Sunday, February 26, 2023

Nightmare Beach – Kino Lorber (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1989
Directors: Umberto Lenzi (as Harry Kirkpatrick), James Justice (as Harry Kirkpatrick)
Writers: Umberto Lenzi (as Harry Kirkpatrick), James Justice (as Harry Kirkpatrick), Vittorio Rambaldi
Cast: Nicolas De Toth, Sarah Buxton, Rawley Valverde, Lance LeGault, Michael Parks, John Saxon

Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Approximate Running Time: 91 Minutes 27 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC
Rating: R
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono Italian
Subtitles: English (for Italian language track)
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95

"A shockingly gory tale of a madman in a motorcycle helmet who is taking out young co-eds all over the sparkling sands of South Florida during Spring Break. As the body count creeps up, Miami detective John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Black Christmas, Evil Eye) tries to keep ahead of the curve in this carnage-packed slasher gem from the maestro of macabre." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “Brand new 4K Master.”

Nightmare Beach comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 27.9 GB

Feature: 24.8 GB

The source used for this transfer is in excellent shape; colors are nicely saturated; flesh tones look correct; image clarity and black levels look solid throughout; there are no issues with compression; and grain remains intact.

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

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in Italian. Both audio mixes are in great shape; dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, and range-wise, the ambient sounds are well-represented. Included with this release are removable English subtitles for the Italian language track. It should be noted that the subtitles are a direct translation of the English-language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include reversible cover art, a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 42 seconds, DTS-HD mono English, no subtitles), an interview with composer Claudio Simonetti titled Nightmare Rock (15 minutes 56 seconds, DTS-HD stereo Italian with non-removable English subtitles) and an audio commentary with film historian Sam Dhegihan.

Summary:

Though Umberto Lenzi is credited as the director of Nightmare Beach. According to the extras included as part of this release, he was the original director, and at some point, his role was eventually reduced to that of an adviser. So, who’s Harry Kirkpatrick? According to reports, Harry Kirkpatrick is screenwriter James Justice.

Key collaborators on Nightmare Beach include screenwriter Vittorio Rambaldi (Primal Rage), cinematographer Antonio Climati (Goodbye Uncle Tom), and composer Claudio Simonetti (Opera).

Questions about who actually directed Nightmare Beach aside, content-wise, Nightmare Beach has the core elements that have become synonymous with slasher cinema, and one could argue that slasher cinema is a by-product of Italian thrillers. And nowhere is this more clear than when it comes to the outfit that the killer wears to disguise their identity.

Having said that, Nightmare Beach contains a healthy dose of Italian thriller elements. The result is a film that is actually closer to American slasher cinema. Having Nightmare Beach take place during Spring Break, one of America's most celebrated rites of passage, distances this film from traditional Italian thrillers.

The performances are best described as enthusiastic. The most memorable performance being Sarah Buxton (Less Than Zero) in the role of Gail, a young woman who’s still traumatized by her sister’s death. Other notable and memorable cast members include Michael Parks (The Evictors) as a drug-addicted doctor, John Saxon (Black Christmas) as Strycher, a loose cannon police officer who frequently bends the rules to catch criminals, and Lance LeGault (Iron Eagle) as Reverend Bates, an overzealous religious fanatic.

From a production standpoint, the premise is well-executed, and the narrative is a satisfying mix of carnage and sleaze. The special effects look crude, and all the deaths are deliriously absurd. Ultimately, Nightmare Beach is a highly entertaining slice of b-grade cinema.

Nightmare Beach gets an excellent release from Kino Lorber that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and a pair of informative extras, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Hitcher in the Dark: Deluxe Collector's Edition – 88 Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1989
Director: Umberto Lenzi
Writers: Olga Pehar, Umberto Lenzi
Cast: Joe Balogh, Josie Bissett, Jason Saucier

Release Date: July 25th, 2022
Approximate Running Time: 96 Minutes 14 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £25.00 (UK)

"Hitcher in the Dark, plunges us into the murky and nightmarish world of matriarch-obsessed serial killer Mark Glazer (Joe Balogh). Spending his evenings raping and murdering innocent female victims, he eventually comes across Daniella who bears a striking resemblance to his dead mother." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "4K Transfer from the Original Negative."

Hitcher in the Dark comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 38.3 GB

88 Films Feature: 26.6 GB

Vinegar Syndrome Feature: 26.1 GB

The verbiage used for this transfer is the same that Vinegar Syndrome used for their transfer, and both transfers are about the same size. That said, this transfer is on par with the transfer Vinegar Syndrome used for their release. Color saturation, image clarity, black levels, and compression are solid. Also, the image retains an organic look.

Audio: 4/5

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English, and included are removable English SDH subtitles. The audio sounds clean, clean, and balanced. Range-wise, things are satisfactory.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 12 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an interview with Alessandra Lenzi tilted A Daughter (14 minutes 40 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an interview with sound department Piero Parisi (10 minutes 31 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with director Umberto Lenzi titled Il Cinema Kriminal Di Umberto Lenzi - Part 2 (27 minutes 5 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with author Troy Howarth, reversible cover art, a fold-out Poster, and a forty-page booklet with an essay titled Road Kill: Taking a Journey Through the Uneven Terrain of Umberto Lenzi’s Late 80s Horror Hitcher in the Dark written by Andrew Graves, and an essay titled Getting on at the Wrong Stop: Umberto Lenzi’s Hitcher in the Dark written by Chloe Leigh Taylor.

Extras on Vinegar Syndrome's Blu-ray release include a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 12 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with director Umberto Lenzi (10 minutes 20 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with film historians and authors Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger, reversible cover art, and an embossed slipcover limited to 4,000 units.

Summary:

Though Umberto Lenzi kept busy during the 1980s, when most of his contemporaries went to television, most of the films that he directed during this era of his career are easily his most "by the numbers" films. The only films from this decade that stands out being Eaten Alive! Nightmare City, and Cannibal Ferox. All three of these films are known for their extreme graphic carnage.

Hitcher in the Dark is one of two slasher films that Umberto Lenzi directed in the 1980s, the other being Welcome to Spring Break. Besides genre, the other thing that these two films have in common is that they go out of their way to look like American films.

The three main actors are all Americans: Joe Balogh (Monstrosity) as Mark Glazer, a serial killer who drives around in an RV; Josie Bissett (Mikey) in the role of Daniela Foster, a woman who resembles Mark’s mother; and Jason Saucier (Sister, Sister) in the role of Daniela’s boyfriend. The performances are best described as serviceable.

From a production standpoint, Hitcher in the Dark has all the hallmarks that are synonymous with the films that Filmirage made in the 1980s. These films were made on anemic budgets with small casts and minimal locations. That said, despite the opening killing having the visceral tone that Umberto Lenzi’s most notorious films are known for, the result is a film that lacks the nastiness that one has come to expect from Umberto Lenzi when it comes to carnage. Another weakness are the visuals, which are not as strong as Umberto Lenzi’s 1970s output. Ultimately, Hitcher in the Dark is a lackluster film that is only of interest if you're an Umberto Lenzi completist.

Hitcher in the Dark gets an excellent release from 88 Films that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and informative extras.

Note: Limited edition - 2000 Units Only.









 Written by Michael Den Boer

Friday, February 24, 2023

Millionaires' Express: Limited Edition – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1986
Director: Sammo Kam-Bo Hung
Writers: Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Keith Wong
Cast: Sammo Kam-Bo Hung, Yuen Biao, Rosamund Kwan, Cynthia Rothrock, Lau Kar-wing, Jimmy Wang Yu, Yukari Ôshima

Release Date: February 28th, 2023
Approximate Running Times: 97 Minutes 11 Seconds (Original Hong Kong Theatrical Cut), 101 Minutes 42 Seconds (Extended International Cut), 92 Minutes 4 Seconds (English Export Cut), 108 Minutes 57 Seconds (Hybrid Cut)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC (All Versions)
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono Cantonese (Original Hong Kong Theatrical Cut, Extended International Cut, Hybrid Cut), LPCM Mono English (Extended International Cut, English Export Cut)
Subtitles: English (Original Hong Kong Theatrical Cut, Extended International Cut, Hybrid Cut)
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $39.95

"Ching Foon-tin, a former outlaw with a wild scheme to make amends with the citizens of his struggling hometown of Hanshui: explosively derail a brand new luxury express train en route from Shanghai so that its super-rich passengers will have no choice but to spend money in the town. He's not the only one with eyes on the passengers' deep pockets, however; a gang of ruthless bank-robbing bandits are on the way, looking for a priceless map being guarded by a trio of Japanese samurai. Bullets and fists will fill the air in equal measure, but will Hanshui be left standing?" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (All Versions)

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfers, "New 2K restorations by Fortune Star."

Millionaires' Express, the original Hong Kong theatrical cut, and the extended International cut come on a 50 GB dual-layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.6 GB

Feature: 21.3 GB (Original Hong Kong Theatrical Cut), 18.4 GB (Extended International Cut)

Millionaires' Express, the English export cut, and the hybrid cut come on a 50 GB dual-layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 45.5 GB

Feature: 23.7 GB (Hybrid Cut), 21.4 GB (English Export Cut)

The sources used for the four versions are comparable; they are in excellent shape. Colors and flesh tones look correct; image clarity, black levels, and compression are solid.

Audio: 4.5/5 (LPCM Mono Cantonese, LPCM Mono English)

The original Hong Kong theatrical cut comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Cantonese. Included are removable English subtitles.

The extended international cut comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in Cantonese and a LPCM mono mix in English. Included are removable English subtitles for the Cantonese language track and a second removable English subtitle track for Cantonese text when watching with the English language track.

The English export cut comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English.

The hybrid cut comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Cantonese. Included are removable English subtitles.

All of the audio tracks are in excellent shape. Dialogue always comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, and fight scenes sound robust.

Extras:

Extras on the disc that contains the original Hong Kong theatrical cut and the extended international cut include Hong Kong theatrical trailer (3 minutes 55 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Cantonese with removable English subtitles), Shanghai Express export trailer (2 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), Tai Seng video promo trailer (1 minute 45 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), alternate English credits (4 minutes 16 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actress Yukari Oshima titled On the Cutting Edge (30 minutes 16 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Japanese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with Yuen Biao titled Way Out West (20 minutes 51 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actor/director Sammo Kam-Bo Hung titled A New Frontier (10 minutes 58 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with Sammo Kam-Bo Hung titled Express Delivery (14 minutes 46 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actress Cynthia Rothrock titled Trailblazer (23 minutes 59 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with Cynthia Rothrock titled Shanghai Express Behind The Express (14 minutes 25 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with Cynthia Rothrock titled Millionaires' Express (16 minutes 35 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), a select scene commentary with Cynthia Rothrock, moderated by Frank Djeng, an audio commentary with Frank Djeng for the original Hong Kong theatrical cut, and an audio commentary with Mike Leeder and Arne Venema for the extended international cut.

Other extras include reversible cover art, a double-sided fold-out poster, a slipcover and a twenty-eight page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled Imagining a Boundless Cinema: Sammo Hung in the 1980s written by David West, an essay titled Sammo’s Wild, Wild West written by Jonathan Clements and information about the transfers. 

Summary:

One would be hard pressed to name an actor who had more impact in martial arts cinema after Bruce Lee’s death than Jackie Chan. Though he did not achieve the level of fame that Jackie Chan achieved in America, it is hard to overlook just how important Sammo Kam-Bo Hung is to martial arts cinema. 1980s martial arts cinema, in particular. During this decade, he directed films like Wheels on Meals, My Lucky Stars, Eastern Condors, and Dragons Forever. Besides directing and appearing in these films.

Though there have been many martial arts films in which multiple actors shared the spotlight. particularly the six films in which Sammo Kam-Bo Hung co-starred with Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao. Millionaires' Express personified the cavalcade of who's who in Hong Kong cinema more than any other film.

The narrative revolves around a group of characters, a train filled with wealthy people, and a priceless map to a treasure. Set in the 1930s, Millionaires' Express is best described as a kung fu western meets Agatha Christie with some slapstick humor thrown in for good measure.

The solid cast is filled with recognizable faces from 1970s and 1980s Hong Kong cinema. Performance wise, the entire cast is great in their roles, especially Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (The Magnificent Butcher) in the role of Ching Foon-tin, an outlaw who returns to his hometown after evading the law. Yuen Biao (On the Run), Rosamund Kwan (Once Upon a Time in China), Cynthia Rothrock (Yes, Madam), Lau Kar-wing (Knockabout), and Jimmy Wang Yu (The Chinese Boxer) are just a few of the recognizable faces.

From a production standpoint, there is not an area where Millionaires' Express does not deliver, and then some. The narrative does a great job laying out who everyone is and their motivations. There is an ample amount of humor, with Sammo Kam-Bo Hung’s character being the source of most of the humor. Millionaires' Express delivers in spades when it comes to action set pieces. There is some really crazy stunt work, especially from Yuen Biao, whose moves defy gravity. Ultimately, Millionaires' Express is a perfect blend of action, adventure, and humor that fans of 1980s martial arts cinema are sure to enjoy.

Millionaires' Express gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video that comes with a solid audio/video presentation, four versions of the film, and informative extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

The House That Screamed – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Spain, 1969
Director: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Writers: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, Juan Tébar
Cast: Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbó, John Moulder-Brown, Maribel Martín, Mary Maude

Release Date: March 6th, 2023 (UK), March 7th, 2023 (USA)
Approximate Running Times: 94 Minutes 22 Seconds (The House That Screamed), 105 Minutes 11 Seconds (The Finishing School)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC (Both Versions)
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono English (Both Versions), LPCM Mono Spanish (The Finishing School)
Subtitles: English (The Finishing School), English SDH (Both Versions)
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £24.99 (UK), $39.95 (USA)

"Thérèse (Cristina Galbó) is the latest arrival at the boarding school for wayward girls run under the stern, authoritarian eye of Mme Fourneau (Lilli Palmer). As the newcomer becomes accustomed to the strict routines, the whip-hand hierarchies among the girls and their furtive extra-curricular methods of release from within the forbidding walls of institutional life, she learns that several of her fellow students have recently vanished mysteriously. Meanwhile, tensions grow within this isolated hothouse environment as Mme Fourneau's callow but curious 15-year-old son Louis (John Moulder-Brown) ignores his mother's strict orders not to get close to the "tainted" ladies under her ward." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.25/5 (The House That Screamed, The Finishing School)

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "The House that Screamed has been exclusively restored by Arrow Films and is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with mono sound. Two versions are presented: the 105 minute uncut version, titled The Finishing School (La Residencia), with both original English and Spanish audio; and the 94 minute US theatrical version, re-titled The House that Screamed by distributor American International Pictures.

The original 35mm camera negative and optical sound negative, both conformed to the longer version of the film, were scanned in 4K resoultion at Codicine Contenidos Digitales Cine and Keyframe Servicios Audiovisuales S.L. , Madrid. Additional HD master materials were sourced from MGM and Park Circus. The film was graded and restored in 2K resolution at R3Store Studios, London."

The House That Screamed comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 46.2 GB

Feature Arrow: 31.2 GB

Though the source still has some imperfections, these are minor and never intrusive. Color saturation, image clarity, and black levels are strong; compression is solid; and the image retains an organic look. Also, quality-wise, the two versions are comparable. That said, this new transfer is a marked improvement over the one Scream Factory used for their Blu-ray release.

Audio: 4.25/5 (LPCM Mono English), 4/5 (LPCM Mono Spanish)

The House That Screamed cut comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English, and removable English SDH subtitles.

The Finishing School cut comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in Spanish. This cut of the film comes with removable English subtitles for the Spanish language track and removable English SDH subtitles for the English language track.

All audio mixes sound clean, clear, and balanced. Range-wise, ambient sounds are well-represented, and the score sounds appropriately robust. That said, the English language tracks sound more robust than the Spanish language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include an image gallery (34 images - stills/posters), U.S. theatrical trailer (2 minutes 4 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), U.S. TV spot 1 (58 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), U.S. TV spot 2 (27 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), U.S. radio spot 1 (1 minute, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), U.S. radio spot 2 (30 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), alternative footage from the original Spanish theatrical version (6 minutes 9 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Spanish with removable English subtitles), an interview with actor John Moulder-Brown titled This Boy’s Innocence (24 minutes 20 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actress Mary Maude (11 minutes 51 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with Juan Tébar, author of the original story titled All About My “Mama” (9 minutes 25 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Spanish with removable English subtitles), an interview with the director's son, Alejandro Ibáñez titled The Legacy of Terror (13 minutes 55 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Spanish with removable English subtitles), an interview with Spanish horror expert Dr Antonio Lázaro-Reboll titled Screaming the House Down (20 minutes 23 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an audio commentary with film critic Anna Bogutskaya for the version titled The Finishing School, reversible cover art, a double-sided fold-out poster (limited to first pressing), a slipcover (limited to first pressing), and twenty-four page booklet (limited to first pressing) with cast & crew information, an essay titled The Horror That Screamed: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s Cult Film La Residencia written by Shelagh Rowan-Legg, and information about the restoration.

Summary:

The House That Screamed was co-written and directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, who mostly worked in television. Who Can Kill a Child? being his only other theatrical film, Key collaborators on The House That Screamed include cinematographer Manuel Berenguer (Night of the Devils) and composer Waldo de los Ros (The Corruption of Chris Miller). The screenplay for The House That Screamed was adapted from a story written by author Juan Tébar. Besides The House That Screamed, other titles this film has been released under include The Finishing School and La residencia (The Residence).

Children play a large role in The House That Screamed, like they would in Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s other theatrical film, Who Can Kill a Child? Children are the victims of all of the violence and killings in The House That Screamed.

The narrative revolves around the headmistress of a school for wayward girls who uses fear to keep the girls in line. Though girls come and go from the school, shortly after the arrival of a new girl named Teresa, girls began to disappear under mysterious circumstances.

It is easy to see how a filmmaker like Narciso Ibáñez Serrador is referred to as the Spanish Alfred Hitchcock. Both of his theatrical films fit firmly into the thriller/suspense genre. Also, the way that Narciso Ibáñez Serrador uses visuals to tell the story is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock. Then there is the House That Screamed premise, which bears a strong resemblance to one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most celebrated films.

The House That Screamed features an impressive cast, led by Lilli Palmer's (Cloak and Dagger) outstanding performance as the domineering headmistress, Mme Fourneau. Mary Maude (Crucible of Terror) in the role of Irene, one of the girls at the school who has gained the headmistress' trust by helping keep the girls in check, and John Moulder-Brown (Ludwig) in the role of Luis, the headmistress' socially awkward son who lives in seclusion at the school, are other notable performances.

From its opening moments, The House That Screamed establishes a forbidding tone. The narrative does a great job building tension once the girls start to disappear, and it has a sensational ending that perfectly brings everything together. There are many striking moments visually, notably the kill scenes, and the score does an excellent job reinforcing the mood. Ultimately, The House That Screamed is an extraordinary thriller that is overflowing with atmosphere.

The House That Screamed gets a solid release from Arrow Video that comes with a strong audio/video presentation, two versions of the film, and a wealth of informative extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Who Can Kill a Child? – Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Spain, 1976
Director: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Writers: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, Juan José Plans
Cast: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo, Miguel Narros, María Luisa Arias, Marisa Porcel, Juan Cazalilla, Luis Ciges

Release Date: July 10th, 2018
Approximate running times: 111 Minutes 12 Seconds (Spanish Version), 101 Minutes 51 Seconds (Island of Death Version)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Versions)
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English/Spanish, DTS-HD Mono Spanish, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

“An English tourist couple rent a boat to visit the island of Almanzora, just off the southern Spanish coast. When they arrive, they find the island apparently empty of adults. There are only children, who don’t speak but only stare at the strangers with eerie smiles on their faces. The couple soon discover that all the island’s children have been possessed by a mysterious force, a kind of madness that they pass from one to another, and which makes them attack and murder their elders, who can’t defend themselves because, of course, nobody can kill a child …” – Synopsis provided by the Distributor

Video: 5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "Brand new 4K restoration of the film from the original camera negative."

Who Can Kill a Child? comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 40.9 GB

Feature: 28.5 GB

The source used for this transfer is in excellent shape; details look sharp, colors are nicely saturated, black levels remain strong throughout, grain remains intact, and there are no issues with compression. When compared to previous home video releases for this film, this transfer is by far and away the best this film has looked to date on home video.

Audio: 4.5/5

The Spanish version of the film comes with three audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in English/Spanish hybrid, a DTS-HD mono mix in Spanish, and a DTS-HD mono mix in English (an alternate English language track from this film’s U.S. theatrical release). All of the audio mixes sound clean, clear, and balanced throughout. All Spanish language dialog comes with removable English subtitles. It should be that the alternate English language track features some dialog in Spanish, and these moments come with English subtitles.

The version titled Island of Death comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English. And quality-wise, this track is on par with the other three audio mixes.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a Mondo Macabro preview reel, an image gallery, three radio spots under the alternate title The Hex Massacre (2 minutes 59 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), a theatrical trailer under the alternate title The Hex Massacre (55 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), an interview with film critic and author Kim Newman (14 minutes 43 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with cinematographer José Luis Alcaine (16 minutes 7 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Spanish with non-removable English subtitles), an director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador (9 minutes 13 seconds, , Dolby Digital stereo Spanish with non-removable English subtitles), documentary about Who Can Kill a Child? titled Version Española (46 minutes 17 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Spanish with removable English subtitles) and an audio commentary with Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger (Daughters of Darkness podcast).

Summary:

Who Can Kill a Child? was co-written and directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador (The House That Screamed). Key collaborators on Who Can Kill a Child? include cinematographer José Luis Alcaine (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) and composer Waldo de los Ros (The Corruption of Chris Miller). The screenplay for Who Can Kill a Child? was adapted from author Juan José Plan's novel El juego de los nios (The Children’s Game). Besides Who Can Kill a Child? other titles this film has been released under include Island of Death and The Hex Massacre.

Though there have been many horror films where children are at the forefront, there has always been a gray area when it comes to acts of violence towards children in horror cinema. The majority of the violence is directed at adults. That said, more than any other element, fear defines the horror genre. And, while there are many fears to choose from, there is no greater sorrow than the loss of a loved one, particularly a child.

This brings us to Who Can Kill a Child?, a truly unique cinematic experience that has some of cinema's most unsettling images. And nowhere is this more clear than in how this film opens with archival footage of atrocities against children during World War II. The premise is superbly realized. The well-constructed narrative is perfectly paced, and key moments are given an ample amount of time to resonate. Another strength of the narrative is how it lulls you into a world that is in direct contrast with the events that unfold after the couple arrives on the island.

Performance wise, the two leads, Prunella Ransome (Far from the Madding Crowd) and Lewis Fiander (Dr. Phibes Rises Again), are very good in their respective roles. Ultimately, this film's greatest asset is the children’s performances. There is a naiveté to their performances that makes their actions all the more convincing.

Not to be overlooked are the visuals and how they take full advantage of the scenic locations. The scene where the couple arrives on the island and the children they meet are uninterested in them, the scene where the pregnant wife realizes her baby has become infected like the other children, and the finale provide an extremely satisfying coda to the events that have just unfolded are the standout moments.

Who Can Kill a Child? gets a definitive release from Mondo Macabro, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

The Big Gundown: Limited Edition - Indicator (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Spain/Italy, 1966
Director: Sergio Sollima
Writers: Sergio Donati, Sergio Sollima, Tulio Demicheli, Fernando Morandi, Franco Solinas
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Tomas Milian, Luisa Rivelli, Fernando Sancho, Nieves Navarro

Release Date: February 13th, 2023
Approximate Running Times: 94 Minutes 56 Seconds (Expanded U.S. Cut), 110 Minutes 19 Seconds (Original Italian Theatrical Version), 89 Minutes 21 Seconds (Original U.S. Theatrical Version)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC (All Versions)
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English (Expanded U.S. Cut, Original U.S. Theatrical Version), LPCM Mono Italian (Original Italian Theatrical Version), LPCM Mono Italian/English Hybrid (Original Italian Theatrical Version)
Subtitles: English (Original Italian Theatrical Version), English SDH (Expanded U.S. Cut, Original U.S. Theatrical Version)
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £22.99 (UK) (Limited edition box set of 5,000 numbered units)

"When bounty hunter Jonathan Corbett (Van Cleef) is hired to track down a Mexican peasant (Tomas Milian, in a career-defining role) who has been accused of an appalling crime, he is initially outwitted by the wily bandit. However, the relationship between the two men soon takes an unexpected turn and they team up to take on railroad baron Brockton (Walter Barnes)." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (Original Italian Theatrical Version, Expanded U.S. Cut, Original U.S. Theatrical Version)

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfers, "Sony’s 2K restorations, supervised by James Owsley, were the sources of this Indicator edition."

The Big Gundown, the original Italian theatrical version, and the extended U.S. cut come on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 46.4 GB

Feature: 21.6 GB (Original Italian Theatrical Version), 17.6 GB (Extended U.S. Cut)

The sources for these two versions use the same source that was used for Grindhouse's 2013 Blu-ray release. The source is in excellent shape. Colors look nicely saturated and accurate; flesh tones look healthy; and black and contrast levels look consistently great throughout. Details look crisp, especially in close-up shots, which often look razor sharp. Also, compression is solid, and grain remains intact.

The Big Gundown, the original U.S. theatrical version, comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 22.4 GB

Feature: 22.4 GB

The original U.S. theatrical version's source is on par with the other two versions' sources.

Audio: 4.25/5 (Original Italian Theatrical Version, Expanded U.S. Cut, Original U.S. Theatrical Version)

The original Italian theatrical version comes with two audio options: a LPCM mono mix in Italian and a LPCM mono mix in Italian/English hybrid. 

The extended U.S. cut comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English. 

The original U.S. theatrical version comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English. 

Included are removable English subtitles for the original Italian theatrical version and removable English SDH subtitles for the extended U.S. cut and the original U.S. theatrical version.

All audio mixes sound great. Dialog always comes through clearly; everything sounds balanced and robust when it should. Ambient sounds and the score are well-represented.

Extras:

Extras on the disc that contains the original Italian theatrical version, and the extended U.S. cut include image galleries: production stills (13 images), and Promotional Materials (120 images), TV spot #1 (1 minute 2 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), TV spot #2 (22 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), TV spot #3 (18 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), TV spot #4 (12 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), TV spot #5 (12 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), U.S. theatrical trailer #1 (2 minutes 14 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), U.S. theatrical trailer #2 (2 minutes 14 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), Italian theatrical trailer (3 minutes 56 seconds, Dolby Digital mono with Italian text, no subtitles), an interview with Austin Fisher, author of Radical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western: Politics, Violence and Popular Italian Cinema titled A Settling of Accounts (22 minutes 33 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with author and musician Stephen Thrower titled Heroes and Villains (29 minutes 30 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with Stephen Thrower titled Prelude to a Gundown (9 minutes 34 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actor Tomas Milian titled Acting on Instinct (29 minutes 48 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival documentary featuring director Sergio Sollima and actor Tomas Milian titled Spaghetti Western Memories (51 minutes 43 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian and English with removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with writers and film experts Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman for the original Italian theatrical version, and an archival audio commentary with film historians C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke on the extended U.S. cut.

Other extras include reversible cover art, a limited edition double-sided poster, and a limited edition eighty-page booklet with an essay titled The Falcon and the Prey, written by Roberto Curti, Lee Van Cleef, Tomas Milian Now Only Shoots Westerns written by Alberto Ceretto, Enough With Violence: An Interview With Sergio Sollima, Exploiting "Mr. Ugly," Italian Westerns as Political Parables written by Ignacio Ramonet, Franco Solinas: The Dialectic of Screenwriting written by John Michaelezyk, Critical Response, and About The Restorations

Summary:

Lee Van Cleef (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) takes everything he has learned working with Sergio Leone and incorporates it into his role as Jonathan Corbett. The character is well defined and has a lot of depth, due mostly in part to Lee Van Cleef’s dead-on portrayal of a thinking man’s bounty hunter who never becomes victim to a quick trigger finger. His role in The Big Gundown is similar in many ways to Clint Eastwood’s role in The Man With No Name Trilogy, as he is a man who lets his actions do most of the talking. The Big Gundown is one of Lee Van Cleef’s defining roles as an actor.

Tomas Milian plays Cuchillo, a Mexican bandito who is also a master knife thrower. Cuchillo has a knack for getting himself out of some sticky situations, and his knife-throwing skills help him time and again. Tomas Milian has made a career out of playing eccentric characters like Cuchillo, who in many ways might just be the bastard cousin of Eli Wallach's "Tuco" from the monumental spaghetti western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. An interesting scene that immediately comes to mind when I think of the Cuchillo character is the scene where he is forced into the ring with a wild bull and has nothing but his bare hands to defend himself from the bull. It is this scene that perfectly captures the essence of the Cuchillo character and his fearlessness even against insurmountable odds.

Nieves Navarro (Death Walks at Midnight), known to most Euro-cult fans as Susan Scott, who starred in several key giallo films during the early 1970s, stars in The Big Gundown as a widow who runs a ranch in the middle of nowhere. Her character is all about being in control, and she uses her body to get the men on the ranch to do whatever she wants them to do. There is an interesting clash in the film when Cuchillo and Corbett both spurn the advances of this black widow-like woman. Both men have other objectives that are more important to them than satisfying this woman’s carnal lust. Cuchillo also uses her power over the men who work for her against her, as he makes them jealous that Corbett is spending some quality one-on-one time with her while they have to wait outside and guard Cuchillo. Sex is prevalent and runs throughout the film as the main thread that connects the story, whether it's the widow's sexual frustration or Cuchillo, who is wanted for raping a 12-year-old girl. Director Sergio Sollima handles this subject with grace and dignity, as he never makes it salacious.

Spaghetti westerns are known for their use of beautiful landscapes, and The Big Gundown is a movie that is always on the run as it moves from one picturesque locale to another. The cat and mouse game between Corbett and Cuchillo is very effective, and Sollima manages to build just enough tension with each near capture and escape.

The Big Gundown is an expertly crafted story that was co-scripted by Sergio Donati, who was a frequent collaborator of director Sergio Leone. Some of the feel of the story echoes Leone’s previous spaghetti westerns that were made before The Big Gundown. Ultimately, despite being the most traditional of the three westerns that Sollima directed, The Big Gundown is still easily one of the genre’s stronger efforts.

Indictor’s The Big Gundown is the most comprehensive release that any spaghetti western has ever received. It comes with the same audio/video presentation that originated on Grindhouse’s 2013 Blu-ray release, and a few extras from that release have been ported over for this release. Also, this new release from Indicator comes with a third version of The Big Gundown and a wealth of new extra content. That said, The Big Gundown gets a definitive release from Indicator, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

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