ENTER THE VAULT WITH FOUR CLASSICS BEYOND IMAGINATION!
CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (1955) – From legendary writer Curt Siodmak (The Wolf Man, Donovan’s Brain) and director Edward L. Cahn (It! The Terror From Beyond Space) comes this smash-bang thriller starring Richard Denning (Creatures From The Black Lagoon) as a police doctor hot on the trail of a mob boss who’s hired a scientist to re-animate his dead thugs to do his dirty work!
IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955) – In Ray Harryhousen’s vintage sci-fi thriller, a giant, radioactive octopus makes the mistake of attacking a Navy submarine, prompting the commander to pursue the beast. As the military races to develop a torpedo that will penetrate the octopus’s brain and destroy it, the monstrosity discovers how to survive on land, wreaking havoc in San Francisco.
20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) – On its way home from Venus, U.S. Army rocket crashes into the sea leaving Colonel Calder the sole survivor. A sealed container is also recovered containing a gelatinous mass that escapes and grows into a giant, horrific monster. Calder calls in the Army to help fight the monster, but it will take more than man’s weapons to fight the evil creature.
THE 30 FOOT BRIDE OF CANDY ROCK (1959) – Lou Costello plays Artie Pinsetter, a would-be inventor who needs to create something in a hurry when his girlfriend is mysteriously turned into a giantess. This wacky spoof of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and other sci-fi “growth” epics of that era is skillfully helmed by veteran actor/director Sidney Miller (Babes In Arms).
For part one of our thoughts on Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films Collection, please check out our discussion on The Video Attic here.
For part two of our thoughts on Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films Collection, please check out our discussion on The Video Attic:
Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films Collection comes to Blu-Ray with four films spread over two discs. These films unfortunately share a lot of the same qualities, so I will mostly be judging them in groups while pointing out noticeable differences when necessary. Mill Creek Entertainment has not gone to any great effort to restore these films, so the quality is based on whatever masters they were provided by Sony. Overall, these transfers should be labeled a failure in terms of quality. No one presentation in this set could be labeled a “good” effort, but some of the movies are less atrocious than the others. Every film suffers from some form of print damage, compression artifacting, and other digital anomalies, but the severity varies from film to film.
Half of these films I would deem to be in passable shape, but even they have noticeable issues that are hard to overlook. These films include It Came From Beneath The Sea and 20 Million Miles To Earth. Most of these handle the basics well such as contrast balance in the grayscale, while fine detail should be chalked up to middling at best. These films often suffer from frequent instances of macroblocking and other digital anomalies. Print damage is fairly consistently present with odd lines and splotches. Some of the natural film grain has been scrubbed clean which robs the image of detail. The greyscale is less defined than you might want, but they are by no means a disaster. I could possibly be convinced to upgrade a couple of these to a “good” assessment, but there is enough wrong that it creates concern.
The final two films are what would be considered to be unacceptable quality by any discerning person. These films include The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock and The Creature With The Atom Brain. Compression artifacts are very prevalent, especially in the darkest of scenes. These presentations are barely a step up from DVD, as they just appear dull and lifeless compared to what you know they could look like. These are flat presentations that disappoint in the end. This is especially egregious as The Creature With The Atom Brain was just given a great release from Arrow Video last year. The masters themselves are not terrible, but the encode is flat-out horrible with digital clumps and jagged lines. Fine detail has been almost entirely scrubbed away. What is left is unnaturally smooth surfaces devoid of any texture that you know is supposed to be on screen. Even for a budget release, these four films do not achieve the bare minimum.
This Blu-Ray set presents these four films with DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio tracks that get the job done while never coming close to providing an ideal sonic experience. Out of these films, The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock contains the weakest audio overall, but even it gets through relatively unscathed. Dialogue (or grunts in the case of some of these creatures) is crystal clear and easily distinguishable throughout this set of films. These films employ some atmospheric sound effects in the mix that thankfully do not get muddled. The score maintains a decent fidelity among these titles, and there does not appear to be any egregious instances of age related wear and tear. These films sound very dated from a sound design perspective, and these tracks do nothing to enhance it. All the films included on this set have optional English subtitles provided.
- They Came From Beyond: A new 26-minute featurette narrated by film historian Tom Weaver with an array of knowledgeable historians who discuss the career of producer Sam Katzman from his early delinquent dramas to serials with Batman and Superman and sci-fi features such as the ones on this set. This is really well produced with great insights and clips.
- Fantastical Features: A new 15-minute piece on filmmaker Nathan Juran at Columbia Pictures featuring interviews and narration from some great historians who give a well-rounded assessment of the director’s legacy.
- Creature With The Atom Brain Commentary: Phoef Sutton and Mark Jordan Legan from the “Film Freaks Forever” podcast provide a lively commentary track in which they discuss the legacy of the feature, the background of the performers, the technical achievements and more.
- It Came From Beneath The Sea Commentary: Filmmakers, writers, and Ray Harryhausen superfans Justin Humphreys and C. Courtney Joyner give a detailed overview of the feature in which they discuss it in a historical context, give details about the production, share insights about the cast and crew and much more. These two have a good rapport and keep things entertaining throughout.
- The 30 Foot Bride Of Candy Rock Audio Commentary: The crew from The Monster Party Podcast including James Gonis, Shawn Sheridan, Larry Strothe and Matt Weinhold provide a lively commentary track for the feature. In this track, the crew provides a great amount of historical tidbits including background information on the actors who pop up on screen, how this blends horror and comedy elements, the technical detail of the feature and much more. These guys are a wealth of information while also having a fun dynamic between one another that will keep you chuckling.
The new Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment offers up a selection of films that offer cheesy throwback entertainment. None of these titles are certified classics like the title implies, but they are fun for what they are. The A/V presentation for the set is overall lacking and should be passed on if you can find alternate releases from other labels. In a nice change of pace, Mill Creek has delivered a nice selection of bonus features to boost the value of the package. The films are worth owning, but this might not be the set you should jump for if you are wanting something of great quality. At least the special features are worth it.
Sci-Fi From The Vault: 4 Classic Films Collection is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Mill Creek Entertainment has supplied a copy of this set free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.