Monsters and Madmen (The Haunted Strangler / Corridors of Blood / The Atomic Submarine / First Man into Space) (The Criterion Collection)
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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)
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
- 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
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Top customer reviews
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.
So far, I've watched the First Man Into Space, not quite as scary now as it was when I was 12, but still a pretty good movie, even after all these years. And I've watched Atomic Submarine, also a fair movie for it's day (1959), but as a 14 year Navy vet, let me tell you there were so many inaccuracies in that movie I had to laugh at a lot of it.
But, if you're a fan of science fiction/horror movies, I would definitely reccomend this set, especially since the only way I could find The First Man Into Space as a single was in a European format, not compatable with the US.
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.
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.
THE HAUNTED STRANGLER (1958) - Another excellent Karloff film with Boris as a writer investigating the execution of a serial killer known as "The Haymarket Strangler" 20 years previously. He begins to suspect that the wrong man might have been hanged. However, when he picks up a scalpel used by the murderer, he becomes possessed and begins committing similar murders. The key to the mystery turns out to rest with Karloff himself.
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