Saturday, April 30, 2022

Blood Ceremony – Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Spain/Italy, 1973
Director: Jorge Grau
Writers: Jorge Grau, Juan Tébar, Sandro Continenza, José Luis Garci
Cast: Lucia Bosè, Espartaco Santoni, Ewa Aulin, Ana Farra, Silvano Tranquilli, Lola Gaos

Release Date: March 9th, 2021
Approximate Running Times: 90 Minutes 5 Seconds (International Version), 88 Minutes 55 Seconds (Spanish Version)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC (Both Versions)
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Spanish (Spanish Version, International Version), DTS-HD Mono English (International Version)
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"In 19th century Europe, the people are in the grip of ancient superstitions and the fear of vampires runs riot through the land. Strange rituals are enacted to seek out the resting places of the undead and macabre trials are held over disinterred corpses. The Countess barely notices what is going on. She is more concerned that her beauty is fading and that her husband seems only interested in his birds of prey and observing the behavior of the superstitious locals.

Her faithful lady's companion tells the Countess that there are ways to reignite her husband's passion - and also ways to preserve her looks. She reminds the Countess of her ancestor, the notorious Erzebeth Báthory, who bathed in the blood of virgins to maintain her youth. The Countess is unsure, but then one day the blood of a servant girl drips onto her hand and she is convinced that her skin has become whiter as a result. Soon she is searching for more blood and to her surprise, her husband becomes the one to provide it for her." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “Brand new 4k transfer from original negative.”

Blood Ceremony comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43.8 GB

Feature: 20.3 GB (International Version), 18.9 GB (Spanish Version)

The source used for both versions is in excellent shape. Colors are nicely saturated, image clarity and black levels are solid, and the grain looks organic.

Audio: 4.25/5 (DTS-HD Mono Spanish, DTS-HD Mono English)

The Spanish version comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in Spanish with removable English subtitles. The international version comes with two audio options: a DTS-HD mono mix in Spanish with removable English subtitles and a DTS-HD mono mix in English with no subtitles. All the audio options are in great shape; the dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a Mondo Macabro preview reel, press book reel, five theatrical trailers (8 minutes 1 second, Dolby Digital mono English, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with director Jorge Grau titled Getting Started (15 minutes 16 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Spanish with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with director Jorge Grau titled Blood Ceremony (26 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Spanish with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, and an audio commentary with Robert Monell and Rod Barnett.

Summary:

It doesn’t take too much imagination to quickly see where Blood Ceremony's narrative is heading. The narrative inches along before it gets to the meat of the story. Fortunately, the final act and the climax are exceptional, and they more than make up for the sluggish start. 

Though Blood Ceremony is not a particularly violent film, there is an ample amount of blood that flows. Visually, the most enticing moment is a scene where the countess’s husband has just slit a virgin’s throat and her blood drips from above over the countess’s naked flesh.

Performance wise, all of the cast are very good in their respective roles, especially Lucia Bosé (Story of a Love Affair) in the role of Countess Erzsebet Bathory. She delivers a mesmerizing performance that perfectly captures her character's essence. Another performance of note is Espartaco Santoni (Violent Blood Bath), in the role of the countess’s husband. That said, the only disappointing casting/performance is that of Ewa Aulin (Death Laid an Egg), who’s not given enough time to work and has been cast in a role opposite to the ones she is more known for. 

From a production standpoint, Blood Ceremony is a film that takes advantage of all of its resources. Also, Blood Ceremony is a film that’s overflowing with atmosphere, and Carlo Savina’s (Lisa and the Devil) score does a fantastic job of reinforcing the mood. Ultimately, Blood Ceremony is a satisfying adaptation of the Elizabeth Báthory legend.

Blood Ceremony makes its way to Blu-ray via a solid release from Mondo Macabro that comes with two versions of the film and a wealth of insightful extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue: Standard Edition – Synapse Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Spain/Italy, 1974
Director: Jorge Grau
Writers: Juan Cobos, Sandro Continenza, Marcello Coscia, Miguel Rubio
Cast: Cristina Galbó, Ray Lovelock, Arthur Kennedy, Aldo Massasso, Giorgio Trestini, Roberto Posse, José Lifante, Jeannine Mestre, Gengher Gatti, Fernando Hilbeck

Release Date: June 7th, 2022
Approximate Running Time: 92 Minutes 57 seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $34.95

"A strange twist of fate brings two young travelers, George (Ray Lovelock, The Cassandra Crossing) and Edna (Christine Galbo, The House That Screamed), to a small town where an experimental agricultural machine may be bringing the dead back to life! As zombies infest the area and attack the living, a bullheaded detective (Academy Award® nominee Arthur Kennedy, Peyton Place) thinks the couple are Satanists responsible for the local killings. George and Edna have to fight for their lives, and prove their innocence, as they try and stop the impending zombie apocalypse!" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “Exclusive new 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative”.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 41.5 GB

Feature: 26.8 GB

The source used for this transfer looks immaculate; color saturation is very good, image clarity, contrast, and shadow detail are rock solid, and the grain looks organic. When compared to Blue Underground's 2009 Blu-ray, this new transfer is superior in every way.

Audio: 4.5/5 (DTS-HD Mono English), 4.25/5 (DTS-HD 5.1 English)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. Both the audio mixes are in excellent shape; the dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, and the ambient sounds are well-represented. Of these two audio tracks, the mono track is superior. Included with this release are removable English subtitles.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 51 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), two TV spots under the title Don't Open the Window (57 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), two radio spots under the title Don't Open the Window (2 minutes 7 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), a Q&A at the Festival of Fantastic Films, UK with makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi (42 minutes 29 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English subtitles), an interview with Giannetto De Rossi titled The Scene of the Crime (15 minutes 24 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English subtitles), a documentary that explores the life and films of director Jorge Grau titled Jorge Grau - Catalonia’s Cult Film King (88 minutes 58 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English and Spanish with non-removable English subtitles for Spanish), an audio commentary with Troy Howarth, and an audio commentary with Nathaniel Thompson and Bruce Holecheck.

Summary:

The Living Dead in Manchester The Morgue, like most Euro-cult horror films, was released under a number of alternate titles, including Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Don't Open the Window, Do Not Speak Ill of the Dead, and Zombie 3.

Though Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue may not be as well known as George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead or Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, It is an equally impressive living death that deserves to reach a larger audience. 

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is an environmental-themed horror film. The narrative revolves around an unlikely couple who are brought together by chance. And along the way, they discover that there’s a machine whose signal brings the dead back to life.

And though this premise requires viewers to take a leap of faith, The way in which most of the zombie attacks happen makes the premise easier to accept. When no one else is around, the zombies usually appear to the two main characters, George and Edna.

The cast delivers strong performances, particularly Cristina Galbó (What Have You Done to Solange?) in the role of Edna. She delivers a first rate performance that captures her character's downward spiral into madness. Acting wise, my only gripe is Arthur Kennedy’s (The Tough Ones) portrayal of a police inspector. 

From a production standpoint, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue is a film that maximizes its resources. The narrative moves along briskly with the zombie attacks being perfectly spread out, and The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue goes out with a bang with an all-out feast of flesh in its final moments. Other strengths include stylish visuals that are overflowing with atmosphere, a solid sound design, and an excellent score that heightens the mood that perfectly captures the mood. Ultimately, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue deserves its status as a classic zombie film with its ample amount of carnage and a jarring ending that puts an exclamation point on the events that preceded it.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue gets an exceptional release from Synapse Films that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and an abundance of insightful extras, highly recommended.









Written by Michael Den Boer

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Twisting The Knife: Four Films By Claude Chabrol – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: France, 1997 (The Swindle), France, 1999 (The Color of Lies), France, 2000 (Nightcap), France, 2003 (The Flower of Evil)
Director: Claude Chabrol (All Films)
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Michel Serrault, François Cluzet, Jean-François Balmer, Jackie Berroyer, Jean Benguigui (The Swindle), Sandrine Bonnaire, Jacques Gamblin, Antoine de Caunes, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Bernard Verley, Bulle Ogier (The Color of Lies), Isabelle Huppert, Jacques Dutronc, Anna Mouglalis, Rodolphe Pauly, Brigitte Catillon, Michel Robin, Mathieu Simonet (Nightcap), Nathalie Baye, Benoît Magimel, Suzanne Flon, Bernard Le Coq, Mélanie Doutey, Thomas Chabrol, Henri Attal (The Flower of Evil)

Release Date: April 25th, 2022 (UK), April 26th, 2022 (USA)
Approximate Running Times: 105 Minutes 36 Seconds (The Swindle), 112 Minutes 53 Seconds (The Color of Lies), 100 Minutes 52 Seconds (Nightcap), 104 Minutes 47 Seconds (The Flower of Evil)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Stereo French (All Films), DTS-HD 5.1 (Nightcap, The Flower of Evil)
Subtitles: English (All Films)
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £69.99 (UK) / $99.95 (USA)

"For five decades Claude Chabrol navigated the unpredictable waters of Cinema, leaving in his wake fifty-five feature films that remain among the most quietly devastating genre movies ever made. The Swindle sees Chabrol at perhaps his most playful as a pair of scam artists, Isabelle Huppert and Michel Serrault, get in over their heads. But who is scamming who and who do you trust in a life built on so many lies? The murder of a 10-year-old girl sparks rumors and gossip in The Color of Lies, as suspicion falls on René (Jacques Gamblin) the dour once famous painter, now art teacher, who was the last person to see her alive. Enigmatic, perverse, seductive, Isabelle Huppert encapsulates everything that makes Nightcap a film John Waters calls "Cinematic Perfection" in this tale of suppressed family secrets. Finally, in The Flower of Evil, incest, old money and intergenerational guilt come under the scalpel as an outwardly perfect bourgeois family begins to unravel when the wife involves herself in politics. Though influenced by Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock and Jean Renoir, Chabrol's voice was entirely and assuredly his own, influencing in turn filmmakers like Bong Joon-ho, James Gray and Dominik Moll. His amused, unblinkered view of life and refusal to judge his characters makes his films timelessly relevant and accessible to all." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.25/5 (The Swindle, Nightcap, The Flower of Evil), 4/5 (The Color of Lies)

Here’s the information provided about the transfers, “The films in this collection were restored and supplied by MK2.”

And here’s additional information about the transfers, "New 4K restorations of The Swindle, Nightcap and The Flower of Evil."

The Swindle comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43 GB

Feature: 26.7 GB

The Color of Lies comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 39.5 GB

Feature: 28.6 GB

Nightcap comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.9 GB

Feature: 26.8 GB

The Flower of Evil comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 46.1 GB

Feature: 27.1 GB

Though the sources used for these five films are comparable, the three strongest transfers are The Swindle, Nightcap, and The Flower of Evil, which all received new 4K restorations. That said, The Color of Lies looks good, despite coming from older sources.

There are no issues when it comes to image clarity, compression, or grain, and black levels look very good. That said, these four transfers all look great.

Audio: 4.25/5 (LPCM stereo French), 4/5 (DTS-HD 5.1 French)

The Swindle and The Color of Lies each come with one audio option, a LPCM stereo mix in French. Nightcap and The Flower of Evil each come with two audio options: a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in French and a LPCM stereo mix in French. All of the audio mixes are in great shape; dialog always comes through clearly, ambient sounds are well-represented, and everything sounds balanced. That said, the DTS-HD 5.1 mixes offer a slightly fuller sound experience than their LPCM stereo counterparts. Included with this release are removable English subtitles for all four films.

Extras:

Extras for The Swindle include an image gallery (7 images), theatrical trailer (1 minute 45 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archival conversation with actress Isabelle Huppert (25 minutes 38 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archival Behind the scenes featurette (8 minutes 22 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), archival select scene audio commentary by Claude Chabrol (24 minutes 20 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archive introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (2 minutes 28 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an interview with Cécile Maistre-Chabrol titled Film as a Family Affair (38 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French/English with removable English subtitles), a visual essay by film scholar Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze titled Chabrol’s ‘Soap Bubble’ (14 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with non-removable English subtitles for French dialog), and an audio commentary with film critic Barry Forshaw and author Sean Hogan.

Extras for The Color of Lies include an image gallery (8 images), theatrical trailer (1 minute 14 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archival Behind the scenes featurette (25 minutes 47 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), archival select scene audio commentary by Claude Chabrol (20 minutes 8 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archive introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (2 minutes 33 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), a visual essay by film critic David Kalat titled Chabrol’s ‘Soap Bubble’ (14 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with non-removable English subtitles for French dialog), and an audio commentary with film critic Barry Forshaw and author Sean Hogan.

Extras for Nightcap include an image gallery (11 images), theatrical trailer (1 minute 39 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), screentest for actress Anna Mouglalis (10 minutes 33 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archival Behind the scenes featurette (26 minutes 5 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor Jacques Dutronc (32 minutes 2 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actress Isabelle Huppert (7 minutes 6 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), archival select scene audio commentary by Claude Chabrol (43 minutes 48 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archive introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (3 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), a visual essay by film critic Scout Tafoya titled When I Perurit Good… (11 minutes 15 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with non-removable English subtitles for French dialog), and an audio commentary with film critic Justine Smith.

Extras for The Flower of Evil include an image gallery (4 images), theatrical trailer (2 minutes 14 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with screenwriter Catherine Eliacheff (24 minutes 47 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archival Behind the scenes featurette (25 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), archival select scene audio commentary by Claude Chabrol (49 minutes 29 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an archive introduction by film scholar Joël Magny (3 minutes 31 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo French with removable English subtitles), an appreciation by Agnes Poirier titled Behind the Masks (14 minutes 30 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with non-removable English subtitles for French dialog), and an audio commentary with film critic Farran Smith Nehme.

Rounding out the extras is an eighty-page booklet with cast & crew information for each film, an essay titled Les Femmes Impenetrable: Chabrol’s Women written by Sean Hogan, an essay titled It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye: Rien ne va plus and Other Chabrolian Secrets written by Brad Stevens, an essay titled Revive, Revive, Revive: Trauma, Politics and The Color of Lies written by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, an essay titled Nightcap (Merci pour le chocolat): The Poison of Perversity written by Pamela Hutchinson, About the Transfers and Production Credits.

Summary:

The Swindle: A man and a woman who travel in an RV look for victims to scam out of money. From there, they come across their best mark, who has access to five million francs. Will they put off another scam, or is this scam too good to be true?

The Swindle is a crime caper that has all the elements that are synonymous with the films of Claude Chabrol. That said, the result is a film that might surprise those who are only familiar with Claude Chabrol’s thrillers.

The characters are well-defined and the performances are all great, especially Isabelle Huppert (Madame Bovary) in the role of Elizabeth (Betty) and Michel Serrault (La Cage aux Folles) in the role of Victor. Though these two characters make an unusual duo, The most notable difference between them is their age. They have an undeniable chemistry that carries The Swindle.

From a production standpoint, there’s not an area where The Swindle comes up short. The premise is deliriously realized, the deliberately paced narrative always holds your attention, and there is an exemplary twist ending that brings everything that preceded it together. Another strength is how the visuals let the performances take center stage. Ultimately, The Swindle is a highly entertaining farce that is a must-see if you're a fan of Claude Chabrol.

The Color of Lies: A small town is rocked by a ten-year-old girl’s murder, and her art teacher becomes the number one suspect. Along the way, another murder happens in which the art teacher becomes involved. Is he guilty or is someone trying to frame him?

The Color of Lies opens with a jarring moment where two children find a ten-year-old girl’s lifeless body in the woods. This moment is a textbook example of Claude Chabrol’s ability to create arresting moments. From there, the narrative does a great job of building tension that reaches a boiling point by the finale.

Though The Color of Lies has all the elements that are synonymous with the films of Claude Chabrol, The result is a different kind of whodunit where the detective and their investigation take a backseat.

The cast members all give excellent performances, particularly Jacques Gamblin (Safe Conduct) in the role of René Sterne, an art teacher who was the first to see the murdered ten-year-old girl.Another performance of note is Sandrine Bonnaire (La Cérémonie) in the role of René’s unfaithful wife, Vivianne.

From a production standpoint, The Color of Lies is a film where everything perfectly falls into place. The premise is well-executed, and the narrative is overflowing with tension. Another strength of The Color of Lies is how effective Claude Chabrol is when it comes to concealing the killer's identity. Ultimately, The Color of Lies is an extraordinary film that fans of psychological thrillers are sure to enjoy.

Nightcap: A young woman becomes close to a family after she discovers that there was confusion at the hospital regarding her and the family's son, who were both born on the same day.

Though the premise toys with the idea of two children who may have been accidentally swapped at birth, This can be seen as a MacGuffin in the grander scheme of things. With the relationship between the son and his stepmother being the focal point,

The performances were all great. With the standout performance being Isabelle Huppert’s (Story of Women) portrayal of Marie-Claire "Mika" Muller, an heiress of a Swiss chocolate company who makes hot chocolate for her family. Another performance of note is by Anna Mouglalis (Kiss of the Damned) in the role of Jeanne Pollet, the young woman who reaches out to the family whose son was born on the same day as she was.

From a production standpoint, Nightcap is a superbly realized film. It is a narrative that’s driven by its well-defined characters, and its finale provides satisfying closure to the events that preceded. Another fascinating aspect of Nightcap is how effectively it uses coincidence. Besides the two characters possibly being accidentally swapped at birth, The Jeanne character is also a gifted pianist, like the man who may be her father, and she also bears a striking resemblance to his deceased wife. Ultimately, Nightcap is a riveting melodrama that has all the hallmarks that are synonymous with the cinema of Claude Chabrol.

The Flower of Evil: A family's life is turned inside out when their matriarch decides to run for mayor. From there, things become further complicated when an old mugging scandal involving the family is brought to light. Will a past scandal destroy the family, or will they overcome their past?

Though Claude Chabrol is most remembered for his work in the thriller genre, He was a versatile filmmaker who effortlessly worked in any genre he worked in. That said, no matter what genre he worked in, his use of humor is one element that can be found throughout his filmography.

At the heart of The Flower of Evil is a melodrama about secrets, past and present. And the effect of said secrets? With the finale providing redemption for one character's past transgression while freeing another.

The cast members are all excellent in their respective roles. The most memorable was Suzanne Flon (One Deadly Summer) as an elderly aunt named Line. She delivers an amazing performance in which her character effortlessly switches from lucid to someone who’s in a daze. Another performance of note is that of Bernard Le Coq (Beautiful Memories) in the role of Gérard, the patriarch of the family.

From a production standpoint, there’s not an area where The Flower of Evil does not excel. Its deliberately paced narrative does a great job of maintaining tension, and a jarring finale provides perfect closure. Ultimately, The Flower of Evil is a powerful film that stays with you long after its final moments have faded off screen.

Twisting The Knife: Four Films By Claude Chabrol is an exceptional release from Arrow Video that comes with strong audio/video presentations for each film and a wealth of insightful extras about each film and Claude Chabrol, highly recommended.




































Written by Michael Den Boer

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