We begin with Threads, the 1984 made-for-TV film from the U.K. that traumatized a generation of TV watchers with a fictionalized (though not totally unrealistic) take on what might happen before, during, and after a nuclear attack. Although American audiences did eventually see it, The Day After eclipsed Threads here in the states because it aired on network TV, whereas Threads only ever aired on PBS. Known today as one of the darkest and most frightening looks at the subject matter, it has been long out of print on home video until now.
Threads’ Blu-ray debut comes “fully restored from a 2K scan for the first time ever.” It’s definitely rougher-looking than most HD presentations, but is natural and film-like. Colors are mostly absent as the film’s visual style doesn’t allow for them and black levels are often crushed with a lack of shadow detail. Overall contrast and brightness is satisfactory and leftover speckling, dirt, and scratches are apparent. However, nothing has been done to digitally enhance it. The audio is presented as an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track with optional subtitles in English SDH. It doesn’t offer a whole heck of a lot of fidelity as its quite narrow without any real boost, but dialogue is clear for the most part. Extras include an audio commentary by director Mick Jackson, which is moderated by author Kier-La Janisse and David Gregory from Severin Films; Audition for the Apocalypse, an interview with actress Karen Meagher; Shooting the Annihilation, an interview with director of photography Andrew Dunn; Destruction Designer, an interview with production designer Christopher Robilliard; Stephen Thrower on Threads; the film’s U.S. trailer; and Severin Films’ re-release trailer. Be sure to read our full review here on The Bits.
Next is Jess Franco’s erotic art piece from 1980, Sinfonia Erotica, presented as “From the Depraved Writings of Marquis de Sade”. A remake of his earlier film Pleasure for Three, it portrays a mentally ill young woman who is married to a reclusive nobleman. After being starved of sexual pleasures, she begins having a mental collapse upon witnessing her husband’s love affairs with other people. With an off-kilter style and a slight edge of suspense, Franco’s portrayal of insanity amongst a sexually-liberated and disturbed group of people weaves its narrative through an unusual lens. Murder, madness, and ménage à trois are the selections of choice in this softcore shocker.
The film’s Blu-ray release contains a transfer taken from a 4K scan of the only known surviving element: a 35mm exhibition print. Although damage and instability are both present, clarity and color are both good, revealing a naturally film-like presentation. The audio is featured in the original Spanish 2.0 mono DTS-HD with optional English subtitles. Decent depth can be heard while leftover hiss is apparent, never overriding the presentation as a whole. Extras include Jess Franco on First Wife Nicole Guettard, a 7-minute interview segment with the director, and Stephen Thrower on Sinfonia Erotica, a 22-minute interview with the author about the film.
Although it’s been released in several different versions over the years with different titles, The Sadist of Notre Dame from 1979 was actually Jess Franco’s preferred version of the film. Telling the tale of a psychotic priest hell-bent on killing so-called sinful women in the name of God, the film raised more than a few eyebrows when it was released. It’s actually the second version of a film he had made earlier entitled Exorcism from 1974. It was also later recut again, adding hardcore sex scenes and released under the title Sexorcismes. After another shorter version popped up under the title Demoniac, Franco was approached to remake the film, pulling from all of the various versions and shooting an additional 25 minutes of footage. The result is a film more akin to Italian giallos than Franco’s typical nudity-heavy projects.
Like its predecessor, this Blu-ray release also contains a transfer taken from a 4K scan of a 35mm exhibition print. It features much of the same evident frame damage but retains a pleasant grain structure, deep black levels, and strong colors with good skin tones. There’s nothing artificial about it at all. The audio options are much more varied. There are English, French, and Spanish 2.0 mono DTS-HD audio options with optional subtitles in English SDH or English. The original Spanish track has the most vibrancy, but all of the tracks contain various limitations. Extras include The Gory Days of Le Brady, a 31-minute documentary about the legendary Parisian horror cinema; Stephen Thrower on The Sadist of Notre Dame, another excellent 28-minute interview with the author about the film; a 7-minute audio essay on selected scenes from the film with “I’m in a Jess Franco State of Mind” webmaster Robert Monell; and Treblemakers: A History of The Sadist of Notre Dame, a 5-minute interview with author Alain Petit.
Like most Italian cannibal movies of its era, Umberto Lenzi’s Eaten Alive! (aka Doomed to Die) is a fairly aggressive piece of work, and certainly not one for the extremely timid. One of many controversial titles in a very controversial genre, the fairly standard plot is about a group of people who traipse off into the jungle and find themselves at the hands of barbaric local natives who would like nothing better than to feast upon their flesh, also incorporating a Jim Jones cult-type subplot, an aspect of which was still fresh in moviegoers’ minds when the film was released. To its credit, the film does try and maintain a story throughout, but with the grisly moments you would expect from a film of its ilk. Some of these moments were actually lifted from other cannibal films, which include 1977’s Jungle Holocaust and 1978’s Slave of the Cannibal God.
According to the back cover of this release, it’s being presented “uncut, uncensored, and fully remastered in HD for the first time ever.” A film print appears to be the most likely source as it’s filled with leftover scratches, damaged frames, dirt, and speckling. However, it appears natural and film-like, aesthetically evocative of a Grindhouse-type presentation. Detail is high and the color palette, though a bit faded, is reproduced well. The audio is presented via 2.0 mono DTS-HD tracks in English, Italian, or Spanish with optional subtitles in English SDH or English for the Italian audio. Of the three, the English audio track is the easiest on the ears as the other two tracks offer muffled, sometimes distorted dialogue and score. Sync, as expected, is never perfect, but the dialogue itself is well-prioritized. Extras include Welcome to the Jungle, a new interview with director Umberto Lenzi; Me Me Lai Bites Back, an 80-minute documentary about “The Queen of Cannibal Movies”; The Sect of the Purification, an interview with production designer Antonello Geleng; a set of archival interviews with actors Ivan Rassimov and Robert Kerman; a Q&A from September 2013 with Lenzi at the Manchester Festival of Fantastic Films, UK; and the film’s theatrical trailer. The film is also separately available in a Limited Edition package of 2,500 units, which includes a slipcase and the film’s soundtrack on CD. Be sure to read our full review here on The Bits.
The definition of a “women in prison” movie, the not-too-cleverly titled Violence in a Women’s Prison is Bruno Mattei’s (Zombi 3, Hell of the Living Dead) shot at the genre. Released in some areas as an Emanuelle film (or in the U.S. under the title Caged Women), the film was shot back-to-back with Women’s Prison Massacre, both featuring similar plots about the people in charge at a women’s prison and their abhorrent treatment of its inmates. In the case of this film, it’s also about a prisoner’s (Laura Gemser) attempt to expose the corruption and brutality taking place there. Needless to say, it’s filled with enough nudity, sex, and violence to turn the heads of even the most seasoned of genre fans.
The film comes to Blu-ray for the first time sourced from a 2K scan of an uncensored interpositive element. Some leftover damage is present, including scratches, speckling, density issues, and occasional missing frames, but detail is strong and grain spikes mostly during darker sequences. Colors have some boldness to them and everything appears nicely saturated. It certainly looks its age, but it’s a nice-looking presentation given what’s available to present it with. The audio is featured as an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track with optional English subtitles. While it comes loaded with hiss, crackle, and dropouts, dialogue can be clearly heard (loosely dubbed though it may be). The nutty score for the film benefits from the most clarity while sound effects tend to be thin and flat for the most part. Extras include Brawl in Women’s Block, an interview with co-director/co-writer Claudio Fragasso and co-writer Rossella Drudi; an archival interview with director Bruno Mattei; and the film’s trailer.
And last but not least, we come to another Emanuelle film: Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals. Helmed by series veteran Joe D’Amato, this one involves Laura Gemser again seeking out a story for her newspaper about cannibalistic activity taking place in the Amazon with the help of a willing professor. Although the Emanuelle series is known for its use of pornography, this entry features more softcore moments than hardcore. Emanuelle often has sex at the drop of a dime, regardless of the situations she finds herself in. The main difference this time around is the grotesque carnage and gore that takes place during the second half, which was part and parcel for this era as gruesome cannibal movies were in vogue at the time. Well-shot with everything cannibal and softcore movie lovers can enjoy, it’s a pleasure trip to hell and back.
Severin Films’ Blu-ray release comes with a presentation of a 2K source. It’s a good-looking transfer, despite its minor deficiencies. Aside from a few scenes, there’s decent saturation on display, particularly the jungle foliage, but not all of the color timing is even from scene to scene. Scratches, speckling, instability, and in one instance frame damage, are all evident, but this is actually one of the cleaner and clearer transfers from this company of this kind of material. The audio is presented in either English or Italian mono via DTS-HD tracks with optional English subtitles. Both tracks exhibit the same behavior, which is narrowness but clear dialogue and good score reproduction. Leftover hiss, crackle, pops, and clicks are all evident, but I didn’t notice any dropouts. Extras include The World of Nico Fidenco, an interview with the film’s composer; A Nun Among the Cannibals, an interview with actress Annamaria Clementi; Doctor O’Brien, an interview with actor Donald O’Brien; From Switzerland to Mato Grosso, an interview with actress Monika Zanchi; I Am Your Black Queen, an archival audio interview with Laura Gemser; and the theatrical trailer. The film is also separately available in a Limited Edition package of 3,000 units, which includes a slipcase and the film’s soundtrack on CD.
- Tim Salmons