BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review

Cold War Creatures: Four Films from Sam Katzman (1955 - 1957)

Cold War Creatures: Four Films from Sam Katzman

Zombies! Werewolves! Atomic Mutation! Intergalactic Giant Avians! 

This is how you do it, kids.  Get yourself $100,000, come up with an attention-grabbing title for a movie, throw a monster in it, write the script on the quick, give yourself 6-days to shoot the movie (with an editor on the set so no footage is wasted), tell the actors they have a single take to get the scene done in, and then rush the finished product to the theater for a premier.  Oh, and unlike the films Ed Wood made, make sure that the end results include disproportionately high returns for the people who loaned you the money in the first place.

"This set is a TRUE TREASURE.  Especially, when you consider its LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS."


 

Famed B-movie maestro Sam Katzman was truly a mad genius when it came to schlocky horror heights and, like Roger Corman, another B-movie film legend working at the same time, he was quite successful at it, too.  As far as the drive-in and Colombia Pictures was concerned, Katzman could do no wrong - especially when his flicks kept bringing in big money for both.

This mode of filming - an early precursor to editing in the camera - and releasing films was Katzman’s typical method of operation.  It wasn’t for everyone, but the end results speak for themselves on just how successful he was when it came to matinee-styled thrills and chills.  Honing his craft for rock and schlock theatrics during the heyday of the serial, Katzman was an B-movie auteur by the time of 1955, when Creature with the Atom Brain was released, the first film featured in this MUST-OWN blu-ray set from Arrow Films.

Directed by Edward L. Cahn and starring Richard Denning, Creature with the Atom Brain is a drive-in classic with its science spawned zombies gobbledegook.  There’s no real drama and the tension is all B-grade material, but there is a lot of fun to be had as one gangster (Michael Granger) returns to his wicked ways courtesy of a Nazi scientist (Gregory Gaye) and his remote controlled zombies.  Such films had been around since White Zombie, but Katzman leveled the playing field by focusing on the violence as audiences got to witness bullets piercing bloated flesh in real time. Cold War Creatures: Four Films from Sam Katzman 

In The Werewolf, directed by Fred F. Sears and starring Don Megowan and Joyce Holden, we have a western formula turned on its ears thanks to a serum which turns one amnesiac into a howling madman when pushed too far.  We get posses and even a quaint town full of shoot’em up possibilities and, thanks to a healthy injection of violence, science gets downplayed in favor of horror as Sheriff Jack Haines (Megowan) finds himself facing the side effects of of a potion intended to help people survive the unavoidable nuclear holocaust.

Zombies return in Zombies of Mora Tau, also known as The Dead Walk.  Directed by Edward L. Cahn and starring Gregg Palmer, Allison Hayes and Autumn Russel, this horror film concerns itself with the fate of two crews as what was supposed to be an easy search and recovery mission for the wreckage of a downed ship off the coast of Africa and its bounty of diamonds turns ugly rather quickly.  And it is all due to a curse which reanimates the crew on board the sunken ship.  That’s right, the jewels are cursed and protected by the now-dead crew.  All of this is on the shoulders of one wealthy American tycoon George Harrison (Ashley) who gets to contend with zombies and a feisty grandma who damn near steals the show every moment she is on-screen.

The final, and perhaps, most famous of the films in the set is The Giant Claw which is directed by Fred F. Sears and stars Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, and a gigantic bird which ultimately attacks both the Empire State Building and United Nations building after downing several fighter planes in the North Pole.  While originally mistaken for a UFO, the monster at the center of this tale of mutant madness is the La Carcagne, a giant alien bird monster.  Hilarious, full of chauvinistic attitudes toward women in the military, and featuring an unforgettable monster design, The Giant Claw is what happens when you can’t afford Ray Harryhausen.  Who needs stop-motion when you can produce a terrifying marionette?  Ummmmm.

This set is a TRUE TREASURE.  Especially, when you consider its LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS.  Fans get High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of all 4 films, original uncompressed mono audio for all films, a fully illustrated 60-page collector’s book featuring extensive new writing by Laura Drazin Boyes, Neil Mitchell, Barry Forshaw, Jon Towlson and Jackson Cooper, an 80-page collector’s art book featuring reproduction stills and artwork from each film and new writing by historian and critic Stephen R. Bissette, 2 double-sided posters featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin, and reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork for each film by Matt Griffin.  All this and the CULT CLASSIC titles?  Owning this release is a no-brainer, Horror Hounds!

5/5 stars

Cold War Creatures: Four Films from Sam Katzman

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Arrow Films
Available on Blu-ray
- September 14, 2021
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
Creature with the Atom Brain English: LPCM Mono; The Werewolf English: LPCM Mono; Zombies of Mora Tau English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; The Giant Claw English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; four-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Zombies! Werewolves! Atomic Mutation! Intergalactic Avians! Let this quartet of classic terrors take you back to the golden age of B-Movie Monsters!  A mob boss hires an ex-Nazi scientist to reanimate his dead thugs in Creature with the Atom Brain. An auto-accident survivor is used as an experimental subject to create a vaccine for nuclear fall-out with hair-raising side-effects in The Werewolf. Treasure hunters get more than they bargained for in the search for a cargo of diamonds that went down with a sunken ship when they discover the zombified crew members are guarding the loot in Zombies of Mora Tau. Meanwhile, an enormous bird from outer-space descends to chow down on the people of planet Earth in The Giant Claw!  Four fantastic feature presentations from prolific producer Sam Katzman with a bounty of brand new extras and a raft of new writing by a range of respected raconteurs. These Cold War Creatures are coming for you!

Video:

The restorations here are AMAZING.  With varied aspect ratios of 1.45: 1 and 1.37:1, these 1080p offerings are delicious and clear and ripe with vivid details that only the bold designs of black and gray processes could offer.  The depth in the picture and in the shadows is amazing. Focus is strong and so, too, are the crisp interiors as early horror is on display thanks to cool sequences.  

Audio:

All four films are presented in their original uncompressed mono audio. Crank it up.

Supplements:

Commentary:

Special Features:

This set is a TRUE TREASURE.  Especially, when you consider its LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS.  Fans get High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations of all 4 films, original uncompressed mono audio for all films, a fully illustrated 60-page collector’s book featuring extensive new writing by Laura Drazin Boyes, Neil Mitchell, Barry Forshaw, Jon Towlson and Jackson Cooper, an 80-page collector’s art book featuring reproduction stills and artwork from each film and new writing by historian and critic Stephen R. Bissette, 2 double-sided posters featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin, and reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork for each film by Matt Griffin.  All this and the CULT CLASSIC title?  It’s a no-brainer, Horror Hounds!

DISC 1 - CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN

Brand-new introduction by historian and critic Kim Newman

Brand-new audio commentary by critic Russell Dyball

Sam Katzman: Before and Beyond the Cold War Creatures, a brand-new feature-length illustrated presentation on the life, career and films of Sam Katzman by historian and critic Stephen R. Bissette

Condensed Super 8mm version of Creature with the Atom Brain, produced for home cinema viewing

Theatrical Trailer

Image Gallery

DISC 2 - THE WEREWOLF

Brand-new introduction by critic Kim Newman

Brand-new audio commentary by critic Lee Gambin

Beyond Window Dressing, a brand-new visual essay exploring the oft-overlooked role of women in the films of Sam Katzman by historian and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Condensed Super 8mm version of The Werewolf, produced for home cinema viewing

Theatrical Trailer

Image Gallery

DISC 3 - THE ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU

Brand-new introduction by critic Kim Newman

Brand-new audio commentary by critic Kat Ellinger

Atomic Terror: Genre in Transformation, a brand-new visual essay exploring the intersection of mythical horror creatures and the rational world of science in the films of Sam Katzman by critic Josh Hurtado

Theatrical Trailer

Image Gallery

DISC 4 - THE GIANT CLAW

Brand-new introduction by critic Kim Newman

Brand-new audio commentary by critics Emma Westwood and Cerise Howard

Family Endangered!, a brand-new visual essay examining the theme of Cold War paranoia in Sam Katzman monster movies, by critic Mike White

Condensed Super 8mm version of The Giant Claw, produced for home cinema viewing

Theatrical Trailer

Image Gallery

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

5/5 stars

 

Art

Cold War Creatures: Four Films from Sam Katzman

 

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