Category Archives: Horror
Der Todesking (1989) | Jörg Buttgereit’s ‘Let Us Die’ existential horror gets a deluxe release in HD
The second feature film from German underground director Jörg Buttgereit, Der Todesking (aka The King of Death) gets the Arrow treatment on Blu-ray and DVD.
‘In six days, God created heaven and earth. On the seventh, day he killed himself…’
And so, we The Brotherhood of the Seventh Day’ say ‘ Let Us Die’!
As a chain letter from an unseen, unknown group circulates encouraging its recipients to end their lives, a series of grim murder-suicides unfold over the course of a week while a body rots in limbo… But could this all be in the mind of a schoolgirl?
On Monday, a hard-working white collar worker climbs into a bath and takes a lethal overdose of pills.
On Tuesday, a slacker settles down to watch a Nazi death camp exploitation VHS film in which a victim is castrated with a pair of shears. But when his wife returns, he pulls out a gun and blows her head off (and then frames her bloodstains). But it all turns out to be a movie playing on TV in a room where a man’s dead body hangs.
On Wednesday, a woman pining for her former lover takes a rest on a park bench, where a man divulges his marital problems that ended in his wife’s decipitation. The woman then aims a gun at the man’s head. But before she can shoot, he takes the gun from her and blows his head off.
On Thursday, the names of several people who committed sucide appear over shots of a bridge where people have jumped to their deaths.
On Friday, a woman living alone is so jealous of the couple in the apartment opposite that she schemes to interrupt their love-making. But when she tries calling the couple, she gets no answer because they have just joined the Brotherhood of the Seventh Day’s suicide cult.
On Saturday, a projector plays several reels of 16mm film in which a woman ties a camera to her body and heads to a heavy metal gig where she films herself shooting a gun at the concert-goers before turning it on herself.
On Sunday, a man, driven to madness by some unspecified mental disturbance, repeatedly slams his head into a wall before collapsing in a pool of his own blood.
Jörg Buttgereit is most one of those Marmite directors whose transgressive films (Nekromantik, Nekromantik 2) you either ‘get’ or loathe. I’m certainly a big fan of his DIY underground style of film-making, which elevates the super 8mm home movie format (and 16mm) into arthouse territory.
Der Todesking is Buttgereit’s most accomplished work: an unapolegtic existential howl of rage laced with dark humour and the odd cinematic in-joke. Tuesday’s episode is an homage to the king of existential European art cinema, Jean-Luc Godard: beoming a joke about art, just like Weekend and Pierrot Le fou. While the other vignettes deal with some very serious issues: rejection, depression and mental illness.
But the episode that inventively fuses art with social comment is ‘Saturday’. Made up of bits of found-footage (surely ground-breaking back in the 1990s), it may have been inspired by the 1966 murder of 16 people by the Texas Tower Sniper, Charles Whitman (which informed Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets), but it also has continued relevance – especially when you consider the awful gun-led murder sprees (mainly in the US) that continue to dominate the news and make us question our humanity.
Der Todesking is all bound together by some polar opposite imagery: a rotting corpse in limbo (like a Francis Bacon painting: all fleshy tones set against a blackened backdrop) and a little girl happily drawing a image of Death (which bizarrely has become a popular tattoo) in a playground where the gay laughter of other children can also be heard. What’s most unsettling about these striking sunlight scenes is that all that we have just witnessed might have come from the imagination of the little girl. It’s food for thought and worthy of discussion.
Arrow’s release features a brand-new director-approved HD transfer from the original 16mm negative in high definition (on Blu-ray and standard definition DVD), with the original stereo audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray), and optional English subtitles.
• Audio commentary by Jörg Buttgereit and co-writer Franz Rodenkirchen
• From Bundy to Lautréamont: Jörg Buttgereit interviewed at the 2016 Manchester Festival of Fantastic Films (the same place where Der Todesking had its British premiere on 14 October 1990)
• Todesmusik: actor and composer Hermann Kopp on his numerous collaborations with Buttgereit
• Skeleton Beneath the Skin: Graham Rae on the phenomenon of Todesking tattoos (plus, tattoo gallery)
• The Making of Der Todesking: Vintage production featurette (viewable with both an English-language audio track and a German-language audio track with subtitles)
• The Letter: This is the alternate English-language chain letter insert used for the original UK VHS release
• Eating the Corpse: Footage from the January 25 1990 premiere in Berlin at the Sputnik cinema using music from the film
• Corpse Fucking Art: 1992 documentary on the making of Nekromantik, Der Todesking and Nekromantik 2 (choice of English-language and German-language with subtitles)
• Die Reise ins Licht: Short film by Manfred O Jelinski (1972, 27mins) – Based on an LSD trip, this is a cardboard and paper 2001: A Space Odyssey-styled sci-fi set in a Blake’s 7 quarry. It’s actually more entertaining than John Carpenter’s student lo-fi Dark Star, and features some evocative bombed out ruins. Jelinski also provides an optional commentary – in broken English, which he apologises for.
• Geliebter Wahnsinn (aka Beloved Madness): Short film by Manfred O Jelinski (1973, 7mins) – The hypnotic soundtrack (which reminded me of the Oz-electronic outfit, Severed Heads) is a perfect fit to the fusion of double-exposure and cut-ups that make up this widely experimental oddity.
• Der Gollob: Short Super 8mm film by Jörg Buttgereit with optional audio commentary (1983, 25 mins, HD) This is Buttgereit’s take on Alien, in which some cops (played by Buttgereit and some mates) track down a pink putty-faced monster (a transmutated pizza) in the basement of a suburban Berlin house.
• Image Gallery
• Trailer Gallery
10 years after the death of the infamous Jigsaw killer aka John Kramer (Tobin Bell), Detectives Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie, Memento) and Hunt (Clé Bennett, Heroes Reborn) investigate a series of murders bearing the unique modus operandi of the Jigsaw killer. Has Kramer really returned from the grave to remind the world to be grateful for the gift of life? Or is this a trap set by a killer with designs of their own?
Director Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig (Predestination) go back to basics with their reboot, which ditches the torture porn for a pure chill-ride that aims to recapture the same suspenseful thrills as Se7en – only bloodier. Matt Passmore (The Glades), Laura Vandervoort (Supergirl), Paul Braunstein (The Thing), Brittany Allen (All My Children) and Mandela Van Peebles (Baadassss!) are Jigsaw’s targets this time round, while Tobin Bell is back in his iconic role – and it’s not just a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ cameo.
Horror fans will lap up the inventive death scenes, which involve booby-trapped rooms and firearms, and some truly deadly laser cutters. Kudos go to the film’s big set piece which involves a giant spiralator and a motorbike. In an homage to the franchise’s original inspiration, 1970’s The Abominable Dr Phibes, one trap sees the victims choosing between three syringes that contain a poison antidote, a saline solution and a flesh-melting acid.
Given its open ending and the huge business it did at the box-office (despite the mostly unfavourable reviews), it looks like the Saw franchise just might begin anew. Personally, I rather enjoyed it… unlike the previous ones.
SPECIAL FEATURES ON THE BLU-RAY AND DVD
• Audio Commentary with producers Mark Burg, Oren Koules and Peter Block
• I Speak for the Dead: The Legacy of Saw: A feature-length appreciation of the franchise, with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew of the reboot discussing its visual design, sound score, special effects and much more.
• The Choice is Yours: Exploring the Props: A fascinating featurette (around 6min) in which Don Post’s pig masks and the iconic Billy puppet make a welcome return.
Heading into black comedy horror territory, Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster made his directorial debut with 1970’s The Horror of Frankenstein, a revisionist remake of the studio’s stylish 1957 Gothic horror classic The Curse of Frankenstein – which he also wrote. But it’s quite the disappointment – even to die-hard fans.
With Hammer eyeing up a hipper, younger crowd, Taste the Blood of Dracula’s Ralph Bates takes over the title role of the monster-making Baron from Peter Cushing (who had played it four times) and he portrays him as a psychopathic serial killer and arrogant womanising misogynist who prefers tight breeches to show off his ‘average’ manhood.
Taking its narrative cue from Curse, the Gothic horror parody finds Bates knocking off his dad, claiming his Baronic title and fortune, and heading off to medical school. But, after getting the Dean’s daughter pregnant, he returns to the family castle, where he sets up shop with fellow medical student, Wilhelm Kassner (Graham James, wearing a hideous pink cravat), to create human life using a big chart labelled with numbered body parts.
Once assembled and activated, the new Baron’s creature – played by a pec flexing Dave Prowse (aka bodyguard Julian in A Clockwork Orange and the strongman in Vampire Circus) – starts killing all and sundry for no apparent reason – altough the indignity of having to wear an S&M collar, nappy and red lipstick applied stitch marks could be justifiable.
The studio-bound exteriors (except for a shot of Austria’s Hohenwerfen Castle, and a bridge and churchyard scene shot in North Mymms, Hertfordshire), re-used sets (the castle stonework looks like wallpaper), and ‘toilet humour’ does Sangster a real disservice (something he later admitted); but this lacklustre affair is worth watching for the Hammer glamour on display.
The Vampire Lovers‘ Kate O’Mara, sporting a dodgy accent that’s West Country by way of the Emerald Isle, vamps it up as the ‘accommodating’ chambermaid Alys, while statuesque Veronica Carlson (who was so good in 1969’s Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) tries her best as needy professor’s daughter, Elizabeth, whose designs on the Baron get short shrift – probably on account of her Heidi hair-do of greasy links of bratwurst.
Both O’Mara and Carlson add some real Hammer glamour to the proceedings, and on a personal note, it has been great to have met them on the convention circuit. Sadly, Kate O’Mara passed away on 30 March 2015, aged 74, from ovarian cancer. Veronica, meanwhile, has become quite the artist and lives with her family in the US.
Dennis Price (now there’s someone I would have loved to have met) and Joan Rice (in her last film role) steal the show as a husband and wife pair of body snatchers, while Jon Finch is totally wasted as the Baron’s former childhood friend turned local copper. He did, however, find his stride in Roman Polanski’s The Tragedy of Macbeth the following year, and Robert Fuest’s The Final Programme in 1973.
Carry on… Young Frankenstein this is not! But it should have been!
The Horror of Frankenstein gets its Blu-ray UK debut (on Doubleplay from 29 January 2018) courtesy of Studiocanal featuring a brand new HD restoration (which only serves to accentuate the ‘wallpaper’ scenery, plastic forest trees and garish costumes).
It does, however, include the featurette, Gallows Humour: Inside The Horror of Frankenstein, which includes some interesting comments from Veronica Carlson about her time on the production, as well as some interesting production trivia from a handful of Hammer experts.
Kill, Baby, Kill (1966) | Mario Bava’s Gothic horror fairytale is a gloriously vivid masterpiece in suspense
In his definitive Mario Bava retrospective, All the Colors of the Dark, Tim Lucas cited Mario Bava’s 1966 Gothic terror Kill, Baby… Kill! (aka Operazione paura) as ‘a perfect synthesis of horror and poetry, realism and surrealism, color and atmosphere, classicism and innovation’. After viewing Arrow’s new 2k high definition digital transfer release, I couldn’t agree more.
In 1907, pathologist Dr Paul Eswai (The Last Man On Earth‘s Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) is summoned to a remote Carpathian village to perform an autopsy on a suicide. The locals believe the town to be haunted by the spirit of Melissa Graps, who died aged seven under tragic circumstances.
When a second death occurs, and Eswai’s assistant Monica (played by Euro scream queen Erika Blanc) has a vivid nightmare involving Melissa, the sceptical doctor heads to the crumbling Villa Graps in search of answers…
Made in just four weeks, with a largely improvised script, Bava’s personal photographic style can be seen in every gorgeously-lit shot (just check out those spider webs tinged in green and purple), and in every skewered camera angle as his constantly moving camera lingers on decayed buildings, creepy corridors and (well, every home should have one) the family crypt.
He captures the essence of fear by conjuring some nightmarishly imaginative scenes like one in which the good doctor has a Groundhog Day moment when he confronts himself in a room full of old paintings before getting stuck in a giant cobweb; or when Monica descends a seemingly-endless staircase, it’s dizzy effect causing her (and the audience) to become paralysed with fear.
This is first time I have seen Bava’s dark Gothic fairytale, and – OMG! I was totally transfixed by its look and feel, and by the atmospheric use of real-life locations – including the Villa Lancellotti in Frascati, which stands in for Villa Graps, and the 14th-century town of Faleria (which Bava’s son and assistant, Lamberto, visits in one of the extras – see below).
Kill, Baby, Kill belongs very much to the same dreamscape as Bava’s Black Sabbath (which I absolutely adore), but its elevated here to the point of pure cinematic art with its skilful surreal touches. Look closely and you’ll see shades of Jean Cocteau (the arm candles from La Belle et la Bete) and Luis Buñuel (in the symbolic use of the ringing bell); while the film’s Gothic narrative reeks of Edgar Allan Poe and even Charles’ Dickens (in the Miss Haversham-styled Countess).
But Bava’s master stroke is Melissa’s creepy bouncing ball. It’s probably one of the greatest visual moments in the history of Gothic horror cinema, and it affected Federico Fellini so much that he did his own take on it in his Toby Dammit sequence in 1968’s Spirits of the Dead.
If you haven’t got it already, then you must add Kill, Baby, Kill to your Euro horror collection – and what better release to have than with Arrow Video’s 2K high definition digital transfer on dual format, which comes with a wickedly delicious features.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks
• New English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the English soundtrack
• Introduction by Erika Blanc
• New audio commentary by Tim Lucas (for the last word on the film’s production, influences and legacy – this is a winner)
• The Devil’s Daughter: Mario Bava and the Gothic Child, a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger
• Kill, Bava, Kill!, a 2007 interview with assistant director Lamberto Bava (This is a must-see ,especially for film location lovers as Lamberto returns to Faleria, now crumbling to dust, to revisit many of the external scenes used in the film, including the church where Melissa tolls her bell, and the Anguillara castle. The big reveal here, by the way, is that Melissa was actually played by a local boy, whom Bario selected only for his protruding, icy eyes)
• Erika in Fear (in this excellent 2014 interview, Erika Blanc talks about how audiences of the day were shocked by the shot of her exposed thigh, and reveals how Bava was a big kid)
• Yellow (this interesting, if a little under-whelming, short film by Semih Tareen pays loving homage to Bava)
• German opening titles
• 1976 Kill, Baby… Kill! (To avoid spoilers, check this super rare photo-comic from Film Horreur after you’ve seen the feature)
• Image gallery
• Original artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collector’s booklet (first pressing only)
Step inside! You’re frightfully welcome! The hit horror House franchise opens its creaky doors once again with the release of all four instalments on DVD and Blu-ray, with 2k restorations and all uncut.
For those who didn’t snap up the House: The Collection box-set back in March 2017, you can now add these beauties to your home cinema collection as individual releases.
Having looked at the bonus extras on offer, Arrow have added some newbies, including the first draft screenplay of House, vintage Making Of featurettes of House and House II, and workprint footage of the final two instalments, alongside all the other great special features that were featured in the Collection box-set.
Makes for a great stocking filler! And don’t those covers look cool?
If you want to read more about the House franchise, check out my original post HERE
The 1970s rats on the rampage cult horrors, Willard (1971) and Ben (1972) get their UK home entertainment debut in newly-restored versions complete with brand new special features on DVD and Blu-ray in a limited edition box-set, as well as individual releases, on-demand and download from Second Sight Films.
This is the *one* movie you should not see alone!
Meet Willard Stiles (Bruce Davison), a pleasant but lonely young man who lives with his nagging elderly mother Henrietta (Elsa Lanchester) in a run-down LA mansion, and has a subservient position in the company his father once owned.
On his 27-birthday, the socially awkward Willard is humiliated when he’s thrown a party where the only guests are a bunch of senior citizens, while at work, his boss Al Martin (Ernest Borgnine) continues to belittle him.
After befriending a group of rats, Willard discovers that one them (which he names Socrates) will do anything for him, while another (named Ben) proves to be somewhat of a rebel. It’s time for Willard to get even. But it’s not without a cost…
This scary horror was a huge success on its original release in 1971. Bruce Davison, who had starred in the counter-culture film The Strawberry Statement the previous year, is perfectly cast as another angry young man, the meek Willard whose suppressed internal rage against the establishment is finally given release through his friendship with Socrates, Ben and co, who are quite happy (at first) to do his bidding.
Starting off with a harmless prank, Willard’s actions take on a deadly purpose when he becomes desperate to find the money he needs to feed the ever-growing rat population in his cellar. But he hasn’t counted on the devious motives of Ben, who soon turns into a rodent version of George Orwell’s Napoleon in Animal Farm, when Socrates meets a bloody end.
Loosely based on the novel Ratman’s Notebooks by Stephen Gilbert, the film’s screenplay was by Gilbert Ralston, who wrote for countless US TV shows, including Star Trek, and helped create The Wild Wild West. He died in 1999 while battling a lawsuit with Warner Bros over the big-screen adaptation of the cult western spy spoof.
The Stiles’ Queen Anne-style house in the movie is the Higgins/Verbeck/Hirsch Mansion, which was designated a Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Monument in 1988. Among the other films shot there are William Castle’s The Night Walker (1964) and Waxwork (1988).
Sondra Lock makes one of her earliest screen roles as Willard’s potential girlfriend Joan, while this marked the 500th screen appearance for 83-year-old former silent film star Almira Sessions, who retired after making this movie.
Best line: ‘Tear him up!’
Where ‘WILLARD’ ended… Ben begins. And this time, he’s not alone!
While investigating Willard’s murder by a band of rats, LA homicide detective Cliff Kirtland (Joseph Campanella) realises that they are becoming an organised army, and sets out to destroy them. But closely watching from his hiding place is Ben, the leader of the rats, who befriends Danny (Lee Harcourt Montgomery), a young boy with a heart condition, who finds himself in deadly peril when he follows Ben to his new home deep inside the LA sewers…
Director Phil Karlson’s is best known for his 1950s crime noir thrillers Kansas City Confidential and Hell’s Island, and the Dean Martin-starred Matt Helm adventure, The Silencers, and he’s in top form with this no-nonsense sequel that pays homage to the genre as the police pursuit of Ben through the city’s storm drains which could just as easily be a manhunt as a rat-hunt. And Karlson directs the action and its vital elements of harassed policeman (Campanella), sympathetic kid (Montgomery), and fast-talking reporter (Arthur O’Connell) with a brusque intensity against sombre, low-key settings, building steadily to an exciting fiery climax.
There’s also a strong eco horror vibe bubbling away as Ben and his band raid a local shopping mall to feed his ever-growing colony whose attacks on a hospital and a health spa turn the city into a disaster area. Having these scenes taken from the perspective of Ben and the rats only maximises the fear factor, which is stoked by O’Connell’s cries of ‘God help us if we go to war with people with guts like them’, in which his chain-smoking reporter equates the rats actions with Robert Ardrey’s 1966 Territorial Imperative – an hypothesis that described the evolutionarily determined instinct among humans toward territoriality (also also influenced Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and A Clockwork Orange).
Adding to the radical tone informed by the cultural uncertainities of the era are the flame-throwers and guns a blazing as the police take down our anti-heroes in a climax that’s reminicisent of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (which came out the same time).
Best line: ‘Their eating us alive down there’
• New HD transfer and restoration using the best surviving archive print
• Interview with Lee Montgomery
• Commentary with Lee Montgomery
• Theatrical trailers, TV & radio spots
• Stills gallery
Vault of Horror – The Italian Connection | Demon Records to unleash 20 classic terror themes on 8 December
Vault of Horror – The Italian Connection presents 20 classic soundtrack themes from the golden era of Italian horror. A heady mix of funk, disco, electronic and prog rock, the 2-vinyl set features scores by some legendary composers, including Stelvio Cipriani, Nico Fidenco, Ennio Morricone, Fabio Frizzi and Riz Ortolani, who conjured up iconic scores to some of most outrageous terror films of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, including Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Beyond, The New York Ripper and (one of my personal favourites) Tentacles.
Released on 8 December from Demon Records, this must-have also includes specially-commissioned artwork from artist Graham Humphreys (aka Britain’s Quadfather), biographical notes, a CD version in a replica card wallet, and a 12 x 12″ reproduction collector’s art print of the sleeve painting.
PRE-ORDER IT HERE: http://amzn.to/2zssh9m
HERE’S THE FULL TRACK LISTING
DISC 1 SIDE A
Carlo Rustichelli – ‘Atelier (totoli)’ from ‘Blood And Black Lace ‘(‘Sei Donne Per L’Assassioni)’
Franco Micalizzi – ‘Seq 1’ from
‘The Last Hunter’ ‘(L’Ultimo Cacciatore)’
Nico Fidenco – ‘Seq 6’ from ‘Porno Holocaust’
Roberto Donati – ‘Main Theme’ from ‘Eaten Alive’ ‘(Mangiati Vivi!)’
Francesco De Masi – ‘New York One More Day’ from ‘The New York Ripper’ ‘(Lo Squatatore Di
DISC 1 SIDE B
Franco Micalizzi feat. Warren Wilson – ‘Bargain With The Devil’ from ‘Beyond The Door’ ‘(Chi Sei)’
Stelvio Cipriani – ‘Small Town Pleasures’ from ‘Tentacles’ ‘(Tentacoli)’
Roberto Donati – ‘NYC Main Title’ from ‘Cannibal Ferox’
A. Blonksteiner – ‘Apocalypse’ from ‘Cannibal Apocalypse’ ‘(Apocalypse Domani)’
Carlo Maria Cordio – ‘Absurd’ from ‘Absurd’ ‘(Rosso Sangue)’
DISC 2 SIDE C
Fabio Frizzi – ‘Main Theme’ from ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’ ‘(Zombi 2)’
Fabio Frizzi – ‘Mystery’s Apotheosis’ from ‘City Of The Living Dead’ ‘(Paura Nella Citta Dei Morti Viventi)’
Fabio Frizzi – ‘Voci Dal Nula’ from ‘The Beyond’ ‘(L’Aldila)’
Walter Rizatti– ‘I Remember’ from ‘House By The Cemetery’ ‘(Quella Villa Accanto Al Cimitero)’
Stefano Mainetti – ‘Main Theme’ from ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters 2’ ‘(Zombi 3)’
DISC 2 SIDE D
Walter Rizatti – ‘Main Theme’ from ‘Bronx Warriors’ ‘(1990: I Guerrieri Del Bronx)’
Claudio Simonetti – ‘Nuke Is Over’ from ‘The New Barbarians’ ‘(Nuovi Barbari)’
Riz Ortolani – ‘The Fighter Centurions’ from ‘Rome 2033 – The Fighter Centurions’ ‘(I Guerrieri Dell ‘Anno 2072)’
Ennio Morricone – ‘End Theme’ from ‘Holocaust 2000’
Nico Fidenco – ‘I Celebrate Myself’ from ‘Emanuelle In America’
This 1982 Canadian psycho shocker maybe somewhat implausible, but it’s so tightly constructed that you soon forget it’s flaws.
Michael Ironside (who made an explosive hit in David Cronenberg’s Scanners the year before) gives a genuinely unsettling performance as Colt Hawker, a closeted homicidal psycho who enjoys photographing his victims as he stabs them to death.
Bearing a deep-seated hatred of women (his mother disfigured his abusive father with boiling oil when he was a small child), he’s incensed when TV journalist and women’s rights crusader Deborah Ballin (Damien: Omen II’s Lee Grant) voices her views on TV over a murder case in which a battered woman claimed justifiable defence against her abusive husband.
Following Deborah home, Colt brutally attacks her – but she survives, and ends up being admitted to a local hospital to recuperate. But that doesn’t stop Colt from gaining access to the hospital, where he begins his killing spree in his bid to corner and kill her…
Now ever since 9/11 security in public facilities like hospitals and government has really stepped up to the max in North America. But even back in the 1980s, you’d expect a major hospital like the one featured in Visiting Hours would have the minimum of security. But it doesn’t. Even the police seem to miss Ironside’s suspicious-looking psycho creeping about.
But if you look past this flaw, then you’ll discover a masterful exercise in suspense from Québécois director Jean-Claude Lord, who brings a claustrophobic, giallo-esque feel to his first English-language film,. It also has some genuine scares and is bolstered by skilful performances, especially Grant, who brings great believability to her victimised Deborah.
In a nice twist to the standard woman-in-peril story, Lord introduces a sub-plot involving kindly nurse Sheila (played by Matlock’s Linda Purl) who also finds herself on Colt’s hit list. This leads to a nail-biting showdown between the maniac and the two women. Wasted, however, is William Shatner, whose only purpose here is getting another star name onto the credits.
Bizarrely, this one featured on the UK’s notorious Video Nasty list, but ended up being shown on ITV uncut in 1989. It was also a firm favourite at my local video rental back in the day. Revisiting it now, courtesy of Final Cut Entertainment’s new dual format (Blu-ray/DVD) release, I’ve not only found a new appreciation for the film itself, but also for the cinematography, which had been previously muddied by inferior VHS transfers. This suspenseful slice of 80s slasher is well worth the revisit.
The Final Cut Entertainment dual format release also includes the following special features:
• Interview with Lind Purl (9 mins)
• Interview with director Jean Claude Lord (15mins)
• Interview with writer Brian Taggert (15 mins)
• Interview with producer Pierre David (17mins)
• Stills Gallery
• Double Sided Sleeve
Dr Cyclops (1940) | ‘Honey, I’ve shrunk the scientists!’ – Technicolor thrills await in the vintage sci-fi adventure
Deep in the South American jungle, physicist Dr Thorkel (Albert Dekker) is using a seam of radium in his mysterious experiments. When his eyesight starts to fail, he invites three scientists from the US to help him to help him complete the project.
Refusing to return home without proper explanation as to the exact nature of Thorkel’s work, the scientists, their mule driver and Thorkel’s assistant end up being shrunk down to doll size. A cat-and-mouse game then ensues as they try to escape Thorkel’s compound…
Based on a short story of the same name by Henry Kuttner, Paramount’s Dr Cyclops was the first attempt since The Mystery of the Wax Museum to use Technicolor in a horror film. It also marked a return to the genre for director Ernest Schoedsack, best known for Most Dangerous Game and King Kong, who really goes to town on the special effects, which would earn the film an Oscar nomination.
In his Classics of the Horror Film, renowned film researcher, collector and regular visitor to the UK’s famed Gothique Film Society, William K Everson, called Dr Cyclops ‘diverting hokum – but one of the wasted opportunities among films’. It’s a bit harsh, but not without some truth.
Yes, there’s virtually no horror on display, with the miniaturised cast mainly running and hiding amongst the oversized props and from a giant hand, and feigning distress in sequences featuring back projection shots of Thorkel’s snarling black cat Satanus (great name) and stock footage of a variety of animals and birds (kookaburras – in the Amazon?). While the lush colours and gay musical score does turn it into something akin to a live action cartoon adventure.
Looking like a cross between Peter Lorre’s Mr Moto and Donald Pleasence’s Blofeld with his shaved head and thick, round glasses, Dekker brings much sympathy to his scientist with a God complex (I blamed the radiation for his increasing mania); while the rest of the cast (Thomas Coley, Janice Logan, Charles Halton, Victor Kilian and Frank Yaconelli) are all effective in their respective stereotype roles.
There are, however, some genuine thrills, notably the death of one of our little heroes (who’s killed when he learns the miniaturisation effects are only temporary), the group’s efforts to train a rifle on their sleeping tormentor, and the gripping climax. Perfect for younger viewers and for revisiting on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Dr Cyclops is available on DVD in the UK from Fabulous Films
This semi-sequel/remake of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast (1963) was written by Michael Sonye (aka Haunted Garage’s Dukey Flyswatter) and directed by Jackie Kong. It follows two weirdo brothers Michael (Rick Burks) and George (Carl Crew) and the reanimated brain of their serial killer uncle Anwar (Drew Godderis) as they attempt to resurrect an ancient Lumerian goddess, Sheetar, using the body parts of immoral young women and the sacrifice of a virgin to awaken Sheetar’s powers…
Given only a limited release back in 1987, Blood Diner’s cult reputation has grown over the years. Now, I do remember seeing it lurking in VHS bargain bins back in the day, but I never saw it until now as it’s been dusted off and given a HD Blu-ray makeover as part of Lionsgate’s Vestron Video re-issues – and I must say Blood Diner certainly belongs in the ‘it’s so-bad it’s good’ section of my cult film library.
The music is a bizarre mix of dire synth score, 1960s soul and mambo; while the acting (featuring the worst accents ever) is abysmal, but it’s all shot with such energy and OTT garishness – just like the Troma films of the day – that I’ve actually gone back for a second helping.
Featuring hilarious gross-out sequences and lots of blood, gore, cartoon violence and projectile vomiting, Blood Diner is one seriously insane ride. It also boasts the kind of way-out characters you’d expect from an early John Waters movie, including a burger bar owner whose ventriloquist dummy does all the talking, an obese food critic, a manic archaeologist, and that talking brain in glass jar.
Naked female flesh – and their entrails – are high on the menu alongside some quite nasty acts of violence against women and misogynist humour like ‘Every heard of battered girlfriends?’, which made me question whether the film’s female director was making some kind of a statement or not? There’s also some broad swipes against health food fanatics and the homeless which border on being just a little too unkind.
Filling out the running time is a unnecessary wrestling match involving an Ayran bloke wearing a Hitler moustache and Nazi insignia, while the film’s big set piece is the ‘blood buffet’ where Sheetah, now resurrected, and sporting what looks like a man-eating vagina with teeth in place of her stomach, causes complete mayhem.
Given the cult status that Troma’s Toxic Avenger has acquired over the years, this insane 1980s horror comedy is certainly in the same league. And now that its been restored and remastered – you never know, we might just see a stage musical adaptation one day soon. I know I’d pay to see that (just minus the misogyny).
Blood Diner is released through Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK, and includes the following special features:
• Audio commentary with director Jackie Kong
• Six Blood Diner featurettes: Queen Kong; The Cook, The Uncle, and The Detective; Open for Business; Scoring for Sheetar; You Are What They Eat!
• Archive interview with project consultant Eric Caidin
• Trailer, TV Sports and Still Gallery