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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Thriller > Comedy > Murder > Play > Writing > Drama > Sex > Psychosis > Deathtrap (1982/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Massage Parlor Murders (1974/Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray w/DVD)/Vinegar Syndrome Drive-In Collection: Anatomy Of A Psycho (1960)/The Lonely Sex (1959) + The Sucker

Deathtrap (1982/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Massage Parlor Murders (1974/Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray w/DVD)/Vinegar Syndrome Drive-In Collection: Anatomy Of A Psycho (1960)/The Lonely Sex (1959) + The Suckers (1972)/The Love Garden (1971/DVDs)

 

Picture: B-/B- & C+/C†††† Sound: B-/C+/C†††† Extras: C-/C/D†††† Films: C+/C+/C

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: The Deathtrap Blu-ray is only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered at the link below.

 

 

Murder thrillers have been a staple of all kinds of filmmaking for decades, but there is a split in the genre little discussed between Hollywood A-level star product and low budget versions that follow somewhat along the lines of Horror films, but not exactly.I was stuck by this again when a group of such films arrived at the same time.Hereís what I encountered.

 

 

We start with Sidney Lumetís film of the play Deathtrap (1982) written by Ira Levin (Rosemaryís Baby, The Stepford Wives, Sliver) with Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve and Dyan Cannon as the players in the life of a writer (Caine) looking for the perfect mystery script and to make sure it is flawless, might try to commit a real life murder to make sure he has got it right.Reeve is a former student who apparently has an ace of a script of his own and Cannon is Caineís wife.Something is going to give and someone is going to be on the outs.

 

Lumet made this after some big productions (the mixed The Wiz, the grand Prince Of The City) did not do the business expected of them and passed on Scarface (which Brian De Palma eventually made with Al Pacino) to make this film.It has some good moments and good acting, with Lumet able to make this seem more than just like a play, but it always seems like the acting is a bit overdone at times, it reminds me always of The Last Of Sheila (also from Warner) but not as good and despite a good trio here, this also plays like a secondary variant of Sleuth, so it is constantly haunted by better works including the original Clouzot Diabolique (1955, reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) which remains about as influential as Hitchcockís Psycho.

 

If you are unaware of said works, this will work better, but the film never totally added up for me, though it is smart and never condescending or smug, but as far as dealing with murder as a concept, it just might be playing it too safe.Should this have been more brutal?I like these actors and get all the in-jokes, but Deathtrap never worked thoroughly for me and I am a Lumet fan too.I also do not think you could make a better film of the play, so it will have its following and deserves this new Warner Archive Blu-ray, available exclusively on line.

 

A trailer is the only extras.

 

 

Sleazier and as entertaining for all kinds of odd reasons, Chester Fox and Alex Stevens co-directed Massage Parlor Murders (1974) about a killer on the loose who is killing women in the title locales.Including much nudity and even softcore sex moments, the film is all over the place and having two directors only adds to the madness.This is not a smart mystery either and that aspect is very limited in the script.Oh, and the acting is also not great, yet this manages to be more entertaining than it should be in either cut here.The reissue version cuts out the pre-title sequence that I think should have stayed, but that version is here too.

 

Two cops eventually start investigating and they cannot seem to catch up with the killer.At times, I was reminded of Friedkinís Cruising (1980) with some of the scenes of blood and situations, heterosexual as they happen to be here, but definitely as sleazy.The blood is here, but the violence is never too excessive and some of it is simply very dated, so you will only be offended or impressed so much.

 

What I liked about this the most is that the makers try and fit everything they can into the script and we even get breaks form the sometimes thin narrative as one of the cops has a romance going.This is a product of the counterculture and an interesting time capsule at that, but that does not make it a great film, yet it is always interesting and even boasts George Dzundza (Basic Instinct, The Deer Hunter) as an Assistant Director and a pervert the cops harass!

 

Sandra Peabody from the original Last House On The Left also shows up and the usually odd acting actually makes this even more watchable.I think it is great that the Vinegar Syndrome label was able to restore this for Blu-ray and DVD because it is one of those curios more people should see.What it lacks in great acting and smarts, it makes up for in ambition and unexpectedly entertaining moments.

 

Extras include a nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and liner notes, while the discs add Outtakes and Original Theatrical Trailers.

 

 

We have two double feature DVDs from the The Vinegar Syndrome Drive-In Collection being issued at the same time as Parlor and with four B-movies worth seeing.Of course, they are so bad they are hilarious and definite targets for Mystery Science Theater treatment.

 

 

Boris Petroffís Anatomy Of A Psycho (1960) obviously wants to cash in early on Hitchcockís Psycho runs 80 minutes and has the brother of a convicted murderer going after those who caught him and pout him away.With its lame acting, black & white filming and very lame ideas about psychology, it is worth a look if you have the patience and a sense of humor.It is far from great, but also reminds us of how much fun filmmaking once was when you had so many independent productions going on.

 

That film is joined by Richard Hillardís The Lonely Sex (1959) runs under an hour and has a goofy guy kidnapping a woman while continuing his peeping tom ways.It is too short to really develop anything substantial, but just mixes things up to be interesting and fails, but does so in amusing ways.Black & white film once again meets bad acting and this is not too long, so youíll enjoy it just enough if you are interested.Expect some nudity and softcore moments.

 

 

The other DVD offers Arthur Byrdís The Suckers (1972), a full color sex romp with some ripping off of The Most Dangerous Game that has more to do with nudity and exploitation than psychological tension, but is watchable at 80 minutes and has its unintentionally funny moments as well.This is not great cinema either, yet, the makers are trying to throw in all kinds of elements and it is more ambitious and successful than the recent torture porn cycle of would-be films so I found it more watchable than expected, no matter how silly it got.

 

That film is joined by Mark Haggardís The Love Garden (1971) that runs 70 minutes, is in black and white, has thought-police lesbian moments and is the weakest of the four films, yet it is still watchable as a time capsule and one of the last monochrome films of its kind as by 1971, color became affordable enough and along with color TVís success made it a bad gamble to shoot in anything else but color by then.More bad acting is featured too, but this film also deserved to be saved and I was glad to see all four films, flaws and all.

 

None of these films come with any extras, however, though the discs and cases have poster art.

 

 

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Deathtrap and Parlor are on par with each other, though Deathtrap should have been the champ here.Instead, the Deathtrap HD master shows a little more grain than expected and the darker scenes do not always look as good as the bright ones, though color is decent throughout.Parlor is obviously shot more cheaply, but the restoration (2K from a good 35mm print) has better dark scenes and the color is not bad throughout either, especially as compared to the anamorphically enhanced DVD.

 

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Suckers and 1.33 X 1 image on the rest of the Drive-In movies may come from 2K scans of 35mm film prints they have restored, but I found all four films to be a little softer than usual for whatever reason.They are still watchable and you can see work went into fixing them, but it will take Blu-ray versions to really see the improvements fully.

 

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on Deathtrap is as good as the film has ever sounded with warm reproduction of the sound and Johnny Mandelís music score.Too bad this was not in stereo.Parlor and the Drive-In movies are here in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono that is not as good, with Parlor sounding better than the rest of the B-movies.

 

 

To order Deathtrap, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:

 

http://www.warnerarchive.com/

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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