Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Celluloid Ramblings: Halloween Hangover

by JB
Yes, dear readers, it’s time for all of YOU to play judge and jury!

I hope all of your Halloween celebrations were great. Based on the limited evidence in front of my eyes and on the Twitter machine, the one-two punch of “Thursday Halloween” and “Record Low Temps and F’n Snow” didn’t deter the celebrations one bit. I was thrilled and delighted that the young people in my neighborhood braved the elements. Nothing was going to stop them from getting their candy. At my house, we had as many, or more, trick-or-treaters as we usually have.

Hey! That means next year Halloween is on a Saturday. Hail, Paimon!

I don’t know about you, but I tend to put up the Halloween decorations piecemeal, a bit at a time. The month of September is devoted to sneaking in a few decorations gradually, hoping my wife won’t notice I’ve already started. Then I devote one day to indoor décor, and the next nice, sunny day to the tombstones, pumpkins, groundbreaking zombies, window-hanging skeletons, and enormous inflatables that grace my front lawn. Finally, over the following week, various other decorations come out and take their places: the hand towels, the dish towels, the tablecloths, the candy dishes, the candles, and the life-sized “pretend” rack for torturing uninvited solicitors and wandering Mormons.
When Halloween is over (Damnit! Goddamnit! Why can’t Halloween season be two or three months long? Thanks to friend of the site Mike Piccoli for posting “Only 364 Days To Halloween” on the Twitter machine on November 1st. Thanks, Mike! No, really, thanks… thanks for RUBBING IT IN. Also, great costume this year! Also, fuck you.) I try to put everything away, and every single year I am amazed and daunted by the scale of the project. There’s always the perennial nitpick of finding one last item still on display the minute everything else has been packed away. I can’t be the only one this happens to, right?

This leaves me exhausted (Boooooo.) but with a stack of discs I purchased and received in October, but haven’t gotten around to watching yet (Yaaaaaay!). That’s where you come in.

I’m going to briefly describe my Top Ten Most-Watchable-Unwatched discs below. In the comments section, choose the one you think I should watch. If one disc gets a groundswell of support, I will not only watch it, but it will be the subject of next week’s column. In the words of Olmec, the choice is yours, and yours alone!

Be glad that I am not asking you to write the column as well.

Candidate #1: The New Criterion disc of Chaplin’s The Circus
Candidate #2: The New Criterion disc of Local Hero
Criterion had a 24-hour Flash Sale in October that led to these essential purchases. Being non-horror titles, they immediately went to the bottom of the stack. I haven’t seen The Circus since 1972, when my local PBS station used to show silent movies quite regularly on Friday nights. Local Hero has always been one of my favorite Bill Forsythe films and an early Music Box Theater staple. Local Hero cemented my platonic love affair with Peter Reigert, which began with his performance as Boon in Animal House and continued when I saw him in the original Broadway production of Larry Shue’s The Nerd. I remember Local Hero being a soft and cozy film about the pleasures of home, wherever home may be.

Candidate #3: Arrow Video’s new Collector’s Edition of Hellraiser
Candidate #4: CBS/Paramount’s new Stephen King’s The Stand Blu-ray
Candidate#5: Bela Lugosi in The Human Monster, new on Blu-ray
Candidate #6: New Scream Factory edition of The Blob
Candidate #7: New Warner Archive re-master of The Fearless Vampire Killers
Proving that my eyes are bigger than my stomach, these discs were clearly intended for Scary Movie Month, only to be left untouched. Do I want to binge them all in a sad attempt to stretch October into the middle of November? Do I shelve them until next Halloween? So many (two) choices! Arrow Video puts out primo special editions. I’m sure their new version of Hellraiser is the berries. (Their new collector’s set of An American Werewolf in London, released on October 29th, is really the final word on that great film.) On the other hand, you can’t go wrong with a new Lugosi film. Still, I have always loved Fearless Vampire Killers, even though Roman Polanski once did something terribly unacceptable. I wonder how much better Warner Archive’s new Blu-ray looks than my decades-old laserdisc? You also HAVE to love The Blob! Decisions, decisions! Which one to watch?

Candidate #8: It’s a Wonderful Life on 4K Blu-ray
I thought this old chestnut had been re-mastered and “special editioned” so many times the original negative had cried uncle and fled the country. This new disc was released the same day as Warner’s new 4K of The Wizard of Oz. I have watched the new Wizard disc and it is the single greatest transfer of a pre-1950 Technicolor film that I have ever seen. The level of detail is astounding. You can see the flush in Judy Garland’s cheeks caused by the massive hot lights that early Technicolor required. It makes me happy that, because The Wizard of Oz so quickly became a holiday broadcast television staple, MGM actually cared for the original negative as the precious asset it so clearly was. Does the new 4K of It’s A Wonderful Life have a similarly astounding transfer? It’s tempting…

Candidate #9: Kino-Lorber’s new Ida Lupino boxed set
Some lovely person on the Twitter machine posted last week that Amazon had marked this one way down—50% off, if I remember correctly—and that a mysterious coupon would appear if you placed this item in your cart, entitling you to a further $8 discount. How could I resist?

Trick question: I could not resist! I love Lupino’s The Hitchhiker and this boxed set will help me become more familiar with her other work. It would also be a wonderful first watch to properly begin Noir-vember! It’s tempting… like the lips of a dame from the wrong side of the tracks that you know in your heart is poison, nothin’ but poison! (See, it’s already working.)

Candidate #10: The 3-D Nudie-Cuties Collection

Kino-Lorber has once again teamed up with Ron Furmanek and The 3-D Archive to restore the obscure 1962 film The Bellboy and the Playgirls, which contains sequences directed by a then-22-year-old Francis Ford Coppola! I have read ominous rumors about the death knell of 3-D monitors because apparently the demand was never there, but I treasure all of my 3-D Blu-rays, especially Universal’s astounding Creature from the Black Lagoon and Warner Archive’s Kiss Me Kate.

Like early 1970s bachelors who insisted that they read Playboy magazine “for the interviews,” my interest in this lascivious little disc is archival and historic, and is in no way based upon naked female breasts and sexy-sex. The disc also contains a co-feature, Adam and the Six Eves, filmed in 3-D but never exhibited in that format; plus two shorts, Love for Sale and Beauty in the 3rd Dimension. Again, my interest in these things is purely academic.

Vote early and often!


  1. I think I'd have to wrap up Halloween with Hellraiser before diving into Ida Lupino.

  2. 'Tis the season. It's a Wonderful Life gets my vote.

  3. Its gotta be The Human Monster though...

  4. Anything Criterion, because then you have a ton of extras to watch

  5. Blub. Btw, Ida Lupino looks exactly like Allison Janney, its uncanny.

  6. I'm voting Ida Lupino, shocking no one I'm sure. She's a total badass female filmmaker, and you are 100% right that this would be a great tie-in to Noirvember.

    Plus you could do a movie & alcohol pairing: Pinot Noir with Lupino Noir!

  7. I vote for any one of your options EXCEPT for "Candidate #10: The 3-D Nudie-Cuties Collection"; since it will just be sitting there in your house, may I borrow "Candidate #10: The 3-D Nudie-Cuties Collection"? Thank you, friend! ;)

    1. I'm inviting myself to a viewing party of this collection in your basement. LOL

  8. Well watch The Human Monster first. There's always room for Bela. Then dive into the Ida Lupino collection (which I am very jealous of by the way!) Then and with Local Hero which I have always been a fan. And that's a really great November there!

  9. My vote is for The Stand. I’m on the fence with that one.

  10. Tough choice, But seeing as you just got off scary movie month and we are heading into the holiday season. Its a time for family. Its a no brainer. Hellraiser.

    also bless you for giving the wandering Mormons a place to go. Poor guys never sure where they are going. Just knowing they have to be there by latter day. (ba dum tiss.)

  11. Don't remember if I voted yet. I say Hellraiser then Lupino.

  12. Hola, Mi nombre es Julio Lopez. Mi voter para la Hellraiser y Ida Lupino.

  13. Ida Lupino! I believe the only film in the set I have seen is The Hitch-hiker. There are such riches out there when it comes to blu-ray releases. I sometimes want to cry when I contemplate all of the things I would like to own and the actual amount of my personal acquisitions budget.

    I am leery of 4k with most movies. The extra details that you can see may be the flaws that can take you out of the movie.

    The 3-D Nudies Collection caught my eye while looking at new releases recently. I never knew 3-D sexploitation had been made. Do you have a television setup that allows you actually use the 3-D feature, J.B.?

    Coppola had to begin a career somehow. This and Dementia 13 do not scream future Oscar winner. Cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs also began his American career with sexploitation productions.

  14. I would agree that Dementia 13 does not foreshadow “future Oscar winner,” but there’s some stuff in that little film that I really love, like the bodies underwater, etc. Plus, you gotta hand it to Coppola. This was written to utilize actors that still owed Corman a day or two when one of his films finished shooting early. It’s amazing that it’s anything!

  15. ... and yes, I can watch Blu-ray 3-D at home. It always looks great and no headaches. I wonder why it didn’t catch on in a bigger way...