Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It’s a monster’s holiday

Frequent TDOY commenter Doc Quatermass sent me an e-mail a day or two ago that contains some news about a DVD collection you may have already seen touted on TCM (note: the “I” in this passage refers to a friend of Doc’s and not the madman himself):

I wanted to let you know that the Universal Cult Horrors Collection is the real thing (I've know [sic] about it since August but had a gag order) and it's a Turner Classic Movies Exclusive. However, as with all DVDs ordered from the Turner Classic Movies Web site, Movies Unlimited will fulfill the orders. 5,000 sets are being made and the retail is $49.99 for the set, or $19.99 individually. The films are:

Murders in the Zoo (1933)

The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942—Ivan's note: directed by Joseph H. Lewis!)

The Mad Ghoul (1943)

The Strange Case of Doctor Rx (1942)

House of Horrors (1946)

There may be some extras also.

The e-mail goes on to say that Island of Lost Souls (1932) was originally planned for inclusion in this package but Universal decided at the last minute to make it a stand-alone release. As I said earlier, I caught a promo for this on TCM but I only saw the tail-end so I don’t know the official launch date on this set. (This does explain, however, why the channel will be running Murders in the Zoo on the 31st at 10pm.)

There are also a couple of interesting releases just announced from the Warner Archive (click here for all the new arrivals): one of them is the 1933 romantic crime drama Penthouse, a nifty little wisp of a film that stars Warner "Crime Doctor" Baxter, Myrna Loy, Charles Butterworth (hysterically funny as the butler), Mae Clarke, Phillips Holmes, C. Henry Gordon, Martha Sleeper (who I enjoyed tremendously in the Charley Chase shorts in the Becoming Charley Chase collection) and Nat Pendleton, playing—here’s a stretch—a mobster. I saw this on TCM sometime back and enjoyed the heck out of it…not enough to plunk down $19.95 for it, you understand, but you should and catch it the next time it makes its rounds.

Also being offered up in the Archive is the feature-length film version of the beloved radio and television sitcom Our Miss Brooks (1956), and while there are some enjoyable moments in this one (particularly when Richard Crenna—as Walter Denton—warbles It’s Magic) the overall storyline is a bit weak…plus they make the mistake of…well, that would be giving the plot away, so I’ll keep mum for those who haven’t seen it. It is interesting to note, however, that all of the members of the cast—Eve Arden, Robert Rockwell, Gale Gordon, Crenna, Jane Morgan, Gloria McMillan, Leonard Smith (as Fabian “Stretch” Snodgrass—Fabian?)…even Joe Kearns—appear in this, along with newcomers Don “Gidget’s dad” Porter and Nick Adams. But they committed the cardinal sin of not including Mary Jane Croft as Connie’s rival, Daisy Enright.

But the big prize being showcased in the Archive is a six DVD set containing sixty-three, count ‘em, sixty-three one-reel shorts from the falling-down funny Joe McDoakes series cranked out by Warner Bros. from 1942 to 1956. (Well, I think they’re funny—your mileage may vary.) I posted some info about this set to Facebook and couldn’t believe the immediate positive response. This lil’ baby will run you $39.95 and change, but it sure as hell beats those Dogville comedies any day of the week.

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John said...

I agree with you on the Joe McDoakes series. There's a few misfires but even those entries are chock full of hilarious bits featuring some great character actors.
Clifton Young, who normally played total psychopaths, is a delight as Joe's obnoxious friend plus Jane Frazee and Phyllis Coates are two of my favorite actresses.
I've got this on order and plan on watching a short a day when I receive it.

lashel said...

Since these are DVD-Rs, unless I'm mistaken, burned to order, what is the quality like on the Warner Archives releases and will they be playable 5-10-20 years down the road?

Tom said...


Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

Since these are DVD-Rs, unless I'm mistaken, burned to order, what is the quality like on the Warner Archives releases and will they be playable 5-10-20 years down the road?

This has been a bone of contention for many DVD collectors—the fact that the Warner Archive DVDs are not professionally stamped but burned much in the manner of a home recording. (Which would stand to reason, since they are “maid to order.”) Warners argues that with the method they are using for these discs, the shelf life on them will be much longer than your average home record. I have bought five discs from since the program was announced—Beast of the City (1932), Castle on the Hudson (1940), Lost Boundaries (1949), The Rain People (1969) and The Trail of ’98 (1928)—so check back with me in five years and I’ll give them another look-see to see if they hold up. (Sorry if I sound a bit facetious here—I don’t mean to be.)

I used to worry a lot about this problem, but I have had a handful of professional DVDs go the same way. I sold a copy of The Bedroom Window (1987) to someone on eBay one time and he contacted me not too long afterward to report that he could not play the disc. I told him I would rectify the situation (fortunately some other company had re-released the film) but to go ahead and return the DVD because I was curious as to why it would not play. Sure enough, I put the disc in the player on my computer and the info on it had gone with the wind—no evidence that there had ever been a movie on there. I’ve had this happen since then with two other titles, both of them Anchor Bay DVDs: Blue Collar (1978) and Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). At the time, I thought about selling the Collar DVD because it had long been discontinued and I probably could have got a pretty penny for it—but I decided to hang on to it because I liked the movie too much. I’m glad I made that decision, because I would have had some major egg on my face. (I’ve since replaced it with a Region 2 copy I purchased from for £3.99.)

So I guess what this long-winded ramble is saying: the stability of DVDs over time would appear to be questionable and when you pays your money, you takes your chances.