Did you guys know that Jack Arnold's The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) has never been released on DVD? That's right: One of the most imaginative, intelligent, and thought-provoking science fiction films of all time (yes, I said all time) is still sitting in some vault collecting dust, while genre contemporaries like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds, and The Day the Earth Stood Still have all hit DVD sporting all sorts of well-deserved bells & whistles. Directed by Black Lagoon's Jack Arnold and penned by certified ultra-genius Richard Matheson, The Incredible Shrinking Man stands as one of the most influential movies in the history of Weinberg. Plus all that stuff with the cat, the spider, and the dollhouse ... awesome.
So this got me to thinking about other movies that I loved as a kid, most of which (stuff like 1941 and Jaws 2 and The Goonies) already have a home on a special little DVD shelf all their own -- but SOME of which have never seen life as a shiny digital disc! For example, how is it that we can get 11 different versions of (the truly awesome) Evil Dead 2 -- yet The Incredible freakin' Shrinking Man remains DVD MIA?? I actually have a theory on this one: Universal owns the rights to Shrinking Man, and that studio has spent several years trying to cobble together a remake with Keenen Ivory Wayans as the director. One can only assume that Uni is waiting for that retread to bear box office fruit before releasing the original film on DVD as a "tie-in," which (obviously) annoys me to no end.
So listed below in this most recent edition of Cinematical Seven are a bunch of semi-obscure 1980s horror movies that I'd really like to see on DVD. Why switch over from The Incredible Shrinking Man to the generally unpleasant topic of "forgotten 1980s horror movies?" Because a wise man once said "write what you know," and I know very, very little outside the realm of 1980s horror movies. (OK, and Futurama and Halo ... and The Phillies. I know a lot about those things, too.)
7. Student Bodies (1981) -- Yes, it's a huge and sloppy mess of a horror spoof that had filmmakers removing their names from the credits and movie critics trashing it mercilessly ... but once you fall in love with something as a young movie geeklet, it'll take a lot to cure you of that affection. Employing the Airplane!-style spoofery from a slasher flick's perspective (two full decades before Scary Movie got the idea), Student Bodies is, frankly, a pretty poorly made movie. But I guess that's what happens when your director (comedy expert Michael Ritchie) walks off the flick, leaving your screenwriter (former Woody Allen collaborator Mickey Rose) to finish slapping the thing together. Very broad, very silly, very raunchy, and (occasionally) very funny, Student Bodies seems like the kind of wacky spoof that today's horror geeks would eat up with a spoon. C'mon, Paramount, let's scrounge up a few of the filmmakers for some (honest) retrospective interviews, toss a few trailers on there, and call it the Horsehead Bookend Special Edition. I guarantee it'd sell better than Pet Sematary 2 did.
6. It Came from Hollywood (1982) -- Here's another one Paramount's got stuck in their cellar. Weird thing is ... they actually announced this DVD a few years back (and even showed off some cover art!) before canceling the release with little in the way of explanation or alternative release dates. Grrr. This one's basically a clip-show movie, laden with some of the slimiest and silliest monsters from horror cinema's golden age, intercut with numerous skits in which Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, John Candy, and Cheech & Chong do goofy things. Sad but true: It Came from Hollywood will most likely never see the light of day on DVD, simply because it's a movie made up of about 100 old movie clips, and "clearing the rights" to all those flicks would cost a helluva lot more than the Paramount People would spend for such a goofy little niche title. Which brings us to a similar movie...
5. Terror in the Aisles (1982) -- Hosted by Donald Pleasance and Nancy Allen, this is another compilation flick that focuses on sequences scary, shrieky, or otherwise intense. Back in the day I remember thinking "Aw, just about every single movie mentioned here is a Universal title, so how all-encompassing could this "greatest hits" collection really be?" Nowadays, unfortunately, Universal no longer owns the lease on all of the included clips, which means they'd have to dole out some large checks if they ever wanted to release Terror in the Aisles uncut. Then again, as cute as Nancy Allen is, you'd probably just be better off watching all of Jaws, The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers '78, The Fog, Rosemary's Baby, The Birds, Videodrome, and The Omen than watching a bunch of isolated clips. Right? Plus, what's with the clips from Night Hawks and Vice Squad? You're getting your cop movies all over my horror compilation!
4. Death Ship (1980) -- A low-budget shocker about a deserted ship that houses some decidedly nasty Nazi spirits, Death Ship is, well, crap. I knew this even as a stupid little 14-year-old. But I also have distinct recollections of the flick containing a rather unsettling vibe, a few gruesome dispatches, and the combined cinematic magic of George Kennedy & Richard Crenna. I'm sure the thing's even more terrible than I remember, but I'd really like a chance at a second look. Originally released by AVCO/Embassy, I'd guess the rights are presently owned by MGM/Sony. They seem to own a lot of the old and crappy movies from the 1980's era.
3. Alligator (1980) -- Rumor has it that young screenwriter John Sayles once spent a few weeks in a seedy hotel room, banging out pages for Joe Dante's Piranha by day and Lewis Teague's Alligator by night. (Yes, the same John Sayles who went on to become one of the most admired screenwriters in Holly/IndieWood, so keep that in mind next time you sneer at a movie called Piranha or Alligator.) The good news is that Piranha has been released on DVD (and is scheduled for a new release, thanks to Disney's recent purchase of Roger Corman's entire massive catalog), while the bad news should be obvious: Alligator, a movie I'd just freakin' LOVE to finally see in widescreen, is nowhere to be found on the DVD shelves. The monster is massive, the humor is sly, and the kills are as nasty as they are plentiful -- so where's the freakin' DVD aready? Hell, I don't even know who owns the rights to this flick. Anchor Bay, come to my rescue here! (Raise your hand if you remember the "kid in the swimming pool" scene. Fun, sick stuff!)
2. From Beyond (1986) -- Stuart Gordon's equally Lovecraftian follow-up to the splattery brilliance known as Re-Animator, From Beyond was savaged by the MPAA prior to its theatrical release, and generally not-embraced by the horror fans at the time. But over the years this story of inter-dimensional mega-mayhem has grown into quite the little cult favorite in its own right ... despite being the little brother of Re-Animator. Recent word indicates that a bunch of excised nastiness was found in an MGM vault, and also that a full-bore Director's Cut will be airing later this year on a network called Monsters HD. And if that's all true ... can a nifty little Special Edition be close at hand? I think so!
1. Fred Dekker Double Feature: Night of the Creeps (1986) & The Monster Squad (1987) -- Now this is a moviemaker I'd like to have a burger with. He started out with the screenplay for House (1986), which still stands up as a rare example of horror/comedy that works, before penning directing Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad, a one-two punch that would ultimately lead an entire generation of movie geeks to wonder "damn, whatever happened to Fred Dekker, anyway?" Dekker seems to come from the Joe Dante school of genre-geek moviemaking, which explains why both Creeps and Squad still have loyal and vocal supporters among the world's massive horror freak collective. One's an alien invasion / zombie attack / slimy slug-fest with tons of in-jokes and tongue-in-cheek swagger; the other's a sweet-natured and entirely colorful story of kids forced to contend with the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man. And no, you can't get either of 'em on DVD, which feels like it should be a crime.
Were YOU born in the early 1970s before being raised on every horror flick that happened to appear on film, television, VHS, Beta, and HBO? If so, let me know which 1980s-ish "classics" you need to own before your DVD collection can be called complete.
Oh, and if anyone out there has ever seen a Jack Palance sci-fi horror flick called Without Warning (1980), please let me know. I've been searching for it since I was 10 years old and first saw the freaky-sick-looking movie poster.
More recent horror coverage on Cinematical:
A coma and a haunting: That's a bad day
Dark and dangerous movies in Philadelphia
French director continues a streak of horror remakes