13th October 2006
who was hoping for a Space:1999-style revelatory makeover for
The New Avengers DVD set is going to be
I've been sent one of the discs (containing
Hostage, Trap and Dead Men Are Dangerous), and have
compared the new version with the old UK edition, which was licensed by
Optimum's parent company, Studio Canal, to Contender.
The new Optimum disc offers very slight
improvement over the older version. It's marginally sharper, but the nasty
shortcomings of the old version (underlying chroma noise, poor contrast,
persistent grain, etc) are still much in evidence, suggesting that the new
discs have been mastered using old analogue transfers. Also, it hasn't
helped that Optimum have made poor use of the available disc space, using
only 6.45Gb of the 9Gb available (the average bit-rate is about
A look at Optimum's menu screens (which
feature a reversed image of Patrick McNee as Steed, a black-and-red
version of the blue-and-red lion logo', and a photo' of Gareth Hunt and
Joanna Lumley, where she doesn't have her famous 'Purdey bob' haircut),
confirms that these discs have been prepared by someone who has no
affinity with the series.
A page featuring screengrabs and menu
screens from the new Optimum set (and equivalent grabs from the Contender
set) can be found
more bad news from Optimum. The version of She that will be in
Hammer Collection box set (and also available
separately) is an anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer that crops the edges off
the original Hammerscope image. The previous disc, from Warner Home Video,
has a ratio of 2.18:1, but displays some distortion at the sides of the
image (which Optimum may have deliberately chosen to crop).
The new disc has much harsher contrast than
the comparatively soft-looking Warner Home Video transfer, giving it a
rather gritty, unpleasant look. Both transfers exhibit considerable dirt
and other signs of wear and tear (especially where opticals were employed,
suggesting that these flaws are burnt into the original edited source
A page featuring screengrabs and menu
screens from the new Optimum disc and equivalent grabs from the Warner
Home Video disc can be found
The release of The Hammer Collection
box set has been delayed a week: it will now appear on October the 30th.
US company VCI Entertainment has announced the release
of two more discs in their Hammer Film Noir Double Feature
The two discs, due on November the 28th,
are Vol 4 (featuring Terror Street (1953) and Wings of
Danger (1952)) and Vol 5 (featuring The Glass Tomb
(1955) and Paid To Kill (1954)).
Terror Street and Wings of Danger
are 4:3 transfers; The Glass Tomb and Paid To Kill are in
1.66:1 format. Both discs are Region 0, NTSC, DVD-9s.
Bonus features on Vol 4 include
Terror Street commentary; Dan Duryea commentary; and Steve Fisher
commentary (all by Alan K. Rode). Vol 5 includes The Glass Tomb
commentary (by Richard M. Roberts). Both discs have bios, an
advertising gallery and film noir theatrical trailers.
Provisional sleeve artwork...
10th October 2006
ZETA MINOR NEWS
We have a new review for you today! Ceri
has examined the latest I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue CD set, from BBC
Audiobooks. To read the review, click on the sleeve image, left, or
good news about Optimum's forthcoming
Ultimate Hammer Collection
the set contains new anamorphic versions of
Dracula: Prince of
The new Prince of Darkness transfer isn't considerably
better than the previous UK edition (from Warner Home Video): the
anamorphic enhancement means that you get more detail in the image. In
terms of colour density and contrast, the new disc is slightly brighter
than the Warner Home Video version, but otherwise quite similar. It
is, however, vastly superior to the anamorphic German version, from Anolis.
Screen grabs from the three versions
can be seen
The new Prince of Darkness disc features the hour-long documentary
The Many Faces of Christopher Lee, which is a valuable bonus.
Sadly, it's missing the bonus features found on the US (Anchor Bay) and
German (Anolis) discs, so fans will probably want to have both.
The new Prehistoric Women disc
has an anamorphic 2.31:1 transfer, and a widescreen theatrical trailer.
(Anchor Bay's R1 disc was non-anamorphic).
Note that the individual Dracula: Prince
of Darkness disc is currently available for pre-order at Play.com for
£5.99 - click
here! This offer also extends to
The Devil Rides Out,
The Horror of Frankenstein and
Rasputin - The Mad Monk.
Network's new editions of
Hands of the Ripper and
Twins of Evil are released today, too!
Serling's 70s anthology series
Night Gallery - The Complete First Season will apparently be
released on DVD on October the 16th.
I say "apparently" because review discs
have appeared, but there was no sign of a press release.
The three disc set features the Pilot
episode, and all the episodes of the first season (a total of
seventeen stories, grouped in twos and threes, as they were originally
transmitted). The third disc offers several bonus segments: The Diary,
A Matter of Semantics, Big Surprise and Professor
Peabody's Last Lecture, from season two, and The Return of the
Sorcerer and Whisper, from season three.
This seems to replicate the Region 1 set.
When the Region 1 version was released, there was some concern that the
presence of season two and three episodes as bonus features might not bode
well for a DVD release of the rest of the series. That concern seems to
have been well-founded: the first season set was released in August 2004,
and so far there's been no sign of the second or third seasons. The
consensus among fans of the series was that we they considered themselves
lucky that at least some of the season two and three episodes had been
RRP for the set is £24.99.
press release, either, for Universal's
seaQuest DSV - Season One DVD set, which is apparently due on
November the 20th.
The six disc set features all twenty-three
episodes of the first season, including the feature-length pilot episode,
To Be Or Not To Be, in 4:3 format, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (at
192kbps). There are no English subtitles.
There are deleted scenes on several of the
discs, but that seems to be the extent of the bonus material, suggesting
that it's the equivalent of the Region 1 edition.
The RRP is believed to be £34.99.
Film Score Monthly has released another
pair of fine Silver Age Classics soundtrack CDs: Maurice Jarre's
score for John Huston's 1972 oddball Western The Life and Times of
Judge Roy Bean, and Leigh Harline's music for George Pal's 1964 fantasy classic, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao.
release of The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean marks only the
second time that FSM has released music by the relatively prolific Maurice
Jarre in their hundred and forty-disc history.
The film's a bit of a curate's egg,
blending a standard John Ford-style Western with author John Milius'
inclination to mythologize its eponymous protagonist. Jarre might seem an
odd choice to score a Western, but he already had several to his credit by
the time Huston picked him to score The Life and Times of Judge Roy
Bean, including Villa Rides, Richard Brooks' The
Professionals and the hybrid Samurai Spaghetti Western Red Sun.
In any case, Jarre's poetic score isn't one
you'd immediately associate with the Coplandesque Old West. Instead we
have Jarre's gift for off-kilter melody expressed through atypical
instruments like the French horn and church organ.
The disc features a vocal version of one of
Jarre's themes: Marmalade, Molasses and Honey, sung by Andy
WIlliams (who, for no-doubt contractual reasons, gets more prominent
billing on the CD cover than Jarre). This was a pastiche of Raindrops
Keep Fallin' on My Head, from then-recent hit Butch Cassidy and the
Sundance Kid. An instrumental version of
Marmalade, Molasses and Honey -
not used in the film - is included as a bonus track.
The CD version greatly expands on the LP
version, from Columbia Records, and, as is usually the case for FSM,
presents the score in chronological order, with bonus tracks at the end
(including a ten-minute dissonant cue, That Man on
Horseback, which did make the film, but would have spoilt the musical
flow of the main program). The score was re-mastered from the half-inch
three-track stereo masters;
Marmalade, Molasses and Honey
was remixed from the sixteen-track two-inch studio master tape.
The disc comes with extensive background
and track-by-track notes, by label boss (and disc producer) Lukas Kendall.
Although not as flashy as The
Professionals (Jarre's definitive Western score), there's much to
commend The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, and it's a fine
addition to FSM's library.
7 Faces of Dr. Lao is one of my
favourite films, so I was thrilled to find that FSM were going to release
the score, especially as the master tapes were thought to be long gone.
(La-La-Land Records' 2004 compilation The Fantasy Film Music of George
Pal compilation featured a few cues from the film, but they obviously
weren't sourced from the original masters).
Harline was the ideal choice of composer
to score 7 Faces of Dr. Lao. His background at Disney (where he composed music for
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and numerous short films) had given
him just the right type of experience, and, indeed, had brought him not
inconsiderable acclaim (including two Academy Awards, for his score for
Pinocchio, and its featured song, When You Wish Upon A Star).
7 Faces of Dr. Lao, the tale of a
small Old West town which is visited by a mysterious circus run by
enigmatic oriental Dr Lao, is a film that works on many levels.
Viewed as a child, it has the glitzy appeal of Tony Randall's portrayal of the
apparently-scatterbrained title character, an array of monsters (including
Jim Danforth's wonderful stop motion animated Loch Ness Monster), and a
homely setting. Later viewing reveals a finely-written morality fable;
one with touches of real darkness (the blunt, brutally-truthful
predictions made by the circus's blind Greek fortune teller, Appolonius, for example)
and raw sexuality (the lustful seduction byPan!)
Harline's music is equally complex,
headlined by a jaunty theme for Dr. Lao himself, but also encompassing several different styles, to reflect the film's odd
mixture of elements. Harline used a small chamber orchestra and some
exotique instrumentation to achieve the variety of cues required for the
film, which include a couple of variations of Bach organ pieces, and a
melody of bagpipe tunes.
FSM's disc contains the complete score, in
stereo, remixed from the original three-track 35mm scoring masters, and it
sounds just dandy. After nearly fifty minutes, there are a selection of
bonus tracks - about ten minutes' worth - which include raw build-up
material, sound effects, pre-recorded tracks (so that the actors had music
to perform to on set) and unused cues.
The disc's extensive sleeve and track notes, by
Jeff Bond, Harline expert Ross Care and Lukas Kendall, are the icing on the cake,
revealing, for example, that Peter Sellers was attached to the film at one
point, perhaps on the strength of his multiple disguises in 1957's The
Naked Truth, and 1962's Lolita. (Sellers would go
on to play three
different characters in Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove..., which was
released the same year as Dr. Lao). The disc is offered as a
limited edition of 3000 copies.
More information about the discs, including
track lists and Realaudio samples, can be found at the website of FSM's
trading partner, Screen Archives Entertainment. Click
for The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, or
for 7 Faces of Dr. Lao.
attended the press screening of Open Season - 3D at the IMAX cinema
at Waterloo this morning.
The film is likeable enough, but there's
very little to set it apart from the slew of mediocre talking animal CGI
extravaganzas that have been released recently (Madagascar, The
There are a couple of nice set-pieces,
though, including an elaborate dam bursting sequence, but the
plot is feeble; the characters are sketchy (and, Billy Connolly's
McSquizzy aside) ill-served by some unremarkable voice-acting. Oh, and the
jokes just ain't funny.
But, as a 3D spectacle, it's highly
entertaining, to be watched with gleeful joy as the titles stand proud of
the background, and foreground objects end up in your lap. The kids at the
screening seemed to have a great time, so if you have toddlers in tow, it
would be a fine treat.
Here are the booking details:
information on tickets and showtimes, please call 0870 787 2525 or visit
the website at
Tickets are priced at £12.00 for adults, £8.00 for children (up to and
including age 14) and £9.75 for concessions. The reduced rate for groups
of 10 people or more is £11.00 for adults and £8.75 for concessions.
AUDIO BOOK NEWS
Here's a look at the individual CD sleeves
for the three titles in the forthcoming Doctor Who Monsters on Earth
CD set, which is due on November the 6th.
The sleeve notes also reveal that the bonus
interviews are: Caroline John (20m), Katy Manning (9m) and Janet Fielding
(12m). Doctor Who and the Silurians also features an item on
Derbyshire Caves, from Radio 4's Today programme, which aired on
July 14th, 2004.
The RRP for the seven-disc set is £45.
Last week's Zeta Minor News
can be viewed here.
Previous Zeta Minor News entries can viewed