Hollywood Gothique
The Vault

Laserblast: Night at the Museum

Well, there are quite a lot of DVDs to choose from this week. They’re not all classics, but who needs a classic when you can enjoy a nice, disreputable cult film, on the one hand, or an effects-filled Hollywood blockbuster, on the other?

Just to warn you: if you’re a dedicated collector who buys everything the first chance he gets, you may find this edition of Laserblast a tad disappointing, because most of the older titles are probably already in your collection. Not only are these films that have already come out on DVD, but in most cases the DVDs are essentially the same. We’re not talking about new editions with extra added bonus features; we’re talking about re-issues, presumably because previous pressings sold out.

This week kicks off with NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM, the super-successful fantasy comedy that puts Ben Stiller in the middle of a museum where the exhibits come to life. The actual storyline (Stiller plays a divorced dad who needs to earn his son’s respect) is not nearly so inspirational as intended, but the fun-filled effects (includng a T-Rex skeleton that wants to play fetch) more than make up for the deficiencies.

The film is now available as a Two-Disc Special Edition DVD, a Widescreen DVD, a Full Screen DVD, and a a Blu-Ray Disc.

Also on DVD this week is DEJA-VU, the psychic thriller starring Denzel Washington and directed by Tony Scott. For bonus features, the disc includes deleted and extended scenes and something called the “Surveillance Window,” which “takes you back in time to experince behind-the-scenes moments with the filmmakers.”

If you like special editions of family fantasy films, this is your week. First up is a special edition DVD of HARRY AND THE HENDERSON, the comedy about a family that ends up adopting Bigfoot. Also available is a special edition DVD of WILLOW, the goofy 1988 fantasy-adventure executive produced by George Lucas. Both of these titles were previously available, and I don’t think this week’s releases represent anything new: these are just re-issues of previously available discs.

JANE EYRE isn’t really a horror story, but it is loaded with Gothic trappings that make it worth checking out if you like old-fashioned ominous atmosphere. This is the classic version, starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine.

It feels like Fulci Fever this week, with two titles by Italian cult director Lucio Fulci appearing on DVD. First is THE BLACK CAT, the second of two films in which actor David Warbeck appeared for the director (the first being THE BEYOND). This is one of Fulci’s less celebrated titles. Like many of the DVDs mentioned this week, this one was previously available; this week’s release is basically a re-issue, not a new edition.

The second Fulci title up for grabs this week is THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. This disc has actually been available previously; the new release is simply a re-issue with the same bonus features (or lack thereof). The film has its fans – it’s the third of an unofficial trilogy that encompasses CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and THE BEYOND. In these films, Fulci raised narrative incoherence into an art form, with the non-sensical plot twists suggesting a universe beseiged by inexplicable supernatural forces that defied logic and reason. Unfortunately, Fulci took his time when it came to dileneating these ideas: HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is wonderfully atmospheric but terminally slow – so much so that you end up yearning for the explosions of gore just to break the tedium. The disc contains a trailer, TV spots, stills gallery, and talent bios.

Maybe it’s not “Fulci Fever”; maybe it’s really “Italian Influenza.” At least, that’s what it seems like with the addition of this oddball little cult item. MACABRE marked the directing debut of Lamberto Bava, son of the late great Mario Bava (who helmed the horror masterpiece BLACK SUNDAY, starring Barbara Steele). The younger Bava’s first film was co-written by Pupi Avati, who wrote and directed the deliriously weird and creepy (if not altogether satisfying) HOUSE OF THE LAUGHING WINDOWS. Lamberto has never quite lived up to his father’s reputation, but the Overlook Encyclopedia of Film: Horror has good things to say about this film. This story is about a crazy woman who keeps her lover’s head in the fridge by day – and in her bed at night. A blind, nosey neighbor suspects something weird is going on, which leads to a lethal confrontation. The DVD includes “A Head for Horror” (an interview with Lamberto Bava), plus a theatrical trailer and a bio of the director.

LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE is a cult film par excellence: a sort of Spanish take on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (filmed in England). It’s very well done and features graphic gore by the guy who would go on to skewer all those eyeballs in Fulci films like ZOMBIE. The DVD is loaded with bonus features that make it worth adding to your collection (if you haven’t already done so, when it was previously issued).