Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Living Dead

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Many, many years ago, back when I was working at Wolf Camera, I found these sets of movies for $7.99 each.  Each set had 9 or 10 movies that fit in to some theme.  One set is all Alfred Hitchcock movies.  Another is all science fiction.  This one is titles The Living Dead and has to do with zombies, vampires and strange cults.  (Or at least things that pass for zombies, vampires and strange cults.)

The thing that first attracted me to this set was that it had Dawn of the Dead.  This was a movie that I had heard about and had wanted to see.  I figured that I could get eight more reviews out of it.  (Nine, if you include this one.)  With that many reviews, it was just a matter of waiting for the right promotion on Epinions and I could make my money back.  (I ended up getting a few of the other sets when the store put them on sale.)

Well, I’ve finally gotten around to reviewing them.  Now, I have to review the set as a whole.  I don’t really want to write too much on each movie.  I doubt you’d want a 3,000-word review and I know that I don’t want to write one.  (Since I’ve reviewed all of the movies, I will link to the individual titles.)

This set has nine movies spread out over three discs as follows:

Disc 1:  The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, The House by the Cemetery, Fangs of the Living Dead

Disc 2:  I Eat Your SkinThe Last Man on Earth, King of the Zombies

Disc 3:  Night of the Living Dead, The Thirsty Dead, Messiah of Evil

The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is about Lord Alan Cunningham, who likes to kill women.  He seems to think that marrying again will cure him of this.  It just leads to a strange and disjointed movie.  It’s more strange than scary.  Also, kind of light on the living dead thing.

The House by the Cemetery does have living dead that haunts a family.  They move into a house while the father finishes the work of a colleague who committed suicide.  It’s not quite as strange and disjointed, but that’s not to say it makes any sense.  Take the grave marker in the house.

Fangs of the Living Dead does have living dead.  (In this case, vampires.)  A young woman about to be married inherits a castle.  She goes over to sign the paperwork only to find out that her uncle really isn’t her uncle.  Also, there’s some question as to whether or not her mother is dead.  The movie comes across primarily as goofy.  (I don’t know how much of it was intended to be goofy.)

I Eat Your Skin was originally billed with a movie called I Drink Your Blood.  (I kid you not.  Check IMDb.)  The only likeable thing about this movie, in my opinion, was that it was filmed near me, albeit before I was born.  In this movie, a writer goes to Zombie Island with the intention of getting material for a new book.  He and his party get more than they bargained for.  This one redefines what it means to be low-budget.

The Last Man on Earth is the reason I got this pack in the first place.  I’d say it was worth it.  It’s one of two movies in this set that are worth the purchase price.  (The other one is Night of the Living Dead.)  The movie is about a man who seems to be the last human alive, hence the title.  He spends his days gathering supplies and his nights hiding from the undead.  It’s not a great movie, but it is worth seeing, especially if you’ve seen Omega Man or I am Legend.  All three movies are based on the same book.

The King of the Zombies is not even worth watching unless you want to get the review out of it.  It’s the shortest of the nine as well as the oldest.  In it, three men crash land on an island.  They discover a strange man in a strange castle with strange things going on.  This is another case where the living dead aren’t technically living dead, but it’s a minor point.  The movie is just plain bad.

Night of the Living Dead  is a classic.  Yes, it’s that Night of the Living Dead.  It’s the one directed by George A. Romero.  This movie does have actual living dead and is actually good enough to raise the bar for zombie movies to come.  This alone is worth the purchase price.  If you’re going to get this set, watch this movie first if you haven’t already seen it.

The Thirsty Dead does not involve anyone who is either thirsty or dead.  Instead, it involves a cult that lives in a remote area that drinks the blood of people to stay young.  They think they’ve found someone who is supposed to change the course of their special cult.  The only problem is that she wants nothing to do with them.  Ironically, one of the other women kidnapped with her does want eternal youth and beauty.  The shame of it is that she’s nothing to look at.  Neither is the movie.  It’s just plain ridiculous.  This is Mystery Science Theater 3000 material at its finest.

Messiah of Evil was somewhat decent.  It’s not as good as other movies I’ve seen, but it does involve some creepy scenes.  It’s about a woman looking for her father in a small town.  The small-town residents have some sort of infection that turns them into flesh-eating zombies during a blood moon.  The main drawback is the film transfer; it looks like St. Clair Vision used the cheapest one they could fine.  It’s worth watching, but only if you get it as part of this set.

In addition to the nine movies, there are three special features.  On disc one is classic movie trailers.  Disc two has vintage movie posters.  Disc three has a feature on the making of The Night of the Living Dead.  The only one I watched was the one on the movie posters, which is basically a slide show set to music.  I watched a few minutes, but didn’t see anything interesting.

I think the common thread running through all of these movies was that they were either public domain or had expired copyrights.  In other words, St. Clair Vision, who distributed this collection, didn’t have to shell out any money beyond what it cost to produce and ship the units.  Most of the movies don’t seem to have been restored at all.  I think very minimal effort was put into this.

If you find this collection and think (as I did) that you might be able to get your money back by reviewing the movies, I’d really think hard about it.  I only finished most of the movies because I wanted the reviews.  Had it not been for the site, I don’t think I would have finished (or even started) watching some of these movies.  Many of these are really old.  Release dates range from 1941 to 1981.  I’d say that all of the movies show their age to some extent.

The packaging was very basic.  It’s a plastic case with three places for the DVDs.  The only problem is that the back half has two holders that are arranged so that you have to take out one disc to get at the other.  It’s not a problem, but it might be a nuisance if you want to get to a movie on the bottom disc quickly.  On the back of the DVD case is a short description of each movie and the suitability for children.  Each disc is easy to get out of the case.

Interestingly, there’s a copyright warning.  I think all of these are public domain, so I think the only thing that would fall under copyright is the menus and maybe the special features.  I guess it’s one of those things that they have to put in just in case it ever matters.  I don’t really regret buying this.  I’d say that between Last Man on Earth and Night of the Living Dead, I got my money’s worth.

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