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American Horror Project | Arrow Video revives three unsung heroes of indie terror cinema in gore-rious HD

American Horror Project

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.

Carnival of Blood• Interview with director Christopher Speeth
• Interview with writer Werner Liepolt
• Draft Script (BD/DVD-ROM content)
• Production stills gallery

Witch Who Came In From the Sea• 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

Premonition_1• 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

 

A Candle for the Devil (1973) | Atmospheric Gran Dama Guignol with a Sweeney Todd vibe

A Candle for the Devil_Blu-rayThe international title of this underrated 1970s Euro horror, A Candle for the Devil (aka Una vela para el diablo) from Horror Express director Eugenio Martín is a bit of a misnomer as there’s nothing satanic nor supernatural going on here, and belongs instead to the psycho-biddy genre, but with a dash of Sweeney Todd and some 1970s-style sex and violence.

Now, I’m a real sucker for hag horror and this certainly belongs in the same sinister sisterhood as Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice (1969) and Die! Die! My Darling (1965). In the US, it was released as It Happened at Nightmare Inn, which actually makes for a better fit.

Fresh from Jimmy Sangster’s Hammer thriller Fear in the Night, Judy Geeson plays nice girl Laura, who arrives at the Spanish pension of sisters Marta (Aurora Bautista) and Veronica (Esperanza Roy), only discover that the sister she has intended on meeting has left town. Deciding to wait her sister’s return, Laura settles into the inn where she is disturbed by the sudden disappearance of another lodger. And she’s right to worry, because Marta and Veronica can’t abide the lax morals of the foreign tourists coming into their town and are killing them off as punishment for their ‘sins’ in the eyes of God…

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Recently restored by Pinewood for its HD restoration release, Martín’s Gran Dama Guignol is more of a social comment on Catholic guilt and bigotry than a straight out exploitation slasher. Marta and Veronica might consider themselves God’s moral lieutenants, but they harbour their own illicit desires: Marta gets aroused watching naked underage boys swimming, while Veronica is shagging a much younger handyman. Bautista and Roy, two respected Spanish actresses, are the life and soul of this psycho-drama which, given some tweaks, could pass for Pedro Almodóvar-styled black comedy thriller.

A Candle for the Devil (1973)

Unlike the camp hysterics of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Martino’s film is much more restrained affair, and actually shows the odd flash of artistry courtesy of Luis Buñuel’s Tristana/Viridiana cinematographer José F Aguayo, who uses the sun-drenched cobblestone streets of Ronda and Grazalema and the Monastery of El Paular as a backdrop to some very effective sequences. One that highlight’s Martino’s themes of religious cynicism involves Marta striding through bulrushes, which leave welts on her arms, in an act of orgiastic penance for her spying in young naked boys.

A Candle for a Devil (1973)

There’s little in the way of shock, horror and violence, and the death scenes aren’t as exploitative as you’d expect, while the nudity is limited to the odd exposed nipple and those youngsters Marta ogles. Geeson, meanwhile, doesn’t get to do that much with her amateur Nancy Drew character, and only gets to shine in the film’s climax, which is involves a grisly discovery in the inn’s impossibly large wine vats.

A Candle for the Devil is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download from Odeon Entertainment in the UK

TRAILER

Martin (1977) | George Romero’s modern vampire arthouse horror is a true original

Martin (1977)

George A Romero is legendary because of his popular Living Dead horror cycle, but his 1977-released arthouse shocker Martin remains one of my favourites among the director’s films. Too disturbing, bleak and personal to have been a hit at the time of its release, it is now considered a modern horror classic.

John Amplas made his film debut as Martin, a confused teenager who thinks he is an 84-year-old vampire. His grand-uncle Cuda (Lincoln Maazel) – who believes a family curse is responsible for Martin being the reincarnation of the Transylvanian vampire, Nosferatu – only reinforces this. Cuda takes the lad in, but warns Martin that if he tries to harm anyone, he will be destroyed. But Cuda’s old world attempts to rid Martin of his malediction with crosses, garlic and a trip to church merely irritates the boy – who is, in fact, a strictly modern sexual psycho who uses razor blades to drain the blood from his female victims…

Martin (1977)

The 2010 DVD release from Arrow Video is a dream come true to fans like me as it also includes the Italian-version of the film, Wampyr, a totally-different edit which excels because of the heart-pounding soundtrack by Goblin – the wizards behind many of director Dario Argento’s horror film scores. The English-language version begins with a ferocious account of Martin’s bloodlust in a railway compartment, but this happens mid-way in the Italian version, where the Goblin score makes this scene a standout. Also memorable is a scene set in a swish modernist house where Martin plays cat and mouse with his victims. Martin is certainly tough and ready around the edges, but Romero’s inventive hand-held camerawork, naturalistic lighting and creative editing gives the film a gritty, experimental look, which is quite an achievement considering its low budget.

A true original, Martin was amongt the first features to present the vampire as a supernatural being trying to exist among humans in the modern world (with all the human problems that comes with it like finding love, a job and acceptance). If you think about it, today’s teen-friendly supernatural TV shows just wouldn’t exist without the likes of Martin. It was also one of the first to equate the vampire’s blood thirst with addiction. Something that maverick director Bill Gunn explored in his 1973 indie African-American horror Ganja & Hess, which gets a UK dual format release this month from Eureka! Entertainment.

Martin (1977)

The special features included in the Arrow UK DVD release also include the documentary Making Martin: A Recounting, TV and radio spots, theatrical trailer, photo gallery, four sleeve art options, double-sided poster, collector’s booklet, and six original poster art postcards. What more could a fan ask for?

Martin is released by Arrow Video in the UK (click here for more info on Amazon)
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eEBgOW_Ycw&feature=related%5D

Werewolves on Wheels (1971) | This leather-clad terror flick is a howler!

Werewolves on Wheels poster

Werewolves on Wheels revs into action on The Horror Channel tonight at 10.50pm (Sky 319/320, Virgin 149/202, Freesat 138/139)

If you’re hairy you belong on a motorbike!
The Devil’s Advocates, an outlaw gang of Harley-riding hellions led by Adam (Stephen Oliver), cruise the highways of the American Southwest in search of their next great kick. But when Adam’s right-hand man Tarot (Gene Shane) takes the motley gang into to a satanic church, the high priest One (Severn Darden) drugs the gang and performs a ritual sacrifice. Now, two have become – werewolves on wheels!

Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

Oubla! Doubla!
A grungy fusion of stoner road movie, outlaw biker trash, occult thriller and monster mayhem, 1971’s Werewolves on Wheels was the directorial debut of Michel Levesque (1943-2010), who crewed on Roger Corman’s The Trip and Bloody Mama before forging himself a career as an art director on Russ Meyer’s sexploitation flix and schlock pix like The Incredible Melting Man.

Werewolves on Wheels lobby card

Levesque plays fast and loose with his leather-clad lycanthrope horror, in which you have to wait one hour fifteen to see the one and only transformation scene (and there are no werewolves on wheels); the rest of the movie is made up of the bikers wrestling in the dirt, mucking about in scrap yards, getting stoned around campfires, and shagging their women (or each other – yes, there’s a couple of gay bikers in the gang, how alternative!). The lengthy ritual scene is the film’s highlight – and practically a how-to guide in conjuring up Satan. Levesque shows off his visual flair best in these hallucinatory scenes, while his arty sand dune shots evoke Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (which came out the year before) and the Monkees surreal 1968 comedy adventure Head.

Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

Given most of the cast were non-actors and real bikers; it’s not surprising there’s very little dialogue. But this does allow for Don Gere’s psychedelic country score – all twangy guitars and beefy riffs with a scratchy Basil Kirchin bent – to hold sway (see below). Also starring Billy Gray (from TV’s Father Knows Best) and pop singer Barry McGuire. The guy playing One, the lead Satanist, is Severn Darden. He’s best known for playing the evil Kolp in two of the original Ape films (Conquest and Battle). This is 1970s bikesploitation at its ripest, and completely worthy of its cult status. Amazingly Tarantino hasn’t scheduled a remake – yet!

The Don Gere Soundtrack
Werewolves on Wheels OST Fans of stoner psychedelic rock will get a blast out of pop folk songwriter Don Gere’s soundtrack that has been described as a ‘hillbilly Haxan’ fusion of twangy country, crazy Krautrock and mood altering psychedelia. British label Finders Keepers, which specialises in re-issuing eccentric oddities, released a re-press red vinyl in 2013, containing 17 tracks, two of which are radio advertisements from the period. Composer Don Gere followed this with the soundtrack to Michel Levesque’s 1973 film Sweet Sugar. After that, little was heard of him.

 

THE TRAILER

THE FULL MOVIE
Beware! This YouTube version lifted from amctv.com has some wacky pan and scans.

Monster Mag – Issue 19 | Celebrating the Best and Worst Fear Flix from 76!

Monster Mag Issue 19 Vol 2 No 5

This latest issue of Monster Mag is a real blast from the past, with some great pix of some truly memorable fear flix from ’76, including Brian De Palma’s telekinetic terror-fest Carrie, Hammer’s final bow To the Devil… A Daughter and the daddy of all Antichrist chillers, The Omen. Plus, there’s Chuck Norris going bonkers in Tobe Hooper’s Death Trap, Peter Cushing getting lost in Land of the Minotaur and Klaus Kinski as Jess Franco’s Jack the Ripper.

Heading up the ‘Also Rans’ is blaxploitation horror Dr Black, Mr Hyde from Blacula director William Crain, while two of my all time cult favourites get a mention, House of the Laughing Windows and Who Can Kill a Child? (click on the links to read my reviews). As for the ‘Crawlers’, my guilty pleasure Grizzly is in there as well as the backwoods slasher The Town That Dreaded Sundown. The pull-out poster features To The Devil… A Daughter and Carrie.

To get yours click on the link: http://dezskinn.com/quality-shop-1/#MM19

Monster Mag Issue 19 Vol 2 No 5

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre | Tobe Hooper praises the 40th Anniversary restoration of his terrifying masterpiece

Texas Chain Saw Massacre Steelbook Blu-ray

‘The most purely horrifying horror movie ever made. Genuinely disturbing, even now’
Empire

‘Chainsaw-wielding Leatherface remains one of the most disturbing characters in horror’
The Independent

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre not only changed the face of horror in 1974, but still remains one of the most shocking, powerful and terrifying films ever made. Now to celebrate its 40th Anniversary, a brand new restored version comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Second Sight on 17 November.

‘This is absolutely the best the film has ever looked,’
 says director Tobe Hooper, who supervised the 4K restoration and new 7.1 audio mix.

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Available in a two-disc limited edition Steelbook Blu-ray with new artwork created by Doaly and bonus features (see below), and as a standard two-disc Blu-ray, with reversible sleeve featuring the new artwork and the original US poster artwork.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• New audio commentary with director Tobe Hooper
• New audio commentary with cinematographer Daniel Pearl, sound recordist Ted Nicolaou and editor J Larry Carroll
Cutting Chain Saw with editor J Larry Carroll
Grandpa’s Tales with actor John Dugan
Horror’s Hallowed Grounds
• New deleted scenes/outtakes

The Fury (1978) | Brian De Palma’s underrated telekinetic thriller deserves a revisit

The Fury

THE STORY
Former intelligence operative Peter Sandza (Kirk Douglas) goes in search of his telepathic son Robin (Andrew Stevens) after he is kidnapped by former colleague Ben Childress (John Cassavetes), who wants to use the boy’s powers as a weapon. To aid in his search, Peter locates another teenager, Gillian (Amy Irving), who has a telepathic link to the boy. But freeing her from the research clinic where she is being held turns into a deadly game of survival…

Kirk Douglas in The Fury

THE LOWDOWN
Although 1978’s The Fury didn’t take the box-office by storm like director Brian De Palma‘s other telekinetic terror, Carrie, did two years earlier, this conspiracy thriller is still a first-rate exercise is suspense, action and clever camera and editing technique. You’ve also got Hollywood heavyweight Kirk Douglas as the gung-ho shirtless hero (he looks amazingly fit at 61) and John Cassavetes (of Rosemary’s Baby fame) as the one-armed villain playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with each other; two attractive teens in the guise of Amy Irving (aka Carrie‘s Sue Snell) and future Dallas star Andrew Stevens, and the excellent Fiona Lewis, (who also appeared in Robert Fuest’s The Final Programme and Dr Phibes Rises Again) giving a very bloody turn as a seductive scientist. Featuring a stirring score from composer John Williams (listen to it here) and De Palma’s clever cinematic flourishes (including a stand-out slow motion scene and Childress’s explosive comeuppance), The Fury sounds and looks brilliant in this newly-restored print and is so deserving of critical reappraisal and so worth a revisit.

Andrew Stevens in The Fury

Fiona Lewis in The Fury

John Cassevetes in The Fury

THE ARROW VIDEO RELEASE
Arrow Video‘s 35th-anniversary edition comes with a selection of new special features and bonus material (listed below), as well as an in-depth collector’s booklet. The Blu-ray transfer, meanwhile, looks superb – although some of the night-time scenes, like the car chase through the Chicago street, have some quite noticeable grain.

Blood on the Lens – A engaging interview with cinematographer Richard H Kline.
Spinning Tales – A rare interview with actress Fiona Lewis (who has almost lost her British accent).
The Fury, A Location Journal – A hugely enjoyable interview with former intern Sam Irvin who is best known today for directing such camp fare as Dante’s Cove and Elvira’s Haunted Hills.
• Archive interviews from the 1978 promotional tour, featuring Brian De Palma, producer Frank Yablans and stars Carrie Snodgress and Amy Irving.
Double Negative – Short film tribute to Brian De Palma by Sam Irvin, starring The Phantom of the Paradise‘s William Finley.
• Gallery of behind-the-scenes production images.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFqplLGM2o4%5D
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