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Fear No Evil / Ritual of Evil (Double Feature)
Kino pairs up 1969's made for TV movie Fear No Ev il with its sequel, Ritual Of Evil, made one year later, for a really entertaining double feature.
Fear No Evil:
The first film, directed by Paul Wendkos (who also helmed The Mephisto Waltz, introduces us to a young man named Paul Varney (Bradford Dillman) who buys a large antique mirror somewhat compulsively and then brings it home where his lovely fiancé Barbara (Lynda Day George) wonders why he made such a decision. A short time later, their friend Myles Donovan (Carroll O'Connor), a physicist, invites them to a party where Paul starts behaving rather oddly. Another party guest, a parapsychologist named Dr. David Sorel (Louis Jourdan) who specializes in occult studies, becomes very intrigued with David's situation and behavior but that night on the way home, Paul sees something that causes him to crash the car, leaving Barbara in the hospital and sending Paul to an early grave.
After Barbara moves in with Paul's mother, she starts to see visions of a sinister version of Paul calling to her from inside the mirror. It's then that she opts to bring David in to help, and learns that a Satanic cult is behind all of this!
A bizarre movie by the standards of pictures made for television (this debuted on NBC as a Movie Of The Week), Fear No Evil is a pretty cool slice of devilish horror. It never goes all that far in terms of its content, which shouldn't be surprising given TV censorship standards of the day, but it moves at a nice pace and features some pretty decent atmosphere as well. There are a few stretches where things get a little talkier than they need to but overall this works pretty well.
The movie also benefits from a strong cast. Dillman is pretty decent as Paul, playing the nice guy and his more sinister side effectively enough. Lynda Day George (who was actually just Lynda Day at the time, having not yet been married to Christopher George) is great as the female lead, effectively handing the dramatic aspects of the movie as nicely as she does the more horror-centric segments. Carroll O'Connor's supporting role is brief but he's his typically reliable self here, while Louis Jourdan does a more than fine job as the man who intends to help poor Barbara with her unusual predicament.
Ritual Of Evil:
Made a year later by director Robert Day, Ritual Of Evil catches up with Dr. David Sorell (Jourdan, reprising the role) after the events of the first movie. One of the good doctor's patients, Aline Wiley (Carla Borelli), goes mysteriously missing late one night and so he sets out to find out what happened to her, starting with a visit to the massive old mansion she called home. Here he meets Jolene Wiley (Anne Baxter), one time star of the silver screen and Aline's aunt. Jolene has a taste for drink and lives in the house with Aline's younger sister, Loey (Belinda Montgomery). The two women frequently experience horrible dreams wherein they see a woman murdered by a devilish cult.
Shortly after Sorell ends his visit, Aline's body is found on the beach by a musician named Larry Richmond (George Stanford Brown), a black man who the police investigating the matter suspect of being responsible for the killing in the first place. Sorell, however, doesn't buy it and he sets out on an investigation of his own that leads him to a photographer named Leila Barton (Diana Hyland) who seems to have some seriously strange ties to the Wiley family.
This sequel is definitely the lesser of the two films, Day's work behind the camera being not nearly as strong as Wendkos' work resulting in a picture that just isn't as tight, effective or interesting. It's hardly a waste of time, however, as it has a few interesting moments and once again lets Jourdan really shine in the lead role. Belinda Montgomery is fun to watch here too, and Anne Baxter is well cast as the boozy elder Wiley woman. Production values are decent and the movie is very nicely shot, but it gets a bit too bogged down in the drama and focuses less on the horror.
Fear No Evil and Ritual Of Evil arrive on Region A Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studios in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.33.1 with the first film taking up 21.6GBs of space on the 50GB disc and the second film 21.3Gbs of space. Both movies, taken from new 2k restorations, look quite good, they're clean and colorful and look like film throughout. There are no problems with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts and there's very little noticeable print damage here. Detail generally looks really nice, if a tad soft in a few scenes, and overall these transfers show nice depth as well.
Regardless of which movie you choose, you'll get a 16-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 option with optional English Subtitles. Dialogue is always easy to understand and to follow and the audio is nicely balanced. Sound effects have some good weight behind them and there's a decent amount of depth to the score. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note. All in all, the audio quality on this release shapes up quite nicely.
The main extras on the disc are commentary tracks for each film that come courtesy of Film Historian/Screenwriter Gary Gerani. Each track does a nice job of detailing the history of the movie, covering the contributions of the different cast and crew members, offering background details on the productions, how the films were intended to launch a TV series called Bedevilled and offering up a nice mix of trivia and criticism. Gerani knows his stuff and he does a nice job here.
We also get TV trailers for both features and a still gallery for the first movie as well as menus and chapter selection.
As to how the release is packaged, the first pressing comes with a limited edition slipcover that features newly created artwork from Vince Evans.
Fear No Evil and Ritual Of Evil are both worth seeing, the first film a legitimately impressive picture and the sequel a lesser picture still worth seeing. Kino has done a very nice job bringing these to Blu-ray in strong presentations and with some good commentary tracks documenting their histories. Recommeneded.
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.