1960s, 1970s, Boris Karloff, cult, dvd, exploitation, fantasy, film, Foreign, genre, Horror, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, Jack Hill, Karloff, mexican, monsters, obscure, rare, review, reviews, SCARLETTHEFILMMAGAZINE.WORDPRESS.COM, SCIENCE FICTION, Serial Killer, Spanish, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, V.C.I., wierd

BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION (VCI)

3D-Boris-Karloff-Collection-500x500

 

BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION (VCI,2 discs, DVD) Released September 2018. Color.  $14.99

https://www.vcientertainment.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1104

Many years ago, when the late great Boris Karloff passed away in February 2,1969, Jim Warren’s and Forrest J Ackerman’s FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND provided two fitting tributes.

One, was issue #56 of FMOF with a beautiful  Basil Gogos cover of Karloff as his most famous role.

download

The other was a paperback by FJA called THE FRANKENSCIENCE MONSTER (Ace,1969, a cover not by Gogos but paperback cover artist Verne Tossey.). At the time,before the ability to google, this was the source for any monster news. Many of us though that Karloff’s final film was a classic of modern cinema, Peter Bogdanovich’s   TARGETS  (August 1968,Paramount).

karloff_cult_02_dvd

However, thanks to Uncle Forry , we found out that 80 plus year old Karloff had signed with producer Luis Enrique Vergara and Azteca Films of Mexico (who in turn had a distribution agreement with Columbia Pictures) for a four-picture deal at a salary of $400,000. The actor could have said no to the projects and easily retired, having a comfortable sum saved up over the years. No one could have blamed him, either, as his lungs were barely functional (due to years of smoking as well as damage from pneumonia he contracted in Italy filming BLACK SABBATH,1963,AIP , leaving him dependent on oxygen tanks to aid his breathing) as well as crippling arthritis that made walking difficult.

karloff_at_01_dvd

Still, as he often said, he wanted to die with his boots on, doing the job he loved if audiences wanted to see him. An example was when he filmed an episode of THE RED SKELTON SHOW (“He Who Steals My Robot Steals Trash” aired September 24,1968, CBS), rather than do the show before the live audience in a wheel chair as rehearsed, he willed himself to walk with the aid of a cane rather than have the people see him so confined.

Thus, the quartet of Mexican horror films were jobs that he readily accepted, feeling fortunate that audiences still wished to see him.

karloff_dod_01_dvd

Difficulties for the productions arose when it was discovered that Karloff’s health would not permit him to film in Mexico, and his sequences were shot in a small studio in Santa Monica, California in April/May 1968, while the rest of the films were completed in Mexico, often with a double for the star.

karloff_tort02_dvd

The four films were to be made over a 5-week period, so this extra expense of two crews, duplicating sets, and flying up some of the Mexican cast to work with Karloff must have frayed the already low budgets.  Juan Ibáñez directed the Mexican main unit, while cult director Jack Hill (SPIDER BABY,1967, American General) handled the American Karloff unit, as well as contributing to the screenplays.

c

Hill it seems was hampered because the producer wanted to use an early form of video playback by tying a primitive video camera to the top of the 35mm Mitchells used to film the movie. Jerry Lewis had pioneered the idea and it is now the common practice, but Hill felt that it slowed down his process.

z

 

With all these problems somehow the four films were filmed and completed. Karloff did not live to see the release of these films, which seemed to have been held back until 1971 for their limited distributions (Cannon also got around to distribute Karloff’s 1967 Spanish lensed CAULDRON OF BLOOD the same year, which got a wider release in the U.S. than the four Mexican thrillers).

 

Over the years, the films have been released on various video labels, including MPI and United American budget label, as well as several of the titles getting a DVD release by Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia label.

 

VCI has now for the first time put all four films together in an affordable (less than the cost of some single DVD releases) two-disc collection.

karloff_cult_05_dvd

The four titles in the collection are

menu_boris_karloff_m01_blu-ray.

(Disc One)

DANCE OF DEATH (aka HOUSE OF EVIL, SERENADA MACABRA)

TORTURE ZONE (edited version of FEAR CHAMBER)

menu_boris_karloff_m02_blu-ray.

(Disc Two)

ALIEN TERROR (filmed as THE INCREDIBLE INVASION, Invasión siniestra)

CULT OF THE DEAD (edited version of ISLE OF THE SNAKE PEOPLE, La muerte vivente)

 

The discs seem to be sourced from the old MPI videos, with the same video generated titles (©1987 by the Parasol Group). The prints of the four movies are a bit dark and sometimes the color is a bit off.  The copy  of TORTURE ZONE seemed in the worst condition, with several visible splices.

fear_chamber_1968___5a53f0e99d7d4.mp4

 

It is a shame that they did not seek out the Retromedia or Elite release of FEAR CHAMBER, as both of those are in the original aspect ratio with sharp picture and color quality, as well as extras such as an audio commentary by Jack Hill and a deleted scene.MPI’s TORTURE ZONE is an edited version of this film ,so all of the nudity Is eliminated .

Fear Chamber 14

Only TORTURE ZONE was set in present day, with the rest set at around the turn of the 20th Century. ALIEN TERROR was supposedly the last one filmed, and the only one NOT starring Julissa, giving actress German actress Christa Linder a chance.

images (1)

The 2.0 Dolby Digital sound for the films is clear with no noticeable loss in quality of dialogue or the sound effects.

There are no extras to the discs, but again, to get these four films together at such a low price, one should not expect any special edition treatment.

While we would all like to get the best possible and most complete versions, certain films have limited audiences and the profitability is to say the least, narrow.

brightcove_proxy

One wonders, for example, if VCI had gone out of their way to get new prints, cleaned up and loaded with extras, would fans shell out $29.95 for each of these films?

macabre

DANCE OF DEATH -this film is perhaps the most traditional horror film, with obvious influences of the Roger Corman Poe films. The film even claims to be based upon a Poe story, though none that I am familiar with.hoise of evil                                                  original Spanish language credit

 

Wealthy toymaker Matthais Morteval (Karloff) summons his family to his mansion to discuss how his estate will be divided. Recent murders in the nearby hills has a macabre touch, wherein the victims have had their eyes removed makes Matthais suspect that a member of his family is the killer.

MVCOM-HOUSE-OF-EVIL-1

Karloff has an ancestral portrait that looks exactly like him (these old families have strong genes), and Karloff gets to play huge pipe organ. Matthais supposedly suffers a fatal heart attack half way into the film, and shortly thereafter, one by one his greedy relations die. Keeping with the Corman Poe- like feel, the film ends with a huge fire, as Matthais, obviously not dead, plays his final concerto as the walls burn around him. It is quite amazing that the octogenarian actor is working so close to such huge plumes of flames, controlled or not  .

firebug

 

Karloff perhaps passed away before being able to loop dialogue, or the final lines were an afterthought , but they are not his voice.

People who dismiss the Karloff Mexican quartet of films have obviously not seen them, as DANCE OF DEATH was quite entertaining.

FEAR CHAMBER POSTER

TORTURE ZONE – (which in the original titles also claimed to be Poe inspired, though I would say more Lovecraft, like Karloff’s own DIE, MONSTER DIE! 1965 ,A.I.P. ). This one is a bit of a mess, no two ways about it. Psychedelic zooms & colors, and jump cut edits do not make this film any more interesting, and indeed, show how little sense the plot has.  A living rock is discovered within the depths of the earth. Scientist Karl Mantell (Karloff), who spends much of this film either sitting behind his office desk or behind a lab computer table, discovers that the creature feeds on the blood of young women, particularly those who are frightened. Naturally, our loveable scientist and his staff create a fear chamber to terrorize young women who come seeking employment. The rock (no, no that one) starts to grow tentacles, and only then does Mantell seek to stop it.

fearchamber1

Mantell is supposed to be a kindly scientist, but his actions here are in opposition to that appearance. Still, at least, Karloff gets to survive to the end credits. The topless scenes that are edited out of this print were probably shot later, added to try and keep audience attention. Probably one of Karloff’s worst movies, though, as always, he is worth watching.                                                                              .firrreee

Karloff tries to blow up all prints of FEAR CHAMBER .

220px-The_Incredible_Invasion

ALIEN TERROR– Another period piece, this one is another science fiction/horror hybrid. In an 1890s European country, Professor John Mayer (Karloff) is working on a new power source, when a lab accident sends a pulse off into space, attracting the attention of an alien spaceship passing by. The alien comes across a Jack the Ripper style killer and takes over his body. More killings continue as the alien tries to get to the professor’s invention and destroy it. Mayer uses his invention to defeat the killer, and later, when the alien hops into his niece, he uses the machine again to drive it from her. Mayer lets the machine destroy itself and, in the process, burns down his home.c3f80e4ebb33139abba0d67198ef960c

 

The final shot of the surviving cast members watching the house burn has an obvious Karloff stand in facing away from the camera with hair that looks like it was streaked with shoe polish.

A confusing picture, as if two different scripts were dropped into a blender, yet it held one’s interest and it tried to be original. As mentioned, this was Karloff’s last work in a motion picture.karloff_at_03_dvd

An alien Spaceship, lit and designed to look like a Dario Argento sequence !

snakepeopel mexi

CULT OF THE DEAD – On the island of Korbai, Carl Van Molder (Karloff) is a major plantation owner. A police captain comes to Korbai to try and bring order when it is discovered that voodoo is rampant. This is a much more entertaining film than Karloff’s earlier film VOODOO ISLAND (1957, U.A.), which was one of the only roles I felt the great actor seemed to walk through.

tumblr_p5xlc3h6vT1v85sfao2_1280

In this film, Karloff seems fully invested in the part and brings his great screen presence to each scene.  The voodoo scenes are well staged, though once again at the end of the film, a voice not Karloff’s is used for the line: “I’m dying! “followed by some sputtering coughs. The picture ends with a big explosion as the hero and heroine escape with their lives. This too was an entertaining piece of cinema fluff and does not deserve all the scorn heaped upon it.

SNAKEPEOPLE9

 

To sum up, two of the films (DANCE OF DEATH and CULT OF THE DEAD) I would say are quite entertaining, a third (ALIEN TERROR) is just odd enough to hold your interest with a feeling of “WTF?” throughout and only one (TORTURE ZONE) is close to a complete disaster. Karloff is always giving his all in each work, and for that alone these are well worth seeing.

Snake-People-674x1024

 

Are the prints the best? No.  However, unless some deep pocket cinema collector seeks out original negatives, gives them a 2 K scan and restores them, and licenses the Elite and Retromedia commentaries, this VCI set will be the best way of getting affordable copies of these final films by the Master of Horror, Boris Karloff.

 

FearChamber02

Recommended for – Karloff completists. Fans of Mexican Horror. Cult films lovers.

 

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

Please like & follow us here at scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com

Also like and follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SCARLETreviews/

Keep up to date on current contests and reviews and articles

Feel free to share .

 

 

Advertisements
Standard
1960s, American International Pictures, Blu Ray, Boris Karloff, cult, Dick Miller, fantasy, Film Detective, genre, Horror, Jack Nicholson, Jonathan Haze, Karloff, Roger Corman, The FilmGroup, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, wierd

THE TERROR (1963) Blu Ray from Film Detective -review

THE TERROR (1963) Color. NTSC .79 min. $14.99 Blu Ray -Film Detective  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01F5SXHSI/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_1/184-0196101-0815836?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_r=0Z1A4BV8BWV7VTMB1PEG&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_p=1944687762&pf_rd_i=B00NX19C2U

blu ray the terror
In 1959, Roger Corman and his brother Gene formed Filmgroup to make films that would give them a bigger cut of the profits of the films that they were making (Roger had formed Palo Alto Productions to produce his first films). They distributed a few of the films but decided they need Allied Artists and American International Pictures to get them a wider distribution in the long run. Finally, the Corman’s decided to fold Filmgroup. The Corman’s never bothered to copyright the films they made for and distributed by Filmgroup (they had bought some foreign adventure and fantasy films which they also distributed or represented under the banner), and so all of these titles have fallen into Public Domain status.
This is why films like QUEEN OF BLOOD (1966), THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960), and NIGHT TIDE (1961) have been widely distributed by many fly by night video distribution companies using prints of questionable sound and picture quality.

hqdefault

In this batch of P.D. films were also THE TERROR (1963). This one seemed to appear in a lot more of the bargain bins due to the fact that
a)-it had recognizable star names (Karloff, Nicholson)
b)- it was color.
The problem is a lot of these budget videos and later DVDs were from 16mm dupe prints, and were often splicy and muddy color and sound. Since it was so long available in this fashion, studios try and stay away from releasing better prints because they fear the average buyer is unaware of the differences in quality.

The-Terror-1963-film-images-3c1b1bea-1368-4258-a76b-7f89524b369
Therefore, it is a pleasure to say that FILM DETECTIVE has gone that extra step to find original 35mm elements to release a Blu Ray that makes the film look as if it was lensed recently.

Film-Detective-672x436
Legend has it that as Corman was finishing his A.I.P. film THE RAVEN (1963) a few days ahead of schedule, the director realized he Still had Boris Karloff contractually signed for four more days to work, as well as having some impressive standing sets left over from previous films (kudos of the great Daniel Haller, Corman’s answer to Hammer’s brilliant set designer Bernard Robinson). He had writers Jack Hill and Leo Gordon cobble something together to utilize the star and the sets. Corman was known for shooting his films quickly, including THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960) over two days and one night. He finished Karloff’s scenes in the required four days *

karloff-the-terror-1963
The film, (known during shooting as “Lady of The Shadows”) however, was not quite complete, and like a Frankenstein monster, it was patched together with new scenes over a 9-month period with various (uncredited) directors such as 26-year-old actor Jack Nicholson, Jack Hill, Monte Hellman and Francis Ford Coppola, and I am sure several others did pick up shots. **

 

The plot has Lt. Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson, who had played Peter Lorre’s nebbish son in THE RAVEN that same year) a soldier in Napoleon’s army who has been separated from his regiment (with Big Sur California substituting for undetermined Prussian territory.)

images-263

 

Exhausted and hungry, he is surprised to see a beautiful woman named Helene (Sandra Knight, Nicholson’s wife at the time). She shows him a source of fresh water then has him follow her. Suddenly she begins to walk as if in a trance into the ocean. Andre tries to rush in and save her when he is attacked by a falcon and sinks under the waves (Nicholson claimed that he nearly drowned filming this sequence).

The-Terror-1963-film-images-fca457c8-0e18-4f1e-a2fd-ac935249a9c

He awakes in the home of Katrina (Dorothy Neumann) and her mute servant Gustav (Corman regular Jonathan Haze). When Andre inquires about the Helene, the old woman shows him her pet, the very bird that attacked him, also named Helene. Andre awakes at night and goes off looking for the girl, eventually finding her in the forest. Silently she leads him through the woods when suddenly Gustav appears, and says there is danger (a continuity error, as hadn’t we just been told he was mute?). Tossing a rock, he shows that the girl was leading him to a quicksand trap. Gustav, in a harsh whispery voice says that Helene is possessed but if the soldier wants to find her, to go to the castle of Baron Von Leppe and find Eric who knows the full story.

Andre confronts Katrina, who tries to stop him from going to the castle, then pleads that he not tell the Baron that he knows of her whereabouts.

chc3a2teau-extc3a9rieur-04-mod

He comes upon the castle (impressive matte paintings by Albert Whitlock, lifted from THE PIT & THE PENDULUM(A.I.P.,1961)) and he spies Helene in windows. Andre demands to be admitted “In The Name of the Government of France”. He is greeted by Baron Victor von Leppe (Boris Karloff) himself, who says that he was at his devotions and did not hear earlier.The Terror-Corman

 

Karloff is superb in his role, alternately haughty as well as subtly humorous. Considering that he didn’t have a full script makes his performance all the more impressive.

large_terror_blu-ray_5

The Baron admits the soldier, noting that the name Duvalier was once of a noble house until the French Revolution. Andre admits his father was the Count Duvalier, until he lost his head (the film seems set in 1806, so his father was executed between 1793-94). He says that he saw the girl in one of the windows but the Baron says he is mistaken. He points out a painting of a young woman (by artist Bert Schoneberg) and the soldier says that it is a portrait of the woman whom he is seeking. The Baron asks him to observe the date of the painting, which is 1786. It is a portrait of the Baron’s late wife, Ilsa. The Baron says that the castle is unoccupied except for the Baron and his servant Stefan (the ever reliable Dick Miller, billed here as Richard and giving a subtler performance than usual) and that Andre is the first visitor to the castle since the turn of the century.

pitandpendulum04-Albert Whitlock

Duvalier wanders the castle grounds and cellars, finding the crypt of Ilsa, which has ominously had its cross removed from above the entrance. He is startled at one doorway by the appearance of Helene (or is it the spirit of Ilsa) who when he looks back has gone.

terrornicholson

It seems Stefan followed Andre during his search and tells the Baron that the soldier may have heard things in the village. The Baron feels Andre must leave as soon as possible but under his own accord due to his rank and position. Stefan confronts Andre at the Baroness’ crypt, telling him that the Baron removed all religious articles when she died and that the crypt has been sealed for 20 years. He also tells him that the soldier’s horse has bolted and run away. Andre feels he is being lied to and asks who is Eric?

the-terror-mexican-lobby-card (1)

Dark secrets come out about who Eric is, and how the Baron’s wife died, plus a tale of revenge and the hidden tale of how  Katrina is involved. It all ends with gory murder (a character gets his eyes clawed out by the falcon in a for the time graphic fashion and falls to his death) and the castle falling into ruin (this time by flooding as a change of pace from the usual fire that ended Corman’s Poe films) and a character rotting away before our eyes (the putrefaction effect, uncredited seems similar to that of Vincent Price melting in the previous year’s TALES OF TERROR (A.I.P.,1962) makes me feel that it was by Lou LaCava).

terror01

The picture quality on this FILM DETECTIVE Blu Ray release is superb. The blues and reds in the Pathe color print are incredibly vibrant, shaming the current trend of shooting in drab metallic tones. This release truly shows off the superb cinematography of John M Nickolaus Jr and the uncredited Floyd Crosby. Wide shots and two are employed throughout, with close-ups used powerfully and sparingly. The clearer picture also clearly shows when stuntman Dennis Jakob, with dark hair, substituted for Karloff in the climatic flooding sequence. Still, the flooding sequence must have been a great strain on the 76-year-old star, who would later develop pneumonia filming in the cold sound stages of Italy for BLACK SABBATH(AIP,1964). Also, we can see near the end that Sandra Knight’s mid drift is blurred, due to the fact that she was pregnant during filming (giving birth to daughter Jennifer September 13,1963).

large_terror_blu-ray_11

Harry Reif’s set decorations give the production a lot of value. The costumes by Marjorie Corso are simple but effective (especially nice is the uniform worn by Nicholson as well as the rich blue robe worn by Karloff). Kudos to editor Stuart O’Brien on assembling so many disparate scenes and making a somewhat cohesive whole. The mono sound is very good (though a bit low on certain dialogue sequences, easily corrected by adjusting the volume). The score by Ronald Stein (with some additional bits by Lex Baxter) is lush and effective. All of these technicians and artists make THE TERROR look a lot more lavish and expensive than it is. Subtitles for the dialogue are excellent.

large_terror_blu-ray_12

The only quibble I have is that I wish that they had gotten someone like David J Skal or Tim Lucas to do an audio commentary for the film. One of the things that DVDs and Blu Rays offer that streaming does not allow are extras like that, and companies should use that for their advantage.

large_terror_blu-ray_3a

IMDB lists a running time of 81 minutes, though this disc runs 79 minutes 14 seconds. I see nothing that would be cut nor any time compression. During the film’s original U.K. release, the bloody eye scene was trimmed, but this print seems to be complete.

large_the_terror_07_blu-ray_
All in all, Film Detective is to be commended for the loving care with which they have restored this film.

RECOMMENDED.

-Kevin G Shinnick

the-terror-3

*-Karloff’s salary included a $15,000 deferred payment that he would receive once the movie made over a certain amount. In May 1966, Corman told the Horror Icon that THE TERROR never hit the profit threshold, and so the star would not be getting any money. However, he said he WOULD pay the actor the $15,000 if he worked a few days on another project. The star agreed (today there would have been lawsuits galore) to the undetermined future film. Luckily, it turned out to be TARGETS (Paramount,1968), Peter Bogdanovich’s first full feature debut. The film made extensive use of clips from THE TERROR.

Other films have used clips from the film, including CAMPFIRE TALES (Sub Rosa,1991), AVENGED (Uncork’d ,2014), and TRANSYLVANIA TWIST (Concorde ,1989). In the latter film, a sort of AIRPLANE! (Paramount,1980) for horror fans, Dexter Ward (Steve Altman), enters a room and encounters Karloff courtesy of footage from THE TERROR. This is a doubly clever idea, considering the piecemeal way that the Corman film was made.


**- Corman tried to regain copyright on the film in 1990 for release through his New

Horizon -Concorde company. To do this, he rehired Dick Miller 27 years later to film new footage for the beginning and the end of the film as a framing device. Miller claimed that the payment for these scenes was the most he ever got from Roger Corman! Sadly,I have been unable to find this version on VHS or DVD. thehaunting 1963 corman

(In the U.K.,the film was also known as THE HAUNTING . Confusing to say the least ,as there was also the THE HAUNTING (MGM ,1963) .

Standard