Posted: 05/14/2004


Vault of Horror: A Brentwood DVD 10 Pack

by Barry Meyer

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This is a prime cut example of what Brentwood likes to do with their DVD multipacks. Not only does VOH contain some popular classics, like Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead, Hammer’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula, and Vincent Price’s The House On Haunted Hill, it also mixes in some cult classic titles like, Silent Night, Bloody Night, and Don’t Look in the Basement. To top it all off, they’ve stuffed in some lesser known titles, and some classic TV Movies of the Week for your viewing pleasure. Each disc has two movies on either side. Some discs contain some gravy extras (like trailers and cartoons), while others don’t. I’ve indicated which ones do, and what they are. Also, you’ll find that the quality of the source prints will vary from disc to disc, with no real rhyme or reason. I’ll go through each disc and give you the rundown.

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
I don’t need to go into detail on this one, cuz you’ve already spent many wide-eyed Saturday nights absorbing all the subtle social commentary and melodramatic horror action in this classic. What I will comment on is the DVD itself. Not the most sterling print, and it’s full screen to boot, but frankly, I could care less. I like my horror movies well worn — it adds to the mood.

House On Haunted Hill (1959)
Another classic terror tome. This is on the flipside of the same disc as Night Of The Living Dead. Again, it’s a full screen print that may have seen better days, but it’s not like this film is some shinning example of cinematography anyway. And if you’re like me, you’re used to watching these classics like this, cuz you saw them on TV plenty before you even knew that letterbox meant something besides where you find your unemployment check.

This side of the disc holds some great extras, too — three amazing trailers for some great William Castle films. The first is for Mr. Sardonicus, one of Castles better known creep fests. Next is a trailer for a film that I had never heard of before, called Zotz. ZOTZ looks to be Castle’s answer to the Disney comedy/fantasy gems like The Absent Minded Professor and Son Of Flubber, with Tom Poston discovering that he can bend objects and people to his will with a point of his finger. Check out Poston dodging a slo-mo bullet decades before that Wachoski guy wore dresses. The third trailer is for another popular Castle title Homicidal. Again, William Castle is ahead of his time, setting movie commercial precedence by interviewing audience members as they leave the theater, providing candid comments on his film.

The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1974)
The sixth installment in Hammer’s Dracula saga finds Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) called in to investigate some bizarre Satanic rituals that have been linked to some pretty high up Government Officials. The owner of the house where the strange events occurred is a mysterious gent, who Van Helsing discovers is his archenemy, Count Dracula (Christopher Lee). This time around, Drac isn’t power dating the young virginals types, like he usually does, but rather, he seems a bit tired of the neck-biting, and wants to end it all in a big way…end the entire world and mankind, that is.

This flick boasts one of the best prints in the whole DVD bunch. Satanic Rites is shown in all its uncut glory (that means nudity, boys), blooming with rich colors, and in letterbox format. Not much on extras, though, with just a scrolling bio on Christopher Lee.

Jack The Ripper (1976)
Another take on the most notorious serial murderer in history. This time we find Klaus Kinski roaming the foggy back streets of London, taking out his oedipal aggressions on the clothing deprived prostitutes. Not the best version of this story, but it’s a treat just to watch Kinski get weird. The print is a bit worn, but in letterbox format. As on the flipside of this DVD, there is a bio of Kinski.

Don’t Look In The Basement (1973)
For horror fans, this is one of those little known cult gems. Ultra low budget, and extra campy acting — a perfect blend for cult status, and banishment to the lowest shelf in the video store. Nurse Beale has been summoned to help out at an asylum that has been strategically placed in the middle of nowhere (aren’t they all!) only to find that the doctor who enlisted her services is missing. Dr. Masters has taken charge, and she isn’t too keen on having Nurse Beale snooping around. That’s because she has a little secret of her own that she’d much rather not have discovered. This disc has no extras on either side of this disc. The print is full screen, but uncut.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1973)
Don’t be fooled…this is not the one about the psycho Santa that goes on a blood soaked hatchet holiday. Rather, it’s a psychodrama about a guy (suave Patrick O’Neal) who inherits a home that used to be a madhouse (get it? 2 madhouse movies on the same disc). As in Don’t Look In The Basement, Lawford would be wise not to look into the strange goings on that happened in and around the house. It also stars genre stars John Carradine and Mary Woronov. This is a minor disappointment, in that it’s an edited for TV version, with some weird pan and scan cloaking of the nude scenes.

Moon Of The Wolf (1972)
This is why I bought this DVD box set. Moon Of The Wolf is one my all-time favorite made for TV movies, ever! Back before JAWS invented the blockbuster, movie fans relied heavily on TV for a fair share of their entertainment. Producers like Dan Curtis and Aaron Spelling did their best to provide great chills and melodrama to the couch-bound fan, and as a result the TV Movie of the Week became a phenomenon.

This werewolf tale has TVM staple David Jannsen playing a Louisiana Sheriff trying to solve the bizarre murders of local townspeople. He doesn’t want to admit it, but the more he uncovers, the more it looks like the murders might be at the hands, or claws, of a werewolf. Some really creepy chills in this flick, especially the scene with the awesome Geoffrey Lewis cornered in a jail cell by a very hungry monster (I had a vivid recollection of this particular scene through the years). Before Brentwood added this title to their collection, the only other copy of Moon was in a 3 tape VHS set. The stupid tape stretched out after the first trip through the VCR, rendering almost unwatchable. Thank goodness that Brentwood got themselves a descent copy, and made it digital.

Check out the DVD extras, too. There’s a Casper, the Friendly Ghost short “A Haunting We Will Go,” and a trivia challenge. Also, for your more inquisitive friends, there is a digital dictionary of DVD terms, and some DVD-rom extras.

Snowbeast (1977)
On the flipside is another great 70s TV movie about a Colorado ski resort terrorized by a mad Bigfoot, who seems to be eating his way through some of the resorts more nubile skiers. Naturally, the attacks come right before the opening of the Winter Carnival, leaving ex-lovers Bo Svenson and Yvette Mimieux to latch onto each other and try to figure out what the heck to do about the whole bloody mess. Sorry folks, no extras on this disc.

Scream Of The Wolf (1974)
This TV movie is directed by the legendary Dark Shadows creator, Dan Curtis, and penned by horror hero Richard Matheson…so, jeez-Louise, you just can’t miss! The mellow Peter Graves teams up with super big game hunter Clint Walker to try and track down a killer wolf. Shock horror! They soon discover that the killer may not be your ordinary everyday animal, but a manbeast!! You just can’t go wrong with Curtis at the helm, so you’re in for some chilling goosebump moments.

There’s more fun to be had with the extras! There’s a great Max Fleischer cartoon “Cobweb Hotel,” along with a movie trivia challenge. There’s also the DVD Dictionary and some DVD-rom extras.

Wolfman (1979)
Oh boy! Looks like your luck just ran out with this one. But all is not lost! As we all know, sometimes a clunker can still be pretty entertaining. This werewolf flick is so chock full of hokey acting that you can’t help but have a good time poking fun at it. Earl Owensby seems to be his only real fan, cuz if you check out the IMDB you’ll find that he had to produce just about everything that he ever starred in. Who the hell else would hire this overacting doofus! His producing skills seem to be as keen as his acting, too. With all the messy moptops I have a feeling that he couldn’t afford the services of a hairdresser, let alone spring for a brush. Okay, enough nit-picking. What we have here is your typical man inherits house, replete with dark, sinister secrets, and then must deal with the fact that his five o’clock shadow goes crazy on full moons.

The print is pretty darn clean on this one, although it is full screen.

Barry Meyer is a freelance writer living in New York.

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