Category Archives: Must See

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.

Director Lindsey Vickers on set with Samantha Weysom, Jane Merrow and Edward Woodward.

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).

Special features

  • 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.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
• 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).

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative
• Archival commentary with producer David F. Friedman and Something Weird founder
Mike Vraney
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

ORDER DIRECT FROM 101 FILMS

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).

Dementia 13 | Francis Ford Coppola’s director’s cut is a must-have

I have been a huge fan of Dementia 13 ever since I bought it on VHS back in the 1980s. I’ve returned to it time and again because it just ticks so many boxes: the moody monochrome cinematography, the atmospheric harpsichord-heavy Ronald Stein score, the great use of the Sir Edwin Lutyens-styled 14th-century Howth Castle in Dublin, and another eccentric turn from one of my all-time favourite character actors, Patrick Magee. But the print I’ve been watching all these years has been quite poor.

So it was with much glee that I see Lionsgate Home Entertainment has released Francis Ford Coppola’s 1963 feature debut in a high-definition director’s cut (which was done back in 2017 by Coppola’s American Zoetrope) on Blu-ray as part of their Vestron Collector’s Series.

Luana Anders (who had just finished Roger Corman’s The Young Racers, and previously co-starred with Vincent Price in 1961’s The Pit and the Pendulum) plays recently widowed Louise Haloran, who keeps her husband’s death a secret in a bid to secure his inheritance.

But as she plots to exploit her ailing mother in law (Eithne Dunne) who continues to grieve over the tragic drowning of her daughter Kathleen, Louise’s plans are put in jeopardy by a maniac stalking the family estate. But who could it be? Brothers Richard (William Campbell) or Billy (Bart Patton), family physician Dr Justin Caleb (Magee), or someone else entirely?

Having seen the film countless times, I went straight to Coppola’s audio commentary – which was a blast. I’ve now gained a new appreciation of just how much the film is very much Coppola’s own. He not only directed but wrote the screenplay (which he readily admits was a cash-in on William Castle’s Homicidal, which was itself a rip on Hitchcock’s Psycho), and was very much involved in the film’s visual imagery. He was also the body double for the heart attack victim in the chilling opening scenes, the hand model for the film’s protagonist, Louise; and best of all, the 1962 Alfa Romeo Giulietta that features heavily was Coppola’s own pride and joy. One he wishes he still had – so do I! Oh, and I love the story he tells of how he became a hero after managing to keep a local pub open after closing time.

Made on just $40,000 (half of which was money left over from Corman’s The Young Races production) at Ardmore Studios in Bray, Ireland, Coppola’s psychological axe-murder horror is a masterclass in effective economical film-making – but also one with great style, and some very haunting imagery (such as the transistor radio burbling distorted pop music as it sinks into the lake, and [spoiler] Louise’s tragic early demise a la Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane).

To preserve his vision, Coppola excised the additional scenes (filmed by Jack Hill) that producer Roger Corman had added. While it’s a shame they weren’t included as an extra, the film finally looks and sounds its best!

Special Features
• Introduction by Francis Ford Coppola
• Audio Commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola
• Prologue (Dementia 13 Test): In a nod to William Castle’s gimmicks, and to extend the film’s running time, this features a ‘shrink’ inviting the audience to take part in a survey that tests their mental state.

Amazon Blu-ray: https://bit.ly/Dementia13Vestron

The Snake Girl and The Silver Haired Witch | This 1968 tokusatsu terror tale is a terrific delight

Japanese director Noriaki Yuasa is best-know for Daiei Studios’ iconic Gamera series which he helmed from 1965 to 1980. In 1968, in between Gamera films, he turned his eye to adapting Kazuo Umezu’s classic 1966 horror manga Hebi shōjo (AKA Reptilia), about a shape-shifting snake woman, for the big screen. The result was The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (Hebi musume to hakuhatsuma) – a tokusatsu terror tale that’s rarely been seen outside Japan since its release but gets a new life on Blu-ray from Arrow Video. And it’s a doozy.

A young girl called Sayuri (Yachie Matsui) is reunited with her scientist father and amnesiac mother after a long stay at a children’s home and is surprised to discover that she has an older sister, Tamami (Mayumi Takahashi).

With her father away on business, and her mother lost in her thoughts, Sayuri tries to befriend Tamami, who treats her with scorn, and is doted on by the family maid. Finding reptile scales on Tamami’s bed, Sayuri suspects her sister is a snake.

Moving to the attic, Sayuri begins having terrifying visions of a fanged creature and a witch that wishes to do her harm. But who is she? and why is she targeting her?

Yuasa’s 1968 horror is a revelation. I had never heard of the film before, and it doesn’t appear in any of my go-to reference books. But it’s got all the right ingredients to be a bona fide genre classic: a big house with shadow-lit passageways, a lab full of snakes and an attic draped in cobwebs, two genuinely scary monsters and a little girl heroine caught up in a nightmarish mystery.

Boasting haunting visuals, atmospheric production design and photography (that evoke Hammer’s psychological thrillers of the same period), a nerve-jangling score, and effective performances (especially Matsui, whose androgynous appearance serve to make this a Boys’ Own Adventure, too), The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is one to watch time and again.

Oh, and it doesn’t lack in shocks either: I had to turn away when poor Sayuri ends up having her hands repeatedly bashed while hanging for dear life from some scaffolding. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

● High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation, with original uncompressed mono audio
● Optional English subtitles
● Audio commentary by film historian David Kalat
This Charming Woman: Interview with manga and folklore scholar Zack Davisson
● Theatrical trailer
● Image gallery
● Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork by Mike Lee-Graham
● Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Raffael Coronelli

The Monster (AKA I Don’t Want to Be Born) | The three Dame 1970s British shocker gets a HD remaster

From Hammer/Amicus director Peter Sasdy comes the 1975 Fox-Rank exploitation horror that totally deserves its cult reputation. If you haven’t seen it, then Network’s new remastered release (which is out on Blu-ray and DVD) is worth seeking out.

This unsubtle rip-off of Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, sees Joan Collins cast as Lucy Carlesi, a London stripper who believes she has given birth to a demonic child, who possesses unusual strength. Ralph Bates plays her Italian husband Gino, who can’t decide whether Lucy is suffering from post-natal depression or not, Donald Pleasence is none-the-wiser as Lucy’s obstetrician, and Eileen Atkins is Gino’s nun sister, whom he turns to for guidance. But when Lucy realises that Hercules (George Claydon), a dwarf she once humiliated, has placed a curse on baby Nicholas, only an exorcism can save her child.

There’s much to deride this absurd slice of 1970s horror – including Bates’ and Atkins’ weird Italian accents, the obvious dubbing of Caroline Munro (as Lucy’s friend Mandy) and the laughable dialogue. But there’s also much to enjoy: the fab London film locations (I’ve passed the Chelsea house off the King’s Road many times); Collins looking ever so chic (in her own clothes, according to wardrobe supervisor Brenda Dabbs); and a gritty, atmospheric Ron Grainer score. You also get some memorable kills: including drowning, hanging and decapitation, and a great turn from Hilary Mason as the Carlesi’s no-nonsense housekeeper.

While Collins maybe the film’s star, Atkins, however, totally steals the show as Albana (who bizarrely conducts medical experiments on animals with her fellow convent nuns). After watching her steely performance, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was the inspiration for Dolly Wells’ Sister Agatha Van Helsing in 2020’s Dracula.

In the extras, director Sasdy proudly points out that his film (which he saved by pumping in his own money) boasts three Dame Commanders of the Order of the British Empire: Collins, Atkins and Floella Benjamin (who plays a nurse early in the film). Coincidentally, both Collins and Atkins are doing book events at the same time as this release – though I’m not sure this film will get much of a mention. But you never know.

Pre-order from Network: https://new.networkonair.com/british_horror_classics

SPECIAL FEATURES
• High Definition remaster from original film elements in its original theatrical aspect ratio.
• Audio commentary from the Second Features podcast team
Sasdy’s Baby: director Peter Sasdy gives an honest and gleeful look back at the film, and answers the long-asked question: why are Bates and Atkins’ playing Italian characters?
The Excisit: interview with editor Keith Palmer
Holding the Baby: fab interview with continuity veteran Renée Glynne, and wardrobe supervisor Brenda Dabbs
• Alternative titles (I Don’t Want to be Born)
• Theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• Booklet written by Adrian Smith

%d bloggers like this: