HOME ENTERTAINMENT : Visiting Old Haunts for Halloween Video Thrillers


Halloween is just around the corner. And there's no better way to get into the ghoulish spirit than watching a great, scary horror flick. Besides the usual "Frankenstein," "Dracula" and "The Wolf Man," there are plenty of movies available on home video that are guaranteed to make your heart pound a little faster.

Below are some thrillers, comedy chillers and even a howling good documentary that set the right Allhallows' Eve mood. The big questions is: Are you brave enough to watch any of these with the lights off?

"Dead of Night" (Republic Home Video) truly tingles the spine. The 1945 British horror classic, set at a remote country house, follows the terrifying individual nightmares of five guests. Michael Redgrave excels as a ventriloquist with a demonic dummy. Sally Ann Howes, Basil Radford, Mervyn Johns and Roland Culver also star.

Robert Wise, director of the Oscar-winning "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music," helmed the 1945 atmospheric thriller "The Body Snatcher" (RKO). Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Henry Daniell star in Robert Louis Stevenson's story about a grave robber who supplies bodies to a research scientist in 19th-Century Edinburgh. Produced by the great Val Lewton ("Isle of the Dead," "Cat People").

Shockmeister William Castle directed "House on Haunted Hill" (FoxVideo), a campy 1959 horror film starring Vincent Price as a wealthy man who invites a group of people to his mansion for a haunted house party and offers $10,000 to anyone who survives the night of horrors.

Rene Clair directed "The Ghost Goes West" (HBO Video), a charming 1936 fantasy starring Robert Donat as a timid Scottish ghost who finds himself in the good old U.S.A. after a family buys the castle he haunts and brings it to America.

Clair also directed "I Married a Witch" (Warner Home Video), an imaginative 1942 comedy starring Veronica Lake as a woman burned at the stake during the Salem witch trials who comes back to haunt the ancestors of those who convicted her. Her plans hit a snag when she falls in love with one of the ancestors (Fredric March).

Jules Dassin directed "The Canterville Ghost" (MGM/UA Home Video), a sweet 1944 fantasy about a British ghost (Charles Laughton) who has been waiting for centuries for a kinsman to perform a brave deed to free him from his haunt. Robert Young and Margaret O'Brien star.

Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard team up in the spooky spook comedy "The Ghost Breakers" (MCA/Universal Home Video). They get more than they bargained for when they investigate the eerie mansion that Goddard has inherited in Cuba. Anthony Quinn also stars. Remade in 1953 as "Scared Stiff" (Paramount Home Video) with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

If you're bored with seeing Bela Lugosi flap his cape in 1931's "Dracula," check out the Spanish-language version (MCA/Universal Home Video). Though made simultaneously with Lugosi's version and utilizing the same sets and script (one shot by day, the other by night), the end results are quite different. This "Dracula" is moodier, more humorous and infinitely sexier. Carlos Villarias and Lupita Tova star.

"The True Story of Frankenstein" (A&E; Home Video, $20), is an informative examination of the Frankenstein phenomenon that began in 1818 with the publication of Mary Shelley's seminal novel. It boasts great clips from the "Frankenstein" movies and interviews with the likes of Mel Brooks and Boris Karloff's daughter, Sara. Hosted by Roger Moore; narrated by Eli Wallach.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has just released a pristine print (pulled from the original 35mm negative) of George Romero's 1968 flesh-eating zombie classic "Night of the Living Dead" ($15). The two-volume set features the movie, plus two theatrical trailers and the goofy parody "Night of the Living Bread," in which slices of Wonder Bread attack and kill humans.


Beatlemania: The Beatles are hotter than ever with the impending "'Beatles Anthology" CD set and ABC documentary. MPI Home Video is riding the Beatles wave with the remastered versions of their movies: 1964's "A Hard Day's Night" and 1965's "Help!" ($20 each).

Besides digitally enhancing the film and audio, the tapes contain bonus footage. "A Hard Day's Night" includes a theatrical trailer for the 1982 re-release, a short interview with director Richard Lester and his 1959 experimental film "The Running, Jumping & Standing Still." The "Help!" tape features the original trailer, silent footage of the set and world premiere, stills of scenes cut from the final print and a radio interview with the lads.


Oldies but Goodies: Joan Crawford is at her hammy best as a tough-talking book editor in the delicious 1959 melodrama "The Best of Everything" ($20). Based on Rona Jaffe's best-seller, "Best" also stars Hope Lange, Robert Evans (yes, the Robert Evans) and Suzy Parker.


New This Week: Val Kilmer is the new Caped Crusader in "Batman Forever" (Warner Home Video, $20). The summer blockbuster also stars Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones, Nicole Kidman and Chris O'Donnell. Joel Schumacher directed.

Nancy Allison Wolfe stars in "Bar Girls" (Orion Home Video), a comedy set at a Los Angeles lesbian bar.

Kevin Spacey and Frank Whaley star in the satire "Swimming With Sharks" (Vidmark).

A talented cast--Alfred Molina, Eric Stoltz, Gabrielle Anwar and Camilla Soeberg--can't save "A Night of Love" (Orion Home Video), an unsexy sex farce based on an Emile Zola story.

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