In The Balcony
Favorite BALCONY Discs of the Year for 2015!

We had an awful lot of fun watching classic (and not-so-classic) movies this past year; here are our favorite releases of 2015. They're all on Blu-ray unless specified, but most if not all of these are available on DVD as well. Congrats and thanks to the distributors for making these available!

42nd Street (Warner Archive) The best and bawdiest of the Pre-Code musicals, with Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell going out as youngsters and coming back as stars. Songs include “Shuffle Off to Buffalo” and “You’re Getting to be a Habit with Me”. The Blu-ray includes cartoons and short subjects of the era.

Beach Blanket Bingo / Muscle Beach Party (Olive Films) Oh, you know how we are here in the Balcony about Annette Funicello, surely: we’ve never gotten over our Mouseketeer crush on her. These mid-1960s musical-comedies are few people’s idea of good movies (not even ours), but they sure are a lot of fun. These two films (released separately) offer girls, sand, rock ‘n’ roll, romance, Eric Von Zipper, and Annette’s considerable attributes. Good enough for us.

The Beat Generation (Olive Films) A homicidal maniac is on the prowl, and he’s got his sights on Mamie Van Doren in this ultra-sleazy potboiler with the once-in-a-lifetime cast of Fay Spain, Jackie Coogan, Louis Armstrong, and Vampira!

Big House USA (Kino Lorber) A bunch of tough guys break out of prison after $200,000 in stashed loot, but the gang falls apart due to greed. What a cast! Broderick Crawford, Lon Chaney, Jr., Charles Bronson, and Ralph Meeker.

The Brain that Wouldn’t Die (Scream Factory) Oh, sure, this is definitely a terrible movie… yet it’s a quintessential schlock classic. A guy’s girlfriend is decapitated in an auto accident, so he keeps her head alive and goes off in search of a supple, young, nubile body for her (what, he’s going to visit Rosie O’Donnell’s house?). A classic of its kind, rescued from public domain hell at last.

Crime and Punishment (Mill Creek DVD) Don’t let this 1935 Columbia Pictures version starring Peter Lorre and Marion Marsh fly under your radar; it’s a very good picture.

W.C. Fields Comedy Essentials Collection (Universal DVD) Probably the 2015 set we’ll revisit the most as time goes by; Universal had released its holdings of Fields films separately and in prior groupings (they hold the Paramount Fields films as well) but this is a mega-set of 18 W.C. Fields comedies, several of which are amongst the funniest films ever made: Million Dollar Legs, The Bank Dick, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, It’s a Gift, and others. A gem of a set.

Flying Disc Man from Mars (Olive Films) Olive released two 1950 Republic serials this past year, this one and The Invisible Monster, and while they’re not the finest example of the chapterplay format, they’re still a lot of fun, if you limit yourself to one episode a week.

The Golden Year: 1939 (Warner Bros.) A very nice set across several genres, representing the year many of us consider Hollywood’s finest. Includes Gone with the Wind, which we already have, plus Bette Davis in Dark Victory, Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland in Dodge City, Charles Laughton as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Greta Garbo in Ninotchka. Great films.

Hell’s Five Hours (Olive Films) Vic Morrow is a domestic terrorist threatening to blow up a factory; Steven McNally is trying to stop him. Another example of an all-but-forgotten dark thriller rescued from obscurity and held up to light by Olive or Kino.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space (Olive Films) There isn’t enough classic 1950s sci-fi on Blu-ray to please us, but we’ll sure take this one, with Crash Corrigan as a very nasty space beastie a stowaway on a ship headed for earth. We screen 1950s science-fiction every Saturday in the Balcony, and are looking forward to many more releases in '16.

The Kid from Cleveland (Olive Films) Funny, we expected a heartwarming story about an orphan kid adopted by a baseball team. Instead, we get a pretty dark story about a rotten juvenile delinquent who takes advantage of whoever tries to help him. Lots of great footage (and rotten acting) from the World Champion 1948 Cleveland Indians. Russ Tamblyn (West Side Story) stars.

The Mummy (Warners) Warner Bros. released a box of four Hammer Studios horror pictures, but this is the only one of the four you need, and its available separately: this is the 1959 version with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, arguably the best monster movie Hammer ever made.

Musicals: 4-Movie Collection (Warners, and you couldn’t think of a catchier title?) A very nice set with Singin’ in the Rain, which we already have, and The Band Wagon, Calamity Jane, and 2D and 3D versions of Kiss Me Kate.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (VCI DVD) We’re big fans and chroniclers of obscure B-movie producer Robert L. Lippert, and so we went wild for this four-movie set of streamliners (very short, 4-reel featurettes) starring Russ Hayden.

The Frank Sinatra Collection (Warners) Ol’ Blue Eyes made a lot of movies, so it’s nice of Warner Bros. to collect most of our favorites in the initial Sinatra Blu-ray set, including Guys and Dolls, Robin and the 7 Hoods, and On the Town. You also get Anchors Aweigh and Ocean’s 11.

Special Effects Collection (Warners) The best monster release of a sparse year, including Mighty Joe Young, Son of Kong, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and Them! It’s worth mentioning that overseas, they got Tarantula, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Revenge of the Creature, Curse of the Werewolf, and many other classics that have yet to show up stateside.

Spider Baby (Arrow Video) Astonishingly weird cult classic with Lon Chaney, Jr. (one of his final films); imagine if the Addams Family had really been a horror movie—it would be Spider Baby.

Storm Fear (Kino Lorber) Cornel Wild produced, directed, and stars in this thriller about an injured con on the run who imposes on a family in a remote cabin. Great sticky low-budget fun.

Sullivan’s Travels (Criterion) Criterion’s best release of the year is one of the best movies ever made about making movies; Joel McCrea is a comic filmmaker who wants to make a serious film called Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Syncopation (Cohen Media) An astonishing find, a cheap but highly entertaining jazzy musical with a bargain cast but a great soundtrack. Nobody’s going to care that Jackie Cooper and Bonita Granville are the young lovers, but everyone should tune in for Charlie Barnet, Benny Goodman, Hary James, and Gene Krupa. Plus an hour and a half of musical shorts of the era! This 1942 William Dieterle film is our favorite BD release of the year.

Thunderbean: Classics from the Van Beuren Studio, Willie Whopper, Private Snafu (BD/DVD combos) While we wait patiently for 1930s Disney cartoons in HD (no doubt arriving sooner or later) and more Warner Bros. and Fleischer cartoons (we’re not holding our breath), Thunderbean continues a series of wonderful, wonderful cartoons from lesser-known animation studios of the 1920s-1930s, with new sets on the way. These are always atop our “Must Buy” list each month.

Voodoo Man (Olive Films) Monogram’s all-star horror opus (Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, and John Carradine) was the best 1940s horror release of the year. A terrible movie that’s as much fun to watch as any horror film of the decade.

A PLETHORA of NEW REVIEWS (That means "a lot of 'em")

Lots of year-end fun, with new discs rolling in and so we've got several new ones for you. Why, even Mota, Flying Disc Man from Mars, is jumping for joy!

Our annual "Favorite Discs of the Year" is coming soon, so keep your eye on this here website, too.

Click the links to read the reviews...

We love vintage cartoons, and in fact, it's a Balcony tradition to always preface a feature with a cartoon. Our friends at Thunderbean Animation make that easy with a bevy of outstanding collections, including one about a little boy who knits big yarns: Willie Whopper.

There's sexy, and then there's Marilyn Monroe sexy. There's cool, and then there's Dean Martin cool. And there's sleazy, and then there's Marie Windsor sleazy. This week, we review No Man's Woman, and then take a cold shower. 

Whenever there's a rumor of another classic cliffhanger release, our Balcony mailbox fills up fast - Balconeers love these action-packed 12-15 chapter thrillers. Our friends at Olive Films have released another one on DVD and Blu-ray, and it's a fun one: Flying Disc Man from Mars!

Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee, two titans of terror, together in one movie! Why, it must be an all-time HORROR CLASSIC, huh? You'd think so, wouldn't you. That's The Curse of the Crimson Altar.

A gal, a guy, a small boy, a lifetime criminal with an itchy finger trigger, that sort of thing, set against the backdrop of a snow-bound cabin in the mountains. Anybody have Storm Fear


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