MOD, or manufacturing on demand, means a DVD isn’t pressed until you order it. MGM’s Limited Edition Collection is a relative newcomer to the game, but their enthusiasm has already put them at the forefront of this new distribution effort to make currently unreleased titles available for your viewing pleasure. Every month The MOD Quad will list a recent batch of releases and highlight four of them in detail. (Eric “Quint” Vespe is doing a more thorough job over at Ain’t It Cool News so be sure to check out his Vault Dweller column as well.)
May’s highlights include the excellent Burn Witch Burn, the far less so Blood Bath, the fantastic character piece Harry In Your Pocket, and the implausibly cast Keaton’s Cop. (Yes, May. I’m clearly still playing catch up…) Click on the DVD cover to purchase from Amazon.
* The discs are manufactured using the best source materials available and they’re strictly no-frills affairs, so the quality varies between releases. But remember, in many cases this may be the only opportunity to own these titles on DVD.
Blood Bath (1966)
Directed by Jack Hill and Stephanie Rothman; stars William Campbell, Marissa Mathes, Sandra Knight
Tony Sordi (William Campbell) is an artist making a solid living from a series of paintings he calls his ‘dead red nudes.’ They feature women in various states of undress in a single state of death, and the art snobs around town love them. What they don’t know though is Sordi’s sordid little secret… he’s actually a vampire who kills the girls he paints and dumps their bodies in a handy vat of waxy acid. The pressure is on the bloodsucking fiend though when another local artist grows suspicious of the missing girls and Sordi’s girlfriend grows equally suspicious as to why he hasn’t invited over to his place… (Widescreen – b&w – acceptable transfer)
“That guy’s got no sense of humor.” – This is not what you’d call a good movie. The concept of a mad artist killing his subjects has been done many times before, but there’s usually some degree of sex or gore to keep things interesting. This film has neither and in fact replaces them with beatniks and stupidity. I mean seriously, if you’re attempting to run away from a fanged madman is a carousel ride really the ideal method of escape? It goes in circles you know. The story throws in a weak legend to explain Sordi’s situation, but it never bothers to explain much else. Like why he goes blond when transforming into a vamp. Skip this one and stick with director Hill’s work from the seventies when he discovered the fine art of T&A.
Burn, Witch, Burn (1962)
Directed by Sidney Hayers; stars Peter Wyngarde, Janet Blair, Margaret Johnston
Norman (Peter Wyngarde) is a college professor who discovers his wife Tansy (Janet Blair) is playing Bewitched in her spare time and casting protection spells, charms, curses and more. He forces her to throw it all away and forgo such foolishness as part of his crusade against the make believe world of magic, but he soon comes to regret his decision when he realizes others are using magic against him and he just may need her supernatural assistance. (Widescreen – b&w – good transfer)
“I do not believe.” – The film’s title and DVD cover art imply this to be a film set in medieval times featuring a cloaked Vincent Price gleefully torturing young woman, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead it’s a rock solid dramatic thriller about a man forced to confront a truth he refuses to accept. It’s well written (unsurprising as the screenwriters are Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont), stays true to its characters without feeling compelled to give in to cheap scares or plot twists, and features some impressive set pieces for the time. One involving a giant, flesh piercing hawk is particularly tense, exciting, and well crafted. I love that it ends with a question asked directly to the audience… literally, in onscreen text. It’s a nice companion to the opening voiceover warning the audience about the spells they’re about to witness before casting one to protect viewers.
Harry In Your Pocket (1973)
Directed by Bruce Geller; stars James Coburn, Michael Sarrazin, Trish Van Devere
Two old pickpocketing pros (James Coburn and Walter Pidgeon) meet in an airport after the latter has stolen a deaf man’s wallet. Two newbies to the game (Michael Sarrazin and Trish Van Devere) have some trouble in a train station and find themselves in need of assistance. The quartet comes together and they form a solid team of thieves, but while they share a desire to break and flaunt the law they don’t always see eye to eye on anything else… especially when Coburn starts making moves on Sarrazin’s lady friend. (Widescreen – color – acceptable transfer)
“Swing on me I’ll kill you.” – The younger couple is more of the focus plot-wise as they’re the ones the audience is meant to follow and empathize with, but it’s Coburn who stands out here. His character is the smoothest mofo this side of the color black as he picks pockets, sets the rules, and has women basically delivered to his bed. Pidgeon isn’t nearly as cool, but the actor does manage to be both the heart and comedic soul of the film as a player in a game that may be leaving him behind. This is an odd film in the way it rambles forward at its own pace, never rushing towards a particular conflict or set-piece, but instead giving the characters room to breathe and interact. The relationship between the younger couple and Coburn’s older, wiser man is especially well presented with minor jealousies, suspicions, and deceptions.
Keaton’s Cop (1990)
Directed by Robert Burge; stars Lee Majors, Abe Vigoda, Don Rickles
A retired mobster named Keaton (Abe Vigoda) finds himself the victim of an attempted hit so he’s assigned a pair of cops for protection. Unfortunately for him the buddy cops in question are Lee Majors and Don Rickles. The latter plays straight man here to Majors’ gruff, overly violent, hard assed cop who rarely meets a suspect he doesn’t hospitalize or kill. The mob steps up their efforts to kill Keaton, and soon cops are dying left and right. (Widescreen – color – good transfer)
“You know, I’m surprised he never threw you out a window.” – The best thing about this movie is clearly the cast, but unfortunately the worst thing about it is everything else. It’s hard to believe this ever received or was considered for a theatrical release, and it actually feels like a TV movie if it weren’t for the F-bombs, blood squibs, and briefly seen pair of boobs. Rickles is barely used here, and it’s never for laughs. Instead Majors’ antics are meant to fulfill the “comedy” half of this supposed action-comedy. They don’t. It is mild fun watching the nice guy star of The Fall Guy and The Six Million Dollar Man play a brutal ass, but that and the stale, predictable story aren’t enough to recommend it.
Other titles made available by MGM in May include:
- MR. WONG, DETECTIVE (1938) Stars Boris Karloff, Grant Withers, Maxine Jennings. Directed by William Nigh.
- THE MYSTERY OF MR. WONG (1939) Stars Boris Karloff, Grant Withers, Dorothy Tree. Directed by William Nigh.
- PARK ROW (1952) Stars Gene Evans, Mary Welch, Bela Kovacs. Directed by Samuel Fuller.
- GHOST TOWN (1955) Stars Kent Taylor, John Smith, Marian Carr. Directed by Allen H. Miner.
- CRIME AGAINST JOE (1956) Stars John Bromfield, Julie London, Henry Calvin. Directed by Lee Sholem.
- GUN BROTHERS (1956) Stars Buster Crabbe, Ann Robinson, Neville Brand. Directed by Sidney Salkow.
- THE BIG BOODLE (1956) Stars Rossana Rory, Errol Flynn, Francisco Canero. Directed by Richard Wilson.
- THE BRASS LEGEND (1956) Stars Hugh O’Brian, Nancy Gates, Raymond Burr. Directed by Gerd Oswald.
- THE GIRL IN THE BLACK STOCKINGS (1956) Stars Lex Barker, Anne Bancroft, Mamie Van Doren. Directed by Howard W. Koch.
- HELL BOUND (1957) Stars John Russell, June Blair, Stuart Whitman. Directed by William J. Hole, Jr.
- MY GUN IS QUICK (1957) Stars Robert Bray, Whitney Blake, Patricia Donahue, Don Randolph, Richard garland, Fred Essler. Directed by Georgia A. White.
- THE CARELESS YEARS (1957) Stars Dean Stockwell, Natalie Trundy, John Larch. Directed by Arthur Hiller.
- HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS (1958) Stars Yvonne Fedderson, Brett Halsey, Jana Lund. Directed by Edward Bernds.
- THE FEARMAKERS (1958) Stars Dana Andrews, Dick Foran, Marilee Earle. Directed by Jacques Tourneur.
- OKLAHOMA TERRITORY (1959) Stars Bill Williams, Gloria Talbott, Ted de Corsia. Directed by Edward L. Cahn.
- TAKE A GIANT STEP (1959) Stars Johnny Nash, Estelle Hemsley, Ruby Dee. Directed by Philip Leacock.
- THE NUN AND THE SERGEANT (1962) Stars Robert Webber, Anna Sten, Leo Gordon. Directed by Franklin Adreon.
- REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER (1974) Stars Richard Gere, Michael Moriarty, Yaphet Kotto, Susan Blakely. Directed by Milton Katselas.
- ASSISI UNDERGROUND (1984) Stars Ben Cross, James Mason, Irene Papas. Directed by Alexander Ramati.
- THE AMBASSADOR (1984) Stars Robert Mitchum, Ellen Burstyn, Rock Hudson. Directed by J. Lee Thompson.
- THE ROSE GARDEN (1989) Stars Liv Ullmann, Maximilian Schell, peter Fonda. Directed by Fons Rademakers.
- LAWS OF GRAVITY (1992) Stars Peter Greene, Adam Trese, Edie Falco. Directed by Nick Gomez.