FOX HORROR CLASSICS VOL. 2
Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
William Cameron Menzies, Marcel Varnel, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Harry Lachman
What's it about
Volume 2 of Foxís Horror Classics Cinema Classics Collection, this one boasts such forgotten ďgemsĒ as Chandu the Magician, Dragonwyck, and Dr. Renaultís Secret. Horror purists, start your boners!
Is it good movie?
Not everything that is old is a classic. Just saying.
Chandu the Magician: Ostensibly starring the apocalyptically uncharming Edmund Lowe in the title role (only because Hayden Christianson had yet to be born), the real focal point of this picture is Bela ďIím DraculaĒ Lugosi as arch-villain Roxor (whose name caused me to have Iím a Rocker by Judas Priest in my head all night). On one level this film is typically offensive of the era, making sure that any ethnic characters in the foreground are played by proper Caucasians, and any background characters are as stereotypical as possible. What this film has going for it is incredibly impressive set design, special effects, and camera work. It is easy to see Stevens Somers (The Mummy) and Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark) being heavily influenced by this film. What it doesnít have is a believable story or anything but the most stilted of dialog. Oh, and pay special attention to the platinum blond lady who is auctioned off on the selling block: her nightgown is rather sheer, and you can clearly see her 1932 jahoobies. Nice!
Dragonwyck: This is not a horror film. It is a gothic romance, and not a particularly good one. Third-billed Vincent Price does what he does best, namely stealing the movie, and Gene Tierney is as much of a treat as she always is, but this is just a confused movie, starting many, many threads, and never following through on any of them. I donít remember any of the characterís names, but basically this farm chick gets invited to live with her cousin (who isnít really her cousin) and live in his posh castle and take care of his daughter. The cousinís wife dies, the two cousins who are not cousins get married, some other boring stuff happens, blah blah blah. There is a ghost story that gets left by the wayside as well. The entirely inappropriate score blares THIS DAMN LOUD the whole time, and the whole affair is kind of tedious. Only watch this if you are a fan of Price or Tierney, or if you want to see how badly they mangled the source novel of the same name.
Dr. Renaultís Secret: Dr. Renaultís Secret isnít really so secret, considering it is clearly delineated on the back of the frigginí DVD case. Anyway, Forbes wants to marry Madeline, daughter of Dr. Renault. I used to be an ape but now Iím a dude thanks to Dr. Renault Noel isnít real super happy about that, but he keeps his peace. But then someone tries to jack Forbes up for his cash, but inadvertently kills someone else, and Noel is blamed for it. But itís hard to build up any sympathy for Noel when he outright kills two men, in cold blood, when they joke that he looks like an ape. This feature is barely an hour long, and was produced by Foxís b-crew on the cheap, and it shows. It is set in France, featuring a few actors who at least try to seem French, and a bunch who donít even bother. This is worth watching for J Carrol Naishís game performance as the ape-man, and the incredibly hilarious transformation pictures. Where are Mike and the Ďbots when we need them?
Video / Audio
Video: all three features are full frame, and all had many hours of work spent to make them appear as crisp and clear as they do. Why, we may never know.
Audio: all three features are mono, with an optional mono Spanish language track and optional English, Spanish, and French subtitles.
Commentaries: Since the people involved in the actual production of these films are either dead or really infirm, the commentaries on Chandu and Dragonwyck are done by Bela Lugosi biographer Gregory William Mank, and author Steve Haberman and filmmaker Constantine Masr, respectively. Mankís Chandu commentary is very informative. In fact, it is packed with trivia to the point of pedantry, and it sounds to me like he is ďreadingĒ his commentary, like he watched the movie and wrote it all out like a feature-length review. Haberman and Nasr are just as pedantic, but are at least a little more natural sounding. Renault doesnít feature a commentary.
Making of featurettes: all three discs have a cleverly titled making of featurette, with interviews with the same stable of film historians and critics. They do their best to make these mediocre proceedings more worthwhile and important to film history than they are, but insisting that Dragonwyck is horror and comparing Renault to Cat People and insinuating it is an antecedent to Planet of the Apes just doesnít work for me, fellas.
Restoration Comparison: about two minutes of split-screen before and after scenes for all three films underscores how much time and effort was spent cleaning up the images. I might have liked them better if they were grainy and dirty however.
Trailers and photo galleries: Once again, all three discs contain their respective filmís original theatrical trailer, as well as extensive production and advertisement photo galleries. I like Dragonwyckís best, because it contains the most behind the scenes candid shots.
Dragonwyck also contains an isolated score track, as well as some radio play versions of the story, one featuring Price and Tierney, and the other also with Price and Teresa Wright.
The end result of this collection is three mediocre, semi-genre films from the early era of cinema. Each contain at least something of interest for hardcore geeks, but average film geeks might want to take a pass.