From Eureka Entertainment comes director Fred Dekker’s jokey 1980s sci-fi comedy Night of the Creeps, in a Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition as part of the Eureka Classics range.
When an alien experiment goes awry, it crashes to Earth in 1959 and infects a college student. 27 years later, his freeze-dried body is unwittingly revived by nerds Chris (Jason Lively) and JC (Steve Marshall), which releases alien slugs that turn their fellow campus students into brain-hungry zombies. Chris, CJ and Chris’ new girlfriend Cynthia (Jill Whitlow) must then team up with a troubled detective (Tom Atkins) to find a way to defeat the zombie horde…
Presented for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK, this deluxe edition of Night of the Creeps features the original director’s cut and the following special features…
DUAL FORMAT SPECIAL FEATURES
• High-definition remaster of the director’s cut
• Original stereo soundtrack and 5.1 surround audio options, presented in PCM and DTS-HD MA respectively on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary by writer/director Fred Dekker
• Audio commentary by actors Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow
• Thrill Me: Making Night of the Creeps: an hour-long series of video pieces on the making of the film featuring new interviews with cast and crew
• Tom Atkins: Man of Action featurette
• Video Interview with Fred Dekker
• Deleted Scenes
• Original theatrical ending (which I rather prefer)
• Trivia track subtitles
• Theatrical trailer
• Limited-edition booklet featuring a new essay by critic Craig Ian Mann
• Limited Edition O-Card slipcase
Monkey Shines (1988) | George A Romero’s twisted Experiment in Fear is a cunning little beast indeed!
Drug-addled research scientist Geoffrey Fisher (John Pankow) is injecting human brain serum into monkeys, but goes too far with Ella, one Capuchin that he gives as helper to quadriplegic law student Allan (Jason Beghe), who has been left paralysed from the neck down after a road accident.
All goes well at first, as Allan and Ella bond with the help of animal trainer Melanie (Kate McNeil). But when the scientist steps up the dosage, Ella begins responding to Allan’s subconscious rages, including wanting to dispose of the girlfriend (Janine Turner) who dumped him for the surgeon (Stanley Tucci) who operated on Allan after the accident. Murder and mayhem follow as the twisted thriller builds towards a nail-biting climax. Can Allan stop the cunning critter before she fully takes over his mind?
George A Romero’s Monkey Shines is presented on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK in a Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition as part of the Eureka Classics range with the following special features…
• Limited Edition O Card slipcase
• 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray
• DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio options
• Optional English SDH subtitles
• New and exclusive audio commentary by Travis Crawford
• Audio Commentary with director George A Romero
• An Experiment in Fear – The Making of Monkey Shines: a lengthy retrospective with George A Romero, stars Jason Beghe and Kate McNeil, executive producer Peter Grunwald, and special effects legends Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero and Everett Burrell.
• Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes
• Behind-the-scenes footage, original EPK featurette, vintage interviews and news reports
• Trailers and TV spots
• Limited edition collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Craig Ian Mann; highlights from the film’s production notes: and rare archival material
The Pyjama Girl Case (1977) | Flavio Mogherini’s Down Under-set Italian giallo is a mixed bag of treats
From Arrow Video comes a new 2k restoration on Blu-ray of director Flavio Mogherini’s Italian-made 1970s thriller The Pyjama Girl Case, starring veteran Hollywood star Ray Milland.
When the burnt body of a young woman is found on a Sydney beach, former Canadian Inspector Thompson (Ray Milland) comes out of retirement to help local homicide detectives crack the case. Treading where the ‘real’ detectives can’t, he doggedly pieces together the tragic story of Dutch immigrant Glenda Blythe (Dalila Di Lazzaro) and the unhappy chain of events which led to her grisly demise…
In between dodging fearsome felines in The Uncanny (filmed in Canada) and facing a Cruise into Terror (off the California coast), Ray Milland headed Down Under to appear in this offbeat Italian-made thriller that comes from the tail under of the giallo boom period. Inspired by a real-life case which baffled the Australian police back-up in the 1930s, The Pyjama Girl Case is a mixed bag of treats.
There’s a memorably melancholic score by veteran composer Riz Ortolani, but the disco tracks featuring the fabulous Amanda Lear feel quite incongrous to the sun-drenched setting: a lunchtime riverboat cruise filled with families and pensioners. It’s great seeing Milland get all sweary, but he seems out of place (like he should be in another movie). And indeed that’s what happens after he makes his ‘dramatic’ exit (no I won’t reveal that), when events involving Dalilia’s Glenda take a turn for the sordid, forcing us ‘the viewer’ to become voyeurs on her sex life (a hotel scene involving sweaty fat men is quite the stomach churner).
Interestingly Mogherini ditches the postcard approach to show a different side of Sydney, with lots of shots of 1970s shopping arcades (Gene Wilder’s Silver Streak was showing at Plaza Cinemas at the time), and people playing bowls and hockey (which certainly reminded me of my Australian heritage, as did those shopping centres). But the one image that will remain with me forever is of the burnt corpse placed in a case and put on display. It’s quite disturbing, but so are the people getting their jollies out of viewing it.
The Arrow Video Blu-ray release features a brand-new 2k restoration of the film from the original camera negative, newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack and optional English subtitles, plus the following special features…
• New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
• New video interview with author and critic Michael Mackenzie on the internationalism of the giallo and on how this film may have inspired Dario Argento’s Sleepless
• New video interview with actor Howard Ross
• New video interview with editor Alberto Tagliavia
• Archival interview with composer Riz Ortolani (I loved this)
• Image gallery
• Italian theatrical trailer
• Original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
• Collector’s booklet (first pressing only) featuring new writing by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
Death Line (1972) | Mind the doors! – Gary Sherman’s grim but moving London Underground cannibal cult horror gets the HD remaster treatment
Fans of classic British horror need no introduction to director Gary Sherman’s London Underground-set cannibal film Death Line. Nearly 50 years on from its release on 12 October 1972 (in the UK), this oddly moving cult still packs a mighty punch, and features a standout turn from Donald Pleasence.
Previously available only on DVD and VHS (remember those?), Death Line (which got recut and renamed Raw Meat in the US) has been newly scanned to 2k resolution from the original 35mm camera negative for an exclusive UK Blu-ray release from Network – and it looks and sounds bloody fantastic! Finally time to ditch my second gen VHS!
Here’s my take on the exploitation cult, ‘But first were gonna get some tea… MARRRRSHAL!!!’
Following a visit to Soho’s strip joints, James Manfred, OBE (a sleazy James Cossins, from Fawlty Towers and Doctor Who fame) is attacked by a feral-looking bloke at Russell Square tube station. Finding him collapsed by a stairwell, university student Patricia (Patricia Gurney) and her American boyfriend Alex (David Ladd) alert a local police officer, but when they return to the scene – there’s no sign of the politician.
Assigned to investigate, Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence), takes an instant dislike to the youngsters and continues to question them, then finds himself being warned off the case by a secretive MI5 handler (Christopher Lee). Meanwhile, the assailant (Hugh Armstrong) is revealed to be one of the last surviving members of a family of railway workers who became trapped underground after a cave-in in 1892, and resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. When his female companion dies, ‘The Man’ flies into a rage and kills three maintenance workers – then, when Patricia, finds herself alone on the tube at Holborn Station – he knocks her out and takes her back to his lair. Will she become his next meal – or does he just wants some company?
Writer/Director Gary Sherman has crafted a neat little fright film that belies its exploitation label, for at its dark heart lies a tragic class consciousness love story in which Armstrong brings great sympathy to the grotesque and violent cannibal, who resembles a destitute Jesus meets Rasputin, but with the shuffling gait of Boris Karloff’s drunken mute butler Morgan from James Whales’ Old Dark House. Despite his murderous impulses following the sad death of his partner, you can’t help but pity ‘The Man’ as he is credited in the film; and that’s compounded when he tries and fails to communicate with Patricia using the only words he knows: ‘Mind the doors!’.
Then there’s Donald Pleasence’s fantastic turn as the abrasive, tea-loving, hippie-hating Inspector Calhoun – who loves Queen and country, but despises his upper class MI5 superiors and even more so philandering politicians. He has some great scenes (particular with Heather Stoney’s WPC Alice Marshall and Norman Rossington’s DS Rogers) and gets in some lines like: ‘That’s handy, pop round and see if he’s a nutter!’ and ‘Get ur bloody hair cut!’. Alongside Alfred Marks’ Superintendent Bellaver in 1970’s Scream and Scream Again, Pleasence’s Calhoun most certainly gave rise to the sweary likes of John Thaws’ DI Jack Regan in TV’s The Sweeney a couple of years later.
Cinematographer Alex Thomson (who became Nicolas Roeg’s favourite camera operator) provides the stylishly grim imagery, making atmospheric use of the dark and dingy real life London Underground locations (it was partly filmed at Aldwych). So effective where these scenes that London Underground took offence to the subject matter and banned its advertising on any station platform! Meanwhile, Wil Mallone and Jeremy Rose’s rumbustious soundtrack is another highlight, perfectly capturing the sleazy vibe of Soho’s strip joints, while also chiming with the film’s sadder moments.
Keep an eye out for Keeping Up Appearances‘ Clive Swift as a detective and Christopher Lee (in just one scene) as the suited and booted bureaucrat.
Network’s exclusive UK Blu-ray release, includes the following special features…
• Mind the Doors!: an engaging interview with actor Hugh Armstrong, talking about his life and career
• Theatrical Trailer
• Image Gallery
• PDF Material
• Collector’s booklet
Hailed as one of the greatest tributes a husband has ever paid to his wife, Federico Fellini’s real life partner Giulietta Masina, plays her namesake and delivers a superb performance in Juliet of the Spirits (Giulietta degli Spiriti) – winner of the 1966 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and Fellini’s fantastical first feature-length colour film.
Giulietta is a bored, timid and unfulfilled wife. Suspecting her husband’s infidelity, she enters a surreal journey of self-discovery filled with wild dreams and enchanting fantasies, much of which involve her sexually liberated neighbour Suzy (Sandra Milo). With a whimsical score from Nino Rota, Fellini moves on from neo-realism and defines Felliniesque in this breathtakingly beautiful carnival ride.
This ravishing HD restoration is released in a dual edition from CultFilms, and includes two exclusives: an audio commentary by Kat Ellinger (Diabolique magazine) and Dazzling Spirit, a video essay from author, critic and Oxford Professor Guido Bonsaver.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it became an increasingly common sight to see veteran actors and former Hollywood heavyweights moving into in horror films and obscure independent oddities – including Richard Burton (The Medusa Touch), Kirk Douglas (The Fury), Ray Milland (The Pajama Girl Case), and Fred Astaire (Ghost Story). George C Scott joins them with this Canadian ghost story from 1980 directed by Peter Medak.
Based upon events that the film’s co-writer Russell Hunter claimed he experienced while living in an old mansion in Denver, Colorado in 1969, The Changeling sees Scott as famed composer, John Russell, whose wife and daughter die in a tragic car accident. In a bid to rebuild his life, John rents a big old Victorian mansion in a remote setting, but the peace and quiet he craves is soon disturbed by unexplained noises, an apparition of a drowned boy in a bathtub, and the discovery of an attic room containing a child’s wheelchair…
Convinced there’s a supernatural presence trying to make contact with him, he enlists the help local historian Claire (played by Scott’s real-life wife Trish Van Devere) and holds a séance. What John uncovers is a shocking tale of a sickly young boy called Joseph Carmichael who was killed for his inheritance and replaced with an orphan [no this isn’t a spoiler, btw]. Now a prominent US senator and business tycoon, ‘Joseph’ (Melvyn Douglas, who was also in Ghost Story) donated the house to the local historical society some 12 years ago and has never set foot in it again! But why?
Unlike many of the blood and gore-infused horror films of the era, The Changeling is a much more superior example of the haunted house story. Stephen King and Martin Scorcese are big fans, and love the movie because it’s filled with the kind of suspense and horror where you don’t know exactly what is happening or why. From the outset, when a member of the historical society tells Scott’s John, ‘That house isn’t fit to live in. It doesn’t want people,’ you know you are in for one helluva creepy ride. But the house does want people, especially John, as his loss and his innate empathy with music becomes his connection with the spirit world and to the ghost of the murdered boy who haunts the very essence of the old mansion.
Matching Scott’s brown corduroy attire is the muted palette of winter hues used throughout the proceedings; which only makes the deep red colours on the mansion windows and doors stand out, giving it the appearance of glowing eyes and a demonic grin; while the primary colours and chiaroscuro lighting used for the shadowy interiors provides a sense of the Gothic by way of Roger Corman’s 1960’s Poe films.
Cinematographer John Coquillion is no stranger in getting the best out of his landscapes having lensed Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968) and Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs (1971). In both instances, the Suffolk countryside and a Cornish farmhouse became his nightmarish playground, while here, his camera tracks relentlessly through the claustrophobic environs and over cobweb-covered furniture, resting only for some fear-inducing scenes, including one involving ‘that’ wheelchair, while the noisy plumbing, a hidden well and a little music box also have roles to play.
This is a ghost story best watched alone – with the lights out and features a first-rate performance from Scott, who would encounter even more frightening fare in The Exorcist III in 1990, while director Medak, who had previously worked on British TV (on Space 1999 and The Professionals), would go on to helm the crime thrillers The Krays, Let Him Have It and Romeo is Bleeding, and is now enjoying renewed career success with his very personal documentary The Ghost of Peter Sellers.
There’s also an interesting mix of cameos, including Star Trek’s John Colicos as a police detective, Space 1999’s Barry Morse as a psychic research scientist, Upstairs, Downstairs’ Jean Marsh as Scott’s late wife, and most bizarrely, The Flying Nun’s Madeleine Sherwood as one of the guests at the séance.
Second Sight has released The Changeling in a Limited Edition Blu-ray, with the following excellent special features…
• Brand new 4K scan and restoration
• Limited Edition packaging featuring poster, 40 page booklet and Original Soundtrack CD
• Audio commentary with director Peter Medak and producer Joel B Michaels
• The House on Cheesman Park: The haunting true story of The Changeling
• The Music of The Changeling: Interview with music arranger Kenneth Wannberg
• Building The House of Horror: Interview with art director Reuben Freed
• The Psychotronic Tourist: The Changeling Locations featurette
• Master of Horror Mick Garris on The Changeling
• Trailer & TV Spot
• New English subtitles
Outpost III: Rise of the Spetsnaz (2013) | The Nazi horror is back for another gory testosterone-fuelled adventure
‘CRY HAVOC, LET LOOSE THE DOGS!’
On the Eastern Front during the dying days of World War Two, Sergeant Dolokhov (Bryan Larkin) and his Russian Red Guard raid a Nazi convoy, but are captured and detained in an underground facility, where they discover the Nazis are attempting to create an army of invincible undead soldiers.
Fearing the success of the Lazarus project could turn the tide of the war effort, Dolokhov and fellow soldier Fyodor (Iván Kamarás) try to find a way to escape. But first they must survive becoming the next subjects in the terrifying experiment.
‘DYING ISN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE’
If you like your horror dripping in blood and testosterone, then you’ve certainly come to the right place. I’ve never seen the first two instalments of this Nazi franchise, but the lure of beefy blokes engaging in some brutal bare-knuckle combat with some seriously pumped up zombies, I couldn’t resist.
On the plus side, the production values are pretty good, featuring some cool vintage soldier kit, uniforms, vehicles and armoury and an explosive opening. While the descent into the underground bunker is a genuinely spooky ghost ride. On the minus side, there are few surprises on offer, the dialogue is delivered badly, and the corny humour just doesn’t work in a film that wants to be a tough, brutal horror. The German accents are particularly laughable, while Larkin slips into his native Scottish tongue on more than one occasion.
Despite this – and the fact that the monstrous creations are no more than wrestlers bulging out of their uniforms – the film does exactly what it says on the tin, and kudos especially go to Larkin as the fearless Wolverine-inspired Russian fighter hero. He certainly gets my vote as Man of the Match.
‘Asshole or bullet? In the end you’ll scream just the same’
Take one handsome leading Hollywood actor, add two foxy Broadway hoofers, throw in some hip-grinding jazz sounds and mix it all up in a soufflé of psychosexual angst set against a sleazy New York City nightclub and ‘Hey Presto!’ you’ve got Who Killed Teddy Bear?, which is now getting a worldwide Blu-ray release from Network Distributing in the UK.
From the cheesy theme tune and Saul Bass-inspired title sequence to the shattering climax, this 1965 neo-noir American indie reeks of exploitation. Sal Mineo (of Rebel Without a Cause fame) plays Lawrence, a busboy at a 42nd Street discotheque run by Marian, a fierce-but-fair lesbian (played by the utterly fabulous Elaine Stritch).
Spinning the decks in the dingy club littered with grooving babes and middle-aged men on the make is hostess-cum-DJ Norah (the alluring Juliet Prowse – you might remember her dancing with the Muppets back in the 1970s).
Sexually-frustrated and forced to look after his mentally-challenged sister, Sal Mineo’s chain-smoking Lawrence gets his jollies from making dirty phone calls to Norah in the dead of night in his tight white briefs. Cue lots of heavy breathing and a very frightened young woman.
Enter equally mixed-up cop, Lt Dave Madden (played by US stand-up comic Jan Murray). Madden is determined to put every pervert in New York behind bars and obsessively plays audio tapes of various criminals confessions as his daughter listens from her bedroom (now, that’s just not right!). Madden then sets out to help Norah, but there’s a problem – she thinks he might be the psycho…
I won’t spoil the rest for you, but the gritty Times Square location shots and overt sexualisation of Mineo’s sweaty toned body (check out the slideshow for a taster) makes this curio a must-see. The catchy discotheque numbers, meanwhile, are by Four Seasons’ Bob Gaudio and Al Kasha (who wrote those Maureen McGovern songs in The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno).
Who Killed Teddy Bear is a forgotten neo-noir oddity of American independent cinema that rightly deserves high cult status. Previously available only on DVD, the film has been newly scanned from one of the few surviving 35mm prints in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Missing frames/sections have been re-instated from a 16mm print and the image matched as far as possible but a difference in visual quality may be occasionally noticed. While their are some scenes where print damage is still visible, this new scan is a huge improvement on the 2009 DVD release.
Network Distributing’s Blu-ray (out on 17 September 2018) also carries over the extras from the DVD, including The House Where He Lived, an episode of the 1960s TV series Court Martial, in which Mineo guest stars alongside Anthony Quayle; and 1967 short, LSD: Insight or Insanity, narrated by Mineo, in which some questionable old men in white coats outline the dangers of taking the drug.
Blake’s Seven: 7 Stars Liberated from the Classic TV Series! | Be prepared for six hours of Maximum Power!
It was 40 years ago this year that Terry Nation’s ‘Robin Hood meets The Dirty Dozen‘ sci-fi series Blake’s 7 blasted onto our telly screens and went on to achieve cult status after four series and 52 episodes.
Two years ago, the show’s star Gareth Thomas, who played the titular commander of the rag-tag group of rebels battling the totalitarian Terran Federation, headed off into the cosmos aged 71, and, this week, tributes are pouring in for Jacqueline Pearce (aka the glamorous evil Supreme Commander Servalan), who has also left us, aged 74, after a long battle with cancer.
So it’s weirdly timely that Koch Media have released this 2-disc DVD set compilation from the Doctor Who-centric Myth Makers series of cult TV interviews featuring six cast members, alongside visual effects consultant Mat Irvine.
Recorded over several years, these interviews were conducted by Nicholas Briggs (best known for voicing the Daleks in Doctor Who and heading up Big Finish Productions) and shot in some of the locations used in the series.
Talking about their acting careers, their time on the show and what happened after the series ended are the late Gareth Thomas (shot at Gatton Park and Betchworth Quarry, Surrey in 2003), Jan ‘Cally’ Chappell (filmed at Quex Park, Kent in 2005, which appeared in Bounty), Michael ‘Vila’ Keating (recorded this year at Windspit Quarry in Dorset, which appeared in Games, and was also used in the Doctor Who episode Destiny of the Daleks), Stephen ‘Travis No1’ Greif (shot at the location for Jewel in the New Forest in 2000) and Peter Tuddenham (who voiced Zen, ORAC and Slave), which was recorded in 2003 in Brighton, four years before Peter’s passing in 2007 aged 88.
Although they all are hugely enjoyable (particularly so Pete Tuddenham’s piece, in which he’s interviewed by ORAC, and Mat Irvine’s interview, whose outhouse contains loads of boxes filled with his handmade props from Doctor Who and Blake’s 7), the most entralling offering must be the interview with Jacqueline Pearce.
She holds nothing back as she discusses her highs (sex and drugs) and lows (mental illness), reflects on her time at RADA and in the US, her admiration for Rudolph Nureyev, and reveals what she really felt about Blake’s 7 and sci-fi in general.
Filmed in 2000, this interview captures Jacqueline at her best – exuding the glamour, warmth and vivid charm that made her such a colourful character and won her legions of fans (including myself). Her fascinating recollections would later be included in her unflinching 2012 autobiography From Byfleet to the Bush (which I highly recommend).
Are you ready for six hours of ‘Maximum Power!’?
Blake’s Seven: 7 Stars Liberated from the Classic TV Series! Out of 2-disc DVD now! Available from Amazon