Posted by Richard Harland Smith on August 29, 2014
I am taking five from talking about death in any form to talk about one of our favorite things. Who doesn’t like good stuff?! (Answer: no one.) The contents of today’s Good Stuff! column will reflect some lovely things I have either gotten in the mail, free of charge (for being, I presume, awesome) or for which I have spent my own hard-won geekbacks. So stand back… I don’t know how good this thing is gonna get…
I don’t even care to know how long it has been since I last laid down coin for an issue of Richard Klemenson’s phenomenal Little Shoppe of Horrors. (Okay, I had to peek… it has been about ten years years since I bought LSoH 16 at the old Tower Records in the Sherman Oaks Galleria, which is now a furniture store. Not good stuff!) Devoted to the back catalog (horror, science fiction, suspense, and everything in-between) of Great Britain’s Hammer Film Productions, this bi-annual mag takes a title or two and really runs with it, dishing up making-of histories, interviews with surviving cast and crew (a job that gets sadly more difficult every year, as more and more of the old gang pass away), production art (set renderings, wardrobe sketches, et al), and new art that honors the “Hammer Horrors” that were for many of us weirdos something near to mother’s milk. I grew up on these vivid Eastmancolor shockers, they changed my DNA (what the hell did I like before?) and made me the manthing I am today. LSoH#32 shines a light on one of the redheaded stepchildren of the Hammer family tree, that wonky Hammer-Shaw Brothers collaboration THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES (aka THE SEVEN BROTHERS MEET DRACULA, aka DRACULA AND THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES, 1974), which attempted, in those days of rapidly diminishing returns for all things Gothic, to mine the rich vein of martial arts cinema to deliver to finicky moviegoers “black belt vs. black magic.” I love the movie, warts and all (and at times it seems warts are all there is holding this thing together), representing as it does Peter Cushing’s last appearance as Dracula’s nemesis Dr. Van Helsing (absent from the screen since the prologue of DRACULA AD 1972, after which he played a different Dr. Van Helsing) and some cool, eerie, undead peregrinations on the part of the eponymous bloodsuckers and their moldy constituency. I’ve shown the movie to my kids, too, who love it even though it gets a bit booby at times, which embarrasses them; luckily, they are too young to be embarrassed by anything else in this wildly uneven but never less than 100% entertaining slumgullion.
Running for some fifty-odd (and at times exceedingly odd!) pages, “The Making of THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES” is compelling and engrossing (and at times exceedingly gross!) reading for the Hammerhead. A 2002 interview with director Roy Ward Baker (who went to his rest in 2010) is chased with more recent chats with continuity girl (now woman) Renee Glynne (who was also on the set of Hammer’s troubled SHATTER) and actors Robin Steward and John Forbes Robertson, the latter the dude who had the unenviable job of replacing Christopher Lee in the role of Count Dracula. Forbes Roberson talks about his hiring for the project, the weird county carnival make-up that the Chinese crew slapped on him, and the disconcerting/disappointing result of finding out when he went to see the finished film that Hammer execs had redubbed him with another actor. Bruce Hallenbeck’s behind-the-scenes chronicle is a great summation of the project’s origins, execution, and result, and there are other jewels studding this crown that will give one, if one wishes to have it, a fuller appreciation of how THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES was given to the world. Plus original documents pertaining to the production, in the form of wardrobe sketches, call sheets, and script pages with handwritten notes galore, plus original art that pays homage to the film, such as this neat illustration (left) by artist Belle Dee (with whom we had a lovely talk back in 2010.) A helluva good read and yours truly promises to be more constant with my patronage.
New from the good folks at Synapse Films is a Blu-ray transfer of the seminal HALLOWEEN (1978) ripoff PROM NIGHT (1980). [Seminal? Do "seminal" and "ripoff" go together? Ripoff?] I saw this in its original theatrical run as an opinionated and rather thickset 18 year-old and while I understand, at least on a cellular level, that it was derivative as all get-out, I was sufficiently invested in the story to be shouting my idea of who the killer was at the screen (trying to out-shout all the other guessers). Turns out I was wrong (yay! I love being wrong!) and it’s great to catch up with this Canadian slasher in a high definition presentation. Synapse has long given the Criterion Collection treatment to movies that polite society would cross the street to avoid, which is a boon for those of us who like the stranger things in life. Synapse’s Blu for PROM NIGHT was culled from the original 35mm camera negative and offers a robust 5.1 Surround Sound remix (while also offering the original mono track, for us purists). Extras run a delicious gamut from an exclusive audio commentary track from director Paul HUMONGOUS Lynch (I don’t know if he refers to himself that way but, Jesus, he should!) and writer William Gray (who had shared a writing credit that same year on Peter Medak’s THE CHANGELING) to a to-die-gorily-for making-of featurette, a still gallery, the original theatrical trailer and TV spots, and, and, and — as if this bounty were not enough — additional scenes added to PROM NIGHT for television broadcast and outtakes. Man alive, right?!
Also from Synapse Films is another special edition Blu-ray for the more obscure — but, paradoxically, more widely loved (I mean, among the deeply weird) CURTAINS (1983), a seminal severed-head-in-the-toilet movie, and another product of the Great White North. (Boy, remember when every third movie you went to go see in the cinema was from Canada?) This one stars that great and greatly missed character actor John Vernon (POINT BLANK, DIRTY HARRY, THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, ANIMAL HOUSE, HERBIE GOES BANANAS) as a legendary (in his own mind) film director who invites a clutch of actresses to his remote country home to compete for a role in his latest film… but a masked murderer has his own ideas about who will make the final cut. [MUSIC STING.] Backing Vernon’s play is a splendid pigpile of ladytalent, whose number includes (but is not limited to) THE AVENGERS‘ Linda Thorson, STRANGE BREW‘s Lynn Griffin, THE BROOD‘s Samantha Eggar, and the mighty, mighty Maury Chaykin (who also passed away in 2010 — what a bastard year!) of THE KIDNAPPING OF THE PRESIDENT (1980), WAR GAMES (1983), DEFCON 4 (1985), BREAKING IN (1989), THE SWEET HEREAFTER (1997) and other fine films (like TURK 182). But I digress. Transferred from original vault materials, Synapse’s CURTAINS Blu-ray is another stunner that is chock o’the block with exclusive supplements, not the least of which is a featurette retrospective reunited the surviving cast and crew, behind-the-scenes footage, a vintage documentary short subject on director Richard Ciupka, and audio tracks featuring actresses Lynne Griffin and Lesleh Donaldon and Samantha Eggar and producer Peter Simpson. And more. MORE! Because you can’t spell Synapse without M-O-R-E.
Finally, I received the gift last week from my fine feathered fiends over at Monstrous Movie Music of this limited edition CD of the soundtrack to Ted V. Mikels’ THE DOLL SQUAD (1973), purported (purports vary) inspiration for the long-running Aaron Spelling TV series CHARLIE’S ANGELS. I guess I wound up on the mailing list for this because I wrote up THE DOLL SQUAD for TCM at some point in the not-s0-distant past — but whatever the reason I am deeply grateful. This kitsch classic is not, perhaps, for all tastes but Nicholas Carras’ score is an infectious collision of quasi-007 spy grooves, 70s cop movie beats, exotic flourishes, shimmying flute solos, and enough brass to put hair on your chest whether you want it there or not. This is great driving music, although if you don’t find yourself tailing another car and running red lights then you’re not really listening. MMM has a lot of great movie music to offer these days, including the underscores for DESTINATION MOON (1950), THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1957), and THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) – want! Visit the Monstrous Movie Music website to listen to audio samples and to spend your last hard-earned dollar. The first piece of my own critical writing that I ever saw published anywhere in the world was a review in MONSTERSCENE for the original Monstrous Movie Music discs, back in the mid-90s, which gives this product plug a pleasing circularity. Good stuff indeed.
Click HERE to visit the Synapse Films website.
Click HERE to visit the Little Shoppe of Horrors website.
Click HERE to visit the Monstrous Movie Music website.
Click HERE to visit Belle Dee’s website and see more amazing art.
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