The TV series The Lair.
The witching hour is upon us and for those celebrating Halloween with their own self-styled horror film fest, there are lots and lots of new DVD titles to fill the bill. In addition to the old stand-bys ( The Haunting, The Exorcist, Halloween, etc. ) , here are a few new DVD titles:
1408—It makes perfect sense to kick off our salute to Halloween movies with two based on the works of horror-meister Stephen King. There is much to like in 1408, in which John Cusack—as a skeptical author of paranormal books—meets his match in a really ominous hotel room. The movie has a terrific build-up ( and a nicely understated performance from Samuel L. Jackson for once ) . This new two-disc collector's edition from the Weinstein Company offers the usual behind-the-scenes featurettes, five deleted scenes, assorted commentaries and a really cool alternate ending that takes the movie in a completely different direction. Best of all, the movie's short on gore, and long on suspense and chills.
Misery—Another great movie based on Stephen King material, director Rob Reiner's 1990 film is now out in a long-desired collector's edition from MGM. The film made Kathy Bates an overnight movie star and brought her a raft of prizes ( including the Oscar ) as the psychopathic Annie Wilkes, the 'number one fan' of writer Paul Sheldon ( James Caan ) , trapped in her snowbound home after a car accident. A lot of new featurettes are included, and I was especially pleased to see one devoted exclusively to the movie's wonderful music score, done by gay composer Marc Shaiman. Shaiman made his debut as a film scorer with the movie. He's gone on to write many other excellent film scores and the music for Hairspray ( which arrives on DVD next month ) . Misery is a film that never fails to entertain.
Vincent Price Gift Set, Vol. 1—MGM has also released this tasty five-disc set that includes no less than seven of Price's '60s and early '70s classics. These include my two favorite late Price vehicles, The Abominable Dr. Phibes ( and its sequel, Dr. Phibes Rises Again ) and the campy Theatre of Blood from 1973. In the latter, Price plays an hammy Shakespearean actor who finds extremely creative ways to kill off the critics who have denied him an acting prize. Price is ably supported by Diana Rigg and both sport a variety of disguises and accents. The set includes the new DVD title Witchfinder General ( aka Conquerer Worm ) , which finds Price at his nastiest as a witch hunter in the 17th century whose cruelty finally goes too far. MGM includes a special disc with biographical material on Price that is also very informative and entertaining.
Paul Lynde Halloween Special—From S'More Entertainment comes the perfect warm-up DVD for your screening party. This curio has not been seen since it first aired in 1976 and seems to have been hermetically sealed. Guests include Margaret Hamilton and Billie Hayes ( in Wicked Witch of the West and Witchie Poo costumes, respectively ) , Tim Conway, Betty White, Roz 'Pinky Tuscadero' Kelly, Donny and Marie, Kiss ( ! ) and Florence Henderson. There's a sketch in which Lynde plays a red-haired truck driver and escorts the witches to a Halloween-themed disco, at which point Henderson appears and sings a disco version of That Old Black Magic. At that point my camp cup overflowed—and yours will, too. Much of it was written by Bruce Vilanch.
Fox Horror Classics—Another Halloween classic ( a real one this time ) of gay interest is this three-disc DVD release. The set features 1944's The Lodger and 1945's Hangover Square, the only two vehicles that starred actor Laird Cregar, who was reportedly gay. Both are sensational Victorian-era melodramas set in a foggy, threatening London ( photographed in sumptuous black and white ) . In the first, Cregar plays Jack the Ripper, who at one point talks almost incestuously about his late brother's portrait. In the second, he plays George Harvey Bone, a composer driven to murder every time he hears a dissonant chord. Bernard Herrmann, the acknowledged dean of film composers, supplied the masterly 'Concerto Macabre' that is played at the climax of the film. Sadly, Cregar died ( from a weakened heart after crash dieting ) before Hangover Square was released to great acclaim. Fox includes several new featurettes, including a mini-biography on Cregar's short career.
The Lair—Also of gay interest is the first season of Here! TV's sexy ( and by sexy, I mean full-frontal ) modern day vampire series in which a hunky, not-too-bright reporter ( who loves to takes hot steamy showers ) stumbles upon a private club that's filled with hot guys and insatiable bloodthirsty vampires. Just a couple steps above porn in both its acting style and plot points, the two-disc release is nevertheless a sexy, big ol' guilty pleasure. In a nice ironic twist, porn star-turned-disco diva Colton Ford plays the town sheriff and is the only cast member to remain clothed!
Check out my archived reviews at www.windycitytimes.com or www.knightatthemovies.com . Readers can leave feedback at the latter Web site, where there is also ordering information on my new book of collected film reviews, Knight at the Movies 2004-2006.