Arrow Video June Releases: Blu-Rays of Sun For Your Collection

Arrow Video is set to heat up your June with four more video releases through MVD Entertainment Group, all worth a buy for collectors and film buffs with a taste for the intriguing. Let’s take a look at what’s coming soon:

Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Vol. 2 AV038 Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Volume 2 (June 14, $49.95) rolls up first and looks to be the perfect companion piece to the first three-film set. Akira Kobayashi (Tokyo Mighty Guy), and Jo Shishido (Danger Pays, Murder Unincorporated) are the featured actors in this trio of films that like the first Diamond Guys, is limited to 3000 sets. The first collection was a nice set of surprises, so expectations are high for this one to be equally fun and revealing.

Bonus Materials

  • Limited Edition Blu-ray collection (3000 copies)
  • High Definition digital transfers of all three films in this collection, from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
  • Original uncompressed mono audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles
  • Specially recorded video discussions with Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp on Diamond Guys Jo Shishido and Akira Kobayashi
  • Original trailers for all three films
  • Extensive promotional image galleries for all films
  • Reversible sleeve featuring brand new artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Booklet featuring new writing on all the films and director profiles by Stuart Galbraith IV, Tom Mes and Mark Schilling

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Show & Tell: On Ray Harryhausen’s Fairy Tales

Red StareIn regards to every well-worn fairy tale, “It’s not the tale, but how it’s told” is the order of the day. Parents and other creative adults well-versed in story time voices and acting have this mantra branded on their brain cells and know how to make any yarn they spin keep kids at rapt attention. Still, for many of his longtime fans, Ray Harryhausen’s incredible stop-motion versions of Mother Goose stories and five classic fairy tales are some of the most memorable versions ever created.

Save for The Tortoise and the Hare (which was incomplete until its 2002 premiere), I can recall some of these films along with his earlier Mother Goose shorts being shown during assembly hall sessions or in the occasional class where a regular teacher was out sick and the substitute called in hadn’t time to whip up a proper lesson plan. While most of these 16mm shorts were part of my childhood, I’d imagine plenty of today’s little (and more tech savvy) whippersnappers haven’t a clue who Harryhausen was or what made (and still makes him) him great and such a huge inspiration of countless filmmakers and visual effects artists to this day.

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Mail’s In, I’m Out!

That's Entertainment Thanks to the mail deities delivering nearly everything at once yesterday evening because of a slight delay from a few states and faster than expected international shipping (hoo-ray!), I’m taking today off to tackle a couple of entertainment options. For the upcoming Fairy Tale Blogathon at Movies, Silently I had to import Ray Harryhausen The Early Years Collection from the UK, as it’s not available in a Region 1 format DVD (why?). I was deciding between writing that 2-disc set up when I came across the complete 2-disc set of Fractured Fairy Tales and snapped it up because it was dirt cheap and had free shipping. Of course, someone claimed that review, but I didn’t mind because I grew up watching The Bullwinkle Show reruns and those FFT segments were always hilarious.

For a crazed change of pace, I HAD to bug Clint over at MVD Visual about The Sex Pistols on TV, a DVD documentary of the band’s outrageous live interviews and other footage that I’ve wanted to see for some time. Yep, I have pretty varied musical tastes, folks. Finally, time to give the devil his due, as Diablo III Reaper of Souls Ultimate Evil Edition is in the house! While the PS4 is getting all the online ink, I’ve only seen two reviews of the PS3 version, so my review will let those of you curious about this who don’t yet own that new console know if it’s worth a buy. I did play a few hours last night and here’s a spoiler: It’s a buy for a ton of reasons. You get the original game with some BIG changes (as in your copy of plain DII is now obsolete to some extent) and the Reaper of Souls content that adds even more new stuff.

Hmmm… okay, enough procrastinating – I need to go dip myself into some diversions, people. Back in a bit…

Random Film of the Day*: The Three Worlds of Gulliver

*For the next few days, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

gulliverOK, I don’t “hate” The Three Worlds of Gulliver at all, but as a kid, it did take me four attempts to sit through this classic family film without falling asleep. Sure, Ray Harryhausen’s “Superdynamation” effects and that lovely Bernard Herrmann soundtrack make this another perfect one-two punch for movie fans, but something about this flick has always rubbed me the wrong way.

It’s probably a combination of a few things from the silly refrigerator magnet names Johnathan Swift came up with being too nonsensical even for a kid to wrap a brain cell around (Brobdingnag? Glumdalclitch?), some languid pacing and seeing too much of Kerwin Matthews’ over-sized head (even when he’s normal-sized, his melon is a moon on his neck). Or it’s probably because Ray’s work here is “limited” in terms of the amount of stop motion effects (but you do get some great matte shots). The other technical work is fine, mind you – it’s just that compared to his more popular fantasy films, this one seems somewhat tame…
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Random Film of the Day*: First Men in the Moon

*For the next few days, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

First Men in the MoonIt’s actually pretty fun to watch early 50’s to mid-60’s sci-fi films for their historical as well as entertainment value because the space race was in full blast and Hollywood was finding out fast that NASA was making most of what they were doing obsolete. Granted, other than the opening few minutes, Nathan Juran’s excellent First Men in the Moon doesn’t need to juggle much in the way of realism other than making sure its 1964 astronauts (made up of members of UN countries!) making that moon landing were wearing gear that at least looked up to date.

Once that’s out of the way, the film lets the imaginations of H.G. Wells and Ray Harryhausen (interpreting the author’s words into Dynamation) take over as the story shifts back in time to 1899 and tells the tale of man’s “real” first trip to the moon. Juran’s direction and his solid cast provide the proper Victorian tone and Harryhausen’s great effects add the perfect amount of rustic charm that propel the films wildly fanciful “science” into the plane of believability…
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Random Film of the Day*: Sinbad and The Eye of The Tiger

*For the next few days, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

Sinbad & The Eye of the TigerWhen I was much younger, I wondered why Ray Harryhausen didn’t make more films until I found out how long it took him to design all those characters from drawing and painting some outstanding concept art to the construction and creation the visual effects. Let’s just say the man gained all the respect I had after that. That said, 1977’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is an example of what happens when a movie studio decides to rush things a bit too quickly, as it’s not his best work of the decade on display.

Yes, there are some major showpiece moments, but between some awful matte shots and a few creatures missing Harryhausen’s trademark expressionism, the film suffers a bit from a “by the numbers” look that’s noticeable to the point of distraction. Then again, that the film arrived in theaters a few months after Star Wars opened and was still generating a huge amount of money. I’m sure to many viewers blown away by George Lucas’ epic, Sinbad seemed almost like a relic from another decade…
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Random Film of the Day*: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

*For the next few days, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

the golden voyage of sinbadHa! Motivation-killer flu, you can’t keep me from posting! Anyway, onward! It took Charles H. Schneer and Ray Harryhausen fifteen years to follow up their classic fantasy film The 7th Voyage of Sinbad with the second of three movies starring the fabled sailor and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad both looks and feels almost as timeless as that first adventure.

Much better casting for some of the principals in this “sequel” meant more engaging characters, Ray’s animation and effects work were mostly superb and composer Miklós Rózsa contributed a truly outstanding and memorable score that’s one of his best works of that era. As with the other Schneer/Harryhausen family films, this one’s not just for the kids and it’ll bring a nice Saturday morning smile to your face if you haven’t seen it before…
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Random Film of the Day*: Clash of the Titans

*For the next week or so, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

clash of the titans posterFor years, I disliked most of Clash of the Titans because by 1981, I’d thought I’d outgrown the type of work Ray Harryhausen was doing and it seems that, despite the film’s OK success at the box office, some movie audiences just weren’t into so much classic stop motion animation in such a large scale film either.

Granted, it took me a few years and a lot of distance to find the movie actual fun to watch (instead of unintentionally funny for all the wrong reasons) as well as a classic in its own right, but I’m glad I gave it another chance. As Ray’s final studio film it’s a bittersweet sendoff that has one truly terrifying sequence and a few good to great ones that neither the CG-packed remake nor its sequel could come close to topping…
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Random Film of the Day*: One Million Years B.C.

*For the next week or so, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

one million years b.c. posterWhen I was a wee bairn, I actually went to two different schools where some kids thought this 1967 film was based on actual facts and at least one really deluded kid thought it was a documentary. Seriously. My ears still spin in opposite directions thinking about that, but I digress. You’re either watching One Million Years B.C. for its faux historical value, Ray Harryhausen’s excellent dinosaur effects or Raquel Welch with a side order of Martine Beswick in that cave gal cat-fight sequence. Don’t deny it, now…

Anyway, I’ve always thought this films was pretty awful for a few reasons I’ll touch on below, but the camp value plus those always awesome looking and moving Harryhausen dinos make it very watchable and re-watchable, provided you take none of what you see at all seriously…
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Random Film of the Day*: Mysterious Island

(Thanks, bttfportugal!)
*For the next week or so, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away on May 7, 2013 at age 92 in London and yes, the film world has lost a true giant as well as a fine and talented gentleman…

Mysterious Island PosterYet another Charles H. Schneer/Ray Harryhausen production featuring a brilliant Bernard Herrmann soundtrack, 1961’s Mysterious Island is another classic fans of the master stop motion animator cite as some of his best work of the decade as well as a pretty solid genre entry. It’s certainly got a nicely varied cast of creatures going for it from a giant crab, an very angry and huge prehistoric bird, a few huge bees in their cliffside hive and a majorly over-sized cephalopod near the end. You also get a nice balloon escape at the beginning that gets most of the cast to that titular island, a few ladies tossed into the mix courtesy of a shipwreck and a surprise appearance by Captain Nemo that adds another layer of the fantastic to the film…
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