Today's DVDs: The Phantom Carriage and Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore

The Phantom Carriage

stars Hilda Borgström and Victor Sjöström, who also directs.

The 1921 Swedish silent film The Phantom Carriage is a jewel and the perfect kickoff to the Halloween season of witches, goblins and ghouls on screen. (For those of you who don't recognize the name Victor Sjöström, Ingmar Bergman cited him as a major influence.)

Carriage, which some consider actor/director Sjöström's best work, has a simple enough premise: the last person to die before the stroke of midnight on December 31 is tasked with collecting fresh souls over the next year. Sjöström plays David, a man who dies just before midnight on New Year's Eve. The Phantom Carriage arrives at the moment of his death and the driver takes David on a ride, revisiting all of the mistakes and turning points of his life.

It's Sjöström's innovations behind the camera in Carriage that make it stand apart. He used double exposures to create the otherworldly dimension inhabited by the ghosts of the newly dead and the phantom collecting them. Double exposures were not new, but none had used them as effectively as Sjöström did here.

Carriage is also among the first films to use flashbacks as an effective way of storytelling (in fact, Carriage uses flashbacks inside of flashbacks).

The Extras: The Blu-ray release features a new digital transfer of a restored version of the film, two musical scores (one by experimental duo KTL and another by Swedish composer Matti Bye), audio commentary by film historian Casper Tybjerg and improved English subtitle translation. Director Ingmar Bergman is seen in an interview from the 1981 documentary Victor Sjöström: A Portrait, and there's The Bergman Connection, a visual essay by film historian/Bergman scholar Peter Cowie on Sjöström's influence on Bergman.

Herschell Gordon Lewis: Godfather of Gore

stars John Waters and Joe Bob Briggs, Frank Henenlotter and Jimmy Maslon direct.

If 90-year-old silent films aren't to your liking, but you still want something to put you in the Halloween horror movie mood, we suggest Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore. The documentary traces Lewis's extraordinary career. John Waters and Joe Bob Briggs among others comment on Lewis's work and influence. Lewis is the man behind such exploitation/horror classics as Blood Feast, She-Devils on Wheels and The Wizard of Gore.

Extras: An hour of deleted scenes, an H.G. Lewis trailer reel, gallery of H.G. exploitation art and a rare H.G. Lewis short, Hot Night at the Go-Go Lounge.

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