Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

One Last Monolith Haul

With my Cinema Monolith movie tower now overflowing with DVDs and Blu-rays, and with just about every film I’ve ever wanted to own on disc now part of the collection, and with my financial situation in ‘careful mode’ due my current between-jobs sabbatical, in January I made the decision to stop purchasing movies for good, and instead be content with the 1,000-plus I already owned. Which, if I were to watch one per week (my schedule before I went on my extended vacation), would take me nearly 25 years to get through.

So with that in mind, I made my final slew of purchases in January, picking up the remaining few I was still eager to own, plus a couple more I ended up discovering along the way. What follows is a breakdown of the final thirteen I picked up during this time…one last haul before I put my hard-earned cash to better use—groceries, bills, bike repair, occasional trips to Barro’s Pizza—and re-organize the tower for the last time.

The first of these acquisitions actually took place on New Year’s Eve of 2018, when I foolishly assumed December would be my last month of movie purchases. I’d first seen The Virgin Spring twenty years ago, and had wanted to own it ever since…my favorite film from Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, and one of the more emotionally powerful films I’d ever seen. But I could never afford the Criterion cost, especially when it finally arrived on Blu-ray. But that night, as I sat at my computer contemplating which movie would be my so-called last, I remembered this one, and after checking eBay, found a brand-new Blu-ray copy going for less than half the retail price…just $17.99! A cool find, with a new 2K restoration, a handful of bonus features, and a 20-page booklet inside.

I’d recently watched the original Star Trek movie for the first time in decades, and realized I hadn’t watched the original television series since 1988, when I’d first moved to Arizona and would watch an episode every weeknight at 10:00 on a local station. I remembered hearing years ago that the entire 3-season run had been cleaned up for DVD, with new effects and CGI improvements made to replace the more basic 1960s effects and backdrops we’d been seeing for years. So in early January, when I went online to read the reviews for these improved sets, and what they cost, I was flabbergasted to find that, though highly regarded, the Blu-ray seasons retailed for an outrageous $129 each! But that was 2008…what did they go for now? How about $8.99 for Season 1 and $14.99 for Season 2? I quickly grabbed those two sets off eBay (I wasn’t interested—yet—in Season 3), and trust me when I say, after watching five episodes, these improvements—along with the restored prints—look awesome.

For my birthday in January, my friend Doug gave me a gift of a Blu-ray release of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, the 1962 camp classic starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, which I’d never seen before. He’d seen it back in high school, and remembered it being quite different, and even a bit bizarre, so of course he thought of me and figured I might get a kick out of it, too. He also liked the quotable dialogue, and the fact that the two stars hated each other during filming, so with all that going for it, I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t get a kick out of it. And for those eagle-eyed readers who’ve noticed the UK 12 rating on the box, and wondered if a foreign disc can be played here in the US, never fear: this one’s region-free, and can be played anywhere!

Towards the end of the month I began choosing which DVDs and Blu-rays I was going to pick for my final purchase from Amazon, and this was the first. Of course I’ve seen this sci-fi adventure many times before, but I’d forgotten how much fun it was until watching it on TV several years ago, and a recent review by my blogging friend Mikey over at Wolfmans Cult Film Club convinced me I needed to add this to the Monolith. And imagine my elation when I found the Blu-ray available for a mere $5.99, AND it was loaded with a bunch of bonus features, AND an on-line technical review stated, “Fantastic Voyage easily ranks among the most gorgeous films on Blu-ray.” All for six measly bucks! So yes, it immediately went into my shopping cart. I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t want to see Raquel Welch in high-def?

This time I had two blogging friends offer a recommendation, Mike over at Mike’s Take on the Movies and Lindsey at The Motion Pictures, for the Mario Bava-directed ‘not-really-vampires’ space classic Planet of the Vampires. But even if I hadn’t been influenced by their reviews, I think I would’ve bought this disc simply for the outstanding poster artwork on the case cover…a poster, by the way, that I’m still wanting framed and hanging on my wall. Both Mike and Lindsey praised the set design, art direction, and Bava’s use of colors, all of which had me eager to watch, and all of which should look great on Blu-ray. I’m really looking forward to this one…it sounds like a whole mess of cheeky sci-fi fun, and of course, I’m also excited about the handful of extras that are included as well.

My friend Dave at work had told me about a more recent, updated cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and since I didn’t recall liking the original version all that much, I thought I’d give this new version a try. But first, I borrowed the original on Blu-ray from the library…and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I also appreciated the care and thought that went into the Blu-ray extras and interactive menu designs, so when I watched the newer cut on DVD, I don’t know if I was disappointed in the updated effects and trimming of scenes, or the fact that the picture wasn’t as sharp and vibrant as the Blu-ray, or maybe a combination of both. I then borrowed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan on Blu-ray, and really really liked it. And again, the look of the film and the quantity and quality of extras were simply outstanding. So I skipped renting The Search for Spock and decided instead to just buy all three films, so I could enjoy them and the bonus features at my leisure. Which is what I did. (And in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t like the final three films in the series, at all).

I’ve been a fan of—and perhaps madly in love with—Diana Rigg ever since I saw her in the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service many years ago, yet for whatever reason I’ve never tried to watch episodes of her British espionage TV series, The Avengers, even though I knew they existed. That is until recently, when I happened upon a YouTube video featuring various clips of her sweet, cute self as Emma Peel, set to the Robert Palmer song ‘Simply Irresistible’. I was instantly hooked (or re-hooked), and when I discovered there were actually two other actresses involved in the series, I wondered if there was something like an ‘Emma-only’ set to be had. Lo and behold, there was…all 51 of her episodes, spanning three seasons and stretched over 16 DVD discs! Surely I can’t afford this set, said I, until I saw on Amazon: retail $50, on sale for $23! Did I grab it and place my order immediately? YES I DID!

Remember when I wrote that article about the Criterion $1 Sale? Well, apparently I wasn’t kidding: when I wondered into a local thrift store back in January, on the lookout for an old Jaws paperback, I noticed a thick DVD case nestled in with all the current, mass-market movies: a 2-disc Criterion Collection DVD of the Polish film The Double Life of Veronique, looking like it was in mint condition! How it came to be trapped in a discount shop is a mystery, but I’m guessing many a consumer passed this one by to get at the scratched-up copies of Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Christmas with the Kranks. I’ve never seen this film, and I have no idea what it’s about, but for a grand total of $1.61, I could not—nor would I allow myself—to pass up such an opportunity.

Hold on, that looks an awful lot like a VHS copy of a Clint Eastwood movie…and guess what, it most certainly is! Doug and I were at an antique mall checking things out one Saturday afternoon, and in a display case I found a small collection of VHS movies for sale, all looking in very good condition. One of them was, of course, The Outlaw Josey Wales, my favorite Eastwood movie of all time, and since I have everything in my personal movie collection from Beta tapes to Laserdiscs to HD-DVDs, I thought this would be a good addition. Only…I didn’t buy it while we were there, and regretted not doing so for days afterwards. So, one week later, I hopped on my bike and made the 10-mile trek back to the mall, hoping the video was still available…and it was. But was it outrageously priced? Nope…just one thin dollar! And yes, the movie and the box that contained it were both in mint condition; stupidly, however, the transparent tape the employees used to attach the price label was sticky as hell, and it literally took me a half-hour to slooooowly peel it off, to prevent any of the box art being peeled off with it. But hey, it worked.

And finally, the last of the Monolith hauls: a Blu-ray copy of American Graffiti, the George Lucas love letter to his days cruising the streets of Modesto, California as a teenager. Again, this was another film I haven’t seen in years, and remembered hardly anything about it. But after watching Smokey and the Bandit one night, I checked out a short documentary included on the disc titled 100 Years of Universal: The ’70s, and one of the handful of movies they looked at was this one. Suddenly, I really wanted to watch this film again: the stars, the time period depicted, the wonderful look of the Blu-ray print, and just the overall feel-good tone of the story. And once again, I scored a good deal: a seller on eBay had a new copy for $7, though with an unfortunate new ‘pop art’ cover. But for just seven bucks, I’ll survive.

Well, that’s it: the last thirteen DVDs and Blu-rays—and stray VHS—that will ever find a home on the Monolith. Of course, I’ve said to myself many times before that “this purchase will be my last,” and it never is, but this time I really think I’m done. I now have everything I need, and at the very least, if an outstanding, extras-laden Blu-ray is released that would take the place of a bare-bones DVD movie I already own, I may consider making the switch.

And if you’ve made it this far, and aren’t annoyed with me for taking up a valuable portion of your day with such a long post, let me know your thoughts on any or all of these additions to the Monolith. Have you seen any of the updated Star Trek television episodes? Was $1.61 too much to spend on The Double Life of Veronique? Should I have bought more selections from that case full of one-dollar VHS movies? Or maybe I should just ignore my decree, purchase a second Monolith, and start adding to it immediately.

33 comments on “One Last Monolith Haul

  1. NOTHERE4LONG!
    3/8/19

    Boy, if I had a nickel for every time I’d heard that!! Buy, watch, live, enjoy!!! They’re not Ferraris – they’re movies. Beautiful layout too BTW!! And your choices are varied, intriguing and GOOD! 🙂

    • Todd B
      3/8/19

      Ha, I bet you’d have enough nickels to…buy me another Blu-ray! But wait, that’s not allowed any more…well, maybe you can buy me an ice cream cone instead. And glad you like the choices; of the ones you’ve seen from that list, which is your favorite?

      • NOTHERE4LONG!
        3/12/19

        Oh, I’d have to say Baby Jane. A classic on the order of Mommie Dearest (I think).

        Hey, do know if there’s a way to default those notification checkboxes to CHECKED? For us old lazy morons who forget? Thank you Commissioner!!

      • Todd B
        3/12/19

        Yes, I’d say both of those could be considered classics; however, whether they’re considered more ‘cult’ or ‘camp’ I’m not sure!

        As for defaulting the checkbox: I can’t do it from my end for YOUR notifications, but I assumed if you checked it once, you will get ALL notifications from that point on. At least that’s how it’s worked when I’ve done it for myself for other blogging sites. If you haven’t already, just trying checking the box at the end of any review or post of mine (“Notify me of new comments via email”), and I think one of three things will happen: you’ll be notified when I respond to YOUR comment for that post, or you’ll be notified if ANYONE comments on that post, or you’ll be notified when I respond to ANY comment you make over all posts. Just remember which post you put the check in so you can UN-check it if need be!

  2. geelw
    3/8/19

    Excellent haul, sir. You reminded my also financially slim self to add a few flicks to the too-large library, so thanks. That Avengers set is excellent, btw, so enjoy it. $1.61 for Veronique? Total STEEEEEAL, man. I just woke up, so it’s off to make some coffee…

    • Todd B
      3/8/19

      Glad I’m able to help you drop a few bucks on movies…which ones are you thinking about getting? And I think I’ll get started on The Avengers this weekend…I’ve had this set for over a month, so it’s high time I get me some Peel!

  3. Lindsey
    3/8/19

    I feel honored to have influenced one of the final Monolith acquisitions! I think you’ll love Planet of the Vampires and am eager to hear your thoughts on it. I haven’t stopped buying but have slowed down a lot due to space, saving most of my movie budget up for Criterion’s flash sales — with the occasional odd thrift find thrown in. I haven’t been as lucky as you, finding a $1 Criterion, but there is a Goodwill near me that occasionally has classics still in the shrink wrap!

    • Todd B
      3/8/19

      I’ve been wanting Planet of the Vampires ever since I read your post, so thanks for steering me that way! I’ll be watching it soon, and hopefully reviewing it soon as well. I’ll have to look into those Criterion flash sales…oops, I can’t do that anymore! I have the same problem as you: running out of room, and places to stack the overflow. And yes, places like Goodwill and Savers are veritable hotbeds of unexpected – and cheap – finds; that’s where I picked up a few HD-DVDs to add to the collection not too long ago.

      • Lindsey
        3/8/19

        Criterion had a flash sale last week. My shelves are going to start creaking when that package arrives haha 🙈 I moved all of my films from the ‘80s and newer into binders, which helped some; I had a hard time accepting the idea of recycling the artwork but don’t want to get rid of my book collection, so it had to be done! I’ve been toying with the idea of putting all but Criterions/special editions in binders but haven’t quite made up my mind yet. I love so many of the illustrated covers on my classics — though I do also own a lot of hideous public domain covers I’d readily part with!

      • Todd B
        3/8/19

        Ha, those public domain ones can be kinda lame! And it would make perfect sense for me to put my films into big binders, but I just can’t part with the cases, and having them on display when I watch the discs (or just having them on display on the Monolith). I can’t remember if I’ve ever asked you: any idea how many films on disc you own?

      • Lindsey
        3/8/19

        That’s why I’m still torn on what to do about the classics. Realistically, it would clear up three shelves if I got a couple more binders, but I love how the cases look, all perfectly aligned and alphabetized! The official count on Letterboxd is 1,092 but I haven’t updated that in several months. With more recent acquisitions and TV series thrown in it’s probably just under 1,200.

      • Todd B
        3/8/19

        I’m still working on adding my collection to Letterboxd, but I think that’s about where I stand as well, between 1,100 to 1,200. I still have to add my acquisitions from 2018, as well as those 13 from January. However, any way you look at it, that’s still a lot movies taking up space on our shelves!

      • Lindsey
        3/8/19

        Yes — and so many I’ve yet to view! I need to make a plan to tackle all of the blind buys I still haven’t watched, haha. I will have to look at your list on Letterboxd once it’s finished, too, and see how our collections overlap!

      • Todd B
        3/8/19

        When I’m done prepping Letterboxd I’ll post a notice on CM so people can go look…if they so dare! And I’m going to guess that 25% of the movies in our respective collections will match up…or does 250 out of a thousand seem high, or maybe low?

      • Lindsey
        3/8/19

        I’d say that’s a pretty fair estimate given our shared interest in cheesers/classics, but my unique interest in objectively awful teen movies/chick flicks of the early millennium, haha!

      • Todd B
        3/8/19

        Yeah, the teen chick flick totals of my collection are embarrassingly low!

      • Lindsey
        3/8/19

        You mean to tell me you DON’T own Crossroads or Blue Crush? For shame! 😂

      • Todd B
        3/8/19

        Yes, I’m so ashamed.

  4. Dracula
    3/8/19

    Made for good reading this morning while having my bowl of Cheerios and then heading out to minus 5 degrees here in Maine. Any Stephen King movies in the Monolith since he is our neighbor?

    • Todd B
      3/8/19

      I thought the answer was going to be zero, sitting here at my desk in 80-degree Peoria weather, but when I double-checked the tower, I found two I’d forgotten about: The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Both worth checking out if you’ve never seen them.

  5. If you don’t already have it then I’ve got the perfect choice for your eventual next purchase. Never Say Never Again. 🙂

    Thanks for the shout out on Vampires. I’ll look forward to your thoughts on it. Enjoy the original Trek series all over again. Love that show and many of the others.

    Cheers.

    • Todd B
      3/9/19

      Ummmm…I think my Bond shelf on the Monolith is full! And yes, I’m loving the Trek episodes, not just because of how nice they look, but I don’t know how many I might’ve missed back in ’88, so now I definitely will get to see them all!

      • Todd B
        3/9/19

        Ha! Here I was watching tonight’s Svengoolie episode, and suddenly out of the blue it hit me: your Never Say Never Again line was a joke! Derf! I’ll try not to be so dense next time!

  6. Yeah when you put it in that context! “It’ll take nearly 25 years to get though!” I have the same with my record collection. There’s records I adore in there which I probably haven’t listen too in 25 years! It’s crazy when you think about it!

    Right The Virgin Spring has gone straight on the too watch list. I too got to see Baby Jane for the first time last year. Really fun crazy performances.

    “Who wouldn’t want to see Raquel Welch in high-def?” $6 what a steal! Glad to have reminded you of it and it was so great revisiting it.

    Yep we’ve chatted all things Star Trek. That’s another top buy bro. Cheap box sets are a buzz to buy. Great to see The Avengers in there. I haven’t seen them for so long. I might be tempted to pick that up myself. I just got the UFO Gerry Anderson complete series through for £11. I’m loving rewatching that. Too many saucy girls and the stories are darker than I remembered. I too have been looking forward to Planet of the Vampires.

    Top post, big read buddy.

    PS love the framed cinema photo collection on your wall.
    PSS by the time you approve this comment I bet you’ve already bought another movie lol. The addict in us.

    • Todd B
      3/10/19

      You’ll have to let me know when you watch The Virgin Spring (15 to 20 years from now), but before you do (and if you haven’t already), try not to read anything about it; there are some good moments in there that are better left to your shock and surprise.

      Yeah, those Star Trek episodes are just flat-out outstanding in those Blu-ray editions. It burns me, though, that Season 3 comes in a different case size than the prior two seasons (I know, picky), and there are hardly any extras in it. AND it’s considered the weakest of the seasons, or so I’v read. But I may have to break down and get it, without anyone knowing I’ve broken my pledge!

      That Emma Peel collection of The Avengers has gone up a little in price, but it’s still a steal: $29 on Amazon right now. There’s a similar set, that has a seventh bonus features disc, that’s going for $179…you may want to skip that one. And I remember watching UFO as a kid…and looks like you got that one at a stellar price, too.

      And no, I haven’t bought another more movies before I approved your comment…but I’ve thought about it! Thanks for the note, Mikey!

      • Thanks for the warning tip on The Virgin Spring. I always endeavor to read as little as possible and always stay away from trailers. I’ll let you know when I get to it. Hehe “15 to 20 years time” LOL We be both hovering around on our zimmer frames then!

        OOo the different size case! Thats naughty. Completing collections doesn’t count on the pledge I would say. Actually hang on I’ll ask Kirk….. Yep the Captain says it’s cool but Spock did raise an eyebrow! And Bones! Well he just shouted “Damn it man! I am a doctor not a blogger!”

        Yeah what are they thinking with some of those skyhigh prices! I steer well clear until they drop to a sensible fee.

      • Todd B
        3/12/19

        Ha, I’d never heard the term ‘zimmer frames’…I assumed they were senior citizen reading glasses! Had to look it up to find out they were walkers (what they’re called here in the US)!

        And thanks for the notion that completing DVD or Blu-ray collections would not ‘break the pledge’, but part of the pledge has to do with having no more room on the Monolith, and having the cases finally, end-gamingly organized they way I want them. I think there’s one shelf in one section that maybe one more Blu-ray could squeeze into…but it would have to be a film related to that section’s theme! And if Spock questions it (I’m assuming that’s Mr. Spock and not Dr. Spock!), then it’s a no-go!

      • Haha yes it’s a weird word isn’t it. Apparently named after the main manufacturer from a company called Zimmer Holdings. It’s a generation thing, I don’t think the youth know of it. Yeah more commonly known as mobility walkers here too.

        If that final DVD space is for Kindergarten Cop then Dr Spock will full heartily approve but I just noticed Mr Spock flicked the “set to stun” button OFF!!

      • Todd B
        3/13/19

        Please tell Mr Spock to cool his jets (and Dr Spock he’s SOL)…Kindergarten Cop would never take up valuable space on the Monolith! If anything, that spot will be taken by…wait a minute, I just checked, and I can squeeze THREE more Blu-rays on the tower! But they would have to be films – one of each – from these three genres: classic sci-fi/horror, a Western or a war movie, and a Clint Eastwood film I don’t already own. Otherwise, my deflector shields are up!

  7. Eric Binford
    4/4/19

    LOL! I can’t stop buying DVDs and Blu-rays! And, no, I can’t really afford them either, but what the heck, I don’t have any vices so why not? “You Only Live ONCE” or is it “TWICE” … 😉 Seriously, I get it. My wife keeps asking me, “do you need all those movies?” Of course not, but it’s a harmless addiction and I do re-watch my films all the time. 🙂

    • Todd B
      4/6/19

      I still feel compelled to take a look at the movie shelves whenever I’m in a Target or Walmart, or a thrift store, but then I put my foot down and tell myself, noooope! I’ve got so many on the Monolith (and more stacked on my CD shelf) that I still need to watch, and many have been sitting there for years! But I do agree, it’s a harmless addiction, and for the most part I’ve only bought movies that I know I’d re-watch again and again. But if I see another Criterion for a buck at a thrift store, I may not be able to contain myself…

      • NOTHERE4LONG!
        4/6/19

        I wholeheartedly support your movie/film habit!! (Could be WAY so much worse). Very constructive and tons cheaper than golf!

      • Todd B
        4/7/19

        You DO support my movie habit…I’ve got a quite a few DVDs and Blu-rays on the Monolith shelves thanks to you! But the big question: is it tons cheaper than miniature golf?

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Review Totals

Movies Reviewed: 222

From the Monolith: 123

Movies by Decade

1920s – 0
1930s – 6
1940s – 19
1950s – 35
1960s – 34
1970s – 35
1980s – 33
1990s – 6
2000s – 13
2010s – 41

Movies by Genre

Action/Adventure – 40
Comedy – 35
Crime – 21
Documentary – 5
Drama – 24
Horror – 38
Musical – 1
Mystery/Thriller – 19
Romance – 3
Sci-Fi/Fantasy – 27
Western – 8

Movies by CM Rating

10 star – 10
9 star – 28
8 star – 35
7 star – 31
6 star – 22
5 star – 22
4 star – 23
3 star – 18
2 star – 18
1 star – 12
0 star – 3

Movies by MPAA Rating

Pre-1968 – 89
G – 1
PG – 32
PG-13 – 34
R – 58
NC-17 – 0
TV and Unrated – 8

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