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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Environment > Nature > Supernatural > Surrealism > Mystery > Murder > Slasher > Killer > C > Day Of The Animals (1977/Film Ventures International)/Dogs (1976/Scorpion DVDs)/Don't Look Now (1973/Umbrella Region B Import Blu-ray)/The Flesh & Blood Show (1972/Kino/Redemption Blu-ray w/3D)/Fright

Day Of The Animals (1977/Film Ventures International)/Dogs (1976/Scorpion DVDs)/Don't Look Now (1973/Umbrella Region B Import Blu-ray)/The Flesh & Blood Show (1972/Kino/Redemption Blu-ray w/3D)/Frightmare (1974/Kino/Redemption Blu-ray)/Here Comes The Devil (2012/Magnolia/Magnet Blu-ray)/In Fear (2013/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/The Island (1980/Universal/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray)/The Killers (1964/Universal/Arrow U.K. Region B Import Blu-ray)/Macabre (1957/Allied Artists/Warner Archive DVD)/Meet Him And Die (1976/Raro Blu-ray)/Scobie Malone (1976/Umbrella Region Free Import PAL DVD)/Taxi! (1931/Warner Archive DVD)/Tower Of Evil (1972/aka Beyond The Fog aka Horror On Scape Island/Scorpion DVD)


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



PLEASE NOTE: The Don't Look Now Region B Blu-ray, The Island Region Free Blu-ray and Scobie Malone Region Free PAL Import DVD releases are only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment, the Macabre and Taxi! (1932) DVDs are exclusives from the Warner Archive website The Killers (1964) Region B Blu-ray Import is now only available from our friends at Arrow U.K. and all can be ordered from the links below. Be sure you have a machine that can handle region-locked Blu-rays or PAL video before ordering an import.



So many thrillers arrived at the same time and with so many connections that despite pushing my luck, I needed to include them in the same text, making the 15 titles here a bit of a record for the site. If you read however, it will make more sense.



William Girdler's Day Of The Animals (1977) is the first of our natural disaster films, a hit in its time with a cast that included a still serious Leslie Nielsen, young Andrew Stevens, Paul Mantee, Christopher George, Lynda-Day George, Michael Ansara, Richard Jaeckel, Jon Cedar and Ruth Roman. They are among the people who get together to go for a hike when it turns out abuse of the ozone layer (topical even then) would ruin their outdoor hiking vacation as that depletion suddenly makes all the animals attack and kill!


Some moments are not bad, some good and some unintentionally hilarious and that is before you count for Nielsen's 1988 transformation late in his career into comedy starting with the first Naked Gun film. I enjoyed the film when it first arrived and still enjoy it, though the ozone angle has become more a threat than anyone could have imagined upon its original release. An ambitious independent release, it is a must-see for what does work and for just being fun.


Extras include Original TV Spot, trailers for other Scorpion releases, Fun Facts & Trivia section by Katrina and two separate on-camera interviews with Jon Cedar and Paul Mantee which have some location audio issues but are fine otherwise.



Burt Brinkerhoff's Dogs (1976) is now a curio since star David McCallum (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., reviewed elsewhere on this site) is a favorite again on the original NCIS series. Another natural disaster film like its predecessor and even more inspired by Jaws, the attacks happen suddenly as well and except for a brief note about the government possibly experimenting on the title animals, the killings star and just keep on coming.


Part of the problem with the film was always that the attacks are never vicious enough to be a threat, made more amusing by the fact that the trainer of Benji (the lovable star of a series of hit kids movies at the time) handled the animals, so that's a problem and the is not enough suspense. What we do get is some amusing scientific dialogue that McCallum manages to pull off, intentionally funny moments that sometimes work punctuated by unintended laughs and a script that is consistent if nothing else. George Wyner is great here and Linda Gray also shows up (pre-Dallas) in a few scenes and all that is enough to make this curio worth your time.


Extras include the Original Theatrical Trailer, a Fun Facts & Trivia section by Katrina and Making Of featurette.



Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now (1973) is Roeg's second solo directing effort after the internationally successful Walkabout (1971, reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) and he had to come up with something exciting. The resulting thriller was adapted from a book by Daphne Du Maurier (who Hitchcock made even more popular with his films adaptations) about a married couple (Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland) visiting Venice in the wake of losing their young daughter for a job he has to restore art at a church. However, something is wrong.


They meets two sisters and one who is blind says she can get them in contact with their dead daughter. They are not happy about this, but odd things begin to increasingly happen and he especially thinks they are phonies until he becomes more haunted than his wife. That is until he starts to see something is going on when he starts to have premonitions including things the sisters could not possibly know about.


The cast is good, Sutherland & Christie are totally convincing as a couple and this is a visually intriguing film that still challenges the viewer far beyond what most supernatural films do these days, including the many overhyped ones. My only problem is that it is so metaphysical and loose in what it shows that it lands up lacking impact in the end and despite being smart, ambitious and handled by a master filmmaker; lacking that final impact despite its shocks and accomplishments in suspense is slightly disappointing. Still, it is long overdue for rediscovery, especially being so challenging and is as accomplished as any film on this list. See it!


Extras include another solid feature length audio commentary track with Director Roeg, Danny Boyle's compressed version of the film as tribute to Roeg from the BAFTA tribute, the Original Theatrical Trailer, intro by film scholar Alan Jones, Nothing Is As It Seems featurette and interviews with Boyle, Sutherland and screenwriter/producer Allan Scott.



Pete Walker's The Flesh & Blood Show (1972) is one of the films on the list that precede the slasher and slice & dice trends of the 1970s and 1980s, with a group of young actors (including later General Hospital star Tristan Rogers and Robin Askwith (famous for playing hip teens of the period in films like If..., Horror On Snape Island (reviewed below), Horror Hospital (aka Computer Killers) and some sex comedies) in a mixed, ambitious film where they will slowly be hunted down and killed. Someone's taking the term break a leg way too far.


There is limited suspense, more nudity than even Walker says he wanted, some good exposition, amusing scenes, odd scenes and interesting performances that might not add up to a great film, but even without the 3D, an interesting one worth a look that I also a bit of a period piece. The conclusion is mixed, but I was never bored and genre fans will especially want to check this on out.


Extras include the original 3D sequence in bonus 1080p 1.85 X 1 MVC-encoded 3-D - Full Resolution digital High Definition image and 1080p 1.85 X 1 red/blue anaglyph versions (glasses not included for either), Original Theatrical Trailer for this & other Walker films and interview featurette Flesh, Blood & Censorship with Walker, et al.



Pete Walker's Frightmare (1974 aka Cover Up) is able to go a bit darker as the script abandons most comedy and film avoid nudity for this darker tale about a farm house where people are starting to disappear. The old couple (Sheila Keith and Rupert Davies) who lives there used to be in a mental hospital and that is only the beginning of what might be going wrong around there. This one has its creepy moments and is not bad, but can also be a little uneven. I like the look of the film and Walker is at least trying to be original. though he reminds me of an effective journeyman maker of thrillers like John Llewellyn Moxey, if not as smooth.


Leo Genn, Deborah Fairfax and Andrew Sachs are among the fine supporting cast and I will not say anything else to ruin this one for you, but it is as dark as any horror film on this list and this Blu-ray does a great job presenting it.


Extras include the Original Theatrical Trailer for this & other Walker films, a feature length audio commentary track with Walker and DP Peter Jessop that covers all kinds of ground, interview featurette For The Sake Of Cannibalism with Walker, et al and Sheila Keith: A Nice Old Lady? featurette on the character actress who appeared in several Walker films.



Adrian Garcia Bogliano's Here Comes The Devil (2012) is like Don't Look Now in that children disappear, maybe die and there are mysterious circumstances that partly suggest the supernatural, but unlike the more clever Roeg film, this Spanish production have its parents get increasingly odd in behavior and unlike the couple in the Roeg film, land up coming across as more immature, less realistic and the script eventually renders too much of this a spoof of itself.


We get nudity and sex here too, but it is trite and the fancy editing here is a mess. Then the mysteriously implied supernatural angle slowly becomes explicit at the cost of suspense and filled in by clichés. The acting is decent, but the actions of the characters honestly do not make sense, even with the givens of the horror genre and the ending rings flat, dull and dumb as a result. Too bad because with more concentration, exposition and holding back later elements, this might have been more effective.


Extras include BD Live interactive features, a feature length audio commentary track with Director Bogliano, AXS-TV look at the film, Rehearsals, Behind The Scenes Comparisons, Behind The Scenes Photo Gallery and Extended Nightmare Scene.



Jeremy Lovering's In Fear (2013) has a young couple (Alice Englert and Iain De Caestecker) heading to an outdoor concert show, trying to find the hotel they plan to stay at. He suggests they go to a hotel for the weekend to be alone, but she wants to stick with their original plans, so off they drive. When they get where it is supposed to be, the roads seem desolate, signs inaccurate and a wooden gate even chained. Instead of leaving, they unchain the gate, go in and cannot find anything, then it gets dark and someone is following them.


The result is another twist on the many horror films we call stuck-in-a movies, but in this case, they are stuck looping on endless roads. Had the script made them a little less silly and irresponsible, this might have worked with more realism and suspense. I even liked the leads, but it loses you in the suspension of disbelief half way through even though it is also well shot and often well edited. By the end, I was very disappointed, with a cheesy ending and too many missed opportunities for its own good.


The only extra is a Behind The Scenes featurette.



Michael Ritchie's The Island (1980) was Universal's blatant attempt to have another Jaws on their hands complete with a book from the same author (Peter Benchley) and the same main producers (Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown), but that is the end of the common denominators as Michael Caine plays a British reporter who investigates odd disappearances of people in the Caribbean by going there. We know from the opening scenes that someone is killing these people and even wearing odd clothing, so it is not just mere pirates.


Bringing his son along as if it will be some kind of vacation, it turns out to be far from it, but after that, the script gets highly convoluted and the film lands up being a mess. David Warner (Time After Time) and Angela Punch McGregor show up in the supporting cast, but even they cannot save this from falling apart very early. Not even as good as The Deep (reviewed elsewhere on this site), it is one of those curios that disappoints every time and even I forgot how bad it was.


There are understandably no extras.



Don Siegel's The Killers (1964) is a remake of the 1946 Noir classic about a hitman (played here by Lee Marvin) is out for a young man (John Cassavetes) who it turns out has fallen for the girlfriend/mole (Angie Dickinson) of a deadly crime boss (Ronald Reagan in his last acting role and one of his best performances) in a worthy remake of the Burt Lancaster/Robert Sidomak original. With Siegel's brand of brutal, realistic violence (he directed many Noirs and later Dirty Harry among other hits), Universal has decided to allow the Blu-ray debut be this Arrow U.K. Region B Import release all on its own.


The film was intended to be a TV movie, one of the first in a format Universal (and ABC-TV in the U.S.) would invent, but it was considered too violent for TV at the time, so it was a theatrical release and holds its own as a solid crime film with a fine pace, edge and realism for the time that makes it very watchable on its 50th Anniversary. More people need to see how good this one is and it might seem easy to underestimate, but don't. Everyone here is in strong form.


Extras include a DVD version of the film, reversible cover, illustrated booklet (including lobby cards) on the film including informative text, while the Blu-ray adds the featurettes Reagan Kills with writer Marc Eliot on his Hollywood Years, Screen Killer with Dwayne Epstein (a scholar who wrote a book on Lee Marvin), a Behind The Scenes image gallery and archival 1984 interview with Siegel from the French series Cinema Cinemas.



William Castle's Macabre (1957) was one of his early films where he tries to become a serious thriller filmmaker with a hint of humor and a bit of gimmickry, but is a very mixed bag as the short 71 minutes film tell the tale of grave-digging, grave robbery, dead corpses, skeletons, murder and maybe someone being buried alive. Allied Artists was anxious to make a name for themselves at this time, but the script starts much more than it can finish.


Just being creepy is insufficient and Castle eventually went the campy route and rode it to much more commercial success after this did not do well, but with a cast that includes William Prince and Jim Backus, genre fans (and especially Castle fans) should see this one at least once. It serves as a dry run for the films he was about to start making.


There are sadly no extras.



Franco Prosperi's Meet Him And Die (1976) is another interesting film out of the Italian police crime drama cycle of the 1970s putting one of its rising stars, Ray Lovelock, in the leading man role. This early lead for him has him as a cop who goes undercover to pretend to be a criminal, purposely botches a robbery and gets arrested to create a cover so he can break a drug ring lead by a crime boss (Martin Balsam) who will do anything to make money and keep power.


Along the way, he has several fights, a few chase sequences, a few gun fights and even gets involved with a sexy woman (a nice turn here by Elke Sommer) in a decent film with all the trappings of such a film, but sadly not much more. Locations are nice, performances not bad and action decent, but it is also a little too predictable and a little clichéd, even for the genre. Nice to have it on Blu-ray, though and it is worth a look.


Extras include a nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text by Mike Malloy, who also appears on camera with a brief (6:34) clips talking about the film and the genres it is in.



Terry Ohlsson's Scobie Malone (1975) has a few things in common with Meet Him And Die besides being released within months of each other. It is also a crime film with a popular lead playing a cop, has its share of action, blood, fights, nudity and violence and is not afraid to be a little exploitive. It is also part of Australia's own crime film cycle (plus Oz-Ploitaiton of the time) with Jack Thompson in the title role. He is more of a smart-talker and does not follow rules much. Rod Taylor first played the role in 1968 (in Nobody Runs Forever aka The High Commissioner), so one wonders if in this case, this was meant to be the first film in a series.


The investigation surrounds the ugly death of a woman (Judy Morris) Malone met once and has found brutally murdered in an indoor out of the way section of said building. However, she was tangled up with some tough, dangerous and even powerful men, so the investigation will be more complicated than anything he may have tackled before. He has a new partner, but that may not help either.


Ultimately, the mystery angle is not handled badly, but the film tries to be many things and lands up not doing any of them as thoroughly as it could, counting on Thompson's star appeal. It too still has more than enough good moments to give it a look.


There are surprisingly no extras.



Ruth Del Ruth's Taxi! (1931) might not seem to belong here at first, but it is enough of a mystery of sorts and bold in its tale of a new big taxi company arriving in NYC, intending to get big bucks by putting all of its competition out of business even if by illegal means. James Cagney is a cabbie for the underdog company and is fighting back upon attack before he even knows the whole story. When a veteran cabbie is threatened, then his cab is hit by a huge delivery truck on purpose, his retaliation gets the story going early. A young, edgier Loretta Young is is daughter fighting for, but wants a more peaceful solution.


That may be in vein, but she immediately collides with the rough, short-tempered Cagney, yet they are soon a couple just the same. At only 69 minutes, this is a brisk, strong, tough, consistent, remarkable film from a very nice period of early sound films (1929 - 1933 before censorship codes started to kick in) and some moments are as strong as they ever were. A nice little gem, glad an official edition has been issued.


There are oddly no extras.



Jim O'Connolly's Tower Of Evil (1972) is even more of a slasher film in the way we think of them now and has some qualities of Bob Clark's Black Christmas (1974, reviewed elsewhere on this site) again features Robin Askwith (see The Flesh & Blood Show above) as a group of archeologists (including some teens) search for a lost treasure that is going to get them killed. Jill Haworth, Dennis Price, Anna Palk, Anthony Valentine, Marianne Stone and George Couloris make this pretty watchable and interesting, plus there is some suspense and a little more nudity than you would expect in a film like this, especially for its time. Still that does not hurt it.


It is simply that this is a good film, buy not always great and there are some pacing issues, yet I liked the actors, locales and the look of the film. The unsung hero of the film in this case is Director of Photography Desmond Dickinson, B.S.C., (Horrors Of The Black Museum, City Of The Dead, Konga and MGM's four 1960s Agatha Christie films) creating a palpable atmosphere that helps it overcome its shortcomings and makes it a good film. Again, genre fans will definitely want to see this one.


Extras include the Original Theatrical Trailer, Katrina's Nightmare Theater with Fun Facts & Trivia on the film, an interview with film scholar David Del Valle and trailers for other Scorpion releases.



For image performance, we have mostly fine Blu-ray performers, especially in the case of the 1080p 1.33 and 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Killers, shot on 35mm film and meant for TV when it was issued in theaters instead. I like both aspect ratios, but you see more on the 1.33 X 1 version and Technicolor did the original prints. The age of the materials used barely shows in either case, but I should add this looked good on the Criterion DVD, so this does not surprise me one bit. The 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Frightmare is a very close second, which also shows the age of the materials used at times, but was lensed by Director of Photography Peter Jessop, who shot several Walker films as well as the reggae film classic The Harder They Come and seven of the last episodes of the U.K. Spy classic The Avengers with Patrick Macnee and Linda Thorson. The use of depth, darkness and color is exceptional and will surprise viewers.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Now comes from what looks like a restored print, but then someone came along and dulled the image more than it was supposed to be, lost some fine detail and overly dulled the color, especially red which is so key to this film. I can see why complaints have been surfacing on previous Blu-ray editions, but what has not seemed to have surfaced in the discussion is that the film was originally issued in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints so the color is slightly off to begin with. This is the first of several films Director of Photography Anthony B. Richmond, B.S.C., lensed for Roeg and has nice composition throughout. Only color and detail issues hold this one back when all is said and done.


The 1080p 1.78 X 1 2D digital High Definition image transfer on Blood can show the age of the materials used, but has decent color throughout even of the print is not in as good a shape as Frightmare.


The two newest shoots should be the nest here, but they are not starting with the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Devil styled down to its disadvantage with some shots that are good and others that are awkward, have Video Black issues and offers little memorable visually, while the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Fear does know how to use the scope frame to its advantage at times and has some nice shots, but it is also held back by its share of poor shots if not as many.


The 1080p (listed as 1080/50i incorrectly) 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Island was shot in real anamorphic 35mm Panavision and has some good shots, but other moments are not as good as the print used has its own moments where the age of the materials used get in the way. However, some bad transfer choices hurt this almost as much as Now.


The 1080p 1.78 X 1 AVC @ 23.97 MBPS digital High Definition image transfer on Die can show the age of the materials used more than expected, especially in the amount of grain suggesting some second-generation film elements, but color is a plus in many scenes and


The DVDs all tie for third and last place, but look about as good as they ever will in the format with the 1.33 X 1 black and white image on Taxi holding up well for its age, while the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Dogs, anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Tower and anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Animals (shot with Todd A.O. 35Mm lenses) are derived from solid new HD transfers that look good here and very likely look better on Blu-ray versions also issued.


That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 black & white image on Macabre and anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 color image on Malone rounding out the DVDs with their own good quality for the standard definition format.


As for sound, one would think the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Devil and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix on Fear would be the outright sonic champs, but they both have their sound more in the front channels than expected (especially Devil) and also Island (originally issued in 70mm blow-up prints with 4.1 mixes) with its standard DTS 5.1 mix has some of the same issues, but has age as an excuse. That leaves the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono on Now and the PCM 2.0 Mono on Killers, Blood, Nightmare and (in Italian over the English dub) Die more than holding their own and as nicely restored as they are going to get.


The poorest performers, in part because their audio is too low in volume transfer, is the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Taxi and Tower, which are decent recordings and need some restoration work and sonic adjustments. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono the remaining DVDs save Animals with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and barely better lossy Dolby Digital 5.1. That film was originally issued on 35mm film prints with 4-track-magnetic stereo sound. This might sound better on Blu-ray, so again, get that version if you can play that format.



Now for those special order links. You can order The Killers (1964) here starting at:


http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/


...order The Island and Don't Look Now Umbrella import Blu-rays and Scobie Malone import PAL DVD by going to this link:


http://www.umbrellaent.com.au/


and to order either of the Warner Archive DVDs, Macabre and Taxi!, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.warnerarchive.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo


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