Halloween Blitz 18: Blair-Rich 2: Deliverance from Evil

I’m probably going to lose a lot of credibility here (and maybe even some readers), but, gotta say it:  I have a soft spot for 1977’s EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC, now remastered in a special Blu-Ray edition from the lunatics at Scream Factory (in conjunction with Warner Bros. Home Entertainment).

The movie is notorious for its creators’ approach to a sure-fire sequel. Except the “can’t-miss” title infamously missed.  It was literally laughed off the screen during its initial release, and trashed by critics like so many Jimi Hendrix guitars.  I never quite understood all the hostility (I kinda do now, and will explain below).

Top-billed Linda Blair returns as Regan, an understandably troubled teen residing in a goofy Manhattan rehab center for screwball offspring of wealthier screwball adults.  Since the original movie’s star Ellen Burstyn wouldn’t touch this project with a ten-foot crucifix, the suits remarkably took 1970s wags’ advice:  if you can’t get Burstyn, get the knock-off, Louise Fletcher.  So LF’s the surrogate mom/shrink who runs the fruitcake hostel.  She’s also the inventor of a revolutionary “thought shared hypnosis transfer” machine (basically, an electrode-laden headband in desperate search of a colander) rendering results that George Zucco and Lionel Atwill could only dream about.

Entering this asylum is Cardinal-ordered Father Philip Lamont (the loopiest Richard Burton ever), a near-unhinged priest, obsessed with exorcism and, in particular, the Regan case.  I don’t think one could actually call what Burton does in this pic “acting,” at least not in the traditional sense.  It’s more like “braying” of the jackass variety (and one who’s been in the loco weed).  When Burton tries on the brain device to exchange thoughts with Regan, it’s a bona fide Looney Tune fest (apt, from the studio that made them), and practically just as animated.

Regan, on the other hand, sees her new life as the half-full glass.  She’s so terminally dippy throughout that Blair’s performance can only be described as “deliriously possessed Doris Day”; indeed, she even gets to dance in the nuthouse’s Christmas revue, clod-hopping to Lullaby of Broadway (replete with a choreography credit to Daniel Joseph Giaghi, who should have remained anonymous).

There are so many unintentional movie references in HERETIC that it’s difficult to keep track.  I’ll go with my favorite:  Regan’s homage to Blockheads, the 1938 Laurel & Hardy classic.  Remember that hilarious moment when Ollie is reunited with Stan twenty years after the Great War?  “Remember how dumb I used to be?,” sez Laurel.  “Well, I’m better now.”  Ollie soothes his pal, only until Stan causes immense slapstick havoc and destruction prompting the magnificent Hardy to mutter “I’m BETTER now.” Okay, so Regan, it seems, can now communicate with autistic children.  When she finally gets one to speak, the stunned former mute (not making this up – it’s Dana Plato!), asks “What’s the matter with you?”  And here comes (at least in my demented mind) the reference. “I was possessed by a demon.  Oh, it’s okay.  He’s gone.”  If only Father Burton had been present, so that he could later bemoan “I’m BETTER now!”  That said, during the pyrotechnic SFX gala climax, he does get to be pushin’ the cushion with a devil-controlled slutted-up Regan, an action that only Stan and Ollie hinted at in Their First Mistake.

But there’s more of a subplot (to compensate for subtext) to HERETIC.  And it involves A) the King of the Demons, Pazuzu and B) his nemesis Kokumu, a gifted African boy Burton had heard of (and must find to save Regan).  You see, the late Father Merrin (Max von Sydow in a flashback return appearance), only frightened the hell out of Regan’s uninvited visitor.  The wascally malignancy still lives inside her – rent free.  This is what Padre Lamont must address, and release.  Kokumo, we learn, is currently (depending upon which alternative universe you choose to occupy) a grown human God or a modern physicist; both are impersonated by James Earl Jones and each visited in startling fashion by Burton.

It is at this juncture that we additionally are apprised of the Good Locust and the Bad Locust, an Oz-ian nod that only the director of Zardoz could have envisioned.  Oh, did I say that this is a John Boorman picture?  Well, it is, and fully decked out in all his visually splendid tricks, expertise and cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffery.

And here lies the problem I alluded to earlier, the tanking of HERETIC.  The original Exorcist terrified millions of moviegoers worldwide because of its realistic slant, the fact that William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel truly seemed plausible.  HERETIC doesn’t capitalize on this factor, but instead goes for a dark fairy-tale angle, right down to the quite ethereal (if not noisy), and genuinely lovely final imagery of Blair and Burton.  Had the movie not been hyped as a sequel, the weirdness of this whole megillah might have passed muster.  There’s no way anyone can take this seriously, nor probably should.  Keeping this mindset, HERETIC is quite a thrilling joyride, brilliantly cinematic (thanks to the superb d.p. William A. Fraker and the always inventive Boorman), and, in the deranged hands of writers William Goodhart and (an uncredited) Rospo Pallenberg, hopelessly amusing.  Certainly, this horror show is more akin to the director’s fantasy arenas of Point Blank and Excalibur, rather than Deliverance or Hell in the Pacific.

The other cast members certainly deserve mention.  Fletcher, for her kinder, gentler medical practitioner (as the Burstyn wannabee Dr. Gene Tuskin), is best termed as Ratched-Doesn’t-Live-Here-Anymore.  And, as another original Exorcist alumnus, Kitty Winn as Sharon Spencer sadly and creepily becomes taken over by Mephistophelian nasties causing her to look and act like a Satanic Marcia Clark.  The only authentic touch of dignity is Paul Henreid, as the Cardinal who orders Burton to “investigate the circumstances involving the death of Father Merrin” (and then regrets it).

SIDEBAR:  I recently spoke with the actor’s daughter, Monika Henreid, who revealed that when Warners first phoned their Casablanca star to appear in the pic, he absolutely refused.  They continued to call, and he continued to hang up.  Finally, a beleaguered production assistant weakly asked how much would it take for the thesp to do the two-day part?  Henreid thought he had the upper hand, and shot back with a pie-in-sky figure.  The assistant hung up, and shortly thereafter, Warners agreed to Henreid’s terms.  “DAMN IT, now I have to do this film!” shouted celebrated veteran actor/director.  That said, once shooting started, he thoroughly enjoyed himself.  “My father was raised as a Roman Catholic, so he knew how to work those robes and admitted he had a lot of fun with the part.”  It was his last screen appearance.

Boorman himself admitted the movie’s failure despite his original intention (“the idea of making a metaphysical thriller greatly appealed to my psyche”); of course, we know all too well what often happens to good intentions when combined with Hell infrastructure.  True, in the series franchise, HERETIC should really not exist; it’s strictly “Go Directly to Legion” (but only the restored Blatty version/edition).

Weighing all the aforementioned pros (direction, photography, the daft premise), HERETIC’s fans can enthusiastically cap off this I Scream Sunday with the ultimate movie cherry on top:  an absolutely gorgeous score by Ennio Morricone.  The haunting main theme that melodiously drifts in and out of the narrative and plays over the end credits is a thing of beauty to behold (or is it to behear?).

The two-platter Scream Factory/Warner Bros. restoration of EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC looks pretty good, although occasionally replicating the “peachy,” muted look that seemingly plagued most Seventies American movies.  One disc is the 102-minute 1977 theatrical release, the other an elongated director’s cut that adds fifteen minutes to the insanity (it’s the one to go with).  Both versions have been remastered in new 2K High Definition scans (there’s also an option of the original mono track and a stereo-surround remix).

A number of great extras complete the package, including audio commentary from John Boorman, interviews with Linda Blair and the pic’s editor Tom Priestley, the theatrical trailer, and a still and poster gallery (including shots from deleted scenes).

So there you have it, one of my many guilty pleasures (except perhaps these days, NOT so guilty).  I think you might find some gruesome laffs as well, should you choose to revisit this much-maligned freak show.  Of course, this is coming from someone who is one of the few to have actually liked Alien Covenant, but that’s another story.

EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC.  Color.  Widescreen [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Scream Factory/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. CAT # SF 18987. SRP: $34.95.

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Halloween Blitz 18: The Blair-Rich Project

“…A supernatural detective story…” That’s how author/screenwriter William Peter Blatty termed the hook for his 1971 groundbreaking novel The Exorcist. Pronounced unproduceable by Hollywood wags, the eventual 1973 celluloid result not only proved the naysaying party-poopers wrong, but ended up becoming one of the biggest box-office hits of all time.

As a fan of 1949’s Alias Nick Beal (wherein Ray Milland essayed a film-noirish Satan), I was wholly (if not holy) on-board. The movie, as realized by then-wunderkind William Friedkin – okay, two paragraphs in, and I already can no longer avoid the cliche – certainly sent heads spinning, raking in dough, begatin’ two official sequels (which, for different reasons, I both hold dear to my black little heart), and basically becoming responsible for an entire sub-genre in (where else?) Italy.

Originally THE EXORCIST didn’t exactly wow me. It didn’t take the five-deep lines queued around the blocks to inform me that I was in the minority. Damn, this pic even sent the older generation back to the movies (it was one of three post-1970 flicks that I remember my parents and their friends actively seeking out…the other two being the reasonable Airport and the dirty-old-pervert-friendly Basic Instinct nearly twenty years later). I thought it was missing something; furthermore, I wasn’t thrilled with the look of the movie, thinking it way too grainy and washed-out…There was no reason, I reasoned, that the AIP blaxploitation rip-off Abby (can’t beat that Adolph Caesar trailer narration: “The DEVIL is her lover NOW!”) looked better than its fifty-times-the-budget sourcework.

Little did I know the crazed politics behind the making of THE EXORCIST – in part due to the crazed mind of Friedkin, the Warner Bros. suits and the decade’s overall deteriorating lab work (the movie, unlike many contemporary WB titles, was not printed in the soon-to-be obsolete Technicolor process, but in, aptly, God-awful Metrocolor).

Much of this controversy is covered in the truly outstanding THE EXORCIST: EXTENDED DIRECTOR’S CUT AND ORIGINAL THEATRICAL VERSION (say that five times fast and add twelve Hail Marys), available on Blu-Ray from Warner Home Video.

Friedkin’s Director’s Cut, which adds approximately ten minutes to the 122-minute length, isn’t exactly all his – he makes concessions to author/scenarist Blatty…and that’s a major restoration point.

Scenes cut in 1973 comprised suggestions and decisions from WB exec John Calley and (later) Friedkin himself. Some are understandable – in fact, they even now aren’t really necessary…but TWO totally helped change my take on the movie…and should never have been removed. One is a brief eye-popping moment of Linda Blair’s character doing a back-flipped speeded-up spider crawl down a staircase whilst spewing blood. Although admittedly today this is not as outrageous a behavioral display when factoring in 2018 information superhighway technology (I can swear that I’ve seen House GOP Darrell Issa do the same thing on MSNBC), but back then it would have rivaled the 360-degree melon spin and the pea soup rendition of the Danny Thomas spit take (and I mean spit).

But that’s all freak-show stuff; the key sequence is an amazing scene – beautifully shot – between exorcist Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) and faith-questioning Father Karras (Jason Miller), also on a staircase (perhaps Friedkin had a nasty escalator experience in his youth). In this segment, the two discuss the nature of belief…how could God love us if He could allow such terrible things to happen to one of His flock? It really IS the purpose of the entire movie, including Von Sydow’s simple “do you get it now?” explanation. I won’t go into it – however, it makes it clear that the child is NOT the victim. Blatty went into a furor when he saw Friedkin’s edit, screaming that the director “…cut the heart and soul out.” And he did. The two didn’t speak for decades, finally reconciling during the movie’s meticulous restoration. Friedkin, in a second audio commentary (and in one of the handful of supplemental documentaries), still maintains he was right…that by including that scene, the power of the movie is diluted. This stubborn exhibition of insanity was further highlighted in 2013’s entertaining feature-length Warners doc Tales from the Warner Bros. Lot where interviewed EXORCIST sound recordist Chris Newman deemed Friedkin “certifiable,” both then and now.

I do have to mention the refurbished look of THE EXORCIST. True, cinematographer Owen Roizman was going for a you-are-there-documentary feel, but I don’t think he really aspired to infringe upon Crown-International territory or, worse, plummet into the Kroger Babb abyss.

Suffice to say that the Blu-Ray looks crystal-clear astonishing, like a real mega-buck movie should…with actual flesh tones and an accurate color spectrum. And way less grain (although some scenes DID need the available light rendering). At last THE EXORCIST doesn’t look as if it had been Chemtoned to death.

Since 1973, the people who inhabit THE EXORCIST have pissed me off with their whiny compromised religious beliefs and disbeliefs. This was mostly relegated toward Ellen Burstyn’s character. Hey, your daughter has Satan inside her. DEAL with it! Frankly, I figured that between the three-way battle for the girl (priests, birth mother and Mephistopheles), Beelzebub wins talons down since, after all, possession IS 9/10 of the law.

I was also confused by the hoopla surrounding Linda Blair…mainly that the moguls were concerned about her uttering some of the dialogue. So, let me get this straight, it’s okay to have her masturbating with a crucifix, but let’s get someone else to dub the four-letter epithets…Granted, if you are determined to go that way – you can’t do better than Mercedes McCambridge…Nevertheless once you smash your mother’s mouth into your bloodied vagina and (deservedly) play jai alai with a shrink’s testicles, shouting “Fuck me!” doesn’t seem that extreme. Then again, I haven’t understood the Hollywood mindset since they first signed Keefe Brasselle.

Admittedly, Linda Blair remains the one iconic human EXORCIST participant…and this, I’m convinced, was a Godsend. Exposing Blair to the most horrific, degenerate acts she could fathom was the best pre-Rick James prep the young actress could have received, prior to the advent Craigslist.

The only character I personally identified with was investigating cop Lt. Kinderman; the reasons are obvious: A), he’s a classic movie fanatic and B), he’s portrayed by (a toupee-less) Lee J. Cobb. Although let’s be brutally honest:  every mortal soul on Earth needs to be concerned when Lee J. Cobb embodies the calmest and most rational member of any undertaking.

It’s nice to know that I pretty much agree with Blatty on everything. As ferocious as the devil-made-me-do-it moments (flipiscus wilsonis) are, the most nightmarish memories in THE EXORCIST derive from the sequences depicting Blair undergoing excruciating medical procedures within the sterile confines of a modern hospital operating room. It’s what freaked him out…and still does (ditto moi).  I was amazed at how much suffering they put her through before wondering about the last resort possibility of an exorcism…Even more perplexing to me is whether or not demonic possession is a pre-existing condition. I’m sure this also greatly disturbed Miller’s conflicted Father Karras, whose specific vocation is priest/psychiatrist – certainly the most contradictory job title after Celebrity Intellectual Property Law.

The aforementioned documentaries are almost as fetching as the Director’s Cut (which, to me, is the only way to go; purists can still access the 1973 edition, which is, as the set’s title indicates, also included). BEYOND COMPREHENSION, a half-hour look back with Blatty, is partially filmed in the cabin where he wrote the novel, interestingly an abode he rented from Angela Lansbury (for $70 a month!). Blatty effectively reads excerpts from his book, and recounts, with some mirth, the writing process – plus the dealings with publishers, Warner Bros., an ex-wife and other non-demonic tribulations.

TALK OF THE DEVIL presents a rare B&W Seventies interview with Father Eugene Gallagher, the priest who first told Blatty (during his student days at Georgetown University) of the 1949 case history which inspired the novel and movie. Filmed shortly after the movie took off, Gallagher proves a worthy subject, injecting sardonic humor into the unfunny events which ultimately changed the cultural landscape. Best (for me) is his skepticism – not at exorcism per se – but at cut-up Blatty’s initial inquiries into the case. Gallagher thought his student, a notorious practical joker, was kidding.  When the Father later on heard that Blatty was actually writing a book based on the ’49 episode, he nervously believed it would be a send-up…along the lines of some of the writer’s screen work, such as the Blake Edwards comedies or John Goldfarb, Please Come Home. That said, there are some chilling exorcism revelations – though none as frightening as interviewer Mike Siegel’s period mutton chops.

Of the other EXORCIST extras, including trailers, TV/radio spots, a 40-page Friedkin account of the movie (adapted from his recent autobiography, The Friedkin Connection) and a featurette on location shooting, two mini-docs stand out: BEHIND-THE-SCENES OF THE EXORCIST and RAISING HELL: FILMING THE EXORCIST. While some of this has been discussed above, I can’t underline enough their relevant value to SFX fans, due greatly to the filmmakers’ foresight to have a special unit chronicling much of the movie’s production. This footage is appended by interviews with Blatty, Roizman, Blair, Newman and Friedkin.

There are workprint clips from scenes that couldn’t go into the 2010 Version You’ve Never Seen because of the disappearance of original picture and sound – most bizarrely a Casablanca ending between Cobb and actual Jesuit theologist William O’Malley.

Of course nothing could delight armchair Satanists more than seeing Linda Blair dummies rotating and floatating or Newman discussing how to find the proper sound a rosary cross makes when repeatedly pounded into a girl’s vagina.  Are you listening, North Carolina?

And while we’re on the subject of sound, one must take note of the masterful remix into 6.1 surround (for the Director’s Cut) and 5.1 for the theatrical version (released in mono, I believe). The jump-out-of-your-seat sound effects are pretty great while the audio nicely presents Jack Nitzsche’s score, and, natch Mike Oldfield’s now-seminal Tubular Bells tinkle (what I prefer to call “Love Theme from The Exorcist”).

I close with one personal reminiscence. I was at NYU when THE EXORCIST first premiered, ensconced in their highly-touted Film Department. One of my fellow students was Dave Smith, son of the picture’s SFX artist extraordinaire Dick Smith. I vividly recall the day Dave brought in the life-sized Linda Blair devil-doll, and prominently propped it up in the Equipment Office. This deeply disturbed us all, primarily as “she” was way more animated than any of the usual vomiting/head-twisting employees currently working there.

THE EXORCIST EXTENDED DIRECTOR’S CUT AND ORIGINAL THEATRICAL VERSION.  Color.  Letterboxed [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; 6.1 DTS-HD MA stereo-surround [Extended Director’s Cut]; 5.1 DTS-HD MA stereo-surround [Theatrical Version]. CAT # 3000052989.  SRP:  $34.99.

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Halloween Blitz 18: The Working Dead

If not the craziest, certainly the most different horror flick in recent years is Japan’s cult director SABU’s 2013 pic MISS ZOMBIE, now on Blu-Ray from Kino-Lorber/Redemption.

Scary, disturbing, funny and (yep, gotta say it) poignant, MISS ZOMBIE is a flesh-biting social commentary on 2010s culture that, while thoroughly original, belongs in a top pantheon group with such other recent worthy titles as Lucky McKee’s The Woman, Justin Benson’s and Aaron Moorehead’s Spring, Robert Eggers’ The Witch, and Henry Hobson’s Maggie.

The movie takes the rabid contagion of zombiefectation quite contrarily.  It’s years since the zombie holocaust and life has essentially returned to normal – with a few codicils.  This is dramatized by the Terramoto family, a successful doctor (Toru Tezuka), his beautiful, loving wife (Makoto Togashi), and bright, adoring son (Riku Ohnishi).  When one of the doctor’s former patients can’t pay a bill (he’s an incarcerated career criminal), he has one of his contacts send the Terramotos a special package.  Inside is the reanimated body of Sara (Ayaka Komatsu), a stunning, recently infected zombie.  This causes an uproar with his building’s tenant association, as they have strict rules about zombies and pets.  Terramoto, reading an enclosed note, salves the tensions by explaining Sara is a Level One Z, in other words harmless, unless given meat.  She is the ideal servant.  And so it goes.

Spending a day scrubbing each stone of an immense patio, Sara does her tasks (without pay, natch) to the condescending approval of Mrs. Terramoto.  Unfortunately, commuting presents an additional problem since the local teens “mean girl” the living corpse unmercifully as she shuffles to and from work.

The thing about Level One is that the afflicted, while outwardly immune to human reaction, still retain memories.  Sara spends her sleepless, catatonic nights reliving her last moments, happily pregnant by her boyfriend before being attacked on the roadside by full-blown zombies.

Sara’s good looks don’t fail to lure the braindead human hired help either. They begin to fantasize about having sex with her.  And, since there is no law about raping zombies, the thuggish slobs decide to make this dream a reality.  Zombie sex means nothing to Sara, save it records another memory stored for the day she may be given edible meat.  Even Dr. Terramoto takes advantage of the necrophilia perks of zombie malaise, not realizing that Sara forgets nothing.

When tragedy strikes the family, the up-till-now calm and docile Mrs. T. loses it, and seeks Miss Zombie’s help.  As in the best horror outings, things do not end according to plan.

While some may find the pacing a bit slow (that’s how Level One zombies roll), those who stick with the 85-minute running time of this movie will be aptly rewarded.  MISS ZOMBIE goes against the grain of its multitude of flesh-eating competitors.  Primarily, it’s spectacularly shot in black-and-white (save a special color sequence).  The performances are (dare I say?) dead on, right down to little Ohnishi.  It is Komatsu’s presence, however, that fuels this movie.

Of course, it’s SABU’s take on the zombie phenomenon that pushes this pic over the top and the edge.  SABU (aka Hiroyuki Tanaka) is, for those unfamiliar with the artiste, not the reincarnation of the famed Indian star of The Thief of Bagdad (although he may have snatched the moniker from same); he is the award-winning director-writer of such beloved “out there” movies as Postman Blues, Unlucky Monkey, Hard Luck Hero, Hold-up Down, Dead Run and The Crab Cannery ShipMISS ZOMBIE is the perfect introduction to his universe, and should bring the talented writer/director legions of new fans.

The aforementioned stark, crisp monochrome photography, too, needs a big thumbs up – and, thus, we give kudos to Daisuke Soma.  The bare-bones track (there is no music) adds to the ominous audio atmosphere (in Japanese with English subtitles).  Well, that and the fact that the entire point of MISS ZOMBIE is that when it comes to Level One, the real monsters are the humans. But, then again, they always are.

MISS ZOMBIE.  Black and white (with color sequence).  Widescreen [2.35:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Kino-Lorber/Redemption.  CAT# K22775.  SRP: $29.95.

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Halloween Blitz 18: Rip to the Chase

It has long been a favorite activity of Victorian mystery fans to pit Conan Doyle’s fictional detective Sherlock Holmes against the very real Jack the Ripper.  1979’s TIME AFTER TIME, now on Blu-Ray from the Warner Archive Collection, went one way better.  Writer/director Nicholas Meyer (working from a Karl Alexander/Steve Hayes story) created a new battle between two genuine 19th century Londoners:  the aforementioned Whitechapel Killer and author H.G. Wells (a marvelous performance by Malcolm McDowell).  Adding sauce to Saucy Jack’s heinous activities, the clever movie-makers threw in the visionary writer’s famed time machine narrative.

The Ripper (an insidiously charming David Warner) is one of a quorum of brains who regularly congregate at Wells’ abode to discuss world events, theories dear to the writer (women’s liberation, free love, a world without war) and engage in chess.  The Ripper (aka, Dr. John Stevenson) always bests H.G. (“I know how he thinks”).  This becomes crucial.

When Wells gets the courage to show off his newly constructed “travel” device, the (have to say it) timing couldn’t be more perfect.  The police are closing in and have tracked the murderer to the Wells residence.  Always a step ahead, Stevenson escapes into the future, but without a crucial key which brings the machine back the H.G.’s laboratory.  Feeling responsible, the brilliant scientist/writer/philosopher/inventor propels himself into infinity to find and return the infamous psychopath to justice.  The machine lands him smack dab in 1979 San Francisco, and here begins one of the most original and enjoyable movies of that decade.

The premise is, of course, fantastic; ditto the movie and its participants.  H.G., finding Amy, a liberated female (the great Mary Steenburgen), at a currency exchange department of a local bank, creates an essential love interest.  She finds the geeky, awkward Victorian Almond Joy irresistibly delicious.  He is charmed by her feminism and even forwardness (“My God, Herbert, I’m practically raping you!” she tells the reserved Londoner who questions whether he’s being a bit too forward).  But, naturally, there’s dire business that must be attended to, and romance takes a bumpy backseat to the cat and mouse stalking between the two adversaries.

The chemistry between McDowell and Warner is almost as combustible as the one between McDowell and Steenburgen (the latter spilled over off-screen as well; the two became an item, and married shortly after the pic’s completion, in 1980 – a union that lasted a decade, or a century in Hollywood dog years.  You can actually see the two fall in love, another wonderful perk of this sci-fi/horror joyride).  While obviously not romantic, the Wells/Stevenson relationship is one of dangerous respect – each knowing what the other is capable of (a real life chess match).  Warner, giggling at the violence on TV (visceral crime shows, sports and the news) feels as liberated as Steenburgen’s 1970s woman.  In one of many terrific exchanges, Stevenson jubilantly tells H.G. that he has finally found his nirvana (“’WE’ don’t belong here? On the contrary, Herbert.  I belong here completely and utterly.  I’m home…Ninety years ago, I was a freak.  Today I’m an amateur.”).

There is fun, too, via a healthy dose of humor to alleviate the tension, in TIME AFTER TIME.  This mostly revolves around Wells’ attempts to master 1970s speak and culture, the best bit being his trying to order a meal at McDonald’s (the audience roared at this sequence in 1979; it’s just as funny now).

TIME AFTER TIME was sumptuously filmed on-location by Paul Lohmann.  The Blu-Ray does his rich compositions justice.   Many of the scenes mirror another great SF thriller, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, including scenes shot at Muir Woods, Lombard Street and the Palace of Fine Arts. Totally intentional.  The supporting cast is excellent as well, including Charles Cioffi (as a frustrated 1979 police inspector, who has the great line, “First Zodiac, now this!”), Patti D’Arbanville, Karin Collinson, Joseph Maher, Michael Evans and, as a precocious 8-year-old at an H.G. Wells museum exhibit, Corey Feldman .  Meyer’s direction is spot-on, and features a surprisingly gory amount of hacking and bloodletting.

The one remaining superb factor that blasts TIME AFTER TIME into the classic mode is the glorious score by Miklos Rozsa.  Recalling his film noir masterpieces, Dr. Rozsa’s beautiful music likewise will have you tear up at the pic’s absolutely ingenious and poignant windup.

The Warner Archive Blu-Ray of TIME AFTER TIME has (dare I say) gone the distance.  It’s a sensational 1080p transfer, and is loaded with some nifty extras including audio commentary by McDowell and Meyer.  The soundtrack was recorded in Dolby stereo, still a rarity in 1979, and is faithfully and nicely replicated.  LSS, TIME AFTER TIME, after nearly forty years, remains a daring but thoroughly rewarding trip well worth taking.

TIME AFTER TIME.  Color.  Widescreen [2.35:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Warner Archive Collection/Warner Home Entertainment.  CAT # 1000631706.  SRP: $21.99.

Available from the Warner Archive Collection:  http://www.wbshop.com/warnerarchive or online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays® are sold.

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Halloween Blitz 18: Bravo Bava

It’s always a pleasure to be able to discuss exceptional Blu-Rays. When they’re in the horror genre, so much the better.  If they are movies directed by the great Mario Bava, it’s “Hey, I must be dreaming.  Collecting doesn’t get much more of a perk than this!”  And so there you have it.  It’s with unbridled admiration and gushing awe I announce that Kino, in association with 20th Century-Fox/MGM Studios, Euro London Films Ltd., Scorpion Releasing and International Media Films Inc. have made available to us rabid Bava fans, four of the master’s seminal works, each in a spectacularly restored edition loaded with goodies.

The quartet, comprising BLACK SABBATH, THE WHIP AND THE BODY, PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and KILL, BABY…KILL! span the years 1963-66. Suffice to say, they are securely etched into the tableau that showcases Italy’s Golden Age of Horror.  Each is uniquely different, yet contains all of the Bava essentials, each expanded upon the limits then set (often by Bava himself) on the genre and each is a Blu-Ray library must-have.

Bava is such an interesting character.  One cannot do him justice in a brief piece such as this.  That is best left to his Boswell, the prolific and scholarly writer Tim Lucas (who does audio commentary on all four titles).  Let me state that Mario Bava is not only one of the finest directors/cinematographers the horror genre has ever produced, but one cinema’s most underrated directors/cameramen, period.  When looking at his entire body of work, it’s amazing that it all came out of one human organism.  Bava was a producer’s blessing – able to infuse Grade A production values on a shoestring budget.  He could exquisitely light and shoot a sequence seething with macabre atmosphere seemingly within minutes.  When it came to camera work and lighting, the greater the problem, the more he liked it.

Bava, while firmly entrenched within the horror genre, was nevertheless adept at pretty much any type of movie thrown at him.  He directed peplum muscleman epics (Erik the Conqueror, Knives of the Avenger), comedies (Four Times that Night), spaghetti westerns (Savage Gringo, Roy Colt & Winchester Jack), suspense thrillers (The Girl Who Knew Too Much)…you name it

But it’s undeniably the horror genre, affording him the phantasmagorical spectrum of creative opportunities, for which he is deservedly best remembered and honored.  Within the horror universe itself, he pioneered the sci-fi gore fests, superhero adventures, the giallo chillers and the splatter pics – and, in doing so, prefigured such iconic works as Alien, Deep Red and Friday the 13th.

His movies often combated the ranges of censorship throughout the globe; thus, distributors frequently chopped up his art like so many of the victims in the narratives.  They even changed the titles thought too salacious to get a general release (What?!, as you’ll see below, is an excellent example).

Bava’s work is obviously influential, and has fueled the minds of such diverse figures as Martin Scorcese, Dario Argento, Quentin Tarantino, Roman Polanski, Ridley Scott and others. With his trademark use of surreal lighting, color filters, comic-book compositions and quicksilver editing, Mario Bava has, to use to oft-turned phrase, been copied, but rarely surpassed.  And here are four superb examples why.

 

It was inevitable that both Bava’s Italian backers and AIP would want to follow up their 1960 smash Black Sunday.  And, thus, it came to pass, via the 1963 omnibus masterpiece…what else?  BLACK SABBATH.

Now, there’s a controversy over which version is preferable, as the Italian and American editions vary greatly.  Both are available on Blu-Ray through Kino.  The differences, other than an English language track and Italian with English subtitles, comprise another title (I tre Volti della Paura, or, The Three Faces of Fear), a reversal of order in which the stories are presented, a big BOO! comical ending and a superior music score (Roberto Nicolosi, as opposed to the godawful Les Baxter track).  Personally, I vote for the Italian cut.

That said, the AIP edition is the version I obviously saw back in the 1960s, and, I gotta say, it scared the hell out of me.  The first story, A Drop of Water (the one that terrified me for years) concerns a mercenary nurse (Jacqueline Pierreux) who steals jewelry off her deceased patient…and lives to regret it.  A modern midsection, The Telephone, is a giallo-esque play mixed with the supernatural, as the executed lover of the woman (Michele Mercier) (she sold him out) receives hellish nightly phone calls from the vengeful ghost.  It creeped me out to no end. The finale, The Wurdalak, is the epic piece that usually gets all the critical juice.  It stars the trilogy’s narrator, Boris Karloff, as the head of a Slovak household beset by wurdalaks – basically an ancient Russian term for “vampire.”  Karloff himself becomes infected, and the scenes where he haunts his own family are truly unnerving.  A stranger (Mark Damon) arrives to help, but it may be too late.  A vampirized child also provides one of the pic’s most chilling moments, setting the stage for the maestro’s later KILL, BABY, KILL!

The writing is based on various sources and a literary sham.  The first story is falsely credited to Chekov, the second to Guy de Maupassant, also not so; the final tale is, we are told, from a story by Tolstoy; this is deceptively true, as it’s by Alexei, not Leo.  Never mind, the movie writing by Alberto Bevilacqua, Marcello Fondato and Bava perfectly keeps the tension and terror on an even keel.   The superb mood color photography is beautifully realized by Ubaldo Terzano and, not surprisingly, with tweaks from auteur Bava.  And, of course, the maestro’s direction is flawless.  Top names, besides Karloff, add greatly to the overall effect of the monstrous goings-on, specifically the aforementioned wonderful actresses Mercier and Pierreux.

The Kino Blu-ray of the AIP version, presented in its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is terrific; ditto, the mono audio, even with that atrocious Baxter music.

 

1963’s THE WHIP AND THE BODY is one of the most extraordinary horror movies from Italy’s supernatural Golden Age.  Much of this is due to the freeing of the reins involving unbridled sexuality and outward kinkiness.  For bondage and discipline fans, this is as good as it got in 1963.

WHIP (aka La Frusta e il Corpo, or, The Whip and the Flesh) is a dark, gothic tale of obsession and revenge.  From the admittedly demented pen of giallo master Ernesto Gastaldi, WHIP tells the nasty story of evil personified in a remote castle of perverted noblemen (and women).  The chaotic house of Menliff, presided over by a domineering Count (Gustavo De Nardo) has, at last, settled down to convivial family relationships.  That is, until banished wastrel son Kurt (Christopher Lee in one of his wickedest and most frightening performances) arrives to reclaim his heritage.  Not of title or wealth, but the body of the luscious Nevenka (an amazing Daliah Lavi, in her greatest screen appearance).  Nevenka was formerly Kurt’s lover and love slave – a submissive partner who despises him for what he brings out in her and can’t stop wanting him for the pleasure she derives from it.  Double snap, Nevenka is now wed to docile, near-impotent Christian (Tony Kendall), Kurt’s brother.  It’s a nice, non-explosive liaison.  No fireworks, nary a spark.

The other women in the household, also former lovers of master Kurt, are still jealous of Nevenka’s masochistic passion for the returned bro, even though another woman who succumbed to his art of violent love committed suicide.  While out horseback riding, Nevenka is confronted by Kurt, who rapes her into a consensual display of their former sadistic addiction.  It’s not a rape after all, but a revision of their role-playing fatal attraction.  She, too never returns.

The castle inhabitants form search parties for the missing noblewoman, while nefarious doings are unleashed from within.  Eventually they find the semi-conscious, semi-nude Nevenka on the beach, covered in welts, and joyously return her to Menliff Manor and her benign spouse.  A series of murders ensue, including those of Kurt and the Count.

And that’s just when this movie begins.  Awash in mood colors, and spectacular compositions (in 1.78:1), THE WHIP AND THE BODY is a textbook of fetishes artistically displayed in all their haunting beauty.  It could be Bava’s most personal pic, piling on his own primal desires, mainly beautiful, adventurous women, horses, and romance by way of Erich von Stroheim (and the Marquis de Sade).  That Nevenka can’t fathom Kurt’s death (concurrently feeling blessed and abandoned) is one of the screen’s premiere depictions of sexual addiction, ultimately yearning so much for his reanimated presence that it comes to pass.

Reliving the creepiest moments from such pics as The Beast with Five Fingers, Kurt’s crypt shows nocturnal activity to warrant now seriously disturbed Nevenka’s belief that the black-hearted Menliff has indeed risen from the tomb to claim her; not able to live without her, Kurt cannot die without her.

It’s no stretch to state that THE WHIP AND THE BODY felt many stings of censorship during its 1963 release.  Some countries out-and-out banned it.  Others compromised the existing footage to the point where little of it made sense.  In America, even AIP wouldn’t touch it.  The eventual U.S. distributors (who trimmed a hefty chunk of celluloid out of their cut) even distanced themselves from the title.  It was released here, on a limited run, under the title What?!

Suffice to say, Kino Lorber has gone through (dare we say?) pains to restore THE WHIP AND THE BODY to its full, uncut glory.  This complete 87-minute version is accessible in its dubbed English language edition, or the French (it was a coproduction) and original Italian editions (the latter two with English subtitles).  In addition, there are also trailers to a slew of Bava pics.  Best of all is the beauty of Ubaldo Terzano’s sinisterly, dark Technicolor visuals (with Bava’s assist) and Carlo Rusticelli’s sumptuous, symphonic score.  In its own perverted way, THE WHIP AND THE BODY is one of the most romantic horror movies ever made.

 

One of the most interesting and underrated entries in Bava’s canon is the fascinating 1965 horror sci-fi hybrid PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, arguably one of the greatest movie titles of all time.

In this thoroughly weird near Giger-esque extravaganza, a star fleet, commanded by Captain Barry Sullivan, lands on a supposed desolate planet.  The sense of evil visually is a doppelganger for the director’s Balkan landscape in BLACK SABBATH; unfortunately, no one on board the ships had the good sense to have even seen that movie, so off they go to explore.  The remnants of Mephistophelian creatures start the red flags popping, but it’s too late.  An earlier expedition has already succumbed to a fast-moving plague:  causing all living things to attack and kill each other.  But were that only the end of it; au contraire, this merely begins the cycle of alien hosts taking over the corpses and “initiating” new victims.  Although more Planet of the Body Snatchers than vampires, it’s still a valid moniker, and one brought home by Bava’s expert cinematic skills of perfectly melding the two genres via a style that does bold homage to futuristic high-tech and gothic nightmarish imagery.

The ending, while not entirely unpredictable, is nevertheless bone chilling.  The script is one of the best Bava ever worked with, thanks to IB Melchior (with uncredited touchups from Robert Skitak; AIP’s Louis Heyward received co-writing credit, but essentially only contributed the superbly exploitative American title. The script was based upon the story One Night of 21 Hours by Renato Pestrinaro).  The camerawork, of course, is masterful, thanks to Antonio Rinaldi (and Bava) and the music by Gino Marinuzzi, Jr., appropriately eerie.  BIG PLUS:  it’s one of the best-looking of the Kino Bava discs, and comes with a nice cache of extras.  Useless trivia sidebar:  I originally saw PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES in 1966, while on summer vacation in New Jersey.  It was at a drive-in, where it played as the co-feature with Nevada Smith.  It is one of my most memorable movie nights of my life.

 

The only thing more unnerving than creepy children’s dolls in horror movies are creepy children themselves or, more precisely, their ghosts.  Expounding upon a theme previously toyed with in BLACK SABBATH is the terrifying crux of KILL, BABY…KILL! (or Operazione Paura: Operation Fear), Bava’s 1966 gothic supernatural suspense thriller.  If THE WHIP AND THE BODY paid homage to Hammer, BABY does same to director Ingmar Bergman and d.p. Sven Nyquist.  The gorgeously shot movie is awash with striking imagery of silhouettes across the horizon featuring coffin-carrying villagers, dramatically lit cobwebbed crawlspaces and more.  Suffice to say, this, along with Danger: Diabolik, are my two favorite Bavas.

BABY grabs you by the throat from frame one, and doesn’t let go.  A local woman (Mirella Panfili) is murdered in Grand Guignol style, as the chilling disembodied laughter of a child is heard echoing on the soundtrack.

A noted coroner (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) is called in to perform an autopsy, as the victim was not the first to be mysteriously murdered.  A coin is discovered in the woman’s heart, and thus commences strange events that convert the scoffing science-oriented medical professional into a believer.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he is aided by two stunning women, a trained practical nurse (the great Erika Blanc – be still my heart) and a sorceress (Fabienne Dali).  The culprit seems to be a deceased girl, one of the Carpathian village’s members of the aristocracy.  As the police officials join the hunt, the noose tightens – although not necessarily around the demons.  The denouement is truly a shocker, involving a horrifying secret, satanic minions and, natch, the freaky little girl-ghoul herself.

The script by Bava, Romano Migliorini, and Roberto Natale (from a story by Migliorini and Natale) is excellent.  While this Blu-ray contains both the English-dubbed and original Italian-language version (with English subtitles), I absolutely recommend the latter.  The photography, as indicated earlier, is spectacular, thanks to the sensational use of Calcata (an authentic surviving medieval Italian village) locations by Bava and Antonio Rinaldi.  The Carlo Rusticelli music is very good, although not up to his previous scores.

There is a plethora of terrific extras, including a documentary featuring Lamberto Bava (the director’s son and the a.d. on BABY), a German title sequence with alternate footage, American TV spots, plus the international theatrical trailer.  The best supplement is a newly produced featurette with Ms. Blanc, who, as in her published interviews, proves to be riotously funny (and sexy).  At 76, the still-glamourous actress is so engaging, one wishes the session was of feature-length duration.  Her revealing of a bizarre secret involving the strange ghost-girl explains many things, and, ultimately adds to the movie’s eternal weirdness.

The newly remastered 2K transfer from the 35MM camera elements (on the English language version) is about the best I’ve ever seen on this title (although perhaps a tad too saturated, but nevertheless stunning).  This is a cornerstone in Bava’s impressive canon, and easily one of the 1960s’ greatest horror flicks (its influence can be seen in about a gazillion subsequent genre entries; upon its release, the movie instantly became a favorite of Visconti and Fellini, the latter whom paid homage to BABY in his brilliant Toby Dammit segment of Spirits of the Dead, as did I suspect Kubrick later on in The Shining).

BLACK SABBATH. Color. Widescreen [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; 1.0 DTS-HD MA. Kino-Lorber/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment/MGM Studios.  CAT # K1763.  SRP: $29.95.

THE WHIP AND THE BODY. Color. Widescreen [1.78:1; 1080p High Definition]; 1.0 DTS-HD MA. Kino Lorber/Kino Classics/Euro London Films, Ltd. CAT # K1231. SRP: $24.95.

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES. Color. Widescreen [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; 1.0 DTS-HD MA. Kino Lorber/Scorpion Releasing/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment/MGM Studios.  CAT # K1448. SRP: $29.95.

KILL, BABY…KILL!  Color. Widescreen [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; 1.0 DTS-HD MA.  Kino Lorber/Kino Classics/International Media Films, Inc. CAT # K21542.  SRP: $29.95.

 

Halloween Blitz 18: Handy Mandy

The only thing better than discovering a through-the-cracks sleeper movie is knowing the star of said epic.  That is happily the case with me, and with Marlyn Mason…and BESETMENT, the 2016 creepy crawler, now on DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment (in conjunction with Barbed Wire Films, Inc.).

BESETMENT indeed fell through the aforementioned cracks, only to claw its way out with a vengeance – becoming an instant cult video nasty with an increasing following seemingly by the week.

Why is this, and what is BESETMENT?  Okay, here goes.  BESETMENT is a gruesome, freakish horror show, the product of the obviously prolific mind of writer/director/producer Brad Douglas (in his nifty feature debut).  Unlike many “no-budget” pics, the movie has a real penchant for natural-to-dark dialog (some of it genuinely witty, much of it snarky), a keen knowledge of where to place the scope camera and an astute way of getting the most shock for your buck out of…well, as main character/motherly baker Millie Colvin (Mason) might put it…blood out of a scone.

BESETMENT tells the tale of stressed-out, intelligent Amanda Millard (the excellent Abby Wathen).  Amanda is rife with mother issues (mater’s an alcoholic leech) and is yearning to what we aging hippies used to call “find herself” before life passes her by.  She almost miraculously is rescued by Millie, the proprietress of an inn in the tiny hamlet of Mitchell, OR, an eerie stretch of real estate that is adjacent to the hauntingly hued Painted Hills.

Millie is looking for a manager/Jacqueline-of-All-Trades, and pretty, savvy (sort of), smart Amanda seems to fit the bill handily.  Millie lives with Billy, her fortysomething son (Michael Meyer), who doubles as the joint’s handyman.  It’s basically a Bates Motel with mother still walking and talking.

Of course, that’s not fair to Millie, as she’s a totally together, funny widow whose rich doctor husband left her enough dough to start the hotel and keep it going.  That no one seems to ever check in is a question that Amanda ponders but doesn’t pursue, as the coin is good, the duties obviously easy and the entire aura of the one-horse tank (essentially, a ghost town on steroids) emanates a fetching strangeness.

But Millie has ulterior motives, and they prove to be quite alarming and recurring.  What they are, and how they involve Amanda and her one newfound friend, Brad (Max Gutfreund), the local diner owner/cook, will likely have your skin inching up to the back of your neck before the final franchise-friendly fade-out.

As noted, the script is fairly tight (the movie only runs 75 minutes), and Bijou-dedicated.  The Colvins are certainly picture-goers (much like flicker-lover Douglas).  They seem to have at least at one time seen the pre-Code 1933 Lionel Atwill opus Murders in the Zoo.  Also, some of the plans foisted upon Amanda take current cinema fare like Jane Levy’s fate in Don’t Breathe to the next level.  One of my favorite Hollywood moments in the show occurs early-on, when Millie gives Amanda the hotel tour.  “Clark Gable once stayed here,” she proudly boasts.  To which Amanda replies, “Who’s that?” Millie’s/Mason’s reaction is a mental rolling eye-rolling condemnation of the highest “Jeez, what an asshole!” order.

The cast is, for the most part, quite decent. Wathen conjures up a non-comedic Amy Poehler, or, perhaps, more appropriately, Edgar Allan Poehler.  The conveniently named Michael Meyer registers as the awkward, social misfit son, whose curiosity/fear of women eventually becomes more than justified.  Lindsae Klein, too, makes an impression as a particularly nasty mom.  Also of note is Hannah Barefoot as the local constabulary’s only swift employee.

But, let’s face it, folks, the main reason for BESETMENT‘s growing fan base is the actual lead, la magnifique Marlyn Mason.  Mason aces her place in the horror movie granny guignol pantheon, alongside such icons as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Lili Palmer, Olivia de Havilland, Joan Bennett, Alida Valli and, more recently, Betsy Palmer.  Marlyn was especially interested in the Palmer connection, as she’s been favorably compared to the late actress’s characterization of Mrs. Voorhees in the original Friday the 13th.  Marlyn, who appeared in just about every TV series throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, is probably best known as Elvis’ co-star in the singer’s bizarre 1968 vehicle The Trouble with Girls.  (“I’m one of only three female costars to do a duet with him on film.”).  I’ve also seen MM do a couple of evil roles in TV movies and episodes, a rarity, but one she achieved with icy finesse – although they pale next to her Millie Colvin.

Marlyn told me that would love to do the horror-con circuit like Betsy did up until her death in 2015.  BESETMENT would still have to reach a lot more horror fans for that to happen (but it’s not unlikely, due to the internet, and spreading word of mouth).  That said, BESETMENT is being handled by a small company (Uncork’d), while Friday the 13th was distributed worldwide by Paramount.  That IS a big difference.

The 2.35:1 compositions in BESETMENT are nicely framed by Chuck Greenwood (who also plays Amanda’s mom’s boyfriend), yet, often a tad pale.  The editing is a bit off (due a low-budget movie production nightmare that I can’t divulge, but which practically qualifies as a horror movie in and of itself).  The gore is surprisingly good and well (dare we say?) executed, but the audio recording (live sound from the on-location confines) is on the low side, and will require viewers to boost their sound systems toward its limit.

Millie’s finest moment of course has become BESETMENT‘s most infamous sequence, a segment so notorious in any genre that it comes close to thematically rivaling gasp spots in the I Spit on Your Grave franchise (albeit less graphic).  I won’t go into detail, save that it’s the actress’s crossing Mason’s Dick Son’s Line.  ‘Nuff said.

This above scene has likewise caused much of the controversy around BESETMENT.  It has additionally, like Palmer’s monstrous turn, provided Mason with an unexpected swelling number of followers and admirers.

Marlyn is rightfully pleased with the movie and her work in it.  “I’m continually amazed at how well the whole thing came out, this being Brad’s first feature, and all.  We were a tight cast and crew company (I don’t mean drunks) and had a blast shooting the movie, although that goddamn gun I ended up using weighed 20 lbs.  And we did several takes.  I kept saying, ‘Let me shoot his friggin’ head off already!’  First time I ever shot anyone, on or off camera.  My first brain-splattering scene (coos).  Kinda took me aback, and we had to do it twice!  I have to admit it was fun. On the other hand, throat-slitting gives your face an odd look.

“Everything was always funny to me.  Brad let me embellish the dialog; he knows the rhythm of my speech patterns.  We had done a short together [Big, in 2009].”

I asked the veteran actress if there was anything during the production that threw her for a loop, and was shocked by her answer.  “Yeah, I had never handled a condom before. Sorry, that’s just me. I’ve had sex in a condo, but never with a condom.”  How is that possible? “Well, when I became ‘active,’ the pill had just come in.  That was all I needed.  STDs weren’t really a problem then.  That really took hold in the 1980s, when I was shall-we-say winding down.  Condoms, hell, I didn’t know what to do.  They kept telling me ‘Rip it open with your teeth.’  ‘Really!  That doesn’t sound dignified.’  I get pretty foul-mouthed in the movie.  That wasn’t in the script. We just winged it.  My take on Millie was ‘Crazy people never think they’re crazy.’  That thought was always in the back of my mind.

“I love doing horror films, although ‘that’ scene did make me a bit uncomfortable, but by the time we were ready to shoot, I said, ‘Fuck it!’  And it was fine.”

“Filming in Mitchell was incredible.  Mitchell has a total populace of about 150 people.  It’s a half ghost town, just a fantastic place.  Two restaurants (really good food), a post office, a souvenir shop, a gas station, the hotel and a park.  It’s right near the Painted Hills, a geographic phenomenon.  When the sun set, it looked as if a big red paint brush swabbed the horizon.  Brad was driving through it, and couldn’t believe the sense of weirdness about it.  He instantly knew he had to write a movie with this town in it.  The horror future is looking bright.  Brad, me, Abby and Douglas [Rowe, another BESETMENT costar] are tentatively starting production on a new project this fall. It’s a called, The Stem, a six-part mini-series by David D. Jones, and I’m pretty excited about it.”

The actress’s many positive BESETMENT reviews and accolades (Marlyn’s won several awards, including Best Supporting Actress from the Back in the Box, CA Fest and Best Actress in the Killer Valley Horror Film Festival; the movie itself won Best Picture at the 2017 Rhode Island Vortex Horror Festival) prompted her to ask me about certain terminology which she was unfamiliar with.  “Several commentators called her a GILF.  What’s that?  Do you know?”  I laughed, and explained the acronym’s meaning.  There followed a pregnant pause. And then: “Ah [sigh of relief], so it’s a good thing.”  I love Marlyn Mason.

BESETMENT. Color. Widescreen [2.35:1; 16 x 9 anamorphic]; 5.0 stereo-surround.  Uncork’d/Barbed Wire Films.  CAT # UE1329.  SRP: $7.99.

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