Directed By: Ronald Price, Harry Revier
Starring: Billy Bletcher, Marie DeForrest, Victor Marcos
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.
Loosely based on murder of journalist Carl Taylor, The Lash of the Penitentes tells of a real life religious sect. The movie started life as an documentary prior to Taylor's murder but, afterwards the footage was bought and a narrative on the slaying was threaded together. Bret Wood goes into much more detail in his commentary but thats a simple overview. Reality/documentary and cheap exploitations collide and the result is probably one of the weirder movies in this series-and thats really saying something. The film itself is a stark black-and-white nightmarish look at a cult with things like nude whipping, crucifixion's, religious frenzy and ultimately murder. But, when you shed the sensationalism the film is well shot and has some truly unnerving sequences. The fact that this was a real group coupled with the documentary footage leads to an unsettling quality.
The real treat here is that Kino has provided a rare longer cut of the film. A whooping ten-minutes is included in the longer complete version, something I had read about but had not seen....Until now. I will say as stunning as the film looks the narrative built around the Taylor comes tends to come off a bit awkward. I think had this been re-shaped by a real documentary filmmaker this could have been a much more powerful and interesting film. Still, as it stands this is a fascinating piece of history that can thankfully now be viewed in its most complete form.
Picture: The Library of Congress provided Kino with original film elements. The overall restoration is incredibly clear and striking. The film does have some issues with scratches and artifacts but I chock that up to what the elements looked like. I can tell though that this is probably the best its going to look barring a 2k scan which again may not be possible with what's been provided. It is awesome to finally see a restored version of the larger cut which has been long rumored but, to my knowledge never available in the US until now.
Sound: Similar to the transfer, the sound is clear and robust but has some hiss or background but nothing that I think distracts from the overall product.
Extras: This film also includes the censored 35-minute version. An audio commentary by series curator Bret Wood. Wood does a fantastic job at going in-depth into the real story of the Taylor murder and the making of the film. Really interesting and well worth listening to. This disc also includes a trailer gallery and, for those completists the 35 minute cut of the film.