Last week I looked at the first half of some new blu-ray releases that came out last month from Warner Archive. This week I’ll finish up looking at a significant part of their October slate with three movies, all new to blu-ray like last week’s titles. These three films feature brand new 2K transfers that were made this year and are, in order of release, 1964’s “Children of the Damned,” 1966’s “Eye of the Devil,” and 1982’s “Night Shift.”
In 1960 MGM quietly released the modestly budgeted sci-fi horror film “Children of the Damned” made by their British studios. The film was a surprise hit, both critically and commercially, and is today a classic. I watched the film a few weeks ago during the Halloween season and it holds up tremendously.
Not one to miss the chance to strike gold again, MGM followed the film up with the inevitable sequel four years later, “Children of the Damned.” This film is something of a “reimagining” of the first film, focusing on a different set of children with physic powers in another part of the world. The film is fine, but it pales in comparison to the first film. It can be a bit slow too, gaining traction the more the powers that be focus on the problem of the children.
It’s not a bad film, but it’s hard to not think of the first film more while watching it. This new blu-ray features a fantastic-looking transfer of the film from original elements. The black and white is downright perfect. Clear, Sharp, with good contrast and the right amount of grain. A commentary from screenwriter, John Bailey, and the original theatrical trailer are included.
1966’s “Eye of the Devil” is, to my knowledge, the only film in the horror/thriller vein to star the great David Niven, whose co-star is the equality great Deborah Kerr who starred in perhaps the greatest black and white ghost film ever made “The Innocents.” Coming as it did in ’66, “Eye of the Devil” was one of the last major Hollywood films shot and released in black and white. It works for the story.
Mysterious things are happening around a French vineyard where the grapes have suddenly begun to dry out. The workers are moderately panicked about their future, and the patriarch of the family who owns the vineyard, Niven, is called to France from England to participate in a strange ritual that has been going on for generations to help with the harvest. “Eye of the Devil” is a well-shot, atmospheric occult thriller that is pretty good.
I’m a bit mixed on the film, there are things I like about it, but also it doesn’t feel especially groundbreaking or unique. It’s hard to beat anything with David Niven and Deborah Kerr though. This new blu-ray is a huge improvement over the previous Warner Archive DVD. I recall seeing this film on Warner Archive’s shortly-lived streaming service and it looked fine, but a little soft. This new transfer is sharp and vivid, fans of the film will be more than pleased with the disc.
“Night Shift” was Ron Howard’s first major studio movie and his first huge success in his long directorial career. The film also has the first leading role in a movie for a man who would be very important to Little Andy Ross, Michael Keaton (whose poster as Batman kept watch by my bed at night). Starring with Keaton is Howard’s “Happy Days” co-star Henry Winkler, who is just impossible to not love. Shelly Long also stars with them in the film as Winkler and Keaton turn their boring night work at the city morgue into a more profitable venture with “the world’s oldest profession.”
Though the film dances in the doorway of 1980s sex comedies, “Night Shift” for the most part has aged pretty well. It’s a fun film, with some great performances, and was a lot of fun to revisit for the first time in many years the other night. This new blu-ray boasts a great-looking transfer with rich, solid colors and looks correct for a film of the early 1980s. Easily recommended for fans of the film.
That wraps up our two-week look at the recent output of Warner Archive, I thank them as always for being kind enough to send the five blu-rays we’ve talked about my way so I could share my thoughts with you. You can’t go wrong with anything Warner Archive does and it’s safe to say if you like, or are curious, about any of the movies I’ve talked about these past two weeks, picking up the discs is a no-brainer. See you next week.