A hero dwarf, a scythe-wielding henchman, Christopher Lee playing a necrophile aesthete Count and a baroque setting that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tim Burton film makes for a fantastic voyage into vintage horror in 1964’s Castle of the Living Dead.
Set in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, this black-and-white chiller finds mad taxidermist Count Drago (Lee, looking wonderfully funereal with his neat goatee, dark-rimmed eyes and glossy black hair) creating a tableaux of embalmed women in the bowels of a creepy castle that’s festooned with stuffed ravens, owls and pelicans.
When a troupe of travelling performers fail to heed the warnings of a local witch (one of Drago’s failed experiments) and decide to perform for the Count, young dancer Laura (Gaia Germani) finds herself next to be added to Drago’s ghoulish collection. Her only hope of survival lies in the hands of an unlikely hero – a dwarf (Antonio de Martino).
This imaginative Italian production was directed by Luciano Ricci (using the name Herbert Wise) and screenwriter Warren Keifer. Now, if that last name rings a bell then it should because Donald Sutherland – who plays the dual role of a police sergeant and the ugly witch – would later name his son after Keifer.
It’s also the film in which future Witchfinder General director Michael Reeves got his break. The 20-year-old was initially employed to do second-unit work, but ended up doing a whole lot more. Though he never got to shoot any scenes with star Lee, he was responsible for introducing the character of the dwarf. And his sterling work on the horror would result in him directing his first picture, The She Beast, the following year. As a side note, Reeves also appears as one of the frozen officer’s in Drago’s gruesome gallery.
Beautifully shot in icy monochrome by Fellini’s cinematographer, Aldo Tonti, the film’s most memorable moments include a mock hanging (Reeves would later film a similar scene for the opening of Witchfinder General) and the henchman and dwarf dueling in a garden of surreal statues and on the castle ramparts (the real-life Odescalchi Castle and Bomarzo Park in Lazio, Italy).
Packed with nods to Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Poe’s Roderick Usher, the legend of Bluebeard, and Hitchcock’s Psycho, this is an atmospheric exercise that gets better with age.
The 2012 DVD release available from Screenbound Pictures in the UK has been digitally remastered with restored original mono soundtrack, and includes the original trailer and notes by Michael Reeves’ biographer Benjamin Halligan.
The Driller Killer (1979) | Abel Ferrara’s notorious art house video nasty gets a deluxe HD restoration release
‘Abel Ferrara’s debut is in the exploitation ballpark, but it’s as much a product of Warhol low-budget artiness as the slasher genre.’ Empire
One of the most notorious of the video nasties, this 1979 exploitation-art-house crossover from future Ms. 45, Bad Lieutenant and Welcome to New York director, Abel Ferrar was judged almost entirely on its video sleeve artwork with the film itself left out of the equation. Now it’s getting a deluxe Limited Edition Steelbook from Arrow Video with the disturbing film fully uncut.
Director Ferrara also goes in front of the camera to play struggling artist Reno, a man pushed to the edge by the economic realities of late-1970s New York and the No Wave band practising in the apartment below. His grip on reality soon begins to slip and he takes to stalking the streets with his power tool in search of prey…
The Arrow Video release of The Driller Killer features a high definition restoration of the film, plus the following special features…
• 4K restoration from the original camera negative of the never-before-seen pre-release version and the theatrical cut.
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations in both 1.85:1 and 1.37:1 aspect ratios.
• Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio.
• Audio commentary by Abel Ferrara, moderated by Brad Stevens (author of Abel Ferrara: The Moral Vision) and recorded exclusively for this release
• Laine and Abel: An Interview with the Driller Killer, a brand-new interview with Ferrara (see a clip below).
• Willing and Abel: Ferraraology 101, a new visual essay guide to the films and career of Ferrara by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Cultographies: Ms. 45
• Mulberry St., Ferrara’s feature-length 2010 documentary portrait of the New York, available on home video in the UK for the first time ever.
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Michael Pattison and Brad Stevens
• Steelbook Limited Edition features original artwork (2,500 copies).
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil (UK Amaray specs).
• Collector’s booklet (first pressing only).
To celebrate Arrow Video’s release, we have been given this exclusive extra to share with you. In this new interview with Abel Ferrara recorded for this release, he discusses why he cast himself in the title role after initially asking David Johansen of The New York Dolls…
Legendary hellraiser Oliver Reed may be better remembered for his drinking antics than his acting credits, but I think a reappraisal of the spirited thespian’s cinematic roles is long overdue – especially after watching this 2010 release from Eureka Entertainment.
Having made his name in Hammer’s Curse of the Werewolf in 1961 after a string of minor roles – including playing a camp chorus boy in The League of Gentlemen – and five years short of achieving stardom as Bill Sikes’ in Oliver!, Reed gives a terrifically OTT turn in 1962’s Paranoiac! – the third of Hammer’s psychological thrillers to be penned by Jimmy Sangster (The Curse of Frankenstein).
Loosely adapted from a 1949 crime novel by Brat Farrar, this Psycho-inspired chiller sees Reed take on the role of the greedy, egotistical Simon Ashby, the spoilt heir to a family fortune. Janette Scott (of Day of the Triffids fame) is his mentally fragile sister Eleanor, while Sheila Burrell plays aunt Harriett, who acts as the siblings’ guardian following the death of their parents. With the family fortune about to be split, Simon psychologically tortures his sister in a bid to have her declared unfit. But his plans come royally unstuck when his supposedly dead brother Tony (Alexander Davion) returns home…
Twists and turns abound in this gripping chiller that fuses an Agatha Christie-type mystery with gothic horror scares – particularly a ‘what the Hell’ moment involving the family chapel, a wheezing organ and a very creepy masked figure – and adding a dash of fratricide, incest and insanity for good measure.
As the deranged Simon, Reed is a stand out and the scenes where he is drinking and lashing out are weirdly prophetic. Making his directorial debut is Oscar-winning cinematographer Freddie Francis, who has a real eye for creating scenes of suspense – helped greatly by the eerie lighting and the stunning Dorset locations.
Eureka Classics‘ 2010 Blu-ray and DVD release features a stunning restored Cinemascope HD transfer, along with a music and effects track and trailer as extras, and this is a must-have for your Hammer collection – and one to include alongside the Final Cut release of Hammer’s follow-up chiller, Nightmare, which I reviewed here.
Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011) | The must-see documentary tribute screens on BBC2 and BBC iPlayer
Cinema’s most admired and influential special-effects innovator Ray Harryhausen is honoured in the comprehensive 2011 documentary, Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan, which airs tomorrow morning (Saturday 3 December) on BBC2 at 7.30am, following a screening of the 1949 adventure Mighty Joe Young (at 6am).
A seminal influence on modern-day special effects, the American visual effects creator, who sadly left us aged 92 in May of 2013, was the undisputed king of stop motion animation, and his films – which include The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Mysterious Island, Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans – inspired many of today’s big-name film-makers – from Steven Spielberg to Terry Gilliam and Peter Jackson – to follow in his footsteps.
This is a must-see for all film fans, with a wealth of clips from Harryhausen’s classic films and, on the Blu-ray, some neat extras (my favourite being a featurette in which Harryhausen’s prized models are unpacked for the 2010 London restrospective). Click here for a gallery of images.
Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is also available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from Arrow Films, can be streamed via the Arrow Films VOD service, or you can watch it for free shortly after its broadcast on BBC iPlayer
From Final Cut Entertainment in the UK comes a double-bill of classic Amicus horror anthologies to make you shiver!!!!
First up is Tales From the Crypt. Directed with finesse by Freddie Francis, this 1972 British creeper was the fourth horror anthology to come from Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenburg’s Amicus outfit, and it remains a classic of its kind thanks to the sterling performances of an all-star cast and the five genuinely macabre stories, inspired by the original EC Comics, which still have the power to chill.
Subotsky drew on five more tales for the following year’s Vault of Horror, Amicus’ penultimate entry in their horror anthology cycle. Asylum director Roy Ward Baker was called in after original choice Freddie Francis (who helmed the first four entries) declined to oversee a mixed bag of horror and humour, which upped the horror quota, and boasted another starry line-up. You can read more HERE.
The extras on this new Blu-ray, which uses the same uncut transfer that Shout!/Scream Factory put out as part of their 2014 double bill, includes a 36-minute featurette featuring interviews with the likes of Jonathan Rigby, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Chibnall.
Available from Amazon from Monday 5 December 2016
Best known for her roles in the 1960s classics, Women in Love and Dr Who & the Daleks, British actress Jennie Linden made her big-screen debut in Hammer’s 1964’s Nightmare, which get its first-ever UK Blu-ray release from Final Cut Entertainment.
Aged just 23 at the time, Sussex-born Linden was hand-picked by Hammer’s producers to replace Julie Christie for the role of troubled teenager Janet ,who is haunted by memories of witnessing her mother killing her father when she was a child.
Expelled from boarding school, Janet is sent home to High Towers, a vast country mansion, to live with her guardian Henry Baxter (David Knight). But when the nightmares persist, Janet starts to loose her mind…
Originally given a title that gave away the film’s shock reveal 45-minutes into the story, Nightmare was Hammer’s fourth psychological thriller to be written by Jimmy Sangster, who wanted to move away from the Gothic horrors he was best known for.
Like 1961’s Scream of Fear, 1962’s Paranoiac and 1963’s The Maniac, Nightmare shares its DNA with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, while returning director Freddie Francis and Hammer’s in-house production crew imbues the gripping mystery with lashings of atmosphere, especially those initial 45-minutes, where the film’s Grand Guignol horror tropes come out to play.
The film’s second half, which plays like a straightforward whodunnit, may not be as polished as those early scenes in which an excellent Linden brings pathos and hysteria to the fore, but it does give Moira Redmond, playing Janet’s nurse with a hidden agenda, a chance to strut her stuff.
Keen eyed fans might recognise actress Clytie Jessop, who plays David Knight’s scarred wife – she was the spectral Miss Jessel in The Innocents.
This cracking little chiller originally went out in a double-bill with The Evil of Frankenstein, but has remained in the shadows of its better known siblings, like Paranoiac! This new Blu-ray release, however, which looks and sounds superb, is the perfect opportunity to pay it a revisit, and hopefully gain a new appreciation. It also benefits from three insightful extras.
• Madhouse: Inside Hammers Nightmare: A 13-minute look at production with insights from The Hammer Story author Kevin Barnes, English Gothic author Jonathan Rigby and others.
• Nightmare in the Making (26min): Hammer historian Wayne Kinsey retraces the history of the thriller from concept to release, and includes archive interviews with screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, art director Don Mingaye and actress Jennie Linden (using elements not used in her own interview).
Available from Amazon
Jinnah (1998) | Christopher Lee gives the performance of a lifetime as Pakistan’s revered founding father
‘Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Muhammad Ali Jinnah did all three’
So wrote Stanley Wolpert in his acclaimed 1984 biography of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the man who was almost single-handedly responsible for splitting Pakistan from India. A source of much controversy throughout its making, this 1998 biopic from Pakistani-French indie film-maker Jamil Dehlavi opened to great acclaim in Pakistan but has never been available in the English-speaking world – until now.
Following his death on 11 September 1948, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Christopher Lee) awaits final judgement in the afterlife and must tell the story of his life, before his celestial minder (Shashi Kapoor). His story covers the intense political strife and bloody events that led to the formation of the Muslim nation, starting in 1947 as Lord Mountbatten (James Fox) uses his diplomatic whiles to persuade Mahatma Gandhi (Sam Dastor) and Jawaharlal Nehru (Robert Ashby) to join in his effort to stop Jinnah’s homeland campaign…
This is a lavishly mounted, intensely moving, piece of cinema. If you’re not offended by an English actor playing a Pakistani, then Lee certainly delivers one of the finest performances of his career. It’s certainly the one that he was most proud of – he even bears much countenance to the revered real-life statesman, not only in appearance, but also in some of the character traits that are explored in his inventive biopic that not only addresses Jinnah the politician, but also the man – especially his regrets in his personal relationships with his two wives and daughter, Dina. My other best acting vote goes to Maria Aitken’s fabulous turn as the manipulative Lady Edwina Mountbatten.
The Eureka Entertainment release features a 1080p HD transfer on the Blu-ray, with a progressive encode on the DVD, optional English subtitles, and original trailer.
Assault On Precinct 13 (1976) | John Carpenter’s cult action thriller gets a 40th anniversary blu-ray release
Violent, stylish and suspenseful, John Carpenter’s 1976 cult action thriller updates the plot of the 1959 John Wayne Western, Rio Bravo, to a modern setting in an LA ghetto.
Blaxploitation legend Austin Stoker is dogged lawman Lieutenant Ethan Bishop who takes command of a soon-to-be-mothballed police station on the night a street gang seeks vengeance over the violent deaths of four of its members in a police shoot-out.
With just two clerical staff (Laurie Zimmer and Nancy Loomis) and three convicts – including convicted Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston) – to help him defend the station, Bishop prepares to face the growing numbers of gang members gathering outside…
‘Discovered’ by British audiences at the London Film Festival, Carpenter’s second film went on to become a cult sensation, and so pleased was he with the way that the UK distributor – one Michael Myers – handled the movie that he ended up naming the psycho killer in his follow-up master stroke, Halloween, in his honour.
Boosted by a terrific and hugely influential synth-heavy score, well-rounded characters, and visually arresting set-pieces (the Vanilla Twist ice cream scene with future Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kim Richards is a stand out), Carpenter’s seminal film remains a textbook example of how to make a low budget stretch a very long way, and puts that 2005 remake in the shade.
To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Second Sight is releasing a newly restored high definition version from a 1080p transfer in a Blu-ray box set, packed with special features including an early John Carpenter student short, as well as the original soundtrack CD and art cards, and is set for release on 28 November (along with a DVD version and On Demand. Check out the full specs below.
And if you want a chance of WINNING A BLU-RAY, then CLICK HERE TO ENTER
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
• DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Uncompressed PCM original mono audio options
• Return to Precinct 13: A new Interview with Austin Stoker
• Producing Precinct 13: A new interview with Joseph Kaufman
• Filmmaking with John: A new interview with Tommy Lee Wallace
• Interview with John Carpenter and Austin Stoker
• The Sassy One with Nancy Loomis
• Audio commentaries with John Carpenter and Tommy Lee Wallace
• Captain Voyeur: John Carpenter student short (Blu-ray exclusive)
• Do You Remember Laurie Zimmer: documentary film (Blu-ray exclusive)
• Five art cards (Limited Edition box set exclusive)
• CD soundtrack disc (Limited Edition box set exclusive)
• Radio spots
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, comes this three-disc Blu-ray release featuring previously unseen footage from the show’s production and 12 classic episodes, which is due to land on Monday 5 December 2016.
During the shooting of Star Trek, reels and reels of episodic footage were left on the cutting room floor and later preserved in film canisters by the Roddenberry Estate. These alternate takes, deleted scenes, omitted dialogue, out-takes, and original visual FX elements have now been catalogued, transferred and pieced together to be inserted into the two featurettes and a three-part documentary that are at the core of this box-set from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution.
The 12 episodes (selected for their relevance to the vault materials) are from the 1080p High Definition film scans done in 2006 for the re-mastering project, and are presented here in both DTS 7.1 Master Audio and newly-restored original Mono. There are also isolated music tracks on 11 of the episodes, while three contain newly-recorded audio commentaries.
The three documentaries are:
• Inside The Roddenberry Vault: in which Rod Roddenberry introduces viewers to the discovery of his father’s long-lost Star Trek film reels.
• Star Trek: Revisiting A Classic: a look back at the origins of the iconic series, including glimpses of life on the set with new interviews featuring guest stars, directors and production personnel.
• Strange New Worlds: exploring the creation of the classic Star Trek visuals, featuring newly-found original visual effects elements photography.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
• The Corbomite Maneuver
• Space Seed
• This Side of Paradise (plus audio commentary by Dorothy ‘DC’ Fontana and Gabrielle Stanton)
• Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 1)
• Star Trek: Revisiting a Classic
• The Devil in the Dark
• The City on the Edge of Forever (plus audio commentary by Roger Lay Jr, Scott Mantz and Mark A Altman)
• Operation – Annihilate!
• Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 2)
• Strange New Worlds: Visualising the Fantastic
• Who Mourns for Adonais?
• Mirror, Mirror
• The Trouble with Tribbles (plus audio commentary by David Gerrold and David A Goodman)
• Return to Tomorrow
• Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 3)
• Swept Up: Snippets from the Cutting Room Floor
The Roddenberry Vault on Blu-ray is now available for pre-order on Amazon.