Recent Reviews

Thir13en Ghosts (Blu-ray)

Whew! Now that Uncle Cyrus (F. Murray Abraham) is dead, everything's starting to look up.

Don't take that the wrong way, though. There's nothing the least bit heartless or mercenary about Cyrus' nephew Arthur (Tony Shalhoub), who barely even knew the guy, and his kids Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts) didn't even know they had an uncle. But still, the family's suffered all sorts of loss in recent years. Their old house went up in flames, taking their mother/wife Jean (Kathryn Anderson) with it. Now flat broke and mired in debt, the surviving members of the Kriticos family are barely scraping by in a cramped, dingy apartment. They're so overjoyed at the prospect of high-tailing it out of Dodge that they're not the least bit bothered that what they've inherited is a colossal glass house smack dab in the middle of nowhere. There's zero privacy, and I don't even wanna guess what the bathroom situation is like. Sleeping in on sunny summer mornings isn't all that much of an option. There's all sorts of eerie Latin writing on every wall and floor. Oh! And then there are the tenants downstairs that the late Cyrus' sleazy lawyer (JR Bourne) never quite got around to mentioning:

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You know, I'm starting to think that Uncle Cyrus wasn't bequeathing his life work to his nephew out of the goodness of his heart but that this is instead the next phase of some unspeakably nefarious scheme...!

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On paper, anyway, I ought to love the hell out of Thir13en Ghosts. I caught Dark Castle's previous production, House on Haunted Hill, six times theatrically – a record I haven't come close to rivaling a couple decades on. The broad strokes of their sophomore outing are pretty much the same too. A broke group of folks are enticed by an...[read the entire Blu-ray review of Thir13en Ghosts]

Son of Ali Baba (Blu-ray)

The houris can't help but fawn over Kashma Baba (Tony Curtis), and Kashma Baba sure can't get enough of those ladies. And this, of course, rankles Hussein (Hugh O'Brian). His father is the caliph (Victor Jory)! Where's his adoration? Where's his respect? And yet the son of a thief whose incalculable wealth bought him such power and privilege is seemingly beloved by all. Hussein would gladly seize upon any opportunity to expose Kashma for what he believes this undeserving fraud to be, and he may not have to wait long for it either. Kiki (Piper Laurie) has sought sanctuary in Kashma's home, having fled from the caliph's harem, and harboring a fugitive is an act of treason. And sure, whatever; it's not as if the son of a thief is all that beholden to the word of law. But the fallout that quickly ensues threatens to level the House of Baba to the ground once and for all.

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After spending a good bit of the morning grousing and groaning about Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves – which isn't bad so much as dispiritingly rote and routine – I slumped to my home theater, resigning myself to more of the same with this sequel. But damned if I didn't love every last minute of it. The standout battles in Forty Thieves basically bookend the film, without all that much in the way of noteworthy action in between. Son of Ali Baba, meanwhile, places a far greater emphasis on swinging scimitars. Its central villains are also far more loathsome, with their cruelty and heartlessness vividly depicted on film, whereas Forty Thieves was content to largely relegate that to descriptions in intertitles.

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Oh, are we delving into the relationships between Kashma and his closest friends and most bitter rivals? Here's a belly dancer and a high-stakes game of tug...[read the entire Blu-ray review of Son of Ali Baba]

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (Blu-ray)

37, 38, 39...yup, the math checks out.

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With his dying breath, the caliph (Moroni Olsen) hides his son from the invading Mongol hordes and the traitorous Prince Cassim (Frank Puglia). Young Ali has lost everything: his best friend with whom he'd just exchanged a blood oath, his father, his home, and his country. But, after overhearing a seemingly magical command in the middle of the desert, Ali bellows "open sesame!" and is alone no more. No, we're not talking about the vast treasures that await inside this hidden fortress, but the forty thieves who stole it! They raise the young boy – now calling him Ali Baba – as one of their own. Flash-forward ten years, and he's practically running the show, with Ali (Jon Hall) renowned as one of the greatest thieves and most unparalelled swordsmen the world over.

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Ali Baba and his forty thieves are the only force remaining to oppose Hulagu Khan (Kurt Katch), and they seem to have found a way to combine their two great passions: fighting for freedom and stealing impossibly valuable treasure. Their quarry this time isn't a what but a who: lovely Amara (Maria Montez), the daughter of Cassim, future wife of the Mongol warlord, and, although neither of them realize it quite yet, Ali's childhood best friend. Could capturing her at long last break Hulagu Khan's stranglehold over Baghdad? Well, Ali will first have to escape from the clutches of Amara's legion of bodyguards to find out...

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I wish I were writing a wildly enthusiastic review right now, marveling at all the masterfully choreographed swordplay, entranced by such a seemingly starcrossed romance, and awestruck by the lavish and exotic production design. Alas, not much about Ali Baba and the...[read the entire Blu-ray review of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves]

More reviews...

Stuff I've Watched Recently

  • 8/7: The Other Side of Midnight (Blu-ray)
  • 8/5: Sherlock Jr. (Blu-ray)
  • 8/5: Black Moon Rising (Blu-ray)
  • 8/4: Jojo Rabbit (Uhd)
  • 8/4: The Green Inferno (Scream Factory) (Blu-ray)
  • 8/4: Blind Date (Blu-ray)
  • 8/3: Crimson Peak (Arrow) (Blu-ray)
  • 8/3: The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (Steelbook) (Blu-ray)
  • 8/3: The Virgin Soldiers (Blu-ray)
  • 8/2: The Family Stone (Hdtv)
  • 8/2: Spartacus (1960; Steelbook) (Uhd)
  • 8/1: Withnail and I (Hdtv)
  • 8/1: She-Devils on Wheels (Blu-ray)
  • 7/31: Adam’s Rib (Hdtv)
  • 7/31: Death Smiles on a Murderer (Blu-ray)
More of my boring video log...
Movies I've Acquired Recently

  • 8/6: Shin Godzilla (Blu-ray)
  • 8/4: The Blues Brothers (Uhd)
  • 7/31: Jojo Rabbit (Uhd)
  • 7/31: Inception (Uhd)
  • 7/22: Auntie Mame (1958) (Blu-ray)
  • 7/17: INXS: Live Baby Live (Uhd)
  • 7/16: Thir13en Ghosts (Scream Factory) (Blu-ray)
  • 7/10: Some Like It Hot (Criterion) (Blu-ray)
  • 7/10: The Lady Eve (Blu-ray)
  • 7/10: Destry Rides Again (Blu-ray)
  • 7/10: The War of the Worlds (1953) (Blu-ray)
  • 7/10: Dance, Girl, Dance (Blu-ray)
  • 7/10: Now, Voyager (Blu-ray)
  • 7/7: Go Go Mania! (Blu-ray)
  • 7/7: Son of Ali Baba (Blu-ray)
More stuff I've bought or been sent to review...

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