Tuesday, November 28, 2023

STEPHEN KING'S SILVER BULLET (1985) (Scream Factory Collector's Edition 4K Ultra HD Review)


Scream Factory
Region Code: Region-Free (UHD), A (Blu-ray) 
Rating: R
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: HDR10 2160p HD Widescreen (2.35:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: David Attias
Cast: Corey Haim, Gary Busey, Megan Follows, Terry O'Quinn, Lawrence Tierney

Some movies you just watch and let the wonderment of youthful nostalgia freely wash over you, even when the film perhaps has not aged all that well, and for me Silver Bullet (1985) is one of warm and fuzzy nostalgic films I love despite its myriad faults. This werewolf flick was a staple of cable TV during my formative teen years, and I have always loved it, despite the shite-looking werewolf that looks like a malnourished bear than a ferocious, mythical beast. 
The film is told in flashback by an woman named Jane who is telling the story of her and her paraplegic younger brother Marty's (Corey Haim, License to Drive) youth, and of a series of grisly murders that occurred in their small town in 1976. The film is based on Stephen King’s novella 'Cycle of the Werewolf', with the iconic author also writing the screenplay for the film. It opens with the murder of a drunken train yard worker, his head is ripped clean from his body by some largely unseen beast. The town's Sheriff (Terry O'Quinn, The Stepfather) at first attributes the headless corpse to a drunken mishap, but when the bodies continue to pile up, including a woman found torn to pieces in her bedroom, the consensus is that there's a maniac on the loose.. while the best is only fleeting glimpsed early on once you get a glimpse of this thing you will understand why they chose to keep it hidden, it looks awful. 

The locals gather at the local watering-hole and begin murmuring about there being a maniac on the loose, and when the sheriff loses the confidence of the people a lynch-mob is formed. The armed mob storm into the fog shrouded swamps looking for the killer, but they are shredded by the beast in short order, these scenes offer some atmospheric fog-shrouded intruige, but also a fair amount of camp as well. The largely unseen werewolf lurks just beneath the waist-high fog, at one point taking a baseball bat away from the cranky bar owner (Laurence Tierney, Midnight), and beating him to death with it. The creature's hairy clawed-hand reaching above the fog line with the bat in hand and bringing it down on poor Tierney, who at this point must have been thinking to himself 'how did I end up in this turd!?!'. You'd think a werewolf armed with teeth and claws would go that route, but nope, this one grabs a baseball bat and goes to town! Even as a kid I thought "WTF is happening here?".

Back to the kids, we have the young version of narrator Jane (Megan Follows, TV's Reign) and her wheelchair bound younger brother Marty (Corey Haim, The Lost Boys). The pair have the usual adversarial sibling relationship, but it's made clear in several scenes that despite annoying one another they both care for each other quite a bit. Enter into the equation their drunken Uncle Red (played by the drunken actor Gary Busey, The Buddy Holly Story) who arrives to watch the kids while mom and dad go on a bit of a vacation getaway, because of course you're going on vacation when a killer loose in your town, and of course you leave the kids with your drunken brother, right?

Quicker than you can say 'bad influence' Uncle Red builds a speedy motorized three-wheeled wheelchair for Marty to zip around town in, calling it the Silver Bullet. He then gives the kid an fistful of heavy-duty fireworks and lets him loose into the night - with a killer on the loose mind you - to shoot fireworks off a bridge. It's here that Marty has a close encounter with the werewolf, just barely managing to get away after firing a bottle rocket straight into the beast's eyeball! Returning home Marty tells Uncle Red and Jane about the frightful encounter, but of course they do not believe the hairy-tale, though eventually they do come around to the idea after a series on incidents, and resort to melting down the family's silver valuables, of which there must have been precious few, because they are only able to create a single werewolf-killing silver bullet.

As they have no idea who the werewolf is Jane goes about town collecting aluminum cans while keeping an eye out for any newly single-eyed citizenry. It turns out that the local reverend, played by Everett McGill (The People Under the Stairs), is the werewolf. At first the reverend seems anguished and torn by his moon-lit monster affliction, but as the killings continue he seems to become more and more consumed by the beast within. At one point to illustrate this inner-conflict the reverend suffers a nightmare featuring his parishioners transforming into werewolves in the pulpits, and while it's not quite the Nazi-demon nightmare from American Werewolf in London it's still good pulpy stuff. As a man of God he attempts to keeps his murderous tendencies aimed at the sinful folk in town, in his own twisted mind he  believes that he is actually saving their souls from eternal damnation by tearing them apart. When he realizes that the kids have identified him he sets his sights on the siblings, which leads to an fairly anticlimactic ending, but like a lot of other suspect films I tend to enjoy, I still love thanks to the the warm waves of nostalgia.

I fully admit this werewolf film has more than it's share of lame shenanigans, but it's also a hoot, Gary Busey is a firecracker, every scene he's in is laced with quotable gems. At the same time the look of the werewolf is an absolute stinker, but Everet McGill is pretty great as the man of the cloth with a deadly secret, and I love the sibling pairing of Haim and Follows. Not sure how this would play coming into cold without that sense of nostalgia, but I'm willing to bet it still plays pretty well, it's the Maximum Overdrive of werewolf flicks.  

Audio/Video: Stephen King's Silver Bullet (1985) gets the 4K UHD upgrade from Scream Factory with a new 2023 transfer from the OCN framed in the original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio with Dolby Vision HDR 10 color-grading. The source is in fantastic shape and film grain is right wound and well-managed. There's also the expected uptick in depth, clarity and detail, and that HDR10 pass warms up the colors and deepen the black levels with superior contrast. There is a teal push throughout though, it's quite noticeable on both the UHD and Blu-ray, which I am not a fan of, but otherwise I thought the warmer colors were quite nice and is a solid upgrade over the previous Blu-ray and the uptick in depth, detail and clarity is quite significant. It should also be noted that the accompanying Blu-ray is not a recycle of the 2013 disc, and benefits from the new scan but without the HDR10. 
Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA mono audio sounds good, dialogue is clear and special effects and the score from Jay Chattaway (Maniac Cop) sounds great, a creepy and dramatic, mixing of orchestral and electronic elements, optional English subtitles are provided.

Scream Factory carry-over all the extras from their 2013 Collector's Edition Blu-ray, plus add in a brand new Audio Commentary With Eric Vespe And Scott Wampler Of The Kingcast. If you're a Stephen King fan you should subscribe to The Kingcast Podcast, it's always a fun time listening to them discuss the King film adaptations. 

Archival extras carried-over kick off with an Audio commentary from Director Daniel Attias moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures. Felsher does a great job mining the conversation for nuggets and tidbits. Attias never directed another feature film after this film, turning to TV where he has enjoyed a prolific career, directing all sorts of great TV stuff, from Six Feet Under to the Hulu series Castle Rock. There's also another archival Audio commentary with Producer Martha De Laurentis Moderated By Michael Felsher. We also get an Isolated Music Score with an audio interview with Composer Jay Chattaway, also moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, the interview lasts for about 38-minutes, then the isolated score kicks in.

The 16-min The Wolf Within – An Interview With Actor Everett McGill features the Twin Peaks star speaking about his relationship with Dino De Laurentis, the motivations for the characters, his guilt and anguish, donning the hairy costume after initially not wanting to, and his appreciation for how sensitive to the material the director was, working with Corey Haim and the make-up process. The 21-min Full Moon Fever – Interviews with Special Effects Artists Michael McCracken, Jr. and Matthew Mungle (21 min), is the juiciest of bonus materials. They discuss the day that Carlo Rambaldi's (E.T.) ill-fated were-bear suit arrived on set and how it didn't quite meet Dino De Laurentis's expectation, falling a bit below the mark and over-loaded with cable to operate it. These guys did not create the werewolf itself but worked on the various transformation scenes, speaking of how they were achieved using old school latex effects. They also spin a fun tale about one of the actors wanting to keep their werewolf make-up on after they wrapped for the day, saying that they were on their way to a sex-party!

The 12-min A Little Private Justice – An Interview With Actor Kent Broadhurst who played the grieving father in the film discusses having to improvise his overwrought mourning scene, having to compensate for the shortcomings of the kid's corpse, which apparently looked so bad it wasn't usable in the film. Not gruesome awful mind you, just not well-done by the FX team. He also discusses the nightmare scene involving parishioners turning into werewolves in the pulpits and how much work that entailed, including a warning from the assistant director that the actors should remove their contact lenses lest they end up laminated to their eyeballs!
In the 17-min Cutting To The Bone – An Interview With Editor Daniel Loewenthal he discusses his early career editing porno before getting into horror movies on Troma's Mother's Day. He also gets into creating suspense through editing and the failure of the film at the box office.

The Blu-ray disc extras are buttoned-up with a 1-min Theatrical Trailer, 1-min worth of TV Spots, Radio Spots and an Image Gallery chock full of promotional and behind-the-scenes stills, cool make-up effects shots and sculptures, lobby cards and various home video releases. The only extras on the 4K UHD are the commentaries and isolated score, the remainder of the extras are found on the Blu-ray disc. The two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the original movie poster. 

Special Features:
Disc 1 (4K UHD):
- NEW 2023 Transfer From The Original Camera Negative
In Dolby Vision (HDR-10 Compatible)
- Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
- NEW Audio Commentary With Eric Vespe And Scott Wampler Of The Kingcast
- Audio Commentary With Producer Martha De Laurentiis
- Audio Commentary With Director Daniel Attias
- Isolated Score Selections And Audio Interview With Composer Jay Chattaway
Disc 2 (Blu-ray): 
- NEW 2023 Transfer From The Original Camera Negative
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
- NEW Audio Commentary With Eric Vespe And Scott Wampler Of The Kingcast
- Audio Commentary With Producer Martha De Laurentiis
- Audio Commentary With Director Daniel Attias
- Isolated Score Selections And Audio Interview With Composer Jay Chattaway
- A Little Private Justice – An Interview With Actor Kent Broadhurst (12 min) 
- Cutting To The Bone – An Interview With Editor Daniel Loewenthal (17 min) 
- The Wolf Within – An Interview With Actor Everett McGill (16 min) 
- Full Moon Fever – Interviews with Special Effects Artists Michael McCracken, Jr. and Matthew Mungle (21 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min) 
- TV Spot (1 min) 
- Radio Spot (1 min) 
- Still Gallery (73 Images) 

Silver Bullet (1985) gets a terrific 4K upgrade from Scream Factory, I can pretty much guarantee I will be watching this film quite a bit, it still has plenty of that youthful nostalgia and I will be smiling the whole way through, shitty looking werewolf and all, I love it.

Screenshots from the Scream Factory Blu-ray (2023):


Monday, November 27, 2023



SHORT CIRCUIT 2 (1988) - THE NUN II (2023) - BLUE BEETLE (2023) - THE FUGITIVE (1991) - BACKDRAFT (1991) 

Label: SPHE
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: PG 
Duration: 110 Minutes 36 Seconds 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Kenneth Johnson
Cast: Fisher Stevens, Michael McKean, Cynthia Gibb, Jack Weston, Tim Blaney

Synopsis; High-voltage, fast-paced comedy for the entire family. Number Five, A.K.A. Johnny Five, that incredible lovable robot, is back and taking the big city by storm. More "human" than ever, upbeat Johnny's out for some "urban input", but some street hoods see his innocence as their high-tech ticket to easy street.

This was previously issued on a barebones Blu-ray a couple of years ago, so it;s great to see Sony give it a special edition released stacked with extras, that look like the same extras that Ballyhoo Motion Pictures produced for the UK release from 88 Films. The flick looks absolutely solid in HD and the uncompressed audio delivers the '80s soundtrack quite nicely. Of course in true '80s style we have Fisher Stevens (My Science Project) playing Indian character Benjamin Jahrvi, as he did in the first film, which is problematic but not malicious at least, there we're a lot fo problematic things about the 80's folks. We catch up to him selling little version of Johnny 5 on the streets of NYC, which catches the attention of toy store buyer named Sandy Banatoni (Cynthia Gibb, Jack's Back) looking for the hot new toy for the Christmas season, so she orders 1000 units, which he has no hope of fiulfilling, until a street hustler Fred Ritter (Michael McKean, Spinal Tap) looking to make a quick buck teams-up with him after borrowing capital from a loan shark - bad idea. Eventually the real Johnny 5 shows up and helps out on the assembly line and much 80's sequel hijinks ensues.  I thought this was quite charming, I thought I had watched this as a kid but it was evident just a few minutes in that I had not, or I had erased it from my memory banks - I just think I would have remembered Michael McKean was in it, and he's a huge part of what I loved about it. 

Special Features: 
- Audio commentary with Director Kenneth Johnson
- Here's Johnny Five: The Making of Short Circuit 2 (16:14) 
- Nuts & Bolts: Writing Short Circuit 2 (12:37)
- Storyboard Sequences with Director Commentary (10:36) 
- Rehearsal Videos (27:10) 
- Actor Profile: Fisher Stevens (3:10) 
- Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery  (14:51) 

THE NUN II (2023) 
4K Ultra HD + Digital
Label: WBHE
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: R
Duration: 110 Minutes 
Audio: Dolby Atmos True HD with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 2160p Ultra HD Widescreen 
Director: Michael Chavez 
Cast: Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Storm Reid, Anna Popplewell
Synopsis: 1956 – France.  A priest is murdered. An evil is spreading. The sequel to the worldwide smash hit follows Sister Irene as she once again comes face-to-face with Valak, the demon nun.

Set four years after the first film Sister Irene (Tessa Farmiga) now serves at a Italian convent in Italy, but after having horrific vision of her friend Maurice (Jonas Bloquet) she is dispatched to a boarding school in France to investigate a spate of mysterious deaths that are believed to be connected to the demon Valak aka The Nun from the first film - which is where Maurice now works as a groundskeeper. There we meet  Sister Debra (Storm Reid), Sophie (Katelyn Rose Downey) and her mother, Kate (Anna Popplewell), and the investigation gets underway and demonic bad things transpire. Like the first film I thought this was a solid slice of franchise horror, if you liked the first film you will more than likely dig this. The scene at the top of the film of a priest encountering Valek before being raised into the air on being set on fire is a great opener, and while the flick didn;t exactly set my world on fire it was decent watch, and the 4K UHD presentation is top-notch. 

Special Features: 
- “The Nun II” Premium Digital Ownership, 4K UHD and Blu-ray contain the following special features:  
- Demons in Paradise – featurette (5:35)
- Handcrafter Nightmares – featurette (7:28)
- Digital Copy 
- Slipcover 
4K Ultra HD + Digital 

Label: WBHE
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG-13 
Duration: 127 Minutes 
Audio: Dolby Atmos True HD with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: Dolby Vision HDR10 2160 UHD Widescreen 
Director: Ángel Manuel Soto
Cast: Xolo Maridueña, Adriana Barraza, Damían Alcázar, Elpidia Carrillo, Bruna Marquezine, Raoul Max Trujillo, Susan Sarandon, George Lopez,  Belissa Escobedo, Harvey Guillén
Synopsis: Recent college grad Jaime Reyes returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Super Hero Blue Beetle.

I was never a Blue Beetle comic reader but I was pretty excited when this was announced, I was thinking back when they announced Guardians of the Galaxy at Marvel, another comic franchise I didn;t really read a bunch of, but what James Gunn did with it was amazing. While this was originally intended to air on MAX it ended up getting a theatrical run, and I am glad it did, it's a fun slice of escapist entertainment. This reminded me a bit of Spider-Man meets Iron Man in it's execution of the superhero stuff, but oddly enough it was not the superhero action that made this so fun, it was the family dynamic of college graduate turned superhero Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña), they're a close-knit but argumentative family and their chemistry drew me right in, I even like George Lopez as his lunatic uncle! The look of the Blue Beetle suit is excellent, as he explored his powers in a training/origin montage of sorts it's fun stuff, but the least interesting stuff here is the super-powered baddie and his 
evil boss (Susan Sarandon), pretty rote and one-dimensional. That said, overall I thought this was a fun as heck comic book flick and the UHD with it's Dolby Vision and Atmos enhanced A/V is quite visually appealing and bombastic. 

Special Features:  
- “Generations: Blue Beetle” – 4-part documentary (47 min) 
- Nana Knows Best – featurette (4:31) 
- Scarab Vision – 2-part featurette (14 min) 
- Digital Copy 
- Slipcover 

4K Ultra HD + Digital 

Label: WBHE
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG-13 
Duration: 130 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Atmos, True HD, DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: HDR10 2160 Ultra HD Widescreen 
Director: Andrew Davis 
Cast: Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones, Sela Ward, Joe Pantoliano, Andreas Katsulas, Jeroen Krabbé

Based the television series “The Fugitive” (1963 to 1967) this is what I would consider one of the definitive 90's thrillers starring Harrison Ford as a Chicago surgeon wrongly convicted of murdering his wife  (Sela Ward) and and Tommy Lee Jones as the determined Deputy US Marshal Sam Gerard tasked with bring Kimble back to prison after the prison bus that was transferring him to death row crashes after some of prisoners revolt against the guards, sending the bus careening down a ravine and onto the train tracks. This flick has been beautifully restored for it's UHD debut and it looks marvelous, the depth, clarity and HDR10 color-grading is tremendous and the Atmos remix is thunderous - that train plowing into the bus scene was rattling the walls of my house. If you're a fan of 90's thrillers this 4K UHD is a must-own. 

Special Features:
- Introduction by Andrew Davis and Harrison Ford (1:47) 
- Commentary by Andrew Davis and Tommy Lee Jones
- "The Fugitive: Thrill of the Chase" (28:19)
- "On the Run with the Fugitive" (23:04) 
- "Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck" (8:52) 
- Theatrical Trailer (1:58) 

Remastered Edition Blu-ray 

Label: UPHE
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: R
Duration: 137 Minutes
Audio: English DTS X, Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Ron Howard 
Cast: Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rebecca DeMorna, Donald Sutherland, Robert De Niro
Ron Howard's Backdraft (1991) is a well-executed action-thriller about two Chicago firefighters Stephen (Kurt Russell) and Brian (William Baldwin). When a puzzling series of arson attacks is reported, they are forced to set aside their differences to solve the mystery surrounding these explosive crimes. We also get Rebecca DeMornay as Stephen's long-suffering wife, Robert De Niro as the fire- investigator, and JT Walsh as a corrupt Alderman.The overly melodramatic script, which is typical for a Ron Howard production, does the core story no favors, but the saving grace here is the action-packed fire-fighting and arson sequences are absolutely phenomenal - not done with CGI but real fire stunts, and it adds a ton to the thrill-ride experience of it all. This remastered Blu-ray with uncompressed audio looks and sounds terrific, plus it's stacked with oodles of extras. The flick is also available on UHD, if you're a fan of the film that's probably the way to go here. 

Special Features: 
- Ron Howard Introduction (2:52) 
- Deleted Scenes (43:10)
- Igniting the Story (15:00) 
- Bringing Together the Team (19:09) 
- The Explosive Stunts (14:42) 
- Creating the Villain: The Fire (12:51) 
- Real-Life Firemen, Real-Life Stories (8:57) 




Discover what makes Blumhouse’s THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER horrifying with never-before-seen bonus content available on Digital December 1, 2023, and 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on December 19, 2023, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The all-new bonus content with cast and filmmaker interviews gives a behind-the-scenes look at making the film, including editing an exorcism, the stages of possession, and featured commentary. 50 years after the most terrifying horror film shocked the world, THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER, from Blumhouse and Morgan Creek, directly follows the groundbreaking original 1973 film.

Since his wife’s death, Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) has raised his daughter Angela (Lidya Jewett) alone. After Angela and her friend (Olivia O’Neill) return from a three-day disappearance with missing memories, they begin displaying frightening behavior. Victor’s best hope is to find the only person who has seen anything like this before: Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn), whose haunting experience with her daughter Regan may be the key to combating ultimate evil.

Directed by David Gordon Green (Halloween, Prince Avalanche), THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER stars Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton, One Night in Miami), Ann Dowd (Hereditary, Compliance), Jennifer Nettles (Harriet), Norbert Leo Butz (Dan in Real Life, Give or Take), Lidya Jewett (Hidden Figures, Good Girls), Olivia O’Neill and reprising her iconic role as Chris MacNeil, Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist, Requiem for a Dream).

- MAKING A BELIEVER ­­– Filmmakers and cast reveal their collective approach to bringing differing perspectives into this drama about synchronized possessions.
- ELLEN AND LINDA: REUNITED – THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER expertly weaves the fates of Chris and Regan MacNeil into its story. Witness a moment of cinema history as these two Hollywood icons meet on-set for the first time in years.
- STAGES OF POSESSION – Hear from Lidya Jewett, Olivia O'Neill, and special makeup FX designer Christopher Nelson as they discuss the physical and mental changes the girls go through as they advance through the possession.
- THE OPENING – The first scene of the film takes place in Haiti, a location far from the rest of the story. Filmmakers and star Leslie Odom, Jr. discuss how this scene sets up the rest of the film.
- EDITING AN EXORCISM – THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER culminates with a riveting exorcism scene featuring all the main characters. Director David Gordon Green and editor Tim Alverson explore the challenges of editing such a big scene.
- MATTERS OF FAITH – Experts in theology weigh in on how they consulted filmmakers to ensure depictions of the religious ceremonies in the film were as accurate as possible.
- FEATURE COMMENTARY – with co-writer/director David Gordon Green, executive producer Ryan Turek, co-writer Peter Sattler, and special makeup FX designer Christopher Nelson.

For more information on THE EXORCIST: BELIEVER, please visit:

Cast: Leslie Odom, Jr., Lidya Jewett, Jennifer Nettles, Norbert Leo Butz, with Ann Dowd and Ellen Burstyn
Casting By: Terri Taylor CSA, Sarah Domeier Lindo CSA, Ally Conover CSA
Music By: David Wingo, Amman Abbasi
Costume Designer: Lizz Wolf
Editor: Tim Alverson ACE
Production Designer: Brandon Tonner-Connolly
Director Of Photography: Michael Simmonds
Executive Producers: Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, Stephanie Allain, Ryan Turek, Brian Robinson, Christopher Merrill
Produced By: David Robinson p.g.a. James G. Robinson, Jason Blum p.g.a.
Screen Story By: Scott Teems & Danny McBride & David Gordon Green
Screenplay By: Peter Sattler & David Gordon Green
Directed By: David Gordon Green

Street Date: December 19, 2023
UPC Number: 191329242988
Layers: DVD 9
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: R for some violent content, disturbing images, language and sexual references
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, Complex Mandarin, French Canadian, Korean, and Latin American Spanish
Sound: English (Dolby Digital 5.1 for Feature, Dolby Digital 2.0 for Bonus Content), French Canadian (Dolby Digital 5.1 for Feature), and Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1 for Feature)
Run Time: 01:51:07

Street Date: December 19, 2023
UPC Number: 191329242971
Layers: BD 50
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 1.85:1 Widescreen
Rating: R for some violent content, disturbing images, language and sexual references
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, and Latin American Spanish
Sound: English (Dolby Atmos for Feature, Dolby Digital 2.0 for Bonus Content), French Canadian (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 for Feature), and Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 for Feature)
Run Time: 01:50:59

Street Date: December 19, 2023
sUPC Number: 191329242995
Layers: BD 100
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 1.85:1 Widescreen
Rating: R for some violent content, disturbing images, language and sexual references
Languages/Subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, and Latin American Spanish
Sound: English (Dolby Atmos for Feature, Dolby Digital 2.0 for Bonus Content), French Canadian (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 for Feature), and Latin American Spanish (Dolby Digital 7.1 for Feature)
Run Time: 01:50:59

HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM (1959) (VCI Entertainments Blu-ray Review)

Restored Uncut Special Edition Blu-ray 

Label: VCI Entertainment 
Region Code: Region-Free
Raring: R
Duration: 81 Minutes 50 Seconds 
Audio: English PCM 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Arthur Crabtree
Cast: Michael Gough, June Cunningham, Graham Curnow, Shirley Ann Field, Geoffery Keen, Gerald Anderson, John Warwick

Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) is a gruesome bit of mean-spirited Grand Guignol cinema that must have been quite shocking for it's time, directed by Arthur Crabtree (Fiend Without a Face), the London set film features a couple of wonderfully lurid and exploitative set pieces that just seem to be ahead of their time.
The film opens with a now notorious scene of a pair of young women receiving an anonymous special delivery at their flat; opening the box they're excited to find a pair of binoculars, when one of the women go to the window to have peek through the glasses she becomes a victim the eyeball-gouging binoculars that have a retractable pair of spikes that shoot out into her eye, and presumably her brain. She clutches at her face and screams, blood tricking through her fingers, the booby-trapped binoculars fall to the floor, blood dripping off the retractable spikes. Scotland Yards' Superintendent Grahamn (Geoffery Keen, Taste the Blood of Dracula) and Inspector Lodge (John Warwick, The Face at the Window) arrive at the flat shortly after to investigate the murder, but don't have much to go on. Also arriving on the scene is crime journalist/
writer Edmond Bancroft (Michael Gough, best remembered as 'Alfred Pennyworth' from the Tim Burton Batman movies, but who had a long horror career as well including Horror of Dracula and The Phantom of the Opera) who writes articles on true crime for the newspaper, which are often antagonistic towards the police who seem helpless to solve cases. He also writes best-selling books about the crimes, but unbeknownst to Scotland Yard it's actually Bancroft who is behind the murders! This nugget is broadcast pretty early on so I don't feel too bad about spoiling the sixty-five year-old flick. 

Bancroft along with his loyal assistant Rick (Graham Curnow) secretly curate a "Black Museum" in his basement filled with murder and torture devices, alongside banks of mysterious electronic equipment, some of which he purchases from a curio shop run by the elderly Aggie (Beatrice Varley), which adds a temporary wrinkle to his plans when she begins to suspect him be the murder after peeping items she has sold him in the newspaper crime scene photos - suffice it to say you should not try to blackmail a killer when you've just sold him a pair of antique ice tongs! The same goes for his physician who also bvegins to suspect him of the crimes, and then attempts to persuade him to turn himself, this is ill-advised, especially as he does so while  standing in the direct path of an high-voltage electric zapper at the "black museum"!

It turns out that Bancroft is not committing the crimes himself, he's using a combination of post-hypnotic suggestion and drugs to influence Rick, a process which has an Jekyll & Hyde effect on his assistant, causing him to transform into a ghastly, lumpy-faced murder, who carries out some of the diabolical murders, one of which involves a bed-mounted mini-guillotine which takes the life of Edmond secret lover, the voluptuous Joan (June Cunningham, Three on a Spree) and tragically Rick's own secret girlfriend Angela (Shirley Anne Field, Peeping Tom) after he transforms into the killer while riding The Tunnel of Love Ride at the amusement park, plunging a knife into her heart. There's also a fun skeletonizing plunge into a vat of acid!  

Watching it today these gruesome somewhat hokey special effects and set pieces won't have the same shock and awe they did in '59 but it's easy to appreciate how mean-spirited and gory this was for that era, I bet there was some howling in the audiences when this first screened, I wish I could have been there! The real draw here is seeing Michael Gough absolutely chewing-up the scenery as the arrogant, self-serious crime-writer turned diabolical killer. Some of the arch-eyebrowed faces he makes throughout this had me in stitches, the final takes place at the carnival with ghoul Rick climbing up a Ferris wheel about to spill the beans on Bancroft's complicity, with the panicked crime writer screaming for the cops to shoot him dead, it's wild stuff, and while it might come off a bit on the hokey side through modern eyes I had such a blast with this one. 

Audio/Video: Horror of the Black Museum (1959) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from VCI Entertainment in 1080p HD widescreen (2.35:1), advertised as being from a new 2023 4K scan of the original 35mm film masters. Before the film proper starts up there is a Studio Canal promo leading me to believe this scan was probable licensed from Studio Canal. The source looks fantastic, nary a blemish to distract the eye is to be found, plus there's a light layer of film grain evident throughout, and while there does look to have been some digital clean-up applied it has not erased the organic filmic qualities with appreciable texture and detail in the close-ups. The cinematography by Desmond Dickinson (A Study in Terror) looks terrific in HD, the colors look fantastic, the primaries are punchy and well-saturated, and black levels are pleasing. Audio on the disc comes by way of uncompressed English PCM 2.0 with optional English subtitles and it sounds great, there were sourced related issues, the dialogue, screams, and the score by Gerard Schurmann (Disney's Dr Syn, Alias the Scarecrow) are well-balanced and clean sounding. 

VCI offer a ic of new and archival extras, new stuff comes by way of  a new 2023 Audio Commentary by Robert Kelly. Other extras include the Archival Audio Commentary by Writer/Producer Herman Cohen; a 20-min Video Tribute to Producer Herman Cohen; 11-min Archival Phone Interview/Video Featurette with Herman Cohen; a 3-min Archival Phone Interview with Michael Gougha 22-min  2018 Interview with Shirley Ann Fieldplus the 12-min  Original U.S. Hypno-vista opening featuring psychologist, Emile Franchel. Disc extras are finished up with the 3-min Original U.S. Theatrical Trailer; 3-min Original European Theatrical Trailer; and a 4-min Photo Gallery.

The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a Reversible Sleeve of Artwork featuring the original theatrical art and flip side with a new graphic designer Robert Kelly. I never cared for the original illustration much at all, but Robert Kelly's retro design is certainly an improvement. 

Special Features: 
- Archival Audio Commentary by Writer/Producer Herman Cohen
- 2023 Audio Commentary by Robert Kelly noted film historian and artist.
- Video Tribute to Producer Herman Cohen (19:51) 
- Archival Phone Interview/Video Featurette with Herman Cohen (11:18)
- Archival Phone Interview with Michael Gough (2:40)  
- Original U.S. Hypno-vista opening featuring psychologist, Emile Franchel (11:48) 
- A 2018 Interview with Shirley Ann Field (22:01) 
- Original U.S. Theatrical Trailer (3:16)  
- Original European Theatrical Trailer (2:54)
- Photo Gallery (3:49) 
- Reversible Sleeve of Artwork featuring original theatrical art and a new graphic design by Robert Kelly

Screenshots from the VCI Entertainment Blu-ray: