REVIEW: Cult Classics DVD Movies
I've long been a student of cult movies, but it’s been harder and harder to find weird movies over the last few years. Late night UHF TV used to be littered with these cinematic curiosities, and I was convinced I’d seen them all, yet this 4 DVD collection is packed with films that I’d never even heard of.
Many cult films didn’t set out to be deliberately odd. Often they were cautionary tales that dramatized the perils of straying from the moral didactic of the day. On the other hand, many more were pure exploitation – backlot cinema drek dotted with half-glimpsed nudity, girl fights, all while the merest taste of alcohol transformed even the most righteous into sunken-eyed psychopaths.
These four DVD's bring you 20 obscure movies (many of the features are only 60 minutes). All are black and white, with varying image quality. Many of these films were made well outside Hollywood, so the image varies in quality from quite good to somewhat scratchy. Even with occasional visual hiccups, it didn’t affect my fascination with these movies. There’s something about the “underground” nature of these films that makes them seem more secret and forbidden when the image quality is less than perfect.
Probably the best known film in this collection is the notorious "Reefer Madness", created by a religious group to serve as a legitimate propaganda film warning against the dangers of marijuana. The uninformed depictions of the demon herb's effects are unintentionally hilarious, with just a single puff changing teens into hysteric sadistic murderers.
Another infamous film in this collection is “The Terror of Tiny Town”; a 1938 western yarn cast entirely with little people (many of whom would play later play Munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz”). Intended as kiddy matinee fare, the actors play their roles rather straight – though the bizarre sight of the white hatted hero sauntering under the swinging saloon doors is a bit eye popping.
"Tiny Town" is one of the movies on this collection that suffers from a poor transfer from the original film. The $15 DVD set is an amazing value (that’s about 70 cents a film for those of you playing along at home), and for the most part I can let a lot of quality issues pass, but Terror is often so blown out that there is no picture at all. Another movie in the collection was cropped oddly in the transfer, even cutting off actors’ heads in the picture. Does it ruin the DVD set? No, but it’s unfortunate that some of these hard-to-find films couldn't at least have basic image issues ironed out.
I found myself bringing this collection along on trips with a portable DVD player. The mini screen helped everything look great, and it’s not like these films have a lot of dramatic cinematography that makes you miss the big screen. Also the movies on the DVD’s were easy to pop into conversion software to create mini versions for my portable media player. Many DVD’s make this a difficult procedure, but these discs were a snap to convert.
I’d recommend this DVD set to any movie aficionados out there. Many of these films have been impossible to find for years. The collection combines alarmist pseudo-science films with seedy exploitation movies, with enough material for several evenings of fun viewing. Since many of the titles are only an hour long, they’d be great for double feature movie nights at home. At $15 for 20 movies, you’re not going to get archive restorations that put your 60 inch plasma TV to the test, but to the average viewer they’re fine. The rarity and bizarreness of these films makes the whole package worthwhile.