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THE BELIEVERS (Olive Films Blu Ray and DVD releases)

THE BELIEVERS (Orion 1987) (0live Films,2019) R- Color. Region A. 114 minutes. 1:85:1 aspect ratio https://olivefilms.com/product/the-believers/ Available on Blu Ray $29.95 and DVD $24.95

THE BELIEVERS is a fascinating though at times frustrating film. The movie itself deals with religious beliefs and the supernatural beliefs in a modern, more secular world while the production tries to be a Val Lewtonesque film dealing with the subject but with flashes of modern grue effects to keep the punters paying attention.

The film’s pedigree made this a higher than normal profile project for the genre. Directed by John Schlesinger, C.B.E. (Oscar winning director of MIDNIGHT COWBOY, 1969, U.A.) with a screenplay by television writer Mark Frost (who two years later would change that media as co-creator, with David Lynch, with their groundbreaking TWIN PEAKS, Lynch/Frost Productions, 1990-91). The film was based upon the 1982 novel THE RELIGION (Dutton, written by Nicolas Conde. Conde is a pseudonym for the writing team of Robert Rosenblum and Robert Nathan).

 

The critical response, however, was less than kind. Roger Ebert gave the film one and a half stars, writing :

“I’m getting tired of the dingy tenements in Spanish Harlem with the blood-soaked chicken feathers on the floor, and the scenes where the shrink realizes he needs a witch doctor to save his child.”-June 10,1987.

How many films did he see that had such scenes? The only movie that even remotely comes to mind is the overlooked THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY (Paramount ,1972).

 

THE BELIEVERS also generated controversy by making some of its more sinister events tie in with Santería (a Spanish word meaning “follower of saints”), a religion in NYC that is a mixture of Christianity and Afro-Cuban religious ideals.

When Lisa Jamison (Janet-Laine Green) is electrocuted in a home accident before her horrified son’s eyes, her husband Carl (Martin Sheen, THE DEAD ZONE, Paramount, 1983) moves himself and the young boy Chris (Harley Cross, MRS SOFFEL, MGM,1984) to New York City.

Cal is a police psychologist (an anthropologist in the novel), so he doesn’t have much time to grieve, for soon after he arrives in the city, he is drawn into a savage murder mystery.

Undercover Police Officer Tom Lopez (Jimmy Smits, RUNNING SCARED, MGM,1986) is acting very irrationally after he finds the body of a young boy murdered by a religious cult. The cult knows who the officer is, and he is terrified. It turns out he is also a member of the group.

 

As Jessica Halliday (Helen Shaver, THE COLOR OF MONEY, Touchstone, 1986), the Jamison landlord, becomes more romantically involved, strange items start to appear in the apartment, left by the maid Carmen (Carla Pinza, who also acted as the film’s cultural advisor).

 

About the same time, Carl & Chris come across an animal sacrifice in Central Park. While Carl is distracted, Chris picks up an item left at the scene.

 

Things get more complex when a Haitian named Palo (Malick Bowens, OUT OF AFRICA, Universal,1985) arrives in the city with mysterious powers.

Meanwhile, Tom Lopez is in terrible pain, and goes to a Santeria shop, where he grabs a knife and stabs himself repeatedly in the stomach.

Police Lt McTaggert (the always reliable Robert Loggia, PRIZZI’S HONOR, Fox, 1985) along with Cal attend the autopsy, and are shocked and horrified to find that Tom Lopez’ stomach is full of squirming live snakes.

 

The mystery goes deeper ,with the religion being connected with local politics (out of towners saying, “Yeah well it is New York” ) , and the further they get involved , the more it endangers the lives of Cal ,his son and Jessica (who gets a very disturbing “pimple” ).

New York is a good setting for a mysterious religious cult. One of the most modern cities in the world, it still holds 6000 churches (2,000, with at least 4,000 unofficial places of worship), It is so busy, that a hidden cult can easily thrive in the impersonal activities of Manhattan and its boroughs.

“Wait. This Isn’t THE OMEN?”

 

THE SEVENTH VICTIM (RKO,1943), ROSEMARY’S BABY (Paramount ,1968), the already mentioned THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY -all make good use of this. THE BELIEVERS also does, but, like THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY, there is also the clash of cultures added within the mix.

OLIVE FILMS has given the film a sharp new 1080p release. Comparing it to my old MGM DVD, the colors are much sharper and the flatness of the image has been replaced with a much more vibrant one (note ,my review is based upon Olive Films Blu Ray ).

The sound also has been cleaned up as a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The dialogue and sound mix are clean with no noticeable pops or hiss.

There are also optional English Subtitles.

THE BELIEVERS, Martin Sheen, Lee Richardson, Harley Cross, Harris Yulin, 1987, (c) Orion

RECOMMENDED for Horror fans, Martin Sheen fans, fans of voo-doo thrillers, NYC based thrillers.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

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MORITURI (TwilightTime Blu

 

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MORITURI – (Twilight Time Blu Ray) 3,000 Limited print run. Original Release 20th  Century Fox ,1965  B&W  123 Minutes $29.95  Region Free (A/B/C)   https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/morituri-blu-ray/

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I am surprised that I never saw MORITURI before this Twilight Time Blu Ray release. While watching it, it made me think of an earlier Fox release, LIFEBOAT (1944).  Both films isolate their characters at sea, and in a focused setting we engage the mindsets of the characters, both those who are fanatical Nazis, and those who oppose the ideals.

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Japan -1942.Captain Mueller (Yul Brynner, MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, U.A.,1960) is the ship Captain of the Ingo who was disgraced when his last ship was torpedoed.  The Nazi Command instruct him that he must take several political prisoners as crew out on his next voyage and return them to Germany , along with the cargo When he protests, they tell him that he must accept the consequences or his son serving in the North Sea will be the one to suffer the consequences .

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Meanwhile, in India, Robert Crain (Marlon Brando, THE GODFATHER, Paramount,1972) is coerced by the British to go along on the Ingo, as it contains a valuable commodity, 7000 tons of raw rubber. During the war, the scarcity of the product as well as it’s invaluable use in the war effort ensured that the Allies had to ensure that the item not reach Germany. Crain has fled Germany when he received orders to report and use his skills as a Demolitions Expert.  Instead, for the last three years, he has lived in the open on a forged passport in British territory. They do not wish for Crain though, to scuttle the ship but rather keep it from being scuttled, so that the British can get the rubber for their use. He is given a false identity as a Stand Leader SS Officer so he can board the vessel.

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Making things more difficult is that the first Officer is a fanatical Nazi.

Along the way, a Japanese submarine brings several more prisoners to the Ingo, including Ester (Janet Margolin, DAVID & LISA, Continental ,1962) a German Jew, as well as two more German officers.400_c_x13_morituri_blu-ray

 

 

The suspense builds ,as to whether Crain will be able to carry out his mission ,and ,though a pacifist,  Crain seems to relish playing the Nazis for fools .The German Officers suspect that he is not whom he claims to be but Captain Mueller at times steps in to “verify” that Crain is whom he claims to be ,but they do not take him at his word either.

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The film was not a success when it first came out, which is a shame. Brando does not  succumb to his lazy disinterested mannerisms of the 1960s that appear in his performances like MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (MGM,1962) ,instead seeming to enjoy playing this clever character, using the soft German accent that had served him well in THE YOUNG LIONS (Fox,1958) . Brynner gives a strong performance as a German forced to go along with things that  he finds abhorrent .Margolin does well ,though her speech about how she will be treated by the Nazis as a sexual object is allowed to go a bit over the top .

 

Morituri-1965-2Great supporting performances are giving by Trevor Howard (later a superb Captain Bligh in the MGM remake of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY ,opposite Brando) ,Martin Benrath ( later so marvelous again as a German Officer, this time a general, in the superlative German WWII film ,STALINGRAD, Senator Films/Strand,1993) ,Wally Cox (best known to American TV viewers as MR PEEPERS,NBC,1952-1955), Martin Kosleck (a German actor who had fled Nazi Germany and ironically made a career portraying them including Goebbels five times) and especially Hungarian born actor Oscar Beregi  (JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG,U.A.,1961)as the German Admiral.oscar

German born Director Bernhard Wicki had himself spent several months in a concentration camp, before moving to Vienna. After the war, he was a photographer and then performed in films, before switching to directing. He won an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1959 for his Anti-War film DIE BRUKE. For Fox he directed the 1964 Ingrid Bergman- Anthony Quinn starrer THE VISIT, before taking on MORITURI.

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The sharp black and white cinematography is by the great Conrad Hall (IN COLD BLOOD, Columbia,1967)

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Composer Jerry Goldsmith had a very WWII themed year in 1965, composing for IN HARMS WAY (Paramount) and VON RYAN’S EXPRESS (Fox), as well as for MORITURI.

 

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One of the extras on this disc is Goldsmith’s isolated music track, always a treat.

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The only other extra is an original theatrical trailer.

This region free b&w print has been given a 1080p Hi Def clean up in screen ratio 1.85:1.

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The audio is available in English 2.0 DTS-HD MA and English 1.0 DTS-HD MA.  There are no noticeable pops or hisses, though at one time the music seemed to get a bit louder than the rest of the track. The dialogue is clear, though optional SDH subtitles (English only) are available.images (4)

 

 

By the way, for those questioning,” Morituri” is the plurality of the Latin word for “About to Die”. I am sure it confused many, thinking perhaps it would be the name of the vessel, only to discover it was Ingo.  This could be why the film was later reissued under the title The Saboteur: Code Name Morituri.z

 

Recommended for fans of WWII thrillers, Marlon Brando, Yul Brynner.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

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