DVD & Video File (Starburst Reviews) DVD File and VideoFile by Ian Atkins
From Starburst's monthly Reviews section
selected from Starburst #268

Selected this month:
Hammer House of Horror and Voyager on VHS, plus Barbarella

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Hammer House of Horror Volumes 1 & 2
9 October • Cert 15 • PAL VHS
Carlton Video

Hammer House of Horror - order it from BlackStar

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It's Hammer Time


The Urban Gothic of its day, this TV series of hour-long horrors from the late 1970s deploys the gratuitous boobs and blood of the Hammer Studios' final cinematic years, tempering them with some surprisingly effective performances, scripts and music-assisted moods to provide some very scary moments. It feels like a sort of Tales of the Unexpected with ghosties, often using affairs or confidence tricks as a main part of the plot.

Both volumes contain three stories. The first begins with The House That Bled to Death, featuring Nicholas Ball (ironically last seen in one of Urban Gothic's stories) and Rachel Davies as a couple moving into a home whose last occupant murdered his wife. Within minutes the house is attacking its occupants with a variety of mind-tricks and cat-killings, but a neat denouement shows not everything is as it seems. The Silent Scream sees the series getting the official Hammer seal of approval through using Peter Cushing as a pet-shop owner and prison visitor who has a whole new approach to captivity. Essentially a two-hander with Brian Cox (now more famous as a Hollywood name), it's a slower work but the performances more than maintain interest in a strong psychological Horror. The side is let down, unfortunately, by The Two Faces of Evil, when a car crash leads to a (very) slow case of mistaken identity where most can guess the twist within about 10 seconds.

The Mark of Satan opens the second volume, combining numerology, trepanning and paranoia as a hospital attendant (Peter McEnery) begins to suspect he's been marked out for demonic possession in a wonderfully unrelenting tale. In Witching Time, Jon Finch plays a movie musician whose ancient farmhouse is the site of a witch's return, the woman having lethal designs on his errant wife. Finally Visitor From the Grave's story of a wife haunted by an accidental shotgun murder is, until a final twist, the most conventional offering, with an early Gareth Blake's 7 Thomas helping proceedings along.

Volume 1 Starburst rating: 7
Volume 2 Starburst rating: 6

Barbarella
DVD R2 • Cert 15 • Paramount Home Entertainment
Screen Format: 2.35:1 • Out October 2

Barbarella on DVD - order from BlackStar today!

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A Heroine We've Grown Rather Fonda

Roger Vadim's renowned camp SF film being released on DVD finally allows those younger generations to see what the fuss is about, concerning a woman now more known as a rib-removing leotard-wearer than the lust-goddess who captivated The Goodies' Bill Oddie and every other man with a pulse in the late 1960s/early 70s. Jane Fonda plays the eponymous heroine; a space-travelling agent sent to discover the whereabouts of mad scientist Duran Duran. He's a genius thought to have created a weapon (such things are unheard of in this enlightened future) and who's about to give Simon Le Bon a career. Clearly he must be stopped.

What results is odd, to say the least. Clearly a product of its time in the psychedelic imagery, characters and backgrounds, it does also manage a timeless quality, mainly thanks to fashions and effects so bonkers that they'll never actually date. Barbarella goes from life-threatening situation to life-threatening situation, in a manner reminding of Kenny Everett's Cupid Stunt ("and suddenly, all my clothes fall off!") as well as the Daily Mirror's (ahem) strip cartoon, Jane. Hugely influential even today (compare Kylie Minogue's Put Yourself In My Place video), it's a curate's egg of a film, not as funny as it wants to be, but as sexy as heck (this reviewer knows of at least one person conceived as a result of it, but you probably didn't want to know that). Aside from the famous scenes, there are many other classic moments: for example, the steel-toothed killer dolls raise goose-bumps, while Anita Pallenberg's evil queen raises something else entirely.

Starburst Rating 7

The Extras

Sadly, just a trailer, which while being a quaint product of its time, isn't exactly stretching the DVD format. Given the hugely iconic nature of the film's visuals, the lack of - at the very least - a photo gallery is a real shame.

Starburst rating: 1

Star Trek: Voyager Volume 6.9
23 October • Cert PG • PAL VHS • Paramount Home Entertainment

Voyager 6.9 - buy it from Blackstar. Or not.

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Set Intelligences To Stunned

At present, reviewing Voyager is like shooting fish in a barrel: in fact, there're so many problems with some episodes that it would be a fish so big you'd need butter and a crowbar just to get it in the barrel in the first place. This latest release is no different.

Spirit Folk will be legendary in years to come, it's that awful; best watched in a group for the maximum fault-finding experience. The virtual Begorrah characters of Tom Paris' Oirish holodeck program begin to realise that they're not who they thought when the Federation crew start tweaking parameters (not that they noticed in Fair Haven, but hey). Soon they've taken Tom and friends hostage, and as usual, the Holodeck can't be shut down, or safeties engaged. This is all because Paris apparently forgot to tick the 'don't take over the ship' box on his program's parameters. There's so much wrong with this story you almost have to see it: an episode with the fascination of a road accident.

Thankfully Ashes to Ashes is an improvement, featuring a dead crewmember returning to Voyager after being re-animated by an alien race (it's how they breed, don'tcha know). A former girlfriend of Harry Kim's, her arrival raises questions of identity and of fitting in, but it's all rather undermined by the cold acting of Garrett Wang (why can no one in Voyager emote?), the unlikely nature of her re-creation (how exactly did this species propagate before science?) and an ending where as usual, events are forced by outside intervention rather than characters deciding for themselves. Oh dear.

Starburst rating: 2

Reviews © Visual Imagination 2000. Not for reproduction