Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Rare Pre-Code Thriller The Secret of the Blue Room (1933) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

 The Secret of the Blue Room (1933) Kino Studio Classics 11/2/2021

Directed By: Kurt Neumann 

Starring: Lionel Atwill, Gloria Stuart, Paul Lukas 

Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 



Vincent Price in Theater of Blood HERE
13 Washington Square Review HERE
Slasher Film A Day of Judgement HERE

      This fall Kino has released a handful of lesser-known Universal thrillers from their pre-Code era. One of these is 1933's The Secret of the Blue Room starring the OG scream queen Gloria Stuart. A group of suitors has gathered a mansion to usher in Irene's (Gloria Stuart) twenty-first birthday. It seems that the house has "the blue room" or ghost room in which mysterious deaths have taken place. In jest the men dare one another to take turns spending the night in the infamous bedroom in this pre-code thriller from Universal Studios. The Secret of the Blue Room is probably what you would consider a B-programmer, a movie that clocks in at typically about 60-70 minutes and was meant to be paired with another film for double features. This is where B-movie gets its meaning. Despite having some negative condensations, B-movies can certainly be fun, if not down right brilliant. For example the entire gritty, stylish noir movement came largely from hands-off B-pictures made on modest budgets.  

    The Secret of the Blue Room is certainly would fall into what's called an "old dark house" picture, which refers to the 1932 James Whale horror film The Old Dark House (which also starred Gloria Stuart). This basically means you have a limited locale (a spooky mansion) with a cast of people stuck in said locale (again typically a spooky mansion) and, usually a murder takes place which sets off a mystery. This is a lot like what is also called a cozy mystery. I have to say I really like films with this set up. While not nearly as bold and creepy as Whale's '32 film, Blue Room is a hoot. At a lean 65 minutes the pace is nearly break neck and the plot has a nice clever twists and misdirects to keep in engaging. 

   I was so pleasantly surprised by how, even for a lower budget outing Blue Room is well shot with heaps of atmosphere. Movies of this area tend to be stagey but DP Charles Stumar is quite expressive and inventive his camera. The legendary Vera West did the films costumes. Gloria Stuart is of course dazzling and, though she is severely underwritten she adds something truly special. Horror mainstay Lionel Atwill is always great and, like Stuart he adds a level of polish and pomp to the film. Paul Lukas and Edward Arnold are fantastic in supporting roles. As much as I enjoyed the movie I will say that whilst I was never bored with the narrative I feel like the mystery aspect could have been more developed. 

While not the most memorable '30s thriller, Secret of the Blue Room is enjoyable and as an excellent cast.  

Picture: The Secret of the Blue Room is a fine transfer with the consideration that the movie is nearly one-hundred years old. The film has an overall bright and clear presentation with sharp details in costumes, sets and locales. The black-and-white has a fairly nice depth and contrast but there is some room for improvement. So, its kind of a shame this didn't get a 2k scan but considering its age and what if any original film elements available this may not have been possible. Though I think the movie looks fine it does have noise and artifacts. Some blurring also keeps the movie from being as sharp as it could be. I believe that this is certainly a step up from the previous DVD version. Its not perfect but its a very serviceable transfer, especially considering its age. 

Sound: Blue Room has a DTS 2.0 track. Like the picture transfer this is serviceable with dialogue and sound design coming through nice and strong. However, there are some slight crackle here and there but thankfully not a lot. No audio drop out, tin sounds or other issues detected. 

Extras: Blue Room has a nicely researched audio commentary by historian Michael Schlesinger. Also includes trailers for similar films. 



Monday, October 18, 2021

Hollywood Pre-Code Hot Saturday (1932) with Cary Grand & Nancy Carroll Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

Hot Saturday (1932) Kino Studio Classics 10/26/2021

Directed By: William A. Seiter 

Starring: Nancy Carroll, Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, Edward Woods


Other Pre-Code Reviews:

Devil and the Deep HERE
Supernatural HERE
Love Me Tonight HERE
The Sin of Nora Moran HERE
The Kiss Before the Mirror HERE
Doctor X HERE
She Done Him Wrong HERE

Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 


      Hot Saturday (1932) is an interesting Pre-code movie as it examines how gossip can ruin a person's life. It doesn't seem like a mind blowing premise but I think its one that you didn't really see much in Hollywood films of the era. It delightfully thumbs its noses at the blue haired busy-bodies an it almost feels apt being a pre-code film talking about "moral panic" over nothing. Of course if there is any subtext about morals in cinema its buried between the lines. The film plays out like a mortality play but does still manage to sizzle and have some scandalous moments. For example a playful scene where a woman takes underwear off another woman would never have flown in the Hays enforced era. 


     Its worth talking about Grant in this movie. Even the most generous film scholars will tell you that early Cary Grant was rather awkward and not really the charming leading man that Hitchcock loved working with. Though, I think this came down to Grant having small bit parts with not much personality. Here however we get the Grant that classic film fans most remember. This is thanks to Oscar winning screenwriter Seton I. Miller who penned classics like The Adventure of Robin Hood (1938), Scarface (1932)  and 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan (which he won his Oscar for) crafts and tailor's Grants Romer as a smooth upper class loveable rouge. You could say that movies like Hot Saturday was in my opinion the blue print for future Grant personas. Nancy Carroll, who is probably best remembered for the pre-code James Whale film A Kiss Before the Mirror (my review for that can be found above) is also really good in this movie. In fact, I think its a shame she never became a bigger star. 

Hot Saturday isn't what I would call the most deep movie, but it is well directed, well acted and I found engaging throughout its lean 73 minute runtime. 

Picture: Hot Saturday I have to say is a damn impressive looking transfer. It looks like a 2k scan but I don't believe it is. Still for a movie that was made nearly 90+ years the movie has a nice look to it. The usual noise and artifacts are present (because come on its a movie that is nearly 100yrs old) but honestly this is kept to a minimum and I have to wonder if some good original film materials aided in this clean looking print. The black-and-white contrast is balanced extremely well and though grain is on the heavy side it does have a smoothed out quality. 

Sound: Hot Saturday has a really nice DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through nicely and doesn't have any unwanted background noise. Overall, like the picture, this is a clean presentation. 

Extras: Hot Saturday has a nice commentary track from historian Lee Gambin. Gambin is, as always extremely well researched and very informative. Also includes a trailer. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Hollywood Pre-Code Devil and the Deep (1932) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

Devil and the Deep (1932) Kino Studio Classics 10/26/2021

Directed By: Marion Gering 

Starring: Tallulah Bankhead, Cary Grant, Charles Laughton, Gary Cooper

Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

     Kino Studio Classics is showcasing two Hollywood Pre-Code films which also happen to feature a young Cary Grant. Devil in the Deep (1932) tells the story of a Naval Commander named Charles Sturm (Charles Laughton) who is insanely jealous of his wife Diana (seeing Lt. Jaeckel (Cary Grant). After discovering this love affair he ruins Jaeckel's career. Meanwhile, he drives her into the arms Lt. Sempter (Gary Cooper). Charles soon seeks revenge in this spicy drama. 

     I haven't actually heard of this movie prior to this KL release and I have to say its a nice little gem of a movie. Screenwriter Benn W. Levy who also wrote the fantastic Universal horror film The Old Dark House (1932) which also stars Laughton crafts a a nice and at times very bleak romance. Despite a paper thin premise the movie has engaging plot elements that keeps the movie clipping along nicely. It also helps that the movie is a lean, mean 76 minutes. While the movie is a fairly standard love-triangle Levy adds a depth that can be seen in his other works. Though, I can admit that the film does suffer from plot holes and could have used a re-write. 

     What truly makes this movie dazzle is of course the actors. Cary Grant has a small but impactful role. Though not totally in his element yet, Grant is still handsome and charming. Tallulah Bankhead of course commands the screen and is beautiful and has talent. Its a shame she didn't have a bigger career. Gary Cooper is the main love interest and while its not Cooper's best work he is dashing, handsome and does a solid job. However, Charles Laughton camps it up and he makes a wonderful ham dinner out of his performance. With his impish smile and over-the-top acting you cannot help but be enthralled. 

Devil and the Deep is not the best movie but I thought it was interesting enough to keep me glued and of course the actors truly are the glue that hold this movie together. 

Picture: Devil and the Deep is almost one-hundred years old. I stress this because the movie isn't going to look completely pristine. The movie does have some noise and artifacts. Some of it can be a bit heavy at times. However, you can tell that the movie has been given some cleaning and and brightening up. Its a pity this didn't get a 2k scan but I think this might have to do with the original film elements or maybe lack thereof. 

Sound: Devil and the Deep has a robust and clean DTS 2.0 track. Very little unwanted background noise and no audio drop outs. Dialogue comes through clearly. 

Extras: Devil and the Deep has a wonderful commentary by historian David Del Valle. Valle as always does a wonderful job at providing a well researched and wholly engaging track. David always comes to these tracks with a lot of great stories including personal stories from his years of interviewing classic stars. He truly knows of what he speaks and its a treat to have him share his wealth of knowledge with fans and scholars alike. 


Thursday, October 14, 2021

70's Made-for-TV Horror The Screaming Woman (1972) Kino Studio Classics Blu Ray Review

 The Screaming Woman (1972) Kino Studio Classics 10/5/2021

Directed By: Jack Smight 

Starring: Olivia de Haviland, Ed Nelson, Laraine Stephens, Joseph Cotton 



Other Kino Reviews: 
The Victim HERE
Scream, Pretty Peggy HERE
Trilogy of Terror II HERE
Theater of Blood HERE

Disclaimer: Kino Studio Classics has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 


      After Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) it spawned what is known as Hagsploitation -which typically Golden Age Hollywood Actresses (and some actors) in horror. This seems demeaning but these movies helped older actors get paid and the movies went onto gain loyal cult followings. The Screaming Woman (1972) tells of a wealthy woman comes home from a stay at a mental healthy facility. Whilst outside she hears a screaming woman buried underneath the remains of an old smokehouse. Nobody believes her in this little '70s thriller. Director Jack Smight (who helmed one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes Night of the Meek) takes a pretty simple premise and does a fine job at providing plenty of thrills, chills and misdirection. The finale is truly a tense and hugely satisfying. 

    Like a lot of TV movies the locales are limited yet the production design is top notch and with a lot of talent behind the camera Screaming Woman has a slick big budget look. Also, if you enjoy a greedy scheming family members ala Knives Out (2019), Screaming Woman has plenty of it. Olivia de Haviland brings class and polish to this lower-budget genre programmer. Sure, the movie has its issues and the narrative can be a bit plodding. Still, its a enjoyable, campy '70s outing with a fantastic cast. 



Picture: The Screaming Woman really looks fantastic on 1080p. The movie has an overall crisp and clear look, especially in outdoor scenes. Colors really pop and artifacts and noise are kept to a bare minimum. Not to mention a general sharpness. I could even notice textures on costumes which speaks to the great restoration. 

Sound: The Screaming Woman has a nice DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue, sound design and score comes through quite clear. 

Extras: The Screaming Woman includes a great historical commentary by Gary Gernai. Trailers are also included. 

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND - Available on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD/Blu-ray SteelBook on November 16, 2021

                                                    RLJE FILMS PRESENTS

 

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND

 

Available on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD/Blu-ray SteelBook on

November 16, 2021





 

LOS ANGELES, (October 14, 2021) – RLJE Films, a business unit of AMC Networks,  will release the action-adventure thriller PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD/Blu-ray SteelBook on November 16, 2021. The film made its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.


Directed by the acclaimed Japanese director, Sion Sono (Why Don’t You Play in Hell), the film was written by Aaron Hendry and Rexa Sixo Safai (Western Wonderland).  The film stars Nicolas Cage (Mandy), Sofia Boutella (The Mummy), Nick Cassavetes (Face/Off), Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Franchise), Tak Sakaguchi (Tokyo Tribe) and Yuzuka Nakaya (The Forest of Love). Joseph Trapanese (Tron: Legacy, The Raid: Redemption, The Greatest Showman) composed the original score. The DVD will be available for an SRP of $29.96, the Blu-ray for an SRP of $29.97 and the 4K UHD/Blu-ray SteelBook for an SRP of $35.97.

 

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND is set in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town where a ruthless bank robber (Cage) is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman—and his own path to redemption.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

SyFy Channel's Chucky TV Series Review! Is It Worth the Hype? Spoiler Free Review (Ep-1-4)

 SyFy Channel's Chucky Series Review. Is it Worth the Hype? 


Disclaimer: SyFy/NBC/Universal provided me with a advanced digital copy for review purposes. All opinions reflected below my own. 

     The Childs Play series has been going through some interesting evolution in its life. First it started as a semi-serious horror series (with nods to how ridiculous the premise is) then, after part three it went into pure camp with Bride of Chucky (1998) and Seed of Chucky (2004). Even with being largely panned by critics, Seed made double its budget at the box office. Despite this the movie didn't exactly inspire a direct follow up and it would be a whooping nine-years before we would get the direct-to-video Curse of Chucky (2013). The movie barely made back its budget but it was hailed by fans and critics alike. More importantly, Curse gave the series the jolt it needed. This was followed by a less-good but still pretty fun sequel Cult of Chucky (2017). In 2019 the film got a big budget remake Childs Play (2019). The remake had thrown out everything from what I am going to refer to the legacy series (1-5, plus Curse/Cult) and was a new timeline. Fans were split on the remake but it did manage to make over $45 million on a 10 million budget. Like Curse of Chucky it was further proof that fans wanted more killer Good Guy mayhem in their lives. This is where the 2021 television series comes into play

     I was lucky enough to see the first four episodes (so this won't be an overview of the entire series) and I have to say that indeed, fans of the legacy series will be quite happy. Like the film series itself, Chucky masterfully balances the real world, campy and downright over-the-top on a gore stained razor's edge. The showrunners take the show seriously but thankfully, always has a swollen, bloody tongue firmly planted in its cheek. If you`ve never seen any of the legacy films you won't be lost as the show acts as a nice jumping off point with the series lore. Having said that, it does reward fans with lots of references and nods to the various sequels. It also provides more information on Charles Lee Ray which is actually really interesting and well 'executed'. It also is a treasure trove of references to other horror movies like Halloween (1978). So, die hard fans are going to want to pay close attention. 


     Without any spoilers I will just say that the show pays homage to the series deep rooted connection to the LGBTQIA community in a way that feels like the most refreshing thing in the horror genre to date. And for those upset by this- the Childs Play series has always been camp and had a big Queer following. Hell, Seed of Chucky includes a gender-fluid character AND includes John Waters (who if you are unfamiliar with-look him up). With all the praise I will say the teen-drama is a bit on the predictable side and feels like it bucks up against the fun parts with Chucky and the ensuing mayhem. Still, I didn't find this too annoying and thankfully the characters are a bit more developed than the typical CW outing. 


I have to say I was very skeptical about a Childs Play series. But, the first four episodes thankfully shut down my fears. Clearly, Chucky is made with a love for not only the legacy film series but horror films in general. 
 
Chucky premiers Oct 12th 10pm! Website HERE

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Lionsgate Announce: Saint Maud arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital) and DVD 11/30

 Lionsgate Announce: Saint Maud arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital) and DVD 11/30 



Street Date: 11/30/21
Blu-ray™ + Digital Combo SRP: $17.99
DVD SRP: $14.98
PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
Experience the terrifying film that Esquire calls “a mesmerizing horror masterpiece” when Saint Maud arrives on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital) and DVD November 30 from Lionsgate. Saint Maud stars Morfydd Clark (Crawl, TV’s “His Dark Materials,” “Dracula”) and Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark ThirtyVox Lux, TV’s “The Looming Tower”). Saint Maud will be available on Blu-ray™ + Digital and DVD for the suggested retail price of $17.99 and $14.98, respectively.
 
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
The debut film from writer-director Rose Glass, Saint Maud is a chilling and boldly original vision of faith, madness, and salvation in a fallen world. Maud, a newly devout hospice nurse, becomes obsessed with saving her dying patient’s soul — but sinister forces, and her own sinful past, threaten to put an end to her holy calling.
 
BLU-RAY / DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
  • Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Rose Glass
  • A Higher Calling: The Rapture of Saint Maud
 
CAST
Morfydd Clark                         Crawl, TV’s “His Dark Materials,” “Dracula”
Jennifer Ehle                           Zero Dark ThirtyVox Lux, TV’s “The Looming Tower”
Lily Frazer                               TV’s “Motherland,” “Sex Education,” “Cuckoo”
Lily Knight                               Their Finest, TV’s “The League of Gentlemen,” “EastEnders”
Marcus Hutton                        TV’s “Doctor Who,” “Brookside,” “Midsomer Murders”
Turlough Convery                   Ready Player One,  TV’s “Poldark” “Black Mirror”
Rosie Sansom                        TV’s “Call the Midwife,” “Borgia,” “Doctors”
  
PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 2020
Title Copyright: © 2019 Saint Maud Limited / The British Film Institute / Channel Four Television Corporation. Artwork & Supplementary Materials © 2021 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Type: Theatrical Release
Rating: R for disturbing and violent content, sexual content and language
Genre: Horror
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: Spanish, English SDH
Feature Run Time: 84 minutes
Blu-ray Format: 1080p High Definition, 16x9 (2.39:1) Presentation 
DVD Format: 16x9 (2.39:1) Presentation
Blu-ray Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio™
DVD Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Audio