Tuesday, July 10, 2018

WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976) (Mondo Macabro Blu-ray Review)


Label: Mondo Macabro
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 112 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English, Spanish PCM Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Narciso Ibanez Serrador
Cast: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo, Miguel Narros, Maria Luisa Arias, Marisa Porcel, Fabián Conde

Synopsis: An English tourist couple rent a boat to visit the island of Almanzora, just off the southern Spanish coast. When they arrive, they find the island apparently empty of adults. There are only children, who don't speak but just stare at the strangers with eerie smiles on their faces. The English couple soon discovers that all the island's children have been possessed by a mysterious force, a kind of madness which they can pass from one to another, and which makes them attack and murder their elders, who can't defend themselves because, of course, nobody can kill a child...

Spanish killer kiddie classic Who Can Kill A Child? (1976) begins with black and white mondo newsreel footage showing how young children have been affected by war and conflict through the years, it's a brutal reel of film that goes on for maybe a bit too long, but then we get into the movie proper with the introduction of loving English couple Tom (Lewis Fiander, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde) and his pregnant wife Evelyn (Prunella Ransome, Man in the Wilderness) who arrive in Spain on Holiday, enjoying one last hurrah before the new baby arrives. As they enjoy the carnival atmosphere, fireworks and beaches we notice that in the background a series of bodies have begun washing up on the beaches, and so the couple decide it would be wise to go off the mainland to the nearby island community of Almanzora hoping to escape the unseemly wave of violence.

They rent small boat and travel to the island, arriving to the idyllic sight of young children laughing and playing in the water, however, as they venture into the picturesque alabaster village they notice that there are no adults on the streets or in the stores, they all seem to have vanished. It's all very strange, and what they discover is truly an unfathomable nightmare, that the kids have killed of all the adults, but for what reason? It is never explained, making it all the more eerie, though it is evident that the wave of murderous intent seems to be spread from child to child via contact or proximity, I like that this one keeps it's mystery while later entries in the killer-kiddie films like Bloody Birthday and The Children offer further explanation. 

Directed by Spanish filmmaker Narciso Ibáñez Serrador (The House That Screamed) the film is chilling to the core, while not as over-the-top and fun as later entries like Bloody Birthday (1981) or The Children (1980) the film is a tense and well-crafted horror-thriller, it keeps everything on an uneasy simmer, eventually boiling over into a frenzy of maddening downbeat horror, with the very title asking the troubling question, who can kill a child? The film is certainly a downer, borrowing a age from Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) to chilling effect.

Audio/Video: Mondo Macabro brings this killer kid classic to Blu-ray with a brand new 4K transfer from the original camera negative, presented in 1080p HD and framed in 1.85:1 widescreen it is a very nice upgrade from my Dark Sky Films DVD I have on my shelf. The source is very clean with only a few very minor blemishes popping up, it's a brighter presentation and the grain is nicely resolved. Skin tones on the Blu-ray look a bit reddish in spots but not unnaturally so, looking considerably cooler than the DVD, though I do miss the sun-drenched golden hue in a few of the scenes, but overall the color grading looks more more natural here. I did notice that the contrast looks a bit off in certain scenes and the image leaning towards the blue side of things in some of the screen grabs, but in motion it was not as problematic. The image offers some pleasing detail and textures throughout, check out the screen grabs comparing the Dark Sky DVD and Mondo Macabro Blu-ray below, these were pulled straight from the discs.



Audio options on the disc comes by way of three choices, the first being an English/Spanish hybrid with optional English subtitles over the Spanish language bits, or you cab choose to watch in it Spanish with English subs or English-dub with a few Spanish language bits, these are all presented in DTS-HD MA Mono, and for the sake of the review I watched it with the English/Spanish hybrid, it was well-balanced and clean, it's a bit flat sounding and doesn't have a lot of depth but the score from Waldo de los Ríos (The House that Screamed) was effectively haunting and sparse.

Looking at the extras Mondo Macabro port the director and cinematographer interviews from the 2007 Dark Sky DVD and add some nifty new ones. New stuff begin with the 46-minute "Version Española' doc, a TV episode featuring a panel discussion of the film with director Serrador, cinematographer Alcaine and film festival programmer José Luis Rebordino. Then Kim Newman shows u for 14-minutes to discuss killer kid films in general, from Bad Seed (1956) on through to more contemporary examples, Newman is always a good watch. We also get a new and informative audio commentary from Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger (of the terrific Daughters Of Darkness podcast) who offers loads of insight about the film, a good listen for sure.

Extras on the disc are finished up with a trailer for the film under the alternate title of The Hex Massacre, a double-bill with Lucifer's Curse, a series of radio spots and a Mondo Macabro trailer reel, which are never dull!

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork with the standard Mondo Macabro disc featuring the red-range background, MM logo and yellow movie title, nothing too special there. Mondo Macabbro did release a red-case limited edition with reversible artwork prior to this general release version.

Special Features:
- Brand new 4k transfer from film negative
- "Version Española" documentary about the film (46 min)
- "Who Can Shoot A Child" Interview with cinematographer Jose Luis Alcaine (16 min)
- "Child Director" Interview with director Narciso Ibanez Serrador (9 min)
- Kim Newman on Killer Kids (15 min)
- Audio Commentary by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger
- Alternate "Island of Death" Version (102 min)
- Hex Massacre Trailer (1 min)
- Hex Massacre Audio Spots (3 min)
- Mondo Macabro Trailer Reel (11 min)

Monodo Macabro knocked it out of the park bringing this killer-kid classic to Blu-ray, the presentation looks phenomenal and sounds real nice, plus they included all the old extras and added some new goodies, including four viewing options including the shorter American A.I.P. cut of the film. The movie is a bit of a slow-burn but the brief instances of violence are potent and the lingering discomfort caused by the simple yet disturbing premise keeps the tension ramped-up from start to finish, it's an absorbing and gut-punching sort of film.


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