1980s, BLU RAY /DVD COMBO, BLUE UNDERGROUND, cult, DVD /BLU RAY COMBO, exploitation, film, genre, gore, Horror, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, international, Lucio Fulci, Mystery, New York City, nudity, review, SCARLETTHEFILMMAGAZINE.WORDPRESS.COM, Serial Killer, sex, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized

THE NEW YORK RIPPER (Blue Underground Blu-Ray ,June 2019 release)

      THE NEW YORK RIPPER (Blue Underground) June ,2019

                                 original Theatrical release: 1982, Vidmark.

                                        Color. 93 mins. Unrated REGION FREE

         NEW YORK RIPPER, THE

(3-Disc Ltd Ed/4K REM)
1-BD + 1-DVD + 1-CD $49.95

http://www.blue-underground.com/product.php?product=294

 

When a film exists to shock, and succeeds beyond expectations, is it a good film ?

Surely there are many controversial films that do this –CALIGULA (Penthouse,1979) for one. THE NEW YORK RIPPER takes the Giallo archetype and extends it to a point where the misogyny of so many in that genre is multiplied and multiplied again. However, if that is what the killer’s mind set is and the film captures it, is it not then delivering upon its subject matter?

 


Lucio Fulci (1927-1996) was a director who seemed to invite controversy. Though he began as a writer director of documentary shorts in 1948 ,he got into full length features in 1959, working in all genres, from comedy (I LANDRI, ICM,1959) ,musicals RAGAZZI DEL JUKE-BOX (ERA,1959), and westerns (THE BRUTE & THE BEAST ,Mega,1968) with little notice.

 

In 1969, he made his first Giallo, Una sull’altra (ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER, Empire ,1969) shooting some of the film in California), and he had found his niche in the mystery /horror genre. These films proved successful and with each successful one he increased the gore and often the sexual content. His Gates of Hell horror trilogy (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, Dania ,1980; his masterpiece, THE BEYOND Fulvia,1981 and HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, Fulvia,1981) put him on the horror /thriller map as a director to watch.

For good or bad, he became known as a Master of Splatter, and he delivered by the gooey bucketful. Shooting parts of his films within different regions of the U.S. probably set his films apart from a lot of other Italian productions of the time, and I am sure were used to sell the films as American movies to certain markets.

 


THE NEW YORK RIPPER (Lo squartatore di New York, Fulvia, 1982) continued his streak of lensing his films, at least good portions of them in the United States, here, of course, the title city. New York City thrillers were popular with the success of films like DEATH WISH (Paramount, 1974) due to the urban decay that the metropolis had declined into and remained in throughout the 70s,80s, and early 90s.

The world viewed the place as a petri dish where unimaginable crimes could happen almost anywhere, a belief that was solidified by events like the Son Of Sam shootings in 1976-7.

MANIAC (Analysis,1980) (also available in a beautiful Blu Ray Edition from BLUE UNDERGROUND http://www.blue-underground.com/product.php?product=291 ) amped up the ultra-violence (and yes, the objectification of women as victims ) in a powerful thriller .

THE NEW YORK RIPPER cranks it up to 11 with the sex and violence combo .

 


A dog out for a walk with its master finds a rotting human hand, later identified as having come from a local hooker. The lead Detective, Lt Fred Williams (British actor Jack Hadley, who had to take his stage name since there already was a famous Jack Hawkins, starred in the BBC series COLDITZ ,1972-4) begins interviewing people who may have known the unfortunate woman. In his search, he finds out that she had gotten a call from a person who spoke with an odd quacking sound and high-pitched voice.

Another young woman is murdered upon the Staten island Ferry by a knife welding unseen stranger, using the bizarre voice. The police suspect that there is a pattern to the crimes, tying into another murder that had happened previously. They realize that they are dealing with a serial murderer.

The Chief of Police (Lucio Fulci himself!) tells Williams to stop having press conferences that might panic the public (as indeed happened during the Son of Sam spree). Right after, Williams finds out that someone: sounding like a duck” called wanting to talk to him, like the taunts that Jack the Ripper gave the Police and Press.


Another victim is a live sex show performer, brutally murdered by a broken bottle into her genitals. That same night, another prostitute, Kitty (Daniela Doria, who was one of the victims Fulci’s THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY) receives a call from the quacking killer.

Several more vicious killings occur by the mad person dubbed “The New York Ripper”, often involving seedy locations or sexual situations. The film has a rather grim as well as downbeat ending which is one more kick to the gut that the film delivers before the titles roll.

 

Fulci had felt the film was a tribute to Hitchcock, though it owes a great deal more to Dario Argento with its graphic gore.

 

The combination of sex and violence got the film banned in the U.K. until 2002, while in the U.S. it was barely released, getting most of it’s following from its 1987 Vidmark VHS release in an edited version.

BLUE UNDERGROUND had released THE NEW YORK RIPPER uncut since 2008 on DVD (out of print) as well as Blu Ray since 2009.

 

This new (June 25th,2019) Limited Edition is a must have for fans of the film. For one, this print is a 4K scan from an ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE. The image sharpness is amazing, and probably looks better than any version prior, including its limited theatrical run. The film makes good use of color ,thanks to cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller (FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN , BLOOD OF DRACULA (Bryanston 1973,1974; Dario Argento’s DEEP RED, Mahler ,1976 ) that show off the makeup effects of Germano Natali (DEEP RED; SUSPIRIA ,International Classics,1977) in all their gory glory .

 

The audio is available in English 7.1 and Mono DTS-HD, as well as French, Italian and Spanish. I sampled the other tracks, and all seem fine, probably closer to the original theatrical sound but the 7.0 is the way to go. The background city sounds give the film a richer bigger budget feel, with dialogue usually clear and hiss free. I had to turn down the speakers a few times with the screams, that seem to get a bit loud, but let’s face it, that is to be expected in this sort of film.

There are also optional subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

 

 

The film is given an incredible number of extras (which we have come to expect and treasure in these marvelous Blue Underground special 4K releases like MANIAC.)

 


A running Audio Commentary by Troy Howarth. Really one would be hard pressed to find a better commentator than Troy, who began writing for Fangoria, and is an expert on Italian Horror, having published at least three books that deal with the subject, including one on Fulci. That knowledge flows effortlessly in a conversational relaxed manner as he drops an amazing amount of info about the film’s production ,cast & crew  as well as the various censorship and release problems that it encountered .


NYC LOCATIONS THEN & NOW – a personal favorite, as I am a life-long denizen of the city, the too short featurette examines how the city looked then and now (well ,2009). With all the chain stores and Starbucks as well as aimless tourists nowadays, I am unsure which is preferable.

 

PAINT ME BLOOD RED– an interview with Poster Artist Enzo Sciotti, who has painted over 3,000 Italian film posters, including this film. To see some of his work: https://www.cvltnation.com/demons-death-color-art-enzo-sciotti/

 

THE ART OF KILLING -An interview with Co-Writer Dardano Sacchetti (in Italian, subtitled), who worked with Fulci on several of his films, including HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY and MANHATTAN BABY (Fulvia ,1982) and has worked with Mario Bava and Dario Argento.

 

THREE FINGERS OF VIOLENCE– Interview with actor Howard Ross.


– ‘THE BROKEN BOTTLE MURDER– Interview with actress Zora Kerova, who was on the receiving end of one of the most controversial “murders” in the film.

– ‘I’M AN ACTRESS!” – A 2009 interview with the Hungarian born Zora Kerova.

THE BEAUTY KILLERStephen Thrower, author of BEYOND TERROR: THE FILMS OF LUCIO FULCI, give a little more background on the director and the film. Between Thrower and Howarth’s comments, I feel I need to revisit Fulci’s films to better appreciate them.

The Original Theatrical Trailer – bizarre and violent.

Poster & Still Gallery

-A DVD version of THE NEW YORK RIPPER (should you find yourself wanting to watch on your laptop sans a Blu Ray Player).

 

-One of the biggest extras is the OST CD for THE NEW YORK RIPPER by Francesco De Masi. An eclectic mix, the score has lots of electronic guitar, some jazz horn, a bit of disco funk sound, lots of tambourine (what no cow bell? )- yet the score works well with the film that it accompanied. The limited-edition vinyl soundtrack that was available was going for about $25 in some areas, so this Bonus CD is a great addition to this release.

 

– Finally , A twenty-page booklet with essay by Travis Crawford from Indiewire with more information about the flick.

THE NEW YORK RIPPER admittedly is not for everyone’s tastes. However, for fans of
Lucio Fulci,

Italian horror/slasher films,

New York City set sleaze,

gore,

this BLUE UNDERGROUND belongs within your collection.

-KEVIN G SHINNICK

Also from BLUE UNDERGROUND mentioned in the article

MANIAC (ltd edition Blu Ray) https://www.amazon.com/Maniac-Blu-ray-Joe-Spinell/dp/B07FQ3RPND/

 

HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY https://www.amazon.com/House-Cemetery-Special-Catriona-MacColl/dp/B0057O6IMS/

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD https://www.amazon.com/City-Living-Special-Christopher-George/dp/B0036R92US/

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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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Island Monsters from Planet Films

 

 

Planet Films UK produced about 5 films between 1951 to 1967 , the first two being gang/crime films(THE SIX MEN,1951 ;  THE MARKED ONE,1963)  while their last three were horror films   (DEVILS OF DARKNESS,1964, being the  first  of   their terror tales .).

The final two were  both directed by Terence Fisher ( Why they didn’t hire Fisher for there vampire film is a mystery , both had Peter Cushing ,were set upon an isolated island ,and featured short squat monsters. However that is where the similarity ends.

The monster/creatures in ISLAND OF TERROR ( 1966. Other titles considered earlier being The Night the Silicates Came and The Night the Creatures Came ) were terrifying , being giant cancer cells that drained the bones from victims, leaving an empty flesh husk by way of a tentacle which also sucked the essence from one in a very noisy fashion.

 

They even divide like cells,(producing what looks like commissary chicken soup goop ),  increasing their number.

ISLAND OF TERROR got a release from Universal often co -billed with another Universal British pick up ,THE PROJECTED MAN.

 

The 1967 film NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT was based upon a 1959 novel that had been adapted in 1960 for ITV television).

ITC play of the week NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT

 

Even though N.O.T.B.H. had Fisher and Cushing ,as well as Christopher Lee ,Patrick Allen , Sarah Lawson ,and Jane Merrow ,the final result was for the most part a rather tamer affair in comparison with it’s predecessor . The threat here was a form of early global warming, with the creatures raising temperatures upon the island. It had a strong story and a good cast, but investors pulled out as the film began production ,which resulted in creatures which were kept hidden for most of the film . It needed a little more blood and thunder ,such as ISLAND OF TERROR possessed.

It was retitled for US release by a small distribution company ,Maron Films, as ISLAND OF THE BURNING DAMNED, and paired as the bottom half of a co- bill with GODZILLA’S REVENGE (Toho).

Later for television, it was retitled once again as ISLAND OF THE BURNING DOOMED, so as not to offend sensitive souls.

In March ,1967, another science fiction blob creature appeared on tv for Desilu/Paramount‘s STAR TREK.

Called “The Horta“. the creature appeared in the episode” The Devil In The Dark“. That creature had a corrosive acid it exuded , and dwelt among silicon nodules.

One wonders if it was the interplanetary futuristic off spring of the two creatures from the Planet Films !

 

ISLAND OF TERROR is currently available on Blu Ray from SHOUT FACTORY,region A only . Odeon Entertainment has released the UK Blu Ray.

NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT is available from Odeon Entertainment in an All Region Blu Ray .

 

Kevin G Shinnick

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BEDAZZLED (Twilight Time Blu Ray) Fox 1967

BEDAZZLED (Twilight Time Blu Ray) 20th Century Fox,1967 Color. 104 mins. Region Free (A/B/C) $29.95

https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/bedazzled-blu-ray/

“You fill me with inertia !”

 

 

1967 was a year for wonderfully twisted comedies. THE PRODUCERS (Embassy)THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS(MGM), THE GRADUATE (Embassy,1967), and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER(Columbia) were among the gems released that year.

 

Perhaps the most twisted and yet still funny as all get out film of the bunch was BEDAZZLED. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore were two giants of the boom in British comedy and satire in the 1960s, with anti-establishment humor endearing them to the young of the time

The pair of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore first shot to international fame with their performances in both the U.K. and ten a successful two-year run in NYC in a satirical review called BEYOND THE FRINGE. Also, n the cast was playwright Alan Bennett (the play THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE) and Jonathan Miller (later to run the Old Vic Theatre).

The four intelligent young men were the heirs of absurdist humor previously popular in England due to programs like THE GOON SHOW (Spike Milligan, a very young Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, and Michael Bentine) and their creative intelligent wit mixed with surreal silliness made them the forerunners of MONTY PYTHON’s FLYING CIRCUS.

 

Several popular appearances on the BBC, with shows like NOT ONLY…BUT ALSO (1964,1966,1970) helped increase their popularity. The pair also successfully appeared major supporting roles in the big budget comedy THE WRONG BOX (Columbia ,1966), and so studios were open to the idea of pairing them in a starring project.

 

Meanwhile, American director Stanley Donen (who passed away two days after this Blu Ray release) had been MGM ‘s top director of musicals in the 1950s (SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN.1952 and SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS ,1954). After leaving MGM to free-lance at other studios, Donen spent the 1960s living in England, directing and producing several films there.

 

 

After a few box office disappointments, Donen was back on track with CHARADE (Universal,1963), a fun thriller often referred to as “the Best Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made”, starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. He followed this with the similar ARABESQUE (Universal,1966) starring Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren, which was nearly as successful as the previous film.

These two hits allowed him to experiment a bit, and so he did TWO FOR THE ROAD (Fox, 1967) and the film under review here, BEDAZZLED (Fox,1967).

 

With a screenplay by Peter Cook (based upon a story by Cook and Moore), director Donen (no stranger to devils, having directed DAMN YANKEES in 1958 for Warner Brothers) gets into the style and mood of the swinging sixties to tell this modern reworking of the Faust legend. Moore and Cook build upon their established persona from previous routines, with Moore being the slower witted, usually taken advantage of by the fast talking, gleam in his eye Cook.

 

Stanley Moon (Moore), a short order cook, moons over Margaret Spencer (Eleanor Bron, most famous for appearing in the Richard Lester Beatles vehicle HELP, U.A. 1965, as well as appearing in Donen’s ONE FOR THE ROAD that same year), a waitress who barely acknowledges his existence at the Wimpy’s Burgers Restaurant at which they both works. Indeed, one of her gentlemen pick her up from work just as Stanley gets the courage to ask her out, driving the Stanley to abject despair.

 

Poor Moon  doesn’t notice the customer with the small sunglasses and wearing an opera cape sitting at one of the tables, watching all this with great intensity.

Returning home, Moon wants to hang himself from a pipe in his ceiling, and only succeeds in breaking the pipe, causing water to fall into his tiny flat. Stepping into the apartment comes the stranger from the restaurant, who identifies himself as George Spiggott (Cook).

 

Spiggott then admits that is but one of the many names he has, for he is the Devil himself. To prove it, he will grant Moon one wish, save for Margaret Spencer. Thinking Stanley asks for an ice lolly. Sure enough, they go board a bus, and, using Stanley’s money, purchases an ice lolly. Not believing that Spiggott is anything more than a looney, Spiggott sighs and with the magic phrase “Julie Andrews”, they are whisked across London to a less reputable part of town, melting the ice lolly in transit. It is here that Spiggott has his seedy club that he works out of.

The bouncer, Anger (Robert Russell, superlative a year later as Vincent Price’s evil sidekick in WITCHFINDER GENERAL; Tigon/AIP,1968), tosses Stanley out, but Spiggott escorts him back in. Within the club, Stanley will also meet among others Envy (Barry Humphries, before he donned drag to gain international fame as Dame Edna. Cook had befriended and even helped support Humphries early in his career), Vanity (Alba), who walks around with a mirror in front of him, and of course, Lust (personified with a Southern Belle accent by Raquel Welch, the actress being featured upon almost all the advertising and posters).

 

Japanese film poster

Basically, Spiggott offers Moon the standard contact of seven wishes upon which to win his true love. Sadly, for Stanley, the Devil is truly in the details, as each attempt at a new life to win Margaret Spencer ends in disaster for the love besotted chef.

 

 

Along the way, it seems that the police believe that Moon has succeeded in his suicide attempt, with Inspector Clarke (Michael Bates, later the sadistic Chief Guard Barnes in the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, WB,1971) starting to woo the young Miss while they try and find Moon’s corpse!

 

The wonderfully whacky film also explores with fittingly fiendish delight the modus operandi of the Devil, whether it be scratching records before they are sent off to sale, or exploring good and evil .Along the way, a strange friendship develops between Moon and Spiggott ,though in the end they both know after the seven wishes granted to Stanley his soul will belong to Spiggott. Spiggott must gain 100 Billion souls to regain his entryway into Heaven and sit again as God’s favorite. The friendship works in a mysterious twist at the end, costing Spiggot to lose is bet with the Almighty. The film ends with an unseen God laughing in a deep voice, almost insanely as the end credits roll. Maybe the Devil indeed has a right to be angry.

 

A few bits from earlier sketches by the pair are woven into the episodic storyline , the most famous and obvious being from NOT ONLY…BUT ALSO , “The Leaping Nuns of the Order of St Berylhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiO_9UIUx7M .

 

 

 

The film sparkles with wit as well as silliness (to get out of a failed wish, Stanley needs to make a “raspberry “sound) that keeps it moving swiftly over the course of 103 minutes.

 

 

Austin Dempster had been camera operator on ARABESQUE and TWO FOR THE ROAD for director Donen, but BEDAZZLED was his first credit as cinematographer. At one point, the film switches to black and white to recreate an early television studio broadcast (as well as perhaps reference films like A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (UA,1964)). This leads into one of the most fun sequences, where fans including an awe-struck Margaret Spencer go nuts for rock star Stanley (who basically screams “Love MEEEE”), until Drimble Wedge and the Vegetation sing an emotionless version of “Bedazzled “. The fickle fans run to the latest flavor of the moment and abandon poor Stanley ,trying to blow a razzberry as fans nearly trample him to reach their new idol. The music, by the way, for the film was composed by Dudley Moore. Several artists have done covers of the “Bedazzled” song, most notably Nick Cave and Anita Lane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPJWkQudhPo .

 

The film when released received mixed reviews but made a profit in the United States.

Since its release, BEDAZZLED has continued to increase its cult following due to late night tv showings as well as various releases on Beta, VHS and in 2007 on DVD by Fox Entertainment.

Now TWILIGHT TIME has released the best-looking release of this film on home media, perhaps even since its original release. Another marvelous 1080p HD transfer, some of the colors are more vibrant than I’ve ever seen in this film, particularly the red of Spiggott’s inner cape lining or Raquel Welch’s tiny bra and panties she wears while hopping into bed with Stanley. Some reviewers have mentioned a slight elongation of the figures, but I didn’t notice any of this when I viewed the film.

 

The disc has two English only audio selections: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, the sound is clear and clean, with no noticeable sound pops, and does justice to the quippy fast delivered dialogue as well as Moore’s music.

For the hearing impaired, there are clean easy to read optional subtitles.

As an extra, you can listen to the isolated music and sound effects track, so you can enjoy the clever jazzy score and songs.

 

The Blu Ray cover sleeve shows us a photo of Cook as Spiggott (which for some reason reminded me of Peter Cushing in DR TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS (Paramount, Amicus,1965).

 

Twilight Time also commissioned a very fun illustration for a cover as well.

Julie Kirgo provides her always welcome liner notes in a separate booklet included with the disc, concentrating a great deal on director Donen.

Extras carried over from the 2007 FOX DVD are

Two trailers for the film,

A 2007 interview with director /comedian Harold Ramis, who directed the unnecessary 2000 remake of BEDAZZLED. Ramis waxes poetic about how wonderful the film and indeed the comic pair of Moore and Cook were.

An excerpt from THE PAUL RYAN SHOW , a 1977 British talk program ,where the pair of Moore and Cook reveal that there were tensions  between them  ,due to their different attitudes on dealing with things (oddly, IMDB.com only lists Moore and not Cook, but since Moore only appeared on the show once, we must assume episode 109 was the one featured here). One wishes there was the whole broadcast of this here, but we are grateful indeed to get a glimpse of this black & white rarity.

 

I cannot recommend this wonderful original comedy enough.

The press run is limited to only 3,000 copies, so get yours now- before George Spiggott makes all of them vanish on you.

Get BEDAZZLED 

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION .

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

Feel free to share and repost our reviews . Have a book ,cd, film ,etc that you wish reviewed ?

An interview you wish to share?  Contact Kevin at scarletthefilmmag@yahoo.com 

 

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BLUE MOVIE(1971) Cult Epics Blu Ray/DVD combo release

BLUE MOVIE (CULT EPICS Blu Ray DVD Combo, Feb 2019) Dutch,1971 89 mins. Color. Dutch, with optional English subtitles.
https://www.paypal.com/webapps/hermes?token=1E9409251B771762H&useraction=commit&mfid=1552229982906_40b8158c54ef8

 

                          “This is Holland Today.” -Michael (Hugo Metsers, BLUE MOVIE)

BLUE MOVIE is an interesting motion picture that became one of the most successful Dutch films ever made (it is still listed as number 5). Its importance cannot be overlooked, as it was a film that showed that an intelligent thoughtful film could be made that contained actual (as well as simulated) sex within it.

Indeed, were it not for films like BLUE MOVIE helping break down and through the censorship that films endured both in Europe and the U.S., it is doubtful that Catherine Breillat, Gaspar Noe, and Lars Von Trier would probably not being creating their works today.

A “blue movie” was one that was considered racier than the standard film of the time. Andy Warhol had done a film also called BLUE MOVIE (1969), which became the first film with explicit sex that received a wide theatrical release in the U.S. and began what became in the 1970s as “porn chic”.

 

 

The 1971 film being reviewed here could have played like a comic sex romp similar to the popular Robin Askwith films from England that followed in the decade, such as CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER (Columbia, 1974), were it not for the thoughtful direction, script and performances. That said, the filmmakers do sometimes see the humor in the various couplings, with one sequence within an elevator showing the couple going at it within the box, while frustrated people gather below wondering what is holding up the lift.

 


Michael (Hugo Metsers*, at age 28 ,starring in his first feature after just two t.v. appearances) has been released from prison after five years ,due to having sex with an under-aged girl .His parole officer Eddie (Helmert Woudenberg )escorts Michael (oddly none of the characters seem to  have a last name, not even those who are married seem to have a surname) to a sterile modern apartment block. Michael’s small apartment seems almost as small as a prison cell, barely furnished. Eddie tells Michael that he will be keeping an eye upon him.

 

 

Still, Michael has urges, and, one night, peers around his balcony and watches his neighbors have sex. Later, he meets with the neighbors, and becomes sexually involved with the wife Elly (Carry Tefsen). He soon finds others within the building are open to sexual exploration, and he is soon having flings with several within the complex, including one amusing bit wherein a husband walks in on his wife and Michael, only to jump in and join them!

 

Michael, however, starts developing actual feelings for Julia (Ine Veen) ,an unmarried mother within the complex. He cares for her but skips a date with her rather than possibly hurting her.

 

He continues exploring the sexual mores of the time, and soon comes upon the idea of making money off the obvious fixations within the complex. He starts a private sex club and his neighbors stand about staring at black & white porn films (which have the most graphic sex of a few seconds that are depicted within Blue Movie), and later nude models walk about and finally a doctor is invited who examines the guests who wish to take part in an orgy .

One of the guests, Newman (Bill van Dijk, later to star on Broadway in the title role of CYRANO THE MUSICAL ,1994 as well as international pop star) commits suicide by leaping from the balcony of the apartment . Things start to fall apart, but Michael realizes that he truly has feelings for Julia. Can sex be truly satisfying without an emotional connection?

 

One of the Dutch Sex Wave, these films helped change how films were reviewed and censored. The producers released several other films that continued and expanded the trail blazed by BLUE MOVIE, and CULT EPICS has several of them available (see trailers mentioned below).

Though low budget, the film shows true talent both in front of and behind the camera.

The most notable is the director of photography is Jan de Bont .Mr. de Bont, after hopping back and forth from other European productions (most notably THE 4TH MAN ,Rob Houwer Productions,1983)and low to mid budget U.S. films ( CUJO, 1983;Sunn Classics/Taft) , he got major notice for his works on such blockbusters as DIE HARD (Fox,1988) before becoming a director himself on the megahit SPEED (Fox 1994),

 

The soundtrack by Juergen Drews (he played a street singer in the giallo SHORT NIGHT OF THE GLASS DOLLS (Deter Geissler Filmproduktion ,1971) is a simple effective score, which at times reminds me of the music used in MIDNIGHT COWBOY (U.A.,1969) .

 

CULT EPICS has done a phenomenal job with their restoration.

A 1080p HD transfer (thanks to the Eye Institute in Amsterdam, using original 16mm and 35mm negative elements), the picture is clean ,with outdoor scenes having a strong blue tinge . This seems to be more due to the color stock used than any intentional referencing to the title. The film is as sharp as it has probably ever looked.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track on the blu ray Dolby Digital dual Mono sound is crisp and clear, with no noticeable pops in the Dutch language only soundtrack. Optional English subtitles are easy to read.
Extras on the discs include

-A 1971 Interview from the director Wim Verstappen (who passed way in 2004) who discusses (in Dutch, with burnt in English subtitles) about making the film, dealing with censors, raising funds outside of the country, and plans for a thriller.

-A 2018 interview with producer Pim de la Parra while he was attending a retrospective of the “Dutch Sex Wave “. We learn that the director based his film upon sexploitation films that he had seen when he had visited New York.

 

-Another 2018 interview (in English) with Hugo Metsers Jr, son of the lead actor. He talks about seeing this film when he was quite young, and how seeing his father was the star destroyed any eroticism the film might have had upon him. He also recalls his father is happier with stage work over film.

 

– A short piece on, the Eye Film Institute. The organization is dedicated to the preservation of film, particularly Dutch works. Also, in their collections are rare film books, posters, and publicity material, as well as screening rooms. By the way, should you wish to check out their website in English, https://www.eyefilm.nl/en . The structure, built near the river in Amsterdam, looks like the Sydney Opera House mated with the MOMA in New York!

– A poster and photo gallery for BLUE MOVIE.

-Four trailers for films by the same production team (Pim & Wim’s Scorpio Films), including

BLUE MOVIE (which gives you an idea of how the film may have looked before the restoration),

OBSESSIONS (1969 ,which shows a strong Hitchcock influence as well as a Bernard Herrmann score that he used from pieces he created back in 1957 for the CBS Music Library!) available from Cult Epics http://www.cultepics.com/product-detail/obsessions/

 

FRANK & EVA (1973, also starring Metsers) http://www.cultepics.com/product-detail/frank-eva/ ,

and MY NIGHTS WITH SUSAN, SANDRA, OLGA and JULIE (1975 ,that appears to be a more erotic variant of THE BEGUILED ,Universal, 1971) ,currently not listed as available from Cult Epics.

Recommended, especially for fans of foreign films, art house, and erotica.

Kudos to Cult Epics for the care that they give to these films.

Kevin G Shinnick

*- there is another Dutch actor, also named Hugo Metsers, who was only about 3 when BLUE MOVIE was made.

 

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1980s, Blu Ray, CAROLINE MUNRO, cult, exploitation, film, genre, gore, Horror, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, independent film, JOE SPINELL, review, reviews, SCARLETTHEFILMMAGAZINE.WORDPRESS.COM, thriller, TOM SAVINI, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, WILLIAM LUSTIG

MANIAC -Blue Underground 3 disc Ltd Edition Blu ray

                                                

 

                                                                MANIAC     

                                                     3 Disc Ltd Edition BLU RAY
-Blue Underground December 11,2018.

1980, originally released by Analysis Film Releasing Corp.87 min. Color .

Available as a 3-disc Limited Edition /4 K remaster (2BD plus 1 CD) $39.95 REGION FREE.

http://www.blue-underground.com/product.php?product=291

Back in the early 1980s, horror films were massive money makers. For relatively low costs, filmmakers of various skills could get a camera, an effects person, and maybe some women willing to shed their clothes, and even the feeblest efforts could get a theatrical release.

Then there were films that were done with the same miniscule budgets but with a bit more skill, darker tone perhaps, better actors, direction, and technical skills

MANIAC falls into that latter category. The film was inspired by the infamous Son of Sam. David Berkowitz began his wave of terror that terrorized the city of New York on Christmas Eve ,1975 with what was at first were considered random stabbings.

His first murder (and first use of his weapon of choice, a .44 calibre, thus his being dubbed at first the .44 Calibre Killer) was on July 29,1976. He finally was arrested on August 7,1977 after avoiding the biggest manhunt in NYC history, sending taunting letters to both the police and the press, having killed six people and wounded seven others by July 1977. When apprehended, he confessed but adding he was being ordered to telepathically by his neighbor Sam’s dog Harvey (thus, the ”son” of Sam.). Later ,he admitted he made up the dog story, but the legend continues.

When people found out that publishers were offering huge sums of money for his story, the Son of Sam Law, which was designed to keep criminals from further profiting from their crimes.

This did not stop newspapers, book publishers, television shows ,and even movies from cranking out their own money making attempts to exploit the story , one of the earliest is the nearly unwatchable ANOTHER SON OF SAM (1977, which began in 1975 as a cheapie called HOSTAGES ).

 

Filmmaker William Lustig had grown up enjoying the exploitation smorgasbord offered up in the 1950s,60s and 70s that played in the grindhouses of 42nd Street. After taking some film classes, he found work on both mainstream film (as a P.A. on DEATH WISH,Paramount,1974) before moving into the profitable adult film market, where he worked as editor, producer, and director (and probably a lot of other jobs too) .

 

He saw the money that films like FRIDAY THE 13th (Paramount ,1980) were making ,and thus, taking his share of his latest adult title , he decided to make his own horror movie.

 

He was wise enough to get the wizard who created the effects that had made FRIDAY THE 13TH so memorable, namely Tom Savini . Lustig also cast actor Joe Spinell, who also co-produced ad co wrote the script. Spinell was a hard- working character actor who had worked in supporting roles in major films but this would be his first starring role. Finally, they hired actress Caroline Munro (after their first choice had dropped out), who had starred in several horror and fantasy films throughout the 1970s, as well as being featured in major films like THE SPY WHO LOVED ME ,U.A.,1977).

 

The film is a gritty time capsule of New York City. Tourists were afraid to come to the city, never mind walk the streets at night. Hookers, pimps and drug dealers stood aside sleazy motels and grind house movie theatres, trying to lure in the unwary to sample their wares – or simply rob them.

 

Cinematographer Robert Lindsay, who had worked with Lustig on his previous adult movies, perfectly captures that sense of dread and moral decay.

     (Warning – plot spoilers)

Frank Zito (a completely believable full on psycho performance by Joe Spinell) wanders the city and kills young women who he is aroused by, then scalping them and then taking his bloody souvenir home and attaching it to one of the many mannikins he has littering his apartment. It seems that he was abused as a child by his hooker mom and so he finds that beauty is punishable by death.

One couple is killed in their car when Frank jumps upon the hood of the vehicle and point- blank fires a double- barreled shotgun blast into the passenger (Tom Savini, who not only played the victim, but used his own sculpted head to blow apart. Savini also doubled for Frank and used an actual shotgun to blow up the sculpture, having the odd honor of shooting himself on camera! Since they did not have permits, Savini then tossed the gun into a waiting truck and was driven away in case of police investigating the reports of gunfire) before killing the young woman also in the vehicle.

Frank talks to his mannequins and sobs and wails when he sees the coverage of his latest murders upon his television. He is truly Norman Bates on speed in this film. Still, Spinell, while creepy and often veering dangerously close to overacting, never loses a sense of reality in his portrayal.)

Somehow, he meets a beautiful photographer, Anna (Caroline Munro), after she takes his photo. They oddly become friendly while Frank continues his killing spree, killing a nurse as well as one of Anna’s models, adding their scalps to his growing collection. Frank is starting to lose the small grip that he has on reality, for when he kills the mode, he first begins talking to her as his deceased mother.

 

Still, Anna goes out with Frank, stopping off at the graveyard where his mother was buried. Frank finally attacks Anna, but she bashes him with a shovel and escape. He tries to pursue her but suddenly imagines that his mother is rising from her grave. Terrified, he flees home. His apartment proves no safe sanctuary , however , as the mannequins come alive and throw him onto his bed, where they tear his head from his body!

The film has been a constant for collectors ever since VHS was the market staple.

This new BLU RAY is the must have version for collectors.

MEDIA VHS release

 

The movie is in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with a magnificent 4k 1080p transfer. For a low budget film, the film has some superb cinematography, and this release does justice to its color photography. What is more amazing is when you realize the film was shot in 16mm and then blown up to 35mm. For decades, the original 16mm negatives were missing but now, they have been found. Prior prints were from a 35mm dupe, with all the inherit flaws that involves. The original camera negative used here seems less grainy (save for the usual grain of the format) and increases the sharpness of the images.

 

Comparing it to an old DVD release, the sharper clarity is so easy to see.

The original film was one of the first indies to use Dolby Stereo, but this release makes full use of the process. I heard no pops or hiss on the soundtrack, and the music, dialogue and sound effects are clear and make good use of the separate speakers on my system. I only listened to the 2.0 DTS-HD track, but you are offered the choice also of Dolby Digital 2.0 (which perhaps would reflect the original release sound) as well as 7.1 DTS-HD.

 

You can also experience the film in Dolby Digital 2.0 French, Italian, German, and Spanish audio, as well as Optional subtitles in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese,
Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Korean, Swedish, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Thai (phew!).

There are six standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French: Dolby Digital 2.0, Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0, German: Dolby Digital 2.0, and Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0. Optional English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Russian, Swedish, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Cantonese, and Thai yellow subtitles are provided for the main feature.

That would be more than enough for most major studio releases, but BLUE UNDERGROUND has piled on the extras to truly make this a special collectible 3- Disc Edition.

 

On the first disc, along with the film, we get a running audio commentary with Lustig and Producer Andrew W. Garroni. This is a newly recorded commentary full of little insights as well as the how well the film holds up 38 years (!) later.

 

Also on the first disc is a second commentary track lifted from the previous 2007 DVD release from Blue Underground. On this track are Lustig, Tom Savini , film editor Lorenzo Marinelli and Joe Spinell’s assistant Luke Walter (Spinell sadly dying way too early in 1989 ,at age 52). There are a lot of fond memories and humor as well as technical details on the making of the film.

 

This first disc also has the original Theatrical trailer, as well as tv and radio spots. One wonders if trailers such as this which show such graphic violence could be shown nowadays https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya7lVHk-qD8 .

Where else would you hear CALIGULA (Penthouse /1979) and MANIAC in the same sentence? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCCsMzpBQqA

 

Disc Two
There are several more extras that fill this second disc. The first two are newly made especially for this release. The others are ported over from the MANIAC 30th Anniversary of 2010 or previous DVD releases.

OUTTAKES- rough footage and alternate takes give a glimpse of the behind the scenes making of MANIAC. The outtakes are not restored nor cleaned up and thus seem a bit more grainy but are a treat nonetheless.

 

RETURNING TO THE SCENE OF THE CRIME- on camera interview with William Lustig.
He talks about the making of the film with an obvious pride and enthusiasm.

ANNA & THE KILLER- Caroline Munro talks about her career and working on this flick as well as other films with Spinell .

THE DEATH DEALER- Tom Savini (who else?) Always fun to see and hear Tom talk about his magic.

 

DARK NOTES- Composer Jay Chattaway talks about this Jazz Musician came about getting his first film score and how he tried to get into the head of a psychopath to create his score.

MANIAC MEN -Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky discuss the song that the film inspired and later popularized in the Paramount film FLASHDANCE (1983).

THE JOE SPINNELL STORY- this is ,for me ,the highlight of the extras as this nearly an hour long documentary covers the actor’s life with personal memories , home movies and appearances on ‘The Joe Franklin Show”. Success seemed to have hurt Spinnell and been somewhat responsible for his early demise. (Copyright-2001).

 

 

MR ROBBIE: MANIAC 2 PROMO REEL– Buddy (COMBAT SHOCK, Troma ,1986) Giovinazzo had planned a warped sequel of sorts, with Spinell as a children’s show host with a disturbing secret. Imagine Spinell as Krusty The Clown and you can imagine how warped that it is. They never were able to raise the funds.

PUBLICITY – featurette. Interviews with the cast and crew.

MANIAC CONTROVERSY – Like SNUFF (Monarch,1975) before it, the filmmakers used the complaints and horrific reactions to the film to get the curious into the cinemas and see what all the fuss was about. Unlike SNUFF, they got a powerful that wasn’t just hype.

Third Disc- MANIAC original Motion Picture Soundtrack cd. This is a big bonus, as the soundtrack by itself sells for about $20 at least at horror conventions.

Bonus Booklet by Michael Gingold (Fangoria, Rue Morgue)- a short essay about the production .

The film is to this day very hard to watch for many, due to its gritty atmosphere which captures the sense of NYC at the time , as well as it’s still powerful effects .It also does have a strong sense of misogyny that is hard to ignore but it does also capture the mind set of the character. Joe Spinell’s daring performance both repels us while he fascinates us, lifting the feature above the other stalk and slash films of the era.

 

JUMP TO 2018 –

Before Alek Minassian killed 10 people, the majority of them women, by driving his van into pedestrians on a Toronto street Monday, he posted on Facebook praising mass murderer Elliot Rodger and called for an “Incel Rebellion,” an uprising of men who are angry women won’t have sex with them.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/04/26/incel-rebellion-alek-minassian-sexual-entitlement-mens-rights-elliot-rodger/550635002/

Perhaps MANIAC was predicting a movement, a hidden dark secret, that we back then could not even imagine??

RECOMMENDED for fans of 80’s horror, JOE SPINELL, CAROLINE MUNRO, TOM SAVINI, WILLIAM LUSTIG, stunning effects.

Kudos to BLUE UNDERGROUND for this super -deluxe must have 3-disc collector’s edition.

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

 

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

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