Friday, September 30, 2016

STEPHEN KING'S CAT'S EYE (1985) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Bros. Entertainment 

Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.4:1) 
Director: Lewis Teague
Cast: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King, Robert Hays, Kenneth McMillan, Candy Clark

This often overlooked 80s horror anthology begins with the titular feline escaping the jaws of not only Cujo but the wheels of the cursed-car Christine in a nice homage to Stephen King's other movies. The cat shows up again in the opening story of the anthology,  "Quitters, Inc." wherein a die-hard cigarette smoker named Dick Morrison played by James Woods. Quitter's Inc. seeks professional help to curb his addiction. Quitters Inc. and the strong-armed Dr. Vinnie Donatti (Alan King) have put together quite an extreme stop-smoking program, one based on the tactics employed by mafia, as demonstrated by their willingness to repeatedly electrocute a poor cat as an example of what they will do if they catch him smoking. A threat not directed towards him, but to his lovely wife. The threat is only too real as he comes to find out when he finds that the draw of nicotine is just too much him to resist even when faced with dire consequences. The short has plenty of laughs and uncomfortable moments of pain being inflicted upon his wife, Woods is wonderful as the chain-smoker caught between his addiction and his love of family.  

The cat again come into play in the next story, the high-rise thriller "The Ledge", where we have a former tennis pro named Johnny Norris (Robert Hays, Airplane) who has angered wealthy casino-owner Cressner by running off with his estranged wife. Cressner is played with comical ruthlessness by Kenneth McMillan (Dune) who kidnaps the would-be Lothario and forces him into accepting a deadly bet. The wager is that if Norris can circumnavigate his penthouse apartment on the exterior ledge without falling to his death he will grant his wife a divorce and give the former tennis pro a bunch of money. Norris reluctantly accepts the wager and climbs out onto the perilous ledge of the skyscraper where he is menaced by Cressner who menaces Norris with water hoses and loud noises while taunting him with the line "just trying to keep you on your toes". Norris must also contend with a tenacious pigeon who relentlessly pecks away at his ankles until they begin to bleed. Unsurprisingly Cressner welches on the bet when Norris succeeds but when the tables are turned things to not go so well for the casino-owner. It was a ton of fun to watch McMillan play such a sonofabitch, he's an intense actor and plays the part with so much diabolical glee. The scenes of Norris traversing the exterior of the high rise are done with what appears to be a mixture of rear projection and miniature sets and the optical effects still look good to my eyes, this is a fun one, those with an aversion to heights might even get a bit nauseous. 

Our feline tour guide once again escape his confines and makes his way to the third and final entry, "General", starring a young Drew Barrymore as Amanda, a young girl who is being menaced by a breath-sucking troll that lives inside her bedroom wall. However, her mother (Candy Clark) places the blame for the troll's increasingly alarming shenanigans on the family cat, banishing him to stay the night outside, leaving poor Amanda alone with the malicious troll who threatens to steal her breath while she sleeps. Of course the cat comes through in the end, but I had forgotten what a gory end the troll comes to in this one, and was a bit surprised how bloody it was for a PG-13 rated anthology, but we got away with a lot more in kids movies back then. 

Cat's Eye is a fun watch, based on two of Stephen King's short stories from his Night Shift collection, plus a new one which he scripted just for this movie. I like the connective tissue of the cat going from one story to the next, and Lewis Teague, who also directed adapted Stephen King's Cujo for the silver screen, does a fine job with all three of the vignettes within the context of kiddie horror.  

The anthology arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. with a new 4K scan looking healthy in HD, there is a nice layer of film grain left intact, appearing film like and natural without any major digital manipulation. Colors are strong, skin tones look natural and the image is crisp and detailed. Audio is handled by a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that is nicely balanced with good depth and fidelity. The only extras on the disc are a trailer for the movie and the same audio commentary from director Lewis Teague, which is a solid track giving some back story to how he came to the project, working with Stephen King, his experience with various actors and a lot of technical talk about how many of the optical effects were created. 

Warner Bros. offer up a solid HD upgrade for this 80s Stephen King horror anthology, not on par with Creepshow or Nightmares but still a kiddie-friendly watch that you can enjoy with your kids this October. 

SALEM'S LOT (1979) (Blu-ray Review)

SALEM'S LOT (1979) 
Label: Warner Bros.
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: PG
Duration 183 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Fulscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Tobe Hooper
Cast: David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Julie Cobb, Elisha Cook Jr., George Dzundza, Ed Flanders, Clarissa Kaye-Mason, Geoffrey Lewis, Barney McFadden, Kenneth McMillan, Fred Willard, Marie Windsor 

Writer Ben Mears (David Soul) returns to his hometown of Salem's Lot, Maine to begin writing a new book, a book based on a creepy old house located on a hill overlooking the town The place is the Marsten House, a dwelling that Mears believes to be a center of evil, a place where bad things have happened and where bad things will again occur. He arrives hoping to rent the place but finds out from local realtor Larry Crockett (Fred Willard) that the old dark house has already been rented by the mysterious Richard Straker (James Mason), an British antiques dealer who is about to open a new curio shop in town, along with his elusive partner Kurt Barlow. 

With the Marsten House not available Mears sets up a room at the local boarding house run by Eva Miller (Marie Windsor). Soon after arriving Ben makes the acquaintance of an attractive young woman named Susan Norton (Bonnie Bedelia, Die Hard), the daughter of the town doc, Dr. Bill Norton (Ed Flanders), and two begin to fall in love with each other in short order. 

However, things begin to take a turn for the worse when Straker hires a pair of men to deliver a crate to the house, one of them played by 70s TV character actor Geoffrey Lewis, playing grave digger Mike Ryerson. Soon after the creepily cold crate is unloaded into the basement of the house a local kid named Ralphie Glick (Ronnie Scribner) is abducted by Straker and brought to the house as an offering to what turns out to be his vampire master, the elusive Kurt Barlow Has arrived. Now a turned into a vampire Ralphie visits his older brother Danny (Brad Savage) in the middle of the night in a scene directly lifted for by Joel Schumacher for his movie The Lost Boys. Danny succumbs to his bloodsucking brother and now both the Glick boys are vamps, with Danny infecting the gravedigger Mike Ryerson, who also begins to transform into a bloodsucker after a brief flu-like illness. 

And so the story continues the idyllic small town is overcome by vampirism as it spreads like a vampire-virus from one person to the next with only a small group of folks realizing what exactly is happening. Our main protagonists are Mears, Dr. Norton and a schoolteacher named Jason Burke (Lew Ayres), along with Mears' love interest Susan who finds herself in peril. Also brought into the melee is a young boy obsessed with horror movies and monsters, named Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin), whose parents are killed by Barlow in a great scene that reveals the vamp in all his blue-skinned Nosferatu glory, a scene that had be covering my face in terror when I first watched it at six years old on TV with my mom. 

As a Stephen King adaptation the movie stays very true to the source material, the sprawling cast of characters is left intact, however Barlow is not the cloaked count that King had originally envisioned, more of a rat-like Nosferatu we've come to known from the F. W. Murnau classic, but it works, in fact this is one of my favorite on-screen vampires of all time, some of the make-up effects look a bit dated but I love this design. I also love the make-up work on Geoffrey Lewis when he is transitioning into a vamp, the scene of him sitting on a rocker in a darkened room with glowing eyes is still a chilling watch.

Actor David Soul certainly look more like a gym teacher than a writer, but he does good work here, though a bit on the stuff side he does the job, The standout is the creepy and gentlemanly performance of James Mason (Murder by Decree) who balances menace with British charm effortlessly, always slyly hinting at the whereabouts of his silent partner Barlow, his toying with the local Constable (Kenneth McMillan, Dune), and he is straight up terrifying when he reveals himself as an inhuman ghoul during a confrontation with Dr. Norton inside the Marsten House. In that scene Straker impales the doc on a set of antlers mounted to the wall, yet another scene lifted by 80s vamp favorite The Lost Boys. 

As a kid who loved horror it was a bit of nerd fantasy to imagine myself as the character of Mark Petrie, the boy who loved horror and whose knowledge of horror saved his life, warding off a vamp attack from the menacing Danny Glick, repelling him with a crucifix he breaks off from one of his own Aurora Horror Kits, so cool, this also brought to mind the kid from Tobe Hooper's The Funhouse (1981), who also loved horror and who survives. Tobe Hooper did good work bringing this one to the small screen, a slice of smalltown Gothic horror  laced with dread and one of the best looking bloodsuckers ever to grace the screen, big or small. Also, this is not a movie that gets mentioned nearly enough when discussing the better Stephen King adaptations or highlights from Hooper's body of directorial work, I hope this new HD release remedies that, 

Audio/Video: Salem's Lot arrives on Blu-ray for the first-time ever courtesy of Warner Bros. who present the movie in HD from the original 35mm elements and it looks great, they've gone back and presented the TV movie in the original full frame aspect ratio. Grain is nicely layered and with it you get some damn fine detail and depth to the image. I've watched this movie on a semi-regular basis for years and it has never looked that great on home video, that is until now. Audio chores on the disc are capably handled by a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track that is clean and nicely balanced, dialogue is crisp and the score and effects come through sharp. The score comes by way of TV composer Harry Sukman (Someone's Watching Me!) and it is damn creepy when it needs to be, way above average for a made-for-TV movie, I love the use of the oboe throughout, a nice deep and foreboding sound.

Extras on the disc are slim but appreciated, the International Theatrical Trailer and a brand new commentary from director Tobe Hooper. Those familiar with Hooper's other commentary tracks are aware that the gravel-voiced director can me a bit verbally lethargic at times with large gaps of no commentary, but he's had some thirty years to look back at his movie and does offer up some nice anecdotes about making the movie, working with Hollywood legends like Elisha Cook Jr. and James Mason in particular. 

I gladly would have plopped down a few more bucks on this one to have new interviews with the surviving cast and crew from Red Shirt Pictures of Freak-O-Rama who have been doing some great work creating extras for vintage horror movies for a wide range of niche cult and horror labels, I would have loved some more extras here. Another extra that would have been a big bonus for me would have been the inclusion of the International 2-hour cut of the movie that was shown theatrically in other territories with a few scenes not included on the TV mini series, even having those clips included as deleted scenes would have been something wonderful, as would have the option to watch it in the original two-part mini series format with opening and closing credits. Still, I am very pleased with the new A/V presentation and the new commentary, well worth the upgrade. 

Special Features:

- Feature-Length Audio Commentary by Director Tobe Hooper
- International Theatrical Trailer

Tobe Hooper's TV adaptation of Stephen King's Salem's Lot holds up very well after all these years, a top-notch Gothic horror entry that while a bit on the dated side from time to time is suspenseful and full of creeping dread. The TV movie is certainly tame by modern horror standards of gore and bloodshed but still offers up a bunch of Gothic chills for horror fans who love a nice slow build up, this is effective stuff. The new transfer looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray, a high recommend that you make this part of your October viewing in the lead-up to Halloween. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

STEPHEN KING'S IT (1990) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Warner Bros. 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 17 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace
Cast: Tim Curry, Harry Anderson, Dennis Christopher, Richard Masur, annette O'Toole, Tim Reid, John Ritter, Richard Thomas, Seth Green, Emily Perkins, Adam Faraizl, Brandon Crane, Marlon Taylor, Jonathan Brandis, Seth Green, Ben Heller

When Stephen King's It debuted on TV in 1990 as a two-part mini-series on ABC I was sixteen and already a rabid Stephen King fan, my mom was too and it was because of her that I found myself picking up his novels from a very young age. As a fan I was ready and well-primed for Pennywise to leap from the page and onto my TV.

The movie opens on rainy day in Derry, Maine, the year is 1957 and a young boy named Georgie (Tony Dakota) is floating his paper boat down a flooded street when it disappears down a storm drain. Peering down into the drain he sees a clown who introduces himself as Pennywise (Tim Curry, Legend), whom at first speaks nicely to the boy before baring his gnarly teeth and murdering him. Georgie's older brother Bill (Jonathan Brandis) is also haunted by the diabolical clown who has been killing children in the area and turns out to be supernatural in nature, though no adults seem to be aware of or suspect that there is a murderous clown on the loose. As young people continue to be mutilated by the demonic clown Bill teams-up with six other local youths, each of whom have had their own nightmarish and surreal experiences with the other worldly clown. We have fat-boy Ben (Brandon Crane), wheezy Eddie (Adam Faraizl), every boy's crush Beverly (Emily Perkins, Ginger Snaps), funny-kid Richie (Seth Green, Idle Hands), shy-guy Stan (Ben Heller) and what appears to be only black kid in town Mike Hanlon (Marlon Taylor). Branding themselves The Loser's Club they band together to take on the clown-faced menace in the sewers. Thinking they've defeated the clown-demon they promise each other that should it ever return they will come together again and face-off against the clowns sinister evil once again.

Thirty years later the clown returns to Derry and young people are murdered, most of the Loser's Club have long since left Derry in pursuit of their careers except for poor Mike who has become the town historian and still seems to be the only black guy in town. He calls each of his now older childhood friends, asking them to return to Derry and fulfill their youthful promise. The older kids are now played by 80s and 90s sitcom and movie stars, including Night Court's Harry Anderson as Richie, Dennis Christopher as Eddie, Richard Masur from License to Drive as Stan, Smallville's Annette O'Toole as Beverly, The Waltons star Richard Thomas as Bill, and Three's Company star John Ritter as Ben. Reunited the Loser's Club must deal with the suicide of one of their own and their own personal demons as they once again face-off against the demonic clown Pennywise. 

The first half of the miniseries which takes place in the 1950s with the younger cast is fantastic, set in a small town it really channels some of Stephen King's best stuff about life in a small town which has been touched by a dark presence, like a nightmarish Norman Rockwell image, the young cast is overall solid with some nice performances from Seth Green, Emily Perkins and the late Jonathan Brandis who sadly committed suicide in 2003. This half of the mini-series feels a bit like Stand By Me as the misfits kids band together, also having to deal with a menacing bully named Henry Bowers (Jarred Blancard) who loves to make the kids miserable both as youths and again as adults. 

The second half of the movie concerns the reunited kids now grown up, the individually cast is strong but don't have the group chemistry of the younger actors, not helping is that some of the kid grown up look nothing at all like their younger counterparts. The seasoned cast of older actors are not awful by any means, but they just do not have the same magic that young actors had together. A lot of his might have to do with the fact that screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen was not around for rewrites for the latter half of the film, leaving director Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III: Season of the Witch) on his own to handle those chores, there's certainly a tonal shift and it is more than just the characters have aged, there's a magic missing from the second half. 

Made for TV the movie is pretty light on blood and gore but not without some suspense and moments of supernatural eeriness, a recurring gag involving blood only the kids can see was weird and unnerving, as was a book that comes to life and then bleeds. Some of the effects are just awful though, no one kindly remembers the final reveal of Pennywise's true demonic-spider form which was just corny, but sometimes the run-up to the finale is the best stuff and such was the case with Stephen King's It. The true menace of this movie comes straight from the mind and talent of actor Tim Curry who brought Pennywise the clown to life with a minimal amount of makeup special effects, he is straight-up unnerving and his portrayal of the demonic clown may be the reason so many kids are freaked out by circus clowns these days, he is terrifying and magnetic throughout the entire series, it is just sad that the movie sort of fizzled out at the end, over-extending the made-for-TV budget on the home stretch. 

Audio/Video: Stephen King's It arrives on Blu-ray at long last from Warner Bros. with a new HD master and presented in the original fullframe broadcast aspect ratio, the previous DVD was reframed for widescreen (1.78:1) but this fullframe presentation is the original and correct aspect ratio. The new transfer looks wonderful, very crisp and clean but with a nice layer of grain and along with a fair amount of fine detail. The colors really pop and the black levels are nice and deep, a definite upgrade in picture quality. Audio comes by way of an English language DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo track that is nicely balance, crisp and has some good depth to it. Channel separation is good and there are optional English SDH subtitles in addition to a plethora of alternate audio and subtitle options. 

WB carry-over commentary with director Tommy Lee Wallace, and cast members Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid, John Ritter, and Richard Thomas. Carried  which appeared on the previous DVD release. The track is quite good with director Wallace giving a very candid and open conversation about the making of the movie, adapting the source material, and the limitations of the made-for-TV format, 

While the commentary s good who I would have loved new interviews with the cast and crew, including Tim Curry or the cast from the movie, including a young Emily Perkins who was still a few years away from her turn in the Ginger Snaps series. I also would have enjoyed the option to watch the movie in the original two-part broadcast format with the original opening and closing credits for Part 1 and Part 2 which extend the scene of Stan's wife screaming after she discovers his suicide with Pennywise's creepy laugh over it. Part two should open with Bill driving into Derry and checking into his hotel before going o the cemetery. Wish list aside, the Blu-ray we have available to us is pretty great, with a crisp new HD transfer and lossless audio and an easy-purchase price tag that makes this no-brainer HD upgrade for fans of the miniseries. 

Special Features:
- Commentary by Director Tommy Lee Wallace and Actors Dennis Christopher, Tim Reid, John Ritter and Richard Thomas

Stephen King's It continues to scare with varying results twenty-six years after it initially aired on TV. The first-half is still a first-rate watch with the second half still suffering from a drop in quality and a tonal shift, but I still love it and Tim Curry as Pennywise is truly iconic. The new Blu-ray from WB looks and sounds fantastic, highly recommended. 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (1979) (Blue Underground Blu-ray Review)


Label: Blue Underground

Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: PG
Duration: 98 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD 5.1, DTS-HD Mono with Optional  English, French, Spanish Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: George McCowan
Cast: Jack Palance, Carol Lynley, Barry Morse, John Ireland, Nicholas Campbell, Eddie Benton

The sci-fi future world of The Shape of Things to Come is described in the movie as "the tomorrow after tomorrow" wherein mankind has laid waste to the planet Earth and set-up a new colony on the Moon where we live an enormous domed city known as New Washington. There we are dependant on an anti-radiation drug only produced on the planet Delta Three which is run by the power-mad Emperor Omus (Jack Palance, Jess Franco's Justine), who has grand ideas of becoming the new King of the Cosmos. To that end he has cut-off the supply of the life-saving drug, in addition to launching robutt-piloted kamikaze attacks on New Washington. A team of scientists led by Dr. John Caball (Barry Morse, Space: 1999) launches a mission to destroy the dictator and his menacing robot army, joining him on this life-threatening adventure are the attractive security officer (Carol Lynley, Vigilante) and his son (Nicholas Campbell, of Cronenberg's The Dead Zone) and together they arrive on Delta Three and attempt to thwart the intergalactic tyrant with the aid of their tenacious robot and whole lot of cheesy sci-fi drive-in action.

This science fiction clunker was directed by George McCowan (eco-horror clunker Frogs) and so loosely based on H.G. Wells' visionary novel that I swear his very name threatens to fall of the Blu-ray artwork. In the wake of Star Wars there were wanna-be sci-fi epics coming out of every space wormhole in the cinema but this anemic Canadian entry was among the cheapest and most yawn-inducing of them all, and that is saying something when you put up against a few of those Roger Corman rip-offs, but somehow this has managed to stay right at the bottom of the pile, aging like the rancid turd that it is. 

The saving grace of the movie is the intrinsic schlock-value of such a poor production with low-rent sets made of cardboard and alien-worlds which are about as exotic as rural Canada where the movie was made - there sure are a lot of maple trees on Delta Three! The cast have to speak massive amounts of sci-fi verbal vomit but at least we have Jack Palance nicely chewing-up the scenery as he usually did when working for producer Harry Alan Towers. As the diabolical Emperor Omus Palance does what he can as the purple caped villain, but even his treacherous charms have their limits within the context of such an atrocious affront to science fiction cinema. 

Audio/Video: The sci-fi clunker arrives on Blu-ray from cult favorite Blue Underground who have been on a Harry Alan Towers kick of late, though this is by several parsecs the worst of his movies that I have seen. However, Blue Underground work their HD magic and have struck a new HD master from the original 35mm camera negatives, breathing new life into this schlocky space-movie. The image can be a bit dark and the cinematography has an ugly softness to it, through no fault of the new transfer, this is as good as this slice of sci-fi awfulness will ever look on home video. Audio options include your choice of original DTS-HD mono or surround sound, optional English, French, and Spanish subtitles are included. 

Extras on the disc include interview with star Nicholas Campbell (14 Mins) and composer Paul Hoffert. Campbell (17 Mins). Campbell is a hoot and seems like a wild man, giving some great insight into the anemic sci-fi movie and its notorious producer Harry Alan Towers. There is also a selection of trailers, TV spots, an image gallery and the entire pressbook for the movie. 

Special Features: 

- Jason's Journey - Interview with Star Nicholas Campbell (14 Mins) HD 
- Symphonies In Space - Interview with Composer Paul Hoffert (17 Mins) HD 
- French Trailer (2 Mins) HD 
- TV Spot (30 Secs) 
- Poster and Still Gallery (3 Mins) HD 
- Pressbook Gallery (2 Mins) HD 

The Shape of Things to Come is an awful sci-fi entry that came out in the wake of Star Wars but feels more like as on-the-cheap version of the TV series Battlestar Galactica by way of the science fiction movie of the fifties. This is a recommend to hardcore collectors of bad science fiction movies, and possibly a hard-sell to anyone else. Sometimes I wonder how Lustig and company choose their HD upgrades, were fans really clamoring for this on Blu-ray? Whatever the process I remain in awe of Blue Underground;s commitment to cult-film preservation. 

LADY IN WHITE (1988) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory 
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration:117 / 126 / 113 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 

Director:Frank LaLoggia
Cast: Len Cariou, Alex Rocco, Katherine Helmond, Lukas Haas

Frank LaLoggia's supernatural murder mystery Lady In White (1988) is set during the Fall of  1962, specifically the lead-up to Halloween, and the story follows a young boy named Frankie (Lukas Haas) who becomes trapped overnight inside the school cloakroom by a pair of bullies, which is where Frankie witnesses the ghost of a murdered young girl. The girl was murdered in that same cloakroom ten years earlier by an unseen man, a crime which Frankie watches as it replays in front of his very eyes. As if that wasn't frightening enough the murderer shows up this same night looking for something he left behind years earlier which might somehow incriminate him. Frankie senses the danger and tries to hide from the man in the shadows of the room but he is betrayed by a mouse, now spotted by the menacing man Frankie is strangled and left for dead, but he survives the encounter and is later found by his father Angelo (Alex Rocco) who had been searching for the boy when he didn't come home from school that day. 

The authorities place the blame on the school's black janitor Willy Williams (Henry Harris) who is found in  the basement of the school drunk, but Frankie doesn't believe him to be the culprit. As Frankie recovers from his injuries at home he becomes obsessed by the mystery of the murdered girl after finding out that her murder is only one of several which have occurred in the area over the past decade, there's a serial killer on the loose and the police are only too happy to pin the crimes on the janitor.  The young girl is Melissa Ann Montgomery (Joelle Jacobi), the very first victim of the killer, and she begins to haunt young Frankie dreams, forming a supernatural alliance of sorts as Frankie begins to sleuth the mystery of her death. 

Frankie finds a dilapidated house on the nearby cliffs overlooking the local lake, a place seemingly haunted by the Lady in White, actually an old woman named Amanda (Katherine Helmond). It turns out that this was Melissa's home and is also the scene of another tragedy, the suicide of her grieving mother who is said to haunt the area eternally searching for her beloved daughter Melissa. As young Frankie gets closer to the truth he puts himself is great danger as the culprit of the child murders is close by and does not want to be revealed. 

LaLoggia's story a wonderful combination of Stephen King small town horror combined with Jean shepherd's A Christmas Story by way of Disney's Something wicked This Way Comes. The movie really captures the autumnal feel of Upstate New York where the movie is set, and where myself and the director grew up. The changing color of the leaves, the rural small town that feels like a Norman Rockwell image come to life but with a darks idea, the retro Halloween aesthetic really gave me the nostalgic goosebumps, it feels authentic. The movie is a bit of a slow-burn and grows long in the tooth at times, but there's a lot to love about this movie. However, the sub-plot with the wrongly accused janitor goes on for longer than necessary and is resolved in a way that didn't feel was necessary or earned but there are more positives than missteps.

Young Lukas Haas (Tim Burton's Mars Attacks) does fine work as the wide-eyed boy, just coming off his tun in Witness (1985), making for a nice protagonist as the sweet boy pulled into a supernatural mystery in his small town. Italian actor Alex Rocco also turns in a good performance cast against type as the caring widower dad who will do anything for his family, which also includes Frankie's older brother Geno (Jason Presson) and a pair of Italian grandparents who play comically off each other, with grandpa always trying to sneak off to have a smoke. LaLoggia did fine work bringing this supernatural melodrama to life with a great cast who give the small town yarn some real authenticity about it. 

The movie has a series of haunting images that will stay with you, the image of young Frankie with his Dracula mask atop his head in front of the cloakroom window is iconic. For the most part the special effects are top notch though occasionally it does outreach the limits of the budget, but the wonderful autumnal images and striking cinematography make up for the the few minor deviations, this is good stuff, this should rightfully be a kiddie-horror classic in my mind and hopefully this new Blu-ray from Scream Factory will go a ways towards bringing this to the masses. 

Audio/Video: Lady In White (1988) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory presented in 1080p HD widescreen (1.85:1) with three versions of the movie spread across two Blu-ray discs. The image is fairly crisp, colors are strong and shadow detail is very nice, there is a lot of 80s soft-focus cinematography from Russell Carpenter (who would go on to win the Oscar for Titanic years later) which suits the supernatural themes films, but doesn't make for the most crisp looking image at times. A few of the darker scenes can become a bit on the grainy side, but overall the image is very pleasing with a nice layer of fine film grain. Audio options on the discs include both English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround andI ave to say I loved the surround option, the stereo track might be more authentic to the original theatrical experience by the surround is immersive and does a nice job of immersing you into the sound field with the discreet channel effects and the score. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided. 

The two-disc set is crammed with extras, many of which are ported over from the previous special edition DVD, but with a few new exclusives including the never-before-seen Extended Director's Cut of the movie which runs 126 minutes in length. There's a brief introduction from the director for the director's cut, plus a commentary also for the director's cut version of the film, which is fascinating if you love commentaries. LaLoggia covers a lot of ground and goes into depth about the origins of the Lady in White story, movie production and post-production, his own childhood experiences which informed the story and his love of cinema. Also included are over a half hour of deleted scenes, over an hour of behind-the-scenes footage, the promotional short film which was made to raise money for the independent production, TV spots, radio spots, trailers and a pair image galleries. Scream Factory have also included a sleeve of reversible artwork 

Special Features: 
- Director's Cut  (117 Mins) HD 
- Introduction By Frank LaLoggia (1 Mins) HD 
- Audio Commentary With Frank LaLoggia
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage With Introduction By Frank LaLoggia (16 Mins) HD  - Deleted Scenes With Introduction By Frank LaLoggia (36 Mins) HD 
- Extended Behind-The-Scenes Footage – Production And Post-Production (73 Mins) HD 
- Promotional Short Film (7 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) 
- Alternate Trailers (7 Mins) HD 
- TV Spots (2 Mins) HD 
- Radio Spots (2 Mins) HD 
- Behind-The-Scenes Photo Montage (2 Mins) HD 
- Extended Photo Gallery (2 Mins) HD 
- Extended Director's Cut  (126 Mins) HD
- Original Theatrical Cut (113 min) HD 

I love this movie, maybe owing to my own upbringing in a small town Upstate New York town just a stone throw away from where this movie was filmed, this movie just rings true to the Rockwell-ian images it portrays, the authentic character made it easy for me to buy into the supernatural themes and to endure the slow-burn, a haunting movie that would make for some great family viewing this Halloween with your kids. Scream Factory have done good work bringing this to Blu-ray with three cuts of the movie and a wealth of bonus features, highly recommended to fans of 80s supernatural chillers and kiddie-friendly horror. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

EVILS OF THE NIGHT (1985) (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray Review)

Label: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 85 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Mardi Rustam
Cast: John Carradine, Tina Louise, Julie Newmar, Amber Lynn, Aldo Ray, Neville Brand, G.T. Taylor, David Hawk, Bridget Holloman, Keith Fisher, Karrie Emerson

Mardi Rustam's truly oddball Evils Of The Night (1985) begins with a UFO landing in the middle of Nowheresville USA. The blood-drinking space vampires arrive on Earth to siphon off some life extending blood from the local horny teens who inhabit this particular area. The movie starts off much like a standard 80s slasher movie wherein we some young couples fornicating in the woods at night. Mardi was an awful director but he knew damn well what the kids wanted to see at the drive-in, and that was cheap horror and A LOT of nude women and this low-rent sci-fi schlocker delivers both in ample amounts. 

As the horny couples get busy they are dispatched by the blood-drinking aliens, my favorite kill from the beginning was a young man backed-up against a tree while his horny girlfriend backs her sweet behind right up against her crotch, right in the middle of his young lust bliss the poor guy is strangled while his unaware lady finishes up just in time to notice something is not quite right, you get the impression that maybe he turned soft and she's not too happy about it. The scene is also funny because despite the softcore action the young man is still wearing his blue jeans which are clearly not unbuttoned or unzipped. 

Anyway, a trio of aging aliens set-up a cheeseball laboratory at a local hospital and have hired a couple of slow-minded auto-mechanics to abduct young kids for them so they can drain them of their blood in an effort to somehow prolong their own lives through some science-y mumbo jumbo. The aliens are Kozmar (John Carradine, House of Seven Corpses), Cora (Tina Louise, Ginger from TVs Gilligan's Island), and Zarma (Julie Newmar, Catwoman from the Adam West Batman TV Show), there is also a pair of women who look like 60s go-go dancers decked on is cheesy sci-fi outfits. The murderous auto-mechanics the aliens have hired are played by Aldo Ray (Psychic Killer) and Neville Brand (Eaten Alive). Ray and Brand come off as a pair of weirdos, who are not quite menacing but certainly are strange and none to bright, Brand manages to elicits a tiny bit of the crazy he channeled for Tobe Hooper on Eaten Alive, but this is a dopey movie and he acts accordingly, also playing well of Aldo Ray. 

After the initial opening which is stuffed with copious amounts of nude women we are more or less focused on a group of young folks on vacation at the nearby lake. We have the Heather (Bridget Holloman) and her fiancĂ© Ron (Keith Fisher), Nancy (Karrie Emerson, Chopping Mall), Connie (G.T. Taylor) and Brian (David Hawk). Between them they have about six movie credits all told, aside from Emerson none went onto to much of any career in the movies and even she disappeared after appearing in the TV horror anthology Dead of Night (1989). The remainder of the movie is these five pretty much running around the woods attempting to escape from the clutches of both the aliens and the murderous grease monkeys until the aliens are scared off.

Evils of the Night is honestly a turd of a movie, one that makes sci-fi drive-in drivel like The Being (1983) and without warning (1980) look like science fiction masterpieces by comparison. 
The movie has some backwoods slasher elements but the sci-fi stuff comes across like something from Plan 9, really awful stuff. The odd mixture of aging Hollywood and TV has-beens, a couple of 80s b-movie actors and a handful  of 80s porno stars make for some interesting viewing though, including a big-haired 80s porn star Amber Lynn lights up the screen with her charms, but the plot such as it is makes no sense whatsoever and the pacing is slow and painfully uneven. 

Evils Of The Night is not a movie you watch for story, you watch this for the 80s cheese, the porn star nudity and to see Aldo Ray and Neville Brand threaten to hump a few girls in the process. Cheap, wonky and weird, if that's how you you love your schlock then Mardi Rustam made a movie you just might fall in love with. So get out the nachos and a cold beer, you're in for a shlocky treat tonight! 

Audio/Video: Evils Of The Night (1985) arrives on Blu-ray and DVD Combo from Vinegar Syndrome with a brand new 2K transfer straight from the original 35mm negative and the movie looks surprisingly good in HD! The film grain looks nice and healthy, while a few of the darker night scenes can be a bit grainy the colors are vibrant and the image is crisp with a wealth of fine detail. VinSyn have definitely brought this sci-fi clunker some new life with the new transfer. The English DTS-HD Mono 2.0 mix won't win any audio awards but it dialogue, score and sound effects comes through with decent depth and clarity, the synth score sounds wonderfully cheesy and dialogue is never hard to understand, though some of what they say will have you rolling your eyes into the back of your head. 

VinSyn have included some decent extras on the disc including a new video interview with director Mardi Rustam who talks about the production of the movie and how a few of the cast came to appear in it. A nicely shot interview, well-produced stuff with some good content. Vinegar Syndrome have also included the TV cut of the movie which also appeared on the MPI/Gorgon DVD from a few years back, presented in standard-def. This version actually runs longer than the theatrical cut and omits all of the Amber Lynn scenes, which is a drag. It also trims a lot of the violence and all of the sweet nudity. However, it also adds a few extra scenes including a few more with David Carradine. I'll stick with the original cut myself with all the violence and nudity, but this is a nifty bonus. 

Other extras on the disc include an isolated score track highlighting the synth-driven score of Robert O. Ragland (Grizzly, 10 To Midnight), about twenty-five minutes of outtake footage, a work-in-progress original theatrical trailer, and a TV spot. The sleeve art advertises a reversible sleeve but that is not the case, there is however an image of Karrie Emerson (Chopping Mall) holding an ax on the flipside. The release is a DVD/Combo Pack offering both the movie and supplemental material on Blu-ray and DVD. 

Special Features:
- Alien Blood Transfusion – Video Interview with director Mardi Rustam (9 Mins) HD
- Alternate Feature Length TV edit (93 Mins)
- Isolated score by Robert O. Ragland
- Extensive outtakes (24 Mins) HD
- Work-in-Progress Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD
- TV Spot (32 Seconds) 

Yet another glorious sci-fi horror craptacular straight from the drive-in and onto Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome. A silly slice of weirdness with strange cast of Hollywood has-beens and loads of nudity, a tiny bit of gore and a whole lot of what-the-fuckery, if you love bad movies this is one worth celebrating on Blu-ray, another bang-up job from the VinSyn team. 



Label: Mill Creek Entertainment

Region Code: A
Duration: 90 Minutes I 81 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen 1.66:1)I1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Terence Fisher I Michael Carreras 
Cast: Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland, George Pastell, Jack Gwillim I Peter Cushing, Eunice Gayson, Francis Matthews, Michael Gwynn I Peter Cushing, Francis Matthews, Eunice Gayson, Michael Gwynn, Lionel Jeffries, Oscar Quitak, Charles Lloyd Pack, Richard Wordsworth, George Woodbridge 


In Hammer's Revenge of Frankenstein (1958) Peter Cushing reprises his famous role as Baron Victor Frankenstein, whom at the end of the last film had been sentenced to death by the guillotine. He escape the edge of the blade with the help of his devoted crippled assistant Fritz, It is revealed that in his place an poor priest has been beheaded. Frankenstein has now relocated to Carlsbruck, Germany under the alias Dr. Victor Stein where he now runs a hospital for the poor and wretched, a convenient place to carry on his mad scientist ways. 

The local doctor's in Carlbruck don't much care for Dr. Stein who m has refused to join the local physician's board, but a young doctor named Hans Kleve (Francis Matthews) figures out than Stein is really the reportedly now dead Baron Frankenstein and blackmails his way into an apprenticeship with the doc, who is continuing his experiments at the hospital where he has been amputating body parts from the poor and creating a new monster from scratch. The monster this time around begins as a somewhat normal looking man, the brain that is to be transplanted belong's to Dr. Stein's crippled assistant Karl (Oscar Quitak), who willingly sacrifices his twisted god-given body for the new healthy one crafted by the doctor.

The transplant is a success at first with the new Karl now transformed into a more handsome and able man, now played by actor Michael Gwynn. Kept locked away from prying eyes during his recovery Karl is found by a young nurse named Margaret  who frees him with the help of a scheming orderly. As Karl wanders the hospital corridors he is mistaken for a thief by a janitor and given a beating, with his freshly transplanted brain rattled and damaged the formerly pleasant Karl becomes a flesh hungry ghoul, but he does not amass a high body count, only munching on an unfortunate woman at the park before dying soon afterward. The movie points out that one of the doc's previous transplants involving a chimp and an orangutan ended in the primate becoming a cannibal, foreshadowing the tragic downward spiral of poor Karl, which is something the movie does not exploit as much as I would have liked, I wanted to see the monster in full-on cannibal mode, but it winds down a bit fast and moves onto Frankenstein's own demise and transformation. 

Revenge is a very good Hammer entry and a wonderful sequel to the original Hammer version of the tale with Peter Cushing's mad scientist coming across as a more sympathetic character, as does Michael Gwynn as the monster. Frankenstein begins this movie on a mission of mercy to help his crippled assistant, but at the same time he is exploiting and experimenting on the poor folks at the hospital, whom it should be noted have their just revenge on the mad scientist. I loved Michael Gwynn's performance as the the monster, beginning as a rather handsome fellow before disintegrating into a more feral flesh-eating ghoul, it's a great performance which gives the monster some serious pathos, begging his creator for help before dying at his feet and exposing him for who he really is. 


The Curse of the Mummy has a pretty standard set-up for a mummy movie, an American showman Alexander King (Fred King) unearths the tomb of a disgraced Egyptian Pharaoh. He plans to take the mummy on the roadshow tour which is guaranteed to generate a lot of cash for the exhibitor. When approached by a museum he refuses to allow his discovery to be whisked away to some dusty old museum for display, earning him a few enemies along the way. As expected once they open the sarcophagus the mummified Pharaoh is nowhere to be found and soon enough those who have done wrong by the ancient Pharaoh are found dead with the lurching mummified menace making a mess of things. 

Curse is not the most pulse pounding of Hammer entries and a pale shadow of The Mummy which was directed by Terence Fisher and starring Christopher Lee, who was by far a more threatening mass of moldy bandages, but this one has some nice opulent Egyptian set pieces, the Pharaoh's tomb looks truly fantastic, but the movie is slow cooking and does not payoff.  Thank goodness for actor Freddie King who does a fantastic job as the fast-talking PT Barnum type American Showman, who completely stole the show for me. 

The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb was previously been issued by Mill Creek Entertainment on a 2-disc DVD multi-pack Hammer Films Collection (2015). The HD upgrade for Curse looks very nice, an measured improvement over the DVD release with a crisper, tighter image with more fine detail. The Revenge of Frankenstein also look nice compared to previous DVD incarnation but is also less satisfying in HD than Curse. The source shows quite a bit of white speckling and minor nicks, colors seem muted and the fine detail not as finely resolved. Again Mill Creek have opted not upgraded the audio, we have the lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 option. As with Hammer Films Double Feature Vol. 1 there is an unfortunate spelling error on the spine of this release which advertises "The Curese of the Mummy's Tomb", which is just embarrassing. Regrettable spelling errors aside more Hammer Horror on Blu-ray is always a good thing, and this budget-minded double-feature is an easy recommend.

Thursday, September 15, 2016



Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A
Duration: 89 Minutes I 84 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)I1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Terence Fisher
Cast: Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher Lee, David Kossoff, Norma Marla, Francis De Wolff I Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Richard Pasco, Barbara Shelley, Michael Goodliffe, Patrick Troughton

Hammer's take on Robert Louis Stevenson's most famous novel stars Paul Massie in a dual-role as both the bearded Dr. Jekyll and the more debaucherous Mr. Hyde, it also stars Sir Christopher Lee as Jekyll's money-borrowing slime ball friend Paul Allen, who happens to be sleeping with Jekyll's wife Kitty, who has become bored by her reclusive and science-obsessed husband who would much rather keep himself locked away in his laboratory than make an appearance at social parties. However, when the boring doc injects himself with a potion he becomes the dapper and morally reprehensible playboy Mr Hyde, who somehow fails to seduce his own wife, but instead hooks up with a steamy snake-dancer Maria (Norma Marla). This Hammer entry has some surprising moments of deviancy that might surprise a few people, it certainly did me. Directed by Hammer alum Terrence Fisher (The Devil Rides Out) the movie has some pacing issues but it an interesting variation of the time weathered story, draped in gorgeous Victorian sets and fashions, this one might be a bit slow at first but it has some juice to it that makes for a nice watch.

THE GORGON (1964) 
Back into the realm of Gothic Hammer horror we have The Gorgon (1964) again directed by Hammer vet Terence Fisher. Set in the German village of Vandorf in 1910 we have a series of unsolved murders in the village, each occurring on the night of a full moon. Paul Heitz (Richard Pasco) arrives in the village after his younger brother is found dead. his body strangely turned to stone. Meanwhile Dr. Namaroff (horror great Peter Cushing) is falsifying the death certificates to obscure the truth behind the strange deaths. Heitz calls in friend Professor Karl Meister (the other horror great Christopher Lee) to help him get to the bottom of things. Meanwhile Heitz begins to form a romantic relationship with nurse Carla (Barbara Hershey) and discovers that the spirit of a fabled snake-haired Gorgon sister may be haunting the nearby castle ruins. The Gorgon is laced with vintage Gothic fashion and set dressing, dripping with atmosphere and creepiness, but all is nearly undone when the final scene reveals the snake-haired Megaera. which to be nice I will say is a bit on the cheap side, but thankfully it doesn't undo the movie, this is good stuff and worth a watch! 

Both films have previously been issued by Mill Creek Entertainment on a 2-disc DVD multi-pack Hammer Films Collection (2015) alongside three other Hammer movies, a pair of which have also been upgraded to double-feature Blu-ray. The 1080p upgrade looks better than the DVD as expected, the HD masters provided by Sony offers vibrant color saturation, decently deep black levels, and the image is crisper and offers more resolved fine detail, which is very nice. Unfortunately Mill Creek have not upgraded the audio, we still have the lossy English Dolby Digital option, but it does the job well enough. More Hammer Horror on Blu-ray is a good thing, and this is a very budget-minded double-feature, though there is an unfortunate misspelling on the spine of the release which reads "The Gorgan" which hopefully Mill Creek corrects on future pressings.