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Posts Tagged ‘David Hemmings’

The Survivor (1981) Blu-Ray Review

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

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Stars – Robert Powell, Jenny Agutter, Joseph Cotten, Peter Sumner, and Lorna Lesley
Director – David Hemmings

Released by Severin

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

James Herbert wrote some of the best and most fun horror novels that came out during the mid seventies through the eighties. He had a tremendous knack for writing books that read like great B movies, only the budgets were huge. He was one of the first that indulged in scenes of graphic violence. Herbert also wrote well. He kept you turning the pages at a relentless pace but gave readers strong characters. Anyone who looked for a horror paperback to read during that time will instantly recall the distinctive covers that drew you to them. Titles like The Rats, The Fog, The Spear, Lair, The Jonah and The Survivor were terrific reads for genre fans. His stories however have not fared all that well when made into movies which is a crying shame. The Rats which was filmed as Deadly Eyes is well known for its shoddy use of small dogs running around with fur vests and coats on. Fluke which is a rather tender story from a dog’s point of view also made it to the screen. David Hemmings who was a highly respected actor working in films as varied as Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup and Barbarella directed this adaptation.

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A plane crash lands in Australia. Shortly after hitting the ground it explodes in spectacular fashion. Large balls of fire fill the screen and erupt into the dark sky. What is strange is that the pilot is able to walk away from the crash seemingly unscathed. He is the lone survivor. The first half hour of the film has barely any dialogue and what is there is hard to follow due to poor recording, low levels and mumbled dialogue. We get a few glimpses of the lovely Jenny Agutter (Walkabout, American Werewolf in London) but she does not really appear in the film till the last half hour. Joseph Cotton (The Third Man) has a small role as a priest. A little while later in the story the apparent ghosts of children killed in the crash takes the lives of a few locals. These scenes have very little impact with no suspense of shock to them. Eventually we learn that Agutter’s character is a psychic. She helps the pilot to unravel the mystery of his guilt and survival. The revelation as shown in the film is not as strong as many episodes of The Twilight Zone would have played it though it is definitely in that realm.

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Portions of the photography have a style that recalls the Euro horror films done in Italy by directors like Dario Argento. However there is a real inconsistency in the narrative and the basic development of the characters. Director Hemmings at least here has a plodding style. His lack of pace just kills any momentum of suspense. There is enough in this film to entice you to give it a look. The draw of the actors involved and the source novel will call out to quite a few. As someone who has enjoyed Herbert’s books immensely this was a another let down. There is a bit of creepiness to the proceedings but not quite enough to engage you the way it should. Still if you‘ve seen The Deadly Eyes and Fluke you may as well view this one.

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Video – 2.39:1
The film is given a nice presentation by Severin. Even though there are a lot of scenes in the dark black levels never exhibit any harsh noise or distortion. We get some very nice compositions at times from DP John Seal. Hemmings looks to have elected to keep a lot of scenes more on the darker side. The fireballs in the beginning are the best looking part of the whole film.

Audio – 2.0 PCM track with subtitles offered in English
The first half hour, for me had dialogue that was difficult to follow. Levels were low, actors mumbled and there was hardly any separation in the track at all. Throughout the film there was an uneasy balance between the dialogue, the odd sound effects and the ultra dynamics of Brian May’s score. Many portions of the film just felt flat and dull. Locations often had no background sound to define them.

Extras – Not Quite Hollywood – Extended Interviews with Producer Antony I. Ginnane and Cinematographer John Seale
The Legacy of James Herbert
Robert Powell on James Herbert
Archive TV Special on Location – Featuring Interviews with Stars Joseph Cotten and Peter Sumner
Archive TV Interviews with David Hemmings and Robert Powell Antony I Ginnane Trailer Reel
TV Spot

The appreciation of James Herbert’s work by two fellows was very enjoyable. They caught what appealed to his fans and gave a nice run down of his books and how some of them fared as movies. David Hemmings comes off wonderfully in the vintage TV talk show. He’s very entertaining.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic :

Blu-Ray – Good / Excellent

Movie – Fair

Thirst (1979) Blu-Ray Review

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

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Stars: Chantal Contouri, David Hemmings, Henry Silva, Max Phipps
Director: Ron Hardy

Released by Severin

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

Every once in a while a film comes out with a unique take on the vampire genre. Some push too hard to be clever while others are just exercises in style. Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987) stands out as one of the best modern treatments of vampirism. George Romero’s low budget Martin (1976) is a very offbeat and compelling variation on the theme, too. The 2008 Swedish film Let The Right One In was a tremendous movie based on the novel of the same name. Richard Matheson’s I am Legend book has seen several adaptations with The Omega Man (1971) being my personal favorite. This one makes a very nice impression indeed. While Australian films like Walkabout (1971) and Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) played the art house circuit the rest of them that made it over here were usually found on double and triple bills in urban grind houses. Denizens of the cheaper seats got to see pictures like Patrick, Road Games and Mad Max. Some savvy filmgoers in the know were able to catch Outback (aka Wake in Fright). Thirst had something of a reputation as a good twist on the vampire horror film. It certainly helped that David Hemmings (Blow Up) was in it to draw some attention. Still Thirst is not as well known as it could be, even among horror fans. Don’t confuse it with the South Korean flick by Park Chan-wook made in 2009.

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Ron Hardy sets up his tale pretty slowly. He’s got a pace that may turn some off, but given time he gets things going. The central character Kate is a lady who’s got a lineage of some renown among an elite group of upper class sophisticates. She is a pure blood descendant of Elizabeth Bathory a real life character with a bloody history as a sixteenth century serial killer known as the Blood Countess. That’s where any similarities between this one and any of the Universal or Hammer films ends. Kate gets kidnapped and taken to an isolated rural farm. Blood rather than dairy is the product. The farm has all the latest scientific equipment for harvesting the blood from the cows. Only the cows are large groups of people that mill about in a drug induced state. They are milked regularly by a series of suction tubes applied at the neck. Rarely does one get completely exsanguinated or drained to the bottom.

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Amongst the very well to do folks in charge there is a debate over how to turn Kate. David Hemmings comes off as very caring. He favors a more genteel approach while the others want to plunge her into a series of wild Psychotic experiences that will either kill her to bring her into their fold by encouraging her thirst. Up to this point things are treated pretty matter of factly. The machinations at the farm are just chores although done with lots of modern hospital like equipment. However when Kate is thrown into a maelstrom of nightmares things get very strange, very fast. There is a lengthy sequence that is meant to alter her mind. It reminded me of Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977). Chantal Contouri as Kate gets put through the psychic ringer. She is put info a coffin in a deep dark cobweb covered basement. There are hallucinatory adventures that may or may not be real. Clearly she is either gong to come through this with a thirst like the rest or have some kind of mental breakdown or heart failure. This whole part of the film is done very well and delivers the goods.

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Film aficionados will be quick to spot Henry Silva (Shane) who showed up in all kinds of films from everywhere during the seventies and eighties. . However the scariest person in the picture may very well be this strange pushy woman with a page boy haircut, too much lipstick and a very determined attitude. She is rich, spoiled and used to getting her way. Shirley Cameron plays her perfectly. Poor Kate is the subject of her whims. She is the one that drives the bizarre transformation to turn Kate into one of them. That is really the crux of the film. Will Kate agree to put in the metal fangs and drive them in to the living flesh of one of the cows about to the slaughtered?

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Video – 2.35:1
The overall impression is very well done. Colors look as they were intended. Detail is nice and strong. Exteriors have a natural brightness. The darker portions of the long nightmare sequence look fine without any murky crush. You can still see good texture and detail in the walls during the lead character’s turmoil in the catacomb like basement. Thirst still retains good deal of grain to feel like a film, too.

Audio – Dolby 2.0 tracks in English and Spanish with subtitles offered in
Even though we get to hear one of Brian May’s fitting soundtracks the overall mix is still a bit thin. Much of the dialogue sounds hollow and dubbed. The effects do not have a strong presence. There is a muddy feel to the whole mix.

Extras -
Commentary with Director Rod Hardy and Producer Antony I. Ginnane,
Isolated music score by Brian May, Trailer, TV Spots

On a scale of poor, fair, good, excellent, classic,

Blu-Ray – Excellent

Movie – Good

Blue Underground’s Deep Red Delayed

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Blue Underground’s release of Dario Argento’s Deep Red, which was supposed to have been released on April 19th, has been delayed to May 17th due to an unforeseen production delay.