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  • Invisible Ghost (1941) Blu-ray Review

    Invisible Ghost (1941)

    Director: Joseph H. Lewis

    Starring: Bela Lugosi, Polly Ann Young, John McGuire & Clarence Muse

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The first of nine Monogram Pictures features produced by genre dabbler and schlockmeister Sam Katzman (Earth VS. The Flying Saucers, The Giant Claw), Invisible Ghost combines the realms of psychological horror and the murder mystery for an evocative gothic fused tale guided by one of the genre’s finest presences.  Continuing to mourn the loss of his unfaithful wife, the friendly Mr. Kessler (Bela Lugosi, Dracula) is plagued with homicidal urges after being hypnotized by the image of his wife who, unbeknownst to the good doctor, lives in secret in their cellar.  As several murders take place at Kessler’s estate with his daughter’s (Polly Ann Young in her final film role) beau wrongly sentenced to death for them, the convicted’s twin brother (John McGuire of Sands of Iowa Jima fame playing double duty as both Ralph and Paul Dickinson) arrives on the scene searching for answers.  Predominately set at the scene of the crimes, Invisible Ghost juggles its approaches in terror efficiently with its rather absurd premise of fatal secrets and a hallucinatory tone taken seriously by its players.  Turning an otherwise monotonous role into a worthy watch, Bela Lugosi dominates the film with his Jekyll & Hydish personality and striking stare making his juxtaposition as a loving father to an oblivious sinister strangler a grisly delight.  Easily digestible and enjoyably spooky, Invisible Ghost remains a well-constructed and moody descent into unknowing madness.

    Newly remastered, KL Studio Classics presents Invisible Ghost with a 1080p transfer, retaining its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Expected of lower-budgeted cheapies from the era, the black-and-white photography bears several instances of film degradation in the later portion of the film while, the overwhelming majority of its hour long runtime greatly impresses with striking black levels observed during nighttime sequences and in the suits of the actors.  In addition, detail seen in closeups of Lugosi as he slowly descends upon his sleeping maid are excellent and earn the transfer its highest marks of quality.  Equipped with a serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is handled decently with “S” sounds registering particularly sharp while, a mild surface of hiss is detected throughout.  Supplemental material includes, an Audio Commentary with Film Historians Tom Weaver, Gary Rhodes & Dr. Robert J. Kiss that finds Weaver predominately guiding the well-researched track with Rhodes and Kiss relegated to guest appearances that still add quality value to their portions of the film.  Lastly, Trailers for White Zombie (2:46), The Black Sleep (1:36), The Undying Monster (1:04) and Donovan’s Brain (2:02) are also included.  Graciously handled to the best of their abilities, KL Studio Classics brings Invisible Ghost back from the dead much to the appreciation of Lugosi completists.  A juggling act of horror approaches that give the film a peculiar style and iconic star with plenty to chew into, Invisible Ghost is a gothic gas worth being hypnotized by.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Invisible Ghost can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #11 - Halloween Edition: Count Dracula's Great Love (1973), Child's Play (1988) Collector's Edition, Burial Ground (1980), Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991) & Lady in White (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973)

    Director: Javier Aguirre

    Starring: Paul Naschy, Rosanna Yanni, Haydée Politoff, Mirta Miller, Ingrid Garbo, Álvaro de Luna de Luma & José Manuel Martin

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring Spain’s premiere horror star Paul Naschy (Night of the Werewolf), Count Dracula’s Great Love finds a carriage of travelers derailed and kindly taken in by the handsome Dr. Marlow (Naschy).  Secretly harboring his true identity as the Prince of Darkness, Marlow stalks and seduces his way to the necks of his gorgeous guests, transforming them into bloodthirsty slaves while, shy virginal Karen (Haydée Politoff, Queens of Evil) becomes the apple of his eye and essential to his much grander plan.  Boasting gothic ambiance, full moons and eroticism, Javier Aguirre (Hunchback of the Morgue) directs with elegance in this atmospheric tale that presents a memorable interpretation of Dracula who is quick to whip and axe his victims as commonly as sink his fangs into them.  Weaving a narrative of originality and rich complexity, Count Dracula’s Great Love remains effective for Naschy’s understated performance and the film’s blood ritual used to resurrect Dracula’s deceased daughter, concluding in lovesick tragedy.

    Beautifully scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm internegative, Vinegar Syndrome presents Count Dracula’s Great Love with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  While minor intrusions from scratches and cigarette burns are evident, the Spanish feature has never looked better.  Bringing vibrant life to skin tones and the colorful costume choices of its actresses, detail is crisp preserving the fog-entranced tone while, black levels seen in Count Dracula’s cape, casket and dark dwellings are exceptionally inky.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the film’s English dub track may register t’s and s sounds too sharply but, overwhelmingly exudes clean and audible dialogue levels while, cracks and pop are minimal and of little to no notice.  Presenting both its uncut U.S. edition and its original Spanish language version, viewers are informed that the latter, lacking proper elements from its licensor (and missing shots due to content that are only found in its English counterpart), is presented from lesser quality video sources and a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix in order to appreciatively appease fans yearning for both cuts.  Meanwhile, special features include, a never before released Audio Commentary with Director Javier Aguirre & Actor Paul Naschy featuring optional subtitles in both English and Spanish plus, a newly captured Video Interview with Actress Mirta Miller (8:22) with optional English subtitles.  Furthermore, the U.S. Theatrical Trailer (3:04), a Still Gallery (2:16) and a 6-page booklet featuring an informative essay from Mirek Lipinski are also included alongside a DVD edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art.  Fans of horror’s more gothic and erotic outings will take pleasure sinking their fangs into this significant Spanish offering, splendidly brought to high-definition by Vinegar Syndrome for the first time ever!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Count Dracula’s Great Love can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Child’s Play (1988)

    Director: Tom Holland

    Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent & Brad Dourif

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Instilling a new titan for modern horror and ushering in a frightening franchise of sequels each varying in quality, the original Child’s Play still reigns as the most effective and chilling of Chucky’s many chapters.  When innocent six-year-old Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent, Wait Until Spring, Bandini) is presented with a Good Guy doll on his birthday, strange occurrences and the death of his babysitter raise questions of responsibility in their wake.  Unsuccessfully convincing his single mother and a homicide detective that his doll is alive and behind the recent string of murders, Andy finds himself pursued by the tiny terror in order to take over his soul.  Before the bodycount pictures its later entries would become with the foul-mouthed killer serving as their marketing mascot, Child’s Play’s less is more approach keeps viewers questioning the validity of Andy’s claims more so than blindly assuming his doll is truly possessed.  Wrapped in mystery and edge of your seat suspense with an oftentimes forgotten voodoo subplot, Child’s Play holds up strongly with a believable blend of special effects wizardry, an urban Chicago setting and top-notch performances with Dourif’s shrieking voice as the crazed Chucky leaving an indelible mark on the nightmares of viewers for years to come.

    Newly scanned in 2K from the interpositive, Scream Factory presents Child’s Play with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Casting a darker yet, more natural appearance during nighttime sequences, skin tones are accurate and nicely detailed while, colors found in Chucky’s red-striped and denim attire along with the neon-lit signage of the toy store in the film’s opening pop well.  Scuffs and other blemishes appear to be absent while, softness during daytime exteriors and inside the Barclay’s apartment look similar to its previous release.  Admittedly modest in its improvements, Scream Factory’s latest stab at Child’s Play unquestionably ranks as its best looking.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that projects solid dialogue and booming displays of authority during thunderstorms and Joe Renzetti’s (Poltergeist III) creepy score, sound quality is superior.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Impressively packed with new and old offerings, Disc 1 features a new Audio Commentary with Director Tom Holland plus, a repurposed Audio Commentary with Actors Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks & “Chucky” Designer Kevin Yagher.  Furthermore, another vintage Audio Commentary with Producer David Kirschner & Screenwriter Don Mancini along with hilarious Chucky Commentaries on select scenes are also included.

    Kicking off Disc 2, Behind-the-Scenes Special Effects Footage (1:00:08), Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ‘Till the End (40:53) and Life Behind the Mask: Being Chucky with Ed Gale (40:02) comprise the release’s newest and highly fascinating featurettes while, Evil Comes in Small Packages (24:49), Chucky: Building a Nightmare (10:05), A Monster Convention (5:26), Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play (6:15) and a Vintage Featurette (4:54) from MGM’s previous release are ported over.  In addition, a TV Spot (0:17), Theatrical Trailer (2:02), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (37 in total), a Posters & Lobby Cards Photo Gallery (20 in total) and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster conclude the all encompassing slate of extras.  A frightening sophomore followup from Director Tom Holland (Fright Night), Child’s Play maintains its reputation as one of the better supernatural slashers of the 80s while, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition, sprawling with bounds of extras, is nothing short of a gift from the mighty Damballa himself.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Child’s Play can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Burial Ground (1980)

    Director: Andrea Bianchi

    Starring: Mariangela Giordano, Karin Well, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Peter Bark & Roberto Caporali

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented under its alternate The Nights of Terror title, Burial Ground hosts a smorgasbord of guts and bloody depravity when a country getaway for several couples quickly turns into a fight for their lives against reanimated corpses.  Preoccupied with their own sexual appetite when a scientist’s tinkering with evil forces unleashes hell’s hungriest zombies, the couples struggle to defend themselves while keeping the rotting forces from gaining entry into the mansion.  A wall-to-wall bonkers example of Italian exploitation at its finest, Burial Ground’s plot may be paper thin but, graciously overcompensates with gallons of gore and some of the genre’s most memorable zombie designs befit with gaping facial holes, horrific skeletal features and squirming maggots oozing from their pores.  Weaponizing themselves with pickaxes, scythes and other garden tools, the ravenous undead decapitate the help and repeatedly feast on the torn out organs of their prey.  Perhaps even more memorable than the zombie’s persistent attacks, Burial Ground’s bizarro meter soars when Michael (Peter Bark, Arrivano i gatti), the peculiar-looking son of Karen, grows oddly attracted to his mother and makes an incestuous pass at her in the heat of zombiepalooza.  With options running low and escape unlikely, nothing can prepare viewers for Burial Ground’s absurd mouthful of a finale that draws its line in the sand as one of the great “what the…” moments of splatter cinema.

    Gorgeously restored in 2K from pristine elements, Severin Films presents Burial Ground with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  True to its description, this newly struck scan is leaps and bounds superior to past releases with a blemish-free appearance, strong facial tones and impressive detail bringing out the intricacies of the many zombie makeup designs and their intendedly heinous features.  Furthermore, the film’s plethora of blood pops loudly while, black levels, even during the film’s more dimly lit sequences, are effectively inky, allowing viewers to fully appreciate all that is occurring.  Definitive as can be, Severin Films deserves the utmost praise for their esteemed handling of this Italian gorefest.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible throughout without any static or pops detected.  In addition, a separate Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian mix is included with optional English subtitles.  Bonus offerings include, Villa Parisi - Legacy of Terror (15:47) where Movie Historian Fabio Melelli revisits the filming locations that date back to the 17th century and have been utilized by Italian film productions beginning in the 1960s through the present.  Meanwhile, Peter Still Lives: Festival Q&A with Actor Peter Bark (7:35), Just for the Money: Interview with Actor Simone Mattioli (8:57) and The Smell of Death: Interviews with Producer Gabriele Crisanti & Actress Mariangela Giordano (9:20) are joined by Deleted/Extended Scenes/Shots (10:24), the Theatrical Trailer (3:31) and Reversible Cover Art.  Lastly, limited to the first 3,000 units, an exclusive slipcover featuring new artwork by Wes Benscoter is also included.  Riding high on a profoundly successful 2016, Severin Films continues to spoil exploitation enthusiasts with their treatment of Burial Ground, so definitive that the opening of hell’s gates can be the only justification for quality of this caliber.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Burial Ground can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991)

    Director: Anthony Hickox

    Starring: Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, Michelle Johnson, Dana Ashbrook, Michah Grant, Eric Brown, Clare Carey, Patrick Macnee & David Warner / Zach Galligan, Monkia Schnarre, Alexander Godunov, Martin Kemp & Bruce Campbell 

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Melding the humorously wacky with the horrific, Waxwork finds a group of collegiate friends who stumble upon a mysterious wax museum displaying the most vile monsters, madmen and psychos albeit without victims.  Before long, their innocent tour lures them into its dark magic to become permanent members of the establishments morbid offerings.  Starring Zach Galligan (Gremlins) and Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl) with appearances from distinguished Englishmen and talented thespians Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) and David Warner (Tron) as the villainous museum owner, Waxwork’s greatest strength lies in its animated displays that honor the classic monsters of yesteryear and submerging would-be victims into their appropriately themed worlds.  Transforming into mini films within a film, the high maintenance China (Michelle Johnson, Death Becomes Her) finds herself immersed within Count Dracula’s gothic castle and forced to duel against his bloodthirsty brides while, the chain-smoking Tony (Dana Ashbrook, Twin Peaks) stumbles into the full moon lit backwoods where the beastly Wolfman (John-Rhys Davies, Raiders of the Lost Ark) hunts.  While the rather busy narrative throws touches of black magic, evil trinkets, freakish butlers and interdimensional realms to the forefront that occasionally scatterbrains the proceedings, Waxwork’s free-for-all conclusion pitting the likes of Marquis de Sade and zombies against the privileged Mark (Galligan) and his wheelchair-bound godfather right the ship in this clever sendup of classic chills under the guise of 80s video age eye-candy.

    Surviving the fiery events of the original film, Mark and Sarah (replaced by Monkia Schnarre, The Peacekeeper) return in Waxwork II: Lost in Time when a resilient zombie hand from the wax museum murders Sarah’s stepfather, pinning the blame on her.  Determined to prove her innocence, the two recover a magical compass enabling them to time travel through dimensions in order to gather the proper evidence to clear Sarah’s name.  Far more fantasy based than its predecessor with the characters winding up in medieval times to combat a black magic wielding sorcerer, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, using Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking-Glass as a loose template, makes greater use of hilariously parodying genre films than properly traveling through historical events.  Making stops at Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory and the streets of London during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, Alien, The Haunting and Godzilla among other films all find their way cheekily homaged in this more refined sequel.  Graced with brief roles from B-movie legends Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) and David Carradine (Death Race 2000), Waxwork II: Lost in Time widens its universe even more so, delivering a followup with more comedic oomph that surprisingly exceeds its originator by a narrow margin.

    Digitally restored, Lionsgate, under their Vestron Video Collector’s Series imprint, presents both Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Bearing generally clean appearances with scant scratches and slight speckling during darker sequences, colors pop effectively with skin tones reading nicely although, softness is not wholly uncommon or overly unpleasant.  Furthermore, its sequel noticeably improves during its extended black and white sequences mocking The Haunting that shine more sharply than the first film.  Respectable upgrades on both features will leave the overwhelming majority of fans more than pleased with the results.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is admirably conveyed while occasional moments during the first film find character lines at odds with other dominating sound factors.  Otherwise making solid use of their respective musical scores, both tracks strongly live up to expectations.  

    Providing each film on their own Blu-ray disc, special features on Waxwork’s Disc 1 include, an Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan and an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Roger Bellon.  Additionally, The Waxwork Chronicles (1:22:17), another first-rate Red Shirt Pictures production divided into six parts, explores the development and making of both films with newly captured interviews from Writer/Director Anthony Hickox, Editor Christopher Cibelli, Producer Staffon Ahrenberg, Special Make-Up Effects Supervisor Bob Keen, Actors Zach Galligan, Monika Schnarre and many others covering everything Waxwork related fans would ever want to know.  Also included, a vintage The Making of Waxwork (24:06) featurette, the Theatrical Trailer (2:02) and a Still Gallery (7:55) conclude the disc’s helpings.  Next up, Waxwork II: Lost in Time’s Disc 2 opens with another Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan, an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Steve Schiff, a Music Video (3:50), Theatrical Trailer (3:03), Still Gallery (7:17) and a Reversible Cover Art capping off the double feature’s supplemental package.  Nostalgia will surely ring loudly for viewers raised on both Waxwork features during the heyday of video rental.  A clever and unique injection of horror and comedy during the slasher prominent decade, both films, with its 1991 sequel having a slight advantage, are enjoyable excursions into silliness that have been passionately peppered with ample bonus features to continue making the legacy of Vestron Pictures proud.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Lionsgate, Waxwork / Waxwork II: Lost in Time can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Lady in White (1988)

    Director: Frank LaLoggia

    Starring: Lukas Haas, Len Cariou, Alex Rocco & Katherine Helmond

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the wholesome suburb of Willowpoint Falls circa 1962, Lady in White centers on monster kid Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas, Mars Attacks!) who narrowly escapes death at the hands of a mysterious child murderer.  Aided by the first victim’s ghost, Frankie vows to bring the elusive killer to justice who may be closer than he knows.  Capturing the virtually lost magic of small-town Americana and shot on location in the picturesque region of Upstate New York, Lady in White weaves its atmospheric tale of local legends, ghosts and cold-blooded murder with expert direction and grounded performances that shine with pure naturalism.  Following Frankie’s supernatural encounter, the neighborhood myth of the lady in white searching for her fallen child ties into the picture’s larger story with the very real threat of her assailant still at large injecting a genuine undercurrent of thrills.  Reminiscent of Stephen King’s best coming of age fables, Lady in White’s acute capturing of simpler times while, injecting deeply rooted themes of family, facing fears and discrimination come from a creative voice of passion and experience that Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Fear No Evil) conveys in earnest.  An underrated masterwork with an innate connection to the heart and mystery of childhood, Lady in White remains as riveting as ever, eclipsing its reputation as one of the finest ghost stories of its kind.

    Debuting on high-definition with 2 Discs featuring the Director’s Cut (1:57:49, Disc 1), Theatrical Version (1:53:34, Disc 2) and the preferred Extended Director’s Cut (2:06:52, Disc 2), Scream Factory presents Lady in White with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Utilizing the film’s interpositive and an archived film print to assemble the never-before-released lengthier director’s cut, the inherently soft photography is perfectly maintained while, fall leaves and seasonally appropriate greenery are lively looking.  Seamlessly blending its two elements for a first-rate restoration, the director’s intended cut looks excellent whereas the film’s alternate versions are of equal merit.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that forewarns hiss and pops that are hardly noticeable on its extended version, dialogue is never inaudible with the subtle ambiance of howling winds and crashing waves complimenting the proceedings nicely while, the film’s beautiful music selections, handled also by its Writer/Director, perform most effectively.  In addition an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  However unfortunate that no new supplements were produced for the release, vintage bonus features found entirely on Disc 1 include, an Introduction with Frank LaLoggia (0:46), an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Director’s Cut only), Behind-the-Scenes Footage with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (16:21) and optional commentary from its creator.  Furthermore, Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (36:13) and optional commentary, a Promotional Short Film (7:18), the Theatrical Trailer (1:57), Alternate Trailers (7:10), TV Spots (1:34), Radio Spots (2:21), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Montage (28 in total) and an Extended Photo Gallery (21 in total) wrap up the on-disc extras while, a Reversible Cover Art is also included.  An evocative coming of age chiller ripe for rediscovery and annual viewing, Lady in White is a prime ghostly offering for the Halloween season that stands out for its relatable themes and haunting narrative worthy of the deepest respect.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Lady in White can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

     

  • Crimson Peak (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Crimson Peak (2015)

    Director: Guillermo del Toro

    Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain & Charlie Hunnam

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the acclaimed director of Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak centers on Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, Stoker) who after suffering a personal tragedy, falls head over heels for the seductive Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers).  Whisked away to his dilapidated mansion, Edith encounters mysteries and spirits within her new home revolving around her newfound love and the darkest of truths.  Jessica Chastain (The Martian) and Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim) co-star.

    Honoring such classics as The Haunting and The Innocents, Director Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to Gothic Romances and chilling ghost tales is as visually ravishing as it is tragically compelling.  Co-written by Brian Robbins (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark),  Crimson Peak, taking place in the late 19th century, follows independent spirit Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) as she attempts to get her novel published despite her gender.  Juggling responsibilities at her father’s respected business, Edith encounters the dashingly handsome Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) as he attempts to gain investments from Mr. Cushing on his unproven clay-mining invention.  Unimpressed by the privileged baronet and his suspicious sister Lucille (Chastain), Mr. Cushing discovers unsavory details about the siblings, demanding them to return to their homeland despite Thomas’ expressed love for his daughter.  Suffering a heartbreaking tragedy and with no other family remaining, Edith and Thomas are joined together in Holy matrimony before relocating back to the Sharpe’s English mansion.  Haunted by ghostly apparitions and progressively growing more ill, Edith uncovers the house’s darkest secrets while fearing for her life from those now considered loved ones.  Equally concerned for her well-being, longtime friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Hunnam) travels to the imposing Allerdale Hall for a terrifying discovery, one that he and Edith may not survive.

    Dripping with potent atmosphere and unafraid to shock audiences with grizzly imagery despite its classy appearance, Crimson Peak is an exceptional tour de force of gothic cinema.  Empowered by del Toro’s flawless visual touches, the auteur’s haunting romance makes dazzling statements through its rich production design and spot-on wardrobe choices, both of which were astoundingly ignored by the Academy.  Excellently casted, the innocence of Wasikowska, Chastain’s unhinged demeanor and the conflicted emotional state of Hiddleston greatly impress while, the Sharpe’s questionable correlation and eventual reveal sends the film down even darker hallways than anticipated.  Combining onset performers with effective uses of CGI, the film’s predominately blood red ghosts are genuinely frightening with a particular specter paying homage to del Toro’s own The Devil’s Backbone.  Although making modest strides at the box-office and graciously appreciated by critics, Crimson Peak is a beautifully haunting masterpiece that impressively ranks as del Toro’s finest effort to date.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Crimson Peak with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying skin tones with natural ease and well-defined detail, the dreary location of Allerdale Hall and its various lighting choices ranging from reds to blues, are effectively highlighted.  Costume choices, realized by newcomer Kate Hawely (Edge of Tomorrow), read beautifully with various stitching methods and textures easily seen and better appreciated.  Doused in considerable darkness, black levels are quite exquisite in the shadowy halls of the haunted house and Thomas’ jet black attire with no evidence of crushing on display.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is always audible while, quieter ghostly ambiance, rainy wailing winds and Fernando Velázquez’s (The Orphanage, Mama) frightful music queues never disappointing.  Special feature include, an enthralling Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro, Deleted Scenes (4:26), I Remember Crimson Peak (Blu-ray exclusive), a four part featurette consisting of The Gothic Corridor (4:06), The Scullery (4:24), The Red Clay Mines (5:18) and The Limbo Fog Set (5:42) all of which host interviews with del Toro and his remarkable cast.  In addition, A Primer on Gothic Romance (Blu-ray exclusive) (5:36) traces the roots of the genre with the interviewees using their own feature as a springboard, The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak (7:53) spotlights the film’s impressive production design, Hand Tailored Gothic (8:58) (Blu-ray exclusive) details Costume Designer Kate Hawley’s gorgeous contributions, A Living Thing (12:11) (Blu-ray exclusive) explores the artistic efforts designing the haunted Allerdale Hall, Beware of Crimson Peak (7:51) finds Thomas Hiddleston acting as tour guide on a walkthrough of the house and Crimson Phantoms (7:02) (Blu-ray exclusive) takes a look at the film’s unique approaches to its many specters.  Finally, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also included.

    A personal favorite of last year’s theatrical releases and arguably del Toro’s finest achievement yet, Crimson Peak presents an unforgettably haunting experience, respecting the Gothic romances that came before while, delivering a distinct visual feast firmly rooted in the imagination of its maker.  As gorgeously realized as its feature, Universal Studios Home Entertainment delivers an outstanding high-def presentation with a stimulating selection of special features for those who dare to take an extended stay at Allerdale Hall.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Crimson Peak can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #6: Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Spaced Invaders (1990) & Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Blu-ray Reviews

         

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #6

    Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

    Director: Leigh Whannell

    Starring: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell & Lin Shaye

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of Leigh Whannell (Saw, Dead Silence), Insidious: Chapter 3 travels back in time to the early origins of spiritualist Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye, Ouija) as grieving teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott, A.N.T. Farm) seeks her assistance to contact her late mother.  Living a fragile existence, Elise has sworn off her psychic practices until Quinn finds herself the victim of a supernatural entity.  With assistance from amateur ghost chasers Tucker (Angus Sampson, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Specks (Whannell), Elise must venture once more into The Further to save Quinn’s life.  Following its financially successful predecessor that tended to over-explain and tarnish the mystique of its supernatural antagonists, Insidious: Chapter 3 moves backward for a prequel based tale that packs several effective jump scares while lacking the originality of its franchise starter.  Shining a welcome spotlight on spiritual expert Elise and to an unfortunately lesser extent, the fan-favorite duo of Tucker and Specks, the paranormal happenings of the film are far too generic to stand out.  Donning multiple creative roles in front and behind the camera, Whannell’s first directorial outing is hardly a wasted affair with an admirable performance from Shaye and unique make-up designs of the film’s ghostly apparitions.  While its competently constructed and occasionally succeeds at building tension, Insidious: Chapter 3 never rises above mediocrity.  

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Insidious: Chapter 3 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a crystal clear picture, skin tones are always natural-looking while, detail in costumes and set decoration are splendid.  From excellently saturated colors to the dark explorations of The Further, black levels are astoundingly inky and free of any digital noise.  With no anomalies on display, Insidious: Chapter 3 appears hauntingly perfect.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is exceptionally crisp while music cues and startling jump scares offer a shrieking depth that greatly impresses the entire runtime.  Special features include, Origin Story: Making Chapter 3 (19:04), Stunts: The Car Crash (9:35), Macabre Creations (8:58), Cherry Glazerr: Tiptoe Through the Tulips (5:16), Being Haunted: A Psychic Medium Speaks (11:34) and Deleted Scenes (5:16).  Additionally, Previews for The Final Girls (2:48), Air (2:12), Risen (1:31), Extinction (1:59), Lake Placid VS. Anaconda (1:37) and Broken Horses (2:35) are included along with a Digital HD Code.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Insidious: Chapter 3 can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Spaced Invaders (1990)

    Director: Patrick Read Johnson

    Starring: Douglas Barr, Royal Dano, Gregg Berger & Ariana Richards

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Co-produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures label and Smart Egg Pictures (Critters), Spaced Invaders finds a quiet midwestern community uprooted on Halloween night by a crew of misguided martians mistaking Orson Welles’ infamous The War of the Worlds radio broadcast as a call for hostile takeover of the human infested planet.  Hip yet wet behind the ears, the mini martians find themselves on a series of unexpected misadventures as they attempt to return to their home planet safely.  Marking the inaugural feature of Director Patrick Read Johnson (Baby’s Day Out, Angus), Spaced Invaders takes the zaniness of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and sci-fi shenanigans of Howard the Duck to deliver an over the top space comedy for preteens.  While attempting to invade Earth, the five dimwitted martians quickly realize their nonthreatening, Halloween costume appearances doesn’t bode well for them as new kid in town Kathy (Ariana Richards, Jurassic Park), dressed in full Alien garb, befriends the green visitors.  As Kathy’s sheriff father (Douglas Barr, Deadly Blessing) and the elderly Mr. Wrenchmuller (Royal Dano, The Dark Half) eventually suspect invaders from Mars are in town, the young girl seeks to help her new friends return home much to the dismay of their ship’s Enforcer Drone committed to seeing Earth in ruins and the martians pay for their failures.  Silly although rarely humorous, Spaced Invaders makes attempts to appear hip to its then audience but, stumbles at every turn.  While its animatronic effects are generally pleasing and reminds viewers of a more charming time for movie magic, Spaced Invaders tends to overstay its welcome by its final act, dragging its feet to see the martians make their expected getaway back to Mars. 

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents Spaced Invaders with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably dated, flakes, speckles and occasional vertical lines are on display while skin tones are decently relayed with mediocre detail.  Bolder colors such as bright reds pop reasonably well although others appear rather drab.  Meanwhile, black levels possess their share of speckling and fail to bolster more pleasing, inkier results.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, sound is largely dull and unimpressive while dialogue is at least audible and free of any severely intruding factors.  Expectedly, no special features are included.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Spaced Invaders can be purchased via MillCreekDirect.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

    Director: Francis Ford Coppola

    Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins & Keanu Reeves

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blending the narrative of Bram Stoker’s iconic tale and the factual history of Vlad the Impaler, Bram Stoker’s Dracula centers on the tragic Transylvanian prince (Gary Oldman, Sid and Nancy) as he travels to 19th-century London in search of love.  After an encounter with the radiant Mina (Winona Ryder, Edward Scissorhands) who bears a striking resemblance to his late wife, Count Dracula’s overwhelming passion brings darkness and horror to those who care for Mina.  Drenched in gothic atmosphere with an acute sense of detail, Director Francis Ford Coppola’s (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) exceptional adaptation successfully paints its antagonist less as a bloodsucking monster but more a tragic Shakespearean figure audiences empathize with.  Brilliantly performed by Gary Oldman, Count Dracula’s unique costume designs and deliciously offbeat makeup brings to life a one of a kind interpretation of the grim character.  In addition, the supporting thespians including, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins as an eccentric Van Helsing and Tom Waits as the deranged Renfield deliver excellent performances while Keanu Reeves’ Jonathan Harker serves as the sole casting miscalculation.  Although considered cliché today, Reeves poor English accent and flat performance consistently removes audiences from the otherwise mesmerizing film.  Insistent on utilizing practical effects from luscious matte paintings to various in-camera techniques, Director Francis Ford Coppola achieves an array of visual splendor that captivates audiences.  Deservedly earning itself three Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Best Sound Effects Editing, Coppola’s erotically charged and frighteningly surreal adaptation has aged considerably well, living on as one of the more ambitious retellings of the Count’s fateful saga.

    Following its previously subpar release, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Newly mastered in 4K, the results are night are day with impressive textures, excellently inky black levels and naturally fitting skin tones.  While a minor framing adjustment is present on the release, it’s hardly deal breaking to excuse the overwhelmingly positive attributes to the transfer.  Further complimented by sharper detail and beautifully relayed colors to better highlight the various costume designs and ever-changing lighting effects, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has never looked better.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, audio is pitch perfect with flawless dialogue levels and Composer Wojciech Kilar’s (The Ninth Gate) empowering score enthralling listeners.  In addition, hushed tones, thunderous sound effects and eerie ambiance all excel with proper balance and effectiveness.  The bountiful special features include, an Introduction by Director Francis Ford Coppola (3:55), a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola, Visual Effects Director Roman Coppola & Makeup Supervisor Greg Cannom as well as a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola.  Additionally, newly included featurettes Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (29:11) and Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son (20:07) are joined by previously available supplements The Blood is the Life: The Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (27:48), The Costumes are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka (14:02), In Camera: Naïve Visual Effects (18:46), Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula (12:06), Deleted & Extended Scenes (28:14) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:36).  Lastly, a Digital HD Code closes out the release’s gratifying supplemental package.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Bram Stoker’s Dracula can be purchased via 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.

  • The Doctor and the Devils (1985) Blu-ray Review

    The Doctor and the Devils (1985)

    Director: Freddie Francis

    Starring: Timothy Dalton, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Rea, Twiggy, Julian Sands & Patrick Stewart

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a screenplay from famed Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and inspired by factual grave robbers Burke and Hare, a story of medicine and murder is birthed.  Executive Produced by Mel Brooks under his Brooksfilms (The Elephant Man, The Fly) banner, The Doctor and the Devils is a far cry from Brooks’ wildly known comedic outings but instead, a gothic thriller soaked in elegance and fear.  From the director of Girly and Tales from the Crypt, The Doctor and the Devils makes its unholy Blu-ray debut courtesy of Scream Factory.

    Set in 1820s Edinburgh, The Doctor and the Devils centers on Dr. Thomas Rock (Timothy Dalton, Licence to Kill), a noted anatomy professor obsessed with pushing the boundaries of modern medicine.  Dissatisfied with the few rotted cadavers provided to him for study, Rock recruits Robert Fallon (Jonathan Pryce, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) and Timothy Broom (Stephen Rea, V for Vendetta), two fiendish grave robbers to secure quality corpses.  Understanding their reward increases with fresher corpses, the duo begin committing murder in order to supply Dr. Rock with the very best.  Twiggy (Club Paradise), Julian Sands (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Phyllis Logan (Dowton Abbey) and Patrick Stewart (X-Men: Days of Future Past) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Basking in gothic aroma, The Doctor and the Devils is reminiscent of the period piece thrillers Hammer Films was renowned for two decades earlier.  Under the masterful direction of Hammer Films and Amicus Productions alumni Freddie Francis, The Doctor and the Devils captures an identifiable tone of dread and eloquence.  Released at the height of the slasher film craze, the film failed to ignite the box-office numbers but, delivers a lavish production with rich art direction and revered performances.  Timothy Dalton, prior to his tenure as James Bond, stars as a brilliant anatomist determined to push mankind’s understanding of the human body.  Surrounded by disapproving peers, Rock becomes obsessed with furthering his studies by examining fresher supplies of corpses.  Luckily, desperate street hustlers Fallon and Broom become captivated with providing the recently deceased for Dr. Rock.  Fueled by greed, Fallon and Broom quickly turn to murder in order to capitalize on their latest business endeavor.  Pryce and Rea steal the picture with their wild conviction and madcap energy as low level thieves with a weakness for booze and prostitutes.  In a charming surprise turn, Twiggy appears in a substantial role as an attractive working girl who, enters into a brief romance with Rock’s colleague, Dr. Murray (Julian Sands).  While, not graphically gory, the violence found in The Doctor and the Devils feels heightened due to the effectively vile nature of its devilish grave robbers.

    Gorgeously photographed and undeniably classy, The Doctor and the Devils suffers from narrative issues including, Dr. Rock’s anatomy obsessions which causes him to turn a blind eye to the morally wrong issue.  Akin to a mad scientist, Dr. Rock’s yearning to gain new insight is understandable but, without more internal conflict, his intentions feel slightly out of sorts in a more grounded film.  In addition, the lack of attention on Dr. Rock results in a blooming romance between the prostitute Jennie and Dr. Murray.  While, intriguing and nicely laid out, the effort feels wasted as the characters’ relations are hardly central to the plot.  Although, the film suffers from misguided character construction, The Doctor and the Devils is a visually ravishing period thriller with superb performances from Pryce and Rea.  Where the film lacks in cheap scares and overwhelming gore, it generally succeeds with sophisticated gothic grace.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Scream Factory presents The Doctor and the Devils with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Arriving with natural grain intact and relaying a very filmic appearance, this gothic thriller looks sound.  Skin tones are relayed warmly with dreary colors including blacks, browns and grays popping nicely.  In addition, the rotted and sometimes bloody cadavers offer nice contrast in their gory state to the otherwise unflashy color palette.  Although, crushing is minimal, black levels vary from clear to occasionally murky, making visibility difficult.  Overall, The Doctor and the Devils retains its fog-entrenched atmosphere of past period pieces with near perfect results.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, The Doctor and the Devils satisfies with always audible dialogue and exceptional balance of more chaotic scenes.  Moments of loud partying and heavy tavern drinking never overwhelm the mix but, instead rewards the viewer with its well handling of several components at one time.  Distortion or other anomalies are nonexistent in this nicely balanced, dialogue heavy picture.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman

    • Interviews with Executive Producer Mel Brooks, Producer Jonathan Sanger and Former Brooksfilms Development Executive Randy Auerbach (15:42): In this newly recorded conversation, the creative trio reminisce about the project’s early beginnings and the importance of withholding Mel Brooks’ name on most Brooksfilms releases in order to not raise expectations of a comedy.  This laid back, informal chat also finds the three colleagues recalling a Hollywood pastime when friendships were important not only to the artists but, also in getting projects off the ground.

    • Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    Sophisticated and posh, The Doctor and the Devils is a maddening tale of obsession, murder and betrayal headlined by a stellar cast and executed by an icon of gothic cinema.  Largely inspired by the real life Burke and Hare, this cinematic grave robbing account delivers a suitable story but misfires with several character traits.  Best appreciated for Pryce and Rea’s memorable performances and its impactful production design, The Doctor and the Devils is a suitable period horror film made during a time that greatly lacked them.  Scream Factory delights fans with a near perfect audio and visual treatment of this often overlooked film along, with a decent spread of supplemental features that include insights from Film Historian Steve Haberman and Mel Brooks.  Not quite perfect, The Doctor and the Devils remains a classy love letter to the gothic outings of yesteryear with its tale of decadent grave robbing rooted in fact.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 4thThe Doctor and the Devils can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Vincent Price Collection II Blu-ray Review

    The Vincent Price Collection II

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning from the grave once again, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents seven more terrifying tales from the master of horror in one spine-tingling collection.  Rewarding viewers with chills and comedy like no other, Vincent Price guides fans on more gothic excursions into the unknown, complimented by a healthy assortment of bonus content just in time for the Halloween season.

    Spanning seven films across four Blu-rays, The Vincent Price Collection II continues to unearth more of Price’s esteemed classics, supplying viewers with essential content across three of the thespians most impressive decades.  Included are The Raven (1963), The Comedy of Terrors (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), The Last Man on Earth (1964), Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972), Return of the Fly (1959) and the William Castle classic, House on Haunted Hill (1959).

    MOVIE(s):

    • The Raven (1963): Deviating heavily from the source material, The Raven reunites Price with Producer/Director Roger Corman in yet another entry in their popular Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.  Joined by renowned performers, Peter Loree (Casablanca) and Boris Karloff (Frankenstein), The Raven takes a comedic turn as the three performers appear as competitive magicians in the 14th-century.  Price may be seen as the leading man but, it is Loree who steals the show with his endless improvisational skills and nonstop humor.  Even in his later years, Karloff shines here as the film’s antagonist, battling Price and Loree in his impressively gothic castle.  In addition, a young Jack Nicholson (As Good As It Gets) and horror icon Hazel Court (The Curse of Frankenstein) make appearances in this unusual yet, always entertaining tale of betrayal and magical dueling.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    • The Comedy of Terrors (1963): Upping the comedic ante, Screenwriter Richard Matheson’s (The Pit and the Pendulum) story reunites Tales of Terror alumni Vincent Price, Peter Loree and Basil Rathbone in this fiendishly funny offering of a financially strapped funeral director (Price) who turns to homicide in order to generate business.  This time around, Price and Loree, serving as his lowly assistant, are on equal ground as their comedic chemistry and timing is impeccable.  Boris Karloff joins his The Raven co-stars as Price’s decrepit father-in-law supplying comic one liners.  In addition, Joyce Jameson (Death Race 2000) stuns as Price’s neglected wife who shatters household objects due to her shrieking singing voice.  While, the narrative tends to grow slightly redundant, it is Price and Loree’s efforts that keep the fun brewing.  Under the watchful eye of Director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People), The Comedy of Terrors substitutes genuine horror for hilarity in this underrated effort that allows Price to fully stretch his comedic bones.

    RATING: 4/5

    • The Tomb of Ligeia (1964): Marking the end of his long-running Poe adaptations, Producer/Director Roger Corman would ditch his tried and true gothic sets for real English countryside locations.  Although, The Tomb of Ligeia ultimately underperformed the most out of all the previous Poe films, Corman insists it is one of the best.  Re-teaming once again with Vincent Price, The Tomb of Ligeia centers on a mournful widower, Verden Fell (Price), haunted by the spirit of his former wife, Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd, Damien: Omen II).  As Fell finds the will to love another (also Shepherd), nightmarish visions and a sinister cat controlled by Ligeia threatens their very existence.  Filled with rich atmosphere and surreal imagery, The Tomb of Ligeia injects many abstract notions sometimes at the sake of coherent storytelling.  While, the narrative may be more complicated than necessary, The Tomb of Ligeia stands proudly as a fitting finale to Corman’s Poe films thanks to Price’s always reliable skills and Corman’s constantly moving camera, making the film a visually arresting watch.

    RATING: 4/5  

    • The Last Man on Earth (1964): Based on Richard Matheson’s classic tale, I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth centers on Dr. Robert Morgan (Price), the lone survivor of a worldwide plague that has infected the population, morphing them into undead vampires.  Filmed on location in Rome with black and white photography, The Last Man on Earth is a simple story that rises to great heights courtesy of Price’s emotionally convincing performance.  Appearing in the rare role of the heroic protagonist, Price conjures up wonderful pathos as a man who has lost everything but, still yearns to live.  Acknowledged as one of Price’s finest performances and influential to countless filmmakers, The Last Man on Earth has spawned countless reinterpretations but, all have failed to achieve the original’s execution and unsettlingly dark mood.

    RATING: 5/5       

    • Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972): Awakening after three years, the dreadful Dr. Phibes (Price) lives once again for the sole purpose of resurrecting his late wife, Victoria (Caroline Munro).  Accompanied by his loyal aide, Vulnavia (the beautiful Valli Kemp replaces the equally gorgeous Virginia North), Phibes must recover his stolen papyrus scrolls needed to locate the River of Life.  As Phibes tracks the immortality obsessed thief, Biederbeck (Robert Quarry, Count Yorga, Vampire), to Egypt, the good doctor’s ingenious methods of murder follow.  Peter Jeffrey and John Cater reprise their roles as the Scotland Yard Inspectors tracking Phibes while, Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein) cameos as a ship captain.  Falling only slightly behind the original film’s uniqueness, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! manages to retain the iconic art deco appearance of its predecessor while, taking risks with its narrative.  This sequel, released only a year after the original, finds Phibes less vengeful and more determined to complete his mission of breathing life into his late wife.  Of course, Phibes has no issue ridding those who stand in his way with clever demises that incorporate scorpions and snakes.  Unsurprisingly, Price is delightful in the role as the eccentric doctor with a knack for organ playing while, Jeffrey and Cater’s dry humor inject several chuckles throughout the film.  Meanwhile, Robert Quarry makes a pleasing advisory for Phibes amidst onset hostility between the two thespians.    Ambitious and enjoyably outlandish, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! may not top the original but, throughly entertains in ways most sequels fail to.  

    RATING: 4/5

    • Return of the Fly (1959): Determined to revive his late father’s work, Phillipe Delambre (Brett Halsey), begins experimenting against the wishes of his uncle Francois (Vincent Price).  Recruiting the help of a friend and utilizing his own finances, Phillipe is successful in restoring his father’s transporter device.  When betrayal and greed arise, the past is doomed to repeat itself.  Although Price is top-billed, he is again regulated to the supporting role as the only returning cast member from the original film.  Literally lacking the color and originality of the 1958 classic, Edward L. Bernds’ (Queens of Outer Space) direction is fairly paint by numbers and does little to separate itself from its originator.  Price still charms in the capacity he’s given but, ultimately where Dr. Phibes Rises Again! succeeds in its risk-taking, Return of the Fly plummets in playing it too safe.  

    RATING: 2.5/5

    • House on Haunted Hill (1959): Considered by many to be the B-movie equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock, Producer/Director William Castle became a household name with his ingenious marketing campaigns and immersive gimmicks to draw audiences to his pictures.  Luckily, Castle not only succeeded in being a master salesman but also a competent storyteller who knew how to work a crowd.  A career milestone for Castle, 1959’s House on Haunted Hill centers on the eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), who along with his wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart, Spider Baby) invite five selected people to a haunted house where $10,000 will be awarded to who can survive the night of supernatural occurrences.  Littered with genuinely ghastly ghouls and nonstop jumpscares, the breezy 74-minute runtime ensures a fun time for all.  Written by longtime Castle collaborator, Robb White (Macabre, The Tingler), House on Haunted Hill presents a strong group of characters with mysterious backgrounds, keeping the audience uneasy about the guests as much as the ghosts.  An absolute riot from beginning to end, House on Haunted Hill transports viewers back to a more innocent time in moviemaking where spookhouse shenanigans were hosted by charismatic spirits such as Vincent Price.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    All the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II arrive with 1080p transfers, sporting 2.35:1 aspect ratios with the exception of Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1.85:1) and House on Haunted Hill (1.78:1).  Appearing with natural grain intact, all of the films relay nicely to varying degrees.  Skin tones look healthy with fine detail observed in facial features and the gothic, period wardrobe.  Colors, most appreciatively, pop best in Dr. Phibes Rises Again! with the art deco design and interesting color palette found in its costumes and during Phibes’ organ playing sequences.  For as old as the films are, instances of flakes and speckles are on sight, most noticeably in The Comedy of Terrors but, thankfully none ever overwhelm or deter the viewing experience.  Black levels are decent with respectable visibility and occasional haziness, most likely attributed to the films‘ low-budgets and underlit lighting.  Meanwhile, the black and white photography found in The Last Man on Earth, Return of the Fly and House on Haunted Hill are most impressive with inky black levels and crisp, nearly blemish-free, appearances.  Over half a century old, the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II look marvelous for their age and are unlikely to look better than this.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II always project audible dialogue but, aren’t meant to necessarily challenge the varying channels of your audio setup.  Simple in their execution, moments of suspense and screaming terror benefit from the added oomph in each mix while, the various scores and musical cues occasionally register too sharply but, generally please.  Each film sounds as rich as possible with no major hiccups to speak of.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    In addition to a comprehensive 32-page collector’s booklet that includes gorgeous production photos from each film and a must read essay by Film Historian David Del Valle,  the bonus features found in The Vincent Price Collection II are as follows:

    The Raven (1963):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman: newly recorded.
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Raven (6:37)            
    • Corman’s Comedy of Poe (8:13)
    • Promotional Record (5:41)
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:26)
    • Still Gallery: 67 in total.

    The Comedy of Terrors (1963):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Comedy of Terrors (9:35) 
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:32)
    • Still Gallery: 38 in total.

    The Tomb of Ligeia (1964):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Roger Corman
    • Audio Commentary with Actress Elizabeth Shepard, moderated by Roy Frumkes: newly recorded.
    • Audio Commentary with Film Historian Constantine Nasr: newly recorded.
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:28)
    • Still Gallery: 28 in total.

    The Last Man on Earth (1964):

    • Audio Commentary with Film Historian David Del Valle and Author Derek Botelho: newly recorded.
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Last Man on Earth (6:24)
    • Still Gallery: 66 in total.

    Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972):

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:08)
    • Still Gallery: 75 in total.

    Return of the Fly (1959):

    • Audio Commentary with Actor Brett Halsey & Film Historian David Del Valle: newly recorded.
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:39)
    • TV Spot (2:39)
    • Still Gallery: 18 in total.

    House on Haunted Hill (1959):

    • Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steven Haberman: newly recorded.
    • Vincent Price: Renaissance Man (27:20)
    • The Art of Fear (12:13)
    • Working with Vincent Price (15:26)
    • Introductory Price (13:16)
    • Theatrical Trailer (1:40)
    • Still Gallery: 23 in total.
    • Vincent Price Trailer Collection (19:27): Includes House of Wax, The Conqueror Worm, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, House of Usher, Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tingler and The Fly.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Continuing to carve out the illustrious legacy of Vincent Price’s body of work, Scream Factory has once again served fans with one of the best releases of the year.  The Vincent Price Collection II welcomes seven more of Price’s memorable films in gorgeous looking transfers, joined with a hefty amount of bonus content for fans to enjoy.  Undeniably, Vincent Price is one of horror’s most iconic talents and this remarkable collection is essential viewing, perfectly suited for the spookiest time of the year.

    RATING: 5/5

    The Vincent Price Collection II is available now can be purchased through Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Black Torment (1964) DVD Review

    The Black Torment (1964)
    Director: Robert Hartford-Davis
    Starring: John Turner, Heather Sears, Ann Lynn, Peter Arne & Norman Bird
    Released by: Kino Lorber

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Soaked in gothic atmosphere reminiscent of the Hammer horror films of the decade, Compton Films issued their own response with this eerie period piece.  Shot at the iconic Shepperton Studios, Robert Hartford-Davis (Corruption) directs this hauntingly underrated execution in British horror.  Previously released in less than stellar presentations, Kino Lorber, in conjunction with their Redemption line, proudly presents The Black Torment mastered in HD.  Largely forgotten since its theatrical run, The Black Torment has been resurrected with the intent of striking fear into your soul!

    Set in the 18th-century, The Black Torment stars John Turner (The Power of One) as Sir Richard Fordyce returning to his country estate with his new bride played by Heather Sears (The Phantom of the Opera).  After the brutal rape and murder of a young girl, suspicion increases as the locals believe Sir Richard is responsible.  Firm on his innocence, citizens are not convinced while Sir Richard begins experiencing severe mood changes and supernatural events.  As more people continue to disappear, Sir Richard begins questioning his own sanity.

    MOVIE:
    The stalking and eventual murder of a young, beautiful girl sets the gears in motion for this deliciously gothic whodunit.  Returning home from his honeymoon, Sir Richard Fordyce (Turner) is greeted by his wheelchair-bound father, his caretaker and sister of Sir Richard’s late first wife and her cousin Seymour.  Rumors have escalated amongst the townsfolk that Sir Richard is responsible for the girl’s death.  Shot cheaply without compromising style, The Black Torment takes its time establishing its characters while lavish sets and costumes attract the viewers eye.  As more victims disappear, Sir Richard is haunted by visions of his late wife who committed suicide some years earlier.  John Turner balances the gentlemanly and unhinged side of his role convincing the audience something is astray.  The gorgeous Heather Sears compliments Turner as a lovely devoted wife who eventually is consumed to fear him as an erratic and possibly deadly man.  While, often compared to the efforts of Hammer horror and possessing its fair share of eroticism, The Black Torment is far more tame compared to the popular studio.  In addition, death scenes are present but rely on showing less in order to suggest more to the audience, a tactic that is proven successful here.  The Black Torment may be considered slow moving to some but, its patience to develop its principal characters against the gloomy gothic setting works to its advantage.  

    Ghostly happenings and an uncertainty of who’s committing the murders adds a true level of mystery to this entertaining thriller.  As the finale approaches, the culprits dying words answer all questions in a surprising, albeit slightly over explained, attempt at wrapping up loose ends.  Beautifully shot by Peter Newbrook (whose sole directorial effort would come in 1973 with The Asphyx), The Black Torment is a spooky, period piece that wonderfully captures the gothic atmosphere only selected studios could achieve so well.  
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Released twice before with unimpressive results, Kino Lorber have presented The Black Torment in HD from 35mm archival elements.  Preserving its 1.66:1 aspect ratio in anamorphic widescreen, The Black Torment has never looked better.  Black levels are lively and vivid while flesh tones are relayed accurately.  Detail is quite nice and most appreciated in the lavish set design of Sir Richard’s estate.  Most noticeably is the remarkably clean presentation of the transfer.  No lines or scratches to be seen which only enhances the viewing pleasure of the film.  Admittedly, it’s a shame Kino Lorber decided against a Blu-ray release as the appearance of the elements are far superior compared to past Redemption titles issued on the format.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, The Black Torment is clear and surprisingly very robust.  No distortion to speak of and Robert Richards‘ powerful score rattles your speakers with his thunderous horns and elegant string sections.  No complaints to be seen here!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Robert Hartford-Davis Interview: This rare 13-minute interview finds Hartford-Davis discussing his cost conscience way of filmmaking while mainly speaking of the business side of the movie industry.  The interviewer tends to ask a question before stopping and attempting to simplify its delivery which tends to get tiresome.  The inclusion of this rarity is still a treat for fans of Hartford-Davis‘ work.

    - Trailers: Includes The Blood Beast Terror, Virgin Witch, Killer’s Moon and Burke and Hare.

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    Banished to obscurity and nearly forgotten, The Black Torment has thankfully been resurrected much to the delight of gothic horror fans.  On par with Hammer horror films, The Black Torment weaves a thrilling tale set against murder and the supernatural.  The lush production design, impressive performances and patient pace make The Black Torment a wonderful addition to British horror’s history.  Kino Lorber’s HD presentation is unquestionably the best the film has ever looked.  The proper aspect ratio preserved and the overall clean appearance of the film will hopefully encourage Kino to issue this underrated gem on Blu-ray in the near future.  Rounding out the release with a rare interview from Director Robert Hartford-Davis should make picking up The Black Torment simple for those with an affection for full moons and the fog infested scenery of British horror.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Dracula 3D (2012) Blu-ray Review


    Dracula 3D (2012)
    Director: Dario Argento
    Starring: Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini, Asia Argento, Unax Ugalde & Rutger Hauer
    Released by: MPI Media Group

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The king of Italian horror, Dario Argento, has returned with his unique vision of Bram Stoker’s original classic.  Adapted countless times in various forms, the gothic tale of Dracula is indeed eternal and thirsty for yet another retelling.  Argento’s interpretation also marks his first foray in the 3D realm, inviting viewers that much closer to the prince of darkness‘ deadly bite.  Soaked in mystic atmosphere and eroticism, Argento’s Dracula 3D wishes to suck your blood.  Does Dracula’s latest attempt in three dimensions have what it takes to cast a spell on its audience?  Let’s not dawdle any longer and find out...

    Dracula 3D finds famed Italian horror master, Dario Argento (Suspiria, Tenebrae), conducting his own unique vision of the iconic Bram Stoker novel.  400 years have passed since the passing of Count Dracula’s (Thomas Kretschmann) wife, leaving him eternally lonely.  Upon discovering that newlywed Mina Harker (Marta Gastini) bears a striking similarity to his wife, Dracula is obsessed with making her his.  Utilizing Mina’s husband, Jonathan (Unax Ugalde) and best friend, Lucy (Asia Argento) as pawns, Dracula slowly embarks on uniting with his newfound love.  Fortunately, noted vampire expert, Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer), arrives in order to put an end to Dracula’s unholy ways before it’s too late.

    MOVIE:
    As many famed auteurs age, the quality of their output is generally criticized for not being on par with past accomplishments.  In recent years, no horror director has been critiqued more so than Dario Argento.  Many would argue that after the 1980s, Argento’s genius seemingly stopped with the majority of his later work failing to capture audiences.  After completing his Three Mothers trilogy with 2007’s Mother of Tears and the tumultuous road to releasing 2009’s Giallo, Argento seemed overdue for a comeback of sorts.  Dracula 3D is Argento’s unique vision of the Bram Stoker novel without being a direct adaptation.  In addition, Argento assigned this film to be his first experiment with the 3D format.  As hopeful as Argento adapting Stoker sounds, Dracula 3D is yet another devastating disappointment from the man that delivered such classics as Deep Red and Opera.  The worst offense Dracula 3D is guilty of is the abysmal screenplay.  Oddly enough, this “unique vision” of an already established novel took four writers, including Argento, to bring the painfully wooden dialogue to screen.  The bland writing contaminates the film like a plague resulting in hollow performances from the entire cast.  Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted) invokes sex appeal but lacks any charisma as Dracula, resulting in one of the most boring performances of the character.  The remainder of the cast suffers the same fate as the poor writing hinders them from a serviceable performance.  Luckily, Argento has not lost his touch when hiring beautiful actresses, including his daughter Asia Argento (Land of the Dead) and Maria Cristina Heller (Angels & Demons), who are never shy when bearing their assets.  In addition, cult icon, Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, The Hitcher), appears as the vampire avenging Van Helsing.  Unfortunately, Hauer’s appearance comes fairly late in the film and does little to invigorate the film’s energy.

    Dracula 3D, while tame compared to Argento’s previous efforts, still manages to deliver decent gore in the form of slashed necks, axes to the head and of course, good old fashioned vampire bites.  Unfortunately, decent gore is trumped by horrendous CG effects including a laughable wolf to human transformation as well as an odd gigantic insect murder that will leave you dumbfounded.  Luckily, the set design and costumes do a fine job establishing the intended gothic atmosphere with more than decent results.  Interestingly enough, Argento’s first forary into 3D is a wildly effective one.  A nice sense of depth is coupled with gimmicky “in-your-face” effects that include swords, tree branches and animals charging the screen.  Sadly, Argento’s Dracula 3D disappoints on nearly every level.  The bland screenplay works as a domino effect resulting in wooden performances from the cast and an overall boring cinematic experience.  The gimmick of 3D is the only effective piece of the film that acts more as an odd curiosity.  As hopeful as one was, Dracula 3D lacks any of the spirit and originality Argento once possessed.  Argento completists will have difficulty finding any merit in this film that deserves to be staked through the heart.
    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:
    MPI Media Group presents Dracula 3D in a 1080p anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer.  The film is nicely detailed with excellent handling on black levels for which there are many.  Night scenes and the darker clothing of some of the actors show no signs of crushing whatsoever.  A tint of softness is present, but welcome, at times to capture the dreary gothic atmosphere.  Skin tones are also well preserved making this transfer more than ample.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    3D VIDEO:
    Having both 2D and 3D versions available on one disc, the 3D version of Dracula 3D is surprisingly stunning.  The opening title sequence sways through the village of the film creating a wonderful sense of depth.  Continued instances of depth are furthered in backwoods scenes where the branches of trees invade your eye-line.  Gimmicky, yet wildly effective, uses of 3D are seen in swords through actors‘ bodies, animals charging the camera and actors‘ fingers that practically reach out and touch the viewer.  A handful of blurring moments occurred throughout the film which were noticeably inferior to the otherwise stellar majority.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Dracula 3D comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.  For the most part, the mix is sufficient with frightening moments capturing a loud push and Claudio Simonetti’s score, which invokes shades of the 1960s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows,   beautifully projected.  Unfortunately, dialogue seems to be more of a mixed bag.  At times, speech is loud and robust while others, most noticeably whenever Dracula speaks, the mix is a struggle to hear causing a wrestling match with your volume button.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Behind the Scenes: This surprisingly lengthy making of featurette captures fly on the wall shots during production as well as incredibly informative interviews from nearly every member on the show including actors, screenwriters, art designers, 3D effects artists and more.

    - "Kiss Me Dracula" Music Video: Performed by Simonetti Project.  Presented in 2D and 3D.

    - Trailer

    - Red Band Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D is another poor addition to Argento’s recent canon.  The horrendous screenplay all but doomed this production as its cluelessness gravely affected the performances of the cast.  The passion and creativity that oozed from Argento’s earlier works is all but lost here as Dracula 3D plays as a boring attempt at gothic horror.  Thankfully, MPI Media Group’s presentation is a delight with a superior video presentation and effective 3D treatment.  In addition, the few supplements provided, namely the behind the scenes featurette, is far more interesting than the film itself.  The real tragedy of Dracula 3D is what it could have been had the right components and passion been in place.  Sadly, Dracula 3D is another Argento effort best forgotten.
    RATING: 2.5/5

  • 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   

  • Jane Eyre (1943) Blu-ray Review


    Jane Eyre (1943)
    Director: Robert Stevenson
    Starring: Orson Welles, Joan Fontaine, Margaret O’Brien & Peggy Ann Garner
    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel has been adapted many times since its publication in 1847.  The gothic romance has dazzled readers and film enthusiasts with a tale that so eloquently details the hardships of love and social classes.  Twilight Time proudly presents, with only 3,000 units available, the 1943 version of Jane Eyre, which critics and audiences have hailed as the finest adaptation to ever grace the silver screen.  70 years after its original release, let’s investigate how well this classic has aged…

    Jane Eyre centers on a young woman’s struggles at a brutal orphanage before growing up to navigate the world on her own.  Joan Fontaine (Rebecca) portrays Jane as an adult as she takes a position as a governess at the mysterious Thornfield Hall.  Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) plays Edward Rochester the brooding and mysterious owner of the estate.  The two strike up an unlikely relationship that breaks down social barriers while dark secrets are uncovered.


    This review was originally published through Euro Cult AV.  To view it in its entirety, click this link:

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/Jane_Eyre__Twilight_Time_/jane_eyre__twilight_time_.html