The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

One from the re watch pile…

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Film: The early 2000s were a wonderful time when every second movie that was released was a remake, not like now when every movie is a Disney film, and every forum on the Internet was rife with old school horror lovers screaming blue murder that a remake would wreck ‘their’ film.

Here’s a few pointers:

-a remake doesn’t wreck an original film…in actual fact it does nothing to it other than bring attention to it.

it’s not ‘your’ film, and the owners of the rights can do whatever they feel like to it. You are just playing in their backyard.

Anyway, this remake was directed by French director Alexandre Aja, whose previous film was the unusual, and violent psychological film Haute Tension aka High Tension which many people were stunned by both for its extreme gore, and is use of trickery, and blatant lies to tell its tale. The script, whilst based on Wes Craven’s original film, is written by Gregory Levasseur, who also worked on Haute Tension and Aja’s next film, Mirrors.

The Hills Have Eyes remake tells of a family who are travelling across the New Mexico desert on holiday. When the father, Big Bob (Ted Levine) is told of a short cut not on the map by a gas station attendant of dubious moral, he proves he must have never seen a horror movie a decides to take it.

Part of the way across this ‘short cut’ the family are in a accident staged by a bunch of mutants who live in the mines in the hills, and in the governmental built town made to see how nuclear weapons would effect suburbs. These mutants are the results of the fallout subjected their ancestors.

Quickly, the family are subjected to murder, rape and cannibalism before one of them steps up his game and decides to set things straight, and carves a path of blood and guts across the desert.

Aja proves that his Haute Tension film was not a fluke, and this, his first American film, sits high on my list of amazing remakes, along with John Carpenter’s The Thing and Chuck Russell’s The Blob. Aja has taken Craven’s film and really increased the levels of every threat the family encounter.

A special shout-out has to go to the effects, which to me are a seamless combination of CGI and practical effects, and the soundtrack, not just the incidental music but also the bizarre choices of songs for the opening and closing credits, particularly the opening which is combined with 1950s styled happy-housemaker adverts and deformities of the children of people who were exposed to Agent Orange in Viet Nam.

There is a lot to love about this film and dare I say it, I like it far more than the original.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B Bluray release of the film, which is presentin a crystal clear 2.35:1 image and a matching Dolby DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: There is a few extras on here which are a pain to access as the disc has no menu screen, so whilst the film is playing you have to use your ‘Pop-up Menu’ button to access them.

There are two commentaries, one by Aja, writer Levassuer and Producer Marianne Maddalena and another by Producers Peter Locke and horror legend Wes Craven. Either individually or watched one after the other they offer a whole pile of interesting anecdotes of the making of the film.

There are 7 Production diaries which can be watched individually or as a job lot. They are crappy handicap filmed behind the scenes stuff with no offer of an explanation throughout and each one only goes for about two minutes. Ultimately worthless.

We also have trailers for this film, From Hell and X-men: The Last Stand.

Score: ***

WISIA: I really dig it so, yeah: 100%

Emmanuelle (1974)

One from the to watch pile…

Emmanuelle (1974)

Film: There was once a time when soft core porn was cool. When a man and a woman could go out and enjoy a film with saxophone and oboe filled soundtracks, lithe sensual women, iron-jawed rugged men and more camera filters than you could shake a nubile titty at. Porn evolved fairly quickly as it became less something artistic that could be enjoyed by the general public and became a dirty societal secret, shunned by the mainstream because, you know, masturbation is dirty and only the scum of the earth do it.

Over the course of history the production value on porn films has been of varying degree, just like any other form of entertainment but this is a review about one film, not a reflection on an industry that even defines technological advances by what it uses to get its message across, like VHS and Bluray.

Emmanuelle was directed by soft-core legend Just Jaekin, who also directed The Story Of O and Gwendoline, a film I thoroughly enjoyed as it is a bizarre mix of a female Indiana Jones movie and a titty-flick. The film’s script was written by Jean-Louis Richard which was of course based upon the original novel by Emmanuelle Arsen, which was a series of erotic fantasies. This film launched an entire sub-genre of films which has Emmanuelle in the title, from the Black Emmanuelle flicks to the bizarre is-it-a-comedy-or-a-soft-core-porn-film Carry On Emmanuelle.

Emmanuelle (Sylvia Krystal) is the wife of a French ambassador, Jean (Daniel Sarky) assigned to Thailand. Emmanuelle and Mario have a very open relationship, as jealousy is out of fashion and apparently Emmanuelle is a spectacular lay and he doesn’t believe he should keep her gift all to himself.

So of course the story here shows Emmanuelle riding the beast with two backs across a foreign country, whilst her husband has his way with the various housemaids that litter their property, but is he honest with his lack of jealousy, or will the amount of people, male and female, who end up face down in her private parts start to piss him off? This is all without even taking into account her tryst with one of his work colleagues who just hands her around like a towel to all and sundry!

Be careful what you wish for, Jean!

There is no doubt Just Jaekin knows his way around a camera. The whole production is filmed softly, but not so softly that it takes away from the content. It does, however, spend most of the time looking like a Stevie Nicks music video but with boobs and gentle lovemaking.

I am well aware of the importance of this film but I was as bored as bored can be through the film… except for a sequence with a naked girl and a cigarette: here I was intrigued!! This is one of those films that I am glad I can tick off my list of films that should be seen. But it will definitely only ever get one tick.

Score: *

Format: The review of this film was done with the Umbrella region 4 DVD release which runs for approximately 94 minutes. It’s is presented in a decent 1.66:1 image with a 2.0 audio soundtrack.

Score: ***

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: No.

Fair Game (1986)

One from the re watch pile…

Fair Game (1986)

Film: After I saw Mark Hartley’s amazing documentary Not Quite Hollywood, I became obsessed with the period of Australian cinema it covered. Not only because it showed me some films I’d never seen before, but it also reminded me of a whole lot of stuff I’d seen on VHS and forgotten.

… and so the copious amount of shopping, both local and tragically international… I mean what a shame one can’t get all the Australian movies here in Australia!!!

To date, of the ones I want to own, the only one that continues to elude me is Lady Stay Dead!

Of all these film that I hadn’t seen before the one I absolutely fell in love with was this film, Fair Game, so back then I searched out the DVD release and thankfully, Australian company Umbrella Entertainment have now released a pretty amazing Bluray of the film.

Fair Game tells the story of Jessica (Cassandra Delaney), the caretaker of a remote wildlife reserve who comes into contact with some pretty dodgy out back versions of good old boys: Sunny (Peter Ford), Ringo (David Sanford) and Sparks (Garry Who). Whilst the boys think they are merely playing with Jessica, Jessica doesn’t see the funny side of their taunts (which include breaking into her house a photographing her whilst she is asleep… definitely crossing a line) and very soon things escalate out of control.

Unfortunately for Jessica, she is very much alone: her phone has stopped working and her car has broken down… could these three miscreants eventually resort to murder… or even worse?

It really doesn’t get more Australian than this film. The red glow of the Australian outback is just as much of a star of this film as the actors involved. Those very actors are pretty amazing at the jobs too. In no way is this a serious film, it is a caricature of a serious rape/ revenge film like I Spit On Your Grave and the actors all play their parts like the cartoonish archetypes that they represent: helpless woman, smarmy badguy, rat-faced henchman and tunny, dumbo second henchman.

The real star of the film though is the car. It’s a cross between a Ford F100, a vehicle from Mad Max and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It’s a beast and plus a big part in the threatening nature of the film.

It’s a cracker of an Australian film, and everyone should really give it a fair suck of the sav !

Score: ***

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment multi-region Bluray which is presented in a clear 1.85:1 image with a matching 2.0 DTS-HD audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Heaps of awesome extras on this disc:

Audio Commentary with Director Mario Andreacchio and Writer Rob George

Extended Interview with Cassandra Delaney from Not Quite Hollywood is, what the title would suggest, a 15 minute interview taken from Mark Hartley’s amazing doco about the Australian Ozploitation films called Not Quite Hollywood.

On Location with Fair Game is about three minutes of behind the scenes footage of the scenes surrounding the destruction of the house with The Beast.

Behind the Scenes – 1985 TV Report from NWS9, Action News and Behind the Scenes – 1985 TV Report from ADS-7, State Affair are two news reports of the making of the film. By the looks of the channels it was for regional stations for some colour inbetween ‘real’ news.

Behind the Scenes with Dean Bennett is about an hour of behind the scenes material.

There is a bunch of promotional stuff like a theatrical trailer and an image gallery.

Storyboards shows a pretty cool series of storyboards for the film, shown as a slideshow with the score over the top.

Mario Andreacchio Short Films is obviously a series of short films by Andreacchio which honestly, I could make it all the way through. They do definitely explore the Australian youth experience though.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s not the greatest film ever made, but it’s so over the top you’ll definitely watch it more than once.

Insidious (2010)

One from the re watch pile…

Insidious (2010)

Film: One thing I have found odd about cinema at the moment is that there is heaps of supernatural horror that’s popular to a mainstream audience. I am sure there is some kind of psychological reason that the general public is shying away from ‘real’ human killers in their horror, but I’m no psychologist so I can’t really comment on that.

What we have here is a film from Australia’s very own James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the creators of the Saw series and The Conjuring franchise, so Hollywood must love them with their ability to milk the cash cow.

Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) have just moved into a new house but strange things start to happen after their son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) has a minor fall off a ladder. Dalton goes into an undiagnosable coma and Renai decides after several bizarre encounters with various ‘things’ that the house is haunted, so they quickly move house again.

At the new house the family attempts to restart their lives but quickly discover that the house wasn’t haunted but instead, THEY are. Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) Steps in with some information and a contact, psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye)

Aaaaaaand then it hits the halfway point, and becomes a farce.

Elise and her assistants, the ridiculous Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell), come to investigate their claims, using such tools as a View Master Reel and other devices more ridiculous than anything Egon Spengler created in Ghostbusters, and then the film turns into a parody of Poltergeist, with the couple finding out their son has been taken to ’The Further’, which is basically the same as where Carolanne is taken in that same film.

The usual generic crap takes place with a visit the The Further in search of not his body, but his ASTRAL body which is what has been kidnapped by Darth Maul… I mean, a demon.

Will they get their son back? Will I care? Will this piece of crap spawn two sequels two date because people will watch anything if the marketing is good enough?

After an amazing opening with a likeable cast and a pretty interesting set up, even though it’s another stupid haunted house movie, is devolves into sloppy writing and generic imagery that has been done over and over again, even to the point Wan has even stolen from himself with some of the design looking like the Dead Silence dolls and ghosts, and then FROM here with some of the elements in The Conjuring.

Mostly Wan’s direction is pretty good, and the performances he gets from Wilson and Byrne make them immediately sympathetic protagonists, and he cleverly uses a few tricks from Mario Bava via Dario Argento to occasionally have some impressive looking scenes, which is usually spoiled by using the fast motion camerawork found in film clips by Marilyn Manson 20 years ago.

It’s a real tragedy when a promising first act gets crapped on by a disappointing second and third. Don’t bother with this film at all, unless it’s on free-to-air.

Score: *1/2

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian, region B Bluray which runs for approximately 105 minutes and is presented in an amazing and clean 2.40:1 image with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, The Beaver and The Tree of Life before we are presented with the menu.

Horror 101: The Exclusive Seminar isn’t really a seminar about horror, but instead is the filmmakers explaining what they decided to write within the confines of this film, and how they decided to turn some of the tropes of traditional horror on its head.

On Set With Insidious is one of those usual ego-strokes where all the cast and crew talk about how awesome each other are, and this is all intercut with behind the scenes footage of the production.

Insidious Entities looks at the ghosts and demons of the film.

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ***

WISIA: I hate this post-millennial ghost story crap thats completely dependent of jump scares rather than actually being frightening, and the only reason I watched it again was for the benefit of you, dear reader, so you won’t have to.

31 (2015)

One from the to watch pile…

31 (2015)

Film: There is no doubt that I am an unabashed Rob Zombie fan. I loved the first album of his that I got years ago from Utopia records in Sydney, which must have been La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume one in the early 90s, and I’ve been a follower ever since.

I was pretty stoked ten or so years later too when I discovered that he was going to translate his monster fandom and image to the silver screen, and I, to date, have enjoyed all his films…

Ok, H2 was a misstep and the less said about that the better. In actual fact, I should also, for full disclosure, state that I absolutely LOVE Lords of Salem!

A group of Carnival workers, including Roscoe (Jeff Daniel Phillips), Charley (Sheri Moon Zombie), Venus (Meg Foster), Levon (Kevin Jackson) and Panda (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) are traveling in a bus to their next gig when they are stopped by a mysterious road block in the middle of the night.

Unfortunately for them they are captured by the goons controlled by Father Murder (Malcolm McDowell), Sister Dragon (Judy Geeson) and Sister Serpent (Jane Carr) who once a year at Halloween put a group of people they kidnaped through a trial where they have to survive a gauntlet populated by a bunch of murderous people such as Sick-head (Pancho Moler), Psycho-head (Lee Temple), Sex-head (Elizabeth Daily) and the unstoppable Doom-head (Richard Brake).

They have 12 hours to survive whilst being pursued by these clown-faced torturers and all the while, Murder, Dragon and Serpent place bets on who will survive the longest… but will any of them survive at all?

The thing I find weird about where Zombie has gone with this film is all the criticisms that i’ve heard about his other films, he seems to have attempted just to distill them together in one film. Essentially this film starts as a homage… tribute (?)…. rip-off (!)… to Texas Chain Saw Massacre before descending into a pastiche of Zombie’s previous films.

The worst crime committed is that the protagonists are unlikable jerks, so there is no threat. In actual fact you look forward to them getting killed, and whilst that may have been the point, the payoff of their murders just isn’t awful enough or gory or inventive enough for it to enter torture porn territory.

Honestly this whole film seems to be a vehicle for Richard Brake, whose Doom-head character has some great monologues and he’s an impressive figure of evil within it, even though his dual switchblade weapons are a little boring and unimpressive considering.

Zombie’s usual visual style and mix of incidental music and songs for the soundtrack are all present here and still look as good as ever (if you like his style, which I do) and so that experience is another positive in a film which basically, was not very good.

Score: *1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Monster Pictures region B Bluray release which runs for approximately 103 minutes, and it’s image is difficult to judge as it is full of Zombie’s trademark ‘grindhouse’ filmstock appearance, so to say this 16×9 image is perfect is not true, but the look is a deliberate and artificial construct by the auditing and effects process, so it is perfect for the effect it is attempting to provide. The audio, however is a perfect 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for other Monster Pictures releases The Greasy Strangler and Anti-birth before hitting the menu screen.

As far as extras are concerned, there are three behind the scenes galleries: one general one, one focusing on Zombie behind the camera and one of the photo shoot for the poster art. I don’t have much interest in static images on a disc made for moving images so this is essentially worthless to me.

At least there is also a trailer.

Score: *

WISIA: There’s much better films in Rob Zombie’s catalogue… actually there is better films in Andy Milligan’s catalogue. No, probably not ever again.

Roger Corman: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

One from the re watch pile…

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

Film: I sometimes wonder if when the Lumière brothers stood on the shoulders of Thomas Edison and William Dickson and created their wonderful Cinématographe machine if they ever sat down and discussed the wonders of what their creation may hold in the future.

‘I imagine one day a man will make a film about an Island of Fishmen!’

‘I imagine one day someone will make a film called ‘ Dinoshark’!’

‘I imagine one day someone will adapt the work of Edgar Allen Poe into a series of films!’

‘I imagine one day a man will make a film with a spaceship in it that has boobs on it!’

‘I imagine one day a man will make all those films, and write/ produce/ star in many many more!’

‘Oh Auguste, don’t be ridiculous: one man could never do all that in one lifetime!!’

Well, one man did, and continues to do so! Roger Corman would have to be the most important man in the history of cinema. He is certainly a rebel before his time who has not only nurtured such talents as Ron Howard, Jonathon Demme, Joe Dante, Jack Nicolson, Martian Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich and many others, he’s also been at the forefront of effects development, expediency of production (both time and money wise) and just the ability to show that any story, if made cheap enough, can be a financial success… and DAMN the critics. Audiences and critics want different things from cinema!

I believe that B movie fans like myself are generally Corman fans before they realise that Corman exists. I know my youth was spent looking at Famous Monsters and watching late night creature features, a lot which have probably disappeared from my memory through the eons I’ve been alive, so I must have really experienced his work around this time. For certain though, I definitely know I watched Battle Beyond the Stars, and even as a kid knew it was a cheap seats version of Star Wars, but Sybil Danning…. sigh!

It wasn’t until my Fangoria years in the 80s that I really realised what a spectacular output Corman was responsible for, and here, with the documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, we get to see just why his influence on the movie industry is a unique and important one.

Written and directed by Alex Stapleton, who reviewed two important nominations for this film, one the Golden Camera at Cannes and the other a Rondo Hatten Classic Horror Award, this film looks at Corman’s history, the amazing successes he’s had over the years, and the daring steps he took into all different areas of production, direction, distribution and even sociological ideals which may not have always been wholly acceptable by the moral majority.

This film is a concise look at an amazing career, that still continues today, and with the absolute catalogue of talent interviewed here, we get a look at what Corman did for so many people in Hollywood, even if that just meant them finding out exactly what they WOULDN’T want to do as far as production is concerned.

Highly recommended.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the UK Bluray release which runs for approximately 90 minutes. For the most part, the image is excellent and presented in 1.78:1 but that occasionally changes depending on the historical footage shown. The audio is a matching quality DTS-HD 5.1.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: There is a pretty cool bunch of extras on this disc:

Extended Interviews takes all the stuff that didn’t make the cut to the film but still had interesting stories to tell.

Special Messages to Roger is a nice collection of tributes to Corman from his contemporaries, acolytes, apprentices and dilettantes. Some are heartfelt, some funny, but all seem to be genuine!

There is also a trailer for the film. Nicholson’s comment from the film,’ by mistake, he made a good picture every once in a while’ should have been the Tagline to the whole thing, and it’s quoted here.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I actually love film documentaries almost as much as I love movies, and this is one I watch regularly.

Pet Sematary (1989)

On the last day of Zombruary, we revisit a Stephen King classic!

One from the re watch pile…

Pet Sematary (1989)

Film: Whilst I am a pretty big horror fan, and I mean movies, comics, video games and books… in all its forms really… I have never been the biggest fan of Stephen King’s books. In the 80s I read horror novels non-stop as my trip to and from work was a long and boring ride. Unfortunately I don’t read as much anymore, but I blame my addiction to video games and the internet for that.

That’s not to say that I don’t like Stephen King though. The many MANY movies that have been based on his books I have always found to be an interesting distraction and occasionally I’ve even liked them. I guess what that means is I’ve always liked his ideas, but don’t like his writing style and find reading his books to be a laborious act.

Pet Sematary was made based on a screenplay that King himself did based on his book of the same name, and was directed by Mary Lambert, the director of a bunch of Madonna’s early videos and of the inevitable sequel Pet Sematary 2.

Pet Sematary tells of the Creed family: Louis (Dale Midkiff), a Doctor, his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), their daughter Ellie (played by twins Beau and Blaze Berdahl) and son Gage (Mike Hughes) who have just moved to a new house next to a busy highway.

Soon after they move in, their cat Church is hit by a truck, and their neighbour across the street, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) tells Louis that there is an old Native American burial ground behind a pet cemetery hidden in the woods. Louis and Jud take Church and bury him, without the rest of the family’s knowledge, and very soon, Church comes back… but now he’s mean, and smells.

A further tragedy hits the family when their boy Gage is hit by a truck, and ignoring Church’s personality change, and the warnings from the spirit of a dead cyclist who he tried to help, Pascow (Brad Greenquist), Louis exhumes his body and takes him to the burial ground. It when he returns he’s no longer their baby boy…

This story, based loosely on The Monkey’s Paw, with its ‘wishes gone wrong’ scenario, is probably one of King’s best. The film benefits from Lambert’s direction as she seems to be really in touch with the family relationships and the quality of acting from all concerned, especially the children, really sells the tale well. The appearance of Gwynne, best known as Herman Munster from The Munsters is a revelation as well, and you don’t think of him as Herman at all through the film.

This is the best type of horror film as the horror really comes from bad decisions and tragedy, rather than an external threat that is completely random.

Score: ***1/2

Format: Pet Sematary was reviewed using the Australian Bluray which runs for approximately 104 minutes and is presented in a decent 1.78:1 image with a matching DTS-HD 5.1 audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: A great bunch of extras on this disc:

The Commentary by Mary Lambert was done a while after it was made and so we rely on Lambert’s memory for the details of what happened during the course of the filming. It’s a fairly thorough commentary though I think she may occasionally get distracted by what she is watching s there a moments of quiets from her.

Stephen King Territory sees actors, cast, crew and even King himself discuss the origins of the story.

The Characters dissects all the characters motivations and the actors who play them.

Filming The Horror looks at how the crew got away with doing the effects for the film.

Score: ****

WISIA: Pet Sematary works on many levels and has enough shocks to warrant repeat viewing.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

One from the re watch pile…

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

Film: As with all film fans, there are ‘Holy Grails’ on my mental checklist of ‘need to sees’ and before I had seen it, this was one of mine. This film, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, is also known as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (which is more or less a translation of the Italian title “Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti” which literally means “You must not desecrate the sleep of the dead”) and Don’t Open the Window. I had these three films on my list, and for some reason I was ignorant of the fact that they were one in the same film.

Imagine my joy when I found out they were one and the same.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue tells the following tale: George (Ray Lovelock) is an antiques dealer who enjoys his weekends in the country, away from the hustle and bustle and pollution of the big city. One weekend on his way to his retreat, he has a small accident with the gorgeous Edna (Christine Galbo) who is on the way to assist her brother in law Martin (Jose Lifante) in an intervention with her heroin addicted sister, Katie (Jeannine Mestre). Unfortunately his motorbike is wrecked, and so Edna offers to take him to where he has to go in her car.

Typically they get lost, and George stops to ask for directions at a farm that is using a revolutionary pest control technique that has a disturbing side effect: it brings the dead back to life! Whilst George is away from the car, Edna is attacked by one of the living dead, and so begins a descent into madness that finds corpses returning to eat the living, babies showing deadly signs of cannibalism and the local constabulary, led by a hardnosed old-school inspector (Arthur Kennedy) thinking they are a pair of homicidal hippies!

One of the things I really like about this film is what a misogynistic, sexist arsehole the male lead, George (Ray Lovelock) appears to be. He is a condescending, self assured jerkoff, and honestly I can’t tell if he is representing men of the era accurately, or if he is a parody akin to what was seen in something like the MUCH later film The Editor.

Now the female lead is one I really like. Christine Galbo plays her role of Edna like a more realistic Barbara from Night of the Living Dead. She is definitely in shock, but almost completely avoids the dumb-founded catatonia that made Barbara a frustrating piece of furniture to be thrown around by the male protagonists.

Actually I felt this film owed a lot to Night of the Living Dead, and not just due to its walking dead, its machismo fuelled male lead or weak-ankled female lead. There is an all over sense of impending doom, and the more cynical of us might just say the ending is a blatant copy of Romero’s B/W film.

The script, by Sandro Continenza, is both retro and revolutionary at the same time. It has hippie-hating cops and the women are of the shrinking violet variety, but it also looks at ‘new’ clean pest-rid technologies. It’s anti-pollution, looks briefly (and amusingly) at heroin addiction and demonstrates a high level of environmental awareness.

An absolute cracker. It precedes George Romero’s ideas of the dead’s instincts presented in Dawn of the Dead by several years, and its anti-pollution, pro-eco stance is well ahead of its time. As for Blue Underground’s disc, well it is chock-a-block full of more extras than you could shake a grave marker at. I never thought I would see a film to rival Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and while I still may not have, this comes real close

Score: *****

Format: This review was performed on the Blue Underground, two-disc Set from about ten years ago. The DVD has a delightful image: bright, vibrant, detailed, and is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. The cover claims the image has been remastered in Hi Definition from the original camera negative, and I am guessing it is that process which gives it…ahem… new life. The film is presented in a choice of 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, Dolby Surround 2.0 and Original Mono. I reviewed this as 5.1 and was impressed by the quality. Of course, the voices do not always match the speaker’s lips but this may be due to dual language tracks rather than a fault of the disc mastering.

Score: ***1/5

Extras: This being a 2 discer means we are treated to a coffin full of extras.

Disc 1 treats us to the International trailer (which identifies the film as The Living Dead at THE Manchester Morgue, but gets away with it by providing a COOL music track), the U.S. trailer (under the title of Don’t Open the Window, and is one of those SEE!!! HEAR!!! Type trailers), TV Spot (another US trailer for Don’t Open The Window), Radio Spots (a collection of radio adverts with a collection of posters played over the screen…excellent) and Poster and Still Gallery (a collection of pixelated pictures and posters and stills from the film).

Disc 2 has a great series of featurettes:

Back To the Morgue – On Location With Jorge Grau sees director Grau revisit locations in Derbyshire and Manchester and talk about the production, location and filming of the movie. The revisitation of Southgate hospital shows it to be a condemned building…shame but the visit to the graveyard is fantastic (especially to a grave yard explorer like me) as it is the graveyard that contains the grave of Robin Hood’s Lieutenant Little John!! The visits are accompanied by amusing reminiscences from Grau. A favourite would have to be his justification of having the streaker in the opening part of the film; while he admits it wasn’t in the script, he believed it was ‘suggested’ by the scriptwriter.

Zombie Fighter – Interview with Star Ray Lovelock is an interesting interview with the actor where he basically recounts his career.

Zombie Maker – Interview with Special Effects Artist Gianetto De Rossi is an interesting look not just at the effects of this film and the effect’s artist’s body of work, but also a brief history of effects artists in European cinema.

2000 Interview with Jorge Grau is a more personal interview with Grau, and he discusses his life and influences, and the making of the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s an amazing zombie film and well worth repeated viewings!

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Zombruary 2 continues…

One from the re watch pile…

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Film: I’ve always been a Hammer Horror film fan over a Universal Monsters fan. Yes the images of the Universal character designs are the most loved, but I have always preferred the design, the direction, the scores, the stories and yes, the ‘Hammer Glamour’ as the women of these films are occasionally referred.

The cinematically early splashes of blood and violence don’t hurt either.

This film, The Plague of the Zombies, was filmed back-to-back with another Hammer film, The Reptile, and shared most of its cast, and were both directed by John Gilling, who also directed Trog and The Mummy’s Shroud. It was written by Peter Bryan who also wrote The Hound of the Baskerville and The Brides of Dracula. The interesting thing about the films is they were both part of double features, but not together as the sets and cast may have confused audiences! This was original presented with Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

This film is set in August 1860, and tells of Sir James Forbes (André Morrell) and his daughter Sylvia (Diane Claire) who travel to a small Cornish town to assist their friend, Peter Tompson (Brook Williams), the town Doctor who is unable to halt what seems to be a plague effecting the townspeople. His wife, Alice (Jacqueline Pearce) seems to be succumbing to this disease as well.

One recently buried corpse had no autopsy performed on it so Tompson and Forbes dig up the coffin, only to find it empty! Upon further investigation they find that the dead walk the moors around the town, and that maybe, just maybe, the town squire, Clive Hamilton (John Carson) is using voodoo that he learned in Haiti to perform these wicked deeds… but why? What is his horrible scheme?

This film is a well constructed and entertaining look at voodoo, albeit not necessarily a very accurate portrayal. The acting is over the top and very theatrical but that just adds to the drama of the proceedings! Gilling has created a fascinating look to the film too, as most of the film has a cramped, oppressive, claustrophobic feel to it. When you combine that appearance with the score, which is a combination of traditional dramatic horns mixed with tribal beats, it creates a unique feel throughout the film.

This all makes for an effective horror film, not scary, but a totally entertaining film that sits high in my favourite Hammer films.

Score: ****

Format: This movie was reviewed using the region B Bluray which runs for approximately 90 minutes (87 if you watch the DVD in this collection). It is presented in a wonderful, considering the age, 1.66:1 and a matching mono 2.0 audio track. It should be good considering the process of restoration, which is explored somewhat in the extras.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: A bunch of excellent extras on this disc:

World of Hammer Episode: Mummies, Werewolves and the Living Dead is an episode of The World of Hammer (as the title suggests) narrated by Oliver Reed explores the various films of Hammer than explored… yes, you guessed it…. Mummies, Werewolves and the Living Dead, relevant here as The Plague of the Zombies makes an appearance.

Raising the Dead is a retrospective making of the film and is incredibly informative, mixing film historians, fans and actual cast comments makes for a quite thorough recollection of the film.

The restoration comparison is fascinating as it shows the footage of the film before and after restoration, sometimes in a split screen so you can accurately see just how much work was done, not just with colour, but with telecine wobble, artefacts and even complete rips in the original negative.

Finally we have a trailer for the film.

This release also came with a DVD copy of the film (unreviewed)

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s certainly high level Hammer Horror so it definitely will get repeat viewings!