Appropros of nothing, here is a list of science-fiction/fantasy films that ought to be available on DVD in the U.S., but aren’t.
(Note: The original King Kong would fill every slot if I wasn’t convinced that it was virtually certain to be released in 2005 in order to capitalize on Peter Jackson’s remake.)
The Incredible Shrinking Man – Arguably the last truly great, pre-Star Wars science-fiction film still AFDVDWOL (Absent From DVD WithOut Leave). Directed by Jack Arnold from a novel by Richard Matheson, it’s the story of a man exposed to radiation (remember when we were afraid of that?) who grows ever smaller, initially dealing with issues of impotence and media exploitation, but eventually falling prey to more lethal menaces such as household cats and spiders. Why isn’t this out already?!?
The Monolith Monsters – The aforementioned Jack Arnold, master of the desert monster movie subgenre, wrote but did not direct this tale, featuring perhaps the most unique screen creature ever: a space rock which, when exposed to water, absorbs silica from its surroundings (including people) and grows into a colossal tower, eventually toppling under its own weight and shattering into bits…which begin the process over again. A tidy, unusual late ’50s thriller.
Attack of the Crab Monsters – One of Roger Corman’s earlier efforts, I recall this being a moody, albeit very cheap, popcorn flick about island castaways stalked by oversized, telepathic crustaceans. Another Corman candidate is It Conquered the World, starring the infamous Venusian “cucumber” creature.
Night of the Lepus – Hmm, I seem to have an unintended monster theme going here, but here’s one that’s truly hilarious. Yes, “Lepus” refers to bunnies; as one of the film’s policemen warns, “There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help!” I don’t care if they’re 15 feet high, bunnies are cute, not scary. DeForest Kelley is one of the actors who should’ve known better. And while we’re talking about ridiculous monsters, how about From Hell It Came, starring Tobanga, the walking, killer tree?
Tales from the Crypt – This is the 1972 British film, not the later TV series. I’ve always had a soft spot for horror anthologies. Many horror concepts don’t really merit a full-length film (for instance, any variety of killer doll), but are ample shock fodder in short bites. Plus, if one segment is stupid, another will be along shortly. This is the first of two films based on the EC horror comics of the ’50s, and most of the stories are quite effective: Joan Collins menaced by a maniac in a Santa suit; a “Monkey’s Paw” variant with a particularly grisly conclusion; Peter Cushing as a reanimated corpse with a special Valentine’s poem; and a vicious caretaker of a home for the blind who received a fiendish vengeance. Good stuff.
The Green Slime – A truly outrageous Japanese-American co-production, set aboard a swingin’ ’60s space station. Some green slime (naturally) gets aboard, and soon the place is filled with tentacled, cyclopean, rubber-suited midgets. Plus, it has one of the best theme songs of all time.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark – Growing up, some of the creepiest movies I encountered were made for TV. Despite the small screen and the commercial breaks, some of them really delivered the chills. One of the best, this stars Kim Darby as a woman haunted by whispering voices who turn out to be tiny creatures living within the walls of her house. Little monsters, such as the Zuni fetish doll in another TV classic, Trilogy of Terror (which is on DVD), are sometimes the piss-your-pants scariest, especially the way they can get under your bed… Go ahead, be afraid of the dark. (Other TV horror films I enjoyed as a kid were Killdozer and Horror at 37,000 Feet, neither of which are on DVD, darn it.)
DVD distributors, get on with it!