Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Crypt of the Living Dead and House of the Living Dead (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray) - Limited Edition

1970’s monster horror is a strange batch. Where it tries to be traditional focusing on some of the better creature features of yesteryear almost riding Hammer’s coattails to try to get some of that Universal gold from the 40’s, often times the budgets didn’t meet the expectation of the viewer. That beings said some of these meager productions create haunting images due to their budgetary restraint. Production value you can yield the creeps. Just ask fans of Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things. No budget. Great looking zombies (and by great I mean creep). For a Spanish production filmed in Turkey this release has some strong locations and distinctive style. You’d almost expect it as a part of the Drive-In collection from Vinegar Syndrome, but it gets the Blu treatment.

Crypt of the Living Dead has some of the best classic piano horror music you’ll hear with perfect stings. It really sets the proper tone for this no budget vamp production. While the movie opens incredible strong with a solid decapitation that shows ingenuity and the fun spirit of the grue lover, the middle ground leaves something to be desired as the film tries to find what drove Hammer and Universal to success.

I was unfamiliar with Directors Julio Salvador and Ray Danton. While both had modest careers, Danton’s TV work seemed to have accelerated after this production, having worked on everything from TJ Hooker to the Incredible Hulk. Immediately following this release Danton would Direction The Psychic Killer. For Salvador this was the end game. He had previously done a number of Spanish production but would only go on to write two more films after Crypt of the Living Dead, Love Brides of the Bloody Mummy (which has a simply fantastic title) and Touch Me Not. Perhaps the most notable attachment to this project was Andrew Prine in the lead. His connection to Horror and Exploitation cinema is nearly legendary especially with roles in Simon, King of the Witches, Nightmare Circus and Grizzly (though he’s probably known better for his non-genre work).

The effects are pure cheese and aside from the slow moments, but this is all Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray with gorgeous transfer consisting of a fabulous grain structure preserved in digital form. The choice of movie for restoration to Blu-ray is an interesting one. While I have definitely enjoyed the over the top poster art over the years, it’s not a movie that stuck out to me as especially strong. You can also look it up under its alternative title, Hannah, Queen of the Vampires.

On the other hand there’s House of the Living Dead, the second feature on this Blu-ray. Where Crypt of the Living Dead may be a strong suit for low budget creep-outs, House of the Living Dead is pure grilled cheese. What would you expect from a movie that feature primate kidnapping, mad scientists, an old witch and music so dramatic it could only have been composed for a made for TV movie. Director Ray Austin did quite a bit of TV after working on House of the Living Dead aka Curse of the Dead, but before this release he worked on Virgin Witch, a widely praise cult favorite (available through Redemption Films). This is most likely my first South African Horror film and I feel like I’d be hard pressed to find another that I enjoyed as much for all its faults.

This a perfect Hammer copycat that also seems to have hints of The Asphyx only not sophisticated enough to handle either duty. House is a period piece drama that gives way to some old fashion practical effects, perfect red blood, organs that play themselves mysteriously in true haunted house fashion and a final act that’s pure madness. Once House of the Living Dead gets out of its own way it actually becomes somewhat effective with creepy organ music that haunts.

While I can’t help but think that the title for this release should have been Beethoven Does Color Light Chemistry, it has a distinctive look, enough gonzo to keep you laughing and visually entertained while having some of the most memorable facial expressions and forced exclamation point dialogue I’ve seen in a movie from the early 70’s. The final word… if you complained about the horse in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II I beg you to figure this one out!

From Vinegar Syndrome: 

This release is limited to just 2,000 units. Limit two copies per customer.

After arriving on a remote island to bury his father, a young American engineer (Andrew Prine) opens the crypt of a vampire queen. He inadvertently unleashes a terrible and violent force of evil on the unsuspecting townspeople, making them fight for their lives, while a few townsfolk aren’t who they appear to be. Vinegar Syndrome brings the U.S. theatrical version to blu-ray, scanned and restored in 2k from a newly exhumed 35mm negative. Open the tomb and re-discover CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD!

D: Julio Salvador & Ray Danton / 1973 / 85 min / Color / 1.85:1

In the seemingly peaceful and rural colonial vineyards of South Africa, a mad scientist plots to steal people’s souls and place them into jars for eternity. To complete his twisted experiments, he begins to undertake a bloody rampage in the nearby countryside. Who can stop this madman, and what other terrible secrets does he hide? Who knows what other horrors you will discover in HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD!

D: Ray Austin / 1974 / 88 min / Color / 1.85:1

Features Include:

+ Blu-ray/DVD Combo | Region Free | 1.85:1 OAR
+ All content included on both dual-layer Blu-ray and DVD
+ Restored in 2k from 35mm negatives
+ Original theatrical trailer for COTLD
+ Alternate title card for COTLD
+ Bonus feature film: HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD
+ English SDH Subtitles for both films

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