman and, like Sigourney Weaver's "Ripley" in "Aliens,"
when she decides to take action she really decides to take action.
Other changes see
the original's shocking and depressing ending changed quite a bit and,
unfortunately, I think the original worked better.
The graphic violence
of the original has been toned down, too - to ensure the movie didn't
get an "X" rating in the US, according to the documentary that's
also on the disc. The "X" apparently means box office poison,
but unfortunately it also means the zombies don't feed as much on camera
as they did before, and the murders in the basement of the farmhouse don't
pack the emotional wallop they once did.
Tom Savini directs
the new version. He's best known for his horror makeup for the other "Dead
trilogy" films as well as Friday the 13th and the Romero/Stephen
King horror hoot Creepshow).
The DVD is in widescreen
and Dolby Surround (not AC-3, but that's okay) and the picture and sound
quality are very good. Extras include the aforementioned "making
of" featurette (a reasonably complete one and entertaining one, too),
and there's also a feature length commentary from director Savini. Naturally,
you also get chapter stops, trailers, cast/crew info, and even a decent
set of liner notes. Subtitles are in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
In all, even though
this "Dead" doesn't leave one shaking and sweating coldly, it's
a decent horror flick in its own right and if I'd never seen the original
I'd probably be very satisfied with the scares it inflicts.
Night of the Living
Dead, from Columbia/Tristar Home Video
approx. 88 minutes, widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Surround
Starring Starring Tony Todd, Patricia Tallman, Tom Towles, McKee Anderson,
William Butler, Kate Finneran, Bill Moseley.
Produced by John A. Russo, Written by George A Romero, Directed by Tom
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