The Man with the X-Ray Eyes | Roger Corman’s cult 1960s sci-fi horror develops Second Sight on Blu-ray
Obsessed with expanding the powers of human sight, renowned scientist Dr James Xavier (Ray Milland), aims to develop a formula that will allow the user to see beyond the visible spectrum. Despite warnings from his friend Dr Brandt (Harold J Stone) and business associate Diane Fairfax (Diana Van Der Vlis), he experiments on himself and finally perfects a serum that gives him the power to see through solid objects. But his ambitions turn to obsession. No longer able to control the effects, his vision extends beyond the realms of human comprehension until he finally sees more than he can bear.
This sci-fi horror directed by Roger Corman won the Astronave D’argento award in 1963 at the inaugural Festival internazionale del film di fantascienza in Trieste, Italy back in 1963 and – over the years – has become a cult film fan favourite. It now gets a newly-restored Limited Edition Box Set release on Blu-ray, featuring a host of special features, from Second Sight.
• New interview with Director Roger Corman
• Introduction by Kat Ellinger
• Audio commentary by Roger Corman
• Audio commentary by Tim Lucas
• Original prologue
• Joe Dante on The Man With X-Ray Eyes
• Trailers from Hell epsiode with Mick Garris
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Reversible poster with new and original artwork
• Soft cover book with new writing by Jon Towlson and Allan Bryce
The Amazing Mr Blunden (1972) | The classic children’s ghost story gets a restored release on Blu-ray
After a First World War widow (Dorothy Alison) moves her family from the slums of Camden, London into a derelict Home Counties mansion, her children Lucy (Lynne Frederick) and Jamie (Garry Miller) are visited by the ghosts of two children – Sara (The Devil Rides Out’s Rosalyn Landor) and Georgie (Marc Granger) – who relate their tragic deaths at the hands of their abusive guardians 100 years ago.
They also encounter the spirit of lawyer Mr Blunden (Jeffries), who feels responsible for the children’s deaths. With the aid of a time-travel potion, Lucy and Jamie return to 1818 where they attempt to stop their uncle’s alcoholic mother-in-law, Mrs Wickens (Diana Dors), from succeeding in doing away with Sara and Georgie for their inheritance.
Adapted from Antonia Barber’s 1969 novel The Ghosts by director Lionel Jeffries (who previously helmed The Railway Children), 1972’s The Amazing Mr Blunden arrives in a stunning collector’s edition from Second Sight, with a brand-new scan and restoration, and a host of special features. It also includes Barber’s original out-of-print source novel exclusively reproduced for this release.
Part-pantomime, part-Dickensian drama, where humour and sadness intertwine superbly, this is an enchanting children’s ghost story that well deserves a revisit. While all the child actors are totally on form, James Villers is delightfully nasty as the dissolute uncle and Madeline Smith is hilariously dotty as the musical hall singer he falls for. But the stand-out is Diana Dors, who totally owns her villainous role as the wicked Mrs Wickens.
• New scan and restoration
• Audio commentary with actors Madeline Smith, Rosalyn Landor, Stuart Lock and Marc Granger
• Interviews with Madeline Smith and Rosalyn Landor
• Mark Gatiss on The Amazing Mr Blunden
• 2014 archive BFI Q&A with Madeline Smith, Rosalyn Landor and Stuart Lock
• Reversible sleeve with new artwork by Rich Davies and original artwork
• The Ghosts the original out-of-print source novel by Antonia Barber
• Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Rich Davies
• Soft cover book with new essays by Kevin Lyons and Kim Newman
• Reversible sleeve with new and original artwork
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…
• 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
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.
• 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
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
World on a Wire (1973) | Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s virtual reality sci-fi epic is a retro noir wet dream
Originally made for German TV in 1973, Rainer Werner Fassbinder‘s science-fiction thriller World on a Wire (Welt am Draht) is a frightening look into the world of virtual reality and a masterful adaptation of Daniel F Galouye’s 1964 novel Simulacron-3 (aka The Counterfeit World).
It centres around a highly-advanced project designed to elevate conventional computer technology to a new level by creating a virtual reality inhabited by computer-generated people or ‘identity units’.
When the head of the project dies mysteriously, Dr Stiller (Klaus Löwitsch) becomes his successor and sets out to probe deeper. Making contact with an identity unit called Einstein (Gottfried John), Stiller faces a terrible truth: that his world is actually a simulation of another world one level above…
Forget The Matrix and its ilk, Fassbinder’s two-part TV adaptation was way ahead of its time and has been praised as a science fiction masterpiece. Featuring some familiar faces from the director’s company of actors (Berlin Alexanderplatz‘ Brigette Mira, Tenderness of the Wolves‘ Kurt Raab, Effi Briest‘s Ulli Lommel and Ali: Fear Eats the Soul’s El Hedi ben Salem), the dystopian thriller also sports superlative production design (that probably influenced Blade Runner, and certainly has an Alphaville feel about it). So, for anyone into 1970s fashion, architecture and design, the sets, costumes, lighting and location shots are a retro noir wet dream (I know I could quite happily live in this simulated world). It might be dense in parts, made more so by the heavy German accents, but taken as instalments, World on a Wire is a revelation.
This new restoration, supervised by The Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (Goodfellas, The Departed), comes 46 years after its initial release and still pushes audiences to question the world around them.
It is now being released by Second Sight in a Limited Edition Blu-ray which includes a 50-page collectors booklet and a host of outstanding new special features.
• No Strings Attached: interview with assistant director Renate Leiffer
• Observing Fassbinder: tribute to photographer Peter Gauhe
• Looking Ahead to Today documentary
• On-set featurette
• Original Broadcast Recap
• The Simulation Argument: interview with Professor Nick Bostrom
• 50-page collectors booklet featuring new essays by Anton Bitel and Daniel Bird, archival writing by Daniel Oberhaus and Christian Braad Thomsen, stills and rare on-set photos by Peter Gauhe
Beyond the Clouds (1995) | Michelangelo Antonioni’s final film is a reflective walk through love’s labour’s lost
Michelangelo Antonioni returned to his birthplace in Ferrara, Emilia Romagna for his directorial swansong, 1995’s Beyond the Clouds (Al di là delle nuvole), a gorgeous-looking quartet of erotic tales, co-directed by Wim Wenders, dealing with love and desire that harks back to auteur-lead anthology films like Spirits of the Dead and Boccaccio ’70.
From out of the clouds, an American film director (John Malkovich) arrives in Europe in search of inspiration for his next picture. What follows are four stories, each about the hypnotic effect women can have on men, including the director himself – who literally stalks Sophie Marceau’s husband killer in a deserted, off-season Portofino.
This really is Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus territory with each story adapted from a vignette in Antonioni’s 1986 book That Bowling Alley on the Tiber. But beware, as the director makes no excuses in portraying women the way he sees them, which means breasts and lots of them – exposed by some of Europe’s leading actresses.
In the first tale, set in the fog-shrouded streets of Ferrara, Silvano (Kim Rossi Stuart) meets Carmen (Ines Sastre) and asks her out on a date. But despite his attraction, he can’t follow through on his feelings for her. Cue: sex and some lovely scenery.
The film then moves to Paris, where New Yorker Roberto (Peter Weller speaking perfect French) starts an affair with an Italian girl (Chiara Caselli). But despite his stale marriage to the drunken Patricia (Fanny Ardant), he still loves her.
Also in Paris, Carlo (Jean Reno) arrives in his swanky apartment by the Seine to find his wife and furniture gone. When Ardant’s Patricia arrives to view the apartment, she reveals that she too has left her husband and taken the furniture as well. Cue: a caress, and the possibility of something new.
In the final – and best story of the feature – set in that French tourist Mecca, Aix-en-Provence, a young woman (Irene Jacob) leads the desperately-in-love Niccolo (Vincent Perez) on as he persistently follows her to church, unaware that she is to become a nun. No wonder some men turn gay, poor Niccolo.
Completed by Wenders after Antonioni suffered a stroke, Beyond the Clouds is a gentle, reflective walk through love’s labour’s lost – although Malkovich’s ponderings do get a little tiresome. Beautifully shot, with a terrific score (thanks to Van Morrison and U2), it also boasts a great cameo from Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau as two old-timers debating the worthiness of copying an artist’s work at the 1hr 16hr mark.
Beyond the Clouds is available on DVD from Second Sight (2009) and also screens at the BFI Southbank on Sunday 17 February and Thursday 21 February 2019 as part of their Antonioni season.
There’s a storm brewing in the city, and also between materialistic married couple, Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets), following Marcia’s affair with one of their friends. With a Bank Holiday weekend in sight, Peter engineers a camping trip to an isolated beach, telling Marcia that it will be a chance for them to sort things out. In reality, however, Peter just wants to surf, shoot and drink beer with his faithful dog Cricket by his side, while Marcia would rather prefer a plush hotel than a hot tent in the middle of bloody nowhere.
With total disregard for the environment, the couple set up camp and leave a wake of destruction as they start their bickering. Local wildlife gets run over, shot, splattered and poisoned; petrol cans, plastic and rifle shells litter the beach; and cigarette butts are carelessly tossed away. But when Peter shoots a harmless dugong after mistaking it for a shark, Mother Nature begins to exact her subtle revenge on the unlikeable pair…
This tense and unsettling minimalist horror, helmed by Australian TV director Colin Eggleston, is exceptionally well-made, and has out-lived more worthy period features that dominated the Australian cinema landscape in the late-1970s (like My Brilliant Career and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith) to achieve true cult status.
Alongside the same year’s Patrick, this was also the first successful attempt at genre film-making in Australia, and its all down to the performances of the two leads and the atmospheric imagery that director Eggleston and his tight crew conjure up to reinforce the sense of dread that permeates the film’s changing landscape – culminating in a sweat-inducing final 20 minutes that’s devoid of dialogue as nature closes in. Amongst the scenes that still manage to creep me out are the Barbie doll covered in seaweed, an abandoned combi van half-submerged in the surf and the scary night-time drive into a dense forest of trees (very Grimms’ Fairy Tale).
The film also casts a dark, satirical shadow over Australian identity and middle class mores thanks to an insightful screenplay from Everett De Roche, who is best known for penning a flurry of Ozploitation hits including Patrick (1978), Road Games (1981) and Razorback (1984). He also imbues his screenplay with a mythic quality that hints at the supernatural – something that Peter Weir also aimed at with 1977’s The Last Wave (aka Black Rain in the US), in which freak rainstorms in Sydney have a apocalyptic connection with the Aboriginal Dreamtime. But its this element that makes you want to return again and again to the film as there’s so much going on under the surface than you first expect.
Alongside 1983’s Careful, He Might Hear You and 1986’s Malcolm, this is Hargreaves’ finest hour, and his honest and authentic performance earned him a Best Actor award at the Sitges Fantasy Film Festival where he beat off Lawrence Olivier, Klaus Kinski and Donald Pleasence (now that’s a coup). Sadly, Hargreaves died of AIDS aged just 50 in 1996. But he thought so much of his award that he had it buried with him. Director Eggleston, who died in 2002, never really matched the success of this film with his subsequent features, but Long Weekend remains his enduring legacy.
Long Weekend is out on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK courtesy of Second Sight, with the following special features…
• Audio commentary with executive producer Richard Brennan (Mad Dog Morgan, Spotswood) and cinematographer Vincent Monton (Thirst, Road Games): Recorded in 2006, this commentary reveals lots about the technical aspects of the film, from using a precursor to the steadicam to manipulating the beach location (by spray-painting brought in trees to change the colour palette from green to grey to represent the decay setting in); and also explores the reasons why the film was a bigger success in Europe and Asia than in Australia.
• Nature Found Them Guilty: Examining Long Weekend – Panel discussion with film historians Lee Gambin, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, Emma Westwood and Sally Christie: The gang go deeper into the film’s themes and ‘grotty symbolism’ to quote Briony’s character, including how the film is an indigenous comment without having an indigenous person in the cast.
• Uncut ‘Not Quite Hollywood’ interviews with Everett De Roche, Briony Behets and Vincent Monton: These are very interesting, especially from Briony, who at the time of filming was married to the film’s executive producer, Richard Brennan.
• August 1995 audio interview with the John Hargreaves who talks about acting and his mentor, John Meillon, whom he affectionately called Maude, while the Crocodile Dundee star called him Hilary. This piece also includes a great behind-the-scene picture gallery which might be a bit spoilery if you haven’t seen the film first.
• Extensive Stills Gallery
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• SDH English subtitles for the hearing impaired
When a Stranger Calls (1979) | Have you checked the children! – The genuinely terrifying cult chiller on Blu-ray
Back in the 1979, When a Stranger Calls had cinema-goers (me included) on the edge of their seats when poor Carol Kane picked up the phone and heard the chilling words: ‘Have you checked the children?’. Now the seminal slasher is heading to Blu-ray in the UK for the very first time in a Limited Edition release loaded with extras from Second Sight.
Director Frank Walton’s feature debut (which expands on his 1977 short The Sitter) features an incredibly intense opener in which Kane, playing the unfortunate babysitter in peril, Jill Johnson, calls the police after a series of increasingly threatening phone calls and discovers to her horror that they are coming from inside the house! Charles Durning is the surly detective, John Clifford, who comes to her rescue, sparking a desperate chase and a gruesome discovery before the psycho, merchant seaman Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley), is finally caught. Seven years later, the maniac targets Jill again after escaping from a psychiatric hospital, while Clifford (now a private detective) is determined to take him out…
The maniac-on-the-phone formula has since been done to death (especially in today’s climate of home invasion horrors), but along with 1974’s Black Christmas (read my review here) it’s played to great effect here – and was famously paid homage to by Wes Craven in his 1996 spoof, Scream.
This was the last screen role for 50-year-old British character actor Tony Beckley, who was terminally ill at the time, died six months after the film’s premiere. Beckley is best known to cult film fans for appearing in Hammer’s The Lost Continent, and the Britsploitation thrillers The Fiend and Assault, as well as classic fare like Get Carter and The Italian Job. Classic Doctor Who fans will also remember him as the villainous plant collector Harrison Chase in the superior Tom Baker adventure, The Seeds of Doom.
In 1993’s When a Stranger Calls Back, babysitter Julia (The Stepfather‘s Jill Schoelen) makes the mistake of talking to a weirdo who turns up at her front door: the prelude to a few minutes of fantastic nerve-jangling suspense. The main story, set five years later, is no less chilling. Still traumatised by the incident, the introverted Julia comes to believe that she is being stalked, and turns to Kane’s Jill (now a college counsellor) for help.
This made for cable TV sequel may be all style and no substance, but returning director Walton still manages to rack up the tension with some genuinely unsettling moments and the odd surprise. Alongside Kane, Charles Durning also reprises his role from the original film.
This Limited Edition Second Sight release features a brand-new scan and restoration of the original film and the following special features:
• The sequel When a Stranger Calls Back in HD
• The original short film The Sitter in a brand new scan and restoration
• New interviews with director Fred Walton, actors Carol Kane and Rutanya Alda and composer Dana Kaproff
• Original Soundtrack CD
• Collector’s booklet with new essay by Kevin Lyons
• Reversible sleeve with new artwork by Obviously Creative and original poster artwork
• English subtitles for the hearing impaired for both films
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it became an increasingly common sight to see veteran actors and former Hollywood heavyweights moving into in horror films and obscure independent oddities – including Richard Burton (The Medusa Touch), Kirk Douglas (The Fury), Ray Milland (The Pajama Girl Case), and Fred Astaire (Ghost Story). George C Scott joins them with this Canadian ghost story from 1980 directed by Peter Medak.
Based upon events that the film’s co-writer Russell Hunter claimed he experienced while living in an old mansion in Denver, Colorado in 1969, The Changeling sees Scott as famed composer, John Russell, whose wife and daughter die in a tragic car accident. In a bid to rebuild his life, John rents a big old Victorian mansion in a remote setting, but the peace and quiet he craves is soon disturbed by unexplained noises, an apparition of a drowned boy in a bathtub, and the discovery of an attic room containing a child’s wheelchair…
Convinced there’s a supernatural presence trying to make contact with him, he enlists the help local historian Claire (played by Scott’s real-life wife Trish Van Devere) and holds a séance. What John uncovers is a shocking tale of a sickly young boy called Joseph Carmichael who was killed for his inheritance and replaced with an orphan [no this isn’t a spoiler, btw]. Now a prominent US senator and business tycoon, ‘Joseph’ (Melvyn Douglas, who was also in Ghost Story) donated the house to the local historical society some 12 years ago and has never set foot in it again! But why?
Unlike many of the blood and gore-infused horror films of the era, The Changeling is a much more superior example of the haunted house story. Stephen King and Martin Scorcese are big fans, and love the movie because it’s filled with the kind of suspense and horror where you don’t know exactly what is happening or why. From the outset, when a member of the historical society tells Scott’s John, ‘That house isn’t fit to live in. It doesn’t want people,’ you know you are in for one helluva creepy ride. But the house does want people, especially John, as his loss and his innate empathy with music becomes his connection with the spirit world and to the ghost of the murdered boy who haunts the very essence of the old mansion.
Matching Scott’s brown corduroy attire is the muted palette of winter hues used throughout the proceedings; which only makes the deep red colours on the mansion windows and doors stand out, giving it the appearance of glowing eyes and a demonic grin; while the primary colours and chiaroscuro lighting used for the shadowy interiors provides a sense of the Gothic by way of Roger Corman’s 1960’s Poe films.
Cinematographer John Coquillion is no stranger in getting the best out of his landscapes having lensed Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968) and Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs (1971). In both instances, the Suffolk countryside and a Cornish farmhouse became his nightmarish playground, while here, his camera tracks relentlessly through the claustrophobic environs and over cobweb-covered furniture, resting only for some fear-inducing scenes, including one involving ‘that’ wheelchair, while the noisy plumbing, a hidden well and a little music box also have roles to play.
This is a ghost story best watched alone – with the lights out and features a first-rate performance from Scott, who would encounter even more frightening fare in The Exorcist III in 1990, while director Medak, who had previously worked on British TV (on Space 1999 and The Professionals), would go on to helm the crime thrillers The Krays, Let Him Have It and Romeo is Bleeding, and is now enjoying renewed career success with his very personal documentary The Ghost of Peter Sellers.
There’s also an interesting mix of cameos, including Star Trek’s John Colicos as a police detective, Space 1999’s Barry Morse as a psychic research scientist, Upstairs, Downstairs’ Jean Marsh as Scott’s late wife, and most bizarrely, The Flying Nun’s Madeleine Sherwood as one of the guests at the séance.
Second Sight has released The Changeling in a Limited Edition Blu-ray, with the following excellent special features…
• Brand new 4K scan and restoration
• Limited Edition packaging featuring poster, 40 page booklet and Original Soundtrack CD
• Audio commentary with director Peter Medak and producer Joel B Michaels
• The House on Cheesman Park: The haunting true story of The Changeling
• The Music of The Changeling: Interview with music arranger Kenneth Wannberg
• Building The House of Horror: Interview with art director Reuben Freed
• The Psychotronic Tourist: The Changeling Locations featurette
• Master of Horror Mick Garris on The Changeling
• Trailer & TV Spot
• New English subtitles
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
Possession (1981) | A look back at Andrzej Zulawski’s notorious marital horror from beyond the Berlin Wall
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…
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.
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.
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.