Category Archives: Thriller

William Castle at Columbia | These Limited Edition Blu-ray box-sets are the biz!

William Castle at Columbia

Renowned for his imaginative and eccentric marketing ploys, American film showman William Castle became synonymous with delivering lurid horror films backed-up by his trademark publicity gimmicks like Illusion-O, Percepto and Fright Breaks. Now, Powerhouse Films/Indicator are releasing eight of his classic films in two highly-collectable Blu-ray box-sets…

WILLIAM CASTLE AT COLUMBIA, VOLUME ONE features four classic fright films from the outrageous showman’s illustrious career with Columbia Pictures and presented on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK. Containing a wealth of new and archival extras, this stunning Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set is strictly limited to 6,000 copies. Out on 22 October 2018 PURCHASE HERE

SPECIAL FEATURES:
• High Definition remasters of all four films: THE TINGLER (1959), 13 GHOSTS (1960), HOMICIDAL (1961), MR SARDONICUS (1961)
• Original mono audio
• Two presentations of 13 Ghosts: the original ‘Illusion-O’ presentation and the alternative black-and-white version
• The Tingler audio commentary by Jonathan Rigby, author of American Gothic: Six Decades of Classic Horror Cinema, and Kevin Lyons, editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television
• Homicidal audio commentary by author and film historian Lee Gambin
• Mr Sardonicus audio commentary with Daughters of Darkness’ Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger
• Spine-Tingler! The William Castle Story (2007, 82 mins): Jeffrey Schwarz’s acclaimed documentary on Castle, featuring interviews with John Landis, Joe Dante, Roger Corman, Stuart Gordon, Leonard Maltin, Budd Boetticher, Bob Burns, David Del Valle, Fred Olen Ray and John Waters among others
• Larger Than Life: The Making of ‘Spine-Tingler’ (2007)
• Kim Newman on ‘The Tingler’ (2018): an appreciation by the critic and author of Nightmare Movies
• Scream for Your Lives!: William Castle and ‘The Tingler’
• I Survived ‘The Tingler’ (2007): an interview with actor Pamela Lincoln
• Unleashing Percepto (2007): an interview with publicist Barry Lorie
• Stephen Laws Introduces ‘13 Ghosts’ (2018): an appreciations by the acclaimed horror author
• The Magic of ‘Illusion-O’: William Castle and ’13 Ghosts’
• Psychette: William Castle and ‘Homicidal’
• Stephen Laws Introduces ‘Homicidal’ (2018)
• The Punishment Poll (2007): an interview with publicist Richard Kahn
• Taking the Punishment Poll: William Castle and ‘Mr Sardonicus’
• Jonathan Rigby meets ‘Mr Sardonicus’ (2018): an appreciation by the film historian and author of American Gothic
• Ballyhoo!: Bob Thomas recalls the time he interviewed William Castle
• Original theatrical trailers
• Trailer commentaries with Sam Hamm, Stuart Gordon and Joe Dante
• Promotional and on-set photography, poster art and archive materials
• Limited Edition box set exclusive booklets with new essays by Kat Ellinger, Dan Whitehead, Rebecca Nicole Williams and Jo Botting, archival interview materials, contemporary reviews, and film credits

WILLIAM CASTLE AT COLUMBIA VOLUME TWO features four more weird and wonderful films from the outrageous showman’s illustrious career with Columbia Pictures, all presented on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK. Containing a wealth of new and archival extras this stunning Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set from Indicator is strictly limited to 6,000 units. Released 10 December 2018. PRE-ORDER HERE

SPECIAL FEATURES:
• High Definition remasters of all four films: ZOTZ! (1962), 13 FRIGHTENED GIRLS (1963), THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1963), STRAIT-JACKET (1964)
• Original mono audio
• Alternative presentations of The Old Dark House – the black and white 1963 US theatrical presentation (87 mins); the cut-down A-certificate 1966 UK presentation (77 mins); and the complete uncut colour presentation (87 mins)
• Zotz! audio commentary by Diabolique Magazine’s editor-in-chief Kat Ellinger
• 13 Frightened Girls audio commentary by Daughters of Darkness’ Samm Deighan
• The Old Dark House audio commentary by celebrated horror and fantasy authors Kim Newman and Stephen Jones
• Strait-Jacket audio commentary film historians Lee Gambin and Emma Westwood
• Stephen Laws Introduces ‘Zotz!’ (2018): an appreciation by the acclaimed horror author
• Kim Newman on Ray Russell (2018): an appreciation of novelist and writer of Zotz! by the critic and author of Nightmare Movies
• 13 Frightened Girls: William Castle’s original ‘The Candy Web’ opening / closing ‘Danger Card’ messages
• 13 Frightened Girls: four alternativee opening sequences created for international release versions
• Jonathan Rigby on ‘The Old Dark House’ and ‘Strait-Jacket’ (2018): new appreciations by the author of American Gothic: Six Decades of Classic Horror Cinema
• ‘The Old Dark House’ in Eastmancolor (2018): Paul Frith, Senior Research Associate, School of Art, Media and American Studies at UEA discusses the film’s cinematography
• Joan Had Me Fired! (2018): an interview with actor Anne Helm
• On the Road with Joan Crawford (2018): an interview with publicist Richard Kahn
• Battle-Axe: The Making of ‘Strait-Jacket’ (2007, 15 mins)
• Joan Crawford Wardrobe Tests (1964, 4 mins)
• Joan Crawford – Axe Test (1964, 1 min)
• How to Plan a Movie Murder (1964, 5 mins): star Joan Crawford, director William Castle and author Robert Bloch discuss making Strait-Jacket in this vintage piece
• Super 8 version of Strait-Jacket
• Isolated music & effects track on all four films
• Original theatrical trailers
• Strait-Jacket trailer commentary with David DeCoteau
• 13 Frightened Girls original UK trailer introduction
• Alternative 13 Frightened Girls ‘The Candy Web’ trailer
• Promotional and on-set photography, poster art and archive materials
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited Edition box set exclusive booklets for each film with new essays by Joe Jordan, Racheal Nisbet, James Oliver and John Oliver, archival interview materials, contemporary reviews and film credits

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Monkey Shines (1988) | George A Romero’s twisted Experiment in Fear is a cunning little beast indeed!

Monkey Shines

Drug-addled research scientist Geoffrey Fisher (John Pankow) is injecting human brain serum into monkeys, but goes too far with Ella, one Capuchin that he gives as helper to quadriplegic law student Allan (Jason Beghe), who has been left paralysed from the neck down after a road accident.

Monkey Shines

All goes well at first, as Allan and Ella bond with the help of animal trainer Melanie (Kate McNeil). But when the scientist steps up the dosage, Ella begins responding to Allan’s subconscious rages, including wanting to dispose of the girlfriend (Janine Turner) who dumped him for the surgeon (Stanley Tucci) who operated on Allan after the accident. Murder and mayhem follow as the twisted thriller builds towards a nail-biting climax. Can Allan stop the cunning critter before she fully takes over his mind?

Monkey Shines

George A Romero’s Monkey Shines is presented on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK in a Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition as part of the Eureka Classics range with the following special features…

• Limited Edition O Card slipcase
• 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray
• DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 audio options
• Optional English SDH subtitles
• New and exclusive audio commentary by Travis Crawford
• Audio Commentary with director George A Romero
• An Experiment in Fear – The Making of Monkey Shines: a lengthy retrospective with George A Romero, stars Jason Beghe and Kate McNeil, executive producer Peter Grunwald, and special effects legends Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero and Everett Burrell.
• Alternate Ending and Deleted Scenes
• Behind-the-scenes footage, original EPK featurette, vintage interviews and news reports
• Trailers and TV spots
• Limited edition collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Craig Ian Mann; highlights from the film’s production notes: and rare archival material

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The Pyjama Girl Case (1977) | Flavio Mogherini’s Down Under-set Italian giallo is a mixed bag of treats

The Pajama Girl Case (1977)

From Arrow Video comes a new 2k restoration on Blu-ray of director Flavio Mogherini’s Italian-made 1970s thriller The Pyjama Girl Case, starring veteran Hollywood star Ray Milland.

When the burnt body of a young woman is found on a Sydney beach, former Canadian Inspector Thompson (Ray Milland) comes out of retirement to help local homicide detectives crack the case. Treading where the ‘real’ detectives can’t, he doggedly pieces together the tragic story of Dutch immigrant Glenda Blythe (Dalila Di Lazzaro) and the unhappy chain of events which led to her grisly demise…

The Pajama Girl Case (1977)

In between dodging fearsome felines in The Uncanny (filmed in Canada) and facing a Cruise into Terror (off the California coast), Ray Milland headed Down Under to appear in this offbeat Italian-made thriller that comes from the tail under of the giallo boom period. Inspired by a real-life case which baffled the Australian police back-up in the 1930s, The Pyjama Girl Case is a mixed bag of treats.

The Pajama Girl Case (1977)

There’s a memorably melancholic score by veteran composer Riz Ortolani, but the disco tracks featuring the fabulous Amanda Lear feel quite incongrous to the sun-drenched setting: a lunchtime riverboat cruise filled with families and pensioners. It’s great seeing Milland get all sweary, but he seems out of place (like he should be in another movie). And indeed that’s what happens after he makes his ‘dramatic’ exit (no I won’t reveal that), when events involving Dalilia’s Glenda take a turn for the sordid, forcing us ‘the viewer’ to become voyeurs on her sex life (a hotel scene involving sweaty fat men is quite the stomach churner).

The Pajama Girl Case (1977)

Interestingly Mogherini ditches the postcard approach to show a different side of Sydney, with lots of shots of 1970s shopping arcades (Gene Wilder’s Silver Streak was showing at Plaza Cinemas at the time), and people playing bowls and hockey (which certainly reminded me of my Australian heritage, as did those shopping centres). But the one image that will remain with me forever is of the burnt corpse placed in a case and put on display. It’s quite disturbing, but so are the people getting their jollies out of viewing it.

The Pajama Girl Case (1977)

The Arrow Video Blu-ray release features a brand-new 2k restoration of the film from the original camera negative, newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack and optional English subtitles, plus the following special features…

• New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
• New video interview with author and critic Michael Mackenzie on the internationalism of the giallo and on how this film may have inspired Dario Argento’s Sleepless
• New video interview with actor Howard Ross
• New video interview with editor Alberto Tagliavia
• Archival interview with composer Riz Ortolani (I loved this)
• Image gallery
• Italian theatrical trailer
• Original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
• Collector’s booklet (first pressing only) featuring new writing by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

 

Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965) | The neo-noir psychosexual oddity starring Sal Mineo restored in HD

Who Killed Teddy Bear?

Take one handsome leading Hollywood actor, add two foxy Broadway hoofers, throw in some hip-grinding jazz sounds and mix it all up in a soufflé of psychosexual angst set against a sleazy New York City nightclub and ‘Hey Presto!’ you’ve got Who Killed Teddy Bear?, which is now getting a worldwide Blu-ray release from Network Distributing in the UK.

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

From the cheesy theme tune and Saul Bass-inspired title sequence to the shattering climax, this 1965 neo-noir American indie reeks of exploitation. Sal Mineo (of Rebel Without a Cause fame) plays Lawrence, a busboy at a 42nd Street discotheque run by Marian, a fierce-but-fair lesbian (played by the utterly fabulous Elaine Stritch).

Spinning the decks in the dingy club littered with grooving babes and middle-aged men on the make is hostess-cum-DJ Norah (the alluring Juliet Prowse – you might remember her dancing with the Muppets back in the 1970s).

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

Sexually-frustrated and forced to look after his mentally-challenged sister, Sal Mineo’s chain-smoking Lawrence gets his jollies from making dirty phone calls to Norah in the dead of night in his tight white briefs. Cue lots of heavy breathing and a very frightened young woman.

Enter equally mixed-up cop, Lt Dave Madden (played by US stand-up comic Jan Murray). Madden is determined to put every pervert in New York behind bars and obsessively plays audio tapes of various criminals confessions as his daughter listens from her bedroom (now, that’s just not right!). Madden then sets out to help Norah, but there’s a problem – she thinks he might be the psycho…

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

I won’t spoil the rest for you, but the gritty Times Square location shots and overt sexualisation of Mineo’s sweaty toned body (check out the slideshow for a taster) makes this curio a must-see. The catchy discotheque numbers, meanwhile, are by Four Seasons’ Bob Gaudio and Al Kasha (who wrote those Maureen McGovern songs in The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno).

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Who Killed Teddy Bear is a forgotten neo-noir oddity of American independent cinema that rightly deserves high cult status. Previously available only on DVD, the film has been newly scanned from one of the few surviving 35mm prints in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Missing frames/sections have been re-instated from a 16mm print and the image matched as far as possible but a difference in visual quality may be occasionally noticed. While their are some scenes where print damage is still visible, this new scan is a huge improvement on the 2009 DVD release.

Network Distributing’s Blu-ray (out on 17 September 2018) also carries over the extras from the DVD, including The House Where He Lived, an episode of the 1960s TV series Court Martial, in which Mineo guest stars alongside Anthony Quayle; and 1967 short, LSD: Insight or Insanity, narrated by Mineo, in which some questionable old men in white coats outline the dangers of taking the drug.

Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965)

 

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Assault (1971) | Sidney Hayers’ taut British thriller gets a 2k remaster

 

Assault (1971)

16-year-old schoolgirl Tessa Hurst (Lesley-Anne Down) is brutally attacked and raped when she takes a short cut home from school across a wooded common known as Devil’s End. Neither the police nor doctors can learn anything from the girl, who withdraws into a trance-like state.

While Tessa slowly recovers under the care of Dr Greg Lomax (James Laurenson), another girl is attacked – and this time is killed. Julie West (Suzy Kendall), an arts teacher at the all-girls private school, then places her own life in jeopardy in a bid to lure the sex maniac into the open…

Assault (1971)

This taut Rank thriller (retitled In the Devil’s Garden in the US) was directed by Sidney Hayers – best-known for Circus of Horrors (1960), occult chiller Night of the Eagle (1962), and a handful of Edgar Wallace Mysteries – who brings an exploitative dash of Italian giallo to the proceedings with some graphic violence, while also making suspenseful use of the camera-as-murderer technique (which made Peeping Tom so unforgettable in 1960). Hayers would follow this hard-hitter with another thriller dealing with a child sex crime, Revenge, the following year (read my review here).

Assault (1971)

The screenplay is by John Kruse (who did lots of ITC shows like The Saint), and is based on a novel by Kendal Young called The Ravine. It follows standard potboiler British thriller tradition, as the police (headed up by Frank Finlay) question their prime suspects, including Leslie Sandord (Tony Beckley), the emasculated husband of the school’s headmistress (Dilys Hamlett). But added to the mix is a not-so subtle attack on cheque-book journalism (with Freddie Jones going to town as a sexist reporter), while Julie’s amateur sleuthing (how very Argento) has shocking results.

Assault (1971)

Assault (1971)

The top star cast includes Anthony Ainley as the creepy head of the local mental hospital where Lomax works, James Cosmo as a detective, and David Essex as ‘Man in Chemist Shop’. Composer Eric Rogers crafts a rousing (if repetitive) main theme, while Ken Hodges’ cinematography turns leafy Black Park in Buckinghamshire into the stuff of nightmares.

Assault (1971)

Assault (1971)

Assault has been remastered to 2K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative preserved by the BFI National Archive, and Network’s Blu-ray release (out today) includes the following special features.

• Theatrical Trailer
• Image Gallery
• Limited edition, collectable booklet written by Laura Mayne and Adrian Smith
• PDF material

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The Night Walker (1964) | William Castle’s twisty thriller moves to a haunting Vic Mizzy beat

The Night Walker (1964)From Final Cut Entertainment comes the first-time UK DVD release of William Castle’s 1964 thriller The Night Walker.

In her last feature film before heading to TV land, Barbara Stanwyck reunited with her former husband Robert Taylor for this mystery-suspense from legendary showman Castle, who casts aside his usual gimmicks and instead relies on the reputation of Psycho author Robert Bloch, who wrote the screenplay under the original title, The Dream Killer.

The Night Walker (1964)

Stanwyck plays Irene Trent, a former beauty-parlour owner who is plagued by dreams of a fantasy lover. When her blind, possessive inventor husband Howard (Hayden Rorke) is killed in an explosion in the upstairs lab of their mansion home, Irene inherits his fortune…

But fact and fantasy get all messed up when Irene’s lover (Lloyd Bochner) appears before her and whisks her off to be married. Unsure whether it was a dream or not, Irene enlists the help of her husband’s attorney, Barry Moreland (Robert Taylor), to uncover the truth… But all is not what it seems as The Night Walker makes his nightmarish return…

The Night Walker (1964)

Aside from the twists, turns and red-herrings, there’s some genuinely creepy moments to be found in the monochrome chiller, including a frightening image of a hand clutching an eyeball, which jumps out at you in the opening sequence as Paul Frees narrates a prologue on the subject of nightmares.

When I first saw this film as a youngster, I was deeply shocked by Hayden Rorke’s cane-tapping entrance from out of the shadows, which slowly revealed his horribly burned face. But it wasn’t his disfigurement or the idea that he might be an undead ghoul that disturbed me – it was seeing I Dream of Jeannie‘s Dr Bellows playing it mean and despicable. But I have to admit his make-up was pretty cool.

While light on the camp hysterics of the same-year’s Strait-Jacket (starring Joan Crawford), Castle’s woman in peril follow-up is a surreal, entertaining treat that will have you guessing till the very end. Stanwyck plays it with serious intent, and earns our sympathy (and respect) as a result, while Vic Mizzy’s harpsichord-fused score deftly underpins the film’s funereal tone (now: is it just me, or does the main theme sound like Food, Glorious Food from Lionel Bart’s Oliver). The exteriors were all shot at the Higgins-Verbeck-Hirsch mansion in LA, which would become home to Elsa Lanchester and an army of rats in 1971’s Willard, while Mizzy’s catchy soundtrack got a Percepto Records CD release in 2002 (which now fetches ridiculous prices).

The Night Walker (1964)

There’s also a collectable paperback tie-in, written by Sidney Stuart and based on Bloch’s screenplay, which was published in 1964 by Awards Books. This features the same imagery as the poster art, which was a variant of Henry Fuseli’s influential 1781 painting The Nightmare – of a demonic creature crouching over a sleeping woman. In the poster art, this incubus is painted as a horned devil, which does not appear in the film. However, it does have a curious link to Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

The Night Walker (1964)

On the audio commentary of Optimum Home Entertainment’s 2006 Blu-ray release, del Toro revealed his inspiration for the Pale Man (the ogre who inserts a pair of eyes into the palms of his hands) was based on an image from a film poster that he once saw as a youngster. While he doesn’t mention the name of the film, he was most probably referring to The Night Walker, because of that eyeball in the hand that appears in the opening sequence and on the poster art (which Final Cut have reproduced here for their release). By the way, I have to credit film historian Tim Lucas for being the first to muse over this connection. But I think he’s hit the mark.

The Night Walker (1964)

Final Cut Entertainment’s UK DVD release features a lovely print of the film, but is lacking in bonus content – like the audio commentary that was included on the Shout Factory Blu-ray release in the US (whose trailer I have included below). Still, if you are a collector of William Castle’s films, and don’t have a multi-region player, then you should consider adding this to your collection.

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The Passenger (1975) | Michelangelo Antonioni’s arthouse thriller is a knockout visual masterpiece

The Passenger (1975)

If you haven’t seen or heard of Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1975 thriller The Passenger – then you are in for a treat thanks to the new Indicator Blu-ray courtesy of Powerhouse Films.

Alienation of man in the modern world and lost identities were key themes in the film canon of Michelangelo Antonioni, who was a master manipulator of the conventional narrative. Just witness his 1960s quartet, La Notte, L’Eclisse, L’avventura and il deserto rosso, and his hip cult hit Blow-Up.

After a dalliance with the American counterculture movement in 1970s Zabriskie Point, the Italian auteur returned to his favourite themes for The Passenger, his third film with producer Carlo Ponti.  Unfortunately, it died a death at the box office and quickly went out of circulation for many decades, until a re-release back in 2005, which has resulted in a growing new appreciation for this hidden gem.

This is the first time that the film has been released on Blu-ray  in the UK,  and the re-master is a knockout! Now, I absolutely adore Antonioni’s eye for the visual.  Every shot is framed with a painterly approach, and he really knows how to use landscape and architecture as character.

The Passenger (1975)

The Passenger is no exception. Just take a look at the above screen grab. This was taken from a scene shot in a specially-built hotel in the Almeria town of Vera (standing in for Osuna in the film). The way the light falls on the straight lines of the interior just makes me swoon. The art decoration is by Piero Poletto (who also worked on L’Eclisse and L’avventura), while the camerawork is courtesy of Lucian Tovoli, who’d famously go onto lens Dario Argento’s Suspiria two years later.

Brunswick Shopping Centre

Tovoli makes great use of some stunning Spanish locations and especially some iconic modernist buildings, including Antoni Gaudi’s La Pedrera and Parc Guell in Barcelona, and Patrick Hodgkinson’s modernist Brunswick Centre in London’s Bloomsbury (which had opened just a couple of years before the film was made).

But the stand-out scene is a seven-minute long tacking shot right at the end of the movie – and it is worth the wait as it was a major technical achievement at the time, that required the camera to move through a door barred with grates, then do a 180 degree turn and return back to the hotel interior. Of course, it could all be done with CGI today, but here Antonioni is at his most inventive and meticulous.

Typical of the director, the story is real head-spinner. Jack Nicholson plays world-weary journalist David Locke, who is making a documentary in Chad when he impulsively takes on the identity of a man called Robertson, whom he finds dead in his hotel room. He sees it as a chance to escape his old life and his wayward wife Rachel (The Final Programme‘s Jenny Runacre).

But he gets more than he bargained for when it turns out Robertson was a shady arms dealer and rashly takes a bundle of cash from gun-runners who want their merchandise. And Locke’s problems don’t stop there, as Rachel wants answers about his death and a cat and mouse situation ensues as Locke tries to flee the country aided by a young architecture student (Maria Schneider of Last Tango in Paris fame)…

This Blu-ray release of Antonioni’s arty road movie-cum-thriller is probably my favourite find of 2018 so far. It is also Jack Nicholson’s favourite film  – so much so, he owns a personal print of the film.

Powerhouse Films’ Indicator UK Blu-ray release features a high definition remaster with the original mono audio and new and improved English subtitles, and the following special features…

• Alternative presentation: Italian Professione
• Audio commentary with actor Jack Nicholson (2006)
• Audio commentary with screenwriter Mark Peploe and journalist Aurora Irvine (2006)
• Audio commentary with film historian Adrian Martin (2018)
• Jenny Runacre on The Passenger (2018, 15 mins)
• Steven Berkoff on The Passenger (2018, 11 mins)
Profession Reporter (1975, 5 mins): archival interview with Michelangelo Antonioni at Cannes Film Festival
• Antonioni on Cinema (1975, 5 mins): the acclaimed filmmaker on his philosophy of cinema
• The Final Sequence (1985, 13 mins): Antonioni analyses the climactic sequence
• Original theatrical trailer
• Gallery
• Collector’s booklet with a new essay by Amy Simmons

 

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Jigsaw (2017) | The horror franchise gets a reboot – but is it any good?

Jigsaw_Steelbook_3DFrom Lionsgate UK comes Jigsaw, the eighth instalment in the top-grossing franchise, on digital (19 February) and Blu-ray, DVD, Steelbook and a new full series Saw box-set all (26 February).

Jigsaw (2017)

10 years after the death of the infamous Jigsaw killer aka John Kramer (Tobin Bell), Detectives Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie, Memento) and Hunt (Clé Bennett, Heroes Reborn) investigate a series of murders bearing the unique modus operandi of the Jigsaw killer. Has Kramer really returned from the grave to remind the world to be grateful for the gift of life? Or is this a trap set by a killer with designs of their own?

Jigsaw (2017)

Director Michael Spierig and Peter Spierig (Predestination) go back to basics with their reboot, which ditches the torture porn for a pure chill-ride that aims to recapture the same suspenseful thrills as Se7en – only bloodier. Matt Passmore (The Glades), Laura Vandervoort (Supergirl), Paul Braunstein (The Thing), Brittany Allen (All My Children) and Mandela Van Peebles (Baadassss!) are Jigsaw’s targets this time round, while Tobin Bell is back in his iconic role – and it’s not just a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ cameo.

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Horror fans will lap up the inventive death scenes, which involve booby-trapped rooms and firearms, and some truly deadly laser cutters. Kudos go to the film’s big set piece which involves a giant spiralator and a motorbike. In an homage to the franchise’s original inspiration, 1970’s The Abominable Dr Phibes, one trap sees the victims choosing between three syringes that contain a poison antidote, a saline solution and a flesh-melting acid.

Given its open ending and the huge business it did at the box-office (despite the mostly unfavourable reviews), it looks like the Saw franchise just might begin anew. Personally, I rather enjoyed it… unlike the previous ones.

Jigsaw (2017)

SPECIAL FEATURES ON THE BLU-RAY AND DVD
• Audio Commentary with producers Mark Burg, Oren Koules and Peter Block
I Speak for the Dead: The Legacy of Saw: A feature-length appreciation of the franchise, with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew of the reboot discussing its visual design, sound score, special effects and much more.
The Choice is Yours: Exploring the Props: A fascinating featurette (around 6min) in which Don Post’s pig masks and the iconic Billy puppet make a welcome return.

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The Cat o’Nine Tails (1971) | Dario Argento’s stylish American-styled giallo gets a 4K upgrade

The Cat O Nine Tails (1971)

While I already have Arrow’s previous Blu-ray of Dario Argento’s 1971 giallo Cat o’Nine Tales (aka il gatto nove code), I couldn’t resist upgrading to this 4K restoration, which also includes newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack. Now all I need is a 4k smart TV and Blu-ray player to see it properly. But having looked at it on my current HD system, it looks and sounds terrific.

As for the extras, well they are all brand-new with none crossing over from the previous Arrow release. Here’s the low-down…

The Cat O Nine Tails (1971)

First up is the audio commentary from Alan Jones and Kim Newman. Jones, of course, is Argento’s number one fan who has become a close friend and written the definitive book(s) on the director, while Newman’s comprehensive film knowledge is truly enviable.

It’s fun and very insightful (film nerds like me will lap up the trivia, especially those related to the Turin film locations); and you’ll see Catherine Spaak’s costumes in a whole different light after listening to Jones views on Luca Sabetelli’s outré surreal outfits.

The Cat O Nine Tails (1971)

As for the featurettes, Nine Lives, comprises an exclusive 2017 interview with Dario Argento, who confirms Jones’ comments that the film was the least favourite of his canon, as he felt it ‘too American’.

The Writer o’ Many Tails has screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti discuss his career (over 34 minutes) which included an infamous row between him and Argento over the credit for the screenplay.

The Cat O Nine Tails (1971)

Child Star is another Arrow exclusive, an interview with the film’s Cinzia De Carolis, who played Karl Malden’s niece Lori and is today a well-respected voice dubber.

Being a huge fan of film locations, Giallo In Turin was the one that I watched first. Disappointingly, we don’t get the guided tour that I had imagined, instead production manager Angelo Iacono discusses his first meeting with Argento, before recalling his memories of the cast and crew.

A huge bonus is the inclusion of the Original Ending, in which the fates of Anna (Spaak) and Lori (De Carolis) are revealed. But wait! As the footage is now lost, we only get a visual storyboard alongside the English version of the last couple of pages of the script. But the money shot is a single German lobby card containing an actual still of the final scene. Yeah!

Now, as I have the rare movie tie-in novelisation (one of only two written by Paul J Gillette – the other was Play Misty for Me), I had hoped it would contain this version. Unfortunately, it deviates totally from both the original ending and the final cut ending.

With stylish new artwork by Candace Tripp, a limited edition booklet, lobby card repros and fold-out poster also included, this latest Argento release from Arrow is a keeper. Now, I just need that 4K kit.

If you want to see my thoughts on Arrow’s previous of the film… READ IT HERE

The Cat O Nine Tails (1971)

The Cat O Nine Tails (1971)

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Triangle (2009) | Guaranteed to keep you guessing right up to the end

Triangle (2009)

Having helmed the visceral slasher Creep and the comedy horror flick Severance, director Christopher Smith turned to the psychological suspense genre for his 2009 British-Australian chiller, Triangle.

Triangle (2009)

Filmed in Australia, but set in Florida (basically for the all-important US market), the film stars Melissa George as Jess, the struggling single mum of an autistic boy, who just cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong when she goes on a sailing trip.

When the yacht is capsized during a freak storm, the sailing party board a seemingly deserted ocean liner, but Jess’s growing feeling of deja vu begins to move ever closer towards a horrible realisation.

Triangle (2009)

Having ‘experienced’ Triangle at its UK premiere back in 2009, I was bowled-over by Smith’s plotting of the film’s events, so – of course – I had to add the 2010 Blu-ray to my collection. It’s great to revel in the chilling atmospherics all over again. Part Greek tragedy, part The Shining… this ghost ship in The Twilight Zone is guaranteed to give you the shivers and keep you guessing right up to the end.

The 2010 UK DVD/Blu-ray special features include a Making of featurette, audio commentary with director Christopher Smith; three storyboards; deleted scenes; competition winners poster design; and a special effects featurette.

Triangle is available on Amazon Prime and also screens today at 9pm on The Horror Channel in the UK (Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freeview 70).

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