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Icons of Horror Collection: Sam Katzman [2 Discs] [DVD]

Columbia-TriStar, which had been known for maintaining ridiculously high prices on the DVDs of its vintage films, seems to have reversed course radically with this double-DVD set, containing four low-budget (but surprisingly rewarding) horror films produced by low-budget producer Sam Katzman. A B-movie specialist who sought quality but often couldn't afford it, Katzman's record was an uneven one except in one respect -- none of the pictures that he made ever lost money, and some of them, such as the four represented here, were, dollar-for-dollar, in terms of cost versus box office, among the most successful of his entire output. And one of them, The Werewolf, is among the best films ever made in its particular horror sub-genre. Creature With The Atom Brain, The Werewolf, Zombies of Mora Tau, and The Giant Claw have entertained horror audiences on television for decades, but none was ever regarded highly enough to make it to laserdisc. Now all four are together in Sam Katzman: Icons of Horror Collection, which is a nicely produced collection with some reasonably enjoyable supplementary features. Creature With The Atom Brain (1955) has been transferred full-screen (1.33-to-1), while the other three movies are presented in the non-anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85-to-1. Zombies of Mora Tau has been given a dozen chapters, while each of the others get 16 chapters The transfers on three of the titles are uniformly excellent -- Katzman may have been known for his low budgets, but these movies have been extremely well-preserved and, in at least three of these cases, transferred even better. The sound is consistent as well, for once, and fairly loud, too. The exception is Zombies of Mora Tau, which has been transferred too dark -- it's possible to adjust for part of the problem, but even after raising the brightness on one's monitor, so that one can at least see something in the underwater and night sequences (which was never a problem in television showings of this title), the picture is still too dark for the movie to be appreciated properly. It's the one disappointment in this collection. Otherwise, each of the two DVDs comes with trailers from each movie plus a handful of other pictures in the same genre -- disc one also contains an episode of the Katzman-produced serial Mysterious Island, which seems to be here for its sheer silliness (but it is fun in its strange way); disc two is appended with a thematically relevant Mr. Magoo cartoon and Midnight Blunders, a terrible 1936 short featuring Tom Kennedy and Monte Collins -- produced by many of the same people who worked on the Three Stooges work, it makes the Stooges' work look witty and sophisticated, by comparison. These special features are all accessible through an easy-to-use menu on each disc.
$17.99

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    Overview

    Special Features


    • Sinister Savages: Chaoter 2 of Sam's 1951 serial version of Mysterious Island
    • Hilarious Mr. Magoo cartoon Terror Faces Magoo
    • Ultra-rare comedy short Midnight Blunders (never before on video or tv)
    • Original trailers for all four features
    • Bonus trailers for other sci-fi classics

    Synopsis


    Zombies of Mora-Tau
    Quickie king Sam Katzman's Zombies of Mora Tau is a game attempt to imitate what Roger Corman was doing so well over at American-International. The story takes place on the coast of Africa, where a race of white zombies jealously guards an ancient, jewel-encrusted African Idol. The treasure rests somewhere under the sea, and adventurers Jeff Clark (Gregg Palmer) and George Harrison (Joel Ashley) intend to get their hands on it. Before long, Jeff and George are in danger of being zombified themselves. Jeff's solution to this dilemma is surprisingly bland, bringing this otherwise rousing melodrama to a flat conclusion. Allison Hayes, of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman fame, is decorative as George's wife, who has the misfortunate to fall under the spell of the "living dead". Zombies of Mora Tau was originally released on a double bill with Katzman's The Man Who Turned to Stone. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Creature with the Atom Brain
    A gangster is killed by a big man who pays no attention to bullets, and who leaves glowing fingerprints. Police scientist Chet Walker (Richard Denning) discovers that the fingerprints are radioactive -- as well as those of a dead man. We soon learn that this walking corpse was created by Dr. Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gaye); he's allowing secretly-returned deported gangster Buchanan (Michael Granger) to get revenge on those who were responsible for his conviction. Steigg removes part of the brains of recently-dead men, and replaces them with a device that allows them to control the body from a distance, like a robot; they can even see through the creature's eyes via television. Another atomic zombie kills the district attorney who convicted Buchanan, which leads Chet and his homicide detective friend Dave Harris (S. John Launer) to deduce that the killings are connected to the Buchanan case. Warnings are issued to other possible targets, but they're unable to prevent another death. The last two go into hiding. The movie concludes with a headline: "Creatures with the Atomic Brains Destroyed." This entertaining but cheesy little movie is completely unpretentious. Broad, surprisingly gruesome and well-paced, it's obviously aimed straight at the juvenile market -- and it hits it, too. A sterling artifact of its time: brisk, efficient and entertaining, even if it is awfully silly. ~ Bill Warren, Rovi

    The Werewolf
    Columbia's The Werewolf is not nearly as generic as its title would suggest: in fact, it is one of the better films of its kind. Steven Ritch plays Duncan Marsh, who after being seriously injured in a car wreck is used as a guinea pig by a pair of none too scrupulous scientists (S. John Launer and George M. Lynn). Seeking a cure for radiation poisoning, the scientists inject Marsh with wolf serum (what this has to do with radiation poisioning is never fully explained). Before long, Marsh is a full-fledged lycanthrope, wreaking havoc in the Big Bear Lake region. Some truly startling vignettes--including one lulu of a sequence in a jail cell--lift this Sam Katzman production well above the norm. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Giant Claw
    Scientist Mitch McAfee (Jeff Morrow) cannot convince anyone that an enormous bird, evidently here from outer space, has arrived on Earth and is grabbing planes from the sky, gobbling up the passengers and crew. However, the bird (The Claw) eventually makes its presence more that adequately known, as it begins to attack people more openly. But the giant bird is surrounded by a kind of force field, making all weapons useless on it. Mitch finds its nest and blows holes in its colossal egg, infuriating The Claw, which heads south, destroying the United Nations building on its way. Mitch struggles to find a way to penetrate the anti-matter shield around The Claw. This would have been an ordinarily bad movie of its type, with a good performance by Jeff Morrow, if the special effects had been industry standard for the time. That, however, is not what happened. The Claw is not just badly rendered, it is hilariously rendered, resembling nothing so much as Warner Bros. cartoon-character Beaky Buzzard. Once seen, you will never forget this awesomely silly creation. ~ Bill Warren, Rovi

    Cast & Crew


    • Gregg Palmer
      Gregg Palmer - Jeff Clark
    • Allison Hayes
      Allison Hayes - Mona Harrison
    • Image coming soon
      Autumn Russell - Jan Peters
    • Joel Ashley
      Joel Ashley - George Harrison
    • Morris Ankrum
      Morris Ankrum - Jonathan Eggert



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