Hollywood Gothique
The Vault

Laserblast: Peter Pan, Dracula, etc

This week is not a particularly exciting one for genre titles on DVD. Sure, there’s a bunch of stuff coming out, but it’s mostly old TV shows and some oddball cult titles, barely worth mentioning. We’ll take a look at just a handful of discs worth mentioning. As always, you can purchase any of these DVDs by clicking on the image…

Disney offers up a two-disc Platinum Edition of their classic animated film PETER PAN. The movie seems to be a favorite among animation fans because of its colorful depiction of the joys of Neverland, coupled with a fine vocal performance by Hans Conried as the nefarious Captain Hook. It is worth watching, although the depiction of Indians (including a song titled “What Makes the Red Man Red?”) is a bit embarrassing in terms of its racial stereotyping. Also missing is the undertone of bitterness in the James M. Barrie source material (the novel more than the play), in which the word “heartless” was frequently used to describe the callous attitude of carefree children, who wandered off on their adventures while ignoring the anguish their disappearance caused to their parents. The DVd is loaded with special features, many of which appeared on the previous 2002 “Special Edition”: audio commentaries, back stage features, deleted songs, read-along songs (with on-screen lyrics), and interactive games.

NIGHT OF THE COMET sounds like junk, with its spoofy story about two sisters who survive an apocalypse caused by a comet that passes near earth, killing most of the population and turning the rest into zombies. Yet it somehow turns out to be a lot of good-natured fun, with clever characterizations and performances from some old pros like Geoffrey Lewis and Mary Woronov. Katherine Mary Stewart, who was in a bunch of these back in the 1980s and 1990s, isn’t bad either. Although this film has been on VHS before, I think this marks its debut on DVD. Check it out.

THE MANITOU is an odd-ball artifact from the 1970s, back when they still made cheap drive-in exploitaiton movies. The director, William Girdler, had done a bunch of schlocky rip-off movies (GRIZZLY rip-offed from JAWS, ABBY ripped off from THE EXORICST), which were successful enough to get him a gig directing a relatively lavish movie with a major Hollywood star, Tony Curtis, and a supporting cast that included such familiar faces as Stella Stevens, Ann Southern,  Michale Ansara, and Burgess Meredith. Unfortunately, the film itself turned out to be a bit of a botch. Although essentially a horror film, it goes all cosmic at the end, with a bunch of spacey special effects that seem to have been inspired by the recent success of STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THRID KIND. The DVD includes a theatrical trailer and a TV spot.

This abysmal piece of junk recently ran on BBC. There have been some debased version of Bram Stoker’s tale, but the Masterpiece Theatre version of DRACULA tops them all with its silly, clunky additions, which waste lots of time on a convoluted story, leaving little time for most of the good scenes from the book. In this version, the aristocratic Lord Arthur Holmwood suffers from syphillis, which he fears passing on to his bride, Lucy. So – get this – he makes a deal with some London Satanists to help them import their Transylvanian guru – Dracula, of course – who will supposedly cure the veneral disease for a price. In the manner of BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, the Count starts off as an old man, then turns young, handsome, and seductive – but you will not be seduced by the idiotic storyline in which one of the major characters knows exactly who, what, and where Dracula is, from the very beginning – which somewhat undercuts the whole story, which was supposed to be about tracking down the ancient vampire.

This wacked-out remnant from the ’80s almost has to be seen to be believed. Skateboarding was a big thing back then, as was science-fiction – so why not make a science-fiction film about skateboarding. The SOLARBABIES of the title are a bunch of kids who go zooming around what looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland that conveniently has nice smooth paths for their wheels. There is some kind of plot about some kind of powerful object that that bad guys want to destroy, but who really cares? The absurdity of the concept pretty much qualifies this as camp – a fact that, thankfully, was not lost on the older actors (the always wonderful Sarah Douglas and Richard Jordon), who play their villains with a touch of camp that almost makes their scenes bearable. In terms of production values and technical competence, SOLARBABIES does not rank with the likes of PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE, in terms of all-time badness, but there are few films sillier.