The Films (3/5, 4/5)
Last year around this time Redemption Films issued a wonderful 4 film collection of Pete Walker films. It contained one of his most famous and best films the House of Whipcord, alongside The Comeback, Die Screaming Marianne, and Schizo. It has been a bit of a wait, but Redemption has come back to issue 2 more of Pete Walker's films on Blu-ray. The Flesh and Blood show, and what could arguably be considered Walker's masterpiece Frightmare.
The Flesh and Blood Show is one of Walker's earliest horror efforts. It's a film that effectively shows off the developing Pete Walker style. If you've not seen a Walker horror film, Walker tends to create horror that feels both claustrophobic and authoritatively overwhelming. Now, I won't say the Flesh and Blood Show is the best example of the Walker style. It more or less acts like a prototype version for his later works. Almost like Evil Dead to Evil Dead II.
The film directly follows from Walker's gimmicky sexploitation film the Fourth Dimensions of Greta, as that film employed 3-D, Walker was keen to follow up on the 3D element by bringing it into this film. The entire film is not 3-D rather there is a 10 minute section in the films denouement that employs black and white anaglyph 3-D. It does feel quite gimmicky in the film as a whole, however, the Flesh and Blood Show Blu-ray incorporates this sequence as an extra feature in 2 versions one for modern 3-D screens, and one for those without. The sequence is presented 2-D in the context of the main feature.
The Flesh and Blood Show involves a series of actors and crew hired to perform at a theater on the British coast. Soon after arrival they begin to get bumped off one by one. The film is rather slowly paced, and offers more flesh than blood, but the film itself offers some simple horror charms that makes it sort of irresistible regardless of it's shortcomings.
The other film released this month is Peter Walker's cannibalistic seniors epic Frightmare! OK, I'll go on record saying this is probably my favorite Walker film, and I've seen damn near all of them. The film has an intense claustrophobic, and completely bizarre atmosphere that feels like a mix of family drama, and splattery freaking horror. It is a fantastic example of the kind of atmosphere Pete Walker could create when at the top of his game.
The film stars Sheila Keith and Rupert Davies in the roles of Dorothy and Edmund, a married couple with children. As the film begins to pair are captured, arrested, and committed to a mental institution for collectively committing acts of murder and cannibalism. They are not to be released until they are absolutely cured of their murderous and dietary tendencies. Their children Jackie and Debbie are sent off to an orphanage and separated. The film picks up over a decade later, Dorothy and Edmund are seen fit to rejoin society, and move into a charming farmhouse in the English countryside. Jackie begins to visit them both as a loving child, and an observer to make sure her parents do not slip back into their cannibalistic ways. She tries to help them, by feeding her Mother cows brains she purchases from a butcher, in the guise that they are real human brains. Unfortunately for Jackie, not only is her Mother unable to control her murderous impulses, but her little sister Debbie might be joining them in their murderous past time. It is up to Jackie and her psychiatrist boyfriend Graham to put an end to their cannibalistic reign of terror, or die trying.
First things first, Frightmare is essentially the Keith and Davies show. These 2 absolutely own every frame of film they are in either together or separately. Keith helps to imbibe the Dorothy character with a true sense of creepy, domineering, and bizarre, and creates a role that is truly iconic in the realm of 70's horror. Davies takes Edmunds and creates an almost (but not quite) sympathetic portrayal of a man obsessed with his love, and will do anything to keep her happy. The other cast work well together, but Davies and Edmunds help to make this movie what it is, and help to elevate it from a more straightforward stereotypical horror affair. Obviously, this is enhanced by the direction of Walker and cinematography by Peter Jessop, who come together to create a film that is Pete Walker at his most intense.
Audio/Video (3.5/5, 4.5/5)
The Flesh and Blood Show is presented in a very natural 1:78:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. This transfer was apparently taken from the original camera negative, and keeping in line with Kino and Redemption's transfer is presented essentially as-is with no obvious restoration work done. Some might find this approach controversial, but I personally like it, as it ensures the films they release look like film, and not video. The Flesh and Blood Show looks quite good here with improved color, black levels, and detail over the DVD editions. Also, there is a good amount of natural film grain present on the transfer. There is a bit of scratching, dirt, and some random specks on this one, but overall the Flesh and Blood Show is quite pleasing to my eye.
Frighmare, however, must have been in much better shape, and looks absolutely fantastic. There are a few bits of print damage throughout the film, but they aren't overwhelming at all. Outside, of that colors look bright and magnificent offering a more colorful and warmer experience than I've had with the film before. The black levels are quite deep, and detail is vastly improved from prior versions of the film. Frightmare has never looked so good on home video, and this edition may not be bested any time in the future.
Flesh and Blood Show and Frightmare are presented with LPCM 2.0 Mono tracks in English. Unfortunately for viewers like myself subtitles are not included, however both tracks are more than decent and get the job done. The dialogue is completely audible for the most part throughout both features, although I did hear a few muddled sections in Flesh and Blood Show. The music and sound effects are mixed well, and I did not detect any issues with the audio.
Extras (3.5/5, 4/5)
As mentioned earlier The Flesh and Blood Show Blu-ray includes the 3-D sequence from the film as an extra feature. They include it twice once restored for modern 3-D TV's, and an anaglyph version for non 3-D models. There is also an interview with Pete Walker in regards to this film, and trailers for other Walker features.
Frightmare has a slightly more robust extras package which includes the Pete Walker commentary ported over from the prior DVD editions. We get another film exclusive interview with Pete Walker, and then we get a profile of actress Sheila Keith that runs roughly 15 minutes, and features interviews with Walker and a host of other people who worked with the actress. There are also trailers for other films in Redemption's Walker series.
Redemption Films brings 2 more Pete Walker classics into the HD era with excellent results. The Blu-ray's looks great, and the extras are a nice addition to the overall package. It's also awesome to finally see the 3-D sequence from Flesh and Blood as intended although separate from the feature. I do think Flesh and Blood Show is more of a lesser Walker effort so that title is RECOMMENDED. Frightmare, however, is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.