Author Archives: Peter Fuller

Hammer Volume Four: Faces of Fear | Four classic chillers arrive on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK

Four classic Hammer chillers arrive on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK from Indicator: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll (1960), Taste of Fear (1961) and The Damned (1962). Accompanied by a wealth of new and archival extras – including exclusive new documentaries, audio commentaries, alternative versions, new and archival cast and crew interviews, a series of appreciations of their female stars, analyses of their composers’ scores, and extensive booklets – this stunning limited edition box set is strictly limited to 6,000 units. Out on 25 November 2019. Expect some individual reviews very soon.

THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958)
• New 4K restoration
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with film historians Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby (2019)
• Audio commentary with authors Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (2019)
Back from the Dead: Inside The Revenge of Frankenstein (2019, 22 mins): new documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Eunice Gayson (2019, 8 mins): actress profile film historian Pamela Hutchinson
A Frankenstein for the 20th Century (2019, 27 mins): video essay by film historian Kat Ellinger and Dima Ballin
Arpeggios of Melancholy (2019, 13 mins): appreciation of composer Leonard Salzedo’s score by David Huckvale
• Outtakes reel (1958, 12 mins, mute): rare, unseen on-set footage
• Super 8 version (8 mins, b&w, mute): cut-down home cinema presentation
• Original theatrical trailer
• Joe Dante trailer commentary (2013, 2 mins)
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet with essays the film, Hammer’s unrealised Tales of Frankenstein TV series, plus promotional materials and film credits

THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (1960)
• High Definition re-master
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with film historians Josephine Botting and Jonathan Rigby (2019)
• Identity Crisis: Inside The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (2019, 19 mins): documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Dawn Addams (2019, 11 mins): actress profile by British cinema expert Laura Mayne
• Interview with Paul Massie (1967, 10 mins): archival audio recording
Now and Then: Wolf Mankowitz (1968, 28 mins): archival interview
Mauve Decadence (2019, 11 mins): appreciation of composer Monty Norman’s score by David Huckvale
The Many Faces of Dr. Jekyll (2019, 7 mins): an overview of the film’s censorship history
• Original theatrical trailer
• Sam Hamm trailer commentary (2013, 3 mins): short critical appreciation
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet with essays, promotional materials, reviews, and film credits

TASTE OF FEAR (1961)
• High Definition re-master
• Original mono audio
• Two presentations of the film: Taste of Fear, with the rarely seen original UK title sequence, and Scream of Fear, with the alternative US titles
• Audio commentary with Kevin Lyons
Body Horror: Inside Taste of Fear (2019, 23 mins): documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Ann Todd (2019, 12 mins): actress profile by Melanie Williams
• The BFI Southbank Interview with Jimmy Sangster (2008, 68 mins): archival audio recording
• The BEHP Video Interview with Jimmy Sangster (2008, 117 mins): archival video recording
• The BEHP Interview with Douglas Slocombe, Part Two: From Hammer to Spielberg (1988, 82 mins): archival audio recording
Fear Makers (2019, 9 mins): interviews with camera operator Desmond Davis and assistant sound editor John Crome
Anxiety and Terror (2019, 25 mins): appreciation of Clifton Parker’s score by David Huckvale
• Super 8 version of Scream of Fear (20 mins): original cut-down home cinema presentation
• Original US theatrical trailer
• Sam Hamm trailer commentary (2013, 2 mins): short critical appreciation
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet with essays, an archival on-set report, promotional materials, reviews, and film credits

THE DAMNED (1962)
• 2K restoration
• Original mono audio
• Alternative presentations of the complete 96-minute version, playable as either The Damned or These Are the Damned
• Box-set exclusive presentation of the rarely seen original 87-minute UK theatrical cut of The Damned
• Audio commentary with film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan
On the Brink: Inside The Damned (2019, 27 mins): documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons, Nick Riddle and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Viveca Lindfors (2019, 15 mins): profile by film historian Lindsay Hallam
Looking in the Right Place (2019, 10 mins): actor Shirley Anne Field on working with Oliver Reed and Joseph Losey
Children of The Damned (2019, 24 mins): interview with David Palmer, Kit Williams and Christopher Witty
Something Out of Nothing (2019, 7 mins): interview with screenwriter Evan Jones
Smoke Screen (2019, 12 mins): interview with camera operator Anthony Heller
Beneath the Surface (2019, 26 mins): interview with filmmaker Gavrik Losey, son of director Joseph Losey
Beyond Black Leather (2019, 15 mins): academic IQ Hunter discusses The Damned
No Future (2019, 26 mins): appreciation by author and film historian Neil Sinyard
The Lonely Shore (2019, 21 mins): appreciation of James Bernard’s score by David Huckvale
• Isolated music & effects track
• Original US theatrical trailer
• Joe Dante trailer commentary (2013, 4 mins)
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet, includes Joseph Losey on The Damned, a look at the US pressbook, reviews, and film credits

The System (1964) | Michael Winner’s dark drama starring Oliver Reed on Blu-ray

From Indicator comes the limited edition World Blu-ray premiere of Michael Winner’s 1964 drama, The System.

The first film on which star Oliver Reed and director Michael Winner collaborated (they later made The Jokers, I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘Is Name and Hannibal Brooks ), this is a bitter little essay on class and youth that deserves more recognition.

Reed plays Tinker, a photographer based in the fictional Devon seaside town of Roxham who, each summer, passes on the names of holidaymakers and local lasses to his out-of-towner mates – for a fee, of course. It’s all a bit of harmless fun, but his system turns sour when he tries to woo Nicola (Jane Merrow), the daughter of a wealthy local businessman…

Making great use of the coastal locations (including Brixham Harbour, Paignton Beach and Torquay) and gloriously shot (in black and white) by Nicolas Roeg, The System features a plethora of embryonic British talent, including John Alderton, Derek Nimmo and David Hemmings – who all looking incredibly slim and youthful, while Harry Andrews turns in a powerful character study as a surly photo-shop owner. Reed is perfectly cast here as the ‘Girl-Getters’ leader, and imbues his Tinker with great depth (plus a bit of own notoriously wild personality); while Jane Merrow brings an icy coolness to her fiercely independent heroine that will make you sit up a take notice.

On a trivia note, it was this film that first popularised the word ‘grockle’ – West Country slang for a tourist; and ‘boy!’ do screenwriter Peter Draper and director Michael Winner have great fun taking the mickey out of the stereotypes of the day (who favoured baggy clothing with handkerchiefs on their heads). Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)’s Mike Pratt wrote the catchy theme tune, which is sung by the Merseybeat combo, The Searchers. Winner’s previous film before this was West 11 (read my review here).

SPECIAL FEATURES:
• High Definition remaster
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with film historians Thirza Wakefield and Melanie Williams
Getting the Girl (2019, 18 mins): interview with actor Jane Merrow
Drinking and Dancing (2019, 6 mins): interview with actor John Porter-Davison
Fun and Games (2019, 4 mins): interview with actor Jeremy Burnham
Haunted England (1961, 24 mins): Winner’s Eastmancolor travelogue about stately homes and other famous places with ghostly tales to tell, hosted by broadcaster David Jacobs
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• Collector’s booklet with essays on the film and Haunted England, contemporary critical responses, and film credits.

 

 

The Golem: How He Came into the World | Paul Wegener’s 1920 silent horror classic on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes Paul Wegener and Carl Boese’s iconic silent German horror masterpiece, Der Golem (1920), as part of The Masters of Cinema Series for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK, from a brand new 4K restoration on 18 November 2019.

In the Jewish ghetto in 16th century Prague, Rabbi Low (Albert Streinruck) creates a clay Golem (Wegener) to protect his people from tyrannical Emperor Luhois (Otto Gebuhr). Brought to life with an arcane incantation to the demonic spirit Astaroth and an amulet placed in the centre of the creature’s chest, the Golem begins performing acts of great heroism. But when the Rabbi’s assistant (Ernst Deutsch) attempts to control the Golem for selfish gain, it becomes a terrifying force of destruction…

A landmark film in the horror canon, influencing most notably James Whale’s 1931 adaptation of Frankenstein, Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (aka The Golem: How He Came into the World) as Paul Wegener’s third attempt at adapting the Golem character for the big screen, the other two being The Golem (1915) and the short comedy The Golem and the Dancing Girl (1917).

Based on Gustav Meyrink’s 1915 novel, it serves as prequel to the lost 1915 film and is an important contribution to the golden age of Weimar Cinema. The film’s Plastic Expressionist interpretation of Prague’s labyrinthine medieval Jewish ghetto (after the shapes and textures used in the sets) was designed by famed architect Hans Poelzig, while the interiors were executed by Poelzig’s future wife, sculptor Marelen Moeschke.

Behind the camera, meanwhile, was Karl Freund, who would go on to lens Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), before emigrating to the US, where he would famously helm Universal’s 1930s horror classics, Dracula, The Mummy and Mad Love (which all benefit from a touch of German Expressionism).

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The Masters of Cinema Series presents the film in its UK debut on Blu-ray from a brand new 4K restoration, with the following special feartures…

• Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase (First 2000 copies)
• Presented in 1080p from a stunning 4K digital restoration of the original film negatives, completed by FWMS in 2017
• Original German intertitles with optional English subtitles
• Option of three scores, by composer Stephen Horne; electronic music producer Wudec; and musician and film-score composer Admir Shkurtaj
• Brand new and exclusive audio commentary by Scott Harrison
• Brand new and exclusive video essays by critic David Cairns and filmmaker Jon Spira (Elstree 1976)
The Golem [60 mins]– The US version of the film, also fully restored, and featuring a score by Cordula Heth
• A video piece highlighting the differences between the domestic and export negatives of the film [22 mins]
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Scott Harrison; and reprints of illustrations from the original 1915 novel

Order from: Eureka Store or Amazon

They Made Me a Fugitive | The 1947 British film noir starring Trevor Howard and Sally Gray on Blu-ray

This 1947 British crime thriller (which was called I Became a Criminal in the US) was pretty brutal in its day. Trevor Howard plays Clem Morgan, a RAF officer tempted into the underground world of black-marketeering on demob and ultimately helped by Sally, the discarded mistress of his psychopathic gangland boss (Griffith Jones). She’s played by Sally Gray, just then returned to movie-making following a five-year rest after suffering a breakdown due to pressure of work. Most striking here, Gray would go on to make four more sterling melodramas before retiring in 1952 following her marriage to Dominick Browne, the 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne.

The film’s gritty, poetic urban realism is justly realised by Brazilian-born director Alberto Cavalcanti (credited as Cavalcanti here) who had spent seven years at the British GPO Unit working on documentary projects like 1937’s Night Mail, before joining Ealing Studios where he helmed the first sound screen adaptation of the Dickens novel Nicholas Nickleby and co-directed the horror anthology classic Dead of Night (1945). The striking noir cinematography (of Crabtree Lane in Fulham, Limehouse and Dartmoor) is by Otto Heller, whose later credits would include Peeping Tom (1960) and The Ipcress File (1965).

Indicator’s UK Blu-ray premiere of They Made Me a Fugitive is accompanied by two rare short films, made during Howard’s own time in the RAF during WWII, and the following special features.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
• 2K restoration by the British Film Institute
• Original mono audio
• The John Player Lecture with Alberto Cavalcanti (1970, 62 mins): archival audio recording of the celebrated director at London’s National Film Theatre, including an audience Q&A with fellow filmmakers Michael Balcon, Paul Rotha and Basil Wright
After Effects (2019, 29 mins): appreciation by author and film historian Neil Sinyard
About the Restoration (2019, 14 mins): the BFI’s Kieron Webb discusses the process of restoring the film
Squaring the Circle (1941, 33 mins): dramatised Royal Air Force training film, starring Trevor Howard in his first known film role
The Aircraft Rocket (1944, 9 mins): extract from a multi-part RAF technical film, featuring Howard
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• Collector’s booklet with a new essay by Nathalie Morris, extracts from Cavalcanti’s Film and Reality, a 1970 article on Cavalcanti by Geoffrey Minish, an overview of contemporary critical responses, Anthony Nield on the wartime films of Trevor Howard, and film credits

Child’s Play (2019) | Chucky’s back and wants you to be his friend – until the end!

After seven films, the Child’s Play franchise gets an upgrade and Chucky gets a new lease of life with this edge-of-your-seat re-imagining. Instead of Chucky being a Good Guys doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer, this Chucky is a high-tech Buddi doll whose AI goes murderously awry when its maliciously reprogrammed.

Hearing-impaired Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman) gets an early birthday present from his struggling mum Karen (Aubrey Plaza) – a returned Buddi doll that is scheduled for the scrapheap. But once activated, the doll (voiced by Mark Hamill) names itself Chucky and becomes so attached to Andy that it starts killing anyone who upsets his new friend – including Karen’s horrible boyfriend Shane (David Lewis). But when Andy tries to dispose of Chucky, the disturbed doll turns stalker and goes on a murderous rampage to win Andy back…

Eschewing the campy humour of Don Mancini’s sequels (which I love BTW), screenwriter Tyler Burton-Smith and director Lars Klevberg have favoured a darker tone for their re-imagining, but also inject some black comedy in the inventive death scenes – the shopping mall massacre recalls the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping sprees in the US, while the gift wrapped dismembered head is pure Henenlotter. And one of the best scenes is when Chucky downloads knives, chainsaws and face-skinning as a ‘fun activity’ when he catches Andy laughing at the violence in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

But what sets this Buddi Chucky on its own is that it is not just another pint-sized killing machine spouting wisecracks, but is actually quite pathetic – you actually feel sorry for him. After all, he just wants to be your friend (until the end) and is learning from example – think ET meets Fatal Attraction.

But while the kills verge on the gory (aided by some great practical effects), the real horror on display here is smart tech (and our growing reliance on it). After watching this you might think twice about asking Alexa, Siri and their ilk to lock all the doors. But then, I’ve been wary of AI ever since 1977’s Demon Seed.

Grossing over US$43 million worldwide against a US$10 million budget, it looks like we may not have seen the last of Buddi Chucky, and with a TV series in the works featuring the original Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif), how great would it be to have the Buddi and Good Guys dolls face-off each other in another big-screen adventure. Bring it on?

The Universal Pictures UK Blu-ray/DVD release (out on 21 October) features the following extras:

  • Audio Commentary by Lars Klevberg
  • Bringing Child’s Play‘s Chucky to Life
  • Lee Hardcastle Claymations: Toy Massacre & A.I. Mayhem
  • Gallery

 

3 From Hell (2019) | RIP Sid Haig as Rob Zombie’s ultra-violent sequel is unleashed

From the one and only Rob Zombie comes 3 from Hell, the latest blood-soaked chapter in his ultra violent sociopathic crime family saga that started with his 2003 throwback shocker House of 1000 Corpses and was followed two years later by the equally depraved The Devil’s Rejects.

After being ‘gunned down’ at the end of The Devil’s Rejects, Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley) and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) are serving their long sentences behind bars. But pure evil cannot be contained. Following the death of Captain Spaulding, Otis’ half-brother Wilson (Richard Brake) is enlisted to break Otis and Baby out of prison. But things don’t go according to plan… Otis has killed a well-connected gangland leader called Rondo (Danny Trejo in a super brief cameo), and now his son Aquarius (Emilio Rivera) and his Black Satanists gang are out for blood…

Rob Zombie’s films are like Marmite – you either love them or hate them. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never warmed to the ‘Firefly’ series, but them I’m probably in the minority in hailing his Lords of Salem as a horror masterpiece (check out my review here). But here he seems to be spoofing the exploitation genre with a knowing sadistic glee (think Robert Rodriguez’s Machete), which makes this latest entry in his saga so much more fun. An extra bonus are the OTT turns of some of his co-stars, especially Dee Wallace as a genuinely nasty butch prison guard (I had no idea it was Wallace until after the credits) and Panchor Moler as the loyal one-eyed Sebastian. Plus, you’ve got Sheri going full-on mental.

Zombie also has fun paying homage to some of his cinematic influences. The film starts off aping the TV news reports of the arrest of Charles Manson and his ‘Family’ (a key inspiration for the film’s psychopathic trio), but there are also nods to 1955’s The Desperate Hours, in which Humphrey Bogart and a gang of escaped convicts hold a family hostage, the 1952 classic Gary Cooper western, High Noon, and even Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1989 avant-garde horror Santa Sangre.

There’s also something very poignant on offer here, and that’s Sid Haig. Ill health prevented the legendary character actor from appearing in anything more than a cameo, so this ended up being his final screen role. He died, aged 80, on 21 September 2019, just over a month after receiving the Vincent Price Award at Hollywood Horrorfest (something that was truly dear to him). But he goes out with a bang, delivering a touching, raging and powerful monologue that’s eminently quotable: ‘I’m just a clown dancing for the fucking man’. ‘I am what they make me. I’m your bozo Jesus hung out to dry for the sins of mankind!’ So, if you are on the fence about watching another Rob Zombie movie, this is reason to check this film out.

3 From Hell is unleashed from Lionsgate UK on digital download, Blu-ray and DVD from 14 October

Project X (1968) | William Castle’s cartoony espionage sci-fi heads to Blu-ray

It’s the year 2118, and the world is divided between the West (well the US of A) and Sino-Asia. While on a mission into enemy territory to make contact with fellow operative Gregory Gallea (Monte Markham), American spy Hagen Arnold (Christopher George) discovers that the West will be destroyed in 14 days.

Hagen successfully escapes his captor, Sen Chiu (Keye Luke), but has a complete loss of memory following a plane crash. With the countdown on, a team of scientists headed by Dr Crowther (Henry Jones) and Dr Verity (Lee Delano), use a holographic memory reading device and an elaborate historical re-enactment to try and retrieve vital information from Hagen’s mind. But can they uncover the truth before its too late?

Project X is an intriguing piece of late-1960s espionage-sci-fi from producer-director William Castle, and one of the last films from the great showman who gave us the classic gimmick chillers, House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler. Unfortunately, Castle just doesn’t chime with the times here – though he does give it his best shot.

The splendidly gaudy Technicolor photography (by Harold Stine who went on to lens The Poseidon Adventure), production design (by Hal Perriraa nd Walter H Tyler, who won Oscars for The Rose Tattoo and Samson and Delilah), costumes and sets all look like they came out of an Irwin Allen TV sci-fi (think The Time Tunnel meets Lost in Space); and the story itself (as intricate and twisty as it is) feels like a feature-length Outer Limits episode. Even the cast and production crew are all drawn from TV land.

The film’s big star is Christopher George (who I grew up watching as TV’s The Immortal, then in Grizzly and Day of the Animals, and then in some Italian exploitation movies before his early death aged 52 in 1983), but Henry Jones steals every scene. For me, he will always be Dr Smith’s nefarious long-lost cousin Jeremiah in Lost in Space, but he’s a right little rascal here.

He’s not the only TV character actor to crop up in this mixed-bag, there’s also Harold Gould and Lee Delano (who were constant fixtures on prime-time TV shows in the 1970s and 1980s), and the legendary Keye Luke  – but who the hell is Greta Baldwin, who plays Hagen’s love-interest? She only has three credits to her name and she’s rather bland here, plus the romantic story side-plot rather detracts from the ‘action’.

Then there’s the animated sequences created by Hanna-Barbera. They look fantastic, but they jar somewhat against the live action sequences (which includes a sequence lifted from a Jonny Quest episode). If Castle had done the whole thing as a cartoon (and a spoof), maybe it could have worked better (and become the Archer or The Venture Bros. of its day). But the end result is more Cyborg 2087 than Planet of the Apes, which came out one month before Project X.

While promoted as a sci-fi, it’s actually an old-fashioned espionage adventure dressed as sci-fi (with some social commentary shoehorned in). Van Cleave’s music score is also more spy film than sci-fi – but I loved it, especially the opening title theme and the ‘organ’.

Project X is out now on Blu-ray from 101 Films and includes two extras: 
an audio commentary with The Dark Side editor Allan Bryce and film writer David Flint, and Money Back Guarantee: William Castle’s Ingenious Gimmicks, which also features Allan, David and BFI archivist Vic Pratt.

Now, I actually enjoyed the film more by listening to the audio commentary, in which Allan and David discuss the film’s cast, crew and production, but also pay homage to Castle’s final directorial effort, the poetic tragic comedy horror Shanks (starring mime legend Marcel Marceau) and his last production, the superior eco-horror Bug (now these are two Castle films that so deserve a proper restoration release). Allan, of course, gets to mention his favourite film  (can you guess what it is?) and David has a great story about getting drunk while watching House on Haunted Hill (with Emergo – which I believe is pronounced – ’emerge-o’ BTW).

 

 

Kaleidoscope | The Jones brothers’ psychological thriller will hold you captive!

Lonely ex-con Carl Woods (Toby Jones) is trying to find his way back in the world after a stint inside (jail). He’s got himself a council flat in a Brutalist block of flats, has a kindly neighbour Monique (Cecilia Noble) who is looking out for him, and is eager to have his first date in years with Abby (Sinead Matthews), who he has just met online. But one morning, he wakes to a shocking discovery – Abby’s dead corpse on his bathroom room. As he desperately tries to recall what happened, his estranged mother (Anne Reid) suddenly arrives – and she has no intention of leaving…

Toby Jones is one of Britain’s most outstanding actors in the UK and he gives a bravo turn in his brother Rupert’s 2017 debut film debut, a nightmarish psychological thriller that will hold you captivate throughout. ‘National Treasure’ Anne Reid also delivers a nuanced performance as the slightly sinister mother, who may or may not have a history of incest with her son, and there’s certainly more than meets the eye when it comes to Sinead Matthews’ character.

This intense thriller has been described as paying homage to Hitchcock, but it’s structure, themes and single setting actually evoke Polanski’s claustrophobic psychological classics, Repulsion and The Tenant, which both featured a silent, isolated observer in hiding, while the film’s setting also chimes with Polanski’s recurring motif of the horror of the apartment space. The modernist estate in Hackney, East London where the film was shot features an eleven-storey staircases which becomes a key visual metaphor for the film’s many twists and turns.

Now I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that everything you are about to witness is all seen through the distorted prism of Carl’s broken mind. Just how the reality-bender narrative plays out is best seen for yourself.

Kaleidoscope is available now on UK digital platforms and DVD.

DID YOU KNOW?
The Hackney estate seen in the film was designed by Skinner, Bailey & Lubetkin and completed in 1957. It includes two Y-shaped eleven-storey blocks, George Loveless House and James Hammett House, and the lower-rise James Brine House, Robert Owen House and Arthur Wade House, which were all named after the Tolpuddle Martyrs. The location can also be seen in 2015’s Legend, in which Tom Hardy played both Ron and Reggie Kray, and in Alfonso Cuaron’s 2006 dystopian sci-fi Children of Men, where it was turned into a refugee camp.

American Horror Project Vol. 2 | Arrow Video unleashes another trio of obscure stars-and-stripes terror flicks

I’ve finally got around to checking out Arrow Video’s second volume in its American Horror Project series, and its mixed, but fun, bag of obscurities co-curated by Stephen Thrower (Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents), which have all been remastered in 2k from the best surviving film elements. while the box-set is packed with a wealth of new and archival extras, including artwork by The Twins of Evil and a 60-page booklet.

DREAM NO EVIL
First up is this surreal 1970 offering from director John Hayes (Grave of the Vampire) about troubled preacher’s assistant Grace (Brooke Mills), whose desperate quest to be reunited with her long-lost father (Edmund O’Brien) propels her into an imaginary world of homicidal madness…

Part Jack Hill, Part Russ Meyer, part Psycho, this is one weird ride with Mills (who was also in Hill’s The Big Doll House) turning in a rather sympathetic turn as the demented Grace, who goes all Norman Bates when the father she has been searching for turns up dead in the local morgue. Imagining him to still be alive, she sets up home with him in a deserted shack on the outskirts of town, but soon her beaus are ending up dead because ‘daddy’ doesn’t like them touching her baby girl.

Among the supporting players are Hayes’ regular Michael Pataki (Zoltan, Hound of Dracula, Grave of the Vampire) as Grace’s revivalist preacher foster brother, character actor Marc Lawrence as the local mortician who is also a pimp, and former 1940s film noir star Edmond O’Brien, who comes off a bit like Lon Chaney Jr in Spider Baby (another Hill cult fave).

Best line in the movie: ‘Your duck is bleeding really badly’.

The Arrow special features also include…

• Filmed appreciation by Stephen Thrower
• Brand new audio commentary with Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan
Hollywood After Dark: The Early Films of John Hayes, 1959-1971 – brand new video essay by Stephen Thrower looking at Hayes’ filmography leading up to Dream No Evil
• Writer Chris Poggiali on the prodigious career of celebrated character actor Edmond O’Brien
• Excerpts from an audio interview with actress Rue McClanahan (The Golden Girls) on working with director John Hayes.

DARK AUGUST
This 1976 rural horror stars future Barney Miller actor JJ Barry as Sal, a New York illustrator who relocates to Stowe, Vermont, to set up a photography studio. But when he accidentally runs over and kills a young girl, her occultist grandfather places a curse on him. After a series of terrifying visions and mishaps, Dal seeks the counsel of local white witch Adrianna (Kim Hunter, of Planet of the Apes and A Streetcar Named Desire fame) — but can she stop the dark forces from achieving their goal?

Director Martin Goldman (who was previously a Madison Avenue art designer) and cinematographer Richard E Brooks (who went on to direct 1982’s We Will Rock You: Queen Live in Concert) bring a touch of cinema verité to their offbeat indie horror that features a lot of hand held camera and tracking shots, while also making effective use of the rural location. While I was baffled by the ending, there’s a real sense of creeping unease going on here; and Hunter is very convincing as the witch (It’s said she did lots of research into wiccan practices for role).

The Arrow special features also include…

• Filmed appreciation by Stephen Thrower
• Audio commentary with writer-director Martin Goldman
• Interview with Martin Goldman
• Interview with producer Marianne Kanter
The Hills Are Alive: Dark August and Vermont Folk Horror – with author and artist Stephen R. Bissette
• Original Press Book

THE CHILD
This 1977 bad seed horror is the best of the bunch in my book, and a delirious slice of horror mayhem. Laurel Barnett plays the new governess of bratty Rosalie (Rosalie Cole), who is so incensed by her mother’s death, she raises the dead from the local cemetery to lay siege on the family mansion…

I remember seeing the poster for this film in magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland when I was in my teens, but it never saw the light of day in my home town. 40 years on and I finally get to see it — and I was not disappointed. No wonder its a favourite of AHP curator Stephen Thrower — its totally bonkers. Cheap and silly, but oddly atmospheric — its like an ultra cheap fusion of Dark Shadows and The Innocents with ghouls (covered in blackened oatmeal) and some very bad acting.

This one was produced by that sultan of sexploitation, Harry Novak (who also unleashed Mantis in Lace and The Mad Butcher) and ends with a Night of the Living Dead meets Tombs of the Blind Dead-style life and death struggle in a local mill

Best lines:
‘I want to know who you were meeting in the cemetery?’
‘I don’t have to tell you anything!!!’

The Arrow special features also include…

• 1.37:1 and 1.85:1 presentations of the feature
• Filmed appreciation by Stephen Thrower
• Brand new audio commentary with director Robert Voskanian and producer Robert Dadashian, moderated by Stephen Thrower
• Brand new on-camera interviews with Robert Voskanian and Robert Dadashian
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Original Press Book

Arrow Video FrightFest – Twenty Blood Years | Day Five – Witchy frights, Tra la la terror and the Soska Sisters go Rabid

The last day of FrightFest wrapped up with a host of goodies, but I only managed to catch three (with The Wretched and Rapid being my stand-outs of the festival alongside Porno), plus the final short film showcase was a sell out, with the stand-outs being Neal O’Bryan’s Toe and Lewis Taylor’s Sleep Tight. There was also a signing by David McGillivray (the screenwriter of Pete Walker’s 1970s horror shockers) of his ‘scandalous’ autobiography, Little Did You Know, which is a must read (get it here).

Here are my final musings…

THE WRETCHED
An ancient evil wood spirit (Madelynn Stuenkel) inveigles her way into the home of Goth mum of two Abbie (Zarah Mahler) and her hubby Ty (Kevin Bigley), and gradually makes them forget – everything (beginning with their children). Struggling with his parent’s separation, Ben (John-Paul Howard), is spending his school break working for his harbour-master dad Liam, (Jamison Jones) when he realises something is just not quite right with the next-door neighbours. Exploring their basement, Ben’s worst fears and more are proven to be true. But will anyone believe him?

Back in 2011, brothers Brett and Drew Pierce brought their anarchic zombie adventure Deadheads to FrightFest, and they were back this year (with their dad in tow — he was such a great guy BTW) with this gripping occult chiller which pays homage to Rear Window, Fright Night, Stephen King’s IT and even Jaws, while also giving us horror fans a brand-new creature with its own mythology – a woodland skinwalker witch that devours children.

It’s a slow burner, that’s heavy on the family dynamics in the first half, but when Ben’s new friend Mallory (Piper Curda) puts herself in terrible danger, everything kicks off. Featuring terrific performances, great visual touches (like plants dying whenever the witch is close by, and the labyrinthine tree) and a musical score that uses lots of folk instruments while also channelling Bernard Herrmann (another Hitchcock reference), this is a clever creepy horror ride you’ll not want want to get off.

Madelynn Stuenkel (The Wretch), Devin Burrows (composer), Brett and Drew Pierce, and Paul McEvoy at the FrightFest screening

THE BANANA SPLITS
Young Harley (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) gets a big birthday surprise – a visit to Taft studios for a taping of his favourite show, The Banana Splits, courtesy of mum Beth (Dani Kind). His big brother Austin (Romeo Carere), dad Mitch (Steve Lund) and school friend Zoe (Maria Nash), reluctantly go along.

Unfortunately, its also going to be the show’s last day as new network VP Andy (Daniel Fox) is pulling the plug — which means producer Rebecca (Sara Canning), assistant Paige (Naledi Majola) and co-star Stevie (Richard White) are all about to lose their jobs, while the robotic Splits (Bingo, Fleegle, Drooper and Snorky) will be sent to the network’s theme park division. But when their new upgrade is corrupted, the Splits decide the show must go on – and no-one is going to stop them…

This horror thriller is directed by Danishka Esterhazy, a graduate of the same Winnipeg film collective that produced that master of the surreal and the offbeat, Guy Maddin – but don’t expect the same here. Yes, its a lot of fun, with some spot-on characterisations that comment on fame (like the pushy stage dad and the Instagram influencer with only 218 followers), great performances (especially Maria Nash – who steals as Harley’s no-nonsense friend Zoe) and loads of witty one-liners (like ‘Can I quit acting class, now?’), but while I thoroughly enjoyed watching it with an audience, looking back, I felt there was a missed opportunity to be more satirical and subversive, and more interesting visually (it all takes place in the darkened corridors of a studio). I wanted Killer Klowns from Outer Space meets Westworld (the TV series) — instead with we get a dark(ish) version of the Scooby-Doo movies.

Even though there were some inventive ‘kill’ scenes, they are not played to maximum effect, and the robotic Splits lacked any personality — except Snorky, who is portrayed as an outsider on the spectrum, just like his No.1 fan, Harley. The only scene where the film does rises to the occasion is when the Splits give the show’s obstacle course a Grand Guignol makeover and force their captive audience (all kids screaming their heads off) to watch scenes of burnings and dismemberment. Was it inspired by Vincent Price’s murderous theatrical satire, Theatre of Blood? Probably not! But it should have taken note. Great free tee-shirt though.

RABID
Rose (Laura Vandervoort) wants to make in the world of fashion, but a terrible accident leaves her scarred beyond recognition. Undergoing radical regenerative stem cell treatment at a celeb fave research facility run by Dr William Burroughs, the former wallflower’s surgery is a total success and starts to realise her ambitions. But everything in life comes at a price and she unwittingly sets off a bloody spiral of contagion…

‘We are creators and editors of our own reality’
Aside from The Banana Splits movie, this remake of David Cronenberg’s 1977 body horror cult classic from Jen and Sylvia Soska Sisters, was the one I was most looking forward to – and I must say, it’s brilliant in every way – with kudos going to Vandervoort for such a genuinely affecting portrayal of the everywoman Rose (someone please give her an award).

The Soska’s horror thriller says a lot about body image, fame and the fashion industry – Rose’s boss Gunter (a Karl Lagerfield meets Ben Stiller’s Zoolander type) has decided his latest line will be called ‘Schadenfreude’ – German for ‘a pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune’. And there are loads of nods to Cronenberg – from Stephen McHattie’s cameo as Dr Keloid (the name of the clinic in the original), Ted Atherton’s Dr William Burroughs (a nod of Naked Lunch) and the red clerical-inspired scrubs worn during the surgery scenes (a nod to The Brood).

The production design borrows the fashion aesthetic of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen, which really suits and there’s loads of twists and turns that are really unexpected. So looking forward to 101 Film’s Blu-ray release in October, so I can experience it all over again (and do a much more in-depth review).

David McGillivray’s Little Did You Know is available from FAB Press

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