How many movie and DVD fans tend to take for granted the incredible number of films and programming in the public domain on those bargain bin DVDs you often find in drug stores and discount houses?
If you like old B movies and obscure TV shows, as we do, they're no brainers. But even discriminating fans of this stuff can find some great DVDs out there.
The best collections of this stuff are put out by Mill Creek Entertainment. They've compiled box sets of programming in collections with four, 10, 20, 50 and 100 films in a package. The 100 film boxes retail for about $30 -- 3 cents a film!
So what do you get in these collections? You'll find a fairly complete selection of them here in our Movie Pack store, but we'll run down a few of them and rate them on a five-star basis:
Warriors 50 Movie Pack: A collection of sword-and-sandal films. Most appear to be Italian and therefore overdubbed, making this a great one for fans of "Mystery Science Theater." The box includes "Hercules Unchained" with Steve Reeves (but, strangely, no "Hercules," the first film in the series) and 13 other "Hercules" or "Son of Hercules" films, including the dreaded "Hercules Against the Moon Men." There's also "Cleopatra's Daughter," "Caesar the Conquerer" and "Atlas in the Land of Cyclops." This is a fun set, not a serious one. 12 discs. 2 1/2 stars.
Historic Classics 50 Movie Pack: A fairly solid set for those who aren't big fans of these films, since there are several good films included here, among them "The Jackie Robinson Story," an autobiographical film Robinson starred in himself, "Abraham Lincoln," the D.W. Griffith film starring Walter Huston and "Scrooge" with Seymour Hicks, not our favorite version of "A Christmas Carol," but not a bad one, either. The box contains more than a few Biblical dramas, plus a few rare TV live drama playhouse shows, including "The Nativity" with Paul Tripp and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" with John Carradine. Those featured in films include Gary Cooper, Charlton Heston, Michael Redgrave, Richard Greene, Chuck Conners, Jose Ferrer, Orson Welles and David McCallum. 12 discs. 3 stars.
Classic Serials Megapack 150 Episodes: This one appears to be out of print, though it's still available used on Amazon.com. It collects 12 serials: "The Hurricane Express" with John Wayne, "The Lost City" with William "Stage" Boyd, "The New Adventures of Tarzan" with Herman Brix, "Ace Drummond" with John "Dusty" King, "The Phantom Creeps" with Bela Lugosi,
"Shadow of the Eagle" with John Wayne, "SOS Coast Guard" with Bela Lugosi,
"The Three Musketeers" with John Wayne, "Undersea Kingdom" with Ray "Crash" Corrigan,
"Zorro’s Fighting Legion" with Reed Hadley, "The Clutching Hand" with Jack Mulhall,
and "Dick Tracy" with Ralph Byrd. This is hardly prime stuff as far as serials go, but it's not a total washout. The vintage serials make for some unintentionally funny stuff. Still, this would have been dynamite if the content had been better (3 John Wayne serials?) 12 discs. 2 stars.
Action Classics 50 Movie Pack:
"Action," and we use that term loosely, is the defining term of this set, which includes a couple of gems and a lot of B-movie fodder. Edward D. Wood Jr.'s "Jail Bait" is one of the highlights. The set spotlights action and adventure films, with more of the former than the latter. Classic Adventure, Born to Be Bad, Exotic Adventures and Hard-Boiled Heroes are the categories from the inside of the box. Couldn't have said it better. 12 discs. 2 stars.
Sci-Fi Classics 50 Movie Pack: Some of the titles make this one a natural for "Mystery Science Theater" fans. "First Spaceship on Venus," "The Brain Machine," "Eegah," "Mesa of Lost Women," "Teenagers From Outer Space" and "The Amazing Transparent Man" are just some of them. Some real sci-fi "classics" here, we said jokingly. A lot of fun for the money. 12 discs. 3 stars.
TV Favorites Megapack 100 Episodes: A discerning collection of old TV shows. There's a lot of the shows that always turn up on bargain DVDs -- "Bonanza," "The Lone Ranger," "Dragnet" "The Red Skelton Show" and "The Beverly Hillbillies." But there are some that don't. This is only the second DVD collection we've seen with an episode of "Highway Patrol," the hard-boiled cop show with Broderick Crawford ("10-4") and the only one we've seen with "Boston Blackie". There's also "Racket Squad," "You Bet Your Life," "Dangerous Assignment" and "Mr. and Mrs. North." Grab this one. 9 discs. 4 stars.
Family Classics 50 Movie Pack: The collection this type of box set was made for. A fantastic set with box office big names. "Till the Clouds Roll By" with Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra, "Life With Father" with William Powell, "A Star Is Born" with Janet Gaynor, the animated "Gulliver's Travels" from the Fleischer Studios, "A Farewell to Arms" with Gary Cooper, "Royal Wedding" with Fred Astaire, "The Little Princess" with Shirley Temple and "The Last Time I Saw Paris" with Elizabeth Taylor. As all of these sets do (some more than others), there are some flubs ("Utopia" by Laurel and Hardy comes to mind). But there is so much good here that it's worth the buy. 12 discs. 4 1/2 stars.
We've seen criticism that some of the films in these boxes are cut or may have logos. Except for "Long John Silver" in the Family Classics box, we haven't seen any that seem cut. No logos either.
But given that these aren't remastered and are basically just put quickly on DVD, these are a bargain and, in our view, well worth having.
We'll do a review of others in the series as time goes on. But these sets are valuable because they the cheapest and most convenient way to pick up some of these films. If you think too many of today's films seem like they came out of focus groups, you'll find these sets take you back to a different and bygone era in Hollywood.
And the nice thing is that it's a fairly cheap trip, too. Scan through our Movie Pack store and have a look.