Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

Category

Currently showing posts tagged The Hysteria Continues

  • Madhouse (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Madhouse (1981)

    Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis

    Starring: Trish Everly, Michael Macrae, Dennis Robertson, Morgan Hart, Allison Biggers, Edith Ivey, Richard Baker & Jerry Fujikawa

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Infamously inducted as one of Britain’s prized “video nasties”, Madhouse centers on Julia Sullivan (Trish Everly in her only film role) who continues to try and block out the anguish her cruel twin sister Mary caused her growing up.  Suffering from a disfiguring illness and still harboring disdain for her other half, Mary escapes from the hospital, hellbent on delivering Julia a bloody birthday she’ll never forget.

    A peculiar blending of Italian hyper violence and America’s burgeoning slasher craze with a dash of gothic ambiance, Madhouse thrives on its uneasy tone that attempts to drown out its more questionable plot devices.  Educator to young deaf students, Julia still maintains a fear of her hospitalized twin sister Mary who suffers from a deforming disease and responsible for wrecking havoc on Julia throughout childhood.  Maintaining a close relationship with her loving uncle, Father James (Dennis Robertson, Dark Night of the Scarecrow), Julia seeks to make peace with her dying sister only to be met with frightening hostility.  Exploding into full-blown terror when Mary escapes from her hospital confines, Julia’s approaching 25th birthday seems less likely to be met as supernatural suspicions, a bloodthirsty Rottweiler and a body count start to take shape.  Shot in the suitably atmospheric region of Savannah, Georgia, Madhouse punctuates its proceedings with voyeuristic photography and a certifiably strange soundscape conducted by Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park) to further its descent into darkness.  

    Charismatic and beautiful, Trish Everly holds the picture together with genuine fear and concern for her life reading clearly in her face and actions while, the supporting cast hams it up with generally over-the-top performances.  A noble debut for Everly that would ultimately prove to be her last onscreen, the young actress seemed destined for a career as a future scream queen that was unfortunately not meant to be.  Pulling no punches with its violence and never discriminating against adults or young deaf children as its prey, Madhouse’s Rottweiler attacks on the like surely and appreciatively earned its place in “video nasties” history with ravaged jugulars and torn hands on full display.  While the film’s final showdown between Julia and her doctor boyfriend against the murderous culprits leave far more questions than answers concerning their motivations, Director Ovidio G. Assonitis (Beyond the Door) perhaps smartly bookends the horror-oddity with a quote to properly chase audiences head-scratching motions.

    Scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Arrow Video proudly presents Madhouse with a 1080p transfer, sporting its 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  A wonderfully filmic-looking offering, grain is healthy and overwhelmingly satisfying to the eye while, skin tones remain natural and clean.  Furthermore, the film’s gorier moments paint the screen red with eye popping boldness with black levels also appearing appreciatively deep.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that registers dialogue crisply, the track also makes excellent use of Composer Riz Ortolani’s evocatively creepy score and usage of lullabies with no hiccups to speak of.  An optional LPCM 2.0 mix has also been provided for your listening pleasure.  

    Bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues, Running the Madhouse with Edith Ivey (12:40) finds the actress recalling her early days in radio and the transition all actors made moving onto television.  Furthermore, Ivey also shares words about her appearance on The Howdy Doody Show, commentating for the Miss USA show for years before landing her role in Madhouse where the director wanted over-the-top performances from his cast.  Framing Fear (19:32) catches up with Director of Photography Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli in this subtitled interview that traces everything from his first paid job on Arturo’s Island to his many works with Assonitis.  Next up, Ovidio Nasty (7:44) chats with the film’s producer/director where he reveals the film’s direct influences to be The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Shining.  Assonitis also discusses the film’s alternate titles but prefers There Was a Little Girl and praises Savannah, Georgia as being the ideal gothic shooting location.  Finally, Alternative Opening Titles (3:01), the Original Trailer (3:04), a 23-page booklet featuring liner notes by John Martin (available only in the release’s first printing), Reversible Cover Art and a DVD edition conclude the supplemental package.  

    An overlooked effort that samples different styles and subgenres, Madhouse is certifiably odd to the bone with a violent bite from Rottweilers and deformed nutcases alike.  Although not one to provide all the answers by its conclusion, Director Ovidio G. Assonitis’ deranged sibling-slasher hybrid makes for a unique late night excursion through horror’s less traveled roads.  In their expected fashion, Arrow Video brings the “video nasty” to high-definition with a striking 2K restoration and a modest spread of extras to further educate and enlighten the minds of horror enthusiasts.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Madhouse can be purchased via DiabolikDVD.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Night Train to Terror (1985) Blu-ray Review



    Night Train to Terror (1985)
    Director: Jay Schlossberg-Cohen
    Starring: Cameron Mitchell, John Phillip Law & Byron Yordan
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    By the sight of the 1-sheet poster, most would assumed that Night Train to Terror is another chip off the slasher block from the bitchin’ 1980s.  As fitting as it may seem, this is an entirely different beast.  When the topic of horror anthologies is brought up, there is a steady list of favorites to choose from such as Creepshow, Trick ‘r Treat and Tales from the Crypt.  But, somewhere in the cobwebs lies Night Train to Terror.  Presented for the first time on home video and it its original aspect ratio, Vinegar Syndrome bring this horror oddity to your growing collection in a Blu-ray / DVD combo pack.  How odd is this flick, you ask?  Well, get ready to throw logic out the window and let’s find out...

    Night Train to Terror kicks off with God and Satan aboard a train headed to the friary underworld as they decide the fates of three unfortunate souls.  In Harry, a killer keeps body parts of his victims in a twisted torture chamber.  While, in Gretta, a young woman obsessed with death takes part in a risky game of Russian roulette.  Finally, Claire finds a young woman and a Holocaust survivor terrorized by the son of Satan!

    MOVIE:
    There’s much to admire in a film that kicks off with an 80s-centric band playing to the camera while on board a train to Hell.  The catchy tune and the lead singer, who looks like a mix of Loverboy and Flashdance, sets the tone for the odd film you are about to witness.  The wrap-around segments of God and Satan deciding the fates of each of the  victims was a welcome touch that opened the stage for some humorous moments.  The film itself is an insane collage of horror presented without too much narrative in mind and a tongue firmly planted in cheek.  Demons, dismemberment, nudity and nazis all make entertaining appearances that are provided by a halfway decent cast and a synth-happy score.  Night Train to Terror takes lightning speed shifts telling its story while pushing moments of blood and horror leaving you with a “what the hell is going on?” attitude more than once.  In addition, the film deserves great praise for their usage of stop-motion effects that are less Harryhausen and more Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure but just as charming and fun.  Overall, the film succeeds in throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the viewer in terms of horrific elements while weaving a very “unique” kind of anthology tale.  There’s nothing quite like Night Train to Terror and by my calculations, that’s a fantastic thing!
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome presents Night Train to Terror for the first time on home video restored in 2K from 35mm elements and in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio.  The film certainly has its fair share of inconsistencies with debris and scratches with colors popping nicely when they can.  Skin tones appear natural and detail is quite sharp in close-ups.  Grain levels look terrific while blacks can be a hit or miss.  It sounds mediocre, but in truth, this film has never looked better and probably never will.  Vinegar Syndrome’s treatment is the definitive one for a film that has only seen ratty bootlegs before its release.  Consider me satisfied!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Night Train to Terror hurls into your living room courtesy of a 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix.  Scenes of dialogue are clear and hissing is hardly present while moments of horror and carnage are loud and robust.  The score and catchy opening tune impressed my ear drums as they were loud even at a relatively lower volume.  Well done!
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    Vinegar Syndrome presents a healthy dose of supplements that are spread across both the Blu-ray and DVD on this release.

    On Blu-ray:
    - Interview with Director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen (offered as an audio track over the film)

    - The Hysteria Continues Commentary: The bloggers offer plenty of laughs and interesting anecdotes about the film and the players involved.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    On DVD:
    - Gretta: The full-version of The Case of Gretta Conners, a unique and welcome extra as one can see and appreciate the differences from its shorter counterpart found in Night Train to Terror.

    - Interview with Assistant Editor Wayne Schmidt (presented as an audio track)

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Night Train to Terror is quite unlike any horror anthology you’ve ever seen.  The chaotic pace and horrific imagery at every turn will certainly send you for a loop which makes it never boring.  Vinegar Syndrome have preserved and presented the film in the best possible manner with a welcome dose of extras that offer as much behind-the-scenes information as possible on this horror oddity.  Night Train to Terror is an absurd execution in horror anthologies with enough blood, demons and stop-motion to peak most genre fans’ interest.  Looking for logic?  We’re all out on Night Train to Terror but that’s exactly where most of the charm comes from.
    RATING: 4/5