Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 | Six of the best from the iconoclastic British artist collected and restored on Blu-ray
24 years have gone by since his death aged just 52, but the legacy of British filmmaker Derek Jarman (1942-1994) lives on, and his highly personal work has lost none of its relevance or impact. The BFI have now released the first of two deluxe limited edition box sets that bring together six of his feature films on Blu-ray for the first time.
In the Shadow of the Sun (1974), Jarman’s debut abstract short film is comprised of a series of Super 8 films and is provided with a soundtrack from music group Throbbing Gristle. Personally, it was thanks to this film that I started experimenting with my own short films, and turned me into a big fan of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and Coil.
Sebastiane (1976), Jarman’s debut feature film, spoken entirely in Latin and featuring an ambient score from Brian Eno, is an homoerotic account of the life and martyrdom of Saint Sebastiane (Leonardo Treviglio), a Roman soldier who is exiled to a remote outpost where his commanding officer (Barney James) becomes obsessed by him.
Jubilee (1978) | Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported through time from 1578 to 1978 by her astrologer John Dee (Richard O’Brien), where she sees what has become of her once glorious kingdom where law and order has broken down. Adam Ant, Toyah Wilcox and Jordan co-star.
The Tempest (1979) | Jarman creates his own interpretation of Shakespeare’s final play. Abandoned on a remote island by his brother Antonio (Richard Warwick), Prospero (Heathcote Williams), the former Duke of Milan, engineers a shipwreck to bring Ferdinand (David Meyer) the Prince of Naples, and his daughter Miranda (Toyah Wilcox) together in a bid to restore peace between Milan and Naples.
The Angelic Conversation (1985), a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets are read by Judi Dench over atmospheric music by Coil and tableaux images of landscapes and people.
Caravaggio (1986) | A heavily stylised biopic of the Renaissance Italian painter Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) who falls in love with his muse, street thug, Ranuccio Thomasoni (Sean Bean).
Derek Jarman’s first six feature films have all been newly scanned at 2K from original film elements and are presented in this first box set alongside some incredible extras (listed below), all drawn from Jarman’s archive of workbooks and papers held in BFI Special Collections, plus a host of interviews with key cast, crew and friends, which have been exclusively produced for this release.
You can purchase Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 direct from the BFI bookshop or from Amazon and HMV (in the UK).
• Sebastiane: A Work in Progress (1975): newly remastered from 16mm film elements held by the BFI National Archive, this sadly incomplete early black and white work-print differs significantly from the finished film. This previously unseen alternate edit – assembled in a different order, featuring a different soundtrack – was never subtitled or released
• The Making of Sebastiane (Derek Jarman & Hugh Smith, 1975): previously unseen Super 8 footage shot on location in Sardinia
• Jazz Calendar (1968): a rarely screened documentary record of the 1968 ballet by Frederick Ashton, performed by The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, for which Jarman designed sets and costumes
• Sloane Square: A Room of One’s Own (1974-76)
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers Sebastiane (2018)
• Message from the Temple (1981)
• TG: Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981)
• Pirate Tape (WS Burroughs Film) (1982)
• Toyah Willcox: Being Mad (2014)
• Jordan remembers Jubilee (2018)
• Lee Drysdale remembers Jubilee (2018)
• Stormy Weather: the Magic Behind The Tempest (2016): Toyah Willcox and Stuart Hopps share their memories of working on The Tempest
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers The Tempest (2018)
• Don Boyd remembers The Tempest (2018)
• A Meeting of Minds: Christopher Hobbs on collaborating with Derek Jarman (2018)
• Fragments of Memory: Christopher Hobbs on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
• To the Cliffs: James Mackay on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
• Derek Jarman: The Films that Never Were (2018): A look back on unrealised Derek Jarman features, including Egyptian period drama Akhenaten and science fiction horror Neutron
• Akhenaten Image Gallery & Neutron storyboards
• Audio commentary for Caravaggio by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain
• Caravaggio in Docklands (1985)
• Kind Blasphemy: Nigel Terry on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Tilda Swinton on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Italy of the Memory: Christopher Hobbs on Caravaggio (2007)
• Dexter Fletcher on Caravaggio (2014)
• Christopher Hobbs remembers Caravaggio (2018)
• Derek Jarman interviewed by Derek Malcolm (1986, audio only)
• In the Studio: Caravaggio soundtrack recording sessions (1986, audio only)
• Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio notebook (Gallery)
• Five galleries featuring storyboards, production designs and Jarman’s notes on Caravaggio
• Image galleries
• Original theatrical trailers for The Angelic Conversation and Caravaggio
• 80-page collector’s book
Here’s the specially commissioned poster artwork by Graham Humphreys, aka Britain’s Quadfather, to accompany the new 4k restoration release of James Whale’s chilling 1932 classic The Old Dark House, which will get a nationwide cinema release in the UK & Ireland.
This atmospheric thriller, which adapts novel Benighted into a nerve-jangling tale that became the template for all spooky-house chillers to come, features an unforgettable post-Frankenstein horror role for Boris Karloff, as the hulking, disfigured butler Morgan. Also starring in early-career roles are Melvin Douglas, Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey and Gloria Stuart.
The Old Dark House lands in selected cinemas in the UK & Ireland on 27 April ahead of its dual format release on 21 May as part of Eureka!’s Masters of Cinema Series.
In the meantime, enjoy the brand-new trailer.
One of my favourite TV events growing up in the 1970s was Frankenstein: The True Story, the two-part tele-movie in which novelist Christopher Isherwood (and his artist partner Don Barchardy) put their own stamp on Mary Shelley’s Gothic creation. Lavishly shot in the UK, it featured a stunning cast, including James Mason, Jane Seymour, David McCallum and Leonard Whiting. Newcomer Michael Sarrazin played the Creature as we had never seen before – as a beautiful young man who is rejected by his creator when he starts to deteriorate before our very eyes…
When Second Sight brought out the original 176-minute cut on DVD in the UK back in 2014, I wrote a long post about this must-see modern classic – which got its biggest accolade recently when Guillermo del Toro revealed just how inspiring this take on the Frankenstein tale was for him personally.
Last year, however, an entire issue of Little Shoppe of Horrors (No38), guest edited by US producer/director Sam Irvin, covered every single aspect of the production – from conception to release. When I got hold of a copy a couple of months back, I poured over every page and read it about five or six times, taking it wherever I went… I’m now looking to get a second copy as I’ve worn the pages out on this one.
Entitled The Epic Untold Saga Behind Frankenstein: The True Story, this special issue of LSOH is a must-have as it is the last word on the production, as well as a revealing 50,000-word exposé on movie making in the 1970s – it also features a covetable cover from Mark Maddox.
Now, I had never heard of producer Hunt Stromberg Jr before (even though he worked on my favourite TV show, Lost in Space), but after reading Sam’s in-depth feature, I now have enormous respect for the guy who put his heart and soul, and blood, sweat and tears into bringing his creation to life.
Among the other tantalising chapters there’s interviews with many of the actors, including Leonard Whiting, Jane Seymour, David McCallum, Nicola Pagett and Julian Barnes, as well as David Boyce (aka the thug who ended up on the cutting room floor); and a great little piece by James Mason’s grandson, James Duke Mason.
There’s also informative features on Gil Mellé’s score and the various edits, and some interesting interviews with Ian Lewis (Associate Producer) and John Stoneman (First Assistant Director), and director Jack Smith’s son. Reading these recollections is like being put in a time machine and being sent back to the summer of 1971, when the film was being made, and Sam has certainly done his homework on the nitty gritty of the production – and then some.
Having read the Avon novelisation countless times myself, a huge plus was the inclusion of the missing pages (which I have now photocopied and inserted into my copy of the paperback tie-in), while Sam’s analysis of Isherwood and Bachardy’s screenplay sheds revealing light on just how they fused elements of their own selves into the major characters.
Sam’s must-read issue of Little Shoppe of Horrors is up for a Rondo (the Oscars of the Classic Horror community) and I do wish him luck, as well as all the other nominees who have been doing some amazing work within the genre over the past year.
If you’d like to cast your vote, please note it closes Sunday 8 April at 12midnight, so act fast: https://rondoaward.com/rondoaward.com/blog/
UK fans can order a copy of Little Shoppe of Horrors (No38) through…
FAB Press: http://www.fabpress.com/little-shoppe-of-horrors-no-38.html
Hemlock Books: http://www.hemlockbooks.co.uk/Shop/category/4
If you are in the US, you can get it here: http://www.littleshoppeofhorrors.com/
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981) | The Technicolor comic-strip adventure blasts off in HD
The year is 1987, and NASA launches the last of America’s deep space probes.
In a freak mishap, Ranger 3 and its pilot, Captain William Buck Rogers,
are blown out of their trajectory into an orbit which freezes his life-support systems,
and returns Buck Rogers to Earth, 500 years later…
Following the success of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica, US TV producer Glen A Larson turned his attention to the iconic American comic-strip character Buck Rogers, which he developed into a big-budget TV series for Universal.
Actor Gil Gerard was handpicked by Larson to play Buck (now an astronaut instead of a World War One dirigible pilot), but Gerard only accepted the role after changes were made to make the character more human than hero, but with a witty sense of humour (which Gerard often improvised).
Assisting the hairy-chested Bond-esque hero in his ‘Dynasty meets The Love Boat in space’ adventures were Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gary), her boss Dr Elias Huer (Tim O’Connor), friendly robot Twiki (played by Felix Silla and voiced by the legendary Mel Blanc), and sentient computer, Dr Theopolis (voiced by Eric Server).
The show ran for two seasons from 1979-1981, earning itself a legion of fans and even caused the ratings for Doctor Who in the UK to plummet.
The first season saw Buck assisting Earth’s Defence Directorate with a range of external threats, which saw a host of guest stars (including a few from the 1960s Batman series) playing either that week’s villain or someone in need of Buck’s help (see them all below).
The second season found Buck, Wilma and Twiki joining an intergalactic mission to seek out the lost ‘tribes’ of humanity. Set aboard The Destroyer, they were joined by Admiral Efram Asimov (Jay Garner), scientist Dr Goodfellow (Wilfrid Hyde-White), alien Hawk (Thom Christopher) and prissy robot Crichton (voiced by Jeff David).
Following a stunning HD ‘Twiki’, the Technicolor disco-era sci-fi adventure is back and it looks and sounds better than ever. Boasting impressive sets and special effects (the spaceships, matt paintings and stargates all echoing the show’s comic book origins), and lots of big-hair, slinky outfits and sparkling lipgloss, as well as a great theme tune, this is one cult TV series that deserves a revisit. Let the adventures begin anew…
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is available on Blu-ray in the UK from Fabulous Films
DISC-BY-DISC EPISODE GUIDE
• Awakening: Awoken in the year 2491, Buck goes on trial, accused by being in league with Draconian Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) and her henchman Kane (Henry Silva). The feature-length opener was helmed by Daniel Haller, the former art director of the Corman-Price-Poe films.
• Planet of the Slave Girls: Jack Palance chews the scenery as a Messianic slave trader plotting to invade the Earth. This feature-length episode also has Buster Crabbe (aka the original Buck Rogers from the 1930s serials) making a cameo, as well as Roddy (Batman‘s Bookworm) McDowall and McDonald Carey (These Are The Damned).
• Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Theatrical version of the pilot episode in Standard Definition.
• Vegas in Space: A notorious smuggler (Cesar Romero, aka Batman‘s The Joker) seeks help in rescuing his ‘daughter’ from a crime boss (Richard Lynch).
• The Plot to Kill a City: Frank Gorshin (Batman‘s The Riddler) guests as the leader of a group of terrorists with unique abilities trying to sabotage New Chicago’s anti-matter power plant. Watch out for Anthony James (aka The Chauffeur in Burnt Offerings) as the deformed Varek.
• The Return of the Fighting 69th: A gang of oldies (led by Peter Graves) set out to stop the vengeful Corliss (Robert Quarry) from releasing a nerve gas.
• Unchained Woman: Buck springs a female inmate (Jamie Lee Curtis) from a penal colony, only to encounter a malfunctioning android prison guard.
• Planet of the Amazon Women: Jay Robinson (aka Dr Shrinker) guests a slave trader who auctions male prisoners off to the female population of the planet Xantia.
• Cosmic Wiz Kid: Gary ‘What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?’ Coleman plays Hieronymous Fox, a child super-genius who gets kidnapped by Ray ‘Uncle Martin’ Walston.
• Escape from Wedded Bliss: Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) and her cronies, Tigerman (HB Haggerty) and Kane (now played by Michael Ansara) return with an alien weapon.
• Cruise Ship to the Stars: A beauty queen (Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten) is targeted by a transmute (Kimberly Beck and Trisha Boble) who is plotting to sell her genetics on the black market. Watch out for Return of the Fly‘s Brett Halsey as the Cruise Ship Captain. Tragically, Stratten was murdered eight months after this episode aired.
• Space Vampire: Buck and Wilma encounter a freighter crew infected by a mysterious virus. This week’s guest stars included Christopher Stone (aka Jaime Somers’ love interest in The Bionic Woman).
• Happy Birthday, Buck: Dr Huer finds an assassin is out to get him, while Buck turns bodyguard for a psychic (Dallas‘ Morgan Brittany). Blackploitation star Tamara ‘Cleopatra’ Dobson also guest stars.
• A Blast for Buck: Theo tries to solve a riddle in this clip show, which sees Gary Coleman back as Hieronymous Fox.
• Ardala Returns: The pesky princess and Kane create a clone of Buck.
• Twiki is Missing: John P Ryan (It’s Alive, Class of 1999) guests as a mining operator who sends out his psychic enforcers (including Dr Strange‘s Eddie Benton) to steal Twiki.
• Olympiad: US soap star Judith Chapman seeks Buck’s help to help her boyfriend defect from his repressive home world. This patriotic episode also guest starred Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ Paul Mantee.
• A Dream of Jennifer: A host of familiar names crop in this episode in which Buck is lured into a trap set by the warring Kovens, including Mary Woronov, Paul Koslo, Anne Lockhart and even Dennis Haysbert (who would go onto play an assortment of roles on the show).
• Space Rockers: Mind-altering music frequencies from popular band Andromeda are used to cause the galaxy’s youth to riot. Broadway star Jerry Orbach is the guest villain, and the funky song causing all the chaos was composed by Johnny Harris.
• Buck’s Duel to the Death: A ruthless warlord with a cybernetic implant (exploitation actor William Smith) challenges Buck.
• Flight of the War Witch: Princess Ardala is forced to help Buck go to the aid of the Pendarans, who are being ruled by an enemy race, the Zaads. Batman’s Julie Newmar is the War Witch, while other guest stars include Sam Jaffe, Vera Miles and Sid Haig. Available in two parts and as a feature-length episode.
• Time of the Hawk: Season Two sees Buck, Wilma and Twiki join the crew of The Searcher and provides a great introduction for new character, Hawk: a part-human/part-bird alien with links to Easter Island.
• Journey to the Oasis: This two-parter sees Star Trek‘s Mark Lenard guest starring as Wilma’s former love interest and an ambassador that The Searcher escorts to a peace conference.
• The Guardians: Buck must fulfill his promise to a dying man in taking a cursed box to its new keeper (Harry Townes). The Outer Limits‘ Control Voice Vic Perrin plays the original Guardian, Star Trek‘s BarBara Luna is Koori and Buck’s mum is The Partridge Family‘s Rosemary DeCamp.
• Mark of the Saurian: Reptilian beings in human form give Buck nightmares. The Leech Woman‘s Kim Hamilton and Coffy‘s Barry Cahill guest star.
• The Golden Man: An alien with molecular-altering powers is sought out in a bid to save the Searcher from being destroyed. Dukes of Hazzard‘s Bruce M Fischer, voice actor Roger Rose and Anthony James guest star.
• The Crystals: Amanda Wyss (A Nightmare on Elm Street) plays a young girl on the planet Philoctetes is discovered to have a genetic link with a marauding mummy.
• The Satyr: Buck starts turning into a mythological creature while searching for lost colonists on the planet Arcadis. This episode scored the show’s only Emmy (for Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition) and was directed by Victor French (from Little House on the Prairie fame).
• Shgoratchx! Seven dwarves with telekinetic powers cause trouble and strife for the Searcher crew. Terror of Tiny Town‘s Billy Curtis and future Ewok Tony Cox guest star.
• The Hand of Goral: Buck, Hawk and Wilma find themselves on board a duplicate of the Searcher.
• Testimony of a Traitor: William Sylvester (Devil Doll, 2001: A Space Odyssey) guests as Buck goes on trial for high treason.
• The Dorian Secret: A Dorian warship threatens to destroy the Searcher unless a woman hiding a deadly secret be handed over to them. This was the final episode of the series.
• Journey to Oasis: This is the two-part syndicated version of another Daniel Haller-directed episode.
When a big black car roaming the desert highways of the American south-west terrorises the residents of Santa Ynez and knocks down and kills the local sheriff, it’s down to police captain Wade Parent (James Brolin) to stop the diabolic driverless car. But can Wade come up with a plan before it picks off more innocent lives, including those of his young family and schoolteacher girlfriend?
1982’s Christine is often seen as the cinema’s definitive demon-car movie, but I have real soft spot for 1977’s The Car – which I revisited last night after reading the review in Son of Unsung Horrors.
The cinema poster for this much-rided 1977 horror thriller asked patrons: ‘Is it a phantom, a demon, or the Devil Himself?’ Actually, it was just a big black car mowing down anyone in its path and kicking up lots of dust before turning into a fireball with a cartoon demon face appearing in the smoke.
With Jaws, Duel and The Exorcist all box-office hits in the 1970s, it must have looked like a great idea to fuse them altogether, with the Utah desert and a Lincoln Continental Mark III standing in for the ocean and a shark, plus some added spooky stuff and some rubber burning. Director Elliot Silverstein, who is better known for the 1965 comedy western Cat Ballou, keeps everyone straight-faced, despite the hokum concept, until the spectacular fireball finale.
Along the way, there’s some domestic drama to get lost in. Brolin (aka Mr Barbra Streisand) has to step up when his superior is mowed down. His girlfriend (Kathleen Lloyd – whatever happened to her?) is the local schoolteacher who succeeds in seeing off the car after it closes in on a party of schoolkids (including sisters Kim and Kyle Richards, who I remember from Nanny and the Professor and Disney’s Witch Mountain films, but who later found reality TV fame as the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills). Meanwhile, the always dependable Ronny ‘RoboCop‘ Cox is the alcoholic local deputy who falls off the wagon when the car rolls in.
John Landis calls the film ‘dumb but fun’, while Guillermo del Toro actually owns a replica of the car that was designed by the legendary George Barris, who also did the Batmobile for the 1966s TV series. With its stunning Panavision desert-scapes, a Planet of the Apes-inspired Leonard Rosenman score, featuring a reworked, orchestral version of the Dies irae Gregorian chant, and it even has a credit to Anton LeVey – how can you not love this Jaws on land offering? Well I certainly do, I even own the highly collectable paperback tie-in.
My copy of the The Car is the excellent 2013 Arrow Video Blu-ray release featuring a HD restoration, which comes with the following special features…
• Audio commentary with director Elliot Silverstein
• Making a Mechanical Monster featurette with special effects artist William Alridge
• Hitchhike to Hell featurette with actor/victim John Rubinstein
• Trailer commentary by John Landis
• Original Trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring artwork by Joe Wilson
• Collector’s booklet and an Easter Egg
Son of Unsung Horrors | Rediscovering the neglected genre films of yesterday has never been so much fun!
Just when you thought your bookshelf was safe comes Son of Unsung Horrors, a brand new exploration of some 200 neglected, overlooked, and seemingly under-appreciated genre films from the silents to the 1970s.
Gorgeously illustrated with vintage photos, lobby cards and posters and boasting a Foreward from John Landis and covetable cover art by Paul Garner, this 400-page tome joins Unsung Horrors and the über-collectable 70s Monster Memories as another must-have from We Belong Dead maestro Eric McNaughton.
Each film has been selected, appraised and held aloft by a host of film fans (from newbie writers to bloggers and published authors) and there are gems galore just waiting for your to rediscover.
Although listed in alphabetical order at the end of the book, Eric and co-editor extraordinaire Darrell Buxton have placed the titles at random. This ends up working to the book’s advantage – as you never know what fantastic find is lurking over the page.
Having seen quite a few of the titles myself, I immediately checked out all of the unfamiliar ones first – and there are some real doozies. There’s the suave Paul Naschy giallo Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll; the spellbinding Book of Stone (remade in 2009 as El Libro de Piedra); and the DH Lawrence-inspired Corruption of Chris Miller, which all hail from Spain.
Over in Italy, meanwhile, there’s the Copenhagen-set film noir Crimes of the Black Cat; the Franco Nero giallo The Fifth Cord, which teases a pulsating Morricone beat; and the Bergmanesque chiller The Long Night of the Veronique; plus there’s some other tasty Euro entries, including the oddball Death Laid an Egg and Jean Rollin’s Normandy-set love letter to expressionism Demoniacs.
Well-researched and written up with passion and style, these entries really got me very excited to seek them out. The same goes with the chapters about Jean Epstein’s 1928 classic La Chute de la Maison Usher and the Tower of the Seven Hunchbacks, a 1940’s comedy thriller with elements of Dali, Buñuel and Fritz Lang (now that I have to see).
Further afield, some Japanese flicks certainly piqued my interest, including the euro guro Horrors of Malformed Men (which I’ve known about – because of a single lurid photo in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, but never actually seen), the spectral spookfest Ghost Story of Kasane Swamp, and the freakish curiosity Blind Beast, based on a story by mystery writer Taro Hirai (aka Japan’s Edgar Allan Poe, Edogawa Rampo).
A little closer to home, 1928’s Maria Marten maybe impossible to see – but the history behind the true crime makes for fascinating reading. Then there’s the 1940s British suspensers The Ghost of Rashmon Hall and Crimes at the Dark House, the latter featuring Tod Slaughter at his madest, which I shall be checking out soon.
Of course, there are a few titles I won’t be in any rush to see (sorry, I’m not going to vent here), but there are some I’m now tracking down: namely the 1971 man versus insects docu-drama The Hellstrom Chronicle and the formerly-banned British public information film The Finishing Line, which puts a dystopian spin on a school sports day.
But the Unsung Horror that gets my vote as the book’s stand-out gem goes to the 1970 British thriller, I Start Counting, starring Jenny Agutter (in one of her first movie roles) as a 14-year-old girl who develops an unhealthy interest in a series of local sex killings. Boasting a terrific score from Basil Kirchin (I’ve since bought the Johnny Trunk album re-relase), I’ve got this one on the top of my list to seek out (see the link below).
Now, I’ve since gone back to the start of the book to read all those titles that I’m more familar with, and some have reignited my love for some genre classics, including Phase IV, The Power and – yes, Vincent Price’s Madhouse. Oh and talking of Vinnie, I’ve also contributed a chapter on the first cinematic adaptation of a HP Lovecraft story, 1964’s The Haunted Palace.
For your perusual, I have included a list of every film covered in the book below, plus links to the titles currently available to view on YouTube (although I do stress that to see them in all their glory to hunt down their officially licensed home entertainment release).
If you fancy reading my takes on some of these titles, then just click on the READ MORE links.
Island of Terror
From Lionsgate UK comes 1987’s The Gate, as part of their ongoing Vestron Collector’s Series, restored and remastered on Blu-ray.
While their parents are away for a long weekend, break 16-year-old Al (Christa Denton) and 12-year-old Glen (Stephen Dorff) have free reign of their suburban home. But it soon turns into a supernatural battleground when Glen and his best friend Terry (Louis Tripp) unwittingly unleash demonic forces from a large hole in the backyard…
Though not much happens in the first half hour of this Poltergeist meets Home Alone offering, things really liven up when an army of pint-size trolls begin to start crawling out from ‘the other side’.
What The Gate lacks in originality, it certainly makes up for it with its ‘wink and a smile’ fan-boy approach that plays fast and furious with some classic horror tropes like the ‘monster in the closet’ and the ‘thing under the bed’, while also chucking in a great gag involving the lyrics of heavy metal records being linked to black magic and satanism.
The practical special effects may have some rough edges, but they still look terrific: especially the ankle-sized demons (a winning combination of forced perspective and people in full rubber suits), and the climactic sequence in which Glen, armed with a toy rocket, takes on the film’s gigantic HP Lovecraft-inspired serpentine demon.
So sit back and prepare to channel your 12-year-old self once again with this gleefully ghoulish fun-ride.
• Audio commentary with director Tibor Takacs, writer Michael Nankin, and sfx designer/supervisor Randall William Cook
• Audio commentary with the sfx crew, including Randall William Cook, Craig Reardon, Frank Carere and Bill Taylor
• Isolated Score and audio interview with composers Michael Hoenig and J Peter Robinson
• Eight new and archival behind-the-scenes featurettes with the cast and crew
• Trailers & TV Spot
WATCH IT ON THE BIG SCREEN: Lionsgate UK’s free screenings at the Monday Film Club at The Alibi in Dalston, East London finish tonight (26 March) with The Gate. Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/events/178367812773304/
The Gate copyright: Programme Content and Photography: ©1986 The Gate Film Productions Inc. all Rights Reserved. Package Design: © 2018 Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK. All Rights Reserved.
From Lionsgate UK comes 1997’s Wishmaster, as part of the Vestron Collector’s Series, restored and remastered on Blu-ray.
In 1127 Persia, a demonic genie (Andrew Divoff) is trapped inside a fire opal by a quick-thinking sorcerer before he can unleash his evil on the land. In present day America, the opal finds its way into the hands of an antique appraiser, Alex (Tammy Lauren), who has strange visions while handling the gem.
Seeking answers, Alex hands it over to her best friend Josh (Tony Crane) to analyse. But when the gem explodes, the evil djinn is released and tricks Josh into wishing for a ‘fatal’ end to his pain. Taking on human form, the djinn begins granting wishes in exchange for souls, while seeking out Alex who becomes the instrument of his evil plans…
Presented by horror maestro Wes Craven and produced by Pierre David (Scanners), Wishmaster was one of those 1990’s titles that I missed first time round. But now that it’s undergone a re-master, I thought it high time to check it out. And it’s not as bad as I expected.
Peter Atkins, the screenwriter of the first two Hellraiser sequels, crafts a pleasing slice of horror hokum with the genuinely engaging Lauren (The Young and the Restless) in the hot seat as the fearless female protagonist. Atkins also provides some delicious dialogue for Divoff’s camp Pinhead meets Freddy Krueger creation to hiss under the mountain of prosthetics (to me, he looks slightly reminiscent of Tim Curry’s Lord of Darkness in Legend).
Fantasy fiction fans will have a field day recognising the surnames of some of the characters (including ‘Charles’ Beaumont and ‘August’ Derleth), while the cameos from some icons of the horror genre are the real reason to check this title out. Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Tony Todd (Candyman) and Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees) all get the tables turned on them with some inventive death scenes; Phantasm’s Reggie Bannister pops up as a pharmacist, while Angus Scrimm narrates; and there are also turns from Ted Raimi (Evil Dead), John Carpenter favourite George ‘Buck’ Flower as a drunken bum (of course), Verne Toyer (as a mini djinn), sfx guru Tom Savini and the film’s director Robert Kurtzman.
Wishmaster did reasonable business on its release, despite some critical drubbing, and the character rose again for three sequels – but they turned out to be a textbook case of ‘the law of diminishing returns’. Even the versatile Divoff ditched the character after the first sequel (though he did end up playing a similar role in 2000, playing Mephistopheles in Brian Yuzna’s Faust: Love of the Damned). But do check this one out – especially as there’s a drinking game just waiting to happen with that hit list of horror cameos.
Order from Amazon
• Audio commentary with director Robert Kurtzman and screenwriter Peter Atkins
• Audio commentary with actors Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren and Robert Kurtzman
• Isolated score selections and audio interview with composer Harry Manfredini
• Out of the Bottle: Interviews with Robert Kurtzman and co-producer David Tripet
• The Magic Words: Interview with screenwriter Peter Atkins
• The Djinn and Alexandra: Interviews with Andrew Divoff and Tammy Lauren
• Captured Visions: Interview with director of photography Jacques Haitkin
• Wish List: Interviews with Robert Englund, Kane Hodder, and Ted Raimi
• Trailers, TV & Radio Spots
• Archive ‘Making Of’ featurette & EPK
• Behind-the-scenes footage compilation
SEE THE FILM ON THE BIG SCREE: Throughout March, Lionsgate UK are taking over the weekly, free entry Monday Film Club at The Alibi in Dalston, East London, with Wishmaster being screened on Monday 19 March. Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1633296950113773/
Wishmaster copyright: Programme Content and Photography: © 1997 Artisan Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved. Package Design: ©2018 Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK. All Rights Reserved.
1960’s Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (aka Never Take Candy from a Stranger in the US) was one of Hammer’s bravest ventures: an earnest precautionary tale with its intentions in the right place that never really got a chance on its original release. But its now ripe for rediscovery as it joins Indicator’s second volume of Hammer classics: Criminal Intent.
Adapted from a 1953 play, The Pony Cart, by Roger Garris, it follows a British family settling into a small Canadian town where the father, Peter Cater (Patrick Allen) has been appointed the new school principal. When daughter Jean (Janina Faye) claims that the town’s respected patriarch, Clarence Olderberry Sr (Felix Aylmer), offered her and her friend Lucille (Frances Green) sweets in exchange to seeing them naked, Jean’s horrified mother Sally (Gwen Watford) demands an investigation. But the ensuing trial sees Jean coming under some brutal cross-examining and the elderly Olderberry being found not guilty… a verdict that results in murder!
Hammer’s social drama boasts great turns from Allen and Watford as the concerned parents, while Janina Faye gives a career-best performance as Jean (in a role that she also played on the West End). As the elderly paedophile, knighted stage and screen actor Felix Aylmer must be one of Hammer’s most chilling monsters (with or without makeup), and the fact he never utters a word only makes his performance all the more unnerving – as you never know what’s really going inside his sick mind.
Cinematographer Freddie Francis adds a touch of cinéma vérité to the nerve-wracking courtroom sequences, which were all shot in a single take at Bray Studios, and he makes atmospheric use of some of Hammer’s favourite locations – Oakley Court (standing in for a sanatorium) and Black Park, as well as Burnham Beeches and a housing estate in Slough. The suspenseful score is from idiosyncratic composer Elisabeth Luytens, while director Frankel brings a tremendous amount of suspense to the proceedings (he would later helm Hammer’s The Witches in 1966).
Hammer purposely plays down the sensationalism to craft an insightful message movie which explores both predatory behaviour and how power and privilege can shield dangerous people from proper justice. Applauded by critics of the day, the film was quite ground-breaking – especially as child sexual abuse was still a taboo subject. But the film was denied a certificate that would have allowed children to see it, as it was deemed too upsetting. Even the film’s star Janina Faye did not see her fine performance for many years. While promoted as a warning for parents, the film was not a commercial success and quickly disappeared – becoming one of Hammer’s most elusive titles in their back catalogue.
Watching it afresh, it is a stark and impressive piece of cinema that continues to send a chill down the spine with its authentic exploration of a very real grim subject that refuses to go away. Brave, intelligent and way ahead of its time – this is Hammer at its most sincere.
• HD restoration with original mono audio and new improved English subtitles.
• Two presentations: Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (UK); and Never Take Candy from a Stranger (US).
• New documentary: Conspiracy Theories: Inside Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (The film’s background and production are retraced by Indicator’s stable of Hammer experts, plus there’s some great archive audio interview excerpts from director Frankel).
• Appreciation of Gwen Watford by British cinema expert Dr Laura Mayne.
• An interview with Janina Faye, who looks back over her career with Hammer and recalls her role in the film.
• The Perfect Horror Chord: David Huckvale explores composer Elisabeth Lutyens’ ‘eerie weirdy’ musical compositions for Hammer (if you are musically inclined, this is a must).
• Actor and film-maker Matthew Holness explores the film’s message, intentions, cast and crew.
• Trailers From Hell commentary with Brian Trenchard-Smith, who succinctly does the same.
• Advertising and Publicity Gallery
• Press Material
• Exclusive booklet
Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (1960) can be found on Indicator’s Limited Edition Box Set, Hammer Volume Two: Criminal Intent, which includes three other classic thrillers from the vaults of Hammer Films (all world Blu-ray premieres): The Snorkel (1958), The Full Treatment (1961) and Cash on Demand (1961) .
The Lair of the White Worm (1988) | Ken Russell’s wild take on Bram Stoker’s novel uncoils on Blu-ray
From Lionsgate UK comes The Lair of the White Worm, as part of their ongoing Vestron Collector’s Series, restored and remastered on Blu-ray.
Scottish archaeologist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) unearths an unusual animal skull while digging in the garden of a Derbyshire B&B run by his girlfriend Mary (Sammi Davis) and her sister Eve (Catherine Oxenberg).
Could it be linked to the local legend of a worm-like dragon (the Lambton Worm), which was said to have been slain by a distant relative of the current Lord of the Manor, James D’Ampton (Hugh Grant)? Could it have something to do with the disappearance of the girls parents many years beforehand? And why does the strangely alluring Lady (Amanda Donohoe) steal it?
As our our Scooby gang investigate, they unwittingly uncoil a centuries old mystery involving a pagan cult and human sacrifice…
Mercurial director Ken Russell treads a fine line between titillation and terror in this, his wildly OTT tongue-in-cheek adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1911 gothic novel. Amanda Donohoe camps it up big time as the very wicked Lady Silvia Marsh, a country-house aristocrat who enjoys worshipping a snake God and fanging the locals while wearing next to nothing. A shaggy-haired Peter Capaldi (who has since earned himself iconic status playing a certain Time Lord) gets an hilarious scene warding off a bloodsucking copper with a pair of bagpipes, while a fit looking Hugh Grant (fresh off the Edwardian gay love story Maurice) plays it typically posh and daft.
Russell’s schoolboy humour might be a tad lame, but his shocking visual asides at Catholicism (nuns and dildos) are wonderfully irreverent, and the practical special effects are an inventive highlight. Donohoe’s tight-fitting costumes are also a seductive treat and the chilly location shoots that include the Peak District and Manifold Valley in Staffordshire are gorgeously lensed. Stoker purists, however, will probably be greatly offended.
• Audio commentaries with director Ken Russell and Lisi Russell
• Worm Food: Special effects artists Geoffrey Portass, Neil Gorton and Paul Jones (who were all 18 or 19 at the time) talk about their experiences working on the film
• Cutting for Ken: interview with editor Peter Davies
• Trailers From Hell featuring producer Dan Ireland
• Mary, Mary: interview with actress Sammi Davis
• Theatrical Trailer
• Still Gallery
NEWS JUST IN: Throughout March, Lionsgate UK are taking over the weekly, free entry Monday Film Club at The Alibi in Dalston, East London, with The Lair of the White Worm being screened on Monday 12 March. Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/events/802548666603104/
Lair of the White Worm copyright: Programme Content and Photography: © 1988 Vestron Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved. Package Design: © 2018 Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK. All Rights Reserved.