Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Vinegar Syndrome - CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD on Blu-ray & NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER on DVD ""

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1973; Julio Salvador/Ray Danton)
This movie is a great example of the kind of thing that Michael A. Weldon might have written briefly about in the Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film. It's just the kind of film that would've shown up on the late late show or peddled by one of hundreds of local horror hosts across the country in the late 1970s or early 80s. It just has the perfect off-kilter feel. And there's something about having Andrew Prine (THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, AMITYVILLE II) in the lead that pulls me in. Prine has this southern drawl and a voice that reminds me slightly of Joe Don Baker's. I find that oddly comforting. So anyway, Prine is the skeptical son of an archaeologist and he finds his way out to a small island (Vampire Island) to bury his father who dies mysteriously while investigating a notorious tomb. It's one of those classic setups wherein the townsfolk all behave strangely towards the visiting outsider and he begins to discover some cautionary legends about the village. In this case the legends have to do with the tomb itself and the vampire woman that is buried within. Prine's character of course doesn't heed the warnings he's heard about opening the tomb and goes ahead and does it anyway. Terror ensues. Though the plot as I have briefly described it may sound rather run-of-the-mill, this movie has a certain ambience about it that gives it a little memorable flavor. It was supposedly shot in Turkey, near the Mediterranean and that, combined with the antiquated nature of the village gives the movie a more interesting vibe. Also, Prine's performance is somewhat relaxed (perhaps because he felt like he was kind of slumming it with this one) and that makes the whole film feel more chill than others like it. I don't mean to indicate that the film is boring necessarily, but Prine's performance combined with the film's pacing makes for a very interesting cadence. Like I said though, this is a fun late night or Sunday afternoon movie and really makes me nostalgic for a time when obscurities like this played on television with some regularity.

Vinegar Syndrome brings the U.S. Theatrical version of the film to Blu-ray, scanned and restored in 2k from a newly found 35mm negative. Transfer looks pretty solid overall for a low budget affair like this. This is an especially wonderful upgrade from the previously available PD versions of this film that had been floating around out there. And just FYI, this is one of Vyn Sin's Limited Edition Blu-rays so if you're interested, you're going to want to pick it up sooner than later.

In addition to CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD, this disc also includes a bonus feature film, HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1974), as well. This one is kind of a "mad scientist creates killer monster and he's set loose on a plantation" kind of genre movie. A solid double bill with CRYPT. The two together feel like perfect drive-in movie far of the period.

This Blu-ray (and the DVD version included as well) is all region which is great in that folks from outside the U.S. can import it and enjoy it.

NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER (1972; Joy Houck Jr.)
This is the second release from Vinegar Syndrome in conjunction with the American Genre Film Archive. Their first was the outlandish and entertaining SUPER SOUL BROTHER and I am already hooked on this line of DVDs. I'm also very curious what they will release next. Unlike SUPER SOUL BROTHER, NIGHT OF THE STRANGLER was a movie I had never heard of before. I can't say that I've seen a lot of films with Micky Dolenz in them (besides HEAD, which I love) and being a pretty big Monkees fan, I was certainly intrigued. The first thing that struck me was the title font. Very cool looking and oddly reminiscent of the font that would later be used for KNIGHT RIDER (coincidence? I think not!). When the killer first shows up in the movie, I could help but think Giallo (we get a few shots of his black gloves right away).  It's interesting though, because what begins as a slasher movie takes a turn into racially charged drama territory real quickly. Micky Dolenz plays one of the leads in the movie, but his character also has a brother. This brother is a horrible, evil racist and makes little effort to hide it. Eventually the evil sibling's evil ways leads to conflict and brother is pit against brother. The movie has several deaths, some by knife, a few by gunshot and even one by snake. What the film has very little of is actual strangling. That's not to say there aren't some decent death  scenes. There's one particular crossbow-esque contraption that is rather memorable and should have been used more often. The whole thing has a slight whodunnit aspect to it that makes it feel like a low-budget, exploitation version of CLUE or something. A CLUE that doesn't take place all in one house and is more of a family drama and so forth. And not funny like CLUE is. And no Tim Curry to explain everything. What THE NIGHT STRANGLER does have though is a a dude running around with a rifle in a guitar case who looks a hell of a lot like Harry Nilsson. This film also has a funny button/joke ending that reminded me slightly of THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE. It goes by a few other titles too like DIRTY DAN'S WOMEN, IS THE FATHER BLACK ENOUGH and THE ACE OF SPADES. All very classy names.

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