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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Thriller > Smuggling > Murder > Mystery > Anthology > Supernatural > British > Feminist > Bad Country (2013/Sony Blu-ray)/Fragment Of Fear (1970/Columbia/Sony/Warner Archive DVD)/From Beyond The Grave (1973/Amicus/Warner Archive DVD)/Mr. Jones (2013/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/Sisters (1973/De Pal

Bad Country (2013/Sony Blu-ray)/Fragment Of Fear (1970/Columbia/Sony/Warner Archive DVD)/From Beyond The Grave (1973/Amicus/Warner Archive DVD)/Mr. Jones (2013/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/Sisters (1973/De Palma/Arrow U.K. Region Free Import Blu-ray)/The Strange Woman (1946/Film Chest DVD)


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



PLEASE NOTE: The Sisters Region Free Import Blu-ray is only available from our friends at Arrow U.K., while Fragment Of Fear and From Beyond The Grave are now only available from Warner Bros. through their great Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.



This group of thrillers is worth knowing about...



Chris Brinker's Bad Country (2013) involves a cop (Willem Dafoe) going after a hired killer (Matt Dillon) as a way to break up a ring of murderous killers, including taking down its kingpin (Tom Berenger). A potentially good set up and with a good supporting cast that includes Amy Smart, Neal McDonough and Bill Duke, this is a serious attempt to of a gritty crime thriller and has its moments.


However, some of the editing is awkward and the film becomes uneven. Then I figured out why. The director passed away as this was being finished and it is unknown if he got to finish this to his satisfaction, so out of respect, the makers have left it as he saw it apparently. That's a shame, because all involved were taking the material seriously and this has its moments. You'll want to give it look just to see how well it was going.


Deleted Scenes and a Making Of featurette, Taking Down An Empire: On The Set, are the only extras.



Richard C. Sarafian's Fragment Of Fear (1970) was an attempt by the director and star David Hemmings to do a mysterious thriller that makes you question reality and if the lead (Hemmings plays a writer recovering from drug issues) who is now being harassed, or is he? His Aunt is murdered and he tries to find out why, but that is not going to be easy. Gayle Hunnicut is his girlfriend trying to help him, but the screenplay by Paul Dehn (Goldfinger, Seven Days To Noon, some of the original Planet Of The Apes sequels) keeps things uncertain to the end.


The film is no Blow Up, but it has its moments and the supporting cast including Flora Robson, Adolfo Celi, Daniel Massey, Roland Culver, Arthur Lowe and Wilfrid Hyde-White are all a plus in this intelligent thriller. Everyone should give this one a look.


A theatrical trailer is the only extra.



Kevin Connor's From Beyond The Grave (1973) is one of the anthology films the Amicus Studios cooked up to bring in as many high profile actors as they could in one movie and push it. Peter Cushing is an antique shop owner with items for sale that might not be as innocent as they look. Playing like a few episodes of Night Gallery, we get supernatural dimensions, killers and other unexpected twists here. Unfortunately, the results are very mixed, with the cast and ideas often more interesting and convincing than the action.


However, it is also a serious attempt at solid horror fans will want to see at least once and also stars Donald Pleasence, Diana Dors, Nyree Dawn Porter, David Warner, Margaret Leighton, Ian Bannen, Ian Carmichael, Leslie-Anne Down and Ian Ogilvy. I like the look of the film too.


A theatrical trailer is the only extra.



Karl Mueller's Mr. Jones (2013) is yet another tired, lame rehash of Blair Witch Project, a piece of garbage whose cheap, cynical success continues its possibly permanent damage on horror films. This one is embarrassingly boring and even the actors look listless, looking as generic as all the previous ones doing the same exact things into total comatose dead-endedness. Less shaky camera work is no help either.


The so-called title character is supposed to be scary, but you will laugh or giggle if you have not fallen asleep after the long, long 84 minutes of this badly edited and not well thought out package deal. There are thankfully no extras.



Brian De Palma's Sisters (1973) was the first of the director's many Hitchcockian thrillers, but unlike the Master's many imitators, De Palma was just coming off of some experimental comedy & political films and had more advanced ideas of where to take what Hitch had established. In the year after Hitchcock released his last great film Frenzy, De Palma has no less than Bernard Herrmann creating a great music score for this thriller about a young woman named Danielle (Margot Kidder) meets a guy on a game show and brings him home. Her twin sister (they were conjoined at birth) does not like him and bad things start to happen.


However, a highly inquisitive reporter (Jennifer Salt) happens to be in a building across from where Danielle lives sees what has happened and investigates, but she keeps running into barriers into finding the truth (some of which trivialize her because of her gender, which was more common then) and things much more sinister than anyone can imagine is going on.

A great thriller that not enough people have seen, it is one of De Palma's best films and has been celebrated by scholars like the late, great Robin Wood (see his great book Hollywood From Vietnam To Reagan... And Beyond elsewhere on this site) and Criterion issued a terrific DVD edition 14 years ago (already!) that has been the definitive edition of the film on home video... until now. Now we have an updated version that is as spectacular as any previous version and if you can get it, you'll love it. Barnard Hughes, William Finley, Dolph Sweet, Charles During and uncredited Olympia Dukakis also star.


Except for an Original Theatrical Trailer, extras on this version of Sisters is totally different than the Criterion version, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys, a totally different and new illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) as well as Brian De Palma's original 1973 Village Voice essay on working with composer Bernard Herrmann and a contemporary interview with De Palma on making Sisters, and the 1966 Life magazine article that inspired the film, a PAL DVD version of the film, a terrific Gallery of Sisters promotional material from around the world, archival audio interview excerpt with star William Finley and these featurettes: What the Devil Hath Joined Together: Brian De Palma's Sisters - A visual essay by author Justin Humphreys, All new interviews with co-writer Louisa Rose, actress Jennifer Salt, editor Paul Hirsch and unit manager Jeffrey Hayes and The De Palma Digest - a film-by-film guide to the director's career by critic Mike Sutton.



Finally we have Edgar G. Ulmer's The Strange Woman (1946) back on DVD in an HD-upgraded transfer from Film Chest. We reviewed this campy wreck in an Ulmer DVD box set years ago at this link:


http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/128/Ulmer+-+King+Of+The+Bs+set


It is as bad as ever, but watching it in a better transfer does make it more interesting and reminds us how beautiful Hedy Lamarr really was. However, all her beauty could not save this one and if you have never seen it, at least see this better copy if you must.


There are no extras.



Despite its age, the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Sisters rarely shows the age of the materials used and is richer and thicker in color, depth and detail than the old Criterion DVD, but the film was originally a 1.66 X 1 shoot and in the opening credits (unlike Criterion), Arrow zooms in and cuts off a credit. Still, this is a fine-looking film and shows De Palma always had a great cinematic eye along with Director of Photography Gregory Sandor (The Shooting, Born Losers) brought to the film. So much so that the 1080p 1.78 X 1 HD-shot digital High Definition image transfers on the other Blu-rays lensed 40 years later may look good, but not always so and miss the cinematic mark visually.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.66 X 1 image on Grave and anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Fear were both originally issued on 35mm film prints in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor versions of the film, but Grave (lensed by the late, great, Alan Hume, B.S.C.) is in mixed shape and Fear (lensed by the great, but recently deceased Oswald Morris, B.S.C.) has the color in its print, but I had to adjust my monitor to get true Technicolor. Both deserves Blu-rays.


That leaves the new HD-mastered 1.33 X 1 black & white image on Woman looking better than expected despite print damage.


As for sound, Jones has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix that is the best on the list and is easily its default highlight with a consistent soundfield.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Country (possibly not finalized like it might have been before the director's death) and PCM 2.0 Mono on Sisters (sounding better than expected) tie for second place. All 3 DVDs offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, but Fear outdoes the somewhat compressed Grave and Woman soundtracks that need restoration work, though Woman might not have a better source to turn to.



You can order Sisters on Blu-ray among other expanded Arrow U.K. special editions at this link:


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


and to order either of the Warner Archive DVDs of Fragment Of Fear and From Beyond The Grave, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


http://www.warnerarchive.com/



- Nicholas Sheffo


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