|During the 1970s there was a real sea-change in the worldwide horror genre. This saw new and upcoming directors stepping away from gothic styling's of Hammer, Roger Corman's Poe Films, and euro gothic horror- to move towards more modern-day set horrors- with characters often facing very real & brutal encounters. In the USA we, of course, had the likes of Tobe Hopper with Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wes Caven with Last House Of Left. And back in the Uk, we had directors like Pete Walker & Norman J Warren offering up often gritty, sleazy and brutal takes on the genre, with more often-than-not present-day settings. |
Walkerís films like Frightmare and The House Of whipcord focused more of often more socially spiky subjects like mental health, capital punishment, and corrupted/depraved religion. While Norman J Warrens films like Satans Slave, Terror, and Prey focused in on traditional horror tropes- but gave them a modern edgy, lots of blood, and often sleazed twist. Here on Powerhouse film is a wonderful new Blu ray boxset celebrating the horror films of Norman J Warren- taking in five of his films- with each having their UK Blu Ray debut, and each featuring a hosts of new and exclusive features, and excellent past extras from the Norman J Warren coffin DVD boxset that appeared in the early 2000ís
This new five disc set comes in the form of a hard-shelled box- with each disc having its own colour coded digipak packaging. The set includes a one hundred and twenty-page hardback book- this takes a new twenty-page essay about Mr. Warrens films, as well as twenty-page write-ups/ interviews regarding each of the five films. Also, the book takes in chapters of review snippets from the time, unrealized films, and short films. The set is Ltd to just 6í000 copies worldwide. Anyway enough with the preamble- let's get into the films themselves.
Satan's Slave was Norman J Warrens third full-length film and his first horror film. It was released in 1976, and it saw the young director taking classic horror elements like a gothic mansion, graveyards, misty forest, cults, and unbalanced aristocrats- and adds in a decidedly nasty and sleazed 70ís edge. After the decidedly dread-inducing credits featuring shifting devils heads, tarot cards, and ritual swords- weíre suddenly dropped into a ritual with Belomoth headed leader pining down a naked women, then cutting her open. Next, we jump to a young man chatting and seducing his date- before taking her to bed, smoothing her, then rather nastily tieing her before trailing scissors over her naked body- she escapes before getting bloodily murder- so from the offset Warren very much unbalances and shocks the filmgoer. After this fairly jarring and unsettling opening we meet Catherine Yorke(Candace Glendenning) a young women who has just spent a night with her boyfriend in his towerblock flat- she rushes off to get back her middle-class parents house, as they are all going to stay with her fathers brother in the country- who seemingly they rarely see. Just as they are turning into the drive of Catherine uncles grand country house- the car crashes into a tree, Catherine runs to get help- and the car goes up in flame. We then meet the other lead characters in the film Uncle Alexander Yorke- played in a wonderful caring, yet subtle sinister manner by Michael Gogh. His suave-yet-darkly shifty son Stephen( Martin Potter), and young female family friend Frances(Barbara Kellerman). And what unfolds is a sinisterly lulling, at times decidedly creepy occult thriller- with moments of classic horror set pieces, some very brutal and shocking gore, and more than a fair share of female flesh. The whole thing is enhanced by John Scottís wonderfully chilling and broodingly malevolent soundtrack that brings together sinister flute and horn work, dartingly creepy piano work, gongs, and ritual percussion. Through-out Satan's Slave Warren wonderfully juxtaposition classic horror elements, with the more mean-spirited and sleazed elements- to create a film that effectively flits between lulling brood, building terror, and sudden shock. It is a great opening horror film statement from Warren- and is also one of the great occult focused horror films of the 1970s.
Moving onto the new 2K print of the film, this was supervised by the director- and I must say the film looks better than ever- really bringing out the depths and shades of colour, enhancing the film haunting and moody moments, as well as of course the more bloody and brutal moments too. You get two prints of the film- the UK cut, and longer more extreme export version. New stuff wise on this first disc- we get a new commentary track featuring the director & the films composer John Scott- here the pair obviously discuss the score, those who play on certain tracks, musical themes, and Scottís own personal playing- as he plays both the flute & electric piano in parts of the score. They go on to talk about the location, general talk about different shots, and chatty talk about on-screen action- as tracks go itís a little sporadic, though along the way there are certainly some the interesting tidbits of info. We get a twenty-eight minute on-camera interview with Mr. Warren- this sees him discussing his childhood fascination with film, going onto talk about his slow-but-sure working up through the ranks of the film industry- starting with him becoming the tea boy for film producer/ writer/ one time director Pierre Rouve(Stranger In The House, Blow-Up, Diamonds for Breakfast), and ending with him setting up his own film company with a colleague- itís a great interview, featuring some amusing stories like when he was on the set of a film with Peter Sellers, and trying to film early softcore shorts for other filmmakers to make money. Lastly, in the new stuff, we get a seventeen-minute featurette about the film's censorship & cutting- this finds cut-by-cut comparison, and apparently, the cut we have here is the first truly uncut version of the film released in the UK.
We also get a lot of stuff brought over from the 2004 Anchor Bays Norman J Warren DVD boxset- and this is all great/ interesting- though as itís not new to this set- I wonít go onto describe this too much- so here a list of these extras- Audio commentary with Warren and screenwriter David McGillivray, All You Need Is Blood- 13 min 1976 doc about the films making. All You Need Is Blood Outtakes- 33 minutes of outtakes. Creating Satan Ė 30 minutes 2004 doc about the film with interviews with all the films key players. Devilish Music- 14 minutes 2004 interview with film composer John Scott. Two deleted scenes with commentary by Warren. So all in all a very extras loaded disc.
Appearing a year after Satan's Slave, Prey once again saw Warren using an isolated & grand country house to great effect. With Prey he well & truly stepped away from the classic horror tropes- going for more of a 1970ís set Sci-Fi Thriller with moments of effective character study, fleeting moments of gore, even a few arty moments, and some rather silly creature design, which is thankful not overused to lessen/ cheapen the impact of the whole thing. The film focuses in on lesbian lovers older domineer Josphine( Sally Faulkner) & the younger innocent Jessica( Gloy Annen)- the pair live together in a woodland surrounded grand house. One night Jessica is awakened by flashing lights and noises in the sky, the next morning her & Josphine go out to investigate and come across the gangly and shifty Anders(Barry Stokes)- who landed in the unseen spacecraft the night before killing- then taking on the form of an earthman. Slowly but surely Anders worms his way into the pairs relationship- all to create a strange love triangle. I wonít detail the plot beyond this, as the story development and reveals really make the film, and if you know too much it very much ruins the tension of the whole thing. All three of the main cast are great here- with Faulkner perfectly cast as the possessive older women with her own secret, Annen is great as the naive innocent, and Stokes is excellent as the alien in a humans body- managing to nicely portray subtle curiosity and wonder of his new setting, as well a mimic human behavior in a very believable manner. Prey is a great stripped back second film from Warren, and he really leaves an impact as the credits roll on the brutal-to-chilling film's finale .
New extras wise on this disc- we get the first part of a 2018 interview with Warren- this runs for a whopping sixty minutes, and sees him giving a great and informative interview. Next, we get two of Warrens early short films- 1957ís The Bridge, and 1962 Drinkin Time- with the first you can select optional directors commentary, and thereís also a making of too. Next, we get muted test footage for Warrens unmade 1962 film Carol, which was about backstreet abortions. Lastly, of the new stuff we get a new four-minute featurette about the making of Whipper Snappers- the first Tv advert Warren did after making Satan's Slave.
Once again we get a good selection of stuff pulled over from the Anchor Bay boxset- these take in a commentary track from Warren & horror film historian Jonathan Rigby. A twenty-eight-minute featurette about the film including interviews with Faulkner, Warren, and others. We also get an original trailer and stills gallery too.
Warrenís third horror film was Terror- and really this 1978 film is a collection of classic horror situations/ set-ups weaved together with a fairly thin storyline. The films key character is James Garrick(John Nolan) who runs a film production company in London- he also has recently inherited a Surrey country house(the same house from Satan's Slave, but filmed fairly different). This property and his family where cursed by a witch 100ís of years back- and now all of a sudden people connected with (even vague so) are been knocked off in horrific, often knife focused killings. Warren openly admits that Suspira was a huge influence on this film, and thatís clear to see- as we get the colored lighting, brutal, intense yet choreographed murders, as well as little logic/ plot sense. But while the Argento influence is very clear & pronounced thereís more to Terror than a simple Suspira copy cat- as we get the distinctive English leanings, reservedness and humor- for example in the studio Garrick owns they are filming an amusing softcore production about a plumber and bored housewife. We also have a seedy club, kitted out with t-shirted and cigarette sucking barman, shaded & large bouncers, and a black whip licking blond punk striper. As the killings go we get neat set-ups like a lone women been stalked by lumbering stranger in an abandoned country house, someone run over and squashed by a car, a levitating car & witch, and a great over the top supernatural attack with colored lighting, exploding sinks, unreeling films canisters, and a head throw into-a-window-a-glass-pane-decapitation (ala Deep Red). More than anything Terror is just a good time-if brutal horror ride- which if you're a long time fan of genre will leave you with a cheesy grin as the credits roll.
New extras wise we have a seventeen minute on-camera interview with Warren- this focuses in on his early non-horror film work- so it starts with his first short film Fragments, and finds him going onto discuss his two early 1960 sexploitation films- before touching on project he worked on, but never came to fruition like The Naked Eye with Amicus films- this interview ends with him mentioning wanting to work independently, thus Satan's Slave became a reality. Next we get a thirteen-minute interview with actor John Nolan- this is most insightful and interesting, as he discusses how he approached his role and acting in general, the ups & downs of acting, and how he helped arrange an actor friend to come in a play a secondary part on Terror after the original actor had an epileptic fit. Thereís Norman J Warren Presents Horrorshow a 2008 thirty-minute horror anthology with Norman presenting five low budget films by new filmmakers. Daddy Cross- a trailer for a killer priest movie that Warren wanted to make, but never happened.
Moving onto the extras brought over from Anchor Bays boxset- we once again get a good selection of stuff- thereís a commentary track Warren and screenwriter David McGillivray. A forty-one minute documentary about the film- taking in interviews the director, the screenwriter, and a good selection of the cast. A twenty-eight minute on-camera interview with Warren discussing his career. Four extended scenes with Warren, Orignal Uk and French trailer, and still gallery.
Insemnoid ( aka Horror Planet) was Warrens first film of the 1980ís- it appeared 1981, and itís far to say it was very much influenced by the first Alien film- though there is enough here to help it stand out from the few complete rip-offs that appeared of Ridley Scott 1978 film. Insemnoid tells of a group of around six or seven scientists who are investigating on a twin mooned planet. The group has taken up their camp in the planets underground cave network, and while investigating one of the other two scientists comes across strange glowing rocks- one of the scientists is knocked out and rushed back to the base- where it seems heís in some sort strange coma. Fairly soon a second group goes out to find out what happened, and one of the party Sandy( Judy Gleason) gets raped by a bulbous eyed alien with a tube 'n' tentacle penis. And from her Sandy seemingly gets stronger, stranger, and unhinged- as she starts attacking crew members- eating their guts.The film unfolds with a blend of overtly dramatic and amusingly serious dialogue, big-haired spayed hair, silver jumpsuits, and old motorcycle helmets with stuck on torch lights on either side. There are also lots of running around their camp(Chistlehurst cave), Gleason attacking like a madwoman, sawing off limbs, gunshots, & rubbery bug-eyed baby aliens. Yes, itís rather silly & very dated, but as an entertaining enough sci-fi horror from the 1980s it's ok.
New extras on this disc we get an interview with one of the cast Trevor Thomas( Black Joy)- this is a seven-minute interview, and it finds him seems a little embarrassed about the film. There Ďs a sixty-two-minute interview from 2011 between Warren and horror author John Llewellyn Probert. Thereís the second part of the BEHP interview, this comes in at the sixty seven-minute mark.
Next, as with few of the discs here, we get the extras from the 2004 Anchor Bay boxset- we have a commentary from Warren and assistant director Gary White. Thereís Subterrain Universe- a forty-five-minute doc about the film- taking in interviews with the cast and crew. There's a thirteen minutes on-screen interview with John Scott the film's composer. Trailers, gallery, etc
Appearing six years after his previous horror film Insemnoid, 1987ís Bloody New Year( aka Horror Hotel, Time Warp Terror) feels like a haphazard, at times downright silly blend haunted hotel shenanigans, and supernatural slasher. The film's credits open with a black & white filmed New years party, which is seemingly taking place in the 1950ís- then we drop into the main/ featured in the present day. So after having a run-in with a group of fairground workers, and saving an American woman who had been taunted by the thugs- a group of five friends set sail on a small boat at sea. Fairly soon their boat springs a leak, they make way to a seemingly deserted island- & just inland they come across a hotel- finding the whole place decorated in Xmas decorations, even though itís July. Seemingly the place has been abounded- through the group start seeing people dressed in 50ís dress in the mirror, mysterious disappearing maids and two-piece rock and roll band. As the film moves on we see some seriously bizarre, and at times downright silly attacks/ murders- we get a figure coming out of a black & white film to scratch to death one of the group, animated fishing net & rope attacking a female victim, a table monster- which literally grows itís lumbering shape out of the wood, a hand ripping & pecking staircase, crowds of invisible people, oh and one of the group for some unexplainable reason suddenly gets grey hair, crusty rock-like face, and burning black eyes- and starts attacking people. Thereís nothing very scary or chilling here, but itís a deranged at times almost nonsensical mid 1980ís romp- you may not feel creeped out, but youíll certainly be both entertained & at times puzzled by Bloody New Year. The British cast is largely unknown goes from serviceable & vague amusing, to downright flat- the picture was filmed in and around Barry Island in Wales. And while itís certainly not the best thing Warren made you have to have huge respect for him for getting a British horror film made in the mid/ late 1980ís, when the British film industry was virtually dead and as Iíve already mentioned itís a hell of a lot of fun.
The new print is a 2K restoration supervised by Warren- and sadly due to apparently only having a water damaged print- the film is mixed in quilty, when action/stuff is going on it looks ok- itís when we get sky/ sea shots or similar blocks of color the lines/damage show up- but really this is too bad.
Extras wise the first big extra on this disc is a newly recorded commentary track bring together Mr. Waren, with BFI film historian Jo Botting. The track starts with the pair discussing the locations- which are in & around Barry Island- apparent the funfair filming was done when the fair was closed for the season- so the cast and crew had free rein there for two or so weeks. As we move through the track they go onto discussing, and trying to unravel the fairly puzzling plot. Before touching down on talking about the various cast and crew members. Before going onto discuss the films many effects & how they were made, before discussing the whole things lack of funding/ tight budget. Itís a nice relaxed and chatty track, with the pair, have the odd chuckle about the film- after hearing and enjoying the original Anchor Bay tracks on the original early 2000ís boxset, itís great to have new commentary on this set- and itís certainly most enjoyable and on par with the other commentary tracks.
Other Extras on this disc take in a just under half an hour interview with Warren- this sees him discussing his career from the of 1979ís sex comedy Spaced-Out, finishing off in 2018 when he co-wrote & produced the Chinese/ English film Susu, which is a mystery thriller telling the story of two Chinese girls taking job a job at heritage English countryside mansion, and the strange going onís thereafter. Next there is a more few new stand alone interviews- these each run between ten and fifteen-minute mark- they are with Catherine Roman who played the American in the film, screenwriter and set dresser Frazer Pearce, actor and stuntman Steve Emerson who played one of the fairground thugs. Lastly, we have an interview with Yixi Sun- discussing her collaboration with Warren of her film Susu. We get a one minute short from the 2013ís fright fest featuring Warren, David McGillivray and Yixi Sun. Image gallery, and the original trailer.
Without a doubt Bloody Terror:The Shocking Cinema of Norman J Warren, 1976-1987 is one of the horror highlight releases of 2019- not only do you get great prints for each of the films- but you also get oodles of extras on each disc. Added to this you, of course, get the wonderful book, and the great packaging- really this is total no brainer if youíre a horror film fan- buy, buyÖ and get it before itís up for silly prices on eBay.