October 27, 2010

The Exorcist

Also this week: Maniac, TCM Hammer Horror, The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter

Horror Highlights of the Week
The Exorcist (Warner) And you thought the flying pea soup looked gross in standard definition... The original theatrical version and an extended cut boasting newly restored footage of William Friedkin’s 1973 supernatural blockbuster are both available in this Blu-ray that, according to the director, “represents the very best print ever made of The Exorcist.” The film may not be as blood-spattered as today’s horror crop, but its visceral impact hasn’t diminished and appears even more impressive in this presentation. The Exorcist endures as one of the scariest movies of all time because of its still-shocking portrayal of a demonically possessed 12-year-old girl that is just as much of a jolt to the senses as Friedkin’s masterful manipulation of sights and sounds. Extras offer commentaries, all-new documentaries, interviews and lots more.
Maniac (Blue Underground) Freaky fact: the famous tune from Flashdance was initially intended as a straight-up homage to William Lustig’s 1980 sleazoid slasher, Maniac, until producers wanted it to be less serial killer-ish. (“He’s a manic, maniac that’s for sure / He will kill your cat and nail him to the door” was the original chorus.) This release marks the 30th anniversary of a once controversial cult item about a city stalker haunted by his dead mother.(Familiar premise, but Lustig’s maniac is far grittier than Hitchcock’s psycho.) Sculpting the ugliness is special effects wizard Tom Savini, who also makes a brief cameo before getting his head shot off in what is arguably the film’s grisliest death — to the extent that it motivated Gene Siskel to walk out after just 30 minutes. Extras are superior to the feature. We get commentaries, interviews and a tribute to late, great character actor Joe Spinell, who portrayed the titular maniac.
TCM Hammer Horror (Warner) A perfect Halloween treat: Hammer’s devilishly dirt-cheap collection containing Horror of DraculaDracula Has Risen From the GraveThe Curse of Frankenstein andFrankenstein Must Be Destroyed. Made during the British studio’s late-’50s to early-’70s heyday, these creature features revamped old Universal horror icons from the 1930s and, in many ways, surpassed them. Three of them star Peter Cushing as either the dashing Dr. Van Helsing or the diabolical Dr. Frankenstein. The same ratio applies to the indelible Christopher Lee as either Dracula or Frankenstein’s moody monster. Extras: Trippy trailers and trivia.
The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter (Alliance) Liu Chia Liang’s martial arts masterpiece may not be a horror title, but grindhouse-style kung fu is as good as it gets when it comes to midnight-movie-watching. After one of the most violent and impressive battles in the entire Shaw Brothers catalogue, a surviving soldier flees to a monastery where he trains to become a badass pole fighter and serve cold vengeance to the clan that betrayed his family. Extras: nothing here but a solid transfer and the choice between original Mandarin with English subtitles and even campier English dub.