This week’s Blu-ray round-up features a monster box set, both literally and figuratively. We’re talking a massive 15-film Godzilla set from the good folks at the Criterion Collection. If that’s not enough for you, there’s more! Like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, a long-awaited special edition Blu-ray of The Blob, and a 4K release of Scarface. Ithese are the new Blu-ray releases you should check out this week.
Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954–1975
Long before Legendary Pictures attempted to launch their “MonsterVerse” with big, dark, modern Godzilla and King Kong movies, good old Godzilla had a universe of his own. A cinematic universe, you might say. The folks at Criterion have put together a monster release worthy of Godzilla himself: Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films (the Showa-era refers to the years between 1926 and 1989 when Japan was under the reign of Emperor Hirohito).
Some film fans have taken issue with Criterion devoting so much time and effort to what amounts to a series of films (15 in total) in which actors put on rubber suits and battle each other among model cities. But even if you’re not the biggest Godzilla fan in the world (like me), you have to appreciate the achievement here, as well as the trajectory of the franchise. Starting with Godzilla in 1954 (released in America as Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 1956), everyone’s favorite kaiju rose up out of the horrors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which had happened only 10 years before the release of the film. It’s easy to remember the Godzilla franchise as something silly – and indeed, the films on this box set do get progressively sillier. But it’s important to remember the first film is surprisingly serious. It’s a dark, somber reflection of destruction, and not something to be taken lightly.
After the success of Godzilla, there came a sequel: Godzilla Raids Again. This was the first film that introduced the staple of the series: Godzilla having a royal rumble with other big monsters – in this case, the Anguirus. The trend would continue with King Kong vs. Godzilla and Mothra vs. Godzilla. But it was the release of Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster in 1964 that affirmed Godzilla’s rightful place in the ever-growing film franchise. This was the film that bumped Godzilla up from a mighty monster enemy to a hero fighting monsters far worse than himself.
All of that is here, and more, on a set that includes Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again, King Kong vs. Godzilla, Mothra vs. Godzilla, Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster, Invasion of Astro-Monster, Ebirah: Horror of the Deep, Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, All Monsters Attack, Godzilla vs. Hedorah, Godzilla vs. Gigan, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, and Terror of Mechagodzilla.
Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray:
The casual move buyer probably won’t be rushing out to get this anytime soon for one reason: it costs $224.95. But it’s well worth the money if you’re genuinely interested in having this in your collection. Not only do you get 15 films, but you also get a gorgeous book that features essays and notes on all the films. One thing worth knowing: the book also serves as the packaging for the Blu-ray discs, which means you can’t just stick this bad boy on your regular movie shelf. It’s tall – about the size of a vinyl record. So you’re going to have to make some room.
While all the films included on the release haven’t been restored the way Criterion restores some other titles, they have been given high-def digital transfers, which is almost appropriate. Sometimes the quality of the image isn’t quite pristine, but that only adds to that kaiju charm. Yes, this set is massive. Yes, it’s pricey. Yes, some of the movies included here are silly. But it’s also something special – the packaging is gorgeous, with slick new artwork provided for each film. Just remember: the holidays are coming. You could always include this on your wish list if you don’t want to splurge.
Special Features Include:
- High-definition digital transfers of all fifteen Godzilla films made between 1954 and 1975, released together for the first time, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks
- High-definition digital transfer of Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956), the U.S.-release version of Godzilla
- Japanese-release version of King Kong vs. Godzilla from 1962
- Audio commentaries from 2011 on Godzilla and Godzilla, King of the Monstersfeaturing film historian David Kalat
- International English-language dub tracks for Invasion of Astro-Monster, Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla,and Terror of Mechagodzilla
- Directors Guild of Japan interview with director Ishiro Honda, conducted by director Yoshimitsu Banno in 1990
- Programs detailing the creation of Godzilla’s special effects and unused effects sequences from Toho releases including Destroy All Monsters
- New interview with filmmaker Alex Cox about his admiration for the Showa-era Godzilla films
- New and archival interviews with cast and crew members, including actors Bin Furuya, Tsugutoshi Komada, Haruo Nakajima, and Akira Takarada; composer Akira Ifukube; and effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai
- Interview with critic Tadao Sato from 2011
- illustrated audio essay from 2011 about the real-life tragedy that inspired Godzilla
- New English subtitle translations
- PLUS: A lavishly illustrated deluxe hardcover book featuring an essay by cinema historian Steve Ryfle, notes on the films by cinema historian Ed Godziszewski, and new illustrations by Arthur Adams, Sophie Campbell, Becky Cloonan, Jorge Coelho, Geof Darrow, Simon Gane, Robert Goodin, Benjamin Marra, Monarobot, Takashi Okazaki, Angela Rizza, Yuko Shimizu, Bill Sienkiewicz, Katsuya Terada, Ronald Wimberly, and Chris Wisnia
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books influenced (and traumatized) an entire generation of young people who grew up entranced by the contents within. Folklore and urban legends were repackaged by writer Alvin Schwartz, while artist Stephen Gammell loaded the books up with horrifying drawings rendered in drippy black ink. How can you ever bring that to life? The simple answer is, you can’t. But director André Øvredal and producer Guillermo del Toro tried their best with the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark movie.
While nothing here comes close to the terrors of Gammell’s art, Øvredal doesn’t water things down, either. This is a film intended for young-ish audiences, but it leans heavily into the horror, and it isn’t afraid to kill-off its young characters. There’s also a surprisingly emotional message about how the young are forever cursed to pay for the sins of their elders – something I don’t think anyone was expecting from a movie like this. Heck, both the Vietnam War and the election of Richard Nixon both play a part in the narrative.
In Scary Stories, outsider Stella (Zoe Colletti) and her nerdy friends inhabit the town of Mill Valley, Pennsylvania. The town has a dark secret involving a long-dead girl named Sarah Bellows, who may or may not have been murderer. Sarah wrote a series of scary stories in her book, and now her curse is being unleashed on the town, bringing the scary stories to life.
An anthology approach – think Creepshow – to this material probably would’ve played better. But Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is creepy enough to please budding young horror fans.
Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray:
If you’re a horror fan, or if you’re a parent of a horror-fan-to-be, you can’t go wrong with this title. In fact, if this turned into a new Halloween tradition – the type of film people dust off every October the way they do Hocus Pocus – I’d be thrilled. Scooping up the Blu-ray release would ensure you have this at the ready every time spooky season rolls around.
In addition to that, the Blu comes with a slew of worthwhile featurettes, including one devoted to the many scary (and practical!) creature effects used to bring many of the Scary Stories horrors to life.
Special Features Include:
- “The Bellows Construct” Featurette
- “Creature from the Shadows” Featurette
- “Mood Reels” Featurette
- “Behind-the-Scenes Trailers: Set Visits” Featurette
- “Dark Tales” Featurette
- “Retro Horror” Featurette
One of the best horror-remakes in the history of the medium, Chuck Russell’s icky, sticky The Blob is a disgusting treat from start to finish. It was a box office flop upon release but has since garnered a healthy, well-deserved cult following. And now the fine folks at Scream! Factory have given it the Blu-ray release it deserves. Featuring truly impressive practical effects from Tony Gardner, The Blob provides thrills and chills. It grosses you out and makes you laugh. It’s quintessential ’80s horror.
Set in a small California town, The Blob involves a meteor from outer space that crashes to Earth and unleashes a big pinkish pile of goo. The blob keeps growing, and it also keeps killing people in ghastly ways. It envelopes them and proceeds to literally dissolve them, which means we’re treated to many moments where characters suffer horrible fates involving their flesh being eroded.
Up against this blob are a high school cheerleader (Shawnee Smith) and a teenage rebel (Kevin Dillion) – you can tell he’s a rebel because he wears a leather jacket and has a motorcycle. These two crazy kids are nothing alike – one is popular, one is not. But they’re forced to come together to save the town, and possibly the world, from all this killer goo.
Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray:
How can you not want to own a movie in which a blob melts people in garish colors? This is B-movie gold, folks. And Scream! Factory has given it a great-looking Blu loaded with two new insightful, anecdotal commentary tracks – one from director Chuck Russell, one from star Shawnee Smith. There are a slew of interviews as well. A special edition Blu-ray of this movie has been a dream for horror fans for years, and now that it’s here, it’s hard to resist. Watching The Blob now is like taking a wonderful trip back in time, when horror movies went over-the-top with practical effects and didn’t resort to lifeless CGI to make the impossible possible.
Special Features Include:
- Audio Commentary With Director Chuck Russell, Special Effects Artist Tony Gardner, And Cinematographer Mark Irwin, Moderated By Filmmaker Joe Lynch
- Audio Commentary With Actress Shawnee Smith
- It Fell From The Sky! – An Interview With Director Chuck Russell
- We Have Work To Do – An Interview With Actor Jeffrey DeMunn
- Minding The Diner – An Interview With Actress Candy Clark
- They Call Me Mellow Purple – An Interview With Actor Donovan Leitch Jr.
- Try To Scream! – An Interview With Actor Bill Moseley
- Shot Him! – An Interview With Cinematographer Mark Irwin
- The Incredible Melting Man – An Interview With Special Effects Artist Tony Gardner
- Monster Math – An Interview With Special Effects Supervisor Christopher Gilman
- Haddonfield To Arborville – An Interview With Production Designer Craig Stearns
- The Secret Of The Ooze – An Interview With Mechanical Designer Mark Setrakian
- I Want That Organism Alive! – An Interview With Blob Mechanic Peter Abrahamson
- Gardner’s Grue Crew – Behind-The-Scenes Footage Of Tony Gardner And His Team
- Audio Commentary With Director Chuck Russell, Moderated By Film Producer Ryan Turek
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spot
- Still Gallery
Yes, it’s Scarface! The film that an entire generation of moviegoers completely misunderstood, elevating a psychopathic drug dealer who wants to fuck his sister into some sort of hero. Time has treated Scarface…oddly, making Al Pacino‘s villainous Tony Montana into a diety. This, in turn, has soured some people (like me) on the movie over the years. But if you work past that, this Brian De Palma film has a lot going for it. It’s stylish, it’s brutal, it features Al Pacino slowly going bonkers.
Tony Montana is a Cuban immigrant who arrives in Miami during the Mariel boatlift, when a wave of Cubans traveled to America. He has a checkered past, but big dreams. It’s not long before he’s working his way up through a criminal enterprise, eventually rising to become a kingpin. But his paranoia, his psychosis, and his lust for his own sister threaten to prove his downfall.
De Palma brings his usual flourishes, adapting Oliver Stone‘s coked-out script into the blueprint for countless knock-off crime pics to come. Is it De Palma’s best work? Heavens, no. But it’s still worth revisiting and enjoying.
Why It’s Worth Owning on Blu-ray
Scarface has been released on Blu-ray before, but now it’s available in gorgeous 4K. That alone should make people interested. But this release also includes the original 1932 Scarface on Blu-ray for the first time ever. Produced by Howard Hughes and directed by Howard Hawkes, it’s a different beast than the ’80s movie, for obvious reasons. At the time of its release, the ’32 Scarface generated controversy for how violent it was – a charge that would be leveled at the remake so many years later. The inclusion of both a new 4K release of the Pacino film and the first Blu-ray release ever for the ’32 Scarface make this a must-have.
Special Features Include:
- Scarface: 35th Anniversary Reunion
- Deleted Scenes
- The Scarface Phenomenon – This documentary presents Scarface as a unique phenomenon in cinema
history. It explores how a film plagued by controversy leading up to its release has become a Hollywood
classic, influencing a whole new generation of filmmakers and leaving a lasting imprint on popular culture.
- The World of Tony Montana – Experience the world of the ultimate gangster and hear from experts on
the real world violence, fear and paranoia that surrounds a drug lord.
- The Rebirth – Director Brian De Palma, producer Martin Bregman, actor Al Pacino and screenwriter
Oliver Stone revisit the history of Scarface, from the inspiration of the original Howard Hawks classic to
the evolution of the script.
- The Acting – Join the filmmakers, Al Pacino and Steven Bauer to discover how each of the roles was cast
and how Brian De Palma worked with his actors to get unforgettable performances.
- The Creating – A fascinating, controversial and definitive journey through the making of the film, which
began with the production being forced to leave its initial location in Florida. Discover how the chainsaw
scene was filmed, learn about the production design, the photography, and the struggle to get the film an
- Scarface: The TV Version – A revealing and hilarious montage of film clips comparing the theatrical
version to the network television version of Scarface.
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