Thursday, January 16, 2020

HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981) (Blue Underground 3-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray Review/Comparison)

3-Disc Limited Edition 4K Restoration

Label: Blue Underground
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 86 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, English & Italian Mono 1.0 DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Carlo De Mejo, and Dagmar Lassander

Read The Fine Print... You May Have Just Mortgaged Your Life!

New Yorkers the Boyle family, Norman (Paolo Malco, The New York Ripper), his wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl, City of the Living Dead) and their young son Bob (Giovanni Frezza, Manhattan Baby) are about to move from NYC to rural New England so that Norman can continue the research of a colleague named Dr. Petereson. It turns out that Peterson killed himself in the very same mansion they're moving into, conveniently located right next to a Gothic cemetery.

Even before moving into the eerie Victorian mansion the Boyle's son begins receiving supernatural warnings not to come to the house, not unlike little Danny Torrance from The Shining (1980). These warnings come from not a talking finger but from the freckle-faced child-spirit of Mae (Silvia Collatina), a young girl who even appears in some strange old pictures in a way that also mirrors that other film.

The family begin to settle into the unsettled house and while doing some research Norman comes across the story of a local surgeon, the ridiculously named named Dr. Freudstein, a homicidal Victorian-era surgeon who lived in the same house, his crypt is built inside the the very same house, what could possibly go wrong!?!

Fulci's House By The Cemetery (1981) is the third film in what is often refereed to as his Gates of Hell Trilogy, despite that fact that there is no portal to Hell anywhere to be found. There is however a creepy and grotesque looking undead mad-scientist in search of body parts that's silently creeping down in the basement, occasionally showing up to brutally murder visitors. The first kill in the film is a tasty one that starts the film off on a good note, a young woman (Daniela Doria, The New York Ripper) having just done the nasty with her boyfriend in the then uninhabited house finds her boyfriend brutally stabbed to death with a pair of scissors, before she can even scream a large kitchen knife thrust through the back of skull, the tip emerging from her mouth, a kill mirrored a few years later in the nutso-slasher Pieces (1983).

The film may not be the graphic gore-fest that either of the previous Gates of Hell trilogy entries, but it has loads of creaky old dark house atmosphere with cobwebs galore and dusty interiors drenched in eerie shadows,
it's got a wonderfully eerie haunted house vibe. That's not to say it not bloodless by any means, Fulci brings the sweet pain right from the get go with the young woman stabbed in the head, and continues it with some dazzling bloodletting, most notably an unfortunate real estate agent (Dagmar Lassander, Fulci's Black Cat) who is attacked with a fire-poker, unleashing a geyser of blood and tortured screams. Not all the special effects are fantastic though, even copious amounts of blood cannot disguise a hilariously awful bat-attack.

More so than the atmosphere and visceral bloodletting I think this film is most notorious for the shrill English dubbing that has sort of made child actor Giovanni Frezza one of the most hated kids in all of horror cinema. The character was dubbed by a woman and the voice sounds like demon fingernails shredding a chalkboard, but that's not his fault, the kid does just fine, as does young Silvia Collatina (Murder Rock) as the spooky freckle-faced specter who befriends Bob. The main cast is strong, both Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco were Fulci regulars and tun in solid performances, even if they both show suspect parental and decision making skills, deciding to stay in what s clearly a doom-house despite all the strange happenings leading up to the brutal finale.    

Audio/Video: House By The Cemetery (1981) arrives on 3-disc Limited Edition 2xBlu-ray and CD from Blue Underground, presenting the film with a brand new 4K restoration sourced from the uncensored original camera negative. Again, we have Blue Underground absolutely killing it with their limited edition line-up, offering fans yet another definitive 3-disc edition of Fulci classic. The source for this looks pristine with a natural looking layer of velvety film grain, offering lush detail and texturing throughout, this is a vast improvement over what I've seen for this film previously. The gore scenes looks absolutely stunning, with blood appearing vibrant and unsettling, just the way we like it! Comparing this new color-grading with the previous 2011 Blue Underground Blu-ray reveals a warmer and broader color spectrum with more organic looking black levels, in addition to a bit of brightening. Something sure to catch the eye of those familiar with the film will be a strong teal slant, particularly in the opening few minutes, it's a bit startling at first glance, but with that said, the improvement in clarity, color spectrum, and texture eclipse the slight annoyance I have with the teal push. This is the most film-like looking presentation on home video that I've seen so far, check out the screenshot comparison of both the 2011 Blu-ray and this release at the bottom of the review. 

Audio comes by way of English and Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono and a newly created English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, with optional English subtitles. The mono tracks offer crisp reproduction, though there's only so much you can do with that infamously bad English-dub. The 5.1 offers a fuller-sounding mix that highlights the moody score from Walter Rizzati (1990: The Bronx Warriors) with some nice use of the surrounds.

Blue Underground offer a wealth of extra material, both new and archival,
beginning on the first disc with a new audio commentary from Troy Howarth, author of 'Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci And His Films'. When it's come to Eurocult cinema Howarth always offers a studied and insightful audio-tour, giving his personal thoughts on the film alongside the facts and anecdotals. Here he digs into it deeply, commenting on the poetic atmosphere conjured by the film, highlights from Fulci's filmography, digging into the cast and crew, an f course touching on Fulci's misogynist reputation.

The first disc wraps-up with both the International (4 min) and U.S. (2 min) theatrical trailers, a rough-looking TV spot, a brief 1-min deleted scene, and image galleries containing a tons of promotional material for the film from various territories.

The second Blu-ray disc begins with over 88-min of archival extras from the previous 2011 release, interviews with stars Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander, Carlo De Mejo, and Giovanni De Nava, plus co-writers Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti, cinematographer Sergio Salvati, special make-up effects Artist Maurizio Trani and Gino De Rossi. These extras form a well-rounded examination of the film, it's themes and the sometimes difficult director, as well as the dubbing.

New stuff begins with a 15-min interview with co-writer Giorgio Mariuzzo, and a 30-min Q&A with star Catriona MacColl from the 2014 Spaghetti Cinema Festival moderated by author Calum Waddell. The cherry on-top of this nightmare sundae is a 20-min discussion of the film from Stephen Thrower, Author of 'Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci', who is always a delightful source of knowledge in all things Euro-cult, we even get a brief then and now location visit toward the end.

This three-disc limited edition release comes housed in a clear over-sized Blu-ray keepcase with three trays housing the 2xBlu-ray and CD discs, plus a 20-page booklet containing a new essay, "Freudsteinian Slips", by Michael Gingold, complete with lobby cards and movie poster images, plus cast and crew info, chapter selections for the film and a track listing for the accompanying CD. This release comes with a reversible wrap featuring a pair of original movie posters. The keepcase is housed by a cool 3D lenticular slipcase. I am absolutely loving these three-disc limited edition sets from Blue Underground, they look fantastic and are loaded with extras and high-grade packaging with lots of shelf appeal.

Special Features:
Disc 1 (Blu-ray) Feature Film + Extras
- NEW! Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
- Deleted Scene (1 min)HD
- International Trailers (4 min)
- U.S. Trailer (2 min)HD
- TV Spot (1 min)HD
- Poster & Still Galleries
Disc 2 (Blu-ray) Extras:
- Meet the Boyles: Interviews with Stars Catriona MacColl & Paolo Malco (15 min)HD
- Children of the Night: Interviews with Stars Giovanni Frezza & Silvia Collatina (13 min) HD
- Tales of Laura Gittleson: Interview with Star Dagmar Lassander (9 min) HD
- My Time With Terror: Interview with Star Carlo De Mejo (10 min)HD
- A Haunted House Story: Interviews with Co-Writers Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti (15 min) HD
- A Haunted House Story: Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Maurizio Trani, Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi, and Actor Giovanni De Nava (22 min) HD
- NEW!House Quake - Interview with Co-Writer Giorgio Mariuzzo (15 min) HD
- NEW! 2014 Catriona MacColl Q&A (3010)
- NEW!Calling Dr. Freudstein - Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci (20 min) HD
Disc 3 (CD):
- The House By The Cemetery Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Walter Rizzati (31 Tracks)
- 20-Page Collectible Booklet with new essay by Michael Gingold

House By The Cemetery (1981) might not have the visceral edge or the otherworldly WTF-ery of The Beyond (1981) or City of the Living Dead (1980) but I love the dark old house vibe intertwined with undead surgeon and the ghost of a child, it's a solidly entertaining slice of vintage Fulci. Blue Underground have given us yet another definitive Fulci platter following definitive releases of both The New York Ripper and Zombie (1979). This is already an early contender for one of the best re-releases of 2020, 

great start to the new year!

Top: Blue Underground Blu-ray (2011)
Bottom: Blue Underground Blu-ray (2020)


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