Friday, July 18, 2014

IHW: SCREAMERS - Before the Queen, There Was Only an Island and Walking Fish

The best part about watching a Sergio Martino movie is that they are fantastically unnerving. They paint beautiful portraits that combine filth with eroticism with some of the best scores in Italian cinematic world starring gorgeous women and frightening scenes of sharp objects slashing flash. His movies are gialli; they are not slasher films. A term like slasher would almost seem to degrade them, to bring them down to a less visceral level. When you think of a Martino picture you should imagine erotic nightmares that end with you covered in sweat, blood and piss. I think of Blade of the Ripper aka The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (starring my cinema sweetheart Edwige Fenech), Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, All the Colors of the Dark, Torso and Scorpion with Two Tales. Yes, those are some downright beautiful films that embody the Italian murder mystery cycle. But we aren’t here to discuss Martino’s pretty side. Today we we’re going to talk about some Fishmen and a little movie called Screamers and the most recent Blu-ray release of this film as put out by Scorpion Releasing.

From Scorpion Releasing:

From legendary producer Roger Corman comes the horror classic! It's 1891: Lieutenant Claude de Ross (Claudio Cassinelli), a military doctor, and a few newly escaped convicts are shipwrecked on a mysterious tropical island. They soon come across a strange couple: the sadistic Edmund Rackham (Richard Johnson) and the beautiful Amanda Marvin (Barbara Bach). The doctor finds out that Amanda's father, professor Ernest Marvin (Joseph Cotten), is a mad scientist who is experimenting on horrible human-fish mutations. While Professor Marvin is convinced that he's doing his research for humanitarian motives, Rackham has other plans, since he has discovered an incredible secret lying beneath the island.Now watch this cult classic from a brand new HD Master, from the original inrerpositive!

From the opening sequence where a small group of people is murdered by a monstrous beings on a beach front, you realize that you’ve signed up for schlock. These are not the Fishmen you are looking for! Surely Humanoids from the Deep must be missing more than a few props out of their storage unit. What starts off as a gory mess of a time turns into a B rate, 1950’s style monster picture albeit with all the gratuity of an Italian picture and none of the brevity. Screamers or as I first saw it Island of the Fishmen is a longwinded tale that prides itself on following a winding road to the end, the origin and what you might believe is the end of the line for a scientist who has developed a race of strange man-fishes. What astonishes me is that it only feels long coming in at under 90 minutes.
While I would love to tell you that I find this Roger Corman produced film from 1980 a bore-fest that puts me to sleep and fails to intrigue my “intellectual mind” I absolutely recommend Screamers to you. I have to. Sure it isn’t Martino’s pretty work but neither was Mountain of the Cannibal God. The minute Martino steps away from Giallo his works takes a distinctly camp quality that isn’t necessarily present in other cannibal or jungle releases of the period. He allows his stars to ham it up putting the great Cameron Mitchell and Mel Ferrer in front of a camera. I love both gentleman but I find their performances best in cop thrillers (and of course Ferrer’s Nightmare City performance as a military man). Even Joseph Cotton… who I know from The Abominable Dr. Phibes! Guys this barely feels like an Italian Horror cast at all which must be the producer’s influence? You love a movie like Screamers because it has the most outrageous fake blood. The most outrageous performances. The most outrageous twists. Its excess is in excess. For as far removed as this feels from Martino’s other work, one has to wonder where he stops and where the production company’s influence beings.

Scorpion Releasing puts out some damn cool shit, but to see Screamers on their docket still surprises me and in the best way possible. This is a brand new 16 x 9 widescreen 2.35:1 HD Master from the original interpositive. It looks marvelous. I’ve seen Island of the Fishmen on the big screen at the first All Night Italian Splatterfest, and while that was a great experience, it didn’t look nearly as beautiful as this release. The 35mm screening allowed me to appreciate it with an audience, but the Scorpion Releasing edition has provided me a chance to connect with it as a work of art; it’s a chance to see past some of the effects work that didn’t quite live up to the Rob Bottin’s or Sergio Stivalleti’s standard. The disc also contains interviews with Joe Dante, Miller Drake, Jim Wynorski, Roger Corman and Clark Henderson. There is alternative cover art on the reverse under the alternate title Something Waits in the Dark. The disc itself has a beautiful picture featuring our beloved man-fishes.

Do I recommend Screamers to everyone? Hardly, but if you enjoy the Roger Corman monster pictures then this is the perfect extension of that taken to a very Italian place. No one will win an Oscar for effects, but you’ll get to see Cameron Mitchell attempt to fend off a strange create from beyond the depths. This is not the Sergio Martino you are looking for, and this is not my favorite Martino picture. The gore excess is worth your time though it never quite reaches vomit bag levels. For me, the cover always stuck with me. Not the Fishmen or Something Waits cover but the Screamers proper cover; a screaming skeleton covered in muscles painted in red and read to GET YOU! I used to think it would. What you end up is a Creature from the Black Lagoon incest bred lunk with no neck.

You can pick up the Scorpion Releasing edition now.[sl]-Thriller/Screamers-DVD-(Scorpion-Releasing)-(NTSC-All-Region).html

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