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  • The Vincent Price Collection III: Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe (1970) & Cry of the Banshee (1970) Blu-ray Review

    The Vincent Price Collection III (1961-1970)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking their third annual release of chilling tales from the master of horror, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents The Vincent Price Collection III.  Comprised of five more efforts across four Blu-ray’s, each bursting with bonus content, legendary star Vincent Price (The Pit and the Pendulum, House on Haunted Hill) makes headlining turns in Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970) and Cry of the Banshee (1970), presented with both its Director’s Cut and the commonly known American International Theatrical cut.

    Based on the novels by Jules Verne, Vincent Price stars as the God-complex suffering Robur in Master of the World.  Set in the 19th century and riding the skies above in his indestructible airship known as the Albatross, Robur takes capture of four individuals including, government agent John Strock (Charles Bronson, Death Wish) as he details his desire to bring peace to the world through intimidation tactics with the Albatross.  Countries resistant to surrender their militaries suffer the explosive wrath of Robur’s powerful creation, forcing the abducted prisoners to devise a way to overthrow the captain and destroy his destructive weapon.  Although portraying the film’s conflicted antagonist, Master of the World is hardly in the same vein as Price’s lauded frightful features but, more an adventurous tale with fantastical elements.  Commonly compared to similar efforts such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Master of the World is an exciting detour for the horror thespian who delivers another delightful performance as he wickedly drops bombs atop of warships and hangs his prisoners above the clouds via rope.  While taking expected shortcuts through use of stock footage and other such techniques, American International Pictures delivered their most expensive picture to date with its Verne adaptation with the results paying off handsomely onscreen.  Scripted by the brilliant Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone, Tales of Terror) and hosting one of Les Baxter’s (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) most impactful scores, Master of the World is a high-flying adventure with Price ably steering its ship.

    Blending history with gothic horror, Tower of London reunites Director Roger Corman once again with Vincent Price during the height of their popular Edgar Allan Poe series.  Retelling a reasonably accurate yet, still rightly fictionalized account of King Richard III’s rise to the throne and ultimate downfall, Price headlines as the dastardly Duke of Gloucester as he pays respects to his terminally ill brother King Edward IV before greed and the temptation of power consumes him.  Secretly murdering his other respected brother with the support of his equally vile wife Anne (Joan Camden, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), Richard weaves his influence around the kingdom by sending others who may threaten his plans to the torture chamber and deceiving his own nephews their birthright to the throne.  Expunging all who challenge him, Richard’s control of the kingdom comes at the cost of his own sanity as the ghosts of those slain return to haunt him.  Lacking the colorful composition of their Poe efforts, Tower of London’s black and white photography establishes its own moody ambiance that suits the film’s period setting.  Classically trained in theater, Price brings gravitas to his tragic hunchbacked role while, mixing the mad entertaining glee common to his other horror-oriented performances.  While not quite as applauded as their other collaborations, The Tower of London is an underrated feast with gorgeous camerawork by Archie R. Dalzell (The Addams Family) and an outlet for Price to proudly showcase his Shakespearean chops onscreen.

    Taking liberties with the tales of Guy de Maupassant, Diary of a Madman finds itself working backwards as onlookers gather at the funeral of Magistrate Simon Cordier (Price).  As close friends gather to read from Cordier’s locked diary, the truth of his fate is slowly revealed.  After witnessing a troubled murderer’s accidental death, Cordier finds himself consumed by the entity that forced the deceased’s hand to kill.  Known only as the horla, the respected judge, grieving for years after the death of his chid and suicide of his wife, attempts to counter the wicked voices in his head by embracing his artistic abilities and falling for the attractive Odette Mallotte (Nancy Kovack, Jason and the Argonauts).  Disrupted by the revelation that Odette is legally married to another and his intended bride-to-be favors his wealth over his love, the forceful nature of the horla compels Cordier to handle them accordingly.  Helmed by Reginald Le Borg (The Black Sleep), Diary of a Madman, although visually lavish in its design, tends to drag in several areas with its psychologically driving narrative growing monotonous.  Although Price is unsurprisingly charming and notably comes alive when possessed to stab his lover to death, Nancy Kovack stands as one of the horror maestro’s most intoxicatingly beautiful starlets and delivers a sound performance.  While it may not be Price’s most memorable feature, Diary of a Madman remains worthy of a watch on a preferably rainy evening.

    In this made for television special, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe spotlights Vincent Price, with minimal set dressing and few props, as he eloquently narrates four of Poe’s chilling works.  All told in the first person, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Case of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum come to life courtesy of Price’s intense conviction as he makes quoting Poe as effortless as breathing.  Well directed by Kenneth Johnson (The Bionic Woman), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe may not be feature length worthy entertainment but, serves as an exceptional showcase for the classically trained Price who makes Poe’s haunting tales even more effective than reading them independently under the blanket of darkness.  Longtime appreciators of the star’s many Poe adaptations will take delight at how ingrained the gothic poet’s works were installed in his vocabulary, greatly enriching their legacy in the process.

    Although prefaced by a passage from Edgar Allan Poe, Cry of the Banshee holds no correlation to the Corman/Price adaptations previously produced by American International Pictures.  Helmed instead by fellow Price collaborator Gordon Hessler (The Oblong Box, Scream and Scream Again), Cry of the Banshee focuses on vile witch hunter Lord Edward Whitman (Price) who uses his influence to exterminate those of the slightest suspicion of devil worship.  Murdering accused teenagers during a dinner party and ordering others to torturous whippings, Edward and his sons ambush a worshipping coven, resulting in several deaths before being cursed by its leader Oona (Elizabeth Bergner, As You Like It).  Summoning the beastly sidhe to rid the Whitman clan, the estate’s gypsy servant Roderick (Patrick Mower, The Devil Rides Out), who is also madly in love with Edwards’ daughter Maureen (Hilary Heath, Witchfinder General), becomes possessed and periodically morphs into the monster to bring death to the Whitman’s family line.  Sporting a colorfully animated title sequence by a young Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and injecting far more nudity (within its Director’s Cut) than most Price features, Cry of the Banshee suffers from an overloaded cast and largely detestable characters.  Juxtaposing from Price, who arguably takes a backseat for portions of the film, to his sons’ individual paths, his daughter and Rodrick’s forbidden romance, the coven of witches and its local villagers, the film struggles to streamline its focus while, Price, who delivers a respectable performance albeit grossly seedy and only second to his turn in Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General.  Achieving success during its original release, Hessler contends Cry of the Banshee to be his most uninteresting AIP feature which is respectfully agreed.       

    Culled from a variety of sources including, inter-positives (Master of the World, Diary of a Madman and Cry of the Banshee), a fine grain film print (Tower of London) and even original tape masters (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe), each feature is presented with 1080p transfers with the exception of the standard-def, televised Poe effort.  Sporting 1.85:1 (Master of the World, Cry of the Banshee), 1:66:1 (Tower of London, Diary of a Madman) and 1:33:1 (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe) aspect ratios, each film contains varying degrees of scratches and scuffs, all of which never greatly deter from the viewing experience.  From their striking color schemes, Master of the World and Diary of a Madman greatly impress while, Tower of London begins with rough around the edges before nicely improving, demonstrating pleasing black levels in its monochrome photography.  With expectations at bay regarding the sole SD feature included, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe looks as good as can be expected with only one minor coloring hiccup spotted.  In addition, Cry of the Banshee arrives in a virtually blemish free presentation that is both filmic and natural.  Given the fleeting state of materials for many elder features, Scream Factory has once again worked wonders in preserving several more of Price’s pictures.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes with Master of the World also boasting a newly created Stereo mix from the original 4-track mag, each film satisfies in delivering audible dialogue levels and worthy reproductions of their respective scores.  Admittedly, Diary of a Madman retains a mild hiss of little consequence on its track while, Tower of London has occasional cracks and pops heard throughout.  Unquestionably, Master of the World’s Stereo mix is the most effective of the bunch with Les Baxter’s thunderous score leaving lasting impressions.  

    With a variety of newly produced and vintage supplements, special features on Master of the World’s disc 1 include a new Audio Commentary with Actor David Frankham, an extended cut of Richard Matheson: Storyteller (1:12:05), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:28), Photo Gallery (2:18) and Photo Gallery II (1:59).  Disc 2’s Tower of London hosts a new Interview with Director Roger Corman (7:11), Producing Tower of London featuring interviews with Corman and his brother and fellow producer Gene Corman (14:04).  In addition to a Photo Gallery (4:31), two standard definition episodes of Science Fiction Theatre starring Vincent Price, “One Thousand Eyes” (26:09) and “Operation Flypaper” (26:05), supply fans with even more Priceless small screen entertainment.  Furthermore, Diary of a Madman includes a new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman, a Poster Gallery (1:44) and the Theatrical Trailer (3:16) while, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (also found on disc 3) includes, another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman and the newly produced Tales of Vincent Price with Kenneth Johnson (21:26).  In addition to both its Director’s Cut (1:30:49) and American International Theatrical Cut (1:26:37), disc 4’s Cry of the Banshee provides yet another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman on the Director’s Cut, A Devilish Tale of Poe (17:52) featuring an interview with Director Gordon Hessler with its Theatrical Trailer (2:28), TV Spot (0:58), Radio Spot (0:30) and a Poster Gallery (4:09) rounding out the final batch of on-disc extras.  Lastly, a 12-page booklet featuring rare photos is also included.

    In what appears to be their final curtain call for Mr. Price, Scream Factory’s The Vincent Price Collection III offers fans of gothic horror and atmospheric chills a throughly entertaining quintuple of features from the adventure-filled Master of the World to the witch hunting Cry of the Banshee.  Excellently presented and lovingly complimented with ample bonus content for after-movie consumption, The Vincent Price Collection III is a bittersweet accomplishment for the popular horror label that will easily rank as one of the year’s favored releases.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Vincent Price Collection III can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962) Blu-ray Review

    The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962)

    Director: Jess Franco

    Starring: Howard Vernon, Hugo Blanco & Gogo Robins

    Released by: Redemption 

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    When one thinks of Euro-sleaze, most die-hard fans of this genre will immediately think of the one and only Jess (Jesus) Franco.  He was the master filmmaker for Euro-Sleaze movies, which were often eclectic with many ladies often appearing nude in his films. During the early 1960s, when Franco had started to direct some period black and white, Gothic films including The Awful Dr. Orlof, there was always a little touch of his groundbreaking style including some nudity and sadism.  The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, Franco’s second horror film, was another step closer to the type of films most Franco aficionados are familiar with.

    The story of The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus concerns women who are being stabbed to death in a European village by an unseen killer.  Many of the residents there strongly believe it’s the ghost of Baron Von Klaus, a sadist (hence the title Sadistic) from the 17th Century who brutalized women.  They feel his spirit lives on within his modern day relatives.  The film turns into a creepy mystery as the villagers try to discover who has the spirit of Baron Von Klaus within him.  Appearing sinister and strongly resembling the baron based on a picture on the wall in the Von Klaus castle, Max Von Klaus (Howard Vernon) becomes the main red herring of the film.  Ludwig, played by Hugo Blanco, also has a key role in the movie as a pianist and the son of Baron Von Klaus.  The film does have one really powerful scene for its time which eventually became a Jess Franco trademark where a woman, Margaret, played by Gogo Robins gets stripped, molested, whipped and chained up by the killer.  This one scene alone really makes the picture; otherwise, it is an at times tedious film with some musical numbers.  The crisp black and white cinematography also helps the viewing experience as it captures the atmosphere found in many international films from the period.  Ultimately, Franco achieves a very creepy, artistic and yet, slow paced movie.

    Redemption has released The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus in a beautiful 1080p AVC encoded letterboxed transfer.  Outstanding and sharply detailed, black levels are strong as are whites while, film grain is present throughout.  The audio is a robust LPCM 2.0 in its original French language.  What really stands out in the audio are all the musical numbers with the piano.  Since the movie was never dubbed into English, there are very easy to read English subtitles on this release.  No extras are included on this release.

    Fans of Jess Franco should not pass up this film in their collection.  It’s a chance to see his early work which is atmospheric, stylish and with a small touch of the Franco sleaze that he would become renowned for. 

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 9 from Redemption, The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus can be purchased from KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review


    Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
    Director: Terence Fisher
    Starring: Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg, Thorley Walters, & Robert Morris
    Released by: Millennium Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their successful Frankenstein franchise, Hammer debuted their fourth outing in 1967.  Peter Cushing returns to one of his most memorable roles as Baron Frankenstein with noted Hammer Director Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll) conducting the show.  Drenched in gothic atmosphere and a rather unconventional plot, Frankenstein Created Woman dared to inject a fresh take into their already successful series.  Often criticized for not being on par with previous installments, Frankenstein Created Woman is the latest Hammer film to receive the collector’s edition treatment from Millennium Entertainment.  It lives again so let’s take a closer look at this execution in Hammer horror...

    Frankenstein Created Woman stars Peter Cushing (The Mummy, Twins of Evil) as Baron Frankenstein.  Amidst experimenting with the transferring of souls, a tormented girl, Christina (Susan Denberg in her final film appearance), drowns herself after learning her lover has been framed for murder and sentenced to death.  Using his unorthodox methods to bring Christina back from the grave, Frankenstein succeeds and simultaneously places her lover’s soul in her body.  Driven by rage and madness, Christina extracts revenge on those responsible for her lover’s death.  Anthony Hinds (The Phantom of the Opera) provides the screenplay while Thorley Walters (Vampire Circus) and Robert Morris (Five Millions Years to Earth) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    Following in the footsteps of their gothic atmosphere and sexy starlets, Hammer continued to bring new life to the monsters famously ushered into the mainstream courtesy of Universal Studios in the 1930s and 40s.  The Frankenstein franchise was one of Hammer’s strongest and most popular assets beginning in 1957 with their first color horror film,The Curse of Frankenstein.  As the series trekked on, it found itself Christopher Lee-less but still within the good company of Peter Cushing returning as Baron Frankenstein.  By 1967, Hammer debuted their fourth outing in the series with Frankenstein Created Woman, a highly debated film amongst Hammer aficionados.  While, the finely tuned gothic tone that Hammer had perfected is in touch, Frankenstein Created Woman is unquestionably unique compared to previous installments.  A pre-title sequence showcases a young boy witnessing the death of his father by guillotine.  Many years later, Hans Werner (Robert Morris), the young boy who witnessed the graphic ordeal, is assisting Baron Frankenstein (Cushing) and Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters) in a soul trapping experiment.  In love with the disfigured Christina (Susan Denberg), Hans is engaged in a fight with three wealthier men who bring nothing but trouble to Christina’s fathers inn.  After drunkenly stumbling around, the three men find themselves breaking back into the inn until Christina’s father catches them.  The men panic and beat the elderly man to death before escaping in a rush.  As the son of a murderer, Hans is framed for the crime and sentenced to death.  Distraught with grief, Christina drowns herself only to have Frankenstein and Hertz recoup their bodies.  Instilling his soul theory, Frankenstein successfully transfers Hans‘ soul into Christina’s now undeformed body giving life to her.  Gorgeous as ever, Christina slowly begins to extract revenge on those responsible for both deaths.

    Frankenstein Created Woman takes a unique stance as it has no disfigured creature menacing the characters.  Furthermore, the film takes nearly an hour to showcase Frankenstein’s theories put to the test only to create horrific results.  Admittedly, these are not hopeful signs for a quality Frankenstein film but interestingly enough, the film casts a delightful spell on the audience.  The very core of the film is founded upon the tragic love story between Christina and Hans.  Christina’s deformity and partial paralyzation makes her the typical image of Frankenstein’s monster.  Sweet and soft-spoken, Christina is far from a monster but society treats her as such with bar patrons insulting her appearances.  Hans’ unquestionable love for Christina injects the two with a sense of ecstasy until the murder of Christina’s father is pinned on Hans.  Society’s wrongful sentencing and death of Hans along with Christina’s suicide are the true monsters of the film.  Resurrected by Frankenstein, Christina, looking as beautiful as the highest of societies members, is guided by Hans’ soul to take revenge against those who wronged them.  Flirtatious and desirable, Christina uses her looks to con her fathers’ actual murderers.  Swift and deadly, Christina savagely murders the men when they are least expecting it.  Appearing as an attractive woman, Christina is now just a grim reflection of the heinous society that ended her and Hans’ life.  Struggling to save her, Frankenstein is too late as Christina is far too aware of her acts and ends her life yet again.  Frankenstein Created Woman may not be the Frankenstein film you’d expect, but it’s far smarter than many give credit to.  Always reliable, Peter Cushing serves up another entertaining performance as Baron Frankenstein while the love story between Christina and Hans is the true bread and butter of this film.  Frankenstein Created Woman may not be the finest Frankenstein installment, but it’s certainly more underrated than deserved.  
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Millennium Entertainment presents Frankenstein Created Woman in a 1080p transfer (2.35:1).  Colors are nicely represented with fine detail seen in actors‘ clothing as well as the perspiration seen on Cushing’s face.  Minor instances of flakes and specks appear in the opening shots before stabilizing to a nice, clear picture.  The grain structure for this 47-year-old film is well maintained with only one minor hiccup in picture quality during one of Christina’s final murders.  Overall, Millennium Entertainment has done a fine job transferring this underrated gem for the HD generation.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, Frankenstein Created Woman is quite sufficient with dialogue nicely projected and various background noises picked up clearly.  No noticeable hiss or pops intruded on the listening experience.  The mix gets the job done without overselling its role.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Actors Derek Fowlds & Robert Morris moderated by Hammer Expert Jonathan Rigby

    - Frankenstein Created Woman Trailer

    - World of Hammer: The Curse of Frankenstein: This episode from the 1990s television show focuses on Hammer’s Frankenstein films with various clips included.

    - World of Hammer: Peter Cushing: A second episode is included focusing on one of Hammer’s most esteemed players and his career.

    - Hammer Glamour: This newly-produced 44 minute documentary shines a light on the sexy starlets that gave Hammer their iconic look.  Vera Day (Quatermass II: Enemy from Space), Caroline Munro (Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter), Jenny Hanley (Scars of Dracula) and more provide insightful interviews.

    - Animated Still Gallery

    - Exclusive Collectible Cards

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Frankenstein Created Woman is an incredibly unconventional take for Hammer’s Frankenstein franchise, but one that works quite well.  Deemed a lesser entry in the series, Frankenstein Created Woman is fearless in its execution and supplies a tragic love story at its root.  Peter Cushing, Susan Denberg and Robert Morris are wonderful in their roles and convey all the emotion needed to make this an underrated gothic gem.  Millennium Entertainment’s second HD Hammer release sports a terrific video presentation, an adequate audio mix and a superb assortment of extras, most notably the new Hammer Glamour documentary.  Frankenstein Created Woman is far from perfect but taps into the much beloved Hammer tropes while presenting something fresh.  Underrated for far too long, Millennium Entertainment’s release of Frankenstein Created Woman deserves to be resurrected and placed in your collection today.
    RATING: 4/5