King Kong (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES A
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 9.75
(OUT OF 10)
This 1933 classic will always be one of the greatest films ever made, warts and all. Special-effects master Willis O'Brien did something incredible when he fashioned and posed a gorilla statue, took some photos, edited them together and made movie history.
This is essentially a repackaging of the DVD collection that came out in 2005. The high-definition transfer is astonishing in some moments, and a bit noisy in others. One must keep in mind that the original prints of this film are close to 80 years old.
This is still the gold standard of American adventure films, with countless monsters and set pieces, and an always-elevating sense of danger. From Kong's battle with an island dinosaur to his fistfight with airplanes atop the Empire State Building, the movie never stops. And Fay Wray is still cinema's all-time-best damsel in distress.
This, of course, is the modern version of the film that restores material edited out of the picture for its 1935 re-release. Those viewers did not get the chance to see Kong's famous chewing and stomping of people, and his sniffing of Fay Wray's clothes.
I happen to think Peter Jackson did a masterful job when he did his remake, but this one remains superior. If you've never seen it, set some time aside, and prepare to be wowed.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A terrific making-of documentary that includes Peter Jackson's remake of the spider sequence that was cut from the original film for being too disturbing and stopping the story in its tracks. You also get a brand new, highly interesting hardcover case with a booklet, and a retrospective audio commentary that features the voice of Fay Wray.
The Essential Bugs Bunny
SPECIAL FEATURES C-
DVD GEEK FACTOR 5.75
(OUT OF 10)
If you are looking for a good Bugs Bunny fix, but don't want to sort through the many Looney Tunes collections released over the years, this is a good place to start.
You get 20 shorts that span the rabbit's entire history. Of course, the older stuff is the best, with some of the shorts produced in the '80s and '90s being mightily sub-par.
Highlights include "A Wild Hare," in which Bugs faces off with Elmer Fudd and says, "What's Up Doc?" for the first time. There's also the epic "Hair-Raising Hare," where Bugs encounters that large, orange, sneaker-wearing beast that is ultimately afraid of people. My favorite would be "Baseball Bugs," in which Bugs takes on an entire baseball team single-handed.
You also get some stuff never before available on DVD, like "Bugs Bunny's Wild World of Sports" and "How Bugs Bunny Won the West." These don't feature the wascally wabbit in his heyday, but they are of interest to collectors.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A mediocre Bugs retrospective and a few other disposable shorts.
Psycho: 50th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
SPECIAL FEATURES A-
BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 9
(OUT OF 10)
The moment when Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates removes that picture from his office wall and stares at Janet Leigh through a hole stands as one of the great, nasty turning points in American cinema history. It's also the moment in Alfred Hitchcock's mystery-thriller when it takes a turn for the deranged. Just a few minutes later, it gets downright horrific with that shower scene.
It's interesting that both King Kong and Psycho are getting Blu-ray releases at around the same time. They are not only landmarks in American cinema, but are staples for anybody interested in American horror films.
I've probably seen this movie 30 times, and each time, I see something new in the delightfully sick Perkins performance. I also remember laughing the first time I saw Norman run into that cellar, wearing a wig and a dress, and contorting his face while a foe wrestled with him for his knife. (I was a kid, and I found it stupid. I don't think it's stupid anymore.)
That final moment when Perkins looks right into the camera and dons that eerie smile was the perfect capper for the movie. Perkins was sort of an up-and-coming leading man when this movie was released. The world would never look at him in the same way again, and he would play Norman Bates in sequels right up until two years before his death.
Shot on a low budget and utilizing the crew for the Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show, the movie qualifies as an art film as well. Hitchcock was going for that "fly on the wall" objective, and utilized a lot of dolly, crane and tracking shots. Every shot was meticulously planned, resulting in a film that doesn't feature a single wasteful or sub-par shot.
SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary from Hitchcock historian Stephen Rebello and a lengthy making-of documentary are the highlights. You also get Hitchcock interview excerpts, newsreel footage on the release of Psycho, and behind-the-scenes photos.