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THE STRANGERS:PREY AT NIGHT (March ,2018, theatrical Aviron) Review by Sean Fallon

For what I, Sean Fallon, consider to be the absolute all-time greatest acting performance by a teenage actress in a horror movie, I highly recommend THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT.

On March 9th, this sequel to 2008’s THE STRANGERS (Rogue), hit the big screen. Director Johannes Roberts does an amazing job with this horror movie that is written by Bryan Bertino and Ben Ketai, and is based on true events.

Bailee Madison who was only seventeen at the time of the filming excels in the leading role of Kinsey, by convincingly selling every line, expression, emotion, and reaction. From sarcastic teenage rebelliousness to extreme panic that borders on hyperventilating, Bailee Madison delivers it all as if she was personally experiencing everything that Kinsey was enduring, whether physically, intellectually, or emotionally. Her acting was so strong that it never looked like acting, but like live footage of a terrified teenage girl fleeing for her life.

The premise behind the movie is that a family of four goes to an aunt and uncle’s trailer park, during the off-season, which leaves it vacant, to spend the night, on the way to bringing the daughter, Kinsey, to a boarding school, after Kinsey got in serious trouble for a behavior (minor spoiler alert) that remains undisclosed in the movie. When they arrive in the trailer park, the aunt and uncle are not there to greet them, but the keys are left for them to get into their trailer. Three masked homicidal maniacs, however, are lurking about.

Martin Henderson and Christina Hendricks portray Kinsey’s parents who are good with her, despite their frustrations. Their love for their children and love for each other is clearly demonstrated, making them both likeable and believable.

The Strangers 2 6-5-17-9807.dng

Actor Lewis Pullman plays Luke, Kinsey’s older brother. Luke and Kinsey have a typical sibling relationship, with the bickering in the car, the name calling and fighting, but with ultimately the love for one another that is above all their conflict. Luke is the central male character in this movie, and the one with whom a male audience will most likely identify with the most. Lewis Pullman’s strong acting performance makes Luke a very believable and relatable character.

The dynamic of a brother/sister relationship at the heart of the movie, rather than a romantic relationship enhances the genuine concern that a male audience has for the well-being of Kinsey, as well. There are no obnoxious teen fornication scenes, and Kinsey is always modestly dressed, never objectified the way teen actresses, or older actresses who portray teenagers typically are in movies and television.

It is much more cinematically effective to watch a fellow human being, an equal journeyer through life, fleeing for hers, than to watch an objectified bimbo making stereotypically stupid decisions. Identifying with Luke and how he wants to protect his younger sister out of genuine pure love furthermore, from a Christian perspective, makes it very easy to obey 1 Timothy 5:2 towards Kinsey. You end up truly caring about Kinsey as a person, irrelevant to whatever misbehavior she may have shown in the past. It no longer matters.

Music from the 1980s, mostly with female lead singers is heard throughout the movie. This is another dynamic shift that works quite well, as the backdrop for emotionally intense scenes.

 

This movie avoids those obnoxious quick cuts that in other horror movies often create viewer frustration by preventing the viewers from mentally processing what is happening on the screen. Instead, the action is clear and present, with intensity that draws the moviegoers right into the world of Luke and Kinsey, keeping us constantly on edge, in a good way, of wanting to see Luke and Kinsey overcome their three biggest obstacles, the three masked homicidal maniacs.

The writing, directing, acting, score, and editing all work together to create a truly great horror movie that contains all the positive elements of horror, while avoiding the stereotypical pitfalls. While there are some cuss words and scenes with blood, the quality of this movie is unmistakable. I highly recommend THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT.

Sean Fallon

The original THE STRANGERS (Rogue,2008)cost about $ 9 million and made over $52 million during it’s theatrical run .

The new film’s budget has not been released, but in it’s first four days, STRANGERS:PREY AT NIGHT has made $11,270,512 . This is Aviron‘s second release, the first being the Halle Berry thriller KIDNAP (2017) .That film broke even, considering it cost $21 million to produce ,and an estimated $9 million advertising. KIDNAP brought in $30,718,107

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WUTHERING HEIGHTS (1970) Twilight Time Blu Ray

Wuthering Heights ,1970 A.I.P ( Twilight Time Blu-ray – limited pressing of 3,000 only)
Region free. Color . 1 hr 44 mins List Price: $29.95
https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/wuthering-heights-blu-ray/

AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES never won an Academy Award. It was too busy making money on low budget features. While the larger studios saw their profits dipping due to changing audience demographics and the lure of television, A.I.P was able to make films that would appeal to certain demographics, seeing trends and making films cheaply and quickly.

Teenage themed -movies, horror movies, and later rebel outsider films were popular with the younger crowds who were filling drive -ins.

Then Roger Corman threw off their formula. He made a horror film, yes but it was as expensive as two of their regular films, in color and wide screen.

It made money. Lots of it. Better, it got good reviews. AIP was getting respectability.
It was a heady experience to finally stop being the Rodney Dangerfield of studios.

Oh, they kept grinding out Beach blankets stuffed into a wild bikini on wheels two headed transplants, but they also would continue to do, for them, a prestige picture, usually with the name of Edgar Allan Poe attached.

The zenith of these films was MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (AIP ,1964) which was incredibly stylish (thanks to the magnificent cinematography of Nicholas Roeg).

 czech poster WUTHERING HEIGHTS 1970

AIP kept grinding out films, doing quite well but reviews were of the nature of “good for its kind”.

In 1970, they took a chance again on some “prestige” pictures, picking up for distribution the independent produced feature JULIUS CAESAR (1970) starring Charlton Heston, Jason Robards, John Gielgud, Diana Rigg, and many others. It flopped both financially and critically.

However, Louis M.” Deke” Heyward, who oversaw A.I.P. productions lensed in the U.K. (and whose career included the tv animated series WINKY DINK & YOU ,1953)pushed for something more ambitious.

Franco Zeffirelli ‘s ROMEO & JULIET (Paramount,1968) had been a huge cross over hit with both young audiences as well as their parents, and Heyward felt that he had a classic romance that would appeal to a similar cross over crowd.  Also in 1970 , M.G.M. was going to release a big historical romance ,RYAN’s DAUGHTER, so A.I.P. probably felt that this would a trend worth taking part in.

With one of the largest budgets ever accorded an American International film (publicity bragged about 3 million dollars, equivalent to what United Artists spent on their 1971 prestige period film THE MUSIC LOVERS by Ken Russell. In comparison, another U.K. production from AIP in 1970, SCREAM & SCREAM AGAIN, cost about $350,000.).

Emily Bronte’s only novel, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, was published in 1847 with a pseudonym used for the author (“Ellis Belle”). Emily Bronte died the following year at age 30 from tuberculosis. Charlotte edited the novel and had the novel published again under her sister’s proper name in 1850. By then the name Bronte was known due to the other sister’s works, Anne’s AGNES GRAY (1847, under the pen name Acton Bell then under her own name in 1850) and Charlotte’s JANE EYRE (1947 under the name Currer Bell, then the following year in the United States by Charlotte Bronte)

The tragedy of Emily’s early death adds an air of tragic Romanticism that already permeates the novel. The work was received with mixed feelings, some due to its criticism of Victorian mores. It was, however, a big seller, and has become required reading in many college literature classes.

To me, revisiting the book recently, it seemed to me to be a story of a dysfunctional destructive relationship that would not be out of place in a 50 SHADES OF GRAY story! Her playing with his affections and his obsessiveness destroys them both, with events of mental and physical abuse that make a modern reader ponder, so one can imagine how readers of that more gentile time reacted.

 

Still ,the basic story stayed popular with readers ,and it’s basic structure served as a frame work for future popular novels as GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell (1936 ,MacMillan) REBECCA by Daphne Du Maurier(1938 ,Victor Golanz,U.K.) and DRAGONWYCK by Anya Seton (1944,Houghton Miffin ).Incidentally ,Twilight Time has just released a magnificent must have Blue Ray of the film of DRAGONWYCK https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/dragonwyck-blu-ray/

 

The first film version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS was a 1920 British silent, now sadly lost.

 

In 1939, often called the greatest year for movies, Samuel Goldwyn produced the version now best remembered telling of the tale, with director William Wyler guiding a superlative cast and crew through a stirring moving version of the tale. Laurence Olivier became a movie matinee idol (though he had starred in several films before as well as being a star of the stage in two countries) due to his brooding portrayal of Heathcliff. The director and star often clashed, but in the end, Olivier was glad that Wyler how to truly focus as a film actor. Merle Oberon embodied Cathy, David Niven the good but weak Edgar, Donald Crisp, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Flora Robson…. An embarrassment of acting riches. Add to that a literate screenplay by FRONT PAGE creators Charles MacArthur & Ben Hecht, a beautiful Alfred Newman score and cinematography by the magnificent Gregg Toland, it is little wonder that the film in 2007 was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.

Eliminated from this version was the son that Heathcliff fathered nor Cathy’s daughter, both of whom are major characters at the end of the novel. However, the ending of this film retains a powerful gothic and supernatural finale that leaves people weeping.

The BBC over the years has done various versions for tv and American television produced various adaptations , such as this heavily abridged production for CBS in 1950, starring a very stiff Charlton Heston as Heathcliff https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbiaEgjgJX8 .

 

The 1970 version had a screenplay by Patrick Tilley, who seemed to have had a limited career. An episode of an obscure U.K. tv series starring Patrick Allen called CRANE (1963-5, A.R.T.), additional dialogue for a 1968 caper film called ONLY WHEN I LARF(Paramount)and then this. Later he went on to write for Amicus /AIP the film THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT (1977), the disappointing THE LEGACY (Universal,1978) and another supernatural obscurity, GUN OF THE BLACK SUN (2011).

Like many previous versions, the second half of the book is jettisoned to concentrate on the obsessive love/hate relationship of Heathcliff and Cathy.


Chosen to oversee this adaptation was former art director turned director Robert Fuest. Fuest had mostly done television, helming several episodes of THE AVENGERS (A.B.C.,1961-9). He changed his style for his directorial debut to a more subtle one in his superlative thriller AND SOON THE DARKNESS (1970, Associated British/EMI) before moving on to WUTHERING HEIGHTS. A.I.P must have liked what he did, as they let him go back to his flashier style in the brilliant ABOMINABLE DR PHIBES (1971) and its sequel.

Composer Michel Legrand gave the film an extra feeling of class, as he had worked on such major films as ICE STATION ZEBRA (MGM ,1968). Here, he writes a classical theme that underlines the tragedy and romance of the piece.

His choice of cinematographer John Coquillon had a wonderful feel for period, as he lensed AIP/Tigon’s WITCHFINDER GENERAL in 1968. The color and cinematography help create the sense of mood, of isolation and madness. Coquillon would go on to be a director of photography on several later Sam Peckinpah films, including STRAW DOGS (ABC/Cinerama ,1971).

The opening shot right away sets up the film. A close shot of a beautiful field and babbling brook, then the camera tilts up and, in the background, we see a funeral taking place. We observe the sad mourners as the body is lowered into the grave. One of the mourners looks up and the camera shows a lone horseman silhouetted against the gray barren sky. This is our introduction to Cathy (already dead) and Heathcliff (and aloof figure apart from the rest).
After the titles (by Maurice Binder, not what we expect from the dazzling eye of the designer of the magnificent James Bond openings), we flash back to a family awaiting the return of their father.

The children are awaiting gifts, and even the servant girl as been promised something special. However, when Mr. Earnshaw (the marvelous Harry Andrews) finally arrives, he has with him a small orphan boy, looking almost wildly feral, that he claims that he found in London. Mrs. Earnshaw (Rosalie Crutchley) is angry, feeling that the husband has in fact brought home the result of one of his affairs (adding a dark hint of incest to the rest of the tale, if true). Mr. Earnshaw says no, but that he has named the child Heathcliff, in memory of a son they had who died some time before.

Turkish poster

Their son Hindley takes an instant dislike to Heathcliff, as he sees that a gift that his father has brought him is broken, blaming his new “brother”. The mother implores her husband that he not forget Hindley in his inheritance, and not favor the cuckoo in their family nest. Their young daughter Cathy seems fascinated by the young man.

 

Years later (the film, like the original tale, is set during the mid-1700s), Hindley (now played by Julian Glover) is master and treats Heathcliff (now portrayed by Timothy Dalton) as little more than a servant.

The resentment between the pair is palpable, but the only thing that keeps Heathcliff there is his love for Cathy (Anna Calder-Marshall). Fuest’s first shot of the now adult young woman hints already at her unstable nature, which will see grow as the story goes on.

When Hindley’s wife dies in childbirth, his already sadistic nature comes out full force, sending all his pain and anger towards Heathcliff. Hindley’s drinking exacerbates the problem.

Catherine accepts the proposal of wealthy neighbor Edgar Linton (Ian Ogilvy) but confides to servant Nelly (Judy Cornwall) that she still loves Heathcliff. However, because of the social stigma, she cannot marry someone below her station.

This drives Heathcliff to his vow of revenge, which ends up in destruction for the main characters, with Heathcliff cursing his love to haunt him forever.

While the 1939 adaptation had a sense of heightened almost operatic passion, the 1970 version due to it’s location filming, has a feeling of being more grounded. Therefore, though the film was rated G, the brutality seems more violent. Bucking the trend of many films of the time, the sex is not shown onscreen but that the destructive passion between the two leads is quite palpable, with Heathcliff becoming a brutal Stanley Kowalski in ruffles dealing with his mad paramour.

 

This was Timothy Dalton’s first leading film role, after making his screen debut in THE LION IN WINTER (Avco Embassy,1968) as the scheming King Phillip of France. He also played the weak Prince in the big budget CROMWELL(Columbia,1970) and the next year the weak Henry, Lord Darnley in MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (Universal ,1971). Here, he is a brooding, barely contained wounded animal, who slowly comes undone due to his obsession. While Olivier in the 1939 version always seemed to be thinking, Dalton is almost animalistic, with his moments of passion turning quickly into wounded anger, lashing out at all.

Anna Calder-Marshall is fascinating in her portrayal of Cathy. As mentioned, she hints at the inner demons that are growing within her, so when we see her eyes when she reappears at the end to tempt Heathcliff to his death, her eyes (in close ups shot during reshoots to patch up studio cuts) have an evil madness that would fit in perfectly with any Roger Corman Poe villainess. Sadly, she did not do a lot of film and television (she was a marvelous Cordelia to Laurence Oliver’s Lear in the 1983 ITV tv adaptation), seemingly satisfied to be married to David Burke (one of Jeremy Brett’s two t.v. Dr Watsons) and mother to actor Tom Burke.

The film was the first A.I.P. motion picture to premiere at the RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL. Critical reviews were mixed, and though the film did decently at the box office, it was not enough for A.I.P., and so several planned classic story adaptations were dropped.

 


When the film was released on VHS, the color was muted, and the image seemed compressed. Later, when MGM took over the A.I.P library, they released a much cleaner version of the film to DVD (including one that was sold along with the cliff notes of the book!!).

TWILIGHT TIME, once again, has released what perhaps is the best version of this film that we will ever see. The color palette seems to be a proper gray, brown and gray tone, conveying the feelings of the rustic and lonely wild countryside. The film is presented in 1:85:1 widescreen in a 1080p transfer.


The sound is 1.0 DTS-HD, which is fine for the film. There never were any major audio effects, but the music and sound are all crisp.

There are optional English subtitles that follow the dialogue and action and are quite easy to read.


Other extras include the isolated music score by Michel Legrand. Originally released on vinyl (on AIP’s short-lived AIR RECORDS, A-1039) and later a limited-edition CD from LA LA LAND, LLLCD 1087), you can now enjoy his beautiful score seeing how much it supports the imagery of the film.

 

The original theatrical trailer is also presented, where we are “introduced” to Timothy Dalton, and told Timothy Dalton is Heathcliff, Heathcliff is Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall is Cathy while Cathy is Anna Calder-Marshall. Got that?

 


The greatest extra is the information packed running commentary by film historian Justin Humphreys (Interviews Too Shocking to Print, Bear Manor, 2016). While he gives some interesting background on the film’s history (including that director Curtis Harrington was originally developing the story before AIP moved him to WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO? (1971) and that Bryan Forbes of EMI recommended Fuest for the project, and that Ian Ogilvy and Hillary Dwyer are reunited after working on WITCHFINDER GENERAL), what is most fascinating is how he discusses the original cut of the film that seems no longer to exist.

Having a copy of the original screenplay, we are informed of sequences that makes us wonder why they were cut, while others we can understand their loss for clarity and running time. Sam Arkoff’s son does not think that a complete print exists, and that the original negative was cut to produce the version that stands. Humphreys also explains what is now missing, and that the voice overs were meant to patch over missing and reshot sequences.


Finally, once again Twilight Time provides us with a lovely booklet with an essay about the film by the always informative Julie Kirgo.

The disc is region free, and like most releases from the company, are a limited edition pressing of only 3,000.
Highly recommended for fans of classic Gothic Dramas.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

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Andy Milligan Double Feature (Alpha DVD) Body Beneath/Guru

Andy Milligan Double Feature: The Body Beneath (1969)74 min. / Guru, The Mad Monk (1970) 56 min. Color. $7.98 single disc DVD.Region “0”

https://www.oldies.com/product-view/8028D.html

Andy Milligan (Feb 12,1929- June 3,1991) was an interesting eccentric.
An avante garde theatre director. Born in the Midwest, his early life was troubled by an abusive alcoholic mother.

After serving four years in the Navy, he was discharged and move to NYC to run a dress shop. During that period, he became involved in the genesis of the original Off Off Broadway theatre movement at Café Cino and La Mama. He got involved with directing, writing, and even designing and creating the costumes for his productions. Some of them were so quickly put together that the costumes practically fell apart as actors exited the small stages.

It was a time of great freedom and creativity, though very little financial reward.

To make a bit of extra money, he did appear in some early television as an actor, though how many he appeared in is not quite clear (Imdb lists 4 shows, but not what he played in them).

The greater though secretive freedoms of homosexuality in New York City also allowed him to explore that aspect of his life.

Andy Milligan  

This led him into creating a 30-minute short called VAPORS (1965). Milligan assumed a lot of alias but seemed to have done almost everything but act to get this film made. It plays like a one act by writer Hope Stansbury (a member of his film family before and behind the camera). It is a sad tale of sex and a failure to connect with others (though only a male male kiss is shown, and a character opening his robe walking towards the camera is shown. In most prints, there is a black line across the nudity.) .

Like most of his films, the film deals with rejects, degeneracy, and a palpable gloom. VAPORS is probably one of his most thoughtful film and shows the direction that he could have gone.

Milligan moved to Staten Island to a large house where he would shoot a large portion of his NYC area made projects. As always, he handled almost every job, probably including the catering. His budgets were never very large, but his ambitions were.

Sadly, for him, he got involved with distributors who took advantage of him, so that he rarely saw any real money for his projects.

He ran a hotel in Staten Island (which probably provided some of his funding) as well as running a theater on West 39th Street for several years, from 1979 until he left NYC in 1985.

His move to California only produced three more films as well as briefly running a dress shop and another theatre company. Nearly penniless, ill health took him in 1991.

Since the early day of video, Milligan’s films have been offered on tape. The transfer was often taken from prints that were dupes. Milligan shot often on 16mm, with his films blown up to 35mm. The duplicates seem to have been reductions from 35mm to 16mm again, meaning the films had been through several transfers.

Framing was off, and grain was often a major problem, as well as color shifts and sound warbling. Mind you, these may have existed in the originals, but so many of his film negatives have disappeared (indeed many of his films have vanished as well, again due to shady distributors).

Having worked in a film storage house, it is amazing how films can be mislabeled and put within the wrong film cans. Perhaps one day we will find a cache of his original prints as well as his lost films and be better able to judge his works.

 

As I was researching this piece, I discovered that someone had posted a print of one of his “lost “sexploitation films, COMPASS ROSE (1967) https://youtu.be/00AS-GaLe78 . I reached out to playwright Robert Patrick, and identified the opening bedroom set as being one for a Landford Wilson play at Caffe Cino ! Just a little more info on this never released film .

 

That said, now to this Alpha DVD double feature. The prints are worn, and the sound has a bit of warble in places. That said, they are in better condition than copies of these films that I have seen in the past. The scratches on the film also increase the grindhouse feel of the theatres in which these films were unspooled.

GURU, THE MAD MONK was released September 1970. The film was shot for an incredibly small $11,000. PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) was produced for only $10,000, but that was a modern-day project. GURU was an ambitious period piece, which required several costumed characters, as well as furniture, props and locations that would suggest the time.

 

The main part of the filming took place around and in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church ,346 W 20th St in NYC. The Church, established in 1832 on land donated by, among others, Clement Clarke Moore, author of “A Visit From St. Nicholas/The Night Before Christmas”.

 

The Church, which is still a major part of the Chelsea Community to this day, has dedicated outreach programs, food banks, and permit a lot of performances upon the property.

Nothing, I think, was quite like the craziness of GURU THE MAD MONK. One wonders what the director did to convince them to film this hysterical historical within these sacred walls?

The film was obviously shot with haste, with some shots carefully composed (a nice travelling shot is quite impressive within the Church) as well as many obvious one take blunders that remain in the final print (an actress stumbles upon her line, a character steps upon the train of Guru, a loud rip being heard. Nothing is made of this, so it appears to be unintentional. A light switch is quite visible in one shot in this medieval tale, as well as the title card for the screenplay is misspelled!

Some of the costumes are quite good, some, like the dress of the leading lady, are an obvious 1960s sun dress with alterations. The makeup is never blended, with one character playing an older man wearing obvious white and blue make up, while poor Igor, the hunchback, suffers most from non-blended applications to his face.

Producer M.A. Issacs ( whose initial form the first letters of Maipix Organization in what seems there only attempt at producing, the film later being released by Nova International Productions)seems to have suggested the story to Milligan, perhaps inspired by Hammer’s RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK (Fox, 1966).

Milligan upgraded his equipment on this project to 35mm, which may explain why this film is a bit slicker looking than a lot of his earlier projects. However, it is also more expensive film stock, so even using short ends (left over unexposed film sold back to the labs from other productions), it increased the costs on his already tiny budget. Milligan, later in life, felt that this was his worst film. While it is not a classic, it is certainly far from his worst.

Set upon the fictitious island of Mortavia during the Middle Ages, a young woman named Nadja (Judith Israel, her only film credit) is imprisoned upon a false charge of having killed her baby.

Everything seems to center around the Lost Souls Church of Mortavia, which seems to contain the prison as well as the Church wherein sentencing is carried out.

Carl (a very monotonic Paul Lieber, who went on to a long successful career on television and on stage in L.A., winning 5 Dramalogue Awards and an L.A. Weekly Award for his performances), her jailer, is smitten with her, and seeks to save her.

He appeals to FATHER (not a mad monk as the title suggests) Guru, the religious leader. Guru is played by actor Neil Flanagan, who also appeared in Milligan’s SEEDS (Aquarian,1968,) and TORTURE DUNGEON (Constitution,1970, an earlier “period” film that was shot on 16mm with a $15,000 budget).

Flanagan was a staple of the Village theater scene, winning an Obie in 1967 for his starring role as an aging drag queen in Lanford Wilson’s hit ‘THE MADNESS OF LADY BRIGHT” and a second Obie in 1976 for his contributions to over 10 years of Off Off-Broadway Theatre. He died from AIDS in 1986 at age 52. He relishes his plummy role in this film and plays it to the hilt.

 

Guru makes a deal with Carl to save the girl, but it involves Carl having to help finance the Lost Souls Church by a bit of body snatching. In exchange, Guru will keep Nadja hidden until his three-month morbid indenture is over.

Carl is sent to see Olga (Jacqueline Webb) who will provide a potion to make it appear that Nadja is dead (a la Juliet in Romeo & Juliet). Olga also requires a price, which is to supply human blood from the executed for her experiments. Carl reluctantly agrees, and Olga seals the deal by pricking his palm with a needle. It is almost laughable when he lifts his hand, for it is drenched in blood!

 


We see various accused brought before Guru within the Church, wherein he gives them a blessing and then brands them before they are dragged away. Igor (Jack Spencer) the deformed hunchback, stirs the fire and hands over the torture instrument. When Nadja is brought before him, he slips the drug into some sacrificial wine, and gives it to the young woman.

The medicinal works and Nadja is buried, only to be dug up by Carl, and hidden within the church. Carl is really not too observant, as both the mad mon…er.. Priest and Olga have plans for the young woman . Guru and Olga are, it seems bumping uglies, and enjoying torturing and killing others from Milligan’s stock company. Olga, it seems, doesn’t want the blood for experiments, but for herself, as, it is revealed, that she is a vampire! One thing about a Milligan film, is sometimes things can appear out of nowhere.

Next up on the disc is THE BODY BENEATH. In 1968, Milligan had gone to England after making a multi picture deal with producer Leslie Elliot. Eliot had been involved with producing the MGM film THE LIQUIDATORS (1965) but  he also ran the privateThe Compton Cinema), and ,having released some of Milligan‘s earlier work in the U.K.,  he may have been on the lookout for inexpensive product that he would own.


Their first production was NIGHTBIRDS (Cinemedia, released in 1970). The dark kitchen sink drama barely got a release and vanished for years. Thanks to Nicolas Winding Refn (director of NEON DEMON, Broad Green 2016) and the BFI, the film was been restored and released to DVD in England in 2013, where it has been getting mixed reviews but better than one often associates with Milligan’s work.

Refn is obsessed with Milligan’s work, buying up prints from various sources, including those in the private collection of author Jimmy McDonough, who wrote the must have biography of the director, THE GHASTLY ONE (Chicago Review Press,1st Edition, October 1,2001). For more on the fascination by the one director for the other, read
https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/jun/14/obsession-andy-milligan-cult-movies .

For some reason, Leslie Eliot dissolved the partnership during the making of one of the remaining films (no doubt the director’s caustic personality) , and Milligan was forced to deal once again with William Mishkin.

Mishkin and his Constellation Films were known mostly for cheap nudies and sexploitation films. He was willing to help distribute films by Milligan because even if they just played the NYC grind circuit he could make his money back. Unfortunately, distributors could and would sublease titles out to other regional distributors, so filmmakers would be at the mercy of the original distributors for a full accounting. Neglect by the distributors is also how many of these and other films were lost (it is said that Mishkin’s son destroyed the films rather than pay for film storage fees). Is it any wonder after a lifetime of mistreatment that Milligan’s negative world view seeped so heavily into his work?

 

It is doubtful that Milligan ever saw more than what he spent on making his films, and, like poor Ed Wood, did not retain the rights to his own work. Mishkin had backs Milligan’s sexploiter THE PROMISCUOUS SEX (1967, “Made in Greenwich Village! “  for about $10,000, returning a profit over 13 times its budget), and so he was willing to back the four remaining British films, if they were exploitive.

The results were BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS (released January 1970,on a whopping $18,000 budget, with certain scenes filmed when Milligan returned to the U.S.),THE RATS ARE COMING, THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE (released in May,1972, again an $18,000 budget ,with some footage shot in Staten Island to complete /pad the film after Milligan returned to the U.S. in 1970), THE MAN WITH TWO HEADS (released June 1972,shot on a “massive” $20,000 budget) ,and the film we are reviewing here THE BODY BENEATH (released September, 1970,again with a budget of $20,000 estimated).

THE BODY BENEATH is one of Milligan’s most uniformly acted production. There are less overly over the top histronics, though still many plummy performances. Like all his British films, this was shot with his 16mm Auricon camera. These cameras were popular with journalists as they were a single system machine that recorded sound DIRECTLY to the optical track, thus eliminating the need for a separate audio recorder. A major liability was the camera were parallax view, meaning you were not looking directly through the lens, but what you saw from your viewfinder was slightly off from what was really being filmed.

In a wide shot, this is not normally a problem, but Milligan’s style were tight shots to cover perhaps how little set decoration there was in the scene, giving the framing an often claustrophic effect. Plus, one of the characters might be barely in the shot due to the framing problem combined with the parallel view. Retakes, alas, would cost too much.

     Auricon 16mm camera rig used by reporter Tony Hamilton not Milligan

The film begins with Anna Ford (Susan Clark,NOT the Canadian actress of the same name who played Mary Kelly in MURDER BY DECREE ,Avco,1979. This British actress seemed to have done mostly minor roles, with this being her largest part.) going to place flowers at her mother’s grave just as the graveyard is about to close. Never a good thing, as Barbra (Judith O’Dea) found out in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD(Continental,1968).

Moments after the caretaker alerts her to the closure, Anna finds herself surrounded by several bluish tinged blonde women. “Hellloooo” says one with an almost childlike quality. This is a bit chilling, but the print has very warbly sound at this point (though I don’t know if any other print that I have seen is any better, so it may have been in the original recording and Milligan never bothered to redub it later.).

 


Just a side note: the original poster declared that the film was “filmed in the graveyards of England”. This was probably to make ticket buyers assume they were going to see a Hammer or Amicus Film. The one thing these films shared was filming in Highgate Cemetery, which was also used in Hammer’s TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970) and AmicusTALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) and FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE(1973).

 

      Highgate today and as it appears in TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA

 

 

Back to this film. Graham Ford (Colin Gordon.I think IMDB is mistaking him for another actor with the same name so I cannot tell what his credits are.) is awaiting his wife’s return when he is visited by the Reverend Alexander Ford (Gavin Reed,who had small roles in films like CARRY ON LOVING,Rank ,1969, relished his leading role here ) and his wife, Alicia (Susan Heard,who played a maid in Milligan’s NIGHTBIRDS as well as various crew roles on his other  U.K. films .).

 

                                          IMDB : not the same actor who appeared in this film !


Gavin Reed is delightful, making Milligan’s overwrought writing roll easily off his tongue as if he is in an Oscar Wilde play (who is referenced during their exchange), giving the part some much needed wit. His talk of the family genealogy reminds one of Ernest Thesiger in THE OLD DARK HOUSE (Universal, 1932). Graham we discover is Canadian and finds that the Reverend and his wife are freshly arrived from Ireland to re-open All Souls Church (a satellite of the LOST Souls church from GURU?) and he has a lease on Carfax Abbey (a clue for all you Dracula fans) next door. To put a point on it, Graham says that it is right next to Highgate Cemetery. In real life Carfax is near Whitby, nearly 264 miles from London.

 

Anna comes home but reacts startled by seeing the Reverend. We abruptly cut to another couple, Susan Ford (Jackie Skavellis,who also appeared in Milligan’s THE RATS ARE COMING….) and her boyfriend Paul (Richmond Ross,his only listed film credit). We find out that Susan is pregnant and that she is going to Carfax to meet a relative who recently contacted her, namely the Reverend.

We are introduced to one final relative, Candace Ford (Emma Jones,in her only major role). As she is about to leave her home, her maid answers the door a hunchback, Spool (Berwick Kaler ,who appeared in all of Milligan’s British films, and who since 1981 has appeared as The Grand Dame in York Theatre’s Royal!He has little recollection of his three day’s work on this, other than Milligan wanting him to stoop more) hands her flowers. When she turns, one of the blue faced woman is behind her. She sends the maid to deliver the flowers and steal some blood from Candace by pricking her finger.

Gavin Reed discusses with Berwick Kaler how to stoop lower

 

      Berwick today,in a costume that Milligan would have loved!

The basic plot unfolds that the Ford family line have been vampires, but they need to replenish. Thus, the gathering of the family to restore the bloodline with Susan popping out vampire babies while the other relatives supplying blood.

There is a lot of shaky camera work that is meant to add style but instead induces motion sickness, and many scenes are very ill lit. Gore is low in this film, though a second maid Jessie (Felicity Sentence,who played First Girl in NIGHTBIRDS) ends up with knitting needles to the eyes and dragged off by Spool, while the Reverend seems to need leeches applied to him to keep his blood pressure down, and poor Spool, perhaps the most sympathetic character, is cruelly crucified by the Reverend.

At the end of the film, there is a vampire gathering that shows that Milligan had seen several of Roger Corman’s films, particularly aping the Vaseline smeared lens that Corman employed for his dream sequences. While giving the scene an arty effect, it also perhaps helped hide the improvisational nature of the costumes, which often look they were made from grandma’s sofa!

      Hazel Court  hazy in Masque Of The Red Death

 Milligan’s attempt 

No one ever addresses why many of the vampires are blue skinned, while the Reverend is not (a question, though, that also comes be questioned about the superior RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, A.I.P.1971, wherein his brides look the worse for wear while he looks handsome, at least until he attacks).

I thought having a vampire as a priest was a unique idea, which allowed Milligan to express his feelings about religion through the character. However, it was pointed out to me that the title character in VARNEY THE VAMPIRE by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest (serialized beginning in 1845) posed as a monk (but was he mad??)at one point and he told his story to a sympathetic priest, before he hurled himself into a volcano . Varney’s subtitle would have fit a Milligan film by the way,  FEAST OF BLOOD.

Neil, are you wearing Grandma ‘s curtains? ” ” No, Ma….”

Andy Milligan’s films , unlike Ed Wood’s , are hard for many to take. One cannot certainly warm up to them as one does with Wood.

Wood, no matter how inept his films, had a certain positiveness to them, a definite “Let Me Entertain You” sincerity, no matter how many wobbly cardboard headstones one saw on display.


Milligan was a more complex individual, dealing with a lot of anger issues, a rage against the world, that he used his theatre work and his films to lash out at what he perceived a cruel world. From all he endured in his life, one is not surprised, but his cruel streak still emerges.

A few of his films have some animal torture which simply pure sadism is (THE RATS ARE COMING had Milligan himself mutilating a poor mouse in the Staten Island shot footage, as well as his killing a pigeon in NIGHTBIRDS) that cannot be condoned.

 

Luckily none of that is in these two films (just the poor abused actors!).

I cannot say that I find his films entertaining, but that said, they are hypnotically fascinating. Had he more money, a proper crew and support, one wonders what he might have accomplished? Maybe it would have tamed the anger in him. Perhaps he would have eased from the horror films into more films like NIGHTBIRDS and VAPORS, which seem to be where his heart truly was.


What we are left with is a collection of odd films that seem to become more and more a time capsule of what grindhouse truly was.

This ALPHA dual feature could have been called the Andy Milligan Deliver Us from Religion Co bill, and it is nice to get the two films on one affordable disc to recreate the original theatre release from Nova.

If you are curious about grindhouse, microbudget, or seeing what all the cult buzz is about Andy Milligan, then definitely pick up this release.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

 

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ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES/D.O.A.-A RIGHT OF PASSAGE special editions Blu Rays from MVD REWIND

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1978) (MVD Rewind) 2-disc special edition Blu Ray/DVD combo. 87 minutes color.

https://www.amazon.com/Attack-Killer-Tomatoes-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B075MYG9XC

Back in the 1970s and 80s, it was possible for independent films to get theatrical releases. A lot of these films would play their one week run and then disappear, unless they would end up as second features later for another film, or, perhaps a sale to television.

 

With the advent of the home video market, people were able to program their own films, whenever they wanted to view a film. Magnetic Video was one of the first companies to license titles (most were from major studios) and offer them for sale to consumers. The high mark up (many were $100) meant that people were more likely to rent than purchase, thus giving rise to video rental stores.

The offerings available on Beta (then VHS) were limited, due to studios wishing to prevent bootlegging of their titles. Smaller companies lept into fill the void for demanding renters (as well as the adult video market, which drove a lot of business for the video marketplace, but that is a different part of the story).

Suddenly, older public domain titles were appearing on store shelves, along with many independent films that had pretty much vanished after their original run. One of those indie labels was Media Home Entertainment, started in 1978 by filmmaker Charles Band. In 1981, one of the titles the company released was ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (Four Square Productions).

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES, unlike a lot of independent films, had a bit of name recognition. Johnny Carson, then at the height of his popularity as the star of THE TONIGHT SHOW, had mentioned the film on the program, and interviewed star Jack Riley (who at the time was known for his role in tv’s THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, MTM Productions) who survived an accidental helicopter crash that ended up in the final cut of the film.

 

It was one of the first films that I ever owned on video, and thus it has fond memories for me.

Who would have thought that the film would spawn three sequels (so far), a video game, comics, a novel, and an animated television series?

For the five people who have never heard of the film, the film is a spoof inspired by the bad horror films that the filmmakers grew up loving.

A series of mysterious killings (including one that spoofs JAWS ,Universal,1975) baffle everyone, until it is discovered that Tomatoes have become sentient and are murdering people in various ways. At one point, one knocks a helicopter down, causing it to crash. They say tomatoes can’t fly and the response is well tomatoes cannot kill people either!

Finally, it is discovered that an obnoxious teen song “Puberty Love” causes the members of the nightshade family to flee in horror. People size their chance and smash and mash them, until they are vanquished. However, just at the end, we see that the carrots are now preparing to arise….

The film is like the big budget spoof THE BIG BUS (Paramount,1976), which exaggerates and satirizes their respective genres (THE BIG BUS spoofs the popular “disaster films” of the 1970s) and were the forerunners of the everything AND the kitchen sink humor of AIRPLANE (Paramount,1980).

A.O.T.K.T. was inspired by a short film that the filmmakers had done years earlier and raised the funds to expand on the simple premise into a full-length feature. That they were able to raise between $90,000 -$100,000 is an amazing feat.

At times, though, the film feels a bit padded to fill it’s running time. Indeed, some of the best scenes are recreations of those that appeared in the original Super 8 short (plus the astounding helicopter accident of course). Also, a major drag is the use of many non-professionals in featured roles. Working with people like Jack Riley shows how uneven the performances are.

That said, the film hits the mark more often than misses, which is more than many bigger budgeted films can claim (I’m looking at you, VAMPIRE ACADEMY (Weinstein,2014, $30 million budget). Indeed, some of their throwaway jokes may be missed by the non-genre fan, but truly tickle the horror aficionado. My personal favorite is the dubbed Japanese scientist, which no one in the scene notices or comments upon!

The film’s fame even extends to being referenced in a foodie festival! 

 

Now, MVD/REWIND has given the film the deluxe treatment, giving it the kind of extras one would expect and find on the DUNKIRK (WB,2017) blu ray release.

First off, MVD REWIND has given the film a 4k remastering, with a hi-def (1080p) Blu-Ray as well as a standard definition of the film for DVD. The aspect ratio is 1.85.1.

Pulling out an old vhs copy shows how much the film has been given a facelift. Gone is the heavy grain that made me always think that it had been shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm.

Now you can see the sharpness of the original 35mm photography, which is impressive for an independent production. HALLOWEEN (Compass,1978) also was shot in 35mm (as well as Panavision), which also elevated it from many indie films of the period.

Grain remains in some of the effects sequences, but that is from the original negative.

The sound is presented in LPCM 2.0 mono that is clean of pops and hisses. Some of the dialogue is low, but that is due to the original recording rather than any loss in the mix. The music does not drown out any of the dialogue or effects, which is a good or bad thing, depending upon how much of a fan that you are of the film.

We have a tomato basket full of extras for this release though I am unsure of how many of these are ported over from the long out of print Rhino 25th Anniversary .

There is a running audio commentary from the original team of John DeBello, Steve Peace, and Costa Dillon. The team recall their long friendship their original friendship that endures, and the process of putting together this cult feature. some 38 years ago.

There are three scenes that were deleted and while it is interesting to see these (which are in rougher form than the rest of the release), they would have added nothing to the film and in fact might have slowed the picture down.

LEGACY OF A LEGEND -is a collection of interviews with the team who created the original, as well as John Astin (who would star in the three sequels as well as provide his voice to the animated series), film critic Kevin Thomas and fan Bruce Vilanch, among others.

CRASH AND BURN is a brief discussion of the accidental helicopter crash, how the secondary camera kept rolling while the first shut off as the crash began, and how the actors came up with a way to work the incident into the plot, and work in one of the funniest lines about flying tomatoes.


FAMOUS FOUL– the San Diego Chicken reminiscences how he ended up in the film.


KILLER TOMATOMANIA – a man on the street interview with people walking along to see what they know of the film.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW– This was to me quite interesting. Many returned to their regular jobs ,but Steve Pearce went on to be a Democratic Senator in California (not to be confused with the New Mexico G.O.P. Congressman, who as far as I know, has never met a killer tomato , that the film had the first appearance of Dana Ashbrook , now best known for playing Bobby Briggs in the various incarnations of TWIN PEAKS, made his debut as an uncredited boy in boat ,and that the teenage vocalist of “Puberty Lovehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jViBFzytVXo is drummer Matt Cameron (Soundgarden ,The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO2FzVvA3TQ )!

WE TOLD YOU SO– a spoof investigation into killer tomato conspiracies.

    An actual NY POST cover also referenced the film for a salmonella scare!

SLATED FOR SUCCESS -a short bit about the original film’s slate woman.

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES” – the original super 8mm short film. Running about 18 minutes, it begins with the scene of the tomato coming out of the sink and killing the woman, and several other major scenes that were later recreated in the feature. There is even the model tank sequence with miniature houses, and the surprise ending. There is also a commentary track by the original team.


GONE WITH THE BABUSULAND– another super 8mm short by the team. This one is over 32 minutes long but seems more self-indulgent. Having done my own super 8mm shorts, sometimes improv would bring out unexpected brilliance, and other times, well, editing comes in handy. A silent film made for a Kodak Film Festival  (which yours truly also submitted films) this also comes with commentary by the original team.

The original theatrical trailer.

Production Design Photo Gallery -six images.


Radio spots– these play over images from the film.

Vintage Retro Video Store Style Slipcover /O -Card (first pressing only). -For those old enough to remember the joy of discovering films lined along the video shelves, this was a nice touch.

Collectible Poster– to replace your long-tattered poster that you got when the video store was done with it.

In a press release, MVD Entertainment Group’s Eric D. Wilkinson , in charge of the MVD Rewind Collection , explains, “I’m a dedicated collector of movies on disc, with over 8,000 plus discs in my collection and I want collectors to know that the MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray + DVD sets are being overseen by a collector and I will do my best to create the kind of releases you will look forward to adding to your collection every month.”

The other inaugural release from MVD REWIND is

D.O.A.: A Right of Passage Special Edition, 2-Disc Special Edition
https://www.amazon.com/D-Passage-2-Disc-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B075DSLWFS

D.O.A.: A RITE OF PASSAGE is a raw gritty Super 8 documentary about the 1978 Sex Pistols tour of the U.S. that ended with the group breaking up, practically all captured on camera as it happened. Mixed into the mix is footage of other bands like The Dead Boys, The Rich Kids, and others, plus some The Clash and Iggy Pop music tossed into the mix.

This title has long been unavailable, so for fans of Punk Music, this is a must have.

The film has been cleaned up as much as possible, but its graininess also feels right for the subject matter. It is a great time capsule of the period, though seeing Sid Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen sends a chill down the spine (Spungen died in 1978 from a stab wound to the stomach. Sid was charged with the crime but died from a drug overdose before he could be tried. The Hotel Chelsea, where it happened, has been closed since 2011, but is scheduled to re-open this year).

Besides the feature (on separate Blu Ray and DVD discs), they have also added a feature length documentary on the making of the feature, with new interviews with people who were involved with the original production, as well as Sex Pistol Historian Mick O’Shea, and Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure.

A 12-page booklet by John Holmstrom, founding editor of PUNK magazine.

A photo Gallery

Reversible Cover Artwork

A collectible two-sided poster (I am going to need more wall space)

The original Theatrical Trailer.

 

In a press release, MVD Entertainment Group’s Eric D. Wilkinson , in charge of the MVD Rewind Collection , explains, “I’m a dedicated collector of movies on disc, with over 8,000 plus discs in my collection and I want collectors to know that the MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray + DVD sets are being overseen by a collector and I will do my best to create the kind of releases you will look forward to adding to your collection every month.”

Should MVD REWIND  can continue the quality of these two-disc sets, the company  will be the Criterion of B Movies and Obscure Titles to watch out for.

Recommended.

Kevin G Shinnick

For more tomatoes merchandising go to
https://killertomatoes.com/

 

The Master of Disguise from ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES  .

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ONE MILLION B.C. (V.C.I. Blu Ray)

ONE MILLION B.C. (Roach, 1940) (V.C.I. Blu Ray) B&W,82 minutes. S.R.P. $29.95

https://www.amazon.com/One-Million-B-C-Blu-ray/dp/B071XF71PD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513128658&sr=8-1&keywords=one+million+b.c+1940

Hal Roach (1892-1992) began producing short silent comedies in 1915 after receiving a small inheritance. He became the second largest producer of silent comedy shorts ,right after Mack Sennett.

After distributing through Pathe ,he switched over to MGM selling his product in 1927.

 

He began producing talking short subjects in 1929,often re-shooting in several language, his casts(including the Our Gang kids) learning the foreign languages phonetically.

 

In 1931 he began making some full length features (PARDON US) ,and except for The Our Gang/Little Rascals ,which he sold to MGM completely in 1938 ,he ceased production on short subjects.

Roach had a series of hit films like TOPPER (MGM,1937) and switching to United Artists to release his features, he put out such classics as OF MICE & MEN (1939).

One of his biggest and best known non Laurel & Hardy features from Hal Roach is the unique and well loved fantasy feature ONE MILLION B.C. (1940). The #1 box-office attraction of 1940 (excluding the roll-over receipts for Gone with the Wind (M.G.M. 1939)), the film was a special effects wonder ,whose dinosaur battles and earth splitting images were used as stock shots well into the 1960s .

The last film to have any involvement by the silent screen master D.W. Griffith (he directed many of the screen tests but not the actual film itself) , it earned two Academy Award nominations : Best Musical Score (Werner Heymann,losing to Disney‘s PINOCCHIO ) and Best Special Effects (Roy Seawright, Elmer Raguse, who saw that award go to Alexander Korda‘s THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD team).  Griffith had already dealt with cave men in his 1912 comedy MAN’s GENESIS (Biograph ,1912)

Hal Roach Sr & Junior both are credited as directors, they worked together seamlessly ,aided by superb camera work by Norbert Brodine,who was the studio’s chief director of photography on a majority of their films.

Stan & Ollie in FLYING ELEPHANTS (Roach/Pathe,1928)

 

I never noticed how much sweeping camera moves that were used in the film until I got this  Blu Ray,especially travelling around the studio filled sets created by Charles D Hall .Hall is best known for his stunning design work which defined the look of the Universal horror classics ,with his work on DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN(both 1931) .

This film is probably the closest any film came to creating the sense of wonder that KING KONG (RKO,1933) inspired ,as well as the box office results.Dinosaur pictures movies had been made since the silent era when Windsor McCay’s GERTIE THE DINOSAUR (1914). Sadly, few would use the time consuming stop motion that Willis O’Brien had become the undisputed master. ONE MILLION B.C. was another film that eschewed stop motion for men in T-Rex suits and animals and lizards portraying their prehistoric ancestors.

The film begins with a prologue meant to ease audiences into the main story.When a group of modern hikers take shelter in a cave, they meet an anthropologist (Conrad Nagel, billed as The Narrator) who interprets the cave drawings, saying they are about a young couple, similar to two in the hiking group, namely Carole Landis and Victor Mature .

The film then jumps into the story proper ,where we see the violent Rock Tribe ,led by Akhoba (Lon Chaney ,Jr.,who was about 33 ,wearing old age make up and grayed wigs). Tumak (Mature, who was only in his mid-twenties when he appeared in this. Many say that tHis was his debut ,but he had a small role as “Lefty ” in THE HOUSEKEEPER’S DAUGHTER the year prior)has his first kill in a hunt ,though an elderly man is injured and left to die.

 

The beast is roasted, and after Akhoba, the men fight for their piece, leaving the women and children with what remains. Akhoba is still hungry, and grabs the food that Tumak is eating, who strikes his father. Enraged, the pair fight with staffs, resulting in Tumak falling from a cliff. The tribe return to their cave, without only Tumak’s mother to mourn him.

He is not dead, but has to flee from a mastodon ,climbing a tree to avoid the creature. It knocks the tree over another cliff and Tumak and the tree float down river (an amazing combination of miniatures and rear projection combined with live action) .He is discovered unconscious by Loana (Carole Landis ,20 years old,who had worked as a dancer since age 15,had mostly only done extra work and uncredited bits until this role made her a star.It seems D.W.Griffith pushed for her, due to her natural athleticism ,something that the role would require). She is a member of the more social Shell People .She calls for her tribe, who take the stranger in and care for him.

 

He is not sure how to deal with these strangers, who share their food freely. When he takes food from a young boy, Loana gives her food to the child. Tumak,seeing this ,does his first kind act and gives his bowl to her. The tribe applauds, and Tumak then gets some other food that he has hidden and adds it to the communal pile.

Akhoba is gored during another hunt and and left to die. Another takes over as leader .Akhoba, maimed, crawls back to the cave, but now is a figure shunned by most.

Tumak is finding life is good with his new tribe, and he even saves a small child from death by killing the beast with a spear ,a weapon which the Shell Tribe have just introduced to him.

However, he feels the spear should be his due to his courage, and when he is made to return it, he determines to steal it.

For this ,he is once again banished. Loana has fallen for him ,and follows. They feed on apples (a reference to Adam & Eve perhaps? After all, we have humans around the same time as dinosaurs ) and are chased by one creature, then witness a fight between others .

Loana is captured by the Rock Tribe, and Tumak races to her rescue. Tumak becomes the new leader, and tries to show his people about kindness and sharing, even showing kindness to Akhoba.

The next day the men go hunting .A small child wanders off and Loana goes in search of him. At that moment, a volcano erupts, killing many in the lava flow(including the child’s mother!), though Loana does find the lost boy .

Cut off from the Rock Tribe , she returns to her own people with the child. Tumak finds scraps of clothes and thinks that she has perished.

However, he finds out that she is indeed alive and goes to find, arriving to find that she and her tribe are trapped in their cave that is being attacked by a dinosaur.

Quickly, Tumak gets the Rock Tribe to help him. Akhoba advises someone distract the beast while others while others cause a rock slide which kills the monster.

The two tribes unite, and the film ends with Tumak ,Loana, and the child looking to a brighter future.

Tumak, Loana and the rescued child are framed in the dawn of a new day.

The plot, though simple, works . Griffith probably had a hand in story construction,as the film could have worked as a silent feature. Indeed, except for the opening sequence and Nagel‘s narration, most of the dialogue is in a fake cave dialogue , which we follow by gestures and tone.

What the film is best known for is it’s “depiction” of prehistoric life. This is done by disguising modern animals in furs (i.e. ,the Mastodon is merely a fur clad elephant, an armadillo and a snake are used on miniature sets, as are some poor lizards.Nowadays, the ASPCA would not allow such animal cruelty to go on, but here, they are made to fight, dropped, hit with rocks, etc.

The miniature disaster,combined with on set effects ,makes for effective depictions of the earth cracking open, and volcanoes erupting their destructive forces.

The new VCI Blu Ray is a wonder to see. Most prints I have seen of this film have been muddy and lack sharpness. Indeed, I have read (unfair) criticism of previous VCI Blu Rays quality.

This print, however, is a revelation. It is so sharp that one can at times see where certain matte shots merge ,which gives away the trick but not the charm of the film.The elements come from the UCLA Film Archive ,and are remarkably clean (also aided by a 2K scan)and have wonderful graduations of gray ,and strong whites and blacks.

The audio is also crisp and clear mono . It is fun seeing the pseudo cave language appear on screen when the optional subtitle open is applied.The subtitles ,however, are also serve as good descriptive subtitles for the hard of hearing .

As to extras, there is a non stop and informative enthusiastic commentary from Toby Roan ,whom I first recall enjoying from his commentary on Olive Films’ NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY Blu Ray. He is obvious a fan of the movie but is not above pointing out items of interest along the way,all the while dropping tid bits about the films production history,its cast ,and reception.

Also, a 10 minute (!) long slide show of ultra rare production stills, private photos, international posters, and re release lobby cards from the films re issue as CAVE MAN .

In 1966 ,Hammer/ 20th Century Fox remade the film ,they added a “Years” to the title, ran about 20 minutes longer(original U.K. release),in color, with incredible special effects by Ray Harryhausen and the incredible effect that was Rachel Welch in a fur bikini.

Both are fun fantasy films but there is a wonderful charm in the original that any fan of classic movie would make this a must have to add to your collection.

Highly recommended .

-Kevin G Shinnick

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1980s, Arrow Video, Blu Ray, cult, dvd, film, genre, gore, Horror, independent, monsters, reviews, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized

THE SLAYER,1982 (Arrow Blu Ray/DVD combo release)

THE SLAYER (Arrow U.S. DVD/Blu Ray Combo) $39.98 s.r.p. Color .1982. https://vinegarsyndrome.com/shop/the-slayer-arrow-films/

Back in 1985, while I was managing a video store, horror films were among the biggest rentals.

The major studios had started putting out more and more of their product, so indies had to think of new ways to make their titles stand out.

One of the ways was the larger sized video boxes. Continental Video (1984-87), one of the smaller companies, released 63 titles during their short existence, and quite a few were interesting titles for cult and horror fans, among them TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER (Hammer ,1976), DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (Gemini-Maron,1971) and THE RETURN OF THE ALIENS /aka THE DEADLY SPAWN (Filmline, 1983).

Their large boxes with often garish colors stood out on the shelves. The company also began to release double features (edited for time though not for gore or nudity to fit on one tape) and a lower price point to appeal to store owners.

One of them was SWEET SUGAR (Dimension 1972)/ESCAPE FROM WOMEN’S PRISON (aka HELL HOLE, Phillipines,1978), a woman in prison co-feature.

The other was THE SLAYER (21st Century Film Corp.,1982) and Fred Olen Ray’s SCALPS (21st Century Film Corp.,1983). Both had been edited down to 75 minutes each from 90 minutes and 82 minutes respectively.

Even in their edited forms, these two films were better than a lot of the indie horror stuff that was filling the shelves at the time.

Fred Olen Ray got the rights back to his third feature, and released a beautiful uncut blu ray of the movie through his company Retromedia. Now, thanks to Arrow U.S., we can give a proper evaluation to THE SLAYER.

Kay (Sara Kendall) is a surrealistic artist who has suffered from bizarre nightmares since childhood. Her husband (Alan McRae), a doctor, decides that she needs to get away, and so they go to a remote island, along with Kay’s brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) and his wife Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook). They are flown to the remote place by Marsh (Michael Holmes). Kay is disturbed to see that on the island that the house in which they are staying and an abandoned theatre both are featured in her dreams and her subsequent paintings. The others dismiss it as just an odd co-incidence.

As they are settling in, Marsh tells them that a storm is coming, and that they should all leave.

Of course, they decide to stay, and one by one, they are picked off in gruesome fashion.

The brief synopsis I gave I am sure does not sound that original, and indeed, it isn’t if you have ever seen a horror film involving a group of isolated people.

What makes this film stand above so many other films of the era is its execution (pun intended).

The film’s main characters, for one, are not just a bunch of horny teens but married couples with jobs (Eric even shoots television commercials). The actors are also better than many of the screaming teens featured in so many of the flood of Friday The 13th rip offs that invaded theatres and home video at the time (lead Sarah Kendall we are told on the commentary track had been a stage actress, and after a small role in THE KARATE KID PART TWO (Columbia,1986) she seems to have done no further film work. I cannot seem to find any stage credits for her, nor is she to be confused with an Australian comedienne with the same name.).

The film also has a slicker, more European style than other horror films made in the U.S., which we find out on one of the commentary tracks was intentional.

The film also has a dream demon that comes into our dimension while Kay sleeps, two years before Wes Craven’s A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (New Line,1984).

Indeed, the effects are still quite impressive, especially the final creature suit (this is not a spoiler, as it is featured on almost all artwork or video release covers previously, as well as in beautiful cover art on this new ARROW U.S. Blu Ray/DVD combo pack).

For one thing, the original theatrical release was a shoddy cheap print run, and the colors were quite muddy as well as quite dark imagery. On the Continental release, this was the print used for their full frame (and, as noted, edited) vhs edition.

Now, ARROW has gone all out and given this little sleeper (see what I did there?) the treatment that makes the film look better than it even did on its original release. (note: review is based upon BLU RAY screener.)

They have given us a REGION FREE High Definition (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation from a 4K scan of the original negative.

The 1:85:1 composition truly shows off the marvelous cinematography by Karen Grossman (who handled similar duties on 18 episodes of MONSTERS (Laurel Productions,1988-90), with rich colors, as well as being able to see information previously hard to discern in older prints.

The Mono audio sound is crisp and clear. There was no punching up the tracks nor was there need to.

As to extras:
The original theatrical trailer.

The optional English subtitles for the hard of hearing are excellent in their descriptive quality and match the dialogue perfectly.

There are two running audio commentaries:

The first features a fact filled track moderated by Ewan Cant (Arrow disc producer and knowledgeable horror fan) along with writer /director J.S. Cardone (this was his first effort, but he has continued in the genre with productions such as the vampire flick, THE FORSAKEN (Screen Gems,2001)), actress Carol Kottenbrook (later to marry the director,  now a producer in her own right) and executive in charge of production Eric Weston (producer/ director of EVILSPEAK, The Moreno Co.,1981). The discussion is lively, and their recollections of the production are for the most part positive and informative about shooting in Georgia, casting, and a great deal about the effects done live on set.

The second commentary track is from a group known as the Hysteria Continues podcast. I had never heard of them before, but they are a group of U.K. friends who are quite knowledgeable about genre films, especially slasher movies.

They comment about how they first discovered this movie, about the whole Video Nasty nonsense thanks to nutcase Mary Whitehouse, and that this was one of the 72 films outright banned in 1983, but was never prosecuted, and later reissued with 14 seconds cut of a pitchfork murder.

They are as of this week up to their 150 podcasts https://player.fm/series/the-hysteria-continues# if you would like to check them out.

There is an isolated selection of the score and an audio interview Michael Felsher (Red Shirt Pictures documentaries) with composer Robert Folk (a Julliard graduate, best known for the POLICE ACADEMY (Warner Brothers,1984) theme. Their discussion about how the score was constructed was very interesting and quite unique.

Not enough extras? How about these new documentaries:

Nightmare Island: The Making of THE SLAYER “- this a nearly hour long featurette that covers some of the info from the first audio commentary, but also builds and adds to it, with new interviews with Cardone,Kottenbrook,Weston ,as well director of photography Karen Grossman , camera operator Arledge Armenaki (HOWLING V,Vestron,1989) effects wizard Robert Short (who had begun on ALLIGATOR ,Group 1,1980 makeup effects and is active still on special effects for major films like THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. ,W.B.,2015) and the man in the creature costume, Carl Kraines .

Return to Tybee: The Locations of THE SLAYER” – a return to the locations used in the film on Tybee Island, Georgia, including the original house which many of the crew thought was haunted.

The Tybee Post Theater Experience”– the theater used in the film held a recent screening and the locals react and have a Q & A with Ewan Cant and Arledge Armenaki.

-A slide show picture Gallery.

The first Pressing only will have a collector’s booklet featuring a film overview by Lee Gambin (horror historian, author of Massacred by Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film; Midnight Marquee Press, Inc. October 8, 2012).

A Reversible sleeve featuring a beautiful cover by Justin Osbourn.

This is a must have for fans of horror films of the 1980s and kudos to ARROW U.S. for their amazing dedication to this film that is deserving of rediscovery.

-Highly Recommended.

Kevin G Shinnick

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1940s, Blu Ray, cult, dvd, fantasy, film, genre, Horror, monsters, obscure, OLIVE FILMS, rare, Republic, reviews, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, VAMPIRES, wierd

THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST (Republic 1945)(Blu Ray & DVD from Olive Films)

THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST (Republic, June 1945) B&W 59 minutes (OLIVE FILMS Blu-Ray https://olivefilms.com/product/the-vampires-ghost/ $24.95. Also available on DVD $19.95)

 

Back in 2013, SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE ‘s print edition had an in-depth review of the Republic horror films (SCARLET #9, Feb. 2013). In that over view, one of the film’s covered was the neglected gem, THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST.

Republic saw the success of the RKO horrors, and decided to get into lucrative monster market. Their films were always entertaining (THE LADY & THE MONSTER, Republic ,1944, is probably best known, due to it starring Erich Von Stroheim) but never received the respect and love that RKO or Universal’s horrors have gotten.

Luckily, Olive Films is hoping to remedy that with their release of various Republic titles. They have already released a magnificent THE QUIET MAN (Republic ,1952 https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/the-quiet-man-olive-films-signature-blu-ray/ ) and MACBETH ( Republic 1948/1950 https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/orson-welles-macbetholive-films-blu-ray/ ),and are also releasing their overlooked features like SABOTAGE (Republic ,1939 https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/01/18/sabotage-1939/ ) and now THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST .

 

Set somewhere in Africa in a fictional village of Bakunda, a voice over narrator intones: “Africa, the dark land where Voodoo drums beat in the night…Africa… where men have not forgotten the evil they learnt in the dawn of time… I always come back to Africa… but even here there is no rest for me. The path of time is curved here like a sickle…I cannot die…I cannot rest. I cannot rest. I cannot rest…”

Right away, you can see the influence of Val Lewton films like “I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (RKO,1943), that also open with a voiceover.

The narrator is Webb Fallon (played with a weary sadness by actor John Abbott, the English character actor, who worked with the likes of Olivier on stage, and is perhaps best known as Ayelborne in the Star Trek episodeErrand Of Mercy “(Paramount, season one episode 26, March 1967).

 

As his story above unfolds, we see a map of Africa, then a drawing of the village that fades into the “actual city” of Bakunda (what looks like a cleverly disguised Spanish village set from countless Republic westerns). The camera prowls through the streets, until we come upon a door, wherein a hand enters the frame and opens the door.
There we see a sleeping native woman, who awakes in horror. Fade to black.

The town of Bakunda is the latest village to suffer a mysterious death, with each victim having been partially drained of their blood. Father Gilchrist (Grant Withers, who often played villains or police officers for Republic, Monogram or PRC) suspects that another village has reverted to voodoo, and may be responsible for the killings.


Roy (Charles Gordon,for whom it seems this was his largest role of his ten-year career), greets his fiancé Julie Vance (Peggy Stewart, born in 1923, is still working, having appeared in  THAT’S MY BOY (Columbia ,2012) as Grandma Delores) who has just returned from Johannesburg, South Africa. Thomas Vance (Emmett Vogan, who appeared in over 500 films and television shows in his career, including appearing as the Coroner in THE MUMMY’S GHOST, Universal ,1944) invites them all to his home.


They discuss how the murders are affecting the natives, who are fearful, and abandoning the fields (so, not so concerned about their safety as how they affect production??). Roy decides to visit Webb Fallon, who owns the local dive bar. Fallon has a knowledge of the rituals and superstitions that often surpasses those of the natives themselves.

 

 


We jump to the club and witness a sensual dance by Lisa (Adele Mara, a former dancer/singer for Xavier Cugat who in 1946 appeared in Republic’s horror film THE CATMAN OF PARIS). Fallon is winning at the crap tables in the club, which angers gruff Captain Jim Barrett (Roy Barcroft, whom Leonard Maltin once described accurately as “Republic’s number one bad guy”). Roy shows up to invite Fallon over to Vance’s to discuss the murders, but Barrett and his crew accuse Fallon of cheating, and a fight breaks out. Roy is knocked down quickly, but Fallon does a lot of damage himself with single punches. When Barrett is about to stab the unconscious Roy, Fallon grabs the Captain’s wrist and stares intently at him, at which point the Captain drops his weapon.

 

Roy and Fallon go to Fallon’s room to clean up, and Fallon shouts at Roy when he touches a small wooden box. Upon it, we read “E.R. WEBB FALLON 1588”. Fallon says it was a gift given to his ancestor after whom he was named by a grateful Queen Elizabeth.

Fallon and Roy go to Vance’s and are chatting after a meal. Father Gilchrist at one point puts his hand upon Fallon’s shoulder, and Fallon collapses into a chair claiming it to be a bout of malaria. They decide though to go out to visit the village which may be causing the trouble. Simon Peter (Martin Wilkins, who appeared in RKO’s 1943 classic I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE), Vance’s servant, notices that when serving Fallon some coffee, that Fallon has no reflection in the mirror, notices too, and the mirror shatters. When the others question what could have caused that, Simon Peter declares Evil.

 


Has any other vampire smoked so much ?

They set out at dawn to explore the area near the village they suspect the trouble is coming from. Roy sets off a gun trap, which seems to miss Roy and Fallon, but hits one of the bearers, Tara, in the arm (Zack Williams). When they encamp for the evening, Taba tells Simon Peter that he was behind Fallon and wonders how Fallon did not get shot. Simon Peter checks out Fallon’s tent, and sees that the bullet did indeed pass through him, but left no blood.

“Vampire!”, intones Taba. Simon Peter says the one way to stop the vampire is a spear dipped in molten silver ,which they quickly make (where did they get all that silver? Is the cutlery gone ?).They are attacked by the evil villagers (with bones through their noses.at least one of whom appears to be a white actor in dark makeup!) ,and Simon Peter is hit . He, however, hurls the spear into Fallon, who is impaled in the chest as he turns. Roy brings Fallon to his tent, and removes the spear. There is no blood on the tip of the weapon, and Roy realizes the truth. Fallon tells Roy how he was cursed 400 years ago for causing the death of a young woman, which cursed him as one of the undead.

(white actor in dark makeup ? )

He hypnotizes Roy, and keeps him from being able to tell what he knows. Fallon wishes Julie to join him in his undead eternity. Will Roy be able to break the curse and save Julie?

 

The film is a remarkably subtle one from Republic (the bar fight is short, and battle scenes are kept to a minimum). Mood is key to the film, and director Lesley Selander does a superb job with ensuring that. A fine example is when later in the film Fallon stalks and kills Captain Barrett, his shadow falls upon the stunned sailor, the shadowy hands reaching for the victim’s neck. Selander was mostly a director of westerns but rose to the occasion when the story required. He also directed Republic’s THE CATMAN OF PARIS, and handled sensitive stories like RETURN FROM THE SEA (A.A.,1954), as well as 54 episodes of the long running television series LASSIE (Lassie Television/Columbia 1955-1974).

 

He was blessed with a strong screenplay by Leigh Brackett (based upon her story) and John K Butler. Butler spent most of his career writing westerns for films and later for television, with an occasional foray into mystery (THE PHANTOM SPEAKS, Republic,1945). His work was efficient but nothing memorable. Most of the credit must therefore go to Brackett.

Brackett began as a science fiction writer (‘Martin Quest”, Feb 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction) and indeed was the first woman nominated for a Hugo Award (started in 1953, Brackett was nominated in 1956, though she didn’t win).

 


She also wrote crime fiction, starting with “No Good for A Corpse” (Coward McCann, Hardcover,1944) as well as western novels. Her “No Good for A Corpse” brought her to the attention of Howard Hawks, who wanted “this guy Brackett” to work with William Faulkner and Jules Furthman for THE BIG SLEEP (W.B. 1946). She later wrote other screenplays for Hawks, like RIO BRAVO (W.B.,1959, again with Furthman). She is best known for having submitted the original draft for the STAR WARS sequel, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (Fox ,1980) before she passed away from cancer in March ,1978.

 

THE VAMPIRE’S GHOST was her first credited screenplay, and I wonder if Butler was assigned to work with her to show her how to write an efficient (and budget conscious screenplay). If so, the pair succeeded superbly.

Rather than following the rules of most vampire films of the era, they had a few of their own (the silver tipped spear). Some feel that John William Polidori’s 1819 story “The Vampyre” (The New Monthly Magazine, April 1,1819) was the inspiration. Polidori wrote his tale that same summer at Lake Geneva, wherein a telling of ghost tales led to this story and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (Lackington Hughes, 1818). The original story featured Lord Ruthven and was set in England and Greece. It also had a vampire able to walk about in daylight, and moonlight could heal Ruthven.

 

The cast, for the most part, does a superb job. Outstanding, of course, is John Abbott. He brings a wonderful world weariness to his role. When he wins at the dice table, he looks at the wad of money that he has won, and tosses it to a drunken sailor. The only thing that seems to move him is the idea of Julie joining him as an eternal companion.

Personally, I would have gone with Lisa. Mara bring a vitality and energy to her role, and indeed a sensuality. By her looks and body language, you feel that she is in love with Fallon.

Barcroft, Withers, and Vogan are all solid performers who make their characters interesting. Speaking of interesting, Zack Williams, and especially Martin Wilkins, despite being a native porter and servant respectively, play their roles strongly and without playing the commonplace quivering stereotypes that were the norm of the period. Indeed, they are the first to question Fallon and discover his secret and try to destroy him. At the end, the character of Simon Peter does indeed do that (with the aid of the priest and a cross).


The two romantic leads are good looking but to be honest not much beyond that. Poor Roy as portrayed by Charles Gordon, is sort of the Jonathan Harker of the tale. The titular romantic lead who does get the girl at the end, but is knocked down immediately in the bar fight, is as even he acknowledges saved twice by the vampire and spends most of the film under Fallon’s control. Peggy Stewart’s Julie is -the girlfriend. Perhaps due to the short running time, her character development was sacrificed for pacing.

 

 

(Anyone remember which other film used this statue? I cannot recall)

 

 

When the film came out, it was dismissed by the critics of the time (see Variety Wednesday June 6,1945- “script, setting and camerawork just so-so.” On the same page, co -screenwriter’s John K. Butler’s THE PHANTOM SPEAKS, also from Republic, is much more favorably reviewed.). This is more than likely because of the common feeling that horror films weren’t worth serious study. https://archive.org/stream/variety158-1945-06#page/n11/mode/1up

 


Olive Films has done a superlative job of restoring this neglected gem to a lustrous presentation. A 1080p transfer 1:33:1 aspect ratio shows the images in extremely sharp black and white, with varying levels of gray. The audio is a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track. No effects have been added to move sound around speakers, but it is crisp and clear with dialogue, music, and effects track coming across clearly.

The optional English subtitles are white and are easy to read, following the dialogue and describing audio cues clearly.

No other extras are added, but again, that such a rarity has gotten such a superlative transfer makes this a must have for collectors of classic horror that they need to add to their collections.

Recommended.

-Kevin G Shinnick

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