AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT (3 BLU RAY/3 DVD Set) $99.99
release 2.22.2016 (UK) http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/shop/index.php?route=product/product&keyword=amer&product_id=642
release 2.23.2016 (U.S.)
With the major studios neglecting their catalogs to mostly burning DVD on demand, it is refreshing that the indie distributors have rushed in to rescue so many obscure, neglected gems.
One of these distributors is the U.K.’s Arrow Video. Now entering the U.S. market, they are giving both markets a new 6 disc (3 Blu-ray 3 DVD) collection, AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT Vol 1. These films are very obscure, but definitely worth seeing, so kudos for releasing them at all. However, not being content with just that, Arrow has done an amazing job on cleaning up these films and adding a lot of extras that make these must have for horror fans
MALATESTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1973) –not to be confused with ‘CARNIVAL OF BLOOD” (1973) starring a pre “ROCKY” Burt Young, this is an odd, stream of conscience surreal movie. A family (parents Elizabeth Henn and Paul Hostetler and their teen daughter, Vena (Janine Carazo)) move onto the grounds of a run-down carnival. There they encounter a lot of odd characters who live and work on the park, including Bobo (Herve Villechaize, one year prior to the better none and also odd SEIZURE (1974) and four years prior to yelling “De Plane! DE Plane!” on T.V. ‘s ‘Fantasy Island”). The reason the carnies are so odd is that they live under the carnival and are a combination of vampires (one character spouts fangs and there is some blood draining) and ghouls (i.e. cannibals).
For a low budget film shot over a short 4-week period, the movie in this print looks pretty good. What is more amazing is that only one print remains of this film, so that we have it all is a bit of a miracle. Some film scratches and grain, but it actually adds to the feel of this film.
I kept thinking of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) due to its odd found material set design, though this film predates that horror classic by a year.
In fact, it often reminded me of some of the odd Off Broadway shows that one would catch in little hole in the wall spaces during the 1960s and 1970s in NYC. This could be due too to its cast consisting of many Broadway, Off Broadway and Philadelphia area stage actors.
A few years ago, the director Christopher Eric Speeth had a website where he was selling DVDs of the film, along with a few extra bits of gut munching that the MPAA had required them to remove.
(the director’s own dvd release)
Now I think that some of that material has been ported over into the extras for these discs, as well as more special material.
An informative newly shot interview with director Christopher Eric Speeth reveals much about making the film. He met producer Richard Grosser aboard an airplane and they discussed making the movie (all I ever meet on airplanes are screaming children and airsick passengers!). Grosser, who also handled special effects, had access to Six Gun Territory, formerly Willow Grove Park, where John Phillip Sousa used to perform (now the land is a shopping center). Its sad shape showed an amusement park that was barely holding on (indeed it would close down a year later) but it’s seediness was perfect for the film. A local warehouse was used for filming the “underground” world of the ghouls. What is most interesting is the care that went into the sound design, much of which was probably lost when the film was mixed to mono sound for its theatrical release. Also he lets us know about the careers of many of the actors in the film, many with Broadway credits (one of whom starred in the Tony Roberts’ revival of ARSENIC & OLD LACE on Broadway) as well as performers from the Yale Rep Company. He spokes most glowingly about the late Herve Villechaize, whom he describes as charming and lovely to work with.
Richard Harland Smith (who identifies himself as from MOVIEMORLOCKS from TCM) does a superb job providing an entertaining and informative audio commentary.
Also included are a still photo gallery.
Next up is the only film on the set that I actually saw in the theatres, THE PREMONITION (1976). The film is a slick kidnapping film mixed with precognition (future sight) telekinetic powers. A young girl(Danielle Brisbois, later known from T.V.’s ‘Archie Bunker’s Place “,is kidnapped from her foster parents by her crazed biological mother ,Andrea (Ellen Barber, appearing the following year in the Larry Cohen film ,THE PRIVATE LIFE OF J.EDGAR HOOVER, 1977) and her mime performer boyfriend ,Jude (the ever brilliant Richard Lynch).The bereaved parents enlist the aid of a psychic to interpret the dreams of adoptive mother Sheri ( Sharon Farrell, NIGHT OF THE COMET ,1984 )Can they lead them the police, led by Det. Lt. Mark Denver (acting coach and character actor supreme Jeff Corey, one of the mutants from BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES,1970) to the young girl before something bad happens ?
THE PREMONITION probably was the easiest film for fans to see, as it was released by Embassy Video on VHS in the late 1980s and a DVD was released in 2005 by Media Blasters. That previous out of print DVD had a commentary with director Robert Allen Schnitzer and interviews with Schnitzer and Richard Lynch. These extras have been ported over from that release. The most impressive thing is that the film looks super sharp, thanks to a great clean up.
The thing I remember most about this film was Lynch’s amazing on screen presence. Lynch, whose scarred appearance was due to his self-immolation under drug influence in 1967, was an actor who was always a memorable screen villain. In his film debut, SCARECROW (1973), he tries to rape Al Pacino in prison, which resulted in his being beaten to a pulp by Gene Hackman *. His villainy also graced movies as diverse as SWORD & THE SORCERER (1982) to THE FORBIDDEN DANCE (1990). Surrounded by wonderful actors, Lynch truly steals the film with his mesmerizing performance. You really fear that this child is not long for the world by film’s end.
- -Off stage and screen, Lynch and Pacino were good friends. Lynch won a Tony nomination for his portrayal of a wheelchair bound Army Vet in “The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel 1977.
- Finally, we have THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA (1976) . The film was mentioned in several horror film mags during the 1990s, often with its intriguing poster as it’s singular illustration (the artwork ripped off from a Frank Frazetta piece) However, it remained nearly impossible to find. It’s VHS release from Unicorn Video went out of print very quickly. It also had a limited DVD release from Subversive Cinema (more on that later).
(was Frazetta aware of this reworking of his artwork ?)
Therefore, I am glad to finally get to see this film. Millie Perkins (known best as Anne Frank in the 1959 film adaptation of the stage play THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK) portrays Molly, a barmaid who is subject to very violent sex fantasies -or are they merely her imagination? Written by Robert Thom (co-screenwriter for DEATH RACE 2000 ,1975) for Perkins, his wife, it is more a disturbing character psychological study than out and out horror film. The director, Matt Cimber was a former off Broadway director (who was the third husband of Jane Mansfield) but is better known for films like Pia Zadora’s BUTTERFLY (1982) and THE CANDY TAMBOURINE MAN (1975). The character that Perkins plays is a sad and fascinating character, whose bloody violent rages are sudden and shocking. Perkins was never an actress who had impressed me (I felt she was directed to be too Pollyanna as Anne Frank) but here, she really holds your attention.
Subversive Cinema found the original negative to WITCH, which is where this print is ported over from. That DVD is long out of print, but kudos for the effort that such a small company went through to save this film. The commentary track from that release, featuring Cimber and Perkins is also featured in this release.
Those expecting a gory low budget horror film will be disappointed by this film (although there is definitely disturbing gore as well as nudity). Those who go in open to seeing an indie film that only could get a release in the 1970s will truly appreciate this rare little oddity.
This collection will boast Brand new 2K restorations of all three features.
HI-DEF Blu-ray(1080p) and standard DVD presentations.
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Reversible art work sleeves for each film featuring new artwork by “The Twins of Evil”. (not included in the screeners that I received)
American Horror Project Journal Volume 1 -a Limited edition 60-page booklet (also not included in the screeners that I received).
AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT VOLUME 1 is a limited release of a 3000 set run, so snap these up as soon as you can before they are gone.
I’m already looking forward to what Volume Two might possibly offer.
- -Kevin G Shinnick
American Horror Project Vol 1 (Arrow US) (DVD / Blu-Ray Combo All Region)
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
•Brand new 2K restorations of the three features
•High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentations
•English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
•Reversible sleeves for each film featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
•American Horror Project Journal Volume I – Limited Edition 60-page booklet featuring new articles on the films from Kim Newman (Nightmare Movies), Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) and Brian Albright (Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990)
MALATESTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD – SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
•Brand new interview with director Christopher Speeth
•Brand new interview with writer Werner Liepolt
•Draft Script (BD/DVD-ROM content)
•Production stills gallery
THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA – SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
•Audio commentary with director Matt Cimber, actress Millie Perkins and director of photography Dean Cundey
•Brand new interview with director Matt Cimber
•Brand new interview with Dean Cundey
•Brand new interview with actor John Goff
THE PREMONITION – SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
•Audio commentary with director-producer Robert Allen Schnitzer
•Brand new interview with composer Henry Mollicone
•Interview with actor Richard Lynch
•Three Robert Allen Schnitzer short films: ‘Vernal Equinox’, ‘Terminal Point’ and ‘A Rumbling in the Land’
•4 “Peace Spots”
•Trailers and TV Spots