Wednesday, March 28, 2018

THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE (1972) (VCI Blu-ray Review)


Label: VCI Entertainment 

Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: PG
Duration: 81 Minutes
Audio: English LPCM Mono, Dolby Digital Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Eddie Romero
Cast: John Ashley, Pat Woodell, Jan Merlin, Charles Macaulay, Pam Grier 

In this low-rent knock-off of H.G. Welles' The Island of Dr. Moreau we have international man of adventure Matt Farrell (John Ashley, Beach Blanket Bingo) scuba-diving in some unknown international waters when he is attacked by two divers who proceed to lasso the guy and haul him out of the water like some sort of trophy marlin dangling from a winch and crane. Once on the deck of the boat he is drugged and taken by evil-henchman Steinman (Jan Merlin, The Hindenberg) to an uncharted island where well-mannered mad scientist Dr. Gordon (Charles Macaulay, Blacula) is up to the usual man-animal hybridization we've come to expect from mad docs on tropical islands. Dr. Gordon has handpicked the heavily side-burned adventurer as his next human lab-rat, but when the doc's gorgeous daughter Neva (Pat Woodell, The Big Doll House) finds herself attracted to the handsome guy things begin to go awry, leading to the couple freeing the manimal hybrids from captivity and escaping into the jungles on the island with Gordon and his right-hand man Steinman, along with a myriad of red-shirt bad guys, in hot pursuit. 

This low-fi riff on the well-familiar H.G. Welles story is cheesy, fun entertainment, we get human-animal hybrids of all variety, from a rapey ape-man to a winged bat-man, a even a horned (but not horny)  antelope-man! Of note 70's blaxploitation Goddess Pam Grier (Foxy Brown) shows up as a panther-woman, and while the manimal designs aren't great, Grier is always purr-fectly welcome when she appears onscreen. The creature designs are cheaply made with what looks to be special effects consisting of clay clumped onto actors faces with tufts of horse hair, horns and sharp teeth and/or fangs, no one made out very well in the look department, though bat-boy might get the worst of it with his horrendous vinyl wings, but at least he gets hooked up to a crane and wires (I am assuming) for some flying scenes, which are ropy but fun. There's some minor bloodshed, the most prominent being an javelina-human hybrid shot in the head with a .22 caliber pistol, causing a mini-geyser of blood to spew forth, we also get some bloody gunshot wounds and neck wounds. The main attraction here for me was the inclusion of Pam Grier as the panther woman, she's fanged and fearsome, offering up some ass-kicking action and plenty of purring and roaring in equal measure. 

This is one of the Filipino-exploitation films shot in the Philipines in the 70s, and director Eddie Romero was no stranger to the source material, having already riffed on the H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau with his own film Terror is a Man (1959), this version is cheap and lo-fi but it's very entertaining in a drive-in double-bill sort of way, breezing by in just over eighty-minutes it's hard to have fun with it, bad b-movie lovers should have a blast with this one, I sure did. 

Audio/Video: Twilight People (1972) arrives on dual-format Blu-ray/DVD from VCI Entertainment, advertised as being a new 2K scan of the original camera negative. The 1.78:1 widescreen image looks clean and shows very minimal white speckling and very few if any other damages to the film, however there is a yellow/green hue that permeates the image, skin tones looking overly green at times. The clarity at is often impressive with nice depth, but the density fluctuates wildly from one scene to the next, with contrast and black levels also varying. A few scenes are marred by some yellowing of the image, one scene in particular is a view of the island from the ocean, it looks as if a piss-colored cloudburst has opened up and poured down the center of the screen, not sure if this is endemic of the original source or if this is an age-related irregularity, but it's there. The English language PCM Mono 2.0 audio is limited in it's fidelity but comes through relatively clean with only some minor hiss and boxiness to the dialogue, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Extras on the disc include an audio commentary from film historian and journalist David Del Valle and director David DeCoteau (Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge), both of these guys are movie buffs and have been in and around the industry for decades, each comes to this one with a true love of bad b-movies and trivia galore about the cast and crew, and the various versions of the source material that have been adapted for the big screen - even if you hate the movie this is a great commentary track. We also get an hour-long vintage interview  with director Eddie Romero who discusses his career as a filmmaker and how he came to be a director, working on Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, it's got some great stuff in there, but the source is lo-fi, possibly VHS sourced and the sound is spotty. Additionally we have a theatrical trailer for the film and a selection of TV spots. 

The 2-disc release comes housed in a clear eco-lite Vortex Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original blue-tinged movie poster and a more colorful version of the same artwork with Pam Grier featured prominently into it. The 2-discs themselves featuring differing images from the film, the DVD features the same feature and extras in standard definition with lossy audio.

Special Features: 

- Audio Commentary by Film Historian and Journalist David Del Valle and Genre Director David DeCoteau (Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge) 
- Video Interview with the director, Eddie Romero
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots (2 min)

The Twilight People (1972) offers up some cheap Moreau-styled thrills that lovers of bad b-cinema should lap up with a thirst, sure it's a bad movie but it is an entertaining slice of exploitation, and noteworthy for the early appearance from a fur-covered Pam Grier. Glad to have this one on widescreen Blu-ray, while there are some not insignificant issues with the image this is a nice widescreen HD upgrade of the schlocky and animalistic cult-classic.  

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