Monday, June 27, 2011

DVD Review: Nightmares (1980)

Label: Severin Films
Release Date: Jun 28th 2011
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 84 mins
Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono
Director: John Lamond
Cast: John Michael Howson, Jenne Lamond, Jenny Neumann, Gary Sweet, Nina Landis

NIGHTMARES (1981) aka STAGE FRIGHT (not to be confused with the similiar themed Michele Soavi film) is directed by Ozploitation erotic film pioneer John D. Lamond (FELICITY, THE ABC OF LOVE AND SEX: AUSTRALIA STYLE) and was co-scripted by Colin Eggleston whom is well known for directing the nature vs. man ozploitation classic LONG WEEKEND (1978). The film pretty much boils down to Lamond seeing John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978) and thinking like so many others - I think I can do that, and like most everyone he came up a bit short.

The film begins with a young girl Cathy (Jeanie Lamond, the director's daughter) walking in on her mother getting it on with a man who's not her father - bad mom. A few days the promiscuous mother and child are on the road, it's raining something fierce outside and the young girls nods off in the backseat only to awaken to the startling sight of a man groping her mother in the front seat. She interrupts the perceived assault that in actuality is just more lusty shenanigans, causing her mother to lose control of the vehicle and strikes a car. The crash throws her mother through the windshield, her body lays half in and half out of the car. In an attempt to help her mother Cathy attempts to pull the injured woman back into the car inadvertently slicing mum's throat on the windshield, killing her. Years later Cathy is now known as Helen (American actor Jenny Neumann, HELL NIGHT) and is an actress in a Victorian stage comedy alongside Terry (Gary Sweet, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER) under the direction of a tyrannical director George Dalberg [Max Phipps, ROAD WARRIOR] who becomes more crazed throughout the production under the persecution of obnoxiously fey theatre critic Bennett (John Michael Howson, FELICITY). When Helen becomes romantically entangled with her co-star Terry her traumatic childhood proves problematic and triggers a series of violent nightmares in which someone is slashing through the cast members of the production with shards of glass. Are these really nightmares, is someone else knocking off cast members or is the cracked actress perpetrating the grisly string of murders herself?

While very stylishly shot by cinematographer Gary Wapshot (FELICITY) the rather pedestrian script leaves a bit to be desired with a cliched finale that's not nearly the shocker it may have once been, if even then. The killer's identity is seemingly meant to be a bit of mystery but it's telegraphed pretty early on. What Lamond film is not stuffed with lurid sexploitation, certainly not this one, Lamond fans fear not for it is most pleasing in that respect. There's plenty of Steadicam tracking shots and a seemingly endless parade of POV perspective though the point-of-view stalker shots don't all equally work, it's a bit overused, under lit and often without a payoff. The kills are nicely staged but are mostly relegated to splashes of blood here and a smudge there, but no real grue to speak of.

As I find with many slashers its a case of sacrificing substance in the name of style and aesthetic and on that level NIGHTMARES worked for me for the most part. Lamond's films while perhaps not painterly in their presentation are quite sumptuous visual feasts, and in this instance I'm not only talking about the copious amounts of nudity. A few things that I loved about this film aside from it's visual acuity were a fantastic scene in which the killer interrupts two lovers, dispatching the man and then stalking the nude woman through the backstage and out into a rainy alleyway, it's great Steadicam shot and the best kill in the film hands down. Second, the weapon of choice is shards of broken glass. The killer typically breaks a window or mirror for each kill and I rather enjoyed that reoccurring facet of the film, it made for some nice visuals.

DVD: Here we have Severin Films doing what they do best - giving us a delightfully sleazy film in it's proper uncut presentation. As the DVD cover proclaims "Totally Uncut and Uncensored for the First Time Ever in America" and perhaps even in the world outside of it's native Australia. Presented in it's proper 'scope' aspect ratio of anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, no subtitles are offered. The print looks pretty fantastic and my only critique would be some minor blurring in the motion at times which may stem from it's conversion from the interlaced PAL to progressive NTSC by Severin. I'm quite pleased to suffer some minor blurring for the sake of a progressive scan DVD, thanks Severin.

The mono audio sounds good and handles the dialogue and effects quite well, including Brian May's score, no not that Brian May from the operatic rock band QUEEN, but the Australian composer who scored many classic Ozploitation films; PATRICK, MAD MAX, CLOAK AND DAGGER and even DR. GIGGLES.

Severin have also come through with a handful of tasty bonus features that is crowned by a brand new audio commentary with Director John D. Lamond and NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD Director Mark Hartley. The two are quite chatty and it makes for some oftentimes juicy commentary as the pair discuss the filming, the actors and pick at the film's faults, they're quite candid in their assessment of the film. A feature that is mirrored on Severin's BLOODY BIRTHDAY DVD is A Brief History of Slasher Film, an entertaining 15 mins overview of the slasher genre with Adam Rockoff, author of 'Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film'. It won't be a revelation for the initiated slasher fanatic but it's certainly entertaining, I watched it twice. Nicely rounding out the supplements are a theatrical trailer, a John D. Lamond Trailer Reel including THE ABC OF LOVE AND SEX, FELICITY, PACIFIC BANANA, BREAKFAST IN PARIS and SKY PIRATES  and a selection of Severin trailers;  PSYCHOMANIA, BLOODY MOON and Severin's newly restored HORROR EXPRESS which arrives on Blu-ray September 27th!

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with director John D. Lamond and NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD director Mark Hartley
- A Brief History of Slasher Films (15:11) 16x9
- John D. Lamond Trailer Reel (15:18) 16x9
- Severin Trailers: PSYCHOMANIA (2:50), BLOODY MOON (1:39), HORROR EXPRESS (2:54) All trailers are 16x9 enhanced

Verdict: NIGHTMARES despite being a second rate stalk n' slash film in my opinion is still a sleazy psycho-sexual Ozploitation slasher that's worth a watch, though maybe not a blind buy unless your a slasher fanatic. Severin have put some effort into presenting the film completely uncut in progressive anamorphic widescreen with a nice selection of bonus features that are sure to boost your appreciation of the film.

3 outta 5

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