Thursday, April 18, 2019

THE EPITAPH VOL.14 - THE WITCHES (1966) - THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) - SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (1987) - WILLARD (2003) - WARNING SIGN (1985)

THE EPITAPH VOL.14 
SCREAM FACTORY EDITION!

THE WITCHES (1966) - THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) - SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (1987) - WILLARD (2003) - WARNING SIGN (1985) 


THE WITCHES (1966)
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 90 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Cyril Frankel
Cast: Joan Fontaine, Kay Walsh, Alec McCowe, Duncan Lamont, Gwen Ffrangcon Davies
 

A bit of lesser-appreciated slice of Hammer horror is The Witches (1966) which is better known here in the U.S. under the alternate title The Devil's Own, starring Joan Fontaine as a schoolteacher doing missionary work in Africa where she is terrorized by a witch doctor, causing her to have a nervous breakdown. We catch up with her some months later and she has been recovering from her breakdown, now accepting a teaching position job in a rural village in the English countryside. Funnily enough we come to find out there's some shady witchcraft happening there too! It a bit of a slow-burn after an initially strange beginning, but the over-the-top finale more than pays off the slow-burn build-up with a delirious dose of small town witchcraft. Scream Factory's release includes an audio commentary, Hammer Glamour featurette, trailer and still gallery plus a reversible sleeve of artwork with both U.K. The Witches and the U.S. The Devil's Own artworks!

Special Features:
- NEW Audio Commentary With Filmmaker/Historian Ted Newsom
- Hammer Glamour – A Featurette On The Women Of Hammer
- U.S. Trailer THE DEVIL’S OWN
- Double Feature Trailer PREHISTORIC WOMEN And THE DEVIL’S OWN
- Still Gallery


THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)
Label: Scream Factory
Rating: Unrated
Region Code: A
Duration: 77 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: B&W 1080p HD Full Frame (1.33:1)
Director: Robert Wise
Cast: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Henry Daniell, Edith Atwater, Russell Wade, Sharyn Moffett

This Val Lewton produced adaptation of a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, and finely directed by Robert Wise (The Haunting) has long been one of my favorite grave-robber thrillers. A vintage slice of the macabre, starring a devilishly delightful Boris Karloff as John Gray, a man who supplies corpses to a surgical school run by Dr. Wolfe "Toddy" MacFarlane (Henry Daniell, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake), a man who doesn't question where all these fresh corpses are coming from. The film is full of references to the Burke & Hare and includes an appearance from Bela Lugosi as one of the Dr.'s assistant, who unwisely attempts to blackmail Gray, his fate sort of sadly mirroring what had already happened to his real career, his horror crown having already been usurped by Karloff! This new 4K scan from the original camera negative performed by Warner Bros. is absolutely stunning, the black and white cinematography is crisp, well detailed and offering excellent contrast like this film has not seen before. Extras include the archival 53-min doc Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy with appearances from Guillermo del Toro, Robert Wise, George A. Romero, John Landis and others, narrated by James Cromwell. There's also a 12-min appreciation from author Gregory William Mank, an audio commentary with the director Robert Wise and film historian Steve Haberman, plus a selection of galleries.

Special Features:
- NEW 4K scan of the original camera negative
- NEW You’ll Never Get Rid of Me: Resurrecting THE BODY SNATCHER (12 min)
- Audio Commentary with director Robert Wise and writer/film historian Steve Haberman
- Documentary – Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy (53 min)
- Still Galleries (5 min)
- Posters, lobby cards, movie stills (4 min)



SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (1987)
Label: Shout Select
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 106 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Tom Berenger, Mimi Rogers, Lorraine Bracco, Jerry Orbach

Romantic thrillers are not necessarily a genre of films I go out of my way to watch, but considering this one is directed by Ridley Scott (Alien) and my wife hates horror, I need to have a standby film that will work for both of us on those lucky nights when she wants to cuddle-up on the couch. Set in New York City the film has a great look, really capturing the sights of The Big Apple with attractive lensing. The story of a rough around the edges detective (Tom Berenger, Major League) who is tasked with playing body guard to a socialite (Mimi Rogers, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) who witnessed a murder. The cop and the socialite improbably start to fall for one another, straining the cop's home life with wifey played by Lorraine Bracco (Goodfellas). Not anywhere near the best of Ridley Scott's work in my opinion, but if you have a soft spot for romantic thrillers that are visually engaging you could do worse, plus you get an appearance from the late Jerry Orbach (TV's Law & Order) playing what else, a cop. The film arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory looking and sounding solid on Blu-ray, containing new interviews with both the director of photography and writer.

Special Features:
- New Interviews with Writer Howard Franklin (11 min) HD
- New Interview with Director of Photography Steven Poster (14 min) HD

WILLARD (2003)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 100 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1
Director: Glenn Morgan
Cast: Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Laura Elena Harring, Jackie Burroughs

This delightfully demented remake of Willard helmed by writer-director Glen Morgan (Black Xmas) hits all the right notes for me, a character study of a sad, awkward loner with no friends, other than some rats, who do his bidding, and much strangeness ensues. Crispin Hellion Glover was the absolutely the right choice to play the titular character who seeks revenge against his hard-nosed boss played by R. Lee Ermey (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and others who have shit on him through the years. The art direction and dour tone of this one didn't exactly burn through cinemas back in '03, I recall watching it in a theater all by myself, but I think it's developed a nice cult following over the years. The new Blu-ray from Scream Factory is not branded as a Collector's Edition but is absolutely crawling with extras, porting over the ample supplements from the previous special edition DVD and adding two brand new commentaries, plus over two hours worth of new interviews, plus a new 2K scan of the film. Willard is a  rat-tastic slice of creepiness, anchored by a wonderfully weird turn from the wonderfully weird Crispin Hellion Glover, some excellent rat-acting/wrangling and oodles of skin-crawling atmosphere. 

Special Features:
- NEW 2K scan of the original film elements
- NEW Audio Commentary with writer/director Glen Morgan and director of photography Robert McLachlan
- NEW Audio Commentary with animal trainers Mark Harden and David Allsberry of Animals for Hollywood
- NEW The Road to Willard – an interview with writer/director Glen Morgan (80 min) HD
- NEW Destination Willard – an interview with director of photography Robert McLachlan (46 min) HD
- NEW The Rat Trainer’s Notebook – behind-the-scenes footage from Animals for Hollywood (12 min)
- Audio Commentary with writer/director Glen Morgan, producer James Wong, actors Crispin Glover and R. Lee Ermey
- The Year of the Rat – a documentary on the making of WILLARD (73 min)
- Rat People: Friends or Foes? – A Real Rat Documentary (19 min)
- Deleted/Alternate Scenes with optional commentary (26 min)
- Music Video BEN by Crispin Hellion Glover with optional commentary (3 min)
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage and interviews from the EPK (30 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (4 min)
- TV Spots (4 min)
WARNING SIGN (1985)
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 99 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widecreen (1.85:1)
Cast: Sam Waterston, Kathleen Quinlan, Yaphet Kotto, Jeffrey DeMunn, Richard Dysart
Director: Hal Barwood

Eighties bio-terror film Warning Sign (1985) is a movie I hadn't even heard of until it was announced by Scream Factory, the story takes place in a secret government run research facility masquerading as an agriculture pesticide facility in rural Utah.  A biological weapon along the lines of the rage virus from 28 Days Later is accidentally released during a celebratory photo op in the lab, causing the facility to go into lock down. The local sheriff's (Sam Waterston, Serial Mom) wife (Kathleen Quinlan, Twilight Zone: The Movie) works as security for the lab and is trapped inside, trying to stay alive while the employees inside begin to succumb to the violence/paranoia inducing bio-weapon that's been unleashed. A shadowy government agent (Yaphet Kotto, Alien) shows up to contain the situation with lots of men in contamination suits, reassuring the local media with a steady stream of disinformation. Realizing that the agent is blowing smoke up his ass the sheriff reaches out to a rogue/discredited biologist (Jeffery DeMunn, The Blob) who once worked on the project. Rounding out the surprisingly stellar cast are Richard Dysart (The Thing) and G.W. Bailey (Police Academy) as researcher trapped inside the facility. The bio-thriller is surprisingly played straight, I was expecting something a bit sillier coming right smack dab in the middle of the 80's, but that's not to say that it isn't unintentionally humorous from time to time. There's something that cracked me up about the manic paranoia of Dysart once he began exhibiting signs of being infected, and the whole development and application of the cure also comes off rather goofy. That said, I had a blast with this film, the premise is semi-solid, while the execution and science seems less than perfect, but the cast is top-notch and really won the day for me. It's not great stuff, but absolutely entertaining junk food cinema. Scream Factory offer the film up in 1.85:1 widescreen with a losless stereo audio track, though the menu indicated mono, it's incorrect. Extras come by way of an archival commentary from the director, plus a pair of new interviews with the director and producer Jim Bloom, plus a trailer, TV spot and image gallery. The sleeve of artwork is reversible but both are generic looking.

Special Features:
- New interview with director/co-writer Hal Barwood (19 min) HD
- New interview with producer Jim Bloom (40 min)
- Audio commentary track with director/co-writer Hal Barwood
- TV Spot (1 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min)
- Still Gallery (2 min)

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