Chris Hicks: 'Baby Jane,' 'Dead Ringer' and 'Little Shop' lead these Blu-ray upgrades released for Halloween
Call me crazy, but I refuse to review Halloween DVDs in September. (That also goes for Christmas DVDs and, yes, I’ve already received some.) So, now that October has arrived, here are some spooky titles that have been piling up, all aimed to give you a tingle and a smile as the weather cools, led by Blu-ray reissues of some favorites.
“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane: Anniversary Edition” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1962, not rated, b/w, $34.99, audio commentary, featurettes/documentaries, excerpt from “The Andy Williams Show,” trailer; 36-page booklet). This campy, very dark comedy managed something no one could accomplish during the Golden Age of cinema — it brought two of the screen’s most popular and volatile divas together, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
And they are brilliant, with Davis playing the title character, a demented former child star, bent on torturing her invalid sister, played by Crawford, in the rundown home they share. The film delightfully alternates between being hilarious and horrifying, and it opened the door for a bevy of horror movies in the 1960s and ’70s featuring aging former starlets.
Davis and Crawford’s reputed feud during those golden years is recounted in bounteous featurettes and biographical documentaries, which, along with book packaging that is overflowing with photos, is more than enough to enchant any film buff. (Also on single-disc DVD, $14.96.)
“Dead Ringer” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1964, not rated, b/w, $19.98, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer). Echoing her 1946 film “A Stolen Life,” Bette Davis stars as twin sisters in this very good chiller, one a devious spinster and the other a wealthy widow who stole her sister’s true love years earlier. So the spinster kills the widow and takes her place, but it becomes a house of cards when she discovers that sis had a lot of secrets she knows nothing about. Karl Malden, Peter Lawford and Jean Hagen co-star.
“Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1986, PG-13, $34.99, theatrical version, restored version, deleted scenes, introduction, featurette, trailers; 40-page booklet). Frank Oz’s adaptation of the off-Broadway musical (based on a 1960 Roger Corman film) is hilarious, with Rick Moranis perfect as the naïve flower-store employee who nurtures a plant that turns out to be a bloodsucking alien. Ellen Greene as his girlfriend (reprising her stage role) is also great, matched by Steve Martin as her dentist boyfriend. And Bill Murray has a riotous cameo. The main draw for fans, aside from this being the film’s Blu-ray debut, is that it includes the original, elaborate and very dark 20-minute ending that was deleted after disastrous previews and replaced with a happier conclusion. Both complete versions of the film are here, and they both look great.
“Mad Monster Party?” (Lionsgate/Blu-ray + DVD, 1967, not rated, $14.99, featurettes, sing-alongs, trailer). This puppet-animated cartoon feature is a forerunner to “Hotel Transylvania,” a made-for-children creature feature with the voice of Boris Karloff and featuring such vintage characters as Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, etc. The plot has Baron Von Frankenstein retiring as head of the Worldwide Organization of Monsters and announcing the news at the title party.
“R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour: The Series, Volume Two” (Shout! 2011, $14.97). The anthology TV series derived from R.L. Stine’s spooky stories for kids delivers goose bumps and giggles galore for younger audiences.
“Martha & Friends: Holiday Collection” (Vivendi, 2011, $14.93, three episodes, webisodes, downloadable craft projects/recipes). Animated series for children portrays Martha Stewart as a 10-year-old in episodes devoted to Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
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