Saturday, November 30, 2019


Belatedly following in the footsteps of fellow Italian director Sergio Martino’s enjoyably ambitious THE GREAT ALLIGATOR (1979), which was shot in the jungles of Sri Lanka ten years earlier, producer / director Fabrizio De Angelis travelled to the tropical island of Santo Domingo to helm his very own giant monster movie, KILLER CROCODILE (1989), this time featuring another semiaquatic reptilian: a crocodile. And while we’re on the subject of giant crocodilian killers here, it’s difficult not to mention Sompote Sands’ Thai-produced CROCODILE (1979), for which, in Dick Randall’s extensively reworked U.S. version, an atomic explosion—’50s creature feature-style!—was included at the outset to help account for the croc’s inordinate size. 

Directing under his usual anglicized pseudonym of “Larry Ludman”, De Angelis was, first and foremost, a successful, cost-efficient producer (he produced most of Lucio Fulci’s gore-soaked films from the early ’Eighties), who began his directorial career with the Rambo-inspired rip-off, THUNDER (1983) and its two sequels, all three of which enjoyed healthy domestic home video exposure via Trans World Entertainment Betamax / VHS videocassettes. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, KILLER CROCODILE has remained stubbornly unavailable for years, but thanks to Severin Films, this entertaining ‘nature-strikes-back’ flick finally makes its official North American debut on digital disc.

Audaciously stealing the entire template from Steven Spielberg’s JAWS (1975), if bringing a distinctively ’Eighties flavour to the proceedings with its toxic waste scenario, KILLER CROCODILE follows a group of ecology students led by Kevin (Richard Anthony Crenna, son of late American actor Richard Crenna [1926–2003]) who, in an unnamed tropical country in the Caribbean, quickly discover that someone has been irresponsibly dumping barrels of radioactive waste into one of the area’s many rivers. In a fitting nod to Godzilla, arguably the greatest movie monster of all time, which was also spawned by nuclear fallout, one of the environmentalists equates this hazardous waste to “Leftovers from Hiroshima!” After one of their party inexplicably goes missing, only to later turn up horribly mauled (making for a nice shock-scare), the gang head into town to see the Judge (token American name actor Van Johnson), who advises them to (quote) “keep away from that swamp!” In the one of the film’s many JAWS-inspired moments, in order to avoid a panic locally, the coroner is coerced into falsifying his findings by blaming the death on a (quote) “boat prop.” Eventually, the town’s venerable croc-hunter Joe (Enio Girolami [1935–2013]) vows to kill the actual perpetrator—a gigantic (quote, as per the title) “killer crocodile”, natch!—while Kevin, ordinarily ever the pacifist, has a sudden change of heart and decides that this (quote) “beast from hell” must die!  

Granted, the film may be highly-derivative, but it is never dull. De Angelis really makes the most of his meagre budget, and KC’s greatest production value—as you might understandably be expecting—is unquestionably Giannetto De Rossi’s full-scale animatronic croc mock-up. While better-known for his splattery makeup effects on many of Fulci’s latter-day shock/gore films, such as ZOMBIE (1979), De Rossi does an admirable job given the poor working conditions he was afforded in Santo Domingo (as heard elsewhere on one of this disc’s many extra features). Even though it’s clunky, De Rossi’s fiberglass reptilian ravager never ceases to entertain with its relentless dubbed-on roaring (!) and cavernous mouth bloodily chomping-down on its human victims. As with most of these ‘last gasp’ Italo-horrors, many of the characters aren’t given much to do and likewise fall victim to the weak script they have to work from, with only Crenna and Italian actor Pietro Genuardi showing any real enthusiasm towards the material. Veteran Italian actor “Thomas Moore” a.k.a. Enio Girolami (the late big brother of Enzo G. Castellari) also does his darnedest to imitate Robert Shaw’s cantankerous shark-hunting sea salt Quint from JAWS. And, speaking of Spielberg’s film yet again, Riz Ortolani’s John Williams-influenced score keeps things moving along efficiently in spite of its highly-imitative nature. 

Scanned in 2K from the original negative, Severin’s new disc looks mighty fine indeed, accentuating the lush jungle foliage and bloody croc attacks very nicely and, unlike the French double-DVD set from Neo Publishing (that included both KILLER CROCODILE and its 1990 sequel KC II), which was slightly squeezed to an incorrect 1.66 aspect ratio, Severin’s disc also reinstates the film’s proper 1.85:1 framing, thus increasing the pictorial data on either side of the frame. Severin’s disc contains both English and Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio tracks, both of which sound very good given the inherent limitations of the film’s original recordings. Unfortunately—and quite surprisingly—though, no English subtitles have been included for the Italian track. Most viewers will likely prefer to go with the English audio anyway, which not only features Van Johnson’s familiar real voice, but also those of a number of voice talent veterans (such as Pat Starke and Frank Von Kuegelgen) as well. English closed captions for hearing-impaired are also included.

Along with Federico Caddeo’s Freak-O-Rama Productions, Severin Films produced a number of admirable special extras for this release, beginning with In the Jaws of the Crocodile (13m47s), an on-camera interview with Giannetto De Rossi wherein he talks about Fabrizio De Angelis and how he viewed making films as a (quote) “business opportunity” and nothing more, which meant he always kept costs low on all his productions. Apparently, the input of De Rossi’s F/X shop on the present film was especially feeble, with only (quote) “a few trainees” on set to assist him. De Rossi can also barely keep a straight face when he speaks about KILLER CROCODILE 2 (1990), his rather bland directorial debut, which he calls the (quote) “least-professional project” of his life and freely admits he is a (quote) “terrible director.” In The Fearless Crocodile Hunter (23m23s), Pietro Genuardi speaks with great candour about his three months on location in Santo Domingo and how De Angelis was (quote) “full of character… a bulldozer”; while, in Of Crocodiles and Men (14m34s), yet another on-camera interview, his co-star Richard Anthony Crenna, talks about his first leading role and how, as a first-timer, intimidated he felt on-set. In the final interview, DP “Frederick Hail” / Frederico Del Zoppo talks about the brass tacks of low-budget filmmaking, especially when allotted such little money and limited time constraints. He also refers to director De Angelis as a “cobra”, who was quiet but (quote) “knew when to use the stick against us.” And finally, the film’s spoiler-laden trailer (3m08s) is also included, which first-time-viewers might want to watch after the movie rather than before it! 

As with Neo Publishing’s aforementioned double-disc set, Severin Films also offer both films in a 2-disc Limited Edition (allocated to a healthy 4000 copies) set, which houses the film’s sequel (also scanned in 2K!) on a separate Blu-ray. In spite of this much-appreciated gesture, however, KC II itself is inferior in every way. It spends waaaaay too much time detailing the efforts of a multinational conglomerate nefariously scheming to build a Caribbean vacation resort, while a pesky reporter (Debra Karr) arrives to investigate possible radioactive fallout in the area, only to discover not only a conspiracy of cover-ups but also that—once again—a giant croc is terrorizing the local river system. While exceedingly slow on the uptake, the film does at least feature a number of hilarious, laugh-out-loud attack scenes, which will certainly go far in appeasing more tolerant viewers. For the most part, though, this soggy sequel possesses little-to-none of the first film’s trashy verve, and is, at best, only sporadically entertaining. In what turns out to be a tribute disc of sorts to De Rossi, Severin have also seen fit to include Naomi Holwill’s feature-length documentary, The Prince of Plasma: The Giannetto De Rossi Story (82m), which focuses on the life and career of this celebrated—and highly prolific—makeup effects guru, making for one of the true highlights of this entire set. A short deleted scene from KILLER CROCODILE 2 (4m13s) plus the film’s equally-spoiler-laden trailer (2m44s) are also included. In addition, the Limited Edition includes a colourful slipcover, which, in keeping with the film’s blatantly copycat nature, includes slightly-reworked artwork from the U.S. one-sheet poster for Sands’ aforementioned CROCODILE.  

In spite of KILLER CROCODILE’s many obvious imperfections, it nevertheless remains an engrossing and wholly satisfying film and, what with the crisp new transfers and all the plentiful extra features, Severin Films have provided Italo-horror fans with plenty of reasons to grab themselves this 2-disc Limited Edition! Order it from Severin Films here or as part of the Severin Films August Bundle

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


A well-made, low-budget slasher film, Edwin S. Brown’s THE PREY (1980) hasn’t been available on home video since its domestic 1985 Betamax / VHS videocassette from Thorn/EMI, and, since then it has quietly disappeared into slasher movie oblivion. Thanks to Arrow Video (and above all Ewan Cant, one of Arrow’s acquisition gurus, whose unflappable determination made this release a reality), this neglected and highly-distinctive woodland slice ’n’ dicer has made its worldwide Blu-ray debut in grand fashion with this extraordinary Limited Edition 2-disc set.  

Produced in 1980, but not released until 1983, THE PREY’s rudimentary premise handily prefigures many of the key slasher films of its decade, and while it may be lacking in visceral punch, the film does possess a markedly different tone, one that is similar to that in Jeff Lieberman’s unsettling slasher / survivalist film JUST BEFORE DAWN (1980). Amidst the Keen Wild National Park, a number of disappearances have been occurring in Northpoint, one of the park’s least-explored areas, which back in 1948 had been the site of a devastating forest fire that left a number of nomadic gypsies (quote) “burnt to a crisp.” As dictated by the genre’s well-worn machinations, three young couples set out for Northpoint for a weekend of hiking and climbing, but, unbeknownst to them, hidden among the scenic surroundings teeming with fauna, a predator of a very different kind begins stalking the group…

While exceedingly straightforward in their basic set-up, the filmmakers most certainly do take a more novel approach to the proceedings, a fact which is most obvious in the inclusion of abundant wildlife footage that is liberally interspersed throughout the narrative (including some striking macrophotography of numerous insects). According to Ewan Cant’s and Amanda Reyes’ excellent audio commentary, which accompanies the theatrical version of the film, these scenes have been a (quote) “sticking point” for many viewers. But, as the commentators also point out, the concept for THE PREY did originally come about during a (quote) “cultural moment with the environment”. Indeed, the film does take an active, respectful stance towards the natural ecosystem seen in the film, successfully making the very wilderness milieu itself into a character in its own right, and this unique ‘ecocentric’ perspective remains just as prescient today as it was forty years ago. In what would become a virtually obligatory staple ingredient of many an out-in-the-bush slasher film from the period, the campfire scene (“Are you ready? I wanna tell you a curious story…”) is here juxtaposed with the campers preparing and eating their dinner while, simultaneously, indigenous carnivorous Animalia hunt and devour their prey; all the while, heard coming from off-screen are a series of overlapping campsite conversations (including a retelling of W.W. Jacobs’ classic short horror story, The Monkey’s Paw [Dodd Mead, 1902]). Not unlike some lower-budgeted Robert Altman film, this wonderfully mesmerizing sequence not only stresses the primal ‘survival-of-the-fittest / only-the-strong-survive’ hierarchical behaviours to be found in both Man and Beast, but also illustrates their (i.e., our) innate predatory nature, instinctive behavioural traits which are further underscored by numerous shots shown from the killer’s point-of-view as he stealthily stalks his own prey (…humans, natch!).  

For the most part, THE PREY is languorously—and eerily—paced, with convincing imagery of the region’s various animal life providing the necessary otherworldly atmosphere. When Gail (Gayle Gannes), the most urbanite of the hikers, suddenly starts blaring her portable radio while preparing for bed, Greg (Philip Wenckus), her somewhat-too-submissive boyfriend, politely remarks, “Come on, Gail. Turn it off! Let’s listen to the woods [instead]”. This is a rather witty, humorous touch on the filmmaker’s part, since it was Gail who, earlier in the film, had thought (quote) “Something was out there!” Although thinly-sketched, as per the usual formula, much of the narrative strives to humanize and help us to identify with the characters, and the (quote) “likeable” cast commit themselves sincerely to the material, the noteworthy standouts being Debbie Thureson and Lori Lethin (the latter later seen in Ed Hunt’s BLOODY BIRTHDAY [1981], yet another unique slash-’em-up). As largely laconic, lovingly benign Forest Ranger Mark O’Brien, Jackson Bostwick (who is probably best-remembered as Captain Marvel in the short-lived TV series, SHAZAM! [1974 – 1975]) features in some of the film’s more memorably eccentric scenes, one of which involves an extended joke about “wide-mouthed frogs” (!), but Ranger O’Brien is nevertheless fully cognizant of the potential dangers of venturing out to the Northpoint (“Not too many go up there!”). Also worth mentioning is Jackie Coogan (a former Hollywood child star whose career dated back to cinema’s silent era who later became re-familiar to many as Uncle Fester on THE ADDAMS FAMILY [1964-1966]), who here appears in a cameo / bit part as Lester Tile (his final film), O’Brien’s boss at the Ranger Station, who vividly recollects the horrific aftermath of the (quote) “worst mother fire in history!” 

A true labour of love, Arrow Video’s new 2K restoration, which was scanned from the original camera negative, looks spectacular on their new Limited Edition Blu-ray, especially when compared to Thorn/EMI’s faded and muddy ol’ videocassette. Revealing all sorts of previously-unseen details (e.g., look closely for a man burning alive in the film’s opening forest fire, a detail which was completely obscured on Thorn’s ancient analog tape!), Arrow’s highly-attractive new transfer is a real godsend for fans of the film, which finally enables viewers to better appreciate the early makeup F/X work by John Carl Buechler (GHOULS [1984], TROLL [1986], etc.), as well as better showcasing the crisp cinematography of João Fernandes, a prolific and talented DP, who also lent his considerable talents to such films of interest as Armand Weston’s THE NESTING (1981), Joseph Zito’s THE PROWLER (1981 [another iconic slasher]) and Gerard Damiano’s horror-tinged “porno chic” effort, MEMORIES WITHIN MISS AGGIE (1974). The LPCM 1.0 audio also sounds quite robust and well-balanced, oscillating nicely between Don Peake’s sometimes piercing score and the film’s sometimes quietly hypnotic wildlife footage, which allows you to both look at and “listen to the woods.”

As with Arrow Video’s previous extras-packed Blu-ray releases (also produced and coordinated by Cant) of other lesser-seen slasher films, such as John Grissmer’s BLOOD RAGE (1987) and J.S. Cardone’s THE SLAYER (1982), THE PREY is also chock-full of extras which would put most other video labels to shame. As mentioned earlier, extras begin with an easygoing, fact-filled audio commentary from Ewan Cant and Are You inthe House Alone?: A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999 (Headpress, 2017) author Amanda Reyes. Since Cant managed to obtain its original shooting script, the two discuss much of the film’s original shooting dates and its magnificent Idyllwild locations; also themes of (quote) “urbanoia”; the significance of The Monkey’s Paw story; the alternate International Cut featuring the ‘gypsy flashback’ (more on that later); the film’s connection to the many eco-horror films of the ’Seventies; other (quote) “crispy killer” movies; plus many of the THE PREY’s cast and crew members are just a few of the discussions stuffed into a swift 80 minutes.       

Acting very much like audio commentaries themselves, the disc also contains a pair of separate audio interviews with director Edwin Brown (57m39s) and his wife Summer Brown (74m05s), the film’s producer and co-writer, both of which are conducted once again by Ewan Cant. In the first, director Brown discusses many of his early gigs, including his stint as writer-producer on Gregory Goodell’s HUMAN EXPERIMENTS (1979); his working relationship with João Fernandes (“He had a great eye!”); his candid admission to adding some extra insert shots of insects to pad-out THE PREY, a decision which he deems (quote) “legitimate” in this instance, since their inclusion logically corresponds with one of the film’s main themes; his collaboration with Summer, who helped put his script into more (quote) “comprehensible verbiage”; and, last but by no means least, we have producer Joe Steinman, who may have been involved in the alternate cut involving the (quote) “gypsies, the fire and all that bullshit!” In the second lengthy interview, Summer Brown talks about the origins of the film inspired by the (quote) “incredible success of HALLOWEEN” (1978); her embarrassment about the unnecessary gypsy flashback version; as well as the finished product’s distribution woes. And on yet another separate audio track, audience reactions were recorded from the film’s restoration premiere at this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend convention.

A number of on-camera interviews also accompany the disc, including Gypsies, Camps and Screams (27m01s), with Debbie Thureson; Babe in the Woods (13m45s), with Lori Lethin; Gayle on Gail (11m49s), with Gayle Gannes Rosenthal; The Wide-Mouthed Frog and Other Stories (18m20s), with Jackson Bostwick; and Call of the Wild (7m13s), with Carel Struycken, who played the towering so-called “Monster”. Everyone discusses most of their early acting stints, including plenty of television work and commercials (even including some vintage clips from Ms. Thureson’s own TV commercial work) and in addition discussing the (quote) “easy and comfortable” atmosphere on set. Most everyone also discusses the spectacular locations of Idyllwild and how much of the dialogue was at times (quote) “improvisational”, and which, according to Ms. Gannes, “…all felt very natural.” And speaking of Gayle, be sure to check out Gayle’s Original Sweet ’n’ Sassy Barbecue Sauce! Other extras on the first disc include In Search of The Prey (13m58s), a fun visit to the Idyllwild locations with Debbie Thureson, Ewan Cant and cinematographer Jim Kunz, who even re-enact some of the film’s more notable scenes, and lastly, there’s a Q&A session involving Lethin and Bostwick during which Struycken also turns up, in footage shot following a screening at the above-cited Texas Frightmare Weekend. A VHS-sourced trailer (1m24s) finishes off the extensive extras.

Limited to 3000 copies, the second Blu-ray contains the now-legendary International Cut (95m37s), featuring the incredibly obtrusive gypsy flashback, which stops the film dead in its tracks and quite frankly sticks out like a sore thumb. Unfolding during the film’s aforementioned campfire scene, this nearly 20-minute sequence was shot well after the fact (by different filmmakers, no less, and without the Browns’ knowledge). It even features a number of softcore sex scenes with adult film stars of the era, including John Leslie and Eric Edwards, who are heard to utter such typically inane skinflick talk as, “Think of the last time he gave you a gentle touch.” Regardless of how one may feel about this alternate version, it’s a fascinating (and much-appreciated) extra just the same, which was likewise (quote) “scanned in 2K resolution.” In an even-more-confusing state of affairs, both cuts of the film each contained footage that was unique to one another, so a Composite “Fan” Cut (102m34s) utilizing footage from both the U.S. Theatrical and International Cut was also meticulously constructed. In a fortuitous circumstance, Severin Films’ David Gregory also succeeded in locating a reel of rare outtakes (45m48s), which helps to set the record straight regarding THE PREY’s once-confusing production history. 

As usual, Arrow’s packaging is absolutely superb, featuring reversible cover art of the film’s original U.S. one-sheet poster, as well as all-new artwork care of Justin Osbourn anda slipcover featuring the film’s U.K. video artwork too. A 27-page booklet includes essays by Ewan Cant on the film’s previously nebulous production history, and there’s a terrific—verrrry detailed!—look into the laborious patchwork reconstruction of those alternate cuts by OCN Labs’ and Vinegar Syndrome’s Joe Rubin. To top it all off, Arrow have even included a replica of a Day Use Permit for the Keen Wilderness shooting location. A very nice touch, indeed! Stunningly restored and lovingly put together, this BD package easily ranks right up there among Arrow Video’s finest, most surprising releases of the year. Order it from DiabolikDVD.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


It’s a cryin’ shame that this terrific and appropriately-atmospheric take on the oft-tapped Dracula legend has been routinely criticized as a ‘dog’ (pun intended) by many who have seen it. In actuality though, Albert Band’s ZOLTAN… HOUND OF DRACULA (1977) is an inventive, affectionate tip-of-the-hat to vampire films, a horror subgenre which, during the ’Seventies, was definitely going through some changes, adapting to more contemporary tastes of the time, as seen in such memorable genre entries as Stephanie Rothman’s THE VELVET VAMPIRE (1971), William Crain’s self-explanatory-titled BLACULA (1972) and, of course, Bob Kelljan’s Yorga duology, COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1970) and THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1971). Also known as DRACULA’S DOG, the present film’s rather-less-appealing and sillier-sounding alternate title, ZOLTAN has been lovingly resurrected thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ wonderful new Blu-ray release.  

Randomly—if effectively—jumbling-together elements from both B-grade war movies and vampire lore, ZOLTAN’s jam-packed opening sees the Romanian Army accidentally uncovering Dracula’s tomb during a routine training mission. Just one soldier (played by Dimitri Logothetis, the future director of SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK [1988]) is ordered to stand guard at the gravesite for the night and—you guessed it!—this lone sentry foolishly decides to remove the immobilizing wooden stake from Zoltan, Dracula’s omnipresent pet Doberman pinscher, who, albeit for centuries, proves to be merely ‘playing dead’ (pun intended). In turn, Zoltan diligently raises Dracula’s creepy undead slave Veidt Smit (Reggie Nalder), who is intent on bringing his long-dead master Dracula (Michael Pataki) back to unlife (not coincidentally, Pataki had previously sported fangs in John Hayes’ drive-in/grindhouse fave GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE [1972]). With the help of the perceptive Major Hessel (Arlent Martel), determined Inspector Branco (José Ferrer), who is an expert in such matters (“In this part of the country, everytomb interests me!”), quickly deduces that Dracula’s last living descendent, Michael Drake (Pataki again) is now living in Los Angeles with his young family. Since Smit and Zoltan (quote) “cannot exist without their master”, Inspector Branco also travels overseas to try and stop Veidt Smit at (quote) “all costs!”

While vacationing at Lake Arrowhead with his wife (Jan Shutan), two children (John Levin and Libby Chase) as well as their pet German shepherd dogs Samson and Annie and their new litter, Michael is keen to escape the city life. However, he quickly discovers that something is amiss at their usually serene lakeside campsite… Here playing the sinister Veidt, Reggie Nalder is appropriately menacing (he even travels in an ominous black hearse, which houses Zoltan’s specially-designed coffin) as he quietly enables a number of local dogs to fall victim to Zoltan’s fanged bite (“Now he’s one of us!”); a succession of canine victims that also includes an unfortunate human tourist, in what amounts to the film’s goriest and most alarming scene. As the ‘undead’ dog-pack steadily multiplies in numbers, Band’s genre-hopping film also takes on similarities to any number of ‘nature-run-amok’ films, as the vampirized and increasingly powerful animals terrorize the entire National Park, and it’s easy to imagine that both Burt Brinckerhoff’s DOGS (1976) and Robert Clouse’s THE PACK (1977) were some sort of an influence on Band’s film.

Written by Frank Ray Perilli—who, tellingly enough, also wrote Byron Ross Chudnow’s matinee favourite THE DOBERMAN GANG (1972)—ZOLTAN… HOUND OF DRACULA also focuses much of its attention on its four-legged co-stars. This, of course, means plenty of intimidating insert shots of Zoltan baring his elongated eyeteeth while snarling ferociously into the camera (often with his eyes diabolically glowing!) while he licks his bloodied chops. Portraying a genuinely vicious servant of Dracula, the film’s ‘mad dog’ scenario is actually closer in spirit to Stephen King’s much-celebrated novel Cujo (Viking Press, 1981) and Lewis Teague’s superb 1983 filmic adaptation, and the present film’s action also includes a couple of nail-biting sieges during the film’s finale (one of which even takes place in a car, as in the ’83 CUJO filmization). While never allowing it to interfere with its many classic horror tropes, the film can also be read at the subtextual level as a condemnation of man’s narcissistic tendencies and all the innocents (i.e., children and animals) that suffer because of it, sometimes for generations to come—a point which is further stressed by the predictable if brilliantly dire twist whammy ending.

Released through their licensing deal with StudioCanal, Kino’s disc features a (quote) “brand new 4K master”, which is a definite improvement over Anchor Bay Entertainment’s no-frills 2002 DVD (which, truth be told, was an excellent release for the time). The pictorial detail of Kino’s new transfer is now virtually flawless, and this is especially evident during many of the film’s nocturnal sojourns at Lake Arrowhead, as well as in the numerous attack scenes. Equally, the DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track also sounds perfectly fine, with no noticeable issues. For those that need them, the disc comes with SDH subtitles for the hearing-impaired.

As with their excellent audio commentary on Kino’s earlier Blu-ray of William “One-Shot” Beaudine’s much-maligned BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA (1966), authors and film historians Lee Gambin and John Harrison return for another highly entertaining commentary, which is brimming with their usual enthusiasm and crammed with interesting and relevant factoids. The pair freely admit that ZOLTAN is a “multi-genre” film, yet another take on (quote) “vampires in the modern world”; they are also both impressed with the (quote) “organic and real” canine performances. Of course, much of the discussion revolves around renowned animal trainers Karl Lewis Miller and Lou Schumacher, whose various training techniques get the most out of their canine actors. In an interesting bit of trivia, that same year, both German shepherds also co-starred in Wes Craven’s THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) and Clouse’s aforementioned THE PACK. They also go on to talk about animals seen in other supernatural chillers, such as Curtis Harrington’s made-for-TV’er DEVIL DOG (1978) and Richard Donner’s theatrical blockbuster THE OMEN (1976); lastly, much of the film’s interesting cast and crew are thoroughly discussed including Nalder’s future roles as Dr. Van Helsing in Phillip Marshak’s porno parody DRACULA SUCKS (1978) and his terrifying turn as the Nosferatu-like Kurt Barlow in Tobe Hooper’s two-part TV film, SALEM’S LOT (1979), and in addition Gambin and Harrison both give special, well-deserved praise to Andrew Belling’s superb score, which brings a suitably (quote) “otherworldly, eerie effect” to the proceedings. Great work from both gentleman, so let’s hope they have more commentaries planned for the future!

Other extras include ZOLTAN’s lengthy theatrical trailer (3m21s), plus those for a number of other horror movies in the Kino library, including Sutton Roley’s CHOSEN SURVIVORS (1974) and Brice Mack’s JENNIFER (1978), a pair of other animal-centric films (the former involves vampire bats and the latter killer snakes). The disc also contains reversible artwork that highlights this thoroughly-engaging film’s alternate DRACULA’S DOG poster, all of which amounts to yet another terrific Blu-ray from the fine folks at Kino! Order it direct from Kino Lorber or from DiabolikDVD

Friday, November 8, 2019


Late, great Castilian horror king Paul Naschy (a.k.a. Jacinto Molina) was at the very height of his popularity when he wrote and starred in Carlos Aured’s THE MUMMY’S REVENGE (1973), an atmospheric and grisly take on Karl Freund’s pivotal Universal horror classic, THE MUMMY (1932). Never one to shy away from a challenge, Naschy takes on the dual roles of Amen-Ho-Tep (in both his human and monster forms) and also plays Assad Bey, his cursed descendent, who, in the interests of attaining (quote) “power, riches and eternal life” resurrects the exceedingly cruel Amen-Ho-Tep. Although this film was once readily available on Betamax/VHS videocassette during the ’80s, Unicorn Video’s master was taken from a censored, heavily-cropped TV print. And now, thanks to Scorpion Releasing’s timely Blu-ray, Naschy’s lone mummy movie has risen mightily to stride the Earth once again.

Ruling with an iron hand alongside the equally-cruel Princess Amarna (Rina Ottolina), the tyrannical Amen-Ho-Tep’s (quote) “savage rule” is vividly displayed in the film’s opening sequence, set during Egypt’s 18th Dynasty. Through the use of some solemn-but-clunky voiceover narration (at least in the English-dubbed version), we learn that the land was thrown into a (quote) “eternal nightmare of blood and horror”. However, Am-Sha (Fernando Sánchez Polack), the wily high priest of Amon-Ra, leads a plot to overthrow the despotic ruler, who is then mummified alive, to (quote) “wander in the world of the unknown forever.” This seemingly-endless length of time is efficiently rendered through the use of some simple time-lapse photography, a well-worn, but still effective technique, which segues nicely into the discovery of Amen-Ho-Tep’s tomb centuries later by archeologists Nathan Stern (Jack Taylor) and his wife Abigail (María Silva). Upon transporting their find to Sir Douglas Carter (Eduardo Calvo) at the Landsbury Foundation in London, the senior academic is elated at this (quote) “important archeological discovery”. On the downside, it also attracts the interest of the sinister Egyptian Assad Bey and his partner Sanofed (Helga Liné), who, for nefarious purposes, intend to raise Amen-Ho-Tep from the grave via the ritual sacrifice of (quote) “three young virgins”. Unfortunately, once the long-dormant mummy has arisen anew, Bey and Sanofed are then obliged to murder still another seven virgins more in order for the (quote) “dominion of the Pharaohs” to rise to full power again. But the mouldy mummy also has his eyes set on Sir Douglas’ nubile daughter, Helen (Ottolina again), who is—not unexpectedly, as per the hoary ol’ trope—a dead ringer for Amen-Ho-Tep’s long-dead beloved Amarna… 

As helmed by Carlos Aured, THE MUMMY’S REVENGE turned out to be the last film he made with Paul Naschy, capping a fruitful collaboration which had begun with HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1973), another ‘vengeance-from-beyond-the-grave’ shocker that shares quite a few similarities with the current film under review. Unlike most of Naschy’s long list of filmic monsters, which were always approached with a certain empathy (best exemplified in Javier Aguirre’s COUNT DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE [1973], starring Naschy as the lonesome, lovelorn Count), Amen-Ho-Tep on the other hand is a 100% unadulterated murderous monster whose sole motivations are revenge and, ultimately, global domination (“The world will be ours!”). Sporting quite eye-catching makeup, Naschy’s mummy is also one of the most memorably gruesome creations to be found in the star’s entire monster canon, whose ruthless, violent nature is made all-the-more obvious when he viciously—and gorily!—squashes the heads of local virgins he believes are unacceptable for his use.  

While competently lensed across the boards and making the most of its humble origins, this is one of Aured’s best-looking films, which takes full advantage of its familiar London locations, and according to Troy Howarth’s excellent audio commentary, also utilized a number of leftover sets from Charlton Heston’s ANTHONY AND CLEOPATRA (1972) as well; all of which are handsomely captured by Francisco Sánchez’s exquisite scope photography. The wonderful cast also includes a number of Naschy regulars, including the ever-reliable Jack Taylor and María Silva (who was last seen as Countess Elizabeth Báthory in Carlos Aured’s CURSE OF THE DEVIL [1973]), as well as the always-superb Helga Liné, who gives one of the film’s strongest performances. Strikingly beautiful newcomer Rina Ottolina also does a fine job as both Amarna and her reincarnation Helen, and she definitely gives the gorgeous Zita Johann (who played Helen in Universal’s original 1932 version of the oft-told tale) a run for her money as the stunning love interest (much like Johann’s, Ottolina’s own movie career also proved to be short-lived when she retired in the late-’70s). 

Although THE MUMMY’S REVENGE bypassed DVD altogether in North America, Scorpion Releasing’s BD now presents two versions of the film in their attractive edition, one of which includes a scene (missing from the Spanish HD master) involving a newlywed—soon to be newlydead!—couple who get violently offed by the mummy, which was reinserted from an inferior source. Although both versions of the film retain the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this (quote) “extended composite cut” also includes both DTS-HD MA mono audio tracks in both English and Spanish languages, with the benefit of properly-translated English subtitles for the latter. While it is nice to have both audio tracks available, it should be mentioned that the Spanish track has far-superior audio fidelity to the tinny—and exceedingly hissy—English audio track, which was probably overdubbed from an old VHS source. The (quote) “shorter version” only comes with English audio.

An audio commentary from Human Beasts: The Films of Paul Naschy (WK Books, 2018) author Troy Howarth is the disc’s sole significant extra, but as usual, it’s a very welcome one. He goes over plenty of details related to the production, including its now-almost-mythic ‘unclothed’ version, which hasn’t turned-up anywhere as yet; the English dubbing on many Spanish films from the era and how they were (quote) “rather difficult to stomach”; much of the film’s pilfered score from the CAM libraries; the obvious onscreen chemistry between Naschy and Liné (this was their final collaboration); Miguel Sesé’s impressive makeup F/X; Carlos Aured’s solid understanding of the (quote) “basic innerworkings” of the genre, and how most of his films with Naschy are (quote) “smoother and refined” compared to the work of Leon Klimovsky; and finally, some background about the film’s distribution woes. It’s most certainly an engaging listen, loaded with plenty of insight into this film and Naschy’s work in general. Excellent stuff, indeed! The film’s rarely-seen Avco Embassy trailer is also included (“A jarring shock every moment!”), as are trailers for José María Zabalza’s THE FURY OF THE WOLFMAN (1972, coming soon from Scorpion) and José Luis Madrid’s THE HANGING WOMAN (1973). In addition, the inner sleeve contains informative liner notes from Naschy expert Mirek Lipinski, who also provides some interesting background info on the mysterious Ms. Ottolina. 

Polished and technically assured, it’s great to have this once-difficult-to-see Naschy title finally available on Blu-ray, which can be ordered from Ronin Flix and DiabolikDVD, both of which include a limited slipcover.