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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Slasher > Alien > Revenge > Comedy > British > Almost Human (2013/MPI/IFC Midnight Blu-ray)/The Complete Dr. Phibes (Limited Edition Set/Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) + Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)/Theatre Of Blood (1973/Arrow U.K. Region B Import

Almost Human (2013/MPI/IFC Midnight Blu-ray)/The Complete Dr. Phibes (Limited Edition Set/Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) + Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)/Theatre Of Blood (1973/Arrow U.K. Region B Import Blu-rays)

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

PLEASE NOTE: The Phibes (limited to only 3,000 copies!!!) and Theatre Of Blood (also available in a special Steelbook version) Import Blu-rays are now only available from our friends at Arrow U.K., all will only play on Region B players and all can be ordered from the link below.

Here are four horror genre works in the classic tradition, including a new film trying to emulate some classics of the past...

Joe Begos' Almost Human (2013) does what it can to combine alien body snatcher films with slasher films and sometimes has some commendable moments, but lands up having too many down moments and plotting issues despite a serious try at this hybrid. The unknowns are not bad and at first, it looked like this one might work, but sadly, it starts running into trouble it cannot overcome at the halfway mark and not coming up with new twists on what it was doing did not help. Still, it has a look that works at times, but the gore effects are a little over the top too often as if they could not decide what they wanted to make here. Still, fans will find this much more interesting than most such recent new releases in the genre so they should be the ons to check this one out the most.

Extras include a feature length Making Of program, two feature length audio commentary tracks, vintage TV spot for its indie release, Photo Gallery, a Behind The Scenes featurette, Theatrical Trailer, Alternative Trailers, On The Set with Graham Skipper and a short called Toxin that was a forerunner of this project.

Next up are three of Vincent Price's best films, all smart, clever, wacky revenge films he did almost directly back to back. The Complete Dr. Phibes is a terrific new import (and Region B only) that brings together both Robert Fuest-directed films: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972) where Price is the vengeful Dr. Anton Phibes, setting up wild, outrageous deaths for those who have dared to cross him. Darkly humorous, the films have him out to kill no less than nine doctors he feels are responsible for her death, followed by a sequel where he has a plan to bring her back from the dead!

Made for American international, these hold up very well and represent some of Price's and Fuest's best work. The casts are also great with Joseph Cotten, Terry-Thomas, Peter jeffrey, Virginia North, Hugh Griffith, John Laurie and an uncredited Caroline Munro in the first film (Joanna Lumley actually had a scene that was cut from the final film) and the sequel has Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry, Fiona Lewis, Gerald Sim, John Thaw, Milton Reid and a few survivors of the first film. This is intelligent, stylized horror worthy of the best Hammer films and between the two films, the makers did just about everything they could to squeeze the possibilities out of the story. Nice to se them look and sound so good holding up so well.

Though not a spin-off, Price continued the revenge idea with Douglas Hickox's Theatre Of Blood (1973) where Price is an old actor who blames a group of serious theater critics for not becoming a top Shakespearean actor, et al, so he is joined by his daughter (Diana Rigg in a quiet, chilling turn) to kill them all. Darker and even more intellectual than the Phibes films, it also sports some amazing dark humor and may be the best film about revenge on critics of any kind ever made. The amazingly strong cast helps including Ian Hendry, Robert Morley, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Jack Hawkins, Michael Horden, Arthur Lowe, Dennis Price, Milo O'Shea, Eric Sykes, Diana Dors, Madeline Smith, Joan Hickson and even Charles Gray, whose voice appears uncredited.

Hickox (Brannigan, Zulu Dawn, Sky Riders) may not be as visual adept as Fuest, but he is able to more than hold his own with a visually dense, effective thriller that is as disturbing and as much an experience as the Phibes films. United Artists handled this one in the U.S. and like American International's film, MGM owns both catalogs, so they supplied the materials for these releases, both of which are available in separate deluxe editions.

Here are the extras for each...

Phibes has three audio commentaries, two on Abominable Dr. Phibes (one by director Fuest, the other by the creator of Dr. Phibes, William Goldstein, while Dr. Phibes Rises Again has a single track by film scholar, critic and author Tim Lucas. The box comes with a 100-page collector's booklet featuring new writing on the films by Julian Upton, Martin Jones, Justin Humphreys and Jonny Trunk, the on-set recollections of Caroline Munro, plus interviews with Tim Burton and AIP publicist Milton Moritz, all illustrated with rare and original archive stills. The discs also deliver three featurettes: Dr. Phibes & The Gentlemen as The League of Gentlemen (Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton & Reece Shearsmith) fondly recall a pair of British horror classics, Daughter of Phibes as Victoria Price discusses her real life father Vincent Price's career and The Doctor Will See You Now featuring an interview with Vincent Price's biographer, David Del Valle. We also get Original Theatrical Trailers for both films.

Blood adds a Collector's Booklet featuring new writing on the film by film critic Cleaver Patterson and a reproduction of original press book material, illustrated with original archive stills, while the disc adds a feature length audio commentary with The League of Gentlemen, Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, the Original Theatrical Trailer and four featurettes: A Priceless Potboiler: Price's daughter Victoria Price discusses this film, A Fearful Thespian: an interview with David Del Valle, Staged Reaction: an interview with star Madeleine Smith and A Harmony For Horror: an interview with composer Michael J. Lewis.

Nice to see all four releases be so extras-heavy.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Human is a new HD shoot and has some good shots, but others are flawed and limited, sometimes by the visual effects, other times by the limits of the digital shoot. It still looks better than most HD horror shoots we have seen in the last few years, without that being an insult.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on the two Phibes films and the 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Blood can show the age of the materials used at times, but these transfers all come fresh from the MGM vaults using the original camera materials and are far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film on DVD and lesser formats. All looking better than Human, color range, a few demo shots, detail and depth will surprise those used to lesser copies and fans will be stunned at their best. Each has a different Director of Photography, but they all deliver very memorable-looking films.

Norman Warwick lensed Abominable and his other works include The Last Valley, Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde and The Who's movie The Kids Are Alright, the amazing Alex Thompson lensed Rises and his previous work includes Alien 3, Branagh's 70mm Hamlet, Labyrinth, Ridley Scott's Legend, Roeg's Eureka, Excalibur, Medak's The Krays and Cimino's Year Of The Dragon and documentary veteran Wolfgang Suschitzky (who lensed Blood here) also shot Some Kind Of Hero, Something To Hide (aka Shattered) and the original Michael Caine Get Carter. These films were built to last and it shows.

As for sound, the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Human is well mixed and presented, making it the best film here sonically as expected, but the soundfield is not lazy or limited like too many films in the genre currently are. All three import Price Blu-rays have PCM 2.0 Mono sound that is superior to the lossy Dolby sound DVDs before them and they have done as great job cleaning up, fixing and transferring the original optical mono with better depth and detail than you would expect.

You can order all the Vincent Price Blu-ray imports that includes many more limited edition exclusives and editions with more extras than in any other edition of a given film at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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