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 > Horror > Supernatural > Games > Monsters > Science Fiction > Camp > Thriller > Enter The Video Store: Empire Of Screams (Dungeon Master aka Ragewar (1984)/Dolls (1987)/Cellar Dweller (1987)/Arena (1989)/Robot Jox (1989)/Blu-ray Box Set*)/House That Screamed (1969/*all Arrow)/Kil

Enter The Video Store: Empire Of Screams (Dungeon Master aka Ragewar (1984)/Dolls (1987)/Cellar Dweller (1987)/Arena (1989)/Robot Jox (1989)/Blu-ray Box Set*)/House That Screamed (1969/*all Arrow)/Kill Zone (1985)/Witchtrap (1989/all MVD Blu-rays)

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

Now for a variety of new, creepy genre thrillers....

Arrow has issued a big deluxe box set for a set of notable Charles Band B-movies made under the Empire Pictures name.
Enter The Video Store: Empire Of Screams has five key films from the B-movie studio that did as well in theaters as they did on home video. With some titles on VHS tape going for hundreds of dollars, sets like this make sense and add to the upgraded reissues of such films as indie producer cash in on nostalgia and curiosity interest in their works that were hits all those decades ago. Now you can see them again.

The Dungeonmaster aka Dungeon Master aka Ragewar (1984) has multiple segments helmed by multiple directors, seven in all, including producer/Empire Films head Charles Band, but as much as I am not a huge fan of the film, I am impressed by how they meld so well together (the hair metal band WASP even shows up in a segment) and though it is very cheesy, fantasy genre fans as well as role-playing game fans will enjoy this story of a man (Jeffrey Byron) unwittingly gets caught and involved in this supernatural world of action and terror.

Also a curio thanks to the brilliant TV hit Stranger Things and the surprise box office and critical success of the latest Dungeons & Dragons feature film, this one has a whole new audience. That includes people who have seen it before, a long time ago and would like to compare it to where such things in the genres represented have gone, how they compare.

I was amused that some of the vehicles look like cheap demos of the will-it-ever-get-made Tesla Motors Cybertruck, then it wants to be the Max Max films in parts, but lands up being more like Waterworld (now on 4K disc, also from Arrow) so this is nothing if not ambitious for its time and low budget. Its the kind of film a small independent studio would turn out, something that is extremely rare now, sadly. I'll also give them a little credit for delivering a semi-anthology here. As for the three versions, the earliest is the longest and has the most violence and nudity. It is the best version by a narrow margin, has better editing and is the way the film was originally intended to be seen. The later versions make cuts that are sloppy and undercut the pace and flow of the film, for what we get here.

Stuart Gordon's Dolls (1987) is the one film we reviewed before, in this import edition you can read more about at this link...


Its killer doll scenario has its moments, though it is a very uneven film and I do agree with my fellow writer on this one, but there is no digital and some of the work here has aged well, even in the few years we saw it last. Gordon is a solid director, even if I only like some of his films, but I have to admit he does give it his all.

John Carl Buechler's Cellar Dweller (1987) is the surprise here for me, better than expected about a young artist (Debrah Farentino) trying to get into the world of comic book artist, but falling into a world of EC-like horror comic books (much like the Creepshow films and now, TV show) with real-life supernatural results. They may also be somewhat obvious and predictable results, but certainly as good as its competition and they do some things here that show their ambition, going out of their way to make this work.

Also helping the film are its solid list of co-stars including Pamela Bellwood (TV's original Dynasty), Yvonne De Carlo, Brian Robbins, Vince Edwards and Jeffrey Combs. Iy belongs on the same shelf as those Creepshow releases.

Peter Manoogan's Arena (1989) is how low the death sport film has fallen, but this one wants to be like a bad reality TV show (before they got really bad) meets Mike Hodges' Flash Gordon (1980), also now on 4K from Arrow, reviewed elsewhere on this site) as a cook (Paul Sattefield) quits his job in disgust, only to land up in the crazy games in the film.

Satterfield, who went onto a solid character actor career, is definitely cast as the lead because he looks very much (and is made to look very much) like Sam Jones (Flash Gordon (1980)) and Roddy Piper (Carpenter's They Live (1988)) and with a touch of Reb Brown (the Captain America telefilms, Yor) and he is made up like, that, photographed like that and written up to emulate that. In this way, the film succeeds, gut it is so cheesy and silly, it is quickly forgotten after watching.

Lastly we get Stuart Gordon's Robot Jox (1989) which was ahead of the Pacific Rim films, Transformers films and Verhoeven's Starship Troopers (1997) in getting humans so involved with giant robots or against giant killers. Guess the studios stayed away from this because they figured the technology to do such films was not far from the Godzilla series where actors wore obvious costumes, fighting in the desert of (expensive models of) cities until the technology improved. Let the B-movie companies do this.

Well, it is OK and has plenty of dated-on-arrival effects, like stop-motion animation, optical prints and some other fakery, but seeing it now after so many years, I have to give them credit for trying and in all honesty, this does not look much worse than most of the CGI animation in far more expensive (and overpriced) genre movies we are getting swamped with, so I can see why this one got pushed like it did and developed a kind of cult following. Fans of the later films noted should see it once, just to compare. Gary Graham, Anne-Marie Johnson and (the late, underrated) Paul Koslo, lead the cast, all underrated longtime actors.

Now for playback performance. The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers in all five cases are new 2K scans from the best 35mm materials available, as opposed to 4K, which might reveal more flaws in the visuals and show more age-related matters. Dungeon Master comes from its original camera negative and has some better shots than expected, but optically printed effects and other minor flaws, along with more grain than average hold it back.

Dolls looks like the same solid transfer as the import Blu-ray and comes from a first-generation 35mm original interpositive, with fine color, some good depth and detail, even when it can show its age in parts. Cellar Dweller was the biggest surprise here, which Arrow fixed up further with solid results and you get some fine color, limited grain and an image that can look newer than it is.

Arena seems to be missing its original camera negative, positive, interpositive, internegative and all the rest, so this comes from the only known (for now?) surviving theatrical film print and thus, definition, depth and detail suffer. As well, it looks a little off center with a sliver of the left side o the frame missing for the vast majority of the film, maybe all of it. A low-def, full frame, open matte, 1.33 X 1 copy with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is also included to compare with some more image to see, but color not quite as good. Some hard work went into this one.

That leaves Robot Jox from its original 35mm camera negative, but it has some much optical printing, stop-motion animation and other dated effects, that its limits, agedness and budget limits show too often. However, they did not have the money or people the likes of Robocop or the original Terminator had, so they're lucky it looks this good. It also, shockingly, looks better than most CGI digital effects we get now and can even be charming in parts. Also in fairness to it, but the time Robocop 2 arrived a few years later, the stop-motion era in major feature films came to an end.

As for sound, all the films here offer PCM sound, but Dolls has been upgraded to a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, Dungeon Master is PCM 2.0 Mono and the rest are PCM 2.0 Stereo that were originally issued theatrically in the infamous Ultra Stereo noise reduction system. An imitator of Dolby System, the original analog A-type system that established Dolby in theaters worldwide, Ultra was used 99% on exploitation films, very low budget films and had more distortion and less rage than that oldest of Dolby formats. You can hear that on Dungeon Master comes from its original camera negative and Cellar Dweller, Arena and Robot Jox, so expect odd quirks when you decode with Pro Logic or a Pro logic-like decoder on your home theater system. When al is said and done, the sonics on all five fi,ms are pretty equal and are never going to sound better than they do now.

Extras are many and (per the press release in part) include...


  • Double sided posters for each film featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ilan Sheady

  • 15 postcard-sized reproduction artcards

  • Arrow Video store ''membership card''

  • 80-page perfect bound book

  • Still Galleries of various kinds for all films


  • Three different versions of the film via seamless branching: the US theatrical version (The Dungeonmaster), the pre-release version and the international version (Ragewar)

  • Original lossless mono audio

  • New audio commentary with star Jeffrey Byron, moderated by film critics Matty Budrewicz and Dave Wain

  • I Reject Your Reality and Substitute My Own, a new interview with star Jeffrey Byron

  • Theatrical trailers


Mostly different extras from the import Blu-ray edition we covered at the link above. It includes a NEW audio commentary by David Decoteau, Empire alumnus and friend of Stuart Gordon

  • Archive audio commentary with director Stuart Gordon and writer Ed Naha

  • Archive audio commentary with cast members Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine, and Ian Patrick Williams

  • Assembling Dolls, a new interview with Lee Percy, editor of Dolls, Re-Animator and From Beyond

  • Toys of Terror: The Making of Dolls, an archive featurette with Gordon, Yuzna, Purdy-Gordon, Williams, Charles Band and Gabe Bartalos

  • Film-to-storyboard comparison

  • Theatrical trailers


  • Additional picture restoration by Arrow Films

  • Original lossless stereo audio

  • New audio commentary by special make-up effects artist Michael Deak who inhabited the Cellar Dweller creature suit, moderated by film critics Matty Budrewicz and Dave Wain

  • Grabbed by the Ghoulies, a new appreciation of John Carl Buechler, special make-up effects artist of many Empire Pictures films and director of Cellar Dweller, by film critics Matty Budrewicz and Dave Wain

  • Inside the Cellar, a new interview with special make-up effects artist Michael Deak

  • Original sales sheet

  • Original production notes

  • VHS trailer

  • Empire Pictures trailer reel

  • Image galleries, including behind the scenes photos courtesy of special make-up effects artist Michael Deak


  • Original lossless stereo audio

  • New audio commentary with director Peter Manoogian, moderated by film critics Matty Budrewicz and Dave Wain

  • Alternative fullframe presentation

  • Not His Arena, a new interview with co-screenwriter Danny Bilson

  • Empire of Creatures, a new interview with special make-up effects artist Michael Deak

  • Theatrical trailer


  • Original lossless stereo audio

  • Archive audio commentary with director Stuart Gordon

  • Archive audio commentary with associate effects director Paul Gentry, mechanical effects artist Mark Rappaport, and stop-motion animator Paul Jessell

  • Her Name Is Athena on-camera interview with Anne-Marie Johnson

  • Scale Of The Battle: David Allen & The FX of Robot Jox appreciation featurette by the people who worked with him and knew him.

  • Looking Back with co-star Paul Koslo

  • Salvaged From The Wreckage: archival behind the scenes footage from the private collection of Associate Effects Producer Paul Gentry

  • and Crash and Burn, a new interview with actor Gary Graham.

The House That Screamed (1969) is an interesting Spanish made horror / thriller in a similar vein to a later Hammer or Amicus type production and was an influence on Dario Argento's classic Suspiria. The film, which sees a new release on disc from Blu-ray from Arrow films, has a great first act, but gets a little predictable and silly towards the end. Interesting in how Suspiria took this core concept and took a more artistic and even more sinister approach.

The film centers on a strict boarding school for women is run by a twisted headmistress who doesn't mind punishing students mentally and physically if they don't follow her strict reign. The teacher secretly has a lonely son who has a similarity to a younger version of Norman Bates and who longs for a perfect woman like this dear old mom. Within the school are dramatic teenagers, power struggles, repressed sexual desires, and murder. Five girls go missing without explanation and it soon becomes clear that a madman is on the loose. But who?

The film stars Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbo, John Moulder-Brown, Cándida Losada, and Mary Maude.

The House That Screamed is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with some faded colors and audio mixes in English / Spanish LPCM Mono (48kHz, 24-bit) mixes. The film restoration and transfer on both versions of the film (theatrical and extended) are of the normal standard of high quality for Arrow 1080p discs.

Special Features:

Two versions of the film...

Theatrical version (in HD; 94 mins)

Extended version (in HD with Standard Definition inserts; 104 mins)

Interview with actor John Moulder-Brown

Film Festival Q & A with actress Mary Maude

Theatrical Trailer/TV Spot

Radio Spots

and a Stills Gallery.

The House That Screamed is an interesting film and clearly influenced several other films in the genre down the road. This new release from Arrow Films is solid with nice presentations on both cuts of the film and plenty of extras.

David A. Prior's Kill Zone (1985) lands on disc courtesy of MVD Rewind with a new 4K restoration on the Blu-ray format in 1080p high definition. While it's certainly not Platoon or Apocalypse Now, the lower budgeted Kill Zone is pretty standard for a Vietnam war picture, and while it doesn't have any huge Hollywood stars in it, they did what they could with what they had to work with. This is definitely a film that you would find on the shelf at a video store in the 1980s and has a very '80s vibe.

The film stars Fritz Matthews, Ted Prior, David Campbell, Sharon Young, Rick Massery, and William Zip.

Kill Zone is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and English LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit). This is no doubt the best that his film has ever looked or sounded on any format and so if you are a fan then you will want to pick this one up.

Special Features:

Audio (plus optional Video Commentary) with producer and co-writer Jack Marino moderated by Cereal At Midnight host Heath Holland

The Making of Kill Zone featuring an interview with co-writer and producer Jack Marino moderated by filmmaker and project producer Steve Latshaw

Kill Zone: Vestron Video VHS Version (SD, 1.33:1)

Photo Gallery

Original Theatrical Trailer (restored in HD)

2-Sided Artwork

Collectible Mini Poster

and a Limited Edition Slipcover (First Pressing Only)

Kill Zone is a pretty standard '80s war movie and nothing to write home about.

And that brings us to Witchtrap (1989) as it gets a new Blu-ray release from MVD Rewind with an HD scan from the inter-positive restored in 2K. The memorable low budget horror film has a few cool practical gore effects (especially Linnea Quigley getting murdered with a shower head), but some of the acting and dialogue isn't the great and so you have to keep that in mind. The film follows a group of Parapsychologists who awaken an evil witchy uncle who lives inside a haunted inn and puts the lives of everyone involved in danger. Who are you gonna call? Obviously not this group!

The film stars James W. Quinn, Linnea Quigley, Kathleen Bailey, Judy Tatum, and Rob Zapple. The film is directed by Kevin S. Tierney who directed the original Night of the Demons and other cult hits in the VHS era.

Witchtrap is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and an English LPCM 2.0 Mono mix. The aforementioned scan from the interpositive in 2K looks great and was likely done by Vinegar Syndrome, however this reviewer doesn't have that version of the disc to compare. The film was shot fine for a low budget production and looks fine here.

Special Features include:

Magnum Entertainment R-Rated VHS Version

Group commentary track with: Director Kevin Tenney, Producer Dan Duncan, Cinematographer Tom Jewett and Actor Hal Havins

Interview with Director Kevin Tenney

Interview with actress Linnea Quigley

Interview with Cinematographer Tom Jewett

Interview with Special Effects Supervisor Tassilo Baur

Photo Gallery

Original Trailer

Reversible cover artwork

Collectible Mini Poster

and a Limited Edition Slipcover (First Pressing Only).

Witchtrap isn't that amazing in retrospect, but not without some fun gore scenes, and a cameo by Linnea Quigley which makes it worth a spin. As it stated on the back cover of its original VHS edition, this is NOT a sequel to Witchboard!

- Nicholas Sheffo (Video Store) and James Lockhart



 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com