Columns, Holiday Specials

2013 STOCKING STUFFER COLUMN

By • Dec 22nd, 2013 •

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2013 STOCKING STUFFER COLUMN

Here’s our Christmas column, and as usual it offers, for the most part, stocking suggestions for DVDs and BluRays that are a little more extensive (as well as expensive…) than the standard releases, making them choice items for special gift-giving.



THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION (Scream Factory!) Six titles:
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960) – Director, Roger Corman
THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) – Director, Roger Corman
THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963) – Director, Roger Corman
THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1964) – Director, Roger Corman
WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968) – Director, Michael Reeves
THE ABOMINABLE DOCTOR PHIBES (1971)– Director, Robert Fuest
Also included are copious supplementals: commentary tracks on every film (often multiple), Intros and Outros by Vincent Price, an interview with Price conducted by David Del Valle, and a 24-page booklet containing an essay by Del Valle.

Many might wonder: why these six? There’s a sense of randomness to the choices. And the answer is, or so I’m told by an inside source, that a) they were the first ones whose BluRay rights became available, and b) if the collection does well, there’ll be a second installment. (Good news: it’s already doing well.)

Vincent Price was a thespian phenomenon. He didn’t take his work in the horror genre ultra-seriously, like his peers (Cushing & Lee) across the pond, and some directors famously strove to keep the ‘wink’ out of his performances. Except, obviously, in a case like THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, in which the entire film is a kind of loving send-up. Robert Fuest, PHIBES’s director, gives all too much credit to the art director in his commentary track, recorded near the end of his life. It’s nice to finally hear him – I might have purchased it for that track alone – but it is also a difficult listen, because he’s struggling to articulate.

The many and varied commentaries, which is what drew me to the collection, turn out to be, in some cases, among the least of the collection’s rewards. My favorite commentators, the ones whose presence can tip the scale as to whether I shell out for a disc, generally tend to be Tom Weaver (on 50s horror) and Eddie Muller (on film noir, occasionally with the wild man of noir – James Ellroy – in tow). Here, however, Weaver spends too much time reading from the HAUNTED PALACE screenplay, and comparing the film’s story to an earlier one by PALACE’s screenwriter, Charles Beaumont, that appeared as an episode of the TV series ONE STEP BEYOND. Most disappointing of all, he wraps up in a half hour, which makes me feel cheated. Likewise, on the other commentary track, Lucy Chase Williams and Richard Heft together run out of steam at the forty-minute mark. There is, however, a choice morsel ensconced within these abbreviated tracks – Weaver’s telephone interview with Debra Paget, female lead of PALACE, who recounts her colorful memories of working with Price in this, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, and TALES OF TERROR, as we hear Weaver periodically chuckling in the background.

But it’s the other goodies that really deliver – Vincent Price’s own intros and outros to each film, and the taped, hour-long interview with Price and FIR/Camp David’s David Del Valle. Those are the priceless jewels adorning the set.

Del Valle’s interview, which first appeared on his TV show Sinister Image, finds Price in fine, anecdote-spinning shape, just after completing THE WHALES OF AUGUST, in which he was acting with Bette Davis and Lillian Gish, and in which he was apparently supposed to seem more fragile than he in fact was. Del Valle covers his entire career, from THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS through the PHIBES films and beyond, and it’s a great supplement. It comes with the final film listed on the back of the box – WITCHFINDER GENERAL, a film on which Price did not have a good time, but turned in a powerful performance. On the film’s commentary track, actor Ian Ogilvy and (at the time) reluctant producer Philip Waddilove, provide stories and details galore (eg., composer Paul Ferris, playing a small part in the film, used the pseudonym Morris Jar as a tribute to his favorite filmusic composer, Maurice Jarre), and confirm that this version is a) a restoration, and b) the director’s cut. It indeed looks spectacular, though on the downside, some of the nudity inserted by AIP that was not to director Michael Reeves’ liking, has been deleted.

And of course, the films look great in BluRay. There may be a flurry of speckles now and then, but after they’ve gone, the image is gorgeous.

FILM CRAFT – SCREENWRITING (Focal Press)
“If you are looking for how to structure a dynamic three-act script that will make millions, this book will be a disappointment. If, however, you want inspiration and perspective on the writing life, these pages may prove indispensable.” So says knowledgeable writer Tim Grierson who put together this elegant installment in the FILM CRAFT series. And while that is a fair assessment of how one should approach his work, there is a collective sense of more than just how adventurous and interesting screenwriting is. You may indeed come away with not only enlightenment about the nature of the screenwriters’ art, but with some creative understanding as well.

The interviews (with the interviewer excised to make it appear that the interviewees are speaking directly to us) are a varied and exciting bunch. Hossein Amini (DRIVE [one film history teacher at The School of Visual Arts refers to it as ‘DRIVEL’, but that’s not the point in this context]). Guillermo Arriaga (AMORES PERROS). Mark Bomback (UNSTOPPABLE – Tony Scott’s last film, [and on the BluRay, as if to compliment this interview, there’s a running script session with the writer and the director hashing the scenes out].). Jean-Claude Carriere (Yipes! Bunuel’s screenwriter on BELLE DE JOUR and THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE, not to mention Haneke’s THE WHITE RIBBON!). Christopher Hampton (SUNSET BOULEVARD…the play, that is). Billy Ray (BREACH). Whit Stillman (METROPOLITAN). Caroline Thompson (THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS). And David Webb Peeples (the memorable second pilot for the STAR TREK TV series, and Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN!)

Smaller treats (not in terms of stature, but in terms of how many pages they get) include Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, Paddy Chayefsky, Ben Hecht, and Billy Wilder/I.A.L. Diamond (there’s a picture of the two of them working together).

I personally found surprising connections all the way through. Hossein caught Robert Aldrich’s KISS ME DEADLY in a cinema in Paris, and film noir stewed in his brain until he unleashed it in his screenplay for WINGS OF THE DOVE. Now I can’t wait to see WINGS OF THE DOVE again. KISS ME DEADLY was an important film for me as well. I knew Aldrich and talked at length with him about it just around the time it was finally being appreciated in the 70s. I use the film today for teaching, and the revelation of ‘the box’ never fails to give the audience whiplash.

Somewhere in between my first experiencing the film, and later adding it to my curriculum, a close friend encountered Ralph Meeker (who portrayed KISS ME’s Mike Hammer), drunk in a bar. My friend was drunk as well, but recognizing Meeker, he asked, “What was the light?” Meeker didn’t remember any light. My friend persisted. “In the box. The light in the box?” Meeker started yelling “I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! I don’t know about any box!”

There are others in this elegant series, all packaged the same way – with a lovely matte finish on their 9 ½ X 10 inch covers, and easily readable chapters inside. PRODUCTION DESIGN, by Fionnulala Halligan, EDITING by Justin Chang, DIRECTING by Mike Goodridge, PRODUCING by Geoffrey Macnab & Sharon Swart, etc.

NOSFERATU (Kino Lorber) BluRay. 2 Discs. From the 2005/6 restoration, now in HD. Disc One: English entertitles. Disc Two: German intertitles (and optional English subtitles). Hans Erdmann’s original 1922 score. THE LANGUAGE OF SHADOWS (2007), a 53-minute documentary on Murnau and NOSFERATU. Excerpts from other Murnau films.
Directed by F.W. Murnau. Produced and Art Directed by Albin Grau. Screenplay by Henrik Galeen, from the novel DRACULA by Bram Stoker.
With: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroder.

For a film that was ear-marked for complete destruction after Bram Stoker’s estate won a plagiarism lawsuit, this remarkably persistent stand-alone horror classic has had countless lives. I personally had a 16mm copy back in the day, then it was on VHS, then Laser disc, then DVD, a few times in each format, and now BluRay. IMDB lists several running times, from 84 minutes to 94 minutes, and this latest release, a double-disc-er, presents us with a 95 minute version, possibly because of an overture presented separately from the title cards explaining the film’s long journey into the spectacular shape you will find within your BluRay box.

I’m partial to the earlier Kino DVD release. Both Kino releases are great, but the new one suffers a bit from the Curse of BluRay – in that subtle imperfections are made less subtle, in particular the tonal pulsations between whites and blacks in scenes such as Hutter’s arrival at the castle and Orlok’s appearance from total darkness. These age-related difficulties exist on the DVD as well, but are less pronounced.

What the BluRay has that the DVD doesn’t is a second disc containing the film with its German title cards, and English translations at the bottom as well. The original German titles are particularly haunting to look at, whether or not you speak the language. Both presentations contain a modern orchestral score recreating the original 1922 composition by Hans Erdmann, and it’s one of the finer silent scores.

NOSFERATU is still widely considered to be the best version of DRACULA and perhaps the best vampire film of all time. Amazing considering both its age and the vast amount of worthy blood-sucker flicks that have followed. Seeing it again, I was personally of a different opinion about the film then I was decades ago, and that may have to do with the transformative restoration work: I used to feel that Max Schreck wasn’t in the film nearly enough, but that no longer troubles me. In fact it’s an hour before he finally gets to Wisbourg to spread his unique form of the plague, and in that first hour he/it is very present. I’m not fond of some of the wildly overacted moments in the film, but they’re never perpetrated on us by Max. That guy was in character, and I’ve read that he creeped out the local villagers when the filmmakers were shooting.

By Roy Frumkes


GORGO (VCI Entertainment) 1961. 76 Mins. Color.
Produced by Frank and Maurice King
Screenplay by John Loring and Eugene Wyatt (and uncredited, Eugene Lourie)
Cinematography by Freddie Young.
Visual Effects by Tom Howard
Music By Angelo Lavagnino
Directed by Eugene Lourie
Cast: Bill Travers, William Sylvester, Vincent Winter, Bruce Seton.

At the premier of THE BEAST OF 20,000 FATHOMS, which featured a giant monster loose in New York, the film’s director, Eugene Lourie, was confronted by his pre-teen daughter. “Daddy, why did you let that nice dinosaur die in your movie?” Seven years later, Lourie made GORGO, an exceptionally well-crafted monster film where the giant dinosaur gets away with bashing London into mush. (Never mind the daughter by now was more interested in dating than giant reptiles!)

An enormous hit when released in 1961, GORGO became something of a cult film among monster movie fans. To sum it up, it’s a British take on the Japanese GODZILLA franchise. A sixty-five foot tall T-Rex is discovered off the Irish coast. Entrepreneurs (William Sylvester and Bill Travers) capture it and bring it to a London circus. The profits and excitement are high, but we find out this is in fact a baby T-Rex. Its skyscraper high mother is heading for London, and is she pissed!

Edited like a David Lean film, GORGO moves at a very fast clip. It is all thriller, and no filler. There is no romantic sub-plot, and there are almost no campy, dated moments. One of the few negatives of the film is the appearance of a news reporter who verbally repeats everything we see in the destroying-the-city climax. When Mama Gorgo flattens Big Ben, this reporter exclaims “One of London’s monuments smashed like match-wood!” This goes on way too often. The city destruction scenes are masterfully done by effects artist Tom Howard (TOM THUMB, WHERE EAGLES DARE, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY). The monster effect was achieved with a variation of Godzilla’s man-in-a-monster-suit approach. A stunt actor was crammed into a giant monster suit outfitted with hydraulics.

GORGO fell into public domain, so TV release prints and home video copies were murky, and sometimes even in black-and-white. GORGO is one of the first rampaging-monster films made in color. VCI Entertainment has released a beautifully restored GORGO. Freddie Young, a master British cinematographer whose credits include LUST FOR LIFE and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA lensed GORGO with rich colors, and sharp contrasting night-time city attack sequences.

VCI’s Blu-Ray release of GORGO comes with an informative “making of” documentary. It highlights the fact that director Eugene Lourie had worked as a Production Designer with such legends as Jean Renoir, Samuel Fuller and Charles Chaplin. A monster movie with a top-drawer production has been given a top drawer restoration – GORGO Is the ultimate cinematic tale of Motherly Love. It’s my favorite Mothers Day movie. Take that – TERMS OF ENDEARMENT!


HOUSE OF WAX (Warner Bros) 1953. 88 Mins. Color (and 3D).
Produced by Byron Foy
Screenplay by Crane Wilbur
Based on a story by Charles Belden
Natural Vision (3-D) Supervision by M.L Gunzburg
Cinematography by Bert Glennon and Peverell Morley
Directed by Andre DeToth
Cast: Vincent Price, Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk, Carolyn Jones, Paul Picerni, Charles Bronson.

Tim Burton once said, in talking about HOUSE OF WAX’s opening scene in which wax statues of historic figures burn, melt, and explode in Technicolor, “For all of us kids who suffered through history class, this was a special treat!”

This 1953 Warner Brothers smash-hit had two fun things going for it. First, the role of a famous late 19th century wax sculptor who secretly survives a massive fire and embarks on a twisted revenge spree, was played to the hilt by Vincent Price. Previously Price was a character actor who graced such 1940’s hits as LAURA, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN and DRAGONWYCK, but here, he’s the star! From this point on Vincent Price would become a legendary horror icon. The other thing going for HOUSE OF WAX was that it was filmed in 3-D. Various objects “flying from the screen and into a shrieking audience” were aided by crisp Technicolor Photography.

Tim Burton was right. This is fun movie. HOUSE OF WAX is a landmark in horror film history. It gave “spook shows” a new life on the screen during the 1950’s, where horror films had been losing their box office value since the end of World War II. But HOUSE OF WAX has problems, too. The 3-D objects flying out at you take you away from the story and remind you that you are watching a staged piece. The most obvious moment comes in a scene where Price’s character opens a new wax museum. A carnival barker outside the museum constantly bounces a ping pong ball attached to a paddle. As he whacks the stringed ball toward the camera (meaning us), he chimes “There’s somebody with a bag of popcorn. I’ll hit his bag!” Famed paddle-ball expert Reggie Rymal plays the barker.

Except for Price, whose “horror-show” performance seems fresh and modern here, the rest of cast plays it restrained and polite. They go through their roles as if they don’t want to wake nearby napping children. A young Charles Bronson, however, is effective as Price’s mute, brutish assistant.

HOUSE OF WAX is a remake of Warners’ 1933 classic THE MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM. This first film, directed by Michael Curtiz, pioneered another technical innovation – 2-color Technicolor. MYSTERY was set in depression era Manhattan. Unlike the flat normal stars in HOUSE OF WAX, MUSEUM’s heroic characters (played by Glenda Farrell and Fay Wray) had wit and urban edge. The wax museum horrors in the first film took place in a city filled with breadlines, bootleggers, junkies and wisecracks.

Warners has released a beautiful Blu-Ray of HOUSE OF WAX in both 2-D and 3-D. I am told the 3-D here is smashing, and worth the price of the Blu-Ray. They have also included MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM, with its color palette looking downright experimental, as a Blu-Ray extra.

By Glenn Andreiev

AKIRA: 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Funimation) 1988. 124 minutes. Color. 1.78:1. Written and Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo. $39.99. Contains the Japanese soundtrack and the 2001 English-dubbed version in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, and the 1989 English-dubbed version (aka ‘the Streamline dub’) in Dolby TrueHD Stereo. Supplementals include SOUND FILE documentary on the film’s music, RESTORING AKIRA featurettes on the film’s 2001 restoration and re-release, 30-minute interview with Katsuhiro Otomo, storyboard comparisons, translation of signs and graffiti seen throughout the film, Japanese trailers and TV spots, and the 2013 Funimation trailer. 2 DVDs included featuring all content listed above in standard definition.

To really appreciate why AKIRA is such a unique animated feature, there are a few basics of animation production that need to be addressed. For just about all of film history, animation has generally been done ‘on twos’, which is to say that there is animation every other frame. Any dialogue is recorded long before the animation is completed, and to keep schedules less of a headache, voice actors almost always record their lines individually, as opposed to in a group setting. Japanese animation, in attempts to keep costs down, typically has every third frame animated, giving it a jerkier, less fluid look. Additionally, the dialogue recording is one of the very last parts of post-production, done after most or all of the animation is finished.

Shortly after color was introduced to animation, it was noticed that scenes taking place at night with ‘realistic’ lighting and shading required far more color than a typical daylight or indoor sequence. As such, realistically rendered nighttime sequences are used sparingly in hand-drawn animation.

AKIRA is done almost entirely ‘on twos’, with some of the more action-heavy shots animated every frame. All of the dialogue was recorded prior to the animation (the first time this had ever been done in Japan), and the voice actors recorded in groups, almost as if they were shooting a live-action film. Most of the film takes place at night, and the level of detail that writer/director Katsuhiro Otomo wanted meant 50 paint colors had to be created specifically for use in these scenes (there are a record-setting 327 animation paint colors utilized in total).

Also unusual was that Katsuhiro Otomo, not only wrote and directed the film, he wrote the comic series it was based on, and storyboarded the entire film. To give an example of Otomo’s intense perfectionism, he gave each member of the design department a day-long assignment: Design in full what a jukebox would look like circa 2019, and how it would work from a mechanical standpoint. The final design was used in the film, and appears for a grand total of about 40 seconds.

The film version of AKIRA was released in 1988, and adapted from a then-unfinished comic series (‘manga’ in Japanese) by Otomo, which ran from 1982 to 1990. The movie is a very loose adaptation of the 2,000-page-plus source material, with only one scene truly translated verbatim from comic to screen. Although the two hit some of the same plot points, the movie heavily condenses the storyline and character development. The AKIRA movie has earned a reputation as being confusing and rushed, requiring more than one viewing just to get a grasp of what is happening because information is thrown at the viewer so quickly.

The film opens on July 16, 1988 (the date of the film’s premiere in Japan), and the first image we see is Tokyo destroyed by a massive blast of energy, which sets off World War III. The story proper takes place in 2019, where ‘Neo-Tokyo’ has become a sprawling, politically unstable nightmare. A young biker named Tetsuo is injured by a test subject who escapes from a top-secret facility. Tetsuo begins to show signs of latent psychic power after his injury, with his powers becoming exponentially more violent and destructive as the film goes on. Kaneda, his friend, and a revolutionary named Kei try
to save Tetsuo, all the while dodging government agents and a determined Colonel.
The future Neo-Tokyo is based heavily on the political and social unrest Japan experienced in the 1960s and 1970s. Much like the student riots in Paris, political turmoil in West Germany, near-constant war and terrorism in and around the Middle East, and the intense protests against the Vietnam War in America, Japan saw extreme left-and-right-wing factions form, mostly among college students. There was violent rioting, bombings, assassination, and even political espionage as people took sides. Add to this that Japan was and still is the only country in the world to have a nuclear weapon used against it, and you have a sense that the usual Cold War paranoia carried over an even greater sense of dread and fear in the country.

AKIRA, both in film and comic form, tackles these themes quite explicitly, right from the aforementioned opening image. There’s an extremist, anti-government faction that both the film and comic focuses on. They’re up against a heavily-armed military police force that seems to be dealing with riots and terrorist bombings on a seemingly daily basis, while politicians bicker and argue over budget proposals.

The dire setting and themes are matched by a cast of characters that are interesting, but not exactly there for you to root for. Kaneda, the main character of the piece, is alternately egotistical, horny, and violent. The Colonel, who is trying to rein in Tetsuo, somehow manages to be one of the more level-headed characters, even after starting a violent coup against Neo-Tokyo’s bureaucracy. The closest we get to a truly sympathetic character is Tetsuo, but even he is causing hundreds of deaths as he rampages through Neo-Tokyo.

As stated earlier, there is a level of technical prowess about the film that remains nearly unmatched. The fluid and expressive animation easily stands alongside the Fleischer’s SUPERMAN cartoons, PINOCCHIO. and THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER.
In a rare move, Katsuhiro Otomo had the film’s premiere engagement exclusively use 70mm prints, and had it run in a roadshow format. Although it wasn’t a massive hit, it was critically well-received, enough to run at film festivals worldwide in 1989. These festival showings were accompanied by what was supposed to be a placeholder English dub. Often erroneously credited to Carl Macek, this dub was actually commissioned by Kodanasha, the film’s international distribution handler. This dub was produced so that AKIRA could be played with an English soundtrack, making it an easier sell to potential distributors in the US and UK.

At festivals, the film completely floored audiences, and was quickly picked up for distribution worldwide. US distribution was handled by Streamline Pictures, a small independent distributor that mostly imported anime titles (most famously FIST OF THE NORTH STAR, THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, and VAMPIRE HUNTER D). Streamline was eager to release the film theatrically as soon as possible in order to keep the hype going that had started at the festivals. As a result, the aforementioned placeholder English dub made for film festivals became what the film was released with when it hit American theaters in 1990.

There is a lot of nostalgia for this 1989 ‘film festival’ dub, as this is how the film was seen for nearly a decade by viewers in the US and UK. The dialogue is jarringly different from either the Japanese version or the 2001 English dub, and it has some rather infamous line readings (“Men, we’re going to the Olympics!”) that stem from both a rushed script-writing process, and trying to match the lip movement of the dialogue. There’s little done to mix the dialogue track with the sound effects and music, and as a result it feels like its just been dropped over the pre-existing sound.

The film’s US debut was hot on the heels of a huge turning point in animation history. Disney had made a sudden rebound thanks to WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT and THE LITTLE MERMAID. This had come after a long dry spell that saw ambitious animated features such as THE LAST UNICORN, FIRE & ICE, ROCK AND RULE, HEY GOOD LOOKIN’, FLIGHT OF THE DRAGONS, THE PLAGUE DOGS, and TWICE UPON A TIME play to empty theaters, that is, if they were lucky enough to even get a national release. AKIRA on the other hand found its audience in America and quickly became a cult hit. It was held over twice at Film Forum and sold out revival screenings that took place in the mid-90s.

AKIRA has seen several iterations on home video. Orion Home Video released the Streamline dub on VHS in 1991. In 1993, The Criterion Collection put out a deluxe, three-platter laserdisc edition. To date, this and THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX are the only animated films released on the Criterion label. The laserdisc edition is notable still because it includes a fantastic breakdown of a single shot in the film (a brief campfire scene between Kaneda, Kei, and Kai before the big showdown with Tetsuo), showing stage by stage as it goes from pencil tests to finished animation, as well as a storyboarded alternate opening to the film, pencil tests, excerpts from the comic, and Streamline Pictures’ US trailer for the film. Its biggest caveat was that it didn’t include subtitles; both the 1989 English dub and Japanese original audio was included, but there was no way to translate the original dialogue.

In the summer of 2001, the film was restored with the help of Pioneer (now known as Geneon), and given a limited theatrical release (with digital projection no less – a rarity at the time) with a new English dub. This new dub was an entirely different script from the 1989 dub, and is more accurate to the Japanese dialogue. Not only was the dialogue completely rewritten and performed by different actors, the soundtrack was remixed to take advantage of a 5.1 surround field. The DVD release that fall came stacked with extras, many of which are ported over to this new Blu-Ray.

2009 saw the film released on Blu-Ray for the first time by the now defunct US arm of Bandai Entertainment. Like other Bandai releases, once this disc went out of print, it was sold for outrageously high prices on second-hand sites like Ebay and Amazon’s Marketplace.

Funimation’s new Blu-Ray is very much worth buying, especially if you don’t have the movie in hi-def. The picture quality is outstanding, showing off the film’s extensive color palette, and an impressive amount of depth in the optical and multiple exposure shots. It also doesn’t contain the annoying windowboxing that was present on Bandai’s previous Blu-Ray of the film. The big draw of this new Blu-Ray is that it includes the infamous original English dub, which hasn’t been on home video in America since the Criterion laserdisc.

Speaking of the audio though, there is one caveat. Funimation didn’t include the film’s original Japanese mix. There is a 5.1 Japanese track, but it’s a different mix from the film’s theatrical presentation (this new mix was done in 2009 for the Japanese Blu-Ray release). Not only have some sound effects been added to take advantage of the bigger sound field, but the film’s music is differently mixed, with some of the instruments that were downplayed on the film’s theatrical sound mix being much more prominently featured on the soundtrack. The best example of this is in the film’s penultimate scene (chapter 20 on this Blu-Ray). The original mix contained only the sound of the pipe organ as the music, while the 5.1 version contains percussion as well. This isn’t to say the 5.1 remix is bad, far from it (in fact it has moments of astounding clarity). But it is disappointing that the original mix wasn’t included. You can find it on the 2001 DVD and Bandai’s 2009 Blu-Ray.

The supplements port over most of what was on the 2001 DVD, with the exception of the AKIRA PRODUCTION REPORT, which was the film’s 30-minute ‘making of’, and the extensive still galleries of design work done on the film. What is included is very much welcome. SOUND CLIP, one of my personal favorite supplements on any DVD or Blu-Ray, looks into the music of the film, which was composed before a single frame of animation was drawn, and performed using some very unusual instruments. The featurettes on the film’s 2001 restoration are interesting to see nowadays for just how much digital technology has advanced in the intervening 12 years. The Katsuhiro Otomo interview, done for the Japanese LaserDisc release, gives a lot of background on the genesis of the comic book and film.In spite of not having the complete supplements from the 2001 DVD, and the lack of a Japanese stereo track, this is a must-have for anyone who likes the film. With the film’s recent broadcasting on Adult Swim, there’s sure to be a resurgence of interest, and anybody with a taste for haunting, heady science fiction should pick it up.

By Ben Peeples

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One Response »

  1. Shocked you did add the superior Blu-ray restorations for the region 2 Hammer Film releases of “DRACULA” (Horror of….), “THE DEVIL RIDES OUT” and now “THE MUMMY”. These are Magnificent and a MUST(!) for anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre.

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