Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Scream Factorized - The AMITYVILLE HORROR TRILOGY on Blu-ray ""

Monday, October 7, 2013

Scream Factorized - The AMITYVILLE HORROR TRILOGY on Blu-ray

As if Scream Factory wasn't already batting 1000 in 2013, this month they bring us two excellent box sets, this one and the amazing Vincent Price Collection coming at the end of the month. I haven't seen any of the AMITYVILLE films in a long long time so it was more than refreshing to get a look at them again in this kind of a well-produced set. 
The first film had this interesting nostalgic effect for me whilst I was watching it. It reminded me of both THE EXORCIST(obviously) and to a lesser extent JAWS. I can't qualify it too much other than all three of those films feel very much of their time(the 1970s) and the actors involved really evoke the period for me. The JAWS parallel, may be just because of the family/kids part of it and that they have a house on the water(a simple a comparison as that is to make). The Murray Hamilton factor probably had something to do with it too. In retrospect, it's hard not to think POLTERGEIST a little too when I watch AMITYVILLE.Not sure how much of an influence it might have been on the popular 80s film, but it seems a probable point of reference. I was fascinated to see that Stuart Rosenberg directed the film as I had completely forgotten that fact. It's hard not to think of COOL HAND LUKE when I think of him(and to THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN which I saw only last year for the first time and liked a great deal). My first instinct was that he seemed an odd choice to helm this particular story, mostly because horror isn't really his bag. But in re-watching I began to see perhaps why he was an interesting pick. There is a certain gritty-ness to a many of his films and he somehow carries that over into terror territory. 
I am a huge fan of both Margot Kidder and James Brolin so I certainly feel right in my comfort zone when seeing a film with the two of them together. Rod Steiger is no slouch either and throw in Don Stroud and the previously mentioned Mr. Hamilton and it's a solid mix of 70s character for my particular wheelhouse. Another thing that affected my viewing this time was the fact that I have recently seen the MY AMITYVILLE documentary and I must say it creeped me out in a  big way. While it of course draws attention to the Hollywood-ization of the true events, it nonetheless made this much more impactful than your standard 'based on a true story' message flashed briefly at the beginning of so many movies. There's plenty of over-the-top stuff in the movie itself so it becomes hard for me too take in all that seriously, which further clouds my take on the real events. It's a fascinating situation and it engages me with the films a bit more than I would be drawn into your standard demonic house/possession flicks. One thing I think people forget is just how much of a phenomenon this movie was at the time. Costing only about $4.7 million, it grossed, more than $86 million at the time. That's still pretty impressive.
This disc includes some fun extra features:
-'For God's Sake, Get Out!' A look at the film with James Brolin and Margot Kidder. Here both actors talk about their early days of acting, how they cane to be involved in the movie and how they came at the scenes as actors.
-'Haunted Melodies with Lalo Schifrin'- wherein the composer discusses the music in the film. 
-An Audio Commentary by Dr. Hans Holzer, Ph.D in Parapsychology(author of 'Murder In Amityville' and 'The Amityville Curse').

AMITYVILLE II: THE POSESSION(1982; Damiano Damiani)
I have this almost involuntary response whenever I see the 'Dino De Laurentis Presents' card at the front of a movie. It's not like immediate glee or anything, but rather this sense of intrigue in that I know that things could get nutty at some point(most probably by the end of the film if not prior to that). For me, Dino is one of those last moguls that didn't put out films by committee. I always imagined him as a guy who was almost searching for outlandish stuff to put in his features. Like he really wanted to make the films memorable in some way or another. Often he fails and the movies are just silly, but every so often he gives you that 'holy shit' moment you didn't expect. Moments like those tend to often get weeded out or quashed by the Hollywood machine so they are often quite refreshing to see in Dino's movies. A studio committee would probably put the kabash on a lot of stuff in this pretty crazy sequel.  The incest-y stuff for sure wouldn't have made it and that stuff certainly stands out and makes this movie kind of unforgettable. Overall it feels very "Italian" if that's makes any sense. By that I mean there are just a lot of odd touches that make this story of a family in a possessed house (and their son getting possessed himself) feel a bit "different" than the rest. The movie has an interesting pedigree in that it was obviously produced by De Laurentis and was also directed by Italian Damiano Damiani(who was more known for his Polizia genre films). The script by Tommy Lee Wallace  is inkeeping with his other horror sequels such as HALLOWEEN III and FRIGHT NIGHT 2. Also, the movie was edited by Sam O'Steen which was another intriguing choice. O'Steen worked a lot with Mike Nichols, and also did other classics like CHINATOWN, COOL HAND LUKE and of course ROSEMARY'S BABY.
The cast is a unique melange as well. Burt Young feels like he was just instructed to carry his ROCKY character right into this role as a married father of four. It's a bit odd to say the least, but he's an interesting patriarchal choice to square off against the supernatural.
Diane Franklin (in the same year that LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN) came out is lovely of course and given some outlandish stuff to do(see above incest mention). Jack Manger is off his rocker but enjoyable enough as the possessed son in the family. Interestingly, he only did one other film role that I can find mention of which is curious. I think it can often make a performance(especially of this type) more memorable when the actor in playing the role has no other baggage you can attach to them from other movies as far as parts they've played. This disc also features a nice little group of supplements:
-'The Posession of Damiani' - an interview with director Damiano Damiani.
-'Adapting AMITYVILLE' - a new interview with Tommy Lee Wallace wherein he discuses his approach creatively to the script and how he used the real-life AMITYVILLE murders as a jumping off point for the story. This pretty straightforward interview was one of my favorite extras on the set.
-'A Mother's Burden' - interview with Rutanya Alda.
-'Family Matters' - interview with Diane Franklin.
-'Father Tom's Memories' - Interview with Andrew Prine.
-'Continuing The Hunt'- Interview with Alexandra Holzer(daughter of Hans Holzer).

AMITYVILLE 3-D(1983; Richard Fleischer)
There are many reasons to check out AMITYVILLE 3-D. Let me list a few: Richard Fleischer(a director I dig a lot), Candy Clark, Tony Roberts, Lori Loughlin & Meg Ryan(in only her 2nd feature film role). Also. it's the only film of the three that was shot in scope and for scope geeks like me that is a draw in and of itself. AMITYVILLE 3D was part of a blast of 3D movies that landed in theaters in 1983 along with JAWS 3D, SPACEHUNTER, METALSTORM and THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE.
In this round of the evil house story, Tony Roberts plays the Dana Andrews-as-skeptic-like-in-CURSE-OF-THE-DEMON role here and he fills the shoes well enough. His character is an exposé journalist who decides to scoop up the very cheap AMITYVILLE house and live there himself. As we can all imagine, thus goes quite poorly. The actors I mentioned above along with the 3D-ness of this movie make it a good time for me. 
This disc features only one extra feature:
-'A Chilly Reception' - an interview with Candy Clark.

All of the movies in this set all look quite wonderful on Blu-ray and it's quite pleasing to see AMITYVILLE 3-D get the Blu-ray 3D treatment.

1 comment:

Richard said...

If you had any doubt about AMITYVILLE HORROR's influence on POLTERGEIST, the similarity of Jerry Goldsmith's score to Lalo Schifrin's should remove all doubts. The one thing I could never get past in AMITYVILLE HORROR is how blindingly obvious it was that Steiger wasn't available for shooting on the same days as any of the other principal actors, and the ludicrous lengths the scriptwriters had to go to in order to prevent the characters from running into each other.