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Archive for May, 2011

The Dorm That Dripped Blood: Blu-Ray/DVD review

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Directed by Jeffrey Obrow and Steve Carpenter
Aka Pranks, Death Dorm. 1.66:1 enhanced anamorphic

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

This is a student film in every sense of the word. It is a film about students made by students mostly for students to see. In the early eighties, several inspired, or desperate, UCLA film students decided to deliver a slasher film as their thesis project. More than an A, they wanted to see this baby on the silver screen and to launch their careers in the business. Rather than try to show how much better they were than everyone else, they wisely elected to show that they were very much just like everyone else. In the early eighties slasher films were so common that seemingly every studio had one at the ready, the newspapers were full of slasher ad mats and kids were lined up around the block for each and every one. All directors Obrow and Carpenter wanted to do was join in and show they too could make one of those films. Very practical. Their beg, borrow and steal approach to filmmaking is endearing. This was shot on the UCLA Campus over a break. The equipment is film school stuff. The set is that very school at its deserted and bleakest looking best. I suspect almost everything you see was local and somehow shanghaied into the production. It has that feel to it.

This baby is stripped now to the wire. There are your four victims with three red herrings hanging around. Anyone else that comes in is in and out inside of the bare minimum of scenes. Someone obviously did their homework about how to maximize your time on a film shoot and get the most out of your cast in the shortest amount of time. That production manager’s skill is very much in evidence here. They get the most out of whatever is handy. All the creepy elements of being stuck in a deserted dorm are exploited. The stacked tiers of the rooms themselves are shot from outside and look like a mass of jutting angles. The creepy concrete stairways feel cold and lonely. The best is that huge industrial kitchen. At one point when two cast members are moving silently through certain the killer is nearby, every single machine is flipped on. The meat slicers, the mixings bowls, the dishwashers, and the machines that heat up vats of soup. It makes for a jarring effect and all they had to do was turn out the lights and switch everything else one.

Plotwise we’ve got for colleges students who volunteer to get one of the dorms ready for sale over a vacation break. Laurie Lapinski stars as the requisite plucky resourceful girl who is in charge. The haircuts should get their own screen credits. The acting is no great shakes but it works fine. We get to see Daphne Zuniga in an early role as a guest victim. This is where most of the effort was spent. There are many murder /gore set pieces. A guy gets clubbed to death in a stairwell with a spiked baseball bat. A girl’s parents get offed while waiting for her in the car and said car is used to run her over when she gets back – twice. The high point has to be the drill to the head bit. Some poor guy is caught unaware in the bathroom, his head plunged into the sink and our crew works every angle and gimmick they can with this one. It ain’t Tom Savini caliber but they have a good time with it and you will too. This is one of the sequences that had a few frames rescued by the Synapse team. Dorm is a fun ride and I found it very easy to root for the student crew as they hit the high points in the slasher genre.

The best part about this, for me, was the music. The score. After so many synthesizer driven soundtracks it was downright refreshing to hear a full-blooded orchestral track, and from a low budgeter yet. Composer Chris Young is pulling out Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith styled passages. But what is most endearing are the stingers. He’s got stuff that seems like it was inspired by those Irwin Allen and William Castle films. He sets them up well and you can feel his glee in making you jump. This is guy is talented but not above throwing in the proverbial kitchen sink when its called for. Jokes aside, he crafts some very nice passages and blends. His creative use of a xylophone adds an unusual coloring to the track. Mr. Young’s instruments blend nicely to achieve exactly what the directors must have called for. Well done and no wonder this guy has gone on to work steadily in the business from the mid eighties to this very day.

Video – The Blu-Ray is not a remarkable step up from the companion standard DVD though with a film shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm, there is plenty of grain to wallow around in. There is no doubt that this is film stock and the lack of professional lighting is responsible for the darkness and misbehaving shadows that abound. Synapse’s release is likely the best Dorm has ever looked.

Audio – The 2.0 mono track is very front heavy as expected. The digital clean up doesn’t do much for the dialogue, though at no point is there any trouble hearing anyone. What does benefit from the effort is the foley effects and the music track.

Extras – Commentary with the directors, isolated music track, and interviews with the make-up crew and one with the composer Christopher Young. “My First Score is a nice one and Young has great recall for fashioning the track for the student film. He knows the business, is fun to listen to and has a great ear for the job. He went to work on lots of films like Hellraiser, The Fly II, Species, Exorcism of Emily Rose, Spiderman III and two favorites of mine – Rounders and The Wonder Boys. He was born in Redbank. New Jersey represents!

Disc **1/2 out of *****
Movie *** out of *****

–
Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

The Cat O’Nine Tails: Blu Ray Review

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

The Cat O’Nine Tails (1970)

by Troy Howarth

Written and Directed by Dario Argento; Starring Karl Malden, James Franciscus, Catherine Spaak, Pier Paolo Capponi, Cinzia de Carolis, Horst Frank, Rada Rassimov, Werner Pochath, Aldo Reggiani, Tino Carraro, Umberto Raho, Fulvio Mingozzi

A blind man (Karl Malden) teams up with a reporter (James Franciscus) to help unravel a string of murders linked to a genetics research institute…

Dario Argento’s second feature didn’t generate quite the same success and critical acclaim as his 1969 debut, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, and its reputation in the Argento canon hasn’t exactly soared in recent years.  Some of the cold attitude can no doubt be traced to Argento himself, who has publicly referred to it as his least favorite of the films he has directed (though undoubtedly it has since been dethroned by 2009′s Giallo).  While it is true that Argento fought an uphill battle with the German co-financiers of his sophomore effort, the end result is by no means unrewarding.

On the downside, the film suffers from overlength and a scenario that hinges on a central idea that really isn’t all that interesting.  Argento peppers the narrative with quirky character vignettes and sidebars that are far more compelling than the central ‘industrial espionage’ plot thread – this is telling in itself.  Argento has often remarked that the German co-producers wanted a ‘jetset version of Bird With the Crystal Plumage,’ and he was so hellbent on not repeating himself that he allowed the story to get away from him.  There’s little doubt that the film lacks the focus and narrative momentum of Bird, which remains one of his most tightly (and coherently) plotted, pictures.  Argento also seems so fond of the various subplots that he allows the picture to drag on for much too long – it clocks in at a flabby 112 minutes, as opposed to the lean 90+ minute running time of Bird.  As a giallo, it’s also not particularly successful – the central plot thread feels awfully generic, and the various red herrings are dealt out so wrecklessly that it’s impossible to get a really good fix on ‘who-done-it?’.

All of that should not suggest that the film is a failure, however.  On the contrary, if one can deal with its deficiencies, it still offers a lot of the classic Argento magic.  The film is carried by a charismatic pair of leading men: James Franciscus (Beneath the Planet of the Apes) and Oscar-winner Karl Malden (Patton).  Franciscus brings ample charm and credibility to what could have been a stock character.  He makes his nosy journalist into a likable, believably vulnerable human being.  Malden is superb as the blind ex-reporter who makes crossword puzzles in his spare time.  Like so many Argento protagonists, they are drawn into the mystery by a morbid form of obsession – what starts off as a lark becomes very serious indeed as they both come under attack by the killer.  Malden and Franciscus compare favorably to Tony Musante’s ‘American abroad’ in Bird, and they remain among the most engaging and sympathetic of Argento’s fractured protagonists.  The supporting cast is more hit and miss, with Catherine Spaak proving woefully inadequate as the femme fatale who may or may not hold the key to the mystery.  Her relationship with Franciscus feels like a tacked on concession for the box office, and it never really goes anywhere; they also share a love scene that may or may not have been meant to feel as cold and awkward as it does in the context of the film.  Pier Paolo Capponi (The Boss) does what he can with his stock police inspector role, while Horst Frank (The Head), Werner Pochath (Iguana With the Tongue of Fire) and Umberto Raho (Baron Blood) add color to their respective character roles.

Argento’s flair and craftsmanship are also very much on display.  The film may not be so colorfully over the top as his later hits, but it shows him continuing to refine his craft.  He makes bold use of split diopter to create some striking deep focus images, and continues to experiment with flashy editing as a means of breaking things up and making them more interesting.  The director also begins to fully explore the possibilities of subjective camerawork, which he would mold into an artform by the time of Deep Red (1975) and Tenebre (1982).  The widescreen cinematography by Erico Menczer (Machine Gun McCain) is slick and atmospheric, while Ennio Morricone contributes yet another terrific, jangly soundtrack.  The film also displays Argento’s propensity for shocking violence – it may not be nearly so ‘wet’ as his later pictures, but Cat contains some moments that remain positively wince-inducing, notably a ‘rope burn’ number that has to be seen in order to be believed.

Cat may not rank in the absolute top tier of Argento’s filmography, but it is hardly the poor relation some have dismissed it as being.  Thanks to the director’s stylish sensibility and a couple of terrific central performances, it transcends the weaknesses of its script and remains a well crafted, enjoyable entry in the giallo canon.

Video:

The Cat O’Nine Tails had an unfortunate history in the US prior to its widescreen debut courtesy of Anchor Bay.  The film was given a scant theatrical release in 1971 and emerged for years only in badly beat up, panned and scanned TV copies – invariably with many of its gory highlights trimmed or removed altogether.  The Anchor Bay DVD was something of a revelation in its time, but like so many (comparatively) early DVD releases, it was badly in need of a fresh upgrade.  Happily, Blue Underground saw fit to provide the fans with just that.  Their new blu ray release is bound to remain the definitive edition.  The 2.35/16×9/1080p transfer looks absolutely gorgeous.  Colors are rich and vibrant, print quality is superb, and the increased level of detail is plain to see.  There are no mastering defects to report, making this one of the most satisfying presentations of an Argento film on BD to date.

Audio:

Audio options include the English, Italian and French tracks.  The English track has been given a 2.0 DTS-HD option, along with the original mono track.  The 2.0 remix is perfectly satisfactory, but audio purists will want to stick with the mono track.  Morricone’s score has a lot of oomph in either incarnation, and dialogue is clear and easy to hear throughout.  English SDH subtitles are also included, which will come in handy if you opt to view the film in French or Italian.  The English dub, for what it’s worth, is done with a great deal of care – and Malden and Franciscus both provide their own vocal performances.

Extras:

Blue Underground haven’t assembled anything new on the extras front, but they have ported over all the bonus materials included in the Anchor Bay DVD release.  “Tales of the Cat,” a 11 minute featurette, includes interviews with Argento, Morricone and Dardano Sacchetti, who co-wrote the story.  Argento still speaks somewhat disdainfully about the film but shows appreciation for his actors, Sacchetti admits to some bad blood due to Argento’s tendency to want to hog screen credit, and Morricone explains his approach to scoring suspense pictures.  It’s a good featurette, but one is left wanting a bit more.  Fortunately vintage radio interviews with Franciscus and Malden fill the void – allowing both actors (now deceased) to speak about their involvement in the picture.  It’s typical PR stuff, to an extent, but Malden really does sound enthusiastic about the project and its young director.  Theatrical trailers, TV spots, and radio spots round out the package.

Film: ***1/2 out of *****

BD: ****1/2 out of *****

The Image: Blu Ray Review

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

The Image (1975)

by Troy Howarth

Directed by Radley Metzger; Screenplay by Radley Metzger; Starring Mary Mendum, Marilyn Roberts, Carl Parker, Valerie Marron

Jean (Carl Parker) is bored with his usual conquests, so when he discovers that his friend Claire (Marilyn Roberts) has a submissive sex slave named Anne (Mary Mendum) at her disposal, he is eager to explore the erotic possibilities…

The Image is arguably writer/director Radley Metzger’s best known work.  Faithfully adapted from a novel by a pseudonymous Catherine Robbe-Grillet, it explores the dark sexual fantasies of a group of emotionally detached jetsetters.  The film offers all the usual Metzger attributes – beautiful women, sumptuous photography, elegant locations – and it ups the sexual ante by focusing on the kinkiest of the kinky.  While Metzger’s breakthrough hits like Camille 2000 (1969) and The Lickerish Quartet (197o) were strictly softcore, he had begun to explore the possibilities of graphic hardcore sex with his cult hit Score (1974).  Score’s inclusion of graphic, unsimulated homosexual sex acts made it a hard sell at the time, but that did not deter its director from continuing to explore ‘taboo’ subject matter in his subsequent work.  The Image’s exploration of S&M and dominant/submissive sexual politics are all the more enticing because Metzger adopts a clinical attitude to the action on display; this is not a moralistic fable with a preachy subtext, it simply records and examines what it is that makes its characters tick.

True to the book, Metzger sets the action in Paris – the location filming helps to give the film an appropriately elegant sheen, and Metzger again shows himself to be particularly sensitive to location, picking out some wonderfully lush locales to add even further to the film’s production value.  On the downside, the film suffers from narration which borders on purple prose, and a leading man who simply isn’t charismatic enough to be believed.  Carl Parker had acquitted himself admirably as the horny repairman in Score, and it was no doubt because of this that Metzger elected to entrust him with this pivotal part.  Alas, Parker is as convincingly French as Robert DeNiro, and he lacks DeNiro’s formidable screen presence and nuance to boot.  Parker isn’t awful in the part, but he’s a constant distraction.

On the upside, both Mary Mendum (aka, Rebecca Brooke) and Marilyn Roberts are in fine form as Anne and Claire.  Mendum is to be commended for throwing herself into such a complicated role – she is required to spend much of the running time being sexually humiliated, all the while implying that it is precisely this sense of humiliation that helps to get her off.  Mendum is strikingly beautiful, adding immensely to the film’s erotic appeal, and she also brings a sense of wistful naivete coupled with a sense of knowing to the character.  Roberts is also very effective as the bitchy Claire, who spends so much of the time acting as if she is in charge – though the ending of the film leaves this very much in doubt.

Metzger starts the film off on a playful, teasing tone – only to gradually up the ante as the story unfolds.  The sex is erotic, but it pushes the envelope in a way that will inevitably make viewers uncomfortable.  By the time the film reaches its climax (literally and figuratively), the S&M angle explodes out of control, creating a literal sense of a sexual chamber of horrors.  Metzger keeps things moving throughout, with each section presented as its own individual chapter – he never allows the action to become unduly padded, and the film benefits tremendously from his surefooted sense of narrative and structure.

Metzger also doesn’t pull many punches in terms of what he elects to show.  While there are no ‘money shots,’ there’s graphic oral sex and some graphic depictions of kinky fetish action.  The end result doesn’t really qualify as hardcore porn, but it is arguably a far more valid and psychologically complex work than the average ‘roughie.’  The Image is also just an enthralling piece of cinema – beautiful to look at and strangely exhilarating to experience.  It is certainly one of Metzger’s finest films, and proof positive that, with Tinto Brass, he is arguably the most gifted of erotic filmmakers.

Video:

The Image hits blu ray courtesy of Synapse.  Synapse had previously issued this title on DVD in a transfer that looked superb for its time.  The blu ray offers an even more improved, up to date to date transfer.  The 1.85/16×9/1080p image couldn’t realistically look any better for a film of this vintage and budget.  Colors literally pop, detail is strong, and the print is in excellent condition.  There is a defect carried over from the DVD edition, which Synapse makes note of in the accompanying liner notes – in chapter 4 there s a brief instnce of blurring in the image, and as they note, this is a not a transfer flaw – it is a defect present in the original negative, caused by a camera defect.  In short, barring a pristine 35mm screening, you’ll simply never see The Image looking so good in any other context.

Audio:

The original mono soundtrack is crisp and clear, and Synapse have also prepared a new 5.1 remix.  Purists will want to stick with the mono track, but the remix is very well done.  Dialogue is easy to hear on both tracks, and the score (a patch job assembled from library tracks) is in very good shape indeed.  Removable English subtitles are also included for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Extras:
Alas, Metzger remains tight lipped on the subject of this film, so Synpase was unable to get him to sit down and do a commentary track or on camera interview.  Extras are therefore sparse, but the little that’s here is much appreciated.  Liner notes by Nathaniel Thompson make some excellent insights into the picture, and there’s also a director filmography and isolated music and effects track.

Film: ****1/2 out of *****

BD: ***** out of *****

The Beyond: Blu Ray Review (FINAL UPDATE)

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

The Beyond (1981)

by Troy Howarth

Directed by Lucio Fulci; Written by Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mairuzzo, Lucio Fulci; Cast: Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Veronica Lazar, Michele Mirabella, Antoine Saint John, Al Cliver

Liza (MacColl) gets more than she bargained for when the hotel she inherits in Louisiana turns out to be positioned over one of the even gateways to Hell…

A minor success upon its release in 1981, The Beyond has since become a major cult classic.  Often pointed to as writer/director Lucio Fulci’s ultimate exercise in nightmarish grand guignol, it has also been referred to as ‘the greatest zombie film you haven’t seen.’  The latter is unfair and slightly misleading, as it’s not so much a conventional zombie film -especially when compared to the director’s earlier Zombie (1979) and City of the Living Dead (1980) – and in truth, the zombie action on display was only included in order to appease the German co-financers.  Given that the film has been played up so much in recent years, it can also no longer be referred to as a neglected gem or a forgotten masterpiece.  Indeed, heresey though it may be, there’s good reason to argue that The Beyond is far from the pinnacle of Fulci’s career.

To put things into context, Fulci moved from one popular genre from the other, finding a definite niche in the giallo during the late 1960s throughout the 1970s; this also transformed into the perceived rival of Dario Argento, Italy’s reigning King of Horror.  Alas, a couple of flops and some controversy over the socio-political commentary in such works as Don’t Torture a Duckling and The Eroticist (both 1972) put Fulci’s career in jeopardy; he even claimed to have been blacklisted for a time, though a look at his filmography reveals that he was seldom out of work.  Even so, he came to Zombie after the project’s original director, Enzo G. Castellari, opted to bail out; its success reignited Fulci’s career, and it helped to typecast him as a horror director.  Critics loathed his loose plotting and over the top violence, but these same qualities would endear him to thrill-hungry horror buffs, who dubbed him The Godfather of Gore.  Fulci would finish his career struggling to finish pitifully underfinanced Z-grade schlock, all the while battling severe diabetes which drained his finances and energy, but his best work remains popular among cult film buffs.  That The Beyond is embraced as his masterpiece vexed Fulci somewhat – it was surely a project he approached with enthusiasm, but it simply did not contain the same passionate intensity evident in the films he professed a deeper affection for, including the period drama Beatrice Cenci (1969) and the remarkable giallo, Don’t Torture a Duckling.  In essence, the film built upon the fevered intensity evident in City of the Living Dead – but in trying to create a true nightmare on celluloid, the director opted to strip the narrative to the bare bones – and this doesn’t always work to the film’s advantage.  The end result is a veritable showcase of the best and worst in Fulci’s cinema - frequently stunning visuals and shocking setpieces on the one side, and a propensity for basic narrative and even technical sloppiness on the other.  The much trumpeted FX work by Giannetto DeRosi runs the gamut from the remarkable (notably the opening lynch scene, and the mutilation it entails) to the laughable (the use of painfully obvious fake spiders during one infamous setpiece).  Fulci’s reputation for going for the jugular is well deserved, but there are moments in the film where one gets the impression that he’s not trying all that hard to disguise the trickery; similarly, beautifully composed and executed setpieces stand side by side with flat, functional material clearly designed to get the film from point A to point B.  Sergio Salvati’s lighting is superb, but the film seldom matches the sheer atmosphere of doom and gloom that helped to make City of the Living Dead such a memorable experience.  All of this leaves one wondering just why The Beyond is supposed to be Fulci’s crowning achievement.  It’s a good film, and it builds to a finale that’s truly haunting, but it also lacks focus, rhythm and an ability to really sell its basic concept.

The cast is headed by Catriona MacColl and David Warbeck, a pair of English actors who found themselves transformed into cult film icons thanks to their association with Fulci.  Truthfully, while both actors give a good account of themselves, they also did better work in other pictures.  MacColl is a likable heroine, but she doesn’t seem so well served by the material as she was in her other films for Fulci, City of the Living Dead and The House by the Cemetery (1981).  Warbeck is the ostensible hero, but the film makes him look ludicrous at every turn – when you get to the end and he seems literally unable to grasp that shooting the zombies in the head stops them dead, it simply comes across as ludicrous – and lazy filmmaking, to boot.  Warbeck, too, would be better served by his other outing with Fulci, the underrated Poe homage The Black Cat (1981), wherein he held his own relatively well against the great Patrick Magee.  Make no mistake – MacColl and Warbeck aren’t bad in the film, and they do seem to have some real onscreen chemistry, but when faced with a script that stubbornly refuses to give their characters any real shading, they’re more or less put in the position of reacting to the special effects; there’s no harm in that, but it doesn’t really give them a chance to shine, either.

Having established much of what is wrong with the film, it also deserves to be noted that, at its best, the film achieves a nightmarish delirium.  The prologue is one of Fulci’s best ever setpieces – beautifully pitched and executed,with nary a false step along the way.  The ending is… well, suffice it to say it really works – and for first time viewers, it’s likely to be a real shocker.  Fabio Frizzi’s beautiful soundtrack (reusing some cues from City of the Living Dead; Fulci liked the score well enough to trot it out yet again on Manhattan Baby, 1982, and Cat in the Brain, 1990) sets the right tone, and the use of real locales around Louisiana is most effective.  The highlights really do lend credence to the film’s reputation, but in terms of sheer consistency it’s not unfair to hold one simple thing against it: Fulci did better on other occasions.

VIDEO:

Arrow brings The Beyond to blu ray for the first time, and their extras-laden special edition is also being released concurrently on DVD.  The ABC region blu ray offers much to love for fans of the film.  The transfer is mostly immaculate – there’s been some criticism online that it is too bright, thereby betraying some of the effects work, but for my money, previous editions were much too dark and muddy; the look of the film in this edition is more consistent with Salvati’s work on other Fulci films, truth be told, with its poppy colors and intense contrasts of darkness and light  The 2.35/16×9/1080p transfer is crisp and detailed, with appropriate smatterings of grain evident throughout, especially in the darker sequences.  The print is in excellent condition, with only some minor speckling; it is also fully uncut, preserving all the gory highlights in their gruesome splendor.  (As a side note, it’s interesting to see that the Italian print bears the onscreen title, ….E tu vivrai nel terrore – L’aldilà, which translates as And You Will Live In Terror – The Beyond; critics have long insisted that the first portion of the title was simply an ad line, and that the Italian title was simply L’Aldila.)  Alas, the initial review discs have a singular defect: the gorgeously sepia-tinted prologue is presented in black and white.  This defect escaped Arrow’s attention until reviews started to surface on line; now that the company has been informed of this major slip-up (and the fact that it IS a slip-up is easily confirmed: director of photography Salvati has gone on record indicating that sepia was a deliberate stylistic choice), they have assured the fans that it will be corrected before the disc is released.  UPDATE: Now that the ‘corrected’ edition of The Beyond has been made available, it’s time to discuss the corrections.  The new BD has an increased bitrate, which results in even greater image stability and fine detail.  Blacks are even deeper and richer, and while some will no doubt coninue to find the transfer to be too bright, the image is wonderfully sharp and detailed – and by no means is it true to say that the increased brightness is at the expense of atmosphere and the like.  The prologue has been given a sepia tint, which is somewhat different from the more golden hue present on previous editions – but it is still vastly preferable to the black and white presentation of the prologue presented in the initial pressing.  The end result looks superb, with rich color and plenty of detail.

AUDIO:

Audio options include a lossless 5.1 remix of the English dub (the same one included on the old Anchor Bay DVD release), as well as the original English and Italian mono soundtracks.  The 5.1 mix has a lot of punch, and it really does a lot of favors to Frizzi’s score, but purists will prefer one of the mono options, though it must be noted that neither of these are presented lossless.  The English mono track is in good shape, just the same, though the track becomes unexpectedly muffled beginning with the final ominous voice over (“And you will face the sea of darkness…”) throughout the end titles.  The Italian track includes optional English subtitles, while the English track includes optional English captioning.   UPDATE: Upon watching the BD again, it became apparent that the audio is out of synch for a brief period – during the sequence wherein Martha finds Joe in the flooded basement, the track is thrown out of synch but it fortunately is corrected by the start of te next sequence.  How this happened is unclear, but given that the scene plays out with music and dialogue, it’s not an issue of dialogue appearing distractingly out of synch.  (For the sake of ‘giving credit where credit is due,’ this issue was also pointed out by filmmaker Vinent Pereira on our AVManiacs forum.) The English mono track remains muffled during the end titles, so this issue has also not been corrected.

EXTRAS:

The official blu ray release will be a two-disc affair, with a number of interesting-sounding extras presented on the second (DVD format) disc; the screener provided by Arrow did not include this second disc, however, so this review will only focus on the goodies included on the main blu ray disc.  There are two audio commentary tracks.  The first should be familiar to all Euro Cult enthusiasts – it’s the old Catriona MacColl/David Warbeck track, recorded shortly before Warbeck’s premature death from cancer in 1997.  Even if you’ve heard this track before, it’s worth another listen – though bitersweet in light of the knowledge that Warbeck was dying when it was recorded, it’s a hoot: the two actor clearly love the film and enjoy each other’s company, and they share some great stories about the production and about its temparemental director in general.  The second track is new to this release, and it features Fulci’s daughter, Antonella, in discussion with journalist Calum Waddell.  Fulci’s daughter speaks English fluently, and she proves every bit as delightfully opinionated as her late, lamented father.  It’s a terrific track and it contains some great insights into Fulci as a human being.  ‘AKA Cinzea Monreale’ allows the still beautiful actress who plays the blind Emily in the feature to discuss her role in the film, and her work with Fulci in several pictures.  Unlike many actresses, Monreale has nothing but fond memories of Fulci, and she speaks with pride about her association with this major cult title.  Monreale also provides a brief on camera intro to the film, speaking in English (she speaks more comortaly in Italian in the featurette; subtitles are of course provided).  A Q&A session with Catriona MacColl from a festival appearance in Scotland rounds out the blu ray portion of the release… and until the second disc materializes, that finishes up the critique for the time being.

Disc two kics off with the featurette “Beyond Italy: Louis Fuller and the Seven Doors of Death,” in which US distributor Terry Levene discusses his background in the business, with an empasis on his work on the US version of The Beyond.  Levene reveals that the directorial credit on this radically reedited and rescored version was due to the work put into its construction by the son of legendary Samuel Fuller; it was not, in fact, a simple case of Anglicizing Fulci’s name for the US marketplace.  Levene comes off as a genial and down to earth businessman, and the nuggets of info he shares about working in the commercial marketplace during that period is most interesting.  “One Step Beyond: Catriona MacColl Remembers a Spaghetti Splatter Classic” allows the elegant actress to reflect on The Beyond and her relationship with Fulci and her late, lamented costar, David Warbeck.  There’s nothing new here, really, but it’s still nice to see the actress going down memory lane.  “Butcher, Baker, Zombiemaker: The Living Dead Legacy of Giannetto De Rossi” focuses on the film’s FX maestro, who speaks fluently in English.  DeRossi cops to being a bit disappointed with the spider attack but takes with deserved pride about his best FX work, including the infamous “splinter in the eye” effect in Fulci’s Zombie.  “Fulci Flashbacks: Reflections on Italy’s Premiere Paura Protagonist” gathers on camera recollections by a number of Fulci’s friends and colleagues, including camera operator Roberto Forges Davanzati, actress Daria Nicolodi, director Dario Argento, Fulci’s daughter Antonella, and FX artists Sergio Stivaletti and Giannetto De Rossi.  Argento recalls meeting an ailing Fulci, who seemed to ‘come back to life’ when he offered to produce a picture for him, while Nicolodi talks admiringly of a man she long wanted to work with.  It’s a nice, sometimes touching portrait of a man with a big temper – and a big heart.  The animated intros for these featurettes are lovingly done, but a couple of them (notably the intro for the Levene interview) do tend to go on a little longer than necessary.  An alternative pre-credits sequence is provided, from  German release verison – presented in 2.35/16×9, it is the film’s prologue in color, as it was released in Germany.  Seeing the sequence in full color makes one realize how wise Fulci and Salvati were to go with tinted black and white instead; it simply establishes a moodier tone at the get-go.  (The footage is presented dubbed into English, and then in German.)  An international theatrical trailer rounds out the package.

Given that Arrow have decided to listen to the fans and correct the tinting of the opening scene, there’s no conceivable reason for a Fulci fanatic with blu ray capabilities to pass up this release.  The final pressing will also include the usual reversible artwork and indepth liner notes one has come to expect from Arrow.

Film: **** out of *****

BD: ***** out of *****