Laserblast: Godzilla blasts Christmas

We got a bit of a jump on this week's edition of Laserblast by previously reviewing the new DVD releases of 1955's GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN and 1964's MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA. Although neither film has the stature of the original 1954 GODZILLA, these new discs will be of extreme interest to fans, as they offer up both the Americanized versions of the films and the Japanese originals in uncut form, with original dialogue intact and optional English subtitles.

 
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There are a handful of other fantasy films, mystery movies, and sci-fi cinema reaching home video stores today, but only one of these is of recent vintage, last year's remake of 1974's BLACK CHRISTMAS.

Dimension Films released the new version of BLACK CHRISTMAS on DVD in an Unrated Widescreen Edition (ASIN: B000MM0LIM) and an Unrated Full Screen Edition (ASIN: B000MM0LIW). The DVDs divide the film into twelve chapter stops, with English-language Dolby 5.1 surround sound and optional subtitles (English for the Hearing Impaired and Spanish). Bonus features include seven deleted, extended, or alternate scenes; three alternate endings; and two featurettes.

The Deleted/Alternate/Extended Scenes:

  • "Someone in the Attic" is am overlong montage that introduces the sorority house and establishes the presence of the killer. 
  • "Christmas Ringtones" is a minor dialogue exchange.
  • "Gift Exchange" features Lacy Chabert's character unwrapping a giant dildo, which flops around to (allegedly) hilarious effect.
  • "The Girls Discuss Kyle and Eve" is a bit of dialogue that points a finger at two suspects.
  • "Extended Version - Phone Call From Dana" offers more suspicious finger-pointing at Eve.
  • "International Version - Melissa Killed in the Hallways" is a longer version of Melissa's death, featuring the killer chomping down on an eyeball that goes "smoosh!"
  • "Alternate Version - Lauren's Death" more closely mimics the murder of Margot Kidder's character in the original BLACK CHRISTMAS.

The Alternate Endings suggest that a more low-key approach was originally intended; each successive version amps up the violence, trying to end with a bigger bang:

  1. Leigh (Kristen Cloke) delivers a speech about family to Kelli (Katie Cassidy) in the hospital. The inspiration message is undercut by a call from the cell phone of Cassidy's dead boyfriend, implying that the killer is still active. This was apparently the original ending.
  2. As in the final film, Leigh’s inspirational speech is missing. Instead, Leigh is called down to identify the body of Agnes, who turns out not to be in the body bag. Meanwhile, Billy dies in the E.R. from burns. Agnes invades Kelli's hospital room, where Kelli electrocutes her (as in the finished film), before Kelli's parents arrive to take her home.
  3. A nurse wheels Kelli into the E.R. room to see that Billy is really dead (an assertion that seems undermined by the fact that he seems to be breathing). After Kelli's parents arrive and take her home (as in Ending #2), Billy's body goes missing. The camera pans up to reveal his eye peering out from behind a smoke detector.

"What Have You Done - The Remaking of BLACK CHRISTMAS" is a standard promo piece crafted to plug the film's 2006 theatrical release. The self-congratulatory tone is a bit heavy-handed (taking the film to a "different level" or "another level" seems to be a standard talking point), but it is nice to get a glimpse at why the filmmakers took on the task or remaking an influential but little-seen cult horror movie. There are interviews with writer-director Glen Morgan, his producer-partner James Wong, the cast, and Bob Clark, who produced and directed the original film. The featurette suffers from an absence of footage from the original, despite much discussion about its similarities to and differences from the remake. The highlight has to be Andrea Martin's brief but hilarious EXORCIST impersonation - an apparent spoof of the raspy voice heard in BLACK CHRISTMAS's obscene phone calls.

"May All Your Christmases Be Black - A Filmmaker's Journey" is the more interesting of the two featurettes: it gives some insight into why the remake turned out to be a disappointing gore film. Glen Morgan laments the financial failure of his first directorial effort, a remake of WILLARD starring Crispen Glover, and offers this as a justification for pandering to the gore crowd ("giving the people what they want"): he admits to including slasher-shock scenes (which he says he dislikes) in the hope of creating a box office hit. The featurette then takes an extended detour to examine Dean Friss, the film's male focus-puller who ended up cast as the female serial killer Agnes. The piece wraps up with Morgan informing us that he will be on "Filmmakers Death Row" if BLACK CHRISTMAS flops. The unpleasant implication is that we should buy DVDs to enable Morgan to go on making films, even though commercial considerations are forcing him to make movies in a way that he himself does not like.

Also out this week are some classic and cult items worth checking out.

BEDAZZLED is the 1967 comedy that inspired the 2000 remake with Brendan Fraser. The original stars the comedy duo of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Moore plays a short-ordrer cook who sells his soul to the Devil (Cook) in exchange for seven wishes, which he uses in vain to win the love of a waitress (Eleanor Bron). Raquel Welch shows up for a couple of scenes as one of the Seven Deadly Sins (Lust, naturally enough). Stanely Donen (SINGIN' IN THE RAIN) directed. Although the remake was good enough in its own way, the original is preferable, thanks to the fine comic chemistry of Moore and Cook. The film also has a more interesting take on Satan's role in the universe, adding a nice layer that grounds the silly comic antics in some interesting ideas.

TWIN PEAKS - THE SECOND SEASON is pretty self-explanatory. The six-disc set includes the entire second season of the ground-breaking cult show conceived by David Lynch and Mark Frost. Bonus features include "Log Lady Introductions;" Behind the Scenes with Kyle MacLachlan, Madchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn, David Duchovny and more; and insights from Caleb Deschanel, Duwayne Dunham, Todd Holland, Tim Hunter, Stephen Gyllenhaal, and Jennifer Lynch.

The Mario Bava Collection, Volume 1 includes five feature films on five discs: BLACK SUNDAY, BLACK SABBATH, THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, KILL BABY KILL, and KNIVES OF THE AVENGER. Bava (who died in 1980) was an Italian cinematographer-turned-director who crafted some of the most stylishly atmospheric Gothic horror movies ever made, while also dabbling in giallo thrillers and action pics. His films often suffered from weak scripting, but the visuals more than made up for that. Surprisngly, there is a school of critical thought (represented by the Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Horror) that ignores the dramatic shortcomings and insists that most if not all of Bava's works are complete masterpieces.

As for the box set itself, it offers up several familiar titles that were previously available. Although advanced word suggested that these discs would offer up alternate versions, that seems not to be the case. Bava's films were frequently altered for U.S. release, sometimes (as with BLACK SABBATH) with his involvement. So, it would be nice to see a definitive box set including both the Italian originals and the American re-edits. Alas, that is not the case here. The titles are not being released as individual discs, but the low price for the set (under $50, or less than $10 per films) makes it worthwhile for Euro-horror fans.