Laserblast: Terrifying Tales and Amazing Adventures of Wallace and Gromit

This week sees a plethora of home releases, most of them familiar favorites and outright classics. For reasons of symetry, we thought we would highlight a pair of DVD titles each of which feature three short episodes combined to feature length.

WALLACE AND GROMIT IN THREE AMAZING ADVENTURES: From Ardman Animations (producers of the hit CHICKEN RUN), this DVD collects the three Oscar-nominated short subjects that launched the career stop-motion stars, Wallace and Gromit: “A Grand Day Out,” “The Wrong Trousers,” and “A Close Shave.” The first is a crude but cute early effort, with a thin plot about an outing to the lunar surface in search of cheese (sort of a spoof of  George Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon”). The later two are excellent Hitchcock-pastiches, filled with inventive sight gags (both one Oscars for best animated short subject). Basically, this DVD recreates the previously available laserdisc set, but with an added feature, a series called “Cracking Contraptions” that were made for the Internet. These are basically brief “black-out” vignettes that feature a sight gag built around one of Wallace’s new inventions; they’re not as sophisticated as other titles, but sitll fun. Total running time is approximately 90 minutes, but you will find more entertainment value than in dozens of live-action feature films. And the timing is perfect, with the full-length feature film WALLACE AND GROMIT: CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT coming out next month. Read a review of the films collected on the DVD here.

MIDNIGHT MOVIES

MGM-UA promises wo Midnight Movie double bills on DVD this week: the first two-pack includes TALES OF TERROR and TWICE TOLD TALES; the second includes DIE MONSTER DIE and THE DUNWHICH HORROR.

The good news here is that MGM-UA is continuing the Midnight Movie line, whch many feared would be discarded when the company was purchased by Sony earlier this year. As for the actual results, we find it hard to applaud: for our money, the only good title in the bunch is TALES OF TERROR, which was previously available on a single DVD. The film is the third in a series of Poe adaptations starring Vincent Price. Having run into problems expanding Poe’s short tales to feature length in THE HOUSE OF USHER and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, screenwriter Richard Matheson opted for an anthology format that required less padding. The results rank among the best in the series. If you want to spend the exta $5 to purchase this film in a two-pack with TWICE-TOLD TALES, be our guest, but you will find that film to be a pale imitation of TALES OF TERROR — it’s another three-part anthology starring Vincent Price, this time based on Nathanial Hawthorne. It’s worth seeing, but it’s not an essential part of your collection.

As for DIE MONSTER DIE and THE DUNWHICH HORROR, those are mediocre Lovecraft adaptations, produced by American International Pictures when their success with the Poe adaptations led them to look for other dead authors whose work was in the public domain. If you’re a hardcore fan of old horror movies and/or Lovecraft, you might want to rent this. But only a completist would need this sitting on his shelf at home, permanently.

If you want to keep an eye out for future Midnight Movie DVDs from MGM-UA, look here

ALSO THIS WEEK

DOLLS is an overlooked film from director Stuart Gordon, from a script by Ed Naha. With the feel of a demented fairly tale, the movie comes closer to classic Gothic horror than Gordon’s Lovecraft adaptations, which opted for a tongue-in-cheek, gross-out sensibilty. The film has been hard to find on home video, so its appearance on DVD is a real treat.

SPECIES 4-disc collectors set gives you all three films, plus some bonus material; but only the first film was any good, so it’s hard to get too excited about this.

THE LADY IN WHITE, an excellent though little seen ghost story from the 1980s. THE ADVENTURES OF SHARK BOY AND LAVA GIRL was a box office flop from the entertaining but erratic Robert Rodriguez. BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA Season One is out, for those who care. FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM is a fairly dreadful film with Vincent Price.