'Rush Hour Trilogy' and several Vincent Price films earn Blu-ray upgrades
Posted November 1
The “Rush Hour” trilogy will be released in a new Blu-ray set next week, and several Vincent Price pictures and other vintage titles are new to Blu-ray and/or DVD.
“Rush Hour Trilogy” (Warner, 1998-2007, five discs, three films, deleted scenes, audio commentaries, featurettes, trailers, music videos, trailers). Fans of the Rush Hour buddy cop, culture-clash action comedies starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker will be pleased to see this set, especially since it marks the Blu-ray debut for “Rush Hour 2.” And there are two discs with bounteous bonus features, including a new featurette with Chan and director Brett Ratner.
Martial arts comic actor Chan is in great form here, and there are some terrific stunts and comedy bits in all three films, although the law of diminishing returns kicks in for No. 3. And comedian Tucker’s motormouth aggressiveness wears out its welcome rather quickly. Still, each film has its merits, and Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) co-stars in No. 2 (which also boasts Maggie Q in a small role).
“The Vincent Price Collection III” (Scream/MGM, 1963-70, four discs, five movies, audio commentaries, featurettes, trailers, art/photo galleries, 2001 documentary: “Richard Matheson: Storyteller,” two 1956 episodes of “Science Fiction Theatre” starring Price, 12-page booklet). The Scream Factory (a division of Shout! Factory) released this third set of Blu-ray debuts for Price horror/fantasy pictures (with new bonus features) a few months ago, and this one is a hit-and-miss array.
The best is “Master of the World,” Richard Matheson’s adaptation of two Jules Verne novels, with Price as a 19th-century scientist with an airship he uses to attack military targets in a deranged plan to halt war, and Charles Bronson as the government agent plotting to take him down. Another winner is the hourlong TV special “An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe,” in which Price wonderfully performs a one-man show of three Poe stories. (Price is also in two enjoyable bonus features, episodes of the 1950s TV series “Science Fiction Theatre.”)
Also here are “Tower of London,” with Price as Richard III, murdering his way to the throne of England; “Diary of a Madman,” with Price as a 19th-century French magistrate possessed by the spirit of a killer; and “Cry of the Banshee,” with both the PG-rated U.S. theatrical version and the R-rated European cut, which, as you might expect, ups the ante on blood and nudity, and also restores the animated titles by Monty Python member Terry Gilliam.
“Wheeler & Woolsey: RKO Comedy Classics, Volume 2” (Warner Archive, 1930-36, b/w and color, three discs, six movies). The comedy team of Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey is not well-remembered today, but they are a perfect example of how Hollywood transferred vaudeville shtick to film in the early sound era, with some with pre-Production Code dialogue that may surprise you. They’re silly, but at their best they’re also pretty funny. Collected here are “Dixiana,” “The Cuckoos,” “Too Many Cooks,” “Everything’s Rosie,” “Cockeyed Cavaliers” and “Silly Billies.” (Manufacture-on-demand DVD-R, available at warnerarchive.com)
“The Thing” (Scream/Universal, 1982, R for violence and language, theatrical version, edited-for-TV version, audio commentaries, featurettes, outtakes, trailers, TV/radio spots, photo gallery). After members of an Arctic base accidentally unleash a monster from outer space, they try to figure out who among them has been taken over by the alien creature. John Carpenter’s remake of the 1951 classic black-and-white “The Thing From Another World” is much more violent and gory, with a lot of glop-and-goo special effects, but it’s also effectively creepy. Kurt Russell stars and Utah actor Wilford Brimley (billed as “A. Wilford Brimley) is among the ensemble-supporting cast.
“Dark Water” (Arrow, 2002, PG-13, in Japanese with English subtitles, featurettes, trailer, booklet). A single mother with a young child moves into a dilapidated apartment that seems OK until the ceiling begins to drip water and she starts to see strange apparitions. This unsettling ghost story is first-rate Japanese horror from the filmmaker and author of the original Japanese version of “The Ring.” (Jennifer Connelly stars in the 2005 American remake.)
“Body Snatchers” (Warner Archive, 1993, R for violence, nudity, language, trailer). “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is a classic sci-fi thriller, originally made in 1956, and the 1978 PG-rated remake is also quite good. This one isn’t bad but it’s not up there with the first two, though it will feel more contemporary to modern audiences, and, of course, the violence and nudity are more graphic to earn an R rating. This time, the pod people are on a military base, with Gabrielle Anwar starring. Forest Whitaker and Meg Tilly are also on hand. (The Blu-ray is available at warnerarchive.com)
“The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast” (Arrow, 1963-72, 17 discs, 14 movies, audio commentaries, introductions, outtakes, featurettes, trailers/radio spots, 1959 short film: “Carving Magic,” 28-page booklet). Lewis is the exploitation filmmaker credited with introducing gory horror to an unsuspecting moviegoing public, and this Blu-ray box set, aimed at splatter fans, charts his career with 14 films. Included are “Blood Feast,” “The Gore Gore Girls,” “She-Devils on Wheels” and, of course, “The Wizard of Gore.” Some non-horror films are included, but they all push boundaries of taste (which, today, describes mainstream fare). One Lewis title sort of sums it up: “Something Weird.” It certainly is.
Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.