Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Digital Longing

The other day as I was lamenting the lack of a decent Region 1 DVD version of Grave of the Vampire, I got to thinking about other pieces from my collection that remain trapped in the analog dimension. Here are a two great horror films for which I feel the need for DVD.

Nosferatu in Venice (1988)
A gorgeous and haunting film which ironically stars the hideous and haunting Klaus Kinski. This is a kind of, sort of, but not really sequel to Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre. Christopher Plummer—in a role that anticipates his far less notable performance as Van Helsing in Dracula 2000—plays Professor Paris Catalano, a man who has devoted his life to ridding the world of vampires. He is summoned to a home in Venice where he takes part in a séance that awakens a powerful vampire known as The Nosferatu (Kinski). Donald Pleasance also stars as an ineffectual clergyman. This film has some original notions, suggesting that the condition of vampirism can be brought on simply by committing evil acts, rather than being spread like a virus. The backdrop of decaying Venetian buildings sets a somber tone, bolstered by a top notch score and a great cast which also includes the beautiful Barbara De Rossi.

The copy I own was purchased at a convention in the mid 1990's, and is a gray market dupe of a Japanese laser disc, though it appears to be a few generations removed from the source. The film is letterboxed, with a well-dubbed English soundtrack and Japanese subtitles. The tape has had tracking issues from day one, and while the image quality is passable, this movie deserves to be shown in pristine condition. I've seen some Region 0 copies available on Ebay, but I'm not sure if these are dupes or imports.

Island of Terror (1966)
Two words, horror fans: Peter Cushing. The man automatically elevated the status of any film just by showing up for work. Two more words: Terence Fisher. This is the same director who gave us Horror of Dracula, Curse of Frankenstein, and far too many other Hammer flicks to mention here.

A small island off the coast of Ireland is beset by bizarre silicon-based creatures that are the accidental result of an attempt to cure cancer. The creatures, dubbed silicates, consume bone from any animal or person that crosses their path. Two doctors, played by Cushing and Edward Judd, star of the also excellent Day the Earth Caught Fire, come to investigate but find themselves trapped along with the country folk native to the island. Carole Gray is likable, if sometimes gratingly in need of rescue as Judd's romantic interest. Niall MacGinnis, one of the stars of Curse of the Demon, plays one of the islanders. The interesting script, tight pacing, and cast make up for the Dr. Who level special effects.

Island of Terror was released on VHS in fullscreen format by MCA/Universal in the mid 1990's and is currently out of print. There has been an official DVD release in Europe, but not here in the States. I've seen fullscreen Region 0 DVD's available on Ebay, and I suspect these are dubs of the MCA/Universal tape.

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