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TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Horror [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Special Features

  • House of Wax: Premiere newsreel
  • Theatrical trailers
  • The haunting: Commentary by Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn, director Robert Wise and screenwriter Nelson Gidding
  • Still galleries
  • Great Ghost Stories essay
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Freaks: Commentary by Tod Browning, biographer David J. Skal
  • Documentary Freaks: Sideshow cinema
  • Special message prologue addes for theatrical reissue
  • 3 Alternate endings
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Theatrical trailer
  • Closed Captioned

Synopsis

Freaks
The genesis of MGM's Freaks was a magazine piece by Ted Robbins titled Spurs. The story involved a terrible revenge enacted by a mean-spirited circus midget upon his normal-sized wife. In adapting Spurs for the screen, writers Willis Goldbeck, Leon Gordon, Edgar Allan Wolf, and Al Boasberg retained the circus setting and the little man-big woman wedding, all the while de-vilifying the midget and transforming the woman into the true "heavy" of the piece. German "little person" Harry Earles plays Hans, who falls in love with long-legged trapeze artist Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova). Discovering that Hans is heir to a fortune, Cleopatra inveigles him into a marriage, all the while planning to bump off her new husband and run away with brutish strongman Hercules (Henry Victor). What she doesn't reckon with is the code of honor among circus freaks: "offend one, offend them all." What set this film apart from director Tod Browning's earlier efforts was the fact that genuine circus and carnival sideshow performers were cast as the freaks: Harry Earles and his equally diminutive sister Daisy, Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, legless Johnny Eck, armless-legless Randian (who rolls cigarettes with his teeth), androgynous Josephine-Joseph, "pinheads" Schlitzie, Elvira, Jennie Lee Snow, and so on. Upon its initial release, Freaks was greeted with such revulsion from movie-house audiences that MGM spent the next 30 years distancing themselves as far from the project as possible. For many years available only in a truncated reissue version titled Nature's Mistakes, Freaks was eventually restored to its original release print. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

House of Wax
This simplified (but lavish) remake of the 1933 melodrama The Mystery of the Wax Museum was the most financially successful 3-D production of the 1950s. In his first full-fledged "horror" role, Vincent Price plays Prof. Henry Jarrod, the owner of a wax museum, whose partner, Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts), intends to burn the place down for the insurance money. When Jarrod tries to prevent Burke from torching the museum, he himself is trapped in the conflagration. Years pass: though now confined to a wheelchair, Jarrod manages to open up a new museum in New York, boasting the most incredibly lifelike wax statues ever seen. At the same time, a masked prowler has been stalking the city, murdering people and then stealing their bodies from the mortuary. One of the victims is Jarrod's old nemesis Burke; another is Cathy Gray (Carolyn Jones), the roommate of art student Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk). On a visit to the wax museum, Sue can't help but notice that the wax likeness of Joan of Arc is a dead ringer for her deceased friend Cathy -- while the courtly Jarrod declares joyously that Sue is the living image of Marie Antoinette. Guess where this is going to wind up? Frank Lovejoy and Paul Picerni co-star as the nominal heroes, while Charles Bronson -- still billed as Charles Buchinsky -- is a menacing presence as Jarrod's deaf-mute chief sculptor (appropriately named "Igor"). No opportunity to show off the 3-D process is wasted during House of Wax; the most memorable stereoscopic moments are provided by garrulous "paddle-ball man" Reggie Rymal. Ironically, Andre de Toth, the film's director, had only one good eye, and had to constantly ask his cast and crew if the various 3-D effects had come off properly. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Haunting
One of the most highly regarded haunted house films ever produced, Robert Wise's The Haunting (based on Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hill House) weaves the dark tale of a questionably sane young woman and a sinister house which holds a terrifying past. Invited to join anthropologist Dr. Markway (Richard Johnson), ESP expert Theodora (Claire Bloom), and probable heir to the estate Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn) in order to dispel the near mythical tales that surround the house, unstable Eleanor Vance (Julie Harris) agrees to spend a few nights in the house following the death of her mother. As they slowly begin to discover, the horrific and seemingly unbelievable tales may hold more truth than the skeptical guests might have previously expected. With a seemingly unstoppable supernatural force lurking in every shadow, the probability of anyone escaping the evil clutch of the cursed mansion seems increasingly remote. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman headline this screen version of Robert Louis Stevenson's tale, directed by Gone with the Wind and Wizard of Oz legend Victor Fleming. Tracy stars as Dr. Jekyll, a scientist who downs an experimental elixir that transforms him into a monstrous alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. Lana Turner co-stars as Jekyll's fiancée, and Bergman as Eva, the woman who captures his heart. A film steeped in heavy Freudian symbolism, this production also tries something unusual by relying largely on Tracy's shift in facial mannerisms (in lieu of heavy make-up) to convey the personality change. As a result, the movie manages to place a much stronger emphasis on emotions than on the terror of physical mutation. Neither critics nor audiences bought it: the film fell prey to critical castigation when it hit movie screens in mid-August 1941, with many indicating that they vastly prefer the 1931 Rouben Mamoulian/Fredric March version. Still, this one has its defenders. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Wallace Ford
    Wallace Ford - Phroso
  • Leila Hyams
    Leila Hyams - Venus
  • Olga Baclanova
    Olga Baclanova - Cleopatra
  • Roscoe Ates
    Roscoe Ates - Roscoe
  • Harry Earles
    Harry Earles - Hans
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