Halloween will be very, very frightening this year as Warner Home Video debuts the Val Lewton Horror Collection in October. The five-disc collection includes 3 double-feature discs with films of the acclaimed producer of classic horror films. This is, of course, great news for fans of classic horror, as these films are truly some of the best of their time and have been absent from the DVD format for far too long.
Cat People/Curse of the Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie/The Body Snatcher and Isle of the Dead/Bedlam will be included in the collection and also be sold individually. Available only as part of the collection will be The Leopard Man/The Ghost Ship and The Seventh Victim which is double-billed with a new Bonus Documentary about the famous RKO producer, Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy.
“Cat People,” directed by Jacques Tourneur, is the trailblazing first of Lewton’s nine horror classics. The film stars Simone Simon portraying a bride who fears an ancient hex will turn her into a deadly panther when she’s in passion’s grip.
Simon returns in “The Curse of the Cat People,” a sequel that has become a landmark study of a troubled child that proved to be so astute it has been used in college psychology classes. This gothic-laced mix of fantasy and fright marks Robert Wise’s directorial debut. The double-feature DVD will contain a commentary track by historian Greg Mank on both films with audio excerpts by Simone Simon, and the movies’ trailers.
“I Walked with a Zombie” and “The Body Snatcher” features two great Val Lewton classics which are based on literary sources. Using the gothic romance of “Jane Eyre” reset in the West Indies, director Jacques Tourneur and Lewton created “I Walked with a Zombie,” noted for its overriding terror of the living dead. Frances Dee plays the nurse who witnesses the strange power of voodoo. The movie will come with a commentary track by historian Kim Newman and Steve Jones.
Boris Karloff, the most celebrated star in the history of screen horror, stars in the title role in the Lewton adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Body Snatcher,” directed with subtle calculation by versatile young Robert Wise. A doctor (Henry Daniell) needs cadavers for medical studies and Karloff is willing to provide them – one way or another. This film includes Karloff’s famous scene with fellow horror icon Bela Lugosi and will come complete with a commentary track by director Robert Wise and Steve Haberman.
In “The Leopard Man,” an escaped leopard provides the catalyst for a foray into fear in which castanets clack wildly, a cemetery is a rendezvous for death and love, and a closed door heightens rather than hides the horror of a young girl’s fate. It’s the third and final teaming of producer Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur and will feature a commentary track by Exorcist-director Wiliam Friedkin.
Director Mark Robson helms the brilliant nautical thriller The Ghost Ship. Richard Dix plays the sinister captain whose port of call may be madness.
Boris Karloff headlines these two atmospheric works filled with producer Val Lewton’s trademark mix of mood, madness and premeditated dread. In “Isle of the Dead” Boris Karloff shares a quarantined house with other strangers on a plague-infested and perhaps spirit-haunted island.
St. Mary’s of Bethlehem Asylum in 1761 London provides the setting for “Bedlam.” Here, Karloff gives an uncanny performance as the doomed overseer who fawns on high-society benefactors while ruling the mentally disturbed inmates with an iron fist. Mark Robson, who edited three films for Lewton and directed five, guides both of these films. An optional commentary track by historian Tom Weaver will be accompanying “Bedlam.”
“The Seventh Victim” is Val Lewton’s stunner about a Greenwich Village devil cult where six people have broken the clandestine group’s code of silence. The same six appear to have died as a result. Now a new member of the group has gone missing. Will she meet the same fate? Kim Hunter debuts as a schoolgirl whose search for her vanished sister unearths an urban lair of devil worshippers. Mark Robson directs the first of his five Lewton films, bringing dark foreboding to moments that include a much-noted pre-Psycho shower scene and a shocker of a subway encounter. Historian Steve Haberman will provide a commentary track for this film.
The “Val Lewton Horror Collection” will in stores on October 4 and carry a suggested retail price of $59.92. The three DVDs that will be sold individually will be available for $19.97, each. I don’t know about you, but after this announcement I can barely wait for Halloween this year!