Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Collection – Severin Films (Blu-ray/CD Combo)

Theatrical Release Dates: West Germany, 1962 (Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace), Italy, 1963 (Challenge the Devil), Italy, 1964 (Castle of the Living Dead, Crypt of the Vampire), West Germany, 1967 (The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism)
Directors: Warren Kiefer (Castle of the Living Dead), Giuseppe Veggezzi (Challenge the Devil), Camillo Mastrocinque (Crypt of the Vampire), Terence Fisher (Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace), Harald Reinl (The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism)
Cast: Christopher Lee, Gaia Germani, Philippe Leroy, Mirko Valentin, Donald Sutherland, Luciano Pigozzi (Castle of the Living Dead), Christopher Lee, George Ardisson, Bella Cortez (Challenge the Devil), Christopher Lee, Adriana Ambesi, Ursula Davis, José Campos, Véra Valmont (Crypt of the Vampire), Christopher Lee, Hans Söhnker, Hans Nielsen, Senta Berger, Ivan Desn, Wolfgang Lukschy (Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace), Lex Barker, Karin Dor, Christopher Lee, Carl Lange, Christiane Rücker, Vladimir Medar, Dieter Eppler (The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism)

Release Date: June 22nd, 2021
Approximate Running Times: 90 Minutes 8 Seconds (Castle of the Living Dead), 78 Minutes 57 Seconds (Challenge the Devil), 85 Minutes 7 Seconds (Crypt of the Vampire), 85 Minutes 44 Seconds (Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace), 83 MInutes 49 Seconds (The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism), 610 Minutes (Theatre Macabre)
Aspect Ratios: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Castle of the Living Dead, Challenge the Devil, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism), 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Crypt of the Vampire), 1.33:1 / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Theatre Macabre)
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (Castle of the Living Dead, Crypt of the Vampire, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Theatre Macabre, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism), DTS-HD Mono Italian (Challenge the Devil, Crypt of the Vampire), DTS-HD Mono German (Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism)
Subtitles: English SDH (Castle of the Living Dead, Crypt of the Vampire, Theatre Macabre, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism), English (Challenge the Devil, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace)
Region Coding: Region Free (Castle of the Living Dead, Challenge the Devil, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Theatre Macabre, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism), Region A (Crypt of the Vampire)
Retail Price: $149.95

Castle of the Living Dead "a 19th century Count who invites a theatrical troupe for a weekend of horrors" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Challenge the Devil "a gang of bongo-crazed delinquents menaced by a white-haired Lee as a sinister Victorian who may be Satan himself." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Crypt of the Vampire "a lavish gothic shocker inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu’s immortal novella Carmilla, Christopher Lee delivers a rare ‘hero’ turn as nobleman Count Karnstein whose foreboding castle teems with ancestral curses, unnatural desires, philosophical hunchbacks and grisly acts of vengeance." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace "Shortly after their hit collaboration on THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, Christopher Lee and director Terence Fisher (HORROR OF DRACULA) returned to Holmesiana for Lee’s sole feature film portrayal of the world’s greatest detective." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Theatre Macabre "Christopher Lee hosted this anthology television series originally produced by Film Polski (KNIFE IN THE WATER, THE TIN DRUM) in the tradition of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and BORIS KARLOFF’S THRILLER. Lee delivers the intro and outro for each half-hour at his imposing and often cheeky best, while the tales themselves – adapted from stories by Poe, Dostoevsky, Ambrose Bierce, Robert Louis Stevenson and Oscar Wilde – are written and/or directed by filmmakers that include Andrzej Zulawski (POSSESSION) and Academy Award® winner Andrzej Wajda (MAN OF IRON). Dubbed into English and featuring ‘additional dialogue’ by Jesse Lasky Jr. (THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, 7 WOMEN FROM HELL) with new theme music by Ron Goodwin (VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, FRENZY), it has remained largely unseen since its brief airing on American TV in 1971." - synopsis provided by the distributor

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism "Christopher Lee stars as Count Regula, an insane nobleman found guilty of murdering a dozen virgins and drawn-and-quartered for his crimes." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (Castle of the Living Dead), 4.5/5 (Challenge the Devil), 4/5 (Crypt of the Vampire), 4.5/5 (Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace), 3/5 (Theatre Macabre), 4.5/5 (The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism)

Here’s the information provided about Castle of the Living Dead's transfer, "scanned in 4K from the Italian negative for the first time ever".

Castle of the Living Dead comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 41.8 GB

Feature: 25.9 GB

Here’s the information provided about Challenge the Devil's transfer, "scanned in 2K from the Italian negative for the first time ever".

Challenge the Devil comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 35.8 GB

Feature: 22.4 GB

Here’s the information provided about Crypt of the Vampire's transfer, "2K scan from a fine grain 35mm master print".

Crypt of the Vampire comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 22.4 GB

Feature: 21.4 GB

Here’s the information provided about Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace's transfer, "scanned in 2K from the German negative".

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 35.8 GB

Feature: 25.8 GB

Here’s the information provided about Theatre Macabre's transfer, "scanned in 2K from the original negatives".

Theatre Macabre TV series is spread over two 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray’s.

Disc One: 44.6 GB

Disc Two: 39.4 GB

Here’s the information provided about The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism's transfer, "scanned in 4K from the original German negative".

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 35.8 GB

Feature: 25.3 GB

The sources used for Castle of the Living Dead, Challenge the Devil, Crypt of the Vampire, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace and The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism transfers are in excellent shape. Image clarity, contrast, and black levels look solid and all these transfers retains an organic look. Also, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism’s transfer greatly improves upon the transfer used for Severin Films 2019 Blu-ray release.

Though the source used for Theatre Macabre does not fare as well as the sources used of the other films. It still looks very good, source damage is minimal, colors and black levels fare well, the image generally looks crisp and any digital tinkering of the image is never too distracting.

Audio: 3.5/5 (Castle of the Living Dead, Challenge the Devil, Crypt of the Vampire, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Theatre Macabre, The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism)

Castle of the Living Dead comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and included with this film are removable English SDH subtitles.

Challenge the Devil comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in Italian and included with this film are removable English subtitles.

Crypt of the Vampire comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in Italian. Included with this film are removable English SDH subtitles.

Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in German. Included with this film are removable English and English SDH subtitles.

Theatre Macabre comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and included with this film are removable English SDH subtitles.

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism  comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in German. Included with this film are removable English SDH subtitles.

Though all the audio mixes are in good shape, range wise they’re limited. That said, dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.

Extras:

Extras for Castle of the Living Dead include an interview with producer Paul Maslansky titled From The Castle To The Academy (51 minutes 58 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview author Roberto Curti who discusses director Warren Kiefer titled The Castle Of The Mystery Man (13 minutes 26 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles) and two audio commentaries’, the first audio commentary is with film historians/critics Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth, and the second audio commentary is with film historian/critic Kat Ellinger.

Other extras include a CD with composer Angelo Francesco Lavagnino score for Castle of the Living Dead and a cardboard insert with information about Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s score.

Extras for Challenge the Devil include a trailer for Challenge the Devil (3 minutes 10 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian with English subtitles), an interview with author Roberto Curti titled Dance with the Devil (35 minutes 33 seconds, Dolby Digital Italian with English subtitles) and an interview with Giorgio Ardisson titled The Importance Of Being Giorgio (16 minutes 21 seconds, Dolby Digital Italian with English subtitles).

Other extras include a second dual layer Blu-ray titled Relics From The Crypt. Extras on this Blu-ray include a 1964 Swiss documentary short titled Horror!!! (16 minutes 29 seconds, Dolby Digital mono French and English with English subtitles), an interview with Christopher Lee who remembers Boris Karloff titled Behind The Mask (35 minutes 5 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), Cinescope 1976 Belgian TV interview with Christopher Lee (54 minutes 38 seconds, Dolby Digital mono French with English subtitles), Colin Grimshaw interviews Christopher Lee in 1975 (16 minutes 23 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), 1985 Audio Interview with Christopher Lee with video introduction by David Del Valle (27 minutes 16 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with Pioneering Horror Movie Historian Alan Frank titled Monsters & Vampires (18 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), a making of featurette for Crypt of the Vampire titled The Crypt Keepers that features interviews with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, assistant director Tonino Valerii and film historian Fabio Melelli (35 minutes 1 second, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles), Christopher Lee and Gary Curtis music videos for It's Now Or Never with optional audio commentary by Gary Curtis (3 minutes 52 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles) and She'll Fall For Me with optional audio commentary by Gary Curtis (4 minutes 31 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), outtakes with Christopher Lee from To The Devil… A Daughter and Theatre of Death 2001 DVD releases (19 minutes 16 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), University College Dublin 2011 Q&A with Sir Christopher Lee (18 minutes 19 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles) and a cardboard insert that lists Relics From The Crypt contents. Also, there an option to play all or play each extra separately.

Extras for Crypt of the Vampire include a trailer for Crypt of the Vampire (3 minutes 56 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles).

Extras for Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace include a trailer for Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (3 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital mono German with English subtitles), Tony Dalton interviews director Terence Fisher (12 minutes 35 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), Tony Dalton on Terence Fisher (26 minutes 48 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critics/historians Kim Newman & Barry Forshaw.

Extras for Theatre Macabre include a promo Christopher Lee promo for Theatre Macabre (1 minute 49 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles).

Extras for The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism include a poster gallery; a behind the scenes still gallery, restoration slideshow, a teaser trailer for The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1 minute 11 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo), a trailer for The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (3 minutes 13 seconds, Dolby Digital mono German with English subtitles), a locations featurette (7 minutes 41 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo German with English subtitles), an audio interview with actress Karin Dor (25 minutes 22 seconds, Dolby Digital mono German with English subtitles),Die Schlangengrube - Die Burg des Grauens a German Super 8 digest short (16 minutes 44 seconds, Dolby Digital mono German with English subtitles), Die Schlangengrube des Grafen Dracula a German Super 8 digest short (16 minutes 3 seconds, Dolby Digital mono German with English subtitles) and audio commentary is with film historians/critics Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth.

Rounding out the extras is an all-new 88-page book by Lee biographer Jonathan Rigby and each Blu-ray disc is packaged separately along with a brand new book, all housed inside a sturdy chipboard split-case box.

Summary:

Though Castle of the Living Dead has many of the elements that have become synonymous with Italian Gothic horror films. The result is a film that tonally sets itself apart from most Italian Gothic horror films. Most of this tonal shift can-be attributed to its producer and director being American’s. That said, in just about every other area Castle of the Living Dead it bears all the hallmarks of 1960’s Italian genre cinema.

From a production standpoint, Castle of the Living Dead far exceeds expectations. It’s a film that takes full advantage of its limited resources. Also, though the premise covers familiar ground, the well-executed narrative is very good at building tension and the finale provides a satisfying conclusion. Other strengths are a solid cast that includes Christopher Lee in the role of Count Drago, and Donald Sutherland portraying multiple characters and the Gothic infused visuals perfectly reinforce the mood.

Once again, with Challenge the Devil we return to the realm of Gothic horror. And though there are many elements that one would associate with Italian Gothic horror in Challenge the Devil, most notably the visuals. The result is arguably one of more bizarre genre films to ever come out of Italy.

What would happen if you merged newly unrelated footage with footage from another film? You would end up with a film like Challenge the Devil. What started off as a Gothic horror film evolved into something completely different when unrelated spy themed footage shot after the fact and integrated into the film. Needless to say, such divergent mixing of narratives creates a Jekyll and Hyde film tonally. Another shortcoming of Challenge the Devil is Christopher Lee’s lack of screen time. 

With Crypt of the Vampire we get a Gothic horror film adapted from Sheridan Le Fanu’s exquisite novella Carmilla. Though, Crypt of the Vampire retains the core elements of Carmilla. The result is an adaptation that's been distilled through the lens of Italian cinema.

Content wise, Crypt of the Vampire has Gothic horror and melodrama elements. With the bulk of the film falling more into the latter-category. Also, anyone expecting bloodshed should look elsewhere since Crypt of the Vampire relies more on atmosphere than gruesome set pieces. And though Christopher Lee has a sizable part, ultimately Adriana Ambesi is the main attraction of Crypt of the Vampire.

Though Christopher Lee had appeared in other Sherlock Holmes films. Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace would mark the only time he portrayed Sherlock Holmes. Also, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace is directed by Terence Fisher who worked with Christopher Lee on many Hammer Films.

From a production standpoint, Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace has all the elements one would need to make a great film. And yet, the result is a film that never lives up to the sum of its parts. Sure the direction is solid and Christopher Lee in the role of Sherlock Holmes does not disappoint. Ultimately, it's everything else in-between that falter.

The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Collection’s most interesting inclusion is the Polish TV series Theatre Macabre. This release collects the twenty-four episodes that remain, reportedly a few episodes no longer exist. Here’s a list of the episode titles: First Love, The Man Who Demoralized Hadleyburg, The Tortures Of Hope, Mateo Falcone, The Vampire, The Swashbuckler, The Actress, The System Of Dr. Tarr And Professor Fether, The Rajah's Diamond, The Nose, Tell Tale Hearts, Markheim, The Barrel Organ, The Canterville Ghost, Decameron, A Matter Of Conscience, The Husband Under The Be, Pavoncello, The Song Of Triumphant Love, The Postmaster, A Terribly Strange Bed , The Fatalist, Resurrection Of The Offland and Boarded Window.

Though Theatre Macabre gets billed as something like something like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. The result is actually a series that’s varied tonally with the bulk of the episodes best described as melodrama’s. That said, most of the episodes are adaptations of famous authors which include Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allen Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Oscar Wilde, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Mark Twain. Also, some of the creative talent behind Theatre Macabre are notable Polish filmmakers like Andrzej Wajda who wrote the screenplay for First Love and Andrzej Zulawski who directed Pavoncello and The Song Of Triumphant Love.

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism is the crown jewel of The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Collection. It’s a superbly realized horror film that’s infused with Gothic horror, Mario Bava like visuals and elements that have become synonymous with inquisition themed horror films.

Though The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism bears all the traits of low-budget 1960’s European genre cinema. The result is a film that far exceeds the sum of its parts. The premise is well-executed, the narrative does a great job building tension and the finale provides a perfect coda to the events that have unfolded. Not too be overlooked is Christopher Lee’s menacing portrayal of Count Frederic Regula.

Though he’s most remembered for his work within the horror genre, Christopher Lee is actually one of cinema’s most recognizable actors. He had a career that spanned seventy-years and hundreds of films. That said, it should not come as a surprise that Severin Films would assemble a box set like The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Collection.

For this release Severin Films have gone all out. All of the films in this collection have never looked or sounded better on home video and including Theatre Macabre further enhances this exemplary release. Also, there’s a wealth of extra content that provides insight about the films and interviews with Christopher Lee that give further insight into him. That said, The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Collection is an extraordinary release that every fan of Christopher Lee and Euro-Cult cinema should own, highly recommended.





































Written by Michael Den Boer

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