With Halloween just a few weeks away, a spate of monster movies has invaded home video.
A welcome surprise is the Blu-ray/DVD debut of 1959’s The Monster of Piedras Blancas (Olive Films, $25-$30).
But while "The Monster of Piedras Blancas" did little to break the monster-movie story mold, the no-budget flick was way ahead of its time in terms of gore. Disembodied heads feature prominently, tempered by the black-and-white cinematography.
It’s loads of B-grade fun in a breezy 71 minutes.
As with most Olive Films releases, there are no extras, sadly. But the crisp image quality makes the 57-year-old film look as if it has just been released.
Here are other monstrous movie picks among new Blu-ray releases:
John Carpenter's The Thing (Shout! Factory, $35; coming Oct. 11): Many years ago, I called the DVD of "The Thing" one of the best ever produced, thanks to the quality of the movie and the reams of extras. It only gets better with this new two-disc Blu-ray. John Carpenter's blood-curdling tale of an Antarctic crew hunted by an alien they find buried in the ice (a much more faithful adaptation of John Campbell's "Who Goes There?" than the 1951 film version) adds even more bonus material, including commentary by cinematographer Dean Cundey and new interviews. The wealth of previous extras are back, too, with the captivating commentary by Carpenter and star Kurt Russell — actually, a feature-length conversation between friends — serving as a model for what that standard extra should strive to be.
Aliens (Fox, $25): "They mostly come out at night. Mostly." It's hard to believe that one of the greatest monster movies ever made came out 30 years ago, but that's what this anniversary special edition celebrates. The set includes the 1986 theatrical version and the superior 1991 special edition of James Cameron's adrenaline-pumped tale of an alien infestation of an Earth space colony. Extras include a new featurette with Cameron, commentary and James Horner's isolated orchestral score.
The Shape of Things to Come (Blue Underground, $30; also on DVD, $15): OK, this 1979 space opera doesn't really fit among these other movies, but it is a monster dud. The worst of the old TV shows "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" and "Star Trek" are cribbed heavily while pitching some mumbo-jumbo about a mission to stop a robot army and its dictator (the nonsensical Jack Palance) from destroying a lunar colony. Aside from soft image quality (probaby the best available from the low-budget source material), the Blu-ray adds a few decent extras. In a recent interview, star Nicholas Campbell amiably fesses up to what many people have known for years: He helped make a piece of junk. The film fails to rise (fall?) to the level of "so bad it's good," but the Blu-ray affords the chance to watch for laughs with friends.