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Doctor Who: Horror of Fang Rock - Episode 92 [DVD] [1963] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • ASIN: B0009PVZFK
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 333,040 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Region 1 DVD. Please note you will need a player capable of playing Region 1 DVDs

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Format: DVD
A moody and atmospheric late 70s classic, and notably the only Doctor Who serial to date to be set in Edwardian England. Forget about the poor special effects; if you're any kind of fan of the 'classic' series you'll know what to expect - as a 4 year old in 1977 I was terrified, and the green slimy alien has stayed in my mind ever since.
The claustrophobic feel in the lighthouse is intense and absolutely terrific, whilst the zombie lighthouse keeper, Reuben, stalking the tower electrocuting people, is a series high point.
Overall this is class Tom Baker led Doctor Who and if you've never seen it I urge you to do so!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars 89 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seeking the "Best Of" Early Dr. Who (Honorable Mention) 26 Jun. 2014
By Tinfoot - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I had watched HORROR OF FANG ROCK as a kid, but no memory persisted of it save for a lighthouse and fog... and after watching it again 30 some years later, I can see why those two images persisted. Although the comparison to Agatha Christie's TEN LITTLE INDIANS is drawn, I personally found it more in line with Lovecraft's own style.

This episode marks a new Producer epoch as Philip Hinchcliffe was rather shabbily ditched by backroom politics and replaced by elbow rubber, Graham Williams. The remarkable difference between the two is immediately obvious in this first adventure produced by Williams- the cliffhangers are lame compared to Hinchcliffe's quite loving attention to them. And although I avoid detailed plot revelations by principle, even fan-devoted serials such as Dr.Who, but I have to say the board leveling body count in this one is eyebrow raising compared to the previous formula. As a rather unique entry in style and writer Terrance D.'s attention to serial backstory details, which is one of his signature elements more than any other Dr. Who writer, HORROR OF FANG ROCK is definitely a must-have for the collector.

However, as one of the best of Dr. Who, this adventure does fall a bit short. It was a sudden, emergency rush production and although excellent performances are had all around (Jameson as Leela really starts getting her teeth in the role by this point), and the tension is fairly maintained throughout, even as Terrance D. lamented, the supporting characters are just cannon fodder, adding little to the the story itself. Speaking of Terrance D.'s commentary, this edition does have a rather fun track with Jameson, Abbot (the young lighthouse keeper), and D. in full form. I will miss Hinchcliffe's commentary as I progress through Tom Baker's seasons, but this is certainly on of the better Audio Commentary tracks.

All in all - even if it isn't one of the best, and the cliffhangers are rather Classic Drama dull, as a Lovecraftian horror more true to the genre than even BRAIN OF MORBIUS was, HORROR OF FANG ROCK does get an honorable mention of great interest.

Side note of interest, up to this point Jameson as Leela had been wearing red contact lenses due to her blue eyes. However, the conflict resolution also involves a neat transition from those hated contacts to her natural eye color. Hah!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic Doctor Who story that might never have been 7 May 2012
By buckbooks - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
For many fans of "classic" Doctor Who (the series' initial run from 1963 to 1989), every story is a "classic." "Horror of Fang Rock" truly lives up to the term--a near-perfect blend of masterful plotting, strong performances and a meticulous evocation of time and place to create a genuinely frightening tale of alien invasion. And yet "Fang Rock" had to overcome so many production obstacles and little twists of fate it's a miracle the story was ever produced at all, let alone that it has endured as a series classic.

First off, it was almost never written. When former Doctor Who script editor Terrance Dicks was invited to write a serial for the show's 15th season, he was initially commissioned to write a vampire story, another in the long line of tributes to gothic horror that Dicks had penned over the years. Story development had reached a fairly advanced stage, in fact, when word came down that the BBC planned to adapt "Dracula" into a high-gloss miniseries starring Louis Jourdan, and the network forbade Doctor Who to feature a vampire story that season. So Dicks had to crank out a substitute script in short order.

Tom Baker hated the new script, and director Paddy Russell agreed with him that it wasn't as strong as the vampire story she had seen before plans changed (that script would eventually be produced as "State of Decay" in 1980). Baker took out his frustrations on the cast and crew, missing cues on purpose, quarrelling with Louise Jameson and raging that the dialogue he was being asked to say was "rubbish." (Part of the problem was, he resented Jameson's casting for the series in the first place because, after the departure of Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, he had wanted to try playing the Doctor without a companion.) Baker nevertheless turns in a menacing, if dialed-down, performance, especially as he informs Leela that he's made a mistake and locked the monster inside the lighthouse instead of locking it out.

Meanwhile, the show's producers were preparing to introduce a new, regular character to the series, the robotic dog K9. Dicks wisely declined to include K9 in his Edwardian-era horror story set in a lighthouse (the mind reels at the prospect), which meant that "Fang Rock" had to be broadcast before the first K9 story, "The Invisible Enemy," which was actually produced first. If Dicks hadn't, "Horror of Fang Rock" as we know it would never have happened.

On the production side, Russell was vexed with the many technical challenges posed by the story. The script, she felt, placed too many scenes in the lighthouse's lantern room, whose towering glass panels might pick up unwanted reflections of the cameras and crew. The other lighthouse rooms were too small for the actors to move around in easily, and their circular walls made it difficult to position cameras for the needed shots. Further complicating matters, production was moved to Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham, which Russell worried lacked the technical expertise to handle the visual effects required. Finally, she was never satisfied with the design of the alien, which was basically an illuminated glob of green gelatin. Scenes shot as seen through the alien's single eye were effective, but the story would have doubtlessly been improved if the Rutan, a refugee of his race's protracted interstellar war with the Sontarans, had remained an unseen menace that appeared only in the form of humans it killed (kind of like the shape-shifting alien in "The Thing"). As it is, Rutan's true appearance is revealed too early and too often as a somewhat underwhelming giant jellyfish flopping around on dry land.

Despite this technical flaw, "Horror of Fang Rock" remains a masterpiece of sci-fi horror and suspense. The DVD does not come with the customary making-of documentary but two other Special Features that shouldn't be missed: a 36-minute retrospective on the career of Terrance Dicks in which he's interviewed sharing a pint with producer Barry Letts (Letts died of cancer in 2009), and a retrospective interview with the redoubtable Paddy Russell, who also directed such Doctor Who favorites as "Pyramids of Mars" as well as the landmark SF series The Omega Factor.
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The hero isn't saving many lives" 13 Feb. 2006
By Jason A. Miller - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Horror of Fang Rock" is one of "Doctor Who"'s creepier entries. It proves that a story made on styrofoam sets, with a monster so poorly made that the props kept melting under the studio lights, can still be edge-of-your-seat viewing. The TARDIS lands on a rocky outcrop under a lighthouse on the same night that an alien invasion fleet's advance scout crash-lands into the sea. A team of doomed lighthouse keepers, derived from a sub-Coleridge turn-of-the-century ballad, falls easy prey to the shape-shifting, electricity-wielding creature, as does a yacht full of bickering aristocrats also stranded on the isle.

The story opens the 4th (and exact middle) of Tom Baker's seven seasons as the Doctor. As a midway point to the Baker years, "Fang Rock" is intriguing in that it not only hearkens back to the gothic horror of his earlier years, but also serves as a window on the series' future mayhem, when Baker the actor would start acting against the scripts and run amok of the producers' control. The DVD release pays detailed attention to Baker's on-set flareups, while demonstrating how he could still produce great on-screen moments when working with the right people -- actress Louise Jameson and director Paddy Russell.

The commentary track sizzles with tales on on-set strife generated by Baker, if you're into learning that stor of thing. Jameson (companion Leela) provides excellent audio, balancing detailed production anecdotes with an intelligent critique of the story, almost 30 years later. She gives a far more satisfactory origin of the name "Leela" than did Leela's creator, writer Chris Boucher, on the "Robots of Death" DVD some years back. Terrance Dicks, always a hoot on DVD, lavishes praise over elements of his own script, while laughing off other elements of the story. If he likes a cliffhanger (the end of Part Three, a funereal Baker oratory), he takes full credit; if he thinks the cliffhanger landed on the wrong beat (the end of Part Two, when two characters awkwardly embrace against an off-camera scream), he'll cheerfully blame the director. Third wheel John Abbott, who played the youngest of the lighthouse keepers, has neither lot to do in the story nor to say on the commentary track, but he does give an interesting account of what it was like for a rookie actor to intrude on Baker's turf.

The best of the extra features is the 35-minute documentary on Terrance Dicks' "Who" career, featuring interviews with producer Barry Letts, old series writer Louis Marks, and current series writer Paul Cornell. Cornell gives a great breakdown of what made the "Fang Rock" script work so aggressively well ("The story has three McGuffins... and two of them are used to defeat the third"). DW book editor Peter Darvill-Evans, who looked nothing at all like I imagined (more like Ric Ocasek than Charles Dickens), describes Dicks' contribution to several decades' worth of DW novels. The closing credits feature a fabulous montage of every iteration of the Dicks-coined phrase "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow", against Jon Pertwee's observation that you could sing the line to the tune of "The Sailor's Hornpipe".

Now that "Doctor Who" has graduated into the 21st century and is working on its second season of new episodes, with modern production values and British TV's most celebrated writers, an episode like "Fang Rock" can easily sink into irrelevance alongside last season's gothic horror fests "The Unquiet Dead" and "The Empty Child". However, aided by the usual wonderful set of extra features, this DVD reminds those of us who've been in the "Who" fandom game for a while just how we got here in the first place.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ITS THE DOCTOR, WHAT COULD BE BETTER! 10 Aug. 2016
By hondo101 - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Adding to Your Collection 6 Nov. 2014
By Sea Laughing - Published on
Verified Purchase
I hadn't seen this episode in years, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. When I first watched it back in the 70s, I remember being unimpressed, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that this was better than I expected. It's a bit uneven, probably because it was originally written with the character of Sarah Jane Smith in the role of companion; when Elisabeth Sladen left the cast, the story was hastily rewritten to feature the savage Leila and some of the story falls flat as a result. The Rutans are something of a disappointment, I must admit, which is probably why they never reappeared in the series. For a devoted Whovian such as myself, "Horror of Fang Rock" is still a fun way to kill a few hours.
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