Category Archives: Might See
Pulse | ‘It traps you in your house…then pulls the plug’ – the 1980s sci-fi shocker on Blu-ray
Now, what would you do if you discovered a serial killer intelligence was moving from house to house in your neighbourhood via the electrical grid? Well, that’s the premise of this 1988 American sci-fi. And, you what, it’s not a bad little shocker.
Chid star/singer and future reality TV/game show celeb Joey Lawrence plays David, a Colorado kid forced to spend quality time in the Californian burbs with his divorced dad Bill (Cliff De Young) and step-mum (Roxanne Hart). Arriving the day after a neighbour seeming went into murder/suicide mode after wrecking his house, David becomes convinced that something in the wires was the real cause. He’s soon in ‘why don’t you believe me’ territory with his dad, who blames scary-eyed builder Holger (Charles Tyner) for filling his kid’s head with such nonsense. Of course, it takes a couple of bizarre accidents involving David and Ellen before Bill finally realises he must find a way to pull the plug before its too late.
I never caught this on its original release, but it holds up rather well after all these years. Sitting firmly in the kid-in-peril genre, it boasts a winning turn from Joey Lawrence (making his second feature). Excepting those scenes he shares with his real-life kid brother Matthew (whose little Stevie delights in describing the recent murder in gruesome detail), Joey Lawrence dominates the proceedings as the young boy pining for some fatherly affection. And his domestic drama plays out quite nicely alongside the sinister goings-on which starts out with the family’s lawn dying off and ends in a blaze of pyrotechnics as father and son join forces to take the pulse down (along with the family home).
The special effects of the pulse are quite effective, there are some great set pieces and the music is composed by Jay Ferguson (who went on to composed the theme song for the US version of The Office). But my favourite scene is the ending, which I suspect is a subtle dig at suburban American ideals.
Pulse is now out on Blu-ray in the UK from Eureka Entertainment.
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
• LPCM 2.0 audio and optional English SDH
• Audio commentary by author and film historian Amanda Reyes
• Tuning in to Tech Horror: video essay by writer and film historian Lee Gambin
• Collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by author Craig Ian Mann
Five Graves to Cairo | Billy Wilder’s World War II spy thriller on Blu-ray
The only survivor in his unit after a battle with Rommel’s soldiers in North Africa, British Corporal Bramble (Franchot Tone) staggers through the desert until arriving at the largely deserted Empress of Britain hotel, staffed only by owner Farid (Akim Tamiroff) and his French employee Mouche (Anne Baxter).
While Bramble hopes to hide there, the hotel doesn’t remain deserted for long – Rommel (a scene-stealing Erich von Stroheim) and his men arrive and take over the building as new headquarters. Bramble assumes the identity of a recently killed waiter… only to discover that the waiter was also serving as a German spy, a role Bramble now has to adopt for his own survival. And while Mouche knows Bramble’s true identity, she has her own reasons for not wanting to aid in his plot.
Filled with duplicity and danger at every turn, Five Graves to Cairo (1943) was Billy Wilder’s second Hollywood film and an underrated early gem from the filmmaker, who would strike gold with his next project, Double Indemnity.
The underrated World World II spy thriller also demonstrated that Wilder and screenwriter Charles Brackett – who would collaborate on 13 films, winning screenplay Oscars for The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard – were already working at the peak of their powers, delivering an espionage yarn that never lets up on the suspense.
Five Graves to Cairo is out now on Blu-ray as part of Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinemas Series.
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a brand new 4K restoration
• Uncompressed LPCM audio (original mono presentation)
• Audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
• Billy Wilder on Five Graves to Cairo
• Five Graves to Cairo episode of Lux Radio Theatre (1943), starring Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter
• Theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic Richard Combs; and an archival article from 1944 about Wilder and Charles Brackett
Double Face | Riccardo Freda’s 1969 Euro thriller with a pyscho-delic bent
When his wealthy lesbian wife Helen (Margaret Lee) dies in a car crash, businessman John Alexander (Klaus Kinski) finds himself under a police investigation when they discover the car had been tampered with. But when he discovers a recently-shot pornographic movie which appears to feature Helen, her suspects she staged her own death and begins his own investigation. Can he get to the bottom of the mystery before police lock him in handcuffs?
In the post-war years, the proliferation of transnational European co-productions gave rise to a cross-pollination of film genres, with the same films sold in different markets as belonging to different movements. Among these, director Riccardo Freda’s Double Face from 1969 was marketed in West Germany as an Edgar Wallace ‘Krimi’, while in Italy it was sold as a Giallo.
It’s certainly a visually-atmospheric Giallo with a terrific score from Nora Orlandi (who also sings), and Kinski does give an uncharacteristically subtle performance. But it’s a bit too subtle at times. He moves from one gorgeously-lit scene to another just staring – but then so does the audience.
The Arrow Video Blu-ray (originally released June 2019) includes the following special edition contents…
• 2K restoration of the full-length Italian version of the film from the original 35mm camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Uncompressed mono 1.0 LPCM audio
• Original English and Italian soundtracks, titles and credits
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles
• Audio commentary by author and critic Tim Lucas
• Interview with composer Nora Orlandi (This was my favourite extra, – Nora and her scores so deserve renewed appreciation)
• The Many Faces of Nora Orlandi, a new appreciation of the varied career of the film’s composer by musician and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon (this guy really knows his stuff)
• The Terrifying Dr Freda, Video essay on Riccardo Freda’s gialli by author and critic Amy Simmons (very informative and well worth checking out)
• Extensive image gallery from the collection of Christian Ostermeier, including the original German pressbook and lobby cards, and the complete Italian cineromanzo adaptation
• Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Neill Mitchell
The Haunted House of Horror | Fancy a seance and an orgy with Frankie Avalon? Well you’ve got the wrong address!
At a ‘swinging’ London party, a group of bored teenagers decide they want a new ‘experience’, so Richard (Julian Barnes) suggests they head to a deserted mansion where an infamous murder took place. But during their ‘ghost hunt’, one of their number ends up brutally stabbed to death. Hiding the body, the gang decide not to tell the police, which turns out to be a really bad move. As guilt gets the better of them, they decide the only solution is to return to the scene of the crime…
Oh dear! This dated 1960s Tigon/AIP horror is embarrassingly bad, yet bizarrely enjoyable for its kitsch value. Beach Party‘s Frankie Avalon swaps his shorts and surfboard for some Carnaby Street clobber as the jaded group’s nominal leader. But he looks way older than his character should be, and practically dials in his performance. But he’s certainly not as stiff as Dennis Price (a last minute replacement for an ailing Boris Karloff), whose police inspector does little more than take phone calls. Among the dolly birds and male model supporting cast are future sitcom stars Richard O’Sullivan and Robin Stewart, pop singer Mark Wynter, and actress Jill Haworth (who ended up in Tower of Evil and The Mutations).
For fans of vintage British horror, you either love or hate this deeply-flawed attempt by Tigon to craft what is probably the UK’s first teen slasher, and its production history is certainly way more interesting than the film itself. Originally called The Dark, it was based on an original screenplay by 23-year-old Michael Armstrong, who also got to direct until he was removed by Tigon’s AIP co-producers, who demanded cuts, script changes and reshoots, to the point that the finished product looked nothing like what Armstrong had originally intended (he want to make a satire on the youth scene). Hence why George Sewell’s scenes look like they come from another movie. They were added to make up the running time after big cuts were made, which got rid of a homosexual subplot and other more interesting elements.
The restoration, however, is impressive as it really highlights the effective camerawork and lighting, particularly so in the mansion scenes (shot on location at the Birkdale Palace Hotel in Southport, but using sets constructed to look battered and aged). There’s so much more detail now and the colours really pop (especially in the cast’s trendy attire). Check out the clip below about the restoration work (But BIG spoiler alert! The killer is revealed).
While the film ended up generating good returns (especially when it was released in the US as Horror House on a double-bill with Crimson Cult – aka Curse of the Crimson Cult) it’s a real pity its a dog’s dinner of a thriller. But one can only imagine how it could have turned out had Armstrong had achieved his original concept with his dream cast of David Bowie, Scott Walker, Ian Ogilvy and Jane Merrow. If you want to read Armstrong’s original screenplay for The Dark, you purchase it from Paper Dragon Productions for £13.99. Just click on the link.
The Haunted House of Horror is available on Blu-ray in the UK from Screenbound
• Commentary and a new interview with director Michael Armstrong
• Interview clips with Michael Armstrong, actors Mark Wynter, Carol Dilworth and Veronica Doran; plus hair stylist Ross Carver, camera operator James Devis, production secretary Jeanette Ferber, dubbing editor Howard Lanning and editor Peter Pitt.
Road Games (2015) | A suspenseful blend of And Soon the Darkness and The Hitcher
If you’re familiar with the cult 1970 Brit thrillers And Soon the Darkness and Crescendo, then you’ll see echoes of those classics in debut director Abner Pastoll’s murder mystery Road Games.
The gorgeous French countryside (actually Maidstone, Kent) is the setting for this unsettling thriller where suspicion and road kill is the order of the day. British drifter Jack (Rebellion’s Andrew Simpson) is trying to get to Calais when he encounters another hitchhiker, the enigmatic Veronique (Josephine de la Baume), along a stretch of road where they learn a serial killer is on the loose.
Taken in for their own safety by the overly-friendly Grizard (The Returned’s Frederic Pierrot) and his somewhat nervous wife Mary (Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator fame), who live in a half-lived-in mansion, Veronique soon begins to suspects something amiss… And she’s right! For what follows is some splendid old dark house scares, some shocking twists – as every character become suspect – and some nail-biting The Hitcher-styled chills.
With a cracking cast – especially former screen queen Barbara Crampton, who is firmly re-establishing herself in the horror genre of late – and direction that would make Hitchcock proud, Road Games is a winner all the way. Oh, and the house used in the film was last seen on the big-screen in 1980’s The Mirror Crack’d with Elizabeth Taylor. Check it out here: http://stclere.co.uk/
• Out on DVD from Monday 29 August 2016 and on VOD and for download from Friday 26 August 2016 from Frightfest Presents
• Road Games will also be screening at Horror Channel FrightFest on Friday 26th August. Check it out here
Blood Orange (2015) | Iggy Pop is no stooge in the searing noir thriller
Iggy Pop is one the greatest performers on the planet. Having recently performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall (check out his stage dive below), his energy on stage – at the ripe age of 69 – continues to be electric, and his mere presence verges on the reverential and the messianic.
For the sun-drenched psychological thriller Blood Orange, the rock legend brings his sleazy sex lizard image to the role of terminally ill rock star, Bill, taking some time out in a desert paradise with his hot young trophy wife Isabelle (former Grange Hill actress Kacey Clarke – nee Barnfield).
But their bohemian existence is soon rocked by the arrival of Isabelle’s stepson Lucas (The White Queen’s Ben Lamb), who demands an inheritance that’s been stolen from him. Power games and secret agendas soon unfold, resulting in betrayal and murder…
While Iggy is undoubtedly the master of the concert arena, as an actor, he’s still learning the ropes. But in playing this version of himself he’s certainly scored, as he dresses his character in his trademark craggy complexion and grizzled leathered skin, iconic growling voice and awkward gait (something that was borne of a twisted spine caused by on-stage injuries and famously informed Andy Serkis’ Gollum in The Lord of the Rings). These physical characteristics not only match the sun-drenched landscape in which his Bill exists, they also help give his world-weary philosophical character an almost mythical quality. Its a character that’s certainly fit for purpose.
If Bill were a desert-dwelling creature, he’d be a camel spider, which feeds opportunistically on small animals – with the little critter in question being Ben Lamb’s unlikeable upper-class twit Lucas. And joining Bill in trapping his prey is Kacey Clarke’s sexually-voracious Isabelle, who is also every inch the Lady Macbeth in that she can’t be trusted – especially with the pool boy.
Using just a handful of characters in single setting (all shot in a modernist villa in the rocky hills of Ibiza) British writer/director Toby Tobias has done a pretty fair job at bringing his debut feature to searing noirish life, and it’s one that echoes René Clemént’s Plein Soleil, Polanski’s Cul de Sac (1966), and even Philip Ridley’s The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995).
Now it may not reach the heady height of those classics of the genre, and could have done with less words and more suspense, Blood Orange is an engrossing experience nevertheless – and one that’s made all the more rewarding with the presence of that wild man of rock ‘n’ roll.
IGGY’S STAGE DIVE AT LONDON’S ROYAL ALBERT HALL
Revenge (1971) | James Booth and Joan Collins are out for blood in the sensational X-rated British shocker!
If you look in the basement… be prepared to SCREAM!
Following the murder of his young daughter Jenny, publican Jim Radford (James Booth) is persuaded by his best mate Harry (Ray Barratt) to hunt down the suspected child killer who has just been freed by the police and extract a confession from him.
Aided by his 18-year-old son Lee (Tom Marshall), Jim and Harry abduct loner Seely (Kenneth Griffith), then lock him up in the pub’s cellar where they beat him to a pulp under the watchful eye of Jim’s wife Carol (Joan Collins). But keeping their quarry a secret from the police and the pub’s punters while they decide what to do next puts their loyalties to the test…
Welcome to the Inn of the Frightened People
With tight direction from Sidney Hayers (Circus of Horrors, Night of the Eagle) and a script bristling with tension and melodrama from The Saint screenwriter John Kruse, Revenge was one of the most lurid British thrillers to come out of the 1970s, and quite the departure for producer Peter Rogers, who was better known for the Carry On films.
But there’s quite the carry-on happening down at The Crown pub where James Booth’s landlord Ray must decide the fate of the man he’s got tied up cellar – is he really responsible for his daughter’s death or has he been falsely accused? While Kruse’s script touches on the very emotive subject of child killers and sex offenders that’s still very relevant today, it concerns itself more about matters of conscience. For Ray, it’s the nagging thought that he may have gone to far; for Lee, it’s being unable to perform for girlfriend Rose (Sinéad Cusack), and for Carol, it’s all about looking the other way.
Working entirely on location and shooting in vivid Eastmancolor, Hayers (coming directly off TV’s The Avengers) and cinematographer Ken Hodges (The Shuttered Room) make excellent use of the pub’s nooks and crannies and surrounding suburban streets (in Little Marlow in Buckinghamshire), which lend the proceedings a suitably claustrophobic air – all the better for the ensuring drama to heat up as Ray, Carol and Lee try to cover their tracks, and tensions start to fray, climaxing (no pun intended) in the film’s most sordid scene in which Lee engages in rough sex with step-mum Carol while a bound and gagged Seely looks on through shattered glasses.
The abduction of a suspected child killer by a grieving dad and his mates was also used as the premise of the shocking 2013 Israeli film Big Bad Wolves. But that relied on scenes of extreme violence to tell its politicised vigilante story. Now, Revenge may have been regarded as one of the most unsavoury British thrillers of the 1970s, but it’s pretty tame by today’s standards, and could easily be a storyline in one of those ITV real-life dramas or a British soap – after all The Queen Vic’s cellar in EastEnders was the setting of Dirty Den’s ultimate demise. And I must admit that watching Joan Collins as landlady Carol in Revenge, I couldn’t help but wonder what she’d be like taking over The Vic now that Babs Windsor’s Peggy Mitchell has said her final goodbyes. Maybe she should be speaking to her agent?
THE NETWORK RELEASE
Revenge is featured in a brand-new High Definition transfer from the original film elements in its original theatrical aspect ratio on Blu-ray and DVD, as part of Network’s The British Film collection.
The extras includes restored original theatrical trailer (which thankfully doesn’t have any spoilers), an image gallery (with lots of modelling shots of Joan Collins), a script (in pdf) and a collector’s booklet with articles by Professor Neil Sinyard.
The Duke of Burgundy (2014) | A wildly perverse tale about love and submission
In an unnamed European town, seemingly populated only by women, the cruel and vindictive lepidopterist, Cynthia (Borgen‘s Sidse Babett Knudsen) inflicts daily sadistic humiliations upon her submissive lover-cum-maid, Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna). But as time goes, the pair begin to reveal themselves, and it soon becomes clear that the humiliation may not all be of Cynthia’s design…
British director Peter Strickland’s follow up to his leftfield 2009 thriller Katalin Varga and his 2012 giallo homage Berberian Sound Studio is his strangest film to date. Sensual, shocking and steeped in atmosphere that echoes the 1970s Euro-sleaze of Jean Rollin and Jess Franco, The Duke of Burgundy is a wildly perverse exploration of the rituals of S&M in which Strickland turns the viewer into a ‘peeping Tom’ on the activities of these kinky lovers.
Breathtakingly visual, featuring painterly autumn-hued production design, and complemented by an evocative soundtrack from Cat’s Eyes (aka Faris Badwan of The Horrors and Rachel Zeffira), this is a twisted tale indeed, but one that might also test your patience as much as Cythnia tests the limits of poor Evelyn… Oh, and if your wondering the film’s title refers to a rare British butterfly (Hamearis lucina).
The Duke of Burgundy gets its Film4 premiere in the UK on Thursday 28 April 2016 at 11.15pm, and is also available on DVD and Blu-ray from Artificial Eye
The Stepfather (2009) | When Dylan Walsh stepped into some very big shoes
Having spent six years dealing with all manner of freaks and psychos as Dr Sean McNamara in Ryan Murphy’s dark drama Nip/Tuck, Dylan Walsh made a suitable choice to step into the shoes of The Stepfather, which originally belonged to Terry O’Quinn back in 1987.
This 2009 remake of the cult classic sees Walsh play the deeply disturbed title character who sets up home with fatherless families, then slaughters them when they inevitably disappoint him. Now calling himself David Harris, Dylan’s killer has charmed his way into the life of divorcée Susan (Sela Ward) and her family. When Susan’s oldest son Michael (Penn Badgley) returns home after a spell at a military school, David uses every trick in the book to get on the bad boy’s good side so that he can marry Susan and start playing happy families.
But David slips up during a bonding session, causing Michael to become suspicious of his soon-to-be-step dad’s seemingly perfect manner. When Michael’s dad and Susan’s sister begin to check up on David’s background, the tension mounts as David’s dark side manifests – leading to a gripping climax.
This good-looking production is actually better than I thought. Walsh is effectively creepy – David’s conservative approach to raising a family is truly scary (just think right-wing Republican) – and Badgley shows he’s more than a pretty boy (although that’s no bad thing), especially when it soon becomes a fight to the finish as moody Michael tries to unmask David for the killer he really is.
A UK R2 DVD was released back in 2010. But why it was called the Extreme Director’s Cut is a mystery as Nelson McCormick, who also directed the Prom Night remake, and his writer, The Covenant‘s JS Cardone, have gone for Hitchcockian suspense over gore, which is actually a fright for sore eyes.
You can catch The Stepfather on The Horror Channel tonight (Wednesday 6 April) at 9pm.
American Horror Project | Arrow Video revives three unsung heroes of indie terror cinema in gore-rious HD
From Arrow Video comes the first in a new series of box-sets, entitled American Horror Project, showcasing some of independent US horror’s more obscure tales of terror which have been rescued from the archives and resurrected in shiny new HD restorations.
Three unsung heroes from the 1970s appear in this first volume. The surreal Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973) sees a family fall foul of cannibalistic ghouls (including Fantasy Island’s Hervé Villechaize) in a dilapidated fairground; while 1976’s The Witch Who Came from the Sea is an exploitation gem that was once included on the UK’s notorious Video Nasties list. Directed by Matt Cimber (who’d go onto score a Golden Globe nod for 1982’s Butterfly), it stars Mollie Perkins (The Diary of Anne Frank) as a disturbed woman whose violent fantasies start to bleed into reality. The last offering is The Premonition (1976), director Robert Allen Schnitzer’s tale of psychic terror in which a five-year-old girl (All in the Family’s Danielle Anne Brisebois) is snatched away by a woman claiming to be her biological mother.
Each film has been re-mastered from scratch with the involvement of the original filmmakers with new extras that will hopefully give new voice to these underrated exploitation chillers. Look out for my reviews of each title real soon.
American Horror Project is out on dual format (Blu-ray & DVD) from 22 February 2016
THE FULL SPECS
• Brand new 2K restorations of the three features.
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentations.
• English subtitles.
• Reversible sleeves featuring original artwork by the Twins of Evil.
• 60-page booklet featuring new articles on the films.
• Interview with director Christopher Speeth
• Interview with writer Werner Liepolt
• Draft Script (BD/DVD-ROM content)
• Production stills gallery
• Commentary with director Matt Cimber, actress Millie Perkins and director of photography Dean Cundey
• Interview with director Matt Cimber
• Interview with Dean Cundey
• Interview with actor John Goff
• Commentary with director-producer Robert Allen Schnitzer
• Interview with composer Henry Mollicone
• Interview with actor Richard Lynch
• Three Robert Allen Schnitzer short films: Vernal Equinox, Terminal Point and A Rumbling in the Land
• 4 Peace Spots
• Trailers and TV Spots