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Turner Classic Movies
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Bat, The, 1959

the-bat-poster_200.jpgEven for its time, 1959's The Bat must have seemed awfully old hat. Barring the occasional success (a la House on Haunted Hill), chillers set in sprawling mansions had largely fallen out of fashion, with their prominence in the horror genre since supplanted by atomic-age terrors. However, with a little bit of wit and low-maintenance suspense, these vintage fright flicks could still work their magic on viewers -- and, to the delight of their producers, come in on humble budgets.

Unfortunately, The Bat -- starring Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead -- excels in neither of said qualities, coming off as stodgy when we should be gripped with fear and claiming but a couple wry quips to its name. Its tropes are neither parodied or celebrated with any degree of affection; they're just recited for the umpteenth time and packaged within a mystery laid out too sloppily to draw many people in. Even those who eat up films with ominous suits of armor and secret passageways on a regular basis would be hard-pressed to find anything about The Bat that's truly engaging, ironically or not.

 
SHERLOCK HOLMES (1916)

sherlock_h_1916-poster.jpgFor almost a century, 1916's Sherlock Holmes was the biggest piece missing from the glorious puzzle that is the literary detective's film career. On top of featuring one of the first appearances of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's immensely popular creation in cinemas, the production also starred William Gillette, who personified Holmes in a stage play (which he also penned) that ran for well over a thousand performances. But after its original theatrical release and a quick run as a serial in France, the movie soon faded from the public eye and was eventually considered lost forever.

However, in a miraculous twist that feels torn from Doyle's own pages, a complete print of what had come to be known as the holy grail of mystery cinema had been found in a film archive, and after a thorough restoration, it's at last ready to be seen by those who thought it was a goner. Its merits and weaknesses as a narrative are up for debate, but from a historical standpoint, Flicker Alley's Blu-ray/DVD debut of Sherlock Holmes is a godsend, not only giving the sleuth's many fans something they've waited nearly a hundred years for but making it look snazzy, too.

 
Big House, The 1930

big_house_200.jpgJust as one of its main characters announced his intent to bust out from behind bars, 1930's The Big House heralded the creation of an entire genre as we know it. Movies set within prison had existed before, but not only did this one help popularize tropes that have now become jailhouse cinema gospel, it did so in a way that challenged pre-code viewers. It blurred the lines between "right" and "wrong," casting convicts in something of a heroic light and the so-called morally-just as the biggest cowards of them all. The Big House -- starring Robert Montgomery and Wallace Beery -- was dynamite stuff for its time, and as it celebrates 85 years of having defined how on-screen hoosegows looked and felt, its wallop has scarcely diminished. The gang over at Warner Archive has given fans of this Oscar-winning classic the perfect way to ring in the occasion, with a triple feature DVD set boasting not only the original flick but two foreign-language versions, as well.

 
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Hellcats of the Navy


                       

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