Category Archives: Might See

Prophecy | The 1979 creature feature bears its claws on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes the 1979 Paramount Pictures’ eco-horror Prophecy directed by John Frankenheimer on Blu-ray as part of the Eureka Classics range.

Government environmental advisor Dr Robert Verne (Falcon Crest‘s Robert Foxworth) and his pregnant wife Maggie (The Godfather‘s Talia Shire) travel to Maine to assess the environmental damage the lumber industry is having on a forest claimed by a local Native American tribe (dubbed the Opies).

When three lumberjacks are found mauled to death, the Opies blame a vengeful spirit called Katahdin – while the Vernes uncover evidence that the local paper mill’s use of mercury is causing birth defeats and making the wildlife grow to abnormal size.

After rescuing a mutated bear club trapped in a salmon fishing net, the Vernes and a couple of Opies (Armand Assante, Victoria Racimo and George Clutesi) find themselves under attack by the cub’s monstrous mutated mother.

I first saw Prophecy on its release on the big screen. It was one of the blockbuster summer releases of 1979 (alongside Alien) and this then 15-year-old monster kid was so excited to see it – mainly due to the poster featuring a mutant bear embryo, and that it was based on a novel by David Seltzer, who had penned one of my faves The Omen in 1976.

But I was pretty disappointed by what played before me. It all starts off great, with its interesting ecological storyline – but when the 15-ft momma bear appears with its melted pizza face, I just laughed – as did most audiences of the day.

Fast forward four decades and seeing it in this new Blu-ray release – its just as ropey. Which is a shame considering its sterling cast and credentials (especially Frankenheimer who had helmed such classic fare as Seconds and The Manchurian Candidate in the 1960s).

The big fault lies in its execution – particularly with the climactic scene that opts for a soundstage (complete with fake plants and wind machines) rather than where most of the film was shot (Crofton, North Cowichan in British Columbia), and the hilarious bear creature, which was a combination of a man in a suit (Tom McLoughlin) and a fur-covered model on wheels.

That saying, it’s still a fun watch with a gang of mates around. No bear hugs allowed though! Also welcomed are the great special features that accompany the Eureka Blu-ray (especially Seltzer and McLoughlin’s reminiscences).

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Limited Edition O-Card slipcase featuring new artwork by Darren Wheeling
  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a High Definition transfer
  • Optional English SDH Subtitles
  • New feature length audio commentary by Richard Harland Smith
  • New feature length audio commentary by film writers Lee Gambin & Emma Westwood
  • New interview with screenwriter David Seltzer
  • New interview with mime artist Tom McLoughlin
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann; and an archival interview

Nightwing & Shadow of the Hawk | A double-bill of 1970s indigenous folklore horror on Blu-ray

In the spirit of the double-bill drive-in features that some of us were lucky to have experienced back in the 1970s, comes Nightwing & Shadow of the Hawk – two tales of indigenous folklore horror – on Blu-ray in the UK from Eureka Classics.

First up is the 1979 eco-horror – NIGHTWING. Driven by hunger and ravenous for blood, a colony of bubonic plague-carrying vampire bats sweeps across the American Southwest and settles inside a cavern within a canyon much revered by the Maski tribe in Tuscon, Arizona.

When Deputy Youngman Duran (Nick Mancuso) learns that his medicine man guardian (George Clutesi) has cast a spell to end the world and Tribal Council chairman Walker Chee (Stephen Macht) plans to drill for oil in the sacred canyon, Duran reluctantly teams up with a British scientist (David Warner) to destroy the colony.

Based on Martin Cruz Smith’s 1977 novel, Nightwing came at the tail end of the ‘Nature Bites Back/Man vs the Environment’ period that produced such cult-worthy fare as Frogs (1972), Jaws (1975) and Piranha (1978) – but also a lot of jaw-droppingly bad rip-offs. Columbia Pictures’ adaptation of Smith’s novel should have been ‘Jaws with wings’, but – more’s the pity – it proved a critical and commercial failure.

Now, I know there’s not much love for the film, but having revisited it, courtesy of the new Eureka Classics Blu-ray, I think it deserves reappraisal. Yes, Arthur Hiller was an odd choice to direct, especially considering his esteemed comedy credentials (The Hospital, The In-Laws, The Out-of-Towners), but he does bring great sensitivity to Smith’s themes about indigenous spirituality and outsider threats to ancient customs. And he does this best by directing his eye on the magnificent (New Mexico) desert landscape which is intrinsic to Hopi/Navajo culture.

Yes, there’s little in the way of full-on horror action, but the ‘bat attack’ set pieces are well-staged. And yes, Carlo Rambaldi’s bat puppets are pretty naff – but I much prefer them to any of today’s CGI nonsense. You also get some scenery-chewing moments from Mancuso (looking ever so fit in tight jeans and open-neck shirt), Strother Martin (weighed down by lots of Navajo jewellery), and Warner (his ‘Presence of evil’ monologue should be a drinking game).  

Next up, we head over the Canadian border for 1976’s SHADOW OF THE HAWK. Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation stars as Old Man Hawk, an ageing medicine man who recruits his citified grandson Mike (Jan-Michael Vincent) to help him defeat an ancient evil, the Dsonoqua (aka the wild man of the woods). Along the way, Mike (AKA Little Hawk) rediscovers his ancestral roots and his true calling.

This mystical adventure was directed by George McCowan, who helmed one of my fave eco-horrors Frogs (1972). But it is rather disappointing despite its stunning setting (the majestic forests of British Columbia), an earnest turn from Chief Dan George (who scored an Oscar nod for 1970’s Little Big Man), and Jan-Michael Vincent (showing off his lean physique). Lacking suspense and action, it looks more like a TV Movie of the Week, which isn’t surprising given McCowan’s long history of helming shows like Mod Squad, The Streets of San Francisco and Cannon. Oh, and there’s a man in a bear suit.

Watching this, however, has led me to down a rabbit hole, in search of some fave shows from my childhood featuring Chief Dan George (The Beachcombers) and Jan-Michael Vincent (the Danger Island segments from The Banana Splits). I’ve also dug out my old DVD of Frogs for another rewatch.

Nightwing & Shadow of the Hawk is out on Blu-ray from Eureka from Monday 15 March 2021

BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
Nightwing: Commentary by film historians Lee Gambin and Amanda Reyes
Shadow of the Hawk: Commentary with film writer Mike McPadden and Ben Reiser
Oil and the (Geo)Politics of Blood – Audio essay by John Edgar Browning (if you love a bit of film academia, then pour yourself a large gin and tonic for this ‘frontier gothic’ analysis of Nightwing)
• Trailers
• Collector’s booklet

Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers | A deadly game of felines vs vampires – but which side will you be on?

From Eureka Entertainment comes Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers on Blu-ray as part of the Eureka Classics (26 October)

Alice Krige and Brian Krause star in this supernatural thriller tale, directed by Mick Garris, about a pair of nomadic shape-shifting psychic vampires who prey on virtuous young women.

After fleeing Bodega Bay in California, the incestuous mother and son, Mary and Charles, set up home in Travis, Indiana and soon they have their werecat eyes on a new victim Tanya (Mädchen Amick). But when Tanya fights back, Mary’s full fury is unleashed…

Based on an original story written by King, this 1992 US horror was a big success for director Garris, making his first big studio film – although critics gave it a mauling. Somehow, I missed it first time around, but I’m so pleased it’s been given a new lease of life on Blu-ray.

It’s the cat’s meow and feline lovers will enjoy it so much – so will genre fans as it boasts some great in-jokes, plus cameos from not only King but also Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper, Joe Dante, John Landis – and Mark Hamill (sporting a bushy moustache).

Fresh-faced and in their prime, Krige and Krause (who was on contract with Columbia following his star turn in Return to the Blue Lagoon) ooze sensuality and charisma, while Amick (who had just come off Twin Peaks) makes for a spirited heroine. But the film’s stand-out star is Sparks the cat, who plays the heroic Clovis. He’s spunky, adorable and worth the price of buying this Blu-ray alone.

The Eureka Classics Blu-ray includes some terrific special features, with some insightful interviews from the cast and crew that are well worth tuning into – but only after you’ve seen the movie.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
  • DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 audio options
  • English subtitles (SDH)
  • Audio Commentary with Mick Garris and film historian Lee Gambin (this was recorded during the Covid pandemic)
  • Audio Commentary with Mick Garris, Mädchen Amick, and Brian Krause
  • Feline Trouble: Interview with director Mick Garris
  • When Charles Met Tanya: Conversation with Mädchen Amick And Brian Krause
  • Mother & More: Interview with actress Alice Krige
  • Creatures & Cats: The FX of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers featurette
  • Behind-the-scenes footage
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann

976-EVIL | Robert Englund’s 1980s teen revenge horror hokum dials up on Blu-ray

Being a huge fan of Robert Englund (AKA Freddie Krueger) and Stephen Geoffreys (AKA Fright Night‘s Evil Ed), I’ve been wanting to see 976-EVIL forever (I somehow missed it during the VHS days). Now it’s been given a Blu-ray release from Eureka Entertainment and I must say, it’s a fun slice of 1980s horror hokum.

Geoffreys plays another nerdy outsider, Hoax who lives with his overbearing Bible-bashing mother Lucy (Sandy Dennis looking fabulously hideous in a big fake wig and charity shop clothes) and his motorcycle bad boy cousin Spike (Patrick O’Bryan).

Hoax wants to be just like his cool cousin and even lusts after his tailer park tottie Suzie (Lezlie Deane); but he’s regarded as the town dork, especially by a gang of poker-playing thugs led by another cool dude Marcus (Back to the Future‘s JJCohen), who sports a nice line of Return of the Living Dead vests.

Introduced to a novelty ‘horror scope’ phone line, Hoax soon enters a Faustian deal with its demonic owner – Mark Dark AKA Satan (Robert Picardo). And, as he takes his revenge with his new supernatural powers, he’s slowly transformed into a demonic creature that plans to open the gates of Hell.

Englund (who had just finished A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master), was given a free hand with this, his directorial debut. And while it’s not perfect, it has its moments thanks to a tongue-in-cheek script by future Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland and neat practical effects work from Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger and Kevin Yagher (who was also working on creating the Chucky doll for Child’s Play at the same time). Horror fans will also have great fun name-checking the cool posters in the cinema scenes. The extras include some informative interviews, but I would have loved to have seen one from some of the cast, especially Geoffreys.

976-EVIL is released on Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment as part of the Eureka Classics on 19 October

BLU-RAY EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES

  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
  • DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 audio options
  • English subtitles (SDH)
  • Audio commentary with Robert Englund and Nancy Booth Englund
  • 976-EVIL: home video version [105 mins, SD]: An extended version of the film from its original home video release on VHS
  • New interview with producer Lisa M Hansen (thoroughly enjoyed this as Lisa talks about the background behind getting the film made)
  • New interview with special make-up effects artist Howard Berger (The Walking Dead)
  • New interview with special effects technician Kevin Yagher (Nightmare on Elm Street)
  • Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann

Creepshow 2 | George A Romero’s second helping of Stephen King tales gets a 2k restoration

For this second issue of his horror anthology Creepshow, George A Romero stepped away from the camera and took on screenwriting duties, adapting three Stephen King tales, while former cinematographer Michael Gornick took the helm. The results are very much a mixed bag, but still great fun for both King and Romero fans.

In Old Chief Wood’nhead, the elderly owners of a general store in a run-down Arizona town are terrorised by three hoodlums who steal a local tribe’s sacred treasures (a bag of turquoise jewellery). In revenge, an old wooden cigar store Indian statue comes to life and hunts them down. This story is the best of the bunch in my books thanks to the lovely performances given by George Kennedy and 1940s screen legend Dorothy Lamour (in her final screen role) as the store owners, and the way the statue moves is chillingly effective. Also, there’s an affectionate nod to the vintage 1950s TV Wester series, The Cisco Kid, which I have fond memories watching as a youngster.

In The Raft, four college friends head to a remote lake for some swimming and sex, but become trapped on a pontoon by a flesh-eating oil slick. This tale is my least favourite mainly due to the obnoxious characters who I wanted to die even before they got to the lake. Good riddance, I say. However, there’s one scene involving broken limbs that’s a real gross-out.

In The Hitch-hiker, Lois Chiles (Moonraker) plays an adulterous businesswoman who knocks down a hitchhiker (Barbershop’s Tom Wright) and speeds off. But she soon gets some unwanted company when he keeps reappearing. This final tale does overstay its welcome, but with each successive viewing, it has grown on me. Its ghoulishly grisly, but also very funny – especially the state that the car ends up in. Chiles is excellent and the pay-off is a hoot!

A co-production between Romero and Richard Rubinstein’s Laurel Entertainment and Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, 1987’s Creepshow 2 was panned by critics but scored well at the box office; and while it’s not a patch on the original, it’s still worth a revisit. Plus, you get to see Tom Savini in some great make-up as the Creep in the animated wraparound story in which a comic-mad boy fights off bullies with the help of some giant venus flytrap creatures. Horror kids rejoice!

Arrow Video’s Limited Edition Blu-ray release includes the following special features…

• Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original Uncompressed PCM Mono 1.0, Stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround Audio Options
• Optional English subtitles
• Audio Commentary with director Michael Gornick
Poncho’s Last Ride – interview with actor Daniel Beer
The Road to Dover – interview with actor Tom Wright
Screenplay for a Sequel – interview with screenwriter George A Romero
Tales from the Creep – interview with actor and make-up artist Tom Savini
Nightmares in Foam Rubber – archive featurette on the special effects, including interviews with FX artists Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero
My Friend Rick – Berger on his special effects mentor Rick Baker
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Image Gallery
• Trailers & TV Spots
• Original Screenplay (BD-ROM Content)
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by festival programmer Michael Blyth
Creepshow 2: Pinfall – Limited Edition Booklet featuring the never-before-seen comic adaptation of the unfilmed Creepshow 2 segment Pinfall by artist Jason Mayoh
• Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Mike Saputo

The Wind | Nico Mastorakis’ 1986 stalk ‘n’ slash Euro thriller gets an Arrow Video Blu-ray release

Wanting some inspiration and solitude so she can concentrate on her latest novel, mystery writer Sian Anderson (Meg Foster) leases a cliffside cottage in a quiet island village in Greece from British expat Elias Appleby (Robert Morley). But it comes with a warning:  Don’t go outside at night when the wind starts to come in. Well, of course, she does the complete opposite and ends up witnessing Elias’ murder at the hands of his handyman Phil (Wings Hauser), who then sets out to silence Sian just as the wind starts to howl…

This Euro slasher thriller from Island of Death director Nico Mastorakis went straight to video (except in West Germany and Portugal) when it was released in 1986, and as I don’t remember coming across it in my local video rentals stores back in the day, even under its original title Edge of Terror, I was keen to seek it out – especially as I rather enjoyed Island of Death (check out my review later). And Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray release gave me just the chance. But, I’m sorry to say, I was rather disappointed.

Meg Foster certainly carries the film well – in a sub-par Linda Hamilton/Terminator kind of way – but her piercing blue cat-like eyes are a huge distraction and they totally overshadow Wings Hauser’s poppered up performance, even if he does deliver the inane dialogue with a great amount of glee: ‘If you need any technical advice on death just holler I’m next door’ being just one of them.

Mind you, Robert Morley provides the film’s other distraction – gnarly eyebrows and a chin that looks like a bullock’s ball sack. Luckily, he only gets a couple of scenes before he ends up in a shallow grave. Talking of which, there’s a Jason King** moment when Foster’s Sian transcribes the killing as it happens. Is she clairvoyant or are we seeing her murder mystery playing out before our eyes?

Lending credence to the latter is that Sian doesn’t run away after she witnesses the murders (yep! there’s another), instead she seems to want to be part of the mystery – which works well on the page but not in reality (you’d get the hell outta there!). And when she is chased through the streets (all backlit like a music video with fog and wind machines going full throttle), I was reminded of Mario Bava’s hallucinatory horrors Lisa and the Devil and Kill, Baby, Kill, where reality and fantasy also blur.

But Mastorakis is no Bava and what we see is what we get – an island village completely deserted apart from an old lady (who gets the chop), a backgammon-playing cop and a random seaman (Steve Railsback) who, just because he can speak English, decides to take on the copper’s job and check on Sian. Which brings me to David McCallum. Oh yes, he crops up here too (mainly in a pool talking on a yellow phone). He plays Sian’s boyfriend who becomes worried when their long distance phone call is suddenly disconnected. That’s it. Then he’s gone.

What follows is ludicrous with a capital ‘L’. However all the stalking and running that ensues is a great excuse for some lovely location shots of Monemvasia (AKA the Gibraltar of the East) – including its ancient stone buildings and alleyways, majestic oleander trees, and a medieval fortress that provides the setting for the climactic showdown between Sian (who finally remembers there’s some hunting weapons locked in a cupboard in her villa) and Hauser’s seemingly unstoppable killer.

The whistling synth track is by Hans Zimmer and Stanley Myers, Marlboro Lights feature often and note to self: Its best to have short hair when you are visiting a tourist destination where it’s windy all the time.

Arrow Video presents The Wind for the first time on Blu-ray, with the following features, and the film is also available on the Arrow Video Channel via Amazon Prime Video.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• New restoration by Arrow Films from a 4K scan of the original negative, approved by writer-director Nico Mastorakis
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
• Optional English subtitles
• Optional Greek subtitles
• Original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and LPCM Stereo 2.0 Audio
Blowing The Wind: Brand new interview with Nico Mastorakis
The Sound of The Wind: The complete soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer and Stanley Myers
• A collection of trailers for the films of Nico Mastorakis
• Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film

** Jason King was a 1970s ITV crime drama starring Peter Wyngarde, whose eponymous novelist-turned-sleuth used events happening around him as the source of his crime novels featuring his 007-inspired adventurer called Mark Cain. In one episode, Chapter One: The Company I Keep, King writes about a murder that has actually happened.

Beyond the Door | The infamous 1970s satantic shocker gets a limited edition 2k Blu-ray restored release – Hail Satan!

Prolific producer and director Ovidio G Assonitis, whose Tentacles (one of my all-time faves) and Piranha II: The Spawning cashed in on the killer fish craze that followed Jaws, scored his first worldwide hit in 1974 with Beyond the Door – the infamously insane riff on The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby.

Jessica (played by Juliet Mills of TV’s Nanny and the Professor fame) is the wife of a music executive Robert (Gabriele Lavia) in San Francisco who starts to develop strange behaviors whilst pregnant with her third child. Before you can say ‘split pea soup’, she’s displaying signs of full-blown demonic possession – complete with projectile vomiting and fully-rotating head!

Her obstetrician Dr George Staton (Nino Segurini) believes Jessica should to be placed into a sanatorium, but a mysterious man called Dimitri (Richard Johnson) then reveals himself to be her former lover and a satanist who has a made a pact with the devil to deliver him Jessica’s newborn in exchange for having been saved from a car accident…

Described as ‘disgusting’, ‘scary trash’ and ‘maddeningly inappropriate’ by film critic Robert Ebert, the supernatural shocker (which was the subject of a successful lawsuit by Warner Bros over its direct rips from The Exorcist) has been given a brand-new 2k restoration release on Blu-ray from Arrow Video, packed with stacks of bonus extras. But is the film worth all the bother?

As the old saying goes, ‘You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’. But in the case of Beyond the Door (AKA The Devil Within Her), I’m sure it was a hell of a lot of fun trying. Yes, its cheaply made (in all apects – from its production design to its dire editing), but it does have some effective scares that keep you entertained – and they are the main reason why the film made such a killing at the box office.

I grew up watching Juliet Mills as the wise and wonderful magical nanny Phoebe Figalilly on TV, so seeing her as satan’s Antichrist incubator spewing obscenties and green sick was quite a shock. But whatever the two-time Golden Globe nominee’s reasoning was for accepting the role, Mills’ physical performance certainly impresses in the scenes in which she goes full-on Linda Blair.

Another standout is when Jessica’s two brats – foul-mouthed Gail (Barbara Fiorini), who is so obssessed with Erich Segal’s novel Love Story that she owns multiple copies, and her little brother Ken (David Colin Jr) – are terrorised by supernatural forces in their bedroom. The whole room starts shaking like a dollhouse, the kids are thrown about like ragdolls, and the eyes of their toys light up as though possessed. I loved this scene and I’m sure the kids did too. Colin Jr would next turn up in Mario Bava’s Shock in 1977, which was released in the US as an unofficial sequel to Beyond the Door.

Of course, this tawdry occult tale is all overseen by the Devil himself, who narrates throughout (by an uncredited British actor Robert Booth, who did bit parts in Z Cars and The Professionals and some voice work on 2006’s Tardisodes). And he gets some great quotable lines like, ‘Nobody knows the exquisite suffering of the damned’.

Interestingly the film’s co-producer was Edward L Montoro, whose own real-life story is worthy of a film itself. He embezzled over $1million from his film production company, Film Ventures International (which did two of my faves, Grizzly and Day of the Animals), and vanished, never to be seen again.

Here are the full specs on Arrow’s big release. No screeners were available, so I can’t comment on the extras.

LIMITED EDITION TWO-DISC BLU-RAY CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration of the extended Uncut English Export Version
Possessed: a brand-new feature-length documentary on Italian exorcism movies!
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
• Reversible fold-out poster
• Perfect-bound collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Martin and Alessio di Rocco

DISC ONE
• Brand new 2K restoration of the Uncut English Export Version, released as The Devil Within Her (108 mins)
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed mono audio
• Optional English subtitles
The Devil and I: Interview with director/producer Ovidio G. Assonitis
Barrett’s Hell: Interview with cinematographer Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli
Beyond the Music: Interview with composer Franco Micalizzi
The Devil’s Face: Interview with camera operator Maurizio Maggi
Motel and Devils: Audio interview with actor Gabriele Lavia
• Alternate Italian Chi Sei? opening titles
• Alternate Behind the Door VHS opening titles
• Alternate Japanese Diabolica opening and ending sequence
• Trailers, TV and Radio Spots
• Image Gallery

DISC TWO
• The alternate US Theatrical Version
• Italy Possessed: Feature-length documentary on Italian exorcism movies!

Magic | William Goldman’s 1978 psychological horror heads to Blu-ray

Adapted for the big screen by William Goldman from his best-selling 1976 book, Magic is out now on Blu-ray from Second Sight Films.

Corky (Anthony Hopkins) is a shy, aspiring magician who just can’t get a break, but after he introduces foul-mouthed ventriloquist dummy Fats to his act, his star begins to rise. When his agent Ben Greene (Burgess Meredith) offers him the chance of starring in his own TV show, Corky freaks out and heads to his hometown in the Catskills. Reuniting with his old high school crush Peggy (Ann-Margret), Corky decides to elope with Peggy and leave his career behind.

But the jealous and possessive Fats will not let him go…

Director Richard Attenborough’s 1978 thriller was originally sold as as horror chiller, but there’s very little in the way of horror or chills on offer (except for one very disturbing scene set on a lake). Well, that’s what I thought when I first saw it as a 14-year-old back in 1978. With the release of the Second Sight Films Blu-ray, I thought a revisit was needed (just to see if it – and I – had matured somewhat).

Well, this ‘terrifying love story’ has and hasn’t. Anthony Hopkins is certainly effective as the tortured entertainer, but his Corky becomes as manic and out of control as Fats, that you end up losing any sympathy you may have initially had for him. Mind you, Hopkins did get a  Golden Globe and BAFTA nomination for the role (in which he had to learn how to throw his voice).

However, Fats (whose facial featues were based on Hopkins’ own likeness) is genuinely creepy (but then aren’t all ventriloquist’s dummies?) and Attenborough does his best to keep us wondering if Fats is just an extension of Corky’s suppressed thoughts or has actually taken on a life of its own?

Thankfully, the lovely Ann-Margret is on hand to bring some much needed warmth to the proceedings (and to Victor Kemper’s chilly photography) – but her Peggy is ultimately a sad figure, and Burgess Meredith is terrific as the cigar-chomping Samuel Z Arkoff-styled agent, especially in one very telling scene in which he asks Corky to make Fats shut up for five minutes. The film’s big highlight, however, is Jerry Goldsmith’s hauntingly romantic score – which I am now seeking out to add to my collection.

The Second Sight Films Blu-ray release also includes a host of very interesting special extras (below), that have been all ported over from the 2010 MPI Media Group US Blu-ray release.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Screenwriting for Dummies (2006, Blue Underground, 16mins): William Goldman looks back over the development of the film (whose original director was Norman Jewison), and talks about its cast and crew. And there’s some interesting on-set photos and footage included.
• Anthony Hopkins Spanish TV interview (6.16min): In Spanish and English
• Victor Kemper: Cinematographer (11.23min): The veteran Director of Photographer talks about his work and career, paying special attention to Magic (Includes a big spoiler, so watch the film first)
• Ann-Margret make-up test (1.19min): With some disco-style music in the background.
Fats and Friends (26.53min): Dennis Alwood, who acted as consultant to the production of Magic, takes look at the history of ventriloquism on stage and screen, and reveals how Fats scored the role over his own dummy, Dudley.
• Anthony Hopkins radio interview (3.20min): Against a background of raw dailies from Magic, Hopkins discusses his background and his career.
• Trailer (2:09min)
• 4 TV Spots (the second one got pulled from US TV for being too scary for kids)
• 3 Radio spots

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

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

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