At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Oct 12th, 2015 •

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Blu-ray Review by Roy Frumkes

Quandry-time in Bava-land.

Neither the new BluRay release nor the old DVD release gets it right, though much labor has obviously been expended. Tim Lucas and Joe Dante are thanked for their effort in the DVD front title sequence. For the BluRay, the film was remastered in HD from an original 35mm print. FIR’s verdict – either you own both and pick your poison each time you watch it, or you settle for one flawed version over the other. There’s no alternative – you can’t fix it yourself at home…yet. Maybe some day you will be able to feed the BluRay into your computer and play around with it till you get it right.

One example is probably enough to prove the point. At 21:10, some curtains blow in the wind, and for a moment, and only a moment, they are as red as blood on the DVD. In the BluRay, they aren’t: there’s only the faintest hint of the grand visual gesture Bava had in mind and apparently worked so meticulously to create. So the shock effect is completely lost. The DVD, though, while getting the color scheme right, is seriously window-boxed, AND the image is visually unstable. The BluRay is as sharp and stable as an image from a 1960s film can be in 2015. Woe is us. Moreso because the story…well, there is none. This film is all about being a visual tour-de force. It’s all about where technician Bava takes you cinematically, rooted to the barest skeleton of a plot. It’s actually, possibly, his most deliciously visual movie. He knew it, we know it, but the problem is, what can be done about it. Given that the remastering crew weren’t familiar enough with the original negative to tweak the 35 mm print toward a closer proximity of Bava’s intentions, we have what we have, which is a conundrum. The DVD is far more colorful than the BluRay (despite the fact that the BR back cover text says ‘photographed in the vivid hues for which the director is known’). But the BR has resolution in its corner.

Kurt Menliff (Lee) returns to the family castle, oozing vengeance because his brother has married his former lover Nevenka. A sore loser in the extreme, he first brandishes a whip on Nevenka, and then, after he’s been killed, he comes back and does it some more. (As an aside, she doesn’t seem to mind it all that much, though she puts up a bit of a squawk about it the second time, probably more because her punishment is being administered by a dead man than from the pain itself.) And within the dank, shadowy castle walls, all manner of blood-letting follows.

Tim Lucas’s commentary carries over from the DVD, and is informative. The voice-actor dubbing Christopher Lee really gives it the college try. Israeli actress/model Daliah Lavi is the closest to recreating Barbara Steele that Bava ever came. Close, that is, but no cigar. She is quite good in the part. It’s just that there’s only one Barbara Steele.

If you’re a Mario Bava horror completest, then of course you must own at least one of these films. But I don’t envy you the process by which you make your choice…

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