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  • The Vincent Price Collection III: Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe (1970) & Cry of the Banshee (1970) Blu-ray Review

    The Vincent Price Collection III (1961-1970)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking their third annual release of chilling tales from the master of horror, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents The Vincent Price Collection III.  Comprised of five more efforts across four Blu-ray’s, each bursting with bonus content, legendary star Vincent Price (The Pit and the Pendulum, House on Haunted Hill) makes headlining turns in Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970) and Cry of the Banshee (1970), presented with both its Director’s Cut and the commonly known American International Theatrical cut.

    Based on the novels by Jules Verne, Vincent Price stars as the God-complex suffering Robur in Master of the World.  Set in the 19th century and riding the skies above in his indestructible airship known as the Albatross, Robur takes capture of four individuals including, government agent John Strock (Charles Bronson, Death Wish) as he details his desire to bring peace to the world through intimidation tactics with the Albatross.  Countries resistant to surrender their militaries suffer the explosive wrath of Robur’s powerful creation, forcing the abducted prisoners to devise a way to overthrow the captain and destroy his destructive weapon.  Although portraying the film’s conflicted antagonist, Master of the World is hardly in the same vein as Price’s lauded frightful features but, more an adventurous tale with fantastical elements.  Commonly compared to similar efforts such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Master of the World is an exciting detour for the horror thespian who delivers another delightful performance as he wickedly drops bombs atop of warships and hangs his prisoners above the clouds via rope.  While taking expected shortcuts through use of stock footage and other such techniques, American International Pictures delivered their most expensive picture to date with its Verne adaptation with the results paying off handsomely onscreen.  Scripted by the brilliant Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone, Tales of Terror) and hosting one of Les Baxter’s (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) most impactful scores, Master of the World is a high-flying adventure with Price ably steering its ship.

    Blending history with gothic horror, Tower of London reunites Director Roger Corman once again with Vincent Price during the height of their popular Edgar Allan Poe series.  Retelling a reasonably accurate yet, still rightly fictionalized account of King Richard III’s rise to the throne and ultimate downfall, Price headlines as the dastardly Duke of Gloucester as he pays respects to his terminally ill brother King Edward IV before greed and the temptation of power consumes him.  Secretly murdering his other respected brother with the support of his equally vile wife Anne (Joan Camden, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), Richard weaves his influence around the kingdom by sending others who may threaten his plans to the torture chamber and deceiving his own nephews their birthright to the throne.  Expunging all who challenge him, Richard’s control of the kingdom comes at the cost of his own sanity as the ghosts of those slain return to haunt him.  Lacking the colorful composition of their Poe efforts, Tower of London’s black and white photography establishes its own moody ambiance that suits the film’s period setting.  Classically trained in theater, Price brings gravitas to his tragic hunchbacked role while, mixing the mad entertaining glee common to his other horror-oriented performances.  While not quite as applauded as their other collaborations, The Tower of London is an underrated feast with gorgeous camerawork by Archie R. Dalzell (The Addams Family) and an outlet for Price to proudly showcase his Shakespearean chops onscreen.

    Taking liberties with the tales of Guy de Maupassant, Diary of a Madman finds itself working backwards as onlookers gather at the funeral of Magistrate Simon Cordier (Price).  As close friends gather to read from Cordier’s locked diary, the truth of his fate is slowly revealed.  After witnessing a troubled murderer’s accidental death, Cordier finds himself consumed by the entity that forced the deceased’s hand to kill.  Known only as the horla, the respected judge, grieving for years after the death of his chid and suicide of his wife, attempts to counter the wicked voices in his head by embracing his artistic abilities and falling for the attractive Odette Mallotte (Nancy Kovack, Jason and the Argonauts).  Disrupted by the revelation that Odette is legally married to another and his intended bride-to-be favors his wealth over his love, the forceful nature of the horla compels Cordier to handle them accordingly.  Helmed by Reginald Le Borg (The Black Sleep), Diary of a Madman, although visually lavish in its design, tends to drag in several areas with its psychologically driving narrative growing monotonous.  Although Price is unsurprisingly charming and notably comes alive when possessed to stab his lover to death, Nancy Kovack stands as one of the horror maestro’s most intoxicatingly beautiful starlets and delivers a sound performance.  While it may not be Price’s most memorable feature, Diary of a Madman remains worthy of a watch on a preferably rainy evening.

    In this made for television special, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe spotlights Vincent Price, with minimal set dressing and few props, as he eloquently narrates four of Poe’s chilling works.  All told in the first person, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Case of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum come to life courtesy of Price’s intense conviction as he makes quoting Poe as effortless as breathing.  Well directed by Kenneth Johnson (The Bionic Woman), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe may not be feature length worthy entertainment but, serves as an exceptional showcase for the classically trained Price who makes Poe’s haunting tales even more effective than reading them independently under the blanket of darkness.  Longtime appreciators of the star’s many Poe adaptations will take delight at how ingrained the gothic poet’s works were installed in his vocabulary, greatly enriching their legacy in the process.

    Although prefaced by a passage from Edgar Allan Poe, Cry of the Banshee holds no correlation to the Corman/Price adaptations previously produced by American International Pictures.  Helmed instead by fellow Price collaborator Gordon Hessler (The Oblong Box, Scream and Scream Again), Cry of the Banshee focuses on vile witch hunter Lord Edward Whitman (Price) who uses his influence to exterminate those of the slightest suspicion of devil worship.  Murdering accused teenagers during a dinner party and ordering others to torturous whippings, Edward and his sons ambush a worshipping coven, resulting in several deaths before being cursed by its leader Oona (Elizabeth Bergner, As You Like It).  Summoning the beastly sidhe to rid the Whitman clan, the estate’s gypsy servant Roderick (Patrick Mower, The Devil Rides Out), who is also madly in love with Edwards’ daughter Maureen (Hilary Heath, Witchfinder General), becomes possessed and periodically morphs into the monster to bring death to the Whitman’s family line.  Sporting a colorfully animated title sequence by a young Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and injecting far more nudity (within its Director’s Cut) than most Price features, Cry of the Banshee suffers from an overloaded cast and largely detestable characters.  Juxtaposing from Price, who arguably takes a backseat for portions of the film, to his sons’ individual paths, his daughter and Rodrick’s forbidden romance, the coven of witches and its local villagers, the film struggles to streamline its focus while, Price, who delivers a respectable performance albeit grossly seedy and only second to his turn in Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General.  Achieving success during its original release, Hessler contends Cry of the Banshee to be his most uninteresting AIP feature which is respectfully agreed.       

    Culled from a variety of sources including, inter-positives (Master of the World, Diary of a Madman and Cry of the Banshee), a fine grain film print (Tower of London) and even original tape masters (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe), each feature is presented with 1080p transfers with the exception of the standard-def, televised Poe effort.  Sporting 1.85:1 (Master of the World, Cry of the Banshee), 1:66:1 (Tower of London, Diary of a Madman) and 1:33:1 (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe) aspect ratios, each film contains varying degrees of scratches and scuffs, all of which never greatly deter from the viewing experience.  From their striking color schemes, Master of the World and Diary of a Madman greatly impress while, Tower of London begins with rough around the edges before nicely improving, demonstrating pleasing black levels in its monochrome photography.  With expectations at bay regarding the sole SD feature included, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe looks as good as can be expected with only one minor coloring hiccup spotted.  In addition, Cry of the Banshee arrives in a virtually blemish free presentation that is both filmic and natural.  Given the fleeting state of materials for many elder features, Scream Factory has once again worked wonders in preserving several more of Price’s pictures.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes with Master of the World also boasting a newly created Stereo mix from the original 4-track mag, each film satisfies in delivering audible dialogue levels and worthy reproductions of their respective scores.  Admittedly, Diary of a Madman retains a mild hiss of little consequence on its track while, Tower of London has occasional cracks and pops heard throughout.  Unquestionably, Master of the World’s Stereo mix is the most effective of the bunch with Les Baxter’s thunderous score leaving lasting impressions.  

    With a variety of newly produced and vintage supplements, special features on Master of the World’s disc 1 include a new Audio Commentary with Actor David Frankham, an extended cut of Richard Matheson: Storyteller (1:12:05), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:28), Photo Gallery (2:18) and Photo Gallery II (1:59).  Disc 2’s Tower of London hosts a new Interview with Director Roger Corman (7:11), Producing Tower of London featuring interviews with Corman and his brother and fellow producer Gene Corman (14:04).  In addition to a Photo Gallery (4:31), two standard definition episodes of Science Fiction Theatre starring Vincent Price, “One Thousand Eyes” (26:09) and “Operation Flypaper” (26:05), supply fans with even more Priceless small screen entertainment.  Furthermore, Diary of a Madman includes a new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman, a Poster Gallery (1:44) and the Theatrical Trailer (3:16) while, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (also found on disc 3) includes, another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman and the newly produced Tales of Vincent Price with Kenneth Johnson (21:26).  In addition to both its Director’s Cut (1:30:49) and American International Theatrical Cut (1:26:37), disc 4’s Cry of the Banshee provides yet another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman on the Director’s Cut, A Devilish Tale of Poe (17:52) featuring an interview with Director Gordon Hessler with its Theatrical Trailer (2:28), TV Spot (0:58), Radio Spot (0:30) and a Poster Gallery (4:09) rounding out the final batch of on-disc extras.  Lastly, a 12-page booklet featuring rare photos is also included.

    In what appears to be their final curtain call for Mr. Price, Scream Factory’s The Vincent Price Collection III offers fans of gothic horror and atmospheric chills a throughly entertaining quintuple of features from the adventure-filled Master of the World to the witch hunting Cry of the Banshee.  Excellently presented and lovingly complimented with ample bonus content for after-movie consumption, The Vincent Price Collection III is a bittersweet accomplishment for the popular horror label that will easily rank as one of the year’s favored releases.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Vincent Price Collection III can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Doctor and the Devils (1985) Blu-ray Review

    The Doctor and the Devils (1985)

    Director: Freddie Francis

    Starring: Timothy Dalton, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Rea, Twiggy, Julian Sands & Patrick Stewart

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a screenplay from famed Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and inspired by factual grave robbers Burke and Hare, a story of medicine and murder is birthed.  Executive Produced by Mel Brooks under his Brooksfilms (The Elephant Man, The Fly) banner, The Doctor and the Devils is a far cry from Brooks’ wildly known comedic outings but instead, a gothic thriller soaked in elegance and fear.  From the director of Girly and Tales from the Crypt, The Doctor and the Devils makes its unholy Blu-ray debut courtesy of Scream Factory.

    Set in 1820s Edinburgh, The Doctor and the Devils centers on Dr. Thomas Rock (Timothy Dalton, Licence to Kill), a noted anatomy professor obsessed with pushing the boundaries of modern medicine.  Dissatisfied with the few rotted cadavers provided to him for study, Rock recruits Robert Fallon (Jonathan Pryce, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) and Timothy Broom (Stephen Rea, V for Vendetta), two fiendish grave robbers to secure quality corpses.  Understanding their reward increases with fresher corpses, the duo begin committing murder in order to supply Dr. Rock with the very best.  Twiggy (Club Paradise), Julian Sands (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Phyllis Logan (Dowton Abbey) and Patrick Stewart (X-Men: Days of Future Past) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Basking in gothic aroma, The Doctor and the Devils is reminiscent of the period piece thrillers Hammer Films was renowned for two decades earlier.  Under the masterful direction of Hammer Films and Amicus Productions alumni Freddie Francis, The Doctor and the Devils captures an identifiable tone of dread and eloquence.  Released at the height of the slasher film craze, the film failed to ignite the box-office numbers but, delivers a lavish production with rich art direction and revered performances.  Timothy Dalton, prior to his tenure as James Bond, stars as a brilliant anatomist determined to push mankind’s understanding of the human body.  Surrounded by disapproving peers, Rock becomes obsessed with furthering his studies by examining fresher supplies of corpses.  Luckily, desperate street hustlers Fallon and Broom become captivated with providing the recently deceased for Dr. Rock.  Fueled by greed, Fallon and Broom quickly turn to murder in order to capitalize on their latest business endeavor.  Pryce and Rea steal the picture with their wild conviction and madcap energy as low level thieves with a weakness for booze and prostitutes.  In a charming surprise turn, Twiggy appears in a substantial role as an attractive working girl who, enters into a brief romance with Rock’s colleague, Dr. Murray (Julian Sands).  While, not graphically gory, the violence found in The Doctor and the Devils feels heightened due to the effectively vile nature of its devilish grave robbers.

    Gorgeously photographed and undeniably classy, The Doctor and the Devils suffers from narrative issues including, Dr. Rock’s anatomy obsessions which causes him to turn a blind eye to the morally wrong issue.  Akin to a mad scientist, Dr. Rock’s yearning to gain new insight is understandable but, without more internal conflict, his intentions feel slightly out of sorts in a more grounded film.  In addition, the lack of attention on Dr. Rock results in a blooming romance between the prostitute Jennie and Dr. Murray.  While, intriguing and nicely laid out, the effort feels wasted as the characters’ relations are hardly central to the plot.  Although, the film suffers from misguided character construction, The Doctor and the Devils is a visually ravishing period thriller with superb performances from Pryce and Rea.  Where the film lacks in cheap scares and overwhelming gore, it generally succeeds with sophisticated gothic grace.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Scream Factory presents The Doctor and the Devils with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Arriving with natural grain intact and relaying a very filmic appearance, this gothic thriller looks sound.  Skin tones are relayed warmly with dreary colors including blacks, browns and grays popping nicely.  In addition, the rotted and sometimes bloody cadavers offer nice contrast in their gory state to the otherwise unflashy color palette.  Although, crushing is minimal, black levels vary from clear to occasionally murky, making visibility difficult.  Overall, The Doctor and the Devils retains its fog-entrenched atmosphere of past period pieces with near perfect results.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, The Doctor and the Devils satisfies with always audible dialogue and exceptional balance of more chaotic scenes.  Moments of loud partying and heavy tavern drinking never overwhelm the mix but, instead rewards the viewer with its well handling of several components at one time.  Distortion or other anomalies are nonexistent in this nicely balanced, dialogue heavy picture.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman

    • Interviews with Executive Producer Mel Brooks, Producer Jonathan Sanger and Former Brooksfilms Development Executive Randy Auerbach (15:42): In this newly recorded conversation, the creative trio reminisce about the project’s early beginnings and the importance of withholding Mel Brooks’ name on most Brooksfilms releases in order to not raise expectations of a comedy.  This laid back, informal chat also finds the three colleagues recalling a Hollywood pastime when friendships were important not only to the artists but, also in getting projects off the ground.

    • Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    Sophisticated and posh, The Doctor and the Devils is a maddening tale of obsession, murder and betrayal headlined by a stellar cast and executed by an icon of gothic cinema.  Largely inspired by the real life Burke and Hare, this cinematic grave robbing account delivers a suitable story but misfires with several character traits.  Best appreciated for Pryce and Rea’s memorable performances and its impactful production design, The Doctor and the Devils is a suitable period horror film made during a time that greatly lacked them.  Scream Factory delights fans with a near perfect audio and visual treatment of this often overlooked film along, with a decent spread of supplemental features that include insights from Film Historian Steve Haberman and Mel Brooks.  Not quite perfect, The Doctor and the Devils remains a classy love letter to the gothic outings of yesteryear with its tale of decadent grave robbing rooted in fact.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 4thThe Doctor and the Devils can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Vincent Price Collection II Blu-ray Review

    The Vincent Price Collection II

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning from the grave once again, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents seven more terrifying tales from the master of horror in one spine-tingling collection.  Rewarding viewers with chills and comedy like no other, Vincent Price guides fans on more gothic excursions into the unknown, complimented by a healthy assortment of bonus content just in time for the Halloween season.

    Spanning seven films across four Blu-rays, The Vincent Price Collection II continues to unearth more of Price’s esteemed classics, supplying viewers with essential content across three of the thespians most impressive decades.  Included are The Raven (1963), The Comedy of Terrors (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), The Last Man on Earth (1964), Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972), Return of the Fly (1959) and the William Castle classic, House on Haunted Hill (1959).

    MOVIE(s):

    • The Raven (1963): Deviating heavily from the source material, The Raven reunites Price with Producer/Director Roger Corman in yet another entry in their popular Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.  Joined by renowned performers, Peter Loree (Casablanca) and Boris Karloff (Frankenstein), The Raven takes a comedic turn as the three performers appear as competitive magicians in the 14th-century.  Price may be seen as the leading man but, it is Loree who steals the show with his endless improvisational skills and nonstop humor.  Even in his later years, Karloff shines here as the film’s antagonist, battling Price and Loree in his impressively gothic castle.  In addition, a young Jack Nicholson (As Good As It Gets) and horror icon Hazel Court (The Curse of Frankenstein) make appearances in this unusual yet, always entertaining tale of betrayal and magical dueling.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    • The Comedy of Terrors (1963): Upping the comedic ante, Screenwriter Richard Matheson’s (The Pit and the Pendulum) story reunites Tales of Terror alumni Vincent Price, Peter Loree and Basil Rathbone in this fiendishly funny offering of a financially strapped funeral director (Price) who turns to homicide in order to generate business.  This time around, Price and Loree, serving as his lowly assistant, are on equal ground as their comedic chemistry and timing is impeccable.  Boris Karloff joins his The Raven co-stars as Price’s decrepit father-in-law supplying comic one liners.  In addition, Joyce Jameson (Death Race 2000) stuns as Price’s neglected wife who shatters household objects due to her shrieking singing voice.  While, the narrative tends to grow slightly redundant, it is Price and Loree’s efforts that keep the fun brewing.  Under the watchful eye of Director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People), The Comedy of Terrors substitutes genuine horror for hilarity in this underrated effort that allows Price to fully stretch his comedic bones.

    RATING: 4/5

    • The Tomb of Ligeia (1964): Marking the end of his long-running Poe adaptations, Producer/Director Roger Corman would ditch his tried and true gothic sets for real English countryside locations.  Although, The Tomb of Ligeia ultimately underperformed the most out of all the previous Poe films, Corman insists it is one of the best.  Re-teaming once again with Vincent Price, The Tomb of Ligeia centers on a mournful widower, Verden Fell (Price), haunted by the spirit of his former wife, Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd, Damien: Omen II).  As Fell finds the will to love another (also Shepherd), nightmarish visions and a sinister cat controlled by Ligeia threatens their very existence.  Filled with rich atmosphere and surreal imagery, The Tomb of Ligeia injects many abstract notions sometimes at the sake of coherent storytelling.  While, the narrative may be more complicated than necessary, The Tomb of Ligeia stands proudly as a fitting finale to Corman’s Poe films thanks to Price’s always reliable skills and Corman’s constantly moving camera, making the film a visually arresting watch.

    RATING: 4/5  

    • The Last Man on Earth (1964): Based on Richard Matheson’s classic tale, I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth centers on Dr. Robert Morgan (Price), the lone survivor of a worldwide plague that has infected the population, morphing them into undead vampires.  Filmed on location in Rome with black and white photography, The Last Man on Earth is a simple story that rises to great heights courtesy of Price’s emotionally convincing performance.  Appearing in the rare role of the heroic protagonist, Price conjures up wonderful pathos as a man who has lost everything but, still yearns to live.  Acknowledged as one of Price’s finest performances and influential to countless filmmakers, The Last Man on Earth has spawned countless reinterpretations but, all have failed to achieve the original’s execution and unsettlingly dark mood.

    RATING: 5/5       

    • Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972): Awakening after three years, the dreadful Dr. Phibes (Price) lives once again for the sole purpose of resurrecting his late wife, Victoria (Caroline Munro).  Accompanied by his loyal aide, Vulnavia (the beautiful Valli Kemp replaces the equally gorgeous Virginia North), Phibes must recover his stolen papyrus scrolls needed to locate the River of Life.  As Phibes tracks the immortality obsessed thief, Biederbeck (Robert Quarry, Count Yorga, Vampire), to Egypt, the good doctor’s ingenious methods of murder follow.  Peter Jeffrey and John Cater reprise their roles as the Scotland Yard Inspectors tracking Phibes while, Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein) cameos as a ship captain.  Falling only slightly behind the original film’s uniqueness, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! manages to retain the iconic art deco appearance of its predecessor while, taking risks with its narrative.  This sequel, released only a year after the original, finds Phibes less vengeful and more determined to complete his mission of breathing life into his late wife.  Of course, Phibes has no issue ridding those who stand in his way with clever demises that incorporate scorpions and snakes.  Unsurprisingly, Price is delightful in the role as the eccentric doctor with a knack for organ playing while, Jeffrey and Cater’s dry humor inject several chuckles throughout the film.  Meanwhile, Robert Quarry makes a pleasing advisory for Phibes amidst onset hostility between the two thespians.    Ambitious and enjoyably outlandish, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! may not top the original but, throughly entertains in ways most sequels fail to.  

    RATING: 4/5

    • Return of the Fly (1959): Determined to revive his late father’s work, Phillipe Delambre (Brett Halsey), begins experimenting against the wishes of his uncle Francois (Vincent Price).  Recruiting the help of a friend and utilizing his own finances, Phillipe is successful in restoring his father’s transporter device.  When betrayal and greed arise, the past is doomed to repeat itself.  Although Price is top-billed, he is again regulated to the supporting role as the only returning cast member from the original film.  Literally lacking the color and originality of the 1958 classic, Edward L. Bernds’ (Queens of Outer Space) direction is fairly paint by numbers and does little to separate itself from its originator.  Price still charms in the capacity he’s given but, ultimately where Dr. Phibes Rises Again! succeeds in its risk-taking, Return of the Fly plummets in playing it too safe.  

    RATING: 2.5/5

    • House on Haunted Hill (1959): Considered by many to be the B-movie equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock, Producer/Director William Castle became a household name with his ingenious marketing campaigns and immersive gimmicks to draw audiences to his pictures.  Luckily, Castle not only succeeded in being a master salesman but also a competent storyteller who knew how to work a crowd.  A career milestone for Castle, 1959’s House on Haunted Hill centers on the eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), who along with his wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart, Spider Baby) invite five selected people to a haunted house where $10,000 will be awarded to who can survive the night of supernatural occurrences.  Littered with genuinely ghastly ghouls and nonstop jumpscares, the breezy 74-minute runtime ensures a fun time for all.  Written by longtime Castle collaborator, Robb White (Macabre, The Tingler), House on Haunted Hill presents a strong group of characters with mysterious backgrounds, keeping the audience uneasy about the guests as much as the ghosts.  An absolute riot from beginning to end, House on Haunted Hill transports viewers back to a more innocent time in moviemaking where spookhouse shenanigans were hosted by charismatic spirits such as Vincent Price.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    All the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II arrive with 1080p transfers, sporting 2.35:1 aspect ratios with the exception of Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1.85:1) and House on Haunted Hill (1.78:1).  Appearing with natural grain intact, all of the films relay nicely to varying degrees.  Skin tones look healthy with fine detail observed in facial features and the gothic, period wardrobe.  Colors, most appreciatively, pop best in Dr. Phibes Rises Again! with the art deco design and interesting color palette found in its costumes and during Phibes’ organ playing sequences.  For as old as the films are, instances of flakes and speckles are on sight, most noticeably in The Comedy of Terrors but, thankfully none ever overwhelm or deter the viewing experience.  Black levels are decent with respectable visibility and occasional haziness, most likely attributed to the films‘ low-budgets and underlit lighting.  Meanwhile, the black and white photography found in The Last Man on Earth, Return of the Fly and House on Haunted Hill are most impressive with inky black levels and crisp, nearly blemish-free, appearances.  Over half a century old, the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II look marvelous for their age and are unlikely to look better than this.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II always project audible dialogue but, aren’t meant to necessarily challenge the varying channels of your audio setup.  Simple in their execution, moments of suspense and screaming terror benefit from the added oomph in each mix while, the various scores and musical cues occasionally register too sharply but, generally please.  Each film sounds as rich as possible with no major hiccups to speak of.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    In addition to a comprehensive 32-page collector’s booklet that includes gorgeous production photos from each film and a must read essay by Film Historian David Del Valle,  the bonus features found in The Vincent Price Collection II are as follows:

    The Raven (1963):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman: newly recorded.
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Raven (6:37)            
    • Corman’s Comedy of Poe (8:13)
    • Promotional Record (5:41)
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:26)
    • Still Gallery: 67 in total.

    The Comedy of Terrors (1963):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Comedy of Terrors (9:35) 
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:32)
    • Still Gallery: 38 in total.

    The Tomb of Ligeia (1964):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Roger Corman
    • Audio Commentary with Actress Elizabeth Shepard, moderated by Roy Frumkes: newly recorded.
    • Audio Commentary with Film Historian Constantine Nasr: newly recorded.
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:28)
    • Still Gallery: 28 in total.

    The Last Man on Earth (1964):

    • Audio Commentary with Film Historian David Del Valle and Author Derek Botelho: newly recorded.
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Last Man on Earth (6:24)
    • Still Gallery: 66 in total.

    Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972):

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:08)
    • Still Gallery: 75 in total.

    Return of the Fly (1959):

    • Audio Commentary with Actor Brett Halsey & Film Historian David Del Valle: newly recorded.
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:39)
    • TV Spot (2:39)
    • Still Gallery: 18 in total.

    House on Haunted Hill (1959):

    • Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steven Haberman: newly recorded.
    • Vincent Price: Renaissance Man (27:20)
    • The Art of Fear (12:13)
    • Working with Vincent Price (15:26)
    • Introductory Price (13:16)
    • Theatrical Trailer (1:40)
    • Still Gallery: 23 in total.
    • Vincent Price Trailer Collection (19:27): Includes House of Wax, The Conqueror Worm, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, House of Usher, Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tingler and The Fly.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Continuing to carve out the illustrious legacy of Vincent Price’s body of work, Scream Factory has once again served fans with one of the best releases of the year.  The Vincent Price Collection II welcomes seven more of Price’s memorable films in gorgeous looking transfers, joined with a hefty amount of bonus content for fans to enjoy.  Undeniably, Vincent Price is one of horror’s most iconic talents and this remarkable collection is essential viewing, perfectly suited for the spookiest time of the year.

    RATING: 5/5

    The Vincent Price Collection II is available now can be purchased through Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.