Creeping! Crawling! Crushing! Bill Rebane’s ‘The Giant Spider Invasion’ to Blu-ray and DVD next week from VCI

Update (6/13/2015): The original post continues below – received the Blu-ray on Wednesday and wanted to share some quick thoughts. Firstly, I really wanted to love this release. The film is a bona fide household favorite, and there was the potential, at least, to really knock the socks off the so-so presentations of the past. Unfortunately, VCI’s The Giant Spider Invasion is pretty terrible, at least in so far as the feature presentation is concerned. People will bellyache about the Mpeg-2 video encode, but that’s an utterly inconsequential technicality in this case – the transfer on-disc would look terrible regardless. The problem here is processing, processing, and still more processing. The grainy, scratch-riddled source elements have been practically sand-blasted, with much of the already modest detail the picture possessed carelessly scrubbed away in the process. Artificial sharpening and motion errors (a stuttered ghosting effect that appears from time to time) just add to the troubles – for all the improvements in color and framing over past editions, the disc just looks bad.

Samples are included below, in uncompressed PNG. The trailers on-disc hint at what might have been. The damage is there in the form of vertical scratches and plenty of dust and speckles, but the unprocessed image is miles in advance of what can be seen in the feature presentation. Unless you’re really, really itching to shell out nearly $30 for the newly-produced extras (the HD galleries, trailers, and Rebane interview that accompany the Blu-ray are neat, but only add up to maybe half an hour of material) then this disc is a complete pass. I never thought I’d prefer an early ’80s VHS to a modern Blu-ray release, but I suppose them’s the breaks. What a disappointment.

The Giant Spider Invasion – feature screenshots: 

trailer / television spot screenshots:

Original Post:

THE-GIANT-SPIDER-INVASION-BLU-RAY-500x500Does this film even need an introduction? Bill Rebane’s Midwestern big-bug epic is pretty infamous these days (the lampooning from cult program MST3K is, admittedly, hilarious), but was a significant drive-in hit in its own time. I remember seeing it on television as a kid in the late ’80s and thinking it was pretty much the best thing I had ever seen – the gangly spider mock-ups and trashy atmosphere creeped me out in the best of ways back then.

Long available only in editions culled from masters dating at least as far back as my first experience with the film, The Giant Spider Invasion is set to make an unlikely comeback next week courtesy of VCI. The label will be releasing a fresh DVD of the film (with tasty supplemental accompaniment) in wide distribution, but the big news is their web-exclusive (it appears to be available from their webstore only at present) Blu-ray, a loaded deluxe edition that’s set to present The Giant Spider Invasion in widescreen and HD for the first time in its lengthy home video history.

Supplements for the Blu-ray are stacked. Quoting from the VCI site:

  • New 2015 Documentary by Daniel Griffith – “Size Does Matter! Making The Giant Spider Invasion”
  • Bonus CD from “The Giant Spider Invasion the Musical” – 14 Rockin’ Tracks from the forth-coming Live Musical-Stage Play
  • Mini ‘TGSI’ Collectible Comic Book
  • The SUPER-8 Version (the original home media format!)
  • The SUPER-8 Version re-edited in HD!
  • Archival Interviews with cult-film director Bill Rebane and other members of the cast, crew and Super-fans
  • Archival Interview with actor Robert Easton (Kester)
  • Bill Rebane introduction by Kevin Murphy and Mike Nelson (of Mystery Science Theater fame)
  • Extensive Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery
  • Original Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots
  • Archival TV News Reports
  • Liner Notes written by Tom Stockman, WeAreMovieGeeks.com

VCI are set to present The Giant Spider Invasion at its theatrical 1.85:1 ratio with LPCM audio (VCI say Dolby Digital, but the DVDDrive-In review disputes this) and optional English subtitles. No complaints here. I’m fascinated to see how it all shakes out, and all the more so given VCI’s spotty track record (in so far as feature presentation is concerned at least). So long as this Blu-ray plays better than my 25-plus-year-old Japanese VHS I suspect I’ll be happy enough.

VCI’s less expensive (and less loaded) The Giant Spider Invasion DVD edition is available for pre-order through Amazon and other online retailers. For now the Blu-ray edition is available only through VCI directly. Both editions are set for release on June 9th.

Tremendous! Stupendous! Fun! HERCULES IN NEW YORK to Blu-ray in February

And the strange title announcements continue to roll in from abroad. That’s right folks, Arnie’s first feature film outing is getting the Blu-ray treatment in February courtesy of Austria’s NSM Records. Hercules in New York will be arriving via three dual-format Mediabook options, each of which is limited to just 333 copies. The cover options are shared below:

I suspect the transfer here will be the same as the HD option domestic distributor Lionsgate have up for streaming on Amazon, for better or worse. I’ve not seen it, so I can’t really comment. According to bluray-disc.de, the NSM Records blu-ray is supposed to be a single layer BD-25, with German and English audio options (DTS-HD MA 2.0 for each) and optional German subtitles. The disc is advertised as being locked to region B. Expected supplements are as follows:

  • Original Schwarzenegger voice recording
  • Ein Österreicher in Hollywood (45 minute documentary)
  • Original Trailer
  • Filmography
  • 12-page Mediabook packaging with text by Nando Rohner

Hercules in New York streets February 27th 2015 and, typical for limited edition Mediabooks, the price point here is pretty steep – the three editions are each going for EUR 39.99 (nearly $50 USD) currently at Amazon.de (DTM have it for less, but I’ve no idea what they charge for shipping these days). Still, I am powerless to resist. Let the Central Park bear fighting begin!

HNY_Italian_Blu-ray

(1/14/2015) Edit to Add:  Hercules in New York is already available on Blu-ray, and at a significantly lower price (around EUR 10 compared to EUR 40), from Italian label Pulp Video. I’ve no idea what if any supplemental content to expect, but audio options are listed as 2.0 Italian or English, and 5.1 Italian (Italian subtitles, presumably removable, are also included) on the back cover artwork provided at Amazon.it. I should note that I’ve cancelled my order of the German Mediabook in favor of this more affordable edition, and will update this page with the on-disc specs as soon as I have it in hand. The front cover artwork is shared above.

(1/28/2015) A Few Thoughts on the Italian Blu-ray: So this is pretty disappointing, and I’ve my doubts that the German edition will fare much better. The Italian release is all region compatible (plays fine on my PS3), but is single layered and features lossy Dolby Digital audio only (all tracks, Italian 5.1 and 2.0 and English 2.0, the latter featuring Arnie’s original voice work). More distressing is the transfer, licensed from Lionsgate. The 1.78:1 framing plays fine, and the source scanned is in better shape than one might anticipate (fairly clean, with little overt damage and some punchiness in the color department), but that’s where the good ends. The entire film has some utterly awkward noise reduction applied, rendering whatever might have been film texture in a past life a weird and noisy mess. Most of the potential for fine detail is lost, and while it doesn’t play terribly in motion I wouldn’t recommend looking too closely. I’ve included some screenshots below (uncompressed .png even), which should illustrate the issue well enough. Supplements are limited to a still image gallery, and that’s it. The best thing this has going for it is the cover, which is pretty sharp stuff, but even at EUR 10 or so it’s a tough sell. Those keen on seeing the film in HD are encouraged to stick to the streaming copies available on Amazon, Vudu (4:3 open matte) and elsewhere. I have the latter, and it plays at least as well as this Blu-ray does.


 

El Espanta Surge de la Tumba: Horror Rises From the Tomb (1973)

horror-rises-from-the-tomb-posterFrance during the Middle Ages. Warlock Alaric de Marnac (Paul Naschy) and his partner in witchcraft Mabille de LancrĂ© (Helga LinĂ©) are killed for their enthusiasm for various evils, including the drinking of blood and cannibalism, of course. Because that’s what you do when you’re into the black arts, Alaric and Mabille curse the men responsible for their deaths (one of them Alaric’s own brother) and their descendants, promising to one day return to plague them with various horrors.

The time for the charming couple’s return finally comes in the 1970s. Alaric’s descendant Armand (of course also Naschy), his buddy Maurice Roland (Victor AlcĂĄzar) – of course also a witch finder descendant – and their girlfriends poke around in their ancestral legends. One sĂ©ance with possible supernatural phenomena, and a floating Naschy head later, the quartet decides that the only way to decide if they’ve been duped by a medium or they really have experienced supernatural shenanigans is for them to travel to the old chateau on the ancestral lands of the de Marnacs, far out in the backwoodsiest part of France, and dig up the head of Alaric (who was decapitated, with body and head buried at different places).

To everyone’s surprise, this idea turns out to be a rather large mistake. Soon, Alaric’s bodyless, redly lit head (excellent “Naschy in a box with his head sticking out effect there”) puts mind control whammies on various members of the cast, murders are committed hearts are eaten, heads and bodies reunited, LinĂ©s revived, and the future of all humanity threatened by two very cranky dead witches. Only the hammer symbol of Thor(!?) and a vague monster destroying manual might possibly save the day.

Carlos Aured’s brilliantly, and rather truthfully, titled Horror Rises From The Tomb shows the great Paul Naschy at his most bizarre, with nary a thought given to plot logic or emotional believability but very many thoughts given to showing off a series of increasingly weird supernatural occurrences. This time around, Naschy (of course also the man responsible for the script) and Aured get the required dream-logic particularly right, resulting in a film that uses elements of Naschy’s beloved Gothic horror, 70s horror movie bleakness, and curious ideas as if it were out to reconstruct a particularly vivid fever dream.

Aured shows himself to be one of Naschy’s more aesthetically conscious directing partners, making use of some excellently shot bleak landscape, Bava-like coloured lighting, and a lot of cheap red blood to create an atmosphere somewhere between a carnival sideshow, a cheaper version of a Hammer horror movie, and that dream you had where Paul Naschy’s head hypnotized you into catching various scantily clad women for him to eat. From time to time, the film’s curiously naive, and certainly idiosyncratic, approach to horror even produces not just dream-like and strange, but actually nightmarish sequences, like the one in which some of the dead of the film rise again from the local marsh to do the surviving protagonists harm.

The sense of bleakness so typical for horror from the 70s that characterizes that sequence, as well as a surprising character death by shotgun and the mood of Horror Rises From The Tomb‘s ending, are part of a recurring negative view on humanity and life itself which would become ever stronger in Naschy’s body of work during the second half of the decade and the first half of the 80s until pessimism finally sometimes turned into downright nihilism. This philosophic approach always does mark a strange contrast between Naschy’s films and those of the more innocent horror eras he most admired, and often rubs against against the sheer loopiness that has always been part of the charm of his films. In this particular case, silly head movie fun and the inevitable doom of everyone involved for no fault of their own go hand in hand, as if they were contrasting impulses in the auteur’s personality fighting it out live on screen; the winner is inconclusive.

Even some of Horror Rises From The Tomb‘s nominal weaknesses turn into surprising strengths. I found it, for example, exceedingly difficult to distinguish between the various female characters in the movie (which is the thing that happens when three of the film’s four human female characters are very similar looking brunettes without any character traits), turning the not exactly sharply drawn relationships between the characters diffuse, confusing and ever more dream-like.

Even the old Naschy-ism of pretending his own characters to be virtually irresistible to all women is put to good use here, giving the film an even more surreal feeling. In the case of evil Naschy it’s the result of hypnotism anyhow; and really, in the context of everything else going on in the movie, it’s not a surprise that Naschy suddenly appearing in a woman’s bedroom is answered by instant excited writhing. Evil Naschy, by the way, is the sort of fiend who wears absolutely nothing under his cape, as does Helga LinĂ© who for her part has the rather curious ability of killing men by raking her nails across their backs. On paper, it’s all just a way to show off a bit of nudity, of course, but the film’s execution turns even standard sleaze material like this into dream-like/nightmarish eroticism of a sort not generally found outside of European horror films of the 70s.

Horror Rises From The Tomb really is Naschy at his most concentrated, showing off his virtues and faults particularly clearly. This also means that, if you can’t stand European horror movies of the non-realistic persuasion, this is not a film for you. If, on the other hand, it’s exactly the strange and the weird you’re looking for from your horror, you just might find a new favourite movie of the hour.


Denis Klotz contributes a regular weekly film column for ExB, and can otherwise be found kicking around on his prolific cult media blog The Horror!?