Thursday, December 09, 2010

VW's Favorite DVDs of 2010: Richard Harland Smith

Today's list is courtesy of the illustrious Richard Harland Smith, a VW contributor since days of old, and a VW correspondent since days even older than that. RHS currently blogs for Movie Morlocks at the Turner Classic Movies website, screenwrites and curates the curious artwork of daughter Vayda Jane, but still manages to contribute to VW now and then, for which I'm grateful -- as I am for this list of ten. -- TL

By Richard Harland Smith

1. CRACK IN THE WORLD (Olive Films)
One of those seminal childhood films that made becoming an adult seem very attractive: you get to drive Jeeps, shoot guns, fire rockets, look through microscopes and telescopes, and sneak a peak up Janette Scott's skirt as she climbs a ladder from the bowels of the earth to its sulfurous surface. Big love to Olive Films for putting this back on the table.

2. THE MAGICIAN (Criterion Collection)
For all its painterly aesthetics, this under-loved Ingmar Bergman joint is no less a key childhood title for me, reminding me as it does now of those wonderful post-adolescent years of discovering foreign films on public television... back when you could do such a thing. Some of the imagery here is just burned into my brain, like an eyeball in an inkwell.

This set has a number of films on it, including blah-blah-blah, don't-care-don't-care, yadda-yadda-yadds and THE CAT AND THE CANARY! Yeah, the 1939 one, which you haven't been able to see since forever! Universal could have slapped the SRP of this set onto a keepcase of THE CAT AND THE CANARY and I would have considered it a bargain. Plus, you get the equally funny THE GHOST BREAKERS in the bargain. Thanks indeed!

4. THE ELECTRIC CHAIR (Wild Eye Releasing)
I have a bit of a personal stake here, as this obscure/forgotten/never released independent film stars my late friend Victor Argo. When I interviewed Vic, fairly exhaustively, back in 2000, he didn't even mention what had been, at that point in his thirty-odd year career, his only starring role. This will be an acquired taste, certainly, but double-kudos to Wild Eye Releasing for making space on the shelf for something so rare and niche market. It means the world to me.

5. S0S PACIFIC (Odeon Entertainment, Region 2)
Not only is it a crackerjack corker of a pisscutter, but SOS PACIFIC allows Eddie Constantine fans a fairly rare opportunity to hear him in a movie with his own voice, as the late, great American in Paris was normally dubbed by others in his films from over there. This strangers-in-bad-company survival tale puts Constantine onboard (and then off) a charter plane with Eva Bartok from BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, Clifford Evans from CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF and Richard Attenborough from, well, let's just say 10 RILLINGTON PLACE.

6. THE CAMP ON BLOOD ISLAND (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Region 2)
No, it's not THE SECRET OF BLOOD ISLAND, but it does have Barbara Shelley in it (if not in a starring role) and it is must-see non-horror Hammer. Sony also has made available YESTERDAY'S ENEMY, with Stanley Baker, and I would recommend all of these to Hammer fans who think they've seen it all.

7. LAKE MUNGO (Lionsgate)
No one would think ill of you if you gave this title from the AFTER DARK HORRORFEST 4 COLLECTION a pass... but you'd be missing something unexpected. A documentary ghost story, the film doesn't go for the visceral shocks of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY but rather charts the terrain of remorse and regret from which ghosts sprout and flourish.

8. THE WOLFMAN (Universal)
Yeah, I know I'm not supposed to like Joe Johnson's THE WOLFMAN, and there are a ton of things wrong with it, but I just can't help but feel all giddy at the DVD package of the theatrical and director's cut and all the menu art and all the extra touches that, whatever its failings, mark this latest reboot of the Talbot Mythos a labor of love.

9. JOHNNY STACATTO (Timeless Media Group)
I offer this in the place of the THRILLER box set that I'm sure all of my fellow Watchdogs will have on their list. When I was a kid, I thought MANNIX was pretty cool but that's only because I hadn't heard of John Cassavetes or seen his early TV show, about the adventures of a jazz-loving shamus. (Early on, the plan was to make the protagonist an actual hepcat but, well, you know The Man.) This 3 disc set (27 episodes - a single season!) will have to hold me until they can find all those episodes of DAN RAVEN.

10. THE GREEN SLIME (Warner Archive Collection)
There are a bunch of titles from this collection that I could nominate for greatness (coughSTRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOORcough) but there's just something about THE GREEN SLIME. Like a lot of grumpy 50-somethings, I learned about this Kinji Fukasaku joint from the cover of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and I actually saw it fairly early in the development of my love of these kinds of things. The movie has lived in my heart for decades and it's great to have it back on my TV.

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