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In this issue: 8 pages of reviews, covering Film Reviews Robert Rodriguezs The Faculty and David Cronenbergs eXistenZ Book Reviews I Am Legend and the Power of the Blood Trilogy Video Reviews A quartet of Argento DVDs including Demons, Demons 2, Tenebre and Phenomena , plus the first Scream on DVD Soundtracks The latest sounds of Horror including The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and I Still Know What You Did Last Summer TV Reviews Three new US X-Files and the UK's apocalyptic The Last Train
The American Horror movie specialists Anchor Bay have released four DVDs in what they rather cheekily call the Dario Argento Collection, and in doing so will make legions of the directors fans very, very happy indeed. Anyone who has tried to get half-decent copies of Argentos movies will know the frustration of trying to find the optimum version, preferably with as few censorship cuts as possible, in the right aspect ratio, and without the intrusion of oriental subtitles!
Years of suffering umpteenth-generation VHS copies end here, with what are as near-as-dammit definitive versions, on the home cinema format of the foreseeable future. The first two films in this collection were not directed by Argento, but were instead produced by him. Lamberto Bava directed Demons (1985) and its 1986 sequel, also known by its original Italian title: Demoni 2 - LIncubo Ritorna (The Nightmare Returns).
The fun really starts with Anchor Bays Tenebrae (its spelt Tenebre on the box: technically correct, but far less exotic-sounding!) Its one of Argentos best giallo movies, presented in a terrific-looking 1.85:1 transfer with Dolby Digital sound. The film is the 10027 uncut English language version, not the heavily-cut version seen in the US as Unsane. The film is about a young author (Anthony Franciosca) who finds himself at the epicentre of a series of murders apparently being carried out by a deranged stalker. A trailer, behind-the-scenes footage (633) and text biographies are included, as is the original version of the films end credits sequence (the English language version had a song dubbed over the end credits, against the directors wishes). A rather frustrating commentary by Argento and composer Claudio Simonetti is another worthwhile bonus.
If Tenebrae sounds tempting, then wait till you get a load of Anchor Bays Phenomena! The film was released as Creepers in some territories (including the version released by Palace in the UK) in a version that was almost half an hour shorter than the one on this new disc. The Palace video ran 7931, after 17 seconds of BBFC cuts. The new disc tips in at 10948, and, as you might expect, is radically different, altering the flow and tone of the movie.
The 1982 film stars the heavenly Jennifer Connelly as a young student who arrives at a girls school just as a series of murders begins. The disc is stuffed with a mouth-watering selection of extra features, presented in a very sharp transfer with a knockout Dolby Digital sound mix. As well as a rather patchy and taxing commentary track with Argento, Stivaletti and Simonetti there are two related music videos. A nine-minute Argento interview from the The Joe Franklin Show, a look behind the scenes at the movies special effects work (441) and a trailer complete the package.
All four discs also have the option of a Dolby Surround (2.0) sound mix. Additionally Tenebrae has a mono Italian soundtrack, and Phenomena has a mono French sound mix. The quality of Anchor Bays discs has leapt forward since we reviewed several of their titles (in Shivers #61). Whilst its unlikely that theyll ever be able to compare favourably with discs produced by the major studios, the crude presentation seen on their earlier discs has been substantially improved.
There are a few books which I always promised myself Id get around to reading. Richard Mathesons 1954 novel I Am Legend was one of them, until Millennium reissued the book recently and granted me the opportunity.
Robert Neville appears to be the last man alive on Earth. A disease of sorts has infected the populace and turned them into zombie-like vampires. They come out at night and cry and bang at Nevilles door, trying to entice him out so they might kill him. Neville stays inside during the dark hours. He has made his home his castle, and lives on his wits. During the day he goes out, armed with stakes and mallet. He kills any vampires he can find, while stocking up on food and sundry provisions for himself.
Then, he stumbles across a woman, apparently still human, and brings her back to his fortress. This is the start of his problems, as he cannot tell whether she might be infected or not The novels global scale belies the effectiveness of Mathesons writing. We are seeing the world through the eyes of Neville, and what Neville sees may not quite be the truth. Neville may well be the last man on Earth, but he is effectively a prisoner, trapped in his home as those who have inherited the land have free reign at night. This is what gives the novel its power.
Matheson has a way of telling his story that draws you in. You sympathize and identify with Neville, and can see his point of view. The vampire threat must be held back but at what cost? This dilemma is central to the book, and is partly what gives it such a mule-kick of an ending.
I Am Legend is rightly one of the genre greats, and even today it retains its power to shock and to make the reader think. Its no surprise that it was filmed with Charlton Heston, nor that Arnold Schwarznegger is currently re-making it. Like many great works of fiction, however, it is probably best experienced in its original form. So go and read it as soon as possible, and discover just why it has influenced generations of Horror writers.