Category Archives: Must-See
Dance Craze (1981) | The iconic 2Tone concert film gets a remastered release
Shot throughout 1980 and released in cinemas in 1981, Dance Craze definitively captured the 2Tone movement, which originated in Coventry and fused traditional Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae music with punk rock and new wave music. Directed by Joe Massot and filmed by BAFTA award-winning cinematographer Joe Dunton, it features live performances of The Specials, Madness, The Selecter, The Beat, Bad Manners and The Bodysnatchers filmed at various venues during a UK tour.
Newly remastered in 4K from original film materials, the toe-tapping concert film is presented here by the BFI and Chrysalis Records on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time, and I, for one, will be adding this to my collection as Madness’ rendition of Swan Lake is one of my all-time favourite musical moments. It’s also an especially poignant release as it comes just three months since the passing of The Specials’ Terry Hall. Oh! and you’ll dig the hip cat teenagers in the archival newsreel footage that features halfway through the film.
The special features include an episode from BBC’s Arena exploring the rise of 2Tone and a selection of rare clips from the film, many previously unseen. Alongside the Blu-ray/DVD release, Chrysalis Records are releasing the soundtrack in a remastered audio 3LP and 3CD set on 24 March, while 30 Picturehouse cinemas across the UK will hold a special one-off screening on 23 March. There’s also BFI IMAX screening on the same day, but it’s already sold out.
Time to get your dancing shoes on, folks…
• Newly remastered from original 70mm materials and approved by cinematographer Joe Dunton
• Rudies Come Back (1980, 34 mins): in this episode of the long-running BBC series Arena, music journalist Adrian Thrills explores the rise of 2Tone. Featuring interviews with The Specials and The Selecter
• Outtakes (1980, 17 mins): a selection of rare clips, many previously unseen, featuring the bands from the film
• Restoration demo (2022, 2 mins): a before-and-after look at the restoration of Dance Craze
• Original stereo and surround sound mixes by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley remastered for this release, plus a new Dolby Atmos surround sound mix approved by Jerry Dammers
• Illustrated booklet with a new essay by Johnny Mains, the original 1981 press release and original 1981 band biographies, credits and notes on the special features
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 Final Programme | Robert Fuest’s psychedelic 1970s sci-fi get a newly-restored UK Blu-ray premiere release
Jon Finch heads a starry cast as the flamboyant anti-hero of this dystopian, darkly humorous sci-fi thriller from maverick British writer/director Robert Fuest – best-known for the Dr Phibes black comedy horror films starring Vincent Price and TV’s The Avengers.
Based on Michael Moorcock’s 1968 novel, and produced by David Puttnam, The Final Programme is presented here in a new restoration making its UK Blu-ray premiere, which brilliantly showcases Fuest’s flamboyant and stylish visuals and production design.
In a far-off future, mankind is in a state of decay. But a group of scientists believe they have found the means to move humanity on to its next level in the creation of an ideal, self-replicating – and thus immortal – human being.
Jerry Cornelius, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and playboy adventurer, is vital to the project’s success: his recently deceased father devised the formula of this ‘final programme’.
However, the formula is captured on microfilm hidden in the vaults of the family’s mansion, and jealously guarded by Jerry’s drug-addicted, psychopathic brother, Frank…
Joining Finch in the psychedelic adventure are Sterling Hayden, Jenny Runacre, Graham Crowden, Patrick Magee, Ronald Lacey and Harry Andrews – as well as genre faves Julie Ege and Sarah Douglas.
Weird, wild, and the most Fuestian of the director’s oeuvre, The Final Programme is available to buy on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from 20 February 2023.
The special extras on the new Studiocanal release include an interview with Jenny Runacre, Kim Newman (who cites the film as Fuest’s masterpiece) taking a brief look at Fuest’s career, the Italian title sequence and trailers. The Blu-ray edition included four collector’s art cards.
You can read my full review of THE FINAL PROGRAMME by clicking on the title link.
Available to pre-order HERE.
Audrey Rose (1977) | The underrated supernatural thriller gets an Arrow 2k restoration release
Master filmmaker Robert Wise began his career with horror classics The Curse of the Cat People and The Body Snatcher for producer Val Lewton. His career would go on to include westerns, thrillers, science fiction and musicals, earning him two Academy Awards for Best Director. In 1963 he returned to his Lewtonian roots with the classic ghost story The Haunting; in 1977, he returned once more with the supernatural thriller Audrey Rose.
All parents Bill (John Beck) and Janice (Marsha Mason) wish for is a quiet, peaceful life with their 11-year-old daughter Ivy (Susan Swift). But their dreams turn to nightmares as Ivy is besieged first by terrifying ‘memories’ of events that never occurred… and then is stalked by a mysterious stranger (Anthony Hopkins) who claims that Ivy was, in fact, his daughter in another life.
Released in the wake of The Exorcist and The Omen, Audrey Rose is an intelligent, heartfelt drama that approaches its subject with an open mind and seriousness of intent that caught many off guard but typifies Wise’s previous genre forays. Sensitively played by a sterling cast at the top of their game, this underseen gem deserves a place on the shelf of any fan of classic horror. And boy, can little Susan Swift scream the house down…
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration by Arrow Films from a new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative
• 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 film critic Jon Towlson
• Faith and Fraud, a brand new interview with magician Adam Cardone about reincarnation and belief in Audrey Rose
• Then and Now, a brand new featurette looking at the New York locations used in the film
• I’ve Been Here Before, archive visual essay by Lee Gambin looking at reincarnation in cinema
• Investigator: The Paranormal World of Frank De Felitta, an archive interview with the author and scriptwriter of Audrey Rose
• The Role of a Mother, an archive Interview with Marsha Mason
• Hypnotist: Inside the score for Audrey Rose, an archive interview with film music historian Daniel Schweiger
• Theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Christopher Shy
• Collectors booklet featuring new writing by critics Kimberly Lindbergs and Johnny Mains
Son of the White Mare (1981) | Marcell Jankovics’ kaleidoscopic animated masterpiece Special Edition Blu-ray
From Eureka Entertainment comes Hungarian animator Marcell Jankovics’ underground 1981 fantasy epic, Son of the White Mare [Fehérlófia], on Blu-ray as a part of The Masters of Cinema Series, presented from a director-approved 4K restoration.
Regarded as a definitive masterpiece of world cinema, this psychedelic adaptation of the narrative poetry from László Arany and ancient Hunnic, Avaric and Hungarian legends follows heroes Treeshaker (the titular son), Stonecrumbler and Irontemperer as they descend into the perilous Underworld on an epic quest to battle the forces of ancient evil and save the cosmos.
Utilising a kaleidoscopic medley of animation styles that’s reminiscent of the fluid techniques employed by Richard Williams in his unfinished fantasy epic, The Thief and the Cobbler, Son of the White Mare is a dizzy, stunning, transformative piece of cinema that’s guaranteed to have you spellbound throughout its 90-minutes of ever-changing colours and shapes. And it doesn’t shy on the sexual elements either – so not really suitable for impressionable young children.
Presented from a 2019 4K restoration supervised and approved by Jankovics, this release also includes a wealth of special extras, including the animator’s debut feature – and the first-ever Hungarian animated feature film, Johnny Corncob [János Vitéz] (1973), as well as a selection of his short films.
- Limited Edition O-Card slipcase
- 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a director-approved 4K digital restoration
- Johnny Corncob (János Vitéz) – Jankovics’ first animated feature, and the first ever Hungarian animated feature film, is also presented here in 1080p from a director-approved 4K digital restoration
- Sisyphus – short film
- Dreams on Wings – short film created as a commercial for Air India
- The Struggle (Küzdők) – short film
- Optional English Subtitles
- Brighter Colors – extensive interview with Marcell Jankovics from the Hungarian National Film Archive, filmed in 2020
- Making of János Vitéz – archival featurette from 1973
- The Director Talks – featurette with Jankovics produced by the Hungarian National Film Archive
- A collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by film writer Rich Johnson
Available to order from:
Eureka Store https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/son-of-the-white-mare-feherlofia/
The Cat and the Canary (1939) & The Ghost Breakers (1940) | A double-bill of ghosts and gags with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard on Blu-ray
From Eureka Entertainment come the Bob Hope/Paulette Goodard classics The Cat and the Canary (1939) & The Ghost Breakers (1940) on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.
The Cat and the Canary (dir. Elliott Nugent, 1939)
A decade after the death of an eccentric millionaire, his remaining relatives gather for the reading of the will at his abandoned mansion set deep in the Louisiana bayous. His niece Joyce (Paulette Goddard) is named the sole inheritor, but under the condition that she does not go insane within the next 30 days.
Timid radio actor Wally (Bob Hope) vows to protect Joyce, who must spend the night in the haunted mansion along with her jealous relatives, a creepy maid and a homicidal maniac who has just escaped from a nearby sanitarium…
A slick mix of wisecracking comedy and spooky thrills, The Cat and the Canary turned Bob Hope into a Hollywood star and won Paulette Goddard a 10-year contract with Paramount. One of the earliest ‘old dark house’ mysteries, first filmed as a silent in 1927, it was tailored to Hope’s characteristic style, which he’d go onto hone in his buddy comedies with Bing Crosby, and gave Goddard the chance to shine as the spirited heroine.
Stylishly staged, it boasts wonderfully gloomy performances from George Zucco as a stiff lawyer and Gale Sondergaard as the sinister housekeeper. Following this film, Zucco and Sondergaard went on to play the villainous Moriarty and The Spider Woman in Universal’s big-screen Sherlock Holmes adventures opposite Basil Rathbone. The success of the film led to Hope and Goddard re-teaming for The Ghost Breakers (1940).
The Ghost Breakers (dir. George Marshall, 1940)
Larry Lawrence (Hope), sought in connection with a murder he didn’t commit, eludes New York police by hiding in a steamer trunk belonging to Mary Carter (Goddard), who is sailing to Cuba to take possession of an inheritance – a haunted castle.
Sensing that Mary is in danger, Larry and his valet Alex (Willie Best) precede her to the island, which is seemingly inhabited by a ghost, a zombie and perhaps even a flesh ‘n’ blood fiend…
Romance, comedy and chills are all on offer in this follow-up, with Hope and Goddard battling earthly and un-earthly foes—and trying to keep from ending up as ghosts themselves.
This was the third film version of the 1909 play of the same name, and although it delivers on the gallows humour and atmospherics, the whiff of political incorrectness does permeate. Still, it’s a classic treat, and features a young Anthony Quinn in a dual role (just a year before his breakthrough performance in 1941’s Blood and Sand, starring Tyrone Power).
Hope also shows his Republican colours in one joke (which he repeats in the 1949 radio adaptation). Director George Marshall remade the film in 1953 (Scared Stiff), featuring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, plus a cameo from Hope and Bing Crosby.
• 1080p presentation of both films from scans of the original film elements supplied by Universal, with The Ghost Breakers presented from a new 2K master
• Optional English SDH
• Audio commentary tracks on both films with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Kim Newman on The Cat and the Canary and The Ghost Breakers
• The Ghost Breakers radio adaptation (4 April 1949) – Do listen to this, as it’s a lot of fun, and Hope’s interaction with the live audience is a hoot.
• Limited edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann
Available to order from Eureka Store: https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/the-cat-and-the-canary-ghost-breakers/
Brian and Charles | The utterly delightful feel-good robot bromance is a quirky must-see!
★★★★ “Its mixture of sweetness and silliness is wonderful” The Times
★★★★ “Made with genuine affection and innately British whimsy” Empire
From Mediumrare Entertainment comes the DVD/Blu-ray release of director Jim Archer’s delightfully weird British comedy Brian and Charles.
Based on the director’s acclaimed 2017 short film (watch it a the bottom of this post), this quirky comedy co-written by David Earl and Chris Hayward centres on Brian (Hayward), a lonely inventor living in rural North Wales who decides one day to build a robot.
Constructed from an old washing machine and the head of a bespectacled mannequin missing an eye, the lumbering seven-foot, cabbage-eating Charles (Earl) is like an overly-inquisitive child, keen to know how everything works. He also develops an obsessive desire to see the world. But, being wary of the outside world and social interactions, introvert Brian is reluctant to even let him go outside.
When Brian meets the equally shy Hazel (Louise Brealey), however, he finds his confidence growing thanks to father-son bonding with Charles, and when Charles is stolen by the town’s local bully, Brian is finally forced to come out of the shadows to save his mechanised friend…
I’ve now seen this three times, and it continues to delight – mostly for the uniqueness of the concept and for David Earl’s comically crude robot voice and quotable dialogue: ‘You don’t mess with Brian and Charles’. It’s probably a spoiler to reveal the feel-good ending, but given what happens, I, for one, would love to see a sequel or even a sitcom spin-off.
• Gag reel
• Twitter Q&A Featurette
• This or That Featurette
• Theatrical trailer (as below)
King Kong | The 1976 blockbuster gets a 4k restoration release
From STUDIOCANAL comes the 4K restoration release of John Guillermin’s Academy Award-winning 1976 remake of the iconic classic King Kong, starring Jeff Bridges and introducing Jessica Lange in her film debut.
Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital, as well as a 4K UHD Steelbook (which will also include the Extended TV broadcast cut, unrestored) from 5 December 2022.
Primate palaeontologist Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) smuggles himself aboard an American-owned oil tanker, hoping to track down a rare species of monkey on a remote island in the South Pacific, but is soon discovered. After a violent storm, the expedition, led by Petrox oil executive Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin), also takes on a shipwreck survivor, aspiring actress Dwan (Jessica Lange). When the ship anchors off the island, the crew discovers the island’s indigenous inhabitants worship a monumental ape called ‘Kong’, and on seeing Dwan, kidnap her as an offering.
After rescuing Dwan and capturing Kong, Wilson orders the ship back to New York, where he hopes to use Kong as a publicity stunt for Petrox. But his Beauty and the Beast idea goes awry when Kong breaks out of his bonds and rampages the city before climaxing with a stand-off between Kong and the US military atop the twin towers of the World Trade Center…
King Kong was originally released over the Christmas period in 1976, and it was ‘THE’ blockbuster event of that year. I still have all the lobby cards and publicity materials from the cinema I saw it in (as well as press cuttings from its April 1980 TV release in Australia, see below), and remember very clearly my mum and my sister balling their eyes out on seeing Kong lying in a blood of blood after falling from the Twin Towers, and hearing his giant heartbeat fading away.
Kudos go to Rick Baker (uncredited at the time), who brought so much emotion just with his eyes inside his impressive monkey suit. The film remains one of my favourites, and my 12-year-old self was very aware, even at such a young age, of the subtle sexual overtones of the ‘waterfall shower scene’ between Kong and Jessica Lange, which ends with Kong drying Dwan with his breath.
While today’s SFX have come leaps and bounds, director Guillerman (whose Towering Inferno I saw 9 times on its original cinema release) and his team put so much love and attention into bringing Kong to life with what were state-of-the-art techniques back in 1976 – and it’s thrilling to see their handiwork once again in this newly restored release, especially Kong’s hydraulic arm and hand. One thing I did notice rewatching the epic adventure,is that Jessica’s Dwan is the film’s only female character (you couldn’t do that today).
Among the many excellent extras, I suggest tuning into Rick Baker’s commentary first as it tells you the real story behind the film’s production from Kong’s own mouth (so to speak).
4K UHD SPECIAL FEATURES
• Extended TV broadcast cut (unrestored)
BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
• Audio commentary with film historian Ray Morton
• Audio commentary with actor and makeup artist Rick Baker (THIS IS A MUST-LISTEN)
• Interview with Barry Nolan
• Interview with Bill Kronick
• Interview with Scott Thaler and Jeffrey Chernov
• Interview with David McGiffert and Brian E. Frankish
• Interview with Jack O’Halloran
• Interview with Steve Varner
• Deleted Scenes
• Original Trailer
ABOUT THE RESTORATION
This 2022 restoration is presented by STUDIOCANAL and Paramount Pictures. The 35mm original negative was scanned in 4K and colour graded by Paramount, while the restoration and mastering were then carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata under the supervision of STUDIOCANAL. A 4K DCP was created, as well as a UHD HDR Dolby Vision master, to enhance the sharpness and brightness in cinemas which is not usually possible with a standard HD master. In addition, there is a new, improved and cleaned-up 5.1 audio.
MY SCRAPBOOK COLLECTION OF KING KONG EPHEMERA
The Most Dangerous Game (1932) | The influential pre-Code adventure thrills again on Blu-ray
Back in 1924, American author and journalist Richard Connell published what has become one of the most popular and influential short stories ever written (in English) – The Most Dangerous Game. It centres on Sanger Rainsford, a New York City big-game hunter who gets the tables turned on him after he gets washed up on a Caribbean island where he is hunted down by Russian aristocrat General Zaroff and his deaf-mute servant. It’s been adapted countless times – on film, radio and television – and continues to inspire film and television makers, video game developers and even the creators of Paintball.
But the very first film adaptation remains the best – RKO Pictures’ 1932 fast-paced pre-Code adventure starring Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, and Leslie Banks, which is now out on Blu-ray, from a 2K restored scan as part of Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinema Series.
McCrea takes on the role of the heroic big-game hunter (called Bob here), while Banks is the egotistical Zaroff. Fay Wray, meanwhile, plays a character created especially for the film (for added scream queen/romantic interest value).
Taking advantage of the jungle sets created for co-producers Ernest B. Schoedsack, and Merian C Cooper’s King Kong (including that famous gigantic log), The Most Dangerous Game was filmed at night after Kong had concluded for the day, with many of the cast and crew (including McCrea and Wray) pulling double duty on both productions.
In many respects (such as the excellent production design, optical effects and Max Steiner score – which he pulled together at the eleventh hour), it comes off as a screen test for King Kong. But it really is its own beast – mainly thanks to Leslie Banks’ hypnotic, OTT theatrical performance.
The Masters of Cinema Series 2K restored scan Blu-ray release looks and sounds fantastic and includes some super extras, most notably three radio adaptations featuring Orson Welles and Keenan Wynn (1943); J Carrol Naish and Joseph Cotten (1945) and Paul Frees and Hans Conried (1947), which all dispense with the Fay Wray character and include many lines from the film’s screenplay.
I also particularly enjoyed the audio commentary and totally agree with Stephen Jones’ idea that McCrea and his ripped shirt in the closing scenes inspired the Doc Savage pulp magazine covers that began in 1933, a year after The Most Dangerous Game hit US cinemas.
- 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a 2K restored scan
- Optional English SDH & Unrestored audio
- Audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman
- Kim Newman on the ‘hunted human’ sub-genre
- Film scholar Stephen Thrower on The Most Dangerous Game
- Merian C Cooper: Reminisces (1971 audio interview, July 1971)
- Suspense 1943 radio adaptation
- Suspense 1945 radio adaptation
- Escape 1947 radio adaptation
- German theatrical trailer
- A collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Craig Ian Mann
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) | Universal’s silent classic starring Lon Chaney gets a 4k restored release
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is without doubt one the greatest, most spectacular, silent films of all time. A ‘Super Jewel’ adaptation of Victor Hugo’s epic 1831 novel, this lavish Universal production was a huge success for the studio and features a breakout performance from Lon Chaney, which made him a global superstar.
Now fully restored in 4K, it has been released on Blu-ray in the UK as part of The Masters of Cinema series from Eureka! It’s a must-have for any cinephile.
Chaney is at his most feral and uninhibited playing Quasimodo, the deaf, half-blind hunchback bell-ringer of Notre Dame, who unwittingly becomes the protector of street performer Esmerelda (Patsy Ruth Miller) – the adopted daughter of beggar king Clopin (Ernest Torrence) – when she attracts the lusty attentions of the dashing Captain Phoebus (Norman Kerry) and Jehan (Brandon Hurst) – the evil brother of Notre Dame’s archdeacon (Nigel de Brulier).
Universal spared no expense in bringing Victor Hugo’s novel to the big screen, and it certainly shows with the magnificent sets (like the life-size reproduction of Notre Dame) and 2500 extras (which required a public address system to get them all into position) on display.
Director Wallace Worsley covers the full scope of Hugo’s epic story, delivering drama, romance, action, spectacle and horror in equal measure. Then there are those set pieces which have become cinema legend: Quasimodo being lashed in the city square, the beggars storming the cathedral, and Quasimodo decanting vats of molten lead onto their heads.
While very much an ensemble piece, the film is really all about Chaney, who imbues his grotesque dispossessed character with so much light and shade – and comedy. Indeed, it taught Universal a valuable lesson – that human monsters can inspire both terror and pity. So great was the power of Chaney’s performance that, following a Quasimodo impersonation competition staged during the film’s London run, it became a benchmark for young British actors to aspire to.
The Universal 4k restoration is fantastic (and best viewed on a really big screen so you can witness Chaney’s incredible make-up and facial expressions). The score is impressive, as are the informative and well-researched extras that accompany this MUST-HAVE release. The only thing that can better this is someone finding the missing 15-minutes of footage (only seen in the original 1923 35mm release print).
- 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a 4K restoration conducted by Universal Pictures
- Score by Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum & Laura Karpman (presented in uncompressed LPCM stereo)
- Audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman (the fanboys let loose again! Always a fun listen)
- Interview with Kim Newman on the many adaptations of Victor Hugo’s novel (Did You Know? Lionel Bart of Olivier! fame wrote a stage musical called Quasimodo! that was only performed at London’s Kings Head theatre?)
- Interview with film historian Jonathan Rigby (loved his story about the London impersonation competition)
- Collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by journalist Philip Kemp illustrated with archival imagery