Category Archives: Thriller
Bob Clark: Horror Collection | A trio of terror on limited edition Blu-ray from 101 Films
From 101 Films comes the limited edition UK Blu-ray release of the Bob Clark: Horror Collection, which brings together three of the American film-maker’s 1970s ground-breaking genre films: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972), Deathdream (AKA Dead of Night) (1974) and his slasher masterpiece Black Christmas (1974). Amongst the wealth of special features is the must-see documentary, Dreaming of Death, newly commissioned artwork, and a collector’s booklet. Available from 3 April 2023.
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972)
Clark’s third directorial effort is an oddball comedic zombie horror in which a smarmy theatrical director (Alan Ormsby, who also wrote the screenplay and did most of the make-up effects) takes his troupe to an island to ‘act out’ a satanic ritual using the corpse of Orville Dunworth (Seth Sklarey). But they soon find themselves fighting for survival when the dead rise from their graves…
Despite its low budget and questionable acting, Clark’s Night of the Living Dead homage is an effective and atmospheric chiller, which benefits from a script littered with eminently quotable dialogue, colourful costumes, and cartoon-like scares (especially when the dead start to walk). The cast’s commentary about their experiences making the film (many while still in college) is a hoot – and I wish someone would do a remake from their perspective. Indeed, Clark had plans to do one before his tragic death in 2007 (in which he and his son were killed in a head-on car crash with a drunk driver).
• Commentary with Alan Ormsby, Jane Daly and Anya Cronin
• Alan Ormsby Interview
• Memories of Bob Clark
• Confessions of a Grave Digger: Interview with Ken Goch
• Grindhouse Q&A
• Cemetery Mary – Music Video
• Dead Girls Don’t Say No – Music Video
• Photo Gallery
Deathdream/Dead of Night (1974)
When young American soldier Andy (Richard Backus) is shot and killed in Vietnam, his grief-stricken parents and sister refuse to accept the news. But when Andy suddenly returns, something is terribly wrong. The family suspect PTSD as Andy’s behaviour becomes erratic and then violent, but when he starts to visibly decay, it soon becomes apparent he’s one of the walking dead with an insatiable blood lust.
Posited as a critique of the Vietnam War, this is one of the most inventive and thought-provoking variations of WW Jacobs’ classic horror short story, The Monkey’s Paw, and marks Clark’s maturity as a filmmaker. Disturbing and tragic, it’s much more than just a horror film. It’s a haunting character study about the nature of man and war, thanks to Alan Ormsby’s insightful screenplay and Backus’ controlled yet menacing performance as the young man turned into it a monster because of his exposure to war. As Andy’s parents, who deal with their son’s transformation in very different ways, kudos go to John Marley and Lynn Carlin (who previously co-starred together in John Cassavetes’ Faces in 1968). The film also benefits from some gruesomely realistic make-up effects from Alan Ormsby (and, under his tutelage, Tom Savini).
• Dreaming of Death: This new feature-length documentary on the work of director Bob Clark is a must-see. In fact, it’s worth getting the box-set set just for this. Giving us the lowdown on the director’s three horror films are filmmaker/Delirium editor Chris Alexander, Black Christmas actress Lynne Griffin (who reveals all about the infamous plastic bag rocking chair scene), actor Art Hindle, composer Paul Zaza and author Simon Fitzjohn (Bob Clark: I’m Going to Kill You).
• Brand New Audio Commentary with Travis Crawford and Bill Ackerman
Black Christmas (1974)
As Christmas break begins, a group of sorority sisters, including Jess (Olivia Hussey) and Barb (Margot Kidder), begin to receive obscene phone calls that put them on edge. Initially, Barb encourages the caller but stops when he responds threateningly. Soon, Barb’s friend Claire (Lynne Griffin) goes missing, and a local girl is murdered, leading the girls to suspect a serial killer is on the loose. The police (led by John Saxon) finally act when a teenage girl is found dead in the park – setting up a wiretap to the sorority house, but no one realises just how near the killer really is!
Originally titled Silent Night, Evil Night in the US (because Black Christmas sounded like a blaxploitation title) and retitled Stranger in the House on US TV screenings (where it caused a bit of controversy), this 1974 stalk and slasher marked Clark’s first Canadian feature and the last of his genre films (although some do consider his 1979 Sherlock Holmes film, Murder by Decree as a horror) before finding fame and fortune with Porkys.
While it received mixed reviews on its release, it is now quite rightly regarded as a masterpiece of the horror genre and a key inspiration for John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween and, indeed, the whole slasher genre that followed in its wake. It has the perfect blend of chills, superb acting, strong, effective characterisations, and an evocative soundtrack – as well as one of the most chilling final shots in a horror movie moments ever – that makes it annual viewing in my household. And as for Nick Mancuso’s scary, demented phone voice? It chills me every time.
• Commentary with director Bob Clark (who provides the final word on his horror masterpiece)
• Commentary with actors John Saxon and Keir Dullea
• Commentary with actor Nick Mancuso
• Film and Furs: Remembering Black Christmas with Art Hindle
• Victims and Virgins: Remembering Black Christmas with Lynne Griffin
• Black Christmas Legacy
• 40th-anniversary reunion panel: Fan Expo Canada 2014
• TV and Radio Spots
• 12 Days of Black Christmas featurette
• Black Christmas Revisited featurette
• Midnight Screening Q&A with Bob Clark, John Saxon, and Carl Zittrer
Four Film Noir Classics | A second helping of hard-boiled genre gems on Blu-ray from Arrow
Take a walk through the shadowy streets of American film noir in four atmospheric classics courtesy of Arrow.
In The Suspect (1944), a genial shopkeeper, Philip Marshall (Charles Laughton), is constantly nagged by his shrewish wife, Cora (Rosalind Ivan), while secretly yearning for a pretty young stenographer Mary Gray (Ella Raines). When Cora falls to her death, the police are suspicious, and Marshall’s neighbour (Henry Daniell) sees a chance for blackmail. This superb Edwardian-set thriller is a fascinating character study, especially Laughton’s performance in which he reigns in his usual scenery-chewing to give a subtle, compelling turn as the film’s unlikely ‘villain’. You can also see that director Robert Siodmak was beginning to hone his noir credentials here, which he’d perfect with 1946’s The Killers.
The Sleeping City (1950) sees an undercover policeman (Richard Conte) investigating a murder and narcotics racketeering at New York’s Bellevue Hospital with the help of a nurse (Coleen Gray) whom he finds falling in love with. Directed by George Sherman, this tense, semi-documentary thriller remains one of the few films of the era to be shot entirely on location, including many scenes in and around Bellevue.
In Thunder on the Hill (1951), convicted murderer Valerie Carns (Ann Blyth) is being transported for execution when a flood strands her and her guards at a convent hospital, where Sister Mary Bonaventure (Claudette Colbert) becomes convinced of Valerie’s innocence and sets out to find the real killer. Three years shy of becoming the King of Hollywood melodramas, Douglas Sirk made a number of noir thrillers, and this is one of the best. Although it’s a bit studio-bound and the killer’s identity pretty obvious from the outset, it does boast nice turns from Colbert as the sleuthing nun, the wonderful Gladys Cooper as the Mother Superior, and making his Hollywood debut, Australian actor Michael Pate, who’s servant character is key in solving the whodunnit.
In Six Bridges to Cross (1955), streetwise delinquent Jerry Florea (played by Sal Mineo) is shot and wounded by rookie policeman Eddie Gallagher (George Nader) while fleeing the scene of a robbery. Despite this, the two develop a friendship as Eddie and his wife (Julie Adams) take Jerry under their wing, trying to keep him on the straight and narrow. As an adult, Jerry (now played by Tony Curtis) marries and seems to settle down until an armoured security company across the street from him is robbed of $2.5m dollars. Directed by Joseph Pevney with cinematography by Oscar-winner William H Daniels, this crime noir, inspired by the 1950 Great Brink’s Robbery in Boston, Massachusetts, marks Sal Mineo’s screen debut and gives Tony Curtis a meaty character to play (although his accent reminded me of the cartoon character Top Cat at times).
This showcase of lesser-known noir classics features sterling performances from a host of screen greats, as well as taut direction, stunning cinematography, and superb screenwriting from the likes of Oscar Saul (A Streetcar Named Desire), Jo Eisinger (Gilda, Night and the City), Andrew Holt (In a Lonely Place) and Sydney Boehm (The Big Heat).
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of all four films
• Original lossless mono audio on all films
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on all films
• Audio commentaries by scholars and critics Farran Smith-Nehme (The Suspect), Imogen Sara Smith (The Sleeping City), Josh Nelson (Thunder on the Hill) and Samm Deighan (Six Bridges to Cross)
• It Had to be Done, author and scholar Alan K. Rode on the career of director Robert Siodmak
• The Real Deal, author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas looks at realism and reality in The Sleeping City
• José Arroyo on Thunder on the Hill, a new appreciation by the esteemed film scholar and critic
• Style and Place, film critic Jon Towlson examines the work of cinematographer William H. Daniels
• Vintage radio play versions of The Suspect and Thunder on the Hill starring Charles Laughton, Ella Raines, Claudette Colbert and Barbara Rush
• Theatrical Trailers
• Poster and stills galleries
• Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow
• Double-sided fold-out posters for each film featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow
• Hardback collector’s book featuring new writing on the films by film critics Kat Ellinger, Philip Kemp and Jon Towlson
The Owl Service (1969) | Alan Garner’s landmark Welsh valley-set children’s drama on Blu-ray
Broadcast in the UK during the winter of 1969/1970, this adaptation of Alan Garner’s 1967 novel of the same name, about an ancient story being brought back to life in a ‘modern/1960s’ Welsh valley, weaves a heady brew of the supernatural, sexual jealousy and class divide. Now, the eight-part Granada Television/ITV series is available on Blu-ray from Network in the UK.
Alison (Gillian Hills), her mum Margaret (who is never seen), her new husband Clive (Edwin Richfield) and his son Roger (Francis Wallis) are taking their first holiday together in a country house in the Welsh countryside, which Alison has inherited from her late dad. The house staff includes the rather peculiar groundskeeper Huw (Raymond Llewellyn), frightful housekeeper Nancy (Dorothy Edwards) and her son, Gwyn (Michael Holden).
When Alison discovers a service of old dinner plates with a pattern that turns into owls when traced on paper, she sets in motion a centuries-old legend that’s connected to Blodeuwedd, the woman made of flowers, who appears in the Welsh epic poem The Mabinogion.
Regarded as something of a landmark, The Owl Service is not your typical children’s TV drama (especially given the way it addresses adolescent sexuality within a pagan context and uses experimental editing to infuse the story with supernatural elements). The cast is all excellent in their respective roles, though Edwards and Llewellyn chew the scenery at every chance, and their bizarre characterisations so belong to the weird universes of The League of Gentlemen, Twin Peaks and their ilk – as does the final episode, which is OTT bonkers surreal.
And if you are a film location fan like myself, you might like to know that The Stone of Gronw replica, created for the series, still lies in situ on the bank of the River Dovey today. I will so be paying a visit one day soon.
• Archive interviews with Alan Garner from 1968 and 1980
• Commentaries on selected episodes by writer/broadcaster Tim Worthington
• Image gallery
• Limited edition booklet written by Stephen McKay, Chris Lynch and Kim Newman
ORDER FROM NETWORK: https://new.networkonair.com/the-owl-service/
The Owl Service is out now on Blu-ray in the UK from Network
Karloff in Maniacal Mayhem | Three creepy classics from the Universal vaults head to Blu-ray
From Eureka Entertainment comes Maniacal Mayhem – the two-disc Blu-ray boxset featuring three tales of terror from the Universal archives starring Boris Karloff: The Invisible Ray (1936), Black Friday (1940) and The Strange Door (1951). Available from 17 October 2022.
Each film is presented in 1080p from 2K scans of the original film elements with optional English SDH. Also included is a limited edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing on all three films by film writers Andrew Graves, Rich Johnson, and Craig Ian Mann.
While The Invisible Ray and Black Friday were previously included in the first volume of Scream! Factory’s Universal Horror Collection in the US, this is the first Blu-ray outing for The Strange Door.
THE INVISIBLE RAY (dir. Lambert Hillyer, 1936)
This vintage sci-fi sees Karloff playing the first of his many sympathetic scientist-turned-society menace roles and is a direct follow-up to his first pairing with Bela Lugosi, 1935’s The Raven. He plays astronomer Dr Janos Rukh (Karloff), who is contaminated by a super-powerful element he dubs Radium X. Lugosi is Dr Benet, a fellow scientist who devises a temporary antidote. But when Benet presents the discovery as his own, Rukh becomes consumed by revenge and goes on a killing spree.
Featuring effective luminescent special effects from John P Fulton, some great sets (borrowed from Flash Gordon and Frankenstein), excellent performances from Karloff and Lugosi, and a thrilling climax in which Violet Kemble Cooper (playing Karloff’s mother) saves the day, The Invisible Ray is a sci-fi classic that still stands up today. Footage later turned up in the 1939 Lugosi serial, The Phantom Creeps.
• Audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman
• Stills galleries – production stills, artwork and ephemera
BLACK FRIDAY (dir. Arthur Lubin, 1940)
Karloff and Lugosi are at it again in this bizarre gangster/horror film penned by Curt Siodmak. Karloff plays amoral surgeon Dr Sovac, who transplants part of a mobster’s brain into the body of his dying college professor friend George (Stanley Ridges), creating a Jekyll-and-Hyde figure who starts murdering his former criminal associates.
This was the last of the Karloff-Lugosi Universal pairings. Unfortunately, they have no scenes together. Originally, Karloff was to play the professor and Lugosi the doctor. Still, Karloff didn’t want to do another dual role (he’d already down that in 1935’s The Black Room), so Lugosi got short shrift by the director and handed a minor role instead – which is a shame because this is quite a thrilling little gem, which plays more like a crime film than outright horror. Ridges, however, does an excellent job playing the two roles. Writer Siodmak later revisited the brain transplant idea in his 1942 sci-fi novel Donovan’s Brain and its subsequent 1953 film adaptation.
• Audio commentary with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Stills galleries – production stills, artwork and ephemera
THE STRANGE DOOR (dir. Joseph Pevney, 1951)
Charles Laughton takes centre stage as the wicked 18th-century French nobleman Sire Alain de Maletroit, who has imprisoned his brother Edmond (Paul Cavanagh) in a dungeon for 20 years. Now he wants to ruin the life of his niece Blanche (Sally Forrest) by forcing her to marry the roguish Denis de Beaulieu (Richard Stapley). But his plan is upset when Denis attempts to rescue the girl, aided by Karloff’s abused servant, Voltan.
Coming out a year before The Black Castle, this costume shocker based loosely on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson boasts an incredibly OTT performance from Laughton, who outshines everyone else in the cast – including Karloff, who stays in the shadows for most of the film.
In his biography, Charles Laughton – A Difficult Actor, Simon Callow wrote of his performance, ‘he messes sloppily around, pulling faces, slobbering, leering, chuckling, wheezing, a nightmarish display of an acting machine out of control’. He’s so spot on – and that’s what makes this so much fun to watch.
You also get some wonderfully evocative Gothic sets and dressing, including a creepy cemetery and castle backdrop that’s pure classic horror Universal-style. Indeed this was the last of the studio’s period chillers before it headed into science fiction territory. Also appearing are Batman‘s Alan Napier and a fave of mine, Australian actor Michael Pate.
• Audio commentary with author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman
• Three radio adaptations of The Sire de Maletroit’s Door (Escape – 4 August 1947, Theatre Royal – 1 November 1953, CBS Radio Mystery Theatre – 6 February 1975)
• Stills galleries – production stills, artwork and ephemera
Saint-Narcisse (2020) | Bruce LaBruce’s transgressive love letter to 1970s psychosexual thrillers
Since making his debut with 1991’s No Skin Off My Ass, Toronto filmmaker Bruce LaBruce has challenged audiences with his startling, sexually explicit films whose subject matter has included amputee sex, hardcore porn, gang-rape, castration and racially-motivated violence. Following 2013’s Gerontophilia, however, LaBruce changed direction, eschewing the extreme for a more meditative approach to his ongoing fascination with sexual taboos.
With Saint-Narcisse, he has crafted his most accomplished piece of transgressive cinema to date. Nominated for the Queer Lion award at Venice Film Festival, this anarchic love letter to 1970s psychosexual thrillers looks certain to mark a turning point for queer cinema’s former enfant terrible. But never fear; he still has a few shocks in store – this time, its twincest.
Félix-Antoine Duval stars as 22-year-old Dominic, a sexually-adventurous young man in love with his reflection but doesn’t really know himself fully. Finding some unopened letters in his grandmothers’ closet, he discovers a family secret: his mother Beatrice (Tania Kontoyanni) didn’t die in childbirth. Determined to uncover the truth, Dominic heads to the parish town of Saint-Narcisse, north of Montreal, where he is shocked to find a tombstone inscribed with his name and date of death in a local graveyard.
Finally tracking down his mother (who the locals have labelled a witch), he discovers she’s a lesbian who was excommunicated by the church and was led to believe Dominic was stillborn. Now she lives in exile in a cabin in the woods with Irene (Alexandra Petrachuk), her late lover’s daughter. But Dominic also learns he has a twin. Sequestered in a remote monastery since birth, Daniel is being raised and groomed by a priest, Father Andrew (Andreas Apergis), who believes he is the reincarnation of Saint Sebastian.
Whether dressed in leathers and sporting stubble or naked and shaved, Duval has the look of the divine about him, and his sex scenes (with himself) are both erotic and very tender indeed. It takes a good hour before the twins meet, but LaBruce uses that time to develop the narrative and his characters fully. Setting the film in 1972 also allows him to explore critical issues, such as children being taken away from their mothers (who happen to be lesbian or even just unmarried) and priests preying on the young men in their care.
I won’t reveal what happens, but LaBruce comes up trumps with a scene involving a St Andrew’s Cross, communion wafers, a wedding dress and some Caravaggio-inspired lighting that will stay with you long after the ending.
Kudos go to Andreas Apergis (who appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past and the US version of Being Human) as the film’s villain, the depraved Father Andrew. If his scary eyes don’t creep you out, his toe licking of the equally scary-eyed Saint Sebastian statue will. Oh, and that scene with the (very fit) monks skinny-dipping is gloriously gratuitous.
Saint-Narcisse will be released theatrically in the UK on 22 April
with a DVD and digital release from Peccadillo Pictures on 2 May 2022
The Batman (2022) | The Dark Knight just got a whole lot darker
I have seen every incarnation of Batman on the big and small screen ever since I became a fan of the 1960s Adam West/Burt Ward TV series as a kid. I have enjoyed them all – some more so than others (psst! I’d rather watch those overblown Joel Schumacher ones than sit through the dire Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ever again). After Christopher Nolan’s incredible, seemingly unmatchable, Dark Knight trilogy, however, I was wondering why Batman should be resurrected yet again? But of course, there’s money to be made – and there’s a whole new generation of fans waiting in the ‘bat’ wings.
Now I’m a HUGE fan of the original Planet of the Apes films and absolutely loved the recent reboots. So when I read that producer Dylan Clark was on board, as well as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves, I suspected that The Batman would be something to look forward to. And it is!
In his second year as Gotham’s masked avenger, Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is still finding his way as The Batman when he comes up against terrorist serial killer the Riddler (Paul Dano), who is striking fear in the city’s corrupt political elite as he takes them out one by one. But what is his real agenda and what does it have to do with Bruce’s murdered parents?
Having shown his acting chops in Robert Eggers’ psychological horror The Lighthouse (2019) and Christopher Nolan’s spy film Tenet (2020), I knew that Pattinson would do the character justice. He does, though his impassive presence might be read as bland by some critics. Then there’s his hairstyle when he’s out of costume.
I just wanted to get a pair of scissors and trim those bangs. Oh, and is it just me or does he look like he’s channelling Crispin Glover in the 2003 Willard remake when he’s playing Bruce? As for the suit, I thought it fantastic – especially the pointy ears that I’m certain pay homage to the ones seen in Columbia’s 1940s serials.
The supporting cast assembled here is amazing and The Batman is an ensemble piece that works brilliantly. Paul Dano is downright disturbing as the Riddler, while Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro and Rupert Penry-Jones are all decidedly nasty in their roles; but it’s Colin Farrell as rising mobster Oswald Cobblepot (AKA Penguin) that steals the show. Having gone into the press screening blind, I had no idea it was Farrell behind the prosthetics and fat suit. He’s terrific – no wonder he’s in line for a stand-alone film.
Zoë Kravitz also impresses as cat-burglar Selina Kyle, and I just loved how she and the writers have made her Catwoman such a sympathetic, heroic character. Then there are some familiar faces in Jeffrey Wright as Batman’s ally James Gordon and Andy Serkis as Alfred, while twins Charlie and Max Carver supply the much-needed eye candy as a couple of bouncer types.
If you have never seen or read a Batman film, comic, TV show or cartoon, then you will certainly miss a lot of what makes this new entry so special – while lifelong fans will get a huge buzz. It’s a wild dark noir ride that might be a tad too long for some (near on three hours), but well worth returning to the cinema for.
Oh and so too are the film’s locations, including Liverpool’s St George’s Hall (standing in for Gotham City Hall), County Sessions House, the Royal Liver Building, the Walker Art Gallery, the Wellington Memorial Statue and much more, plus Glasgow’s Necropolis Cemetery, and Two Temple Place in London. I see a walking tour in the making.
CHECK OUT THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE: https://www.thebatmanmovie.net/
A Tale of Two Sisters | Kim Jee-woon’s stylish and scary 2003 chiller on Blu-ray
Director Kim Jee-woon’s stylish and scary 2003 thriller, A Tale of Two Sisters, is one of the key films of the Korean New Wave. Now it’s getting a Blu-ray release from Arrow that comes with a host of extras that you should only view once you have watched the gripping chiller.
Inspired by the popular Korean folktale, Janghwa Hongryeon jeon, the twisted mystery centres on young Su-mi (Im Soo-jung), who returns home with her father (Kim Kap-soo) and her younger sister, Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young), after a stay in a mental facility. But the reason for her hospitalisation only becomes clear when she encounters the ghost of her dead mother, and engages in a battle of wills with her cold-hearted, self-medicating, stepmother (Yum Jung-ah).
Exquisitely photographed, with wonderful performances all around (especially the glacial Yum Jung-ah as the wicked step mum), A Tale of Two Sisters, is a slow burner but it’s never boring as every scene counts. It also deserves multiple viewings, so you can fully appreciate Jee-woon’s assured direction, visuals and storytelling.
Here’s what you also get…
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original DTS-HD MA 5.1 and uncompressed stereo audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Brand-new Audio commentary by Korean Cinema historian Pierce Conran & critic James Marsh
• Audio commentary by writer/director Kim Jee-woon, lighting cameraman Oh Seung-chul and cinematographer Lee Mo-gae
• Audio commentary by writer/director Kim Jee-woon and cast members Im Soo-jung and Moon Geun-young
• Always on the Move: The Dynamic Camera and Spaces of Master Stylist Kim Jee-woon, a brand-new visual essay by Korean Cinema historian Pierce Conran
• Spirits of the Peninsula: Folklore in Korean Cinema, a brand-new visual essay by cultural historian Shawn Morrisey
• Imaginary Beasts: Memory, Trauma & the Uncanny in A Tale of Two Sisters, a brand-new visual essay by genre historian and critic Kat Ellinger
• Behind the Scenes, an archival featurette shot during filming
– Outtakes, archival footage from the set
• Production Design, an archival featurette about the intricate look of the sets
• Music Score, an archival featurette
• CGI, an archival featurette
• Creating the Poster, an archival featurette about the iconic original poster
• Cast Interviews, archival interviews with Kim Kab-su (Father), Yeom Jung-a (Stepmother), Im Soo-jung (Su-mi), and Moon Geun-young (Su-yeon)
• Deleted scenes with director’s commentary
• Director’s analysis, an archival featurette in which Kim Jee-woon discusses the complexity and ambiguities contained within the film and why they were important to him.
• Director’s thoughts on horror, an archival featurette in which Kim Jee-woon discusses his feelings about the horror genre.
• Psychiatrist’s Perspective, an archival featurette exploring the psychological reality behind the story of the film
• Theatrical Trailer
• Stills galleries
• Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Sister Hyde
• Illustrated booklet featuring new writing by critics Stacie Ponder and Anya Stanley, plus a new translation of the original Korean folktale that inspired the film.
Lake Mungo | Australia’s answer to Paranormal Activity gets a deluxe Blu-ray release from Second Sight
Lake Mungo is one of those films where the chills come gradually rather than in short sharp shocks, just like the similarly-themed Paranormal Activity. Released back in 2008, director Joel Anderson’s documentary-style thriller has become something of a must-see, and now its set to garnered new fans with Second Sight’s deluxe Blu-ray box-set featuring new interviews with cast and crew; filmmaker fans Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, and director Rob Savage; a brand new commentary, video essays and archive material.
In the small rural town of Ararat, southwest Victoria, 16-year-old Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) drowns while swimming with her family at a local dam. After her body is recovered and she is laid to rest, her family start to experience strange happenings in their home and become convinced that Alice has returned as a ghost. They then seek out the help of a radio psychic (Steve Jodrell), who discovers Alice kept secrets about her personal life from her family before she died. Alice’s brother Matthew (Martin Sharpe) then sets up a camera to capture his sister’s ghostly presence – and the results are quite unsettling…
Filmed in the vein of the Kiwi-made TV paranormal crime show Sensing Murder, Lake Mungo is made up of a series of interviews with Alice’s family and friends, interspersed with some arty location shots: mainly the starry night sky and a sunset-drenched countryside. The cast’s deadpan delivery of the dialogue is eerie to watch (particularly Alice’s dad David, who looks like he is going to break down and cry but never does), while the plot twists are surprising (particularly Matthew’s big admission).
But there are some rather odd moments (the mother’s obsession with breaking into her neighbour’s houses for instance feels absurd). With this in mind, I expected the film to turn on its head at one point and become a parody of the genre, in the same vein as the Australian mockumentary Angry Boys. But it doesn’t. Instead Lake Mungo takes itself deadly seriously and – despite some of the ideas being a little stretched-out – becomes one of those genuinely unsettling chillers that will have you watching the shadows in your own home long after the credits have ended. One shocking moment for me – personally – was seeing my old university tutor playing the psychic.
• Archive audio commentary by Producer David Rapsey and DoP John Brawley
• New audio commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Emma Westwood
• Captured Spirits: an interview with DoP John Brawley
• Ghost in the Machine: an interview with Producer David Rapsey
• A Cop and a Friend: an interview with Actors Carole Patullo & James Lawson
• Kindred Spirits: Filmmakers Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead on Lake Mungo
• Hosting Spirits: Filmmaker Rob Savage on Lake Mungo
• Simulacra and Spirits: a video essay by film writer Josh Nelson
• Autopsy of a Family Home: a video essay by filmmaker Joseph Wallace
• Deleted scenes
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Rigid slipcase
• Perfect-bound booklet with new essays by Sarah Appleton, Simon Fitzjohn, Rich Johnson, Mary Beth McAndrews and Shellie McMurdo, interview with actor James Lawson by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas plus rare behind-the-scenes photos
• Three collectors’ art cards
The Hands of Orlac | The thrilling 1924 silent classic shudders onto Blu-ray
From Eureka Entertainment comes director Robert Wiene’s silent horror The Hands of Orlac (Orlac’s Hände), starring Conrad Veidt, on Blu-ray as part of The Masters of Cinema Series.
Veidt plays Paul Orlac, a concert pianist whose hands are amputated after a train crash. Shocked to learn they have been replaced with the hands of a recently executed murderer named Vasseur, Orlac obsesses over the idea that he too will turn violent.
When Orlac’s wealthy father is murdered and fingerprints match the dead man’s hands, Orlac fears seem manifest. However, Orlac’s nightmare reaches new heights of terror when a man claiming to be Vasseur threatens to blackmail him.
Blending grand Guignol shudders with German Expressionism visuals, this 1924 Austrian adaptation of Maurice Renard’s 1920 thriller novel, Les Mains d’Orlac, reunited the director and star of Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari (1920).
Featuring a wonderfully modernist set design, expressive performances and tightly executed scenes, this a silent cinema gem. And near-on a century from its release, many of the tropes conceived here continues to be used in many a film and TV thriller.
With his cadaverous looks and masterfully mannered characterisation, Veidt (who plays his playing his Orlac in a permanent state of fright) proves himself one of the true original Masters of Terror, while Wiene directs each scene like grand theatrical tableaux du dance.
There’s also excellent support from Alexandra Sorina (as Paul’s wife) who stilted movements reveal her character’s inner turmoil. While more mystery thriller with psychological overtones than straight-out horror, the film does boast a couple of very human monsters – most tellingly Paul’s horrid, unlovingly father, whose creepy house resembles a mausoleum.
Kudos to Johannes Kaltizke’s excellent avant-garde music score – which greatly reminded me of Les Baxter’s suite in the 1970 Vincent Price TV special, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe. Among the excellent highlights is an alternate 110-minute presentation of the film from 2008 with alternate takes and a music score by Paul Mercer.
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a restoration of the original film elements by Film Archiv Austria
• LPCM 2.0 audio
• Original German-language intertitles with optional English subtitles
• Audio commentary with Stephen Jones and Kim Newman
• Video essay by David Cairns and Fiona Watson (30min)
• FW Murnau Foundation alternate presentation [SD, 110 minutes]
• Scene comparisons highlighting some of the differences between the two versions of the film
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Philip Kemp, and Tim Lucas
Death Has Blue Eyes | Nico Mastorakis’ wacky 1970’s paranormal sex comedy action thriller on Blu-ray
There’s a whole lot of love over at Arrow for the crazy cine-verse of Greek film-maker Nico Mastorakis, as they have so far released his 1975 infamous ‘video nasty’ exploitation debut Island of Death (twice), Death Has Blue Eyes (1976), Blood Tide (1982), The Zero Boys and The Wind (both 1986), Bloodstone (1988) and 1990’s Hired to Kill.
I’ve seen and reviewed Island of Death and The Wind, and now have finally caught up with Death Has Blue Eyes, which was released back in April (2021) on Blu-ray in a new HD master in both widescreen and full-frame versions.
Be prepared as this is a wacky, messy but wholly entertaining cocktail of conspiracy thrills, psychic chills and action spills (with a bit of a 1970s sex comedy vibe thrown in).
International gigolo-cum-racing driver Ches (Chris Nomikos) and his dodgy Vietnam vet mate Bob (Peter Winter) meet up in Athens where they encounter the wealthy but mysterious Geraldine Steinwetz (Jessica Dublin) and her psychic daughter Christine (Maria Aliferi).
All the lads want to do is have sex (with a penchant for threesomes – oo-er!!!), but they soon find themselves in the middle of an international conspiracy – and nothing is what it seems, especially Geraldine, who has a secret agenda.
While Island of Death was released first, this was in fact Mastorakis’ debut feature – and it’s one to watch with a gang of fellow exploitation film fans, while Graham Humphreys’ colourful poster artwork really captures the essence of Mastorakis’ lurid conspiracy thriller.
But what really thrilled me was checking out Jessica Dublin’s credits. She so steals the show here and should be better known as she’s been in so many cult faves – including Visconti’s The Damned, Mastorakis’ Island of Death, Kostas Karayiannis’ The Devil’s Men and was Mrs Junko in Troma’s Toxic Avenger sequels.
Mastorakis made his last feature in 1990, before turning his hand to TV sitcoms, but he’s recently scored renewed success as the writer of the award-winning 2018 documentary, Mykonos, the Soul of an Island.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
- Brand new restoration from the original camera negative approved by the director
- High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
- Two versions of the film: the widescreen 1.85:1 version and the full-frame 1.33:1 version
- Original mono audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Exclusive new interview featurette with Nico Mastorakis
- Exclusive new interview with actress Maria Aliferi
- Dancing with Death: tracks from the original soundtrack
- Original theatrical trailers
- Image gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Julian Grainger