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In this issue: nine pages of reviews, covering:
Film Reviews A full-page review of Russell Mulcahy's Talos the Mummy, lots of laughs and much more in Bride of Chucky but no soul in The Matrix
Book Reviews The Infernal, Kim Newman's own End of the World Cinema
and the splendid new publication Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
Video Reviews Werner Herzogs Nosferatu, plus a DVD round-up including Practical Magic and Kurt Russell in Soldier
TV Reviews We complete our reviews of the Sixth season of The X-Files with The Unnatural, written and directed by David Duchovny, and Biogenesis
For a book whose subject spent his career creating ugly and often repellent images, Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci, by Stephen Thrower, from the increasingly mature FAB press, is quite simply the most beautiful book on a Horror subject I have ever seen.
I will be the first to admit that I know little about Fulci beyond the standards, The Beyond (given a surprise re-release last year by Quentin Tarantino), Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Black Cat and a few others that Redemption video have championed over recent years. But this book, by its overwhelming and infectious enthusiasm, invites the reader to learn more.
To start off we get a brief biographical introduction delineating the authors early influences (The Pan Books of Horror) and the seminal Italian double bill at the ABC Wakefield when he first saw Fulcis The Beyond. Fulci was special, Thrower argues, because his films were really frightening, as frightening as they could be, and yet they had at their heart a kind of ghastly poetry that embraced every kind of film-making from Buñuel to Val Lewton
Then we launch in with an overview of Fulcis career and how he was ultimately typecast as a goremaestro. The first review chapter concentrates on Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979), arguably Fulcis most popular film. There is a helpful synopsis and a lengthy, witty review, plus a frame-by-frame presentation of the iconic eye-gouging scene. This depth of research and insight is repeated for all the films covered. It is a very sensible move to divide Fulcis work into genres, rather than treating them chronologically, as it allows time to be spent on the more important films, while creating accessible, self-contained chapters.
A note for collectors: you need never trawl through another film mart looking for that elusive Fulci press book or front-of-house still, since most of them seem to be featured here, and they are reproduced beautifully.
Later chapters deal with Fulcis early comedies (1959 1976), his psychological thrillers, (including the astoundingly-titled Dont Torture A Duckling) and his most prolific Horror period. Lengthy appendices present a full Fulci filmography, plus filmographies for the principal Fulci players.
With its heavy paper stock and generous colour inserts, on looks alone this book sets a very, very high standard for genre filmographies. And genuine dedication, research and attention to detail can be found under these gorgeous trappings. Rush out for a copy as if your very life depended on it!
It is doubtless fair to say that the marketing department at 20th Century Fox had other things on their minds when Werner Herzogs remarkable 1979 remake of FW Murnaus 1922 classic Nosferatu Eine Symphonie des Grauens landed on their desks. After all, it had another Horror movie on its books that year: Ridley Scotts masterful Alien.
It understandable then, that Nosferatu Phantom Der Nacht (retitled Nosferatu The Vampyre for English-speaking territories) failed to make much of an impression on American audiences, and it comes as no surprise to find that the film has languished, generally unappreciated and unloved, ever since. A recent laserdisc version from The Roan Group helped to restore the films fortunes, and now an equivalent DVD version from Anchor Bay will make it even more accessible to a wider audience.
The movie was made with a crew that you could fit in the back of a minibus, for less than a million dollars. A Franco-German co-production, the film brought together an eclectic international cast. Adjani is suitably desirable and waif-like as Lucy Harker, whose luminance attracts the gruesome Count Dracula (Kinski was rarely better, emphasizing the characters pitiful human qualities). Herzog, then aged 35, was already the veteran of 18 movies. He filmed Nosferatu in authentic mainland European locations something that Hammer never managed during two decades of making Gothic Horror! The film was mainly shot in the Dutch city of Delft, which boasts wonderful 13th and 15th century churches. However, following the citizens objections to the film-makers releasing thousands of Hungarian plague rats, the production was subsequently moved to the slightly more accommodating city of Schiedam.
Quite frankly, Nosferatu is, like Herzogs other work, an acquired taste. The remake strikes an uneasy balance between modern film-making techniques and the stodgy conventions of the silent era. Many contemporary critics seemed confounded by the films languid pacing, and ethereal atmosphere. The passage of time has separated Nosferatu from its original context, and it can now be re-evaluated on its own terms. At times Herzogs remake seems to mimic Murnaus original slavishly. Elsewhere it forges its own path, creating striking imagery that Murnau would surely have envied. Sometimes, as at the films climax, Herzog deliberately thwarts the expectations of audiences familiar with the original movie, and this apparent bloody-mindedness is rather irksome.
Anchor Bays presentation offers all you might hope from such a neglected movie. Or, rather, movies, since there are two versions of the film: a dubbed German version of the film and a truncated English version, which almost entirely eliminates the Renfield character and several scenes set in Van Helsings insane asylum. Each version features unique material, as Herzog shot many scenes twice. The short 96-minute English version (released here on video and screened by Channel 4 and Bravo) has been restored to the equivalent running time of the German version (107 minutes, give or take a few seconds), and both versions are on the new DVD, offering fans a definitive package. The German version has a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix, while the English version is in stereo.
The disc looks a hundred times better than the murky VHS copies, restoring Jorg Schmidt-Reitweins dreamily poetic cinematography, and finally presenting the film in its original theatrical ratio of about 1.85:1. There is one slightly sour note, though: its not enhanced for 16:9 sets. Anchor Bay has recently announced that all their future titles will be presented in this format so try not to be too annoyed!
The disc contains a directors commentary track, where Herzog is skillfully shepherded by interviewer Norm Hill. Theres a more tangible flavour of Herzogs manic guerilla-style filming techniques in a mesmerizing 13-minute documentary about the making of the film included on the disc, which includes priceless footage of Kinski in the make-up chair. While not quite in the same league as the astonishing Burden of Dreams (the documentary about the tortuous location filming in the Peruvian Amazon of Herzogs Fitzcarraldo), the documentary and the commentary provide a fascinating insight into Herzogs idiosyncratic thought processes and methods.