Several years ago Roger Corman revisited some of his classic horror films, and while the remakes and original stories were uneven (like 1995's "Sawbones"), a few, such as "A Bucket Of Blood" (aka "The Death Artist"), mixed the right amount of self-conscious humour and horror, and rose above the incredibly cheap budget that affected these revisionist productions.
Most of the original Corman films were made for American International Productions (AIP), and a new wave of remakes and reworkings of AIP's non-Corman, bug-eyed monster movies are available through Columbia's "Creature Features" shingle. Boasting larger budgets, better casting and an eclectic selection of directors, the series may have a successful video run, provided the final pricing remains as competitive (and attractive) as MGM's Midnight Movies series.
Fans of 50s and 60s creature movies will be surprised by "Earth Vs. The Spider's" great look: a lot of effort went into the set design and locations, recreating a curious mixture of attractive objects and colours spanning 50 years - never mind that Gummersall uses an old black and white tube to watch high-tech spy cameras from his apartment; detective Ayckroyd drives a late-70s Fort LTD, but the colour is vintage 50s pastel. Columbia's transfer is very sharp, with solid colours and blacks. Grain is plainly visible in the nighttime shots - perhaps a casualty of the production's low budget - but the transfer minimizes the flaws without any serious artifacting.
The Dolby mix is fairly simple, with effective organic sound effects for a human-spider transformation that's a fair nod to David Cronenberg's own 1986 classic remake, "The Fly."
The DVD's extras are pretty basic, and the emphasis is on the creature effects which, though brief, are well-done, and suitably disgusting for this updated B-movie. A generous still gallery and a behind-the-scenes-featurette (really just an ultra-short teaser, ending with 'You'll just have to watch the movie') give a bit of insight, but what would have improved the package is some historical information on Bert I. Gordon's 1958 version; insight from the new version's director and writer, regarding their efforts to update a classic while maintaining the attractive ambiance of a B-movie; and some details regarding the producing team, since more installments are on the way from the Arkoff/Winston/Camp triumvirate.
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan
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