From Eureka Entertainment comes Gianfranco Parolini’s Spaghetti Westerns, Sabata (1969), Adiós Sabata (1970) and Return of Sabata (1971) starring Lee Van Cleef and Yul Brynner on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.
‘Quick-cutting, lurid colours, elaborate gadgetry and acrobatic action’ all come to play in Parolini’s trilogy that fuses classic Western tropes with the frenzied visuals of the director’s 1960s espionage adventures Mission to Hell and Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill.
In Sabata (AKA Ehi amico … c’è Sabata, hai chiuso!) Lee Van Cleef stars as the eponymous gunslinger who calls the shots in the town of Daughtery, Texas when the villainous Stengel (Franco Ressel) engineers a plot to steal $100,000 in army money. Sporting pitch-black clothing and armed with some ingenious weapons (including a tiny, seemingly four-barreled gun), Sabata teams up with a mysterious bard called Banjo (William Berger) and his trick banjo rifle, Confederate Civil War veteran Carrincha (Ignazio Spalla AKA Pedro Sanchez) and silent Indian acrobat Alley Cat (Aldo Canti) to take down Stengel and his partners in crime. But no one can be trusted – even Sabata! Listen out for the melody from 1957’s 3:10 to Yuma.
Adiós Sabata was a vehicle for Yul Brynner that started life as Indio Black, sai che ti dico: Sei un gran figlio di…, (lit, “Indio Black, you know what I’m going to tell you… You’re a big son of a…“). It was planned to spawn its own series, but the success of Sabata resulted in Brynner’s character (Indio) being renamed for the international market.
Set in revolutionary Mexico, during the Juarez uprising against Maximilian in 1867, the ‘sequel’ casts Brynner as an inscrutable soldier of fortune chasing after a hoard of gold from a duplicitous Austrian army Colonel (Gérard Herter). But just as in Sabata, his character has Pedro Sanchez playing his corpulent sidekick, and there’s another shifty ‘partner’ in Dean Reed’s Ballantine. Wearing a tight-fitting black ensemble embellished with tassels, medallion and a Mexican serape slung over his shoulder; and armed with a sawn-off repeating rifle, Brynner cuts a stylish, imposing figure but makes the character all his own. There’s also a great score from Bruno Nicolai – and of course, the Flamenco of Death.
Return of Sabata (AKA È tornato Sabata … hai chiuso un’altra volta) sees Lee Van Cleef back in black as the enigmatic sharpshooter, who is revealed to be a former Confederate army officer. This time around, Sabata is working at a travelling circus as a stunt marksman. Arriving in a small Texas town, Sabata wants a debt paid, but soon finds himself up against another corrupt member of the establishment: land baron Joe McIntock (Giampiero Albertini). Luckily, Pedro Sanchez and Aldo Canti’s Bronco and Angel are on hand to help him win the day once again. Shot and edited with much theatricality and lit like a Mario Bava Gothic horror, this third and final film is a surreal end to the series. It’s played purely for thrills and spills, and not to be taken seriously at all! But I loved Van Cleef’s frilled shirt and waistcoat attire!
- O-Card Slipcase
- Reversible Sleeve featuring original poster artwork for each film
- 1080p presentations on Blu-ray from High-Definition transfers
- English audio options
- Optional English SDH Subtitles
- Sabata – Brand new feature length audio commentary by author / critic Kim Newman
- Adiós, Sabata – Audio commentary by filmmaker and historian Mike Siegel
- Return of Sabata – Audio commentary by authors C. Courtney Joyner & Henry Parke
- New video pieces on each film by Austin Fisher, author of Radical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western: Politics, Violence and Popular Italian Cinema
- Stills Galleries
- PLUS: A Limited-Edition Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing by Western expert Howard Hughes [First Print Run of 2000 copies only]
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
Written by Robert Bloch, the 1971 Amicus horror anthology, The House That Dripped Blood, stars Denholm Elliott, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Jon Pertwee in four tales of terror that unfold as a Scotland Yard Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) investigates a mansion with a ghoulish history…
To celebrate Second Sight’s Limited Edition UK Blu-ray release, I’ve embarked on my own investigation — into the campy, colourful men’s neckwear worn by the film’s leading male stars. Here’s what I unearthed…
Method For Murder
In this first tale, Denholm Elliott’s horror novelist Charles Hillyer rents the old mansion with his wife (Joanna Dunham) but becomes haunted by visions of Dominic (Tom Adams), the murderous, psychopathic central character of his latest novel.
As he’s working from home for most of the time, Elliott’s hack writer doesn’t really need to dress up – so we only see him wearing a dashing little brown cravat on the day of his arrival to the house.
Our second story features Peter Cushing as Philip Grayson, a retired stockbroker who gets a surprise visit from his old friend Neville (Joss Ackland). But after they visit a local wax museum, the two men become fixated on a statue of Salome, that appears to look like the woman they once knew and fell out over…
While relaxing in his new abode, listening to Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor (aka Death and the Maiden – and director Peter Duffell’s preferred title for the movie), Cushing sports a classy red smoking jacket with black lapels, white wide collar shirt and a white cravat with a naval motif tied with a toggle. He also matches this white shirt and cravat with a cream sports jacket while out strolling through the local pond, graveyard and high street – where he happens upon Jacquelin’s Museum of Horror.
He also favours a lovely burgundy and gold cravat which he pairs with a pink shirt and his red smoking jacket while lounging, and its this ensemble that he wears when Ackland’s Londoner arrives flourishing a flowing green and pink silk number (how very Ossie Clark).
The next morning Cushing is back in his white shirt, cravat and cream jacket; while Ackland has ditched the Ossie Clark number for a too-long blue tie (the kind that Boris Johnson favours). Why ditch the silk scarf? I suspect Neville thought it a tad too ginger beer to wear down in the village. After all, this isn’t hip and happening London
But there are two more neckties to admire before this one ends – a paisley cravat worn by Wolfe Morris’ waxworks proprietor and one with what looks like a Mexican theme worn by a customer (as seen in our first picture above) who gets the shock of his life – a terrible dummy head on a plate that’s suppose to be Cushing’s Grayson.
Sweets to the Sweet
In this one, Nyree Dawn Porter plays a private tutor who is perturbed by the severe way Christopher Lee’s widower treats his young daughter (played by Chloe Franks), even forbidding her to have a doll. The teacher feels like a helpless bystander, but his daughter is not everything that she seems…
Given Lee’s role here as the uptight puritanical father, there’s nothing colourful or fanciful on display here – just a rather dull Houndstooth suit… roll on the next tale.
Horror film actor and occult specialist Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee) moves into the house, which we discover is located very near the studio where his latest film, Curse of the Bloodsuckers, is being shot (In reality, the house used in this film was actually an old cottage used for storage on the Shepperton studio lot before it got torn down to make way for an ugly council block).
Furious about the poor production values, cheap sets and crap costumes, he buys a black cloak from a shopkeeper (Geoffrey Bayldon channelling Ernest Thesiger’s Dr Pretorius in The Bride of Frankenstein) to use as his film character’s costume. Unfortunately, the cloak turns its wearer into a vampire, something his co-star (Ingrid Pitt) quickly discovers…
This final tale is an all-out campfest and the best of the bunch – especially in regards to men’s attire. Pertwee chews the scenery as the preening peacock horror star and has a nice line in fashionable clobber – from trendy scarves, ties and cravats to white ruffle shirts and the titular vampire cloak – all of which wouldn’t look out of place between the pages of The Chap.
But let’s not forget the film’s director, script supervisor and art director all decked out in the latest fashions from Carnaby Street. This scene sees Paul vent his anger, asking the director ‘Since leaving the depressing confines of television, how many films have you made?’, to which he replies, ‘Well actually this is my second’. ‘But your first horror film,’ Paul retorts, ‘Well let me tell you, I’ve made hundreds!’ No doubt this scene spoofs the real-life altercation between Vincent Price (who was originally approached to play Pertwee’s part) and his Witchfinder General director Michael Reeves.
This is one of Amicus’ most entertaining horror anthologies with a terrific cast, smart direction, funny (in-joke) script and great production values (especially those costumes sourced by Laurel Staffel), and it all looks terrific in the new Blu-ray release from Second Sight, which has some superb extras (check them out below), some great new artwork from Graham Humphreys, and a collector’s booklet. Apologies for the quality of my screen grab, but I do assure you that the Second Sight print is amazing.
• Audio commentary with director Peter Duffell and author Jonathan Rigby: This is the definitive take on the making of the movie from the man who made it.
• Audio commentary with film historian and author Troy Howarth: I loved all the background info on Shepperton, the actors and crew. Very well researched.
• Interview with Second Assistant director Mike Higgins
• A-Rated Horror Film: Fang-tastic vintage featurette featuring interviews with director Peter Duffell and actors Geoffrey Bayldon, Ingrid Pitt and Chloe Franks
• Radio Spots
• Stills Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS FOR EACH RELEASE
• Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys
• 40 page booklet with new essays by Allan Bryce, Jon Towlson and Kat Ellinger
• Reversible poster featuring new and original artwork
French director Henri-Georges Clouzot is best-known for his critically-acclaimed suspense films, Le Corbeau, Les Diaboliques (which inspired Hitchcock’s Psycho) and Wages of Fear. But by the mid-1960s, as cinema took a step to the left ‘Bank’ with the rise of the French New Wave, Clouzot and his thrillers were dismissed as old hat (which was pretty weird considering how much young bloods like Truffaut and Godard admired Hitchcock’s Psycho). But owing to his international reputation, Clouzot got a blank cheque from US studio Columbia to make any projected he wanted.
Set in a lakeside resort in Auvergne, 1964’s L’enfer d’Henri-Georges Clouzot (aka Inferno) was to be a sun-scorched elucidation on the dark depths of jealousy with Romy Schneider (famous for the 1950’s Sissi period dramas) playing the harassed wife of a controlling hotel manager (The Leopard‘s Serge Reggiani).
But the production – which involved three crews and 150 technicians – was cursed from the outset. Reggiani fell ill and had to be replaced, the crew suffered badly from a July heatwave, the lake they were using as a location was about to be drained for a hydroelectric project and Clouzot suffered a heart attack. After three weeks, the film was shut down…
But that’s not the end of the story as Clouzot had one more film in him – and it was a beauty. After getting the all-clear from his doctors and finishing a number of TV documentaries, Clouzot filmed La Prisonnière (1968), which incorporated stylistic elements from the aborted L’enfer.
Having just seen the new 4k restoration at a special screening in London, I can safely say this final work is Clouzot’s finest (and I shall be writing about that at length soon). But it would not have been possible without L’enfer – whose surviving footage forms the bases of this César Award-winning 2009 documentary.
Thirty years after Clouzot’s death in 1977, his widow, Inès de Gonzalez, found herself trapped in a lift with film-maker Serge Bromberg, during which time he learned that Inès had 185 cans of film (about 15 hours) of the unfinished film.
Entrusted with the material, Bromberg and fellow film-maker Ruxandra Medrea used selected bits of the expressionistic original rushes, screen tests, and on-location footage to reconstruct Clouzot’s original vision, while also shedding light on the ill-fated endeavour through interviews, dramatisations of unfilmed scenes, and Clouzot’s own notes.
The result is quite dramatic, especially as it puts a spotlight on the notoriously meticulous director who became increasingly alienated and paranoid (especially with his cast) as his dream project became an all-consuming passion – much like the Arabian Nights animation, The Thief and the Cobbler, the 30-years-in-the making but never finished project which took over the life of Richard Williams (and became the subject of the must-see 2012 documentary The Persistence of Vision).
The Arrow Academy release includes a HD Blu-ray presentation of the documentary, with original 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, optional English subtitles, and the following extra…
• Lucy Mazdon on Henri-Georges Clouzot, the French cinema expert and academic talks at length about the films of Clouzot and the troubled production of Inferno
• They Saw Inferno, a featurette including unseen material, providing further insight into the production of Inferno
• Introduction and interview with Serge Bromberg
• Stills gallery
• Original trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil
• Illustrated collector’s booklet (first pressing only) featuring new writing on the film by Ginette Vincendeau
Recently, I got a hold of Universal’s The Mummy: Complete Legacy Collection on Blu-ray, which gave me a chance to revisit not only the Karloff original, but also the 1940’s Kharis Mummy movies, which I had not seen since I was a kid.
Now released in HD for the first time, they sure look great, but – boy! – aren’t they a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns? Here’s a look back at the shuffling mis-adventures of Kharis, the ancient Egyptian avenger…
The Mummy’s Hand, 1940
Starring Dick Foran, George Zucco, Cecil Kellaway.
Director: Christy Cabanne.
Eight years after Boris Karloff donned bandages for Karl Freund’s The Mummy, Universal resuscitated the movie monster (now called Kharis, as Karloff’s Im-Ho-Tep had crumbled to dust) for four new adventures. Cowboy star Tom Tyler is the black-eyed Egyptian avenger restored to life (with the fluid from a handful of Tana leaves) by Andoheb, George Zucco’s-newly appointed High Priest of Karnak, to wreak revenge on the archaeological team who are trying to locate the tomb of the Princess Ananka (whom Kharis tried to raise from the dead back in 1472 BC, but ended getting buried alive with his tongue cut out).
Dick Foran is the archaeologist, Steve Banning, and Wallace Ford is his wisecracking sidekick, Babe Jenson; while Cecil Kellaway is the travelling magician who funds their doomed trip, and Peggy Moran is his daughter who gets carried away by Kharis (literally) when Zucco’s Andoheb decides to make her immortal – much to Kharis’ annoyance.
To save on the budget, Kharis’ back-story incorporates Karloff’s incarceration from the 1932 film, while the temple from Universal’s 1940 adventure Green Hell is also re-used as Zucco’s secret lair in the Hill of the Seven Jackals. Looking at it today, the film is a bit of a joke as there’s no real horror on display, suspense or drama (although Tyler’s weird black eyes still disturb). It plays more like a comical adventure serial, and nobody bothered to double-check the hieroglyphics (which are meaningless), the Arabic (misspelled), or doing any historical research (Zucco’s temple is more Mayan than Egyptian, and his character mistakes the Incas as coming from Mexico).
Except for the odd flash of inventiveness that recall Universal’s 1930s glory days when German expressionism informed its production design, it’s a poor start to the Kharis series. Thankfully, Hammer would put their own macabre stamp on the iconic creature when they used this film and its sequel, The Mummy’s Tomb, as the basis for their 1957 Technicolor version.
The Mummy’s Tomb, 1942
Starring Lon Chaney Jr, Dick Foran, Turhan Bey.
Director: Harold Young.
30 years after the Banning Expedition desecrated Princess Ananka’s tomb in The Mummy’s Hand, Kharis (who survived his blazing demise) is transported to a cemetery in Mapleton, Massachusetts by Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey, aka the Turkish Delight), under the orders of George Zucco’s expiring Andoheb (who somehow survived being shot multiple times in the previous entry) to hunt down and kill the remaining members of the dig and their descendants.
Purists have often wondered whether it really is Lon Chaney Jr all the time under Jack Pierce’s make-up and bandages (as there are three stunt people also credited, including Eddie Parker); and whether playing a role in which he neither speaks nor is recognisable was a wise career choice. His shuffling Kharis is pretty poor. Moving at a snail’s pace with one lame arm, it’s incredible that any of his victims don’t just run away – instead they stay put (as though frozen in fear), or pretend to be cornered so that he can lunge at them with his one powerful arm (he was supposedly restored partially paralysed in the first film because of a lack of Tana leaf juice) and strangle them to death.
To keep the budget small and to fill out the running time, extensive flashbacks from The Mummy’s Hand are used before we get a repeat of the previous film’s revenge plot – only minus the wise cracks and pratfalls. The film does have some atmospheric cinematography and lighting effects, courtesy of George Robinson (Son of Frankenstein, Tower of London), especially the scenes set in the American gothic-styled cemetery. And it all looks a treat in this HD Blu-ray presentation, although it does show up the rubber mask on the Mummy as well.
Like the first film, it ends with a frightened lovely (Elyse Knox) dressed in another stunning Vera West gown being carted off by Kharis, so that the infatuated High Priest can make her his immortal bride. And, once again, the villain is shot while Kharis goes up in flames…
The Mummy’s Ghost, 1944
Starring Lon Chaney Jr, John Carradine, George Zucco.
Director: Reginald LeBorg
My favourite of the Kharis mummy series, this one starts off just the last two, with George Zucco again playing the withered old High Priest (who seems to have more lives than a cat) who tasks another acolyte, this time a youthful John Carradine (as Youssef Bey) with bringing Ananka and Kharis back home to Egypt.
Bizarrely, Ananka’s protectors aren’t the High Priests of Karnak now, but Arkam. However, those Tana leaves are still lurking about – but with added mythology. Just as wolfbane can cure lyncathropy if prepared during a full moon, the fluid taken from the Tana leaves during the same lunar cycle can usher forth Kharis’ ghost (hence the title).
While the film is basically the same plot as the previous two, director Reginald LeBorg does stir things up by having the Princess reincarnated in the shapely form of former pin-up Ramsay Ames. She plays Amina Mensori, a student of Egyptology who is based in the very same town that Kharis shuffled amok years beforehand. LeBorg brings much flair to the proceedings, and there’s a real effort to make Chaney’s Mummy more menacing looking (BTW: his appearance ended up being used as the template for Aurora’s classic glow in the dark model kit that I have had since I was a kid).
In a clever nod to The Bride of Frankenstein, Ames gets a white streak in her perfectly-coiffured bonnet, which turns pure white as Ananka’s soul takes over (causing her to age rapidly) when Kharis ends up carrying her down into the murky depths of a nearby swamp in the film’s climax.
The Mummy’s Curse, 1944
Starring Lon Chaney Jr, Virginia Christine, Martin Kosleck.
Director: Leslie Goodwins.
Five months after the release of The Mummy’s Ghost, Universal rushed out this final sequel for a Christmas release, thus completing Lon Chaney Jr’s trio of turns as the shuffling undead Kharis (although he did spoof the character in an episode of Route 66 in 1962’s Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing). And – except for one sequence – this is the worst of the lot.
Unlike today, Universal had little care for their franchise and totally stuffs up the continuity and mythology by setting this follow-up in Louisiana instead of New England. When the swamp where Kharis and Ananka drowned is planned to be drained the Scripps Museum sends two representatives, Dr James Halsey (Dennis Moore) and an Egyptian colleague Zandaab (Peter Cobb), to retrieve their bodies. Of course, Zanbaab is secretly a high priest of the Arkam set, and he has help in construction worker Ragheb (Martin Kosleck), who has Kharis’ body interred at an old abandoned monastery.
Meanwhile, Princess Ananka emerges from a muddy coffin and ends up a Jane Doe in the care of Halsey and his girl Betty (Kay Harding). Of course, its not long before Kharis arrives on the scene and whisks her away for the final showdown at the monastery… which ends badly for one and all, especially poor Ananka.
This was a rare horror entry from British-born director Leslie Goodwins, who was better at low-budget comedies, and also marked the feature debut of Virginia Christine, who’d go onto light character roles. It’s quite poor, and reeks of racial stereotyping, especially the Cajun Joe character. Chaney only gets one good scene, at the end, as the monastery collapses on him (watch him keep his composure as a heavy brick smashes into his face); and the day-for-night shots are infuriating. But it does have one scene which still haunts, and that’s when Christine’s Ananka emerges from her resting place in the swamp. It’s a striking scene, especially in the way in which Christine plays it.
Of course, Universal couldn’t keep their Mummy down for too long. In 1955, Abbott and Costello got their chance to have a date with Klaris (a pun on Kharis) for their 28th and final film comedy, with Eddie Parker wearing what looks like a onesie decorated with a bandage motif. Except to fans of the comic duo and their verbal gymnastics, this was a poor end to their feature film careers.
A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958) | Douglas Sirk ditches the melodrama to make an anti-war epic
During the last days of World War Two, a young German soldier (John Gavin) stationed on the Eastern Front becomes bitterly disillusioned with the war and the Nazi ’cause’ when he returns to his village, finding his love destroyed and his parents missing.
Douglas Sirk, best known for his lush 1950s Hollywood melodramas, directs a moving love story within the context of a fiercely anti-war film, based on a novel by All Quiet on the Western Front author Erich Maria Remarque.
A far cry from the soapy high camp of All That Heaven Allows or Written on the Wind, Sirk’s CinemaScope epic, A Time to Love and A Time to Die (which was originally released on 9 July 1958) is an explosive and unforgettable experience and is rightly regarded as his masterpiece, counting New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard among its fans.
In 2009 Eureka Entertainment released the 1958 war-time drama on DVD, followed by the Blu-ray in 2013 – as part of its The Masters of Cinema Series – in its original 2:35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio, with English SDH subtitles, optional isolated music and effects track.
The extras include, Of Tears and Speed: According to Jean-Luc Godard, a 12-minute, visually annotated recitation of Godard’s seminal essay on Sirk’s film; a 19-minute video interview with screenwriter Wesley Strick; Imitation of Life [Mirage of Life]: A Portrait of Douglas Sirk, a 49-minute documentary from 1984; trailer and collector’s booklet.
Based on an allegedly real-life paranormal encounter experienced by George and Kathleen Lutz in the mid-1970s, AIP’s The Amityville Horror scared the willies out of me when I saw it on the big screen back in 1979. And after all these years, the seminal shocker remains a thrilling exercise in suspense thanks to Stuart Rosenberg’s masterful direction, the top production values, a chilling Lalo Schifrin score, and some great performances.
James Brolin and Margot Kidder play the fraught couple who, along with Kathy’s three kids, buy a beautiful Long Island home, but they know nothing about the murders that took place there several years earlier.
And it’s not long before some inexplicable events start happening: Rod Steiger’s visiting priest turns into a sweaty nervous wreck when he’s bugged by a swarm of flies; the babysitter gets locked in a cupboard; and the Lutz’s little daughter gets herself an imaginary friend who turns malevolent.
Plus, there’s those spooky windows glowering like devil eyes, a vomiting nun, and James Brolin getting more mad-eyed, weird and sweaty while out chopping wood… Oh! and then there’s bubbling goo… Add some lightning and thunder and the family fleeing for their lives and you’ve got yourself the perfect scarefest.
Along with Burnt Offerings, Poltergeist and The Shining, The Amityville Horror is haunted house horror at its chilling best. So this new Blu-ray release from Second Sight is welcome addition to my cult film collection; while the bonus features are just the icing on the cake.
Check them out here:
• Brolin Thunder: Interview with actor James Brolin (his comments on The Car made me roar with laughter)
• Child’s Play: Interview with actor Meeno Peluce
• Amityville Scribe: Interview with screenwriter Sandor Stern
• The Devil’s Music: Interview with composer Lalo Schifrin
• My Amityville Horror: Feature-length documentary with Daniel Lutz
• For God’s Sake, Get Out: Featuring James Brolin and Margot Kidder
• Intro by Dr. Hans Holzer, PhD. in parapsychology (author of ‘Murder in Amityville’)
• Audio commentary by Dr. Hans Holzer
• Original trailer, TV spot, radio spots
• Four reproduction lobby card postcards (SteelBook Exclusive)
• New optional English subtitles
From the man who gave us Tentacles, The Visitor, Beyond the Door and Piranha II: The Spawning, Ovidio G Assonitis, comes Madhouse (aka And When She Was Bad/There Was a Little Girl), an Italian-made/Savannah, Georgia-shot slasher that was once on the UK’s video nasty list – and its a genuine find, courtesy of Arrow who have dusted it off and given it a 2k-restored release.
Julia (Trish Everly), a teacher in a school for the deaf, has spent her entire adult life trying to forget the torment she suffered at the hands of her twisted twin Mary (Alison Biggers)… but Mary hasn’t forgotten. Escaping hospital, where she’s recently been admitted with a disfiguring illness, Julia’s sadistic sister vows to exact a particularly cruel revenge on her sibling – promising a birthday surprise she’ll never forget…
While nothing as gut-wrenching violent as the British authorities felt necessary to outlaw, Madhouse is a curious concoction of serial killer thriller, giallo whodunit and gothic histrionics. Think Happy Birthday to Me (also made in 1981) meets Rebecca, but with added camp – courtesy of character actor Dennis Robertson doing his best Roddy McDowall impression as the overly-friendly and rather odd Father James.
Indeed, director Assonitis told his cast to go over the top with their characterisations and indeed they did – which makes for some wonderful LOL moments (especially Alison Biggers as the bonkers mad Mary). And true to his honorific title as the ‘Rip-Off King’, Assonitis also chucks in a purely Omen-esque element – a Rottweiler trained to attack on command. It’s grisly demise – a power drill to the head – will most undoubtedly upset dog lovers everywhere, but the special effects will have you howling…
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition presentations
• Original Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
• Interviews with cast and crew (my favourite is Edith Ivey – who knew she was Indian Princess Summerfall Winterspring on The Howdy Doody Show?)
• Alternate Opening Titles
• Theatrical Trailer, newly transferred in HD
• Reversible sleeve featuring artwork by Marc Schoenbach
• Booklet featuring new writing on the film (first pressing only)
Dario Argento’s genre-busting psycho-thriller The Bird With the Crystal Plumage gets a 4k-restored release from Arrow
Back in 1970 Dario Argento’s directorial debut The Bird With The Crystal Plumage paved the way for a new wave of cinematic terror when the then 29-year-old auteur fused the traditional thriller and whodunit with shock and spectacle for the first time.
In this landmark giallo, Tony Musante (who would later find fame as Nino in TV’s Oz) plays Sam, an American writer living in Rome who witnesses an attempted murder in an art gallery. After a series of other attacks and attempts on the lives of Musante and his lover Julia (played by British scream queen Suzy Kendall), Sam suddenly finds himself the prime suspect. In a bid to clear his name, he sets out to track down the killer – who turns out to be… Well, that’s for you to find out.
It was actually Bernardo Bertolucci who started the ball rolling on this production when he originally thought to adapt Fredric Brown’s classic thriller The Screaming Mimi for the big screen. But he ended up handing the reins over to Argento who, along with the celebrated editor Franco Fraticelli, made it his own. The film’s success would cement Argento’s reputation as the Italian Hitchcock, as well as usher in a wave of blood and black lace genre films with crazier and crazier titles.
What makes Argento’s thriller so groundbreaking is the way he makes clever use of suspense devices, such as a screaming Kendall trapped in a room while the killer hacks away at the door (much copied in films like The Shining and Halloween). Vital to Argento’s vision is Franco Fraticelli’s sharp editing skills and the impressive visuals of cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (who would go on to win an Oscar for Apocalypse Now). Plus, there’s Ennio Morricone’s unforgettable score.
Back in 2011, Arrow released a High Definition restoration of Bird on Blu-ray (that was slightly grainier than Arrow’s previous releases, but still stunning) presented in the original Univisium aspect ratio, and had the audio defaulted to the original Italian (which I prefer over the English mono). It also included contributions from directors Luigi Cozzi and Sergio Martino, and a booklet written by Alan Jones.
For their stunning 4k-restored limited edition dual format release, Arrow have really gone to town. So pull on some leather gloves, pour yourself a J&B on the rocks and let the deadly games begin…
• Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the camera negative in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, produced by Arrow Video exclusively for this release
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
• English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
• The Power of Perception, a new visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Devil s Advocates: Suspiria and Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study
• New analysis of the film by critic Kat Ellinger
• New interview with writer/director Dario Argento (this 30-minute monologue is a real treat and very instructive)
• New interview with actor Gildo Di Marco (Garullo the pimp)
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp
• Double-sided fold-out poster
• 6 Lobby Card reproductions
• Limited edition 60-page booklet illustrated by Matthew Griffin, featuring an appreciation of the film by Michael Mackenzie, and new writing by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook
The Entity (1982) | The supernatural suspense pulsates and Barbara Hershey electrifies in Eureka’s HD release
From Eureka Entertainment comes the Blu-ray release of supernatural terror tale, The Entity, starring Barbara Hershey.
Hershey stars as single mum Carla who, one night, is sexually assaulted in her bedroom by someone – or something – that she cannot see. Met with scepticism by her attending psychiatrist Dr. Sneiderman (Ron Silver), she is repeatedly attacked in her car, in the bath, and in front of her children.
Could this be a case of hysteria or something even more horrific? Now, with a group of liberal-minded parapsychologists, Carla agrees to take part in a bizarre experiment: to seduce, trap and ultimately capture the spectral fury…
Penned by Frank De Felitta, the author of the disturbing reincarnation thriller Audrey Rose, who draws on a real-life 1974 case in California, and helmed by veteran director Sidney J Furie, this strange slice of spectrophilia horror hokum caused a protest when the film first opened in London cinemas.
Whether you believe in the film’s premise or not, you’ll be hard-pressed not to be gripped by Hersey’s genuinely moving performance (she’s in nearly every scene), or get angry at the male characters, who regard her (and all women) as merely hysterical and seem to be engaged in a macho pissing game between each other.
Interestingly, the film was made at a time when the feminist establishment in the US was becoming increasingly autocratic and puritan, espousing dogmatic views that were anti – men, sex, art, porn and censorship. And watching the film today, you can see a deliberately provocative anti-patriarchal subtext that warrants further analysis. And while Martin Scorsese regards The Entity as the scariest horror films of all time, maybe its not supernatural elements that unnerves, but male fears of a woman’s true sexual power? It’s certainly food for thought.
The HD remaster looks super, but it also shows up the so-so effects of the Entity when it’s finally trapped – it reminded me of a giant-sized Mr Whippy ice cream version of the Carroon-creature in The Quatermass Xperiment.
Kudos, however, go to the pounding sound effects by Nightmare on Elm Street composer Elmer Bernstein, whose evocative score can also be heard in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds.
The Entity is released on Blu-ray in the UK through Eureka Entertainment and is available from Amazon