Joe Dante probably didn’t do his studio career much good by surgically removing the cute factor from “Gremlins 2: The New Batch,” his 1990 sequel to his Spielberg-produced hit of 1984, “Gremlins.” This time around, Gizmo — the adorably wide-eyed fur ball of the original film — has become a vengeance-crazed Rambo, complete with red bandanna and high-tech crossbow. Surreptitiously released by Warner Bros. on Blu-ray a few weeks ago, “Gremlins 2″ remains wildly funny and wholly unpredictable — an exercise in free-form cinema that can stand proudly with the Olsen and Johnson “Hellzapoppin’” and the collected works of Bob Clampett (even though it’s Chuck Jones who contributes the title sequence). My New York Times review is here, along with a brief account of “The Space Children,” a late (1958), suspiciously liberal take on the Red Menace science fiction films of the 50s. Jack Arnold, its director, may have been better known for “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” but the left-leaning sentiments of “Space Children” are a reminder that Arnold began as an assistant to the great documentary maker Robert Flaherty, and had his one brush with Oscar when his “With These Hands,” a reconstruction of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire produced by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, was nominated by the Academy in the Best Documentary Feature category in 1951. I wonder what happened to this 52-minute film, which features Sam Levene, Arlene Francis, Joseph Wiseman, and Arnold himself in the role of “Communist Agitator.” Does the ILGWU keep an archive?
Not so incidentally, Joe and his “Trailers from Hell” colleagues are lauching a Kickstarter campaign to keep their far-too-diverting website — a celebration of coming attractions trailers, with commentary by filmmakers who will be highly familiar to readers of this site — up and running for the foreseeable future. Their proposal — almost as entertaining as the site itself — can be found here.