Overall | Night of Fear (1972) | Inn of the Damned (1974)

Night of Fear/Inn of the Damned

Night of Fear/Inn of the Damned

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Released 16-Mar-2005

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Overall Package

    This disc contains two Australian horror films of the 1970s. Night of Fear is an effective and slightly shocking shorter film that belies its television origins. Inn of the Damned is a theatrical release from two years later, derailed by being a patchwork quilt of barely-related story threads.

    Both get excellent transfers here. The inclusion of the audio commentaries is an unexpected and welcome bonus, particularly when both are better than the norm. The stills galleries on both discs are recommended for the press clippings from the period when the films were released.

    It is an indication of how quickly Australian culture and attitudes changed in the 1970s to see these films side by side. The earlier film was banned for reasons of indecency, but contains nothing offensive by today's standards. Just two years later a film with axe murders, shootings, drunkenness, foul language, nudity and lesbianism was able to be released without too much fuss.

    These films would not be good value if released on separate discs, so to include them together was a good idea (and makes sense given they were made by the same production company). Worth a look for anyone interested in 1970s Australian cinema, though the later film is a bit of a grind to watch.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | Night of Fear (1972) | Inn of the Damned (1974)

Night of Fear (1972)

Night of Fear (1972)

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Released 16-Mar-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Rod Hay (Producer) And Carla Hoogeveen(Actress)
Gallery-Stills
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Long Weekend, Thirst, Turkey Shoot, Road Games
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 50:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Terry Bourke
Studio
Distributor
TerryRod
Madman Entertainment
Starring Norman Yemm
Carla Hoogeveen
Mike Dorsey
Briony Behets
Case ?
RPI Box Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.70:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Night of Fear is a short feature horror film which was originally made as the pilot to an ABC TV series called Fright. The series never got off the ground, but Night of Fear, having been shot on 35mm, ended up being released in cinemas. Well, that was after it was banned by the censors for indecency, a ban which was overturned on appeal.

    A young girl (Carla Hoogeveen) who has just spent an afternoon playing tennis and making love with a man (Mike Dorsey), gets accidentally run off the road by a truck. Ending up on a dead-end dirt road, her car gets stuck in a ditch, where she starts getting terrorised by a drooling, gibbering psycho (Norman Yemm), who also has a colony of rats.

    These days it's hard to see what the fuss was all about. There isn't anything really offensive about the movie and today it would probably get no more than an M rating, though the OFLC seems to have issues with horror scenes.

    The movie has no dialogue, the soundtrack consisting entirely of effects, music, screams and grunts. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the film is very effective, though it is obvious what is happening from quite early on and it isn't that scary. An eerie mood is well conveyed and the short running time means that there is little in the way of unnecessary padding.

    It was shot partly in the ABC studios and partly in the Kuringai Chase National Park, very familiar due to the sandy soil and light bushland. It was also amusing to see the truck used in the film was from Nuss Removals, whose vehicles I still see around on the roads over 30 years later. I'm sure this particular vehicle has long been retired.

    Also in the cast is Briony Behets, who plays another victim seen in a prologue sequence. Like the other actors in the film, she is probably best known for her work on television, being one of the stars of The Box. Hoogeveen starred in Class of '74, Yemm in Homicide and Dorsey had a featured role in Number 96.

    Something of a watershed in Australian film due to the controversy that attended its release, it has been little seen in decades and it is good to see it released with some care and in good condition.

    This film is included on a single disc with another production by director Terry Bourke and producer Rod Hay (Terryrod Productions), Inn of the Damned, made two years later. That film will be reviewed separately.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.70:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. I'm unsure about the original aspect ratio, though it may have been 1.66:1, a common ratio for non-American films of the era. In any case it does not seem to have been significantly cropped, if at all.

    This is an excellent transfer in terms of sharpness and detail. It looks like it is taken from a newly struck print and there is plenty of detail visible, though not so much in shadows (not that this is an issue). Contrast is very good and the transfer is bright and clear.

    Colours are a little saturated, but generally they are bright and vivid. Flesh tones tend to be a little ruddy, but in some sequences they are just about right. Black levels are good, though some low level noise is evident in some of the darker sequences.

    The only film to video artefacts present are aliasing, which is mainly confined to the vehicles in the first part of the film, and moiré, which can be seen on the grill of the girl's car. Film artefacts are limited to white specks indicating either print damage or dirt on the negative, most probably the latter. At some stages in the film the image is a jumpy, with the top part of the frame looking a bit wobbly, as though it was slightly warped. I did not notice this on the first viewing, but it became obvious while listening to the audio commentary.

    No subtitles are provided, not surprisingly given there is no dialogue.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, but the layer change occurs in the other feature on the disc.

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

Audio

    The main audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    The audio is very good. Obviously there are no problems with dialogue and the music and sound effects come across clearly.

    Music is by an unnamed hand, possibly compiled from music in the ABC library. It is very effective, being one of those electronic-sounding scores that many horror films and TV shows had during the 1970s. I would not be surprised if a Moog synthesiser was used.

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

Extras

Audio Commentary with Rod Hay (producer) and Carla Hoogeveen (actress)

    Also on this audio commentary is Mark Hartley, who barely gets a word in edgewise. Hay talks a lot, almost non-stop and he gives a good account of the film's origins, the banning controversy and the success of the film when it was eventually released. Hoogeven also has things she wants to say, but often is not allowed to quite finish. It was amusing to hear her pleas to Hay to remove the dream sequence from the film and her stories of director Terry Bourke. An enjoyable commentary well worth listening to.

Gallery-Stills

    An excellent stills gallery, which features a lot of contemporary news clippings and advertising material, even down to those little newspaper advertisements for screenings. The news clippings are mostly readable and reflect the coverage the film received when it was banned and afterwards.

Theatrical Trailer (2:01)

    An effective trailer, not in the best of condition but it is 16x9 enhanced.

Trailer-Long Weekend, Thirst, Turkey Shoot, Road Games (8:18)

Trailers for other Umbrella releases.

R4 vs R1

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

    As far as I can tell, this is the first DVD release anywhere, so there is no competition.

Summary

    A good little low-budget horror film.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are much more substantial than you would expect for a film of this type and age.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, May 01, 2005
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
Overall | Night of Fear (1972) | Inn of the Damned (1974)

Inn of the Damned (1974)

Inn of the Damned (1974)

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Released 16-Mar-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Rod Hay (Producer) And Tony Bonner (Actor)
Gallery-Stills
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Long Weekend, Thirst, Turkey Shoot, Road Games
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 112:27
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (37:03) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Terry Bourke
Studio
Distributor
TerryRod
Madman Entertainment
Starring Judith Anderson
Lionel Long
Alex Cord
Michael Craig
Joseph Fürst
Tony Bonner
John Meillon
John Morris
Robert Quilter
Diana Dangerfield
Carla Hoogeveen
Don Barkham
John Nash
Case ?
RPI Box Music Bob Young


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    This film seems to be set in 1896 in the Victorian countryside. A rich merchant is taken by coach to a remote inn, along with a woman he has paid to come with him. While in bed they appear to die horribly, through a means not entirely clear (though it's easy to guess). It turns out the coach driver is in cahoots with the owners of the inn to kill and rob wealthy travellers. It also turns out that perhaps the inn's owners are not in their right minds. Mrs Straulle (Dame Judith Anderson) is a bit potty and her husband Lazar (Joseph Fürst) tends not to speak much, unless it's to say "why don't you die?" to one of his victims.

    Meanwhile, coachman Biscayne (Bob Quilter) is being sought by the police for something he did a while back. The police are represented by Trooper Moore (Tony Bonner, strangely not accompanied by a kangaroo), an upright sort of chap and the American import Kincaid (Alex Cord). Kincaid seems to be a bounty hunter of sorts but is working for the police. They eventually capture Biscayne, which provides a connection to the inn run by the Straulles. Moore goes off to investigate - not a terribly good move as it turns out.

    Writer/director Terry Bourke appears to have come up with an idea for a short film and then padded it out to feature length by adding a lot of extraneous material. The business with the Straulles might work okay in an hour-long format. The rest of the film seems to be just there to stretch the running time out to nearly two hours. Apart from the manhunt angle, there's also comedy relief. John Meillon plays a drunken crony of Biscayne's and appears to have been really drunk in some scenes. Then there's the lesbian angle, with Diana Dangerfield and Carla Hoogeveen dropping their gear and getting into some hot tub action, placed in the inn of the title in order to link it to the rest of the film. And what Michael Craig's character is doing in this film, well, that's anyone's guess. Alex Cord plays his character like he was an embittered sheriff out in the old west hunting down some ornery varmints and fails to make his character even halfway likeable.

    The mishmash of elements makes this film a tough grind to sit through. There's some remarkable scenery, for example Oxford Falls, but the direction is competent at best and occasionally quite poor, making some of the actors look bad. The script contains some banal lines and there is really no horror to be found, unless it is horror at how bad this film is. With no sympathetic central character it becomes really tedious after a while.

    The film has been released on disc with another, much better Australian horror film Night of Fear. That film has been reviewed separately.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio was 1.85:1.

    The transfer is quite sharp and detailed. The scenery benefits from being able to see individual leaves on plants and trees. Contrast levels are good and the image is nice and bright. Daylight scenes look like they were shot in bright sunlight, something of a contrast to the dim daylight of British horror movies of the period.

    Colour is good, but there is a tendency for flesh tones to look slightly on the brown side. In lower light levels colour looks less impressive and low level noise renders the blacker areas of the picture anything but solid.

    Film to video artefacts are limited to some infrequent aliasing. There are plenty of small white specks, but otherwise no significant film artefacts.

    There are no subtitles. The disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change placed early in the film at 37:03. It is not disruptive.

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

Audio

    The main audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    I did not notice any issues with the audio. Dialogue is clear throughout. I suspect a lot of it was looped in the studio afterwards, as occasionally the dialogue seemed slightly out of sync, and the acoustics of the audio do not always seem accurate. There are several scenes where there should have been significant background noise, but there is little or none. Music and effects come across well considering the age of the original source material.

    The music score is by Bob Young. At times it is quite effective, but at others it gets in the way or lapses into cliché. I thought the music used for the comic sequences was very unsubtle, and that it would have been more at home in something like The Benny Hill Show.

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

Extras

Audio Commentary with Rod Hay (producer) and Tony Bonner (actor)

    As audio commentaries go, this one is quite good. Both speak with enthusiasm about the film in total and various aspects of it, there are a few interesting anecdotes and there are few dead spots. I can't say I share their enthusiasm, but if anything is going to persuade you that this film is better than it is, this commentary is it.

Gallery-Stills

    Another large gallery of stills, lobby cards, posters and newspaper and magazine articles from the time. This certainly gives flavour to the period and indicates the responses the film provoked.

Theatrical Trailer (3:29)

    The trailer is not in the best of condition, but it is 16x9 enhanced. It covers most of the plot, and the voice-over is by John Laws.

Trailers-Long Weekend, Thirst, Turkey Shoot, Road Games (8:18)

Umbrella propaganda for other Australian genre films.

R4 vs R1

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

    There is a Region 1 release of this film, which appears to be bare-bones. I have not been able to find any reviews of this release.

Summary

    A poor Australian horror film.

    A very good video transfer.

    The audio is also good, but there are more extras than it deserves.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
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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History of the Inn - Boobear