- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

The 1960 cult fear fave “Horror Hotel” has surfaced in numerous public-domain editions, of widely varying quality, over the past two decades, but VCI Entertainment presents the definitive version with its superlative new DVD. It’s our …

Video pick of the week
Not only has VCI (800/331-4077, www.vcientertainment.com) restored the film’s original title, The City of the Dead, but it offers the original 78-minute British cut ($24.95), restoring two minutes of footage excised from the U.S. theatrical and video releases.
The spare but harrowing scare tale follows young coed Nan Barlow (American actress Venetia Stevenson) as she journeys to the haunted, perpetually fog-enshrouded New England hamlet of Whitewood, the site of a 1692 witch burning. It’s immediately apparent to the viewer, if not initially to Nan, that unspeakable evil is afoot as the local hotel fills with mysterious guests gathering for a diabolical purpose.
The black-and-white “City” not only brims with atmosphere and suspense but benefits from a top-quality cast, from Miss Stevenson to Christopher Lee (currently on screen in “Lord of the Rings”) as Nan’s suavely sinister professor, and Patricia Jessel as a reincarnated witch.
Extras include separate audio commentary tracks and interview segments with Mr. Lee (a peerless raconteur who’s immensely entertaining in both capacities) and director John Moxey (later of “The Night Stalker” fame), along with a bonus interview with Miss Stevenson (who went on to produce films like Walter Hill’s “Southern Comfort”). In sum, VCI proffers not just a terrific terror film in pristine condition but an entire evening of informative fun.

Horror horizon
In upcoming fright-video news, scream queen Debbie Rochon stars in a pair of new pics, the psycho romp American Nightmare (Monarch) and the supernatural sequel Witchouse 3: Demon Fire (Full Moon). Longtime Phantom fave Pam Grier joins rapper Snoop Dogg (a k a The Artist Formerly Known As Snoop Doggy Dogg) in Bones (New Line).
Artisan Entertainment presents the religious-themed The Calling, along with The Mangler 2, starring busy thesp Lance Henriksen (of “Millennium”); and Soul Survivors: The Killer Cut.
Newcomer Key East Entertainment comes across with Don Dohler’s Harvesters and the road-trip terror flick Hell’s Highway. USA Entertainment issues Pandaemonium and the barely released theatrical chiller Session 9, with David Caruso.
Trimark introduces Bruce Payne in Ripper: Letter from Hell (no relation to Albert and Allan Hughes’ Ripper-themed “From Hell”), while “Ed Raymond” (better known as Fred Olen Ray) returns with Venomous (20th Century Fox), starring Treat Williams and Andrew Stevens. All of the above are priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.

Asian update
In Asian video developments, action icon Jet Li stars in no fewer than three releases: 2001’s Kiss of the Dragon (20th Century Fox), co-starring Bridget Fonda; and the Hong Kong titles The Legend 2 (Miramax) and The Legend of Red Dragon (Columbia/TriStar), all priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD.
Tai Seng Video unleashes Fatal Needles vs. Fatal Fists and Ninja vs. Shaolin Guards ($14.95 each DVD), plus the sequels New Mr. Vampire ($19.95 DVD) and The Untold Story 2 ($24.95 DVD).
Asia Pulp Cinema puts out a 6-disc Kei (“Weather Woman”) Mizutani DVD Collection, including the ever-outrageous Japanese cult starlet’s Sumo Vixens (also available individually at $19.99 each). Universal introduces the PBS documentary Shaolin: Wheel of Life ($19.95 DVD, $9.95 VHS).

‘Apes’ update
Keyed to its recent homevideo release of Tim Burton’s 2001 “reimagining” of the 1968 sci-fi classic “Planet of the Apes,” 20th Century Fox also assembles “The Planet of the Apes Collection: Evolution” ($99.98 DVD), containing widescreen versions of all five “Apes” feature films for simian completists: 1968’s Planet of the Apes, 1970’s Beneath the Planet of the Apes, 1971’s Escape from the Planet of the Apes, 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and 1973’s Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

Stately Holmes
Good news for Sherlock Holmes fans: Canada’s BFS Video releases a Baker Street bargain with the triple feature DVD, “Legendary Sherlock Holmes.” The disc, tagged at $9.98, contains three vintage Basil Rathbone adventures: 1946’s Dressed to Kill and Terror by Night and 1945’s The Woman in Green.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: One of my favorite heroes as a kid was Commando Cody. Are any of those serials available on video?
Thomas Arden, via e-mail
The 12-chapter 1952 Commando Cody sci-fi serial Radar Men from the Moon is available ($18.99 DVD) from Movies Unlimited (800/4-MOVIES).

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: phanmedia@aol.com. And check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.

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