Posted on: Apr 30th, 2024 By:

Chris Herzog
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.


5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Barry Newman, Suzy Kendell, John Vernon, Ben Kingsley
Director: Michael Tuchner
Rated: PG
Studio: Arrow Video
Region: A
BRD Release Date: February 13, 2024
Audio Formats: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 2.34:1
Run Time: 105 Min.


FEAR IS THE KEY is rife with surprises, and too snug a review could ruin the viewing experience. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Instead of plot specifics, let’s talk about some other stuff in the movie.  First of all, it contains a fantastic car chase. Stunt coordinator Carey Loftin did the driving here; he also did the chases in VANISHING POINT, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, DUEL, and even THE LOVE BUG. Loftin is one of the unsung heroes of action sequences, and FEAR is another notch on his belt. Sure, Barry Newman and Suzy Kendell are fine, but damn… that chase! There are various twists and turns, with the film ending up in a submarine—actually, it’s a bathyscaphe, but why split hairs. Once again, I’m staying away from the plot on purpose.

We can talk about Alistair MacLean, at least a little bit. I remember stacks of the Scottish writer’s novels everywhere at the bookstores and the airport gift shops when I was younger. These mid-century potboilers usually had to do with various plots to assassinate, overthrow, destroy or steal Macguffins of various stripes, and several included themes of underwater suspense. Many of them became fine movies, like THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, ICE STATION ZEBRA, and of course WHERE EAGLES DARE. In this film, everything clicks together in typical MacLean-ian fashion. No spoilers!

This picture has a great cast as well, many at the height of their powers. Newman had just finished VANISHING POINT and seemingly jumped right out of that and into the next car. Kendell was probably tired of all these Gialos (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, TORSO, SPASMO). This was certainly a change of pace for her. The villains are first-rate too. John Vernon is always great—and pretty much the same, whether he’s in DIRTY HARRY, SAVAGE STREETS, or ANIMAL HOUSE.  Villain #2 is a young Ben Kinglsey. He had done a lot of British television, but this was his first film—and then he went back to TV and didn’t return for ten years at which point GANDHI was released, and he swept out of nowhere to grab the Academy Award™ for Best Actor.  Everyone is on their game here.

Much of the picture was shot on location in Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, while most of the sets were done in England at Bray Studios. As it turns out, most of these folks are British, including the director, much of the cast, and the visual effects crew. American accents are mostly on point with an exception; Kendall didn’t really make the grade here, as she tries and fails to sound like a Southern American heiress. A false note, but not sounded by the loudest instrument in the orchestra. There are too many other wonderful things going on here. An unsung hero is Derek Meddings for his miniature and special effects work. Meddings work was just as good as any onscreen at the time and ever since, frankly. Starting with the Supermarionation series in England like THUNDERBIRDS and STINGRAY, he began working with Gerry and Sylvia Anderson  providing highly memorable visual effects. He became one of the best special effects designers in the world, creating work for various James Bond pictures, the SUPERMAN franchise, and BATMAN.

Arrow’s presentation is rather attractive and articulate. The video quality looks very good, as should be expected. The audio has a nice mono sound that gets the job done. This definitely needed a good, thorough commentary, and Howard S. Berger delivers. He’s almost always great, and this is no exception. Berger takes a deep dive here, and he gives all the answers to the questions you’ll be asking and more. There’s also a visual essay with the author Scout Tafoya. In addition, we also have two fairly long archive interviews from the crew members and the associate producer. Finally, the composer, Roy Budd, gets his own featurette. Budd was always different, with plenty of jazz chops. GET CARTER was arguably his best work, but FEAR IS THE KEY was right behind it. Music historian Neil Brand puts it all together for us.

There are a few more bells and whistles, particularly in this limited edition. We have an illustrated collector’s booklet, featuring the writer Sean Hogan. Of course, there’s also a trailer—and finally, artist Nathanael Marsh has created some sweet new artwork for the sleeve, as well as a poster. If you prefer the original poster artwork for display, it’s on the opposite side of the sleeve. All in all, FEAR IS THE KEY is an outstanding film, and worth the price of the disc for the movie alone. Everything else is cherries on top.




When he’s not casually shuffling across dry creek beds, Chris Herzog is a writer, researcher, and teacher. His film criticism can also be found in Screem magazine and back issues of the late, lamented Video WatcH*Dog.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

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APES ON FILM: The Invention of Georges Melies

Posted on: Aug 1st, 2023 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.




HUGO – (2011) Limited Edition 4K Ultra HD Three Disc Set
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rated: PG
Studio: Arrow Video
Region: Free
BRD Release Date: 07/18/2023
Audio Formats: DTS-HD MA 7.1 and LPCM 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: 4K Ultra HD (2160p) presentation of the 2D version of the film in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible), (1080p) Blu-ray presentation of the film in 2D and 3D
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray Disc, Three-disc set (1 BD-100, 2 BD-50)
Run Time: 126 minutes


HUGO is Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema. I’m going to assume that regular readers of this column have almost all seen the movie since its release in 2011, either in the theater in glorious 3D or at home via the device of your choosing. Based on the profusely illustrated book, THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, by Brian Selznick, the movie is as much an ode to films and those who make them as the book was to… well, books and those who write and illustrate them. Director Scorsese took the literary centric tropes of Selznick’s work and applied the cinematically equivalent ones to suit his own medium to great effect. In doing so, he makes a gentle but substantial case for film preservation, including much needed information to modern audiences of what is lost forever and what may yet be saved for posterity and why it’s important to preserve them.

The visuals, performances, music, directing, and other technical aspects of the film have been examined minutely by critics, but one of the attractions on the Arrow Special Edition release of HUGO that’s worth emphasizing is supplemental features, including producer Heather Buckley’s extended interview with author Selznick as he discusses the genesis of the book, his intentions and aspirations in creating it, and finally examining the theme of the story. He remarks that the theme was brought up with him by a fan who said they believed that the story centers around creating our own families by choosing the people one surrounds oneself with, an admitted revelation to Selznick. I see where that applies to both film and book, but my own thoughts lean more toward themes of healing ourselves through helping others heal, as Hugo (Butterfield) and Isabella (Moretz) demonstrate not only with Papa Georges (Kingsley) but with each other, and as Station Inspector Gustav (Cohen) and flower girl Lisette (Emily Mortimer) embody. Much of Hugo’s backstory supports this theme as well, without refuting Selznick’s preferred thesis.

Arrow Video’s presentation of HUGO on 4K UHD is presented in stunning 2160p in 2D, and in 3D as it was always meant to be viewed by Scorsese (in 1080p), as well as a 2D version on the included blu-ray disc. The image quality in 2D (I am not fully equipped to evaluate the 3D presentation, though the consensus among other reviewers is that there is a marked improvement from the Paramount BRD) is an order of magnitude crisper and clearer than the previous Blu-ray release, without being over-sharpened. Color fidelity is fantastic, as is density in blacks and whites. The sound is also up to speed, making this the most pleasing copy of the film I’ve seen since it’s theatrical release.

Extras include an audio commentary by Jon Spira; the theatrical trailer (HD; 2:18); as well as a third disc featuring Inventing Hugo Cabret, a new interview with Brian Selznick, author and illustrator of the original novel on which the film is based; Capturing Dreams, a new interview with director of photography Robert Richardson; The Music of Dreams, a new interview with composer Howard Shore; Ian Christie on Hugo, a new interview with the acclaimed film historian and editor of SCORSESE ON SCORSESE; Secret Machines: Hugo and Film Preservation, a new visual essay by filmmaker and critic Scout Tafoya; Creating New Worlds, a new featurette in which French film historian and author Julien Dupuy examines the life and the legacy of Georges Melies and his impact on cinema and special effects; Papa Georges Made Movies, a new featurette in which film critic and historian Pamela Hutchinson explores the days of early cinema; Melies at the time of Hugo, a new a visual essay by filmmaker and writer Jon Spira plus five archival featurettes on the making of the film – Shoot the Moon: The Making of Hugo; The Cinemagician: Georges Meliés; The Mechanical Man at the Heart of Hugo; Big Effects, Small Scale; and Sacha Baron Cohen: Role of a Lifetime. There is also an image gallery, a folded mini poster, and an insert booklet written by Farran Smith Nehme.

HUGO is what the French might call an “event cinemalogique,” and deserves all the accolades from critics and movies fans that it has received, as does Arrow Video for the care taken in preparing this package. Most highly recommended.



Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Retro Fan, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more. He is the author of the upcoming book The Art of George Wilson from Hermes Press.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

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