Tuesday, March 26, 2024

NIGHT OF THE BLOOD MONSTER (1970) (Blue Underground 4K UHD Review)


Label: Blue Underground
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 102 Minutes 41 Minutes 
Audio: English: 1.0 DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Dolby Vision HDR 2160p UHD Widescreen (2.35:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Christopher Lee, Maria Schell, Leo Genn, Hans Hass, Maria Rohm, Margaret Lee, Howard Vernon, Diana Lorys

Jess Franco's Night of the Blood Monster, better known as The Bloody Judge is one of his more lush and extravagant productions, made with British producer Harry Alan Towers with whom he made nine films, among them The Girl from Rio, 99 Women, Count Dracula, and 
Eugenie… The Story of Her Journey into Perversion. These team-up between the notorious producer and the also-notorious eurocult legend tended to me well-financed period melodrama with Franco's more overtly perverted and shocking tendencies reigned in a bit. 

Night of the Blood Monster is a period set witch-hunt flick, more than likely made to cash in on the Michael Reeve's directed Vincent Price vehicle The Witchfinder General (1968), with Hammer legend Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man) playing real-life historical Judge Jeffries, an infamous 17th Century judge whose meads out strict punishments for rebel who would rise up against the increasingly unpopular  King James II, as well as sentencing witches to burn at the stake. 

The always luscious Maria Rohm (Eugenie... the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion) plays Mary, the sympathetic sister of Alicia Gray (Margaret Lee, The Secret of Dorian Gray) a woman accused of witchcraft who despite pleading with Jeffreys for mercy for her sister is burned at the stake and dies a miserable death. Jeffries turns out to be crooked, just like every other witch hunter, and develops a lust for Mary. Later she is jailed when she is caught associating known enemy of the crown Harry Selton (Hans Hass, X312-Flight To Hell), the son of crown loyalist, and friendly associate of the judge, the Earl of Wessex (Leo Genn, Lizard in a Woman's Skin). In prison Mary is tortured by club-footed executioner Jack Ketch (Howard Vernon, Other Side of the Mirror), sort of campier take on Karloff's character from The Tower of London. After being out through the various bloody tortures, at one point being made to lick blood off of a dead or dying woman. After she's been put through the wringer Jeffries offers her a reprieve in exchange for sexual favors, that bastard. We also get the presence of Maria Schell (The Hanging Tree) as Mother Rosa, a clairvoyant blind witch that live sin the area and predicts the writing on the wall in respect to the Crown, and Milo Quesada (The 10th Victim) as Satchel, a duplicitous aid to Wessex who gets his faced burned quite badly, but whose burns curiously seem to change in severity from scene to scene.  

For a Franco flick this is a mighty big production with large, well-staged battlefield scenes with soldiers on horseback, canon fire, and lots of extras running around. We also get  attractive lensing by Manuel Merino (She Killed In Ecstasy) with not a one of Franco's go-to zoom-ins anywhere in sight, lots of fantastic old castle and stone building, period costuming and attractive pastoral locations, plus we get a superb orchestral score by Bruno Nicolai (Marquis de Sade's Justine) that accents the melodramatic emotions emotions and action moments quite nicely.  The main cast is also excellent, Lee looks to be relishing his turn as Jeffries, and Rohm, Margaret Lee and are not only a feast for the eyes but also sympathetic and quite compelling. 

I like this one quite a bit, the story is engaging even with some plot holes, but as a fan of Franco's more prurient pursuits and cinematic proclivities I will say it's tad tame by Franco standard. There's a bit of lustful sleaze and some witchhunter tortures, including the aforementioned corpse-licking from Rohm, but it feels pretty reigned in for my tastes, and I think that both Witchfinder General and Mark of the Devil scratch that salacious itch more satisfactorily. What can I say, I am a pervy gore-hound at heart. With that said, this is quite a handsomely made with lavish production values, especially for a Franco film, and even for a Franco-Towers team-up this looks fairly expensive and stands apart as looking about as mainstream as Franco ever got.  

Audio/Video: Night of the Blood Monster (1970) aka The Bloody Judge gets a region-free 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray from Blue Underground, advertised as being "from a brand-new 2023 Dolby Vision HDR 4K master, painstakingly restored from various European vault elements featuring additional nudity, bloodshed and what Christopher Lee himself calls “scenes of extraordinary depravity!”". Sound pretty exciting, and it is, this looks phenomenal in 4K UHD framed in 2.35:1 widescreen. The image is lush and with a velvety later of film grain that caries with it wonderfully crisp details and textures, with surprising depth and clarity. The Dolby Vision HDR gives primary colors a nice blush, and black levels are quite deep and inky. I noticed no compression issues, artifacting or untoward digital tinkering, the UHD, this is another first-rate 4K upgrade from Blue Underground. The accompanying Blue-ray benefits from the same 4K restoration but is downsampled to 2K, and it also looks phenomenal, even without the benefit of WCG color-grade.  

Audio on both the UHD and BD comes by way of  English 1.0 DTS-HD MA with optional English subtitles, I dig purity of this track, no revisionist stereo, no artificial surround, just the pure mono track. The dialogue is never a chore to discern, it's sharp and focused with some nice depth to it. The score by  Bruno Nicolai (Eyeball) sounds terrific, full-bodies and robust. This is the longest known cut of the film comprised of bits and pieces from other territories, and as such there are bits of dialogue in German that never had English-dubbing, so they are presented here in the native German with English subtitles. 

The only extras in the UHD (saving those precious digital bits for the feature film A/V!) are three audio commentary tracks - that's right, three! First up is Audio Commentary #1 with Film Historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel ThompsonAudio Commentary #2 with Film Historians Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw; and Audio Commentary #3 with Film Historians David Flint and Adrian Smith. There's lot of ground covered here, a ton, we get cast and crew information, talk about Franco and Towers 9-film team-up, how it was financed, the various cuts of the film, the soundtrack and much more. No stone is left unturned between these three in-depth and kneadable tracks. 

Onto the Blu-ray we get the same set of commentaries, plus a wealth of other new and archival extras. First up is the 25-min Bloody Jess – Interviews with Director Jess Franco and Star Christopher Lee, an archival set of interviews from both talking about the production, with lee focusing on his portrayal of real life figure Judge George Jeffries while Franco talks candidly about having to cater to the whims of the various financiers, among other things. This was previously available on the Blue Underground DVD released back in 2016. 

Then onto the newly produced Judgement Day – Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of “Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco”, clocking in at 34-min Thrower gives his usual fastidious assessment of the film, deep-diving into the casta and crew, the various collaborations of Franco and Lee, and as ever giving us his candid opinion of Franco's flick. 

Thrower shows up again in the 24-min In The Shadows – Interviews with Filmmaker Alan Birkinshaw and Author Stephen Thrower on Harry Alan Towers, discussing not only his nine film collaboration with Franco but his notorious life and multi-faceted career, including some rumored oddities about the man. 

The disc is buttoned up with 18-min of Deleted an Alternate Scenes, including the Alternate Ending from German Version Trailers and a TV Spot, including those for double-feature with Hammer's Blood from the. Mummy's Tomb, plus extensive Still Galleries that include Posters, Advertising Materials, Lobby Cards, B&W Stills, Color Stills, Video & Soundtrack. I searched the menus and did not find any Easter Eggs hidden away, but if you found one please let us know in the comments. 

The 2-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray arrives in an oversized black keepcase with a Reversible Sleeve of Artwork, the reverse side featuring a different illustration with The Bloody Judge titles, plus we get a Limited Edition Embossed Slipcover that is limited to the first pressing. 

Special Features:
- WORLD PREMIERE! Brand-new 2023 4K master of the complete uncensored version
- Audio Commentary #1 with Film Historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson
- Audio Commentary #2 with Film Historians Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw
- Audio Commentary #3 with Film Historians David Flint and Adrian Smith
- Bloody Jess – Interviews with Director Jess Franco and Star Christopher Lee (25:10) 
- Judgement Day – Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of “Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco” (33:32) 
- In The Shadows – Interviews with Filmmaker Alan Birkinshaw and Author Stephen Thrower on Harry Alan Towers (24:15) 
- Deleted Scene: Mary's Grief (5:45)
- Alternate Clothed Love Scene
- Alternate Mary's Rekease from Dungeon (1:22)
- Alternate "Bloody Judge" Main Titles (2:00)
- Alternate "Dexter Hexentote Von Blackmoor" Main Titles (2:15)
- Alternate Ending from German Version (1:41) 
- U.S. Trailer (0:56) 
- U.S. Combo Trailer (1:53) double-feature with Blood from the. Mummy's Tomb 
- U.S. Combo TV Spot (0:34) 
- Still Galleries: Pisters, Advertising Materials, Lobby Cards, B&W Stills, Color Stills, Video & Soundtrack 
- Limited Edition embossed slipcover and reversible sleeve with alternate artwork (First Pressing Only)

Blue Underground have been on a near unparallelled 4K UHD tear and that streak continues with their gorgeous presentation of Jess Franco's Night of the Bloody Judge. The period witchhunter flick looks absolutely stunning, the main cast are terrific, and the set pieces and costuming really pull you into it. There is a bit of unsavory perversion and torture and witch-burning happening, but this is a pretty tame Franco flick in comparison to most of his wilder and more lascivious entrees, but seeing him make what is basically a melodramatic historical epic with some exploitation highlights is pretty dang interesting. Further proof that he could cater to a more mainstream audience, he just chose not to, so in that respect it's a rather curious entry from Franco, and a solid witch hunter entry along the lines of Mark of the Devil and The Witchfinder General.  

Buy it:

Screenshots from the Blue Underground Blu-ray: 


Buy it: