This week, we begin en France:
Just in time for a Halloween stocking stuffer, the Criterion Collection releases to Blu-ray Georges Franju’s 1960 classic horror film Eyes Without a Face (Les Yeux Sans Visage).
This ghoulish work has influenced various horror fare: most recently, Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In, but also Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky and even the sublimely ridiculous The Human Centipede.
Of course by today’s blood-soaked slasher standards, this moody creepfest might lag. But Eyes Without a Face has its own charms, particularly in the well-balanced atmospherics in which little seems extreme, even when Dr. Genessier (Pierre Brasseur) begins his nasty work.
He and his assistant, Louise (Alida Valli), abduct young women, take them to his remote lair and then remove their faces in attempts to transplant them onto his disfigured daughter Christiane (Edith Scob). For her part, Christiane wanders around in a mask, taking it off only once briefly in an exercise that made people faint in 1960 movie theaters.
The moments of sheer terror come selectively, as Franju instead creates a mood of heightened tension with the constant threat of possible dangers.
This high-definition digital restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack includes a similar restoration of Franju’s 22-minute Blood of the Beasts (1949), along with an interview with the director. This documentary was also controversial at birth, as it examined a Paris abattoir and showed some of the same skin-stripping that goes on during Eyes/Face.
Plus, a nine-minute interview with Scob, who worked often with Franju. Plus, a too-short, seven-minute featurette, 1985’s “The Grandfathers of Crime,” on the delightful mystery-writing team of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac, who wrote the novels that Vertigo and Diabolique are based on and who contributed to the Eyes/Face adaptation of Jean Redon’s novel. Plus: a 21-page booklet on the film with essays by film scholar David Kalat and novelist Patrick McGrath.
Abducted () More ghoulish Halloween-timed fare can be found in this lurid slice of torture porn. Trevor Morgan and Tessa Ferrer star as Dave and Jessica, who find themselves in a dark Saw-like cell after being abducted in Los Angeles. Unfortunately for them, their captor turns Josef Mengele on them, making this fright fest an almost unwatchable exercise.
Not rated, 95 minutes. The DVD includes a five-minute “making of” featurette.
Pacific Rim (1/2) This summer blockbuster performed only moderately at the box office and now arrives on small screens that might struggle to capture its huge scope. Co-written and directed with flair by Guillermo del Toro, the film centers on computer-generated behemoths from the bottom of the sea who rise up to battle humankind and threaten the world. And it seems like Earth’s best chance for survival lies with an army of manmade machines.
Despite its silliness, and an utter lack of realism or believability, Pacific Rim remains grossly entertaining, with plenty of action and some outstanding special effects. Most of the humans remain forgettable, but among them, Charlie Hunnam takes the pivotal role as a once-fallen warrior wanting redemption against the creatures. Rated PG-13, 129 minutes.
Maniac (1/2) Schlockmeister Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes) helped deliver the screenplay for this horror film remake set in Los Angeles.
Elijah Woods plays Frank, a creepy guy who takes great pride in his mannequins. You see, he likes them a lot. Really, really likes them. But Frank transfers some of this obsession to Anna (Nora Arnezeder) when she arrives requesting his help. Before long, Frank is, gulp, a maniac.
Not rated, 89 minutes. The DVD includes commentary, a full-length, 66-minute “making of” documentary and four minutes of deleted scenes.
And, finally, for kids this week:
Thomas and Friends: Santa’s Little Engine When snow covers Sodor, Thomas gets into the holiday spirit with these five episodes teaching children lessons on friendship, cooperation and discovery. A reindeer lends a hand — or hoof — to help Santa on his way.
Not rated, 58 minutes. The DVD includes a game and several puzzles.
The Halloween Stories Collection: Volume 2 Scholastic Storybook Treasures releases this three-disc collection of 14 animated stories from various children’s storybook authors, including Marisa Montes, Kevin Henkes and Linda Williams. The three discs — titled “The Day of the Dead,” “Teeny-Tiny and the Witch-Woman” and “Dem Bones” — are animated versions of Fletcher and the Falling Leaves, Dinosaur Bones, The Boy With Two Shadows and more.
“Day of the Dead” features several segments centered on Latin American celebrations, such as Kitten’s First Full Moon and The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. “Dem Bones” also includes sing-alongs on Dinosaur Bones, Hush Little Baby and more. An excellent voice cast has been assembled to lend support: Joan Allen, Rita Moreno, Maria Conchita Alonso and others.
Not rated, 132 minutes. The collection also includes a read-along feature and interviews with author Montes and author/illustrators Bob Barner, Henkes and Linda Williams.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: The Heat, A Hijacking, Orson Welles’ The Stranger.