This is the time of year I receive queries from people who want to watch something scary but without the gore, sex or foul language that dominate contemporary horror flicks.
That limits things, of course, but it doesn't eliminate everything.Rather than listing the usual suspects, however since I'm starting to feel that I'm repeating myself let's concentrate on some September-October DVD releases, which, since they have just come out, should be easier to rent or purchase in local stores ... if you can find them under the multiple copies of the "Hostel" and "Saw" films, and their myriad straight-to-video knockoffs.
• "From Beyond the Grave" (Warner, 1973, PG) and "Tales From the Crypt"/"Vault of Horror" (Fox, 1972/1973, PG, two discs). I'm a fan of short-story films, of which there are many in the horror genre. And this has been a particularly good season for anthology DVD debuts.
Some stories here are better than others, of course, but all three films boast a dark sense of humor and make for enjoyable watching.Each also has a fine cast of British character players, led by Peter Cushing in "Grave" and "Crypt," and Joan Collins in "Crypt."
• "Tales of Terror"/"Twice-Told Tales" (MGM, 1962/1963) is a double-feature anthology disc with movies that are also invested with humor.These reissued adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's "Tales of Terror" and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Twice-Told Tales" all star Vincent Price, and "Terror" also features Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone.
• "Twilight Zone The Movie" (Warner 1983, PG) is another anthology and a film that lays claim to a large fan base that has been anxiously anticipating its DVD debut.
This one is produced by Steven Spielberg, who also directed one segment, and three of the four stories are remakes of "Twilight Zone" episodes from the classic TV series.Especially good are the opening with Albert Brooks and Dan Aykroyd, and the final episode, which stars John Lithgow and a gremlin. (Sadly, no bonus features.)
• "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season 3" (Universal, 1957-58, five discs, b/w, 39 episodes). Like "The Twilight Zone," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" was a classic TV series specialized in building suspense and then offering a twist ending.
This third season of half-hour shows is exceptional, with three directed by Hitchcock himself, one of which is a genuine classic: "Lamb to the Slaughter."Also memorable is the first episode in this season, "The Glass Eye," which stars William Shatner and Jessica Tandy. Tandy also shows up in another episode, and other guest stars include three horror giants: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Fay Wray.
• "Fox Horror Classics" (Fox, three discs, b/w) offers three feature-length films all making their home-video debut
"The Lodger" (1944) and "Hangover Square" (1945), are the best of these, a pair of thrillers with atmosphere galore, fabulous period sets and gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, both starring Laird Cregar, who could chillingly play a psychotic like no one else.
"The Lodger" is a Jack the Ripper yarn, with Merle Oberon and George Sanders. In "Hangover Square," Cregar is driven mad by unfaithful Linda Darnell, with Sanders and a great Bernard Herr-mann score along for the ride.
"The Undying Monster" (1945) is a routine werewolf tale but equally impressive in the atmosphere department.Bonus features are surprisingly good in this set, including audio commentaries, featurettes and vintage radio shows.