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27 September 2022

Cult Epics crowns THE LAST ROMANTIC LOVER (review)

When a female magazine editor conducts a contest to find THE LAST ROMANTIC LOVER, the real battle of the sexes is to come after the award in this seventies slice of romantic erotica from the director of EMMANUELLE.

REVIEW LINK: Cult Epics (US) Region ALL Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

THE LAST ROMANTIC LOVER Blu-ray specs:

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • French DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby Digital 5.1, French LPCM 2.0 Mono
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by author Jeremy Richey
  • Interview with director Just Jaeckin
  • Interview with actress Dayle Haddon
  • 2022 Cinémathèque Française Presentation
  • Photo Gallery
  • Bonus Trailers

25 September 2022

Vinegar Syndrome digs up BURIED ALIVE (review)

A new teacher discovers that her students keep mysteriously vanising at a reform school that used to be an asylum in the Edgar Allan Poe-influenced slasher BURIED ALIVE starring Robert Vaughn and Donald Pleasance.

REVIEW LINK: Vinegar Syndrome (US) Region A Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

BURIED ALIVE Blu-ray specs: 

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
  • Optional English SDH Subtitles
  • "Ginger's Antics" interview with actress Ginger Lynn Allen
  • "Well, I Wanna Be an Actor" interview with actor/prosthetic effects assistant William Butler
  • Reversible Cover
  • The first 5,000 copies ordered directly from Vinegar Syndrome include a special limited edition embossed and spot gloss slipcover designed by Chris Barnes.

Vinegar Syndrome goes on a MUTANT HUNT (review)

When a mad scientists injects his cyborgs with illegal drugs that cause them to turn into vicious killers, a trio of bounty hunters hunts them down in this Charles Band production from Tim Kincaid (aka Joe Gage).

REVIEW LINK: Vinegar Syndrome (US) Region A Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

MUTANT HUNT Blu-ray specs:

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.33:1 Pillarboxed Fullscreen
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
  • Optional English SDH Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by film historian Elizabeth Purchell
  • "Mutant Maker" interview with special makeup effects artist Ed French
  • "If You Want Me to Box with a Kangaroo..." interview with actor Dr. J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner
  • "Long Arm of the Hunt" interview with actor Mark Legan
  • Reversible Cover
  • The first 5,000 copies ordered directly from Vinegar Syndrome come with a special limited edition embossed and spot gloss slipcover designed by Ralf Krause.

21 September 2022

Synapse Films attends a MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH (review)

When a gang of school bullies cripples new kid David, he doesn't rat them out, he gets revenge, but he doesn't just stop there in the satirical MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH.

REVIEW LINK: Synapse Films (US) Region ALL Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH Blu-ray specs:

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
  • Optional English SDH Subtitles
  • Audio Interviews with actors Andrew Stevens, Robert Carradine, Rex Steven Sikes, and Darrel Maury conducted by Mike White of The Projection Booth podcast
  • Audio Interview with director Rene Daalder conducted by Michael Gingold
  • "Hell in the Hallways" documentary
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Radio Spot
  • Photo Gallery

15 September 2022

Second Run experiences DESIRE for ALL MY GOOD COUNTRYMEN (review)

Before the Soviet Invasion banned his films and drove him to self-exile and work abroad, Vojtech Jasny helmed a string of imaginative films including DESIRE - an anthology of life snapshots that equate the seasons with stages of life - and the masterful ALL MY GOOD COUNTRYMEN in which a Czech village is liberated by the Soviets after World War II and then shattered by their policies as the greedy and power-hungry victimize their former friends and compatriots.

REVIEW LINK: Second Run (UK) Region ALL Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

TWO FILMS BY VOJTECH JASNY Blu-ray specs:

  • DISC ONE (Desire):
    • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 Pillarboxed Fullscreen
    • Czech LPCM 2.0 Mono
    • Optional English Subtitles
    • Interview with director Vojtěch Jasný 
    • "It's Not Always Cloudy [Není stále zamračeno]" 1949 semi-documentary graduation film, co-directed by Karel Kachyňa
  • DISC TWO (All My Good Countrymen):
    • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 Pillarboxed Fullscreen
    • Czech LPCM 1.0 Mono
    • Optional English Subtitles
    • Audio Commentary by The Projection Booth podcasters Mike White, Chris Stachiw, and Spencer Parsons
    • Introduction by director Vojtěch Jasný
    • Interview with actress Drahomíra Hofmanová
    • "Peter Hames on Vojtěch Jasný"
    • "Bohemian Rhapsody [Česká rapsodie]" 1969 short film
  • 19-page booklet by Peter Hames.

08 September 2022

Eureka needs a SUPERCOP for POLICE STORY 3 (review)

Jackie Chan is back as a Hong Kong SUPERCOP on the trail of a major drug lord with the help of Chinese colleague Michelle Yeoh.  Maggie Cheung co-stars.

REVIEW LINK: Eureka Video (UK) Region B Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

POLICE STORY 3: SUPERCOP Blu-ray specs: 

  • Original Hong Kong Version:
    • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 Widescreen
    • Cantonese Dolby Atmos, LPCM 2.0 Stereo (home video mix), and LPCM 1.0 Mono (theatrical mix)
    • English LPCM 1.0 Mono
    • Optional English Subtitles
    • Audio Commentary by Asian film experts Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival) and F.J. DeSanto 
    • Audio Commentary by action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema
  • American Version:
    • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 Widescreen 
    • English Dolby Digital 5.1 
    • Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo 
    • Optional English Subtitles
  • Interview with stunt coordinator and action historian John Kreng
  • "The Ultra Violent Jackie Chan Video Games" interview with film historian Mike Leeder 
  • Trilogy Filming Locations Visit by film historian Arne Venema 
  • "Flying High" interview with actor Jackie Chan 
  • "Dancing with Death" interview with actress Michelle Yeoh 
  • "The Stuntmaster General" interview with director Stanley Tong 
  • "The Fall Guy" interview with Jackie Chan's bodyguard and co-star Ken Lo 
  • 2004 interview with director Stanley Tong 
  • 2005 Cannes Film Festival interview with director Stanley Tong 
  • Outtakes 
  • Trailers: 
    • Hong Kong Theatrical Trailer 
    • Japanese Teaser Trailer 
    • UK English Export Trailer 
    • US Theatrical Teaser 
    • US Theatrical Trailer 
    • 7 US TV Spots 
    • US Video Promo 
  • Comes with a reversible cover. 
  • The first 3,000 copies come with a slipcase featuring new artwork by Darren Wheeling and a collector's booklet featuring new writing by James Oliver, as well as archival materials, imagery, and ephemera.

02 September 2022

Eureka's Masters of Cinema honors THE SAPHEAD (review)

Buster Keaton is THE SAPHEAD, a young heir to a Wall Street fortune who gets disowned and has to find his own way with only a million dollars and his lady love by his side.

REVIEW LINK: Eureka Video (UK) Region B Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

THE SAPHEAD Blu-ray specs: 

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 Pillarboxed Fullscreen
  • Andrew Earle Simpson Score in LPCM 2.0 Stereo
  • English Intertitles
  • Audio Commentary by film historian David Kalat
  • Complete Alternate Version featuring alternate takes with a score by Ben Model in LPCM 2.0 Stereo (77 minutes)
  • "Bubbling Gravity" video essay by film historian David Cairns 
  • "A Pair of Sapheads" version comparison by Kino Lorber disc producer Bret Wood 
  • "The Scribe" 1966 short by John Siebert featuring Buster Keaton in his last role 
    • Audio Commentary by director John Sebert, moderated by writer/silent film aficianado Chris Seguin 
  • Buster Keaton Interviews: 
    • "Buster Keaton in Conversation with Kevin Brownlow, Part 1" 1964 audio interview 
    • "Buster Keaton in Conversation with Kevin Brownlow, Part 2" 1964 audio interview 
    • Eastman House 1958 radio interview 
    •  "Buster Keaton in Conversation with Torsten Jungstedt" 
  • Comes with a collector’s booklet featuring new essays by journalist Philip Kemp and film writer Imogen Sara Smith, as well as an appreciation of The Saphead by film writer Eileen Whitfield. The first pressing of 2,000 copies comes with an O-card slipcover.

28 August 2022

Second Sight pieces together FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (review)

Frankenstein is one of the inmates taking over the asylum as he and a new acolyte attempt to perfect his experiments in man-making with the body of a lunatic and the brain of vengeful genius in the last Hammer Frankenstein film FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL.

REVIEW LINK: Second Sight (UK) Region B Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL Blu-ray specs: 

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen and 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen versions
  • English LPCM 1.0 Mono
  • Optional English HoH Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger 
  • Audio Commentary by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn & stars Shane Briant and Madeline Smith 
  • Appreciation by film historian David Huckvale 
  • "The Music of FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL" 
  • "Taking Over the Asylum: The Making of FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL" 
  • "Charming Evil: Terence Fisher" 
  • Photo Gallery 
  • Comes in a rigid slipcase with new artwork by Graham Humphreys, a softcover book with new essays by Kevin Lyons, Kelly Robinson and Emma Westwood plus production stills, and five collectors' art cards.

Second Sight resurrects THE MUMMY (review)

When an archaeological expedition desecrates an ancient tomb of a high priestess, her protector rises from the dead to wreak vengeance in Hammer Films' THE MUMMY.

REVIEW LINK: Second Sight (UK) Region B Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

THE MUMMY Blu-ray specs:

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen and 1.37:1 open-matte presentations
  • English LPCM 1.0 Mono
  • Optional English HoH Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by film academic Kelly Robinson
  • Audio Commentary by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn and film critic/actor Jonathan Rigby
  • Appreciation by film historian David Huckvale
  • "The Music of The Mummy"
  • "Unwrapping The Mummy: The Making of a Hammer Classic"
  • "The Hammer Rep Company"
  • "The House of Horror: Memories of Bray" 
  • Original Promo Reel
  • Still Gallery
  • Comes in a rigid slipcase with new artwork by Graham Humphreys, a softcover book with new essays by film historians Kat Ellinger, Lindsay Hallam, and Kevin Lyons plus production stills, as well as five collectors' art cards.

26 August 2022

Second Sight in the trenches with DOG SOLDIERS (review)

A training mission in the Scottish Highlands turns very real and very deadly when soldiers encounter werewolves in DOG SOLDIERS, from the director of THE DESCENT.

REVIEW LINK: Second Sight (UK) Region B Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

DOG SOLDIER Blu-ray specs: 

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo
  • Optional English HoH Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by director Neil Marshall 
  • Audio Commentary by producers David Allen and Brian O'Toole 
  • Audio Commentary by writer and Associate Professor of Film Alison Peirse 
  • "Werewolves, Crawlers, Cannibals and More" interview with director Neil Marshall 
  • "A History of Lycanthropy: author Gavin Baddeley on Werewolf Cinema" video essay 
  • "Werewolves, Folklore and Cinema" video essay by author Mikel J. Koven 
  • "Werewolves vs Soldiers: The Making of DOG SOLDIERS" documentary 
  • "A Cottage in the Woods" interview with production designer Simon Bowles 
  • "Combat" 1999 short film by Neil Marshall 
  • Deleted Scenes and Gag Reel (with optional audio commentary by director Neil Marshall) 
  • 4 Teaser Trailers
  • Photo Gallery

23 August 2022

Vinegar Syndrome thaws THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (review)

When a mission to Saturn goes horribly wrong, THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN wreaks terror upon the Earth in this seventies gore classic with effects by Rick Baker.

REVIEW LINK: Vinegar Syndrome (US) Region ALL UHD/Region A Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN UHD/Blu-ray Combo specs:

  • DISC ONE (UHD):
    • 2160p24 HEVC 1.85:1 Widescreen
    • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
    • Optional English SDH Subtitles
       
  • DISC TWO (Blu-ray):
    • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 Widescreen
    • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
    • Optional English SDH Subtitles
       
  • Audio Commentary by writer/director William Sachs
  • "It's a War" interview with writer/director William Sachs
  • "Just Show Up" interview with script supervisor Sandy King
  • Interview with make-up effects artist Greg Cannom In
  • Interview with writer/director William Sachs and make-up effects artist Rick Baker
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Photo Gallery
  • Reversible Cover
  • The first 6,000 copies ordered directly from Vinegar Syndrome come with a special limited edition embossed and spot gloss slipcover designed by Chris Barnes.

12 August 2022

Second Sight dines on RAW (review)

Raised a vegetarian and sheltered by domineering parents, Justine is in for a rude awakening when she goes away to veterinary school and undergoes a hazing that includes her first taste of meat that develops into an insatiable hunger for human flesh.  From the director of TITANE.

REVIEW LINK: Second Sight (UK) Region B Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

RAW Blu-ray specs:

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.39:1 Widescreen
  • French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by writer/director Julia Ducournau and film critic Emma Westwood
  • Audio Commentary by film critic Alexandra West
  • "The Girl Can't Help It" interview with actress Garance Marillier
  • "Making Ends Meat" interview with producer Jean des Forets
  • "In the Name of Raw" interview with writer/director Julia Ducournau
  • "A Family Affair" video essay by film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • "Raw À Votre Goût" discussion with writer/director Julia Ducournau and film critic Emma Westwood
  • Quick Bites with Julia Ducournau and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
  • "Genre Matters" 2016 Women Genre Filmmakers Panel with Julia Ducournau, Briony Kidd, Mattie Do, Marisa Brown, Heidi Lee Douglas, Donna McRae, and Isabel Peppard
  • Australian Premiere Introduction with Monster Fest Director Kier-La Janisse and filmmaker Julia Ducournau
  • Australian Premiere Q&A with writer/director Julia Ducournau and Monster Fest Director Kier-La Janisse
  • Deleted Scenes

Vinegar Syndrome sets about RIGHTING WRONGS (review)

When a key witness and his family are brutally murdered allowing a rackateer to go free, Prosecutor Ha (Yuen Biao) has decided enough is enough and takes the law into his own hands with extreme prejudice in the vigilante thriller RIGHTING WRONGS also starring Cynthia Rothrock and produced by Sammo Hung.

REVIEW LINK: Vinegar Syndrome (US) Region A Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

RIGHTING WRONGS Blu-ray specs:

  • DISC ONE:
    • The Hong Kong Cut (97 minutes)
      • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 Widescreen
      • Cantonese, Mandarin, and English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono Tracks
      • Optional English and English SDH Subtitles
      • 2022 Audio Commentary by actress Cynthia Rothrock
      • 1998 Audio Commentary by actress Cynthia Rothrock
    • "Fighting Wrongs" interview with actress Cynthia Rothrock
    • "Unscripted Justice" interview with actress Karen Sheperd
    • "Kung Fu was the Equalizer" interview with actor Melvin Wong
    • "Fighting For Success" interview with actor Peter Cunningham
    • "The Vigilante" interview with actor Yuen Biao
    • "Action Overload" interview with actress Cynthia Rothrock
    • "From the Ring to the Silver Screen" interview with actor Peter Cunningham
    • Video Essay by film historians Samm Deighan and Charles Perks
    • Hong Kong Theatrical Trailer
    • English Export Trailer
    • Photo Gallery
  • DISC TWO:
    • The English Export Version (92 minutes)
      • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 Widescreen
      • English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono
      • Optional English SDH Subtitles
    • The Mainland Chinese Version (100 minutes)
      • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 Widescreen
      • Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 
      • English and English SDH Subtitles
      • Audio Commentary on the Chinese Version by martial arts film historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema
  • DISC THREE:
    • "The Best of Martial Arts Films" 1990 documentary by Sandra Weintraub (91 minutes)
      • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 Widescreen
      • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
      • Optional English SDH Subtitles
    • Theatrical Trailer
  • Comes with a reversible cover in a hard slipcase/slipcover combo designed by Tony Stella & Earl Kessler Jr. and includes a 40-page perfectbound book featuring essays by film programmer Pearl Chan, author and martial arts historian Grady Hendrix, and filmmaker/fan Simon Barrett.
  • Limited to 6,000 copies and only available at Vinegar Syndrome.

10 August 2022

Universal Pictures ushers in DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA (review)

Motion pictures come to Downton Abbey and the older set flee to the South of France to solve a half-century-old mystery involving the Dowager Countess in DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA.

REVIEW LINK: Universal Pictures (Canada) Region ALL Blu-ray/DVD Combo (DVDCompare)

DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA Blu-ray/DVD Combo specs:

  • DISC ONE (Blu-ray):
    • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.39:1 Widescreen
    • English Dolby Atmos, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
    • Optional English SDH, French, and Spanish Subtitles
       
  • DISC TWO (DVD):
    • 16:9 anamorphic 2.39:1 Widescreen
    • English, French, and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
    • English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
    • Optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles
       
  • Audio Commentary by director Simon Curtis
  • Behind the Scenes:
    • "Good to Be Back"
    • "Return to Downton Abbey: The Making of a New Era"
    • "A Legendary Character"
    • "Creating the Film... Within the Film"
    • "Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia"3
    • "Spill the Tea(time)"
  • Digital Copy Code
  • Embossed Slipcover

08 August 2022

Dark Star Pictures has POTATO DREAMS OF AMERICA (review)

During the fall of the Soviet Union, Potato and his mother Lena imagine a better life in America.  Writing to a mail order bride service, Lena meets and marries the mysterious John who moves them to Seattle where Potato's growing sexual awareness is threatened by John's religiosity and controlling nature which is harboring a secret of its own. 

REVIEW LINK: Dark Star Pictures (US) Region ALL Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

POTATO DREAMS OF AMERICA Blu-ray specs: 

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo
  • Optional English SDH Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by writer/co-producer/director Wes Hurley
  • Behind the Scenes featurettes:
    • "American School Day"
    • "Soviet Russia"
    • "John and Hersh Dancing"
    • "Extended Dance Sequence"
    • "Recording the Score"
    • "Breakdown Scene"
  • Introduction by the Actors
  • Actor Interviews:
    • Dan Lauria
    • Hersh Powers
    • Jonathan Bennett
    • Lea DeLaria
    • Marya Sea Kaminski
    • Tyler Bocock
    • "The Boys"
  • Deleted Scene: "Potato at Pride"
  • Outtake: "School Dance"
  • "Little Potato (The Story Begins...)" documentary
  • Short Films: 
    • "Rachels Don't Run"
    • "Rusalka"
  • "Capitol Hill" Web Series: Season 1 (10 episodes)
  • Trailers
  • Comes with a reversible cover and a poster insert with an essay by filmmaker Guinevere Turner on the back.
  • The first 1,000 copies ordered directly from Vinegar Syndrome come with a special limited edition slipcover designed by Jess Rotter.

03 August 2022

Cult Epics' exposes NAKED OVER THE FENCE (review)

A pinball arcade owner, a karate champion, and a schoolteacher become entangled in a web of pornography, blackmail, and murder when they become involved with a TV singer (EMMANUELLE's Sylvia Kristel) in the Dutch sex comedy thriller NAKED OVER THE FENCE.

REVIEW LINK: Cult Epics (US) Region ALL Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

NAKED OVER THE FENCE Blu-ray specs: 

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 Pillarboxed Fullscreen
  • Dutch DTS-HD Master Audio and LPCM 2.0 Mono
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by biographer Harry Hosman
  • Behind the Scenes with Sylvia Kristel 
  • KRO Radio Interview with director Frans Weisz
  • B-Movie Orchestra and VPRO interview with composer Ruud Bos
  • Promotional Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer 
  • Sylvia Kristel Film Trailers
  • Limited edition of 1,000 copies includes a slipcover and a CD soundtrack of the film's score including "A Letter Came Today" performed by Sylvia Kristel

31 July 2022

Acorn Media interrogates WITNESS NUMBER 3 (review)

A chance glance outside a shop window plunges a hair salon owner into a terror campaign when she becomes WITNESS NUMBER 3.  Nina Toussaint-White stars.

REVIEW LINK: Acorn Media (UK) Region 2 PAL DVD (DVDCompare)

WITNESS NUMBER 3 DVD specs:

  • Four episodes on one dual-layer DVD
  • 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
  • Optional English HoH Subtitles
  • Behind the Scenes Cast and Crew Interviews
  • Photo Gallery

28 July 2022

Second Run puppets LARKS ON A STRING (review)

Set in a scrap metal yard where dissidents are interned to be ‘re-educated’, the film is both a powerful critique of totalitarianism and a celebration of the resilience of the human spirit.  Shot in 1968 but promptly banned by the Communist regime, the film remained unseen until 1990, when it was released to great acclaim, winning the grand prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

REVIEW LINK: Second Run (UK) Region ALL Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

LARKS ON A STRING Blu-ray specs: 

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • Czech LPCM 2.0 Mono
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by The Projection Booth's Mike White and critic Jonathan Owen
  • "Jiří Menzel: 7 Questions" archival interview
  • "Jiří Menzel on Larks on a String" discussion with filmmaker Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
  • "Our Dear Mister Foerster Died (Umřel nám pan Foerster)" 1963 short film by Jiří Menzel
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • 20-page booklet featuring an essay by author Peter Hames and an introduction by cinematographer Jaromír Šofr

Eureka fights crime with SKINNY TIGER AND FATTY DRAGON (review)

Karl Maka and Sammo Hung star in the buddy cop comedy SKINNY TIGER AND FATTY DRAGON as a pair of plainclothes cops who get into hot water with their unconventional methods in trying to apprehend a cocaine kingpin.

REVIEW LINK: Eureka (UK) Region B Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

SKINNY TIGER AND FATTY DRAGON Blu-ray specs:

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • Cantonese LPCM 1.0 Mono, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 1.0 Mono
  • Optional English Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng (NY Asian Film Festival) and martial artist/actor Robert “Bobby” Samuels
  • Audio Commentary by action cinema experts Mike Leeder & Arne Venema
  • Audio interview with stuntman and martial artist Mark Houghton
  • "The Weapon Master" interview with director Lau Kar-wing
  • "Partner in Crime" interview with actor, stuntman, and action choreographer Ridley Tsui
  • Extended Fight Scene from the Taiwanese Cut
  • International Trailer

Eureka Classics books THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS (review)

Sammo Hung directs this epic Chinese Lunar New Year "Eastern Western" comedy in which an outlaw and a band of prostitutes set about rebuilding his home town after a bank robbery.  The outlaw hits upon the idea of bombing a train track so that the moneyed passengers of the Millionaires' Express must stay the night.  Unfortuantely, a band of gangsters and bandits have planned to rob the train and soon take over the town.  Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Kenny Bee star.

REVIEW LINK: Eureka (UK) Region B Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

THE MILLIONAIRES' EXPRESS Blu-ray specs:

  • Hong Kong Theatrical Version (98 minutes):
    • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 Widescreen
    • Cantonese LPCM 1.0 Mono
    • Optional English Subtitles
    • Audio Commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng, NY Asian Film Festival
    • Selected Scene Audio Commentary by actress Cynthia Rothrock 
  • Extended Version (102 minutes): 
    • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 Widescreen
    • Cantonese and English LPCM 1.0 Mono
    • Optional English Subtitles
    • Audio Commentary by film historians Mike Leeder and Arne Venema 
  • "Cynthia Rothrock on Millionaires' Express" interview
  • "Shanghai Express: Behind the Scenes" archival interview with actress Cynthia Rothrock
  • "A New Frontier" interview with actor/director Sammo Hung
  • "Express Delivery" interview with actor/director Sammo Hung
  • "Trailblazer" interview with actress Cynthia Rothrock
  • "Way Out West" interview with actor/stuntman Yuen Biao
  • "On the Cutting Edge" interview with actress Yukari Oshima
  • Alternate English Opening and Closing Credits
  • Trailers:
    • Hong Kong Theatrical Trailer
    • "Shanghai Express" Export Trailer
    • Tai Seng Promotional Video Trailer
  • "My Lucky Stars" Vintage Japanese Behind the Scenes Promo

Film Detective fights the BATTLE OF THE WORLDS (review)

An entire planet is on a collison course with the Earth, but scientist suspect it is being piloted by an alien intelligence in BATTLE OF THE WORLDS starring THE INVISIBLE MAN's Claude Rains and directed by Antonio Margherini (YOR, HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE).

REVIEW LINK: The Film Detective (US) Region ALL Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

BATTLE OF THE WORLDS Blu-ray specs:

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
  • Optional English SDH and Spanish Subtitles (feature, commentary, and extras)
  • Audio Commentary by author/film historian Justin Humphreys
  • "A Cinematic Outsider: The Fantastical Worlds of Antonio Margheriti" Ballyhoo Motion Pictures documentary narrated by Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas
  • 10-page booklet featuring "Margheriti's World" an essay by author Don Stradley.

26 July 2022

Blue Underground cries GOD TOLD ME TO (review)

A string of inexplicable mass killings are committed by different people who can only tell the police GOD TOLD ME TO, and a New York detective discovers that something unnatural, even unearthly, is behind the crimes with apocalyptic intentions. Directed by Larry Cohen.

REVIEW LINK: Blue Underground (US) Region ALL 4K UHD/Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

GOD TOLD ME TO 4K UHD/Blu-ray Combo specs: 

  • DISC ONE (Blu-ray 4K):
    • 2160p24 HEVC 1.85:1 Widescreen with DolbyVision
    • English Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 1.0 Mono
    • French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
    • Optional English SDH, French, and Spanish Subtitles
       
  • DISC TWO (Blu-ray):
    • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 Widescreen
    • English Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 1.0 Mono
    • French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
    • Optional English SDH, French, and Spanish Subtitles
       
  • Heaven & Hell on Earth" interview with actor Tony Lo Bianco
  • "Bloody Good Times" interview with special effects artist Steve Neill
  • "God Told Me to Bone" 2015 New Beverly Q&A with Larry Cohen
  • 2002 Lincoln Center Q&A with Larry Cohen
  • GOD TOLD ME TO Advertising
  • DEMON Advertising Gallery Poster and Still Gallery
  • Slipcover

24 July 2022

Eureka digs up UNIVERSAL TERROR (review)

Three lesser-known Boris Karloff films comprise UNIVERSAL TERROR.  In NIGHT KEY, a wronged scientist who has invented an alarm system avenges himself on the man who double-crossed him.  In THE CLIMAX, a mad doctor mesmirizes a young singer who reminds him of his lost love who vanished under mysterious circumstances.  In THE BLACK CASTLE, a young British noble attends a hunting party of the sadistic Count von Bruno.

REVIEW LINK: Eureka Video (UK) Region B Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

UNIVERSAL TERROR Blu-ray specs: 

  • DISC ONE:
    • Night Key (1937):
      • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 Fullscreen
      • English LPCM 2.0 Mono
      • Optional English HoH Subtitles
      • Audio Commentary by critics Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
      • Theatrical Trailer
      • Stills Galleries
         
    • The Climax (1944):
      • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 Fullscreen
      • English LPCM 2.0 Mono
      • Optional English HoH Subtitles
      • Audio Commentary by critics Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
      • Theatrical Trailer
      • Stills Galleries
         
  • DISC TWO:
    • The Black Castle (1952):
      • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 Fullscreen
      • English LPCM 2.0 Mono
      • Optional English HoH Subtitles
      • Audio Commentary by author Stephen Jones and author/critic Kim Newman
      • Stills Galleries
         
  • The first 2,000 copies come with a slipcase and a collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Karloff expert Stephen Jacobs (author of Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster).

18 July 2022

RETRO REVIEW: Enter THE BLACK ROOM

THE BLACK ROOM
(Elly Kenner and Norman Thaddeus Vane, 1984)
USA

The original text of this review appeared on the now-defunct film website EsotikaFilm in 2008.  It has been slightly revised here while the original can be accessed via the above Wayback link.

 
Larry (HOSPITAL MASSACRE's Jimmy Stathis) is a thirty-something husband and father looking for a place to cheat. He finds an ad in the newspaper for a room for rent in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills owned by a mysterious photographer Jason (Stephen Knight) and his ethereal sister Bridget (NIGHT SHIFT's Cassandra Gaviola). The room for rent is the titular "black room" with mirrored walls, dark furnishings, and black walls with the only light sources being candles and a glowing glass table. Larry starts taking girls there and having sex, not knowing that Jason and Bridget are watching and photographing them through one of the room's two-way mirrors.

When Larry goes home to his wife and kids, he uses the details of his supposedly imaginary encounters to spice up him and his wife's sex life.  The girls, however, unbeknownst to Larry, are unwillingly providing blood transfusions to keep Jason's blood disease under control. Thinking that Larry could be a lucrative source for fresh blood, Bridget seduces him in the black room and Jason photographs it for blackmail purposes. When Larry's wife Robin (Clara Perryman) finds the newspaper ad about the room for rent in Larry's car, she visits the mansion and discovers the room is real, that Larry must really be cheating on her, and things take an unusual turn…

Ostensibly a horror film, THE BLACK ROOM is more concerned with the ambiguous nature of human relationships than the subplot of busty gals having sex and being killed in a remote horror house. Our protagonist is a husband and father with a cheerful home-life that becomes complicated in the bedroom with children who will not go to sleep, having to be quiet to not wake them when they do, and the general staleness of his marriage. He uses his encounters with other women in the black room to heat up his sex life with his wife; referring to them as "word pictures."

The encounters with various women in the black room are not excuses for T&A as the chiaroscuro lighting does not allow for that nor does the editing. The focus within the room is on Larry exploring himself psychologically with character-probing small-talk as foreplay.  The voyeuristic brother and sister are depicted in the act of looking rather than showing us what they are looking at. Even Bridget's nudity during her encounter with Larry is obscured by the artful body paint with which she coats herself and Larry.

Robin's discovery of the black room does not lead to a stalk-and-kill scene. A sinister-looking Jason finds Robin sitting in the garden and they speak frankly about Larry's activities and Jason's and Bridget's roles in the arrangement. He even shows Robin the two-way mirror and snaps photographs while Larry has sex with another woman and Robin cries on the sofa. Jason's suggestion that Robin turn the tables on Larry and make use of the black room as well for her pleasure seems less motivated by the opportunity to procure fresh victims than as an erotic diversion; making the bloodthirsty sibling set seem less single-minded than they would be in a more straightforward horror film. The black room itself is an enclosed setting that allows for interior exploration, experimentation, and improvisation – signified by the camerawork which glides back and forth between the onscreen light sources and complete blackness only to come across more candles or indistinct bodies writhing either in passion or in terror as the syringe and chloroform-wielding brother and sister approach – where Larry and Bridget can step outside themselves even as afternoon partners try to deduct their personalities.

Extraordinarily for an American independent film, neither the staging of long sequences in the black room or the mansion and its grounds nor the rushed and cramped nature of the exterior shooting make the film feel stage- or set-bound precisely because of the film's Pinter-like association of interior lives with interior spaces and the threats of intrusion from without and the greater one from within. Of course, it does eventually lead to the obligatory stalk-and-kill sequence with HALLOWEEN shadings involving butcher knives, closets, a coat-hanger impaling, and "he's not dead yet!" surprises – featuring an atypically clothed and non-screaming Linnea Quigley (RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) – and a circular ending. What we have here is a low-budget, independent arthouse picture masquerading as a horror film.  Had this film been made in Europe in the seventies it would be a piece of prime Eurocult with added nudity. Had it been made more recently in Europe, it would be an edgy art film. Had it been made in the nineties in the states, it would have been an DTV "erotic thriller" bogged down by lingering, slow-motion, scored with somnambulant sax and keyboard with an added horror tinge not unlike Fred Olen Ray's usually diverting twists on the genre.  Christopher MacDonald (THE EIGHTEENTH ANGEL) also has a supporting role in the film and merits an "and – as" screen credit in the opening titles.

Nucleus Films tranfuses the BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE (Review)

Between THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and HORROR OF DRACULA, rival producers Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman tried to out-gruesome the House of Hammer with BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE in which a wrongfully-convicted doctor is put to work in an asylum where he discovers the head physician carrying out most unusual experiments with the blood of his inmates.

REVIEW LINK: Nucleus Films (UK) Region B Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRE Blu-ray specs:

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
  • Optional English and English SDH Subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by film critics Jonathan Rigby and Kevin Lyons
  • Audio Commentary by writer Jimmy Sangster and producer Robert S. Baker, moderated by Marcus Hearn
  • "He Begins Where Dracula Left Off" interview with critic Jonathan Rigby
  • "Sangster and the Censor" interview with critic Jonathan Rigby on the film's censorship
  • "Dr. Terror's Vault of Horror" 1993 BBC2 Hosting Segment
  • French and Italian Credits
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • "Malia" 1964 Italian Fotoromanzi
  • Image Gallery
  • Barbara Shelley Trailer Reel

RETRO REVIEW: Alain Robbe-Grillet visits THE BLUE VILLA

THE BLUE VILLA aka UN BRUIT QUI REND FOU
(Dimitri de Clercq and Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1995)
France/Belgium/Switzerland

The original text of this review appeared on the now-defunct film website EsotikaFilm in 2008 and was published shortly before Alain Robbe-Grillet's death in February of that year.  It has been slightly revised here while the original can be accessed via the above Wayback link.

"But debts to the dead are sacred here."

A year to the day of the mysterious death of his stepdaughter Santa (Sandrine Le Berre) at the hands of her lover Frank (Fred Ward), screenwriter Eduoard Nordmann (Charles Tordjman) begins a screenplay framing the crime in the context of a local myth about a mariner destined to return every year to the place of his crime in search of redemption. He is subsequently informed by Inspector Thieu (Dimitris Koulikakos) that Frank – thought to have drowned during his flight from the crime scene by boat – or his ghost, has been seen all over town by the locals. Although Thieu identified an unidentifiable body found at the time as that of Frank, he never truly believed the story behind Santa's death and intimates his suspicion of Nordmann's involvement since he would benefit from her death by inheriting the money left to Santa by her late mother.

Little do either of them know that Santa is in fact alive and being cloistered in the island's local gambling house/bordello, The Blue Villa, under the care of Madame-smuggler-extortionist-pimp Sarah-Le-Blonde (Arielle Dombasle who later appeared in Robbe-Grillet's GRADIVA). Thieu informs Nordmann that Santa's real father (Christian Maillet, the film is dedicated to the late actor) has had his daughter's case reopened and is told not to leave the island until the investigation is completed. Nordmann endures ghostly appearances by both Santa, who reproaches him for his molestation of her, and Frank who tells Nordmann that he has come back from the grave to collect his debt. Is he really being haunted or is he the victim of a plot?

THE BLUE VILLA is the popular English title of the film. The French title actually translates as "A Noise That Drives One Mad" referring to the clattering of shuffling ivory mah-jong tiles that Nordmann claims can drive a man to madness. Co-directed by Dimitri De Clerq (and produced by Jacques De Clerq) – who later produced the unsubtle Georges Bataille adaptation MA MÈRE – this is perhaps Robbe-Grillet's most accessible film (even more so than the even more mainstream PLAYING WITH FIRE in which the tension between father and daughter was more overtly incestuous).

There is the Robbe-Grillet trademark use of disorienting sound effects but here they are oddly complementary to the action in an unconventional manner. Sounds of helicopters and gunfire that sound like the soundtrack of another film bleeding into this film's soundtrack actually underline Thieu's comment on the death of Nordmann's wife who was killed in Indonesia by revolutionaries. The sounds of a typewriter underline an expository scene between Sarah and Thieu at which the writer is not present suggesting these scenes may be imagined by Nordmann's paranoid creative mind.

The imposition of competing narrative structures upon a series of events is the focus of this film. Nordmann first superimposes the local legend of the pale mariner on the crime ("Last year a driller calling himself Frank fit the part…") to suggest the inevitability of his stepdaughter's demise. He also attempts to revise facts in the dialogue, claiming to have loved "his only child" only to be corrected by Thieu that not only was she not his biological child but he was known to have hated her. As suspicious falls upon him, Nordmann not only possibly imagines aspects of Thieu's investigation and the machinations of Sarah and Santa's real father, he also revises the possible series of events leading to his daughter's death while skirting the details of his own involvement. He even conjectures an accidental death version after encountering Frank's apparition as if to placate the vengeful spirit.

In the form of police reports, Thieu narrates possible theories and picks them apart trying to fit Nordmann's involvement into the series of events. Added onto all of this is another layer in which Santa's real father appears to be narrating Eduoard's haunting and paranoia. Regardless of whether Frank and Santa are truly alive or not, they are specters of a sort as they both (literally on Frank's part) stroll through the narrative which is shaped and reshaped around them (neither Ward nor Le Berre have much dialogue until the final third of the film). They are, however, given the privilege of erasing Nordmann's story.

Although the plot is film noir, the film's visual style emulates that genre but reaches back to its German Expressionist forbears. Frank is followed around wherever he goes by three musicians. In later scenes, their presence suggests Frank's ghostly presence even when he does not appear. In one such scene, Nordmann encounters their VAMPYR-like disembodied shadows. Throughout the film, Sarah teaches a song about the island's legend of the pale mariner to Santa. Sarah is later seen performing the song at the Blue Villa's salon to the accompaniment of the same three musicians. Menacing shadows suggest supernatural vengeance even though Nordmann believes he has just as much to fear from the police and Blue Villa owner Mars' thugs. The apparitions of Santa that appear to Nordmann are theatrically staged – appropriately since we know she's really alive, even if the conspiracy is a figment of Nordmann's paranoid imagination – with lighting effects (in one, she simply steps in front of a window as a spotlight comes up to reveal her to Nordmann).

Ward seems an odd choice for the role of Frank. Although he has proven to be one of those ageless actors, he is still obviously a few decades older than the seventeen-year-old Santa. As effective as Ward is, he also seems more like a commercial concession – possibly on the part of the De Clerq's – and most of his non-dialogue scenes almost have a second-unit location photography feel to them. An unknown probably would've been a better match for Le Barre's cipher. Dombasle is a striking and charismatic presence but, like similarly arresting LA BELLE CAPTIVE's Sarah Zeitgeist (Cyrielle Clare), she is given little depth. While it is not surprising that even the principle female (Le Barre) in a Robbe-Grillet film is only rendered in superficial shades, what one finds lacking here is the sort of bewitching, bewildering eternal female figure one expects from a Robbe-Grillet work like L'IMMORTELLE. Perhaps, then, it makes sense that the story that Nordmann and Thieu are attempting to contain within a narrative leans more heavily towards - quite literally - a plot than the supernatural.

The island setting and the shabby environs are effectively realized; an early scene of a fainted prostitute surrounded by superstitious patrons in the Blue Villa's bar recalls the tense tavern scenes of Jean Rollin's LES DEMONIAQUES as much as LA BELLE CAPTIVE's mansion scene recalls the look and feel of a similar scene in Rollin's LE VAMPIRE NUE (there is a tenuous link there worth exploring by someone). The Blue Villa, which Nordmann describes the name as possibly "in memory of a famous bordello for well-heeled degenerates in Hong Kong" recalls Robbe-Grillet's "La Maison De Rendez-Vous" ("probably imaginary, that too," Nordmann adds). Santa's bordello cell – along with the rest of the Blue Villa – also recall the environs of PLAYING WITH FIRE while her pure white bedroom in Nordmann's house recalls the cell of SUCCESSIVE SLIDINGS OF PLEASURE. Some of the island imagery, including a shot of a man sitting in a chair along the waterfront directly references L'IMMORTELLE.

The Jacqueline Pierreux credited as one of the coproducers is not the actress mother of Jean-Pierre Leaud. Cinematography, production design, and costumes are typically top-notch; perhaps too perfect as they lack the distantiating rough edges of Robbe-Grillet's earlier work. Nikos Kypourgos' score is exotic but, once again, seems a bit too refined for a Robbe-Grillet film. Sound was recorded by Francois Musy (Godard's PASSION, HAIL MARY, DETECTIVE, etc). The film was shot in Panavision (2.35:1) – a lot of the setups are static but well-composed and effectively framed with gels, shadows, and Oriental set dressing. The Dolby Stereo soundtrack is thunderous when it needs to be and stereo could perhaps provide Robbe-Grillet with an interesting medium for his use of sound effects as counterpoint to onscreen action should he write and direct another film.

The Film Detective operates on THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (review)

A nuclear scientists is possessed by a sex-crazed alien brain bent on world domination in THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS.

REVIEW LINK: The Film Detective (US) Region ALL Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS Blu-ray specs:

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 Widescreen and 1.33:1 Open-Matte Fullscreen Versions
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono Options
  • Optional English SDH and Spanish Subtitles (feature and extras)
  • Audio Commentary by author/film historian Tom Weaver, film music historian David Schecter, filmmaker Larry Blamire, and actress Joyce Meadows
  • "The Man Before the Brain: Director Nathan Juran" visual essay narrated by film historian Justin Humphreys
  • "Not the Same Old Brain" interview with actress Joyce Meadows
  • "The Man Behind the Brain: The World of Nathan Juran" visual essay by filmmaker C. Courtney Joyner
  • Booklet with an essay by author/film historian Tom Weaver about producer Jacques Marquette.

12 July 2022

Universal Pictures ushers in DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA (review)

Motion pictures come to Downton Abbey and the older set flee to the South of France to solve a half-century-old mystery involving the Dowager Countess in DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA.

REVIEW LINK: Universal Pictures (US) Region ALL UHD/Blu-ray Combo (DVDCompare)

DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA UHD/Blu-ray Combo specs:

  • DISC ONE (UHD):
    • 2160p24 HEVC 2.40:1 Widescreen
    • English Dolby Atmos, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
    • Optional English SDH, French, and Spanish Subtitles
       
  • DISC TWO (Blu-ray):
    • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 Widescreen
    • English Dolby Atmos, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
    • English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
    • Optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles
       
  • Audio Commentary by director Simon Curtis
  • Behind the Scenes:
    • "Good to Be Back"
    • "Return to Downton Abbey: The Making of a New Era"
    • "A Legendary Character"
    • "Creating the Film... Within the Film"
    • "Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia"3
    • "Spill the Tea(time)"
  • Digital Copy Code
  • Embossed Slipcover

10 July 2022

IFC Midnight wants you to SEE FOR ME (review)

A visually-impaired former athlete house-sitting in the snowy mountains of upstate New York must depend on a remote visual helper who happens to be a former Army Ranger when thieves break into the house.

REVIEW LINK: IFC Midnight/RLJ Entertainment (US) Region A Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

SEE FOR ME Blu-ray specs: 

  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Descriptive Audio Track
  • Optional English SDH and Spanish Subtitles

08 July 2022

Second Sight goes on WALKABOUT (review)

When their father suddenly tries to murder them, a British teenager and her younger brother escape into the Outback and meet an Aboriginal boy who shows them how to survive.  The journey changes all three of them, but not in ways one would expect in Nicolas Roeg's second feaure film starring Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg, and David Gulpilil.

REVIEW LINK: Second Sight (UK) Region B Blu-ray (DVDCompare)

WALKABOUT Blu-ray specs:
  • 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English/Aborigional LPCM 1.0
  • Optional English HoH subtitles
  • Audio Commentary by actor Luc Roeg, moderated by David Thompson
  • Archival introduction by director Nicolas Roeg
  • "Producing Walkabout" interview with producer Si Litvinoff
  • "Luc's Walkabout" interview with actor Luc Roeg
  • "Jenny in the Outback" interview with actress Jenny Agutter
  • "Remembering Roeg" interview with filmmaker Danny Boyle
  • 2011 BFI Q&A with director Nicolas Roeg, actress Jenny Agutter, and actor Luc Roeg

05 July 2022

Arrow Video presides over THE INITIATION OF SARAH (blog review)

If you though hazing was tough, you  could lose your soul when you take part in THE INITIATION OF SARAH, on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

Dowdy – well, Hollywood dowdy – orphan Sarah (Kay Lenz, MOVING VIOLATION) is ignored in favor of her prettier sister Patty (Morgan Brittany, TV's DALLAS), even by their mother (Kathryn Grant, ANATOMY OF A MURDER) who is excited about the likelihood of biological daughter getting into Waltham College's elite Alpha Sigma Nu. The two freshman coeds tour the sorority houses and Patty is handpicked by Alpha Sigma Nu president Jennifer (Morgan Fairchild, THE SEDUCTION), who also indirectly suggests Sarah should pledge rival house PED ("Pigs, Elephants, and Dogs").

Sarah does indeed find herself mysteriously drawn to the Pie Epsilon Delta – whose housemother Mrs. Hunter (Shelley Winters, WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO?) also teaches courses in magic practices of primitive peoples – who do not participate in pledging or initiations and tell Sarah to leave her name if she wants to join. ANS is one of a number of houses that ask Patty to pledge while PED is the only one that asks Sarah. Jennifer starts driving a wedge in between Sarah and Patty by forbidding the pledge's association with the rival sorority; but Mrs. Hunter not only offers insight into Sarah's past but also offers a means of controlling her powers that create CARRIE-esque telekinetic mayhem whenever she is angered.

Although teaching assistant Paul (Tony Bill, CASTLE KEEP) does not believe in Sarah's powers, he is suspicious of Mrs. Hunter whose rivalry with Alpha Sigma Nu dates back twenty years to the death of a pledge during an initiation ritual with a special twist. As Sarah tries to band her unpopular sisters together in solidary (including ZOMBIE's Tisa Farrow and CRAWLSPACE's Talia Balsam), she becomes more self-confident. When she publicly calls Jennifer out on her bullying behavior – combined with a psychic shove into the fountain – Sarah becomes the prime target of ANS' beef with PED.  Unfortunately for ANS, Mrs. Hunter is teaching Sarah how to focus her powers towards vengeful ends and her own coming initiation requires a special sacrifice.

Although THE INIATION OF SARAH could perhaps be likened to producer Charles Fries' variation on rival TV producer Aaron Spelling's SATAN'S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, it – along with Fries' THE SPELL – is far more indebted to Brian De Palma's film adaptation of CARRIE from a cruel prank that unleashes Sarah's telekinetic fury to the successive jump cut tilted close-ups of Lenz that prefigure her attacks. Although it makes some interesting parallels between sororities and cults – including the climactic intercutting of the two sororities equally sinister ritual which both require a show of blind faith by the pledges – it seems as though large chunks of the narrative are missing, either never scripted by episodic TV scribes Don Ingalls and Carol Saraceno (from a story by FRIGHT NIGHT's Tom Holland) and mentioned in passing, or cut down for a workable running time for a two hour slot (at ninety-seven minutes, it's already about twenty minutes longer than most of Spelling's equivalent 1970s horror entries which were destined for ninety-minute slots).

The unknown identity of Sarah's mother seems of some importance to the story but is dropped and the story seems to leap forward by large bounds at a time with characters remarking more on the changes in Sarah's character than the viewer is shown.  We also never learn much about the basis of the rivalry between the sororities and the ritual-gone-wrong, making it seem like a case of mean girls with a long-standing grudge. None of the scares are actually chilling but the film maintains its dramatic tension and has an okay atmosphere.

The cast is a bit long-in-the-tooth for college students – the same year, Bill would play the burnt-out father of a teenage rape victim in the Fries-produced TV movie ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? and Robert Hays (who plays Fairchild's boyfriend) was just two years away from playing the shell-shocked ex-pilot in the uproarious AIRPLANE! –  but Lenz does her best with a script full of holes, Fairchild is appropriately bitchy, and Brittany suitably conflicted (Winters is the only one that seems to be phoning it in). CARRIE's Michael Talbott appears briefly as another frat brother. Composer Johnny Harris (FRAGMENT OF FEAR) would follow this assignment up with Gus Trikonis' THE EVIL  The film was remade for ABC TV for Halloween 2006 with DAWSON'S CREEK's Mika Boorem and TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES' Summer Glau as the sisters, and BRIDE OF CHUCKY's Jennifer Tilly replacing Winters.

THE INITIATION OF SARAH hit home video in the 1980s via WorldVision Home Video, but it was through MGM's acquisition of the Fries library that Scream Factory has brought it to DVD in a double feature with ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? (itself subsequently upgraded to Blu-ray as part of Vinegar Syndrome's TELEVISED TERRROR COLLECTION VOL. 1). While the DVD featured an interlaced transfer from the broadcast video master, Arrow Video's Blu-ray is derived from a new 2K restoration of the film's original camera negative.  Colors are vibrant but lean towards the naturalistic in terms of grading.  The garden maze miniature looks even more unconvincing in HD but the make-up appliances to Fairchild during the climax hold up surprisingly well (perhaps better with the greater visible detail over the old video master where it looked rather slapdash).  There is some moments of coarseness and softness baked into the seventies opticals, but gone is the overall dreamy veil of the video masters which tended to make a lot of the film look as though it were shot with the sort of diffusion filmmakers utilized during the seventies and eighties on sunny exterior sequences.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track more than adequately renders the original mono mix which was not particularly ambitious even in its supernatural sequences, best serving the fidelity of the score.  Optional English SDH subtitles are also included.

Extras start off with an audio commentary by TV Movie expert Amanda Reyes – editor of ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? A TV MOVIE COMPENDIUM: 1964-1999 – who has provided commentary and visual essays on Blu-ray releases of the TV genre films DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK, THE VICTIM, NIGHT TERROR, as well as ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE?, CALENDAR GIRL MURDERS, and CHILD IN THE NIGHT, the three films that comprise Vinegar Syndrome's aforementioned TELEVISED TERROR: VOLUME 1.  She discusses the target demographic of TV movies as women in the home 18-49 reflected in anxieties and concerns over family, second wave feminism, and salacious topical subjects, as well as the greater scrutiny of films in the TV season that THE INITIATION OF SARAH played following reactions to the sexual and violent content of the Linda Blair-in-juvenile detention TV movie BORN INNOCENT along with criticisms of "jiggle TV" like THREE'S COMPANY.  Reyes also highlights the showbiz family connections of several of the cast members including Balsam, Farrow, Nora Heflin – niece of Van Heflin – Grant, then-widow of Bing Crosby for whom the film was billed as her comeback (although she would not make another film appearance until 2010's QUEEN OF THE LOT).

"Welcome to Hell Week: A Pledge's Guide to The Initiation of Sarah" (16:33) is an appreciation by film critic Stacie Ponder and Queer Horror programmer Anthony Hudson, co-hosts of the "Gaylords of Darkness" podcast, who make a campy case for why queer audiences would relate to and read in to films in which an apparently heterosexual protagonist is "othered" as well as elements of sublimated lesbian sexuality that seem more obvious in the "smitten" friendship between Sarah and Mouse.

"Cracks in the Sisterhood: Second Wave Feminism and THE INITIATION OF SARAH" (14:48) is a visual essay by film critic and historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas in which she looks at the tensions of different factions of the feminist movement brimming under a "popcorn revenge movie", and the multiple meanings of sisterhood in the film including who is an ally and who is working in their own interests drawing comparisons between Hunter and Jennifer as both exploiting the notion of unity among women in contrast to Sarah's plea to her sisters that they "be nicer to each other" and to themselves.

"The Intimations of Sarah" (16:19) is an interview with film critic Samantha McLaren who suggests that the film is not a knockoff of CARRIE but a project reshaped following the success of that film and, thus, informed by it.  She moves beyond the surface comparisons to the film's themes and symbolism including the maze and its associations of death and rebirth, queer themes, and the witch as a transgressive but not always evil figure.

In "The Initiation of Tom" (8:58), screenwriter Tom Holland recalls getting into stage acting, landing a contract with Warner Bros., wanting to direct and finding screenwriting a more fulfilling compromise than acting, and his original story for THE INITIATION OF SARAH that had Sarah turning her enemies into barnyard animals.  He then recalls being in demand for genre work but having the success of his first feature screenplay THE BEAST WITHIN – following an aborted first attempt at adapting FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC without the incest – overshadowed by the collapse of United Artists.  Since the interview only focuses on his work as a screenwriter, it concludes with a brief discussion of his screenplay for PSYCHO II.  The disc closes with an image gallery.

Not provided for review were the reversible cover featuring newly commissioned artwork by Luke Insect or the fully-illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing by Lindsay Hallam and Alexandra West (included with the first pressing only).

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