Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dracula in Daylight

The carriage ride toward Castle Dracula in Jess Franco's COUNT DRACULA (1970). Filmed in daylight, to be converted to a night look in post-production. Here's a photo showing Dracula (Christopher Lee) in untinted daylight glory.

Friday, August 27, 2010

VHS Covers - 3

Here's the cover for Unicorn Video's clamshell big box of THE FURY OF THE WOLFMAN. Typically, video companies did not credit the cover artist, but in this case credit is given: George Garcia. Excepting a release by Charter, all American videos of this film presented the cut version lacking the nudity of the export release.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Enterprising DVD companies can secure licenses to release THE BLIND DEAD COLLECTION from Atlas International. This is the company's online promo for this quartet of films directed by Amando de Ossorio:

They are called THE BLIND DEAD, heretic horsemen whose eyes were burned out to prevent them from finding their way back from Hell. Over the course of 4 unforgettable films, writer/director Amando de Ossorio created what fright fans worldwide consider to be one of the most startling series in horror history.

This unique quartet of shockers delivers a relentless onslaught of creepy atmosphere, shocking violence, forbidden sexuality, and the still-chilling icons of EuroHorror: The eyeless undead who hunt by sound in their quest for human flesh. Don’t move… don’t breathe... don’t let them hear your heart beating: THE BLIND DEAD are back!

now fully restored from original vault materials and remastered in heart-stopping High Definition


Atlas has held the international rights to these films for a while, and the first two in the series (TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD and RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD) even much earlier. The first Blind Dead films to reach DVD (on Anchor Bay) were from Atlas. Later Blue Underground released all four films in a box set, also working with Atlas and other rights owners. Though a commendable release, the transfers in the Blue Underground box set had problematic tinting (from Blue Underground), and these transfers may be the ones that are being offered from Atlas. Any new DVD releases, "in heart-stopping High Definition," should be sourced from new transfers that take into consideration the original look and dynamics of films.

A recent check of the Atlas catalog reveals that the company is NOT offering The Victory Media Library, that series of HD Spanish horror films from which BCI/Deimos received its wonderful quality Naschy and Ossorio films several years ago. I'll be investigating this further to determine who currently owns this important library, which includes the uncut MALENKA and the rare STRANGE LOVE OF THE VAMPIRES.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Mysterious Death of Director Claudio Guerin

On the last day of shooting the now-classic Spanish horror film THE BELL FROM HELL (LA CAMPANA DEL INFIERNO, 1973), director Claudio Guerin fell to his death from the bell tower of San Martin in Noya. Recently the Spanish program, CUARTO MILENIO, investigated this death and provided a dramatization of the tragedy. Was Guerin's death an accident? A suicide? Or was some other force in play?

Friday, August 20, 2010

VHS Covers - 2

This is the NTA Home Entertainment video release of AGAINST ALL ODDS, known also as FU MANCHU AND THE KISS OF DEATH and THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU. A copyright on the cover states 1985, but the copyright on the video label claims 1987. The copyright was held by Republic Pictures.

What made this release unique is not the content, but the back cover, which showed a nude scene, alerting Francophiles that there existed, at the very least, nude promo stills for the film, a film that before had been considered free of nudity beforehand. Eventually, for Blue Underground's DVD release as THE BLOOD OF FU MANCHU, nude scenes were shown for the first time. Despite the photo on the back cover, the NTA release did not contain nudity.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Dilemma of a Potential Masterpiece - THE VALDEMAR LEGACY

THE VALDEMAR LEGACY (LA HERENCIA VALDEMAR), also known in English as THE VALDEMAR INHERITANCE, was released theatrically in Spain in January 2010, with a Spanish DVD release following in June. The attention given this film was considerable, as not only it was, at over 20 million dollars, one of the most expensive films made in Spain, but it purported to be a lavish undertaking in the Lovecraft cosmos, surely the most elaborate yet offered up on the screen. As an added interest, it also contained the last on-screen performance of Paul Naschy, Spain's legendary horror man.

Unfortunately ticket sales proved lackluster and audiences grumbled about this and that, especially as they seemed unaware that the film was actually part one of a two-part project and that they would have to wait until the fall when the second part, THE FORBIDDEN SHADOW (LA SOMBRE PROHIBIDA) was going to be screened.

Having viewed the Spanish DVD (thanks, Elena), I can say I'm very hopeful that the second part will confirm what I've gotten from the first--that THE VALDEMAR LEGACY may be a masterpiece of Spanish horror cinema, a film that bravely places itself out of the current ethos of horror to luxuriate in a more old-fashioned sensibility of building up plot and suspense, nurturing both with care and consideration for the overall effect. Not that the modern style of direction, under the capable hands of Jose Luis Aleman, or the contemporary flourishes of editing and music are missing from THE VALDEMAR LEGACY. They are not. But other, older features are around and placed to the forefront many times. The result generates a feeling of an exquisite world that is part distant dream, part contemporary reality. Curiously, VALDEMAR somewhat shares this nether old-time world fantasy kinship with Universal's recent THE WOLFMAN, which likewise straddled cinematically both the past and present--and, like the VALDEMAR film, was not as well received as anticipated. (Universal is distributing THE VALDEMAR LEGACY in Spain, btw.)

The question for us in the United States becomes--is this film sell-able here? Can it be shown theatrically?

I doubt it will be possible to show this film as it has been in Spain--as part 1, and then months later, part 2. As it is, American audiences will have a hard time heading over to see a Spanish horror film (despite the successes of a few recent Spanish horror films), and they will not endure the possibility of waiting months to see a story's finish. No, to be shown theatrically, this film has to be presented in whole, as a three-hour plus epic, with an intermission coming in after the first part. Such a presentation would mean, of course, a limited theatrical distribution and more to art house theaters that can accommodate such special handling; otherwise the film will never get any theatrical release, unless at horror genre film festivals, which are limited in scope and audiences.

For DVD purposes, I think it would be well to offer the film up as a double DVD set, for the same considerations as for a possible theatrical release.

I've yet to see the second part, of course (it will be premier in Spain in October), but if the second part does live up to my expectations, then we may have a gem, or a least a diamond in the rough, to savor and contemplate. So I'm very much looking forward to part two, which, since I'm not in Spain, will have to arrive for me only when the Spanish DVD is finally released months after the film's theatrical release.

In his last on-screen appearance, Paul Naschy offers up a performance as the protective and faithful servant Jervas that must rank as one of the best in his career. Will American Naschy fans be able to see his work in a theatrical release?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

VHS Covers - 1

The days of video are gone, but the cover art endures in the memories and hearts (and sometimes collections) of Spanish horror film fans. The Bingo Video release of RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD, titled here RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD, to, no doubt, get in on the popularity of the then-more current Sam Raimi film, THE EVIL DEAD.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Wolf-Monster!

It may seem odd that the 1971 American trailer for FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR (LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO) did not mention a wolfman or werewolf, but rather a "wolf-monster." Paul Naschy's werewolf was presented this way in the trailer because it was fitted to agree with the unique American introduction to the oddly-named film. (No Frankenstein shows up, after all). Distributor Sam Sherman had to invent a rationale for calling the Naschy werewolf film FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR, a title compelled upon him when he needed to contractually offer up a Frankenstein film to theaters. So an introduction "explained" the Frankenstein connection: "Now! The most frightening Frankenstein story of all, as the ancient werewolf curse brands the family of monster makers as Wolfstein! Wolfstein! The inhuman clan of blood-hungry wolf-monsters!"

So, a new monster name was invented--"The Wolf-Monster." For the trailer, other "new frightening fiends" were "The Vampire-Doctor" and "The Ghoul-Woman." Those names and the trailer have a certain Eerie Publication vibe.

I love the way the voice-over artist stretches out "Ghoul" in "Ghoul-Woman."

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Above: Howard Vernon and Maria Silvia

Rightfully called the first Spanish horror film and advertised as such in its Spanish premier release, Jess Franco's 1961 GRITOS EN LA NOCHE (SCREAMS IN THE NIGHT) did not receive popular or critical acclaim in its international exhibitions. In the United States, Franco's film was titled THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF and placed at the bottom of a double-bill under Riccardo Freda's THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK. Both films were savaged critically, but are now considered classics of euro-cult.

GRITOS EN LA NOCHE is indeed a classic and remains one of Franco's best films, despite his deprecatory stance on the film in the last couple of decades. Because of Franco's own proclivities and co-production assistance from France's sleaze-meisters Eurocine, there's a palpable essence of depravity to the film that was once upon a time attacked, but now, in more liberated times, is looked upon in a different, more natural and appreciative erotic manner. Franco gathers in influences from DEAD EYES OF LONDON, PHANTOM LADY, and EYES WITHOUT A FACE (which Franco claims he did not see beforehand, though he certainly must have known of that film's international popularity), and, for a bolder export version, inserts (literally, these are inserts) shots that would have been welcomed by the "raincoat crowd" at nudie film showings.

The nude scenes only surfaced here on DVD from Image in 2000 in its "EuroShock Collection" series. Though it was revelatory to see them, they don't add much to the film. The one that's supposed to be of actress Diana Lorys' breasts is obviously not of her but a body double, so that's temporarily distracting, too. (Later in her career and in a sexually freer Spain, Lorys would shed her clothing with bravado for director Franco.)

For Spain GRITOS was a shock, as that the country had never seen anything homegrown like it. Or rather it would have been a shock had more people filled the theaters to see the film. The country was not yet ready for accepting the work of native sons in the horror genre, nor knowledgeable or interested enough to realize that Franco was making a bold and even revolutionary statement within the context of Spanish film as it was at this time. It wasn't just the eroticism of equating sex with forced ravishment, but the youthful energy of the film, its experimental, jazzy musical score feeding the impulses of rebellion and rape. Regarding the latter, Dr. Orlof (one "f" in this film, two in future Orlof films) creates seedy scenarios to trap women in deserted places, so that he can kidnap them for experiments--yes, non-sexual violations of their faces and bodies, but violations nevertheless. His sightless and mute assistant Morpho is the younger partner in these crimes, the virile one if you will, the one with the physical power to capture and bind these attractive, bosoms-overflowing cabaret performers, who are equated as prostitutes in GRITOS.

For all his leering, Howard Vernon's Orlof is rather asexual, a cold scientist impassioned only by the love he has of his daughter. This icy heart is what makes him more dangerous when he meets his victims, as you realize he could murder any of them without relapsing into a guilty conscious.

No wonder the critics pounced with moral disgust.

The critics did not see the craftsmanship behind the film, the spot-on cinematography of Godofredo Pacheco complimenting Franco's already sharpened and inspirational directing skills. Hemmed in by traditional moral codes, they retreated even more by hurling acidic barbs at the film and its makers, as if to protect themselves from acknowledging their own dark desires.