DirectorBernard McEveety/Freddie Francis
Release Date(s)1971/1967/1972 (April 4, 2017)
Studio(s)Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures (Mill Creek Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: F
- Overall Grade: C+
Mill Creek Entertainment presents a set of three horror titles from Sony’s back catalogue, beginning with The Brotherhood of Satan. A husband, his new wife, and his daughter from a previous marriage find themselves in the middle of nowhere when suddenly, after a car accident, the daughter goes missing. They wind up in a small town where the sheriff is already dealing with finding missing local children, not knowing that there’s an underground cult of Satan worshippers carrying out sinister plans under their noses. The movie is one of those bizarre, low budget horror entries with hardly any recognizable faces that also intentionally goes for the unorthodox with its visuals and its plot. It seems to function in its own weird way. Not a lot of information is handed over to the audience, but by the end of the movie, all is made clear if you’re really paying attention. It’s an interesting artifact of a movie more than an enjoyable one.
Next up is Torture Garden, an Amicus film directed by Freddie Francis. It tells the story of a local carnival act starring the mysterious Dr. Diablo (Burgess Meredith) who takes several patrons into a chamber where they’re confronted with a statue that sees into their souls, psychically telling them of possible future events. Murder, mayhem, and madness ensue. Like most horror anthologies, some of the stories contained within Torture Garden are better than others. The first and last stories are the strongest, with the two in the middle being fairly dull. The main highlight is one featuring Peter Cushing and Jack Palance as two eager Edgar Allan Poe fanatics, one of whom will do just about anything to get his hands on newly-discovered, unpublished Poe material. While this segment was originally meant to include Christopher Lee in Jack Palance’s role, I can’t help but think of how much more pleasurable it would have been with Vincent Price. Sadly, the movie sort of peters out with no real closure to the wraparound. It’s uneven, but since it’s an Amicus movie, it’s worth a couple of watches at least.
Speaking of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee together in a movie, The Creeping Flesh is up next, which was also directed by Freddie Francis. It features a slightly overdeveloped plot about a Professor Hildern (Cushing) who discovers the skeleton of an ancient being that contains violent blood cells while his brother, Dr. Hildern (Lee), experiments on mental patients. Their paths intertwine when the professor foolishly experiments on his daughter. When his brother is made aware of it, he takes a sudden interest in the professor’s work, but for his own benefit. Unfortunately, writing anything else about this movie’s plot would be overly spoilerish. Believe me, there’s much, much more to it than what’s mentioned here. It tends to go in a lot of different directions and the main events that take place are often separate from each other, until eventually coming together in a happenstance sort of way. However, the movie features great performances and is fairly strong in places, particularly the ending, which leaves the story extremely open-ended, almost to the point of angering its audience. It’s a well-made film, but an imperfect one.
All of these films are included on a single Blu-ray Disc. Any major encoding issues aside (none of which I spotted), the A/V quality of each ranges from excellent to merely good. The elements used for The Brotherhood of Satan’s transfer appears to have been in good shape. Aside from some mild speckling, it’s quite clean with decent grain levels. It’s also relatively sharp and precise with good color reproduction, but skin tones leave a little to be desired. Blacks are fairly deep with pretty good shadow detailing, and brightness and contrast levels are satisfactory. Although the density of the material is a little lacking, it’s quite stable and pleasant to view. Torture Garden is much cleaner-looking than its DVD counterpart. Grain levels are light and unobtrusive with decent depth, although things are a little too soft and smooth at times. Good color reproduction is on display with sufficient skin tones as well. Blacks are deep with some mild crush, but the overall appearance is a little too dark. They really could have brightened it up a bit. Regardless, it’s a stable presentation. The Creeping Flesh is a tad soft but very organic in appearance with solid grain levels and excellent detailing. There’s also good color reproduction, although some breathing was spotted, with skin tones being a little uneven. Deep blacks with decent shadow detailing are also on display with adequate brightness and contrast levels. There isn’t much damage leftover other than occasional speckling and mild flicker, but it’s a mostly clean and stable presentation, and probably the strongest of the three.
Each film’s audio soundtrack comes as an English 2.0 Dolby Digital track only, meaning that all of the tracks are lossy. There’s no major distinction between them, only to varying degrees. They feature mostly flat audio with discernible dialogue, decent room for score and music, and adequate sound effects. They all also sound dated with some aspects of each being more pronounced than others throughout. However, they’re all relatively similar in design and tone. Unfortunately, no subtitle options have been included, nor are there any extras to be had.
THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C+/B/C
TORTURE GARDEN (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B-/C+/C
THE CREEPING FLESH (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B/B+/C
Mill Creek putting together some of Sony’s lesser library titles for a Blu-ray release is certainly welcome. One can’t help but feel that each film could have had its own individual release, with even better A/V quality and some extras, but just having these films on the format in the first place will do, at least for now. This is a terrific set of movies, and for the low price tag, hard to pass up.
- Tim Salmons