Thursday, May 30, 2019

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967) (Scream Factory Blu-ray review)


Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated

Duration: 92 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Terrence Fisher 
Cast: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorley, Robert Morris, Duncan Lamont, Peter Blythe, Barry Warren, Derek Fowlds, Alan MacNaughtan, Peter Madden

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) opens with a pre-credit sequence of a drunken and belligerent man being lead to the guillotine on the charge of murder. The moment before his head is lopped-off by the blade his young son Hans stumbles upon the macabre scene and witnesses his fathers gruesome decapitation. Some years later the boy now a young man (Robert Morris, Quatermass and the Pit ) in the service of Baron Victor Frankenstein (Peter Cushing, Corruption) and his absent minded assistant Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters, Vampire Circus). The Baron has been experimenting with a primitive form of cryogenics and the idea of trapping the soul after death and transferring it into to a new host body, a new metaphysical twist on the Frankenstein story, but also one that has very little to connect it to the previous film in the series, The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), where it seemed the Baron had perished in flames.

Hans has a lover by way of Christina (Susan Denberg), the daughter of a local barkeep, her face is terribly scarred, which is the cause of taunting from a trio of dandy young bloods lead by Anton (Peter Blythe) who ridicule her mercilessly. These taunts anger Hans who slices open Anton's face during an altercation at the bar, it's this sudden outburst of anger which makes him the prime suspect when Christina's father turns up murdered a short time later. A shockingly  short trial ends with Hans following in his father's footsteps - losing his head at the guillotine.

Christina unaware of her father's murder or Hans' presumed involvement stumbles upon the the scene at the guillotine, witnessing Hans' decapitation much the same way he witnessed his father's, distraught she throws herself from a bridge to her watery death. The corpses of both the young lovers end up at the home of Dr. Hertz where the Baron Frankenstein sets about extracting the soul of Hans and transferring it into the corpse of Christina. This bit of science fiction is glossed rather quickly with little explanation, but it somehow involves two large heat-lamp looking apparatuses and a glowing sphere, it's all rather very silly stuff, but it's also why we watch these Frankenstein films. Once Christina is revived the docs perform additional miraculous surgeries/treatments and her physical scarring is completely healed - and now she's a blonde with no memory... don't ask, just go with it folks!

It's at this point that those actually responsible for the death of Christina's father and the wrongful execution of Hans meet their demise in very quick succession, with the killer-lady carrying around Hans' decapitated head, occasionally taking on his voice, the film playing with the notion of a supernatural-driven revenge from beyond the grave or psychotic break on the part of the young lady. This aspect of the film had a strong flavor of Hammer's underrated Hands of the Ripper (1971) which came a few years later. Christina is now seemingly possessed and compelled to seek revenge, seducing and murdering the culprits.

In the past I've tended to derided this film a bit, but the film has grown on me these past few years the more I've watched it.  Hammer vet Terrence Fisher (Dracula: Prince of Darkness) imbues the film with a decent amount of atmosphere aided in no small part by a terrific score from James Bernard (Torture Garden) who worked on tons of Hammer horror. Always the consummate professional Peter Cushing turns in a steely performance, but the character is a bit more compassionate this time around than in previous turns. The remaining cast are solid including veteran actor Thorley Walters as the absent-minded doc and Blythe as the late-60's equivalent of an 80's highschool douche bag. Co-stars Robert Morris and Susan Denberg didn't do a lot for me here, though adequate they didn't have a lot of screen presence though Denberg is quite attractive, particularly after her transformation into a blond revenge-murderess.

At the end of the day this is a cool Hammer production with a strange metaphysical twist, the idea of putting the soul of a man into the body of a woman should have been explored to a larger degree in my opinion - this could have been a psycho-sexual Hammer masterpiece. As things are the way they wrap it up is not wholly satisfying, it just happens a bit too fast, it left me wanting more, but even still this is a film that gets a bit better with each subsequent watch, with a strong performance from Cushing, solid direction from Terrence Fisher, and a weird premise that is thought-provoking. 

Audio/Video: Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) is a film previously issued on Blu-ray in 2014 from the Millennium Entertainment, a solid release for the time but with room for improvement. Now Scream Factory have gone back to the original film elements for a new 2K scan that looks improves in all areas. There's a fine layer of film grain, colors are more vibrant and deeply saturated, and the image is sharper with improved clarity. Fine details are abundant with pleasing velvety textures and the blacks levels throughout, it's an excellent upgrade over the previous release. 

Scream also improve on the audio options, as where Millennium offered only a lossy audio option here we get a fuller-bodied DTS-HD MA Mono track, it's limited in fidelity and shows it's age but the wonderfully subtle score from composer James Bernard (Horror of Dracula) benefits greatly from the sonic upgrade, optional English subtitles are provided.  

Extras are plentiful, Scream Factory pack-in the extras here, carrying-over all the disc extras from the Millennium Entertainment release, beginning with the audio commentary with actors Derek Fowlds and Robert Morris moderated by Hammer expert Jonathan Rigby. Derek Fowlds played the leader of young bloods while Robert Morris portrayed Hans, both offer plenty of anecdotes about the making of the film and working with Terrence Fisher, Peter Cushing and Denberg. Rigby shows up on a lot of the releases from Indicator in the UK, and is always a treat when it comes to Hammer stuff, glad to see this on the Scream release. 

Also carried over is the 44-min Hammer Glamour featurette with interviews from Hammer's plunging neckline brigade, including Valerie Leon (Blood from the Mummy's Tomb), Caroline Munroe (Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter), Martine Beswicke (Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde), Vera Day and Madeline Smith (Taste the Blood of Dracula) and Jenny Hanley (Scars of Dracula). Madeline Smith is surprisingly chaste and talks about her regret of appearing nude in The Vampire Lovers, while remembering what a sweetie her co-star Ingrid Pitt was. Exotic beauty Martina Beswicke recalls working on the Bond films plus Roy Ward Baker on several movies and working with Raquel Welch plus she alludes to a swinging lifestyle - she seems like she was a wild one! Actress Jenny Hanley offers up a fun story about Peter Walker's sneaky attempt to get her nude on camera and Christopher Lee's seriousness on set, while Valerie Leon tells of how she felt that Blood from the Mummy's Tomb was a cursed production. This is a great extra that also mention other Hammer beauties like Dorian Dores, Hazel Cortze, Barbara Shelley, Susan Denberg, Susanna Lee and the Collinson twins, it's a fun introduction to the Ladies of Hammer r just a fun walk down mammary lane for the already uninitiated.

We also get a pair of episodes from the World of Hammer (1990) TV series narrated by legendary Brit Oliver Reed (Burnt Offerings) spotlighting the careers of Peter Cushing and Hammer's Frankenstein series running about 25-min each.

Scream Factory come through with a couple of new interviews, the first with actor Robert Morris who speaks about this being his first film role, working on a few stunts and fight scenes,and shooting the bedroom scene with Susan Denberg, and some strategic arm placement concealed her breasts during those scenes. Camera Assistant/Clapper Loader Eddie Collins And 2nd Assistant Director Joe Marks 
also show-up for about 12-min, describing what it was like working on Hammer production. 

There's also a new audio commentary With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman And Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr, a solid and info-packed track that is well-worth a listen for those intrigued by such things. The disc is buttoned-up with a selection of trailers including a double-bill with The Mummy's Shroud, plus black & white TV spots and a few radio spots. 

The single-disc releases comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a reversible sleeve of artwork, the a-side being a new illustration from from artist Mark Maddox, and the b-side being the original one-sheet poster art. The first run includes a a slip with the new illustration, and the disc itself features an excerpt from the another original vintage movie poster of the film. 

Special Features: 

- NEW 2K Scan From The Original Film Elements
- NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman And Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr
- NEW Interview With Actor Robert Morris (11 min) 
- NEW Interview With Camera Assistant/Clapper Loader Eddie Collins And 2nd Assistant Director Joe Marks (12 min) 
- Audio Commentary By Actors Derek Fowlds, Robert Morris, And Film Historian Jonathan Rigby
- World Of Hammer Episode The Curse Of Frankenstein (25 min) 
- World Of Hammer Episode Hammer Stars: Peter Cushing (25 min) 
- Hammer Glamour Featurette (44 min) 
- Theatrical Trailers (4 min) 
- TV Spots (1 min) 
- Radio Spots (2 min) 
- Still Galleries – Movie Stills (6 min), Posters, And Lobby Cards (6 min)

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) is not a film I've always loved, a Hammer entry that I probably would have described as middling just a few years ago, but it's really grown on me in recent years, and thankfully now we have the best looking and sounding version of the film yet on Blu-ray with some excellent extras to go along with it, terrific job on this one from Scream Factory, highly recommended, you can buy this one with confidence. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

THE DAY TIME ENDED (1979) (Full Moon Features)


Label: Full Moon Features

Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: PG
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 & 5.1 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: John 'Bud' Carlos
Cast: Jim Davis, Dorothy Malone, Christopher Mitchum, Scott Kolden

The Day Time Ended (1979) is a bit of drive-in schlock from director John 'Bud' Carlos (Kingdom of the Spiders), and it's is weird one! A sci-fi fantasy film that feels like a series of semi-connected vignettes concerning a space-time warp/vortex of some kind that besets a family on their isolated California desert property. This is a premise that is a set-up with opening talk of three simultaneous supernovas that have been observed by astronomers in the distant night sky, with speculation that the ancient radiation from these supernovas is due to begin entering the Earth's atmosphere. Of course all of this allows for the introduction of pony stealing glowing lime-green pyramid, a few unidentified flying objects, green dancing aliens, and stop-motion creatures that inexplicably battle one another on this family's front lawn. 

The cast here is headed-up by Jim Davis (Dracula vs Frankenstein) as Grant, the grandfatherly patriarch of three generations living at the desert home. No one here is really turning in a good performance, though the little Natasha Ryan who plays the adolescent granddaughter does an OK job of appearing charmingly naive and clueless in the middle of what transpires. The real stars of this drive-in dud though are the special effects, we get some cool-looking stop-motion animation from David Allen and Randall William Cook, and some cheap but fun looking miniature work from Paul Gentry (Airplane) along with some otherworldly optical effects and vintage matte paintings, so at least on a special effects level the film is fun even if the story is a bit of an undefined mess of sci-fi adventure, with an ending that doesn't so much explain anything to any sort of satisfaction, but sort of says, "well, there you go"... 

Aside from some cool effects the film is notable in that it features a number of future Empire Pictures/Full Moon regulars by way of co-writer David Schmoeller (Crawlspace) and editor Ted Nicolau who would go onto direct the Subspecies films for producer Charles Band, with a tasty score by Richard Band (Re-Animator). 

The movie sort of feels like made-for-TV film, the direction and performances are flat, and the special effects are fun but very low-budget, it definitely feels like the worse half of an already bad double bill, this would have been the film kids use to make-out during a trip to the drive-in at the end of then 70's, now it makes for a cheesy fun watch at home for lovers of bad movies who were conceived at those drive-ins.  

Audio/Video: The Day Time Ended (1979) arrives on Blu-ray from Full Moon Features sourced from a 35mm print of the film, presented in 1080p HD and framed in 2.35:1 widescreen. The source is not stellar looking, showing plenty of flaws by way of dirt, debris, cigarette burns, nicks, scratches and straight up deterioration. The image is fairly washed out but on occasion shows some good color saturation and decent fine detail, though grain levels would indicate that some digital noise scrubbing has been applied throughout the film.  The original press release for the film advertised “now in a totally remastered HD version with new and improved FX shots”, not sure what they might have tinkered with here but most of the optical FX looks appropriately dated to my eyes. 

Full Moon again opt for lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 & 5.1 mixes, there's a bit of noise throughout the presentation, but nothing I couldn't live with, and the score from Richard Band (Re-Animator) is a goodie. 

Samples of the more egregious moments of print damage in the film. 
Onto the extras we get an audio commentary with Producer/Visual Effects Supervisor Paul Gentry and Writer/Producer Wayne Schmidt. It's a solid listen with some fun anecdotes about the making of the film, the special effects, smashing up some brand new cars, they even touch on the source for this transfer of the film. We also get 7-min photo gallery of behind-the-scenes stuff including models of the alien crafts being crafted, plus lots of stop-motion stuff being done, it's pretty cool. There's also 2-min of footage of a scene from the film being shot.

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the original movie poster, the same artwork appears on the disc. 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Producer/Visual Effects Supervisor Paul Gentry and Writer/Producer Wayne Schmidt
- Gallery (7 min) 
- Rare Footage (7 min) 

The Day Time Ended (1979) probably won't set the world on fire for those coming into it with fresh eyes, but I think that if you grew up watching this on TV as kid or you just love 70's drive-in cheese there's plenty to enjoy about this slice of silly sci-fi. I'd put it one the level of The Crater Lake Monster (1977), as in it's not very good, but it's got some cool vintage stop-motion, and that's enough the monster kid in me to give it a recommend.