Tuesday, June 17, 2014

HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN (1975) (Redemption Blu-ray Review)


Label: Redemption Films
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 104 Minutes
Audio: English LPCM Mono 2.0 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Pete Walker
Cast: Anthony Sharp, Norman Eshley, Sheila Keith

Pete Walker's HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN (1974) is definitely a poke in the eye of the Catholic Church, about a demented priest driven to murder his sinful; parishioners in the name of the Lord. Father Xavier (Anthony Sharp) is played with sinister delight by Sharp -  his appearance, mannerisms and holier-than-thou pomposity is spot on, a very creepy and intense character. He lives with his decrepit mothers and a strange one-eyed housekeeper Ms. Brabazon (Sheila Keith, HOUSE OF WHIPCORD) whom is every bit as corrupt as the priest. 

Enter a young the pretty young woman Jenny Lynch (Susan Penhaligon) whom catches the eye of the priest  during a confessional in which she reveals she's living in sin, her boyfriend is a cheat and that she's had an abortion! You can just imagine the righteous priest stewing in his juices upon this confession and it's not long before those surrounding young Jenny end up dead through burning, poisoning and other violent methods of murder.  

I consider myself a fan of Walker's string of horror-shockers from the 1970s but must confess I do find his films a bit dry and long in the tooth and HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN is no exception at 104 minutes. The saving grace are some nice violent punctuation - the deaths may not be overly elaborate but they are violent and gruesome in a ripping red-paint sort of way.

The film, also know under the title of THE CONFESSIONAL, is a bitter indictment of the Catholic Church - the old priest is a vile man but Walker does paint the younger Father Bernard (Norman Eshley) as a kinder more benevolent character. The young priest is struggling with his own faith as he considers turning away from the church for the love of a woman - a decision that does not sit well with Father Xavier as you can imagine. 

Jenny suspects the obsessed priest might be the culprit but her accusations fall on deaf ears - after all who would suspect a priest of such heinous crimes? I quite enjoyed the priests relationship with the one-eyed housekeeper, the hard-faced woman adds an additional element of menace to the proceedings. The finale in typical Pete Walker fashion is a shocker - it's bitterly dark and jaded. At points the films does drag a bit and Walker was never as stylish as Argento but this lurid shocker is quite a feast. 

The Blu-ray from Redemption Films presents the film in it's original aspect ratio (1.66:1) and the transfer is sourced from the original 35mm negatives and it looks quite nice with only very minor white speckling now and again. Not a lot of depth but the HD presentation does offer some modest fine detail and strong color reproduction. The English language LPCM 2.0 Mono audio fares well if not remarkable with what modest depth the mono track can muster. The Stanley Meyers score, dialogue and effects are clean and balanced - a very nice hi-def presentation. . 

Onto the extras an audio commentary with Walker moderated by Jonathan Rigby, author of English Gothic. If you enjoy Walker's films and this one particularly you're in for a treat as the director discusses the production which was designed to infuriate the Catholic Church plus some fn anecdotes about the cast and the cast he had hoped for. There's also an 11-minute featurette with Walker discussing a lot of the same information and a Pete walker Trailer Reel. 

Pete Walker's time at Catholic School as a young boy was apparently quite traumatic and HOUSE OF MORTAL SIN is a definite one-fingered salute to the hypocrisy of the church from the director - it's still pretty shocking to this day. This is a top-notch Blu-ray from Kino Lorber/Redemption and a first-class Walker entry, a high recommend to exploitation fans and Pete Walker aficionados that's worth the upgrade from the previous standard-def editions.