Saturday, April 23, 2016

Review: Bride of the Reanimator (1990)

H P Lovecraft has a fascinating legacy in films. I'm not sure there has ever been a wholly successful adaptation of his work (Wiki lists 33 films based on his work!), but the Re-Animator films give it a good shot.

Produced by Brian Yuzna. directed by Stuart Gordon, and starring Jeffrey Combs as Doctor Herbert West, Re-Animator (1985) was a great little film, chronicling Dr West's experiments with a luminous liquid which could re-animate the dead. Very watchable and entertaining, the film has since gained a cult following as these things do, and spawned two sequels.

After its success, Yuzna and Gordon turned to another Lovecraft tale for their next offering, From Beyond, and after that, Yuzna alone decided to go back and see what Herbert West was up to, the result being Bride of the Re-Animator. That these films were in part based on the old Frankenstein films can be no secret, with even the titles following the order of the old Universal classics.

Bride of the Re-Animator, while not quite as good as the original film, nevertheless has a good stab at being entertaining, crazy and quirky all at the same time. Once again Herbert West wields his glowing serum, but this time it allows him to create all sorts of monstrous creations through the connection together of various body parts. Thus a dog ends up with a human arm and hand, there's a cute little creature made from five fingers and an eyeball, and, as we reach the end of the film, a whole room full of monstrous creations straight from the crazed mind of FX artist Screaming Mad George.

The film is certainly paying respects to The Bride of Frankenstein with the creation of a statuesque female by Dr West from various body parts, including the heart of his assistant's girlfriend! When she rises, it's straight out of the black and white Universal film, with mad hair and jerky movements. And of course she never asked to be created in the first place ...

I really enjoyed the film, and it has a lot going for it. The monstrous creatures at the end are marvellous and I found it all channelling a sort of Freaks or The Sentinel vibe for me, as well as the more obvious Frankenstein influences. What is interesting is how close some of the plot elements are to the original H P Lovecraft story. According to details here, the original work was serialised over six parts, with the first two being used for the original Re-Animator film, and the last two for Bride of the Re-Animator.

Overall the film is part of a very nice offering from Arrow, with the usual selection of documentaries and commentaries.

  • Brand new 2K restorations of the Unrated and R-rated versions of the film, approved by director Brian Yuzna
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Stereo 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
  • Limited Edition Collector’s Booklet
  • Limited Edition Packaging to be revealed

  • Brand new 2K restoration of the Unrated version
  • Brand new audio commentary with Brian Yuzna
  • Audio Commentary with Brian Yuzna, star Jeffrey Combs, visual effects supervisor Tom
  • Rainone and the effects team including John Buechler, Mike Deak, Bob Kurtzman, Howard Berger and Screaming Mad George
  • Audio Commentary with stars Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott
  • Brian Yuzna Remembers Bride of Re-animator – brand new featurette in which the director looks back at the making of the first Re-animator sequel
  • Splatter Masters: The Special Effects Artists of Bride of Re-animator – Brand new FX featurette with a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Robert Kurtzman of KNB, Screaming Mad George, Tony Doublin and John Buechler
  • Getting Ahead in Horror – archive making-of featurette
  • Deleted Scenes


  • Brand new 2K restoration of the R-rated version
  • The Target Book - Redux

    It's always lovely when a book about a subject you're passionate about gets published, and even moreso when it's written by you!  Thus it was when The Target Book was launched on an unsuspecting public back in 2007. The reception it got was brilliant, people seemed to love it! We ended up doing (I think) two print runs with our Indian printers (at the time, printing in India was cheaper than in the UK, even factoring in the shipping costs) of the paperback edition, and two different limited edition hardbacks with leatherette covers ... even so, eventually the paperbacks ran out, and the book slipped out of print.

    We then had a problem. I would have loved to have got the book onto a Print On Demand system so that copies could still be bought, but the physical page size we had chosen (as being the largest we could do for the rrp we wanted it to be) was not compatible with any system, so we couldn't use the PDFs we had, and I didn't want to have to completely re-lay out the book. Printing in the UK was too expensive for full colour at a short print run, and so we just had to accept that the book was out of print and move on.

    But people kept coming and asking about it, perhaps driven by the silly prices that copies of the book were displaying online (many of these driven by crazy automated pricing algorithms ... I suspect no book was ever sold at the prices being charged!) and we had to keep turning people away.

    The BBC Books reissue.
    Then, in 2016, several things happened all at once. Firstly I was approached by the BBC about whether I would lend some of my original Target cover art for an exhibition which was planned in London. I was uncertain, as there seemed to be absolutely no benefit to me in lending the pieces. It was to promote some reprints of the novelisations being released by the BBC, and the gallery was apparently charging an entrance fee for customers to see the exhibition, yet there was no loan fee, and no benefit to me in taking part. So I initially declined. The BBC in the form of Edward Russell was disappointed, but understood my rationale, and I think it was he who suggested, why don't you see if the gallery would sell copies of your book on the range? Not realising that it was long out of print.

    In the same week, I had a call from a regular printers that we use at Telos Publishing, and in the course of the call, I mentioned that we had this full colour book, and we'd love to bring it back into print. My contact then told me that they had just got in some new colour machines, and that she thought we could do it for a cost which worked (obviously the unit cost - what the publisher pays the printer - for a book has to be low enough that when trade discounts and so on are applied, plus all the publishers' costs, that the book can make a profit for the publisher, otherwise there's no point in doing it).  So we knocked some numbers around, and yes indeed, we could produce a new edition of the book for a cost which worked ...

    So I then looked at the book more seriously to see what might need to be done. I checked with Arnold T Blumberg, who had laid the book out originally, to ensure that he still had the files, and that he could make changes to it if needed, and yes indeed he did.

    BBC Books' 50th Anniversary edition
    The immediate thing which needed attention was at the back of the book. We had seven pages of advertisements at the back of the first version, and pretty much all of them were now out of date. So why not use those seven pages more productively for a new Appendix, which could bring the story up to date. When we published the first edition, BBC Audio had only just started releasing the Target novelisations on audio, and indeed there was a short sidebar which discussed that elsewhere in the book. And BBC Books hadn't started their programme of reprints at all. So I could cover both of those developments properly in a new section. So I got started writing and researching. Luckily everyone involved was happy to help, so I got information from Michael Stevens who has produced the audio ranges, Ben Willsher who did some of the new artwork covers for the audios, Justin Richards, BBC Books Consultant and Albert dePetrillo, managing editor at BBC Books. With interviews completed, facts assembled, and artwork pulled together (Chris Achilleos kindly snapped some pics of his original sketches for the new covers he had done for the BBC for me to use in the book!) it was all taking shape nicely.

    With the new section completed, I also had to address elements in the rest of the book. Paul Scoones kindly supplied a list of minor errors which he had spotted in the book, so these were corrected. I reworked the sidebar about audio releases to remove all the BBC Audio ones (as those were now covered in the Appendix) and to expand it slightly to include all the audio versions of TV stories which had been released beforehand. I missed off the Century 21 EP of episode 6 of 'The Chase' as that's not strictly a novelisation, more of a condensed and narrated version of the episode itself, likewise with the Genesis of the Daleks LP. But all the actual novelisations are now listed, from 1978's talking books onwards.

    BBC Books' new edition
    with new cover art
    Other illustrative detail came from artist Jason Fletcher (Fletch!), who had kindly supplied an image of the fourth Doctor to use as a foil stamp on the back of the second deluxe, limited edition hardback. I felt that it would be nice to include that somewhere, and so it became part of the endpaper design for this new edition. Finally, Alister Pearson suggested using a piece which David Lavelle had created for the Target Exhibition which showed both the first and seventh Doctors against a Target background. We managed to fit this on the Dedication page (which I had always thought was a little empty before). Unfortunately the credit for Alister and David for this image somehow vanished from the files along the way ... so huge apologies to both for that.

    Arnold sorted out the layouts, going through several iterations as usual to get everything to work and to fit. We shifted the seven blank pages to before the Index and the Target Cover Gallery as that made more sense, and expanded the Gallery to include all the new editions of the books which BBC Books have released to date. In a way this was a departure from the original intent of the Gallery which was to show all the original covers, and of course most of the new BBC editions use the original Chris Achilleos art, but they are so lovely that we thought it was worth showing them. Of course those titles with new covers (Remembrance of the Daleks, Vengeance on Varos, The Visitation and Battlefield) are also included.

    David signing copies of the finished book.
    I had decided to release the new edition in hardback - we'd not done a straightforward hardback before - and to that end, I needed to design some endpapers, and also, for the front and back covers, I wanted to take advantage of a new process that the printers had in, a UV gloss ink, which would give a glossy look to the parts of the cover it's applied to.  This is not the same as a UV gloss laminate, which we had experimented with in the past on some of Telos' books printed in India, with variable results, but a fifth run of ink.  To achieve this, I had to supply a mask for the whole cover showing which parts should have the ink applied. Strangely this is more complicated than it sounds, but I managed it.

    Thus the whole thing went off to print, with delivery set for the week before the exhibition opened. Now the waiting started!  Along the way, Chris Achilleos reached out to me about my decision not to take part in the exhibition, and after discussing it with Chris, I agreed to loan some of my original pieces for display, in part as a favour to Chris, and in part as I now would have my book available again, and the Gallery had agreed to sell some!

    The Sticker!
    A friend called Matt Doe also got in touch. Matt is a dealer and collector of Who toys and so our interests intersect! Matt offered to produce a little sticker of the cover art from The Target Book to give to people who ordered it direct from Telos. It was a brilliant idea, and so we sorted that out ... thus we had a lovely little extra to say thanks to everyone who supported the book by pre-ordering it.

    The books arrived yesterday (22nd April) and look totally brilliant. The printing quality is lovely - the original edition was a little dark in places on the printing, a feature I think of the heavier quality paper which was being used, and also of the Indian printing presses - and the cover with the matt and glossy areas is beautiful. I'm very happy.

    I hope everyone who visits the Cartoon Gallery in London to see the original Target art will fall in love with it in the same way as it has captured me and so many others over the years. I hope people will be interested enough to want to get a copy of the book too!

    As I have been writing this piece, the first review has come in ... hopefully this bodes well for the future :)

    The Target Book
    Written by David J Howe with Tim Neal
    Foreword by Terrance Dicks
    176pp. Large format 22cm x 28cm hardback. Fully illustrated in full colour throughout.
    ISBN 978-1-84583-114-1
    Available from:

    Doctor Who: The Target Books Artwork runs from 28 April – 11 May 2016 at The Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HH

    Friday, April 22, 2016

    Jessica Jones

    Television today is a bewildering array of choices. And to add to all the TV Channels on Sky/Virgin/Supplier of Choice, there's also Netflix to contend with. There also seems to be more genre fare than ever, with a new horror/fantasy/SciFi series debuting every week!  So it's hard to know what to watch and follow.

    Thus it was that we stumbled across Jessica Jones. I'm not a comic reader so had never heard of her or the series, but we did a little digging, saw that it starred David Tennant, and so decided to give it a go. And I'm glad that we did.

    Jessica Jones is a strange beast. A show which has superheroes in but which doesn't major on that fact. There's no (well, limited) explanations. And the characters are not all likeable. But it works so well, and when it kicks into gear, it really grips with a thrilling narrative quite unlike anything I've seen before.

    The basic idea is that Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) is a private eye, and she's quite good at her job. But she's tortured and beaten inside because of a relationship with a man called Kilgrave (David Tennant) who has the power to make anyone do what he says. Jessica has a power too, she's immensely strong, and can jump or fall long distances without hurting herself, She has a relationship with Luke (Mike Colter) who owns a bar, and he has a power too: he is indestructible and his skin cannot be broken by anything.

    As the story progresses, so Jessica tracks Kilgrave down, but the man is so twisted and evil, leaving programmed commands in people to kill themselves and others. To cut out their own hearts, or to murder loved ones. The instructions have to be carried out, the victims cannot help themselves, and so Kilgrave is able to take over houses and apartments, to turn an entire police station or hospital against themselves and others ... he's a demon!

    The series progresses over 13 episodes, with Jessica getting closer and closer, trying to shield those she loves against Kilgrave's wiles, but all the time failing and falling.

    I won't say how it all ends, as it needs to be watched to appreciate. Krysten Ritter is brilliant as Jessica, managing to keep going, and to keep the 'hidden' levels of angst and pain visible on her face, even as she struggles to catch up with Kilgrave. David Tennant is, as usual, brilliant. He's using his English Doctor Who voice here rather than his natural Scottish, and he comes over as immoral, crazy, yet haunted by Jessica who is his only weakness. It's a great performance.

    If you get a chance to catch it, do so. If you love crime drama tinged with the supernatural then you should love it.