June 2017 has been a truly banner month for Eurohorror films on Blu-ray internationally. It is not often we get more than a few releases in one month, but between Scream Factory's epic Paul Naschy Collection, Arrow's releases of Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Madhouse, Shameless Screen Entertainment's All the Colours of the Dark, and Blue Underground's Death Line. There is certainly enough to keep the most dedicated of Eurohorror enthusiasts busy for quite some time. One final note, read to the bottom to learn how to win a copy of Scream Factory's Paul Naschy Collection in a contest sponsored by those excellent folks at Scream Factory!
The Paul Naschy Collection
Starring – Paul Naschy, Various
Country of Origin- Various
Writer - Scott MacDonald
The films of Paul Naschy have been underrepresented on Blu-ray since the format's inception. Early on BCI in their Spanish horror line released Night of the Werewolf and Vengeance of the Zombies in less than stellar editions (both released again here and in much greater quality). However, that has slowly been corrected recently with excellent releases by Germany's Subkultur Entertainment, Vinegar Syndrome, Kino Lorber, and last month's Inquisition release by Mondo Macabro. We are now treated to a shocking blast of 5 films from a variety of Naschy's genre work from Scream Factory, and it was certainly worth the wait.
The Paul Naschy Collection kicks off with Horror Rises from the Tomb, a film that begins in Medieval France and begins with the execution of a pair of witches. Before heading into modern times and a group of friends vacationing in the village where the executions happened. Of course, they end up finding the head of the deceased warlock, and end up accidentally bringing him back from the dead with devilish results. Horror Rises from the Tomb is a true Naschy classic that blends gothic horror elements with solid helpings of gore, nudity, and a truly creepy atmosphere that makes this one a truly special Eurohorror film that would make for excellent late night viewing.
The second film in the set is in the lesser Naschy category, Vengeance of the Zombies. The film sees Naschy plays twin Indian brothers one of whom brings dead women back to life in swinging 70's London to do his murderous bidding. The film has some cool trippy imagery, decent gore and nudity, but overall this one is too campy for its own good, and Naschy just looks so out of place playing an Indian lead.
Fortunately, the third disc in the set is another Naschy classic Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll (aka House of Psychotic Women). This film sees Naschy as a wanderer who is trying to avoid his criminal past, and ends up working as a handyman for 3 disabled women (2 are physically disabled, the third is a nymphomaniac). Soon after his arrival blonde haired, blue eyed women being to get murdered and due to his criminal past Naschy's Gilles character is considered the prime suspect. The film is clearly influenced by the giallo films of the early 1970's coming out of Italy, and does quite an effective job channeling the atmosphere of those films. Naschy offers a solid performance, and the film has some outstanding visuals, and quite an interesting plot.
The fourth film in this set again is a Naschy B-Side, Human Beasts blends action, sleaze, and horror to create a potent entertaining cocktail. The film sees Naschy playing a criminal named Bruno who finds himself on the run after double crossing his partners after a diamond heist. He ends up hiding out in a house with a family who are willing to provide him shelter, and their 2 daughters who are willing to provide quite a bit more than that. The film has some decent action and violence, and some strange and surreal moments. It's not a classic by any stretch, but it is certainly weird and fun.
The fifth film in the set is Night of the Werewolf. Night of the Werewolf, I believe is somewhere around the 12th time Naschy played his Waldemar Daninsky character, and oddly it is one of the finest entries in the series. It does borrow liberally from the earlier Werewolf Shadow. The film rewrites the Daninsky mythos a bit and sees him executed with Elizabeth Bathory before returning to life in modern times by having a dagger pulled from his check unleashing him on the world to wreak havoc yet again. The film plays like a Daninsky greatest hits show, blended with gothic horror trappings, but it works so wonderfully viewers are unlikely to care.
Horror Rises..., Human Beasts and Night of the Werewolf are presented in a 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfers. Vengeance of the Zombies and Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll are presented 1:33:1 1080p AVC encoded. Everything looks quite solid throughout the five films with everyone looking greater than their DVD counterpart. With that being said some obviously look better than others, and some are better moment to moment. For example the opening to Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll is soft with some minor damage, but the film picks up strongly throughout. However, Night of the Werewolf is quite strong with deep blacks and strong colors. Extras included commentary tracks by Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn on Horror Roses..., Night of the Werewolf, and Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll that are highly informative and add an extra layer to each of the 3 films. There are also alternate clothed sequences, deleted scenes, trailers, galleries, and more throughout the set.
The Films (4/5)
Bird with the Crystal Pluamge
Director– Dario Argento
Starring – Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall
Country of Origin- Italy
Writer - Scott MacDonald
Bird with the Crystal Plumage is the debut film by director Dario Argento. It is not the first film in the giallo genre, having been preceded by nearly a decade by Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace and The Girl Who Knew Too Much. That being said the film pretty much put the giallo into popular consciousness, and established Argento as the genre's most popular director (a title he has never lived down).
The film stars Tony Musante as a man who gets trapped between 2 glass panels at the entrance of an art gallery one night just as a murder is occurring. Forced to observe the crime, he is the prime witness, and when the police are unable to solve the crime, he begins to undertake his own investigation, which, of course, brings him to the attention of the killer. Bird with the Crystal Plumage is Argento is top tier Argento. Further, it shows that as a director he was able to debut with a vision that was almost entirely intact from the start. it was a deeply stylish and mature effect that blends great suspense and decent violence to create something that works to this day.
Arrow Video presents Bird with the Crystal Plumage in a 2:35:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer that looks absolutely brilliant. Grain is rendered naturally, blacks are deep, detail is excellent, and colors pop. There are 2 audio tracks mono in English and Italian both are quite solid and accurately depict the soundscapes of the film with the dialogue and Morricone score coming through strongly. Arrow has put together a strong package for this release of Bird... with an informative commentary by author Troy Howarth, a thirty minute featurette on the film, and its history by Diabolique's Kat Ellinger. We also get a visual essay, and some additional interviews, featurettes, and trailers.
The Film (5/5)
Director– Gary Sherman
Starring – Donald Pleasance, David Ladd
Country of Origin- U.K.
Writer - Scott MacDonald
At long last Death Line (aka Raw Meat for it's initial U.S. release) gets the release it deserves. Death Line is the debut film by U.S. director Gary Sherman who is vastly underrated in the genre, and would go on to direct the iconic Dead & Buried, Poltergeist 3, and Vice Squad. The film follows American student Alex Campbell (David Ladd) and his girlfriend Patricia (Sharon Gurney). The pair find a man unconscious on the steps of a tube station in London. Alex wants nothing to do with him convinced he is nothing more than a derelict, however Patricia makes him get the police. However, by the time they return he disappears, as it turns out, he was a man of some importance. This gets them involved in an investigation into a series of disappearances around that tube station that end up relating to a cave-in that dates back to 1892.
The film is one of the earlier entries in the domestic cannibal genre alongside The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the later Hills Have Eyes. The film co-stars Halloween's Donald Pleasance who puts on one of, if not his finest roles as a cranky police investigator assigned to resolve this case. Sherman manages to create a claustrophobic, dirty, and doomy atmosphere for the piece that manages to give it quite a unique feeling feeling tonally. The characters in the film have a certain balance between bizarre cameos from Christopher Lee (who is giving co-starring credit), and a strong realist approach.
Blue Underground presents Death Line in a splendid 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the OAR. Everything looks fantastic here, blacks are deep, grain is organic, and detail is excellent. Audio is presented in English DTS-HD mono and comes across solidly with dialogue and score coming through strongly. There is a strong extras package here with a commentary track with director Sherman, producer Paul Maslansky, and AD Lewis More O'Ferrall. There are multiple interview packages with cast and crew, trailers, TV spots, radio spots, galleries, and a booklet of liners notes.
The Film (4/5)
Director– Ovidio Assonitis
Starring – Trish Everly, Michael McRae
Country of Origin- U.S./Italy
Writer - Scott MacDonald
Julia is a 24 year old teacher at a school for the deaf that is a few days short of her 25th birthday that she is reluctant to celebrate. One day she is informed by her Uncle that her estranged sister who suffers from a disfiguring ailment is not doing well and requires a visit to the hospital where she is staying. She is reluctant to visit as her sister tormented her to great extremes during their collective childhood. The visit is expectedly awkward to the point where Mary, her sister swears to make Julia suffer as she suffers.
I am conflicted about Madhouse. I can honestly say that it is a well made and effective film. It is also tonally very depressing, I did not expect this going in, and it hit me quite hard. The vibe with the family from their collective history brings some inherent pain to it, of course, but there is an overall atmosphere of sadness to it. This is carried into the way Assonitis shoots the film, down to the film’s score by Riz Ortolani, and even some of the more minor performances thoughout. The film is also moderately paced, so anyone expecting a thrill a minute slasher is probably going to be disappointed.
Arrow Video doing what they do best presents Madhouse in an excellent 2:35:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the OAR of the film. Everything looks quite natural, and well detailed, Audio is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 both tracks are effective with dialogue and score coming through nicely though the stereo track might be the way to go with this one. Extras included a Hysteria Continues commentary track, interviews with the director and cinematographer, alternate opening titles, and a theatrical trailer.
The Film (3/5)
All The Colours of the Dark
Director– Sergio Martino
Starring – Edwige Fenech, George Hilton
Country of Origin- Italy
Writer - Scott MacDonald
I just have to cut to the chase, and say how extremely happy I am that Shameless Screen Entertainment have jumped into the Blu-ray game at long last, and with such quality and swiftness. As if to make up for lost time they have started to make quick work of the films of Michele Soavi, and now are working through the oeuvre of Sergio Martino beginning with his much needed on Blu giallo All the Colours of the Dark.
All the Colours of the Dark stars giallo goddess Edwige Fenech as Jane. A woman who recently had a miscarriage, and is now having surrealistic dark visions in her dreams that are carrying over into her real life. Her boyfriend, who is also a doctor prescribes stuff to her that seems to intensify these visions. Adding to her suffering is the killer from her nightmares that begins appearing to her in real life. In order to help her out, her neighbor Mary, takes her to join a Satanic cult (which I guess helps reduce anxiety?), but that only brings her deeper into her own personal darkness.
All the Colours of the Dark blends giallo with the supernatural and surreal to create something wonderfully vivid and bizarre. It is clearly influenced by Rosemary's Baby, but goes off in it's own direction where rationality is thrown out the window, and even after the film is over the reality of the film is definitely in question. Martino creates a solid vision for the film blending stark reality based sequence with wonderful moments of surrealism. Performances are great across the board with Fenech and Hilton doing solid work as per usual.
Shameless presents All the Colours of the Dark in a solid 2:35:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer that's not perfect, but is certainly a solid improvement over what came before. The film has decent blacks that occasionally veer toward gray, the film has some moments of strong detail, color, and organic natural grain, but others were softness is more notable. There are 2 LPCM audio options both are solid options and convey the sound of the film quite well. Extras include an interesting interview with director Martino, an informative and engaging commentary track with Diabolique's Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan, and a short film called Doors by Michele De Angelis.
Paul Naschy Collection Giveaway
This is simple
If you want to win the Scream Paul Naschy Collection email Scott@eurocultav.com with your name, address, and your FAVORITE Paul Naschy film. Contest ends 6/25/17.