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Dppleganger Releasing's The Monster Collection is documentary double-feature that brings together two horror-themed works by French filmmakers Alexandre Poncet and Gilles Penso in one impressive, deluxe package. Here's a look at the two features…
2019's Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters is an eighty-three minute piece that explores the life and career of its titular subject, widely regarded as one of the best creature creators in modern horror moviedom. Made up of interviews with its subject as well as with contemporaries Joe Dante, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Paul Verhoeven and Dennis Muren, the film does a nice job not only of delving into Tippet's background and early days but also in exploring both the films and filmmakers that influneced him as well as those who would go on to be influenced by his own work. Having won an Oscar for his work on Return Of The Jedi and then again for Jurassic Park, he's obviously been recognized by his peers but doesn't quite have the name recognition that some other effects titans do. Having focused primarily on stop motion work until moving into doing digital effects work Starship Troopers, he's got a wealth of experience and we learn here about the work that he did not just on the aforementioned films but also on pictures like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, Robocop and its two sequels, Willow and more.
The documentary is quick in its pacing and it proves a nice mix of insight from those who have worked with Tippett over the years as well as from the man himself. We get some stories about how Ray Harryhausen was, obviously, a massive influence on him after he saw some of his work at a young age, how he came to experiment with filmmaking on his own once he got his hands on an 8mm camera, getting his break with The Crater Lake Monster and how, after proving himself on that film, moving up step by step to films like Piranha and then the bigger Hollywood pictures made not for indies but for the major studios.
Tippett himself comes across as a really nice, interesting guy. He's a good storyteller and comes across as someone who is very thankful for how his career has not only allowed him to be successful in his field but also to do something that he seems to truly love. We should all be so lucky!
The second feature is 2015's The Frankenstein Complex, a longer piece that clocks in at a hundred-and-seven minutes and which focuses on movie makeup and effects work in general, from the early work by pioneers like Jack Pierce and Lon Chaney through to the various decades that follow, coming right up to the modern day (or at least very close to it, given that at the time of this writing the piece is six-years old, and a lot can change in that span of time!).
Like the first feature, a lot of the content here comes from interviews, and this time appearing on camera are luminaries such as Rick Baker, Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, Mick Garris, Alec Gilis, Steve Johnson, John Landis, Greg Nicotero, Kevin Smith, Phil Tippett, Chris Walas, Matt Winston and Tom Woodruff Jr., all of whom have been involved with SFX work to some degree in their own careers (if not specializing in them specifically, as is the case with quite a few of the interviewees on that list).
As the documentary progresses, we're given an entertaining crash course in the history of the work, learning how effects experts have used everything from grease paint and latex to resin and rubber to create various prosthetics, how the advent of stop-motion animation had such a huge impact on the industry when it started to become popular, and then of course how the advent of digital effects work has gone on to revolutionize the industry in many ways.
Both of these documentaries are bound to be of interest to monster kids, horror movie fans and sci-film junkies as that is, obviously, the primary focus here. They're well-paced and nicely put together on a technical level and mange to cover a lot of ground.
Each film in this set is given its own dual-layered Blu-ray disc and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, framed at 1.78.1. Shot digitally, there's no print damage on any of the footage shot specifically for these documentaries, but as they frequently pull from archival sources, some of which can look a bit worse for wear, you'll need to expect some jumps in video quality when these sources are used. Overall though, things shape up quite nicely. The discs are well-authored and are free of any major problems.
24-bit DTS-HD tracks are provided in 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround sound, in English, for each feature, with subtitles provided in English only. There are one or two spots where there's some French dialogue and during these scenes the subs will appear automatically if you don't have them selected. Both tracks sound clean, clear and nicely balanced.
Extras are extensive. We get a commentary with Phil Tippett and directors Alexandre Poncet and Gilles Penso on disc one as well as some interesting video features, the best of which is a massive documentary called Making The Monsters that runs a hundred minutes in length and goes way, way in-depth. The first disc also features an isolated score, twelve-minutes of deleted scenes, a still gallery and a trailer for the feature.
Disc two contains the hour-long making of featurette, The Frankenstein Odyssey as well as eighteen-minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, a fifteen-minute piece called Digital Craftsmanship that goes over, well, the digital effects used, as well as a huge photo gallery, a theatrical trailer and an isolated score option for the movie.
Included in this set is a third disc, comprised entirely of bonus features, many of which will definitely be of interest to fans. These are broken up into four sections, this first of which is Frankenstein Complex Conversations And Interviews. This section contains a twenty-three minute Master Class With Guillermo del Toro featurette, Extended Conversations sections that include an hour with John Landis and Joe Dante, twenty-seven minuets with Mick Garris and twenty-nine minutes with Steve Johnson and John Vulich. There's also a twenty-minute Q & A panel with Joe Dante, Alexandre Poncet and Gilles Penso, a nine-minute The Lair Of Rick Bakersegment and fourteen-minute The Lair Of Alec Gillis And Tom Woodruff, Jr segment, both of which are basically studio tours. If you want to know more about some of the artwork that ties into the movie and fandom surrounding it, check out the thirteen-minute Paper Monsters: The Art Of Charles Chiodo and the fifteen-minute Living With Monsters: The Art Of Kevin Yagher. We also get the ten-minute Sympathy For Rhe Devil interview with Bernard Rose, the eleven-minute The Gremlins Pool interview with Sacha Feiner, the nine-minute From Latex To Pixels: The Art Of Gino Acevedo and The Beauty And the Beasts: The Art Of Ve Neill featurettes.
In the second section, Mad Dreams And Monsters Interviews, we get few interviews with people who have worked with or alongside Phil Tippett over the years: The Joy Of Working With Phil interviews Paul Verhoeven for six minutes, Phil Will Fix This! interviews Joe Johnston for fifteen-minutes, Animating With Phil interview Tom St. Amand for six minutes, Phil's Vision interviews Chris Walas for nine minutes, Friendship, Robots And Dinosaurs interviews Dennis Muren for fourteen minutes and From Stop Motion To CGI interviews Craig Hayes five five minutes.
Tippett himself is up in the twelve-minute Memories And Archives With Phil Tippett featurette, the five minute Dinosaur Supervisor featurette and the three minute Starship Troopers 2 featurette, where he's joined by Jon Davison. We get yet more insight on his work and career in the five minute "Dinosaur!"with Paul Verhoeven and Jon Davison, the four minute Mutant Fish with Joe Dante, the eight minute Modern Craftsmanship with Alec Gillis, the sixteen minute Robot Design with Craig Hayes and the fifteen minute Musical Storytelling with Alexandre Poncet featurettes.
The Phil Tippett Short Films section contains some really neat stuff. Prehistoric Beasts is a ten-minute short made in 1985 while MutantLand a three minute short from 2010 and both are quite fun. Tippett provides optional commentary over each one. Also found in here is fourteen minutes of Phil Tippett's Early Animation Tests, which is a remarkably charming collection of some of his surviving early work.
The last section is the Virtual Museum of Phil Tippett's Creations area, which is comprised of a bunch of short segments, each running one to three minutes in length, that show off his work from Star Wars, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Dragonslayer, The Golden Child, Howard The Duck, Robocop, Willow, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Pinocchio, Gargoyles, Coneheads, Jurassic Park, Dragonheart, Starship Troopers, Evolution, Blade 2, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hellboy and last but not least, Cloverfield.
All of this is wrapped up in a nice hardcover book presentation. There is a ridiculous amount of extra content included in this set set
The Monster Collection is a fantastic release that compiles two very well-made documentaries sure to satisfy genre fans in very nice shape and adds in an amazing selection of extra features making for an insanely comprehensive set. Highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.