Horror High / Stanley – Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1973 (Horror High), USA, 1972 (Stanley)
Director: Larry N. Stouffer (Horror High), William Grefé (Stanley)
Cast: Pat Cardi, Austin Stoker, Rosie Holotik, John Niland, Joye Hash, Jeff Alexander, Mike McHenry (Horror High), Chris Robinson, Alex Rocco, Steve Alaimo, Susan Carroll, Mark Harris, Rey Baumel, Paul Avery, Marcia Knight (Stanley)
Release Date: May 31st, 2022
Approximate Running Times: 83 Minutes 47 Seconds (Horror High), 107 Minutes 20 Seconds (Stanley)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Films)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (Both Films)
Subtitles: English SDH (Both Films)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $44.98
"In the early 70s, independent filmmakers based in the American south found a fruitful way to make a living in low budget horror movies destined for the drive-in market. Reveling in lurid and absurd concepts, these films are just as much windows into the cultures which bred them as they are wild rides into the most outlandish areas of exploitation cinema. Vinegar Syndrome’s Drive-In Collection presents these two classics of regional horror together on Blu-ray for the first time.
In Larry Stouffer’s Texas lensed HORROR HIGH (1973), bespectacled chemistry nerd Vernon Potts is the target of non-stop bullying from his fellow students and teachers alike, with his only true friend being the class guinea pig, Mr. Mumps. While conducting an experiment using Mr. Mumps as a test subject, Vernon discovers a formula that turns the harmless creature into a snarling beast. After being caught, he drinks the formula himself, transforming into a bloodthirsty killer and begins brutally slaying all those who wronged him.
William Grefé has maintained one of the longest and most diverse careers in exploitation history, all but creating Florida’s exploitation film industry. In STANLEY (1972), his answer to the ‘animals attack’ film craze, Cliff Robinson stars as Tim, a quiet Seminole who finds his life turned upside down by vicious poachers who begin to kill his beloved snakes. Harnessing his powers over them, he uses the slithering creatures to exact murderous revenge against all those who wronged him, eventually kidnapping the daughter of a wealthy business man who is determined to push Tim off of his land…" - synopsis provided by the distributor
Video: 4.5/5 (Horror High), 4.75 (Stanley)
Here’s the information provided about Horror High's transfer, "Newly scanned & restored in 2K from the only known and fully-uncut 16mm lab print."
Horror High comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 36.7 GB
Feature: 22.9 GB
When compared to previous home video releases of Horror High, this new 2K transfer from Vinegar Syndrome is superior in every way. Colors are nicely saturated, flesh tones look correct, image clarity is strong throughout, black levels look very good, and grain remains intact.
Here’s the information provided about Stanley's transfer, "Newly scanned & restored in 2K from its 35mm original camera negative."
Stanley comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.
Disc Size: 44.7 GB
Feature: 29.3 GB
When compared to previous home video releases of Stanley, this new 2K transfer from Vinegar Syndrome is a noticeable improvement in every way. Colors and flesh tones look correct, image clarity and black levels are solid, and the image retains an organic look.
Audio: 4/5 (Horror High, Stanley)
Both Horror High and Stanley have a single audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English. Both the audio mixes are in very good shape; dialog comes through clearly, ambient sounds are well-represented, and their scores sound robust. That said, both audio mixes have a few minor silabance related issues. Both films come with removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras for Horror High include a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 21 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), two TV spots (1 minute 3 seconds & 34 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an interview with actor John Niland titled I Would Do It Again (10 minutes 5 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), an interview with actress Michelle Falerne titled Gossip (8 minutes 16 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), an interview with screenwriter J.D. Feigelson titled Still Amazed (6 minutes 47 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), an archival interview with Pat Cardi titled Looking Back (14 minutes 3 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), an interview with Pat Cardi titled Cheerleaders on Tap (18 minutes 37 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), and an audio commentary with Pat Cardi.
Extras for Stanley include an archival featurette exploring the locations of Stanley with director William Grefé titled Stanley: Revisited (3 minutes 17 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), an archival Q&A titled Stanley Goes Hollywood from a screening at the New Beverly Cinema (24 minutes 30 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), an archival extensive making-of documentary titled Dark Side of Eden (44 minutes 44 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), and an archival audio commentary with screenwriter Gary Crutcher.
Other extras include reversible cover art and an embossed slipcover limited to 5,000 units.
Horror High: Though Horror High is filled with cliched high school characters and other elements that are synonymous with horror themed high school films, there’s something oddly endearing about Horror High, a unique take on a familiar story, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Gothic novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Horror High immediately draws you into its world with a melancholy song titled Vernon's Theme.This song is named after the protagonist, and it also plays again in the closing credits. Vernon's Theme is also one of Horror High's most powerful assets.
The narrative can be broken down into three sections: the first section introduces you to the protagonist, Vernon, and shows you the daily cruelty that's inflicted upon him; the second section is the beginning of his transformation when he becomes an unwilling participant in taking his experimental serum; and the third section sees Vernon fully embrace the monster he’s awakened.
Most of the performances are best described as serviceable. The only performance that leaves any lasting impression is Pat Cardi's (Let’s Kill Uncle, Before Uncle Kills Us). He delivers a strong performance in the role of the tormented protagonist, Vernon Potts.
From a production standpoint, Horror High's positives far outweigh its negatives. The premise is well-executed, the narrative moves at a good pace, and the finale provides a perfect coda. Another area where Horror High does very well is its kill scenes, which have an ample amount of bloodshed. Ultimately, Horror High is a solid low-budget horror film that takes full advantage of its limited resources.
Stanley: Anyone who’s familiar with the films of William Grefé should know what to expect from Stanley. He was a filmmaker who made low-budget films primarily in Florida. Some of his notable films include Impulse and Mako: The Jaws of Death.
Stanley, like most of William Grefé’s films, plays off of whatever genre was popular at that time. And in the case of Stanley, it capitalizes on the natural horror sub-genre which reached its apex of popularity in the 1970’s.
Based solely on its premise, Stanley should have turned out better than it did. For a premise that’s ripe with possibilities, the result is a film that far too often strays away from its greatest asset, snakes. And when the moment finally arrives where the snakes are unleashed, it is too little too late.
The most surprising aspects of Stanley are its performances. With most of the cast delivering strong performances, especially Chris Robinson (The Intruder) in the role of Tim Ochopee, a loner Seminole Indian who has an unusual connection with snakes, another performance of note is Alex Rocco (The Godfather) in the role of Richard Thomkins, a man who wants to make belts out of Tim’s snakes.
At just under 110 minutes, Stanley has a bloated narrative that could have benefited from trimming the narrative by twenty minutes. Also, there are moments of animal cruelty that are sure to turn off many prospective viewers. Ultimately, Stanley is a melodrama that tries to be a horror film.
Horror High and Stanley get a solid release from Vinegar Syndrome. Both films have never looked or sounded better and they come with a wealth of insightful extras, recommended.
Written by Michael Den Boer