APES ON FILM: By The Pricking of My Thumbs…

Posted on: Feb 16th, 2022 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.



Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!


3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd , Pam Grier
Director: Jack Clayton 
Rated: PG
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Region: Free
BRD Release Date: September 7, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 95 minutes

Ray Bradbury is arguably the greatest American writer of all time. He wrote a short story and/or worked on a novel every day of his adult life, leaving a rich legacy of unforgettable narratives that have been adapted, adopted, re-interpreted, and spread throughout the ground water of worldwide culture for more than seventy years. Though Bradbury’s semi-autobiographical memoir is Dandelion Wine, the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes conveys the true essence of the man – his experiences, his beliefs, his philosophies – like no other of his works. It has been strip-mined by no less than the likes of Stephen King repeatedly to good effect in books like Salem’s Lot, Needful Things, and Doctor Sleep, and its influence has never been diminished.

The 1983 film adaptation of the novel by Disney has many positive facets. The casting of Jason Robards and Jonathon Pryce was inspired, the screenplay by Bradbury himself is a wonderful adaptation without being pedantic in honoring the source material, and many of the supporting performances are fine. Ultimately, it fails as good film due to limitations of technology and lack of vision on the part of the studio in post-production, as well as a lackluster job by director Jack Clayton.

Clayton, the director of 1961’s THE INNOCENTS, certainly seemed a good candidate for the job. One would surmise then that he would be a good choice to helm a film based on a beloved classic book about two boys who beat back the coming of a weird, malevolent carnival and its proprietors, saving their hometown and righting the wrongs done by black magic. But he wasn’t. Yes, there are wonderful sequences within the movie – the library showdown between Pryce’s Mr. Dark and Robards’ Charlie Halloway is brilliant – but the bulk of the film falls flat on multiple levels.

Performances by young leads Vidal Peterson  and Shawn Carson are inconsistent. The whole story hinges on viewers believing that the pair are blood brothers in dire circumstances – afraid, but heroes at their core; neither delivers this, unfortunately. Besides Robards and Pryce, other standouts are Pam Grier as the Dust Witch, Royal Dano as Tom Fury, and Bruce M. Fischer  as Mr. Coogar. Angelo Rossitto  has a good moment or two as a demonic barker at the carnival.

Disney’s culpability comes in what I can only assume was a surfeit of oversight. The studio spent a year re-shooting, editing, and generally misunderstanding how to complete the movie. In an era where independent shops like Boss Films or Stan Winston Studios were creating excellent visual effects on reasonable budgets, Disney opted to keep optical effects in-house, resulting in a lot of shaky, underexposed traveling mattes, THAT DARN CAT!level animation overlays, and a lot of film grain bloom from poorly executed optical film printer composite shots. The most egregious wrong done to this film is that the color timing is all over the pace. The lack of a consistent color palette for such a metaphorically rich film is a crime, and it’s hard to figure out where to point the finger of blame – director or producers? The movie comes across as way too much Disney, not enough Bradbury. What it needs is a remake by Guillermo Del Toro, frankly.

Disney Movie Club’s Blu-ray presentation is a bare bones release, and exclusive to members only. No extras of any kind are included, which seems like a missed opportunity. The picture is dusty and spotty, with scratches and pops throughout, most noticeably in the opening scenes. The enhanced definition here also serves to reveal that the film was clearly shot on the backlot and in Burbank sound stages, resulting in an unenhanced visual environment for home viewing. DMC even bumped the original aspect ratio of 1.75.1 up to 1.85.1 – it seems just to thumb their nose at purists. Audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

I wish I could recommend this disc, but truly cannot. It’s not worth the hassle of the Disney Movie Club format (reminiscent of the Columbia House Record Club, you have to opt out of a monthly shipment at a premium price) to get such lackluster presentations for home viewing, especially for films with marginal viewing value.

Let’s hope Guillermo is reading and has an AHA! moment.

An expanded version of this review appears in issue 40 of Screem Magazine.




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, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.


*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

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Something Wicked This Way Comes to Avondale Estates; Step Right Up to the Nightmare Circus of the Dark Harvest Haunted House, Masquerade Ball and Festival!

Posted on: Oct 23rd, 2012 By:

Pull back the tent flap and see what happens when the Devil himself brings the circus to town at the Dark Harvest Haunted House at the Academy Theatre in Avondale Estates! Step right up and brave the cornfields of Bradbury Farm, where the souls of a dead town grow right out of the corn, and Mr. Dark’s Nightshade Odditorium, inhabited by the spirits of long dead sideshow freaks. Oh, and did we mention the Killer Clown Maze?

Another example of Atlanta’s talent in designing homegrown haunts, Dark Harvest runs Fri. Oct. 26 through Halloween (Oct. 31), with an opening night Masquerade Ball featuring some spooktacular entertainment on Fri. night and a family-friendly street carnival on Sat. Oct. 27 from noon to 5 p.m. And as an extra treat, proceeds from all the tricks will benefit local charities such as The Academy Theatre, Lifeline Animal Project and The South Dekalb Senior Center.

From Ray Bradbury’s SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES to Erin Morgenstern’s recent bestselling THE NIGHT CIRCUS and countless carnival-themed horror movies (Hammer’s VAMPIRE CIRCUS [1972] is one of our favorites and recently remastered on bluray), it’s well-established in horror fiction that circuses and carnivals can be creepy places. We caught up with Angelo Ritz, the mastermind of the entire mad affair, to find out more about his haunting Halloween history, Retro influences and the Dark Harvest experience.

ATLRetro: What’s the first Halloween haunt that you remember going to as a kid and what about it scared you the most or stayed with you?

When I was about eight years old, The Lake Worth Jaycees put together a charity haunted house at The Palm Beach Mall in West Palm Beach, Fla. The only thing I really remember of that first visit is seeing an 8-foot tall vampire – he seemed that big to an 8-year-old – appear out of nowhere in a strobe room and running all the way to the exit screaming like a Catholic school girl in trouble the entire way!

When did you first become interested in designing your own haunt and when/what was it? 

After that first haunt, I was hooked on horror films – anything from UniversalFamous Monsters of Filmland and anything else I could get my hot little hands on related to monsters. The next Halloween – 1972 to be exact – I built my first haunted house in my living room for the neighborhood Trick or Treaters. It wasn’t much, but I did make one little girl wet herself!

Dark Harvest has a circus/carnival theme and there’s even a Bradbury Farm area and Mr. Dark’s Nightshade Odditorium. How much of an influence was SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury on the design? Was that story particularly scary for you as a child?

I’m thrilled that you picked up on the reference! As a child, I don’t think any other piece of genre literature had a more profound effect on me than SOMETHING WICKED. It wasn’t particularly scary to me, but for the first time I think I finally understood the human side to horror literature, that the true nature of an individual can be more monstrous than any zombie or vampire I had seen up to that point.

What other classic horror stories or movies provided inspiration for Dark Harvest?

I would say Tod Browning’s FREAKS (1932) and a little dash of David Lynch‘s ERASERHEAD (1977).

Clowns are supposed to be funny, but creepy clowns have become a special trope in horror movies and fiction (Stephen King’s IT comes immediately to mind). Who are some of your favorite killer clowns and why do you think clowns are so scary to so many people?

Stephen King’s IT, hands down! All others pale in comparison. The book kept me up nights for about a month! The miniseries may not have been great, but Tim Curry as Pennywise haunted my dreams for a good while after. I think people are frightened by clowns for a very simple reason – you never know what’s really under that white make-up and painted-on smile!

Without giving away any spoilers, is there anything else you’d like to point out that’s different about Dark Harvest compared to Atlanta’s other haunted attractions?

The one big difference is the absence of gore. Don’t get me wrong, gore is very effective in the right context, but considering the source material the show is based on, I felt classic scare techniques were more appropriate.

Tim Curry plays Pennywise in the ABC-TV miniseries of Stephen King's IT (1990).

On Friday night, there’s a masquerade ball. The Artifice Club’s Doctor Q will be spinning, but what else will be going on and will there be costume prizes?

We have a great line-up of live entertainment for the ball. Gwen Hughes and The Retro Jazz Kats, The City Gate Dance Theatre Company, Thimblerig Circusand the incomparable Aqualencia Litre. Everyone who attends also gets a VIP (no waiting in line) ticket to the haunt. For the costume contest, there will be trophies in a few categories. I want to keep those under my hat for now!

The family festival on the weekend reminds me of the Halloween school and church carnivals when we were kids. Do you have a favorite childhood Halloween carnival memory and is that the idea – to bring back that tradition?

I think you hit the nail on the head. After my first living room haunt, I built two houses for middle school fundraisers, and I wanted younger children to be able to have as much fun as I did at that age. We are going to have a few different scare levels during the festival to accommodate all ages, including “ The Trick or Treat Haunted House” for the very young (3 to 5 years old) where the actors will give out candy.

Can you talk briefly about the charities that the haunt will benefit?

The haunt will benefit Lifeline Animal Project – a no-kill shelter and pet-fostering facility. The South Dekalb Senior Center – they are greatly in need of art supplies and an instructor for their senior activity program. And The Academy Theatre’s Theater for Youth outreach program.

Advance tickets for all Dark Harvest festivities, including group discounts, are available at https://www.brownpapertickets.com 

All artwork courtesy of Dark Harvest and provided by Angelo Ritz.


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