Shopping for the Holiday with Danny Peary’s Cult Horror Movies
“These books meant everything to me.” – Edgar Wright (director/screenwriter, The Cornetto Trilogy, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
“Cult Movie books = essential reading. Brilliant analysis – highly influential.” – Larry Karaszewski (screenwriter, Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon, the Problem Child Trilogy)
“I get asked for quotes almost every other day … If I do one, I have to do them all. So I don’t do any … Otherwise, it sounds like a cool project.” – Frank Henenlotter (director/screenwriter, Brain Damage, Frankenhooker, the Basket Case Trilogy)
Despite the obvious bias, I can’t give a higher endorsement to Peary’s writing and urge you to give them a read. And once you’re done, like me, you’ll probably want to purchase some of the movies if you don’t already own them. My years spent as a film junkie has caused me to always want the best possible version of every film I’ve owned. I’ve purchased some films on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, and then Blu-ray. Sometimes I’ve purchased multiple editions in the various formats when I’ve discovered an improved versions.
Note: When presenting different editions, I’ve focused on A/V quality and alternate cuts. In nearly all cases, the supplemental material is different between editions and if those things matter to you, I recommend doing extra research to decide which is the best version to get.
First one on the list is also a fairly easy one to acquire. The Warner Bros. Blu-ray is all you need.
An American Werewolf in London
The Universal Blu-ray from a few years ago is good, but now there’s also this beautiful limited edition steelbook that’s coming out in two weeks (after Halloween, which is weird). Same contents, just a new package. and includes a digital copy.
The Image Entertainment Blu-ray is the cheapest and best way to go. But if you have a hankering to get the two sequels as well, order the trilogy from Second Sight in the UK, which will play in US players since it’s Region Free. Some folks find the transfer to be a bit brighter, but the difference is negligible.
The Black Cat
No Blu-ray release yet, and Universal only has the DVD available through their manufactured-on-demand Vault series.
In the US, it’s available on a Blu-ray from Kino. But if you want you want the alternate American International Pictures cut, you’ll need to import the UK release from Arrow, which is Region B and doesn’t play in US players.
You certainly won’t hear me complaining about the fact the only way to buy Blood Feast is on an expensive Blu-ray set that includes Two Thousand Maniacs and Color Me Blood Red. It’s a win all-around.
The Bride of Frankenstein
Universal’s Blu-ray is all you’ll ever need. It’s that simple.
In the US, no HD version is currently available on disc. You can buy or rent in digtally on iTunes or Amazon. It’s unfortunately not available on Vudu, which is my prefered streaming service. There’s a fantastic Region B edition available in the UK from Second Sight or you can get a disc that will play in US players from Paramount Home Entertainment Japan. The UK release has a 2.0 audio track, whereas the Japanese release is 5.1. If you can hold out, there’s been talk over the past couple of years that Criterion will be releasing a special edition one of these days, but nothing has been announced.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
A new restoration is being released on Blu-ray by Kino in a few weeks. Eureka Entertainment released the disc in the UK last month and the response has been overwhelming positive.
You’ll find this one available by it’s other name, Witchfinder General. In the US, you can only purchase it as part of the Vincent Price Collection from Shout Factory. It comes with five other classic Price movies, so it’s worth the investment. However, you can get it solo from Odean in the UK. The picture quality on both is nearly identical, though some say it’s a little brighter and cleaner on the Odean disc.
Daughters of Darkness
The Blu-ray from Blue Underground will do the job.
It’s a shame there’s no HD release on disc yet, but you can stream it from Vudu, iTunes, and Amazon. I’m sure Warners Bros. will put this on Blu-ray eventually. For now, the DVD will do and is relatively inexpensive
Godzilla, King of the Monsters
The Criterion release includes both the US King of the Monsters version and the original Japanese Gojira cut.
The movie has never looked better than the latest 35th Anniversary edition from Anchor Bay. But if you’re an audiofile who want the original mono soundtrack in TrueHD, you’ll need to shell out for the Complete Collection box set which includes it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anchor Bay released it solo sooner or later, but right now it’s just in the set.
House of Wax
Warner Bros. released the movie in 3D on Blu-ray! If you haven’t seen an old 3D movie on Blu-ray before, come on over to my place. You’ll love it.
I Married a Monster from Outer Space
No HD version is available on disc, but you can stream it from Vudu, iTunes, or Amazon. The DVD is available via Warner Archive Collection’s manufactured-on-demand service.
I Walked with a Zombie
I’m disappointed there is not an HD release of this film. You can look for the out of print DVD from the Turner Home Entertainment, which also includes The Body Snatcher or spring for the Val Lewton Collection, which includes 8 other movies. Otherwise, stream it from Vudu, iTunes, or Amazon.
You can’t go wrong with the Warner Bros. release.
The Little Shop of Horrors
Legend put out a Blu-ray that includes both the original B&W version along with a colorized one (not sure who would want that).
This gem from George Romero doesn’t have a HD release! It’s a crime. And both US DVD releases are out of print. If you’re going to hunt for one, here’s what you need to know. The Anchor Bay release from 2000 was in the original aspect ratio. The Lionsgate release from 2004 has a restored transfer, but it cropped on the top and bottom to create a widescreen ratio. If you can play region 2 DVDs, spring for the 2010 Arrow DVD from the UK (also out of print). It has both aspect ratios, plus the Italian cut of the film which was re-scored by Goblin. I’ve actually somehow never knew about this cut, so I’ll be tracking it down immediately.
Earlier this year, Cult Epics announced they were releasing it on Blu-ray but there’s been no further news about that. All the DVD release is out of print and it’s not streaming, so Cult Epics really needs to make it happen.
Night of the Demon
In the US, you can stream it on iTunes and Amazon. Make sure to search under Curse of the Demon. Note that it’s the shorter US edit of the film. Your other option is to get the French Blu-ray released by Wild Side Video. It includes both cuts and will play in US players.
The Night of the Hunter
Criterion has you covered with this Blu-ray.
Night of the Living Dead
This film is public domain, so anyone can acquire a print and sell their own copy. Unfortunately that means no one wants to invest in doing a new special edition release when there’s so many cheaper versions available. For years, the best edition available was (and might still be) the Elite Entertainment Millennium Edition DVD released in 2002. If you want it on Blu-ray, check out the Japanese Blu-ray from Happinet. The picture is slightly cropped on all sides, which makes it a no-go for many purists, but otherwise it’s the best presentation of the film. An uncropped version was released in the UK but it’s missing about 35 seconds from the film. Until someone steps up and does a proper, restored release, Happinet is the way to go (and it’s Region Free!).
Optimum Home Entertainment put together a great Blu-ray in the UK (Warning, it’s Region B). In the US, you can stream a standard definition version on iTunes or Amazon, or you can throw down some money for the out of print Criterion DVD.
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Criterion recently put out a stunning edition of the director’s cut. that even includes a paperback copy of the book on which the film is based. But if you’re looking for the longer theatrical cut, you’ll need to head over to Japan for the Happinet release. It’ll play in U.S. players and also include a third cut (longer than director’s cut, but shorter than the theatrical) that was previously released on VHS and Laserdisc.
The Universal release is great, and there’s a pretty sweet steelbook version coming out shortly. But for a HD mono audio track, you’ll need the UK release, also from Universal, which will play in US players.
Our friends at Criterion have put out the definitive edition for this one. Moving on.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
One of my personal favorites just received a new 40th Anniversary edition from MPI Media Group. It’s nearly perfect and I couldn’t be happier with it. However, some people noticed an audio glitch that lasts a fraction of a second at the start of one scene (it’s a crack you’ll only hear in one of your surround sound speakers), as well as the replacement of a fade to black with a hard cut to black in the opening camera flash sequence and some alterations to Sally’s screams at the end of the film. The corresponding UK edition by Second Sight being released in November will not have these alternations. No word on either it’ll have that very minor audio glitch will be present. Whether or not this release will play in US players is still unconfirmed. But Second Sight is offering a steelbook version that might be too good to pass up.
The Wicker Man
If you just want the newly released Final Cut, which is the most-complete restored version we’re ever going to get, pick up the Lionsgate Blu-ray. But if you also want the original theatrical cut and the extended cut that has scenes of much poorer quality, you can get the Studio Canal release. Please note this version is not playable in US players.