Starring Vincent Price, Charles Bronson, Nancy Kovack, Elizabeth Bergner
Directed by William Witney, Roger Corman, Reginald Le Borg, Kenneth Johnson, Gordon Hessler
Distributed by Scream Factory
When it comes to legends of horror cinema, there are only a few names that occupy the upper echelon; stars such as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and the inimitable Vincent Price. What sets Price apart from the others – and everyone else – is that he never really had a signature role; he was a journeyman of the genre, portraying dozens of characters that were nefarious or noble (often both). In many ways he is the quintessential horror actor (though he’d probably dislike that assertion), with a mellifluous voice that was equal parts soothing and sinister. Price has a magnetic on-screen presence, and his inclusion to any cast instantly commands my interest. To be fair, there are unquestionable classics, average thrillers and total turkeys in his filmography – they can’t all be winners, especially when you are so prolific – but I can honestly say if Price is in a movie then I am going to watch it.
After having released two glorious collections already (the first of which is out of print), Scream Factory has come through for Price fans yet again with “The Vincent Price Collection III”. This four-disc set contains five features – Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970), and Cry of the Banshee (1970). While the first two sets feature more of the “prestige” titles in Price’s oeuvre, the inclusions here are no less worthy of fans’ time. All have seen release on DVD in the past, either through the now-defunct Midnight Movies line or MGM’s Limited Edition Collection on DVD-R, but even buyers who own those editions will be pleased with the high quality of both the video & audio that Scream Factory has presented here. Additionally, each film features a nice bounty of extra features, including classic television shows starring Price, alternate cuts, extensive interviews and much more.
The first picture in the set, Master of the World, was guaranteed to command my attention because it stars two of my favorite actors of all-time: Vincent Price and Charles Bronson. Do I even need to continue? For those unfamiliar with the film, think of it as a Disney adventure epic as done by American International Pictures. This Jules Verne tale, produced seven years after Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), has a similar production design and aesthetic to that picture, only slightly less refined and a bit more intense thanks to AIP’s trademark styling and a diminished desire to appeal to kids. Verne’s two novels “Robur the Conqueror” and “Master of the World” were used as the basis for the script, which was written by the great Richard Matheson.
Price stars as Captain Robur, a 19th century inventor who has created the ultimate flying airship, the Albatross, which he built with the intention of using it to stop all wars. His construction and on-board voice amplifier have drawn the attention of some Philadelphia locals who have commandeered a hot air balloon to fly over the crater in which he houses his skyward behemoth. The surveyors – U.S. government agent John Strock (Charles Bronson), Prudent (Henry Hull), Prudent’s daughter Dorothy (Mary Webster), and her fiancé Phillip Evans (David Frankham) – are shot down by Robur and taken aboard his ship as “guests”. Once the Albatross is airborne, Robur fills his captive audience in on his plans for “peaceful” world domination – this ship, constructed with specially processed paper, will instill peace through superior firepower. Robur will demand the armies of every nation thrown down their weapons or else face his wrath, and he has a small squadron of like-minded sycophants to enact his plans.
The irony of Robur’s plan appears lost on the man, leading to many impassioned discussions between he and his guests. Everyone is against Robur’s methods, though Strock seems like he may be siding with him, leading to conflict between he and the other guests. What the others don’t realize is Strock is trying to gain Robur’s trust, to expose his weaknesses, and when the time is right he intends to enact a plan that will destroy the Albatross and save humanity from further reprisal by Strock and his steadfast crew.
Ostensibly an airborne adventure film, Master of the World tackles some deep, difficult topics that highlight the lack of clear boundaries between good and bad. Robur’s ambition is, at its core, rather noble, but his method of achieving peace calls for acts that are the antithesis of his end game. Like any good villain (if you can even call him that), Robur believes in his heart that he is right; that his plans will finally bring about global peace. After all, what are thousands of lives when the end of all war means sparing millions? His arguments with Prudent are intense and well scripted, brimming with authenticity.
As much as I loved seeing Bronson in action here, long before his turn as an ‘80s aging action hero, I’ll agree with Matheson that he was woefully miscast. Bronson is supposed to be playing a cultured man, yet he comes across like a Pennsylvania coal miner – which is exactly how he told Matheson he was going to be playing the role. Miscast or not, however, he’s a powerful force on screen.
Second in this set is Tower of London, a fictionalized account of Richard III’s rise to power. Legendary filmmaker Roger Corman was hired to direct this picture, after having success with his Poe adaptations, once again working with Price to bring storied lore to the big screen. Price hams it up here as Richard, duke of Gloucester, who takes great umbrage with his dying brother King Edward IV’s (Justice Watson) wishes to have George, Duke of Clarence (Charles Macaulay) named as Protector of the Realm. Richard was really hoping to score that gig, so, naturally, he figures the best way to get it is to kill George and anyone else who stands in the way of the throne. Never mind that most of them are family… Richard’s plans all seem to go accordingly, that is until he begins seeing visions of the spirits of those he has killed, tormenting him endlessly and assuring him his own demise will be forthcoming soon enough. But Richard, deranged and filled with hubris, sees himself as untouchable, a folly that will not serve him well during the infamous Battle of Bosworth, where he is destined to fall.
Corman tried to make much out of little, and Tower of London practically feels like a filmed stage play due to the limited environments and lack of any major set pieces. Corman, who is famously frugal, even repurposed footage from 1939’s Tower of London to avoid shooting a costly Battle of Bosworth on his own. Cheesy as the sequence is, the point is made all the same. Price carries this picture wholly, chewing scenery with reckless abandon. Richard is a juicy character for Price, allowing him to sink into an overflowing pool of madness. Richard is so paranoid he would probably wear a crown of tin foil if it had existed at that time. Even when his power seems assured, he is of the “no half measures” variety, wiping out every blood relative that could challenge his claim to the throne, as well as those who refuse to kowtow to his capricious demands. Despite being a fairly stiff film overall Richard is made out to be such a sniveling jerk that his eventual comeuppance does bring with it a reasonable sense of satisfaction.
Produced the following year, the third film in this set – Diary of a Madman – is a similarly paranoid feature, though it plays much better than Tower of London. Based on Guy de Maupassant’s short story “Le Horla”, Price plays a magistrate, Simon Cordier, who is dead when the film opens. His funeral party uncovers a secret diary that outlines Cordier’s last days, and they read it aloud in hopes of learning what happened to the man they all admired. Turns out, he had been beset upon by a horla, an evil entity hell-bent on ruining his life and forcing him to do its bidding. Cordier inherited the horla after coming into contact with a condemned prisoner, whom he accidentally kills. Soon after, the horla attempts to use Cordier as a vessel for evil, but the magistrate fights his mental oppressor and sees a psychologist, who suggests he take up his old hobby of sculpture.
Cordier agrees, and soon finds his muse in Odette (Nancy Kovack), the wife of a local, penniless artist. Simon’s advances – and considerable wealth – woo Odette to the point that she is ready to leave her husband. But where Simon sees a sweet woman who loves him for his personality, the horla suggests Odette is nothing more than a gold digger. And, really, it’s more or less right on the money. This leads to the horla forcing Simon to make some very poor decisions that haunt him, leading to an eventual final confrontation between the magistrate and the enigmatic entity that has overtaken his mind.
Diary of a Madman is no different from dozens of other Price films in that were the star someone else the picture would not be nearly as memorable. The concept is interesting, suggesting some primordial disembodied villain is capable of steering the direction of a person’s life toward evil, though it is a touch too vague. Cordier seems like a strong-willed individual, yet the horla seems to have no problem overtaking his mental faculties. Was Cordier a prime candidate simply because he came into contact with a criminal who was under the horla’s spell? Seems so. The story also makes suggestions about Cordier’s previous wife, who seems to have died under mysterious circumstances, though it drops any attempt at illuminating the details of her death. This is a film that works almost entirely due to Price’s efforts.
Also of note: keen-eared viewers might pick up on some dialogue from the priest during the film’s opening which was used on “Return of the Phantom Stranger” from Rob Zombie’s “Hellbilly Deluxe” album.
Fourth in this collection is a rather unique entry: An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe. Essentially a stage play filmed for television, Price takes on the onus of success all his own by performing four short stories as written by Poe. As the only actor on the stage, Price powerfully carries each segment, reading aloud Poe’s words verbatim while delivering some of the finest acting I have ever seen from him. His only accouterments being various wigs, costumes and a single room dressed appropriate to the story. The four stories read here are “The Telltale Heart”, “The Sphinx”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, and “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Price imbues each tale with such fierceness and bravado that it is impossible not to be sucked into his one-man tour de force. The high point among the four is easily “The Telltale Heart”, where Price absolutely rips into the material and lays waste to any who have recited this story before or after. True Price aficionados appreciate his many small screen appearances just as much as his large scale cinematic endeavors, and this “film” is arguably among his best simply because he carries it all so effortlessly. A true talent.
Finally, we come to the last film of the collection, Cry of the Banshee. Viewers have the option of watching either director Gordon Hessler’s cut (the preferred version) or a truncated AIP version, which is nice to have included as a curiosity. Price once again plays a magistrate; unlike his character in Diary of a Madman, however, this one is truly diabolical and deranged. Lord Edward Whitman (Price) rules over his township with the notion of keeping his residents safe, yet he achieves this “safety” by casually branding dissenters witches and having women burned, whipped and killed with little care. Even his own wife isn’t spared from savagery when she speaks her mind. Whitman and his guards come across a coven of witches performing a black mass in the forest. He orders several of them killed before banishing the rest, including their leader Oona (Elizabeth Bergner), instructing them never to return to these woods or his town. Oona is extremely upset by Whitman’s carnage, so she performs a ritual intended to bring about death to all in the Whitman house. The purveyor of death is to be a “sidhe”, a demon spirit that uses the body of a normal person as host. Too bad the person it chooses is Roderick (Patrick Mower), one of the only respectable people in town.
As the sidhe begins to kill of Whitman’s family members one by one, Lord Edward becomes desperate to find Oona and end this madness. His efforts see him continuing his torturous ways, though he fails to understand that nothing will stop the sidhe from carrying out its orders. Even when it appears Whitman and his comrades are successful in vanquishing the conjured evil, the Lord gets a rude awakening when it is revealed nothing will stop what is coming for him.
This is one of Price’s more entertaining efforts from his Gothic horror period, thanks to capable direction from Hessler and a rousing performance by Price. Things kick off splendidly with an awesomely warped title sequence created by Terry Gilliam. The titles then segue to a scorching opener – literally – as Price orders a suspected witch branded with the letter “H” (“for heretic!”). The scene of a black mass in the forest feels very ancient and evil, as does the conjuring of the sidhe. The beast itself is a bit of a letdown – the creature is akin to a werewolf, but the clearly limited make-up effects left Hessler little choice but to shoot the beast swathed in shadow. The film never offers a clear view of the monster… which is probably a good thing. This film came two years after Price’s most memorable witchcraft picture, Witchfinder General (1968), arguably the superior of these two similarly themed films. Still, Cry of the Banshee has a mostly solid script, one that gives more sympathy to the witches than most films of this ilk. Additionally, the balance between characters is decidedly lopsided, with Price’s devious actions being relentless, making him out to be the perfect villain. There is a bit of sagging during the second act, but thankfully things ramp up in the third heading toward a climax that ends with Price heading out on a trip he would certainly rather not be taking.
The video quality can vary quite a bit between each title, so rather than attempt to use some blanket statements to describe the overall look here are some cursory comments on each:
Master of the World features a 1.85:1 1080p picture that is emblematic of AIP productions, coming from a “new high-def master from the inter-positive”. After a rough, grainy B&W opening the picture settles in and displays a wide range of colors, which are occasionally faded a bit but accurate, and definition that goes in and out of sharpness sporadically. Sometimes the level of detail can go from crisp to muddy within a single scene. Stock footage looks pretty rough, too, but some of the rear and front projection looks surprisingly decent. The print displays damage as well, with cigarette burns and scratches a common occurrence.
Tower of London is framed at 1.66:1 and was shot in black and white, with this being a “new high-def master from a fine grain film print”. The print used here is very clean, with minimal damage present, and a fine grain structure in place. Contrast is very good and details are quite apparent. Shadow delineation is average – never too poor for images to be obscured.
Diary of a Madman is also framed at 1.66:1 and it looks quite stunning given its vintage. This release features a “new high-def master from the inter-positive film element”. Colors are richly saturated, practically dripping off the screen. Price’s bright red magistrate robe is vibrant and bold. Definition is strong, too, with many minute details apparent in close shots. The print itself looks virtually flawless, with almost no instances of damage or debris. Grain looks excellent as well.
An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe was shot in standard definition for television, so don’t expect much out of the 1.33:1 image, although this release does see the use of a new master as created from the original 2” tape masters. It looks like something your parents recorded off TV back in the ‘80s.
Cry of the Banshee, presented at a ratio of 1.85:1, features two cuts of the film, each culled from different sources. The director’s cut comes from an inter-positive, while the AIP theatrical cut was sourced from the only surviving element in MGM’s vault, which was a color reversal intermediate. The director’s cut is not only worth watching because Hessler’s original vision is intact, but, geez, is it ever gorgeous in hi-def. The film looks far more recent than its 46-year age might suggest. Colors are vivid and bounding off the screen, depth of the image is considerable, details are razor sharp and black levels are mostly rock solid. There are a handful of shots that look out of focus, mostly wide shots, and occasionally the black levels can be a bit inconsistent, but overall this is easily the hands-down winner for best picture quality in the set.
Now, unlike the video, the audio here can be covered with a few statements that are applicable across the board… with a couple of exceptions. All of the films are presented with an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track, other than Master of the World which is in stereo. Dialogue is discernible and well balanced for each film, with sound effects and score mixed together nicely. There is some minor hissing present on Tower of London, and there is some very noticeable hissing and ringing on An Evening of… (no shock given the television roots). Other than those two issues the tracks here capably deliver dialogue and Foley effects while pumping out their respective scores – most of which have a classical flair – with great fidelity. Subtitles are available on each film in English.
DISC ONE: Master of the World
Actor David Frankham delivers an audio commentary track full of fond memories and vivid recollections. It sounds a bit prepared at times, though that’s usually better than trying to go off the cuff.
“Richard Matheson: Storyteller – Extended Cut” – The venerable writer sits down to discuss his career as a teller of stories non-specific to any genre, a word he detests. He’s also got a great story about Bronson from the set of “Master of the World”. This piece was chopped up and included on various DVD editions, but now it is presented fully uncut. Any fan of Matheson’s work should absolutely watch this.
A theatrical trailer and two photo galleries – one featuring posters, lobby cards and behind-the-scenes shots, the other featuring photos from David Frankham’s personal collection – finish off the extras on this disc.
DISC TWO: Tower of London
“Interview with Director Roger Corman” – I could listen to Corman talk all day long about absolutely anything. Here, having him talk about working with Price on this feature is a real treat. The only shame is it’s so short.
“Producing Tower of London – An Interview with Producer Gene Corman” – Corman goes over his own history in the business a bit before delving into the details behind how this production came to be.
A photo gallery shows off the usual ephemera.
Awesome bonus alert: two episodes of “Science Fiction Theatre” (1956) are included, both starring Vincent Price: “One Thousand Eyes” and “Operation Flypaper”.
DISC THREE: Diary of a Madman/An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe
Diary features an audio commentary with film historian & author Steve Haberman who, as usual, is ridiculously prepared with all manner of scholarly information on the production and its history.
There is also a photo gallery and a trailer.
An Evening With… also features an audio commentary with Haberman, which is another avalanche of information.
“Interview with writer/producer/director Kenneth Johnson” – Johnson, who is an industry vet, tells some great tales of his early days in the biz, meeting Price, working with the man and how this project came together.
A photo gallery is also included.
DISC FOUR: Cry of the Banshee
Once again, Haberman is here to deliver an audio commentary track. Expect to hear much of his usual banter, which comes quickly and packed with factoids.
“A Devilish Tale of Poe – An Interview with Director Gordon Hessler” – Hessler, an industry vet who learned from Hitchcock, discusses his career and the events that led him to direct Price in this film.
The theatrical trailer, TV spot, radio spot and photo gallery conclude the bonus features.
Also included with this set is a full-color 12-page booklet, filled with promotional photos of posters, lobby cards, and more.
MASTER OF THE WORLD Special Features:
- NEW High Definition Master from the inter-positive
- NEW Stereo Soundtrack created from the original 4-track mag
- NEW audio commentary with actor David Frankham
- NEW Richard Matheson: Storyteller: Extended Cut (72 minutes)
- Theatrical Trailer
- Posters, Lobby Cards and Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery
- Photo Gallery of images from David Frankham’s personal collection
TOWER OF LONDON Special Features:
- NEW High Definition Master from a fine grain film print
- NEW interview with director Roger Corman
- Producing Tower of London – an interview with producer Gene Corman
- Two episodes of Science Fiction Theatre: One Thousand Eyes and Operation Flypaper (1956) both starring Vincent Price (in Standard Definition – 52 minutes)
- Posters, Lobby Cards and Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery
DIARY OF A MADMAN/AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE Special Features:
- NEW High Definition Master from the inter-positive film element (Diary of A Madman)
- NEW master created from the original 2” tape masters (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe)
- NEW Audio Commentary with film historian and author Steve Haberman (on both features)
- NEW Interview with writer/producer/director Kenneth Johnson (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe)
- Theatrical Trailer (Diary of A Madman)
- Poster and Lobby Card Gallery (Diary of A Madman)
- Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe)
CRY OF THE BANSHEE Special Features:
- NEW High Definition Master of the director’s cut from the inter-positive
- NEW High Definition Master of the American International Theatrical Cut from the only surviving element in MGM’s Vault, a Color Reversal Intermediate
- NEW Audio Commentary by film historian Steve Haberman (Director’s Cut)
- A Devilish Tale of Poe – an interview with director Gordon Hessler
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spot
- Radio Spot
- Posters, Lobby Cards and Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery
Atlantic Rim: Resurrection Review – The #MechToo Movement Has Little Regard for the Ladies
Directed by Jared Cohn
WARNING: This review does contains spoilers! It’s also a review of an Asylum mockbuster of Pacific Rim: Uprising so I’m not really sure it matters. You pretty much know what you’re getting. People inside giant robots punching giant monsters in the face. Sometimes shooting at them. Duh!
It truly is a bold creative decision in this era of #metoo to have the third act of your movie begin with two male characters, neither of whom has been shown piloting a giant robot previously, grounding the two female robot pilots by locking them in a room in order to go do their job for them and kill the giant monsters that have previously defeated the ladies. Oh, sure, there’s some “mechsplaining” as to how these two guys are sidelining the gals for their own well-being, but even then there’s something unintentionally hilarious about these fellas seemingly deciding to not even trust the women to succeed in what is tantamount to a suicide mission.
Not to mention that one of these young ladies has been infected, potentially fatally, by monster venom and hardly anyone seems terribly concerned about this.
But then I am talking about an Asylum production entitled Atlantic Rim: Resurrection about military officers and scientists piloting giant battle bots (that kind of look like 1980’s Tonka robot toys) to fight giant mutant crawdad-like creatures (that look like perfectly acceptable Ultraman foes) along the East Coast of the United States, even though the city being attacked looks suspiciously Californian. In fact, The Asylum website’s own plot synopsis seemingly forgot it was supposed to be set on the Atlantic seaboard and outright states the monsters are destroying Los Angeles. Their website also wrongly lists the film’s release date as February 15, 2017.
Keeping with those high Asylum standards of continuity, Atlantic Rim: Resurrection is The Asylum’s mockbuster sequel of the forthcoming Pacific Rim: Uprising, even though the original Atlantic Rim, released in 2013 to coincide with the original Pacific Rim, was actually distributed in North America under the alternate title Attack from Beneath for reasons I presume were to avoid matters of a litigious nature. Nonetheless, here’s a sequel with a very sequel-y sounding title despite most American viewers probably not knowing the previous film by that title.
And you know what? Absolutely none of that matters.
What matters is that this mockbuster follow-up finally answers one of the great scientific questions of our times: Robonet or Python – which neural operating system is the best for psychically synching Go! Go! Gobots! with their human operators? Or, as I found myself thinking after nearly 20+ minutes of technobabble that is truly more babble than techno, “Are they ever gonna shut up and punch a giant monster? I’m here to see big ugly monsters get face punched by big ugly robots, dammit!”
In the time it takes this sequel to finally get around to its first full-on robot vs. monster battle, the first Atlantic Rim had already seen more monster destruction and chaos, more molten hot robot on monster action, and far more entertaining scenes of a trio of monster-mashing robot pilots hanging out in bars getting plastered. The first had more of everything you would want from an Asylum knock-off of Pacific Rim about insubordinate alcoholics operating giant robots to save the East Coast from gargantuan sea dragons. Despite the main scientist brought in to get the robots and pilots fully synched up looking perpetually hung over, this sequel lacks the “Mighty Drunken Broski Ranger” attitude, the cartoonish delirium, and ham-fisted acting of the original that led me to pen a three-star review.
Not to say there isn’t any fun to be had here; just nothing that entertains quite like watching David Chokachi swaggering through a film like a drunk broski in dire need of an intervention as he and his fellow hard-drinkin’ robot pilots beat a seemingly lost and confused giant monster over the head with huge metal hammers while an unhinged, one-eyed military officer holds his commanding officers at gunpoint demanding they allow him to nuke something, anything. None of the stars of the go-for-broke original returns for this mostly by-the-numbers sequel I almost want to say makes the mistake of being too grounded in reality than its wacko predecessor except it’s hardly realistic.
For a film that devotes so much time to over-explaining the concept, I found myself baffled as to why the pilots still had to manually work gear shifts and push all manner of dashboard buttons to operate robots supposedly powered by their minds. Did my mind sink into the Drift during this endless mind-melding chatter and I missed something clarifying this sticking point?
Anyhow, let’s meet our heroic robot pilots:
- “Hammer” – The black guy. That means he dies first. There’s also another African-American who’ll climb into a robot cockpit for the final battle. He’ll also die. The main Jaeger pilot in Pacific Rim: Uprising is black. Willing to bet he lives. Not woke, Asylum. So not woke.
- “Badger” – Speaking of not woke, the men of the #MechToo movement will come to decide they don’t need no stinkin’ Badger.
- “Bugs” – She’s got a lot of attitude. Claims her nickname is because she “stings like a bee.” She gets stung, alright.
The always dependable Paul Logan makes a brief appearance as a soldier because – why not? Paul Logan always plays a soldier. He isn’t given much of anything to do here, and that’s a shame. Logan already looks like the lovechild of G.I. Joe and He-Man. Why not go for the Transformers trifecta by strapping him into a mech and let him get his Rock’em Sock’em Robot on?
Logan’s primary function is to show only a passing regard for the well-being of his wife and daughter, a tacked on subplot that sees the two women fleeing on foot as kaiju of various sizes rampage in the vicinity. Of course there has to be a family separated, desperately trying to survive and reunite amid the calamity because, of course there is – it’s an Asylum movie!
The resolution to this subpar subplot could not have been any more anticlimactic if dad had just sent an Uber to pick them up from the danger zone, which, honestly, isn’t that far off from what actually happens.
One nifty twist is that a colossal crawdad from aquatic hell spews forth hundreds of little buggers into the streets of East Coast L.A. The characters will refer to these lesser chitinous kaiju as “insects,” “spiders,” and “arachnids” but never “bugs,” presumably to not cause audience confusion with the character who already sports that call sign. They mostly call them “spiders” in spite of the fact that they really don’t look like spiders. More like oversized earwigs. I’m not even sure they had eight legs.
Don’t even ask me to explain what the “Resurrection” in Atlantic Rim: Resurrection means, either. Since this is a mockbuster of Pacific Rim: Uprising, they should have gone with Atlantic Rim: Rising Up since the film begins with giant monsters literally rising up from the sea. Would have made more sense.
On the plus side, any movie where humans using state-of-the-art mind-controlled giant battle bots armed with super science weapons to fight otherworldly giant monsters from the ocean depths yet still has a moment where an injured pilot cracks open a control panel inside his futuristic robot and takes out a plastic blue case labeled “First Aid Kit” that is overstuffed with almost nothing but Band-Aids still earns a merit badge in audacity from me.
Not nearly the Rimjob I was hoping for.
The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life
Written and directed by David Freyne
Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.
Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.
The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.
Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.
Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.
Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.
The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.
The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.
Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed
Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim
Directed by Brian Coyne
Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.
Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.
So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.
I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.
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