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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Experiments in Terror
Experiments in Terror
Other Cinema // Unrated // September 27, 2005
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted October 31, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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Not likely to be confused with the 60's Blake Edwards/Glenn Ford crime thriller of the same name, Experiments in Terror is a short film compilation with a decidedly experimental, avant garde slant.

First up is Peter Tscherkassy's 1999 film Outer Space (10 mins). Basically the film is just manipulated footage from one of the ghost attack scenes in The Entity (1981) with Barbara Hershey. Tscherkassy has taken the scene and manipulated the film stock in various ways, overlapping it, warping it, and wrangling it in just about every way possible. This manipulation makes seem as if the film itself is being attacked. Neat, but after a couple of minutes the increasingly distorted image started to seriously wear out my eyes.

From 1961, Ursula (13:00) by Lloyd M. Williams, is a nice little childhood horror fable. Little Ursula's stern mother chastises her for playing outdoors in her finery. As punishment, she lops off the wings of Ursula's parakeet, explaining the lesson as, "Nothing can be mended." Like all good horror fables, Ursula, thanks to some prodding in dreams from her dead pets, turns the tables and teaches her matriarch a lesson. Great atmosphere, from the dubbed voices to the dreamy soft focus and surreal lighting.

Kerry Laitala's 2002 short Journey into the Unknown (5 min) is another bit of film manipulation rather than a narrative derived short. Various colored tinted film stock. Shots of a mans feet walking. A sign that says "Paramount." As it progresses the audio and film manipulation increases, but ultimately it doesn't amount to much other than another 60's era looking freakout.

J.X. Willaim's The Virgin Sacrifice (9 mins) is the only surviving footage from a 1969 Satanist horror film William's directed; the negative was lost when the film lab burned down. It begins with a typically stilted, very 60's, amateur horror film scene where mute Cindy is apartment hunting. Her two new roommates, Dawn and Nikki, come right out and say they are Satanists and invite her to a ceremony. The usual Devil film shenanigans go on, lots of acid trippy photography, altars, dancing nudie girls, leering cultists, superimposed skulls, and a soundtrack drenched in flanger effects.

1996's Tuning the Sleeping Machine (13:00) by David Sherman is, like Outer Space, another found footage manipulation. Warbly organ music. Looks like the images may have been filmed while on a tv screen. Shots of a car driving. A Rasputin-looking vampire guy. A man being choked. Even shots from some Hammer horror.

Now we come to the good stuff. Damon Packard, director of the underground classic Reflections of Evil, presents another awesome short, a trailer for a never made 18 hour epic, 1988's Dawn of an Evil Millennium (21 mins). From the streets of LA to Alpha Centauri, the film is the tale of a demon (Packard) conjured by a wizard and sent to Earth to wreak havoc, using his psychic powers to screw with people and telepathically toss them around. Not only must he fight his retarded(?), spastic good twin brother, but he also has Blade Runneresque cop Frank Biff and his partner (honest to god) Miles O'Keefe to reckon with. The demon races around LA in his self-modified 1970 Oldsmobile that has been suped-up with a 950 quad turbo, 2190 horse power, multi-phase engine.

Packard's short has a thousand times the energy of the other films. He is the Henry Darger of celluloid, fashioning a short that is a nod to everything from Legend to The Last Starfighter, to tons of other films, edited at a breakneck pace, punctuated by sped up film, wacky action, frequent explosions, and goofy humor. It is nothing short of fucking fantastic.

The DVD: Other Cinema

Picture: Various- Outer Space is 35mm, Ursula, Journey.., Virgin... and Tuning... are all 16mm, while Dawn... is in glorious Super-8. All are in pretty good shape. Obviously, in terms of quality, since most of them are low budget experiments, you can allow for some latitude. Ursula and Virgin... are worse for wear, soft, and a bit dirty and worn due to their age. Still, for some obscure shorts, they all look quite striking, from Dawn...'s raw splashes of color to the tinkered with stock of Outer Space.

Sound: Again, it varies, though most of the tracks are mono. Some muffle and and limitations are present on the older stuff. The most impressive mixes are Outer Space and Dawn of an Evil Millennium. Packard assaults you with stock fx and music cues. The demon's voice is so distorted it is hard to make out what he's saying, but you'll hear a laser blast and explosions from 80's sci fi flicks and music cues from Queen.

Extras: Trailers for The Subject is Sex and Rainbow Man— The Archive, additional shorts. A Date with Death (1959, 5 mins). Filmed in "Psychorama", this short illustrates subliminal cues, showing you a scene between two fighting men, then showing you the scene again illustrating where the subliminal messages are. Unfortunately the scene itself is too dark to distinguish what is happening. Selections from Trailer Camp and Bride of Trailer Camp (14:00). Various trailers from classic b-flicks like Attack of the 50 ft. Woman and Blacula. Finally, courtesy of the American Dental Association, The Haunted Mouth (1973, 13:00). This is one of those public service shorts Mystery Science Theater often made fun of. The disembodied voice of plaque (voiced by Ceasar Romero) takes us on a haunted house tour and explains to us the perils of improper tooth care.

Conclusion: Obviously, only of interest to niche, cult film fans. Honestly, in my opinion, the only shorts worth purchasing the disc for are Dawn of an Evil Millennium and Ursula. The others may get one curious spin, but Dawn... is surely going to merit repeat viewings. Certainly worth a buy if you like compilations, much like Other Cinema's The 70's Dimension and other offerings from (I dont want to say bootleg, but ya' know) cult purveyors.

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