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Night Of The Blood Monster (Blue Underground) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Night Of The Blood Monster (Blue Underground) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: March 26th, 2024.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Christopher Lee, Maria Rohm, Dennis Price
    Year: 1970
    Purchase From Amazon

    Night Of The Blood Monster – Movie Review:

    Directed by Jess Franco, The Bloody Judge (or, Night Of The Blood Monster, as it is going by on this new release from Blue Underground) isn't quite the salacious exercise in Eurotrash you might expect it to be, and while it has some moments of effective horror, it often feels like more of a historical drama than a horror picture. With that said, it's also quite well made and well worth seeing, even if it was obviously intended to ride on the coattails of Michael Reeves' popular Vincent Price vehicle, Witchfinder General.

    Set in the England of 1865, we meet Judge Jeffries (Christopher Lee), a stern administrator quick to hand out horrible punishment to those he deems guilty and who is only too happy to hand out the death sentence as he sees fit, with some help from his esteemed executioner (Howard Vernon). When a young woman named Alicia Gray (Margaret Lee) is brought before him on charges of witchcraft, he declares her guilty and has her punished in the dungeon before being burned alive at the stake, much to the disgust and utter sadness of her sister, Mary (Maria Rohm).

    Mary eventually winds up falling for a man named Harry Selton (Hans Hass) who is just as upset with Jeffries' rule of terror as she is. He decides to do something about it and sets about to remove him from his seat of power. Though this does not sit well with Selton's father, the Earl of Wessex (Leo Genn), as he is quite friendly with Jeffries, but Harry is determined and Mary willing to help him in any way that she can.

    Based on actual events that did indeed take place centuries ago, The Bloody Judge was distributed domestically by AIP who chopped out most of the gore and nudity and released it in a fairly sanitized PG version to play in American theaters. The version included on this UHD from Blue Underground it includes all of the stronger material. Even in its uncut form, however, Franco shows some restraint here, comparatively speaking at least, and though the torture scenes do pack a bit of a punch, the pale in comparison to some of his more explicit work.

    The film, however, is quite good - good enough at least that it doesn't need to rely on the more salacious material to work. In terms of location photography the movie is very nicely shot and makes great use of some old castles to give it a very authentic feel. The cinematography is inspired and even slick in spots, and Franco's trademark overuse of the zoom lens is never really an issue in this movie. Additionally, he's really working with a great cast here. Lee is obviously into the part and enjoying his role while Rohm is as beautiful as she's ever been. Howard Vernon is a bit underused but good in his supporting role while Hans Hass does fine in the role of the film's hero. Maria Schell and Diana Lorys also appear here in small parts. Toss in a very effective score courtesy of famed Italian composer Bruno Nicolai and this one stands out as one of the better movies that Franco made for producer Harry Alan Towers, even if it's a little slow in spots.

    Night Of The Blood Monster – UHD Review:

    The HEVC encoded 2160p transfer, framed at 2.35.1 widescreen, is taken from a “brand-new 2023 4K master of the complete uncensored version” with HDR and Dolby Vision enhancement and it looks excellent. Colors look absolutely gorgeous here, with reds in particular really popping but without looking artificially boosted or oversaturated. Skin tones look perfect and black levels are reference quality. Depth, detail, texture and overall clarity are never less than impressive and you’re able to pick out so much minute detail in the transfer that it’s almost like watching the movie again for the first time. Blue Underground has knocked this one out of the park.

    The English language 24-bit DTS-HD 1.0 Mono mix (which comes with optional subtitles in English, French and Spanish) also sounds very good. There are a few sequences where, due to available elements, the audio switches from English to German (automatic English subtitles appear on screen when this happens) but the quality level doesn’t really differ much at all when this occurs. Overall, however, the track sounds really good with nice depth and range to it and some decent power behind the score in particular.

    There are three audio commentary tracks on the UHD, the first of which is with Film Historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson. This conversational track covers the different alternate titles that the movie has gone under over the years, the international co-production credits and financing, the different versions of the movie that exist, if Franco was involved in the post-production and editing processes, cast and crew details, where Franco's relationship with Harry Alan Towers was at this point in his career, Franco's work in the horror genre, Franco's work with Orson Welles, Christopher Lee's involvement and collaborations with Franco (including on Count Dracula), how the lighting used mirrors that used in Justine, thoughts on the cinematography and production values and other topics released to the production.

    The second commentary features Film Historians Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw that also goes over the film's different titles and versions, thoughts on the casting in the film and the performances in the picture, Towers' casting tactics and how this could lead to actors appearing in multiple productions that he was responsible for, thoughts on the historical setting that the film is placed against and where it might have inspired aspects of the film, Howard Vernon's bizarre appearance and how it was inspired by Karloff in Tower Of London, where authentic locations are used, Lee's work on the picture, thoughts on Franco's filmography as a whole and where he dabbles with the mainstream, thoughts on specific scenes that work really well and others that aren't quite as effective, Maria Rohm's appearance and how her sexuality is used in the movie, the importance of not letting a genre be defined by its weakest elements and if this movie is actually a horror film at all.

    The third commentary is courtesy of Film Historians David Flint and Adrian Smith that, like the other two tracks, covers the alternate titles and versions that exist, the politics behind the movie's core plot, the international financing that was employed, the Portuguese locations, Franco's collaborations with Lee and with Towers, the casting decisions in the film, where Harry Alan Towers may or may not have got his money from and some of the crazy stories that are out there regarding this and his status as a potential spy, how this movie compares to the Fu Manchu films that Towers and Franco made together, how this was likely the one of the biggest budgets that Franco ever worked with and the quality of the production values on display, some of the dubbing used in the English version, how the film was given a AA certificate in the UK instead of an X after a few cuts were made to it, how the movie compares to Franco's The Demons, whether or not Lee actually appeared in the sex scene with Rohm or if a stand-in hand was used, Bruno Nicolai's soundtrack, how the home video distribution of Franco's work has changed over the years and how important it was that Franco be given the Goya Award towards the end of his life.

    The included Blu-ray disc contains those same commentary tracks a well as some featurettes. The twenty-five minute Bloody Jess featurette that was included on the Blue Underground original DVD release from a few years back is ported over to this disc. In the piece, Lee and Franco, recorded separately, discuss making the movie, the history behind the film and more.
    Judgement Day is an interview with Stephen Thrower, the Author of “Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco,” running thirty-four minutes. Thrower does his usual deep dive into the history of the film, detailing the involvement of pretty much every member of the cast and crew, exploring the production and release history and offering up his thoughts on the film’s qualities along the way.

    In The Shadows is a talk with Filmmaker Alan Birkinshaw and Author Stephen Thrower on Harry Alan Towers that runs twenty-five minutes. In this chat, they do a nice job of exploring Towers’ personal and professional life, detailing his career and, of course, his many collaborations with Jess Franco.

    Blue Underground also supplies roughly eighteen minutes of deleted and alternate Scenes (there are seven scenes here in total, one of which is the alternate ending from the German version of the movie), two trailers and a TV spot, six different still galleries, menus and chapter selection options. This release also comes with a limited edition embossed slipcover and a reversible cover sleeve.

    Night Of The Blood Monster - The Final Word:

    Night Of The Blood Monster might not be a perfect film but it’s a really solid entry in the ‘witch hunter’ cannon with a strong performance from Lee and impressive production values throughout. Blue Underground has rolled out the red carpet for this one, giving the picture a reference quality production on a disc stacked to the gills with extra features.



    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized screen caps from the Night Of The Blood Monster Blu-ray!

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