Stroke of Midnight
DVD Double Features

DVD Double Features

One of the great joys of DVD buying were the double feature discs. Two movies packaged together on a single disc that sometimes were connected by logic, other times just connected by their rights being owned by the same label. Regardless, two movies for the price of one is always a winning bet, so I grabbed a stack of some of my double features to see which are good for an all night marathon.

Shockorama: The William Beaudine Collection

Starting at the bottom is Shockorama: The William Beaudine Collection. This disc has the inevitable pairing of William “One-Shot” Beaudine’s monster/cowboy mashups from the 1960s Billy the Kid Vs Dracula and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. Although it is great to have these films together on one disc, it is sadly a Cheezy Flicks Entertainment product so it features a bare bones disc with two unrestored, bargain bin transfers. These films are both much better than their reputations (and titles) and deserve a restoration and Blu-Ray release with extras that help put them into cultural context. The Elite Entertainment “Joe Bob Briggs Presents…” disc was a step in the right direction with Joe Bob’s commentary and it would be nice to see these unique films get some love.

Horror Double Features Fade to Black & Hell Night

One of my favorite and most personally influential movies, horror or otherwise, is Vernon Zimmerman’s 1980 classic Fade to Black. I had to replace my previous Anchor Bay disc when it was damaged and found it was out of print and the prices were soaring on the secondary market, but was lucky enough to score this double feature off one of those book and DVD online swap sites that were the fad a few years back. Fade to Black is the story of bullied movie fanatic Eric Binford who has a mental break and begins dressing as his favorite movie characters and taking murderous revenge on his tormentors. The film mixes clips from old horror and film noir movies to illustrate Eric’s inner mind as he kills dressed as Dracula, The Mummy, and even cowboy star Hopalong Cassidy. This is another movie begging for Blu-Ray, but the licensing of all the movie clips in today’s climate would probably be impossible. The movie also features a young Mickey Rourke and Gwynne Gilford (aka Chris Pine’s mother) in supporting roles.

Hell Night is a pretty standard sorority initiation slasher with the novelty of starring an adult Linda Blair of The Exorcist fame. It never was a favorite of mine but it has developed a cult, but in fairness I only own it because it was attached to Fade to Black.

Crypt of Terror: The Night of the Bloody Apes/Curse of the Doll People

Horror films were prolific for decades in Mexico from the 1950s into the 1970s, yet only a smattering of these films have found their way onto home video in the states. This double feature disc contains two excellent examples of Mexico’s horror output from this time. Sadly these are Americanized versions with edits and English dubs, but it is still better than nothing.

Hammer Horror: Dracula Prince of Darkness, Legend of Seven Golden Vampires, Frankenstein Created Woman

What could be better than a double feature? How about a triple bill? This disc is like a dream line-up at the drive-in with three very different Hammer films. The first Hammer Dracula sequel with Christopher Lee returning to the titular role, Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966) is arguably one of the best of the Dracula series. Legend of Seven Golden Vampires is one of the oddest films in Hammer’s catalogue which transplants Dracula and Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing to China for a mix of vampirism and kung fu that is a weirdly wonderful as it sounds. Frankenstein Created Woman is less a take on Universal’s Bride of Frankenstein than a standard Hammer Frankenstein with a gender swapped monster.

Horror Double Feature: The Curse of Frankenstein/Taste the Blood of Dracula

Pretty random pairing of Hammer classics. I guess they both have Christopher Lee. Two Frankenstein films of two Draculas make more thematic sense. These films aren’t my favorites in either series but are still a solid double feature.

Midnite Movies Countess Dracula/The Vampire Lovers

Now this is a Hammer double feature that makes sense. Sexy female vampire from the early 1970s. Censorship had been banished and Hammer decided blood needed breasts too and started making female led vampire films based on the legend of Countess Elisabeth Bathory and Seridan LeFanu’s novel Carmilla. Ingrid Pitt stars in both films, along with a number of European actresses who were not a reserved about on screen nudity as some of the actresses in Britain and the time (although some Brits are nude in these films) there are a lot of German, Eastern European, and Scandinavian surnames in the credits. These films are a bit trashier than Hammer’s ’50s and ’60s output but are a great deal of fun and more fondly remembered than Christopher Lee’s latter Dracula films.

Midnite Movies: Yongary/Konga

Giant monster movies are the best, even when they aren’t so great and here is a disc with two not so great but amazing giant monster movies. Yongary is a South Korean Godzilla knock off. The monster stuff is pretty cool although nowhere near as good as the Kaiju from Japan or the stop motion from Ray Harryhausen in the US. The biggest problem with Yongary is it takes forever to go and then the payoff just isn’t enough. Konga on the other hand is awesome throughout. Michael Gough is super British and super creepy as a scientist experimenting with growth serum. His test monkey gets shot up with a bunch of his growth serum and runs amuck in London. Pretty basic plot but the Britishness of the film puts it over the top. Did I mention man eating plants? Yeah there’s man eating plants too.

Midnite Movies: Die, Monster Die/The Dunwich Horror

H.P. Lovecraft’s horror stories seem like they would be amazing as movies, but so many attempts to make movies of his work have been at best disappointing. Midnite Movies presents two films that made the attempt with varying degrees of success.

Die, Monster Die is a loose adaptation of The Colour Out Of Space and stars Boris Karloff and Nick Adams. This movie is a great film to illustrate how good of a director Roger Corman is. This film looks like one of Corman’s Poe movies, but it just doesn’t work. It wants to be amazing and Karloff and Adams are game but the movie just never comes together.

The Dunwich Horror on the other hand is a glorious acid trip of a movie with Dean Stockwell from Dune and Blue Velvet that uses Sandra Dee and the Necronomicon to try to raise the fabled “old ones”. It may not follow the source story too well but it delivers on a lot of the inante wrongness of Lovecraft.

Daniel Haller actually directed both movies and in the years between Die, Monster Die and The Dunwich Horror, he learned a lot about his craft as the latter shows a much stronger and confident director behind the camera.

Midnite Movies: Tales from the Crypt/The Vault of Horror

This disc is a treasure. Featuring two of the best Amicus films omnibus movies both based on E.C. Comics horror titles. Each film features five short stories and a framing device to link them all together. Since each segment is short, Amicus films was able to afford lots of good, name actors to appear in the film since they would only need them for a short time so you have Peter Cushing, Joan Collins, Tom Baker, Denholm Elliot, and Terry-Thomas and more popping up in these movies. The segments include a killer Santa Claus, a town full of vampires, a variation on The Monkey’s Paw, zombies, voodoo, and acts of ghastly revenge all told with wit and style.

Horror Double Features It & The Shuttered Room and Chamber of Horrors & The Brides of Fu Manchu

This is the downside to these double feature discs, having to basically buy two discs to get the two movies you want, then being stuck with two you didn’t. One disc with It and Brides of Fu Manchu would be all timers, but they didn’t go the route and got me for two DVDs. Chamber of Horrors and The Shuttered Room are ok, but pale in comparison to the glory of It and Brides of Fu Manchu.

It has nothing to do with killer clowns but is instead a mash up of a golem movie and Psycho with Roddy McDowell as a mama’s boy, complete with mummified mama at home, who discovers the power to control an ancient clay statue to do his evil bidding. It used to be a staple on late night TV and is very British and just a fun comfortable movie that takes you back to being about 12 years old scouring the TV guide for anything labeled horror.

Brides of Fu Manchu is the second in the erratic series of films based on the Sax Rohmer Chinese super villain, who is in these films played by Christopher Lee. I seriously doubt Fu Manchu movies could be made today but they are almost all a good watch. In this one Fu Manchu somehow escaped death at the end of Face of Fu Manchu and has kidnapped the daughters of scientists to force the scientists to help him take over the world and it is up to Douglas Wilmer as Nayland Smith to stop him. If you have seen Jess Franco’s The Castle of Fu Manchu episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 then you have some idea what you are in for, only with less of the fabulous weirdness that only Jess Franco can provide.

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