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Revenge of the Blood Beast
During the opening sequence of Michael Reeve's first feature film, The She-Beast (or, Revenge Of The She-Beast if you prefer), we see some medieval villagers execute a hideous looking woman for witchcraft. Before she's put to death in a nearby lake, she curses the townsfolk and promises them that she'll be back to get her revenge. Fast forward a few hundred years to (what was, at the time) modern day Transylvania where Philip (Ian Ogilvy) and his new bride Veronica (Barbara Steele) are honeymooning. They head to a hotel in a small town where they meet an eccentric old man named Count von Helsing (John Karlsen) who tells them about his ancestors and his work. Later that evening, Philip gets into a fight with the hotel's owner, Ladislav Groper (Mel Welles), when he peeps in on Veronica. They leave the hotel in an understandable huff but soon their car veers out of control and they drive into a very familiar looking lake. Philip makes it to shore but is soon rather distraught to learn that the women a truck driver, a friend of Groper's, pulled out of the car is not his wife but the horrible witch executed in the opening scene… back for revenge.
As Groper and his friend try to cover up any evidence from the police, Van Helsing tries to convince Philip that his wife has been possessed by the witch so that he'll help him stop her before she kills everyone in the town. Philip isn't so sure, but after a few encounters with the monster, he soon allies himself with Van Helsing to bring his wife back and put a stop to the witch's reign of terror.
A bit similar in plot to Bava's Black Sunday, Reeves' film is an odd one, particularly in how it breaks up scenes of what we assume were meant to be serious tension with goofy comic relief. This results in a wildly uneven tone, and as entertaining as it might all be, the film sometimes seems to lose its footing. The involvement of Groper and his truck driver compatriot adds very little to the plot and an early scene involving a bike-riding policeman who is 'quirky for the sake of quirky' pushes the movie into slapstick territory. On top of that, the monster make up used to bring the old witch to life is bad, even by the low budget horror movie standards of the era in which it was made.
What makes the movie watchable is some excellent camera work that maximizes the 2.35.1 widescreen aspect ratio and that really helps capture some interesting atmosphere. On top of that, Ogilvy and Steele have an interesting chemistry together and share some rather clever dialogue as well, almost coming across like Steed and Mrs. Peel from The Avengers with their constant back and forth. A few odd gore scenes help things out a bit, including a noteworthy one involving some blatant communist symbolism Interesting bits and pieces like these make the movie watchable, even if they don't elevate it above other similar films. Reeve's direction is strong and he keeps the movie clicking along at a very brisk pack. This ensures that the film is never boring, even when it's ridiculous. Taken seriously, The She-Beast is a real mess of a picture but enjoyed for what it is - a dopey blend of horror and comedy that was obviously never meant to be taken all that seriously in the first place - the movie is entertaining enough and it makes for good fun.The Blu-ray:
Revenge Of The Blood Beast is presented on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in a 2.5.1 transfer that looks pretty solid. There's a bit of noise here and there but thankfully the image isn't slathered in DNR like some Raro releases have been. Colors are reproduced quite nicely, we get good black levels and the image is clean, clear and free of any serious print damage. Detail is quite good here as well, and there's fairly solid texture evident throughout the movie.Sound:
The only audio option for the feature is a DTS-HD Mono track in English, there are no alternate language options or subtitles provided. Aside from the fact that the levels are a bit low, the audio here is fine (just turn up the volume a bit). There are no issues with balance, the track is free of any hiss or distortion and the dialogue is clean and clear despite the goofy accents some of the characters use (subtitles might have been nice for this reason). The Italian language track and English subtitles mentioned on the packaging for this release are nowhere to be found on the disc itself.Extras:
The sole extra on the disc, aside from static menus and chapter selection, is an audio interview with leading lady Barbara Steele that plays out over top of a still gallery and which runs roughly twenty-eight minutes in length. She speaks here about most of the Italian films that she was involved with, horror or otherwise, quite candidly and she shares some interesting stories from her life and times. Oddly enough, however, she doesn't talk about She-Beast in this interview! The Blu-ray disc fits inside a standard sized case that also holds a color insert booklet with some liner notes. This case in turn fits inside a cardboard slipcover (which features an image from She-Freak, a completely different movie!). The commentary track from the older Dark Sky Films DVD release has not been ported over to this Blu-ray, unfortunately.Final Thoughts:
Revenge Of The Blood Beast isn't meant to be taken seriously, so don't even bother, but if quirky Brit-centric horror comedy with weird anti-communist leaning sounds like your cup of tea (or you just happen to be a Barbara Steele fanatic), jump on it. Raro's Blu-ray looks and sounds alright and offers up a nice interview with the film's leading lady as its main supplement. Recommended, so long as you know what you're getting into.
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.