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Crimson (also known as The Man With The Severed Heard, Rats Come Out At Night and Crimson: The Color Of Terror and Crimson: The Color Of Blood), was directed by Juan Fortuny in 1973 for notorious European trash cinema house Eurocine. Those familiar with Eurocine's output (which includes films like Zombie Lake and A Virgin Among The Living Dead to name only two of their better known films) will have a rough idea of what to expect here.
The film stars Spanish horror stalwart Paul Naschy as Jack Surnett who leads a small but tough gang of thieves on a break and enter at a fancy jewelry store in Paris. Things quickly head south when one of his crew, Karl (Victor Israel) makes a mistake that will quickly prove fatal. The crew makes a run for it with the cops in hot pursuit and shortly thereafter, Jack gets shot in the head. The remaining thieves take him to Doctor Ritter (Carlos Otero), a hard drinking and shady character who, rather than try to really help Jack, recommends his men take him to a mad scientist type named Teets (Ricardo Palmerola). He can help Jack, but he'll need to perform a head transplant, or more accurately, he'll need to have his wife Ana (Silvia Solar) do it under his guidance.
But there's a problem… they'll need another head. Soon enough a rival crime lord referred to as The Sadist (Roberto Mauri) has been gunned down and finds himself the unwilling donor… after his corpse is tossed onto some railroad tracks so that a passing train can do what needs to be done! Soon enough, Jack's got his new head but, in what will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody, it isn't long before he's acting less like Jack and a lot more like the insane Sadist. Wonky plot devices and goofy, mild gore ensues.
A film that really does to try to throw in everything including the kitchen sink, Crimson is entertaining enough even if it lacks the repeat value and staying power of some of Naschy's better regarded films. Daniel White provides a score that would feel more at home in one of the many Jess Franco films that he composed for, it has a sort of free-jazz feel to it that might compliment that director's style but that feels out of place here. Judged on its own, the music is pretty cool but the tone is off, it feels wrong. And that applies to a lot of the movie's characteristics. The pacing is erratic, the movie bounces around between crime, sci-fi/mad science and horror without much reason and many of the film's plot devices are more than a little questionable.
Still, Crimson is amusing. Even when the movie slows down a bit here and there, enough is happening that it'll hold the interest of the non-discerning Euro-trash fan. Naschy's actual presence in the film is underused, he spends most of his time looking injured, bedridden or with his head conveniently wrapped completely in white surgical bandages (which makes total sense given what his character goes through) but when he's given things to do outside of that, he's as fun to watch as always. His work here lacks some of the manic enthusiasm and over the top theatrics that make his more popular werewolf films worth returning to time and time again, but his presence in Crimson is certainly welcome. The movie is also quirky enough and colorful enough in how it is shot and in the locations and sets that it uses to keep things visually interesting.
It's definitely worth noting that Redemption have included the eighty-nine minute long English language version of the movie as well as the considerably lengthier and more explicit ninety-eight minute French cut of the film on this release. Most of the added content is essentially softcore sex shenanigans and yeah, there's old Paul getting in on a bit of it himself, with a stand in taking charge in a few of the more intimate couplings here and there. It doesn't really change the plot of the movie at all, but it's interesting to see a Naschy film play out in French and you some fans out there will certainly appreciate seeing certain cast members parading around in their birthday suits.The Blu-ray:
Crimson is presented on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.66.1 widescreen transfer in full 1080p high definition. As seems to be the norm with the Kino/Redemption Blu-ray's, the transfer was mastered from the original 35mm negative and does not appear to have undergone a complete restoration. The elements used here were in decent enough but expect moderate grain and mild specks throughout in addition to a few scratches here and there. The first couple of minutes look a little rougher than the rest of the movie, but overall, this is a decent looking picture. Detail is solid as is texture, we definitely see ‘more' than we would be able to on DVD. There is a bit of fading in some of the colors in certain shots but generally this is a pretty strong picture. Both the English and longer French cut of the film are pretty similar in terms of quality though the French version might be a little cleaner with a bit less print damage.Sound:
The only audio option for the English cut is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track but it's also of fine quality. The audio is free of any major hiss or distortion and the levels are well balanced. The movie's memorable score comes through nice and clear like and the sound effects have some decent punch behind them. For the French version, we get a French language track, also in Dolby Digital 2.0 and again, it is of similar quality. Optional English subtitles are also included. It would have been nice to get a lossless audio option here, but that didn't happen.Extras:
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track from Richard Harland Smith over the English language version of the movie. He starts out by giving a bit of a crash course in ‘Naschy 101' style background information on the movie's leading man, and then gets down to business. Once he hits his stride, he offers up plenty of interesting facts and background details on the feature itself, talking up Naschy's co-stars, the film's director and some of the locations as well as providing some critical analysis of what works and what doesn't. It's a worthwhile dissection of the film and a nice addition to the disc.
Outside of that we get static menus and chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
Crimson isn't the movie Naschy will be remembered for but it's entertaining enough. Those new to his films may want to check out some of the more established classics before jumping in with this one but if low budget, genre-mashing European exploitation is your bag, this one falls comfortably in the middle of the road. Redemption's Blu-ray release isn't fully restored but it does offer a nice upgrade in transfer quality over what we've seen before, both versions of the movie, and a commentary track that is worth listening to. Recommended to genre fans.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.