TV on DVD: Cursed Films: Season One [Blu-Ray]/James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction (DVD)

Was “The Crow” cursed? Did “Poltergeist” bring a hex upon the entire cast? Were there real satanic forces behind “The Exorcist”? Did “Twilight Zone: The Movie” conjure up bad luck and ultimately a curse? Well, hell no on all fronts. The thing about Cursed Films (now on Blu-Ray from Shudder and Image Entertainment), is that if you’re a movie buff and horror fan, you’ve heard about literally everything that’s explored in “Cursed Films.” At five episodes and thirty minutes an episode, “Cursed Films” basically goes over the same material we’ve seen or read about a thousand times but in greater length.

There’s literally nothing you’ll see here that we haven’t entertained over the last twenty five years through filler on basic cable and whatnot. It was a tragic fate that Brandon Lee suffered on the set of “The Crow,” but why do the producers take us on this whole journey exploring the potential for a curse, and then have the prop master explained how and why Lee died? It wasn’t a curse, it was a horrible accident. The same can be said for the episode for “Twilight Zone: The Movie” which begins on this conceit that the whole shoot was cursed.

Yes, it was cursed with negligence, irresponsibility, immense hubris. Not to mention the incredibly unnecessary deaths of Vic Morrow and two helpless children. And yes, it is weird that the set for “The Exorcist” burned down except for Regan’s room, but perhaps it’s because they kept the room at low temperatures for the shoot? Maybe? I don’t know. The only salvaging episode is “Poltergeist” which is such a compelling and dark series of events involving murder, illness, and unfortunate luck, all likely brought on from the use of actual human skulls as props during filming.

Even if you’re a believer in curses and the supernatural, “Cursed Films” will have you second guessing the accounts in all five episodes. The rest will become the products of confirmation bias, when all is said and done. While I love a good bit of mythology and Hollywood urban legends behind the legacy of film, “Cursed Films” feels like much ado about nothing, just exploring human misery and misfortune in the end.

The Blu-Ray includes director’s commentaries for all five episodes from season one.

On the opposite side of the coin there’s James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction now on Blu-Ray and DVD. For all folks that loved the limited series on AMC TV, all of the episodes are now compiled for repeated viewing. If there’s anyone who should be discussing the creation and evolution of science fiction, it’s Cameron, a man who has helmed numerous science fiction juggernauts, and has a true respect for the genre. Thankfully “Story of Science Fiction” isn’t shallow or brisk, but a much more thoughtful exploration of the genre and how it’s come to help society and in so many ways reflects our society for better and for worse.

The episodes are split in to “Alien Life”, “Space Exploration”, “Monsters”, “Dark Futures”, “Intelligent Machines”, and “Time Travel.” Cameron is able to gather some heavyweights of the genre and filmmaking to sit down and cover various topics and themes, while refreshingly jumping back and forth between decades to convey the weight of the topics discussed. Cameron and AMC compile a wonderful gallery of films and TV shows dissected including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Matrix, Independence Day, The Twilight Zone, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Total Recall, Alien, Aliens, Robocop, The Fifth Element, E.T., and the Star Wars saga, respectively.

Of course Cameron also covers his own iconic genre efforts including Aliens, Terminator 2, and Avatar. Cameron even sits down with Ridley Scott to discuss the “Alien” Series. He also dives into somewhat less well-known territory like The Thing from Another World, Stanislav Lem’s Solaris, and Childhood’s End, as well as a healthy dose of obscure 1950’s low-budget productions.

Not surprisingly, a number of key cast and crew members from these and other featured films are also on board with the program as the series features interviews with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, screenwriter Eric Heisserer of “Arrival,” special effects wizard Doug Trumbull, Guillermo del Toro, Will Smith, Sigourney Weaver, Paul Verhoeven and Ed Neumeier, Christopher Nolan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and dozens more.

There are even archival interviews with Ray Bradbury, and HG Wells included. Being the science fiction geek that he is, Cameron also includes. Lisa Yaszek (Professor of Science Fiction Studies at Georgia Tech), Screencrush’s Matt Singer, Wired contributor Annalee Newitz, and several noted sci-fi authors and science fiction and technology pioneers. It’s an embarrassment of riches for the respective science fiction fanatic. Cameron looks like he’s having a ball with this series covering an array of fascinating topics and how much science fiction has predicted our future, both dark and hopeful.

The Features for the Blu-Ray and DVD releases includes an extended series of interviews with the various guests that weren’t included on the original TV airings.

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