Sunday 10 April 2022

Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror (1941, 1957, 1958)

Three classic Universal monster pictures have finally found their way onto UK Blu-ray courtesy of Eureka. All three have been available on Region A in the US for some time but even if you have those versions the new extras here may well tempt you to double dip. So let's see what we've got:

Man Made Monster (1941)

'Dynamo' Dan (Lon Chaney Jr) is a circus performer whose act has him playing with electricity and having sparks jump between his fingers. That's all the incentive Mad Dr Paul Rigas (the unparalleled Lionel Atwill who is always Mad with a capital 'M') needs to use Dan as a guinea pig in his experiments to create a race of electrically-powered supermen who can kill with just a touch. They just need to be careful of sharp metallic objects that can earth said electricity.

         Titled THE ELECTRIC MAN on its original UK release (the censor objected to the use of the word 'Monster'), MAN MADE MONSTER is a brisk (the running time clocks in at about an hour) and thoroughly entertaining mad scientist picture. 

The extra on Eureka's disc is a commentary track from Stephen Jones and Kim Newman which is entertaining, fact-packed and compliments the commentary by Tom Weaver and Constantine Nasr that can be found on the US Blu-ray as part of Volume Three of Scream Factory's Universal Horrors Collection. 

The Monolith Monsters (1957)

Universal had forsaken gothic horror for science fiction a couple of years prior to the arrival of THE MONOLITH MONSTERS, which offered a different kind of threat from giant arthropods or bug-eyed space monsters. This time mankind has to fight rocks that grow rapidly into tall columns when they come into contact with water. The columns fall, the rock shatters and the process begins again. THE MONOLITH MONSTERS is an interesting and successful attempt at depicting a different kind of alien invader, and it's all helped immensely by everything being played dead straight.

The new commentary here is from Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby. Those who already have the US disc with its two commentaries should be advised that  Lyons and Rigby manage to include enough different material to make this track invaluable too and as always with their work it makes for engaging and entertaining listening.

Monster on the Campus (1958) 

The least of the films in Eureka's set has Arthur Franz's college Professor discovering a specimen of prehistoric fish. Through the usual 'mad science' (this time it's gamma rays) the blood of the fish causes him to turn into a hairy apeman who goes on the rampage. Not Universal's finest 77 minutes, MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS nevertheless benefits from the direction of Jack Arnold (THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, TARANTULA and many others) and if nothing else is a good example of the kind of 'B' movie programmer that tended to be the inspiration for later satirical subjects. 

Stephen Jones and Kim Newman are back for the commentary track for this one and approach the material with just the right mix of respect and irreverence. Again, their track nicely compliments the two available on Scream Factory's Region A disc.

The bottom line: If you don't have these films and harbour any love for or interest in the old black and white Universal monster movies then this set is essential. If you already have the US discs then you may well want this set as well as there's enough material here to make them worthwhile double dipping for. The set also comes with a slipcase and a booklet with new writing on the film from Craig Ian Mann.

Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror is out from Eureka in a 
     two-disc Region B Blu-ray set on Monday 11th April 2022

Saturday 9 April 2022

Father of Flies (2021)

After its UK premiere at Grimmfest Ben Charles Edwards' weird, unnerving and ultimately discombobulating fairy tale horror piece gets a digital release courtesy of 101 Films.

Two children live with their father in an isolated house in the forest. There's the implication that their mother is now in a mental institution. The father, Richard (Nicholas Tucci) has a new lover, Coral (Camilla Rutherford) who has moved in and is pregnant. Teenaged daughter Donna (Page Ruth) acts out while younger son Michael (Keaton Tetlow) starts having visions of something lurking in the house. One night the mother, Linda (Sandra Andreis) returns for her children. Or does she? And why does Coral wear that strange mask? And only intermittently? What's actually going on? Are things unfolding in real time, or is an event from the past now haunting the present?

I don't have any answers because FATHER OF FLIES doesn't seem to either. The fractured narrative suggests a disaster that happened in the past but what's happening in the present just doesn't tie up with it. There's certainly a strong vibe of the traditional fairy tale here (house in the woods, wicked stepmother, father has to go away on a trip) and at at least two points the television is showing documentaries about how cuckoos and parasitic insects usurp a household to replace it with their own young. 

Ultimately, the reason to watch FATHER OF FLIES is because of its imagery which is strange, scary and deliciously disturbing. If Ben Charles Edwards had sorted his narrative out, or at least made it a bit clearer, then this could have been a minor classic, but at least by the end the title makes sense. As it is we have a film with plenty of weird stuff that doesn't really add up, but does make for a cracking trailer. And here it is:

FATHER OF FLIES is out on digital from 101 Films on Monday 11th April 2022

Friday 8 April 2022

You Are Not My Mother (2022)

"Gritty, Grim, Childhood Nightmare Art House Horror"

Fresh from its UK premiere at Glasgow Frightfest, Kate Dolan's YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER is getting a UK cinema and digital release this month.

When Char (Hazel Doupe) was a baby, her grandmother Rita (Ingrid Craigie) tried to burn her alive in a ritual in the nearby forest. Now a teenager, it's Char's mother Angela (Carolyn Bracken) who is Char's greatest concern. Only occasionally surfacing from the near-coma of profound depression, things reach crisis point when Angela disappears. But a few days later she's back, and a brighter, happier Angela she seems to be. But is it her mother that has returned, or something else?

Meanwhile Char has other problems. She's doing well at school but is repeatedly bullied by a group of girls on her way home, and on one occasion she accidentally interrupts their scavenging for material for the imminent Halloween bonfire. Is everything going to tie together? Are supernatural forces at work? And what's Char's grandmother actually up to in that opening scene?

YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER is slow burn, possibly a bit too slow for some. But those who have shorter attention spans are advised to stick with it because the final act is excellent - scary, unnerving, and with all kinds of implications. For older readers of this site, it's the kind of story that would have been ideal as part of the BBC's Play For Today strand with its combination of social commentary, coming of age story, and a good dose of the weird as well. Dolan knows how to set up (and build up to) some properly disturbing sequences, and there's imagery in here that will stay with you long after the film is over. Good stuff. Here's the trailer:

YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER is out from Signature Entertainment in UK Cinemas and on Digital on Friday 8th April 2022