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Directed by Harvey Hart, 1965's Dark Intruder is set in 1890 and stars the inimitable Leslie Nielsen (immortalized in The Naked Gun but so much more than just Frank Drebin) as an occult investigator named Brett Kingsford. He's called in by Police Commissioner Harvey Misbach (Gilbert Green) to help them crack a bizarre case wherein a series of young women are by some sort of beast-man that skulks about in the shadows of San Francisco at night. The only clue is a small statue left at each crime scene.
When Kingsford is able to identify the statues as Sumerian in origin, he gets some help from a man named Chi Zang (Peter Brocco) and eventually figures out that all of this ties into an ancient Sumerian mummy that ties into a series of seven murders. While all of this is going on, an associate of Kingsford named Robert Vandenburg (Peter Mark Richman) is all set to tie the knot with the beautiful Evelyn Lang (Judi Meredith) but gets into some trouble when he runs into Professor Malaki (a heavily made up Werner Klemperer). All of this ties together before it's all over, but will Kingsford be able to crack the case before another victim is taken?
Originally made as a television pilot that never turned into the intended ongoing series it was meant to kick off, (which would have been titled The Black Cloak), Dark Intruder is pretty great stuff. It moves quickly and is only an hour in length but it packs quite a bit of entertainment value into those fifty-seven-minutes and it should leave fans perfectly satiated. Nielson makes for a great leading man, the script by Barré Lyndon playing to his strengths and letting him toss out frequent quips and one liners as he goes about his business. Nielsen does well in the role and you're left wondering how good a series this could have been had the pilot passed the muster with the suits in charge of such things.
Aside from Nielsen's presence, Gilbert Green is also fun to watch here as the constantly perplexed top cop in town. Peter Brocco isn't the most convincing as ‘Chi Zang' but this is a product of its time. Peter Mark Richman is quite good as Nielsen's character's pal and Judi Meredith is a kick here, nice to look at but quick with her wit and genuinely entertaining to watch. Klemperer is good as the heavy, though he's unrecognizable, really, given that he's under as much makeup as he is. Speaking of, the effects are pretty solid here, the creature featured in the picture is sufficiently weird looking and the movie doesn't lack in quirky, sixties genre fare charm.
The black and white cinematography is pretty atmospheric and lends itself nicely to the features mood and atmosphere. There are times where some of the sets look a bit cheap but overall, the production values here are more than decent. All in all, this is a short feature to be sure, but it's one that fans of vintage monster mayhem should really enjoy.
Kino Lorber brings Dark Intruder to Blu-ray on a 25GB disc framed at 1.66.1 taken from a ‘new 2k scan digital master' this is a very nice transfer. The elements used for the transfer were clearly in great shape, there isn't much in the way of print damage here at all, barely even any specks. Grain is sometimes a bit on the heavy side but it always resolves like you'd want it to, never clumping up or anything like that. The black and white image shows nice contrast and strong black levels. There are no issues with noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts to complain about. All in all, this looks quite good.
Audio is handled by way of an English language 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono option. Optional subtitles are offered in English only. Audio quality is limited in range as you'd figure and older feature made in the mix-sixties originally intended for television broadcast might be, but it sounds just fine. The levels are balanced and the dialogue is clear, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note.
The main extra feature on this release comes in the form of a commentary track with Film Historian/Screenwriter Gary Gerani. He starts by talking about how the famous Universal logo was only a year old when this movie was made before then going on to offer up some of his credentials and then go on to cover how the film was originally intended to work as a made for TV pilot. When that didn't work, Universal gave it a theatrical release despite its short hour-long running time. He talks about the cast and crew involved in the film, Lalo Schifrin's score, differences between this version a work print that exists, the influence of Hitchcock, the different cast members that appear in the picture and what Leslie Nielson brings to the film, how the film was meant to compete with The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Thriller, the way that vigilante groups are portrayed in the film, the use of supernatural elements in the movie, the different titles that exist for the movie, how Universal distributed the movie, the quality of the lighting and cinematography in the movie, the makeup effects and lots more.
The disc also includes an interview with Mike Westmore, Makeup Artist Bud Westmore's nephew. Here, over eleven-minutes he talks about saying no to a makeup FX apprenticeship at Universal so that he could go to college and then eventually taking that apprenticeship when it was still open a while later. He then talks about working with different people via Universal in the early sixties, how his Uncle Bud replaced Jack Pierce, getting to meet Pierce, some of the tricks of the trade that he learned during these years, how and why monsters tended to look very similar in the fifties and sixties, working with different actors and directors and more.
Finishing up the extras is a theatrical trailer for the feature as well as bonus trailers for The Black Sleep, Donovan's Brain and The Undying Monster. Menus and chapter selection are also provided.
Dark Intruder is a short one at just under an hour in length, but it does cram a lot of entertainment value into its brisk running time and it features some really solid performances as well. Kino's Blu-ray release looks and sounds very good and also contains some choice supplements to accompany the feature and add some value to the package overall. Recommended.
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.