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Murders in the Rue Morgue / The Dunwich Horror (Blu-ray)

&#13 Shout! Factory has packaged two ultimately minor AIP horror films with handful of fans in a wisely paired double-bill: The Dunwich Horror and Murders in the Rue Morgue. Every single has its share of assets however every is tremendously disappointing, contemplating the talent involved. AIP was actually struggling identity-sensible at this point, and an air of desperation is readily apparent in each. Nevertheless, fans of MGM’s late, lamented “Midnight Motion pictures” line will want to reexamine these, as I did.* &#13

&#13 The Dunwich Horror (1970), from H.P. Lovecraft’s 1929 short story, should have been wonderful, contemplating the picture’s decent (though still modest) price range and these involved. Its director, former Roger Corman production designer Daniel Haller, produced his function debut with Die, Monster, Die! (1965), a low-cost but vastly underrated adaptation of an additional Lovecraft story, “The Colour Out of Space.” Dunwich‘s screenplay was co-written by future Oscar-winner Curtis Hanson, Corman himself executive-produced, the film has a excellent cast, and it features an specifically very good, uncommon score by Les Baxter. &#13

&#13 The movie, nonetheless, is generally fairly bad. Most of the performers are miscast and the film, adapted to the present day (i.e., the finish of the 1960s), feels much much more a item of that era than Lovecraft’s. Die, Monster, Die!, despite its low price range, has a timeless really feel The Dunwich Horror really required. &#13

&#13 Old Whateley (Sam Jaffe, his frizzy hair, mustache, and beard dyed inky black, as if using shoe polish) lords over the labor pains of daughter Lavinia (Joanna Moore Jordan) and birth of grandson Wilbur as two old crones (supposedly albinos) look on, their function in the story left unexplained. This awkward scene gives way to the film’s impressive animated titles and Les Baxter’s music. &#13

&#13 Subsequent, in the present-day, the adult Wilbur (Dean Stockwell) covets the priceless copy of the Necronomicon, a book of the occult held at Miskatonic University (played by USC). Not-really-excellent librarian Nancy Wagner (Sandra Dee) makes it possible for Wilbur to charm her into letting him study it, but visiting Professor Henry Armitage (Ed Begley, Sr., in his final film function) takes possession of the a single-of-a-type tome. &#13

&#13 Having missed the final bus back to his tiny hometown of Dunwich (supposedly in Massachusetts, but clearly in an around Mendocino, California) Nancy provides Wilbur a extended ride residence. He invites her to keep the weekend but he’s clearly up to no great, disabling her car and drugging her beverages a la Bill Cosby. Armitage and Nancy’s librarian buddy, Elizabeth (Donna Baccala) turn out to be increasingly concerned about Nancy’s security, he worried that Wilbur may possibly be planning on sacrificing her as element of a pagan ritual to unleash “The Old Ones,” earth’s original dominant species, from an additional dimension. &#13

&#13 The Dunwich Horror is genuine mess, none of it satisfying nor remotely eerie. Supposedly Peter Fonda was initial strategy to play Wilbur but he turned it down. A far much better option would have been Jack Nicholson, whose early profession Corman had supported. Nicholson was just starting to break out of B-motion pictures with the achievement of Straightforward Rider (1969) and Five Simple Pieces (1970) quickly after, but Corman may possibly just have been able to get him at this point. &#13

&#13 Alternatively, Dean Stockwell plays Wilbur with none of the necessary devilish charm and menace Nicholson might have brought to the portion. Stockwell somehow manages to each underplay Wilbur and be extraordinarily hammy at the very same time. Sandra Dee isn’t at all negative, and neither is Begley, but neither feels appropriate. Sam Jaffee looks downright weird in the flashback scenes (his voice sounds dubbed in the present-day material). Most likely the strangest bit of casting is prolific Tv actor Lloyd Bochner as an elderly country medical professional. Bochner, wearing old man makeup, was 45 at the time, however he’s playing a character about the very same age as 69-year-old Begley.&#13

&#13 Typically though, the scenes with Begley, Baccala, and Bochner play better than the mysterious doings at Whateley Manor, with Nancy perpetually woozy from the dope Wilbur keeps slipping into her drinks, and the true mumbo-jumbo staging and language of the pagan ritual stuff. In the course of the climax, Armitage and Wilbur yell pagan chants at one an additional, but it is so ridiculous it calls to thoughts the Three Stooges’ “Maharaja” routine (“Maha?” “A-ha! Razbanyas yatee benee futch ah”). &#13

&#13 The image utilizes some exciting printing effects toward the finish, with quick flashes of chemically-created main colors, but mostly the hand-held camera, lap dissolves, fast cutting to supposedly dreamlike, hallucinogenic imagery (The Old Ones, or perhaps they’re supposed to be mortal pagans, appear more like refugees from Woodstock), combined with the tchotchke-crammed mansion genuinely date the picture. &#13

&#13 Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) is, alas, an even higher disappointment. AIP reached a higher-water mark with its common and nicely-regarded Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, with a series of films directed by Roger Corman and which usually starred Vincent Price tag. But, eventually, Corman tired of making them, and even Price tag lost interest. Other than Witchfinder Common (1968), a historical drama refashioned by AIP, nonetheless tenuously, into “Edgar Allan Poe’s” The Conqueror Worm, none of their later Poe films are any great. &#13

&#13 Like Dunwich Horror, Murders in the Rue Morgue ought to have been a lot greater than it is. For one particular thing it has a slightly tonier cast: Jason Robards, Christine Kaufmann (Town Without Pity), Lilli Palmer, and Michael Dunn, among others. Add to that its numerous costumed extras, sets, props, and scale normally, it looks two or three times much more high-priced than Corman’s Poe films from a decade before. But the film is a boring, miscast, and artless mess, much more a remake of Phantom of the Opera (even to the point of casting Herbert Lom, star of Hammer’s 1962 Phantom, in that function, sporting similar makeup), than the far superior 1932 Béla Lugosi film of the exact same name.&#13

&#13 In this version, stage director and actor Cesar Charron (Robards) operates a Grand Guignol theater staging a lurid adaptation of Murders in the Rue Morgue, total with the ragged “Moonwatcher” ape suit from 2001: A Space Odyssey. His actress-wife, Madeline (Kaufmann), is haunted by dreams and visions, increasingly for the duration of the middle of performances, of her mother’s (Palmer) gruesome murder at the hands of an axe-wielding madman. &#13

&#13 The suspect, however yet another actor long believed dead following a crippling acid injury, Rene Marot (Herbert Lom), turns up and starts murdering members of the troupe, also with acid, in spite of the very best efforts of Inspector Vidocq (Adolfo Celi, Thunderball) to cease him. &#13

&#13 Even a lot more so than Dunwich, Murders in the Rue Morgue has no exciting or sympathetic characters to latch onto, and the picture plods along leaving the viewer increasingly impatient to have it more than and completed with. In this 98-minute “director’s reduce,” I believed the film was almost more than with a climax that turned out to be a very good 25 minutes ahead of the finish. &#13

&#13 One particular problem is that the image has American, Czech, German, Italian, British and Austrian actors all pretending to be French in film created in Spain. Though technically a British film, financed by AIP’s UK subsidiary, most of the crew beyond director Gordon Hessler consisted of Spaniards, and the movie has the identical, point-and-shoot, over-lit artlessness of most of their genre films from this period. Just as the script operates from an fascinating premise that fails to reside up to its promise, the production has all the raw supplies however utilizes them unwisely. &#13

&#13 Even though Kaufmann is really great as Madeline, and for that matter would have been fine in a true Phantom film, Robards gives the sort of thoroughly disengaged functionality he typically played in movies exactly where he knew, early on, he was completely miscast in. (His Brutus in Julius Caesar, from the previous year, is yet another.) Vincent Price tag in this part wouldn’t have made Murders in the Rue Morgue any greater, but at least he would have been entertaining to watch.&#13

&#13 Video &amp Audio&#13

&#13 Shout! Factory, licensing titles from MGM, provides 1080p transfers in 1.78:1 widescreen, approximating their original 1.85:1 screen shapes. Murders is noticeably much less sharp and shows signs of damage here and there, possibly the result of the decision to use the longer director’s cut, 11 minutes longer than AIP release version. But both transfers are no greater than okay, hardly in the league of Shout! and MGM’s greatest-hunting AIP titles from this era. The DTS-HD Master Audio (English mono only, with optional English subtitles, is sufficient. Each motion pictures are on a single, region A disc. &#13

&#13 Further Functions &#13

&#13 Steve Haberman supplies new commentaries to both films, he finding them significantly far more aesthetically intriguing than I did. Trailers for each are also incorporated, along with the previously released (on DVD) featurette “Stage Tricks &amp Screen Fights” on Murders.&#13

&#13 Final Thoughts&#13

&#13 Horror enthusiasts and fans of AIP’s filmography will want to have this, but both motion pictures are, in the end, huge disappointments and could have been oh-so-much greater. Rent It. &#13

&#13 * Sorry this review is so late, but it was misdirected to my house in Kyoto, Japan by way of, I kid you not, pre-earthquaked Ecuador. &#13

Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-primarily based film historian and publisher-editor of Planet Cinema Paradise. His new documentary and most recent audio commentary, for the British Film Institute’s Blu-ray of Rashomon, is now offered.&#13

What Do You Consider?&#13

Blu-Ray Reviews

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A Christmas Horror Story

Judge Brett Cullum is dreaming of a fright Christmas!

A Christmas Horror Story takes 5 separate yuletide scary narratives, and puts them in a blender for gore hounds to appreciate over the holidays. There’s Santa battling undead elves, a Krampus hunting down an annoying and entitled household in the woods, three teens fighting the ghosts of their college, a family members that cuts down a tree and brings back far more than they bargained for to their apartment, and William Shatner (Star Trek: The Original Series) as a lonely radio deejay reporting on merry mayhem all through the town. All these tales are interwoven and connected in a Pulp Fiction style, and all take spot in the fictional town of Bailey Downs. If that locale sounds familiar, it’s the exact same spot where Canadian cult classic Ginger Snaps was set.

I wasn’t expecting a lot provided the indie horror vibe surrounding this one along with the lack of a notable cast save for Shatner, but I was pleasantly surprised. There are some genuinely creepy moments in A Christmas Horror Story, and it’s inventive enough to charm its way into a attainable seasonal rotation with Black Christmas, Silent Night, Deadly Evening, and Christmas Evil. It was made on the low cost with the involvement of numerous directors shooting at once, and there’s quite a bit of CGI, but all round it delivers a good Christmas themed dose of horror that reminded me of Tales from the Crypt. The only downside is perhaps the structure of intercutting in between all 5 stories all through the running time. This lets some of the pressure out of the suspense of the moment, but it also keeps things humming along.

The DVD from RLJ media appears wonderful and does a good job with both pictures and the soundtrack. It really is obtainable in Blu-ray as nicely, but I believed the DVD did well. It is presented in widescreen with a Dolby five channel surround. Colors can be dark, but black levels are adjusted accordingly to enable clarity in the picture. It really is a busy audio track, and all five speakers are used properly all through. The sole further on the DVD is a behind the scenes function which talks about the approach of acquiring this a single together. It’s fine, despite the fact that absolutely nothing also in-depth.

Horror genre fans ought to find adequate right here to see this as a present in their stocking rather than a lump of coal. It really is a bit campy, but the holiday themes operate in the finish. Even the ridiculous Santa versus elves sequences make sense by the film’s conclusion. And, I might add, the Krampus sequences are really properly completed. He’s a chain wielding werewolf in Bailey Downs, and sort of a brother to the Ginger Snaps story if you like. William Shatner has a ball as his tipsy radio deejay, and the rest of the cast of Hollywood unknowns take this all extremely seriously. They sell it at every turn. This a single is worth a appear, if you want a creepy Christmas feature to watch following the kids are down for the night.

Did we give A Christmas Horror Story a fair trial? yes / no

What’s “fair”? Regardless of whether positive or unfavorable, our evaluations must be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.

DVD Verdict

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American Horror Story: Freak Show (Blu-ray)

In some circles, Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis is recognized as the Remarkable Cheese-Eating Boy.

The world hated me, but no a lot more than I hated myself.

The gimmick that tends to make American Horror Story special is both the show’s ideal attribute and its greatest drawback. Show runner Ryan Murphy’s (Nip/Tuck) thought to turn the cast into a sort of repertory theater company implies that you get to see actors genuinely branch out in unexpected techniques. That is great. The downside to this is that, because it really is an entirely new story every single season, even though there are hints of connection, it is essential to rebuild the plot from square one particular every single time. That’s not the worst factor in the planet, but as we saw in the second season of Correct Detective, that can lead to inconsistent top quality among seasons. This fourth season of American Horror Story is Freak Show, potentially the most interesting of all the seasons in terms of topic matter. With its slow begin, it does not quite live up to all that prospective, but it’s nonetheless a solid season with lots going for it.

Bette and Dot (Sarah Paulson, Serenity) are two girls in 1 physique. Born as Siamese twins, they have lived a life of shame and scorn in seclusion. They’re miserable till Elsa Mars (Jessica Lange, Large Fish) comes into their lives. She runs Fraülein Elsa’s Cabinet of Curiosities, a freak show featuring a bevy of oddities she has collected the planet more than. They are a household and stick up for every single other, particularly in the face of the scammers, psychopaths, and bigots they suffer all the time, not to mention a killer clown named Twisty (John Carroll Lynch, Zodiac, who is coming for the lot of them.

Freak Show is the boldest conceptually of all the seasons of AHS and the most audacious. It really is a single issue in horror stories to have a murder property, an asylum, or a witches’ coven, but it is a far finer line to zero in on a freak show, specially in today’s climate of acceptance. Luckily, Ryan Murphy understood the troubles of offensive that could be in play with this subject matter and subverts them entirely. He does this in a couple of approaches. First, he makes the conscious effort to give actual humanity to each and every individuals in the sideshow. Second, he casts actual differently abled individuals alongside the standard actors to make an excellent mix of the two it really is not all “typical” individuals playing “freaks” and it really is definitely not exploitation.

It makes for an outstanding mix of actors and non-actors and provides a genuinely very good feeling to the complete group. In addition to Paulson, whose work in portraying two various ladies in one particular body is a testament to both the particular effects perform in the show and Paulson’s amazing (and, I am confident, incredibly tough) functionality, and Lange, who’s fantastic as constantly, we have returning players like Kathy Bates (Misery) as Ethel Darling, the bearded lady, Evan Peters (Kick Ass) as her son, Jimmy Darling the lobster boy, Emma Roberts (Scream Queens) as fake fortune teller and scam artist Esmerelda, Jamie Brewer (American Horror Story: Coven) in a tiny but pivotal part toward the finish of the season, and Angela Bassett (Boyz in the Hood) as the 3-breasted hermaphrodite. New entries begin with Michael Chiklis (The Shield) as Bassett’s husband, the strongman Dell Toledo, Neil Patrick Harris (Starship Troopers) as a late-season magician/ventriloquist, and Finn Whitrock (Noah) in the series’ largest revelation as Dandy, the local billionaire psychopath.

Peppered throughout the film are the differently abled people, some of whom have been in front of the camera, some on the stage, and some have no knowledge at all with efficiency. The greatest of these men and women is Mat Fraser, Pat the Illustrated Seal in the show, who has thalidomide-induced Phocomelia and is incredibly charming in his main function. There is also Ma Petite, played by the world’s smallest lady, the 24-inch Indian lady, Jyoti Amge, who give the season an outstanding brightness, and Rose Siggins, a lady with Sacral Agenesis whose character of Legless Suzi isn’t huge, but hugely interesting when she’s about.

Combined, this is a amazing cast, both in basic and as a sideshow, that goes along very properly with a hugely styled production. It really is always been a very good hunting show, but this season may be the most cinematic but. It starts with the phenomenal and completely sensible carnival set. It appears like a sideshow that has been forgotten, yet is nonetheless populated. It’s a good horror setting that may possibly not be its own character specifically, but adds strong atmosphere to the whole thing. The distinct directors deliver various types in their episodes, with scenes switching into sepia tone and black and white, even though some of the angles used are ridiculous, giving a surreal feeling to a lot of of these scenes. Freak Show is a actually exciting looking season.

My only real problem, in the finish, is how slowly it starts. Plenty of character improvement goes on and there’s the one pure horror story of the season, the Twisty plot, but since it has to establish its world and its characters, it has to take little actions. It’s not a deal-breaker for the season by any means, but it is indicative of the truth that this is not a show I can watch week to week. I have to marathon it, or I start off to forget that it’s on. Lots of shows are like this for me, so it is not a massive thing as that’s how I have a tendency to watch anyway, but it is absolutely slower going at very first than the prior two seasons (I do not care about the first it’s fairly poor). When the episode about the previous and future of microcephalic Pepper (Naomi Grossman) arrives, although, the show hits tough. This episode is so sad and so infuriating, all augmented by remarkable makeup and an even better performance from Grossman, that it provides the rest of the series some genuine momentum. Kudos to Grossman for her performance and, with this episode as the turning point, the show becomes a lot a lot more fascinating (even if the ending is a small underwhelming).

American Horror Story: Freak Show comes to Blu-ray from Fox is a good, if not wonderful, release. The 1.78:1/1080p image is mainly really sturdy, with good detail regardless of the style that is employed in a specific episode. Colors are largely sturdy and black levels are consistent and deep. There are some problems with digital artifacts right here and there, but it really is not terribly noticeable or bothersome. The audio is exceptional throughout, with a nice DTS-HD Master Audio track that keeps the viewer immersed in the globe. The music is regularly bright, dialog is usually clear and crisp, and there’s all sorts of stuff going on in the background channel.

Additional are a simple affair and undoubtedly not robust sufficient for huge fans of the series. They quantity to about an hour of similarly structured interviews masking as characteristics they’re quite solid for what they are, although. More than the hour, numerous members of the cast and crew talk about the makeup, the characters, the performances, and the differently abled cast. It’s a excellent group, though a tiny repetitive soon after a although.

American Horror Story: Freak Show does not match the excellence of season 2’s Asylum, but I rank it greater than Coven and way higher than Murder House. For its flaws and occasional slowness, even so, Freak Show is a solid season of television that I can easily advise.

DVD Verdict