Reviews header Selected from Shivers #86

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

Video / DVD Reviews •
Stephen Foster on a new host of Horror DVDs including Sleepwalkers, Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, another version of Nosferatu and 80's popcorn horror in Fright Night

Book Reviews •
David Howe on new titles including Richard Laymon's Dreadful Tales, Arthurian Fantasy in a composite Welsh novella with In that Quiet Earth and Razorblade Press's Hush

TV Reviews •
Ian Atkins look at more episodes from the new seasons of Buffy and Angel

Film Reviews •
Featuring Cut, Harry, He’s Here to Help and the disappointing Lost Souls

DVD Review
Blood and Black Lace

Director: Mario Bava Starring:
Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner
Region 0 (NTSC) DVD
Ratio: 1.66:1, Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
(Mono, 192kbps) Distributor: VCI

Blood and Black Lace on DVD

Reviewed by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #86

Independent American company VCI has started to take their responsibilities as a cult label very seriously indeed, if their two new Mario Bava discs (this one, plus his 1963 film The Whip and the Body) are anything to go by. We’ve reviewed a number of their discs in the past (including their version of Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), but these two new titles should really make collectors sit up and take notice.

The groundbreaking Blood and Black Lace (Sei donne per l’assassino, 1964) is one of the first recognizably modern Horror films, seemingly a generation ahead of the old-fashioned Gothic pot-boilers that Hammer would continue to churn out for almost another decade. In terms of style, too, the film is astonishing, and the new disc presents the film, about a faceless serial killer running amuck in a leading fashion house, with its beautiful Technicolor hues intact. It’s unlikely that the film has looked as good as this since the day it was shot.

The Blood and Black Lace disc comes with extensive bonus features. There are interviews with Cameron Mitchell (7mins) and Mary Dawne Arden (12m), a photo gallery, and a selection of creaky international trailers (three for Blood and Black Lace, and one apiece for Erik The Conqueror (Ivasori, Gli), and The Whip and the Body (La Frusta e il corpo).

Both discs have the option of playback in their original language version (ie Italian), or dubbed into English, and both have English language subtitles. Best of all, both discs come with scholarly notes and a detailed commentary track by Bava expert and Video Watchdog magazine editor Tim Lucas. VCI have obviously lavished a lot of care on these discs (giving them a good digital spruce up, and importantly patching together the film from more than one source print, to create an optimum presentation) and they well deserve your attention and patronage.

DVD Review
(Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens)
Director: FW Murnau Starring:
Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schröder, Alexander Granach
Region 2 (PAL) DVD
Ratio: 1.33:1 (Non-Anamorphic), Audio: Dolby
Digital 5.1 (448kbps) Distributor: Eureka

Eureka Video's Nosferatu

Reviewed by Stephen Foster
selected and edited from Shivers #86

Eureka Video has released a new, two-disc version of FW Murnau’s classic 1922 vampire film, based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, which, if you’ve been paying attention to this issue, you will know all about by now. This new release of Nosferatu co-incides with that of Shadow of the Vampire.

The first disc contains the film, with uniform sepia-tone tinting, along with several additional features (detailed below). The second contains the film in unadulterated black-and-white, without most of the additional features, and without the very interesting – if soporific – commentary track. The black and white version would be the preferable presentation, if it did not seem to be much more prone to distracting digital compression artefacts. Both discs have rather elaborate, atmospheric animated menus, which have been designed to look contemporary with the original film.

The new disc’s packaging sells its contents short. There is a good selection of bonus material, including a fascinating 13-minute guide to the locations used in the film – amazingly many of the buildings and structures still survive, and look virtually the same as they did when it was shot. There is a look at the film’s production design, the trailer for Shadow of the Vampire, (which pushes the film as an Ed Wood-style comedy) and text features on Nosferatu’s troubled history (legal action taken by Bram Stoker’s widow for its similarity to Dracula, when all prints were supposed to have been destroyed) and vampire lore. Quite the oddest addition to Eureka’s disc is a trailer extolling the viewer to ‘stock the genuine article’ to cash in on the ‘resurging awareness’ and ‘accelerated demand’ being generated by the new John Malkovich movie!

Since the sole surviving print was rediscovered (in London, or Germany, depending on which of Eureka’s versions you believe) many varying public domain presentations have branched off, some simply using its copyright-free status to generate revenue, others more interested in restoring this battered film to its original condition. Eureka’s presentation, which credits archives in Koblenz, Munich and Berlin, seems to fall closer to the former.

Potential customers should be aware that this print, running 92 minutes, is more complete than one previously released on VHS by the same company (and other labels). It’s a reasonably commendable version, but it is saddled with a grating industrial grunge soundtrack by Art Zoyd and lacks the more elaborate tinting scheme favoured by more serious archivists, including those behind what many consider to be the definitive version: Munchen Filmmuseum and Cineteca del Commune di Bologna’s 1997 version, which was screened by Channel 4, with a much more appropriate score by Hammer veteran James Bernard. It may not even be the best version available on DVD, since a new American disc (with an organ score, proper tinting, and commentary track), has just been released in the US by Image Entertainment.

Late News: The 1997 version of Nosferatu with the Bernard score, mentioned above, will be released on video and DVD in the Spring, by the British Film Institute. The BFI have been responsible for many spectacular restorations including The Phantom of the Opera.

Book Review
Dreadful Tales
By Richard Laymon

Published by Headline, 312pp hardback

Dreadful Tales
Reviewed by David Howe:
selected and edited from Shivers #86

Richard Laymon was born in Chicago in 1947 and worked as a schoolteacher, a librarian, a magazine editor and a report writer for a law firm before turning to fiction full time. He has written many novels and short stories, and lives in California with his wife and daughter.

Over the last year I have been despairing for the Horror short story in the UK. Most of the anthologies available I found wanting. Many of the stories have no endings, meandering towards an uncertain conclusion, and containing nothing to shock, horrify or generate any emotion other than puzzled confusion in the reader.

Richard Laymon’s Dreadful Tales knocks all these other offerings for six and presents a consistent collection of tales, almost every one of which manages to shock, delight and horrify through numerous ideas, characters and situations. They also all have meaningful conclusions, and come as a breath of fresh air in the stale UK Horror climate.

Laymon takes some normal (or apparently normal) folk and then presents each of them with a horrifying situation from which they cannot escape. A writer, needing to complete a story about a 19 year-old girl being killed thinks up all manner of excellent scenarios which he rejects, but then finds himself living through the best of them all; a youth is encouraged to swim out to an island where a girl is supposedly waiting for him, but turns the tables on his would-be attackers and turns out to be worse than they are; a man and woman get more than they bargained for when they visit an American version of the Blarney Stone; two young vampire-obsessed would-be lovers spend a bloody night in a cemetery; and the final story, a brilliant tale of post-apocalyptic zombies and viral illness, where Our Hero survives all odds to get the girl, only to find that this was perhaps not such a good idea.

I can’t say I have a particular favourite as they are all superb examples of great Horror stories. Some are short snapshots, others are longer pieces. There is blood, gore, horror, zombies, serial killers, vampires, sand-monsters, invisible protectors, bigfoot and living skeletons. Gets my vote as the best of 2000 by a long chalk.

Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001.
Images © VCI, Eureka, Headline Books. Not for reproduction