Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Supernatural > Horror > Ghost > Orphans > Spanish Civil War > Murder > Greed > Fascism > Revenge > Cyrogenic > The Devil’s Backbone (2001/Criterion Blu-ray)/The Frozen Dead (1966/Seven Arts/Warner Archive DVD)/Hidden In The Woods (2012/Artsploitation DVD)/Tormented (1960/Allied Artists/Warner Archive DVD)

The Devil’s Backbone (2001/Criterion Blu-ray)/The Frozen Dead (1966/Seven Arts/Warner Archive DVD)/Hidden In The Woods (2012/Artsploitation DVD)/Tormented (1960/Allied Artists/Warner Archive DVD)


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



PLEASE NOTE: Frozen Dead and Tormented are only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.



The Horror genre has a unique way of dealing with issues people do not want to always talk about, but  that also leads to camp moments and strange clashes that have made the genre the only one people laugh at and with at the same time.  Here are four films in the genre that handle history, social and personal issues in different ways for better and worse…



To show this, we’ll deal with each film chronologically starting with Tormented (1960) from the infamous B-movie director Bert I. Gordon with Richard Carlson as a man who has been cheating on his wife (Susan Gordon) with a hotter, more sexually wild woman (Juli Reding) who he wants to leave and have her not speak of their affair.  During an argument, she accidentally falls through the railing of an old lighthouse and is holding on for dear life.  He could reach out to save her, but lets her loose her grip and fall to her death in the ocean… but is she dead?


Turns out she is now a ghost who can move objects in the world of the living and is out to get him for what he did to her.  The film runs only 70 minutes (quitting while it is ahead) and is hilarious for just about the whole time from campy moments to howlers to wacky, dated visual effects and a few genre clichés.  It is still worth a look and Joe Turkel, later known for Blade Runner, also shows up.


There are no extras.


Herbert J. Leder’s The Frozen Dead (1966) is a wackier film about reviving the Third Reich via cryogenics, but instead of being a thriller with suspense we can take seriously, it plays like a full color companion to the infamously bad They Saved Hitler’s Brain!  Dana Andrews (with an accent that almost sounds German) is the scientist up to no good and is determined to pick up where the Axis Powers left off thanks to his genius.  1,500 Nazis are on ice (!) and he will bring them all back, but instead of this being like recent such Nazisploitation flicks where they come back as zombies, the script is more interested in Frankenstein ideals.


Philip Gilbert is the American scientist who might be able to stop it and Anna Palk is the young lady who happens to be the mad doctor’s niece and cannot allow this nightmare to come true.  Too bad the visual effects here are also silly, awful, goofy and trivialize anything one should take seriously here.  Like Tormented, I had not seen this one for a long time and remembered little of it.  I see why.


There are no extras.



Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone (2001) was a move back to more personal filmmaking after he had some commercial success with the monster thriller Mimic showed his commercial viability.  Originally intended to me more mystical and Fantasy-genre oriented, this tale of a school for orphaned boys in an isolated part of Spain during the Spanish Civil War’s last weeks in 1939, staring with the arrival of a new kid whose father leaves him in the hands of the married priest, his wife and a helper who was never adopted and still lives there.


The helper is a real so and so, but even early on, we realize something is wrong at this place.  A aerial bomb that should have blown a crater in the middle of the yard of the institution somehow fell without going off.  Not seen as a threat, it has never been moved and is considered a dud.  Slight senses of light conflict seem to be there upon the young boy’s arrival, but we’re not sure exactly what of, though the story slowly moves to show that the place is haunted, but by what?


The result is a ghost story with ugly adult conflicts and war concerns interfering with the development of the group of boys living there and more than meets the eye initially is going on.  As a supernatural tale, it has some thrills, but more of the terror comes from the real mortal conflicts caused by the adults.  The structure of the film is most of what we have seen in ghost stories before, but del Toro has added obvious symbolisms throughout inner-textually referencing the actual Spanish Civil War to the end of the film, but it never makes explicit what they all are so only those really familiar with that history are going to get that part.


However, the film is serious and honest enough in tone, acting and narrative that he is criticizing the ugliness of the situation, even if all the elements do not mesh as they later would in his brilliant film Pan’s Labyrinth which makes the ultimate anti-Fascist statement within a Fantasy narrative we’ve seen in decades.  Still, this is a quality film that does manage to make important points about lives then and now that rightly has a following and thanks to Criterion, we have a Blu-ray that delivers the film as clearly as del Toro and company intended.


Extras include a nicely illustrated paper foldout on the film including informative text and an essay this time by Mark Kermode titled The Past Is Never Dead, while the Blu-ray adds Video Intro by del Toro on the film from 2010, feature length audio commentary track by del Toro, New & Archival Del Toro interviews on the film, 2004 making of documentary entitled Que es up fantasma?, Interactive Director’s Notebook, Sebastian Fabers’ great new on camera interview about the film and its context to the Spanish Civil War that is a must-see after seeing the film, Original Theatrical Trailer, del Toro’s thumbnail sketches for the film’s visuals and a comparison of those with the final storyboards by Carols Giménez.



That brings us to Patricio Valladares’ Hidden In The Woods (2012) which wants to be taken seriously for dealing with some ugly issues (incest, rape, sexual abuse) and be a bloody horror film at the same time, but it is sop busy wallowing in the latter that we get more blood, screaming, latex and gross moments than a narrative that seriously deals with some very ugly issues.  And it also is allegedly “based on a true story” which these days means the writers are desperate and in the genre, this has become a sad cliché inspired by the original Tobe Hooper Texas Chainsaw Massacre.


This is the latest film trying to imitate that one, but it gets so caught up in torture porn aesthetics that it all backfires and the script has nothing to say about the goings on (and I am not talking about phony moralizing) nor is it anything we have not seen before.  It is a just a more vulgar variant of a played out cycle.  Compare it o Pasolini’s Salo (reviewed on criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site), its limits and pointlessness are even more obvious.  You should consider this very brutal and would only get an NC-17 if actually rated.


Extras include an 8-page booklet on the film including informative text & illustrations, plus a reversible cover for the DVD case, while the Blu-ray adds trailers for this and other Artsploitation releases and an interview featurette with the Director Patricio Valladares.




The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Backbone is easily the best performer here, sourced in a new 2K HD master from the original 35mm camera negative by del Toro and Director of Photography Guillermo Navarro that can have slight lightness at points, but it pretty consistent and warm enough throughout.  Some visual effects are not as good as others, but that is a minor issues.  That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Frozen and Woods, plus the anamorphically enhanced black and white 1.66 X 1 image on Tormented tied for second/last place and all being softer than I would have liked.  Tormented is shot on real monochrome film with silver content, but this transfer is just a shade too soft for its own good, the EastmanColor transfer on Frozen is inconsistent and does not always show off how good the film must have looked in its original theatrical release.


Woods goes out of its way to look degraded too often and maybe a Blu-ray would look better, but we suspect not by much.



The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Backbone is easily the sonic champion here, remastered at 24-Bit digital sound from the original 35mm 6-track magnetic soundmaster which can sound good, but also shows the limits of the budget as well as showing the age of the film.  It also has its share of silent moments, though, so the soundfield is not a consistent one, nor does it need to in this case.


The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Woods can be louder, but more shrill, choppy, oddly mixed and is not as consistent overall, but it still surpasses the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mixes on Frozen and Tormented, both showing their age, limited budgets and being a generation down themselves.  Be careful of volume switching on each.



To order Frozen Dead and Tormented, go to this link for those and many more great web-exclusive releases at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com