Chris Hicks: Several vintage classic movies receive Blu-ray upgrades this week

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1 2013 4:40 p.m. MDT

From left, Vincent Price, Charles Bronson and Paul Cavanagh in "House of Wax," now on Blu-ray in its original 3D format, and also on "flat" Blu-ray.

Warner Home Video

Vintage classics “House of Wax,” “From Here to Eternity,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Voyage of the Damned” all receive Blu-ray special-edition upgrades this week, and several other titles make their disc debuts.

“House of Wax 3D” (Warner/3D Blu-ray, 1953, $35.99, 3D Blu-ray and Blu-ray versions, new 48-minute documentary, audio commentary, newsreel, trailer, 1933 movie: “Mystery of the Wax Museum”). The best of the early ’50s 3D cycle is this horror thriller, a lavishly produced period film with startling set pieces, a compelling storyline and an excellent performance at its center from veteran character actor Vincent Price. In fact, Price was so good that his performance sent his career off into a new trajectory as a star of fright films.

Price plays a talented sculptor with an obsession over his wax museum’s Marie Antoinette, and eventually he meets a woman who is a dead ringer for his vision of her. But when a fire destroys his museum and he must rebuild, his burned hands won’t cooperate, so he takes drastic measures to create his new statues. Price gets great support from Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones and, as Price’s deaf mute assistant, Charles Bronson (billed as Charles Buchinsky).

The 3D version is fun, but you don’t need to see it that way to enjoy the movie, which holds up very well outside of the gimmick. The new documentary is mostly about this film, but it’s also a condensed history of 3D and of Price’s career (including archival interviews with Price, among others). And if you don’t have a 3D TV but want the film in Blu-ray, both versions are here on one disc.

“From Here to Eternity” (Columbia/Blu-ray, 1953, b/w, $19.99, audio commentary, featurette, excerpt from documentary “Fred Zinnemann: As I See It”; five color postcard-size lobby-card reproductions). Great adaptation of the James Jones novel built around the attack on Pearl Harbor with a stellar cast led by Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, although supporting players Donna Reed and Frank Sinatra won the acting Oscars, which in Sinatra’s case revived his faltering career. Oscars also went to the picture, the director, the screenwriter, the cinematographer, the editor and the sound engineer. Ernest Borgnine also makes an impression.

“The Little Mermaid: Diamond Edition” (Disney/Blu-ray, 1989, two discs, G. $44.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted character/scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, music videos, sing-along, trailers). This is the Disney cartoon feature that led to a number of classic follow-ups, including “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.” “The Little Mermaid” announced an end to Disney’s slump and turned the studio’s animation department around. In addition to all previously released bonus features there are several new extras for fans. (Also on 3D combo, $49.99, and DVD combo, $39.99)

“The Wizard of Oz 3D” (Warner/3D Blu-ray, 1939, two discs, PG/G, $35.99, new feature-length documentary, audio commentary, featurettes, sing-along, song selections, radio program, trailers). After its weeklong IMAX 3D engagement, here comes a new 3D Blu-ray release of everyone’s favorite musical fantasy, with Judy Garland as Dorothy, whisked to colorful, and occasionally scary, Oz via tornado. (Also on 75th Anniversary Limited Collector’s Edition” box set, $105.43)

“Voyage of the Damned” (itv/Blu-ray, 1976, PG, $24.99, Blu-ray and DVD versions, photo gallery, trailer). Following the rise of anti-Semitism in 1939 Germany, a ship with 937 German Jews heads for Havana for sanctuary. Then it is revealed that there is no sanctuary; it’s all a Nazi anti-Jewish propaganda trick. Cuba and the United States turn them away, but they can’t bear the thought of returning to Germany. Gripping, character-driven true story with an all-star cast — Faye Dunaway, Oskar Werner, Orson Welles, Malcolm McDowell, James Mason, Max von Sydow, etc.

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