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STUDIO: Warner Brothers
RUNNING TIME: 575 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: noted after each movie
“Warner Brothers decided to let a blind man randomly piece together a Horror Collection.”
Horror is one of those underappreciated genres. Nobody respects it and everybody abuses it. In an average year, you’ll find more shit gets released and passed off as a horror tale when it’s nothing more than getting a few idiots to scream on command. The Twisted Terror Collection weaves in and out of respectful and shit horror with the determination of a drunk driver careening down a dark street on Halloween night.
Today, we’ve got these six films assembled out of the Warner Brothers vault to peruse through on Halloween. One film is from a masterful dramatic director. Two others are delightful turns from directors long established in American horror. The three other films just kind of exist. There’s not a lot to cover up the stink of Dr. Giggles, you just cover your noise and watch the film. Larry Drake deserves that courtesy, don’t you think?
The Hand (1981)
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
• Theatrical Trailer
• Audio Commentary from Oliver Stone
Michael Caine, Andrea Marcovicci, Annie McEnroe, Bruce McGill and Viveca Lindfors
Oliver Stone did a lot of shit before he hit it big. Well, he did hit it big before this. The guy won the Oscar for writing Midnight Express. But, his bigger glories were a long way off, so he was stuck with a film about a comic book artist who lost his hand in a terrible accident.
Michael Caine does a good job as an artist that’s split between his love for his art and his family that is growing distant from him. When he gets in the wreck that severs his drawing hand, his life is put into perspective. But, this isn’t a film about self-discovery. It’s a film about a paw that is out to maul.
There’s not much to the story, as it plays more as a chance for Michael Caine to over-emote at every little detail. I’ve seen subtler acting coming from Calculon. While Caine struggles with his wife’s infidelities and utter betrayal, he buries himself in the arms of one of his students. Meanwhile, that severed hand wants vengeance. Its master has been cuckolded and it does what comes natural. The Hand kills and the Hand loves it.
The Hand sports the best presentation quality I’ve ever seen in regards to the flick. It’s a cleaned up print that looks good for the Digital Age. Now, you’re not going to have any money shots in this flick to show off, as Stone plays more to the psychological aspects of betrayal and revenge. Sure, he does through Michael Caine’s severed right hand, but the intentions are good. As it stands, this film is the midpoint of this set. It walks the line between the ridiculous and the well-crafted. So, if you don’t like the sound of this…there is more to come.
Madonna said I should go to Malawi to pick up a little pal, but ol’ Nubbins and I get along just fine.
Dr. Giggles (1992)
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
• Not a damn thing
Larry Drake, Glenn Quinn, Cliff De Young, Keith Diamond, Richard Bradford, Michelle Johnson and Holly Marie Combs
Evan Rendell Jr. wants to help the teens of his hometown. So, he escapes from a mental institution and sets out to operate on the horny teens. Unnecessary surgery has never looked as good as it does when Larry Drake is trying to drill into a screaming girl’s skull.
Originating out of the mind of 24 co-creator Manny Coto, Dr. Giggles walks the line between straight horror film and dark comedy. The film focuses on the horror superstar Larry Drake as he plays the titular character. Dr. Giggles only wants to help a young girl named Jennifer Campbell overcome her heart problems. So, he stalks the rest of the town’s teens to find a suitable donor. One-liners and giggles are shared as organs fly and blood is spilled.
I’d rather see Larry Drake coming at my front door than my back.
We find out that Dr. Giggles’ dad trained him in a similar fashion to find a suitable heart for his mother. But, they failed and the good doctor’s father was killed. Enough sympathy is generated for the murderer to make you want to hope for a successful transplant. The problem is that no sense of horror is generated by the actions. The film has become a cult hit based on the hilarious nature of the setup. There’s no real threat of danger as you can’t buy Larry Drake as a credible villain.
Dr. Giggles finally comes to DVD in the closest thing to a special edition that it’ll ever see. The natural scope ratio found in theatrical exhibition and on the Universal laserdisc has been scrapped for a widescreen monitor friendly 1.78:1 default. The DVD doesn’t sport any special features; all it does is make a warm place in your heart for Larry Drake. To see this film is to love the Drake, so accept him into your hearts. He can be the Jesus of your movie-loving soul.
Someone’s Watching Me! (1978)
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
• John Carpenter: Director Rising featurette
Lauren Hutton, David Birney, Adrienne Barbeau, Grainger Hines and Charles Cyphers
John Carpenter made another movie in 1978. Warner Brothers chose to release it through television division rather than chance it on theatrical distribution. Then a little film called Halloween made some serious cash. So, here comes the quickie TV-Movie launch of John Carpenter’s Someone’s Watching Me!
Someone’s Watching Me plays as a ninety minute film dedicated to Alfred Hitchcock. Well, except for the fact that Hitchcock never had Adrienne Barbeau playing someone’s lesbian co-worker. Lauren Hutton is our heroine, as she moves from NYC to LA to work as a local television director. She’s a badass lady that doesn’t take shit off no man. The only problem is that she doesn’t realize she’s being watched via a telescopic lens.
She might be four inches tall, but at least Chris Hansen won’t be standing in her kitchen.
Our little weirdo doesn’t want to hurt Lauren at first. He leaves her little trinkets such as a brand-new telescope. He wants her to watch him, but he gets a little pissed when she doesn’t play along. So, he breaks into her apartment and starts to leave her little notes. This leads to Lauren Hutton finally saying enough is enough and bringing the 70s hit squad. You get your Barbeau fix and a little dash of David Birney. Charles Cyphers show up to fill the doubting cop role, as everything builds to that final moment of getting the stalker.
The DVD sports a brief documentary featurette about John Carpenter and how the film came into being. The problem is that the documentary doesn’t really focus on this, but keeps floating around touching his other highlights. It’s a shame that Warner Brothers hasn’t chosen to revisit all of Carpenter’s television movies. I’d be willing to do a double-dip and pick this film up again if it were repackaged with Carpenter’s Elvis.
Eyes of a Stranger (1981)
RUNNING TIME: 90 mins.
• Not a damn thing
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Lauren Tewes, John DiSanti, Peter DuPre, Gwen Lewis, Kitty Lunn and Timothy Hawkins
Cripples, kids and the elderly always make for great gore bait in horror films. So when Jane Harris discovers that one of her neighbors is a serial killer/rapist, her sister becomes a target.
Eyes of a Stranger plays as a slasher flick that manipulates the usage of soft targets to help sell the horror. The Police are powerless, as they can’t get enough leads to stop this vicious killer from slaying the weak. But, we get our 1980s heroine to save the day. Jane is sassy and independent; she’s the kind of lady that won’t be stopped by a cold case. So, when she picks up the case and starts to investigate a random series of suspects, things go awry. That’s when Jane meets Stanley Herbert.
Stanley is a quiet man who keeps many secrets. Jane keeps prying into Stanley’s life until he lets her know what horrors can lurk behind closed doors. The rest of the film is compromised of small set pieces designed to put Jennifer Jason Leigh in harm’s way, as Lauren Tewes gets to thrash around and scream. Again, this is another flick in the set that has no real substance to the material. It’s a quick shot from set-up to finale and there’s nothing in between to hold your attention.
This is another schizo film that can’t decide what it wants to be. By the usual standards, you can’t call this a horror film. Yet, it doesn’t hold the line as a straight thriller. The problem is that both sides don’t really equate to a substantial film. The transfer is a rampant mess, as it runs from clean for interior shots to the worst VHS dub for a lot of exteriors. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a DVD transfer run the gamut from shit to gold.
If you’re looking for special features, then look elsewhere. Like the rest of the releases in this set, it’s got nothing. Sure, you might count a trailer or two on the other discs as being special, but I don’t. Everything feels like an afterthought outside of the films. I just wish that a little more elbow grease could’ve been put into these releases.
Deadly Friend (1986)
RUNNING TIME: 90 mins.
• Original Theatrical Trailer
Kristy Swanson, Matthew Laborteaux, Russ Martin, Richard Marcus, Michael Sharrett and Anne Ramsey
Wes Craven filled the days between A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream with some odd movies.
Deadly Friend is a film that shows that any punk kid can turn their hot neighbor into a killer cyborg. Basic microchips from the mid 1980s and some cranial surgery can do anything when you believe enough. That’s where Paul Conway comes in. Paul isn’t that popular and his only friend is his neighbor Samantha. He shows her his state of the art robot BB and tries to impress her. Samantha is fairly nice to her until one day her dad snaps and beats her to death.
Jinx had to do bad things after SpaceCamp. Things that no robot should ever have to do.
Paul won’t accept the finality of death and thus he puts BB’s main chip into Samantha’s brain. The result is a killing spree the likes of which only a small FX budget in a 1980s film could bring. You will believe that a basketball can crush Anne Ramsey’s skull, I still get goose bumps thinking about it. The rest of the film is pretty forgettable as the hokey setup leads you to believe that Wes Craven spent most of the Nightmare on Elm Street cash on a steady diet of high-powered opiates and Asian hookers.
The film is a delightful chunk of cinematic shit with sprinkles. Yet, it’s got that appeal that you can’t shake once you’ve watched it. This isn’t something that’s going to find a new audience because of this package. It’s going to get worse with age, as I now accept after not seeing it for fifteen years. That’s why I hope it becomes a rite of passage for the younger film buffs. Sure, you might want to see Citizen Kane or some other noise. But, fuck that. Films like Deadly Friend, Xtro and The Manitou can’t be ignored.
From Beyond the Grave (1973)
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
• Original Theatrical Trailer
Peter Cushing, David Warner, Donald Pleasance, Ian Bannen, Ian Carmichael, Diana Dors and Margaret Leighton
The anthology has had a weird place in Horror. Whether it’s Tales from the Crypt or Creepshow, fans seem to love getting multiple gore stories in one feature.
Amicus Horror is low-rent British horror for the folks that can’t follow the complexity of the Hammer Horror films. Now, I say that knowing the horror community has been taking a second glance at what made Amicus tick. Honestly, they were a low-rent production house that picked up on the genre scraps that other production companies didn’t touch and they hammered these flicks out rather quickly for distribution across the English speaking territories.
From Beyond the Grave is a flick that highlights Peter Cushing’s ability to improve any film by being in it. In this film, he plays the owner of an antique shop called Temptations, Ltd., where he frames the stories as a dealer who brings a little horror into the shoppers’ lives. David Warner buys a mirror that makes him freak the fuck out when confronted by a spirit that dwells within. Donald Pleasance plays a con man who steals a war medal from the shop to help sell his stories about being in the War. Little does he know of the arcane power contained in the trinket.
The other stories focus on a guy that becomes possessed after trying to rip Cushing off at the story. The fourth and final story is similar to the third, as another person realizes that you can’t steal from Peter Cushing without being brought face-to-face with the Infernal Majesty of the Supernatural. By the time that the film finished, I was more than a little bored. Repetition and dry British drama don’t come together to make satisfactory horror.
This situation was also hurt by the lousy mono soundtrack featured on the DVD. Sure, it’s the original theatrical audio…but, a little digital cleanup could’ve helped make this film tolerable. The transfer was pretty strong for an older film, but that barely there audio meant that I had to strain to hear any dialogue that wasn’t spoken by Cushing. I’ve heard of throwing all your cash onto the star of your picture, but they could’ve coughed up a shilling or two to buy the other actors some body mics. As it stands, I consider this film to be the worst feature in The Twisted Terror Collection.
The Twisted Terror Collection from Warner Brothers is bundled together as six Amaray cases in a larger slipcover. It’s on par with the recent Cult Classics releases, as it offers up films that don’t get seen by a larger audience. Sure, it would be nice to have more special features, but the real coup is getting a lot of these flicks out on DVD. If you want to, you can buy the films individually and not have a flick you don’t like stinking up your collection.
I wouldn’t suggest that as it’s a waste of money. You should take the cheaper route and broaden your knowledge of some cult favorite horror films. There’s also the added benefit of having a copy of Dr. Giggles. It’s a conversation piece on the level of an expensive art print. The only difference is that you got some Larry Drake action on the cheap, while some sucker overpaid for a brightly colored painting of some Frenchman taking a shit on a dandelion. Do the right thing, buy this set and make sure that Larry Drake gets a little cash. Darkman IV isn’t happening anytime soon.
8.8 out of 10