Reviews header Selected from Shivers #79

The Latest in Horror Entertainment
In this issue: ten pages of reviews, covering:

Video / DVD Reviews •
Include new Gremlins and Gormenghast discs, Lamberto Bava's Demons and Demons 2, plus more TV on DVD including The Twilight Zone, and two Exploited docs on VHS

Book Reviews •
Allan Brown goes Inside the Wicker Man, Peter James has new Faith, a quartet of authors have Foursight, plus studies of Poe's Cinema and John Carradine: The Films

TV Reviews •
In-depth consideration of two Buffy episodes, two Angel episodes, and three more X-Files episodes

Film Reviews •
Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate
and the Spanish psychological thriller
El arte de morir

Book Review
Inside the Wicker Man
By Allan Brown
Published by Sidgewick and Jackson, 242pp, trade paperback

For a 30% discount, order it from today!*

Inside the Wicker Man
Reviewed by David Howe:
selected and edited from Shivers #79

Allan Brown was born in Glasgow in 1967 and is a former Scottish Journalist of the Year. He is currently Chief Feature Writer and columnist for the Scottish edition of the Sunday Times. *Offer valid July 3 2000

Fans of this magazine probably need no introduction to The Wicker Man. However, on the off chance that there are readers who have never heard of this extraordinary 1973 film…

Written by Anthony Shaffer and directed by Peter Hardy, The Wicker Man stars Edward Woodwood as Howie, a Christian policeman investigating the disappearance of a young girl on the parochial Scottish island of Summerisle. Presiding over the islanders and their curiously paganistic lifestyle is Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee). The film charts Howie’s increasingly desperate search for the missing girl, and the clashes in belief and culture that he encounters between his own upbringing and that of the island dwellers. The film ends with Howie making an ultimate and memorable sacrifice.

Brown’s book takes a detailed look at the background to the film, and it makes for quite astonishing reading. With all the production problems and mishaps, the forced casting, union problems, difficulties with the studios, the distributors, and just about everyone involved, it is amazing that the film ever got made in the first place, let alone was actually seen by anyone. Personalities still rage behind the scenes with conflicting reports being given by Shaffer and Hardy, each trying to claim elements of the film as their own.

Brown tries to pick a neutral path, but it becomes obvious which aspects of the background he considers to be accurate by his sidelining of Hardy’s contribution to the book in favour of Shaffer. The research appears sound, and Brown has spoken to as many of the original cast and crew as he could (and as would actually speak to him) as well as fans and other researchers and critics. It is the fans who unfortunately come over the worst, as, despite the fact that Brown seems to have written this book for them, and is a fan himself, he is derisory of their enthusiasm, and sets himself apart from them, describing their strange habits and obsessions with a tabloid glee. All this after an admission that he has kept a burnt section of the Wicker Man in a drawer since 1985…

Aside from this chapter, which is out of place in a book which otherwise celebrates the film, Inside The Wicker Man is an entertaining and all-encompassing look at the creation of a film which, if not perfect, is one of the very best examples of Seventies British cinema. Literary and intelligent, well acted and with a never-to-be-forgotten ending, Shaffer’s script and Hardy’s direction combined to give us one of the classics of the genre. A must-read book for film scholars, if only as a cautionary tale of what can and does go wrong in the wonderful world of genre film-making.

DVD Review
Director: Joe Dante
Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton
Region 2 (PAL) DVD • Order it from Black Star today!
Reviewed by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #79

Why does Gremlins, one of the most successful movies ever made and one ripe for retrospective analysis, only warrant the barest of disc releases? You can’t even access all the chapters directly from the Scene Access ‘Special Feature’!

Dante’s film, about vicious little creatures that take over a small American town, holds up pretty well 15 years later. The disc contains (what is presumably) a new anamorphic (1.85:1) transfer, and a buoyant 5.1 Dolby Digital mix that sends critters scuttling to all corners and brings new energy to Jerry Goldsmith’s manic score.

Gremlins looks and sounds better than previous home video versions, but is quite grainy, and is occasionally showered with dirt (check out chapter 13’s fight in the kitchen between the gremlins and Billy’s mother). The three trailers on the Region 1 disc have not been included on the UK version, which also has 5.1 mixes in French and Italian.

DVD Review
Gormenghast and more TV...
Andy Wilson
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Celia Imrie, Christopher Lee, Ian Richardson and many more!

Region 2 (PAL) DVD
Order it from Black Star today!
Gormenghast - available on DVD from BlackStar

Two new BBC discs prove that the corporation produces great DVDs, but at a heartbreakingly slow rate. Their two-disc release of Gormenghast is no less impressive than their Walking With Dinosaurs set. The superb natural history series that showcased CGI dinosaurs comes on two discs, and features each of the six episodes in anamorphically-enhanced 1.77:1 widescreen format.

Gormenghast itself provides viewers without digital TV with an opportunity to see the four-part series in its original widescreen ratio, here enhanced for 16:9 presentation. The two dual-layer discs also include a half-hour ‘Making of’ documentary that has been supplemented with optional cutaways to additional details, focusing on the extraordinary sets and costumes.

Ian Richardson, who plays the melancholic 76th Earl of Groan in Gormenghast, also appears as Arthur Conan Doyle’s mentor Sir Joseph Bell (the inspiration for Doyle’s great detective) in another BBC drama that has been released on DVD, this time by Mosaic Classics. Murder Rooms – The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes is a handsomely mounted production that finds Doyle and Bell on the trail of a serial killer. The disc is presented in a mild widescreen ratio of about 14:9, rather less than the 16:9 ratio it was made in. Apart from that minor niggle, this is a fine disc, presenting a compiled version of the series running for 102 minutes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Pro-Logic sound.

Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000.
Images © Fox TV, Columbia, Sidgwick & Jackson books. Not for reproduction