From Horrifying to Horrible: Back in Print from the Warner Archive

While the Warner Archive mostly brings us new and previously unreleased goodies to DVD, they also bring us the odd re-release of titles which have become out of print. Or possibly new and improved versions of old catalog releases which were unfortunate enough to have been pressed to disc when DVD was still new. This lot falls under both categories, sporting two new widescreen offerings of titles which were only ever seen in early (read: unmastered) releases, as well as the reawakening of two cult gems, the first of which has been on many a classic horror movie lover’s wish list since it went out of print years ago.

I speak of course of the wonderful Hollywood Legends of Horror Collection, which makes a triumphant return to disc here, this time in a Manufactured-on-Demand form. But that shouldn’t stop you from diving into this sextet of classic flicks to crawl under your skin, beginning with two Pre-Code offerings from 1932, the scientifically baffling chiller Doctor X (the only film in the set to be shot in color, and early two-strip Technicolor at that) starring Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray (who would reunite the following year for the much more famous Mystery of the Wax Museum), and the vastly politically incorrect (yet totally awesome) The Mask of Fu Manchu with Boris Karloff and Myrna Loy, both of whom appear and completely ham it up whilst adorned in yellowface!

Other Legends of Horror here feature a mesmerizing Peter Lorre in one of the best takes on The Hands of Orlac, 1935’s Mad Love; Mark of the Vampire with Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosi, as directed by Tod Browning; The Devil-Doll, another Barrymore/Browning pairing (this time from 1936); and one of the oddest horror movies ever to emerge from Tinseltown: The Return of Dr. X, which landed tough guy/film noir great Humphrey Bogart in his one and only horror movie (which he hated, although most historians and fans will get a blast ‒ if not chills ‒ out of seeing a creepy, pale Bogie with a streak of white hair). All of the original special features from the first release ‒ ranging from trailers to feature-length commentaries ‒ are back, too.

If the thought of Bogart in a creature feature isn’t enough to give you nightmares, then how about reigning geek hero Mark Hamill during his illustrious “Will Appear in Anything” phase from the ’90s? Sporting a mustache in need of a serious ride, Hamill has a glorified minor role here in 1991’s The Guyver: an early, half-assed attempt at bringing Japanese manga to life in America. Produced by Re-Animator legend Brian Yunza and co-directed by SPFX guru Screaming Mad George, this serious chunk of cheese also features soap actor Jack Armstrong (as the hero!), David Gale, Jeffrey Combs, Michael Barrymore, and Linnea Quigley. The even less-successful followup feature, Guyver: Dark Hero, has also been re-released from the Warner Archive Collection, though Mr. Hamill does not make an appearance.

Speaking of fantasy franchise actors who stooped to appearing in anything, remember when Michael J. Fox was on top of the world after he went Back to the Future? It was a short trip, giving way to movies like The Secret of My Success and Bright Lights, Big City, before that once-popular star began battling the ’90s movie-making machine in full force, which resulted in Doc Hollywood, now available from the WAC in widescreen for the first time on home video since its LaserDisc debut 25 years ago. The story here ‒ for anyone who hasn’t seen Disney/Pixar’s Cars, that is ‒ finds a young hotshot surgeon (Fox) becoming stranded in a small rural town, to wit he discovers a new lease on life. Julie Warner, Woody Harrelson, Bridget Fonda, Roberts Blossom, David Ogden Stiers, and George Hamilton also appear.

Another tale of bigwigs finding themselves in the middle of nowhere is the center of our last offering here, My Fellow Americans from 1996, which also makes its widescreen DVD debut here, having previously only been available in a horrid pan-and-scan release. The one and only pairing of Jack Lemmon and James Garner (Walter Matthau was scheduled to co-star, but had to drop out for health reasons), this ridiculous relic from the ’90s finds two ex-Presidents ‒ greedy conservative blowhard Lemmon and lascivious liberal Garner ‒ on the run from government assassins. The dumb comedy also features Dan Aykroyd as the current PotUS, John Heard as his idiot VP, Wilford Brimley, Lauren Bacall (well, we had a Bogart film already, so we damn well better have a Bacall feature!), Sela Ward, and some of the worst CGI to ever grace the silver screen.

Other new widescreen reduxs from the Warner Archive Collection include Stealing Home, In Country, and Born to Be Wild. Further Out of Print scares available once more are The Mangler, and two double features of RKO horrors from visionary Val Lewton: The Leopard Man / Ghost Ship, and Isle of the Dead / Bedlam.

Happy haunting.

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Luigi Bastardo

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