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Asylum | Amicus’ chilling compendium of terror heads to Blu-ray

A year on from releasing The House That Dripped Blood (in February 1971), Amcius brought their latest horror anthology Asylum to UK screens in July 1972.

Written by Robert Bloch and directed by Roy Ward Baker, Asylum sees Robert Powell playing a doctor who undergoes a bizarre job interview for a position at a secluded asylum for the incurably insane. He must prove himself by listening to the macabre tales of four inmates to determine which is the former head of the institute who experienced a breakdown.

In Frozen Fear, Barbara Parkins relates a grisly plot to murder the wealthy wife (Sylvia Syms) of her lover (Richard Todd); The Weird Tailor sees Barry Morse stealing a suit from Peter Cushing that has power of reanimation; Charlotte Rampling is trapped by her imagination when Britt Ekland’s Lucy Comes to Stay; and Herbert Lom plots to transfer his soul into a tiny automaton in Mannikins of Horror.

Following its Limited Edition Blu-ray release last July, this chilling compendium of terror is now out as a standalone Blu-ray from Second Sight Films and includes the following special features…

• Audio Commentary with director Roy Ward Baker and camera operator Neil Binney
• Two’s a Company: 1972 on-set BBC report featuring interviews with producer Milton Subotsky, director Roy Ward Baker, actors Charlotte Rampling, James Villiers and Megs Jenkins, art director Tony Curtis and production manager Teresa Bolland
• Screenwriter David J. Schow on writer Robert Bloch
• Fiona Subotsky remembers Milton Subotsky
• Inside The Fear Factory: Archieve featurette with directors Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis and producer Max J Rosenberg
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork
• SDH English subtitles for the hard of hearing

 

Two classic Amicus horror anthologies, The House That Dripped Blood & Asylum, get a limited edition UK Blu-ray release

On 29 July 2019, Second Sight Films will release Limited Edition UK Blu-ray releases of the Amicus horror anthologies – The House That Dripped Blood and Asylum. Each release will be presented in a stunning box set featuring original artwork from Graham Humphreys alongside a host of special features, including essays from horror aficionados and a collector’s booklet.

Written by Robert Bloch, 1971’s The House That Dripped Blood sees Denholm Elliott, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt taking centre stage in four tales of terror that unfold as a Scotland Yard’s Inspector Holloway investigates a mysterious mansion with a ghoulish history and a chilling fate for its occupants…

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Audio commentary with director Peter Duffell and author Jonathan Rigby
• Audio commentary with film historian and author Troy Howarth
• Interview with Second Assistant director Mike Higgins
A Rated Horror Film: Vintage featurette featuring interviews with director Peter Duffell and 
actors Geoffrey Bayldon, Ingrid Pitt and Chloe Franks
• Theatrical Trailers
• Radio Spots
• Stills Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork

PRE-ORDER NOW FROM AMAZON

Directed by Roy Ward Baker from another scare-tastic screenplay from Robert Bloch, 1972’s Asylum sees Robert Powell playing a young doctor attending a job interview at a secluded asylum for the incurably insane, where he hears the macabre stories of four inmates to determine which is the former head of the asylum. The all-star cast includes Peter Cushing, Charlotte Rampling, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Barbara Parkins and Patrick Magee.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Audio commentary with director Roy Ward Baker and camera operator Neil Binney
Two’s a Company: 1972 On-set BBC report featuring interviews with producer Milton 
Subotsky, director Roy Ward Baker, actors Charlotte Rampling, James Villiers, Megs Jenkins, 
Art Director Tony Curtis and production manager Teresa Bolland
• Screenwriter David J Schow on Robert Bloch
• Fiona Subotsky Remembers Milton
Inside The Fear Factory: Featurette with directors Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis and 
producer Max J Rosenberg
• Theatrical Trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork

PRE-ORDER NOW FROM AMAZON

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

 

The Sect (1991) | Michael Soavi’s Italian Rosemary Baby gets an uncut 2k restored UK release

The Sect (1991)

Having learned his trade from the likes of Joe D’Amato, Dario Argento and Terry Gilliam, Milan-born film-maker Michele Soavi went on to direct a quartet of Italian horrors in the late 1980s and early 1990s that have their fans and their critics.

1987’s Stage Fright was a well-executed slasher that paid homage to Argento; 1989’s supernatural shocker The Church looked great, but was a bit of a bore; 1991’s The Sect revisited Rosemary’s Baby theme with trippy results, and 1994’s Cemetery Man aka Dellamorte Dellamore combined black comedy and horror to great effect that it became the director’s finest hour.

Given Shameless’ lovingly-restored, re-mastered release of The Sect (which follows their release of The Church last year and Dellamorte Dellamore back in 2012), I thought it ripe to pay Soavi’s underrated horror a revisit…

The Sect (1991)

Kelly Curtis (daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, and sister to Jamie Lee) plays American schoolteacher Miriam based in Frankfurt, where a satanic cult is making headlines for a series of grisly murders being carried out across the German city.

When she knocks over the elderly Moebius (Herbert Lom), she takes him home to recuperate. But her good deed results in her being drugged with some ominous-looking fluid.

Kelly then finds herself in a waking nightmare involving a dark well and a giant demonic bird that are all linked to the Charles Manson-like cult leader Damon (Thomas Arana) – who is seen in the film’s 1970’s-set prologue in which he is promised a child born from the seed of Lucifer himself…

The Sect (1991)

The Sect is certainly as imaginative as Soavi’s other features, and it benefits from some surreal visuals and hazy cinematography (by Raffaele Mertes who’d go on to do Argento’s Trauma), as well as another cool score from Pino Donaggio (Don’t Look Now, Carrie, The Howling), and, as you follow Kelly’s modern-day Alice down the rabbit hole, the film plays like a really weird acid trip – which is made all the more insane by the runaway script (in which Argento had a hand in writing).

Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen are certainly major influences, both in regards to the storyline and the themes (the Satanic Panic phenomenon was in full swing when this film was made), but Soavi does conjure up the odd cool ideas – like the demonic bird. In the end, however, it’s the score and those visuals that help paper over the cracks, while Curtis makes for an engaging heroine.

For me, however, the big highlight was Herbert Lom. Hearing his elegant gravelled tones and seeing him give a really honest and restrained performance as the mysterious Moebious was a real treat, and it was great to see him back in the genre that knew him best one last time (he retired after 1993’s Son of the Pink Panther).

The Sect (1991)

THE SHAMELESS UK RELEASE
The new UK Blu-ray and DVD release from Shameless features a new 2K scan from the original negative with a running time of 117-min. It also includes the original English language audio, as well as Italian in stereo LPCM or 5.1 audio with new English subtitles.

The main extra here is Beauty and Terror, a 29-minute interview with director Michele Soavi, who discusses his association with Lucio Fulci and Joe D’Amato and the making of The Sect. Also included are trailers for The Church, Dellamorte Dellamore, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet.

In the US, Scorpion Releasing are scheduled to release The Sect along with The Church later this year.

 

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Ten Little Indians (1974) | The Agatha Christie who’s next whodunnit gets the Harry Alan Towers treatment

Ten Little Indians (1974)

Ten strangers are invited to the luxurious Persian desert hotel owned by the wealthy, but absent, Mr Owen where they learn, from a mysterious voice, that retribution is at hand as each one of them is an unpunished murderer…

Ten Little Indians (1974)

1974’s Ten Little Indians (aka And Then There Were None) which screens on ITV3 HD tonight at 1.15am was the third film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s best-selling 1939 novel (whose original title was latter changed for being racially insensitive) by legendary exploitation producer Harry Alan Towers, whose Euro thrillers were all bankrolled on the back of deals made with hoteliers and government tourism ministers around the world, and getting big name stars to sign up for a glorified paid holiday.

Ten Little Indians (1974)

For this ‘international movie mess’ which is how Vincent Canby of the New York Times described the film, the fabulous Abbasi Hotel (then known as the Shah Abbas Hotel) in Isfahan, Iran stood in for the desert home of U.N. Owen (voiced by Orson Welles, who played Long John Silver in Towers’ Treasure Island in 1972).

Ten Little Indians (1974)

But aside from the opulent hotel and a haunting score from an uncredited Bruno Nicolai, the most entertaining thing about the film (which was directed by Peter Collinson of The Italian Job fame, but who ended up helming genre fare like Fright, Open Season and Straight On Til Morning) is the starry cast, which included two former Bond villains Gert (Goldfinger) Fröbe and Adolfo (Largo) Celi, as well as Oliver Reed, Charles Aznavour, Herbert Lom, Richard Attenborough, Elke Sommer, Stéphane Audran and Maria Rohm (aka Mrs Harry Alan Towers). And as for the award to the best ‘worst’ performance – well, if you can stay awake until the end, then it’s a toss up between Reed and Aznavour (who lip-synchs his trademark song The Old Fashioned Way).

Fans of the classic mystery might like to know that an all-star three-part dramatisation is heading to BBC1 over Christmas.

Mark of the Devil (1970) | Barf bags at the ready again as the sick cult horror gets an uncut HD UK release

Mark of the Devil (1970)

Once proclaimed as ‘positively the most horrifying film ever made’, 1970 cult shocker Mark of the Devil finally arrives uncut in the UK on 29 September 2014.

WE MUST NEVER WEAKEN IN PERFORMING GOD’S WORK
A bloody and brutal critique of 18th-century religious corruption, Mark of the Devil sees horror icon Udo Kier play an apprentice witchfinder whose faith in his master Lord Cumberland (Herbert Lom) becomes severely tested when they settle in an Austrian village. Presided over by the sadistic Albino (a memorably nasty turn from Reggie Nalder), the film presents its morality not so much in shades of grey as shades of black.

Mark of the Devil (1970)

LIKELY TO UPSET YOUR STOMACH
This notorious 1970 Euro-shocker, which was made to cash in on the success of Michael’s Reeves’ Witchfinder General, was British director Michael Armstrong‘s second feature and the film that established his international cult status. The film also had a great gimmick, getting cinemas to employ medical staff to handle fainting patrons and handing out vomit bags (they’re quite the collector’s item now).

Smashing box office records wherever it played, Mark of the Devil was a big hit despite it being either banned outright or heavily cut in many countries including the UK. Now acknowledged as a genre masterpiece, British audiences can once again revel in its vileness as Arrow Video presents Armstrong’s horror classic fully uncut in goretastic HD, alongside a selection of fantastic extras.

Mark of the Devil (1970)

THE DUAL FORMAT UK RELEASE
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements in its original 1.66:1.
• Optional English and German audio (a real bonus)
• Optional English subtitles
• Newly-translated English subtitles for the German audio
• Audio commentary by Michael Armstrong, moderated by Calum Waddell
Mark of the Times: Documentary on the ‘new wave’ of British horror directors that surfaced in the 1960s and 1970s, featuring contributions from Michael Armstrong, Norman J Warren (Terror) and David McGillivray (Frightmare)
Hallmark of the Devil: Michael Gingold uncovers the history of controversial film distributors Hallmark Releasing
• Interviews with composer Michael Holm and actors Udo Kier, Herbert Fux, Gaby Fuchs, Ingeborg Schöner and Herbert Lom
Mark of the Devil: Now and Then – a look at the film’s locations
• Outtakes
• Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Illustrated collector’s booklet

 

The Ringer (1952) | A starry cast makes this vintage Edgar Wallace thriller worth a revisit

The Ringer DVD

When the sister of criminal mastermind The Ringer is found drowned, unscrupulous lawyer Maurice Meister (Herbert Lom) is blamed and Scotland Yard suspect The Ringer is out to kill him. Meister hires an ex-con (William Hartnell) as his bodyguard, while the Yard put the house under surveillance. But can they unmask The Ringer (who is a master of disguise) before he succeeds in his quest for vengeance?

Donald Wolfit in The Ringer

WHAT’S THE BEST SHOW IN LONDON?
You’ll be baffled as to why Scotland Yard fail to unmask Donald Wolfit’s forensics expert Dr Lomond as The Ringer as soon as he makes his appearance in this 1952 British thriller, especially considering the phoney accent and obvious makeup. But given it’s based on the oft-performed 1925 play, The Gaunt Stranger, by famed crime writer (and original King Kong scribe) Edgar Wallace, and had been filmed a number of times in its wake, 1950s audiences were probably already familiar with the story and just wanted to see the update for its gallery of classy character actors, which included an eloquent Herbert Lom as slimy lawyer Meister, a pre-Doctor Who William Hartnell as his Cockney rhyming bodyguard and, of course, Wolfit, whose master criminal gets to fool London’s finest even after his unmasking. And providing the colour to the black and white who-will-do-it is a young Denholm Elliott and a ravishing Mai Zetterling as young lovers caught up in the intrigue, and Dora Bryan as Hartnell’s hilarious high-pitched wife.

Herbert Lom in The Ringer

It might be predictable and stagy for modern audiences, but what makes the vintage thriller worth a revisit is seeing these great British characters actors going full throttle with Val Valentine and Lesley Storm’s wordy script. The other reason of course is that it also marks the directorial debut of Guy Hamilton, who’s best known for lensing four James Bond films. The Ringer may not be in the same league as those iconic British films, but Hamilton does do an efficient job in racking up the tension of this filler thriller.

THE UK RELEASE
Network Distributing DVD release, part of their British Film collection, is presented in a brand-new transfer from original film elements in its as-exhibited theatrical aspect ratio, and includes an image gallery and promotional material (pdf) as extras.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRPU9KL8R-s%5D

DVD review | The Phantom of the Opera | A new documentary unmasks the iconic masterpiece

Phantom_Unmasked_dvd_cover

Unmasking the Masterpiece is a 105-minute long visual retrospective of the famed 1910 Gaston Leroux novel, which has spawned numerous film, stage and television adaptations; turned the character of the Opera ghost into one of the most recognisable and iconic images in popular culture; and influenced famous horror films from House of Wax to The Abominable Dr Phibes and The Phantom of the Paradise.

Focusing on the three classic film versions in which Lon Chaney, Claude Rains and Herbert Lom each gave their own distinctive portrayal of the Phantom – in 1925, 1943 and 1962 respectively, this labour of love from Cortlandt Hull, the owner of The Witch’s Dungeon classic horror movie museum in Connecticut, features interviews with a 103-year-old Carla Laemmle, the only surviving cast member of the 1925 film, and Ron Chaney, the great grandson of Lon Chaney.

Fleshing out the retrospective, famed make-up artist Tom Savini talks about how he was inspired by Chaney, while film historians Michael Blake, Steve Haberman and Daniel Roebuck trace the making-of the three films, highlight the differences in the 1929 international version, and profile James Cagney’s 1957 Lon Chaney biopic, The Man of a Thousand Faces. The anecdotes told here will certainly thrill classic film buffs (who knew set designer Charles Gemora was also one of the famed gorilla suit actors of the golden age of cinema?) and there’s a peek inside Chaney’s famous make-up box – without doubt the important artefact in the history of film make-up.

Phantom of the Opera: Unmasking a Masterpiece

Almost 1000 rare movie posters and photos have been carefully restored to accompany the interviews, plus there’s a tour of the actual opera set on soundstage 28 of the Universal Studios lot which was built for the original 1925 film, and is today the oldest standing set in Hollywood. Bringing the Phantom’s legacy up to date, Hugh Panaro, the current Broadway star of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, closes the proceedings with a look at the secrets and makeup used on the stage version, which is celebrating its 25th year.

Phantom of the Opera: Unmasking the Masterpiece is available on DVD (NTSC only) (click here to order from Amazon).

The restored UK Blu-ray version of 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera is available from the London BFI store  (click here).

DID YOU KNOW?
It was on this day (25 November) in 1925 that Lon Chaney’s The Phantom of the Opera went on general release in the United States?

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