Now that we’re a good 1/3 of the way through the month of Halloween, surely even you casual Halloweeners are getting in the spooky spirit. But what if your Netflix queue is running a tad low on seasonal content?
If this is your problem, I have a solution. Here is a handful of recent home media releases that’ll be a welcomed addition to any monstrous watchlist.
William Castle Horror Collection
The late William Castle was known for two things: mortgaging his home to obtain the movie rights to the Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, and being the king of the b-movie gimmick. What his independent productions lacked in plot and polish, they made up for in pure tomfoolery–1960’s 13 Ghosts gave audience members red and blue cellophane visors which allowed them to alternately see or not see the spirits in question, and ’61 gave us Homicidal (with its 45 second timer, allowing cowardly audience members to leave before the film’s climax) and Mr. Sardonicus (wherein audiences could choose the villain’s fate). These cheesy classics are joined in this collection by a pair of bona fide stinkers–Cold War clunker 13 Frightened Girls (1963) and a schlocky remake of James Whale’s The Old Dark House (1962). While the earlier works are charming throwbacks, those last two should likely be reserved until after your Halloween libations have kicked in. Still, available via Amazon for a mere $7.49, the William Castle Horror Collection is well worth the price of entry… just don’t expect to get your money back if you can’t handle the retro suspense that is Homicidal!
Hammer Films Collection
Also available for a song from the fine folks at Mill Creek Entertainment is the five-film Hammer Films Collection. If you like your late night monster movie fare a bit more… British, then this one’s definitely for you. That said, don’t go in expecting classics like The Curse of Frankenstein or Dracula (1958). Instead you get commercial flop The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (wherein Paul Massie’s Jekyll is cuckolded by Christopher Lee’s Paul Allen), thrillers Scream of Fear and Stop Me Before I Kill!, unambitious sequel The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, and the kooky soundtrack and papier-mâché head-severing of The Gorgon. While I can’t exactly sign off on the Mummy sequel, and Stop Me Before I Kill! and The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll likely hold up better plot-wise, I simply adore The Gorgon and Scream of Fear. Whatever your Hammer leanings, the budget price and overall transfer quality more than make up for the otherwise bare-bones presentation.
Boris Karloff Collection
Retailing for around double the price of my two previous selections–it’s currently around $16 on Amazon–and also from Mill Creek is the Boris Karloff Collection. Again, don’t expect Frankenstein, but do expect some solid chillers from the late 1930s and early ’40s. The Black Room is a fine (and oft overlooked) horror mystery set in the 18th century concerning two brothers, a prophecy, and a dog. There’s also 1939’s The Man They Could Not Hang and the totally unrelated but thematically similar Before I Hang from 1940. Rounding out this collection is an even deeper examination of Karloff’s mad scientist shtick: the cheesy sci-fi of The Man with Nine Lives, The Boogie Man Will Get You (which is the epitome of an I-think-it’s-supposed-to-be-funny ’40s relic), and the alternately genuinely sad and wonderfully weird The Devil Commands. While not exactly and all killer/no filler sort of affair, it’s a sure bet for fans as it showcases Boris Karloff at his Boris Karloffiest.
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey’s Monster Musical
Suffice it to say that, while going through these classic horror collections, I discovered that what I find benign and delightfully kitschy my kids still find utterly horrifying. It is with this in mind that I include my fourth and final selection–a palate-cleanser, if you will. New from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, it’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey’s Monster Musical. While not a pure Halloween-centered affair, this DVD does include the titular adventure, which sees the gang visit the castle of Count Mickula to uncover a noisy nuisance, the bonus Minnie’s Bow-Toons short “Tricky Treats,” and even a bundled mini trick-or-treat tote bag. Also included are the dress-up fun of “Mickey’s Pirate Adventure” and “Mickey’s Farm Fun Fair,” which, while far from seasonal, do pack all the requisite singing and dancing and clever, kid-friendly mystery-solving. In fact, the only mystery to remain unsolved is why that “Hot Dog Dance” song is so freakishly infective. (I’m singing it in my head right now!)