The Video Store: Empire Of Screams
(1989)/Blu-ray Box Set*)/House That Screamed (1969/*all
Arrow)/Kill Zone (1985)/Witchtrap (1989/all MVD
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
for a variety of new, creepy genre thrillers....
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.
(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.
a curio thanks to the brilliant TV hit Stranger
and the surprise box office and critical success of the latest
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.
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
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
(1987) is the one film we reviewed before, in this import edition you
can read more about at this link...
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.
Carl Buechler's Cellar
(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.
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
(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
(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.
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
(1980)) and Roddy Piper (Carpenter's They
(1988)) and with a touch of Reb Brown (the Captain America telefilms,
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.
we get Stuart Gordon's Robot
(1989) which was ahead of the Pacific
films and Verhoeven's Starship
(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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
arrived a few years later, the stop-motion era in major feature films
came to an end.
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,
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
comes from its original camera negative and Cellar
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.
are many and (per the press
release in part) include...
ONE: THE DUNGEONMASTER
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
audio commentary with cast members Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen
Lee, Carrie Lorraine, and Ian Patrick Williams
of Terror: The Making of Dolls,
an archive featurette with Gordon, Yuzna, Purdy-Gordon, Williams,
Charles Band and Gabe Bartalos
THREE: CELLAR DWELLER
by the Ghoulies,
a new appreciation of John Carl Buechler, special make-up effects
artist of many Empire Pictures films and director of Cellar
by film critics Matty Budrewicz and Dave Wain
FIVE: ROBOT JOX
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.
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.
film stars Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbo, John Moulder-Brown, Cándida
Losada, and Mary Maude.
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.
versions of the film...
version (in HD; 94 mins)
version (in HD with Standard Definition inserts; 104 mins)
with actor John Moulder-Brown
Festival Q & A with actress Mary Maude
a Stills Gallery.
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.
A. Prior's Kill
(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
the lower budgeted Kill
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
film stars Fritz Matthews, Ted Prior, David Campbell, Sharon Young,
Rick Massery, and William Zip.
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.
(plus optional Video Commentary) with producer and co-writer Jack
Marino moderated by Cereal
host Heath Holland
Making of Kill Zone
featuring an interview with co-writer and producer Jack Marino
moderated by filmmaker and project producer Steve Latshaw
Zone: Vestron Video VHS Version (SD, 1.33:1)
Theatrical Trailer (restored in HD)
a Limited Edition Slipcover (First
is a pretty standard '80s war movie and nothing to write home about.
that brings us to Witchtrap
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
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.
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.
Entertainment R-Rated VHS Version
commentary track with: Director Kevin Tenney, Producer Dan Duncan,
Cinematographer Tom Jewett and Actor Hal Havins
with Director Kevin Tenney
with actress Linnea Quigley
with Cinematographer Tom Jewett
with Special Effects Supervisor Tassilo Baur
a Limited Edition Slipcover (First
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