Written by Kristen Lopez
Arrow Video has a variety of amazing films out. Here’s three worth plunking down your money for.
Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011)
Special effects master Ray Harryhausen inspired a legion of filmmakers who discovered a way to achieve the impossible through effects. His work in stop-motion remains unparalleled, finding the reality within the fantasy or, as Harryhausen himself says, bringing nightmares, dreams and fantasies to life. Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan looks at the films that cemented the man’s career. Unlike a traditional documentary there’s little to nothing about Harryhausen’s personal life – his daughter has a cameo and there’s a small snippet about his parents – but the majority of the film goes from film to film, giving an overview of each movie’s effects and creation.
This works on the whole, but does leave Harryhausen closed off as a person, playing up the legend of his creations more than anything. However, it is those models that are so astounding. The amount of rare artwork and fully formed models, many of which Harryhausen had in his garage, are breathtaking to behold and more than make up for any deficiencies in the documentary’s technique. As someone who only knew of Harryhausen through Monsters Inc. references and hearsay, it’s bewildering watching clips from his films because, as Peter Jackson and others attest to, they still hold up. If you’re a Harryhausen fan or want to learn more about him, this is a must-watch!
Dead End Drive-In (1986)
Considered one of Australian’s masters of “Ozploitation,” director Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Dead End Drive-In is an accomplished bit of camp. Set in a futuristic apocalypse known as 1995, this Mad Max-esque actioner stars Ned Manning as Crabs aka Jimmy, a young man who just wants to take his girl to the drive-in in his brother’s 1956 Chevy. But when two cops steal the tires off the car, Jimmy learns no one leaves the drive-in which takes on the look and feel of a modern-day slum in the daytime.
We all love movies, but what if you were forced to live in your local movie theater? Reminiscent of this year’s equally satirical High Rise, Trenchard-Smith points his criticism at Australia’s governmental landscape which, unsurprisingly, is similar to America’s. Jimmy and his girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry) are no different than a regular young couple who have sex once and end up stuck in a living situation they couldn’t have foreseen. The drive-in world gives people everything they need to remain complacent – crappy movies, delicious if completely unhealthy fast food, and a hierarchical structure rife for xenophobia. Dead End Drive-In is the type of exploitational fare I enjoy, one with a message and social commentary. Though 1995 looks more like 1955 with it’s Chevy’s and neon lighting, there’s less Happy Days and more Donald Trump’s America here.
Microwave Massacre (1983)
Only a film with a special brand of heinousness can compel me to turn it off before the closing credits. Welcome, Microwave Massacre, the film that did the impossible. This tortured tale of a mild-mannered schlub (Jackie Vernon in his final role) who gets his wife a new microwave and cannibalism ensues is one of those horror tales that held vestiges of the ’70s, but saw release in the 1980s. Our male protagonists are either schlubby losers or John Holmes rejects, while the females cleanly fall into shrew or walking pair of boobs. Every man is a date rapist in the making, and by the time the actual massacre stars you’re too disgusted by the “humanity” on display, leaving you anesthetized to the presumed horrors on-screen. Microwave Massacre is an endurance test that should be used by the CIA to determine your ability to withstand torture. At just an hour and sixteen minutes, I think last forty minutes proves my mettle.