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Monsters and Madmen (The Haunted Strangler / Corridors of Blood / The Atomic Submarine / First Man into Space) (The Criterion Collection)

4.3 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Launching us from a grave past to a space-age future, these two thrilling double features from producers Richard and Alex Gordon spin classic tales of hair-raising homicidal mania and intrepid, death-defying exploration. The Haunted Strangler: 19th-century English author James Rankin (Boris Karloff) believes that the wrong man was hanged twenty years earlier for a series of murders, yet in his investigations discovers a secret all-too-horrible and, for him, gruesomely inescapable. Corridors of Blood: In 1840s London, Dr. Thomas Bolton (Boris Karloff) dares to dream the unthinkable: to operate on patients without causing pain. Unfortunately, the road to general anesthesia is blocked by a local killer (Christopher Lee), as well as Bolton's devastating addiction to his own chemical experiments. The Atomic Submarine: When nuclear-powered submarine the Tiger Shark sets out to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances near the Arctic Circle, its fearless crew finds itself besieged by electrical storms, an Unidentified Floating Saucer, and lots of hairy tentacles. First Man into Space: In this interstellar cautionary tale, brash U.S. Navy test pilot Dan Prescott, hungry for fame, jettisons himself beyond Earth's atmosphere, only to come in contact with a hideously mutating extraterrestrial virus. (Image Entertainment)

Amazon.com

For sheer entertainment value, Monsters and Madmen is a more-than-welcome addition to the prestigious Criterion Collection. Proving that well-made exploitation films deserve as much scholarly appreciation as classics of world cinema, this four-disc set lives up to its name with four enjoyable features (two horror, two science fiction, all above average) that showcase the consistent quality achieved by British producers Richard and Alex Gordon. Taking their cue from American International Pictures (AIP, which Alex co-founded in the mid-1950s) and Roger Corman's low-budget approach to profitable production, the Gordons were passionate film buffs who moved into filmmaking when Boris Karloff brought them a story property called "Stranglehold," which was eventually produced as The Haunted Strangler (1958), giving 69-year-old Karloff a much-needed respite from the forgettable programmers that plagued his later career. Directed by Robert Day, it's a superbly crafted thriller in which Karloff plays 19th-century English author James Rankin, determined to prove the innocence of a man wrongfully executed 20 years earlier. His quest turns horrifically tragic when Rankin is overtaken by the dead man's spirit, and the killer's strangulation spree continues. As part of a double-feature package, The Haunted Strangler was immediately followed by Corridors of Blood (1959), another fine vehicle for Karloff, who plays a doomed physician in 1840s London obsessed with pioneering experiments in anesthesia. It's a grim graverobber's tale, with an early role for Christopher Lee as a macabre character named "Resurrection Joe."

Gaining momentum, the Gordons also produced First Man into Space and The Atomic Submarine (see previous DVD releases for detailed reviews), a pair of 1959 releases that took timely advantage of Cold War headlines, the space race, and advances in nuclear-sub exploration of the polar ice caps. The former involves a cocky test pilot's ill-fated exposure to a strange alien substance which turns him into a blood-sucking predator; the latter is a sci-fi adventure that culminates in an encounter with an ill-tempered alien beneath the ice of the Arctic Circle. All four films guarantee a welcome trip down memory lane for long-time genre buffs, and DVD collectors of all ages will enjoy the enthusiastic expertise of Tom Weaver, whose delightfully reverent commentaries with Richard and Alex Gordon--along with video interviews with primary cast and crew members from all four films--serve as detailed testament (owing to Richard Gordon's wonderfully vivid recollections) to the lasting appeal of these "B-movie" relics. Theatrical trailers, radio spots, and exploitative print advertising place the films in proper historical context, and accompanying booklets offer appreciative essays by producer John Croydon and critic/historians Maitland McDonagh, Bruce Eder, and Michael Lennick. Anyone with a passion for '50s sci-fi and horror will quickly accept Monsters and Madmen as a crucial addition to their DVD collections, well in keeping with the expansive Criterion legacy. --Jeff Shannon


Special Features

  • Commentaries by producers Alex and Richard Gordon and writer Tom Weaver
  • New interviews with actors, directors, and screenwriters who worked on the films
  • Original trailers, radio spots, stills galleries, and publicity and production photos
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Booklets featuring Fangoria's 1984 interview with producer John Croydon about Boris Karloff, and new essays by Bruce Eder, Michael Lennick, and Maitland McDonagh

Product Details

  • Actors: Marshall Thompson, Marla Landi, Boris Karloff, Betta St. John, Christopher Lee
  • Directors: Robert Day, Spencer Gordon Bennet
  • Writers: Charles F. Vetter, Irving Block, Jack Rabin, Jan Read, Jean Scott Rogers
  • Format: Box set, Black & White, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: January 23, 2007
  • Run Time: 315 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000K0YM18
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,375 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Monsters and Madmen (The Haunted Strangler / Corridors of Blood / The Atomic Submarine / First Man into Space) (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Parker Benchley VINE VOICE on December 13, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is an excellent collection of four films, once late night staples, which have fallen into obscurity in recent times. There are two excellent sci-fi flicks and two wonderful Karloff films. As with most Criterion releases, a bit pricey, but collectors and fans alike will find the collection worth while.

ATOMIC SUBMARINE (1959) - Arthur Franz, Dick Foran, Tim Conway and Joi Lansing are a part of a crew of an atomic submarine that is tracking an underwater UFO, which is responsible for the sinking of several ships. They track the saucer to the North Pole, where it is using the magnetic field to replenish itself. They board the saucer and meet its occupant, a hairy octopus-like creature with one huge eye.

CORRIDORS OF BLOOD (1958) - Karloff is in fine form as Dr. Bolton, a physician experimenting with anesthesia in the 1840s. Basing his mixture on opium, he becomes addicted in the process, which leads to his dismissal from the hospital. Needing money to purchase the supplies necessary to continue his research, he falls in with two grave robbers (Francis DeWolfe and Christopher Lee), signing false death certificates in order to get the money.

FIRST MAN INTO SPACE (1959) - A space rocket recently launched into space crashes to earth, but there is no sign of its pilot. Strange things begin to happen: first cattle are killed for their blood, and later, humans. Investigators discover that the killer is none other than the astronaut himself, deformed by a coating of space dust, except for one eye. His brother, the project's commander (Marshall Thompson), realizes that he is heading back to the base and to the high-altitude chamber that he needs to breathe.
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wow, people are not giving this set enough credit. These films, while not the best Karloff films, or the best examples of the genere, are all entertaining. The karloff films are much better than people are making them out to be. the atomic submarine and first man into space are also very fun films. all of the films look great.

But, the extras, including commentaries ON ALL FOUR FILMS is what makes this set. The commentaries are nformative, interesting, a great listen.

if you like classic horror/sci-fi and enjoy good commentary tracks, buy this set.

The criterion edition of fiend w/o a face is also highly reccomended.
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You know, the Criterion Collection has long been a leader in providing classic films in the best possible condition, first on laserdisc and later on DVD. And when it comes to film restoration, they're certainly among the best companies out there.

And yet, it is my feeling that the company is largely unknown outside a relatively small but dedicated group of film enthusiasts, whose passion for the art of cinema equals that of Criterion. Well, that, plus the fact that the company has largely focused their attention on foreign films that the mainstream moviegoing public has never heard of. Sure, there have been exceptions, such as their first-class Hitchock releases (Notorious, Spellbound, Rebecca and a few others); bona-fide classics like Spartacus, the Stones' Gimme Shelter; and a few oddball modern choices: The Royal Tennenbaums, Armageddon (?), The Rock (??).

Which is why I was so happy to find a couple of cult sci-fi films in their catalog a few years back. Both the original version of The Blob (1958), and the sorely underrated Fiend Without a Face filled me with hope that maybe, just maybe, these folks were capable of something more. In fact, the trailers for all four of the films in this collection were included as bonus materials on Fiend.

Now, the films themselves: The Haunted Strangler and Corridors of Blood are were vehicles for Boris Karloff, who was in his sixties when they were made. As he had done many times before (and would continue to do), Karloff plays a mad doctor-type. Corridors is the better of the two, with a young Christopher Lee in a supporting role as a ruthless killer. Neither film could really be called "classic," but both are solid, low-budget chillers that fans of Karloff and/or Lee will enjoy.
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Actually I got this for The Haunted Strangler and The First Man Into Space which I saw as a teenager back in the 1950s at our local movie theater.
I loved them then and like them now. The Atomic Submarine has a good cast that is wasted on this awful movie with terrible special affects.
Talk about cheesy. This one is loaded with cheese and not funny either. But Corridors of Blood is decent story of, if true, doctor who discovered
ether. Karloff always gives a good performance.
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Great genre examples nicely restored & packaged here for your viewing pleasure. Usually, Criterion is a name spoken and known among art house collectors, fans of classic or lesser-known foreign films and the like. For the rest of us, thankfully, Criterion also has a decent-sized collection of genre titles that were fortunate enough to receive their top shelf treatment. Many art house snobs will likely balk at the inclusion of titles like EQUINOX, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, GODZILLA (1954), THE BLOB and others in their beloved Criterion catalog...but more's the pity for them, for not being able to let their figurative hair down and just relax. More importantly, seeing these fun old films is a time-traveling trip down nostalgia-filled memory lane. You have to still be in touch with your inner eight year old or you're almost certainly guaranteed NOT to enjoy these old matinee popcorn adventures.

All four features look & sound great. ATOMIC SUB and FIRST MAN both look far, far better than I've seen offered on DVD elsewhere. The two Karloff films were each a first-time view for me and I enjoyed them both tremendously but the 2 sci-fi adventures are what I pop in my player time & again. Yes they're silly, low budget and cliched to the Nth degree, but that's what makes them so much fun! Grab the kids (and/or friends who enjoy nostalgic sci-fi), pop some popcorn and plop down on the couch and let the films work their charms. Don't resist! Give in to the fun! As with most Criterion product, the only downside is the cost. Criterion is pricey, but remember: you get what you pay for! With that being said, if you like this kind of stuff it's worth saving up for. You're almost guaranteed to never see these movies looking & sounding better than they do here, unless someone remasters them using original film elements and transfers them onto hi-def Blu-ray. If that ever happens I'll be double-dipping for FIRST MAN INTO SPACE and THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE in a heartbeat. 4 STARS!
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