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Category:    Home > Reviews > Mystery > Thriller > Surrealism > Sex > Erotic > Murder > Horror > Supernatural > Poland > Ghost > Italy > Backs > Mulholland Dr. (1999/Criterion Blu-ray)/Possession (1981/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray)/Shock (1977/Arrow*)/Stage Fright (1950/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Toolbox Murders 4K (1978/Blue Underground 4

Mulholland Dr. (1999/Criterion Blu-ray)/Possession (1981/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray)/Shock (1977/Arrow*)/Stage Fright (1950/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Toolbox Murders 4K (1978/Blue Underground 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray/*both MVD)/Wild At Heart (1990/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)

4K Ultra HD Picture: B+ Picture: A-/B+/B+/B/B/B+ Sound: A/B+/B+/C+/B- & C+/A Extras: B/B/B/C/C+/A Films: A-/B/C+/C+/C/A

PLEASE NOTE: The Possession Import Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia and can play on all 4K Blu-ray players, Wild At Heart is from Twilight Time and is a limited edition limited to only 3,000 copies and is out of print (try the usual secondary market channels to get it if you can,) while Stage Fright is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Next up are a wide variety of thrillers, including a few helmed by legends...

With the benefit of some serious hindsight, it's clear that Twin Peaks is a hinge point in David Lynch's career. Not only has it became the singularly most resonant piece of his oeuvre for a multitude of fans, it came to dominate and exert a heavy gravitational pull on the filmmaker's work.

Prior to the ABC Network series, a deconstructionist soap opera, by turns cheesily uproarious and disturbingly spooky, that was cultural phenomenon that blazed white hot for one season, in 1989, before flaming out in its second (why that happened is the subject of another essay) - Lynch established himself as a singular auteur with films like Eraserhead (1977), The Elephant Man (1980), and his masterpiece Blue Velvet (1986). (There is also Dune, from 1984, which, again, another essay [see our 4K coverage elsewhere on this site].) There are common themes that run throughout this work - the sinister hiding just below the surface of bucolic Americana, misfits and outcasts, a kind of twisted sense of nostalgia - but it's hard to see them connecting to a larger narrative.

After Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost asked America ''Who killed Laura Palmer?'' and, in the course of refusing to solve the mystery, established a universe of supernatural otherplaces, tulpas and doubles, and dreams within dreams with dreams, the work Lynch attached himself to became fixated on variations of those themes. There's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), of course, a fairly terrible revisionist prequel to the show, meant to be the first of many Peaks films, that was so reviled upon release it killed the series. (It was only with the release of the spectacularly bizarre and extraordinarily spectacular Twin Peaks: The Return, or Season Three, whichever you prefer, from 2014 that FWWM is mostly redeemed, even if the new takes on characters established in the show still feels unmotivated and needlessly prurient.) But there's also Lost Highway (1997), which feels so indebted to Peaks - from its narrative driven by a character becoming a different person to the mysterious ghoul from somewhere beyond to the red-curtain-and-checkerboard-floor transitional space, all part of the Peaks grammar; that it's absurd to think it's anything but a story set in the Peaks universe. (Indeed, Lynch only relatively recently relented and said as much.) And Inland Empire (2006) is a Russian nesting doll of tulpas and double-speak and universes overlapping one another.

Stack the pre-Peaks films against the ones that came after and it's impossible to ignore how epochal the series was on Lynch and his storytelling. But if there's any doubt, it's instructive to look at two films as kind of nodes in Lynch's career: Wild at Heart (1990) and Mulholland Dr. (1999).

When Wild at Heart debuted, it was easy to think that Lynch had reached a kind of creative apex. The film, starring Nicolas Cage and Lynch favorite Laura Dern as a neo-noir Romeo and Juliet - Cage, as ex-con Sailor, wearing his Brandoest snakeskin jacket and at his Elvis-sneering best; Dern, as Lula, in her slinky, sexy tube-top dresses all youthful lust and gusto; the couple trying to outrun and outfox the wily Johnnie Farragut (Harry Dean Stanton) hired by Lula's mom (Diane Ladd) to take out Sailor and return Lula to her - is vintage Lynch, the elements that made Blue Velvet such a smash evolved with whatever filter was on that earlier film completely removed. (Also: Willem Dafoe in braces, looking like a pomaded, bolo-wearing Beetlejuice, is pure, on-brand Lynch.) It's unique, of course, and sensational, and a natural progression of where Lynch was headed in his previous work. (It also won the Palme d'Or at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival; when he returned in 1992 with Fire Walk With Me, he was booed out of France.)

But Wild at Heart was also something of an instant anachronism for Lynch. It was released in the middle of the original Peaks run and, watching it now, in context with the films that came after, it's clear Lynch reached this height with Wild at Heart and chose to scale the, ahem, other peak he was ascending with Twin Peaks. This came from a place of creative obsession - Lynch is a restless creator - but you can argue resentment played as much a part in the choice.

Completing Wild at Heart pulled Lynch off Twin Peaks, giving ABC the opening to flex its muscle and demand Lynch and Frost wrap up the mystery meant to remain forever unsolved, lest the audience get bored. Once this happened, early in Season Two, the show falters, becomes an actual soap opera (and a lousy one at that,) sheds viewers, and leads to its untimely end. Even Lynch returning for the final third of the season, and ending the series on the most epic of cliffhangers, wasn't enough to save it from the studio axe. For a story that so intrigued and consumed Lynch, it's hard to fault him from seeing anything that diverted his attention from it as detrimental.

And so we get the second, Peaks-dominated half of Lynch's career and it's high point, Mulholland Dr. Originally conceived as a Peaks spinoff, sending Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) to Hollywood, the film similarly began as a TV project. Starring Laura Harring as amnesiac starlet Rita and Naomi Watts as Betty, a fresh-faced new arrival to La La Land, the pair meet, hit it off (like, really hit it off), and set out to solve the mystery of who Rita is and what caused her memory loss. It's a story shot through with crime, the supernatural, doubles, mystery, soap opera dramatics, and biting satire. If this isn't Twin Peaks 2.0, it's definitely a spin on the idea with a much larger budget. And, like Peaks, it can feel disjointed, incomplete, and obtuse. That's because it was shot as a pilot - for ABC, of all networks - that wasn't picked up. Rather than abandon it, Lynch completed Mulholland Dr. as a feature, and the narrative schism this creates is both blindlingly obvious and thrillingly daring, the break point coming when Rita, searching for truths, gets lost in/sucked into a mystery object. (Lynch also shot a version of the Peaks pilot as a feature, in case it didn't make it to series, which now lives on as home video bonus content.) It's hard to say Mulholland's mysteries are solved - they are, sort of, but they just create more complications - but by making it a feature film, Lynch creates a singular examination of identity, narrative, power, and perspective. And it's stuffed full of scenes and moments that lodge themselves in your subconscious: ''No hay banda.'' ''This is the girl.'' The tiny-head-giant-body studio executive behind glass. The mysterious cowboy. Rita and Betty's psycho-sexual co-dependency. The ultimate fate of Betty's double and how it loops the film in on itself, like a Moebius strip.

Mulholland Dr. is disconcerting, as many of Lynch's films are, but in the emotionally existential vein of Twin Peaks rather than, say, the relatively more straightforwardly psychological Blue Velvet. Who is telling this story? How are we supposed to engage with this film? Where should our allegiances lie? Who are these people? Who are we? And what does how we watch this film - and what we project onto it - say about the truths and fictions we build our sense of self around? Sure, all great cinematic art prompts such introspection. But Lynch achieves a depth of this exploration that is as rare as it is sinister. These questions have haunted discussion of Mulholland Dr. for more than 20 years, which has allowed it to enter the discussion of best films of that decade - despite a fair number of viewers throwing up their hands at what they saw as an impenetrable obtuse piece of filmmaking. And for anyone who watched and obsessed over Twin Peaks: The Return - I am firmly in this camp - it's easy to see in Mulholland Dr. both a continuation of previous Peaks lore and the template for extending into more abstract, dreamy, and narratively complex directions.

Wild at Heart and Mullholland Dr. are both superlative films, but it's difficult to watch them without feeling some pangs. In Heart's case, it's regret for the stories we didn't get once Lynch became subsumed by the Twin Peaks mythology and universe-building. With Mulholland, it's something like exasperation for Lynch continuing to bang this narrative of metaphysical alternate realities. That might be why The Straight Story (1999), the story of an old man using his riding mower to get to reconcile with his long-estranged brother and the ultimate outlier in Lynch's filmography still feels so welcome and comforting. It's a mix of out-and-out sincerity and deeply-coded social criticism that few filmmakers would dare try, let alone pull off. That both it and Mullholland Dr. were released in the same year is a powerful confirmation of Lynch's powers and prowess as a storyteller and filmmaker. I would gladly sacrifice another jaunt into the Black Lodge if it meant getting more of Lynch the social critic.

That said, I'll never complain about something David Lynch releases. His is a singular voice in American movies, and whatever he touches is bound to generate deep conversation and years of introspection. (On this point, I'm not kidding: Not a day goes by that I don't think about some element of Twin Peaks: The Return or some moment from Blue Velvet slips free from my subconscious.) When Inland Empire was released, Lynch attached a short intro to the theatrical presentation that ended with him telling audiences, ''I hope you have a good experience.'' Wild at Heart might be an endpoint and Mulholland Dr. might be a second career peak, but they were, are, and always will be good experiences.

Thankfully, we have exceptional home video releases of both films to ensure that fact. Wild at Heart (in its original 2.35 X 1 frame) has seen two Blu-ray releases, most recently from Shout Select in 2018. The first, and the better, though, is the now long-out-of-print edition from Twilight Time. It has loads of extras - ''Love, Death, Elvis & Oz: The Making of Wild at Heart,'' an EPK feature from 1990, extended interviews, a couple Lynch-focused pieces, 4 TV spots, and an isolated music and effects track - and a fairly good audio presentation in a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix. Visually, the disc is solid, relying on a Lynch-approved transfer. But it's old, dating from 2004. It's generally strong, but with some soft spots and grain it could certainly use an upgrade.

Shout's disc is essentially the same as Twilight Time's, except it has a new interview with Barry Gifford, author of the novel the film is based on, and it's missing the isolated audio track, one of Twilight Time's signature extras and a cool bonus that's unique enough to miss.

For Mulholland Dr., The Criterion Collection has the film (in its original 1.85 X 1 frame), guaranteeing an ideal package. (I love that Criterion has been caring for Lynch's films; I just wish we'd get Lost Highway and Inland Empire, which desperately need exemplary discs.) Now available in a 4K edition, we looked at the Lynch-approved Blu-ray, which has a bunch of extras - interviews with cast and crew, on-set footage, a deleted scene and trailer - but feels relatively light given its pedigree and vintage. But the technical side more than picks up the slack. Given Lynch's perfectionism, its video and audio presentations are superb, a 4K digital transfer, supervised by Lynch and director of photography Peter Deming and a 5.1 surround DTS-HD master soundtrack. For a film that lives and dies on its audio presentation, especially, it's a great mix.

Next up, number eleven in Umbrella's Beyond Genres releases, others have which have been reviewed on this site elsewhere, is Andrzej Zulawski's icon horror study of a film: Possession (1981), which stars Isabelle Adjani (who won big at Cannes for her performance here), Sam Neill, Margit Carstensen. This great release which presents the film uncut is packed with four hours of bonus features and a solid presentation. This film is comparable to Cronenberg in terms of weirdness levels and will either entertain you or repulse you depending on your film tastes.

Set in Poland, a Spy Mark (Neill) comes back to his wife (Adjani) who wants a divorce after having an affair and is harboring dark secrets. As he investigates further, he realizes that she has a bizarre sexual secret that certainly is far from normal.

Possession is presented in 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and a lossless 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA mix, both of which are of the norm for the format. The film is masterfully photographed and really makes the audience feel uneasy in many instances. I haven't seen other editions of the film to compare it to, but for a non 4K release this looks pretty good.

Special Features:

Feature Length Audio Commentary Track with Director Andrzej Zulawski

a second Feature Length Audio Commentary Track with Co-writer Frederic Tuten

The Other Side of the Wall: The Making of Possession

Interview with with Director Andrzej Zulawski

US Cut of Possession

Repossessed - featurette on the US Cut of Possession

A Divided City - Location Featurette

The Sounds of Possession - Interview with Composer Andrzej Zulawski

Our friend in the West - Interview with Producer Christian Ferry

Basha - Poster Analysis Featurette

International Theatrical Trailer

and a US Theatrical Trailer.

From Italian horror masterminds Mario Bava and Lamberto Bava comes Shock (1977), which was also known as Beyond the Door 2 in its American release. While Beyond the Door was more of an Exorcist knock off, this is more of a supernatural ghost possession story when a little boy (David Colin Jr., Beyond the Door) is possessed by the spirit of his deceased father who lashes out at his mother (played by Daria Nicolodi of Deep Red), who has moved on to another man (John Steiner, Tenebrae). The kid really becomes a bigger and bigger brat as the film progresses and starts to use voodoo on his parents in many scenes. Sometimes she gets attacked by ghosts too, including one sequence where a ghost threatens her with a knife and cuts her blouse.

Shock is presented on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC (33.99 Mbps) codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and Italian (with English subtitles) and a lossless, English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) Mono mix. This is from a 2K restoration of the original 35mm film elements, and the film looks and sounds fantastic here. The colors are really vibrant and there's no gripes concerning the presentation considering the limitations of the format. The soundtrack is pretty fun and is in synth based Italian horror sounding, which adds to the film and doesn't subtract.

Special Features include:

New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark

A Ghost in the House, a new video interview with co-director and co-writer Lamberto Bava

Via Dell'Orologio 33, a new video interview with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti

The Devil Pulls the Strings, a new video essay by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Shock! Horror! - The Stylistic Diversity of Mario Bava, a new video appreciation by author and critic Stephen Thrower

The Most Atrocious Tortur(e), a new interview with critic Alberto Farina

Italian theatrical trailer

4 US "Beyond the Door II" TV spots

Image gallery

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Christopher Shy

and First Pressing Only: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava

Shock is an interesting ghost story even though it may not be the best ever told. It showcases from interesting work from the late filmmaker Mario Bava that fans of his work will appreciate in this Arrow release.

Alfred Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950) is one of his comical murder thrillers that he made at his brief-but-interesting stint at Warner Bros. after his Selznick contract expired, this film being one of the three independently-produced Transatlantic Pictures projects before teaming up with the studio. It was a good period that even produced a few classics, but this film is not one of them, though the more you watch and understand who was cast, the more interesting it gets.

Richard Todd plays a man having an affair with a popular singer/actress (Marlene Dietrich in an interesting turn) when her husband turns up dead and he is accused of the murder. He confides in a newer actress (Jane Wyman) who believes he is innocent and even pretends to be a housekeeper for the big star to find out the truth and help him. Unexpectedly, a detective named Smith (Michael Wilding) starts questioning her as she tries to avoid him to do her own investigation, but she starts to fall for him!

The result is a film that has its moments, but does not always add up to having the kind of impact one would expect from Hitchcock's best films, but not for a lack of trying or a great supporting cast that also includes Alastair Sim (known as one of the best actors ever to play Scrooge even then,) Sybil Thorndyke, Kay Walsh, Andre Morell, Patricia Hitchcock and uncredited turns by Alfie Bass and Lionel Jeffries, so everyone wanted to be in a Hitchcock film and he got quite the cast here as a result.

At least this is ambitious and tries to bring all the usual Hitchcockian elements together, so it is something to celebrate that Warner Archive has created such a fine restoration and preservation of the film for Blu-ray as they have for a few other gems of his they already own. Even with some off parts, everyone should see this film at least once.

The 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer rarely shows the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film. Director of Photography Wilkie Cooper, B.S.C. (First Men In The Moon, Hammerhead, Green For Danger, Jason & The Argonauts, 3 Worlds Of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, TV's The Avengers) later became known for his color cinematography, but could handle monochrome just as well and just as easily. Dietrich actually convinced Hitchcock and Cooper to add input into how she was lit, which is unusual, but that worked as well. Glad to see it looking so good, but it is a Hitchcock film after all.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix remasters the original theatrical mono sound as well as possible, with the music sounding a little better than the dialogue, with this now sounding the best it likely ever will.

Extras include a Making Of featurette and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Last and least to some, Dennis Donnelly's The Toolbox Murders 4K (1978) still tends to shock people with its blatant exploitation as part of a cycle of such films that arrived into the 1980s that started in the late 1960s and especially early 1970s. Now, it is getting the 4K disc release from Blue Underground in a new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray set. We reviewed their older Blu-ray edition at this link:


Though so much more violent, graphic and blatantly bloody feature films (and a few TV shows for that matter) have arrived, even since we reviewed the last version, it still remains disturbing and the lack of a strong script is even more apparent, using its name stars to be additionally shocking (Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? And the original Omen helped make that possible) but landed up derailing Ferdin's career a bit and only helped the others to do so much.

The only other thing that is odder is that everyone who is killed is listening to soft, comfy, Country Pop, a cycle that was just giving way to a new generation of Country Music via new stars and the massive success of the hit film Urban Cowboy and its soundtrack, making this film still very much a product of the 1970s, albeit the very end of it. Guess Disco and Rock did not appeal to all those victims by coincidence.

So that leaves playback performance. The 1080p 1.66 X 1 regular Blu-ray is the same and looks the same, so could the 2160p HECV/H.265, 1.66 X 1, Dolby Vision/HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image on the 4K edition really look that much better for a film that wanted to look grainy and dirty often? Surprisingly, yes. Not all the shots benefit as much as others, but there are instances where this looks better than anyone could have ever thought it could and the local bar interiors really benefit now that the Video Black can be handled better with all its color. Thus, this is a surprise in a few ways and the best way to watch this film, making it age better, yet oddly since so much has aged otherwise. You even get a few demo shots above my grade.

The 4K edition repeats the same lossless soundtrack options, but surprisingly adds Dolby Atmos lossless (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for older systems) to the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 and DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono mixes we heard before. It is not an outright improvement on the old theatrical monophonic sound or DTS upgrades, but it opens the sound up a bit more, if not always working and being convincing. The result is that you get a 4K-exclusivce choice to see if you can hear and/or experience the film better in Atmos. Oncer again, Blue Underground leaves no stone unturned.

Extras repeat the previous Blu-ray releases' Original Theatrical Trailers, TV & Radio Spots, ''I Got Nailed'' interview with star Marianne Walter and a feature length audio commentary by Producer Tony DiDio, Director of Photography Gary Graver and Pamela Ferdin. New extras are many and include NEW! Audio Commentary #2 with Film Historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson

  • NEW! Drill Sergeant: Interview with Director Dennis Donnelly

  • NEW! Tools Of The Trade: Interview with Star Wesley Eure

  • NEW! Flesh And Blood: Interview with Actress Kelly Nichols

  • NEW! Slashback Memories: David Del Valle Remembers Cameron Mitchell

  • NEW! 'They Know I Have Been Sad': Video Essay by Film Historian Amanda Reyes and Filmmaker Chris O'Neill

  • and NEW! Poster & Still Gallery.

To order the Umbrella Possession import Blu-ray, go to this link:


...and to order the Stage Fright Warner Archive Blu-ray, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo (4K, Hitchcock,) Dante A. Ciampaglia (Lynch) and James Lockhart



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