Two new scary movies for the season and an overlooked television series from 1970 are in this week's DVD review column.
Fear[s] of the Dark
This French animated feature bring to the screen several short films based on the work on some well known graphic artists and, largely, the film is capable of being truly eerie if not disturbing.
Its problem is one of structure. One of the stories, based on the work of French cartoonist Blutch, loses much of its impact by being broken up into chapters. The other short films are separated by an inane and pretentious bridging segment in which an animated shape arbitrarily changes form while a woman drones on about what frightens her.
The segments are quite well done with the look and animation style changing with the story. American artist Charles Burns contributes a creepy vignette concerning love, revenge and very large insects. Marie Caillous and Romain Slocombe's tale of Japanese ghosts is very disturbing as is the story of a child confronting an unknown beast by Lorenzo Mattotti and Jerry Kramsky.
I really liked a story told in pantomime and in stark black and white of a man who breaks into an abandoned home to stay warm and enters a world he could not have expected. This work by Michel Pirus and Richard McGuire end the film on an artistic high note.
Animation fans who want something adult and involving should add this film to their Netflix list.
Blood: The Last Vampire
I always find it interesting when an animated property is adapted to live action and when live action films or television shows are made into cartoons, because seldom is the translation very successful.
This new action/horror film by director Chris Nahon is based on the successful anime series "Blood+." That animated series is a long and intricate story -- 50 episodes -- of a schoolgirl named Saya who has to awoken to the fact that she is really a very old vampire who develops into a hunter of demonic creatures for a secret organization.
Nahon and writer Chris Chow opt to provide viewers very little background and stage the movie around the climax of Saya facing the most powerful demon. The result is a stylish action film that plays out like a video game -- plenty of eye candy but with annoying holes in the story.
The action sequences staged by Cory Yuen -- one of the best stunt coordinators working today -- are pretty thrilling and Korean actress Gianna has the right degree of intensity for the lead role. I was happy to see the demons depicted on screen in old-fashioned stop motion animation, instead of computer animation. The process gives the monsters a weight and character often lacking in low budget CGI.
If you're looking for a mindless action film, "Blood: The Last Vampire" is not a bad choice. If you want to see an epic anime and more developed story, hunt down "Blood+."
Pat Paulsen's Half a Comedy Hour: The Complete Series
I was 16-years-old when Smother Brothers co-star Pat Paulsen starred in his own comedy series on ABC in 1970 and I was an instant fan. I still have pleasant memories of the show.
I was therefore both curious and cautious when I learned of the release of the 13-episode series on DVD. Curious because I wondered if my affection for the show would stand the passage of years and cautious because of the black-hearted cynic in me thought it wouldn't.
I'm happy to report that although some of the show's bits don't work so well so many years later, Paulsen is reaffirmed as a singular comic talent.
The only trouble is the show is indeed a product of its time and for younger audiences footnotes are necessary. For instance, I doubt anyone would find the "Then Came Paulsen" bits funny if they didn't realize it was a parody of the once popular show "Then Came Bronson" -- itself a television version of "Easy Rider."
Known on the Smother Brothers show as the dead panned guy who delivered funny editorials, Paulsen showed greater depth of his talent in this show with some great recurring bits. I loved Paulsen as the Devil answering viewer mail as well as his naughty parody of the "Mr. Wizard" science television show for kids. His monologues at the end of each show are also quite funny.
Where the show falters is in the skits involving guest stars, some of which work -- JoAnne Worley of "Laugh In" is funny, but Angie Dickinson is not -- and some of them don't.
The two-disc set includes a making of feature with two of Paulsen's children recalling their father and the show. They reveal that 12 of the episodes were shot back to back over two days and the rushed nature of the production didn't help it.
There is also a look at Paulsen's life -- he died in 1997 -- and his runs for president.
It's always nice to have a
memory from your youth validated and this show is still funny for the most part.
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