Mania (The Flesh and the Fiends) (1959)

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Released 1-Jul-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio & Animation
Notes-Film Analysis
Biographies-Cast-Peter Cushing
Filmographies-Cast-Peter Cushing
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 91:09
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Gilling
Studio
Distributor

MRA Entertainment
Starring Peter Cushing
Donald Pleasence
George Rose
June Laverick
Renee Houston
Dermot Walsh
Billie Whitelaw
Case Alpha-Transparent
RPI ? Music Stanley Black


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 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

    It's the year 1828 and we find ourselves in Edinburgh at The Academy of Dr. Knox. Doctor Robert Knox (Peter Cushing) teaches his medical students anatomy with the aid of cadavers. Morally bankrupt, the doctor is not too fussy about the source of the dead bodies he needs, paying all manner of unscrupulous characters, including grave robbers, for any bodies that they can supply. William Hare (Donald Pleasence) and William Burke (George Rose) are Irish immigrants and unscrupulous characters. When a fellow lodger at their digs passes away they are quick to abscond with the body which they then sell to Knox for the princely sum of seven guineas. Realising that this is an easy way to make money, the only problem is that dead bodies are not as easy to come by as they would like. It's not long before it dawns on Hare that if they can't find bodies that are already dead it's not so hard to take a few live ones and convert them.

    Sounds pretty fanciful doesn't it? Well unfortunately, it's not. This tale is based on the true story of serial killers Hare and Burke and their patron Dr. Knox. If you're a fan of the black & white horror films of the 50s and earlier then this is just the movie for you. Peter Cushing is excellent as the aloof and humourless Knox and Donald Pleasence equally good as the opportunistic, unscrupulous brains of the serial killing partnership.

    Mania which is also known as The Flesh and the Fiends and The Fiendish Ghouls was released in various versions and with various titles in different countries including a "continental" version that contains additional scenes with violence and nudity for European theatre goers. If this is your favourite film then you would be well advised to buy the R1 version which not only features a much better transfer but also both the original US and European editions of the film.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a 40 year old black and white film and the source materials used for this transfer are in very poor condition. It should also be noted that this disc has been mastered with no time information encoded. Consequently, rather than displaying the elapsed time, it's likely that your player, like mine, will display only the word "PLAY".

    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is therefore not 16x9 enhanced. The original theatrical ratio is 2.35:1 and the DVD transfer we have has clearly been panned and scanned. The framing of the transfer leaves a lot to be desired with several instances of dialogue being delivered by actors who are either barely in frame or sometimes completely out of the frame. The opening credits and the last scene and closing credits have been squeezed horizontally in an attempt to get the full width of the titles displayed. This worked successfully for the closing credits but in the case of the opening credits there is still slight cropping of both sides and the top of the frame.

    Both sharpness and shadow detail are lacking in this transfer. The picture is quite soft at all times although the degree of sharpness does vary somewhat from scene to scene. Equally, shadow detail is lacking with dark portions of images generally appearing as large sections of solid black with little or no detail evident. On a positive note, there wasn't any evidence of low level noise.

    This is a black and white film. There are two or three occasions when large sections of white appear to be oversaturated.

    We have in this transfer the entire range of film artefacts. Small black or white marks appear continuously throughout the movie. From time to time large marks and scratches are also present. Additionally, there is the occasional hair. Splice marks and and reel change mark are also present. Film grain is evident at all times although this is not particularly bad. There is some slight telecine wobble. On the positive side, I didn't note any compression artefacts or any aliasing.

    There are no subtitles available on this disc. I did try to select subtitles while the disc was playing and was surprised to see the DVD player indicate the presence of English subtitles, however selecting them did not result in any text appearing on the screen so I can only assume this is a minor mastering error.

    This is a single layered disc so there is no layer change to disrupt the movie.

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

Audio

    The single English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack shows its age with the audio exhibiting a very dated quality. There is significant hiss present at all times as well as occasional clicks, pops and crackles.

    While the dialogue is generally clear you do have to listen carefully in order to understand what is being said by the various actors with thick Scottish accents. I wasn't aware of any particular problems with audio sync in this transfer.

    There is very little music in this film. What is present will be familiar to anyone who has watched a horror film from this era.

    All the audio is presented through the centre speaker making all the other speaker superfluous.

    Even with my amplifier set to redirect the bass to the subwoofer it still didn't get anything to do. You can definitely watch this movie with the sub turned off without reducing the audio experience.

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

Extras

    The extras are limited to several text screens containing an analysis of the film and information on Peter Cushing.

Menu

    The menu is displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is therefore not 16x9 enhanced. Animation and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is provided.

Film Analysis

    A detailed 5 page analysis of the film written by Iain Clacher.

Biography - Peter Cushing

    A short 3 page biography of this actor, who is perhaps best known for his horror films, but who also portrayed characters in films that ranged from Star Wars to Hamlet.

Filmography - Peter Cushing

    An extensive listing of the films of this actor from 1939 to 1996 presented over 5 pages.

R4 vs R1

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

    This comparison is between the R4 release of Mania and the R1 version which has been released under the alternate title The Flesh and the Fiends.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    The widescreen version available in R1 is a clear winner.

Summary

    Mania is a film that will probably appeal to those of you who are fans of old black and white horror films. The transfer hasn't been made from the best source materials available and this shows in the generally poor quality of this DVD.

    The video quality is consistent with an very old film that has had no restoration effort applied.

    The audio quality is also consistent with an very old film that has had no restoration effort applied.

    The extras are limited to some text pages.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Peter Cole (Surely you've got something better to do than read my bio)
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-995
SpeakersFront L&R - B&W DM603, Centre - B&W LCR6, Rear L&R - B&W DM602, Sub - Yamaha YST-SW300

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
A Fantastic Film! - Dark Lord (Bio? We don't need no stinkin' bio!)