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Crypt Of The Living Dead / House Of The Living Dead

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    Ian Jane
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  • Crypt Of The Living Dead / House Of The Living Dead



    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: April 26th, 2016.
    Director: Julio Salvador, Ray Danton/Ray Austin
    Cast: Andrew Prine, Patty Shepard, Mark Damon/Mark Burns, Shirley Anne Field, David Oxley
    Year: 1972/1974
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    Crypt Of The Living Dead (also known as Young Hannah: Queen Of The Vampires, which is what the title card reads on the print used for this release) concerns a heavily mustachioed young man named Chris Bolton (Andrew Prine) who travels to a remote island in the Mediterranean in hopes of solving the mystery of his father's death. We learn that his father, Professor Bolton (Mariano Rey), was in the midst of an archeological dig when the sarcophagus of a woman named Hannah fell on him and sent him to his grave.

    Upon his arrival he gets some help from a man named Peter (Mark Damon) and his sister Mary (Patty Sheppard) in moving the massive burial casket so that he can remove the body and give his father a burial. Chris is unaware that Peter knows more about his father's death than he's letting on. Unfortunately, in their efforts they disturb the resting place of the aforementioned Hannah, who just so happens to be a vampiress and the one time wife of Louis VII, who had her buried alive centuries ago.

    Of course, Hannah (Teresa Gimpera) comes back from the grave and soon begins, with some help from her burly assistant, feasting on various locals. Chris, on the other hand, starts to take a liking to Mary while Peter falls under Hannah's evil spell…

    A U.S./Spanish co-production shot on location in Turkey, Crypt Of The Living Dead was supposedly directed by Julio Salvado though additional scenes were evidently shot and put in by television star turned filmmaker Ray Danton at some point (or so the story goes). The international financing does at least explain why we've got American actors like Prine running around with Spanish actors like Gimpera. Long a staple of public domain releases of typically horrible quality the film, when viewed properly as it is presented on this Blu-ray, actually proves to be a pretty atmospheric piece of low budget gothic horror. It's not particularly quick in its pacing but it does manage to make excellent use of its oddball Turkish locations and build to a suitably memorable big finish.

    As far as the cast go, Prine is always fun to watch and his turn here is no exception to that rule. He's restrained here compared to other films but he plays the dashing hero well enough and he's easy to like in the role. Mark Damon is pretty good in his villainous role but given that the reveal for his character takes place so early in the film you can't help but sort of brush him off. Patty Sheppard looks great here and makes a fine love interest for Prine but the most memorable performance in the film definitely comes from Teresa Gimpera. Recognizable from cult films like Eagles Over London, Night Of The Devils and The People Who Own The Dark the striking actress has to do pretty much all of her acting here with body language. She not only pulls it off but she manages to create and interesting and memorable female vampire character in a world that is very definitely overpopulated with that type of thing. She's got a haunting presence here and while she's never really all that scary, nor is anything else in the movie for that matter, she's at least impressive and interesting to watch.

    Note that the version included on this disc is the US theatrical version running eighty-five minutes.

    House Of The Living Dead (Also known as Curse Of The Dead) was directed in 1974 by Ray Austin. Another title often released in 'public domain' versions over the years, this one tells the story of a mad scientist Dr. Breckinridge Brattling (Mark Burns). He's a man with a dark past who is hell-bent on carrying out his horrifying experiments on anyone or anything he can get his hands on. He's got a twin brother, Sir Michael Brattling (also played by Burns), who is a considerably nicer guy.

    Breckinridge's latest experiments involve his attempts to transfer and contain the living souls of some unfortunate monkeys but it doesn't take a genius to realize that he's on a very slippery slope. Soon enough, he decides he's going to try his work out on some human test subjects, his brother Michael and his fiancé Mary Ann (Shirley Anne Field), but there's more to this than the diabolical mad doctor realizes…

    This one is more than a little talky and a bit slow in spots but it's got enough going for it that it makes for a nice second feature to the more interesting first attraction. It's quite obviously a low budget film but there's a lot of neat stuff going on in the lab, which is almost always lit with screwy colored lighting gels to give it that right sort of vibe you want and expect a mad scientist's workshop to have. There's a cool voodoo subplot crammed in here too that comes into play later and allows the film to introduce a few weird but memorable supporting characters. Not the world's fastest paced or most terrifying picture but one that is worth checking out.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Vinegar Syndrome presents Crypt Of The Living Dead on DVD in its proper 1.85.1 theatrical anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio in a transfer that puts pretty much every previous version of this movie released on DVD to shame. The Blu-ray release that came out last year understandably looks better but for a standard definition offering, things shape up very nicely here. The packaging notes that this one was “scanned and restored in 2k from a newly exhumed 35mm negative.” The movie still shows some wear and tear and some occasional color fading but it's a lot better looking here than it has been in the past. Skin tones generally look good here but do occasionally look a little red. Seriously though, if you've seen this movie before, and it's been released quite a few times on various budget /public domain discs and collections, you'll know how bad it's looked in the past. This is a very big step up and fans of the film should be quite pleased with what's been done here.

    The same deal applies to the transfer for House Of The Living Dead - it may not be on par with the latest and greatest Hollywood production but it looks very good considering past releases. You can actually see what's going on in the darker scenes now and encoding really helps to bring out the detail in the print used. Colors are vastly improved here over what's come before and whatever flaws are inherent in the source used are pretty easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things.

    The audio for both films is handled by a Dolby Digital Mono track, in English without any alternate language or subtitle options, and it too is much improved over previous releases. There's still a bit of hiss and the occasional pop but the levels are properly balanced, the score sounds good and the dialogue is easy enough to understand.

    Aside from static menus and chapter selection the disc contains a theatrical trailer for Crypt Of The Living Dead.

    The Final Word:

    Vinegar Syndrome's DVD double feature of Crypt Of The Living Dead and House Of The Living Dead brushes the dust off of two public domain horror staples and breathes some welcome new life into them by way of some very solid transfers. House isn't the world's most exciting film but it's definitely worth seeing while Crypt, likely the main draw for anyone reading this, remains a seriously underrated and thoroughly enjoyable slice of gothic horror.






























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