Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Blu-ray Review: Creepshow

Borne out of a shared love for those great E.C. comics, Creepshow - directed by George A. Romero - has endured for more than 30 years, and continues to delight old school admirers while gaining a legion of new fans. The film contains five stories, each linked by an animated interlude and begins with Stan - an overbearing father (played by Tom Atkins) - slapping his son (Billy, played by Stephen King's son, Joe) for the ownership of a comic book that neatly ties in with his love of the macabre. The first story, 'Father's Day', peeks in at the annual get-together of the Grantham family.
Each year, the clan meet on Father's Day, and Sylvia (Carrie Nye) is joined this year by a motley crew, including Cass (Elizabeth Regan), her new husband Hank (Ed Harris) and Aunt Bedelia ( Viveca Lindfors) who avenged the death of her lover by slaying the family patriarch with an ashtray. Now, it's that time of the year again and the in-fighting is rudely interrupted by the re-appearance of a figure from the past who wants more than just a slice of cake. It's a lively opening from Romero, and neatly takes us into 'The Lonesome Death Of Jordy Verrill'. The titular character - played by Stephen King - starts dreaming of a dollar windfall when a meteor crashes near his rundown abode. Kings plays his character straight out of a cartoon, and his hilarious attempts at cooling and then breaking in half this foreign object
leads to his surroundings becoming a green and unpleasant land. Interspersed by the most inane daydreams, this episode of Creepshow works best with a few bottles of beer and a benevolent attitude, though Verrill's gradual demise and the vision of his dead father - a Bava-esque face at the window do linger long in the memory. The third instalment, 'Something To Tide You Over', is, for my money, the most effective of the bunch. Here, martial infidelity and its fatal consequences are on the menu. Harry Wentworth (Ted Danson) receives an unwelcome visit from Richard Vickers
(Leslie Nielson)who has learned of Wentworth's affair with his wife Beckie (played by Gaylen Ross). Vickers, a techno-junkie, devises a unique way of punishing the two lovers, only to discover the dead sometimes don't stay that way. It's a tale supremely well told and not for the first time in this movie, Tom Savini's effects and make-up and effects make a huge contribution. 'The Crate' is the next item on the menu, with a janitor (Don Keefer) discovering a crate
under a basement stairwell dating back to a 1834 arctic expedition. This is pure guilty pleasure entertainment, as Fritz Weaver and Hal Holbrook play major parts in proceedings; the latter keen to dispose of his loud, hard-drinking spouse, played by the wonderful Adrienne Barbeau. A rampaging monster may well prove to be the answer to his prayers, but at what price? The final segment is'They're Creeping Up On You', in which EG Marshall's Upson Pratt character shows himself to be a particularly odious man, who celebrates the suicide of a former employee, and laughs at a grief-stricken phone call from a distraught widow.
Pratt soon finds his sterile apartment invaded by an army of roaches, and it's a genuine pleasure to see him get his just desserts. Creepshow is a successful attempt at bringing comic book excess to the big screen, combining some finely tuned performances with humour and the ability to tap into some of our deepest, darkest fears.

Second Sight's Blu-ray release contains some excellent supplementary features. First off, we get two commentary tracks; the first of which features Romero and the legendary Tom Savini, moderated by Michael Felsher. Here, Romero mentions on several occasions his deep appreciation and respect for the calibre of his cast, and explains why he went with well known faces and of the ingenuity of Savini's effects and make-up. The two of them share some wonderful anecdotes - listen out for the border guard story - and also record the production was in grave financial straits when the cash temporarily ran out. The second track features DOP Michael Gornick, property master Bruce Alan Miller, make-up effects assistant Darryl Ferrucci and actor John Amplas. This brand new track is a little different to the norm as Michael Felsher conducts interviews with cast and crew who missed the boat during the 'Just Desserts' documentary. Gornick recalls his excitement at being chosen for the film, of the challenges posed by some tricky lighting and ambitious camera angles while Miller Ferrucci and Amplas chat about the effects and the real world and comic book world combinations. Comic book artist Bernie Wrightson also gets airtime, revealing he had three months to complete his part of the project, and how a phone call from Stephen King set him on the road. Felsher himself signs off by cataloguing the number of times he spots the famous ashtray during each story, and also invites eagle-eyed viewers to see if he's missed any.

Of course, no special edition would be complete without a deleted scenes section, and Creepshow realised some twelve minutes from all the stories. 'Father's Day' is the most significant beneficiary, and the background info on Bedelia and Nathan could possibly have made final cut. The Verrill segment includes a fantasy visit to the loans office and extended visitations from his father, while 'Tide' delivers additional dialogue and test footage of Harry's disembodied hand. 'The Crate' and 'Creeping' offer just a couple of additions, but nothing that suggests it should have been inserted into the finished product. 'Behind The Screams With Tom Savini' is an informative 26 minute account of some extraordinary make-up and effects work, with 'The Master' holding forth on the methods used to create some very effective sequences. Savini also features on 'Just Desserts', a 90 minute documentary that rounded up key participants from the movie, such as Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Harris and Tom Atkins who reveals he originally wanted the Verrill role. We also hear from composer John Harrison who provided a wonderfully atmospheric score to a film that originally contained library music. Cast and crew clearly had a ball shooting Creepshow (Savini labelled it "5 months of Halloween"), and we get to hear of Danson and Nielson's antics onset - do watch out for Ted's "Can we use your phone?" entrance! Of course, many of you will be familiar with this documentary from the UK 2 disc DVD release, but it does have real replay value, and of course superior image quality in this edition. TV spots, a trailer and photo gallery round off this release, and the high definition picture beautifully showcases the ingenious lighting and macabre effects creations. In terms of image quality, Second Sight's presentation is easily worth an upgrade from your DVD, and is released in the UK on 28th October - just in time for Halloween! This Blu-ray is Region B, and is part of a mouth-watering roster of titles coming soon from Second Sight, including Streets Of Fire, the wonderful Betty Blue and one of the gret American movies, Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate.

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