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One Dark Night: Collector's Edition
Directed by Tom McLaughlin, One Dark Night opens with a scene where a crowd of cops, media types and curious onlookers have gathered around the home of Karl Rhamarevich Raymar who has just been found dead alongside the bodies of a half dozen or so women. It's a strange scene to be sure, something that is not lost on his daughter Olivia McKenna (Melissa Newman), who learns that her dear departed father had strange telekinetic abilities that allowed him to suck the life force out of other humans! Her husband Allan (Adam West) is understandably concerned.
Meanwhile, a trio of college girls who refer to themselves as ‘The Sisters' and are made up of Kitty (Leslie Speights), Leslie (E.G. Daily) and leader Carol (Robin Evans) are trying to figure out the best way to pledge would be new recruit Julie Wells (Meg Tilly). Their plan is to get her to spend the night in a mausoleum, the same one where Raymar has been laid to rest, much to the dismay of Julie's beau Steve (David Mason Daniels), who also happens to be Carol's ex. Julie agrees to their challenge and hunkers down for the night after the girls drop her off, unaware that her potential sorority sisters are intending to prank her and that Raymar might not be as dead as everyone thinks he is…
Very clearly a product of the early eighties in which it was made, One Dark Night takes a bit of time to get going but more than pays off with an absolutely killer final third act. Once we get to the mausoleum, all bets are off and it's here that director McLaughlin (probably best known in genre circles for directing Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI) pulls out all the stops. The mausoleum location itself is the perfect spot to stage a horror picture like this (there are shades of Phantasm in a few of the shots that emphasis the long halls and high ceilings of the building) and the great cinematography and creative colored lighting effects used in the big finish add an extra layer of ‘weird' to the proceedings. We get some great practical special effects work on display in this last third of the movie as well, some of which is pretty gruesome and a fair bit stronger than you might expect given that the film got away with a PG rating.
Performances are decent enough. Meg Tilly, in one of her first starring roles, is genuinely likeable here. She's cute, her character seems like a good person and we want the best for her once it all hits the fan. David Mason Daniels does a fine job as her love interest, he's noble enough and he looks the part. Leslie Speights and Elizabeth ‘E.G.' Daily are fun as two of the three ‘Sister's while Robin Evans plays the rather nasty, manipulative ringleader type with enough relish to make it work. Top billed Adam West, still way too easily associated with Batman at this point in his career, is good in his part if fairly underused while Melissa Newman isn't bad at all as Raymar's troubled daughter.
One Dark Night arrives on Blu-ray for the second time via the MVD Rewind Collection who offer up the film on a 50GB disc framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 21.5GBs of space. A case of ‘doing the best with what's available' this transfer, which seems to mirror the previous release from Code Red, does show some mild print damage and small scratches throughout as well as some minor telecine wobble and what looks like maybe some emulsion damage on the right side of the frame here and there, but it is a VAST improvement over the ratty looking DVD release that came out via Media Blasters back in 2006. If the elements available were in less than perfect shape, we get a nice level of detail in the picture and solid texture too. There's fairly good depth here and color reproduction is fairly solid even if it varies a bit from scene to scene mostly due to the lighting used in the shoot. Skin tones look nice and lifelike and black levels are very deep. All in all, this is a very film-like presentation devoid of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement.
The 24-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono track, in the film's native English, sounds just fine. There are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion and while range is understandably limited by the original recording, dialogue is clean, clear and audible throughout. There are no alternate language tracks or subtitles provided on this release.
The two commentary tracks from the last Blu-ray release have been carried over to this reissue. First up is director Tom McLoughlin and producer Michael Schroeder. It's an interesting track that sheds a lot of light on the history of the picture as they some interesting ‘stories from the trenches.' By all accounts this wasn't the easiest of films to work on given that their budget got slashed and the film was taken out of their hands for editing and that there were quite a few reshoots required. The second track, carried that originated on the old DVD, features McLoughlin and co-writer Michael Hawes and it too is quite interesting as it features a lot of talk about where the inspiration for the storyline came from, casting the picture, their original opening sequence and quite a bit more. You'd think that given McLoughlin's involvement in both tracks that there would be a lot of crossover between the two but both commentaries manage to cover quite a bit of ground without retreading the same subjects over and over again.
Carried over from past editions is the original audio commentary from the previous DVD release that was delivered by producer/director Roger Corman. Like most of Corman's tracks, it's a good discussion with a fair bit of emphasis on the technical side of things. Of course, he expresses his admiration for what Price was able to bring to the role and he talks about the differences in this picture in regards to its style when compared to some of the other Poe films that they made together. New to this set is an audio commentary with actress Elizabeth Shepherd, moderated by Roy Frumkes. Shepherd has plenty of pleasant memories of this shoot, having quite enjoyed working on the film from the sounds of things. Here she shares some great stories about working with Price and Corman both. It doesn't deliver scores of new information but getting to hear things from the actress' point of view as opposed to the director's documents the film from a different and equally interesting perspective.
A selection of archival interviews are up next, the first of which spends sixteen minutes with McLouglin in the same cemetery that was used for the shoot itself. He starts off by offering some info on One Dark Night and then goes on to discuss other films that he has worked on over the years Friday the 13th Part VI as well as some of the TV work that came later. E.G. Daily is up next in a thirty-two minute segment where she really only covers the basics of her involvement with our feature presentation but really, it's more of a career overview. She starts out talking about how she got into acting and then goes on to discuss some of the bigger moments in her career, including Pee-Wee's Big Adventure as well as more recent work like Rob Zombie's 31. From there we get an eleven minute interview with Nancy McLoughlin who talks about her small supporting role in the film as well as how she worked as a production assistant on the set and some of the challenges that both jobs entailed. Up next is an eighteen minute piece with cinematographer Hal Trussel who speaks about how and why he shot certain scenes the way he did, effort that was put into the picture to give it a specific look, and how admirable the work effort of the cast and crew alike was in getting this project finished. Production designer Craig Stearns gets an eleven minute piece where he talks about how tricky it was at times to get things right before the cameras started rolling. Michael Schroeder gets in front of the camera for fifteen minutes talking about how he came on board to produce One Dark Night including what it was like working with some of the cast members on the production. He also shares some stories about films he's worked on as a director over the years. Last but not least, we get SFX makeup man Paul Clemens in a seventeen minute interview where he discusses the tricks employed in the film's finale and how he and others on the crew conjured up some of the bizarre and macabre imagery featured in the picture. These interviews cover a lot of ground, they're well shot and they're genuinely interesting.
From there we move on to a thirty-nine minute behind the scenes piece that, again, originally appeared on the DVD release. Lots of interesting footage here
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.