Halloween Blitz ’17: Time Wounds All Heels

What a thrill for these Baby Boomer fingers to be anxiously typing on a laptop keyboard about the Kino-Lorber Studio Classics/Paramount Home Entertainment Blu-Ray release of 1959’s THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH, one of my all-time favorite Terence Fisher Hammer Films.

Released during the studio’s Golden Age, when they apparently could do no wrong, MWCCD was an eagerly anticipated entry into the American Hammer stakes by Paramount, a company not known for their plethora of horror pics.  By 1959, every U.S. major was bidding for a Hammer title, dangling the exclusive remake rights in front of the Bray-based concern.

Paramount’s closest bid to out-and-out horror was their 1944 release The Man in Half-Moon Street, a pedestrian supernatural pic starring former silent screen heart-throb Nils Asther.

Early news of the production featured the three stars from the1957 Warner smash pick-up Curse of Frankenstein: Peter Cushing, Hazel Court and Christopher Lee.  Relatively quickly, Cushing’s name ceased to appear in connection to the movie (for a more detailed account, check out Christopher Gullo’s terrific 2004 biography, In All Sincerity…Peter Cushing), with Anton Diffring serving as a replacement, and a more suitable choice couldn’t be asked for.  Diffring was always a bizarre presence on-screen, generally playing Nazi officers in at least ten million post-WWII pics (just like I’m convinced Deborah Kerr had her own custom-made nun’s habit, I’m reasonably sure Diffring had a tailor-made German high command uniform ready to go at the first cry of “Sieg heil.”).

Diffring’s ability to instantly switch from cold to manic made him a shoo-in for horror pics, and, indeed, it is this movie and the outrageous 1960 Sidney Hayers opus Circus of Horrors that highlight his screen legacy.

In THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, adapting Barre Lyndon’s original play, moves the proceedings to 1890 Paris, where several strange and gruesome murders are taking place.  The victims are missing a vital digestive/circulatory gland, which is driving the local surete (headed by the bellowing Francis de Wolff) bonkers.

In contrast to these monstrous goings-on is the utopian lifestyle of Dr. Georges Bonnet (guess who).  A renowned surgeon, the doc is also a revered sculptor, whose specialty is capturing beautiful women.  Bonnet’s latest muse is Margot (Delphi Lawrence), soon to be replaced by the arrival of Janine Du Bois (Court), an ex-lover whom he has never forgotten, and who is now the partner of rising specialist Pierre Gerrard (a dignified Christopher Lee, superb in what would otherwise be a throwaway role).

When a jealous Margot returns for a showdown with Bonnet, you can almost see the bullseye on her back.  Her revealing that “nobody knows I’m here” is all Bonnet has to hear, and we see the beginning of a nightmarish transformation so grotesque that it drives the woman insane.

Soon, a now-unattached Bonnet starts courting Court anew, a move she fully encourages, and the amorous pair pick up where they had left off.  She even resumes her position as his favorite nude model (a tantalizing judiciously cropped image of her nakedness was transcended by an uncut French edition, which featured shots of the actress’s bare breasts, sadly not in this Blu-Ray).

With the arrival of the doctor’s aged mentor Ludwig Weiss (Arnold Marle), Georges’ future appears bright indeed.  But the medical team’s reunion is not a euphoric one.  The doctor has suffered a stroke, hindering the reason behind the visit:  to perform a glandular operation on Bonnet required every ten years.  Dr. Georges Bonnet, you see, is a 104-year-old alchemist, who had discovered the secret to prolonged life decades ago, when Weiss was his young assistant!

Using Court as a sexual bargaining chip, Bonnet blackmails Gerrard into performing the operation.  A series of sinister twists and turns on both sides of the good and evil coin pave the way for a truly frightening climax.

I know THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH has been criticized for being a bit slow in leading up to the final act, but I freaking love this movie.  It’s peak Hammer, everything a goth should be, and more.  Fisher’s exquisite direction, Bernard Robinson’s production design, and the studied performances are brilliantly captured by the outstanding Technicolor cinematography by my favorite Hammer d.p., Jack Asher; plus, there’s an excellent score by Richard Rodney Bennett.

The Kino Blu-Ray of THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH is an admirable replacement for the old 2008 Legend Films DVD.  While the transfer occasionally displays some grain, the color resolution and clarity often comes mighty close to an actual 35MM IB print (Asher’s fiery red lighting in a mini-cellar dungeon is gasp-worthy).  Extras of note include interviews with writers Kim Newman and Jonathan Rigby, plus a Kino Horror Trailer Gallery.

I once asked Hazel Court what it was like working with Diffring.  She rolled her eyes, paused and emphatically replied, “WEIRD!”  And that pretty much says it all.

THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH.  Color. Widescreen [1.66:1; 1080p High Definiton]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Kino-Lorber Studio Classics/Paramount Home Entertainment.  CAT# K21122.  SRP: $29.95.

manwhocouldcheatdeath_COVER

 

Advertisements

Halloween Blitz ’17: Cheapers’ Creepers

One can never heap enough praise upon the Hungarian dome belonging to the great Bela Lugosi.  The actor, who has become synonymous with Dracula, has remained a much-adored screen giant since his passing more than sixty years ago.  And his legend looms larger every year.

While Bela’s career certainly had its share of ups and downs – sadly, more in the latter column – his cinematic forays onto Poverty Row actually prove a testament to the man’s prowess as a leading genre figure.  Would there be any OTHER reason to keep some of these celluloid dregs active, and on Blu-Ray yet, if it wasn’t for the actor who made the term “children of the night” a permanent part of classic movie slang?  Methinks not.

Indeed, Lugosi’s participation in these less-than-lofty Bijou excursions would be deemed unworthy and  unwatchable even if they were enacted by some of his admirable contemporaries.  The fact that Bela is the glue that holds (or rather, splices) these strips of film into not only palatable experiences but royally entertaining ones again pay homage to the thesp’s formidable presence.

Two of Lugosi’s lower-rung pics have recently made it to Blu-Ray, thanks to the folks at Kino-Lorber Studio Classics (in conjunction with the Library of Congress and Paramount Home Entertainment), and they’re worthy additions to any Golden Age flicker library.  I must say, though, that discussing these particular two items is a bit deceptive, as they’re really not bad movies at all; in fact, they likely represent the best of the worst:  1932’s THE DEATH KISS and 1941’s INVISIBLE GHOST.  So leave us start unspooling the ghouling.

 

The pre-Code 1932 corker THE DEATH KISS has, on the surface, all the elements that horror fans are looking for.  Except for horror.  It’s not a fright flick at all, but a mystery-thriller, albeit a clever and compelling one.  So don’t throw your talons up in frustration.  Give it a shot.  In fact, that’s how the movie opens, with a literal bang.

THE DEATH KISS is about Hollywood and scandal.  It fades in with the murder of a high-hat swell that is, in actuality, a movie within a movie.  The routine of doing a fairly simple scene all changes when the blanks turn out to be real, followed by the discovery that the actor in question was a scumbag extraordinaire.

Made for Tiffany Studios, the company that tried to make the break from Poverty Row to the majors (they produced James Whale’s stunning 1930 debut Journey’s End and the 1930 all-Technicolor Mamba), THE DEATH KISS takes place at the fictitious Worldwide Tone-Art Pictures (possibly a snap on the actual low-budget outfit World-Wide-Sono-Art).  The script (by Gordon Kahn and Barry Barringer, from a book by Madelon St. Denis) is often genuinely witty, taking much glib picture-making/fast-talking lingo and obvious influence from Once in a Lifetime, The Front Page and other more noted efforts.

The pic features Bela in one of his many red-herring roles, as he had already been pegged (no pun on his Dracula fate) as the “monster man.”  He’s quite congenial, sophisticated and resourceful as Joseph Steiner, the studio manager.  Hilarity reigns via the Goldwynesque language-killing head suit, the perfectly named Leon A. Grossmith (“Oy, that’s gonna cost!” is his first response to the murder), ably enacted by Alexander Carr (can’t say the same, however, about the lowbrow hijinks of studio guard Vince Barnett, save a little goes a long way).

What elevates this entry way above Poverty Row fare isn’t merely the script.  The direction by Edwin L. Marin is crisp, the photography by the masterful d.p. Norbert Brodine quite excellent, and the music by Arthur Lange and Val Burton (the latter soon to make a name for himself at Universal) suitably professional.  The real attraction to THE DEATH KISS is the cast.  Tiffany went all out, trying to recruit as many alumni from the previous year’s Dracula smash as possible.  Supporting Bela are David Manners as a heroic screenwriter Franklyn Drew and Edward van Sloan as Thomas Avery, the director of the jinxed flick.  Replacing Helen Chandler is Adrienne Ames (on loan from Paramount), perhaps the most beautiful of early 1930s starlets (her real-life horror would be realized via her mercifully short marriage to Bruce Cabot).  Rounding out the acting roster are such wonderful usual suspects as John Ray, Barbara Bedford, Al Hill, Wade Boteler, former director King Baggot (in a bit), Paul Porcasi, Spec O’Donnell and Mona Maris.

While THE DEATH KISS has been in P.D. purgatory for decades, it’s sufficient to mention that this mostly fine Blu-Ray transfer comes from a majority of cannibalized elements, restored by the Library of Congress.  Occasionally there are some glitches, notably during a slight sound dip (but nothing to prevent one from adding this to a pre-Code and/or Bela collection).  This print also features my favorite early 1930s color alternative, the Gustav Brock Process, hand-colored frames that accentuate the action and narrative.  While not as effective as in The Vampire Bat, the process does startle and entertain in key sequences in a projection room (including a burning film frame), plus search flashlights, and, not surprisingly, gun shots.  The disc also contains a supplemental audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith.

As indicated, the mystery is a fetching one with the killer being a double-take shock.  And there’s a neat wink-wink-nudge-nudge between Manners and Lugosi with the former chiding the latter with “I could have sworn it was you.”

 

Unlike THE DEATH KISS, which infrequently surfaced in okay renditions, 1941’s INVISIBLE GHOST has NEVER looked good (especially since the advent of home video).  At least, until now.  While still a bit dodgy here and there, there is enough 35MM (a first for this title) to send its supporters into movie-swoon heaven.

The debut of Bela’s much-heralded Monogram 9 – a series of “classics” ground out by notorious schlockmeiser Sam Katzman – INVISIBLE GHOST soars to the top of the studio’s celluloid pile, as unquestionably the pick of the litter.  The reason transcends the interesting cast and certifiably loopy script; the credit for making this pic watchable is nearly 100% due to the director, the amazing Joseph H. Lewis, still in his salad days (although he never quite made it to the main course, he just the same created movie history with his brilliant “B”s, My Name is Julia Ross, The Big Combo and, most significantly, Gun Crazy).  The direction is taut and the effects creepily unnerving.

The plot is about as outlandish as the ridiculous title.  Charles Kessler (Bela) is a revered doctor, living in a desolate mansion on the outskirts of a small town.  Still agonizing over losing his beautiful, adulterous wife, he fawns over the one positive result of their doomed union, the couple’s daughter Virginia (Polly Ann Young).

Of course, there are the murders.

Yep, Bela is kinda Cocoa Puffs coo-coo, seeing visions of his ex that send him into homicidal rages.  This makes finding local help rather difficult, save the dignified head servant Evans, a remarkable portrayal by the great Clarence Muse (in fact, Evans is the most reasonable and intelligent character in the piece, another positive WTF perk for a Poverty Row pic, never exactly sympathetic to African-American actors).

By like the 230th killing, the town lunkhead dicks (George Pembroke, and, what a shock, Fred Kelsey) are wondering if something strange is going on at the old Kessler place.  It’s mind-numbing (or skull-numbing).

It’s even more bizarre than it seems.  The former Mrs. Kessler was ditched by her paramour early-on, and went batshit crazy, living in a cottage on the property and attended by the groundskeeper and his wife (Ernie Adams and Ottols Nesmith).  They let her out at night where she roams the grounds, peering into windows and sending Bela into maniac mode.  This is really goose-bump stuff, I mean, visually, as the shots of the crazed Mrs. Kessler glaring through rain-streaked windows are truly disturbing.  Of course, this is helped by the actress playing the demented woman, the one-time silent screen goddess Betty Compson, who knows how to convey all kinds of emotion sans dialog.

As if you didn’t need any more side plots, Virginia’s fiancé is accused of one of the murders, found guilty and promptly electrocuted.  Hey, it’s John McGuire, who apparently made a mini-career out of playing death row-sentenced innocents (he played almost the same part in 1940’s Stranger on the Third Floor).  Everyone practically plotzes when McGuire returns to the manse after his execution; alas, it’s his twin brother.  Only at Monogram (well, and maybe PRC).

While Lewis does the best he can with material (that, frankly, with better writers, could have been an amazing psychological noir), ya can’t stop the corner-cutting once the Katzman is out of the bag.  Case in point: the decent photography (by house d.p. Marcel Picard, with extra assist by Harvey Gould) being compromised by boom-mike shadows.

Suffice to say, the pros absolutely outweigh the cons, and, without a doubt, there’s no logical reason for owning any other edition of INVISIBLE GHOST than this Kino Blu-Ray.  Admittedly, there is a hefty chunk of 16MM footage, but, we should mention that it’s all watchable (and this version, culled mostly from an Astor Pictures re-issue print, runs 64 minutes, about three minutes longer than most of the abysmal p.d. copies on the market).

Extras include trailers, plus commentary by Tom Weaver, Gary Rhodes and Dr. Robert J. Kiss.  Until the unlikely apparition of a complete mint 35MM print materializes, the Kino INVISIBLE GHOST is the must-have Blu-Ray for your Lugosi jones.

THE DEATH KISS.  Black and white w/color inserts.  Full frame [1.33:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Kino Classics/The Library of Congress.  CAT# K1273.  SRP:  $29.95.

INVISIBLE GHOST.  Black and white.  Full frame [1.33:1; 1080p High Definition].  Kino-Lorber Studio Classics/Paramount Home Entertainment.  CAT# K21136.  SRP:  $24.95.

 

Halloween Blitz ’17: Transition Lenses

Before anyone could say, “Hey, did you see the new classic 3-D Blu-Ray release of…?” I already had my active glasses on, firing up my home theater set-up.  The most recent example of this encompassed the Kino Classics/3-D Film Archive rendition of the 1961 fright flick THE MASK.

Any Boomer who ever picked up a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland remembers those incredible surreal stills of giant skull imagery, with ghoulish figures resembling a casting call for Carnival of Souls performing live sacrifices.  It was a movie every kid yearned to see, but rarely had the opportunity.  True, the Canadian import was briefly released here by Warner Bros., and then again re-issued under the title Eyes from Hell.  But, if ya sneezed, ya missed it.

Watching this gem now underlines the fact that the wait to see it properly (in remastered 3-D; the original was anaglyph) was well worth it.

The first Canadian horror film, THE MASK has also been cited as the first Canadian 3-D feature, a claim that needs a bit of tweaking.  THE MASK certainly tips its hat to the previous year’s Psycho, and adds supernatural bits to the demented ones.  Imagine a Robert Bloch-penned feature-length episode of the 1960 Thriller series, and you get the general idea.  I should also mention that actual the first full 3-D Canadian feature, while indeed a horror pic, wasn’t this entry (and didn’t happen until 2012); that honor belongs to a Shaun of the Dead-type gory spoof entitled Dead Before Dawn (it was also notable for being the first 3-D feature directed by a woman: April Mullen).

The plot of THE MASK revolves around the prestigious Museum of Ancient History excavating a rare find that includes a ritual mask.  The proceedings are given a sort-of reality check via an introduction by world’s most famous authority on masks; of course, it’s hard to accept these prologues after Criswell’s in Plan 9 from Outer Space, but WTF.

Michael Radin (Martin Lavut), an eager young archeologist/scientist who obviously never saw the Bramwell Fletcher scene in The Mummy, decides to play around with all the artifacts, including donning the hideous front-piece.  To cut to the chase, he’s immediately driven insane, prone to stalking hot young women at night through wooded areas.  Fortunately (well, not really), he’s in therapy like so many successful early Sixties eggheads, and screams his way into an emergency session with Dr. Allan Barnes (Paul Stevens).  Natch, the shrink thinks this guy’s nuts (thus, justifying his treatment), and tells him to come back during his appointed time (and, presumably, after he’s washed the blood off his hands and hidden the latest severed head with the others in the fridge).

The young lunatic kills himself, but not before shipping the mask to his disbelieving analyst.  This, I should add, provides the impetus for my favorite kind of homicidal spine-tingler – the crazy psychiatrist – ’cause, you guessed it, he can’t resist trying the revolting thing on either, which then immediately takes control of him, body and soul.  Furthermore, this sets off the 3-D sequences, as each time a wearer places the loathsome mug on his/her punim, a disembodied voice announces, “Put the mask on NOW!”  This originally prompted the audiences to put their glasses on to enjoy the wacked-out psychedelic stereoscopic moments (before psychedelic was even a thing).

Suffice to say, things do not end well.

THE MASK was the brainchild of Julian Roffman, who directed the pic from a creepy screenplay by Frank Taubes, Sandy Haver and Franklin Delessert.  No less that Slavko Vorkapich was credited with the Dali-esque 3-D segments; however, due to the budget limitations, his original concepts could not be utilized.  Roffman himself revised the freakish moments, but, as Vorkapich’s participation was on a pay-or-play basis, his billing contract had to be upheld regardless if any of his ideas were used or not.

Not to worry, the 3-D is terrific (Roffman loved the process, and enjoyed working with it – automatically making me a big supporter of the director).  Psycho references aside, the mask/glasses connection more closely resembles a William Castle gimmick than Hitchcock, but, don’t get me wrong – that ain’t a bad way to go.

The performances (Stevens, Lavut, plus Claudette Nevens, Bill Walker, and Anne Collings), monochrome photography (by Herb Alpert – no not him – but I wish) and music by composer Louis Applebaum (with Electro Magic Sound audio during the 3-D bits in 5.1 surround) all work well together, accentuated by Roffman’s taut direction.

The Blu-Ray of THE MASK (from spectacular 35MM elements) is outstanding, with the 3-D set-pieces knocking ’em out of the ballpark (and seemingly in your lap).

Of course, the great thing about any 3-D Archive Blu-Ray is that one comes to expect a treasure trove of extras.  Here again, THE MASK doesn’t disappoint.  The supplements are almost as much fun as the movie and comprise an anaglyph presentation of the 3-D scenes as presented in 1961, audio commentary by film historian Jason Pichonsky and trailers and TV spots.  There is also a neat montage of montages by Vorkapich, spanning 1928-37 (from Sins of the Fathers to The Firefly) that demonstrate how close to the artist’s vision Roffman was able to get.  We also get Vorkapich’s classic 1928 short (codirected with Robert Florey) The Life and Death of a Hollywood Extra, in addition to his Abstract Experiment in Kodachrome (1940).

The best supplement is a 20-minute documentary on the director, Julian Roffman: The Man Behind The Mask, which is nothing less than fascinating.  While I knew Roffman was a pioneer in the Canadian motion-picture industry, I didn’t realize that he was the force behind 1973’s The Pyx, a Christopher Plummer-Karen Black horror entry he held disdain for, but which, in recent years, has garnered quite a cult following.  Best of all you get to see that most desirable prop, the mask itself (and wait’ll you see it in color!)

Finally, there’s a genuinely macabre 2014 short, One Night in Hell, also in 3-D, that perfectly fits in with the program (and also makes an ideal lead-in for collectors who own a 3-D copy of Scorsese’s Hugo).

Bottom line, if you’re a 3-D fan, you can’t afford not to put THE MASK on your to buy list.  “Take your wallet out NOW…”

THE MASK.  Black and white w/3-D sequences [1.66:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA w/5.1 special segments.  Kino Classics/3-D Film Archive.  CAT # K20173.  SRP:  $34.95.

Mask_COVER

 

Halloween Blitz ’17: Killer Comedies…That Kill

Since the squeaky sound of hand-cranked cameras and projectors, embryonic movie-makers discovered flicker gold by mixing funny with scary.  Melies, Edison and others delved into the horror-comedy genre; hell – they invented it.  And it just grew more elaborate and sophisticated as the industry progressed.

By the Golden Age of Hollywood and beyond, it was almost a rite of passage for successful screen comedians to do a spooky turn, and many of their efforts (from Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy, Bob Hope, Abbott & Costello, Martin & Lewis…on) became some of the comics’ most beloved classics.

By the 1980s, the horror comedy had evolved to the point where buckets of gore/the gross-out factor became a prerequisite.  Who wasn’t laughing at being slimed in Ghostbusters?  Well, just a couple of years before that, Carl Reiner and Steve Martin, the director and star of The Jerk and Dead Men Wear No Plaid, teamed up again for what many consider their finest collaboration, 1983’s THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS.

Nine years later, John Landis took black comedy one step further, melding the sexiness of the Anne Rice vampire phenomenon with Animal House hijinks, plus a dash of Goodfellas, for the underrated 1992 undead-romp INNOCENT BLOOD (a misleading title, since no one is innocent in this splat-for-all).

Both titles proved extremely popular past their sell-by dates, garnering big ratings on TV and impressive sales on home video.  Yet, they were never given the presentation they deserved.  Each 1.85:1 entry was released in full-frame 1.33.  Until now.

Just in time for Halloween, the Warner Archive Collection has gone the distance, finally getting it right with new spectacular widescreen transfers rendered onto 1080p High Definition Blu-Ray.  And they’re sicker and wackier (or whackier, in the case of BLOOD) than ever.

 

“Get that cat out of here!” commands genius head specialist Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (it’s pronounced like you say it), whose operating room is always in attendance of curious felines.

Conceited widower Hfuhruhurr is revered throughout the medical profession for his time-saving invention of zip-lock brain surgery.  His life is brains, he’s devoted to brains (his favorite movie:  Donovan’s Brain)…and now he LOVES brains.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, which is often embarrassing.

Across town from Hfuhruhurr is Dolores Benedict, a spectacularly anatomically arranged black widow (Kathleen Turner in a sizzling outrageous parody of her Body Heat character).  She hooks up with sick or elderly mega-rich men and, literally, fucks them to death (or almost, as she frequently merely has to taunt them with coitus).

Escaping from her latest victim (the great George Furth), she and the doc have a meet-cute moment when he runs her over with his car.  Fortunately, he’s the zip-lock go-to guy.  He saves her life, she has her new mark, and the rest is a swirlie of marital diss (Hfuhruhurr’s asking dead wife Rebecca for her opinion sends his home into paranormal shambles, “Just give me any sign of disapproval,” he beseeches as the walls come tumbling down – the irony of the brain man thinking with somethin’ else).

The honeymoon is a nightmare, as Dolores denies horny Dr. H carnal knowledge, resulting in a French windows dilemma that is one of the funniest sound effect moments since the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles.

When the near-sexually deranged cuckold catches Dolores with a strange perv, who has paid 15K to touch her ass, wifey plays the misogyny card “You don’t want me to work!”  That’s the last straw, the brief coupling has been unspliced.

Meanwhile, across the country and Europe, a serial murderer known as the Elevator Killer is on the loose. Victims are rendered comatose by an injection of window cleaner in their buttocks (including Estelle “I’ll have what she’s having” Reiner).  Then, their brains go missing.

How the determined but certifiably mad doctor discovers the connection between the slayings and fellow looney scientist Dr. Alfred Necessiter (David Warner in a riotous role, living in papier mache Frankenstein castle co-op) paves the way for medicine’s Zip-Lock-invar’s finding true love again…unfortunately in the form of a disembodied medulla oblongata, floating in a jar of formaldehyde (it’s Sissy Spacek – well, her voice).  A victim of the EK maniac, Anne Uumellmahaye (also pronounced like you spell it), converses telepathically with Michael, and while there are some obvious complications (“I CANT FUCK A GORILLA!,” bellows Hfuhruhurr in response to Necessiter’s suggestion of a female-simian transplant), cherished romance ensues (a montage featuring a rowboat is especially hilarious, and a bit poignant).

It all intertwines in a crazed climax that is in its own way kinda sweet; it also contains one of the greatest celebrity guest appearances in cinema as the Elevator Killer is revealed to be…

THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS doesn’t scrimp on anything even remotely connected to screwball.  It’s pure Steve Martin (who cowrote the script with Reiner and George Gipe), and contains a plethora of comedic lines (“Into the mud, scum-queen!”) that have become movie-quote standards.  Michael Chapman’s pop-color photography never looked better, while Joel Goldsmith’s score perfectly captures the hilarity and genre spooky spoofery.  Adding this to your comedy/horror/Eighties collection is…well, a no-brainer.

 

As gorgeous transplanted (to 1992 Philadephia of all places!) French vampire Marie (c’est magnifique Anne Parillaud) tells us in her alluring narration, the undead live for one thing:  the comfort of the sexes, that is the meeting (or meating) where food and sex merge.  This is tres difficile for Marie, since she doesn’t like to mix business with pleasure (“Eeets not nice to play wiz za food”).

That said, her blood supply is low, and needs to be replenished.  Picky eater that she is, the svelte predator ponders her options; after all, what’s a ghoul to do?  Then she reads about the latest Mafia mob war that left an array of bodies strewn across every Rocky location imaginable.  Problem solved:  “I’ll eat Italian.”

And so she does.  But there’s a caveat; her chosen victim Joe Gennaro (Anthony LaPaglia), actually an undercover detective, has “zee sad eyes,” an attribute the bloodsucker’s a sucker for.  So off to another hitman, the very amenable Tony (Chazz Palminteri in a standout early role).

Aside from the award-winning international sensation Parillaud appearing in John Landis’ INNOCENT BLOOD, and frequently in full-frontal gloire, this movie had me hooked from the nocturnal aerial opening, featuring Jackie Wilson’s awesome rendition of Night.

And, indeed, while Parillaud is outstanding, as is the supporting cast (Angela Bassett, Tony Sirico, Kim Coates, Luiz Guzman and, in a standout role as a mob lawyer-turned-hockey-puck vampire, Don Rickles), the true star of this horror-com is Robert Loggia as Sal “The Shark” Macelli, grotesque head of the local goombas.  In his Leslie Nielsen bid for comedic stardom, Loggia seems to be having a blast.  Vulgar, disgusting, psychopathic BEFORE Parillaud “turns” him, Loggia becomes the ultimate gooddeadfella, gnashing pointy incisors, eating the competition, and uproariously coming to terms with a new aversion to garlic.

Landis, along with screenwriter Michael Wolk, pays visual fang service to a variety of genre faves, via some groovy clips from Horror of Dracula, Phantom of the Rue Morgue and even Strangers on a Train; there are also some wonderful cameos by the likes of Frank Oz, Michael Ritchie, Sam Raimi, Tom Savini, Forrest J. Ackerman, and, last but not least, Dario Argento.

The Blu-Ray of INNOCENT BLOOD is everything we freaks could hope for.  Razor-sharp 1080p imagery in the proper 1.78:1 dimensions (doing justice at last to Mac Ahlberg’s cool, clean compositions), plus a great surround track (featuring Ira Newborn’s jazzy score) in 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Best of all, this is the uncensored, complete international version.

I must note that Parillaud and LaPaglia’s sex scene is hot as hell (where it is likely to be repeated eternally), and the lady’s tough choice on whether to eat or eat her lover certainly comprises a vampire conundrum.  The resolution is (sort of) left up in the air, but, she’s French, so I assume it’s toujour, l’amour, toujour.  A warm, fuzzy sendoff, to be sure, but, for me, nothing is more heartrending than a misty-eyed Palmanteri eyeing a TV broadcast of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and tenderly remarking, upon Ray Harryhausen’s beloved Rhedosaurus devouring a cop, “I love that.”

THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS. Color.  Widescreen [1.78:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  The Warner Archive Collection/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.  CAT # 1000648351.  SRP: $21.99.

INNOCENT BLOOD.  Color. Widescreen [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 stereo-surround DTS-HD MA.  The Warner Archive Collection/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.  CAT# 1000652649.  SRP: $21.99.

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

 

Halloween Blitz ’17: Steele Magnolias

Even non-horror fans agree that one of the genre’s most beautiful cinematic apparitions is that of the stunning English actress Barbara Steele.  I try to use the word “icon” sparingly, but, in Ms. Steele’s case, it certainly fits.  The statuesque actress is fully the female equivalent of Karloff, Price, Cushing, Lee and others (but looks way better in a shroud).  For us panting dudes, no one has ever quite made evil so seductive and appealing.  Her piercing eyes visually define her surname, her raven tresses are exactly what Poe must have had in mind when writing of Morella and Lenore (in a lovely, ironic touch, the movie goddess, long considered the celluloid bride of the telltale author actually married Poe – well, writer James Poe; one of the myriad of trivial snippets I affectionately store in the brain that make my mostly meaningless existence palatable).

Steele’s emergence as a horror siren was the typical Hollywood “being in the right place at the right time” (or wrong time) scenario that seems to be the cornerstone for making film legends.

Put under contract to 20th Century-Fox in the late 1950s, she was magnificently miscast as Elvis Presley’s all-American squeeze in Don Siegel’s super 1960 western Flaming Star.  To make her more “yankee,” she was given a blonde wig; to make her more ‘Murican, they coached her in oater drawl, the result being a mishmash of y’all with a distinctive Birmingham accent.  The fact that Barbara Eden, a natural blonde and bona fide American, was sitting on the sidelines soon dawned on the dim producers who immediately replaced Steele, with the codicil of walking papers.

The thesp walked (or rather swam) all the way to Italy where she hooked up with novice director Mario Bava (who had seen her in a Life Magazine photo piece), about to helm his first feature, an adaptation of Gogol’s Viy, a tale of terror that had the inventive moviemaker hiding under his sheets for endless nights during his youth.

Steele’s participation in the project, now titled La Maschera del Demondo (The Mask of Satan), quickly became its prime source of hyperbole.  The movie exploded into instant blockbuster territory.  AIP’s Sam Arkoff saw the Italian cut and snapped it up for a song ($100K, more than the pic’s budget).  Under its new moniker, BLACK SUNDAY, it became American-International’s highest-grossing picture to date (the date being 1960).  Steele, in turn, was asked to return to the States to costar with Vincent Price in Roger Corman’s next Poe adaptation, Pit and the Pendulum.  For no discernable reason, like BLACK SUNDAY (which although was an Italian production, had the cast speaking phonetic English), Steele was dubbed in the Corman opus (thus denying her growing fanbase the delights of her quite fetching British accent).  Pit was another AIP smash, and Steele, suddenly in great demand, returned asap to Italy, where she began a string of memorable macabre outings including The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock, The Ghost, and Castle of Blood (to say nothing of a breather stint in Fellini’s 8 1/2 .

By 1968, the actress, in her own words, “had it.”  Her famous quote, “I never want to climb out of another fucking coffin again!” was simultaneous humorous and sad for the lady’s now legions of worldwide buffs.  She spent the 1970s in a slew of exploitation flicks (some for Corman, including Caged Heat and Piranha).  Then, like giallo queen Edwige Fenech, she turned her talents toward the opposite side of the camera, wearing the hat of producer (Steele coproduced the groundbreaking 1980s mini-series The Winds of War and War and Remembrance).

It’s with thumbs-up excitement that I discovered that Kino Lorber had spectacularly re-mastered and released two Steele masterpieces on Blu-Ray, the aforementioned BLACK SUNDAY and, in conjunction with Raro Video, the 1964 classic THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH, possibly the woman’s best non-Bava horror show.

 

So much has been written about 1960’s BLACK SUNDAY that for me to gush on about it now would simply be a waste of time.  Suffice to say that it is one of the most influential horror movies of all time (it remains Tim Burton’s favorite horror pic, and was used as a visual blueprint for Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula; in addition, Richard Donner studied the picture in prep for The Omen).

The movie, filmed in luxuriant black-and-white resonates with oodles of goth atmosphere in its telling of a traveling foreigner who, in the mid-19th century, happens upon a village cursed two hundred earlier by Princess Asa Vajda, a witch.  The sorceress (also by accounts, a vampire – tests were actually made with Steele-fitted fangs) was not only burned at the stake; she had her head encased in a mask imbedded with metal spikes (ergo, the Italian title).  Ouch.

A disruption of her grave site sets Vajda free, and she begins her revenge infection, targeting several specific members of the townsfolk, the remnants of the ancestors who did the demon dirt.

The gore (for its time) was truly lip-biting.  Of course, Steele is Asa (and her reanimated witch/vampiric counterpart, Katya), and she’s sensational.  The brilliant camerawork is by Bava himself (having begun in the industry as a d.p.).  The design of the movie is such that it is as much an integral part of the flick’s success as Steele, to say nothing of the excellent supporting cast, including fellow Brit John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garraini, Arturo Dominici and Enrico Olivieri.  The music by Roberto Nicolosi is excellent, but sadly mostly absent from the American cut, underscored by the overrated Les Baxter, whose work is at best serviceable; at least Baxter had the smarts to use several strains of the original moody Nicolosi soundtrack.

The script by Ennio De Concini and Mario Serandrei with uncredited assist from Bava, Marcello Coscia and Dino De Palma (English dialog by George Higgins), hits all the right shock points, and, when attached to Maestro Bava’s terrific direction (it’s no wonder that this movie put him on the map), unleashes a breathtaking supernatural rollercoaster ride that 57 years later still has fans and genre buffs concurrently gasping in terror and in awe.  LSS, BLACK SUNDAY is one of the greatest horror movies ever made.

The production was not without its choice moments.  Steele, admittedly, was a bit standoffish due to her belief that Bava was obsessed with seeing her naked, and would, at any moment, spring a hastily added nude scene upon her (he didn’t, but probably wanted to).  The mixed languages of the cast proved a bit awkward as well (script additions/revisions were delivered to the set daily).

But it obviously all paid off.  BLACK SUNDAY has been scarifying and thrilling international audiences for decades, a gorgeous cinematic nightmare that you seemingly can’t wake up from…nor want to.

The Kino-Lorber Blu-Ray of BLACK SUNDAY, as indicated, is the AIP cut, so, no complete Nicolosi score, and short of about three minutes (the Anglicized version also smoothed over an implied incestuous relationship between Steele’s and Dominici’s characters).  As it made box-office history in the U.S. (where it was top-billed with Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors), it’s an important addition to any horror library.  Understandably, completist collectors might want to seek out the uncut Mask of Satan (now also available from Kino); in any case, this beautifully re-mastered 1080p widescreen edition is a definite keeper.  A bonus supplement is a Kino/Bava trailer gallery, a savvy move if ever there was one.

 

In a bravura nod to BLACK SUNDAY, 1964’s I Lunghi Capelli della Morte/THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH once again showcases Steele in a dual role comprising resurrection vengeance.

This template for making the perfect goth horror pic, produced during Italy’s horror Golden Age, relates the unsavory goings-on of the degenerate royal Humboldt family.  In a greedy quest for power, the immoral son Kurt (George Ardisson) has murdered his uncle and blamed Adele, a local beauty (Halina Zalewska) a single mother with two daughters, for the crime (little do they know that she’s a member of the spectrally-gifted Karnstein family).  Kurt’s father (Giuliano Raffaelli), even more of a scumbag than his spawn, craves Lady K, but nevertheless condemns the innocent woman to be burned as a sorceress.  Adele’s stunning oldest daughter Helen (Steele) begs for her parent’s life, to which the aged Count retaliates by raping and murdering the girl.  Adele, meanwhile, dies cursing the village and all who accused her; Helen’s corpse is thrown into a river and later buried next to her mother’s ashes.  And it’s there the two hold an unseen supernatural kaffeklatsch.

The years pass, and the remaining now-orphaned child, now full-grown (also played by Zalewska) becomes the next predatory target of the Humboldts.  Kurt weds her, and on their honeymoon night, the mysterious, erotic and incredibly sensuous Mary (in reality, the reanimated spirit of Helen) returns, seduces her sister’s groom, and begins to accelerate the promise made by her mother decades ago.  Unlike Steele, it ain’t pretty.  As they say, revenge is a dish served best cold – and it doesn’t get colder than Mary’s wrath of violence and terror in THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH.  She is, to put it mildly, one helluva we-otch.

As one might surmise, LONG HAIR is motivated by both sexual politics and Machiavelian tactics.  The lifestyle of the revolting and decrepit Humboldts plays out like a satanic bitch-slap to the Borgias, to fascism and to the undeserving rich.  And it’s intentional, a theme long addressed in the works of Bertolucci, Leone, Pasolini, Visconti and others.  We’ve seen it in westerns, period melodramas, and even comedies.  To see it in horror is not only a revelation, but aptly just.  Steele, of course, is amazing in her two roles as Helen and Mary; can’t decide which one is more alluring.  That said, we can’t not mention some of the other fine performers either, particularly Zalewska, Ardisson and Raffaelli.

The script is by the movie’s director, Antonio Margheriti, and future director Tonino Valeri (from a story by the marvelous giallo scribe Ernesto Gastaldi), and it’s ruthless in its depiction OF the ruthless – and their delicious punishment.  The music by Carlo Rustichelli is another plus; but a key factor of LONG HAIR‘s success is the fantastic black-and-white photography of Riccardo Pallottini.  This must be specifically mentioned, as for ages, the American prints of this title have been nothing short of godawful.  Thanks to Kino Lorber and Raro Video, those days are now over.  The new Blu-Ray of LONG HAIR OF DEATH is a knockout, resplendent in its 1.85:1 1080p hi-def widescreen glory.

The major behind-the-scenes star of this macabre triumph is the underrated director Antonio Margheriti (often credited as Anthony M. Dawson).  This is without question my favorite Margheriti movie, and, quite possibly his finest effort; the sense of foreboding evil creepily waifs through the entire 94-minute running time.

Kino and Raro have jam-packed the Blu-Ray with stupendous extras, including interviews with Eduardo Margheriti and Antonio Tentori, an intro by Fangoria’s Chris Alexander, the Italian and English trailers, plus a fully illustrated booklet.  The movie is accessible in either the original Italian (w/newly translated English subtitles) or in an acceptable English dubbed version.  Your choice.

A joyous celebration of the Queen of Horror, BLACK SUNDAY and THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH are guaranteed to Steele your heart, if not your soul.

BLACK SUNDAY.  Black and white.  Widescreen [1.66:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 PCM Linear mono audio.  Kino-Lorber Classics.  CAT # K1570.  SRP: $19.95.

THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH.  Black and white.  Widescreen [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition; 2.0 PCM Linear mono audio [Italian w/English subtitles; English dub track]; Kino-Lorber/Raro Video.  CAT# BRRVD-083.  SRP: $29.95.

 

 

Halloween Blitz ’17: Voo-Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

“Weird fuckin’ city ya moved into,” says police detective Robert Loggia to transplanted Manhattan shrink Dr. Cal Jamison in the 1987 horror chiller THE BELIEVERS, now on limited edition Blu-Ray from Twilight Time/MGM/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment. And whether you believe it or not – that’s an understatement.

Based on the unnerving novel The Religion by Nicholas Conde, THE BELIEVERS, as scripted by Mark Frost, paints New York City a garish hell-on-Earth red, as it methodically unfolds the freaky trappings that comprise the dark world of Santa Sangre.

Apparently, along with butt-ugly graffiti-vandalized walls/subway cars/monuments, offensive boom boxes, annoying Woody Allen types, spell-casting Hispanic help, and dead sacrificial animal carcasses on every street corner, 1980s New York was indeed the flip side of Club Med. Jamison himself could probably use some psychiatric aid, since he’s still recovering from having accidentally electrocuted his wife – certainly the worst kitchen-and-milk death since John Larch’s in Budd Boetticher’s The Killer is Loose. Honestly, after initially viewing this movie, I could never think of Mr. Coffee in the same way again.

Jamison’s rather unpleasant above faux pas was witnessed by the doc’s already-strange son, who then goes even further off the deep end. Soon the urchin (Harley Cross) is obsessing on violent drawings of disemboweled beings, exhibiting particularly nasty tendencies toward females, cursing, throwing tantrums, running helter-skelter into traffic – in short, exactly the sick, perverted behavior one would expect from the son of Martin Sheen (who perfectly enacts the role of the sad-sack therapist).

Fortunately, not ten seconds after moving into their new Big Apple digs, Jamison is canoodling with his super-hot Patricia Neal-ish landlady Helen Shaver. So much for the grief process.

Sadly, for Sheen, the movie doesn’t end here – it spirals downward, as the plethora of chicken sacrifices escalate from fowl play to foul play – with children being substituted for Perdue fodder or, in culinary terms, tater-tottery.

Loggia’s participation is accentuated due to the fact that their lead suspect is one of their own – a previously revered top cop (Jimmy Smits), now reduced to a writhing, dementia-plagued screwball, shrieking about how “they get right inside your body.” While this didn’t seem to bother Shaver, it does torment Smits, just a human paraphrase of that real-estate standard: location, location, location.

But who are “they?” “They” are an insidious cult of black magic fanatics, who use first-born kiddies as gateways to fame and fortune. It all comes under the auspices of a phony organization called ACHE (perhaps a more suitable moniker would have been OUCH), run by a slimy Koch/Trump-ian figurehead (realized via an especially high-octane brand of oiliness Harris Yulin). Their satanic key to power is the extremely creepy black leader Palo, brought to America from his mysterious primitive foreign homeland. Now, before you can say “Kenyan socialist,” let me stop you cold. This dude is coming from an entirely different direction, and, by that I mean he’s got Michele Bachmann crazy eyes.

Palo’s force is not only lethal, but excruciatingly painful. To be possessed (as Smits, Loggia and others graphically display) is not a pleasant experience. You twist and turn and sweat profusely, grabbing your stomach in screaming agony. I don’t know how else to describe it except by relegating the curse to desperately requiring a rest room whilst on the subway (sneakily adding a touch of realism to this accurate and not uncommon New York phenomenon).

There are many other cultural and scientific overlaps in this movie – the fatal price one pays for being a diss-believer; perhaps the one that comes immediately to mind is ably demonstrated by Shaver, who, in a brilliant show of powder-puffery, draws the fine line between cosmetology and entomology (and far be it for me to give away the gooseflesh-raising climax, which leaves its outcome up to audience – the options being bad or worse).

It also comes as no surprise to me that this prejudiced, frightening depiction of my hometown was orchestrated by none other than John Schlesinger. Ever since Midnight Cowboy, I pretty much suspected that the director was less than keen on Fun City, but THE BELIEVERS takes this metropolis of festering evil idea to a new level (this flick is so nasty that lawyers are presented as good guys!); concisely put, it’s his scariest movie since Darling.

I have to admit though that I enjoy this pic a lot more now than I did back in ’87. Back then, we were inundated with devil-approved contemporary malevolent fare, including Angel Heart, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Sect and the Reagan Administration. More than a quarter of a century later, THE BELIEVERS is a squeamish cinematic roller-coaster ride with much to offer. Aside from the aforementioned cast, there’s also excellent support from Elizabeth Wilson, Richard Masur, Lee Richardson and Raul Davila. There’s also some spectacular camerawork by the great Robby Muller – and, to this point, I must take umbrage with THE BELIEVERS’ original distributor, Orion Pictures. Back in 1987, the print I saw was grainy, washed-out and tinged with a barbecue pallor that I surmised was the director and d.p.’s conceptual intention. This was further deceptively foisted upon me by the subsequent laserdisc, which, for some bizarre reason, was time-compressed (which shouldn’t have been necessary for a 114-minute movie), full-frame (from a period in LV’s history when letterboxing was becoming the norm), and looking every bit as awful as its theatrical presentation.

Naturally, one would expect a 2010s Blu-Ray to be substantially better than a 1988 laserdisc, but this Twilight Time platter reveals a visual tapestry that transcends the first-run release. Yeah, it’s a not exactly the Manhattan of The Eddy Duchin Story, but it’s not that mess I saw way-back-when, either. Muller’s images are crisp, clear and even ebullient in its sinister palette of contrasting colors and ominous spooky lighting. The 2.0 stereo-surround audio nicely showcases J. Peter Robinson’s score, the gotcha sound effects and background music from the likes of Celia Cruz and Ruben Blades. Please also remember that this is a limited edition, and that movies in this genre tend to sell out rather fast.

Personally, I have to admit that what creeped me out about THE BELIEVERS in 1987 was the fact that while living in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, I used to regularly see the burnt-out candle (and other) remnants of Santa Sangre mishegos in the underpass leading to Emmons Avenue (a justification I chalked up to extreme ballyhoo from Orion’s publicity department, even though I knew better).

Giving a whole new meaning to the term “small fry,” THE BELIEVERS offers one the ideal Eighties Night opportunity to thoroughly confuse your friends by pairing it with the undeniably lesser (and cornier) Children of the Corn. After all, there are two sides to everything.

THE BELIEVERS.  Color.  Widescreen [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; Stereo-surround 2.0 DTS-HD MA.  CAT # 903RJMGM0189.  UPC# 811956020147.  SRP:  $29.95.

Limited edition of 3000 available exclusively through Screen Archives Entertainment [www.screenarchives.com].

believers_COVER

 

 

Halloween Blitz ’17: The Pig Bang Theory

In one of the most original cinematic takes on the Frankenstein story to date, Donald Cammell’s 1977 sci-fi cautionary tale, DEMON SEED, has at last been spawned on Blu-Ray, thanks to those swell folks at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

Adapted from a Dean Koontz novel, screenwriters Robert Jaffe and Roger O. Hirson have fashioned a genuinely frightening albeit psychotronic freak show revolving around a super-successful upscale California couple, on the surface the definition of a perfect marriage.  Professor Alex Harris and his stunning spouse Susan have it all.  He’s an acclaimed genius spearheading advancement in computer science, specifically its ecological assist in saving the Earth via oceanographic exploration.  Say that five times fast!

And he ain’t kidding.  His obsession with computers has severely diminished his former obsession with Mrs. Prof. Harris, herself a renowned musicologist and teacher (apathy not helped by the pair’s schism over their deceased daughter).

To Harris’s credit, he has turned his home into a working laboratory, largely controlled by robotic hired (and non-union) help.  This only drives the ever-increasingly frustrated Susan further up the wall.

But Alex can’t be bothered; he’s refining his greatest achievement:  Proteus, the super-superSUPER computer, who not only can carry on conversations and ingest volumes of information in a nanosecond, but who is the recipient of Harris’s revolutionary accomplishment – the pre-DNA artificial intelligence transplant of actual humanistic traits, hormonal and all.

The irony of the term “A.I.” has obviously been lost upon the egghead, as he fails to see the potential danger of imbibing an ultra-powerful cyber-brain with moronic “think with your dick” fascination.

Soon, Proteus is invading the other computers, becoming their Alpha, and shutting off their obedience-to-the-humans switch.

Then, the manmade tyrant has second thoughts about our oceans, claiming that the mining of the seas in the name of environment is nothing less than “the rape of the Earth,” a procedure he/it wants no part of.  The rape of Harris’s wife is another story.

Taking over the abode, he locks the about-to-sue-for-divorce Mrs. H in, and makes her his sex slave.  Her rebuttal attacks on Proteus, comprising a series of cat-and-mouse shenanigans, are what give DEMON SEED its meat.  The discussions are scarifyingly cerebral, as Proteus scoffs at being compared to Hitler (“book burning equals nothing”).

You can imagine how she feels about his accelerating lust, that early-on spills over into S&M  “sick little games.”

Then Proteus lets loose.  Sex isn’t enough; the borg wants to create a quasi-human child.  And with the threat of killing off those close to her, including children she teaches – to say nothing of possibly destroying the planet – Susan has no choice but to give it up for Mother Earth.

The whole bizarro factor of DEMON SEED never gets stale; in fact, the movie gets better every time I watch it.  Natch, the crammed room full of clunky 1970s high-tech computers is a laugh, the kind of which (as I’m always first to note) could be currently embedded in any high-schooler’s iPhone.

Yet, much of DEMON SEED is prophetic; specifically the idea of a Smart House, totally controlled by owner’s operating a remote device.

Much praise has been heaped upon the two main performances in DEMON SEED, the The Harrises, Fritz Weaver and Julie Christie.  And, indeed, they do give what many consider to be among their best thespian accounts of themselves.  But there’s an unsung hero in DEMON SEED, the third performance that really needs to be addressed.  It’s pervy Proteus, or rather the voice of same, creepily enacted by the great Robert Vaughn.

The special effects are, not surprisingly, state-of-the-art (for 1977); in fact, one must give a nod to MGM, a studio who, up until 1956’s Forbidden Planet, purposely seemed to go out of its way to ignore the genre; now, post-2001, and perennially in deep financial turmoil, they opened the floodgates, unleashing a barrage of Seventies sci-fi fantasy flicks, including Westworld, Logan’s Run, The Green Slime and, last but not least, Night of the Lepus (mostly caught on The Deuce, often in addition to other non-celluloid things I’d rather not get into).  DEMON SEED may be the best of them all; it’s certainly the most disturbing, plunging the obligatory naked Christie in the worst, most horrifying sexual nightmare since she hooked up with Warren Beatty.

Warner’s Blu-Ray of DEMON SEED is all we sci-fans could have hoped for:  a terrific 2.35:1 scope 1080p High Definition transfer that properly does justice to one of the era’s premier d.p.s Bill Butler.  The Jerry Fielding score is another plus, and an underrated piece by the noted composer.

DEMON SEED.  Color.  Widescreen [2.35:1; 1080p High Definition]; 2.0 mono DTS-HD MA.  Warner Home Video/Turner Home Entertainment.  CAT # 1000639537.  SRP: $21.99.

DEMONSEED_COVER

 

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