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VHS HISTORY LEASON : FAMILY HOME ENTERTAINMENT (FHE)

Family Home Entertainment (FHE) was an American home video company founded in 1980. It releases children's and family-oriented programming, most notably popular 1980's television cartoons, including The Transformers, G.I. Joe, Jem, ThunderCats, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series, Gumby, Clifford the Big Red Dog, The Care Bears, and Bucky O'Hare. It also had a theatrical release division, FHE Pictures, established in 2002; its first and only release was Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie. FHE was the distributor for most of the seasonal Rankin/Bass television specials aired on CBS, after Live, FHE's parent company, acquired Vestron Video. The company has also released several VHSs of British kids' cartoons in the US since the 1980s (i.e., Roobarb, Wil Cwac Cwac), as well as some Japanese anime, plus the Australian "Dot" films. Early FHE releases was distributed by MGM/UA Home Video; in the late 1980s, FHE's releases were distributed by MCA. In 1982, the company introduced USA Home Video as a non-family division of the company. In 1986, the company changed its name to International Video Entertainment, and then to Live Entertainment, with "Family Home Entertainment" as an imprint of the company. They would later go on to become Artisan Entertainment, which has since been acquired by Lionsgate Home Entertainment. By the time of 2005, FHE went out of business. Today, all of the FHE releases are now on DVD including the Care Bears Family and Phantom 2040.


VHS MOVIE REVIEW : IT'S GRINCH NIGHT
From stomptokyo.com

Don't let the title-cum-marketing ploy fool you; Halloween is Grinch Night (soon to be re-released as simply It's Grinch Night) has about as much to do with Halloween as How the Grinch Stole Christmas has to do with Hannukah. As it is the first animated follow-up to the Grinch Christmas classic, production company DePatie-Freleng must have felt some pressure to make it similarly holiday themed. Hence, Dr. Seuss' story of the chance encounter between young Euchariah Who and the Grinch on Grinch Night is given a Halloween label and foisted on the TV-watching populace.

Well, perhaps "foisted" is the wrong word. Grinch Night is an engaging little cartoon, with all of the convoluted Seussisms we've come to expect. It begins with a regular day in the township of Whoville, which turns into Grinch Night when the "sour-sweet winds" begin to blow. The winds set in motion a number of events which always combine to irritate the Grinch, who then takes out his frustrations on the Who population below. Although the Whos know well enough to stay indoors on Grinch Night, young Euchariah Who (were they all the same family? did a lineage they share? had no one conceived of incest down there?) finds himself in need of "the Euphemism" and so must venture out of doors in the dark and the sour-sweet winds.

The winds blow Euchariah well away from the Euphemism and into the waiting clutches of the Grinch, who is making his way down the mountain on his Paraphernalia Wagon -- hauled by canine Max, of course -- to scare the sugar plums out the Whos. Euchariah makes up his mind to stall the Grinch for as long as possible in the hopes of keeping him out of Whoville. The world's crankiest cartoon character is only too willing to give Euchariah a good Grinching.

Continuity was apparently not one of Dr. Seuss' concerns when he wrote Grinch Night. Is this supposed to take place after the Grinch's change of heart (heh) at the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas? If so, he has returned to his old cranky ways. There are also a few developments concerning Max that make us doubt that this took place before the events in the original Grinch Christmas tale either. Grinch historians will doubtless scratch their heads over this conundrum, but we leave that particular bit of cogitating to those with more Seuss-oriented thinking apparatus than we possess.

Grinch Night is probably best watched by kids over the age of five or six; there are some images during Euchariah's Grinching that could easily be conjured up in little minds during the night. Any sleep your offspring lose over Grinch Night will likely be yours as well, so parents: screen wisely. Looming monsters, staring eyes, stomping feet -- Seuss was in no mood to coddle the little blighters in the audience during this production. The Grinch, although never engaging in physical violence harsher than the occasional crack of the whip, means business. All of his big bad buddies (who knows what names Seuss had for them?) are in attendance.

The Grinch would return in The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat, the crossover no one expected. But neither that tale nor this one can quite compare to the Grinch's original Yuletide adventure, so we suggest that only the Grinchiest of Grinch fans should bother popping this particular tape in the VCR. Sure, it's nice to see the Grinch on screen again, and the songs by Joe "Sesame Street" Raposo provide some small diversion, but the truth is that Grinch Night won't be pushing the Great Pumpkin off his leafy Halloween throne any time soon.


VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HALLOWEEN IS GRINCH NIGHT
From tvtropes.org

"Halloween is Grinch Night" is an animated television Halloween Special and a sequel (or prequel, as it's not too clear on that point) to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." It was co-produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises and Dr. Seuss and won the 1977 Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program. It premiered on CBS October 29, 1977.The story takes place in and around Whoville, a town that The Grinch periodically terrorizes on a night known as "Grinch Night," which commences when a "Sour-Sweet Wind" blows and sets off a variety of animal calls that annoys the Grinch into terrorizing the Whos. As the story opens, the Sour-Sweet Wind is just beginning to blow when Ukariah, a young bespectacled Who (a resident of Whoville) with astigmatism, goes outdoors to use the outhouse (referred to as "the euphemism" in the story), and is swept away by the wind.On the road he encounters the Grinch, along with the Grinch's dog Max, who is in the process of bringing a large wagon — called the "Paraphernalia Wagon" — down to Whoville. Ukariah decides to keep the Grinch from reaching Whoville by stalling him. On the first two occasions the Grinch contemptuously dismisses him by saying that Ukariah "isn't worth a first-class Grinching," but after Ukariah (inadvertently) stalls him a third time, the Grinch decides that he's had enough of the young Who and invites him to take a closer look at the Paraphernalia Wagon. When Ukariah does so, the Grinch opens up the wagon and a cloud of green smoke with Grinch-like eyes emerges and ensnares him.Inside the wagon Ukariah is confronted by surreal imagery, numerous monsters ("members of the Un-Human Race," according to the background lyrics) and the Grinch's mocking voice. Though he is frightened, Ukariah's courage keeps him on his toes long enough for the Sour-Sweet Wind to die down, thus forcing the Grinch to pack up and retire to his cave; the dog Max, who had been abused and overworked by the Grinch, goes home with Ukariah. Back in Whoville, the residents celebrate Ukariah's courage in preventing the Grinch releasing the Paraphernalia Wagon's full horrors on the town, and up in the mountains the Grinch, who is hauling the wagon home himself, ominously notes that one day soon the Sour-Sweet Wind will blow once more, and it will be Grinch Night all over again.

This show provides examples of:

  • Big Friendly Dog: Max fits this role in the end; on his hind legs he's as tall as Ukariah, and after being freed by the Grinch he runs down the hill after Ukariah and the next shot we see is him happily slurping Ukariah's face.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: Everything that happens after the Grinch opens his trap-door... well... to say none of it makes sense is an understatement.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Max earning his freedom and going back to Whoville with Ukariah, after the former having been one of the most extreme woobies ever, and the latter having had the euphemism scared out of him.
  • Grief Song: Max's sorrowful ballad about how he lost his freedom when he was a puppy.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Hans Conried shows up to deliver arguably the scariest voicing of the Grinch. He also provides the much cheerier narration, which may come as a shock to viewers that have been creeped out by his Grinch voice for the last 30 minutes.
  • Last OF His Kind: "The Woozoo should at least have immunity! He's the only one left in our community!"
  • Mind Rape: The Grinch does this to Ukariah using his paraphernalia wagon during the movie's climax.
  • Mind Screw: Again, what the Grinch does to Ukariah (and the viewers). Or tries to do, anyway.
  • Mondegreen: "Grinch is gonna get ya, yes indeedy fa la la, ya!", where "yes indeedy" could get mistaken for gibberish.
  • The Musical: The special has no fewer than seven vocal tunes, some with several measures, and very few instances of repeating. Impressive, given its half-hour running time.
  • Negative Continuity: If this is a sequel to the Christmas one, then the Grinch went back to being evil. If it's a prequel, then Max went back to serving the Grinch.
    • The special "The Grinch Grinches The Cat In The Hat" seems to suggest that the Grinch goes back to being evil on a regular basis.
      • It could be that the "Max" we see in the Christmas special is a different, albeit similar looking, dog which the Grinch obtained and also named Max after the first one left him. The Grinch seems pretty set in his ways, so why try another breed or go through the trouble of remembering a new name?
      • Or maybe Max is just a victim of Stockholm Syndrome and went back to The Grinch on his own accord.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Animals all shack up in safety when the Sour-Sweet Wind starts blowing. A female Who even goes back for her son's doll.
  • Nonindicative Name: Halloween is never even brought up or alluded to outside of the title. Yeah, the Accidental Nightmare Fuel sequence is scary, but it's not Halloween-specific.
    • Which is why re-releases have sometimes renamed it "It's Grinch Night"
  • Number of the Beast: "I wouldn’t go out on a night like this...for sixty-six million six hundred thousand dollars and an extra sixty-six cents!"
  • Rhymes on a Dime: It's a Dr. Seuss special, after all.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Wuzzy Woozoo, whom the Grinch torments along the trip down his mountain.
  • Surreal Horror: The Paraphernalia Wagon scene. If you need elaboration, see Mind Rape above.
  • Unusual Euphemism: The outhouse is literally called "the euphemism". Toilets were still too taboo to be seen on TV, and "Euphemism" really sounds like a made-up Seuss word if you don't know what it means.
  • Villain Song: "Grinch Night Ball"
  • Tearjerker: Max's song, oh boy. The fact that the Grinch at one point mocks him during it makes it even sadder.
    How many times have I said and said,
    How many times have I said in my head,
    "What am I doing here?"
    "Why am I the slave of this grinchy old crock?"
    And I say "how I wish I could turn back the clock,
    And have the fine future I had once before,
    And again be an innocent puppy once more."
    What am I doing here?
    Doesn't matter much how,
    But my dear old auntie Wolfie wouldn't, I fear,
    Very much care for me now.
  • We Will Meet Again: "That wind will be coming back someday. I'll be coming back someday".
  • You Shall Not Pass: Ukariah's delaying of the Wagon.

VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HALLOWEEN IS GRINCH NIGHT
From filmsy.com

When people think of the Grinch they always remember “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, but there was a lesser known Grinch-oriented holiday special which I always preferred: “Halloween is Grinch Night”. It was freaky, it was weird, it had catchy music: it was right up my alley. Personally, when I think of the Grinch, I think of this TV special.

Halloween has fallen upon Whoville and that can only mean one thing: Grinch Night! The sinister Grinch and his wagon of unspeakable horrors are on their way down from Mt. Crumpet and all the Whos are barring their doors and shutting their windows…all except for one. Little Ukaraiah isn’t afraid of the Grinch and he’s willing to brave the Grinch’s horror show in order to keep him occupied until Halloween is over.

There are so many reasons why I prefer this TV special over both “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Grinch Grinches the Cat in the Hat”, but I think my primary reasoning is that the Grinch is 100% evil in this special. In both of his other appearances, which I didn’t see until long after “Halloween is Grinch Night”, the Grinch turns good at the end and falls victim to his conscience. But the Grinch is no pussy in this one. He abuses his dog (Max), he tortures small animals (a woozle), chants demonic spells which transform his eyebrows into rampaging bats, threatens hideus evil over an entire town and even locks a young boy away in his own private torture chamber. This Grinch doesn’t “see the light” at the finale thanks to his heart inflating in his chest or nostalgic memories of his dead mother: he’s evil and he doesn’t care.

Dr. Seuss’ artstyle always kind of creeped me out when I was little. All the people looked human but…weren’t. They had weird furry fingers and were just abnormal-looking. Director Gerald Baldwin takes full advantage of the inherent weirdness of Dr. Seuss’ style to let things get as freaky and surreal as possible. The one scene that sticks with most people who have seen this special is the climax where Ukaraiah is chased through the Grinch’s chamber of horrors. It’s basically a montage of scary and wacky monsters trying to kill the kid set to the tune of ”U-ka-rai-ah! U-ka-rai-ah! Grinch’s gonna get ya! Grinch’s gonna get ya!” It’s like the worst acid trip you’ve ever had.

As has already been mentioned, I saw this special long before I saw the more popular “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, so when I hear the voice of the Grinch in my head, it isn’t Boris Karloff. Nope, it’s Hans Conried, who does a fantastic job as the title villain. You might know him better as Captain Hook from Disney’s “Peter Pan” and he just oozes the pure evil that is this incarnation of the Grinch with every spoken word.

“Halloween is Grinch Night” is one of the fonder memories from my childhood and still ranks as one of my all-time favorite Halloween specials. I’m not the only one who enjoyed it either, considering it won a primetime Emmy and all. It’s currently available on DVD as the fourth part of a collection of Dr. Seuss shorts titled “Green Eggs and Ham”. It’s worth checking out for certain and definitely something to show your kids if they’re into scary things.


VHS MOVIE REVIEW : FOR THE LOVE OF BENGI
From movies.nytimes.com

"BENJI II" or, as it is officially titled, "For the Love of Benji," takes the small, quizzical mutt-hero of Joe Camp's very popular "Benji" and sends him to Athens, where he becomes the pawn in a spy caper. Though Olympic Airlines gets a big fat plug from the film, you may want to switch your reservations to Trans World Airlines after watching "For the Love of Benji."

Poor Benji, en route from Olympic's check-in counter at Kennedy to the baggage compartment, is dognapped, drugged and has his paw printed with a code message. At another point, when Benji and his human companions are changing planes in Athens for Crete, the Olympic baggage handlers forget to trans-ship his carrying case so that he is left behind. This is the sort of thing I thought happened only when one attempted to island-hop through the Caribbean.

"For the Love of Benji" has a sort of plot that involves a formula for transforming one barrel of oil into 10 (could the secret ingredient be water?). Mostly the movie is about Benji's adventures in Athens, finding friends being chased by villains, being caught, escaping and being chased again. As dog stars go, Benji can cock his head with the best of them. He also runs with fierce sincerity. The human actors have the vacant look of models you see in mail-order catalogues.

The film opened yesterday at theaters all over town, including the Guild where, at 11 A.M., the members of the very young audience appeared to be eating their way through the movie—sandwiches, popcorn, lollipops, cake, soft drinks and paper napkins, which were sometimes chewed in anxiety. The card announcing the film's G rating was roundly booed by the youngsters though at almost every sight of the dog they screamed with mouth-filled delight.

A Dog's Life

FOR THE LOVE OF BENJI, directed and written by Joe Camp; original story by Ben Vaughn and Mr. Camp; produced by Mr. Vaughn; executive producer, Mr. Camp; music, Euel Box, director of photography, Don Reddy; editor, Leon Seith; distributed by Mulberry Square Productions. Running time: 85 minutes. At the Guild Theater, 50th Street west of fifth Avenue, and other theaters. This film has been rated G.
Mary . . . . . Patsy Garrett
Cindy . . . . . Cynthia Smith
Paul . . . . . Allen Fiuzat
Cnandler Dietrich . . . . . Ed Nelson
Stelios . . . . . Art Vasil
Ronald . . . . . Peter Bowles
Elizabeth . . . . . Bridget Armstrong
Baggage room man . . . . . Mihalis Lambrinos


VHS MOVIE REVIEW : ADVENTURES OF RONALD MCDONALD
From en.wikipedia.org

The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald are a series of retail animated direct-to-video features produced by the ka-chew! division of Klasky-Csupo for the McDonald's fast-food restaurant chain and about the McDonald's mascot, Ronald McDonald and the gang in McDonaldland. A total of six forty-minute tapes were produced, released at various times between 1998 and 2003.

History

Although the series is "free-standing," ongoing artistic influences can be inferred from the ways certain characters were drawn for animation. For example, the character Birdie shares certain aspects of grooming and costume with Eliza Thornberry, and the rendition and bearing of the Hamburglar, reminiscent of Darwin and of Chuckie Finster, may have been an influence on the design of Otto Rocket. Elements of early K-C "house style" are also very evident on other supporting characters like Sundae the dog and the Chicken McNuggets. Co-protagonist Tika, however, is a very normal looking human girl of color. Iam Hungry appeared in one part of the episode "Visitors From Outer Space." Also, Mayor McCheese made an appearance in the final two episodes.

A new character, Franklin, was also introduced in the first volume in 1998 as the son of Dr. Quizzical (who was the inventor of Hamburglar's "Quizzical Bear Call", seen earlier in the episode). Tika was also included as a human sidekick to Ronald McDonald in the first and fourth volumes. In the first and sixth volume, Ronald was seen driving a sarcastic anthropomorphic car.

Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh, musicians for Rugrats, provided the music for these videos. John Holmquist, who has directed some Rugrats episodes, directed these videos.

The last video released, The Legend of McDonald-Land Loch, is the rarest of the six videos, because it was not distributed into stores and was available on the Klasky Csupo webpage that sold the videos.

By various accounts, the titles turned out to be rather popular, and individual McDonald's locations frequently ran out of tapes, which were sold individually for $3.49, and could be bought with a small vanilla ice cream cone or a small Diet Coke. Klasky-Csupo therefore agreed to carry them for direct sale at their online gift shop, which closed[disambiguation needed] in the fall of 2005.

Preceding this video release was a 30-minute VHS tape from Hi-Tops Video titled "The Adventures of Ronald McDonald: McTreasure Island", released on February 7, 1990. The animation was not in the Klasky Csupo style, instead in the style of the costumed characters and how they were depicted in the company artwork. DIC animated the special, which featured an appearance by Captain Crook.

In 1999, a Happy Meal released at the restaurant featured LEGO cars for children to build. The front of each vehicle had an image of one of the Klasky Csupo McDonaldland characters.

Episodes

Scared Silly

This volume was released on October 8, 1998. It features Ronald and his friends going on a camping trip in the Far-Flung Forest, where Ronald discovers an old house, which he assumes is haunted. The campers are forced to stay in the old house due to the stormy weather where a holographic head named Franklin leads them through a challenging game which will eventually help them to escape. The holographic head turns out to be a child named Franklin programming the game with help from Tika (who wanted to give Ronald a challenge) and the McNuggets in a lab room.

Ronald and Sundae go down the inner tube slide.

The Legend of Grimace Island

This volume was released on January 07 1999. The plot features Ronald and the gang out on a journey to Grimace Island where Grimace's species is discovered. Grimace previously received a letter which was actually written by the pirate One-Eyed Sally and her first mate Blather. The two pirates follow them to capture the treasure on the island.

Ronald and Sundae go down the ball pit slide.

Visitors From Outer Space

This volume was released on September 30 1999. Hamburglar tricks the gang to believe that aliens have come to earth so he can steal the McDonaldland hamburgers. The gang loses their trust in him, which was followed by the Hamburglar being captured by actual aliens. Ronald and his friends go on a mission to rescue him even though they were angry.

Ronald and Sundae go down the rocket ship slide.

Birthday World

This volume was released on March 29 2001. It is Ronald's birthday and Hamburglar invites him and his friends to a fake amusement park known as "Birthday World" to celebrate, run by an evil scientist named Professor Thaddeus J. Pinchworm, voiced by Phil Snyder, who plans to turn the human species into infants. After telling them they will be his guinea pigs, the McNuggets soon correct him, telling him, "They're McNuggets." Ronald and his friends are turned into babies after riding one of Pinchworm's rides, and they need to find out how to return to their original ages, even though their certain abilities are limited since they are infants.

Have Time, Will Travel

This volume was released on February 28 2002. While helping Franklin clean up his father's lab, Ronald and his pals stumble across a time machine. Hamburglar dreams up a crazy scheme to use the time machine to get out of cleaning and they end up getting lost in time. Their time travel adventures take them to prehistoric times where the time machine is nearly digested by a Tyrannosaurus and they meet their primitive ancestors, medieval times where they impress the crabby King Murray with a musical number to save captured Birdie, the wild wild west where they discover Hamburglar's ancestor Henry H. Burglar II who the residents mistaken Hamburglar for him, and the disco era of the 70s where they briefly encounter Mayor McCheese.

The Legend of McDonaldland Loch

This volume was released online on the Klasky Csupo site on January 30 2003. Originally titled "The Monster O' McDonaldland Loch," the plot follows the gang traveling to Scotland where a scientist attempts to build a replica of the Loch Ness Monster. Birdie befriends the Loch Ness Monster who wants his existence to be kept a secret. Mayor McCheese made a second appearance at the beginning of this video.

Introduction

There were two opening sequences created. The original three videos featured a female singer, with video footage featuring Ronald McDonald and Sundae's daily morning routine, which begins with one of their alarm clock inventions ringing, and ending with Ronald choosing the outfit that he will wear (eventually leading to his famous yellow jumpsuit that Sundae agrees on). During the footage, Ronald wipes off animated wall portraits of him and the other primary three characters, each shown as they appear in their commercial/advertising appearance from the late 1980s. When Ronald wipes the pictures off individually, they flip over and reveal their caricatures from Klasky Csupo. During the montage, the female performer states how "McDonaldland is changing".

The second title sequence was featured on the final three videos from 2002–2003, and was sung by Ronald himself. The upbeat song was accompanied by older and newer material from previous episodes and some clips of Ronald performing the theme song. On these three videos, Ronald appears to be on a level of his arch-shaped house under his bedroom as seen in the first three volumes. Verne Troyer is absent from the live-action sequences portraying Sundae(though is briefly heard in the fourth volume). A large change in this sequence is that Ronald is not seen entering the animated world through a ball pit and slide similar to the ones in the McDonald's Playplace playgrounds, but by running on a treadmill to energize a corresponding monitor. The animated sequences are shown as a previous event experienced by Ronald instead of the present, which explains why most of the McDonaldland characters appear in Ronald's TV screens in the real world at the last 3 volumes which was animated with computer generated imagery. Also, during the last 3 volumes, Ronald can sometimes be seen outside of the house (but not in the animated world) in an animated-like background via greenscreen.

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VHS HISTORY LEASON : DIC ENTERTAINMENT

DIC Entertainment (pronounced "deek") was an international film and television production company. In addition to animated (and occasionally live-action) television shows such as Ulysses 31 (1980), Inspector Gadget (1983–1986), The Real Ghostbusters (1986–1991), and the first two seasons of the English adaptation of Sailor Moon (1995–1998), DIC produced live-action feature films while under Disney, including 1998's Meet the Deedles and 1999's Inspector Gadget. It was founded in 1971 as DIC Audiovisuel by Frenchman Jean Chalopin in Paris, as a subsidiary of Radio-Television Luxembourg (RTL). "DIC" was originally an acronym for Diffusion, Information et Communication. The company was also known as The Incredible World of DIC, D.I.C. Audiovisual, DIC Enterprises, DIC Animation City and DIC Productions. In 2008, DiC merged with Cookie Jar Group and then was absorbed into Cookie Jar Entertainment. Its American arm was founded in 1982 as DIC Enterprises. The company's United States headquarters, established in 1982 and headed by Andy Heyward, Jean Chalopin and Bruno Bianchi, in Burbank, California. In 1986, Andy Heyward and other investors bought the company, thus making the US headquarters the main base of operations. Chalopin and Bianchi left around this time, so did formally producer Tetsuo Katayama, in favor of Robby London and Michael Maliani. After the buy out, the company had heavy debt and sold the foreign rights to the DIC library to ‎Saban Productions, who then sold the rights back to Jean Chalopin. At the time Andy Heyward considered Jean Chalopin an enemy, DIC sued Saban for damages and in 1991, DIC and Saban reached a settlement. In 1989, the company's name changed to DiC Animation City. In 1993, DIC Animation City and Capital Cities/ABC formed a joint venture called DIC Entertainment LP and in 1995 it became a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. In 2000 with an investment by Bain Capital, Heyward re-purchased DIC Enterprises. He purchased Bain Capital's interest in 2004 and took the company public the following year. In 2003 DIC launched a syndicated children's programming block called DiC Kids Network. In early 2006, DIC Entertainment and CBS Corporation signed a multi-year deal to unveil a new 3-hour long programming block for Saturday mornings on CBS. The resulting KOL Secret Slumber Party on CBS was launched the following fall. On September 15, 2007, a new programming block: KEWLopolis premiered, a joint venture between DIC, CBS, and American Greetings. In April 2007, DIC Entertainment, Corus Entertainment's Nelvana and Sparrowhawk Media Group announced plans to launch KidsCo a new international children's entertainment network. On June 20, 2008, it was announced that DIC Entertainment and Cookie Jar Group were merging. On July 23, 2008, Cookie Jar and DIC completed their merger, and DIC was finally folded into Cookie Jar Entertainment. DiC now remains an in-credit name only.


VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW (1971)
From 20thcenturytrash.blogspot.com

I'm getting quite a kick out of satanically-themed movies of the 70s at the moment. This one from British studio Tigon fits into an even smaller genre known as 'folk horror' which includes the likes of Witchfinder General (1968 - also Tigon) and The Wicker Man (1973). These films explore the pagan traditions of the countryside (often set in past eras) and the brutality of religion (both pagan and Christian).

But where Witchfinder concentrates on the abuse of power by religious bigots and Wicker Man shows the horrific effects of pagan superstitions gone mad The/Blood on Satan's Claw (the film was released under both titles) differs in that its religious authorities and lawmen are in fact, no matter how brutal their methods, largely in the right. There genuinely is something nasty and supernatural going on in the simple country lives of these 17th century English folk.

The film gets off to a cracking start with several different story lines linked by the discovery of a deformed skeleton by local plowman Ralph. Believing the remains to be some sort of demon, Ralph's tale is met with skepticism by Judge Wymark who is staying with Mrs Banham. The widow Banham's nephew has also come to visit, bringing with him his betrothed. But the unfortunate girl meets an icy reception and during the night suffers some sort of fit accompanied by nasty visions before being carted off to Bedlam, sporting a nasty-looking claw where her hand used to be. Then there is the case of Angel Blake (played by the absolutely stunning Linda Hayden) who has found a claw in the field and seemingly succumbs to its power. All these intertwining story lines are evidence of an early version of the script that was set out like one of Amicus' horror anthologies. I'm glad they went with keeping it whole as it all makes for a very interesting first act.

Things soon take a turn for the seriously nasty with local children sprouting patches of scaly, hairy skin on their bodies and following the increasingly bitchy Angel Blake with all the fanaticism of a murderous cult. In a surprisingly gruesome and harrowing scene, Widow Banham's nephew suffers a similar trauma to his ex-fiance when he is attacked in bed by a clawed hand. After cutting the demonic hand off with a knife, he is distraught to discover that the hand was in fact, his own.

I was pleasantly surprised by the gritty and downright creepiness of the film. Most British horror films from this era are more than a little campy, playing up on the sex and blood. But this film made me feel genuinely uneasy, aided no doubt, by an extremely creepy musical score and eerie cinematography. While Blood on Satan's Claw certainly does not shy away from the gore and also includes, as one might expect, the almost obligatory rape/sacrifice scene, none of it feels gratuitous.


VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BLOOD ON SATANS CLAW (1971)
From classic-horror.com

In 1968, the British production company Tigon had found a measurable degree of success with the release of Michael Reeves' classic tale of greed and corruption, Witchfinder General. In a concerted effort to provide audiences with a film along the same lines a screenplay by Robert Wynne-Simmons was commissioned, Piers Haggard was brought on board to direct, and The Blood on Satan's Claw took root. In most cases, when a film is made by a studio hoping to cash in on a previous effort, the resulting film comes across as mere imitation. In this instance, however, a perfect combination of accurate period details, overwhelming atmosphere, and convincing central performances help provide the basis for one of the finest British horror films of the 1970s.

The story takes place in a 17th century English village where plow boy Ralph Gower (Barry Andrews) has uncovered a mysterious set of bones belonging to what he can only describe as a "fiend". He fetches a traveling judge (Patrick Wymark) to investigate his find, but his claims are dismissed as the bones seem to have vanished. Later that night a local girl is overtaken by madness, and through some form of sinister means she grows a menacing looking claw. Convinced that something sinister is afoot, The Judge vows  to return after attending to business he has in London. While preparing to leave the remote hamlet he warns that an ancient evil will soon begin to grow, and although people will die, the villagers must be patient and allow it to come to fruition in order to destroy it. In his absence the village begins to succumb to a plague like disease and the local children, led by Angel Blake (Linda Hayden), are drawn into a satanic cult bent on sacrifice and murder.

Wynne-Simmons crafts a superior period piece by injecting the screenplay for The Blood on Satan's Claw with an essential degree of historical depth. Every detail within the film manages to carry a weight of authenticity which never falters. The harsh reality of life during the time period the film emulates is well represented even in the most minor aspects. For instance, there is a scene where a doctor tells a person suffering from a fever that he intends to open a vein in order to bleed the sickness out. Although this sounds rather insane now, in the 17th century it was common practice. Haggard is successful at transporting the viewer to another time frame because of this heavy emphasis on accuracy in the most minuscule of details.

The overall sense of atmosphere that helps carry The Blood on Satan's Claw can be attributed, in large part, to cinematographer Dick Bush who sets an ominous tone from the start. Shot under slate gray skies there is a sense of hopelessness established through the photography from which the film never relents. Having the luxury of what turned out to be a ideal filming location (Bix Bottom Valley-Oxfordshire, England) was key to his ability in achieving this. The rolling hills, and surrounding woodlands provide a beautiful background for Bush's masterful use of widescreen lenses. The muted color scheme, accomplished by shooting in the fall season, gels to perfection with the film's dark subject matter.

As with any atmospheric chiller the music is an important part of the equation. Composer, conductor Marc Wilkinson's orchestral compositions are used to heighten terror and suspense by accentuating scenes in which this is the directors primary objective. This is noticeable from the outset in the scene where Ralph Gower first unearths the bones of the beast in a pre-opening credits sequence. As Ralph notices a grouping of birds gathered around what he thinks is a dead animal, the music creeps in. It builds as he approaches, and reaches a crescendo as he uncovers a skull with a worm covered eyeball. The score then falls into a haunting melody that plays over the opening titles, which is a perfect example of how music can aid in scene transition. This kind of musical dynamic is sustained by Wilkinson for all of the key scenes in the film, and is paramount in creating fear.

Since this tale concerns itself with the continual struggle of good against evil, Haggard's film places a primary character at either end of the spectrum, and then realizes each one to their full potential thanks in large part to the talented actors who portray them. The Judge, who represents the power of good, is played with conviction by the late Patrick Wymark. Whereas most witch finders in films such as this act without morals, and tend to use persecution for selfish reasons, The Judge is a virtuous man who shows a  deep concern for the well being of his subjects. He displays considerable strength when needed, and harbors an intense cynical view when it comes to the supernatural. The former can be evidenced in his  final confrontation against the titular beast, and the latter can be summed up with one telling line of dialogue from early in the film.  When the possibility of witchcraft is proposed as an explanation for the malady which is infecting the villagers, The Judge states in a defiant manner "Witchcraft is dead, and discredited". Wymark's confident screen presence combined with his  capability to shift from calm to aggressive emotional states is an asset to the character, and the film in general.

On the flip side, the films source of evil is of course, the devil himself. Since he takes form as the movie progresses, he must rely on a human presence to spread his influence as he gains the necessary strength for his rebirth. This catalyst is a beautiful teen aged girl named Angel Blake (Linda Hayden). She starts the film as a simple peasant girl, but is transformed into a tool of the devil after discovering a claw belonging to the beast while frolicking in the fields on the outskirts of the village. From that point on she is cast as a seductive temptress whose every devilish deed is meant to bring about the awakening of her master. Be it influencing the local children into forming a sacrificial cult, or accusing the village Reverend of rape after he denies her sexual advances, every act serves this singular purpose. Hayden's alluring natural beauty, as well as her unique ability to disguise evil as innocence are both major factors in bringing this character to life, and she succeeds on both fronts.

Although The Blood on Satan's Claw has never enjoyed the widespread appeal of Witchfinder General, the film nevertheless has persevered in cult circles, and has since gone on to become thought of by many as a true classic of the genre. Piers Haggard's tale of witchcraft and satanism unleashed on a remote English parish should be tops on numerous "must have" lists provided the film ever receives its much needed North American DVD release.


VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1970)
From pearceshorrormoviereviews.blogspot.com

We open on a train, as a man with a meat cleaver stalks a young couple. This opening scene is shot from the point-of-view of the killer, a technique later popularized by Halloween, but despite the subject matter and pulp title the movie quickly develops a poetic, melancholic mood. The first hint of this comes with the evocative shots of a young boy, who we soon realise is the killer's younger self watching him from inside his head. The cinematography uses psychedelic techniques, but rather than this being just a sign of its being made in 1970, it is used to depict the inner life of the killer.

The movie cuts quickly from the opening murder to a close-up of a toy train rattling along a track. Just as we are prepared to mock the movie for such obvious fakery, a hand reaches down and stops the train. The hand belongs to the killer from the opening sequence, and he commences with a voice-over.

"My name is John Harrington. I am a paranoiac. Hmm, paranoiac. An enchanting word, so full of possibilities. The fact is that I am completely mad. The fact remains that I have killed five young women."

This is the world of Mario Bava, the co-writer/cinematographer/camera operator/director whose movies embodied all the best elements of the Italian horror movie. Bava's movies, despite their pulp titles and plots and their commercial bent, were almost all intensely personal and distinctive. Hatchet for the Honeymoon is a good example of Bava's art, weaving a sophisticated and multi-layered story out of what would usually be handled as trash. The story is not the point here - it's all in how he handles it. This is pulp poetry of the highest order, and it would be much imitated in the subsequent decade, particularly in the movies of Dario Argento.

John Harrington is portrayed as a vain and shallow young man. At first he seems to be trapped in an unhappy marriage, with a shrewish older wife who refuses to give him a divorce. This rang alarm bells with me, with its misogynistic overtones, but Bava and his cast undermine these elements beautifully. We are given glimpses throughout that Mildred Harrington has been driven to this state by John's manipulative nature and inability to satisfy her.

John is driven by two of the great clichés of movie psychos: issues with his mother, and impotence. What makes this interesting is that, although this is obvious to the audience almost from the start, John himself is unaware of it and is in fact attempting to discover the roots of his own madness. Each time he kills John's memory opens up a little more, and he feels driven to keep killing until he has finally remembered what started him in the first place.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon is in essence a character study. Only one brief scene takes us away from John, so that just once we are left to wonder whether he has committed a murder or not. He is depicted from the beginning as vain and shallow, spending endless time on his appearance. He runs a fashion business specialising in bridal wear left to him by his mother, but Mildred's money bailed it out and it's only her that keeps it afloat (one of several instances where his wife is shown to be a mother substitute). All but one of his victims are all brides-to-be, so that he is always symbolically killing both his wife and his mother.

Then two things happen with unforeseen consequences. John meets a young woman called Helen Wood, and discovers he has actual feelings for her; and he finally kills his wife.

The scene where John kills Mildred is also the one where she is transformed into a sympathetic character. What leads him to kill her is not her mean-spirited comments, as she had displayed earlier in the movie, but her softening towards him. We discover that she really loves John and wants nothing more than for him to love her in return. The coldness in their relationship comes completely from him - they have never actually consummated their marriage because he is impotent. So John dresses as a bride himself, hacks her to death with a meat cleaver, and buries her in the hothouse.

However Mildred is not going to give up on him that easily. Wherever John goes from then on, people keep greeting his wife, asking her opinion, serving her drinks, and even having long conversations with her. They can see her. The camera can see her. But John cannot see her.

This is approach to a ghost story that I don't think I have ever seen before, and it's impressively handled. The movie puts us completely on Mildred's side, while allowing us to feel John's palpable fear at her presence - especially in the few instances when she allows him to see her, and one where she touches him. Bava's tricky camerawork allows her to appear and disappear without cutting, and Laura Betti's excellent performance as Mildred makes these scenes extremely memorable.

After she appears to him and tells him that she will never leave his side, John attempts to exorcise Mildred by digging up her body and cremating her in the furnace. He carries her ashes around with him in a satchel, as a sick joke, but instead of the satchel people continue to see Mildred. It doesn't matter if he throws away the satchel and scatters the ashes - it keeps returning to him.

Meanwhile Helen is pushing John for a sexual relationship, and as for him sex means murder he is unwilling to commit to someone he actually cares for. At the same time a police inspector keeps dropping around to talk to him, obviously thinking that John is the prime suspect (several of the victims were models working for him) and trying to work on his mind in the absence of any physical evidence. The scene where the inspector almost catches John killing Mildred milks it for suspense in a manner that rivals the best of Hitchcock.

The final revelation is not a surprise to the audience, and the final scene - where Mildred gets the last laugh - is also predictable but still extremely satisfying.

This is an excellent thriller, provided you don't mind the end being so predictable. Bava's visual tricks are all tied into exploring character - the uses of many mirrors and reflecting surfaces, for example, or his characteristic use of the zoom to highlight irony. It would not be a bad introduction to Italian horror in general.


VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1970)
From movie-gazette.com

In Italy, sensationalist thriller novels were published with yellow (or ‘giallo’) covers, and so films inspired by their lurid subject matter became known as ‘gialli’. Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci may be its best known exponents, but they, like so many American directors, were in thrall to the undisputed father of the giallo, Mario Bava, who established all the subgenre’s groundrules in films like ‘Black Sunday’, ‘Blood and Black Lace’, and ‘Lisa and the Devil’, with his characteristic eye for rich detail and his extraordinary powers of manipulation. ‘Hatchet for the Honeymoon’ represents something of a deviation from the normal conventions of the giallo. Instead of featuring the usual black-gloved killer whose identity is carefully concealed until the end, the cleaver-wielding John Harrington (Steven Forsyth) is seen doing his murderous work right from the opening scene, and his voice-over reveals candidly “I am a madman, a dangerous killer…I have killed five young women, three of whom are buried in the hothouse”.

The dandyish John exploits his ownership of a Parisian wedding salon to kill brides on their wedding night – with each murder bringing him closer to remembering the circumstances of his own mother’s violent death, which he witnessed as a boy. For in the tradition of ‘Peeping Tom’ and Psycho, Bava’s film is not so much a whodunnit as a whydunnit, and while there is a policeman (Jesús Puente) on the trail of the missing women, it is John’s own investigation into the shattered pieces of his mind and his attempts, through the act of murder, to track down a hazy boyhood memory, that form the centrepiece of the detective psychodrama. Yet ‘Hatchet for the Honeymoon’ is also a darkly surreal comedy about the eternal bonds of marital love, with John’s nagging, unsatisfied wife Mildred (Laura Betti) proving to be a haunting presence with a far tighter stranglehold on his mind than his mother ever had.

To anyone steeped in the tropes of psychokiller cinema, ‘Hatchet for the Honeymoon’ has very few surprises – but this is partly due to the film’s great influence on subsequent slashers, so that what in Bava was inventively original has now come to seem like cliché. For its opening train sequence is the source for the beginning of George A. Romero’s Martin, its point-of-view shots ascending a staircase have inspired the famous opening of John Carpenter’s Halloween, while its idea of a killer who surrounds himself with female dummies has clearly informed William Lustig’s ‘Maniac’. Still, when it comes to immaculately controlled sets, claustrophobic camera angles and editing that follows its own macabre logic (e.g. cutting from the smoking chimney of an incinerator in which a corpse is being cremated to a piece of burning toast, or from a woman with her throat slit open to a boiled egg being opened with a teaspoon), Bava’s only real rival (and closest imitator) is Dario Argento, and his ‘Deep Red’ in particular owes a considerable debt, and even its titular colour, to ‘Hatchet for the Honeymoon’ (originally called ‘The Red Mark of Madness’).

Although ‘Hatchet for the Honeymoon’ does not quite deliver at the end on the promise of its first half (and at no point features a hatchet), it is nonetheless a consummate piece of Hitchcockian film-making from one of Italy’s grand masters of psychosexual suspense.

It's Got: Mothers, marriage, madness and murder; paranoia and the paranormal; exquisite sets (including General Francos villa in Barcelona); brilliantly executed cinematography and editing; a very black streak of humour.

It Needs: More of a surprise to its ending.

DVD Extras Scene selection; choice of Dolby 2.0/5.1 surround/dts; Dario Argento - an Eye for Horror (57min) - an excellent featurette on the life and works of Argento narrated by Mark Kermode, and including interviews with Argento, his ex-wife/muse Daria Nicolodi, his daughters/muses Fiore and Asia ("[he] never killed me once but he had me raped a few times") and his brother/producer Claudio, with his biographers Alan Jones and Maitland McDonagh, with his actors Michael Brandon (Four Flies on Grey Velvet), Jessica Harper (Suspiria) and Piper Laurie (Trauma), with his composers Claudio Simonetti and Keith Emerson, with directors John Carpenter, George A. Romero, William Lustig and Luigi Cozzi, with gore wizard Tom Savini, and with überfan Alice Cooper - all very fascinating, even if only tangentially related to Mario Bava (who gets only one passing mention); trailer; bio of Bava; film notes; photo gallery. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10


VHS MOVIE REVIEW : HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON (1970)
From bmoviebuffet.com

We had originally tried to rent this film around Valentine's Day, since I thought it would make a nice menu pairing with My Bloody Valentine, but were unsuccessful in our attempts to find a copy. Not even at the ever reliable 4th Street TLA Video. (Which I'm convinced used to, or possibly still does, employ someone who had an independent interest in Italian horror films from the '60s & '70s, based on their large selection of films that fall under that umbrella.) So imagine our collective surprise when we decided to make a pit stop at Quakertown Flea Market - mainly to eat some Caribbean food, use the bathroom and visit the used / back issue magazine stand - and stumbled across a dusty old VHS copy in the market's video store. (To find out what movies rounded out our buy two get one free purchase visit the BMB blog.) Had we known at the time just how dusty and old this VHS copy was, perhaps we would have chosen something else. But, we didn't choose something else, so we decided to try and make it through the film anyway. Even though the volume of some of the dialogue was so low that we had to make up our own as we went along. (Hey, it couldn't be any crazier that the film's real dialogue!) Which may explain why I didn't fully understand the plotline. On the other hand, generally speaking, Bava's work doesn't need to be fully understood to be appreciated because even when people's mouths are moving, implying a conversation is occurring, but no sound is coming out of the TV, the shot still looks cool. Plus, because this is a horror film made in Italy during the late '60s, it features many scenes featuring many lovely, well dressed young women. And, of course, many scenes of their subsequent bloody deaths; cause that's just how they rolled back in the day. At any rate, the reason I was thinking about this film for our VD menu in the first place was that I was under the impression that it was some sort of Giallo featuring an unseen killer stalking and dispatching newly wedded couples. Not true. For one thing, most of the lovely, well dressed ladies I mentioned earlier don't live long enough to walk down the aisle. (They do get one last chance to try on their dresses though. Too bad bloodstains are so hard to remove, the dresses might have much better resale value if a girl had just died in them and not gotten them all stained.) Hatchet For The Honeymoon is really more of a slasher film, a la Bava's Twitch Of The Death Nerve, but in this case there is no unseen killer because the killer's identity is revealed very early on. Not surprisingly, he's one of those tortured Euro-trash types. You know, the kind who has frequent non-sensical flashbacks and a proverbial army of skeletons in his familial closet. When he's not killing brides to be in his dress shop, the poor fella tries to make sense of these flashbacks in order to free at least one of the closeted family skeletons. (The untimely violent death of his mother.) As the old adage goes, be careful what you wish for… Eventually he does find the answers he seeks and, again not surprisingly, the film ends moments later. While not one of Bava's best films, it's still worth checking out; particularly if you can find a copy in decent condition.
—Bunny


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