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Currently showing posts tagged David Steigman

  • 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.

  • The Land That Time Forgot (1975) Blu-ray Review

    The Land that Time Forgot (1975)

    Director: Kevin Connor

    Starring: Doug McClure, John McEnery & Susan Penhaligon

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    Based on the story written by fantasy author Edgar Rice Burroughs, The Land that Time Forgot is the first of four movies that were produced by John Dark, directed by Kevin Connor and starred Doug McClure.  Each film’s main theme was traveling to lost continents with others to discover new races of people, dinosaurs and other giant monsters.  The other three movies are At the Earth’s Core, The People That Time Forgot and Warlords of Atlantis.  Each of the other films, save for Warlords of Atlantis, were offerings from Amicus Productions who had been known for horror anthologies such as Tales from the Crypt, From Beyond the Grave and Dr. Terrors House of Horrors.  Beginning with the Amicus/AIP co-production, The Land That Time Forgot, Amicus’ main focus was to have films that included giant prehistoric monsters. 

    The setting for The Land That Time Forgot takes place during World War I, where a German U boat, commanded by Captain Von Schoenvorts, played by John McEnery torpedoes and sinks a ship.  Among the survivors are Doug McClure as Bowen Tyler, scientist Lisa Clayton (played by Susan Penhaligon) and a few British officers.  The German U boat goes off course and continues to drift onward for at least several weeks until they land on a lost continent called Caprona.  When the submarine emerges from underwater, they are welcomed by a Plesiosaur and other aquatic dinosaurs.  Once on land, the cast struggles to survive, trying to avoid being a tasty treat for the dinosaurs including an Allosaurus, Styracosaurus and Pteroldactyl.  In what was probably a nod to an earlier dinosaur thriller, One Million Years BC, we get a fierce fight between a Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus Rex.  As with all films with dinosaurs, there are some cavemen which also cause trouble for the crew until the climax when a volcano erupts, threatening all life on Caprona. 

    The Land that Time Forgot is co-presented by Kino Lorber Studio Classics and Scorpion Releasing (who produced the extras) and the results are excellent.  The film has never looked better on home video.  In its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this is a beautiful 1080p AVC coded release.  Colors are vivid with excellent contrast and great details during the daylight scenes.  In addition, black levels are spot on while the grain structure is also really strong.  The resolution is so good that it actually spoils some of the special effects work!  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the audio quality is excellent with all the dinosaur roars loud and clear.  While there is not a ton of extras on the disc, what we do get is really outstanding.  This is where quality of the bonus material outshines the quantity.  We are treated to an Audio Commentary with Director Kevin Connor, a making of featurette that is over 10 minutes long, plus the original trailer. 

    The Land that Time Forgot is a great, entertaining fantasy adventure-filled movie that eventually led to a sequel, The People That Time Forgot, also starring the late Doug McClure.  A well-known actor who went on to star in a few horror movies, such as Humanoids from the Deep and later on several television shows and sitcoms, McClure would ultimately pass away in 1995 at the age of 59 due to lung cancer.

    The dinosaur effects in The Land That Time Forgot consisting of puppets and mockup models are hit or miss with the more realistic creatures being the Triceratops and Styracosaurus.  Others such as the Plesiosaur (well the neck of it anyway), the odd shaped wobbly Allosaurs and Pterodactyls on visible wires are less than convincing, but that’s what gives these films their charm.

    In The Land That Time Forgot, we get another fun fantasy film from the seventies. While the effects work for the film is just average, it is a commendable effort considering there was no CGI effects during that time.  It took a lot of work and craftsmanship to bring forth movies such as this.  The Blu-ray is just a fantastic release with few but impressive extras and great audio and video quality to boot, this movie was an instant day one purchase that comes highly recommended!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available June 16th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, The Land That Time Forgot can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • First Men in the Moon (1964) Blu-ray Review

    First Men in the Moon (1964)

    Directed by: Nathan Juran

    Starring: Edward Judd, Martha Hyer & Lionel Jeffries

    Released by: Twilight Time

     

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    One of many classic science fiction and fantasy films from creative special effects genius Ray Harryhausen, First Men in the Moon is a wonderful tale set amongst the stars!  Told through flashbacks, Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd) tells the story of how he along with girlfriend Kate Callender (Martha Hyer) and inventor Joseph Cavor (Lionel Jeffries) were actually the first visitors to the moon as opposed to a crew of multi-national astronauts that have just landed. Juxtaposing to 1899, giving the film a Victorian Era atmosphere, Joseph Cavor has developed a paste like substance called cavorite, which he claims counters gravity.  Covering their spherical vessel in the substance, the three then travel to the moon.  While there they discover that they are not alone.  A race of ant-like looking creatures named the Selenites led by the Grand Lunar and Mooncalves, large catepillar-like monsters, reside on the surface as the former intends to keep the group trapped unless Bedford can devise an escape.

    First Men in the Moon was made during a wave of other science fiction hitting the box-office at the time.  No matter how large or small the budget was, these were the kinds of films that were dominating theaters and provided wonderful escapism from everyday reality. This movie is another prime example of what a limited budget and great imagination can bring to the screen. For example, The Mooncalf is another brilliant creation by stop motion effects wizard Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen created many outstanding creatures in his over 30-year career including, but not limited to, his contributions to 20 Million Miles to Earth and Clash of the Titans. In addition, this film is filled with an enormous amount of atmosphere due to both the settings on the moon and the Victorian Era.  Nigel Kneale, no stranger to writing classic science fiction films and television shows, was the scriptwriter for the film, based on the 1901 novel, “First Men in the Moon” written by H.G. Wells.  Meanwhile, Director Nathan Juran, responsible for such fantasy fare as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, may have arguably turned in his most thoughtful work with First Men in the Moon.  Wonderfully directed, terrifically cast and demonstrating brilliant effects, you will be hard pressed to find a better outer space saga from the era.

     

    Twilight Time has presented First Men in the Moon in such a way that I would call it the holy grail of releases.  Using a dual layered disc, and encode of MPEG4 – AVC, the picture quality of First Men in the Moon is just phenomenal.  The 1080p anamorphic widescreen, letterboxed transfer is simply beautiful, easily surpassing the DVD in every aspect of image quality.  Daylight scenes are just gorgeous and rich in color while, the black levels are strong.  Sequences on the moon and the Harryhausen special effects are all brighter and richer in color giving us the best looking presentation the film has ever had. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also excellent, especially during special effects sequences. Twilight Time has also added a great deal of wonderful extras for this release including, an Audio Commentary by Ray Harryhausen and Special Effects Artist Randall William Cook, an Isolated Music and Effects Track, an Introduction by Randall William Cook, a featurette entitled Tomorrow the Moon, the Original Theatrical Trailer, a Teaser Spot and a 6-page booklet with linear notes by Julie Kirgo.

     

    Being a fan of this movie for well over 20 years, viewing this high quality Blu-ray disc has made watching First Men in the Moon feel brand new and even more exciting. There is nothing more appealing than watching a great film that has been given an outstanding release, thanks to Twilight Time.  Fantasy film fans that are familiar with this movie will be receiving a huge treat with this Blu-ray re-release. A truly superior film and even greater home video release, First Men in the Moon is one title not to miss – highly recommended!

     

    RATING: 5/5

     

    Available now from Twilight Time in a limited 5,000 unit edition, First Men in the Moon can be purchased via Screen Archives.

  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) Blu-ray Review

    Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

    Director: Henry Levin

    Starring: James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl, Peter Ronson & Thayer David

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    Journey to the Center of the Earth is another grand science fiction film entrée from the 1950s, a great blending of classic actors with a movie that has many fantastical elements and monsters.  The great James Mason (North by Northwest, Odd Man Out) leads an expedition to the center of the Earth along with Pat Boone (All Hands on Deck), Arlene Dahl (Slightly Scarlet) and Peter Ronson (his only film).  On their journey they encounter both wonderful and treacherous findings along the way.

    Sir Oliver S. Lindenbrook (Mason), an Edinburgh science professor has stumbled upon centuries old evidence from another scientist, Arne Saknussemm, detailing a pathway located in Icelandic volcanoes leading to the center of the Earth.  Lindenbrook assembles his team, student Alec McKuen (Boone), farmhand Hans (Ronson), his duck Gertrude and Carla Goetaburg (Arlene Dahl).  Previously, Carla’s late husband Peter Goetaburg, was prepping his own expedition to the bowels of the Earth but was killed by Count Saknussemm (Thayer David) to claim the glory of his ancestor.  Continuing his tradition, the Count intends to follow the Lindenbrook expedition to the center and eventually kill them.  Once the team is assembled, they head inside the volcano to find many different exotic and dangerous areas.  Unknowingly, the group is followed by Count Saknussemm but, join alliances as they continue their treacherous journey.  Once at the bottom, the five of them nearly get eaten by a group of Dimetrodon but manage to escape to the water which then gets sucked into a whirlpool.  Landing in the lost city of Atlantis, the team discover the century-old remains of Arne Saknussemm pointing a way to get back to the top of the volcano.  With escape in sight, a giant chameleon stands in the way of the crew getting back from within the Earth. 

    Once inside the volcano, Journey to the Center of the Earth is a highly entertaining film as we follow the cast into parts unknown.  The first half of the film could be considered a drama with heavy dialogue with the inclusion of a musical number.  A very well-known singer, songwriter and entertainer, Pat Boone does such that in one scene during the film.  The last half of the film becomes pure science fiction when the cast heads down the paths inside the volcano.  While the film may be considered slow to some expecting full-blown action, the ample running time allows the film to build as the characters congregate to form their expedition.  Upon entering the volcano, we are treated to some wonderful visuals and gorgeous cinematography including lakes, a land of large mushrooms and some convincing, practically achieved prehistoric monsters.  James Mason is especially great as Lindenbrook, showing both a serious side as a Professor and his adventurous side as the explorer of a new world.  He also has some snappy dialogue with Arlene Dahl playing the widow of a man who planned his own expedition.  Reportedly, the two of did not get along very well during the making of this film and it shows in their scenes together. 

    Twilight Time has reissued Journey to the Center of the Earth using 4K technology and it’s a big winner.  The 4K restoration here is phenomenal, much improved over the first release. This is a very visually stunning encoded 1080p, 2:35:1 transfer.  The colors are even more vivid with a crisp, polished look to it and excellent contrast to boot.  In addition, the optional DTS- HD Master Audio 2.0 and 5.1 mixes are top notch as well.  To add more icing on the cake, supplements include, an Audio Commentary with Actress Diane Baker and Film Historians Steven C. Smith & Nick Redman, an Isolated Score Track, the Original Theatrical Trailer and an 8-page Booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo.

    With a satisfying runtime, great cast and some really wonderful effects, Journey to the Center of the Earth stands out as not being just another low-budget B movie.  Rich in plot, with terrific acting, excellent cinematography, and of course, the great Dimetrodon scene for monster lovers, Journey to the Center of the Earth remains one of the better classic fantasy films of the 1950s. 

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Twilight Time in a limited 5,000 unit edition, Journey to the Center of the Earth can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.

  • Day of Anger (1967) Blu-ray Review

    Day of Anger (1967)

    Director: Tonino Valerii

    Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Giuliano Gemma & Walter Rilla 

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    In the mid-1960s, many American actors starred in Westerns that were produced and directed by Italian filmmakers, dubbed “Spaghetti Westerns”.  Sergio Leone was a pioneer in the genre with such films as The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.  His assistant, Tonino Valerii, directed his own Spaghetti Western, entitled Day of Anger.  In the film, Lee Van Cleef is a merciless, master gunslinger who suddenly appears in the town of Clifton.  Although his purpose is clear, he ends up teaching an often bullied handyman, (Giulano Gemma), to use a pistol and kill those who attack him.  Walter Rilla, Christa Linder, Lukas Ammann and Andrea Bosic co-star. 

    Lee Van Cleef (It Conquered the World, Death Rides a Horse) is Frank Talby who has suddenly appeared in the town of Clifton to gain revenge on Wild Jack (Al Mulock) and his henchmen for a double cross on a train robbery.  Talby is in town to collect his reward for the crime, which is $50,000 in gold.  With help from his protégé, Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma, Tenebrae), who was essentially the local whipping boy, Talby and Scott take over the town but, tensions mount as Scott’s fast draw becomes a threat to his mentor.  After Talby kills Scott’s former friend, Sheriff Murph Alan Short (Walter Rilla, Dr. Mabuse vs. Scotland Yard, Rio 70), Scott goes after Talby and his gang. 

    Arrow Video has done an excellent job bringing this film back to life with an outstanding Blu-ray presentation.  The picture quality looks absolutely brilliant in a dual layered 1080p MPEG-4 AVC widescreen letterboxed 2:35:1 format.  Restored from the original negative, Arrow Video’s efforts leaves the film in its best presentation to date.  Looking simply magnificent, details are incredible, grain is still present and colors are vibrant.  The 2.0 PCM audio mix is also excellent, with hardly any cause to adjust the volume.  Well known for having a lot of extras on their releases, Arrow Video has done it again by providing us with a plethora of bonus materials.  First and foremost, we get two different cuts of Day of Anger; the original uncut version, clocking in at nearly two hours, with audio options in its native Italian tongue with English subtitles or the English dubbed version.  The English dubbed version often uses the word bastard a lot and some of the voices don’t sound appropriate for their characters.  In addition, the international English dub runs a good half hour less than the Italian cut.  From there, we are treated to a brand new 13-minute interview with Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (in Italian with English subtitles), a brand new 40-minute interview, presented in English, with Tonino Valerii's biographer, Roberto Curti - Money, Myths and Morality.  A previously unreleased 2008 10-minute Interview with Director Tonino Valerii (in Italian with English subtitles) is also included with a deleted scene, three Theatrical Trailers, an essay booklet with linear notes by Spaghetti Westerns expert Howard Hughes and reversible artwork featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Reinhard Kleist rounding out the impressive supplements.  Finally, this Blu-ray/DVD combo is also Region A/B accommodating domestic and overseas fans alike.  

    Day of Anger is another outstanding Spaghetti Western film, made during the time where the genre was booming.  Beautiful cinematography, lots of shootouts, excellent acting by Van Cleef playing the dark anti-hero and Gemma, in the role of a very determined, passionate being who no longer wants to live like a peasant makes this lively flick on par with other such fare as For A Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  With a wealth of extras, incredible picture quality plus, its support for Regions A/B and DVD collectors, this release comes highly recommended.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available March 31st from Arrow Video , Day of Anger can be purchased via DiabolikDVD.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Hand of Death (1962) DVD Review

    Hand of Death (1962)

    Director: Gene Nelson

    Starring: John Agar, Paula Raymond & Steven Dunne 

    Released by: 20th Century Fox Cinema Archives

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    B movie legend John Agar (Tarantula, The Brain from Planet Arous) stars in the hour long obscure shocker, Hand of Death.  He plays Alex Marsh, a scientist who gets exposed to some chemicals and becomes a crusty rock monster resembling The Thing from Marvel Comics’ The Fantastic Four.  Everyone that touches him turns to stone and dies forcing Marsh to stay away from the woman he loves, Carol Wilson (Paula Raymond, Blood of Dracula’s Castle).

    Scientists are no strangers to science fiction and horror movies, whether they were on the side of good or evil.  In Hand of Death, John Agar plays scientist Alex Marsh who creates a gas to paralyze the mind, leaving it open to suggestions of peace, thus preventing nuclear war.  Marsh gets exposed to this gas, passes out and has visions of lab equipment floating in the air.  After he awakens, his skin has become darker and contact with others deadly, preventing him from his sweetheart, Carol.  Eventually, he mutates into this hideous (or ludicrous, depending on your point of view) monster who spends the last thirty minutes running away from his friends and the police.  The ending, while, anti-climactic, was a bit darker than the usual fare at the time.

    Hand of Death can be considered a campy train wreck of a movie, a one hour wonder, or a fantastic B movie depending on your taste in films from this era.  It has all of the elements that were used prominently at the time, a scientist, a love interest, an alarming musical score and a man who mutates into a monster.  John Agar can be seen and heard for just over thirty minutes as the last half hour he is the monster without any dialogue.  Butch Patrick, known to most as Eddie Munster from The Munsters TV series,  has his second movie role here as Davey, a little boy who approaches the monster only to be saved by his mother beckoning him to come in for dinner.  In addition, Joe Besser of The Three Stooges has a brief role as a service station attendant. 

    After years of airing on the Fox Movie Channel, Hand of Death finally gets a long awaited official release on home video.  Fox has released it in a very serviceable 16x9 widescreen standard definition presentation.  As with all Fox Cinema Archive releases, this is a DVD-R release but, is vastly superior to those black market bootlegs that exist. Some speckles and debris exist but, overall the black and white photography looks solid for a release that was prepped using the best materials available.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is perfect allowing viewers to enjoy Sonny Burke’s unforgettable score quite easily.  Finally, no special features have been included on this release. 

    For those of us who have wanted and often requested Hand of Death on home video, the moment has finally arrived, albeit under the radar of many collectors.  With a fine cast, a man made monster, a rousing musical score incorporating organs, bongo drums and a horn plus, the film in its original aspect ratio, Hand of Death looks excellent in standard definition and comes highly recommend. 

    RATING 4.5/5

    Available now from 20th Century Fox Cinema Archives, Hand of Death can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Blind Woman's Curse (1970) Blu-ray Review

    Blind Woman’s Curse (1970)

    Directed by: Teruo Ishii 

    Starring: Meiko Kaji, Hok Tokuda, Toru Abe & Hideo Sunazaka 

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    Blind Woman’s Curse is a martial arts tale about betrayal, honor, and revenge, told in a truly unique and colorful way. It’s a brilliantly conceived mix of horror, comedy, martial arts action and drama. Hoki Tokuda (Nippon Paradise) stars as a blinded swords-woman seeking revenge on Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood), the leader of the Tachibana clan. Helping her seek revenge are members of another Yakuza clan, the Dobashi, and its leader Toru Abe (Return of Daimajin).  Hideo Sunazuka (Ebirah: Horror of the Deep/Godzilla VS. the Sea Monster) and Makoto Sato (The Lost World of Sinbad) co-star.

    A young girl, Aiko Gouda (Hoki Tokuda), who is inadvertently blinded and cursed by the Tachibana clan leader’s daughter, Akemi (Meiko Kaji), via a sword thrust to her eyes during a battle between two rival clans. The curse is created by a black cat that licked the blood of Aiko after she was struck in the eyes.  A few years after she had been blinded, Aiko becomes a master swords-woman and is ready to have her revenge on Akemi. She then seeks her nemesis out, ready to put a curse on her and her clan. Aiko is accompanied by both an insane looking hunchback servant that assists her in murdering some of Akemi’s clan, but also the same black cat that licks the blood of her victims, including a decapitated head. She also joins forces with a rival Yakuza clan, the Dobashi, to eliminate the Tachibana clan. Dobashi (Toru Abe) himself starts the revenge by hiring some thugs to kill members of the rival clan and getting local workers arrested by planting narcotics in the village that they reside in.  Other clan members get killed in a bizarre stage show attraction.  The last half hour is filled with bloody sword fights and the inevitable climatic battle between Aiko and Akemi.  Adding some horror elements into the film, we even get a few zombie swordsmen which are a few of the dead Tachibana clan brought back to life. 

    Blind Woman’s Curse has some pretty graphic gore and a great deal of eclectic visuals.  In addition, some of the characters in this film are a real trip including, a group of naked, screaming Japanese women lying around using opium, the already mentioned hunchback with a strange grin on his face who bounces around all over the place and a man who wears a top hat and lion cloth to add some comedy to the film.  Due to the psychedelic nature and taste in martial arts films, this movie may not be for everyone.  It’s not quite as bizarre as other Japanese oddities such as House but, this film does have its fair share of strange moments.  

    Arrow Video’s presentation of Blind Woman’s Curse is a beautiful, vibrant 1080p single layered MPEG-4 AVC letterboxed 2:44:1 transfer.  Colors are rich, with excellent dark black levels and scenes appearing much clearer and detailed than the previous DVD release.  There is some minor print damage here and there but overall it is a great presentation.  The Audio quality on this release is a very pleasing 2.0 PCM mix.  The film’s Japanese language comes accompanied with easy to read English subtitles as well.  As with all of their releases, Arrow Video has given us plenty of supplements including, an Audio Commentary with Jasper Sharp, a Theatrical Trailer, Stray Cat Rock Trailers, newly commissioned artwork, a collector’s booklet and an NTSC DVD with all of the same features.

    Fans of Blind Woman’s Curse can now rejoice as Arrow Video has given this film the best treatment and presentation possible.  What makes this title more appealing is its duel region A/B  release, giving non-region free fans a chance to own this rare oddity in whatever system or format they use.  For those on the fence, with its blend of humor, drama, splattering gore and just really strange “way-out-there” storytelling, Blind Woman’s Curse is worth checking out.

    RATING: 4/5

    Previously scheduled for March 24th from Arrow VideoBlind Woman’s Curse has been delayed to an undetermined date.