APES ON FILM: 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

Posted on: Dec 1st, 2023 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.


The Holidays surround us and penetrate us; they bind the galaxy together, to borrow a totally inappropriate quote from a famous movie. But seriously, if you have a film nerd or scholar you need gifts for, it’s Apes on Film to the rescue! Here, in no particular order, are the films that we think would make great gifts this holiday season. Rest assured these flicks have never looked or sounded better. Click the links below to snag one for yourself or your favorite geeky guy or gal!


TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. – 4K UHD – KINO LORBER: Get rich or try dyin’, as Ape on Film Lucas Hardwick would say. My favorite William Friedkin film and one of my top picks for 1985 as a whole. The tense game of cat and mouse between Chance and Masters plus the fantastic soundtrack from Wang Chung makes this a winner for anyone into crime films. Filled with memorable images, dialog, and performances, this film gets under your skin and remains.

FREAKS, THE UNKNOWN, THE MYSTIC – TODD BROWNING’S SIDESHOW SHOCKERS – BLU-RAY, CRITERION COLLECTION: Rediscovered, remastered, revealing. Possibly the best set to see released in 2023, Criterion’s Browning box is a revelation. Outstanding visually, with an enormous set of supplemental features and deep-dive booklet, all put together by Monster Show author and Browning biographer David J. Skal. No fan of classic horror and thriller films should let this pass by.

CUSHING CURIOSITIES – 6 DISC SET – BLU-RAY – SEVERIN FILMS: The gentleman of horror had a more robust career than many give him credit for. Though best known for blowing up the Death Star and staking vampires and building monsters the Hammer way, Peter Cushing played many roles including Count Dracula himself! Check out his Sherlock Holmes as well in this essential collection from Severin, jam-packed with extras as they are wont to do.

WINGS OF DESIRE – 4K & BLU RAY – CRITERION COLLECTION: Another film that no one should live without. Peter Falk goes to Germany to appear on a chat show and meets an Angel having a crisis of faith. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds play live. It’s Wim Wenders’ masterpiece that was clumsily remade as CITY OF ANGELS with Nicholas Cage. Skip that one, WINGS is the real thing, and the Criterion disc is the one to treasure.

GLORIA – BLU-RAY – KINO LORBER: Gena Rowlands was a dot on my media horizon as a young Ape on Film until I saw this movie directed by her husband, John Cassavetes. She meanders onto the screen as a mob gun moll entrusted with not only evidence to convict a cartel of her former friends but a recently orphaned kid. Gloria builds a full head of steam emotionally and visually trying to stay one step ahead of her gangland pursuers as well as the cops, who think she’s a kidnapper. No extras on this disc, but the film is worth the bargain price any day.

THE DEAD ZONE, COLLECTOR’S EDITION – 4k UHD & BLU-RAY – SHOUT! FACTORY: The ICE. Is gonna BREAK! I wouldn’t have pegged David Cronenberg for the guy to adapt this moving Stephen King tale to the screen, but he hit the ball out of the park by keeping it simple and honest. Christopher Walken turns in a career-high performance as a crippled teacher who can psychically “see” the truth of the people around him, including a murderer, a friend, a concerned father, and a presidential candidate with plans for the world that must be stopped. Shout!’s collector edition is a two-disc set featuring a brand-new transfer and supplements galore.

THE PRINCESS BRIDE – 4K UHD & BLU-RAY – CRITERION COLLECTION: As you wish! Perhaps the most beloved film of the 1980s gets the Criterion treatment in an ultra-special edition which includes a hardback booklet, an audiobook reading of the original William Goldman book by director Rob Reiner, commentaries with the cast, the director, the writer, behind the scenes footage and so much more. There’s a reason why this movie is evergreen, and I can’t think of a single person on your holiday list that wouldn’t enjoy this two-disc set.

GORGO – 4K UHD – VINEGAR SYNDROME: He’s like Godzilla with a British accent. A cross between King Kong, Son of Kong, and Godzilla, Gorgo is a very well-made pastiche of the giant monster blockbusters set in London. Spoiler Alert: there’s a killer climax that results in a LOT of damage to the city. Always fun to watch giant monsters stomping world famous landmarks. Vinegar Syndrome went all out with a new 4K scan from the original camera negative, so their presentation is amazing. Chock full of new and archival extras as well.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN COLLECTOR’S EDITION – 4K UHD & BLU-RAY – SHOUT SELECT: It may not be the best Western film of all time, but three out of three Apes on Film agree that it’s a perfect movie. From the incredible cast to John Sturges’ directing, to Elmer Bernstein’s unforgettable, breathtaking score, this film is always a pleasurable watch. Shout! Factory’s presentation boasts a new restoration and color grade from existing scanned elements resulting in a sharper picture than previous releases, and a plethora of supplemental features. Honestly, a must-have for any film buff.

SUPERMAN 5 FILM COLLECTION – 4K UHD & BLU-RAY – WARNER BROS: In 1978, we all believed a man could fly. Christopher Reeve’s amazing performance as the Man of Steel was utterly convincing, the special effects were state of the art, and Richard Donner’s directing coupled with a fantastic script from Mario Puzo and a cadre of re-writers combined to make the perfect superhero movie. In fact, SUPERMAN has been the template on which the best of all superhero films that followed was patterned after to some degree. WB’s new comprehensive 4-disc set contains all of Reeve’s films (including the Richard Donner cut of SUPERMAN II) and is festooned with special features. Absolutely a gift that will get you a kiss, even without any mistletoe around.


This is just a small selection of the amazing films that were released in ultra-high definition this year. What are your picks for the ultimate HD media stocking stuffers? Let us know in the comments below and hey – HAPPY HOLIDAYS from your favorite Apes on Film!



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 book The Art of George Wilson from Hermes Press.

Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

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APES ON FILM: Terrors Abound: Somnambulists and Conjurors!

Posted on: Oct 26th, 2020 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.



2.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Brian Krause, dchen Amick , Alice Krige
Directors: Mick Garris
Rated: R
Studio: Eureka! Entertainment
Region: B
BRD Release Date: October 19, 2020
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 audio options
Video Resolution/Codec: MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Run Time: 89 minutes

The 1980s were truly rife with film adaptations of Stephen King’s novels, for better (THE SHINING, STAND BY ME, THE DEAD ZONE) or for worse (CUJO, CAT’S EYE, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE). The 1990s started strong with MISERY, but as they settled in, his horror-related work took a back seat to adaptations of more mainstream stories such as THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, and THE GREEN MILE, which garnered more attention from critics and audiences. King’s first direct-to-screen story, not based on a previous work, was SLEEPWALKERS (1992).

The film introduces us to the “legend” of the Sleepwalkers – immortal monsters that feed on the life force of virgins, supposedly based on Native American folklore. Luckily, these maiden-sucking vampires have a fatal weakness; cats hate them and can scratch them to death, releasing the fires of hell within their souls. Owing as much to Val Lewton’s CAT PEOPLE (and coming only a decade after Paul Schrader’s stylish remake of it), SLEEPWALKERS trades in the same psycho-sexual horror headspace, focusing on the mother-and-son monster duo of Mary and Charles Brady (Krige and Krause), an incestuous pair that’s just moved into town and set their sights on the lovely life force of movie theater popcorn girl Tanya Robertson (Amick).

King really misses an opportunity to craft a story of substance by making Charles a one-dimensional vampiric douchebag, tossing off one-liners as he kills a teacher, terrorizes the initially smitten Tanya, and tears through town in his Trans Am. Had he been torn between the past and the fate thrust upon him by his evil mother and his true love for Amick’s character, the film could have been much more substantial than a teen monster movie of little consequence, which it eventually becomes.

Eureka’s Blu-ray presentation looks and sounds great, but is Region B encoded, so you’ll need a region-free player to view. If you’re unable to play a Region B disc, Shout! Factory has released the film in the U.S., and the supplemental materials on the Eureka release were all ported from the Shout! Factory discs except for a new audio commentary by director Mick Garris and Lee Gambin. The Eureka release does come with a Limited-Edition O-Card slipcase with silver laminate finish and a Limited-Edition Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann which is included with the first two-thousand copies only.

Stephen King’s SLEEPWALKERS is cheesy fun but could have been so much more. Recommended for King completists.


THE MAGICIAN – 1973 – ‘74
1.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Bill Bixby , Keene Curtis , Julian Christopher , Joseph Sirola
Created By: Bruce Lansbury
Studio: Visual Entertainment Inc
DVD Release Date: August 25, 2017
Audio Formats: Dolby Audio, English Stereo
Video Resolution/Codec: NTSC 1
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 (or is it?)
Run Time: 1025 minutes


THE MAGICIAN was the third of Bill Bixby’s (MY FAVORITE MARTIAN, THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER, THE INCREDIBLE HULK) network series, and the least successful. It lasted only a season on NBC from 1973-74, and I recall it fondly as helping to ease the sting of the cancellation of SEARCH, a show that my eight-year-old self obsessed over the year before. The series found Bixby playing the world’s greatest illusionist, Anthony Blake – a professional magician and amateur sleuth and “fixer” for friends and acquaintances who needed his special kind of help. Think of him as a cross between Houdini and The Equalizer.

The series was entertaining and the concept interesting enough, but it suffered from network meddling; bad luck (Bixby’s character name was Anthony Dorian in the pilot, and a stage magician named Tony Dorian came forward after it aired which prompted the name change to Anthony Blake); producers trying to wrestle spiraling budgets under control (halfway through the season, Blake’s private live-in jet airliner was discarded in favor of an apartment at Los Angeles’ The Magic Castle); and even a writer’s strike. Regular characters disappeared halfway through the season and new ones added with no explanation. The hook for the series was Bixby’s likable magician, but it wasn’t enough to keep viewers tuned in through all the inexplicable changes and the show folded after just twenty-one episodes.

Visual Entertainment Inc. has released the full series and pilot episode in a four-disc set in DVD format, and I was happy to get them. At first. The company admits in a warning screen at the beginning of the discs that quality is not as high as many other DVD series releases from the time period, so I was forewarned. This is excusable – the show quality is a bit rough here and there, but the fact that it was released at all (and for a reasonable price) was something for which to be thankful. What I can’t abide is that they label the video as appearing in the original NTSC 4:3 aspect ratio, which it does not. The ratio has been stretched to fit modern television screens’ landscape orientation rather than simply allowing the black bars on either side of the picture, as any sane person would have formatted it. The stretching results in loss of picture at the top and bottom of the screens to some degree, but mainly it makes everyone appear wider than normal, which pulls me (and everyone else, I assume) out of my “comfort” zone and makes the whole experience unwatchable. In some scenes it’s hardly noticeable; in the next, it’s grossly exaggerated. Maddening and completely unnecessary.

I can’t recommend purchasing this set, no matter how big a fan you might be. The best we can hope for is a release from a responsible company who respects the viewing experience at some point in the future. Save your money for that day.


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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