Overall | Theatre of Death (1966) | Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

Theatre of Death/Rasputin: The Mad Monk (Double Feature) (1966)

Theatre of Death/Rasputin: The Mad Monk (Double Feature) (1966)

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Released 8-Sep-2004

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Overall Package

    Two Christopher Lee films presented on the same disc. Both feature interesting performances by the star, but unfortunately neither film is a great one. Theatre of Death is a slightly schizophrenic film, caught between a couple of genres and suffering from one of the key participants disappearing halfway through. Rasputin the Mad Monk is enjoyable on its own terms, but unfortunately the video transfer has problems. I certainly enjoyed the latter film more than the former, and would recommend that anyone who wants to own this in the best available edition look towards the Region 1 release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, October 01, 2004
Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Theatre of Death (1966) | Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

Theatre of Death (1966)

Theatre of Death (1966)

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Released 8-Sep-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1966
Running Time 85:54
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Samuel Gallu
Studio
Distributor
Pennea Productions
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Christopher Lee
Julian Glover
Lelia Goldoni
Jenny Till
Evelyn Laye
Ivor Dean
Joseph Fürst
Betty Woolfe
Leslie Handford
Fraser Kerr
Dilys Watling
Steve Plytas
Miki Iveria
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Elisabeth Lutyens


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is a Christopher Lee film that I had not seen before, so when the opportunity came to review it I jumped at the chance. While not one of his best, this is still an interesting diversion from the vampire films and other horrors he was making for Hammer films. It is not really a horror film, more a mystery with horror overtones.

    Lee plays Phillippe Darvas, owner of the Theatre de Mort in Paris. The theatre specialises in Grand Guignol, a popular dramatic entertainment consisting of short sensational or horrific pieces staged in succession according to my dictionary. Basically, murders and executions are re-enacted with considerable attention to detail. Darvas also directs the entertainment, and in typical Svengali fashion he is demanding, rude and arrogant.

    Charles Marquis (Julian Glover, unusually in a leading role) is a police surgeon whose hand injury prevents him from plying his trade, so he spends his spare time romancing Dani (Leila Goldoni), an actress in the theatre. Dani's friend Nicole (Jenny Till) comes under Darvas' spell, and even allows him to psychoanalyse her. Meanwhile, there are a series of grisly murders in process involving a knife with a triangular blade, and the victims have been drained of blood. Is Darvas really Dracula in disguise?

    As a film, Theatre of Death is very much caught between a rock and a hard place. There is not enough suspense to make it work as a mystery or a thriller, and not enough horror for it to succeed as a, well, horror film. The script does not exploit the opportunities the story provides, and the direction by the unknown (to me) Samuel Gallu is pedestrian. It has some good moments nonetheless, and I am glad that I took the time to watch it, if only because Christopher Lee plays a different character to his usual gallery of supernatural creatures.

    The film is included on a dual-feature disc with Rasputin the Mad Monk, a Hammer film starring Lee in the title role.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a pretty sharp transfer but the sharpness is compromised by artefacting detailed below. Shadow detail is average, with some very dark sections, but it seems to me that this was the look of the film and I do not think I missed anything. Contrast seems to be set just a bit too high, though this is not a major concern.

    Colour is vibrant and rich, almost too rich at times, with very bright reds present. There is no evidence of colour bleeding. Black levels are good, but there is a sheen to some of the darker sections that does not look lifelike.

    The major problem with the transfer is a lack of fine detail, which appears to be due to motion blurring possibly caused by excessive noise reduction. While not causing the "floating face" phenomenon, detail levels drop whenever there is any movement. The effect is not overly severe, but it is annoying. There are also some comet trails visible, for example at 39:06, and posterisation at 43:30.

    Film artefacts are thankfully few, with occasional small white specks and coloured blemishes, but nothing to worry about.

    There are no subtitles provided.

    This is a dual-layer disc, but in keeping with the rest of this series of releases, the film is contained on a single layer and there is consequently no layer change during the movie.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The original audio would have been mono, so nothing has been lost.

    Dialogue is quite clear and distinct, and overall the sound is quite satisfactory for a mono original of this vintage.

    Elisabeth Luyten's music score is pretty good, adding atmosphere but not distracting the viewer from the action. There is fine use of a guitar, and the closing voodoo dance music (a scene censored from US prints, but included in full here) is excellent.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 release is naturally from Anchor Bay, and includes the following extras:

    There is also a UK Region 2 release, which sounds as if it has the same transfer and extras as the Region 4, so the Region 1 is a marginal winner.

Summary

    A minor but rare and reasonably entertaining film, though not one of Christopher Lee's best.

    The video quality is average.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
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Audio Synch is a long way out .. - REPLY POSTED

Overall | Theatre of Death (1966) | Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

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Released 8-Sep-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1966
Running Time 87:54 (Case: 89)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Don Sharp
Studio
Distributor
Seven Arts
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Christopher Lee
Barbara Shelley
Richard Pasco
Francis Matthews
Suzan Farmer
Dinsdale Landen
Renée Asherson
Derek Francis
Joss Ackland
Robert Duncan
Alan Tilvern
John Welsh
John Bailey
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Don Banks


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.15:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This is the alleged story of Grigori Rasputin, the infamous monk who cast a spell over the Russian royal family in the latter years of the reign of the last Tsar. I say "alleged", because this film does not do more than pay lip service to a few facts, preferring instead to paint Rasputin as a demonic drinker and womaniser who gets his just desserts. Even then, his death was even more bizarre than is shown here. As this is a Hammer production and not from a major studio, the budgetary limitations are obvious. The sets look identical to those used in Dracula - Prince of Darkness from the same year, though slightly redressed. Some of the actors from that film also appear in this one.

    Notable amongst these is Christopher Lee in the title role, and he fairly dominates the film. Rasputin arrives at a tavern from a nearby monastery and promptly cures the innkeeper's wife of a fever. In return, all he asks for is wine, and his drunken cavorting ends up getting him kicked out of the monastery. He makes his way to St Petersburg where he manages to mesmerise and bed the Tsarina's lady-in-waiting Sophie, played by the lovely Barbara Shelley. By use of his mesmeric powers, Rasputin conspires to get into the good graces of the Tsarina (Renee Asherson), but he creates enemies wherever he goes.

    This is not really a bad film, just bad history. Lee is excellent as Ra-Ra-Rasputin, Russia's greatest love machine (sorry, just had to do that - at least I didn't say there was a cat that really was gone...), with a heavy beard and long scraggly hair. Unfortunately he tends to overwhelm the other actors, and it is hard to imagine Francis Matthews getting the better of him, even with Rasputin having a bellyful of poison. Don Sharp directs well and the movie goes at a fast clip, so it is possible to overlook the flaws and just enjoy it.

    The film comes on a double-feature disc with another Lee film from the same era, Theatre of Death, so fans of this veteran star of horror films need not hesitate. Unless, of course, you want a decent transfer.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.10:1  and is 16x9 enhanced. While 2.35 is listed by the IMDb as the original aspect ratio, other reviews suggest 2.10:1 is correct.

    It is unfortunate that the transfer is poor in one major respect: the presence of a lot of excessive noise reduction. This means that when the actors and sets are perfectly still, detail levels are satisfactory. Any movement, though, results in slight blurring, and in some scenes there are floating faces, hands, furniture and so on. Shadow detail is also quite poor, with some of the film being very murky.

    Colour is reasonable and flesh tones are good, Lee being made up to look dark and swarthy. There seems to be low level noise present throughout much of the film, and black levels are not very good as a result.

    Apart from the noise reduction problem, there is some aliasing in a lot of scenes, such as at 29:08.

    The transfer seems to have been taken from a theatrical print judging by the presence of reel change markings at 19:49. Despite this, there are few film artefacts, with only occasional speckling and small coloured spots.

    No subtitles are provided.

    There is no layer change, even though this is a dual-layer disc, as the film is contained wholly on one layer with a second feature on the other.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is quite clear and is distinct, and I really could not fault the audio for what it is. Bass is quite good. Generally the audio is a little thin at the top in the way of mono transfers, but if you watch a lot of films from this era, you would find this to be typical.

    The music score is above average for a Hammer film, with a fine example of the genre from Don Banks. It contains Russian influences and even quotes Tchaikovsky.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film has been released in Region 1 by Anchor Bay in their Hammer collection. This release features:

    Judging by reviews, the Region 1 does not suffer from the noise reduction issues present in the Region 4 transfer.

    There is also a UK Region 2 release which sounds as if it is the same transfer as Region 4, and this is only available in a boxset. Looks like the Region 1 is the one to have, and aside from the above release, there is a budget two disc set where it is paired with one of the better Hammer films, The Devil Rides Out, and still has the same extras.

Summary

    Enjoyable trash, with an excellent turn by the tall, dark and gruesome star.

    The video quality is poor.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    No extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE