Warner Bros. and All Day Entertainment give producer Val Lewton and director Edgar G. Ulmer, respectively, the royal treatment this week with box sets so extras-laden they might have made the two minimalist masters blush. Contemporaries, though never collaborators, Lewton and Ulmer both built reputations for spinning bare-bones budgets into innovative, expressionist gold Lewton at RKO in the 1940s (he died in 1951), Ulmer over the course of a career that spanned four decades. In films such as Curse of the Cat People (1942), I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and The Ghost Ship (1943), Lewton turned the horror genre on its ear by emphasizing psychological terror over in-your-face bogeymen. Given scant resources, Lewton and his team of young directors, including Jacques Tourneur, Robert Wise and Mark Robson, used shadows, sound effects and editing to conjure swirling, chilling stories of ancient curses, the living dead and mad scientists. The Lewton box set features six of his most famous films, with commentaries, trailers and a documentary, Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy. Edgar G. Ulmers most famous films, The Black Cat (1934) and Detour (1945), go missing in All Days box set, which nevertheless features five rare and remarkable features that reveal the full range of the directors vision. A protégé of Max Reinhardt and F.W. Murnau, Ulmer brought an avant-garde edge to Poverty Row productions. Like Lewton, he knew how to evocatively dress a bare set in shadows or let the sheer grubbiness of his props do the work for him in such lurid, violent works as Strange Illusion (1945), The Strange Woman (1946), and The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957). The three-disc Ulmer box comes crammed with ephemera from Ulmers career, including trailers, a TV pilot, promotional featurettes and an interview with his wife.
Also released this week:
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DVD: A Knights Tale: Extended Cut; A Twist in the Tale; Alien Apocalypse; American Ballet Theater: Swan Lake; Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub Zero; Batman: Mask of Phantasm; Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman; Beyond the Gates of Splendor; Big Deal On Madonna Street: 20 Years Later; The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Second Season; Bolivia; Cartoon Network Vol 2: Christmas Rocks; Cinderella: Two-Disc Platinum Edition; Cream Farewell Concert: Extended Edition; Demon Seed; Dracula A.D. 1972; Face; Fangoria Blood Drive II; From Tragedy to Triumph: The Jewish Experience (1933-1967); Impact; Into the West; Little Polar Bear; Lars and the Little Tiger; Man With The Screaming Brain; Night of the Lepus; Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior; Out of Season; The Pippi Longstocking Collection; Private Parts; Rebel Samurai; Samurai Rebellion; Samurai Spy; Sword of the Beast; Kill!; Riders Collection: Freeriders, Snowriders, Snowriders 2; Secrets of Angels, Demons & Masons; Soundstage: Lindsey Buckingham with special guest Stevie Nicks; A Stranger Is Watching; Swan Lake; Teorema; The Girl From S.I.N./Henrys Night Out; The Tunnel; Zoetrope.