Overall | The Haunted Strangler (Grip of the Strangler) (1958) | Corridors of Blood (1962) | The Sorcerers (1967)

Superstars of Horror-Volume 2: Boris Karloff (1958)

Superstars of Horror-Volume 2: Boris Karloff (1958)

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Released 5-Sep-2005

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Overall Package

    This Superstars of Horror: Volume 2 box set showcases three of Boris Karloff’s best, yet seldom-seen performances in The Corridors of Blood, The Sorcerers and The Haunted Strangler, finally available in Region 4 in a solidly presented 3-disc box set edition.

    The discs are held inside an attractive fold-out digipak with original poster and publicity stills artwork from all three films printed on the inside.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Robert Winter (read my dead sexy bio)
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The Haunted Strangler (Grip of the Strangler) (1958) | Corridors of Blood (1962) | The Sorcerers (1967)

The Haunted Strangler (Grip of the Strangler) (1958)

The Haunted Strangler (Grip of the Strangler) (1958)

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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
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Corridors Of Blood, The Sorcerers, Abominable Snowman
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 78:17
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Robert Day
Studio
Distributor
Amalgamated Prod
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Boris Karloff
Jean Kent
Elizabeth Allan
Anthony Dawson
Vera Day
Tim Turner
Diane Aubrey
Max Brimmell
Leslie Perrins
Jessica Cairns
Dorothy Gordon
Desmond Roberts
Roy Russell
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Buxton Orr


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
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

Newgate Prison 1860

    The film opens with a jeering mob awaiting the hanging of Edward Styles, aka The Haymarket Strangler. Protesting his innocence, Styles is ceremoniously hung and his body placed in a coffin and covered with quicklime. However, before the casket is nailed shut, we see a man stealthily place a scalpel on top of the white powdered body.

    Twenty years later, novelist James Rankin (Boris Karloff) is fascinated with the case and through his research believes that Styles was in fact not the murderer. Further enquiries lead Rankin to the conclusion that a Dr Tenant, whose scalpel went missing at the time, was the culprit. Armed with this information Rankin digs up Styles’ grave and discovers the weapon. But as soon as he grabs the scalpel something happens - his body begins to change shape, his face becomes horribly distorted and he transforms into something quite sinister.

    Like Corridors of Blood and The Sorcerers, in The Haunted Strangler Karloff plays the part of a good man who ends up being a victim of his altruistic ways. His dynamism as an actor, which unfortunately involved too many meek and mild characters in his later years, is once again allowed to branch out into madman territory in what is essentially a supernatural re-engineering of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

    Although not as oily and threatening as his portrayal of grave-robber Cabman Gray in The Body Snatcher (1945), Karloff’s status as a horror icon and the empathy he brings to the role in Strangler helps to overcome the film’s flaws.

    Whilst the film successfully highlights the underlying callousness of Victorian society, the rhythm of the narrative is interfered with by too many chase scenes which affect the pacing and the film’s overall impact. Also, the mystery is solved far too early on in the film and after that point plot events become easily anticipated.

    Interestingly, very little make-up was used on Karloff’s transformation. Evidently, he simply removed his false teeth, sucked in his lower lip and moved his body as if suffering from a stroke. Karloff also made it no secret that he despised his performance in the film, simply stating that he was “melodramatic.”

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The 1.29:1 non-enhanced transfer is above average for a film of this vintage.

    While the black and white images are relatively crisp, the age of the print is demonstrated by a slight green tinge evident throughout and a move in contrast occasionally when scenes change.

    Regardless, shadow detail clarity is excellent in what is a quite dark print, and black levels are deep, showing no sign of low level noise.

    There are a couple of mild noise reduction concerns in outdoor scenes such as at 8:16, where the mansion and the walls at 31:27 appear to move when they should be static.

    Film artefacts such as print blemishes, white speckling and scratches crop up frequently, but are not too distracting.

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

Audio

    Being mainly a dialogue-driven film, the Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has very little to aurally impart.

    The subdued opening theme by Buxton Orr appropriately sets the dramatic tone, as do the squealing dancers during the Can-Can sequences at 15:27 and 36:37, when the evil Karloff is lurking in the balcony area of the small theatre.

    Only a few orchestrated interludes are added to enhance the mood of certain scenes, like the graveyard and low-level love scenes, but the score is really subservient to the script and actors who deliver it.

    The frisky dialogue (a horny George remarks to a Can-Can dancer: “You give an itch to man’s inclination”) is loud and clear and free of hiss.

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

Extras

Letterboxed theatrical trailer (un-countered approx 2-minutes)

    The stark raving terror of a shriek in the night!...

Horror trailers for Corridors of Blood, The Sorcerers and Abominable Snowman

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 Image Entertainment single disc edition is identical in content to our own version.

    Our Region 4 is excellent value as it comes with two other essential Karloff films: Corridors of Blood and The Sorcerers in a nicely presented Superstars of Horror: Volume 2 box set from Umbrella Entertainment.

Summary

    The Haunted Strangler is an above average murder mystery tinged with supernatural elements. Although the film gives away its secrets prematurely, it’s Karloff’s performance as a menacing psychotic killer that overrides the effects of plot predictability.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Robert Winter (read my dead sexy bio)
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output
DisplayYamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
Amplificationget a marshall stack, and crank it up.
Speakers2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The Haunted Strangler (Grip of the Strangler) (1958) | Corridors of Blood (1962) | The Sorcerers (1967)

Corridors of Blood (1962)

Corridors of Blood (1962)

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Released 5-Sep-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1962
Running Time 85:44
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Robert Day
Studio
Distributor
Amalgamated Prod
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Boris Karloff
Betta St. John
Finlay Currie
Francis Matthews
Adrienne Corri
Francis De Wolff
Basil Dignam
Frank Pettingell
Carl Bernard
Marian Spencer
Nigel Green
John Gabriel
Howard Lang
Case ?
RPI Box Music Buxton Orr


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
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

London 1840 - Before the discovery of Anaesthesia

Opening intertitle

    Boris Karloff plays the high profile but sensitive drug addicted surgeon Thomas Bolton at London’s most prestigious hospital. He despises the fact that he has to perform surgery on conscious patients and the horrible pain it puts them through. Experimenting with a mixture of opium and other chemicals, he tries out a new form of gas believing it will put his patients to sleep. However, when the gas has the opposite effect and turns his patient violent, Bolton is humiliated in front of his peers and slides further into addiction.

    During a drug-induced haze, Bolton leaves his diary containing all his research notes at a local bar. When it’s stolen by the unscrupulous body-trader Resurrection Joe (Christopher Lee), Bolton is blackmailed into signing death certificates so that he can earn enough money to satisfy his craving and continue his experiments.

    Loosely based on the life of US dentist Horace Wells, who pioneered the use of nitrous oxide for painless teeth extraction in 1844, Corridors of Blood is perhaps Boris Karloff’s finest performance since playing the iconic Frankenstein’s monster. Like his character in Michael Reeves’ marvellous The Sorcerers, Dr Bolton becomes a victim of his own passionate desire to do good, but circumstances turn him bad. In The Sorcerers Karloff’s dilemma was to allow his elderly wife to feel the vitality of youth again, while Corridors has him laying his reputation on the line to ultimately advance medical science after falling to pieces when trying to operate on a little girl.

    Regretfully, the sadistic manner in which the surgical procedures are executed threaten to overwhelm the beautifully detailed gothic sets, aware script and enormous talents of Karloff and Lee. The lingering close-ups showing the contorted faces of patients screaming in agony, the slicing open of limbs and the heart-wrenching scenes involving the little girl are shocking images that detract from the narrative’s insightful messages.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    After a rough start, this turns out to be a very crisp 1.29:1 black and white transfer. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    For what is a very dark print, shadow detail clarity is generally very good. There a few moments such as at 34:20 and 37:10 where Christopher Lee’s black cloak melts into the background, but these instances inadvertently draw attention to his ruggedly nasty demeanour rather than being a problem. Black levels are inky and free of low level noise and contrast is stable.

    One thing I did notice is that some scenes have a slight green tinge, like at 8:00, 42:29 and 49:24, which I assume is suggestive of the age of the print.

    There was only some mild edge enhancement and aliasing detected, but these film-to-video artefacts are not distracting at all.

    Film artefacts like scratches, blemishes and fine hair lines plague the opening sequence, but the print clears up quite dramatically after a few minutes.

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

Audio

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix is adequate. The dramatic orchestrated opening title theme by Buxton Orr wonderfully sets the tone.

    The sound effects and orchestrated meanderings used during Karloff’s paranoid drug-affected scenes are subtle and non-melodramatic.

    The soundtrack demonstrates only a slight amount of hiss during dialogue delivery, but the spoken word is clearly audible.

    Being a mono mix the surrounds and subwoofer are silent.

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

Extras

Letterboxed theatrical trailer (un-countered approx 2-minutes)

    Shock! Shock! Shock! In all the history of horror pictures nothing so shocking on the screen…

    An overwrought voice-over delivers a plethora of “shocking” trashy clichés in this trailer which is exploitative and totally misses the mark.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 Image Entertainment single disc edition is identical in content to our own version.

    Our Region 4 is excellent value as it comes with two other essential Karloff films: The Haunted Strangler and The Sorcerers in a nicely presented Superstars of Horror: Volume 2 box set.

Summary

    Originally completed in 1958 under the title The Doctor of Seven Dials but not released until 1962, Corridors of Blood bombed on its theatrical release. Marketed as an exploitative horror movie (the theatrical trailer has Christopher Lee molesting Yvonne Romain while the narrator shouts “Shock!...Shock!...Shock!”), it’s little wonder audiences at the time felt cheated by the film’s high drama and medical-documentary style approach.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Robert Winter (read my dead sexy bio)
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output
DisplayYamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
Amplificationget a marshall stack, and crank it up.
Speakers2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | The Haunted Strangler (Grip of the Strangler) (1958) | Corridors of Blood (1962) | The Sorcerers (1967)

The Sorcerers (1967)

The Sorcerers (1967)

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Released 5-Sep-2005

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Blood Beast Documentary
Gallery-Posters And Stills
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Haunted Strangler, Corridors Of Blood
Trailer-The Abominable Snowman
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1967
Running Time 81:50
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Michael Reeves
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Boris Karloff
Catherine Lacey
Ian Ogilvy
Elizabeth Ercy
Victor Henry
Susan George
Sally Sheridan
Ivor Dean
Case ?
RPI Box Music Paul Ferris


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.70:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown 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

    “Dazzling indescribable experiences - complete abandonment with no thought of remorse. Intoxication with no hang-over - ecstasy with no consequence.”

    Disgraced hypnotist/inventor Professor Marcus Monserrat (Boris Karloff) creates a device that allows him and his elderly wife, Estelle (Catherine Lacey) to control and experience the thoughts and sensations of others. Finding a young thrill-seeking groover, Mike Roscoe (Ian Ogilvy) to use in their experiment, the increasingly unbalanced Estelle becomes infatuated by Roscoe and his lifestyle and begins to incite him into acts of violence.

    The Sorcerers was the late Michael Reeves’ second feature after the comically deranged She-Beast (1966). Frustrated by censorship problems enshrouding his most famous film, The Witchfinder General (1968) and plagued by self-doubt, Reeves sunk into a drug and alcohol aggravated depression. He died at age 25 from an accidental (some believe deliberate) barbiturate overdose on 11 February, 1969. His dark frame of mind was further exacerbated by the residual effects of his privileged, yet rebellious upbringing and almost pathological need for artistic freedom.

    Touted by fans and many in the film industry as a filmmaking wunderkind, the tortured artist left a legacy of only three low-budget, but highly impressive features. Each of them bled with social metaphor and personal insights into his own psychological problems.

    In The Sorcerers, Reeves teases the audience with the voyeuristic nature of cinema itself. The old middle-class married couple are in essence like the viewer - for a brief moment in time they live out their fantasies through someone else acting on their behalf. Perhaps mirroring his own internal struggles, he also highlights stereotypical notions of the young being fatalistically led by their sexual and violent impulses. And like David Lynch, Reeves demonstrates how easily good people can turn bad. He pulls these concepts together with masterful precision by drawing powerful and resonant performances from all the key actors.

    As an aside, actor Victor Henry (Ian Ogilvy’s best buddy, Alan) was hit by a bus shortly after the film was finished. He lay in a coma for 17 years and died in 1985 when he was taken off life support.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The 1.70:1, 16x9 enhanced transfer shows its age and appears to be taken from a slightly beaten 35mm print.

    The rendering is quite noisy, with a thin to medium layer of grain evident throughout. Although reasonably sharp, shadow detail clarity can at times be obscured by the darkness of the print, making images appear murky and ill-defined (12:40, 12:51, 39:30, 43:29 for example). Regardless, black levels are deep and show only minor signs of low level noise. Contrast tends to fluctuate with some scenes looking too bright and others too dark.

    Colours are reasonably vibrant, especially on the groovy 60s fashion, but can look a bit faded at times. The use of pink and blue gel lighting during the psychedelic sequence at 15:12 is handled reasonably well by the transfer.

    A lot of film artefacts such as speckling, fine hair lines and blemishes appear throughout. This is more evident during the reel changes. But rather than being a distraction it actually enhances the visual experience by reminding the viewer they are indeed watching an old obscure film from the 50s.

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

Audio

    The Sorcerers is granted a decent Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix.

    The eerie oboe score by Paul Ferris is a constant presence and is reminiscent of the otherworldly score used in Blood on Satan’s Claw.

    Ferris also delights in using those funky musical pieces found in British spy thrillers from the 50s to connote intrigue to worthwhile effect.

    The score is also filled with the rich sounds of old-fashioned instruments such as the harpsichord, piano, violin and trumpet which are an aural feast and appropriately enhance the grammar of particular scenes – a sombre mood invoked by the ticking of a clock is suddenly broken by the wildly high-pitched feedback and throbbing effects of a psychedelic sequence. In another instance a sense of age and youth is achieved by forcing the groovy strains of a 60s pop song to juxtapose with the classical music played over scenes with the elderly couple. Quaintly dated, but effective nevertheless.

    The spoken word is clearly audible with no hiss or distortion.

    Being a mono mix the surrounds and subwoofer are silent.

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

Extras

Blood Beast documentary (un-countered approx. 23 minutes)

    This well-produced and fascinating mini-doco is centred on the late Michael Reeves. A still very good-looking Ian Ogilvy and a number of key film professionals reminisce about Reeves, his films and eventual slide into depression.

    Although more of Reeves’ personal life could have been explored, it is still a solidly recorded time capsule of his brief career. It also contains some terrific footage of The She Beast with the exotically creepy Barbara Steele. I hope some enterprising company restores this film and releases it soon.

Image gallery

    A series of 28 badly scanned posters, publicity, and behind-the-scenes stills.

Theatrical trailer (uncountered approx 2-minutes)

    Intoxication with no hang-over, ecstasy with no consequence…

Horror trailers for The Haunted Strangler, Corridors of Blood and The Abominable Snowman

R4 vs R1

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

    The Sorcerers is only available in Region 2 (UK) on a single disc edition through Prism Leisure Corp. The transfer, sound and extras appear to be identical to our own.

    Our Region 4 is excellent value as it comes with two other essential Karloff films: The Haunted Strangler and Corridors of Blood in a nicely presented Superstars of Horror: Volume 2 box set.

Summary

    The relatively obscure Sorcerers is a highly intelligent, thought-provoking gem that straddles the grey area between the horror and sci-fi genres. The film is part shocker and speculative satire, but mostly a bleak depiction of lost youth and bitterness.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Robert Winter (read my dead sexy bio)
Friday, April 07, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output
DisplayYamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
Amplificationget a marshall stack, and crank it up.
Speakers2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE