ARROW UHD RELEASE: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)

Considered the most faithful film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, this 1994 movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh and written by Steph Lady and Frank Darabont, who said that it was, “the best script I ever wrote and the worst movie I’ve ever seen.”

He told Creativescreenwriting.com, “t’s kind of like the movie I wrote, but not at all like the movie I wrote. It has no patience for subtlety. It has no patience for quiet moments. It has no patience period. It’s big and loud and blunt and rephrased by the director at every possible turn. Cumulatively, the effect was a totally different movie. I don’t know why Branagh needed to make this big, loud film…the material was subtle. Shelley’s book was way out there in a lot of ways, but it’s also very subtle. I don’t know why it had to be this operatic attempt at filmmaking. Shelley’s book is not operatic, it whispers at you a lot. The movie was a bad one. That was my Waterloo. That’s where I really got my ass kicked most as a screenwriter…”

Branagh plays Victor Frankenstein, who starts the film as a man suffering from pneumonia who has been seeking to kill his creation, tracking it into the arctic. We go back to see how things became this dire, as Victor promises his mother, at her grave, that he will conquer death. For a time, he’s joined by his teacher Professor Waldman (John Cleese), who warns him of the consequences of going against God and nature. After he’s murdered (by an unnamed man played by Robert DeNiro, who goes on to play the creature that Frankenstein brings to life), his brain is used within the creature given the spark of life.

Victor is horrified by his creation’s appearance and tries to kill him. In his nascent state, the creature is driven from town by the villagers. Even when he connects with an old blind man, it goes badly. Finally, he burns the farm of the man’s family to the ground and declares war on his creator. He kills Frankenstein’s brother William, sets up Justine, the family maid who has always loved the doctor and demands that his nemesis make him a mate. When he refuses, he murders Frankenstein’s fiancee (Helena Bonham Carter) and forces him to bring her back to life. She’s horrified at the way she looks and sets herself on fire, which brings us back to the cold ice floes and the close of the tale.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein may be imperfect, but DeNiro is absolutely incredible in the lead. He studied the way that stroke victims who have learned to speak again sound to get the right voice. I love the way he creates his own take on a creature that has been filmed so many times and his role is the absolute best thing in this movie.

The Arrow UHD release of this movie has a new 4K restoration from the original camera negatives by Sony Pictures Entertainment, as well as new audio commentary by film historians Michael Brooke and Johnny Mains; new interviews with composer Patrick Doyle, costume designer James Acheson and make-up designer Daniel Parker; Mary Shelley and The Creation of a Monster, a new documentary featurette on the origins and evolution of the Frankenstein story, featuring Gothic specialists David Pirie, Jonathan Rigby and Stephen Volk; Dissecting Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a new featurette with David Pirie, Jonathan Rigby and Stephen Volk on the differences between the novel and Kenneth Branagh’s screen adaptation; the Edison version of Frankenstein, made in 1910 and shown in 2K restoration form from the Library of Congress with music by Donald Sosin; original trailers; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Laz Marquez and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Jon Towlson and Amy C. Chambers.

You can purchase this from MVD.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 17: Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics (1994)

Originally airing on May 19, 1994 on CBS, this made for TV movie was made up of two unproduced episodes that were found in a trunk in the Serling’s garage. The first segment, “The Theatre,” was expanded and scripted by Richard Matheson while “Where The Dead Are” was written four years after the show went off the air.

“The Theater” finds Melissa Sanders (Amy Irving) watching His Girl Friday in a repertory theater when she begins seeing scenes of the life she shares with her fiancé James (Gary Cole). At first, she thinks he’s behind it. Yet every time she watches it, she sees more, including her own death, which happens and then James relives it when he attends the very same cinema.

“Where the Dead Are” is about Dr. Benjamin Ramsey (Patrick Bergin), who has a patient who dies yet has injuries which should have killed him way earlier. This brings him to an island where Dr. Jeremy Wheaton (Jack Palance) has created a series of tissue regeneration techniques that can revive dead people. When he learns the secret of keeping the dead alive, he must struggle with ethical questions that medicine school never prepared him for.

Director Robert Markowitz mostly worked in TV and he does a decent job here. Obviously, it doesn’t get close to the original series, but it’s still nice to see two stories that could have been.

ARROW BLU RAY RELEASE: Torment (1994)

Claude Chabrol made this film from a screenplay by Henri-Georges Clouzot, who never finished his version of the film when he started making it back in 1964.

Paul (François Cluzet) and Nelly (Emmanuelle Béart) have a relationship that falls apart due to his jealousy. L’Enfer means the “inferno of Hell” and that’s what they both go through, all because Paul assumes that his wife is sleeping with anyone and everyone. But is she just doing these things to drive him mad? Or is she the living embodiment of a Tex Avery cartoon, the kind of woman that men can’t control themselves around, and perhaps most frightening to men, one that knows it and uses it?

I’d say that at the least, I would not want to stay at the hotel that Paul is allowing to spiral madly out of control. That said, every man wants to marry a supermodel but is not ready for what work that entails. When everyone wants what you have — and you know it — and you’re as despicable a person as Paul is, there’s no way that your life can ever go well.

Arrow Video’s Lies And Deceit: Five Films By Claude Chabrol collected five high definitions (1080p) blu ray versions of Cop Au Vin and Inspector Lavardin to Madame Bovary, Betty and Torment. Each movie has an introduction by film scholar Joël Magny and select scene commentaries by Chabrol. Additionally, there’s an 80-page collector’s booklet of new writing by film critics Martyn Conterio, Kat Ellinger, Philip Kemp and Sam Wigley, trailers and image galleries for each movie and limited edition packaging with newly commissioned artwork by Tony Stella.

Torment has new commentary by critics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson, as well as On Henri Georges Clouzot, an archival interview with Chabrol about Clouzot’s abandoned attempt to make L’enfer and an interview with producer Marin Karmitz.

You can order this set from MVD.

Shrunken Heads (1994)

Writer Matthew Bright and director Richard Elfman made Forbidden Zone, which is quite honestly one of the weirdest movies ever made. So why not try and outdo it?

Well, maybe Charles Band being involved may ensure that this isn’t as delightfully odd as the last movie Bright and Elfman made. But there’s still plenty of strangeness, as nearly everyone in this movie other than the leads were video store employees who won their roles in a contest.

The Vipers street gang led by Big Mo (Meg Foster and her intense and frightening eyes) has finally gotten sick of the three teens who screw with their plans, so they blast them with a shotgun. The newspaper salesman who sells them their comic books, Aristide Sumatra (Julius Harris in his last role; he was Tee Hee Johnson in Live and Let Die as well as appearing in Black CaesarHell Up In Harlem and Hollywood Vice Squad), is a voodoo priest and brings them back to life.

Seeing as how Tommy, Bill and Fredrick are now stuck as floating shrunken heads — I wonder how Tommy’s girlfriend Sally feels, seeing as how she took part in the ritual that saved him — and they use their new superpowers to fight crime make people clean up trash.

It’s a kid movie where kids get gunned down and become flying severed heads.

Maybe it’ll give your children nightmares.

You can watch this on Tubi.

GREGORY DARK WEEK: Secret Games 3 (1994)

A bored housewife feels neglected by her physician husband — yes, I realize that this is the plot of every Gregory Dark movie that I’ve written about this week — and decides to work at a brothel. Rochelle Swanson is pretty decent as the lead, Diana Larson, and her sister Brenda is in this as well. Of course, you know what happens by now. She has a client that won’t let her quit and taking a bite out of that forbidden apple ends up with a worm.

Terrell is the psycho coming after her and it’s a role that Woody Brown also did in Animal Instincts II for the director.

However, here’s what takes me out of the story: what man — Dean Scofield plays the husband and he’s fine, but no heartbreaker — would ignore Rochelle Swanson in favor of his job? I mean, when I was a kid I could never figure out why Al Bundy ignored Peg, who pretty much looked like more an ideal woman to me than any of the girls who strutted out and got the studio audience in whooping fits. This is even more extreme, but that’s Hollywood.

It’s still amazing that Wally Pfister shot this movie before he started working with Christopher Nolan. I mean, you get work where you can and build your resume. He’s got the soft focus thing right on this.

So anyways, here’s a confession: when I first moved to college, my goal was to finally see a Dark Brothers movie after reading about them in Hustler. Luckily, there was a video store close to my off campus housing and one day, I got brave enough to go in back and grab two films: Dark’s New Wave Hookers 2 and John Leslie’s Curse of the Cat Woman. What had helped was that the store was owned by a college student who ran the store in-between classes. I didn’t know that when he did have a class, his grandmother came in to run the store. So I go in, guy my age. Come out, an older distinguished woman who proceeded to lecture me about being a pervert.

You kids and your internet.

GREGORY DARK WEEK: Object of Obsession (1994)

Back in the days of landlines, wrong numbers could just happen. Yes, we once couldn’t look and see where a call was coming from. And in Object of Obsession, one of those calls is answered by Margaret (Erika Anderson, A Nightmare of Elm Street 5: The Dream Child). Soon, she’s having an affair with a stranger that starts sexy and ends in kidnapping, but Margaret is by no means helpless. And oh man — Scott Valentine from Family Ties is in this.

But unlike the other Gregory Dark erotic thrillers — referenced when Margaret watches Secret Games 2 — she’s not the untouchable airbrushed sexual creature so often striding through his other movies. Instead, she’s quite close to a normal woman and when she does get to express herself sexually, it isn’t through the normal fog world of dreams that Dark usually shows.

There’s not even any saxophone!

This is as close as a Dark softcore movie will get to being a true independent art movie and the results are, well, pretty great. Just when you think he’s settled in, the man changes it all on you.

GREGORY DARK WEEK: Animal Instincts 2 (1994)

Joanne Fleming (Shannon Whirry) likes to be watched.

Her neighbor Steve (Woody Brown) likes to watch and has put cameras in every room of her apartment.

But when she falls for Eric (Al Sapienza) instead of him, well, things may not go so well.

You have to love a movie that’s made for people who want to watch that looks at the bad side of voyeurism. Kind of like when Gregory Dark made adult films, he made things that were as violently non-sexy as possible, like men in white hoods having sex with a black woman and fish slapping people as a continually returning metaphor. He’s the man that ended New Waves Hookers 2 with a bomb inside Madison Stone’s ass killing her and the hero. He’s not going to make something normal just because he’s making something mainstream. Also, consider that that something mainstream entails movies that are steamy, foggy, neon-lit and filled with sex.

Dark is in the X-Rated Critics Organization Hall of Fame, while cinematographer Wally Pfister and editor Bob Murawski, who worked on this movie, would respectively win Oscars for Inception and The Hurt Locker.

GREGORY DARK WEEK: Secret Games 2: The Escort (1993)

There’s no spark between college professor Heather and Kyle (Martin Hewitt) any more. He was once an art critic and now he’s a performance artist, which she finds pretty stupid. Once she leaves him, he just calls over Stacey to dominate him but she can’t love him. Irene loves him too, but he’s infatuated with Stacey, so…

He’s also videotaping his life and keeps talking directly to the camera.

So is sex just as cold and calculating as Kyle’s art? Was Dark sick and tired of not just sex — he’d come back to adult to make sequels to New Wave Hookers, Between the Cheeks and The Devil in Miss Jones 5: The Inferno before making videos for Sublime, Onyx and, in a fact that still blows my mind, Mandy Moore, Britney Spears and A*Teens — so maybe if he’s tired of sex, we should all watch and learn.

GREGORY DARK WEEK: Stranger by Night (1994)

Gregory Dark has his best cast in this — well, you know, unless you count New Wave Hookers — movie in which detectives Corcoran (Steven Bauer) and Larson (William Katt) hunt for a serial killer. But as the killer continues leaving bodies in his bloody path, Corcoran begins to feel unstoppable rage and has blackouts. Even worse, the evidence that he and his partner start to uncover points to the frightening idea that one of them could be the killer.

Besides Bauer and Katt, Michael Parks is their boss, and Jennifer Rubin (Bad Dreams!) plays the psychologist that Bauer sleeps with when she isn’t working on his mental state (anyone in the therapy  business in a Gregory Dark film has no idea how to do the patient and provider distance rule properly). And hey! Ashley Laurence, Kristy from the Hellraiser movies!

This one breaks the format we’ve expected from Dark as while there’s sleaze, there’s not much sex. There are, however, flashbacks to just how horrific Bauer’s childhood was. And I get the feelng that Katt is loving getting to play his character.

Twin Sitters (1994)

Man, I really will watch anything. Case in point, I have watched nearly every movie that The Barbarian Brothers David and Petter Paul made. The Barbarians? Loved it. D.C Cab? Own the blu ray. Double Trouble? It’s on the site later today.

Identical twins who were gigantic hunks of beef in the days when size meant everything, they somehow got to make a whole bunch of movies that I alone enjoy. I mean, if this comes out on blu ray, I better be doing the commentary along with the surviving Peter Paul. I have so many questions of him.

Peter and David play, well, Peter and David Falcone. They’re also identical twin brother waiters who want to open their own restaurant. They save the life of a man who is going into witness protection, asking him to keep his twin nephews Bradley and Steven (Christian and Joseph Cousins, who played Dominic in Kindergarten Cop) out of trouble. However, those kids are going to destroy our heroes.

Yet stop — this was directed and written by John Paragon, the man who was Jambi the Genie, Pterri the Pterodactyl, the sex shop worker in Eating Raoul, a Walt Disney Imagineer,   a partner of Elvira and The Breather on her KHJ-TV series, a Groundling and even the director of ten episodes of Silk Stalkings. So yeah, another obsession.

And yep. Paul Bartel shows up. Of course he does.

George Lazenby too.

I really think this movie was created for me and me alone. So thank you, forces of the universe. You have infinitely upset me as of late, but I will take this gift from you and look to better days.