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22 December, 2007

DVD Review: MONSTER KID HOME MOVIES

Title: MONSTER KID HOME MOVIES

Year of Release—Film: Various—(Compilation)

Year of Release—DVD: 2005

DVD Label: The PPS Group





THE MOVIE

Anyone who grew up between 1955 and 1975 either had an 8mm movie camera, knew someone with one, or dreamt of having one of their own. The idea of making our own movies was an enticing one, and when your cinematic fantasies were fueled by H. G. Lewis, Roger Corman, and Forry Ackerman, then you dreamt of making your own monster movies… at least, I did. Unfortunately, I was in the last of the above categories. That’s too bad, as my baby brother would’ve made a great Ygor.

But there were plenty of kids who were luckier than I was when it came to exercising their creative muscles, and fortunately for all of us, a surprising number of these childhood productions have survived. Director Robert Tinnell has gathered thirty of them together on MONSTER KID HOME MOVIES.

You’ll recognize a few of the names associated with this project, most notably Bob Burns, Tom Weaver, and Kerry Gammill. Most of the contributors, however, are unrecognizable, having only two things in common with their more famous peers: A love of Monster movies; and the means to make their own.

Most of the films in this collection are, well, let’s be honest… even Spielberg had a learning curve, and there’s not a Spielberg in this bunch. This isn’t high-quality filmmaking. But if the quality level leaves something to be desired, the fun quotient sure does hit the mark. This was one of the most enjoyable DVD's I’ve viewed in a while, transporting me straight back to 1974, the Captain Company ads in the back of Famous Monsters, and my dreams of being a ten-year old Roger Corman… only good at it.


THE DISC

For what is basically a self-distributed DVD, MONSTER KID HOME MOVIES is an unexpectedly well-done release. Great care seems to have been taken in the design of the project, as well as in the selection of the films, and that care really shows.
Though most of these films were shot forty years ago or more, they are surprisingly well preserved. None are so degraded that they are unwatchable, and several look like they just came back from the developer.

There is one flaw with the disc, and unfortunately, it is a big one. With thirty short movies, divided into twelve sections, there is no provision to just hit a PLAY ALL button; you must select each film, even within the individual sections. This slows things down to an incredible degree. I understand the producers were trying to replicate the experience of watching these movies on the family projector, but…

However, though that does detract from the enjoyment of these movies, the flaw isn’t a fatal one; no one should let it prevent them from hunting this one down. This was plainly a labor of love on someone’s part; one instance of poor design shouldn’t outweigh that.



THE SPECIAL FEATURES

Yes, somewhat astoundingly, there are some very nice special features on this disc, including one that absolutely captures the home movie experience to perfection.

Each of the twelve sections I previously mentioned are devoted to one Monster Kid moviemaker, with a biographical page on each. Some of these you’ll no doubt recognize; most however, are just average Joes who, like us, loved everything to do with Monster movies. Several of them have provided commentary tracks for their films, which help comprise the bulk of the special features, the audio options.

Now, I’ve said before that I don’t consider sound to be a special feature, and I mean that. However, when a film is silent in it’s original form, then any added sound must be taken into consideration. PPS went far above the call of duty with these movies, providing not only commentary tracks for many of the films, but giving the viewer the choice of an original score and sound effects, as well. But there is a third audio option that transforms this collection into such a special remembrance of times long gone.

Intrigued by an option on the audio menu labeled “8mm Projector,” I selected it when I first viewed the disc. Sure enough, as the first film began, from my speakers burst forth the almost-forgotten sounds of a movie projector: Motor turning; gears and sprockets click-clacking; fan whirring. I could almost smell the ozone rising from the machine, and expected to see shadow-puppet rabbits appear on the screen. (Yes, I was the A-V geek in 4th Grade…) While this feature might annoy those raised on VHS and DVD, it really did please this old Unimonster, and transported me back to, if not better, then more carefree, days.



IN CONCLUSION

I’ll be the first to admit that this DVD isn’t for everyone. If you’re too young to remember the days of home movies shot on film, then you may be too young to understand the joys of dressing up as your favorite monster, in costumes rummaged out of your parent’s closet, and making five-minute versions of the monster movies you love.

But if you grew up with Forry and Zacherley, Sammy Terry and William Castle, then you understand exactly what I’m trying to say. You’re the ones that this disc was aimed at, and it would be a shame if you missed it.







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