Where does Synapse find this stuff? As an enormous fan of televised horror anthologies, sometimes I feel like I’ve seen it all. But I was completely unaware that Chiller even existed until the 2-disc set showed up on my doorstep. Unearthed from some presumably dank U.K. archive in the bowels of Yorkshire, all five hour-long episodes hit U.S. soil for the first time this month. Broadcast in Britain during the spring of 1995, this mostly-forgotten series was birthed in the middle of a renowned horror drought, which may explain the delayed release. Read on for the full review. READ MORE
Like Vampire Circus, Twins of Evil came along at a time when Hammer was on the fast track to ruin. The market was oversaturated thanks to direct competitors, like Amicus and Tigon, among others, and the studio’s strategy of churning out nothing but cheap looking franchise films. In 1970, Hammer decided to change up their approach to vampires with The Vampire Lovers, the first entry in the Karnstein trilogy. The gentleman vampire and his converted minions had been done over and over again, so with Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla serving as an inspiration, the name of the game became sexy lesbian vampires.
Twins of Evil is the farthest removed from the source material out of the three films, and is also great because of that – the other films are fun, but mixing it up was a smart move. While one of its biggest draws is the sexual presence of Mary and Madeleine Collinson, sisters that were the first identical twin Playmates, there are very few references to woman-on-woman action and little nudity, effectively removing the biggest reasons for its predecessors’ cult status. Screenwriter Tudor Gates also takes a page out of the Witchfinder General handbook by having Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing) blur the line between good and evil. As leader of Karnstein’s ‘Brotherhood,’ he lives as piously as possible, hunting down suspected witches and burning them at the stake. He looks down at those who enjoy earthly (carnal) pleasures, which is why he is constantly at odds with Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), a man interested in black magic, Satanism, and sleeping with pretty much every strumpet that passes by. This is also why he’s taken aback by his recently orphaned nieces from Venice, who come to live with him and aren’t exactly Puritans.
Twins of Evil has vampires in it, but it’s more of a folk horror film that focuses on the grey area that lies between what is distinctively black and white. The Collinson twins are surprisingly good as the dual natured sisters, establishing what is good and evil in the context of the film early on, but Cushing is who really sells the conflict of cult vs. occult. The question of whether his methods for purifying the earth of evil are morally justified or hypocritical is the cornerstone of the film. Coupled with some fun gore and hilarious innuendo (a candlestick being stroked is worth a few laughs), Twins of Evil is one of Hammer’s best.
God bless Synapse, their 1080p transfer for Twins of Evil is almost Criterion worthy. The colors are preserved wonderfully, particularly the blue hues of the forest at nightfall. Aside from some very minor speckles and scratches, the picture is flawless and vivid with no DNR or banding issues of any kind. With such a balanced transfer and grain that’s still intact, it’s hard to imagine that the film is forty years old. The DTS-HD 2.0 track captures the emptiness of Castle Karnstein and the open air of the woods, but is limited by being 2.0; in other words, it’s good but not great.
The Flesh and The Fury: X-Posing Twins of Evil (83:24) – Like the documentary Synapse put on their Vampire Circus release, The Flesh and The Fury is a really good, in-depth documentary on Hammer vampire history. Joe Dante, Kim Newman, and Tim Lucas – among others – chat about the more outwardly erotic direction Hammer went in after the British censors raised the X certificate age to 18. The influence of Le Fanu’s Carmilla – which predates Dracula by a quarter of a century – helped shift their focus from sequelizing their movies from the 50’s to creating the Karnstein trilogy and giving their vampires a new angle. The feature-length documentary, which is only three minutes shy of its subject’s running time, details the development of the film, including its original direction, the discovery of its two leading ladies, and spotlights on the other actors individually.
The Props That Hammer Built: The Kinsey Collection (23:28) – Hammer historian Wayne Kinsey shows off his impressive prop collection and gives some insight into their place in the studio’s history. He has a really impressive assortment of miniatures, concept art, and fake body parts (especially since most of the props were sadly thrown away before Hammer’s relevance was truly established), but the most unique thing he has is a bat puppet, which was created for an alternate ending to The Brides of Dracula.
Deleted Scene (1:09) – A sequence where Anton’s (David Warbeck) class of young girls sing along to his new composition. In the theatrical version, Gustav bursts into the house right as they’re getting started; the scene’s absence suits the flow of the film much better.
Synapse Films’ best-selling 42nd Street Forever series has been a favorite of grindhouse and exploitation fans around the world. This colossal best of collection combines a selection of vintage theatrical trailers from the first two volumes of the series and mixes them up with some all-new selections! Remastered in true 1080p high definition, this mind-numbing dose of classic original coming attractions will have your Blu-ray player exploding with more than three and a half hours of sex, exploitation, action, horror and science-fiction advertisements from around the world! Can your brain take all this sleaze in one sitting?
Why do you guys like Maniac Cop? And by “you guys” I mean whoever created the demand for multiple sequels and this upcoming Blu-Ray? Maybe it’s Bruce Campbell fans, maybe it’s Tom Atkins fans, or is it just people who had a really good year in 1988? I mean, I love Atkins and Campbell as much as the next guy but as Atkins himself insinuates in his supplemental interview, it’s far from the best work he’s ever done.
From Frank Henenlotter, the creator of the Basket Case trilogy (awesome) and Brain Damage (awesome..r?), comes Frankenhooker, a gory horror-comedy twist on the Frankenstein legend. When Jeffrey Franken’s fiancee is chopped to pieces by the blades of a remote-controlled lawnmower, he uses his dubious medical knowledge to try to bring her back to life. He reassembles his beloved Elizabeth using the body parts of New York City’s finest prostitutes, and resurrects her during a heavy lightning storm. Unfortunately for Jeffrey, his dear Elizabeth’s brain is scrambled and she runs amok on 42nd Street, turning tricks and bringing high-voltage death to her customers! Synapse Films is proud to present the uncut version of Frankenhooker in an all-new 2K high-definition transfer created from original vault materials and digitally re-mastered 5.1 surround sound!
Synapse Films adds to your summer glee with Frat House Massacre, a new film from the creators of Camp Slaughter, which is being released August 9th. Sean and his little brother Bobby thought joining the Delta Iota Epsilon fraternity would be the best time of their lives with parties, freedom, girls and sex. The fraternity president Mark (Jon Fleming of TVs Will & Grace), however, is a little strange. His twisted hazing rituals include extreme physical and mental torture that lead the boys down a horrific path of destruction and death. But death may be just the beginning, as this gritty twisted film unfolds. Inspired by actual events and set in the year 1979, Frat House Massacre is a disturbing journey through the twisted world of fraternity boys, pledges and the not-so-innocent sorority sisters swept up in their madness. Loaded with violence, gore, nudity and a fantastic music score by Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti, this is the full-length director’s cut containing over twenty minutes of additional footage.
In a time when the tried and true Hammer vampire formula was showing its stretch marks, Robert Young’s Vampire Circus broke the mold, taking the blood suckers out of a gothic castle and putting them in a circus setting. To help celebrate their 100th release, Synapse has provided us with 5 Blu-Ray/DVD combo packs for some lucky readers. Check after the specs for your chance to win!
To celebrate their 100th release, Synapse Films is proud to present Robert Young’s Vampire Circus as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo, chock-full of extras. Using a new transfer, which they’re billing as “the sharpest, most colorful transfer ever of Robert Young’s Hammer Films classic”, it’s set to hit shelves on December 14. I’ve actually never seen this one, and being a huge Hammer fan, I can’t wait to see it, especially in high-def.
John Lucker is a deeply disturbed serial rapist and killer. Locked up in a clinic after committing eight murders (and keeping the bodies around for his own sexual pleasure after the people died!!!) Lucker manages to escape and flees to the city… searching for the one lone survivor of his previous killing spree. His disgusting rampage continues and more people die one by one. Lucker must find and kill the woman who escaped him the first time and no one will get in his way!
When Jeffrey Franken’s fiancée is chopped to pieces by the blades of a remote-controlled lawnmower, he uses his dubious medical knowledge to try to bring her back to life. He reassembles his beloved Elizabeth using the body parts of New York City’s finest prostitutes, and resurrects her during a heavy lightning storm. Unfortunately for Jeffrey, his dear Elizabeth’s brain is scrambled and she runs amok on 42nd Street, turning tricks and bringing high-voltage death to her customers!
Blu-ray release December 13, 2011: It’s 10 p.m. the night before Walnut Lakes neighborhood supermarket closes its doors forever. The owners and night crew have a long shift ahead of them – longer than they think. Weird things start happening. The phone lines are cut, and the night crew start dying, one by one, in the most gruesome ways imaginable.
Innocent people are being brutally murdered on the streets of New York by a uniformed police officer. As the death toll rises and City Hall attempts a cover-up, Frank McCrae heads the investigation. A young cop, Jack Forrest, finds himself under arrest as the chief suspect, having been the victim of a set-up by the real killer and a mysterious woman phone-caller. Forrest, his girlfriend Theresa, and McCrae set out to solve the puzzle before the Maniac Cop can strike again.
On DVD June 27th, 2006: At an old farmhouse, a family mysteriously dissapears at the hands of evil. Years later, hair metal band The Tritons comes to the farmhouse, whose barn now features a 24-track recording studio. Lead singer John Triton gets the band to perform their first night in the farmhouse after dinner, and weird little beasties suddenly appear, and strange things start to happen. Band members (and their tag along girlfriends) begin to act strangely and vanish one by one. Soon, only John Triton remains, and he holds a secret. Finally, the evil shows itself and a battle between heaven and hell ensues….
Two beautiful orphaned identical twins, Maria and Frieda Gellhorn (Playboy centerfold models Mary and Madeleine Collinson), move to the village of Karnstein to live with their uncle Gustav Weil (played by Hammer horror favorite, Peter Cushing), a fanatical puritan and leader of the local witch-hunting “Brotherhood.” The village Count (Damien Thomas, Never Let Me Go), an evil man who secretly practices Satanism, uses black magic and transforms into a vampire. Unhappy with her new life, Frieda seeks escape and tragically falls under the spell of the Count. Now overcome with an insatiable hunger for human blood, Frieda has to hide her secret from her sister, and escape her uncle’s killing grasp!