Cool and Classic: The Restored Apocalypse of 'Little Shop of Horrors'
Plus The Beatles' 'Magical Mystery Tour,' a Robert Mitchum box set, and more
"Three Wicked Melodrama from Gainsborough Pictures" (Eclipse/Criterion) is a perfectly appropriate title for this trio of gothic-pulp melodramas that became huge popular hits in Britain during World War II. Videodrone's review is here.
"Little Shop Of Horrors: The Director’s Cut" (Warner), the first non-Muppet film directed by Frank Oz, is the big-screen adaptation of the doo-wop Broadway musical about a baritone man-eating plant spun from Roger Corman’s comic horror quickie. In other words, a glossy big budget remake of a zero-budget programmer. You’d think with such a legacy it just wouldn’t work, but the mix of bouncy music, over-saturated color, gee-whiz 1950s parodies and a gloriously phony set recalling the glory days of MGM musicals all comes together into a sly little production that hits all the right notes.
The film was released with a new, happy ending, after terrible audience response to the hilariously apocalyptic original finale that killed off the heroes and set the plants on a rampage over the Earth right out of "King Kong," "Godzilla," "The Day of the Triffids," and dozens of classic invasion films and giant monster romps. This new edition presents both the theatrical version and the original director's cut, which is wilder than you ever imagined. (That ending was briefly available in a B&W workprint version on a rare disc that was pulled from stores almost immediately; this is in full color and mastered for this release.)
Also includes the new featurette "Frank Oz and Little Shop of Horrors: Director's Cut," featuring interviews with Oz and special effects supervisor Richard Conway, and new commentary by Frank Oz on the 20-minute alternate ending, in addition to the supplements carried over from the earlier DVD release: commentary by Frank Oz on the theatrical cut, a light making-of featurette, and outtakes and deleted scenes with optional commentary. Blu-ray and DVD, with a 36-page booklet packaging for the Blu-ray edition.
"Magical Mystery Tour" (EMI), the largely-improvised DIY TV special made by The Beatles in 1967, is not a good film by any definition, but then again that's not why anyone would watch it. Shot slapdash on the road with no script, it's a good-natured but undisciplined tribute to their love of The Goon Show, goofball comedy, and British mystery vacations, with a carnivalesque approach to casting and The Beatles themselves in multiple roles, including a cabal of wacky wizards waiting for the bus to arrive so they can… actually, that part isn't all that clear. In fact, there really is no story, just a bunch of oddball bits and songs recorded by the Beatles for the film. The photography is poor but this slice of Beatles memorabilia has never looked or sounded this good before.
On Blu-ray and DVD, with enough supplements to justify the purchase to any Beatles fan. Along with commentary by Paul McCartney (who was the driving force behind the film), there is the instructive 19-minute "The Making of Magical Mystery Tour," the superb 11-minute "Meet the Supporting Cast" (which identifies the other actors and is worth watching for the outtakes alone), full versions of the songs "Your Mother Should Know," "Blue Jay Way," and "The Fool on the Hill" with outtakes from the production, "Hello Goodbye" with the proto music video film made for the "Top of the Pops" debut, deleted scenes, and other supplements.
"The Robert Mitchum Film Collection" (Fox) collects ten films (all previously released) on ten discs: "River of No Return" with Marilyn Monroe, the Gothic noir "The Night of the Hunter" directed by Charles Laughton, John Huston's "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" with Deborah Kerr, the moonshine road-racing drama "Thunder Road," the comedy "What a Way to Go!" with Shirley MacLaine, Paul Newman, and Gene Kelly, the wagon train western "The Way West" with Kirk Douglas and Richard Widmark," and four war dramas: the U-boat thriller "The Enemy Below," the fighter-pilot film "The Hunters" with Robert Wagner, British war drama "Man in the Middle" with Trevor Howard, and the all-star "The Longest Day." DVD only.
"Bedevilled" (Well Go), directed by a former assistant to South Korean extreme specialist Kim Ki-duk, sends a repressed bank teller from Seoul to an oppressive, isolated island community. "There are barbarous scenes that make you wince, and then there are bloody scenes that make you cringe, but this South Korean revenge thriller has gallons of emotions to spurt on the screen in its sad, wretched character," writes Seongyong Cho for Roger Ebert's Far Flung Correspondents. Blu-ray and DVD, in Korean with English subtitles, with a featurette.
"Basket Case 3: The Progeny" (Synapse), the final film in Frank Henenlotter’s low-budget, black-humored mutant horror trilogy, is a tongue-in-cheek horror where the misshapen lump Belial has a litter of bouncing baby mutants and dons a robo-suit to go on a rampage when the brood is kidnapped by the cops. Kevin Van Hentenryck and Annie Ross co-star. DVD only.
"Something Big" (Paramount) is a comic western with Dean Martin hatching a plan to do something that involves stage robbery, kidnapping, and a Gatling gun. Brian Keith, Honor Blackman, and Ben Johnson co-star. DVD only.
And from the manufacture-on-demand current is Vincent Price in the exotic "Confessions of an Opium Eater" (Warner Archive), a surreal piece of exotic exploitation ostensibly inspired by the Thomas De Quincey memoir. Videodrone's review is here.