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  • 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.

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #10: Newhart, Escape from Tomorrow, The Demons, Vinegar Syndrome & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #10 includes:

    - The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio (1971) / A Clockwork Blue (1972) (0:39)
    Street Date: March 28, 2014
    Vinegar Syndrome: http://vinegarsyndrome.com/

    - Newhart The Complete Third Season (9:25)
    Street Date: April 22, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Godzilla: The Complete Animated Series (14:06)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com/

    - Escape from Tomorrow (2013) (20:37)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Cinedigm: http://www.cinedigm.com/

    - The Demons (1973) (29:25)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (34:20)

  • 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