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 THE ROAN COLLECTION REVIEWED: PART 2 (THE REST)

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laserkb

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PostSubject: THE ROAN COLLECTION REVIEWED: PART 2 (THE REST)   Thu Jan 19, 2012 5:04 am

It seems centuries ago when I completed my collection of Roan laserdiscs and gave an overview of the first half of the company’s catalogue. I did promise to review the second half when I eventually got round to viewing them all, but I bet many of you thought I’d forgotten all about it. Well, that annoying thing called “the rest of my life” got in the way over the past few months, and LD watching has been way down the list of priorities, but at last I’m able to offer – for anybody who remains even the slightest bit interested – a quick summary of The Roan Collection: Part 2.

If you’re thinking to add some Roan LDs to your own collection, you’ll find that the later releases are generally of a much better quality technically than some of their early editions. You’ll also find that these final 29 titles include some of the most collectible cult titles in the universe (some rare Hammer stuff, some giallos from Dario Argento and Italian horror from Mario and Lamberto Bava, and some of the most quirky and off-beat movies ever released) but, it goes without saying, these will be among the most expensive laserdiscs you’ll ever buy, too!

Of course, a high collector’s price doesn’t guarantee a great movie. THE AFTERMATH, for example, is one of the hardest titles to find and therefore very expensive, but it ain’t worth even ten dollars! A vanity project from director Steve Barkett, featuring every member of his family and close circle of friends, this film has acquired a certain level of curiosity value, but honestly, you won’t be the least bit poorer if you never see it. Similarly, Al Adamson’s SATAN’S SADISTS (like his earlier DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN) is another trashy film the world didn’t really need and will not add much to the sum total of human happiness, but at least it looks and sounds better than his previous clunker.

I won’t mention each of the 29 titles, but these two, and the sequel to MOMMY, are the only ones you are advised to avoid. The rest are really rather special. Just a smattering of B/W titles, the best being the widescreen edition of THE BAT WHISPERS from 1930 (yes – widescreen in 1930 - but, unlike the DVD, you don’t get the standard version to compare it with) and an edition of the classic noir D.O.A. which is far superior to the previous Image laserdisc. There’s also a very special edition of Ida Lupino’s THE HITCH-HIKER but I found the picture to be rather too dark (ironic given that it’s a film noir masterpiece) so that some of the detail is lost. That’s a shame because it ranks among cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca’s finest work.

The Hammer collection doesn’t feature any of the studio’s major hits but does offer some real rarities such as FOUR SIDED TRIANGLE, QUATERMASS 2, X THE UNKNOWN and THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN (all B/W). Among the later colour features are THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES and SHATTER, both filmed as co-productions with Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers and among Peter Cushing’s very last films (not including STAR WARS!). Technically, these are superb editions, all in the correct aspect ratios and with some intriguing bonus features.

The Italian horrors include one of the all-time classics, Argento’s THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. Everyone rates SUSPIRIA or INFERNO as his must-see works, but if you want to see why he is often dubbed the Italian Hitchcock then it has to be THE BIRD. The Roan Group also offers my personal favourites TENEBRE and PHENOMENA in beautiful Special Editions. Unlike Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (also in this list), these films are as much “art house” as “horror” and seem to be even more popular now when they were first released. If you then want to trace the influences back, there’s Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (the laserdisc is much better than the current DVD) or, going the other way, there’s DEMONS and DEMONS 2 from son Lamberto, a bit George Romero-ish but with unmistakable European sensibilities.

However, for those after something REALLY different, the latter releases from the Roan boys include some of the most bizarre films ever committed to celluloid. There’s the French cult animation FANTASTIC PLANET which is almost impossible to describe, and Curtis Harrington’s bizarre NIGHT TIDE starring a ridiculously young Dennis Hopper (this was from 1961). Or how about Werner Hertzog’s NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE featuring a hard-to-believe restrained performance from madman Klaus Kinski? And who can resist Jack Cardiff’s GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE with Marianne Faithfull – very psychedelic, very erotic and VERY dated, but still entertaining. Conversely, seemingly far less dated, is Michael Caine’s debut as Harry Palmer in THE IPCRESS FILE. These are all terrific movies and way beyond the mainstream of Hollywood, but the laserdiscs are among the rarest ever and explain why Roan discs have become so collectible and pricey.

Probably the ultimate collector’s disc from Roan, in every sense, is their final release, TWO LANE BLACKTOP, which came out in May 1999. This is a road movie like no other, virtually plotless with a dreamy surreal feeling and a great soundtrack, which features musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson in a sort of cross-country race in their ’55 Chevy against Warren Oates and his hitch-hiking passenger Laurie Bird. Who wins and whether they even finish is of no consequence. It’s the journey, not the destination, which fills the screen. An astonishing and mesmerizing film, it was a fitting conclusion to the Roan Group’s contribution to the world of laserdiscs.

There were other titles planned for release, but the ubiquitous DVD was looming around the corner, and we all know what happened next. Eventually, Roan sold out to Troma and some intriguing DVDs followed, but the laserdisc legacy was a collection of 58 of the most idiosyncratic titles ever released. Even if you only ever get a handful of these for yourself, you’ll realise just how special and unique they are.

Happy hunting!



Last edited by laserkb on Thu Feb 23, 2012 12:03 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Grammar!)
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PostSubject: Re: THE ROAN COLLECTION REVIEWED: PART 2 (THE REST)   Sun Feb 12, 2012 3:25 am

Thanks for the review kenneth , its a shame that the last few planned Roan releases were cancelled in particular The Car which is one that I would have loved to have seen released . The Car to my knowledge never had a laserdisc release but is available on dvd and although not one of the great horror's it is still worth watching if you havent already seen it.
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