Day (2010 remake/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Red House (1947/Film Vault/HD Cinema Classics Blu-ray w/DVD)/The Theatre Bizarre (2011/Severin/Image
& C/B- & C/C Sound: B-/B-
& C+/C+ & C/C+ Extras: C/D/C/C Films: C+/D/C+/C
four new horror releases that you are bound to hear about, especially if you
are a fan of the genre.
Newbrook was a cameraman, cinematographer and well respected in the British
film industry as well as outside of it, but like many cameramen, he decided to
try out directing. Several great
Directors of Photography had successful careers along with that kind of work,
so why not he. By the early 1970s, other
companies and independent productions were taking on the horror genre and in Britain in
particular, ready to challenge and/or capitalize on the success of the Hammer
Studios. Newbrook made The Asphyx (1972) and it is one of the
most ambitious of the A-level productions.
Stephenson is a scientist who discovers one day that he has photographed
something more than the dead on still images when he keeps seeing a dark spot
that might be the soul of a given living creature leaving the body. He researches this and while the people he shares
this with are not certain, conducts further trials with the help of an
assistant (Robert Powell) sworn to secrecy.
Eventually, he realizes that if he captures that soul spirit, or Asphyx,
then places it somewhere else, then the mortal body cannot die until the two
are reunited. He has plans for
immortality and more.
course, this will backfire, but the film believes it and it makes for
interesting viewing. There are two
versions here, including a shorter U.K. version (86 minutes) that makes little
sense and the longer U.S. cut (98 minutes) that is the intended film as best we
know it and includes key footage that makes this a much better film overall
than its reputation would have you believe from some quarters. This is the latest gem issued by the
Kino/Redemption label on Blu-ray and one worth your time, especially if you are
a serious film or horror fan.
in the film include a few idiot plot moments including mistakes that it is hard
to believe a scientist this smart would make, even distracted by his project or
brilliant results, the film can be talky at times in ways that slow it down and
it follows some clichés of the genre as if a sense of doom and ramifications of
mistakes we are all condemned to repeat are always inevitable, but the clichés
undercut that. The production design,
costumes, locales, performances and feel of the film is like nothing make
before or since. Along with intended
multi-channel sound and a modern filmmaking look by way of Newbrook’s friend
(the great cameraman and sometimes director Freddie Young), this is a special
film that was the step after Hammer in period horror and shows U.K. films could
compete with U.S. horror product from the top studios technically, but it was
issued the year of Friedkin’s The Exorcist
and was sadly lost in the shuffle.
is an original work with its own world fully realized and obviously proud of
its Britishisms, but also manages to retain all of their charm (down to old
technological devices and there is a love of film, still and motion pictures as
Stephens also takes silent film footage and his eventually sick passions
reflect Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom
(1960), the banned U.K. classic film that might have caused some to turn on
this film and get it censored to begin with) showing that they are not just
nostalgia, but a permanent part of a past culture of innovation and worth
taking seriously. In that respect, the
film is a tribute to all the Hammer films and their imitators (plus all those
U.K. films with Ray Harryhausen DynaMation) as what we should rightly see as
the final chapter of films in that cycle as Hammer started to get more graphic
and had to go into new directions to survive advancing competition on both
sides of the Atlantic like this non-Hammer film.
a stills section and the original theatrical trailer.
Lynn Bousman’s 2010 remake of the 1980 film Mother’s Day is lame, awful, unnecessary and pointless, adding to
the ever tired parade of bad horror remakes that have rendered the genre somewhat
of a joke in the worst way and so flat and dull that I was surprised the cats
did not fall asleep during production.
The one gag here is that Hand
That Rock The Cradle star Rebecca De Mornay plays the mother who wants to
steal other women’s babies straight from the hospital, but now she has some
demented killer sons to do it with her.
bad here and by the standards of this story, probably too young to play this
role, but doing differently did not come with any original ideas so the makers
failed there too. Jaime King Shawn
Ashmore and Briana Evigan were the only names I was partly familiar with and at
122 minutes is way too long. Bousman did
the first three sequels to the overrated Saw
and though this is not torture porn per se, it was torture of a different kind
to see. Embarrassing. The only extra is a feature length audio
commentary by Bousman and Ashmore.
Davies’ The Red House (1947) was
originally released by United Artists and has now apparently fallen into public
domain, so Film Vault and HD Cinema Classics have once again tried to come to
the rescue of such a film, restoring it the best they can and issuing it in a Blu-ray/DVD
combination package. Edward G. Robinson
plays an old married man who has a secret.
Meg (Allene Roberts) is his adopted daughter with his wife Ellen (Judith
Anderson) and they live a somewhat secluded life, peaceful and the like, though
Meg goes to school.
brings home a male friend Nath (Lon McCallister) who tells them at dinner about
the gossip about them, then intends to go home late, but Pete (Robinson) tells
him to go the long way home and that the short cut could be dangerous. Pete gets freaked out and comes back to their
home. However, the film thematically and
visually is suggesting something supernatural.
Something is going on.
there, this is more of a drama than horror film, yet it is interesting how it
keeps wanting to function as one with mysterious occurrences beyond its mystery
and it has some elements of Hitchcock down to Miklos Rozsa (doing the score two
years after his landmark work on Hitchcock’s Spellbound, now on a great Blu-[ray from MGM) and this includes the
brief use of an instrument meant to imply psychological paranoia, the Theremin. It is now associated with 1950s sci-fi alien
among the elements that make this film date in odd ways. The performances are good and we get fine
early performances by Rory Calhoun (known later for westerns) and Julie London
(who became a big singer later as well) so this is all worth a look, but expect
some flat spots and even some unintentionally funny moments. Otherwise, it is worth a look and deserves to
get this special attention.
include a postcard with the art of the case’s cover, original theatrical
trailer and feature length audio commentary by William Hare that is more basic
that usual but not bad.
1980s, the one kind of horror film that was dead was the anthology, killed
partly by TV, then by home video. The
first two Creepshow features were
the rare exceptions pretty much, but The
Theatre Bizarre (2011) wants to go back and try to recreate that kind of
feature in a modern way. Udo Kier is the
robotic death host “terrorizing” a female visitor who has come to a theater not
knowing what is in store and we get six tales including Mother Of Toads (Directed
by Richard Stanley of Hardware; a tale of lust and death), I Love You (Buddy
Giovinazzo; an attempt at an ironic story on the subject), Wet Dreams (Tom Savini; a
male castration anxiety tale), The Accident (Douglas Beck;
subverting fairy tales), Vision Stains (Karim Hussain; about
a drug addict with a more serious problem) and Sweets (David Gregory;
about various hungers).
the talent involved, only Savini’s short seems realized, over the top
eventually in his own sardonic, unique sense of humor way. It starts up subtly and builds up, making the
most of its time and being closest to Creepshow
in spirit. Beck’s short is as smart as
any deriving its horror in more subtle ways throughout and while the others can
be creepy, they are not necessarily horrifying or doing anything we have not
seen before. Jeremy Kasten directs the
bridging Theatre Guignol scenes.
Not great, but at least ambitious, extras include commentary tracks on
almost all the shorts, a trailer, director’s interviews and behind-the-scenes
2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Asphyx
and Day Blu-ray, as well as the
1080p 1.33 X 1 image on the House
Blu-ray surprisingly are about evenly matched, but for different reasons. Asphyx
looks really good often (mastered from its 35mm negative, which seems to have
been in really good shape) but the longer version has its extra footage only
surviving as low-def widescreen footage.
The Day remake is styled down
too much and is an HD Shoot and the House
Blu is as restored as this public domain orphan film could be from the print
they had, but is not really that much softer than the new shoot on Day.
Asphyx looks best in its best shots,
lensed in the underrated Todd-AO 35mm anamorphic scope film format by no less
than the legendary Director of Photography Freddie Young, B.S.C. (Lawrence Of Arabia, You Only Live Twice, dozens of others)
uses the widescreen frame to show both great space, yet also great confinement. The result is not just another widescreen
film and is also something that is visually a step after and ahead of what the
Hammer Studios would have done with the same material. Visconti’s Conversation Piece (shot two years later, reviewed on Blu-ray and
DVD elsewhere on this site) would use the format the same way, but to compare
older spaces as very dense and newer as open.
both rare uses of the scope format, especially Todd AO 35, which (as I noted in
the other review) became popular as an alternative (especially to Panavision
scope lenses) to shoot big genre films in.
This is also a genre film and not a low budget affair, so Young was
pushing this kind of British genre work into a new, fresh direction and look
that could more than compete with what Hollywood, Italy (usually using inferior
Techniscope/Chromoscope) and independent production into a fresh direction
similar to what he did with his 1967 Bond film Twice.
the extra footage is poor low def quality since the 35mm (or even a 16mm
version of it) seems to be lost for good (or for now), the majority of the film
and its transfer look really good and even offer up some demo shots. As a matter of fact, for those who have seen
the film in lesser transfers, it will be a revelation in detail and depth as
the Blu-ray for Horror Express (made
the same year, also reviewed on this site) is.
Thanks to Blu-ray, you can see the full visual intent and get the idea
of the full effect the film intended including the color, which was standard color
and nothing fancy or more advanced like three-strip, dye-transfer Technicolor.
Day does not even create any kind of
memorable atmosphere on Blu-ray, but House
can despite its limits and Video Black helps override softness and detail
issues, but its print’s age can is still an issue. The anamorphically enhanced DVD of Day and 1.33 X 1 DVD of House are too soft for their own good
with their share of problems. The
anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Bizarre
is also softer than I would have liked as the various segments are HD shoots. Wonder how a Blu-ray might improve certain
shorts and the bridging materials?
touted as a Quadraphonic film in its credits, there are no records to show that
Asphyx was issued in any kind of
4-track stereo sound release, but it is here in PCM 2.0 Mono throughout (the
lesser analog footage in the longer, better version may be weaker, but also
demonstrates some audio space the rest of the film lacks) is still good,
surprisingly warm and clean. Too bad it
can also sound a little compressed and the 4-channel soundmaster could not be
found. Bill McGuffie did the pretty good
TrueHD 5.1 on Day should have been
the sonic champ here, but I was surprised how limited the mix was, likely due to
budget limits and too much of the sound is towards the front speakers, with
dialogue too often ion the center channel.
This problem extends to the lesser, lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD
House has a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0
lossless Mono mix, but it is obviously from a dated, secondary source, though I
give the company credit for trying. If
you listen to the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the DVD version, it is even
more dated and poor. That leaves the
lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on Bizarre, which also sounds too often like stereo
spread around, but at least is a series of recent recordings that are not
- Nicholas Sheffo