Overall | The Abominable Snowman (1957) | Bloodsuckers (Incense for the Damned) (1972) | Shock Waves (1976)

Superstars of Horror-Volume 1: Peter Cushing (1957)

Superstars of Horror-Volume 1: Peter Cushing (1957)

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Released 24-May-2005

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Overall Package

    This set contains three films featuring the great British horror star Peter Cushing at three stages of his career. The earliest effort here has him as leading man, the second has him in virtually a cameo performance and the last shows him in the twilight of his career, when he was a jobbing actor accepting almost any assignment that would come his way, provided the money and conditions were right.

    Unfortunately, the second film in this collection is terrible, and the latter two only feature him in relatively small roles in terms of screen time. Given that he made a lot of films, surely two better companions for The Abominable Snowman could have been found. While Shock Waves is a surprisingly effective film, Cushing's presence is only ancillary. The less said about Bloodsuckers the better.

    This set is described as volume one of Superstars of Horror. Volume two is upcoming and will be devoted to Boris Karloff. One would expect then that volumes with Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price would follow, in order to live up to that moniker. What Umbrella end up releasing remains to be seen. Still, this set is worth it for the first and third films.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | The Abominable Snowman (1957) | Bloodsuckers (Incense for the Damned) (1972) | Shock Waves (1976)

The Abominable Snowman (1957)

The Abominable Snowman (1957)

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Due Out for Sale 30-May-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Interviews-Crew-Val Guest (Director)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Peter Cushing Trailers
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1957
Running Time 86:15
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (59:33) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Val Guest
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Forrest Tucker
Peter Cushing
Maureen Connell
Richard Wattis
Robert Brown
Michael Brill
Wolfe Morris
Arnold Marlé
Anthony Chinn
Case Gatefold
RPI ? Music Humphrey Searle


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
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

    In the foothills of the Himalayas Doctor John Rollason (Peter Cushing) waits with his wife Helen (Maureen Connell) in a lamasery for the arrival of a party of mountaineers. Rollason's quest is to search for proof of the existence of the yeti, the so-called Abominable Snowman. Despite the warnings of the head lama (and the misgivings of his wife), Rollason heads off with a small group of men led by Tom Friend (Forrest Tucker) up into the mountains in search of the mythical beasts. Well, as it turns out they are not mythical, and Friend has commercial interests that outweigh any scientific considerations.

    An early Hammer effort (despite the Warners logo on the film, this being an American release print), this features an American star. Not unusual for Hammer, who imported Americans like Bela Lugosi, Barbara Payton and Brian Donlevy in some of their earlier films, before they developed home grown stars in Cushing and Christopher Lee (who is not in this one).

    The film is effectively directed by Val Guest, and generates considerable eeriness and spookiness, mainly through not showing much of the creatures and suggesting menace through sound and atmosphere. It also benefits from some location shooting in the Pyrenees, which adds considerable veracity to the outdoor scenes. I would even venture to say that this is one of Hammer's best genre efforts, a film that is good enough to stand with any of the mainstream major studio efforts of the era. It is well acted, especially by Cushing, though second-string American star Tucker is by no means eclipsed. Unfortunately it is only available as part of a three disc set called Superstars of Horror Volume 1: Peter Cushing, not separately.

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Transfer Quality

Video

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

    Given the positive reviews of the Region 1 equivalent, I was expecting something better than this transfer, which is an improvement on my VHS copy of the film. While it is reasonably sharp, fine detail is not especially clear. It looks slightly blurry in fact, as though it were an NTSC to PAL transfer or from a VHS master tape, but I have no proof that either is the case. Contrast seems a little high, which makes faces seem a little bright. The film is monochrome, and the transfer looks a little too grey and lacking in deep blacks and clean whites.

    Some posterisation can be seen at times, but the most significant artefact is telecine wobble, quite obvious in the opening credits. There are occasional film artefacts but by and large the transfer is very clean.

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change barely disruptive at 59:33. There are no subtitles.

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.

    The audio is very good indeed on this disc. Dialogue is clear and the sound effects, particularly the howling mountain winds, come across with some intensity. There is no obvious hiss or distortion, and audio sync is perfect (apart from one or two looped lines of dialogue).

    Humphrey Searle's score is also excellent, with some Tibetan influences detectable in the opening themes. The music adds considerably to the mood of the film, and helps with the sense of unreality when the action moves into the mountain peaks.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    You can hear some of the wind effects when viewing the main menu.

Interview-Crew-Val Guest (Director) (13:16)

    A recent interview with the nonagenarian director, which covers his Hammer period and this film. Worth watching at least once as he has some interesting things to say about the production and the actors.

Theatrical Trailer (1:40)

    This seems to be an American trailer, widescreen but not 16x9 enhanced. You have to hear the voice-over narration to believe it.

Trailer-Peter Cushing Trailers (7:54)

    Trailers for Biggles, And Now the Screaming Starts, Bloodsuckers and Shockwaves, all of which feature our star.

R4 vs R1

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

    In comparison to the US Region 1, the Region 4 misses out on:

    The Region 1 misses out on the director interview.

    The UK Region 2 has the same extras as the Region 1. Both are reported to have an excellent video transfer, but even if it was the same the extras tip the scales in favour of the overseas competition. More so when each is available as a stand-alone release. The Region 1 is also available in a two film set with Shatter, at a budget price.

Summary

    An excellent film from Hammer studios, one of their best.

    The video quality is good but sounds as though it is not as good as the Region 1 release.

    The audio quality is very good.

    One useful extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, July 14, 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 | The Abominable Snowman (1957) | Bloodsuckers (Incense for the Damned) (1972) | Shock Waves (1976)

Bloodsuckers (Incense for the Damned) (1972)

Bloodsuckers (Incense for the Damned) (1972)

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Due Out for Sale 30-May-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Peter Cushing Trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 72:51
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Robert Hartford-Davis
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Patrick Macnee
Johnny Sekka
Alexander Davion
Peter Cushing
Edward Woodward
Madeleine Hinde
Patrick Mower
Imogen Hassall
William Mervyn
David Lodge
John Barron
Case Gatefold
RPI ? Music Robert Richards


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
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

    A scholar at a swish British college goes missing in Greece. Some of his friends go there looking for him. It turns out he has fallen under the spell of an evil woman, and the friends must rescue him.

    Sounds simple, doesn't it? Well, the evil woman Chriseis may in fact be a vampire, the missing man Richard Fountain (Patrick Mower) suffers from impotence and is suspected of a series of murders in Greece and his fiancée is the daughter of the Dean of his college, played by Peter Cushing. And Richard is the son of the Foreign Minister.

    Sound like a mishmash? I cannot imagine that Simon Raven's novel Doctors Wear Scarlet, on which this film is based, is an incoherent, sloppy mess, so something must have gone wrong in the translation to screen. I believe that there was some post-production tampering with the film, but whether that exacerbated the problems with the film or improved it I do not know. In any case it moves along jerkily, with poor editing, worse performances and terrible dialogue. The direction is poor, especially the action sequences which are unconvincing in the extreme. In two different scenes I could clearly see the shadow of a boom microphone on the wall.

    The worst of the acting is by Johnny Sekka as Richard's friend Bob and Madeleine Hinde as Richard's fiancée. But no-one escapes unscathed. A pity, because the cast listing has some promise. Patrick Macnee is top-billed, though he has a relatively small role. Edward Woodward has a cameo as a museum curator. William Mervyn has a small role as a professor, while David Lodge tries to convince as a Greek policeman. But the script and production problems defeat them. Originally titled Incense For the Damned, this film takes up space in the three-disc set Superstars of Horror Volume 1: Peter Cushing, and is not available separately.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    I'm not sure what the original aspect ratio was, but this transfer is in 1.29:1, possibly derived from a TV print.

    It seems sharp, but there is some noticeable edge enhancement and really this is not very good at all. Aliasing is rife and there is some serious moiré at 2:23. Contrast and brightness are okay, and colour is not bad either. However, shadow detail is poor.

    Low level noise is evident. There are plenty of film artefacts, including dirt, white flecks and reel change markings.

    The disc is single-layered and there are no subtitles.

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

Audio

    The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, and if anything is just as bad as the video.

    Dialogue is audible and distinct, but there is serious sibilance here. The audio is a pain to listen to, with high-pitched sounds being quite sharp and piercing.

    The music score by Robert Richards sounds like it comes from a 1970s British TV series, being just generic dramatic music or the sort of music you would hear in a chase sequence in The Professionals, or something similar.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The audio is some eerie music from the score.

Deleted Scene (6:45)

    This deleted scene features an orgy ending in violence. There is some nudity and the suggestion that the vampirism thing is some sort of sexual perversion.

Theatrical Trailer (2:09)

    The trailer makes the film seem slightly better than it is.

Trailer-Peter Cushing Trailers (7:25)

    Trailers for Biggles, And Now the Screaming Starts, Shockwaves and The Abominable Snowman, all of which feature our star.

R4 vs R1

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

    I'm not sure if this is the same transfer as the US Region 1, but that release does not have the extras of the Region 4. It comes on a single disc with another dud film called Bloodthirst. Call it a draw.

Summary

    This is a bad, bad film, which has to be seen to be believed. My advice is - don't try to believe.

    The video quality is poor.

    The audio quality is worse.

    The deleted scene just prolongs the agony. No, I'm just being smart, it is not that bad, and should have been included in the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Friday, July 15, 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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Bloodsuckers - Anonymous

Overall | The Abominable Snowman (1957) | Bloodsuckers (Incense for the Damned) (1972) | Shock Waves (1976)

Shock Waves (1976)

Shock Waves (1976)

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Released 5-Jun-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers'
Featurette-From Flipper To Shock Waves
TV Spots
Radio Spots-2
Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Peter Cushing Trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1976
Running Time 84:31
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Ken Wiederhorn
Studio
Distributor
Zopix Company
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Clarence Thomas
Brooke Adams
Luke Halpin
John Carradine
Jack Davidson
D.J. Sidney
Fred Buch
Don Stout
Peter Cushing
Sammy Graham
Preston White
Reid Finger
Mike Kennedy
Case Gatefold
RPI $19.95 Music Richard Einhorn
Norman Gay
Jessica Sack


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/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 Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    A group of tourists on a small boat off the Florida coast are caught on a reef. A hulk emerges from the depths due to an undersea disturbance, accompanied by the sky going a strange colour. On a nearby island they discover an old hotel, in which lives an old man with a German accent (Peter Cushing). He warns them to leave, but it is too late: the creatures on the ship are loose. In fact they are the remnants of an elite SS zombie squad, neither alive nor dead and capable of fighting in any terrain, especially in the water (and under it). How they got there is not convincingly explained, but no matter, they are there and they plan to leave no-one alive.

    A very low budget effort from the mid-1970s, this should be terrible. But it turns out to be quite good. There is no gore, just suspense and a very spooky feel to the film, enhanced by the grainy, off-colour photography and the excellent score. Cushing does not have a large role in this film, and nor does John Carradine, who plays the skipper of the boat, but they are both very good. Brooke Adams is the heroine.

    The acting of the non-stars in the cast is pretty bad, most of them being local actors who the director hired because they were cheap I suspect. The zombies though are quite well characterised, wearing blonde hair and dark goggles, and they look a little scary. This is a low budget independent horror film and it shows, but not as much as similar genre outings. It comes in the three-disc set Superstars of Horror Volume 1: Peter Cushing, and is not available separately.

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Transfer Quality

Video

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

    It was shot on 16mm film, so it is neither sharp nor detailed. There is a lot of grain and colour is never accurate. There is a washed out look to the film. Contrast is average at best, and shadow detail is poor. That sort of thing often helps a horror film.

    There are some faint scratches, dirt and white flecks evident throughout. Otherwise there are no serious artefacts other than those already mentioned.

    The disc is dual-layered, but the film seems to be contained wholly on one layer. There are no subtitles.

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.

    The audio is not brilliant but is acceptable. Dialogue is clear and there is no hiss or significant distortion. It does not jump with life but does the job nonetheless. Bass seems to be a little lacking.

    The music score by Richard Einhorn is excellent. It is comprised of electronic sounds and really adds to the mood of the film. It reminds me of the score for the original Assault on Precinct 13, not in style or content but in the importance it plays in making the film as good as it is.

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

Extras

Audio Commentary-Filmmakers

    A good commentary with director Ken Wiederhorn, stills photographer Fred Olen Ray (later a noted genre director himself) and make-up artist Alan Ormsby. There are a few amusing stories and a few dead spots.

Featurette-From Flipper To Shock Waves (7:43)

    An interview with Luke Halpin, former Flipper star, who talks about the film with enthusiasm and a refreshing lack of pretension.

TV Spot (0:30)

    An original TV spot with voice-over narration. It is widescreen and 16x9 enhanced, so I suspect it is not in the original aspect ratio.

Radio Spots (1:02)

    Two very similar radio advertisements.

Gallery-Photo (1:38)

    Nearly 100 posters, behind the scenes stills, promotional material, sketches and more.

Theatrical Trailer (2:52)

    An original widescreen trailer which is 16x9 enhanced.

Trailer-Peter Cushing Trailers (6:50)

        Trailers for Biggles, And Now the Screaming Starts, Bloodsuckers and The Abominable Snowman, all of which feature our star.

R4 vs R1

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

    This release seems to be identical to the US Region 1 release from Blue Underground, so there is no reason not to shop locally, unless you just want this film by itself.

Summary

    A spooky zombie movie that is better than it has a right to be.

    The video quality is about as good as the source material will allow, which is not very.

    The audio quality is not bad.

    A good range of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, July 16, 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

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