7/18/07 Edition -- The AISLE SEAT BLOG Is Now Online!

Aisle Seat Vintage Edition
RED DAWN, BEACH PARTY and More Catalog Titles
Plus: BIRDMAN and SPACE GHOST Unleashed!

When MGM signed an agreement with Fox last year to distribute their library on home video, it came as good news for viewers hoping to see the release of countless MGM-owned catalog films still unreleased in the digital realm.

The decision to go with Fox has already paid off through releases like the “Sergio Leone Collection,” but the best seems like it’s yet to come -- especially if you’re a fan of classic sci-fi and horror.

Included in Fox and MGM’s newly-announced line up of September frights are:

-All-new MGM Midnite Movies double-features including “The Beast/Bat People,” “The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues/The Beast With A Million Eyes,” “Pharaoh’s Curse/Curse of the Faceless Man,” “Return of Dracula/The Vampire,” and “Yongary, Monster From The Deep/Konga.”

-Fox’s first-ever group of Midnite Movies including “Blueprint For Murder/Man In The Attic,” “Chosen Survivors/Earth Dies Screaming,” “Devils Of Darkness/Witchcraft,” “Gorilla At Large/Mystery At Monster Island,” “House On Skull Mountain/Mephisto Waltz,” and “Tales From The Crypt/Vault Of Horror.”

-An MGM Movie Legends box-set of Vincent Price AIP classics, including “Conqueror Worm," both “Dr. Phibes” films,” “Theater of Blood,” “Madhouse,” “Tales of Terror” and “Twice Told Tales.”

-Another “Movie Legends” set of Roger Corman favorites, including “Bloody Mama” and “The Young Racers” (both previously unreleased), “A Bucket of Blood,” “Gas-s-s,” “Premature Burial,” “The Wild Angels,” “The Trip,” and “The Man With X Ray Eyes.”

-Special Editions of “From Beyond,” “Return of the Living Dead,” Irwin Allen’s “The Lost World,” Burt I. Gordon’s “Food of the Gods,” and a box-set of the original “Fly” series, including the U.S. debut of “Curse of the Fly.”

All titles are due out in September and ought to keep many a horror fan happy as we head into Halloween 2007!

In the interim, several popular MGM catalog titles have been re-issued by Fox in a series of new releases.

John Milius’ silly, comic book styled WWIII actioner RED DAWN (**½, 1984, 114 mins., PG-13) is back this week on DVD in a new 2-disc “Collector’s Edition.”

Though lacking a commentary track from Milius and any deleted scenes (even though there are discarded sequences glimpsed in the trailer), this double-disc set does sport a superior, newly remastered 16:9 transfer (1.85) of the film with its original, 2-channel Dolby Stereo soundtrack also intact, plus a decent array of special features, including a “Carnage  Counter” that breaks down the film’s census of deaths and explosions.

“Red Dawn Rising,” meanwhile, is a basic, 25-minute featurette recounting the production’s history, highlighted by new interviews with Milius, stars Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen and Lea Thompson, along with what appears to be an older conversation with Powers Boothe. Three shorter featurettes -- “Building the Red Menance,” “WWIII Comes to Town” and a military training segment -- all offer additional, more technically oriented background on the film, notable for being the first picture to be released with a PG-13 rating (as well as a solid success at the box-office).

In total, there’s just about an hour of Making Of material on the set all told, along with the original trailer, making it a must-have for “Red Dawn” aficionados. 

Also new from Fox & MGM is FRANKIE & ANNETTE: THE MGM MOVIE LEGENDS COLLECTION, a terrific, four-disc box set sporting previously-released “Midnite Movies” presentations of American-International favorites “Beach Party,” “Bikini Beach,” “Beach Blanket Bingo,” “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini,” “Muscle Beach Party,” “Ski Party,” “Fireball 500,” and “Thunder Alley.”

The eight movies are housed in four slim-line cases (one film per-side) and offer either 16:9 or 4:3 letterboxed presentations for all eight movies, including “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini,” which was erroneously issued in a pan-and-scan transfer in its last MGM Midnite Movies double-feature incarnation. (“Beach Party” fans should note the set is missing two series spin-offs: “Pajama Party,” which is completely out of print, as well as “Ghost in the Invisible Bikini,” which is still available on a Midnite Movies double-feature with “Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow”).

Another MGM Movie Legends box-set offers five FRANK SINATRA classics in a similarly packaged box-set, including “A Hole in the Head,” “Guys and Dolls,” Kings Go Forth,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” and “The Pride and the Passion.” Each film is contained in its own, singular slim-line case, making this a decent value for casual viewers, though fans should note that the “Guys and Dolls” offered here is the older, single-disc MGM release with an inferior transfer to Sony’s more recent DVD edition.

Vintage TV on DVD from Universal & Warner Home Video

Fans of “Silver Age” TV have reason to rejoice this week thanks to a quartet of new releases from Universal and Warner.

With the recent announcement of a new, retooled “Incredible Hulk” movie on the way with Edward Norton (forgetting all about Ang Lee’s film and harkening back to the comic books and TV series), it’s no surprise that Universal has at last issued the complete Second Season of the fondly-remembered CBS version of THE INCREDIBLE HULK (Five Discs, 22 Episodes, 1978-79; Universal).

Presented on five dual-layer discs (not double-sided “flippers,” which caused problems for some viewers on past Universal TV box-sets), Year 2 of the Bill Bixby-Lou Ferrigno show offers some classic episodes like “Married” (two-part season premiere with Mariette Hartley), “A Child in Need,” and “Alice in Disco Land” (co-starring “Jaws 2" ingenue Donna Wilkes), along with a bonus episode from Season Three, “Homecoming.”

The set offers the same excellent full-screen transfers and mono soundtracks found on past “Hulk” DVD releases, plus producer Kenneth Johnson’s commentary on “Married” (a carry-over from an earlier DVD edition), along with an introduction from Johnson.

Making its DVD debut, meanwhile, is VOYAGERS! (Four Discs, 20 Episodes, 1982-83; Universal), the short-lived NBC fantasy series starring the late Jon-Erik Hexum as time traveling hero Phineas Bogg and Meeno Peluce as a teen who travels with him on various historical adventures, including the pursuit of Jack the Ripper and the sinking of the Titanic (in footage shot for, but not used in, “Raise the Titanic”).

Good, lighthearted escapist fun (far more satisfying than, say, the stilted “Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”) which Universal has brought to DVD in a four-disc box-set containing all 20 episodes from the one-season run of “Voyagers!” Transfers and soundtracks are all in relatively satisfying condition, making this a must-have for nostalgic viewers. (Minor gripe: Universal could’ve added some major novelty value to this set by including the classic “Late Night with David Letterman” sketch where Dave reconciles a young viewer over the show’s cancellation in a hilarious “After School Special” parody!)

New from Warner Home Video and their Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection are the original, “straight” (as in pre-parody) adventures of BIRDMAN & THE GALAXY TRIO and SPACE GHOST & DINO BOY.

Before he became “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law,” Birdman took to the skies in some 20 NBC Saturday morning episodes with feathered companion Avenger by his side. Hanna-Barbera teamed the high-flying hero with the Galaxy Trio -- Gravity Girl, Vapor Man and Meteor Man --for these admittedly old-fashioned, late ‘60s animated adventures, which Warner has brought to DVD here in an unexpurgated double-disc set, offering over 400 minutes of nostalgic fun.

Even more satisfying are the adventures of “Space Ghost,” who enjoyed his time as a straight-laced hero here prior to his stint as a talk show host in the ‘90s. Fighting meanies like Brak and Zorak (who later joined the ‘Ghost for his cult-classic Cartoon Network series), Space Ghost’s adventures are coupled here with the adventures of Dino Boy, as they were originally presented on CBS, in another top-notch, double-disc set.

NEXT TIME: Joanna Cameron swings again (finally) as ISIS officially hits DVD! Plus Universal's latest HD-DVDs and more. Until then, don't forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards, check out the new Aisle Seat Blog, and direct any emails to the link above . Happy 4th of July everyone!

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