The Complete Dr. Phibes Arrow Limited Edition blu-ray review

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The Film.

“The Abominable Dr. Phibes” (1971) 94 minutes d Robert Fuest W James Whiton & William Goldstein

After a terrible car accident Dr Phibes is terribly disfigured. In the same accident his Wife is mortally injured. Phibes becomes deranged at the death of his beloved Wife and believes that the Doctors and Surgeons who attended her could of, and should of, saved her life. Because of this Phibes sets out to visit revenge against those the failed her and devises gruesome deaths for the team of physicians in the manner of the plagues that were brought down on Ramses in ancient Egypt.

Wonderfully hammy and gloriously gruesome this is Vincent Price at his best in, what was billed as, his 100th film. Director Robert Fuest had already directed eight episodes of the populat British television series “The Avengers” and the style of those TV episodes is prevalent here. The wonderful arc deco set design by Bernard Reeves (art director) and Brian Eatwell (set designer) make the film a unique visual treat whilst the script by Whiton and Goldstein mix pathos and black humour extremely well. A hugely entertaining movie.

Video.

Arrow have, once again, outdone themselves. Whilst I never saw The Abominable Dr. Phibes at the cinema I am very familiar with it on VHS and MGM’s Midnite Movies DVD. To say this presentation blows these previous versions out of the water is an understatement to say the least. It was like seeing the film for the first time. The film was remastered by MGM and delivered by Hollywood Classics and is presented in the 1.85:1 ratio. Some minor grain still persists and I expect that it has always been there. You won’t see this film presented better!
5/5

Audio.
1.0 Mono (pulse-code modulation). The sound is crisp and clear and I certainly have no complaints here. English subtitles are also included.
5/5

The Film.

“Dr. Phibes Rises Again” (1972) 89 minutes d Robert Fuest w Robert Fuest & Robert Blees

After spending three years in suspended animation Phibes awakens to find that his mansion has been destroyed and an ancient Egyptian scroll, which contains the way to an underground river where the elixir of life is, stolen. Phibes suspects that his arch enemy Biederbeck (Robert Quarry) is behind the theft and with the help of Vulnavia (Valli Kemp, who died in the first film – go figure) goes after Biederbeck and the scroll.
To say this is ‘more of the same’ is to do this sequel an injustice. In my opinion, without the exposition slowing the story down as it did in the first Phibes film this one rattles along with a better pace. The gruesome and clever murders are still present as is the dark comedic element. I just think it’s more fun than the first (as good as that was). The film is left open ended for a third film in the series but sadly this was not to be. If, after viewing both films, you still crave more Phibes then may I suggest a three volume Kindle book written by William Goldstein which includes novels of the first two films plus ‘Dr. Phibes: In The Beginning’ available from Amazon.co.uk here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Phibes-First-Trilogy-Collectors-Book-ebook/dp/B008F29SQM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403171812&sr=1-1&keywords=dr+phibes, or sending more cash Arrow Video’s way and purchasing ‘Theatre of Blood’ which is a film of the same ilk as the Phibes movies and just as much fun.

Video.
Once again Arrow have done a tremendous job here. Whilst the picture is a tad softer than the first film this is still the best presentation of the movie around. This disc was authored, like the first disc, by MGM and delivered by Hollywood Classics, and is in the 1.85:1 ratio.
4/5

Audio.

Exactly the same as the first disc. Crisp, clean and without fault.
5/5

The Extras.

Wow! I received this box set over a week ago and it’s taken me that long to wade through all the goodies on the two discs (and one book!) We get two audio commentaries for ‘The Abominable Dr. Phibes’ One by the director Robert Fuest (now sadly passed away) and another by the creator of Dr. Phibes William Goldstein. ‘Dr Phibes Rises Again’ has one audio commentary and that is by noted film historian and owner/editor of ‘Video Watchdog’ Tim Lucas. The League of Gentlemen (Dyson, Gatiss, Shearsmith and Pemberton)sit and fondly discuss the pair of films (13 minutes), ‘Daughter of Phibes’ is a delightful 13 minute interview with Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria, ‘The Doctor Will See You Now’ (8 minutes) which is a discussion with Price’s biographer David Del Valle. Also included are original trailers for both movies plus a beautiful 100 page booklet which I would gladly have paid up to a tenner for on it’s own.
5/5
This is a tremendous set but be aware. This set is limited to only 3000 copies and has every chance of selling out very shortly. Don’t delay, buy today!

Overall.

Highly recommended. A must have purchase.
5/5

2000 AD Summer Special 2014 review

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Ah, summer. Most of my formative summers took place during the 1970’s and, more often than not, in The Isle of Wight. My family and I lived in North London and for two short weeks per year we de-camped from the sweaty capital and travelled south to spend 14 days in a cramped caravan in a field in The Isle of Wight. All six of us. Those were simpler times (cure music from Dvorak’s 9th symphony…Or the Hovis advert music if you prefer). No smart phones, no internet, no walkmans, and the only tablets we had were Aspirin. You made your own fun in those days. Two weeks spent, almost entirely, on a beach whatever the weather. Although I do remember one year my Dad took us on a tour of a sewage works! But the one thing we did have, as well as the bucket and spades of course, were the Summer Specials.

Any comic worth it’s salt brought out a summer special. The Beano, Dandy, Lion, Valiant, Battle, Buster…There was a time when the newsagents were almost bursting with thick wodges of comic goodness. In 1976 I would have plumped for a copy of Lion as my summer special treat but in 1977 my 9 year old former self was already enamoured with a comic called 2000 AD.
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The picture above is the actual copy of the one bought for me by my parents that summer. The paper is brittle, The staples are rusted, and I think there are still remains of a ham and lettuce sandwich somewhere near it’s centre pages (it’s hard to tell now, 37 years on). I treasured that comic then, as I do now, not so much for what’s inside but for the memories of a glorious summer holiday. So why am I boring you with this trip down memory lane? Because this years 2000 AD summer special (the first in 18 years) is something of a nostalgia trip in itself.

Within the glossy cover (and a fine eye catching cover it is too) are trips down memory lane for anyone who has read 2000 AD in the past 30 plus years. Once we past Tharg’s enthusiastic introduction we begin as the summer special’s weekly counterpart has done for many years now with Judge Dredd. For many years now Dredd in the weekly comic has evolved into one continuous story line, sometimes making it difficult for new readers (or lapsed ones – shame on you) to follow. Not in this case. The summer special’s Dredd story is a whimsical tale of a cursed/jinxed statue (about 12 inches high) and Dredd’s increasingly difficult journey in bring it back to the PSI division of the Halls of Justice. The story is lightweight, but it’s fun, and is exactly what I would expect to find in a summer special. A super start!

Moving on, we welcome back Sam Slade in ‘Robo Hunter’. Robo Hunter was one of my favourite characters in the early 1980’s and no more so than in the story ‘Football Crazy’ which ran during the summer of 1982 and the World Cup Finals in Spain. As well as being a science fiction geek in my early years I was also a mad football fan so the combination of the two delighted me. Sam’s return here (he’s been back before, but never to the same effect as those early days) has delighted me almost as much. Mark Simmons artwork is close enough to Ian Gibson’s that it transported me back in time. The script is funny, as a Robo Hunter story should be, and it was great to be re-united with Hoagy (Sam’s robot sidekick).

Future Shocks is a strip that has been running in 2000 AD for many years, almost since the comic started, so it’s right and proper to have one here. These one off stories are of the ‘twist in the tale’ variety and this one does not disappoint.

Durham Red first appeared in the weekly 2000 AD in 1987 as a character in the popular strip ‘Strontium Dog’. Following the death of Johnny Alpha in that strip Red returned in her own strip during the early 1990’s and proved to be a popular character in her own right. What I like most about this summer special is that all the strips, bar possibly one, can be read by someone with no previous history with the comic and enjoyed in their own right. Durham Red ‘The Calling’ is one such strip and in some ways acts as a good introduction. In fact I would imagine that if you had no knowledge of Red before reading this strip you would enjoy it more. I’ll leave it at that.

Orlok: Agent of East Meg One is a strip set within the continuity of Judge Dredd. This is the one strip where if you know your Dredd history you will get more enjoyment out of the story. Having said that the story can easily be enjoyed as it is.

Finally we have our old pal Rogue Trooper. Rogue made his first appearance in 2000 AD in 1981 and it’s a character I’ve always loved. Again, this strip works well as an introduction to the character whilst also adding some new depth to the mythos of Rogue Trooper for those that are well acquainted with the character.

So there we have it. The summer special is back and not a moment too soon. The standard of this special was consistently high in both the art and script departments. Some may argue that the strips are a little on the lightweight side and I agree but that’s what a summer special should be. Whilst I sit on the beach enjoying a fab lolly whilst the bees buzz around me I want to have fun and be amused and this special does that in spades. Now if they would only bring back the annual too…

4/5 Recommended

Review of “The Stuff”

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“The Stuff” (1985) d Larry Cohen, P Paul Kurta, w Larry Cohen.

Arrow Video blu-ray disc.

 

The Stuff has become such a force in the dessert business that a group of ice cream companies hire ex FBI agent David ‘Mo’ Rutherford (Miichael Moriarty) to act as industrial spy and discover the secret ingredients of this wildly popular, and seemingly addictive, popular food. With the help of Nicole Kendall (Andrea Marcovicci), the advertising whiz behind The Stuff’s marketing campaign, and cookie king Chocolate Chip Charlie (Garrett Morris) they learn that The Stuff is actually an active bacteria mined from the centre of the Earth that takes over the bodies of those that consume it.

 

The Stuff is strictly a B grade film and I don’t think Larry Cohen or anyone involved with the film would deny that. A hybrid of “The Blob”, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and with a soupcon of “Invaders From Mars”, the film is a black comedy that looks at (through a darkly coloured lense) the consumerism that was rampant in the United States of America and The United Kingdom through the 1980’s. The film dives right in from the get go with no real time for exposition it carries you along for the ride. The cast is top notch but not all perform as well as the could or have done since. The film jumps from scene to scene with such a frenetic pace that occasionally I was unsure whether I had missed something, but no, that’s just how Larry Cohen works. The effects are, in general, pretty good. Only one or two spoil the overall look of the film. Just remember that this is not high art, just good fun. Should be consumed late at night with plenty of beer and pizza (or should that be yoghurt) 3/5

 

The Video presentation.

Arrow have presented us with a brand new high definition restoration of the film. This is a 2k scan of the original negative and presented in it’s original ratio of 1.85:1.

I’ve seen this film several times. Once at the cinema on it’s original release in 1985 and several times on VHS and DVD. Although my memory of the cinema release is a little hazy I can confidently say that The Stuff has never looked better. There is quite a bit of inherent grain and there is one shot that is extremely grainy and looks blown up but this has been in all presentations of the film as far as I am aware. A massive leap forward from the last presentation I saw which was Anchor Bay’s DVD. Arrow have done a tremendous job of this presentation and, dare I say it, probably more than it deserves. 4/5

 

Audio Presentation.

The audio is the original 1.0 mono which is uncompressed on the blu-ray disc. The sound is solid if unspectacular. Also present are English sub titles 3/5

 

The Extras.

‘Can’t Get Enough Of The Stuff’ is a making of documentary running 52 minutes. It’s relatively standard fare with the talking heads of Cohen, Kurta, Marcovicci, et al waxing lyrical about this, self proclaimed, ‘Classic Creatue Feature interspersed with clips from the film. It’s an interesting documentary that, in my opinion, out stays it’s welcome by fifteen minutes or so.

Also included is an introduction by The Stuff fan Darren Bousman who also provides a trailer commentary. The original trailer is also presented, unmolested. The package is rounded out with the usual reversible sleeve and a 24 page booklet featuring ‘Enough is Never Enough: Food, Cult Horror and Larry Cohen’, and essay on food featuring in horror films by Joel Harley. The booklet contains some nice stills and a poster gallery. 4/5

Overall.

The Stuff is a fun film and definitely not to be taken seriously despite what some might say. Arrow have done their usual superb job on the authoring of the discs (1 blu-ray and 1 DVD) and have given great thought and care to the overall package as they always do. The film itself maybe on the slight side but overall this is worth having on your shelves if you love cheesy 1980’s horror (which I do)

4/5 Recommended.the stuff 001

Welcome!

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Welcome to the internet’s newest review site. This blog will review horror and science fiction films, blu-rays, DVDs, books, comics and anything else that takes my fancy.

Of course any review is subjective and I hope those of you that do read this blog will comment on whether you feel I have got it right or if I’m off my head!

Although I am based in the United Kingdom I do have access to discs and other media from around the World but I will favour things that can be bought in the UK.

My first review will be up soon so I hope you will all stick with me, comment often and, hopefully, enjoy.

Thanks for reading!