The Most Dangerous Game (1932) | The influential pre-Code adventure thrills again on Blu-ray

Back in 1924, American author and journalist Richard Connell published what has become one of the most popular and influential short stories ever written (in English) – The Most Dangerous Game. It centres on Sanger Rainsford, a New York City big-game hunter who gets the tables turned on him after he gets washed up on a Caribbean island where he is hunted down by Russian aristocrat General Zaroff and his deaf-mute servant. It’s been adapted countless times – on film, radio and television – and continues to inspire film and television makers, video game developers and even the creators of Paintball. 

But the very first film adaptation remains the best – RKO Pictures’ 1932 fast-paced pre-Code adventure starring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, and Leslie Banks, which is now out on Blu-ray, from a 2K restored scan as part of Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinema Series.

McCrea takes on the role of the heroic big-game hunter (called Bob here), while Banks is the egotistical Zaroff. Fay Wray, meanwhile, plays a character created especially for the film (for added scream queen/romantic interest value).

Taking advantage of the jungle sets created for co-producers Ernest B. Schoedsack, and Merian C Cooper’s King Kong (including that famous gigantic log), The Most Dangerous Game was filmed at night after Kong had concluded for the day, with many of the cast and crew (including McCrea and Wray) pulling double duty on both productions.

In many respects (such as the excellent production design, optical effects and Max Steiner score – which he pulled together at the eleventh hour), it comes off as a screen test for King Kong. But it really is its own beast – mainly thanks to Leslie Banks’ hypnotic, OTT theatrical performance. 

The Masters of Cinema Series 2K restored scan Blu-ray release looks and sounds fantastic and includes some super extras, most notably three radio adaptations featuring Orson Welles and Keenan Wynn (1943); J Carrol Naish and Joseph Cotten (1945) and Paul Frees and Hans Conried (1947), which all dispense with the Fay Wray character and include many lines from the film’s screenplay.

I also particularly enjoyed the audio commentary and totally agree with Stephen Jones’ idea that McCrea and his ripped shirt in the closing scenes inspired the Doc Savage pulp magazine covers that began in 1933, a year after The Most Dangerous Game hit US cinemas.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a 2K restored scan
  • Optional English SDH & Unrestored audio
  • Audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman
  • Kim Newman on the ‘hunted human’ sub-genre
  • Film scholar Stephen Thrower on The Most Dangerous Game
  • Merian C Cooper: Reminisces (1971 audio interview, July 1971)
  • Suspense 1943 radio adaptation
  • Suspense 1945 radio adaptation
  • Escape 1947 radio adaptation
  • German theatrical trailer
  • A collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Craig Ian Mann

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) | Universal’s silent classic starring Lon Chaney gets a 4k restored release

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is without doubt one the greatest, most spectacular, silent films of all time. A ‘Super Jewel’ adaptation of Victor Hugo’s epic 1831 novel, this lavish Universal production was a huge success for the studio and features a breakout performance from Lon Chaney, which made him a global superstar.

Now fully restored in 4K, it has been released on Blu-ray in the UK as part of The Masters of Cinema series from Eureka! It’s a must-have for any cinephile.

Chaney is at his most feral and uninhibited playing Quasimodo, the deaf, half-blind hunchback bell-ringer of Notre Dame, who unwittingly becomes the protector of street performer Esmerelda (Patsy Ruth Miller) – the adopted daughter of beggar king Clopin (Ernest Torrence) – when she attracts the lusty attentions of the dashing Captain Phoebus (Norman Kerry) and Jehan (Brandon Hurst) – the evil brother of Notre Dame’s archdeacon (Nigel de Brulier).

Universal spared no expense in bringing Victor Hugo’s novel to the big screen, and it certainly shows with the magnificent sets (like the life-size reproduction of Notre Dame) and 2500 extras (which required a public address system to get them all into position) on display.

Director Wallace Worsley covers the full scope of Hugo’s epic story, delivering drama, romance, action, spectacle and horror in equal measure. Then there are those set pieces which have become cinema legend: Quasimodo being lashed in the city square, the beggars storming the cathedral, and Quasimodo decanting vats of molten lead onto their heads.

While very much an ensemble piece, the film is really all about Chaney, who imbues his grotesque dispossessed character with so much light and shade – and comedy. Indeed, it taught Universal a valuable lesson – that human monsters can inspire both terror and pity. So great was the power of Chaney’s performance that, following a Quasimodo impersonation competition staged during the film’s London run, it became a benchmark for young British actors to aspire to.

The Universal 4k restoration is fantastic (and best viewed on a really big screen so you can witness Chaney’s incredible make-up and facial expressions). The score is impressive, as are the informative and well-researched extras that accompany this MUST-HAVE release. The only thing that can better this is someone finding the missing 15-minutes of footage (only seen in the original 1923 35mm release print).

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a 4K restoration conducted by Universal Pictures
  • Score by Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum & Laura Karpman (presented in uncompressed LPCM stereo)
  • Audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman (the fanboys let loose again! Always a fun listen)
  • Interview with Kim Newman on the many adaptations of Victor Hugo’s novel (Did You Know? Lionel Bart of Olivier! fame wrote a stage musical called Quasimodo! that was only performed at London’s Kings Head theatre?)
  • Interview with film historian Jonathan Rigby (loved his story about the London impersonation competition)
  • Collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by journalist Philip Kemp illustrated with archival imagery

The Spine of Night (2021) | An animated ultraviolent fantasy horror thrill ride

Ultraviolent barbarism and cosmic horror collide in an epic animated fantasy from animator Morgan Galen King and Love, Death, & Robots‘ Philip Gelatt. The culmination of seven years of painstaking handcrafted work, The Spine of Night, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD following its exclusive release on the Shudder streaming service.

The film opens with a swamp witch, Tzod (Lucy Lawless), seeking out an ancient guardian (Richard E Grant), who possesses knowledge about a sacred blue flower with mystical properties. Together they share stories about how the bloom has shaped not only their fates but also all existence. What follows is a centuries-spanning saga involving a tomb robber, star-crossed lovers, a maniacal necromancer and winged assassins.

Utilising the old-school rotoscoping process (where the art is literally drawn over reference footage of live-action performers mapping out the movements of the story), this ambitious animated feature echoes the same style used by Ralph Bakshi in Wizards (1977), The Lord of the Rings (1978) and Fire and Ice (1983), only with a great deal more blood, gore, ultraviolence and nudity (just check it out below).

That rare technique is crucial to the filmmakers’ vision here, and it certainly pays off with a spellbindingly surreal sword and sorcery thrill ride with an existential bent that is certain to please genre fans and is the anti-thesis of the cartoony animated styles currently employed by Pixar, Disney and their ilk.

The Acorn Media International Blu-ray/DVD release includes an excellent ‘Making Of’ featurette, and two shorts, Exordium (8mins) and Mongrel (3min).

The Owl Service (1969) | Alan Garner’s landmark Welsh valley-set children’s drama on Blu-ray

Broadcast in the UK during the winter of 1969/1970, this adaptation of Alan Garner’s 1967 novel of the same name, about an ancient story being brought back to life in a ‘modern/1960s’ Welsh valley, weaves a heady brew of the supernatural, sexual jealousy and class divide. Now, the eight-part Granada Television/ITV series is available on Blu-ray from Network in the UK.

Alison (Gillian Hills), her mum Margaret (who is never seen), her new husband Clive (Edwin Richfield) and his son Roger (Francis Wallis) are taking their first holiday together in a country house in the Welsh countryside, which Alison has inherited from her late dad. The house staff includes the rather peculiar groundskeeper Huw (Raymond Llewellyn), frightful housekeeper Nancy (Dorothy Edwards) and her son, Gwyn (Michael Holden).

When Alison discovers a service of old dinner plates with a pattern that turns into owls when traced on paper, she sets in motion a centuries-old legend that’s connected to Blodeuwedd, the woman made of flowers, who appears in the Welsh epic poem The Mabinogion. 

Regarded as something of a landmark, The Owl Service is not your typical children’s TV drama (especially given the way it addresses adolescent sexuality within a pagan context and uses experimental editing to infuse the story with supernatural elements). The cast is all excellent in their respective roles, though Edwards and Llewellyn chew the scenery at every chance, and their bizarre characterisations so belong to the weird universes of The League of Gentlemen, Twin Peaks and their ilk – as does the final episode, which is OTT bonkers surreal.

And if you are a film location fan like myself, you might like to know that The Stone of Gronw replica, created for the series, still lies in situ on the bank of the River Dovey today. I will so be paying a visit one day soon.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Archive interviews with Alan Garner from 1968 and 1980
• Commentaries on selected episodes by writer/broadcaster Tim Worthington
• Image gallery
• Limited edition booklet written by Stephen McKay, Chris Lynch and Kim Newman

ORDER FROM NETWORK: https://new.networkonair.com/the-owl-service/

The Owl Service is out now on Blu-ray in the UK from Network

An original ‘owl service’ ceramic plate that inspired Alan Garner’s novel.
According to Griselda Garner, (Alan’s wife), the service originally belonged to her aunt, who bought it at a farm sale in Somerset but then ‘packed [it] away and put [it] in a barn because she said that the owls watching her eat gave her indigestion’. Image: Bodleian Libraries

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn | The Creeper is back!

Jeepers Creepers: Reborn (which is out now on Blu-ray from 101 Films in the UK) is the fourth film in the horror franchise, which was unleashed back in 2001 by controversial writer-director Victor Salva.

After two hugely successful instalments, Salva and his demonic serial killer, The Creeper, laid dormant until 2017, when a third film got a one-night-only cinema release before heading to TV and a home entertainment release.

This ‘reboot’ removes Salva from any involvement – most probably due to the dark cloud that continues to hover over his career – but is this ‘reboot’ any good? Well, not really! Here’s why!

Taking the helm is Finnish director Timo Vuorensola, whose previous films included a huge fave of mine Iron Sky and its sequel Iron Sky: The Coming Race, while Jarreau Benjamin replaces Jonathan Breck, the actor who portrayed Creeper in the original trilogy. 

Tapping into the latest horror trends, the plot involves a young couple – loveable geek Chase (Imran Adams – Hollyoaks, Ghosts) and his pregnant girlfriend Laine (Sydney Craven – EastEnders, A Christmas Carol) – who win an escape room experience while attending a horror convention in Louisiana. But it’s a trap set by the satanic followers of The Creeper, who’s after Laine’s unborn child.

So why didn’t I like it? Well, a number of things. The film (which was shot primarily at the Black Hangar Studios in Hampshire here in the UK) comes off looking like a computer game. There’s lots of CGI used for the ‘escape room’ house and the birds, which play an important role. Maybe that was what the director was aiming for (just as he had done in the Iron Sky films), but it just made it less real – fake, even. It’s a shame because there’s a Devil’s Rain kind of film itching to get out here (especially with the introduction of The Creeper’s satanic followers – but they aren’t explained nor developed enough).

Also the convention crowd scenes are poorly staged, with the same dozen extras gyrating, dancing and mucking about that don’t match the final music edit (Focus on one extra instead of the main characters, and you’ll see what I mean).

The Creeper isn’t creepy at all. Jarreau Benjamin does an admiral job, but he lacks the otherworldly ‘feral-ness’ of Breck’s incarnation. And what’s greatly missed (for me) is that it’s devoid of any of the homoerotism that bubbled beneath the surface of Salva’s originals – and made The Creeper so darn creepy. Saying that the cast give their all to make their characters believable, and it was great to see some young British talent getting to strut their stuff.

The Ballad of Tam Lin | Ava Gardner casts a seductive spell in Roddy McDowall’s off-kilter British fantasy curio on Blu-ray

In her last major lead role and 44th feature, Hollywood legend Ava Gardner holds seductive sway in the rarely seen, often overlooked 1970 British fantasy, The Ballad of Tam Lin, which was also the sole directorial credit of Roddy McDowall (who ‘escaped’ the Planet of the Apes to do his pet project). It’s certainly a weird one, and that’s probably why I love it so much. Think part folk horror/part Blow-Up style Swinging Sixties critique, shot through a psychedelic lens.

Based on a folkloric Robert Burns poem, the fantasy centres all on Gardner as the Praying mantis-like Michaela Cazaret, an immortal witch/creature whose current lover/victim is London photographer Tom Lynn (Ian McShane). With her coterie of thrill-seeking hipster hangers-on (who imbue her with the energy she needs to survive), Michaela heads to her moorland estate in the Scottish Borders for some psychological fun and games. But when Tom falls for the local vicar’s daughter Janet (Stephanie Beacham), who soon falls pregnant, Tom is doomed to ritual sacrifice… 

Gardner’s presence permeates the screen thanks to McDowall’s devoted direction, and she looks every inch the screen goddess thanks to cinematographer Billy Williams’ lighting and framing. McDowall pre-planned every shot, and the results are sublime. He then paired his meticulously curated images with a heady mix of musical styles, including songs by folk favourites Pentangle and an evocative score by composer supremo Stanley Myers.

Supporting the divine Gardner is a bevvy of up-and-coming British talent, including McShane and Beachman, as well as Joanna Lumley, Madeline Smith and Jenny Hanley, elder statesmen Cyril Cusack and Richard Wattis, and also a pre-Rocky Horror Peter Hinwood and pre-Withnail and I Bruce Robinson.

Of course, the big question is, why didn’t McDowall go on to direct more films? Some say that as a keen/professional photographer, he had done what he set out to do. Another theory is that he was so stung by the debacle (which is explained in the audio commentary and booklet) that caused the film to sink into obscurity (after its truncated 1972 US release at The Devil’s Widow) that he just gave up. It’s a pity, as I would have loved to see what he’d do next. Still, if he had, he may not have continued with the Apes films (particularly my favourite, 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes).

I am so pleased it has been given so much renewed love in this BFI UK release. But it is the extras that make this a must-have for any cult film collector – as it includes an insightful audio commentary by the BFI Flipside co-founders, plus interviews with cast members Ian McShane, Stephanie Beacham and Madeline Smith, and Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee. Also included are some typically offbeat extras that so fit the BFI Flipside’s quirky and obscure agenda. An Australian Blu-ray release was also put out in November 2021 by Imprint, with a mix and match of similar extras (check them out below).

Special features

  • Presented in High Definition in the original aspect ratio 2.35:1 // BD50: 1080p, 24fps, PCM 2.0 mono audio (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Audio commentary by BFI Flipside co-founders William Fowler and Vic Pratt (2021) 
  • Love You and Leave You For Dead (2021, 11 mins): Ian McShane on Tam Lin
  • An Eerie Tale to Tell (2021, 10 mins): Stephanie Beacham on Tam Lin
  • Ballad of a B-Movie: Revisiting Tam Lin (2021, 12 mins): an interview with Roddy McDowall biographer David Del Valle
  • Legendary Ladies of the Silver Screen: Ava Gardner (1998, 18 mins): Roddy McDowall remembers Ava Gardner and The Ballad of Tam Lin in this adoring archive introduction
  • Adventures Along the Way (2022, 32 mins): an interview with Madeline Smith
  • Listening In (2022, 27 mins): Jacqui McShee, the lead singer of the seminal British folk group Pentangle, recalls the writing and recording of the film’s cult soundtrack
  • Hans Zimmer on Stanley Myers (2021, 20 mins, audio only): the much-loved composer discusses the work of Stanley Myers
  • Red Red? Red (Jim Weiss, Chris Maudson, John Phillips, 1971, 34 mins): an impressionistic study of a commune in Devon where people dress up, play instruments, make love and take part in strange revolutionary games
  • Border Country (26 mins): rare short films from the BFI National Archive reveal rural lifestyles at Scotland’s edge
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Booklet with a new essay on the film by the BFI’s William Fowler, essays by Sam Dunn and Corinna Reicher, a contemporary review by Tom Milne from Monthly Film Bulletin and notes on the special features and credits

ORDER from the BFI Shop: https://shop.bfi.org.uk/the-ballad-of-tam-lin-blu-ray.html

THE US IMPRINT EXTRAS NOT PORTED OVER
• Audio Commentary from author and journalist Dr Adam Scovell
• Interview with Cinematographer Billy Williams;
• Interview with Actress Delia Lindsay 
• Interview with Actor Kiffer Weisselberg
• Interview with Assistant First Director Peter Boyle
• Tam Lin & the representations of the witch in film Visual Essay from author Kat Ellinger 

Karloff in Maniacal Mayhem | Three creepy classics from the Universal vaults head to Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes Maniacal Mayhem – the two-disc Blu-ray boxset featuring three tales of terror from the Universal archives starring Boris Karloff: The Invisible Ray (1936), Black Friday (1940) and The Strange Door (1951). Available from 17 October 2022.

Each film is presented in 1080p from 2K scans of the original film elements with optional English SDH. Also included is a limited edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing on all three films by film writers Andrew Graves, Rich Johnson, and Craig Ian Mann.

While The Invisible Ray and Black Friday were previously included in the first volume of Scream! Factory’s Universal Horror Collection in the US, this is the first Blu-ray outing for The Strange Door

THE INVISIBLE RAY (dir. Lambert Hillyer, 1936)
This vintage sci-fi sees Karloff playing the first of his many sympathetic scientist-turned-society menace roles and is a direct follow-up to his first pairing with Bela Lugosi, 1935’s The Raven. He plays astronomer Dr Janos Rukh (Karloff), who is contaminated by a super-powerful element he dubs Radium X. Lugosi is Dr Benet, a fellow scientist who devises a temporary antidote. But when Benet presents the discovery as his own, Rukh becomes consumed by revenge and goes on a killing spree.

Featuring effective luminescent special effects from John P Fulton, some great sets (borrowed from Flash Gordon and Frankenstein), excellent performances from Karloff and Lugosi, and a thrilling climax in which Violet Kemble Cooper (playing Karloff’s mother) saves the day, The Invisible Ray is a sci-fi classic that still stands up today. Footage later turned up in the 1939 Lugosi serial, The Phantom Creeps

Special Features:
• Audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman
• Stills galleries – production stills, artwork and ephemera

BLACK FRIDAY (dir. Arthur Lubin, 1940)
Karloff and Lugosi are at it again in this bizarre gangster/horror film penned by Curt Siodmak. Karloff plays amoral surgeon Dr Sovac, who transplants part of a mobster’s brain into the body of his dying college professor friend George (Stanley Ridges), creating a Jekyll-and-Hyde figure who starts murdering his former criminal associates.

This was the last of the Karloff-Lugosi Universal pairings. Unfortunately, they have no scenes together. Originally, Karloff was to play the professor and Lugosi the doctor. Still, Karloff didn’t want to do another dual role (he’d already down that in 1935’s The Black Room), so Lugosi got short shrift by the director and handed a minor role instead – which is a shame because this is quite a thrilling little gem, which plays more like a crime film than outright horror. Ridges, however, does an excellent job playing the two roles. Writer Siodmak later revisited the brain transplant idea in his 1942 sci-fi novel Donovan’s Brain and its subsequent 1953 film adaptation.

Special Features:
• Audio commentary with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Stills galleries – production stills, artwork and ephemera

THE STRANGE DOOR (dir. Joseph Pevney, 1951)
Charles Laughton takes centre stage as the wicked 18th-century French nobleman Sire Alain de Maletroit, who has imprisoned his brother Edmond (Paul Cavanagh) in a dungeon for 20 years. Now he wants to ruin the life of his niece Blanche (Sally Forrest) by forcing her to marry the roguish Denis de Beaulieu (Richard Stapley). But his plan is upset when Denis attempts to rescue the girl, aided by Karloff’s abused servant, Voltan.

Coming out a year before The Black Castle, this costume shocker based loosely on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson boasts an incredibly OTT performance from Laughton, who outshines everyone else in the cast – including Karloff, who stays in the shadows for most of the film.

In his biography, Charles Laughton – A Difficult Actor, Simon Callow wrote of his performance, ‘he messes sloppily around, pulling faces, slobbering, leering, chuckling, wheezing, a nightmarish display of an acting machine out of control’. He’s so spot on – and that’s what makes this so much fun to watch. 

You also get some wonderfully evocative Gothic sets and dressing, including a creepy cemetery and castle backdrop that’s pure classic horror Universal-style. Indeed this was the last of the studio’s period chillers before it headed into science fiction territory. Also appearing are Batman‘s Alan Napier and a fave of mine, Australian actor Michael Pate.

Special Features:
• Audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman
• Three radio adaptations of The Sire de Maletroit’s Door (Escape – 4 August 1947, Theatre Royal – 1 November 1953, CBS Radio Mystery Theatre – 6 February 1975)
• Stills galleries – production stills, artwork and ephemera

Identification of a Woman (1982) | Michelangelo Antonioni’s final film gets a 40th-anniversary restoration release

Michelangelo Antonioni’s rarely seen final masterwork, 1982’s Identification of a Woman (AKA dentificazione di una donna), is the director’s own bookend to his lifelong exploration of the imprecise nature of human relationships, incommunicability and alienation. Now it’s getting a 2K restoration release from CultFilms on Blu-ray and digital on-demand (from 12 September 2022).

After his wife leaves him, a film director (Tomas Milian) is searching for a muse while preparing his new film. He enters into a passionate affair with a striking young aristocratic woman (Daniela Silverio). But after a stranger orders him to stop seeing her, she vanishes shortly after… While searching for her, he encounters a young actress (Christine Boisson), who joins him on the hunt for his missing muse.

Tellingly prescient, Identification of a Woman is a spellbinding anti-romance depicting a modernising world beset by fear and was awarded the Anniversary Prize at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Each frame, beautifully conceived by Antonioni and cinematographer Carlo Di Palma, is an essential part of the storytelling. Having undergone a new 2K restoration, this Blu-ray release finally does justice to the original vision of Antonioni’s painterly yet unsettling masterpiece.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Full HD 1080p from 2K restoration
• Original Italian audio
• New, improved English subtitles + closed caption subtitles for HOH
• New video essay by scholar Pasquale Iannone
Identification of a Director: a candid, in-depth interview with Antonioni’s wife Enrica Fico-Antonioni
With Michelangelo: an intimate hour-long video diary of Antonioni filmed by Enrica

Deathstalker & Deathstalker II | A double-bill of 1980s sword-and-sorcery schlock on Blu-ray

From Roger Corman comes a bountiful pair of babes-and-blades fantasy adventures – Deathstalker (1983) and Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans (1987) – on Blu-ray from 101 Films.

First up, a fit-looking Richard Hill stars as the titular warrior Deathstalker who teams up with another muscle dude (Richard Brooker) and a sexy G-string-wearing female warrior (Lana Clarkson) to take part in a tournament in which the ultimate prize is the throne of the wicked wizard Munkar (Bernard Erhard).

This Conan the Barbarian cash-in is a whole lot of fun if you overlook the rapey bits. It looks pretty good given its modest budget, with some pretty effective make-up effects and a memorable (if overused) main theme tune.

The shadowy lighting and mist-shrouded exterior scenes echo John Boorman’s Excalibur, while the Argentine studio interior scenes have the look of a 1980s music video (did Russell Mulcahy see this before filming Duran Duran’s Wild Boys the following year?). There’s also lots of bare flesh on display – which is exactly what you want from this sort of schlock.

The special features include a commentary with director James Sbardellati, special makeup effects artist John Carl Buechler, and actor Richard Brooker (best known for donning Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask for the first time in Friday the 13th Part III), as well as a trailer and photo gallery.

Having impressed producer Roger Corman with the 1986 techno-horror Chopping Mall, Jim Wynorski was handed the reigns of Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans, and it’s a much-more comical affair than the first.

John Terlesky (who was also in Chopping Mall) steps into Richard Hill’s leather loin-cloth to save the kingdom from the tyrannical Jarek (John LaZar) and his seductive ally Sultana (Toni Naples), who have created an evil clone of the princess Evie (Monique Gabrielle).

The sequel opens and closes with nods to Corman’s 1960s Poe films (a castle matte painting and a pendulum), and in-between there’s lots more bare flesh on display, ropey acting, Chuck Cirino’s repetitive synth Western-styled theme, and the late Dee Booher (AKA professional wrestler Queen Kong) taking on a lithe Terlesky as Gorgo.

Wynorski called his film ‘anachronistic’, and it sure looks like it as it seems to be set in its own universe what with the Western bar saloon signs, medieval torture chamber and graveyard of zombies a la Thriller circa 1983. Good to see LaZar (AKA Beyond the Valley of the Dolls‘ Z-Man) though.

The special features include a commentary with director Jim Wynorski and actors John Terlesky and Toni Naples and a theatrical trailer.

Two more films followed – in 1988 (Deathstalker III: The Warriors from Hell) and 1991 (Deathstalker IV: Match of the Titans). Hopefully, 101 Films will release them sometime in the future for cult fans of the series – and completists like me.


Swan Song | Udo Kier’s career-best turn gets a Peccadillo Pictures release – but who was the real Mister Pat?

Udo Kier fans rejoice! His career-best turn in writer/director Todd Stephens’ fabulously wonderful bittersweet comedy Swan Song is coming your way, courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures.

Udo plays retired hairdresser Pat Pitsenbarger – AKA Mister Pat( a name I’m sure John Waters would love), who ‘escapes’ from his small-town nursing home after learning of the dying wish of a former client, Rita Parker Sloan (Linda Evans – yes! Dynasty‘s Krystle Carrington): for him to style her final hairdo. Soon, Pat embarks on a comical odyssey across town, encountering new and old friends and foes, including his former protege Dee Dee Dale (Jennifer Coolidge), who possesses a vital ingredient that Pat needs to complete Rita’s transformation. 

Check it out on Blu-ray and DVD and all UK VOD platforms, including Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play and PeccadilloPOD from 29 August.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• The Real Pat Pitsenbarger Featurette
• Casting Featurette
•  In Conversation with Writer/ Director Todd Stephens and Udo Kier
• Audio Commentary with Todd Stephens, Udo Kier and Producers Eric Eisenbrey & Tim Kaltenecker
• Udo Kier Iris Prize Acceptance Speech
• UK Theatrical Trailer

DID YOU KNOW?
Director Todd Stephens found inspiration from a local childhood character of the same name that helped him create this affectionate ‘love letter to the rapidly disappearing ”gay culture” in America’. 

Todd offers some background thoughts on what Mister Pat has meant to him. He says, “Back in 1984, I walked into my small-town gay bar for the first time — The Universal Fruit and Nut Company. There he was, glittering on the dancefloor. Wearing a teal feather boa, fedora and matching pantsuit, “Mister Pat” Pitsenbarger was busting old school moves straight out of Bob Fosse. I was 17, and Pat was a revelation.

Swan Song_4_Udo Kier.JPG

“Years later, when I set out to write my autobiographical Edge of Seventeen, I immediately thought of Mister Pat. I went back home to hunt him down, only to discover Pat had just suffered an aneurism and was temporarily unable to speak. But his lover David told me stories about how Pat was once the most fabulous hairdresser in Sandusky, Ohio, about his legendary drag performances and about how he used to shop at Kroger’s dressed as Carol Burnett – in 1967! This was a man who always had the courage to be himself, long before that was safe.

“The truth is, Mister Pat inspired me to write Edge of Seventeen. I wrote a significant “Pat” character as my protagonist’s mentor, but midway through the shoot, the part got cut. I always knew my muse would return someday in my writing, and when he finally did many years later, I looked for Pat again only to learn he just passed away. Sadly, Pat’s legendary hand-beaded rhinestone gowns are all lost to time. Only a shoebox remains – filled with some tarnished jewellery and a half-smoked pack of Mores.

Swan Song is a love letter to the rapidly disappearing “gay culture” of America. As it has become more acceptable to be queer, what used to be a thriving community is rapidly melting back into society. Thanks to assimilation and technology, small-town gay bars like The Universal Fruit and Nut Company are becoming extinct. Swan Song is dedicated to all the forgotten flaming florists and hairdressers who built the gay community and blazed the trail for the rights many of us cling to today. But, above all, for me, this film is about learning that it’s never too late to live again”. – Todd Stephens 

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