Editor’s Notes: Bride of the Re-Animator, Justice League vs. Teen Titans, & Only Angels Have Wings will be released on their respective formats on April 12th.
Bride of the Re-Animator
Bride of the Re-Animator (Arrow Video) continues the story from the 1985 cult film, Re-Animator. Herbert West (Jeffrey Coombs) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) are back at Miskatonic University Hospital, where the two doctors succeeded in bringing the dead back to life with a secret, iridescent serum. The huge body count from the first film has forced them to keep a low profile in a Latin American field hospital, where they discover how to boost the original formula, causing assorted body parts to come to life. Motivated by this discovery, Dr. West plans to create life starting with the heart of Dan’s recently deceased girlfriend, Meg Halsey (Mary Sheldon).
The first Re-Animator is definitely a horror classic. Coombs’ performance in that film earned him top honors in cinemas’s Best Mad Doctors category. He continues along the same lines in this sequel, re-creating the impact of his performance in the original. Director Brian Yuzna provides plenty of gore and ghoulish special effects but not the cleverness and ingenuity of the original. Though that film had its flaws, its sheer audacity in pushing the envelope of good taste more than made up for them. The sequel, unfortunately, pales by comparison.
Coombs is still fun to watch and the balance of horror and comedy still works. The movie owes much to James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein, though it lacks that classic’s earnestness and empathy for the creature that longs for a companion in a world that fears him as a monster. Dr. West’s creations not only look like monsters, they are soulless things.
The 3-disc Blu-ray release is filled with bonus features, including reminiscences by director Brian Yuzna; a behind-the-scene look at the work of the film’s “splatter masters” (special effects technicians); audio commentary with stars Jeffrey Coombs and Bruce Abbott; limited edition collector’s booklet; newly commissioned art work; deleted scenes; and making-of featurette.
Justice League vs. Teen Titans
Justice League vs. Teen Titans (Warner Home Video) is an animated feature in which two teams go head-to-head against each other in an elaborate battle. Frustrated and disillusioned about his work alongside the Justice League, Batman’s son Damian Wayne, aka Robin, is forced into a new position with a younger super team, the Teen Titans. Welcomed aboard, he is immediately fascinated by the mysterious Raven and the unnatural force that looms over them — her satanic, world-conquering father Trigon, a deceptive, imposing being powerful enough to destroy Metropolis. Trigon escapes from his inter-dimensional prison and infiltrates the minds and bodies of the Justice League to do his bidding, precipitating a massive battle with the Teen Titans. The super hero showdown finds Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg battling Beast Boy, Starfire, Blue Beetle and Nightwing.
The Teen Titans adventure dominates, even though the Justice League appears in the film’s title. Primarily, the story introduces Robin to the team and concentrates on the dynamic between Robin and the other Teen Titans. Unfortunately, the cool characters of Starfire and Nightwing don’t get a lot of screen time, even though there are hints of their history together. This movie continues the filmmakers efforts in introduce characters and their history into DC Universe’s current continuity.
The deluxe 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack contains 3 behind-the-scenes featurettes, 2 bonus cartoons, a sneak peak at DC’s next animated movie, Batman: The Killing Joke, and a Robin figurine. There is also a 2-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack edition that comes without the Robin figurine. Both editions contain a digital HD copy.
Only Angels Have Wings
Only Angels Have Wings (The Criterion Collection), directed by Howard Hawks, stars Cary Grant as daredevil pilot Geoff Carter, the manager of a small post office in Barranca, Colombia, where pilots fly the mail to hard-to-reach places over the Andes Mountains. The planes badly need repair, there are frequent storms, fog is almost always present, and crashes aren’t rare. Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur) stops in while her ship anchors in the port for a few hours and meets three pilots. Attracted by their free-spirited life, and particularly attracted to handsome Geoff, she decides to stick around when her ship sets sail.
The film combines some impressive aerial photography, a romantic subplot, and exciting, suspenseful scenes of the hazards facing the pilots. The dialogue is often overlapping, a trademark of Hawks that sounds perfectly realistic. Rarely do real people converse in perfectly formed, uninterrupted, full sentences. There are interruptions, half-formed statements, and monosyllabic responses. The conversational dialogue is a major factor in showing the characters as flesh-and-blood human beings. Rita Hayworth, who would become Columbia Pictures’ biggest star, appears in a small, breakout role. The amazing aerial photography won a nomination for the first-ever special effects Oscar.
Jean Arthur starred in many films of the 30s and 40s after several years playing unmemorable roles as ingenue or leading lady in comedy shorts and low-budget Westerns. Her big break came in John Ford’s The Whole Town’s Talking, in which she displayed a flair for “screwball” comedy. She also took on heroine-type roles, coming to the aid of leading men Gary Cooper (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town) and James Stewart (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). In Only Angels Have Wings, Arthur’s Bonnie has a sharp tongue, a shadowy past, and her sights set on snagging the film’s fiercely independent hero.
The new Blu-ray digital restoration is pristine. Bonus features include audio excerpts from a 1972 conversation between filmmakers Howard Hawks and Peter Bogdanovich; new interview with film critic David Thomson; “Howard Hawks and His Aviation Movies,” a new program featuring film scholars Craig Barron and Ben Burtt; “Lux Radio Theatre” adaptation of the film from 1939, starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, Richard Barthelmess, and Thomas Mitchell, and hosted by Cecil B. De Mille; and a critical essay.