Judge Jim Thomas' Nightmare Theater features taxes and clowns.
Katarina's Nightmare Theater has a certain charm to it. Former wrestler Katarina Leigh Waters introduces each movie, not as an Elvira manqué, but rather as someone who likes a good horror movie.
Katarina's latest offering, Scorpion Releasing's double feature, Katarina's Nightmare Theater: The Devil's Men / Terror, features exactly one good movie—and it's a real Terror (Not to be confused with The Terror, a 1963 Roger Corman film).
The Devil's Men
The word that best describes this movie is "pedestrian." Weak script, weak direction, and (in general) weak acting. Really, the movie kind of stumbles out of the gate when the title comes streaming out of the Minotaur's…nose. Donald Pleasance is the notable exception—he takes the same sort of intensity that made his portrayal of Dr. Loomis in Halloween and tries to keep things moving by sheer force of will. Peter Cushing's role is little more than a cameo. The packaging declares that this is the "UNCUT!! UNRATED!!" version of the film, never before seen in the United States. My guess is the bulk of the additional four minutes is some gratuitous nudity (the best kind, really) that was cut to secure a PG rating in the states. If the restored footage actually improved the film, I shudder to contemplate what the edited version was like.
Note: The music was composed by progressive rock musician Brian Eno. It isn't particularly memorable; even the song that plays over the end credits, "The Devil's Men," cannot hold a candle to another eponymous movie theme—"The Green Slime."
Several hundred years ago, Dolores Hamilton, aka "Mad Dolly," is burned as a witch. As the townspeople attempt to light the flames, Dolly rains invective on them, even taking a few onlookers out before being consumed by flame. Relieved, the woman who accused Dolores returns home to find her husband murdered. She's confronted with the still smoldering ghost of Dolores, who vows that her entire family is cursed, before cutting her head off with a sword. "The End" appears on the screen—What? We're just getting started!!!
It turns out that we're watching the end of the latest movie from James Garrick (John Nolan, Batman Begins), which he has finished screening to a small but appreciative audience. Garrick, drinking in the compliments, notes that the movie was based on his own family history, and that the house that they're in, the primary filming location, is that actual home where the deed supposedly happened. Even the sword in the movie is a family heirloom, right there on the wall. At the ensuing party, one of the guests hypnotizes the director's cousin Ann (Carolyn Courage), who promptly removes the sword from the wall and starts winging before she's restrained. After the party is over, one of the guests is brutally murdered. Initially people suspect Ann, but as the body count rises, John begins to wonder if Mad Dolly has returned at last to fulfill her curse.
Terror is probably closer to a true cult classic than its companion on this disc. Director Norman J. Warren, a fairly accomplished low-budget filmmaker, had already had some success with two earlier horror movies, Satan's Slave andPrey. The plot itself is a bit on the fragmented side, and even with the brisk 84-minute running time, the film drags on multiple occasions. Though the film has a certain sense of style, all the same. Warren was inspired by Dario Argento's Suspiria—not so much in plot, but rather execution: The movie has a moody atmosphere, the kills are quite stylish and (in many cases) genuinely creepy, and the conclusion is particularly well-executed. If watched just for the style and atmosphere, it's not a bad romp. The moment you try to make heads or tails of the plot, the spell is broken.
Note: Carol Tucker, the first victim, was the first role for Glynis Barber, who went on to star in two notable British series: Blake's 7 and Dempsey and Makepeace.
Technically, these standard definition 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers are middling. While there's been a half-hearted attempt at color adjusting and re-mastering, a fair amount of film damage remains. The Dolby 2.0 mono mixes are no better.
The few extras are all for Terror. The deleted scenes and trailers aren't much, but there's a roughly 45-minute making-of/retrospective that's pretty entertaining, particularly when they talk about how they accomplished certain effects. It also helps explain why the plot is…let's be generous and just call it "shaky." Not long after production started, John Nolan had a serious epileptic seizure and couldn't continue. They had already shot a lot of his scenes, so the decided to just work around it. It's a testament to the sensibilities of the period, actually—they just shot around the loss of the lead. One extra is notably missing, though—Anchor Bay's 2004 collection of Warren's horror movies, The Norman Warren Collection, included a commentary track for Terror with Warren and writer David McGillivray; that would have made a nice addition.
While The Devil's Men is instantly forgettable, Terror is enjoyable in a surreal sort of way, particularly if you're a fan of low-budget horror.
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• Deleted Scenes
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