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See No Evil 2’s Soska Sisters on their Rabid remake, TV ambitions and being big fans of WWE

With the Horror Channel’s UK premiere broadcast of See No Evil 2 screening on Friday 7 April, the Twisted Twins, Jan and Sylvia Soska, reveal their TV ambitions, the latest on their Rabid remake and being huge WWE fans.

It’s been while since we last chatted and apart from See No Evil 2 what have you both been up to?

S: It has been a while, but it’s really cool that we get to chat again. We hosted a reality horror game show from Matador, GSN and Blumhouse called Hellevator that was like ‘Saw the game show’. We had a blast making it. I really can’t even believe that was a job a person could have. We’re still trying to get it over to the UK – I think the audience over there will really enjoy it. We have had a lot of fun working in television, it’s something we’re interested in pursuing more of not only in front of the camera, but behind the scenes as well.

J: Oh, it’s been ages! We’ve been up to nothing but trouble. We made an action movie with the WWE and Lionsgate called Vendetta where we made everybody’s favorite Superman Dean Cain break bad fighting the Big Show in jail. It was basically a Punisher goes to jail movie for us. We got to achieve a big bucket list dream and start writing for Marvel comics! We did a ‘Night Nurse’ and a ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ story so far and are stoked to do more with them. And we’re re-making Canadian Horror King David Cronenberg’s Rabid. We keep busy.

Did the incredible, international success of Dead Hooker in a Trunk surprise you?

S: We were working very hard towards getting that kind of reaction, but considering how many films and filmmakers come out now, it’s always such an unpredictable journey. I remember we would carry screeners in our purse with these little booklets, just in case we met anyone who we could get the film in front of, but it really paid off. I’ll always be particularly grateful to the people who saw that first film and decided to support two very different filmmakers.

J: In a way, when I really think about it, yeah. It’s a weird “WTF is even happening” film and it’s really “us”. The humor, the insane plot, the passion, the violence, and that take no prisoners attitude. I was both surprised and delighted to learn there are so many fellow weirdos like us out there. I love all our fans, but the people who have been in our corner since Dead Hooker In A Trunk have a very special place in my heart.

How did your family react to how it took off?

S: My parents couldn’t have been more proud. My dad appears as the Rabbi in the flashback, we shot at our church, we had a lot of support from our church on that one, ha ha. We’re very lucky in the way that our parents have always been incredibly supportive of what we wanted to do. My mom tells me it wouldn’t have made a difference because once we got an idea in our head, even as little kids, we had to make it happen.

J: My folks are the best. They’ve always been so supportive of our paths wanting to be artists. They’re both artists themselves so they never told us to settle on “normal jobs”. I think they couldn’t believe how big it got. When people starting yelling, “Dead Hooker In A Trunk!!!!” at us in the street it was like, “wow, what is even happening to our lives??” They’re very proud. They always get to see the early cuts and my mum will let me know when the gory bits really sell. I have no idea what’s too much anymore. I don’t know if I ever did, ha ha

When American Mary showed at FrightFest a few years back it gained huge critical acclaim, what are your most vivid memories of this time?

S: I remember lying awake in my hotel room with Jen at the Soho and being extremely nervous and excited. The next day our film was going to play in front of a huge crowd and we were going to be wearing these fantastic outfits made out of surgical plastic created by Enigma Arcana that we were going to wear for it. I kept thinking about what a surreal situation that was and it’s kind of a vulnerable story, so I was feeling that. But I couldn’t have dreamed up a better audience. I remember Mike Hewitt from Universal made sure we got a bunch of people from the European body modification community in the front rows of the theatre, so seeing their faces and getting the reactions from the crowd was a beautiful experience. I’ll always be in love with the UK because of truly wonderfully they have treated us throughout the years.

J: I remember Dead Hooker fans waiting outside our hotel for autographs and photos. It was so cool, but I’m very Canadian so I was all like, “how long have you been out here? Oh no, I would’ve come out sooner! I didn’t know!” I have never received a warmer welcome anywhere in the world. The UK fans know their horror and they got American Mary at a level I didn’t expect anyone to. It meant the world to us. And FrightFest is the best. The gents there were so good to us. I’m dying to return.

Let’s chat about See No Evil 2. How were you selected to direct and how much say did you have on the incredible cast?

S: We got the script knowing it was time sensitive and were really excited about the opportunity, but we didn’t think we’d be hired. After American Mary and Dead Hooker in a Trunk, I think people kept trying to put us in this box of this is what the twins make, but we have very diverse interests and like tackling different sub genres. I hear a lot of nightmare stories about people working with a studio for the first time, but we were extremely lucky. Michael Luisi, the head of WWE Studios, hired us to bring a female perspective to the film. We got to pick our team and modify things creatively as we went along to make the sequel really special. We’re fans of the material, so we kept thinking what would be like to bring, knowing we were reintroducing this character from an original that was from so many years ago.

J: We always go to bat for our actors. We love this cast. We got Glenn “Kane” Jacobs as part of it and being huge Kane and Undertaker fans it was really the opportunity of a lifetime. I had wanted to work with Danielle Harris for ages. She’s an icon. True Horror Queen. And we had to bring Katie Isabelle with us. We wanted to give her something really fun to do. We sat in on every audition and met our boys. Kaj-Erik Eriksen is just the best. I met him and felt like I knew him for years. I knew Greyston Holt, a fellow Hungarian, for a while and had been wanting to get him in something of ours. We were fans of Chelan Simmons from the Final Destination series and Tucker and Dale Vs Evil. Lee was another gift from the auditions. And Michael Eklund? He’s the Canadian Daniel Day Lewis. We love him. We were looking for something together for a while and this was perfect.

Were you big WWE fans before this movie?

S: Yes. A lot of people don’t know that we are huge WWE fans. One of the only dreams that my Dad didn’t support was me becoming a professional wrestler and getting tattoos. I guess through working with the WWE and making American Mary, I got to experience those avenues as closely as I could. We’re still such WWE fans. I think the popularity of professional wrestling is like nothing else. You have these super hero soap operas and these brilliant coordinated fights where heroes & villains fight each week and they have such positive messages about overcoming obstacles or never giving up. Then, you see them on their off time and they are visiting the troops overseas or going to a children’s hospital to brighten someone’s day. I still dream of maybe getting an opportunity to write an episode of RAW or maybe get in the ring. With Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs and Paul ‘Big Show’ Wight as back up, though. Those lady Superstars are tough, I’d love to train to get in the ring with them. Maybe take on the Bellas?

J: Only the biggest. I lose my shit at the live events. I love it so much. Getting to work with and meet so many of the WWE Superstars has only increased my love for the whole organization and what those performers put themselves through. Real life super heroes, all of them! I remember an acting teacher made fun of me for loving WWE and said it was a waste of my time. Guess he can “suck it” (Degeneration X) now.

Did you change any of the script and if so (without giving too much away) was it much and why did you change it?

S: We had a completely collaborative team and that was a very supportive environment to make the film. I don’t want to give too much away, but we switched up the gender roles in this film big time. It’s very subtle, so a lot of people didn’t really notice it until the end. I sometimes think, oh I wish I had done this or did that, but the scene in the morgue with Katharine Isabelle and Lee Majdoub with Kane on the slab was very much us. That character went from being a dude to being Tamara and ended with such a sexy moment. We like playing with people’s expectations and the team was totally down for it too.

J: Ugh, I can’t say much without giving it away but we wanted to give the film that classic 80s slasher feel to it. AND we played with typical gender roles. Nuff said! Can’t say more without ruining everything!

How tough was the shoot, what did you learn from it and if you could go back and do it again what would you change?

S: The worst planned moment was that the big final fight was on the last day and then Jen, Glenn, and I had two hours sleep before we had to get on a plane to fly to New York for New York Comic Con. I was ecstatic to go and it was our first time in New York which was amazing, but the three of us were so dead after shooting non-stop for weeks, then going back into it, but these are the kind of hours you have in the WWE. You don’t really think about all that traveling that they do until you see it first-hand. But then again, sleep is something you can do when you’re dead.

J: Any 15 day shoot is ambitious. You have got to pick your battles. You have to lose some battles to win the war. If I could change anything it would be that promo NYCC trip that made our first time in NY feel like an acid trip.

What’s Kane like in real life?

S: He’s the best. He’s not Kane. I mean, if anyone is Kane, it’s Glenn and he’s such a phenomenal performer that that character is a real guy to people. He was a real guy to me too, until I got to meet the man behind the Devil’s Favourite Demon. He’s very intelligent, he’s ridiculously funny – I think it’s a shame that we don’t get to see more of that comedic genius on the show, he’s very down to earth, and he’s one of the kindest souls I have had the pleasure of meeting. You see him doing different charity events constantly, he’s always giving back to his fellow man, and he’s always visiting people in the hospital. It’s funny that everyone knows him as this monster on TV, but in real life he’s much closer to an angel. I don’t want to ruin his street cred, but Glenn is literally the best.

J: He’s the coolest. He is SUCH a nice guy. He didn’t set anything on fire or murder anyone that wasn’t meant to be murdered. Glenn is very down to Earth and terribly brilliant.

See No Evil 2 is one of those rare things, a sequel that’s stronger than the original, would you agree?

S: That’s what we set out to do. I think one of the most important aspects of a slasher is that you care for the cast so there’s a sense of wins and losses in this horrific situation you’ve placed these people in. We wanted it to be visually beautiful, we wanted to revamp Jacob Goodnight so that he would be more fear-inducing, and we wanted to have a lot of fun killing whoever it is we end up killing in the film. I’m hoping with the set up in See No Evil 2, they’ll let us have another round with a third instalment.

J: That’s what I think, but I’ve heard people say the opposite. You can’t make everyone happy, I suppose. And those people are idiots. No accounting for taste! I wanted to create this extension of Jacob Goodnight’s world that made the audience actually feel something. I feel that’s the main difference between a horror film and, say, an action film. If you care when someone dies you’re probably watching a horror film and if you don’t care someone did something wrong. We wanted to redesign the Jacob Goodnight character. The fans wanted a mask and we were totally into delivering. What’s a horror icon without a cosplayable costume, right?

Are you pleased See No Evil 2 is getting its UK TV premiere on Horror Channel?

S: Nothing makes me happier! You guys were the first ones to put us on TV and now look what’s happened. Technically, this is all your fault.

J: I am deliriously excited. I LOVE the UK Horror Channel!! You guys have been so deliciously delightful to us. You cared about us before anyone got aboard the band wagon! We Soskas don’t forget stuff like that!

If See No Evil 3 ever came about would you be up for it?

S: We have been talking to the team for years about making a third one. We nicknamed it 3 No Evil and we have a killer idea set up for it. The team is interested in coming back, maybe this UK TV premiere will be what gets them to say, why not, how bad could it be?

J: 3 No Evil? I’ve actually been dying to do a sequel to our sequel. It would be so fun to reunite with Glenn and company. We have some big plans for him in the future…

How much in the last 10 years has the movie industry changed for women? Are you now rightfully treated as equals?

S: There’s definitely more of a spotlight on the inequality in hiring female directors which has opened up this dialogue that has been going strong for years. You look at filmmakers like Ana Lily Amirpour with A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Julia Ducournau with Raw, Agnieszka Smoczyńska with The Lure, and so many others – and you see these unique perspective films and you see that audiences are hungry for that. There’s this misconception about who the film-going audiences are and what they will pay to see in the theatres, but then you see someone try something different like Jennifer Kent did with The Babadook and its insanely successful. Yet instead of looking for more new ideas to give audiences more of a variety, they try to recreate the last success and there’s no art in that. Creating true equality is an ongoing process, but I truly don’t mind. There are no other sister directing teams that we are following in the footsteps of, every step is new ground that hopefully makes the path less unruly for those who come next.

J: We’re getting there but we’ve still got a ways to go. Female filmmakers are making a lot more noise about diverse representation and the fans are echoing that call. Ladies still have to fight hard for those opportunities and get overlooked for their male counter parts. If another male director with less experience than me gets another superhero franchise I might lose my shit. With all the attention on female filmmakers right now, particularly in the horror genre, I think we’re gonna see more of a shift in hiring (and paying equal wages). But ask me next time we chat, we’ll see how far we came.

So, what are you working on at the moment?

S: We are very honored to have been the team chosen to take on the remake of Cronenberg’s Rabid. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of remakes but that’s if they don’t have anything new to bring to the story. We have a unique perspective just because of who we are to tell the story from Rose’s eyes as well as make a commentary on the increasingly rabid world that we live in. Also, we’ve been dying to get back into body horror. Ten years into David’s filmmaking career, he remade The Fly and it brought him to this new level. This is ten years into our career and this will be our first film that gets a wide theatrical release, so it feels like a good pairing. We just have to make sure we don’t let down our country, our fanbase, and our hero. No pressure.

J: Rabid! And sadly a bunch of stuff I can’t talk too much about. I will say that one of our original scripts has now gone into production and I’m really beside myself about it. It’s a dream I’d forgotten I’d even had. We wrote this particular script at the same time as American Mary and it’s maybe my favorite thing we’ve ever written. It’s a “fuck yeah” film so get stoked for that. We have quite a few films in production and Kill-Crazy Nymphos Attack!, our (very) graphic novel that we’re doing with Daniel Way with artwork by Rob Dumo. It’s coming this summer, so grab that if you want to be horribly offended.

See No Evil 2 is broadcast on Horror Channel, 10.50pm, Friday 7 April 2017

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Possession (1981) | A look back at Andrzej Zulawski’s notorious marital horror from beyond the Berlin Wall

 

Possession (1981)

In honour of the passing this week of the 75-year-old Polish director Andrzej Zulawski, here’s a look back his shock art masterpiece Possession.

If you like your cinema dark, twisted and served with visual flair, then the 1981 German/French horror drama Possession might be just the ticket. Set in the former West Berlin, this once controversial arthouse thriller stars Aussie actor Sam Neill as a government agent called Mark and Isabelle Adjani (who would win both a César and a Cannes award for her role) as his adulterous wife Anna. Theirs is a marriage in total meltdown…

Possession (1981)

When Anna’s affair with the charismatic Heinrich (Heinz Bennent) comes to light, Anna goes into hiding, leaving Mark to look after their young son, Bobby. Alone with her guilt and self-loathing, Anna miscarries – an event that tips her over the edge into madness, resulting in self-mutilation, violent outbursts of rage and murder.

Possession is not an easy film to watch, but Adjani and Neil’s performances are mesmerising. Rich in metaphors, surrealist poetics and excessive symbolism, it has a trippy, dream-like incoherence that breaks all the rules about narrative structure. And this is all down to Żuławski who channelled his own psychological journey (over his own marital breakdown) into celluloid – making this more a visionary nightmare than a horror movie per se.

Possession (1981)

Though it does have elements of horror – especially the monstrous creature lurking in the shadows of Anna’s mind (courtesy of sfx legend Carlo Rambaldi) – the surreal inclusion of doppelgangers (Mark starts dating a teacher who looks just like Anna, while Anna’s creature becomes a clone of Mark); Kafkaesque spy intrigue (Mark is being hounded to move up in the spy agency); and the occult (Heinrich is portrayed as a black magician) makes it reminiscent of the works of Luis Buñuel and Alejandro Jodorowsky. As such, Possession is film as art.

Bewildering, hysterical and highly esoteric, this is one film you will not forget, but also the perfect introduction into the cinema of its late director. Just don’t watch this with someone you are about to break up with, and please don’t ask me to explain the final apocalyptic scene.

Possession (1981)

Possession (1981)THE SECOND SIGHT BLU-RAY
In 2013, Second Sight released a re-mastered Blu-ray of the cult horror with a host of extrass. These included the making-of featurette, The Other Side of the Wall, audio commentaries with director Zulawski and co-writer Frederic Tuten, an interview with the director, a look at the Video Nasty furore that surrounded the release of the film’s UK release in 1981, interviews with composer Andrzej Korzynski and producer Christian Ferry, a feaurette on the film’s poster artist Basha, and theatrical trailer.

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 34,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Fellini’s Casanova (1976) |The bawdy bewitching romp looks ravishing on Blu-ray

Fellini's Casanova (1976)Having seduced audiences with his brilliant Roma and beguiling Amarcord, Italian director Federico Fellini plays ringmaster once again in the delirious 1976 romp il Casanova, adapted from the memoirs of the infamous 18th-century lothario.

Donald Sutherland gives a wildly enthusiastic and totally Fellini-esque performance as the Venetian scholar reminiscing over his many erotic encounters throughout Europe after escaping the clutches of the Inquisition over a charge of black magic. An ageing necromancer, several courtesans, a seven-foot amazon, diseased harlots, a hunchback and even a clockwork doll are among the many, many women the decadent dandy plays the fandango with – but true love is always out of his reach.

The screenplay is pure poetry, much of it Casanova’s own, dwelling on man’s pursuit and understanding of women – one of Fellini’s favourite themes. Being the visual auteur that he is, Fellini’s populates Casanova’s world with voluptuous women (check out Chesty Morgan); sexual degenerates and a cavalcade of sideshow freaks. It’s exactly what you’d expect from the Italian maestro, who really goes to town with the film’s $10million budget (huge at the time), with opulent sets, fabulously photography, Oscar-winning costumes, and Nino Rota’s haunting score.

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But this is also Sutherland’s film – and he is freakishly spot on playing Casanova as a pathetic figure whose sexual conquests overshadowed his intellect.  And he is nothing like the mythical figure we have come to know. In fact, I was shocked on its original release, but now, I am starting to warm to Sutherland’s characteristic performance – though, I think approaching middle-age myself has something to do with that?

This new Blu-ray release from Mr Bongo is the fully restored director’s cut, and what a treat it is to see Fellini’s stylised, visually-daring, erotic (with clothes on) romp – apart from on the big screen of course.

[youtube:https://youtu.be/OU1ML4eWLak%5D

Poster art for Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room is unleashed!

On 11 December, Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson’s trippy cinematic opus The Forbidden Room will be unleashed in UK cinema. Here’s the poster and trailer to whet your appetite.

The Forbidden Room (2015)

 

WATCH THE TRAILER

Grand Piano (2013) | Elijah Wood is under threat in a stylish Hitchcock-styled Speed in a concert hall thrill ride

Grand Piano (2013)

The ridiculously enjoyable 2013 thriller Grand Piano debuts on Sky Premiere HD from today, Friday 5 June. Here’s my original review to whet your appetite.

Kultguy's Keep

Grand Piano (2014)PLAY OR DIE
Five years after his epic failure trying to play the impossible piece, La Cinquette, brilliant classical pianist Tom Selznik (Elijah Wood) prepares to return to the spotlight playing on his late mentor’s prized Bösendorfer piano at a packed Chicago concert hall. Already crippled with stage fright, Tom’s performance takes a sinister turn when he discovers a threatening note on his music sheet: ‘Play one wrong note and you die’. Through an earpiece, an unseen sniper (John Cusack) tells him that his wife Emma (Kerry Bishé) will be shot if he attempts to raise the alarm. Now Tom must give the performance of a lifetime just to survive!

Grand Piano (2014)

SPEED SET IN A CONCERT HALL
Drawing its inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, this fast-paced thriller from Spanish director Eugenio Mira and the producers of Buried is a stylish 90-minute symphony of suspense. Imagine

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Dance of the Dead (2008) | This geeky zomcom is a horror hoot

Peeping Tom (1960) | The controversial British cult favourite is a must see

Peeping Tom

Michael Powell’s classic chiller screens tonight on The Horror Channel in the UK (Freeview 70/Freesat 138). Catch it at 9pm and read my thoughts on the 50th anniversary Blu-ray release, here: http://bit.ly/1CuI9kg

 

Kultguy's Keep

Here’s are my thoughts on StudioCanal’s 50th anniversary digital restoration UK Blu-ray release.

‘More Horrible Than Horror! More Terrible Than Terror!’
So went the tagline went for one of the most disturbing British films to come out of the 1960’s. At the beginning of the decade, horror was a hit with cinemagoers as Hammer was riding high with its ghoulish collection of vampires, werewolves and mad scientists, while over the Pond, Vincent Price was chewing the scenery in Roger Corman’s Poe-themed gothic melodramas. But as the decade rolled on, five film merchants of fear would stand out in the genre.

Alfred Hitchcock’s shocker Psycho spawned countless imitations; Mario Bava’s Black Sunday proved horror could be artsy as well as frightening; Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby made Satanism fashionable, and George Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead put the final nail in the coffin of old-fashioned gothic horrors. Then there…

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The Comedy of Terrors (1963) | Your favourite creeps together again in HD

The Comedy of Terrors

To mark the 16 February UK Blu-ray/DVD release of The Comedy of Terrors from Arrow Video (reviewed at the bottom of the post), here’s a look back at the vintage horror farce.

‘You’re invited to a funeral’
Welcome to the Hinchley & Trumbull funeral parlour, the only establishment of its kind that has found the secret of increasing business – by furnishing its own corpses! From Jacques Tourneur, director of the horror classics, Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and Night of the Demon, comes the 1963 horror spoof, The Comedy of Terrors, starring four masters of the macabre – Vincent Price, Peter LorreBasil Rathbone and Boris Karloff.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

‘What place is this?’
Inebriate undertaker Waldo Trumbull (Price) is running a New England funeral home business owned by his ageing father-in-law (Karloff)… straight into the ground. Hounded by his penny-pinching landlord Mr Black (Rathbone) for non-payment of rent, Trumbull and his put upon assistant Felix Gillie (Lorre) hatch a plan to boost business. But murder is not their forté, especially when their latest ‘client’ refuses to stay dead…

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

‘Every shroud has a silver lining when old friends get together for a real swinging blast of grave robbery… poisoning, and multiple mayhem!’

So declared the promo poster for American International PicturesThe Comedy of Terrors, which famously brought together four great names from the horror hall of fame. In the early-1960s, AIP were riding high with their winning formula of director Roger Corman, star Vincent Price, screenwriter Richard Matheson, composer Les Baxter, et all. Following their full-on Colorscope Gothic horrors, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum, AIP added some comic relief in 1962’s Tales of Terror, in a segment called The Black Cat, whose highlight was an improvised wine tasting scene between Price and Lorre.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Because the two spooks gelled so well, director Corman gave Price and Lorre the chance to do it all over again in his 1963 fantasy spoof, The Raven. Out of that was born a gruesome twosome comedy duo that were like an Abbott & Costello for the drive-in generation. Wanting to tap those funny bones again, AIP gave Matheson free reign to conjure up another vehicle for them. The result was The Comedy of Terrors (originally called Graveside Story), which was shot over 15 days, starting 4 September 1963, and released in US cinemas on 22 January 1964.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

‘Comedy and terror are closely allied. My job as an actor is to try and make the unbelievable believable and the despicable delectable’  Vincent Price

As the roguish Waldo Trumbull, Price is at his ‘delicious boozy hammiest’ – according to the New York Herald Tribune – and has a whale of a time making the most of Matheson’s venomous dialogue – in particular his sardonic put-downs on Lorre’s wanted fugitive Felix (who is a terrible coffin-maker, I might add), while their slapstick misadventures evoke Laurel and Hardy – Price even gets to reappropriate their famous catchphrase: ‘A fine mess you’ve made of things again!’

Sadly, this would be the last time that the two pals got to act together, as the 59-year-old Lorre was in poor health during the shoot (his regular stunt double Harvey Parry did all of his action scenes wearing a mask), and died just two months after the film’s release. Fittingly, it was Price who delivered the eulogy.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Interestingly in this film, Price and Lorre reverse the roles they played in Tales of Terror, and again there’s Joyce Jameson playing a buxom mistreated wife with a drunk for a hubby. As Amaryllis, an unfulfilled opera star with the ‘vocal emissions of a laryngitic cow’, Jameson hits a real high with her ‘off-key’ singing during a funeral service, while her verbal sparring with Price is eminently quotable. David Del Valle’s audio commentary in the Arrow release is dedicated to Jameson, a great friend to the film historian who tragically took her life in 1987, aged 59.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

Veterans Rathbone and Karloff are also game for a laugh in this Arsenic and Old Lace-styled affair (and shares a similar structure as that classic 1941 play which famously sent up Karloff’s horror screen persona). Rathbone is exceptional as the Shakespearean-spouting cataleptic who refuses to ‘shuffle off his mortal coil’, while he also gets to play up his thespian image and swashbuckling days (the sword play being an homage to 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood.)

At 76, and suffering from arthritis, Karloff was not up to playing Mr Black, a role which was originally offered to him. But as the endearingly senile Amos, who somehow manages to avoid the poison that Waldo offers him at every turn, Karloff is only one who keeps the farce from taking full flight.

The Comedy of Terrors (1963)

The downside to Tourneur’s film, however (it was the director’s second-to-last feature before some TV work and then retiring), is that it’s rather stagey and old-fashioned (especially for the 1960s teen crowd that it was aimed at). It remains, however, a firm favourite of mine – a gleefully ghoulish slapstick affair with a classy never-to-be-repeated cast of old Hollywood greats.

Comedy of Terrors caricature

This fine caricature by Jack Manning was available as part of AIP’s original marketing campaign.

DID YOU KNOW?
Richard Matheson scripted a follow-up called Sweethearts and Horrors, that was to feature the fearsome four once again, but it was shelved due to Lorre’s death and the film’s poor box-office takings. The unfilmed screenplay ended up being released in 2009 as part of Matheson’s collected works, entitled Visions Deferred.

THE SCORE
The music is by celebrated composer Les Baxter (who also did the US scores for Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath and The Evil Eye in 1963, as well as Corman’s The Raven). The complete mono session which was recorded in November 1963 at Goldwyn Studios was uncovered from the MGM vaults last year and released on a now sold out CD.

 

RhubarbRHUBARB | THE CAT IN THE HOUSE OF UNHOLY HORROR
Cleopatra is played by one of Hollywood’s most celebrated animal stars, Rhubarb (aka Orangey) – a 12-pound marmalade tabby who won two American Humane Association’s PATSY awards for 1951’s Rhubarb and 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (in which he has almost seven minutes of screen time), and who also appeared in The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). In The Comedy of Terrors, Rhubarb gets an inspired scene in the closing credits.

 

 

Comedy of Terrors Blu-rayTHE ARROW UK BLU-RAY/DVD RELEASE
The Comedy of Terrors is presented its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with mono 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on Blu-ray). The HD master was made available by MGM via Hollywood Classics, and includes optional English subtitles. The extras include:
• Audio commentary with David Del Valle and Rapid Heart TV’s David DeCocteau
Vincent Price: My Life and Crimes: This is the unseen alternate cut of the 1987 David Del Valle interview that was previously released on DVD in 2002 as The Sinister Image
Whispering in Distant Chambers: informative 17-min video essay by David Cairns, exploring Tourneur’s work.
Richard Matheson Storyteller – Comedy of Terrors; this featurette on late screenwriter also appears on the Shout! Blu-ray and on the older MGM Midnite Movies DVD.
• Unrestored original US theatrical trailer (this makes the film look more racy and scary than it actually was).
• Collector’s booklet featuring a critical analysis of the film by Chris Fujiwara, author of Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall, plus archive stills and posters.
• Artwork by Paul Shipper.

OTHER BLU-RAY RELEASES
Also available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory (from October 2014), an imprint of Shout! Factory, with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1 and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track, as part of their Vincent Price Collection II bundle, and includes a Iowa Public Television introduction with Price, but no audio commentary. Blu-ray reviewers have also praised Arrow’s transfer over this one, both for its excellent print and audio transfer. A German Blu-ray was also released in May 2013.

Big Ass Spider! (2013) | This giant bug B-movie kicks some seriously silly butt

Big Ass Spider! crawls onto Syfy (Sky 114/201, Virgin 135/165) tonight at 9pm. Check out my review of the fun giant B-movie homage here.

Kultguy's Keep

Big Ass Spider DVD cover

Big Ass Spider! certainly lives up to its title as a fast-moving, tongue-in-cheek homage to the giant bug drive-in movies of the 1950s, spinning some seriously superior CGI effects, some LOL sight gags, and an endearing turn from former Heroes actor Greg Grunberg.

Big Ass Spider

HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO
Lovelorn bug exterminator Alex (Greg Grunberg) finds himself becoming an unlikely hero when he teams up with hospital security guard Jose (Lombardo Boyar) to take down a 50-ft alien spider rampaging the city of Los Angeles, all the while trying to win the affections of military lieutenant Karly (Clare Kramer).

Greg Wise in Big Ass Spider

ANGRY ARACHNID-ON-THE-LOOSE
If the dire Spiders 3D and the over-rated Sharknado left you deflated, then this angry-arachnid-on-the-loose schlock-fest is sure to win you over.

Grunberg’s cocky exterminator Alex – who can think like a spider – and Boyar’s wisecracking Jose make a great team, and their…

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