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Classic Horror TV-Films on DVD


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#1 of 17 OFFLINE   Roderick Gauci

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Posted June 10 2002 - 05:29 AM

I have recently taken an interest in films made for TV, especially adaptations of classic horror stories.

I have ordered the three Limited Edition “BBC Learning Special Interest” titles released on Region 2 DVD so far, but have yet to receive them: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1968; starring Peter Cushing and Nigel Stock), the John Osborne-scripted THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1976; starring Sir John Gielgud, Jeremy Brett and Peter Firth) and COUNT DRACULA (1977; starring Louis Jourdan and Frank Finlay).

Other well-known TV films available on Region 1 DVD are 2 Double-Feature discs: MPI’s DRACULA (1973)/THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1968), both starring Jack Palance, and Anchor Bay’s THE NIGHT STALKER (1971)/THE NIGHT STRANGLER (1972), both with Darren McGavin and Simon Oakland. Coincidentally, MPI will be reissuing the two Jack Palance shows on separate discs next August, although it is not yet clear whether they will be any different from the present release. MPI has also released several DARK SHADOWS compilation DVDs and has just recently launched its first two 4-Disc Sets of this legendary, long-running horror show. Having said this, I do not intend to start buying TV series on DVD as I feel they would take too much of my time and money, not to mention an awful lot of space in my collection!!

On Region 2, there is Nigel Kneale’s THE STONE TAPE (1972) and WHISTLE AND I’LL COME TO YOU (1968), both released by the BFI. I have never watched any of these: in fact, I was not even born when the majority of these were made and shown on TV, but browsing the internet for reviews of these films and their respective DVDs, I have found nothing but praise and this is what has drawn me to them, apart from being of course horror films, which is my favorite genre. Actually, some have gone so far as to claim that THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is the second best adaptation of the novel after the magnificent 1931 version with Fredric March, while the BBC’s COUNT DRACULA has been called THE finest version – high praise indeed when considering the undisputed artistic value of both the 1922 and 1979 versions of NOSFERATU, the 1931 English and Spanish-language versions of DRACULA, and Hammer’s 1958 remake starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee! – so I guess I will have to decide for myself when I watch the DVD.

Where the DVDs mentioned above disappoint is in the extras department: the BBC titles apparently only carry a few pages of text, albeit being quite thorough; the Jack Palance double-feature disc only contains a couple of interviews, while the Anchor Bay disc is bare-bones; THE STONE TAPE is perhaps the most satisfactory in this regard, including an Audio Commentary featuring writer Nigel Kneale in conversation with British film critic Kim Newman, as well as two complete screenplays written by Kneale, one for THE STONE TAPE itself and THE ROAD (1963) whose show, apparently, is no longer extant! Still, the WHISTLE AND I’LL COME TO YOU DVD features an introduction by Ramsey Campbell, who also reads M.R. James’ original story as well as one of his own, “The Guide”.

On the non-horror front, the BFI has also released DELIUS: SONG OF SUMMER (1968) which includes a full-length Audio Commentary by its eccentric writer-director Ken Russell. Forthcoming BFI titles include Russell’s ELGAR (1962); Peter Watkins’ CULLODEN (1964) and the celebrated and controversial THE WAR GAME (1965); Ken Loach’s CATHY COME HOME (1965); the famous “revisionist” all-star adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1967) with Peter Cook, Finlay Currie, Sir John Gielgud, Michael Gough, Leo McKern, Sir Michael Redgrave and Peter Sellers; another Nigel Kneale show THE YEAR OF THE SEX OLYMPICS (1968); and M.R. James’ A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS (1972). If done right, they should prove interesting as well.

The Mausoleum Club website (http://www.the-mausoleum-club.org.uk) is an excellent site listing the existing BBC TV films. While most of these are pretty obscure for me, there are some shows I would like to watch and have on DVD: Nigel Kneale’s QUATERMASS trilogy (1953-1958); George Orwell’s 1984 (1954) starring Peter Cushing; the star-making HAMLET AT ELSINORE (1964) with Christopher Plummer, Robert Shaw and Michael Caine; DOOMWATCH (1970-72); three more M.R. James adaptations: THE STALLS OF BARCHESTER (1971), LOST HEARTS (1973) and THE TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS (1974); John Wyndham’s THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS (1981); THE NIGHTMARE MAN (1981); as well as the remaining Sherlock Holmes episodes starring Peter Cushing.

I would also love to see ITV’s adaptation of the M.R. James classic, CASTING THE RUNES (1968), which I hoped could have made it onto Columbia’s forthcoming Region 1 DVD of CURSE OF THE DEMON, the 1957 film version directed by Jacques Tourneur – but so far, very few details have been divulged about this release.

There is another famous TV adaptation of another perennial horror favorite, FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY (1973), directed by Jack Smight and co-written by Christopher Isherwood. It features an all-star cast including James Mason, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Ralph Richardson, David MacCallum, Agnes Moorehead, and in the principal roles, Leonard Whiting as Victor Frankenstein and Michael Sarrazin as The Creature. I think Universal owns the home video rights for this film; seeing that all these classic horror TV films have already made it to DVD, I guess it is only a matter of time before FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY is released as well, hopefully in its full-length version of 200 minutes.

All in all, not being a fan of TV movies, these great DVDs seem to have restored my faith in the medium somewhat and I hope more gems from the past are brought back to entertain us in the coming months and years!

#2 of 17 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR

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Posted June 10 2002 - 06:17 AM

I'd love to have a Region 1 or 0 version of COUNT DRACULA (1977; starring Louis Jourdan and Frank Finlay). I agree that it is probably the best version of the story. I may have to get a region free DVD player if these films don't turn up being released in the USA.
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#3 of 17 OFFLINE   George_Reis

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Posted June 10 2002 - 08:17 AM

How can we get Universal to release a boxed set of KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER? There's only 20 episodes!!!

#4 of 17 OFFLINE   Steve Phillips

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Posted June 10 2002 - 09:06 AM

I have the three BBC discs (COUNT DRACULA, DORIAN GRAY and HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES) and they are well worth the price. All of them are Region Free (Zero), but in PAL. If you have a cheap APEX unit, these should play in the US; as most APEX players have a PAL output, even if they only play Region 1 or Zero discs.

#5 of 17 OFFLINE   Jeff_HR

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Posted June 10 2002 - 10:24 AM

Unfortunately I don't have a PAL convertor. It is looking like a special DVD player is becoming a must.
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#6 of 17 OFFLINE   JerryB

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Posted June 10 2002 - 11:12 AM

I'm eagerly awaiting the Louis Jourdan "Dracula" and Cushing's '68 "Hound of the Baskervilles" coming from Blackstar. I'm looking forward to comparing Cushing's performances in the '59 and '68 versions of Hound. Plus, I've always wanted to see the Jourdan Dracula, having read about it over the years.

"The Stone Tape" was an interesting and entertaining story. Nigel Kneale knows how to craft a fine story dealing with science and the supernatural. I hope we see "The Quatermass Conclusion" come to DVD soon. I have the 2 tape VHS set and would love a DVD with commentary.

As a side note, does anyone know where I can get more info on Nigel Kneale's work? I've come across Quatermass sites, but that's about it.

Also, has anyone heard about a British TV special called "Ghostwatch" (or something close to it) shown several years ago. I've caught snippets of it mentioned on the net. I think it was about a fictional investigation of a haunted house that goes horribly wrong.

This is my first post on the HT Forum, so I hope I didn't ramble. Thanks

#7 of 17 OFFLINE   Jeff Swindoll

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Posted June 10 2002 - 11:44 AM

Picture of Dorian Gray has been snuck out onto Region1 DVD in the Oscar Wilde Collection from Warner Bros.

Oscar Wilde Collection at DDD
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#8 of 17 OFFLINE   ChristopherM

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Posted June 11 2002 - 04:31 AM

Quote:
there are some shows I would like to watch and have on DVD: Nigel Kneale’s QUATERMASS trilogy (1953-1958);


The third Quatermass TV series (the original version of "Quatermass and the Pit") is available on DVD in the UK:

Disc description at Amazon UK

#9 of 17 OFFLINE   Derek M Germano

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Posted June 11 2002 - 04:38 AM

The BBC COUNT DRACULA and I hope that Warner/BBC will get it on the schedule for this Halloween.
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#10 of 17 OFFLINE   Jon Robertson

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Posted June 11 2002 - 05:00 AM

Quote:
Also, has anyone heard about a British TV special called "Ghostwatch" (or something close to it) shown several years ago. I've caught snippets of it mentioned on the net. I think it was about a fictional investigation of a haunted house that goes horribly wrong.

Ah, Ghostwatch! One of the most infamous TV shows of all time in Britain. Presented as a live studio programme with many outside broadcast units (as well as a telephone number to for viewers to phone for the most part of the show - this was always engaged however) and using some real, well-known television presenters at the time, it was an "investigation into the paranormal" broadcast on Halloween 1991.

One camera crew investigated a council house haunted by a ghost the inhabitants called "Pipes" and things start to go horribly wrong...

Here's a Ghostwatch website which includes a scene-by-scene synopsis. Very clever post-production trickery involved subliminal superimposed images of a ghostly figure all through the programme.

It's now probably largely laughable but at the time it was a sensation and one of the scariest practical jokes (despite frequent referrals to it as a drama beforehand and in all press coverage) since Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds radio broadcast.

The BFI are doing a special edition of the show later this year in their outstanding "Archive Television" range (genuinely a line to rival the Criterion Collection for quality of the programme, transfer and supplements).

#11 of 17 OFFLINE   JerryB

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Posted June 11 2002 - 09:23 AM

Jon, thanks for the link. For some reason I thought "Ghostwatch" was older than the '90s. It's good to hear that this show is going to come out later this year. It sounds fun. Absurd, but fun.

Maybe "Edge of Darkness" will make an appearance one day. I caught part of this miniseries years ago and I've heard good things about it.

#12 of 17 OFFLINE   Jon Robertson

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Posted June 11 2002 - 09:29 AM

It's already available in a 2-disc set in the UK!

Not much in the way of extras, but it's in DD 5.1

#13 of 17 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted June 11 2002 - 05:09 PM

Ok, I just want to be sure about the Louis Jordan Dracula from Blackstar. What format will that be issued in? My wife would love to have the dvd, but we just have a regular USofA region dvd player.
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#14 of 17 OFFLINE   JerryB

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Posted June 12 2002 - 09:21 AM

Blackstar is the retailer I ordered it from: [url=http://www.blackstar.co.uk/]

I believe the DVD is region 2 and is PAL. I hope to receive it this week to check it out.

#15 of 17 OFFLINE   Jon Robertson

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Posted June 13 2002 - 05:34 AM

From what I've heard the BBC Special Interests discs (Count Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Picture of Dorian Gray) are all region 0, which may be pleasing news to those of you with DVD-Rom desktop drives.

#16 of 17 OFFLINE   Steve Phillips

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Posted June 13 2002 - 06:33 AM

The BBC discs are Region O, but in PAL. For those who aren't equipped but still want to get a decent quality version of COUNT DRACULA and HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, the BBC offers these on VHS in NTSC format also. The tapes must be purchased directly from BBC learning I think. DORIAN GRAY as well, but this is out in Region 1 as part of an Oscar Wilde set on DVD, or will be soon.

#17 of 17 OFFLINE   Brandon Gantt

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Posted June 13 2002 - 08:21 AM

If anyone really wants to see the above mentioned BBC titles on Region 1 DVD I urge you all to write the BBC America Shop. Just go to their contact page and select "Looking for a specific product". BBC Worldwide Americas does take these request into consideration when planning their schedules. That's the reason their DVDs are in keepcases! When people heard Warner was going to be distributing BBC products in the US, consumers wrote in and let their feelings be known. Just hoping and wishing isn't going to get anything released.





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