Category Archives: Retro Reviews

The Most Terrifying of Them All: Cannon Movie Tales’ “Snow White”

The Most Terrifying of Them All: Cannon Films' "Snow White"

I was never much of a fairy tale kind of kid, but Snow White is a story that I hold very dear to my heart. It’s dark, gritty, and relatable to me in such a way because I really had an Evil Queen as a mother. Sometimes step-parents can be a Godsend, while our real birth-givers are toxic entities in our lives, and it’s even worse when you’re a child if not traumatic altogether. My real mother is a narcissistic bipolar who was jealous of her own daughter growing up (why? I’ll never get that), which made my life growing up with her until she split pretty much a living hell. Without going into too much detail, I was treated rather poorly and my way of coping was escapism through a lot of horror films. And then there was this movie I ended up watching over a hundred times in my youth because it was not only, what I thought, was the best version of the gothic fairy tale, but it had elements of horror sprinkled in there that were done rather well. Before Snow White: A Tale Of Terror came around anyway exactly 10 years after the fact.

Dating all the way back to 1916, The Brothers’ Grimm tale of envy and horror has been adapted cinematically over and over again in the past 100 years of film. It may be one of the most tried and true stories to be reinvented every few years or so for audiences, via animation or live-action. While some details differ from each revamping of the 1812 German fairy tale, the major plot remains the same not giving too much room for suspense. However, in the 80s’, Cannon Movie Tales’ version of the fair maiden and her seven little friends came in swinging as the most faithful adaptation of the original story to date; and definitely lives up to the gothic nature that really is The Brothers’ Grimm as some of it is goddamn visually terrifying.

I mean, the magic mirror is straight-up made of nightmares, y’all.

Albeit the Evil Queen’s fate in the original story, Cannon’s Snow White gets most of the gritty details from the original right, even down to the apple core dislodging from her throat in transport. The movie stars Nicola Stapleton/Sarah Peterson as Snow White, Billy Barty from Willow and Legend fame, and Diana Rigg as the evil Queen who stole the whole show, and also induced a ton of nightmares as she did her job rather well. The rage and tone that comes off from this woman in the film is one for the books and to this day, unmatched by any Evil Queen’s performance in the myriad of actresses that have donned the wicked crown.

In total, the Queen attempted murder on SW four times. Once as a child in the woods with the huntsman, where she is offered mercy by the hunter and flees off into the forest, coming upon the dwarves’ cottage. Years later when the Queen finds out Snow is still alive, she then uses her master of disguise tactics to cosplay not once, but 3 different times as a Gyspy woman, a Geisha, and finally an old woman to fool the princess by offering her poison combs, too-tight lace, and a delightful deadly apple- which obviously is one that finally did her in. I have to say however, it’s such an insult to women everywhere that any woman would be that stupid to fall for these tricks multiple times, but then again, we would have a bit of a boring story had she used her noodle a bit.

Anyways, once the traveling Prince happens upon Snow just hanging out dead in the woods, he whisks her away to a castle in the middle of a blistering snowstorm. The entourage carrying her has a bit of an accident, causing SW to spill out of the carriage in her glass coffin, and the force of the fall urges her to cough up the poisoned bit of the apple, awakening her and allowing the pair to live happily ever after.

Well, almost. Just like in the book, the Evil Queen finds out about this wedding and freaks out when her trusty mirror tells her that the Prince’s bride-to-be, is way more beautiful than she. She throws a temper tantrum, breaking the mirror which turns out to be the true source of her magic, beauty, and youth. She quickly begins to tatter and age but not before she can make it to this castle to look upon this fair maiden before she dies. Low, and behold, it’s of course, Snow White. She turns from the alter to walk away but her face shatters into a million pieces before she can make it out of the vicinity.

As a kid, this was absolutely terrifying. As an adult, that’s karma bitch.

Cannon’s Snow White is not easy to come by these days but Amazon does have the DVD for sale at a decent price. If anything, skip the few cheesy musical numbers that made their way into this movie, but watch it for Diana Rigg and her downright crazy-good performance along with some visually terrifying imagery that you won’t soon forget.

The Underrated Holiday Special “The Christmas Toy” Sponsored by Kraft Commercials!

Once upon a time in the 80s, I had a VHS tape filled to the very last centimeter of oxide-coated Mylar tape of nothing but Christmas specials that were played over and over again throughout every holiday season for years. The thing literally had every Xmas special episode on it including a lot of the classic Rankin Bass entries like Frosty and Rudolph, and not-so-familiar ones like “Twas The Night Before Christmas” and the deep cut of Holiday RB specials, “Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold“. Over the years we added to it, with the very first Simpson’s Christmas Special, and even further down, the masterpiece of Beavis and Butt-Head Do Christmas. Do I still own this tape? Sadly I don’t as this 80s relic was damaged due to that son-of-a-bitch thing called Time. However, I do remember it quite vividly and especially, the very first movie on the tape that opened a plethora of Christmas vomit all over the screen- the highly underrated, Jim Henson’s “The Christmas Toy”.

WAY before Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story, the magnificent mind of Jim Henson told a tale of toys coming to life when no one was around. The story opens up with a cameo of Kermit the Frog introducing us to the home of the Jones family, bonus points to Kermit for including Weegee the family cat, and the kids’ playroom where all the magic happens along with our stories’ toy-time heroes: Rugby the Tiger, Apple the doll, and Weegee’s cat toy Mew- who was my absolute favorite because duh, he’s a cat toy! Even though that little fact was held against him for the better part of the movie.

The Playroom is abuzz with excitement for Christmas Eve with all the toys preparing for the new additions to the area, all except Rugby as he expresses fear and jealousy as he was THEE Christmas toy the year prior that his owner Jamie was most excited for. He hatches a plan to wrap himself up and settle himself under the tree so he may experience that joy once more at a new toy’s expense and it’s up to Apple, another prior favorite Christmas toy, and Mew to talk Rugby out of his nonsense.

I firmly believe Toy Story totally ripped off the premise here as the similarities are just a little too striking for my taste buds. A jealous favorite toy trying to overthrow a new toy? Especially when that new toy is a Space Princess, (ahem, Buzz Lightyear anyone?) With that all-too-familiar morality lesson of acceptance in the end, it’s a hard pill to swallow that someone at Pixar didn’t see this special and sampled from it. The only real difference is the dark turn Jim Henson put as a spin on the story: When a toy is caught out of place when they’re up and moving around, they become “frozen-solid forever”, never to be awoken ever again. Basically becoming a lifeless toy. This happens a few times throughout the movie and one of those instances was brutally sad. But hey, 80s children’s movies went balls to the wall by making kids cry and Jim Henson’s Christmas Toy was no exception to the golden rule of trauma!

The Christmas Toy debuted on December 6th, 1986 on ABC and was sponsored by Kraft which made this special even more deliciously appealing! Which meant the breaks consisted of commercials featuring recipes you can make at home that helped to make every holiday celebration special. Because nothing says holiday magic like processed cheese, described by the soothing narration of Ed Herlihy. Because hey, “The nicest gifts under the tree are those you make yourself.” These commercials hit the spot man, with a visual existence of holiday happiness in a warm and comfortable home, filled with family and loads of cheese.


Just look at these beuts of Christmas Kraft commercial Heaven.


In early 1994, years after The Christmas Toy aired and a year before Toy Story was released, there was a spin-off series called The Secret Life of Toys. I honestly don’t remember much about it other than it existed and occasionally caught snippets of it on the Disney Channel because, by that time, pre-teen anguish had set in and as fate would have it, it would have been Rugby’s (or hey, Woody’s) worst nightmare having a child that was growing up. However, The Christmas Toy was, and still is, a magical transport of nostalgia and in my humble opinion, a damn good Christmas story that doesn’t get nearly enough credit for being as awesome as it is.

If you want to revisit some “old friends” The Christmas Toy is currently streaming on Amazon Prime free for members. Or, you can just watch it here for free from Youtube uploader, Jer Hart. And in case you haven’t seen it, get ready for a brand new tradition to add to the holidays!

Jer Hart

[Review] “Raised On The ’80s: Unexpected Life Lessons from Movies and Music That Defined Pop Culture’s Most Excellent Decade”

What do The Karate Kid, The Breakfast Club, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High all have in common (besides being totally awesome 80’s movies?) – all of these and more are included in Chris Clew’s new book,  Raised on The ’80s: 30+ Unexpected Life Lessons from the Movies and Music That Defined Pop Culture’s Most Excellent Decade.

Now while that’s a mouthful to say, even more so is this book that I recently read and enjoyed that marries the thought of some of cinema’s most nostalgic films from the 80s’, and life’s harsh lessons with a splash of advice for this weird journey down the road of living according to author Clews.

The 80s’ were a turning point in film and TV where studios got a little ballsier when tackling taboo subjects for audiences. Beyond the “a very special episode” of our favorite sitcoms and “movies of the week”, messages buried inside the explosion of pop culture were both informed and meaningful and were smacked all over our faces from Saturday Morning cartoons to even Blockbuster Action Movies like Die Hard and Roadhouse.

What kind of deep meaningful life lesson does Die Hard have you ask? Well, Clews gives his own perspective here and I happen to agree wholeheartedly:

“Often times the best way to face a tough or challenging situation is with levity and humor.”

Clews dives deep into his own personal experiences with how John McClane’s humor and level-headedness helped him through some wild moments in life along with highlighting this fan-favorite from the decade harbors a few lessons we can take from Bruce Willis’ character.

“Throughout all his challenges, uncertainty, fear, and near-death experiences, there is one constant in McCalne’s Nakatomi Towers world- humor.” It keeps his mind clear, level, and sane and with that sort of mindset, it indeed saved his life. Now if McClane had a negative mindset and a humorless bastard throughout the movie, well, his situation would have turned out very different, and of course, so would the fate of his wife and other hostages. Also, it would have made for a shitty movie.

This is merely one example and just a tiny snippet of what this book that was two decades in the making covers, and a must-read for both nostalgic pop-culture lovers and cinephile critical thinkers. You can pick it up at Amazon here and makes a totally radical gift for the holidays!