1950s Horror Classic ‘The Bat’ Due on Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 25

The horror classic The Bat (1959) will be released on special-edition Blu-ray and DVD Oct. 25 from Cinedigm’s The Film Detective.

Helmed by prolific writer/director Crane Wilbur (He Walked by NightCrime Wave), The Bat is set in a down­trodden country estate that becomes the site of a horrific murder as a predator with steel claws rips his victims to shreds. Vincent Price (House of WaxThe Last Man on Earth) stars alongside Agnes Moorehead (“Bewitched,” Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte), Gavin Gordon (Murder by Invitation) and Darla Hood of the “Our Gang” comedies in her final film role.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Presented at 1.85:1, the print is restored from original 35mm archival elements. The release is presented in partnership with Retro Entertainment.

Bonus features include a full-color booklet with the essay “The Case of The Forgotten Author” by professor and film scholar Jason A. Ney; a full-length commentary track by Jason A. Ney; a new original production The Case for Crane Wilbur by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; and nine archival radio episodes featuring Vincent Price.  

Scream Factory Releasing ‘The Fly’ Blu-ray Collection

Scream Factory, the horror imprint of indie distributor Shout! Factory, will release The Fly Collection on Blu-ray Dec. 10. The five-disc set includes the trilogy based on the 1958 original The Fly, plus the 1986 remake and its sequel.

The original film stars Vincent Price as the brother of a scientist whose experiments in creating a matter transporter accidentally swap his head with that of a fly. In 1959’s Return of the Fly (1959), the son of the first scientist continues his father’s work. In 1965’s The Curse of the Fly, a woman marrys into the family of scientists and learns about the horrible side effects of their experiments.

The 1986 remake directed by David Cronenberg stars Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, the scientist whose experiments in teleportation merge his DNA with that of a fly, causing him to transform into a human-fly hybrid to the horror of the journalist (Geena Davis) chronicling his work. Its 1989 sequel, The Fly II, stars Eric Stoltz as Seth’s son, who continues his father’s efforts.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

With the exception of the 1986 version, this set represents of the first Blu-ray release of the films in North America.

The complete list of bonus features includes a bevy of new interviews and audio commentaries with cast and crew on each film, plus legacy bonus material.

Extras on the 1958 version of The Fly include:

  • A new audio commentary with author/film historian Steve Haberman and filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr;
  • Audio commentary with actor David Hedison and film historian David Del Valle;
  • “Biography: Vincent Price”;
  • “Fly Trap: Catching a Classic”;
  • Fox Movietone News;
  • Theatrical trailer.

 

Return of the Fly extras:

  • New audio commentary with actor David Frankham;
  • New audio commentary with author/film historian Tom Weaver;
  • New audio commentary with actor Brett Halsey and film historian David Del Valle;
  • Theatrical Trailer;
  • TV spot;
  • Still gallery.

 

The Curse of the Fly extras:

  • New audio commentary with author/film historian Steve Haberman and filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr;
  • New interview with actress Mary Manson;
  • New interview with continuity checker Renee Glynee;
  • Theatrical Trailer;
  • TV spot;
  • Still gallery.

 

Extras on the 1986 version include:

  • New audio commentary with author/film historian William Beard;
  • “The Meshuggener Scientist” — a new interview with executive producer Mel Brooks;
  • “Beauty and the Beast” — a new interview with producer Stuart Cornfeld;
  • “A Tragic Opera” — a new interview with composer Howard Shore;
  • “David’s Eyes” — a new interview with cinematographer Mark Irwin;
  • New interview with casting director Deirdre Bowen;
  • Audio commentary with director David Cronenberg
  • “Fear of the Flesh: The Making of The Fly” — covering all three stages of the production — Larva, Pupa and Metamorphosis;
  • “The Brundle Museum of Natural History” with Chris Walas and Bob Burns;
  • Deleted scenes with storyboard and script versions;
  • Extended scenes;
  • An alternate ending;
  • Test footage (main titles, lighting and makeup effects);
  • Vintage featurette/profile on David Cronenberg;
  • Still galleries (publicity, behind-the-scenes, concept art and visual effects);
  • Theatrical trailers;
  • TV spots;
  • George Langelaan’s short story;
  • Charles Edward Pouge’s original screenplay;
  • David Cronenberg’s screenplay rewrite;
  • Magazine articles with photos and video;
  • A trivia track;
  • Two Easter eggs.

 

The Fly II extras:

  • “Fly in the Ointment” — a new interview with producer Stuart Cornfeld;
  • “Original Visions” — a new interview with screenwriter Mick Garris;
  • “Version 2.0” — a new interview with screenwriter Ken Wheat;
  • “Big and Gothic” — a new interview with composer Christopher Young;
  • “Pretty Fly for A Fly Guy” — a new interview with special effects artist Tom Sullivan;
  • New interview with cinematographer Robin Vidgeon;
  • Interview with director Chris Walas;
  • Interview with producer Steven-Charles Jaffe;
  • Audio commentary with director Chris Walas and film historian Bob Burns;
  • “Transformations: Looking Back at The Fly II”;
  • “The Fly Papers: The Buzz on Hollywood’s Scariest Insect”;
  • Video Production Journal — a behind-the-scenes look at the special effects;
  • Composer’s Master Class: Christopher Young;
  • Storyboard-to-film comparisons with optional commentary by director Chris Walas;
  • Vintage featurette;
  • Extended press kit Interviews with Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga and Chris Walas;
  • An alternate ending;
  • A deleted scene;
  • Teaser trailer;
  • Theatrical trailer;
  • Still gallery;
  • Storyboard gallery.

 

While the City Sleeps

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via Warner Archive;
Warner;
Drama;
$21.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, Ida Lupino, George Sanders, Vincent Price, John Barrymore Jr.

Fritz Lang’s While the City Sleeps was the first movie I ever saw by a director in Andrew Sarris’ Pantheon who wasn’t named John Ford or Alfred Hitchcock, though Lang was getting along by 1956, and in fact made only one subsequent American movie. That would be the same year’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, which Warner Archive is concurrently releasing on Blu-ray as well — though I’ve never liked it as much as Sleeps by a long shot, even if it’s much preferable to the somewhat refashioned Michael Douglas-Amber Tamblyn remake that deservedly went direct to video. Out of a cannon.

I first caught the Sleeps trailer right after I’d turned 9 and knew that this was a movie for me: A greasy serial killer (John Barrymore Jr.) strangles women in their New York apartments and leaves taunting clues after his crime, the most revealing of which is his writing of “Ask Mother” on the wall of the first victim we see. Because I was visiting my grandparents at the time, it was easier to feign it 400 Blows or Day for Night flashback style that I was running off to catch a kiddie matinee — when, in fact, the bill was Sleeps and a British RKO ‘B’ (The Brain Machine), which also looked and sounded essential formative years material.

Sleep was a new kind of movie for me, and after this, Disney kids’ stuff like, say, The Littlest Outlaw just wasn’t going to cut it. Lang’s wall-to-wall tawdriness also served as my first newspaper movie, pretty sure — and even more of one than it was a serial killer melodrama because there’s still 15 or so minutes of narrative to go after the killer is caught. As my first look at big-city journalism (aside from watching Walter Winchell bark on TV), I was impressed by how much everyone in the picture drank. There’s even a drunk scene here by real-life alcoholic lead Dana Andrews to compound the 80-proof ambience, though this is subtext I wouldn’t have appreciated at the time.

Even at a reasonable 99 minutes, Sleeps gets ground down by a clunky boilerplate romance between Pulitzer-winning print newshound/TV commentator Andrews and co-worker Sally Forrest — though it isn’t exactly without interest that he basically would end up using his pert girlfriend as bait for the killer. But at its best, this is a fitfully entertaining portrayal of corporate backstabbing in the kind of burgeoning media complex that gets bonus points for anticipating today’s conglomerates — one of multiple components that made Lang’s cheapie with name (sometimes fading-name) cast a little ahead of it time.

Another of these is the narrative’s prevailing luridness despite a screenplay by the normally tasteful Casey Robinson (here adapting a Charles Einstein novel) — with blatant adultery, imbibings and mildly graphic killings that would be far more common just a couple years later on screen yet here results in a surprisingly randy movie for 1956. Another is its grabber of an extended pre-credits sequence, which was something still fairly rare in the days when Robert Aldrich (whose early films almost always had them) had only a handful of big-screen credits to his name. There’s also a mild hint that broadcast news might be the division that inherited the Earth when it came to journalistic corporate bucks. And though it opened in May 1956 — in the same five-day period that also saw the launches of The Searchers and The Man Who Knew Too Much; you think movies are better today? — someone here was topically savvy enough to make Barrymore’s hood-ish killer resemble Elvis (though Gene Vincent would be an even closer comparison).

So here’s the deal. When the conglomerate’s aged founder dies — his makeshift hospital bed is actually in the office just yards from reporters’ typewriters and Andrews’ broadcast studio — his useless son (Vincent Price, perfect casting) has to take a few hours away from his polo ponies and actually try to run the joint. His solution is to create a new top-dog position and set up a cutthroat competition to get it; the candidates are an old-school print type played by Thomas Mitchell with more ink in his veins than even the internal booze that flowed through his tributaries in Stagecoach); wire service chief George Sanders; and photographer James Craig, who gets kind of sweaty every time he sees Rhonda Fleming (so did my dad). She plays Price’s wife, and it turns out the two are having an affair, even though Craig and Price are nominal buddies. It doesn’t on the face of it sound like a durable long-term strategy with which to land the gig.

Less of a factor here in these machinations is Andrews, who’s more preoccupied with catching the killer with the aid of an old cop buddy (Howard Duff) and also getting Forrest into the sack — the latter a tough order in ’50s Hollywood (the movie wasn’t that advanced). This situation is a point of consternation with Ida Lupino (she plays what newspaper pics used to call a “sob sister’), who comes off as not just enamored with Andrews but so man-hungry that you can almost imagine her taking up with Barrymore were he something more than a drugstore delivery boy who lives at home with … well, mother.

Too many of the scenes are flat, and the office settings are closer to Ed Wood than Trump Enterprises in their drabness, but every once in a while Lang comes up with a shot or full scene that crackles. The opening set-up is very punchy, and there’s a visual that I never forgot from my childhood: Fleming doing stretching exercises behind an opaque portable barrier that suggests a nude state — and then continuing the process while standing in a circle of sand that’s a) either supposed to give her bare feet the feel of the beach; or b) serve as a practice sand trap for Price’s indoor golf putting (you sense that out on the links, most of his Titleists likely end up in one).

The printing source here seems uneven, which means that Sleeps in high-def isn’t as snappy-looking as other Warner Archive Blu-rays, though it’s at minimum a cut above the old Image laserdisc, Warner DVD and even (if memory serves) a 35mm print I ran at the AFI Theater. To compound the casting amusements here, Barrymore’s not quite doddering mother (who dressed him as a girl during childhood) is played by D.W. Griffith star Mae Marsh, who had a long post-silent career in small roles for John Ford (a lot) and others. The segue from The Birth of a Nation to being cast as the mother of a psychopathic Elvis knockoff in the ’50s isn’t one I’d have predicted — but then, who would have anticipated Sylvia Sidney ending up with Tim Burton for Beetlejuice and Mars Attacks!, ack! ack!?

Mike’s Picks: ‘While the City Sleeps’ and ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’