Category Archives: Must See
The House That Screamed | At last! Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s supremely stylish gothic chiller gets the restoration it so richly deserves
I am so excited that one of my all-time favourite Euro-horrors is finally getting a proper restoration release in the UK courtesy of Arrow (released Monday, 6 March 2023).
Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s 1969 gothic chiller The House That Screamed (AKA La residencia, The Finishing School) is a supremely stylish tale of frustrated passions and gruesome murder set in a 19th-century French boarding school starring Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbó, Mary Maud and John Moulder-Brown. If you have never seen it or heard of it… then now is the time to seek it out!
Thérèse (Galbó) is the latest arrival at a remote school for wayward girls run under the authoritarian eye of Mme Fourneau (Palmer). As the newcomer battles with strict routines and the whip-hand hierarchies among the girls, she learns that several students have recently vanished…
Meanwhile, tensions grow within this isolated hothouse environment as Mme Fourneau’s teenage son Luis (Moulder-Brown) ignores his mother’s strict orders not to get close to the ‘tainted’ ladies under her ward…
I first saw The House that Screamed on Australian TV in the mid-1980s while living with my university mates. Luckily we recorded it on VHS as we loved it so much (the Oedipal/Sadean themes causing much discussion) that it became our go-to Euro-horror to watch after a night out. I can still recite most of the dialogue, especially the film’s chilling final scene. A big hit in Spain (which was still in the grip of Franco’s regime), it became the country’s first international film success, with American International Pictures (AIP) heading up the film’s distribution in 1971.
For years, I’ve only had that VHS copy to return to, but a few years ago, I met Mary Maude (who plays Mme Fourneau’s ice-cold protege Irene) at a Film Fair in London and grabbed a DVD copy on sale for her to sign. Unfortunately, the quality was the same as what was then available on YouTube at the time. Then I stumbled on the German Blu-ray (Das Versteck), which was a slight improvement – but the 1:85:1 ratio was rather strange. Both were the original Spanish print – La residencia (with blue titles).
Now, finally restored to its director’s original full-length vision, The House That Screamed is ripe for rediscovery with Arrow releasing two versions – and once you have seen it (and heard Waldo de los Ríos’ gorgeously haunting score which really should have been included in this release), you may just want to put it in your Top 10 Euro horror list.
Think Ed Gein heading out for a Picnic at Hanging Rock!
ARROW LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of the 105-minute uncut version titled The Finishing School (La residencia), and the 94-minute US theatrical version titled The House That Screamed, via seamless branching
• Original lossless English mono audio on both versions and lossless Spanish audio on the uncut version
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on both versions, and optional English subtitles for the Spanish audio
• Brand new audio commentary by critic Anna Bogutskaya
• This Boy’s Innocence, interview with actor John Moulder-Brown (this is by far my favourite extra on this release as Moulder-Brown has some very insightful recollections of working on the film when was just 15 years old)
• Archive interview with Mary Maude from 2012’s Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester
• All About My “Mama”, interview with Juan Tébar, author of the original story
• The Legacy of Terror, interview with the director’s son, Alejandro Ibáñez
• Screaming the House Down, interview with Spanish horror expert Dr Antonio Lázaro-Reboll, discussing the history of the film
• Alternative footage from the original Spanish theatrical version
• Original trailers, TV and radio spots
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Shelagh Rowan-Legg and a double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch
The Ballad of Tam Lin | Ava Gardner casts a seductive spell in Roddy McDowall’s off-kilter British fantasy curio on Blu-ray
In her last major lead role and 44th feature, Hollywood legend Ava Gardner holds seductive sway in the rarely seen, often overlooked 1970 British fantasy, The Ballad of Tam Lin, which was also the sole directorial credit of Roddy McDowall (who ‘escaped’ the Planet of the Apes to do his pet project). It’s certainly a weird one, and that’s probably why I love it so much. Think part folk horror/part Blow-Up style Swinging Sixties critique, shot through a psychedelic lens.
Based on a folkloric Robert Burns poem, the fantasy centres all on Gardner as the Praying mantis-like Michaela Cazaret, an immortal witch/creature whose current lover/victim is London photographer Tom Lynn (Ian McShane). With her coterie of thrill-seeking hipster hangers-on (who imbue her with the energy she needs to survive), Michaela heads to her moorland estate in the Scottish Borders for some psychological fun and games. But when Tom falls for the local vicar’s daughter Janet (Stephanie Beacham), who soon falls pregnant, Tom is doomed to ritual sacrifice…
Gardner’s presence permeates the screen thanks to McDowall’s devoted direction, and she looks every inch the screen goddess thanks to cinematographer Billy Williams’ lighting and framing. McDowall pre-planned every shot, and the results are sublime. He then paired his meticulously curated images with a heady mix of musical styles, including songs by folk favourites Pentangle and an evocative score by composer supremo Stanley Myers.
Supporting the divine Gardner is a bevvy of up-and-coming British talent, including McShane and Beachman, as well as Joanna Lumley, Madeline Smith and Jenny Hanley, elder statesmen Cyril Cusack and Richard Wattis, and also a pre-Rocky Horror Peter Hinwood and pre-Withnail and I Bruce Robinson.
Of course, the big question is, why didn’t McDowall go on to direct more films? Some say that as a keen/professional photographer, he had done what he set out to do. Another theory is that he was so stung by the debacle (which is explained in the audio commentary and booklet) that caused the film to sink into obscurity (after its truncated 1972 US release at The Devil’s Widow) that he just gave up. It’s a pity, as I would have loved to see what he’d do next. Still, if he had, he may not have continued with the Apes films (particularly my favourite, 1972’s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes).
I am so pleased it has been given so much renewed love in this BFI UK release. But it is the extras that make this a must-have for any cult film collector – as it includes an insightful audio commentary by the BFI Flipside co-founders, plus interviews with cast members Ian McShane, Stephanie Beacham and Madeline Smith, and Pentangle’s Jacqui McShee. Also included are some typically offbeat extras that so fit the BFI Flipside’s quirky and obscure agenda. An Australian Blu-ray release was also put out in November 2021 by Imprint, with a mix and match of similar extras (check them out below).
- Presented in High Definition in the original aspect ratio 2.35:1 // BD50: 1080p, 24fps, PCM 2.0 mono audio (48kHz/24-bit)
- Audio commentary by BFI Flipside co-founders William Fowler and Vic Pratt (2021)
- Love You and Leave You For Dead (2021, 11 mins): Ian McShane on Tam Lin
- An Eerie Tale to Tell (2021, 10 mins): Stephanie Beacham on Tam Lin
- Ballad of a B-Movie: Revisiting Tam Lin (2021, 12 mins): an interview with Roddy McDowall biographer David Del Valle
- Legendary Ladies of the Silver Screen: Ava Gardner (1998, 18 mins): Roddy McDowall remembers Ava Gardner and The Ballad of Tam Lin in this adoring archive introduction
- Adventures Along the Way (2022, 32 mins): an interview with Madeline Smith
- Listening In (2022, 27 mins): Jacqui McShee, the lead singer of the seminal British folk group Pentangle, recalls the writing and recording of the film’s cult soundtrack
- Hans Zimmer on Stanley Myers (2021, 20 mins, audio only): the much-loved composer discusses the work of Stanley Myers
- Red Red? Red (Jim Weiss, Chris Maudson, John Phillips, 1971, 34 mins): an impressionistic study of a commune in Devon where people dress up, play instruments, make love and take part in strange revolutionary games
- Border Country (26 mins): rare short films from the BFI National Archive reveal rural lifestyles at Scotland’s edge
- Theatrical trailer
- Booklet with a new essay on the film by the BFI’s William Fowler, essays by Sam Dunn and Corinna Reicher, a contemporary review by Tom Milne from Monthly Film Bulletin and notes on the special features and credits
ORDER from the BFI Shop: https://shop.bfi.org.uk/the-ballad-of-tam-lin-blu-ray.html
THE US IMPRINT EXTRAS NOT PORTED OVER
• Audio Commentary from author and journalist Dr Adam Scovell
• Interview with Cinematographer Billy Williams;
• Interview with Actress Delia Lindsay
• Interview with Actor Kiffer Weisselberg
• Interview with Assistant First Director Peter Boyle
• Tam Lin & the representations of the witch in film Visual Essay from author Kat Ellinger
The Mummy and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell | The Hammer horror classics get a Limited Edition Blu-ray release
From Second Sight Films comes the Hammer Horror classics The Mummy (1958) and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) on Blu-ray in a Limited Edition set on 29 August 2022. But are they worth double-dipping? Well, you do get some new commentaries and featurettes, plus some super art cards and gorgeous new artwork by Graham Humphreys. But you will have to make up your own mind. Here are my comparisons.
THE MUMMY – SPECIAL FEATURES
• Main feature presented in original UK theatrical aspect ratio 1.66:1 and alternative full frame 1.37:1: These are the same as the 2012 Icon Home Entertainment release.
• New audio commentary by film academic Kelly Robinson:
• Audio commentary by Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby: Ported over from the Icon release.
• An Appreciation of The Mummy by David Huckvale: This is new, and David is always of great value.
• The Music of The Mummy: Ditto, and David really is the go-to guy for all things musical.
• Unwrapping The Mummy (28:40): Ported over from the Icon release.
• The House of Horror – Memories of Bray (46:40): Also ported over, thankfully, as it includes interviews with many Hammer alumni who are no longer with us, such as Barbara Shelley and Renee Glynne.
• The Hammer Rep Company (14:20): Johnathan Rigby’s insightful featurette has been ported over too.
• Original Promo Reel (5:31): Also on the Icon release.
• Stills Gallery (6:58): Ported over too.
• New artwork by Graham Humphreys: Simply divine illustration work, of course.
• Collector’s book with new essays by Kat Ellinger, Lindsay Hallam and Kevin Lyons plus production stills
• Five art cards
WHAT’S MISSING: The 2012 Icon Home Entertainment Blu-ray also included an episode of The World of Hammer: Hammer Stars Peter Cushing and a bonus feature directed by Terence Fisher, Stolen Face (1952)
FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL – SPECIAL FEATURES
• Main feature presented in original UK theatrical aspect ratio 1.66:1 and alternative full frame 1.37:1: These are the same as the 2014 Icon Home Entertainment release and are the full uncut version of the film (unlike the Shout!/Scream Factory 2020 Blu-ray release, which is the censored US theatrical version that loses a couple of minutes of extra gore footage.
• New audio commentary by film academic Kat Ellinger
• Archive audio commentary by Shane Briant, Madeline Smith and Marcus Hearn: This has been ported over from the Icon release and is most welcomed here, considering Shane’s passing in 2021.
• An Appreciation of Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell by David Huckvale: This is new, and as I’ve said before, David’s contributions are always entertaining.
• The Music of Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell: David is back again tinkling the ivories and discussing James Bernard’s score.
• Taking Over the Asylum: This has been ported over from the 2014 release and includes Denis Meikle and Shane Briant, who have since passed away.
• Charming Evil: Terence Fisher at Hammer: Likewise, this was on the 2014 Blu-ray.
• Stills Gallery: Ported over too.
• New artwork by Graham Humphreys: Great work, as usual from Graham.
• Soft cover book with new essays by Kevin Lyons, Kelly Robinson and Emma Westwood plus production stills
• Five collectors’ art cards
The Appointment | The rarely-seen 1980’s Brit horror starring Edward Woodward gets a BFI Flipside release
Courtesy of the BFI, comes the 44th Flipside release, The Appointment, the rarely-seen British horror directed by Lindsay Vickers, on Blu-ray (11 July) and on iTunes and Amazon Prime (25 July).
Edward Woodward and Jane Merrow star as suburban parents Ian and Dianna, who finds themselves troubled by prophetic nightmares when Ian is unable to attend his daughter’s violin recital. Are dark forces about to be unleashed upon their comfortable life? And what has it to do with the mysterious disappearance of a local schoolgirl many years ago?
The Appointment was the only feature film directed by British filmmaker Lindsey Vickers. After honing his skills as a third and second assistant director on a host of 1970s Hammer films, including Taste the Blood of Dracula and Vampire Circus, and the Amicus horror, And Now the Screaming Starts, Vickers helmed a short film, The Lake.
In this 33-minute creeper, a young couple (played by Gene Foad and Julie Peasgood) and their loveable rottweiler (courtesy of Joan Woodgate, who supplied the dogs for The Omen) are beset by evil spirits at a lake beside a country house where a series of brutal murders took place. This was Vickers’ calling card to the British film industry. But no offers came, so he took up the difficult challenge (financially) to make his own feature, The Appointment.
Drawing on similar spooky themes he explored in The Lake, Vickers’ crafted a slow-burning chiller that culminates in a WTF ‘edge-of-your-seat’ ending. The director remarks in the extras that he felt the film was too slow, but watching the BFI’s new Blu-ray release, it only makes it all the more unsettling.
Before the shock ending (which features some adrenaline-pumping stunt work on location in Snowdonia), you are led into a false sense of security as you watch a normal family domestic drama play out. Woodward’s character, Ian, is miffed that he has been called away on business, and this doesn’t bode well with his musically-gifted teenage daughter, Joanne (Samantha Weysom). She may or may not be a conduit to the evil powers at play, and it’s never fully explained – as is a car mechanic’s gruesome demise. But, again, it’s what makes the film so bewitching and unique.
Oh, and watch out for the scene involving a telephone box – it’s a masterclass in creating suspense through careful editing. Also making a return appearance are Joan Woodgate’s rottweilers (although much more menacing this time around).
Following its British television airing, The Appointment, quickly faded into obscurity and, when the directing offers failed to materialise, Vickers turned his hand to commercials for the rest of his career. Thankfully, the BFI’s Flipside team have resurrected Vickers’ film for a new generation of film fans to appreciate, alongside some great extras (my favourite being an interview with Lindsay and his wife Jan – their memories of watching the film’s TV debut are a hoot).
- Presented on Blu-ray in Standard Definition
- Newly recorded audio commentary by director Lindsey Vickers
- Vickers on Vickers (2021, 41 mins): the director looks back on his life and career
- Another Outing (2021, 16 mins): Jane Merrow recalls co-starring in The Appointment
- Appointments Shared (2022, 7 mins): Lindsey and Jan Vickers remember the making of the ‘haunted film’
- Framing The Appointment (2022, 19 mins): Lindsey Vickers recalls making the film
- Remembering The Appointment (2022, 10 mins): assistant director Gregory Dark shares his recollections of the film
- The Lake (1978, 33 mins): Lindsey Vickers’ eerie short finds two young lovers choosing to picnic at a spot haunted by echoes of a violent event
- Newly recorded audio commentary on The Lake by Lindsey Vickers
- Splashing Around (2020, 18 mins): actor Julie Peasgood on making The Lake
- Galleries featuring annotated scripts, storyboards, images and production materials
- Newly commissioned sleeve art by Matt Needle
- Illustrated booklet with new writing by Lindsey Vickers including a message about this release, Vic Pratt and William Fowler; biographies of Edward Woodward and Jane Merrow by Jon Dear, notes on the special features and credits
The Initiation of Sarah | The 1978 TV tale of telekinetic terror makes its restored Blu-ray debut
WELCOME TO HELL WEEK!
Shy teen Sarah Goodwin (Kay Lenz) secretly harbours psychic powers which she cannot fully control. When she and her sister Patty (Morgan Brittany) arrive at the prestigious Waltham College, their mother’s plans to have them both join her old sorority, Alpha Nu Sigma (ΑΝΣ), are scuttled by its snooty Queen Bee president, Jennifer Lawrence (Morgan Fairchild), who chooses Patty over Sarah.
Separated from her sister, Sarah is taken in by a rival sorority, Phi Epsilon Delta (ΦΕΔ AKA Pigs, Elephants and Dogs), which is made up of a group of independently-minded misfits. But Sarah soon becomes embroiled in a bizarre revenge plot masterminded by her satanic house mother, Mrs Erica Hunter (Shelley Winters).
Helmed by veteran British director Robert Day (The Haunted Strangler, First Man into Space, She) from a treatment written by Tom Holland (making his debut here), The Initiation of Sarah was part of a wave of made-for-TV horror movies that were shown on the US ABC network in the 1970s. This one aired on 6 February 1978, so was a late entry in what had started out as the ABC Movie of the Week in 1969, and which gave us such delights as Duel (1971), The Night Stalker (1972), Satan’s School for Girls (1973), Trilogy of Terror (1975), and so much more.
Growing up in this decade, I was lucky enough to have caught these – and they certainly fuelled my appetite for all things creepy, weird, and occasionally taboo. I have a lot of love for The Initiation of Sarah and am so pleased it’s been given a new lease of life on Blu-ray (and restored in all its kitsch 70s pastel glory). Yes, it does bare quite a few similarities to Carrie (most notably the shower scene, Jennifer’s cruel prank and the fiery climax), but it’s the cast that really sells it for me.
First and foremost, Shelley Winters! What can I say! She commands every scene she’s in as the mysterious Mrs Hunter, who starts out all nice and cuddly before revealing her evil true colours (in a flaming red robe, no less). And when she does, she certainly lets loose – very much like her wicked witch character in 1972’s Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (who also – SPOILER – goes up in flames).
Then there are two future US soap legends, Morgan Brittany and Morgan Fairchild, a fit-looking Robert Hays (just before his Flying High fame) – he effectively plays a character similar to John Travolta in Carrie – and Tisa Farrow (long before her Euro-horror turns) as Mouse, a withdrawn music student who is infatuated with Sarah.
When I first saw this on Australian TV in the 1980s, I knew there was something going on under the surface of Mouse’s attraction to Sarah (just check out those lingering looks between them). And thanks to the extras on the Arrow release, the queer connection is deffo playing out. Indeed, listening to the comments by the Gaylords of Darkness podcasters (who are a hoot) and Samantha McLaren (sporting fantastic batwing glasses) you’ll garner a new appreciation of the film from a queer perspective.
And if you count in Amanda Reyes’ commentary and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ feminist analysis – there’s a lot more to The Initiation of Sarah than just being a small screen Carrie rip-off. It’s all about sisters doin’ it for themselves!
Mind you, Tom Holland’s original idea was to have Sarah turn her victims into animals. Now, if only the terrible 2006 remake had gone down that dark path instead of the teen friend one?
On a trivia note, star Kay Lenz had been one year married to singer David Cassidy at the time (they divorced in 1983), while playing her ‘bitchy’ adopted mum was Kathryn Crosby (AKA Mrs Bing Crosby). Now, wouldn’t it have been cool if David and Bing had been asked to do a song together for the film? It certainly would have been way better than the annoying theme tune by the legendary Scottish composer Johnny Harris, who worked with the likes of Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones and scored the terrific jazz-fuelled Fragments of Fear (sorry Johnny).
The Arrow Video Blu-ray is out on 20 June 2022
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative by Arrow Films
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
• Original lossless mono audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new audio commentary by TV Movie expert Amanda Reyes
• Welcome to Hell Week: A Pledge’s Guide to the Initiation of Sarah, visual appreciation by Stacie Ponder and Anthony Hudson, co-hosts of the Gaylords of Darkness podcast
• Cracks in the Sisterhood: Second Wave Feminism and The Initiation of Sarah, a visual essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
• The Intimations of Sarah, interview with film critic Samantha McLaren looking at witchcraft, empowerment, TV movies, and telekinetic shy girls post-Carrie
• The Initiation of Tom, a new interview with Tom Holland
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Luke Insect
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Lindsay Hallam and Alexandra West
Vampyr | The uncanny 1932 German horror returns to the big screen with an all-new 2k restoration for its 90th anniversary
“★★★★★ A vampire film like no other… a waking nightmare of eerie, ethereal horror” – Total Film
“As close as you get to a poem on film” – Guillermo del Toro
Courtesy of Eureka Entertainment comes the release of the 2K restoration of director Carl Theodor Dreyer’s enduring 1932 Germany horror Vampyr, in cinemas (UK & Ireland from 20 May) and on Blu-ray as a part of The Masters of Cinema Series (also 20 May).
The first foray into sound filmmaking by one of cinema’s pivotal artists, Vampyr remains a cornerstone work of the horror genre. The dreamlike tale of an occult-obsessed student’s visit to the small French village of Courtempierre, as he is drawn into the unsettling mystery around a stricken family’s struggle with malevolent forces, remains an unparalleled evocation of the uncanny.
Adapting Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 story, In a Glass Darkly, Dreyer’s ceaseless innovation delivers a tour-de-force of supernatural phantasmagoria and creeping unease, via audacious camera work and sound design, as well as a mesmerising performance from the film’s producer, aristocrat Nicolas de Gunzburg (credited as Julian West), in the central role of occult student, Julian West.
Presented from an all-new 2K restoration by the Danish Film Institute (completed in 2020), and taking more than a decade to complete, this is regarded as the most definitive incarnation of Vampyr possible.
LIMITED-EDITION BLU-RAY (3000 COPIES) FEATURES
• Hardbound Slipcase
• All-new 2K digital restoration of the German version, with an uncompressed mono soundtrack
• Optional unrestored audio track
• Audio commentaries from critic and programmer Tony Rayns and Vampyr fan Guillermo del Toro
• Visual essay by scholar Casper Tybjerg on Dreyer’s Vampyr influences
• Interview with Kim Newman on Vampyr‘s place within vampire cinema
• Two interviews with music historian David Huckvale
• Carl Th. Dreyer (1966) – a documentary by Jörgen Roos
• Two deleted scenes, removed by the German censor in 1932
• The Baron: short MoC documentary about Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg
• Optional English subtitles
• Collector’s booklet featuring rare production ephemera, a 1964 interview with Baron Nicolas de Gunzberg, and essays by Tom Milne, Jean and Dale Drum, and film restorer Martin Koerber
VAMPYR Limited Edition Blu-ray available to order from the Eureka Store https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/vampyr-limited-edition-box-set-3000-copies/
VAMPYR 90th Anniversary Screenings www.vampyr90.co.uk
Man Made Monster | Universal’s 1941 mad scientist shocker ignites on Blu-ray
Lon Chaney Jr makes his horror debut alongside Hollywood’s most exquisite villain of the 1930s and 1940s, Lionel Atwill, in Universal’s 1941 horror Man Made Monster, which makes its UK Blu-ray debut in Eureka Entertainment’s two-disc Three Monster Tales of Sci-fi Terror box-set (due out 11 April 2022).
THE TOUCH OF DEATH!
When carny Dan McCormick AKA Dynamo Dan, the Electric Man (Chaney Jr) miraculously survives a bus crash into a power line, electrophysiologist Dr John Lawrence (Samuel S Hinds) invites him to stay at his medical facility, The Moors, so he can study him and his seemingly natural immunity. But the kindly doctor’s assistant, Dr Paul Rigas (Atwill), has other plans.
In secret, Dr Rigas pumps Dan with increasingly higher doses of electricity so he can prove his theory that he can create a race of electrically-charged super slaves. Soon poor Dan becomes a ghostly glowing killing machine and nothing can stop him – not even the electric chair.
Man-Made Monster (the hyphen was added for the film poster) was originally planned to be a vehicle for Bela Lugosi when it was first mooted back in 1936 under the title The Electric Man. But it was shelved as being too similar to the same year’s The Invisible Ray.
In his first leading role, Chaney Jr gives an endearing turn as the gentle pooch-loving everyman in the film’s first half. But once he’s drugged up on Atwill’s electrical fixes, he turns into a mute, slow-moving monster. Luckily, we have John P Fulton’s effective special effects, some moody lighting and a great lab set to enjoy as well as Atwill’s feverish performance. This is possibly his most OTT mad scientist role and he milks the ripe dialogue to the hilt – most significantly his big speech when questioned about challenging the forces of Creation:
‘Bah! You know as well as I do that more than half the people of the world are doomed to a life of mediocrity – born to be nonentities, millstones around the neck of progress, men who have to be fed, watched, looked over, and taken care of by a superior intelligence.’
Atwill also gets some choice lines when revealing his insane idea to an elegant Vera West-styled Anne Nagel, who plays the film’s plucky heroine, June: ‘I’ve always found that the female of the species was more sensitive to electrical impulse than the male. Shall I show you how it was done?‘.
Shot in three weeks on one of Universal’s cheapest budgets, Man-Made Monster proved a modest winner at the box office when released in March 1941, and earned Chaney Jr a contract with the studio. It also kick-started his horror career which would be cemented when he reteamed with director George Waggner for The Wolf Man nine months later. Atwill, meanwhile, was facing a personal crisis. Just a few months after his character, Dr Rigas, commits perjury in the film’s big courtroom scene, Atwill was given a five-year probation sentence (and blacklisted) for the same offence over the 1941 alleged occurrence of a sex orgy at his home.
Be prepared for a tearful ending featuring Hollywood canine Corky (he’s so darn cute).
The Eureka Classics box-set, Three Monster Tales of Sci-fi Terror also includes 1957’s The Monolith Monsters and 1958’s Monster on the Campus. You can read my reviews on those films by clicking on the titles. Also included in the box set are brand new audio commentaries on each film, photo galleries and a limited edition collector’s booklet.
• Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase
• 1080p presentations on Blu-ray
• Disc One – Man-Made Monster and The Monolith Monsters
• Disc Two – Monster on the Campus (available in both 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 aspect ratios)
• Man-Made Monster – Audio commentary with authors Stephen Jones and Kim Newman
• The Monolith Monsters – Audio commentary with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Monster on the Campus – Audio commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman
• Optional SDH subtitles on each film
• Collector’s booklet written by film scholar Craig Ian Man
Order from the Eureka Store: https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/three-monster-tales-of-sci-fi-terror/
She Freak (1967) | Roll up! The exploitation carny classic gets its UK 4K restoration release from 101 Films
‘PLEASE DO NOT FEED OR TEASE THE CREATURE’
Waitress Jade Cochran (Claire Brennen) sees her fortunes rise when she joins a travelling carnival and freakshow and marries its owner Steve St John (Bill McKinney). When he dies at the hands of her roughneck lover Blackie (Lee Raymond), she abuses her newfound position and earns the wrath of Shorty (Felix Silla) and his fellow freaks who turn her into one of their kind.
This sleazy 1967 reworking of Tod Browning’s 1932 classic Freaks is an absolute hoot from beginning to end (which re-stages Browning’s original climax). It’s also a love letter to the carnival lifestyle of the period by exploitation producer David F Friedman (himself a long-time carny) thanks to the real-life footage of the West Coast Shows carnival shot at the Kern County Fair in Bakersfield, California, which intersperses the ‘drama’.
I first learned of She Freak from Michael Weldon’s seminal 1989 tome The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film which had a picture of Claire Brennan as Jade and the hideous ‘Snake Girl’. Yes, the make-up (by Harry Thomas who worked on Frankenstein’s Daughter and Navy vs. the Night Monsters) is hokey, but it just so works in this trashy weirdo classic.
If you are a fan of either Nightmare Alley (1947) or Horrors of the Black Museum (1959), then you will get a real kick out of this as there are a couple of nods to those classics. There’s also a blink or you’ll miss it shot of the mummified body of real-life US train and bank robber Elmer J McCurdy, which was used as a prop. Plus, there’s the legend that is Felix Silla, who got the part when the original choice, Angelo Rossitto, had to bail as he had other commitments.
I originally saw She Freak on VHS as a Something Weird Video release I picked up in New York back in the 1990s, but this new 4K restoration by the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) is simply amazing! The colours are so vivid, just like the candy floss or slushies you used to get at carnival and circus shows of the past (where the E-numbers were dialled up to 100).
But I also so enjoyed the extras included in 101 Films release, especially Friedman’s archival commentary (he passed in 2011) – which is the last word on this production – and the feature-length trailers (which were included on my original VHS but are now all spruced up).
• 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative
• Archival commentary with producer David F. Friedman and Something Weird founder
• Asylum of the Insane: She Freak inserts preserved in 2K
• The Laughing, Leering, Lampooning Lures of David F. Friedman (97:20): a compilation of trailers from the Something Weird vaults, newly preserved in 2K
• Vintage shorts from the carnival midway
• Promotional photo gallery
• Booklet with essay by Something Weird’s Lisa Petrucci
• Reversible cover artwork
Shock (1977) | Mario Bava’s final feature is an underrated gem – just watch out for the walking wardrobes!
More than two years after his 1974 thriller Rabid Dogs remained unfinished and the same year’s horror Lisa and the Devil went unreleased in Italy and was cut to shreds on its international release, 63-year-old Italian director Mario Bava was in a bad way.
After a glittering career spanning some 40+ years, he found himself in semi-retirement as young guns like Dario Argento were becoming the new face of Italian horror. But with the help of his son Lamberto, who was just finding his way in the family business, Mario went on to helm what would become his final feature, 1977’s Shock (AKA Schock in Italy and Beyond the Door II in the US) – a modern-day psychological thriller in which true horror lies from within.
Daria Nicolodi stars as the mentally fragile Dora, who moves back into her old family home on the Italian coast with her pilot husband, Bruno (John Steiner) and Marco (David Colin Jr), her young son from a previous marriage. When Bruno departs for work in London, Dora finds herself plagued by accidents and apparitions, as well as Marco’s increasingly bizarre behaviour, which inescapably leads her to a nervous breakdown.
Everything seems to be linked to Dora’s former dead husband Carlo, a drug addict who took his own life. Has his spirit come back to haunt her? Is he using Marco as a conduit to torment her? Is Dora manifesting some deep-set guilt? And what lies behind the brick wall in the cellar?
Now restored in high definition for the first time, Mario Bava’s cinematic swansong is ripe for rediscovery courtesy of Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release, which features some superb extras. These include an insightful audio commentary from Tim Lucas, who is, without doubt, the foremost authority on all things Mario Bava, and Lamberto Bava’s interview, which lays bare the ins and outs of his collaboration with his dad. Plus, much more.
I hadn’t seen Shock before (and I’ve seen most of Maria Bava’s films over the years) and I must say, it’s an underrated gem. There’s so much on offer here, despite its poor reception on its release. There’s a Repulsion-esque scenario that plays crazy mind games on you; an intensely engaging performance from Nicolodi (who was working through her own personal issues following her separation from Dario Argento); some inventive practical special effects (including walking wardrobes and a possessed Stanley knife), and one particular jump scare that certainly got me! (and inspired a scene in the original Scream).
Bava also conjures up a hauntingly beautiful sequence that is pure Bava – when Dora has an erotically-charged encounter with Carlo’s spirit and her hair seemingly comes alive. And to top it all, there’s the eerie synth-and-percussion score by Italian jazz-rockers I Libra, whose members included Goblin’s original drummer Walter Martino (who worked on Profundo rosso). It’s such an earworm, I’m now hunting down a reasonably priced vinyl. A must-have for any fan of Italian’s founding father of horror.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative by Arrow Films
• Original Italian and English front and end titles and insert shots
• Restored original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark
• A Ghost in the House, a new video interview with co-director and co-writer Lamberto Bava
• Via Dell’Orologio 33, a new video interview with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti
• The Devil Pulls the Strings, a new video essay by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
• Shock! Horror! – The Stylistic Diversity of Mario Bava, a new video appreciation by author and critic Stephen Thrower
• The Most Atrocious Tortur(e), a new interview with critic Alberto Farina
• Italian theatrical trailer
• 4 US “Beyond the Door II” TV spots
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Christopher Shy
• Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava
Seizure (1974) | Probably the strangest Oliver Stone film you will ever see!
You know even the greatest of filmmakers have to start somewhere – and multi-award-winning Oliver Stone is no exception. The director, screenwriter, film producer and author is best known for such cinematic highs as Platoon, Wall Street, Natural Born Killer, JFK and Nixon, but he actually cut his directorial teeth on the 1974 Canadian horror, Seizure.
It’s a film I’ve only ever heard about – until now! While attending Dark Fest IV in London recently, I stumbled across a copy of the 2014 Scorpion Releasing Blu-ray. Now, what sold me was that one of the film’s stars, Martine Beswick was also in attendance and she happily signed it for me. So what’s it like? Well, I thought it might be as cheesy and OTT as Stone’s other attempt at horror – the 1981 misfire The Hand starring Michael Caine – but you know what? It is very peculiar, but not that bad.
Jonathan Frid (AKA Dark Shadows‘ Barnabas Collins) plays horror writer Edmund Blackstone, who is experiencing a nightmarish Groundhog Day in which three murderous intruders target Blackstone’s family and friends who have gathered for a weekend at a lakeside retreat.
But these are no ordinary psychos: there’s the beautiful but deadly Queen of Evil (Beswick), a dwarf called Spider (played by a pre-Fantasy Island’s Hervé Villechaize) and their scarred executioner Jackal (Henry Judd Baker). Dressed in medieval attire, the trio all seem from some other time and place. Are they real or figments of Edmund’s imagination?
Yes, it’s got some rather clunky editing going on, and the performances are of the ‘chewing the scenery’ type, but Stone’s home invasion thriller has a weird adult fairy tale vibe going on that makes it so unique.
Along for the wild ride is Warhol superstar Mary Woronov (just before she joined Roger Corman’s indie gang) – who shows off her athletic body during a rather bizarre knife fight, fading sex symbol Troy Donahue, soap star Christina Pickles, voice-over king Joseph Sirola, and (making his first feature) Richard Cox, who would find fame as the gay serial killer in William Friedkin’s Cruising. What a cast!
The Blu-ray features a new HD master from the original vault elements, so it looks as good as it will ever be and I must say that Beswick steals the show in her Morticia Addams-styled black attire and luscious red lipstick. Although Sirola’s obnoxious Trump-like Charlie does come in a close second. Given that, for years, Stone has tried to erase this film from his credits, it’s certainly one to seek out. The Scorpion release also has a great interview with Woronov (whose description of Stone had me howling) and Cox (who has some fun memories of working on the movie).