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The Shadowed Mind (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • The Shadowed Mind (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: June 4th, 2022.
    Director: Cedric Sundstrom
    Cast: Towje Kleiner, Rufus Swart, Adrienne Pearce, Trish Downing, Simon Poland
    Year: 1988
    Purchase From Severin Films

    The Shadowed Mind – Movie Review:

    Directed by South African filmmaker Cedric Sundstrom (who directed American Ninja 3 and 4 and did second unit work on quite a few other Cannon Films productions in the eighties), whose short film Suffer Little Children brought him to some infamy in the world cinema scene of the seventies, 1988’s The Shadowed Mind opens when a woman named Stephanie (Adrienne Pearce) arrives at a private hospital. We learn early on that she suffers from sexual dysfunction and has trouble controlling her impulses in that regard. The medical professionals in charge of the hospital are Dr. Hildesheimer (Towje Kleiner) and her head nurse Helen (Trish Downing), both of whom seem just as off kilter as the patients they are charged with caring for.

    As Stephanie settles in to her new surroundings and acclimates herself to the rather unusual situation she’s found herself in, she gets to know some of the other characters that populate the ward: Paul (Rufus Swart), Kurt (Ewan J.Klisser), Julia (Hayley Dorsky), Matthew (Simon Poland), Brenda (Deborah Kay) and The General (Simon Sabela). Before long, Stephanie and Paul hit it off and begin carrying on a torrid affair, their respective issues in a sense enabling one another as they do so. Things take a dark turn when Brenda is found stabbed to death in bed after sharing one with Kurt for a night. This turns out to be the first of a few murders that take the surviving characters on a very strange trip indeed, all while Hildesheimer does what she can to cover up the killings.

    The Shadowed Mind is a genuinely bizarre film. There’s a very deliberate look to the film, with large industrial buildings used as the hospital setting and allowing for what should be clean, white, properly lit rooms to be, often times, supplanted by dark, dimly lit rooms that are typically quite shadowy and atmospheric. Bold use of sometimes very garish dashes of color make characters ‘pop’ in key scenes, no doubt an intentional choice on the part of the customer, and these can often contrast in interesting ways with the darker elements of the movie. The film also uses a lot of primary colored lighting gels to build mood and atmosphere, which can’t help but conjure up memories of Italian horror films directed by the likes of Dario Argento and Mario Bava (though Sundstrom’s film isn’t really comparable to their work on any other level).

    Reportedly banned in its home land for years, the film is visually impressive and technically quite unique, though the narrative can sometimes get a little off kilter. Still, with its deliberate pacing and interesting ideas, even when Sundstrom misses the mark, it remains an interesting picture worth watching. The performances are quite good, Adrienne Pearce does a good job as the female lead in the film and has an interesting, and fairly captivating, screen presence that Sundstrom and company do a good job of exploiting. The rest of the cast aren’t as strong or as memorable. The sex scenes are shot with an eye for composition, showing us just enough to keep us intrigued without really ever crossing into exploitation territory. Those expecting a straight horror picture won’t get that here. Although the murders are reasonably gruesome they aren’t that impactful, but as far as ‘weird arthouse fare’ goes, The Shadowed Mind is worth seeing.

    The Shadowed Mind – Blu-ray Review:

    The Shadowed Mind comes to region free Blu-ray from Severin Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen using up 29GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Scanned in 2k from the director’s own uncut 35mm print, the picture quality is quite good if not on the level it would have been had pre-print elements been available. Grain is thick throughout but not particularly distracting. Some minor print damage shows up here and there but it’s small stuff, specks and what not. Detail is definitely plenty better than standard definition could provide but the picture can look soft in spots. The disc is free of any noise reduction or edge enhancement and compression is held in check. Not the best transfer you’ll ever see but a likely a very good, and accurate, representation of the available elements.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Audio quality is, like the video, good but not perfect. Some scenes sound a bit flat but overall the track is clean and properly balanced.

    A commentary from Cedric Sundstrom is the first of the extras included on the disc. He talks about the filmmaking scene in South Africa at the time and how the tax loop hole allowed plenty of filmmakers from around the world to shoot in the country. He then goes on to discuss working with the different cast and crew members who were involved with the picture, some of the symbolism on display in the movie, the different characters that populate the movie, the use of sex in the movie, the way the movie portrays dreams versus reality and other details of the production. There's a fair bit of dead air here and moments where he simply tells us what we're seeing on the screen but when he's engaged and going into detail on things, it can be an interesting listen.

    Into The Shadowed Mind is an interview with Sundstrom that runs for forty minutes and is hosted by Trevor Steele Taylor. They go over Sundstrom's career starting with how The Shadowed Mind came to be and took advantage of the tax shelter system that was in place at the time. From there, they go on to cover the making of the picture, casting the film and details on the different actors, the deliberate use of color in the movie, the use of visual analogies in the picture, the power dynamics in the film, his background in the theater, the making of Summer Is Forever, his second unit work on various Cannon Films in the eighties and then going on to direct for them, working with Oliver Reed on Fair Trade (also known as Captive Rage) and quite a bit more.

    From there, check out the four short films included on the disc: the thirty-two minute Suffer Little Children from 1976, the sixteen minute The Hunter from 1973, the thirty-four minute Summer Is Forever from 1971 and the fourteen minute On The Rocks. These are taken from tape sources but better to have them here in less than ideal shape than not at all.

    In the promos section we get a four minute spot advertising The Shadowed Mind, a nine minute piece for On A Rooftop Waiting and a six minute piece for The Piscean Factor, all three taken from tape sources and in less than perfect shape, but still interesting to see.

    Finishing up the extras on the disc are menus and chapter selection options. Severin packages this release with a slipcover.

    The Shadowed Mind – The Final Word:

    The Shadowed Mind has been extremely difficult to come across until this release, which makes it a pretty important one. The film itself isn’t perfect but it’s a genuinely interesting mix of arthouse style and genre elements. It doesn’t always work the way Sundstrom probably wanted it to, but it retains a certain fascination regardless. Severin’s Blu-ray presents this genuinely rare picture in good shape and with quite a bit of accompanying extra features, making this a worthwhile package for the curious.


    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Shadowed Mind Blu-ray screen caps!

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