I believe it was Joni Mitchell, or perhaps Shecky Greene, who famously said that "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." That's certainly true in either case, but the fact is, Joni or Shecky notwithstanding, that sometimes you don't know what you've got even when you've got it. Case in point: One of the most significant DVD releases of the year -- a genuine sci-fi masterpiece that's never been on home video before -- is coming to stores on April 6 and yet is essentially hiding in plain sight. I refer, of course, to Sony's three-disc box set Hammer Icons of Suspense which along with five entertaining exemplars of 50s and 60s cheese nonetheless contains Joseph Losey's seriously great 1963 These Are the Damned.
But first -- Steve's Movie Reviews©!!!
Alice in Wonderland -- Most of the visuals are gorgeous, and the Red Queen's little froggy footmen almost steal it from Stephen Fry's Cheshire Cat. Turning Alice from a plucky Victorian girl into a dragon-slaying Joan of Arc/Xena Warrior Princess figure kind of misses the point, however, not to mention being stunningly trite.
The Ghost Writer -- Ewan McGregor is aces as the titular scribe who suspects his gig penning a Tony Blair-like pol 's memoirs may prove dangerous to his health. The most intelligent and entertaining paranoid political conspiracy thriller in ages, although why director Roman Polanski thinks he knows something about people being out to get him is beyond me.
But I digress.
In any case, TATD is, in Glenn Kenny's apt phrase, a landmark of eschatological filmmaking, but it's been overlooked over the years, I suspect, because of a certain genre bending. A serious sci-fi/horror flick, it was nonetheless marketed in its day as a sort of teen exploitation number, which is actually a little weird; the titular damned are kids around eleven or twelve, and the film's biker gang (see below) are played by actors a tad protracted in the molar. Still, the film's use of puberty as a metaphor for the end of the world is both original and terrifying, and I think it's safe to say that anybody who's ever seen it has been haunted by it ever since.
Here's the original trailer, with (of all people) Gremlins director Joe Dante providing a bit of the film's history and some perceptive commentary.
As I've noted, Sony seems blissfully unaware of what they're unleashing next week, but you shouldn't be. I haven't yet seen the new version, but a friend who has assures me that both the source print and the transfer are absolutely spectacular. You can -- and if you don't your sanity is in serious question -- pre-order it over here.
Incidentally, the set also includes Stop Me Before I Kill!, Cash on Demand, Maniac and the charmingly monikered Never Take Candy From a Stranger. All of which have their moments, but really can't compare to the other prize in the collection -- The Snorkel.
"Teenage Girl Vs. Killer-With-a-Gimmick" indeed. It's not every day that a film mocks its own preposterous High Concept in the accompanying poster.