We Have A Copy of The Church on DVD to Give Away from Shameless Films.

churchThanks to our good friends at Shameless we have 1 x DVD of Michele Soavi’s stunning The Church (La Chiesa) to give away to a lucky UK reader.

The Church is available from Shameless Films here – http://www.shameless-films.com/shop/The-Church-aka-La-Chiesa.html

There’s an ancient evil lurking beneath…THE CHURCH!
Stunning visuals, creepy atmospheric horror and gasp-inducing shock! From director Michele Soavi (DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE, THE SECT) and writer Dario Argento, comes the first ever UK Blu-ray release of this Italian horror classic.

After Teutonic Knights massacre a village of ‘witches’ in medieval times, the sinister religious order builds a gothic Church on the site of the atrocity. Hundreds of years later, the church’s librarian (Tomas Arana) accidentally unleashes whatever darkness was laid in the church’s ground that terrible day. At the mercy of the waking demons and satanic spirits, the churchgoers who’ve been trapped inside by the building’s ancient mechanisms soon succumb to the evil in an orgy of diabolic-lust and merciless slaughter. With a brooding score from genre cohorts Keith Emerson and Goblin, Soavi ramps the dread up to 666 before building to a blood-curdling finale!

Shameless is honoured to present its Yell’o® release of the 1st ever 2K HD restored and longest ever version, made from crypt materials and now entirely faithful to Soavi’s original vision. How long has it been since your last confession?… Never repent! Just be suave!

This Shameless presentation of Michele Soavi’s THE CHURCH is complete and uncut. Made from a 2k transfer of the original negative, the film was restored respecting its original colour palette and the formidable craftsmanship of director Soavi and his team. Similarly, THE CHURCH is presented in its original Stereo sound as originally created by its makers.

To be in with a chance of winning this amazing DVD then you must be in the UK and then simply email comp@ukhorrorscene.com with your name and full address and put Church in the subject line. A winner will be chosen at random when the competition ends on Sunday 6th January.

Thanks and good luck!!

A Blade in The Dark (1983) Blu-Ray Review

abitd1A BLADE IN THE DARK (1983)

Director: Lamberto Bava

Starring: Andrea Occhipinti, Anny Papa, Michele Soavi, Valeria Cavalli, Fabiola Toledo

UK Blu-Ray & DVD Release 24th August 2015 from 88 Films

BEHOLD! My first entry into the annals (that’s annals, people!) of UKHS’s/The Slaughtered Bird’s review writing multi-universe! And what better way to begin than with a bit of Bava – Lamberto, not Mario. “How unfortunate” I hear you exclaim, but you’d be wrong with this one – A BLADE IN THE DARK is a giallo joy!

Although considered the predecessor of the modern slasher genre, giallo is the Marmite of horror lovers and continues to divide audiences. While I’m a fan, I can understand people’s difficulty in totally immersing themselves in a world of brash, overpowering synth scores, vibrant lighting, aggressive editing, and often hilariously dubbed vocal acting (all of these, incidentally, being the reasons I loves ‘em!). Also, when your old man is Mario Bava – a horror legend, mentioned in the same glowing terms as Dario Argento – you’re going to struggle winning people over. Make no mistake, though; A BLADE IN THE DARK (only Lamberto’s 2nd film) is an edgy, well-paced, claustrophobic horror on par with a lot of his father’s work (the outstanding Blood & Black Lace and Bay Of Blood aside).

abitd2‘Giallo’ – the simple definition (in terms of literature and cinema) being an Italian thriller/mystery, but that falls some way short of capturing what makes this sub-genre so utterly fascinating.  Usually, as with ABITD, we’re thrown a central character that sets out to investigate a series of gorgeously shot and scored, overly-colourful murders, uncovering sinister truths about themselves and others in the process, with the plot commonly a by-product of an unspoken, viscerally charming filmmaking competition amongst the directors of that era. This particular vessel gives us composer Bruno (Occhipinti), on his first night in a secluded villa, tinkering with a horror soundtrack he’s been hired to create. Finding a comically flirty young woman called Katia in his cupboard, he then proceeds to have a casual flick through her diary (that’s not a euphemism), only to discover there are a few secrets surrounding the house’s previous tenant that someone is desperate to keep hidden.

abitd3Of course, there are parts that will annoy the perfectionists among us – fuck, there’s moments that made me burst out laughing at their absurdity – but when something blatantly doesn’t take itself too seriously, why should we? While the quality of his later films fell away dramatically and it became easier to be dismissive of his talents, there’s a passion driving A BLADE IN THE DARK that helps us ignore any glaring imperfections, which in turn aides the intensity of the numerous shocking set-pieces (particularly the infamous bathroom scene). Also, everything is kept simple and small (cast, locations), and filled with clever techniques to make us uneasy: unexpected, smooth camera swoops and jarring musical blasts. As our characters grow uncomfortable, so do we. Although, the downside to this small cast means it’s pretty easy to guess our killer as the final third plays out!

Adding to the film’s charm is the presence of Michele Soavi, both as assistant director AND Bruno’s landlord, Tony – charismatically stealing scenes during his limited screen time, even with the dodgy English dubbing! That being said, despite him being involved, Dardano Sacchetti’s script suffers from some baffling dialogue interactions – notably between our lead and the various, attractive female characters, who do everything they can to woo our reserved hero within seconds of meeting him – that hinder the film’s integrity. This may partly be due to the fact ABITD was initially invented as a 4-part television series, but later edited into a feature length film.

abitd4Despite trendy claims Lamberto Bava relied on his dad’s reputation to get a cinematic leg-up, he’s created a solid, enjoyable entry to the sub-genre here. Considering the small budget, A BLADE IN THE DARK makes a nice companion piece for giallo heavyweights such as Suspiria or any super Mario classic. Besides, the man gave us DEMONS, for fuck’s sake! LAY OFF HIM!!!

6/10

Chris Barnes (@TheBlueTook)

Extras:

NEW HD Master
Uncompressed LPCM English Soundtrack
Uncompressed LPCM Italian Soundtrack with newly translated English Subtitles
Archive Q&A with Lamberto Bava, moderated by Calum Waddell
Reversible Sleeve with alternative art
Includes a Collectible 300gsm Original Poster Post Card

Stagefright (1987) Blu-Ray Review

SFSTAGEFRIGHT (1987) Blu-Ray review

Also known as StageFright: Aquarius, Deliria, Bloody Bird, Sound Stage Massacre

Directed by Michele Soavi
Written by Lew Cooper [George Eastman, aka Luigi Montefiori]
Starring Barbara Cupisti, David Brandon, Giovanni Lombardo Radice

RRP £17.99
BluRay Region B released by Exposure Cinema (Ltd to 3000)

Schlepping out now onto blu-ray, almost completely devoid of the kind of fanfare it deserves and very nearly lost amidst numerous release date changes, is StageFright; a rip-roaring Italian shocker and the first feature proper of Dario Argento protege Michele Soavi. Though Soavi would later go on to helm much more ambitious and more epically scoped projects like the Argento-presented The Church and The Sect, and the exquisite, Rupert Everett-starring Dellamorte Dellamore (aka Cemetery Man), it’s this lean and mean offering that is his crowning terror achievement.

Soavi’s StageFright producer, the late Aristide Massaccesi (or ‘Joe D’Amato’ to give the spaghetti schlock maven his better known alias), thought so too and cited Soavi’s subsequent work – somewhat harshly – as overblown and unfocused; a fact recounted by Alan Jones in one of several solid special features that fill Exposure’s tasty limited edition disc. Entitled ‘The Critic’s Take’, Jones – an undisputed high priest of genre film criticism, the Italian stuff especially so – makes for terrific company as usual in a fascinating twenty-odd minute long dissection of the film and Soavi’s career. “It’s an amalgam of the best of American and the best of Italian movies,” he explains, and it’s hard not to disagree with him.

sf1Blending both his home countries unique giallo vogue with the distinctly American slasher formula that sprung from it, Soavi crafts an enthralling and slick popcorn scare flick; sumptuous Italian murder mystery by way of crowd-pleasing, Friday the 13th-style primal brutality.

Working from a story by Big Boot B-pic mainstay George Eastman – perhaps best remembered as the titular gut-muncher in Massaccesi’s charmingly lousy video nasty Anthropophagus, and credited here as ‘Lew Cooper’ – Soavi’s set up is a bog standard body count scenario: A masked maniac, fresh from the local mental institution, bumping off a slew of thinly drawn characters in a typically isolated location. Though such a conceit was already stretched to breaking point even by this late eighties stage in the stalk and slash cycle, the ferocity and the pizazz with which Soavi knocks down his stacked dominoes is what truly elevates StageFright far beyond cliche and into the realms of not just a great slicer and dicer, but to the upper echelons of essential must-see horror status.

Soavi milks the tension of his playhouse setting for all it’s worth, delivering plenty of jolts as his bloodthirsty killer – deranged ex-actor Irving Wallace (Clain Parker) – prowls the shadows of the stage and the labyrinthine dressing and storage rooms. Hidden by a giant owl mask that is at once both completely absurd and surprisingly creepy, Wallace has taken a particular shine to ingenue Alicia (Barbara Cupisti, who would appear in Argento’s similarly themed Opera less than a year later), the lead in the bonkers erotic performance piece that is being rehearsed at the theatre. With a troupe of thespians and backstage talent (including gore icon and Soavi regular Giovanni Lombardo Radice, aka ‘John Morghen’, as the deliciously preening Brett) locked in for the night by their highly strung director (a fine scenery-chewing turn from David Brandon), it isn’t long at all before the corpses start piling up…

sf2Pre-cut by distributor Avatar upon its original British tape release, StageFright has appeared uncut in two notable reissues since from Redemption and the infamous Vipco; most notably as part of the latter’s budget Scream Time DVD collection (“Scare yourself shitless for £5.99!”) a little over a decade ago. Exposure, of course, carry on this uncensored tradition and even go as far to add a lovely little comparison featurette spotlighting the differences between theirs and Avatar’s print.

StageFright’s status as something of a minor rental tape classic seems to be the real theme of the blu-ray, with Exposure’s key art replicating Avatar’s original sleeve right down to its inclusion of an old style 18 certificate – a cute touch. Modern VHS culture is explored too in the disc’s breezy doc ‘Revenge of the Video Cassette’; a fun addition. Also included is an illustrated booklet, ‘Video Chillers’, that was sadly unavailable with the press copy.
On the transfer front, Exposure have unleashed a pleasing affair: The odd burst of visual noise and haloing due to slightly overdone edge enhancement aside, it’s quite the eye-popper, with natural flesh-tones and well-balanced grading.

It certainly showcases Soavi’s mastery – even at this fledgling stage – of colour and depth far better than Vipco’s orange-tinged hues ever did; although, in the old V’s defence, their StageFright’s picture quality was infinitely superior to most of the ugly-looking hooey they usually belted out. Don’t be getting rid of that version quite yet, however: While this blu-ray marks the first time StageFright has been available upon these shores in its correct 1:85:1 aspect ratio outside of the import market, Vipco’s open matte release reveals more information at the top and bottom of the picture. For Soavi’s cheeky, fourth wall-breaking final shot, the open matte is actually more preferable.

sf3Soavi himself pops up in ‘A Bloodstained Featherstorm’; Exposure’s good if somewhat rambling half hour making of piece. Thankfully, Soavi, along with the still beautiful Cupisti, scripter Eastman and actress Mary Sellers, share enough anecdotes to make it well worth dipping into; the best of which being Sellers’ explanation of the film’s subtitle ‘Aquarius’ and Soavi’s recollections of working with Lucio Fulci, Lamberto Bava and the aforementioned Argento and Massaccesi both in front of and behind the camera.

Massaccesi’s involvement is discussed in the excellent, fifty minute long ‘Joe D’Amato: Totally Uncut”; an in depth archival chinwag with the Euro-pud icon that, along with the film, is worth the price of admission alone. It’s the highlight of Exposure’s package – though actor Radice’s interview feature ‘Giovanni’s Method’ comes a very close second, with the cult hero on fine droll form. Rounding things out is the film’s trailer and a thorough stills gallery.

Strangely, composer Simon Boswell is nowhere to be found. Considering just how integral the Brit maestro’s rousing and atmospheric score (which rattles around Exposure’s serviceable 2.0 stereo track rather nicely too) is to Soavi’s haunting imagery, and with it being on the cusp of a deluxe vinyl reissue, his non-inclusion is something of a missed opportunity. Overall, however, Exposure have assembled a damn good set well worth picking up. Collectors take note though: With Blue Underground’s region free Stateside edition landing in the next couple of days, and with its specs identifying a completely different set of extras to Exposure’s release, it looks as though devout StageFright disciples – and, personally, this writer includes himself in that bracket – will have to fork out for both versions. It’ll certainly be interesting seeing how they weigh up against each other…

The film 9 out of 10
The disc 7 out of 10

sf4Special Features:
⦁ Dual format edition: contains both Blu-ray Disc and DVD versions of the film
⦁ High-bitrate, dual-layer encoding for high picture and sound quality
⦁ New restoration, colour-timing corrected and produced from original vault elements
⦁ Original trailer
⦁ Still, poster and behind-the-scenes gallery featuring rare photos and international artwork
⦁ Cut version comparison
⦁ A Bloodstained Featherstorm
⦁ Giovanni’s Method: Interview with star Giovanni Lombardo Radice (aka John Morghen)
⦁ Alan Jones: The Critic’s Take
⦁ Joe D’Amato: Totally Uncut
⦁ Revenge of the Video Cassette
⦁ Video Chillers booklet
⦁ Limited Collector’s Edition (3,000 copies)
⦁ Original artwork used on front cover

Disc Information
⦁ Feature Running Time: 90 minutes approx.
⦁ Picture: Colour | 1080p/24 | Widescreen 1.85:1 / 16:9
⦁ Sound: English language | Uncompressed audio (BD), Dolby (DVD)
⦁ Subtitles: English for the hard-of-hearing (removable; main feature only)

__________________________________________
Buy StageFright from Exposure Cinema
http://exposurecinema.com/shop/stagefright-blu-ray-limited-edition

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