Hot disc slight return: Shark Fin edition
While Mt. Everest is the tallest peak you can climb Meru Peak is the most difficult. Both mountains are located in the Himalayas though Meru sits over 7000-feet lower than Everest. Meru has three peaks, and the middle one The Shark Fin consists of a 1500-foot jolt of granite that pokes up in the form of its titular shape.
Meru illustrates how conquering the peak requires ice-climbing skills, mix climbing skills and altitude skills; and that’s a lot of skills. “You have all these different types of skills wrapped in a package that has defeated so many climbers,” says one of the three main participants of Meru (Music Box, 11/17). Of the three men documenting their ascent one of them has his claim to fame not the numerous peaks he’s scaled but rather he’s the guy who found George Mallory’s frozen body in 1999. Mallory an English mountaineer who was last seen on Everest in 1924.
Breath taking tame lapse vistas are combined with footage of the actual ascent, which are jaw dropping in their intensity. Problems being solved include how to haul 200-pounds of equipment and provisions up a straight rock and snow wall. It’s no surprise that the mountain defeats the climbers on their first try. Now a second expedition proves to be the ultimate test of human ingenuity versus nature. Scenes include up-close footage of an avalanche.
Jerusalem Blu-Ray 3D (MPI Home Video, 12/1) was produced for IMAX theaters by National Geographic. The 40-minute film touches on history, architecture and a cultural history that includes Christian, Jewish and Islam influences that have shaped the Middle Eastern city. The 3D adds the most impressive depth to aerial establishing shots and to interiors like the caverns under the Golden Dome of the Rock. The latter imagery shows the range of 3D just as it did in Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, one of the best 3D docs ever made. Perhaps the best moments are in the voluminous extras that include fly-over shots of the Western Wall and Masada (roughly 100-kilometers from Jerusalem). Also historical computerized views of the ancient structures that used to surround the Western Wall help put the enormity of the land into proper perspective.
Once again MST3K unleashes some classic sci-fi and horror flicks from the 1950s and once again they refrain from giving fans the chance to watch the unedited versions of the films they mock. To wit: one of the offerings, Roger Corman’s The Undead is almost impossible to find on disc other than on bootleg versions.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXIV (Shout! Factory, 12/1) delivers The Undead (1957); another Corman film from 1957 with the lengthiest title ever The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent; The She-Creature; and the sequel War of the Colossal Beast. The latter was an attempt to cash in on The Amazing Colossal Man with the gigantic 60-foot guy roaming the countryside and being captured by the military. In War of the Colossal Beast’s actual one good scene the big fellow is handed from government agency to government agency as they all pass on responsibility by bureaucratic fumbling and lack of Congressional funding.
Corman was much better at satire than Bert Gordon (Colossal director and B-movie producer). Viking Women aside (there are Vikings, there is a sea monster cameo, and there are Viking women) The Undead has one of the most innovative uses of perverse hypnotism and past life regression coupled with a truly diabolical ending that is as stunning now as it was in the Eisenhower era. I could go on with spoilers but why ruin a great night of entertainment by dropping the lid on the relation between science and sorcery and prostitution and witchcraft.
A true bonus is a brand new feature length documentary titled It Was A Colossal Teenage Movie Machine: The AIP Story. This in-depth look at American International Pictures is very well researched and provides great insight to the company founded by James Nicholson and Samuel Arkoff and their eventual fallout. American International Pictures was the most important small distributor/studio of that time and responsible for the best cult films of the era.
— Michael Bergeron