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The Eurocrypt Of Christopher Lee Collection Blu-ray Review

“The Eurocrypt Of Christopher Lee Collection” is one of the best Blu-ray sets of the year.

To say the late legendary actor Christopher Lee had a storied career is an understatement. Not only did he play Dracula, Sherlock Holmes and Fu Manchu, but he starred in films from the Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and James Bond franchise. Among his mile long credit list are a host of European film productions from the 60’s which is the emphasis of this set (along with a forgotten 70’s TV series). So, what all is on this set? Allow me to inform you!

“Castle Of The Living Dead” is a fun Italian horror movie that is set in a crime ridden France after the Napoleonic War. The story revolves around a theatrical troupe that is invited to perform at the castle of Count Drago (Christopher Lee). Alas, Drago turns out to be a bit of a madman who is obsessed with embalming humans and animals and he’s eager to try out a new embalming chemical on his unsuspecting guests. 

Presented in its uncut form, ‘Castle’ is one of the best films on this set. The mixture of the backdrop, the theater troupe characters and the mad scientist Count make for a unique combination. On top of that, you get to see a young Donald Sutherland playing a whopping 3 roles here!

“Challenge The Devil” is another Italian horror film that is also known under the title “Katarsis.” To describe the “plot” is a bit of a challenge (pun intended) but basically it involves 6 party animal teens visiting a castle where they encounter an old man who might be someone else entirely (dun dun dun). This is a true mess of a movie from a story perspective as it feels like multiple movies smashed together. It’s part crime story, part musical, part teen flick, part haunted house movie and part horror. Lee himself looks utterly ridiculous here both with the makeup and costume. The only saving grace is that the movie runs a short 78 minutes.

“Crypt Of The Vampire” (also known as “Terror In The Crypt”) is an  Italian-Spanish horror film that is based on the novel “Carmilla.” Christopher Lee plays Count Karnstein here (no, he’s not a vampire) who is a father that is concerned that his daughter Laura might be possessed by a witch. You see Laura has not been acting like herself and is being plagued by visions of death. Things seem to be looking up a little for Laura when she befriends a stranger named Lyuba, but Lyuba might not be what she seems. Of all the films on this set, this one is my favorite. It’s a gothic tale involving curses, death, and an ancient castle that is absolutely dripping with atmosphere. Everything just works here from the characters, set design, and eerie cinematography.

“Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace” is the only movie in which Lee played the role of Holmes (he did do TV movies as Holmes). Alas, the result isn’t quite what it should be. Despite Hammer Films icon Terence Fisher directing, this story (that is loosely based on “The Valley of Fear”) falls flat. The movie, which finds Sherlock and Watson trying to recover a stolen necklace from Moriarty, is a German-French-Italian co-production and it has a decidedly peculiar cultural mish-mash. It doesn’t feel very British as Sherlock should, the music is ill fitting, and the story isn’t a proper adaptation. Still, it’s nice to see Lee in the title role here. Lee (who is most well known for villain roles) seems to relish playing Sherlock and brings his own spin to the character. It’s just a shame the movie surrounding him wasn’t better.

“The Torture Chamber Of Dr. Sadism” (AKA “The Blood Demon” among other names) is loosely based on Poe’s iconic story “The Pit And The Pendulum.” The story revolves around Baroness Brabant and her lawyer Roger being invited to Blood Castle for financial reasons. Alas, the business quickly gets pushed aside as the Baroness soon becomes a target by someone but for what means? Does it have something to do with the murderous, vengeful, immortality seeking Count Regula who was presumably killed years earlier? For those expecting a straight adaptation of the Poe story, this is certainly not that. On its own terms, however, it’s a weird visual tale filled with creepy imagery (ala the forest of the dead) and dark plots about resurrection and immortality. Lee is quite good here as Count Regula, but I don’t want to spoil the character any more than that. This one is well worth seeing especially for horror fans.

Last, but not least there is the obscure 1971 Polish horror anthology TV series “Theatre Macabre” which stars Christopher Lee as the horror host. As a sucker for horror anthology series , I was curious about this 24 episode series that contained half-hour episodes featuring adaptations from classic stories by noted authors such as Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Oscar Wilde, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexander Pushkin, and Alexandre Dumas. “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Canterville Ghost,” “The Postmaster,” and “The Vampire” are but a few of the stories adapted to the small screen here. Unfortunately, the episodes themselves are largely forgettable tales with wooden acting and low budgets. There’s certainly nothing on the level of say “The Twilight Zone” or “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Perhaps the most curious thing about this series is that it acted as a sort of jumping off point for filmmakers Andrzej Wajda and Andreg Zulawski who certainly showcase some artistic talents in their respective episodes. The best part of the series, however, is definitely seeing Lee doing host segments. The actor was made for that role and he doesn’t disappoint.

It should be noted that the box for this set is first rate. Severin certainly went all out here. All 6 Blu-rays (which have slick looking black cases) are housed inside the removable top box alongside a book. More sets designed like this, please.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: ‘Castle’ and ‘Devil’ 1.67:1, ‘Sadism’ 1.57:1, ‘Theatre’ 1.33:1, ‘Sherlock’ 1.66:1, and ‘Crypt’ 1.84:1 1080p. How do they look? “Castle’ and ‘Sadism’ were scanned in 4K from the original negatives while the remainders were scanned in 2K from the original negatives. In terms of the picture quality, I was most impressed with ‘Sherlock,’ ‘Castle,’ and ‘Devil’ which has pristine prints. ‘Crypt’ looked decent and ‘Sadism’ had some issues where the lighting looked a little too bright or washed out in spots. ‘Theatre’ suffers from a plethora of scratches and dirt specs, but it’s clear the color and image has been given the possible treatment despite the print damage.

Audio Tracks: English and German 2.0 Mono for ‘Sherlock,” English and Italian 2.0 for ‘Crypt,” English and German 2.0 for ‘Sadism,’ English Mono 2.0 for ‘Castle,’ English Mono 2.0 for ‘Theatre,’and Italian 2.0 for ‘Devil.’ How do they sound? For the most part, the audio impresses here. ‘Sherlock,’ ‘Devil,’ ‘Castle,’’Sadism,’  and ‘Crypt’ have especially clean audio tracks. ‘Theatre’ sounds a little soft and scratchy in spots, but is adequate for the most part.

Extras:
* A book titled “Christopher Lee: The Continental Connection” by Jonathan Rigby. The book contains photos and an overview of his career complete with quotes and behind-the-scenes stories. A must read for Lee aficionados.
* CD soundtrack for “Castle Of The Living Dead” by composer Angela F. Lavagnino.
* “Crypt Of The Vampire” trailer
* A promo with Christopher Lee for “Theatre Macabre.”
* Commentary on “Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace” by authors Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw.
* An audio interview with “The Torture Chamber Of Dr. Sadism” actress Karin Dor
* Teaser and theatrical trailer for “The Torture Chamber Of Dr. Sadism.”
* A location featurette on ‘Sadism.’
* Commentary on “The Torture Chamber Of Dr. Sadism” by film writers Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson.
* Restoration, behind the scenes and poster galleries for ‘Sadism.’
* 2 German Super 8 digest short films titled “Die Schlangengrub-Die Burg Des Garuens” and “Die Schlangengrube Des Grafen Dracula.”
* 2 commentary tracks on “Castle Of The Living Dead.” One by film writer Kat Ellinger and the other by film writers Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson.
* Interview with ‘Castle’ producer Paul Maslansky (who has quite the career).
* The “Relics From The Crypt” Blu-ray disc contains a whole host of extras such as an interview with horror movie historian Alan Frank, a 1975 interview between Colin Grimshaw and Christopher Lee, a 2011 University College Dublin Q&A with Christopher Lee, a 1985 audio interview with Christopher Lee, a thorough and insightful 54 minute 1976 interview for Cinescope featuring Christopher Lee, 35 minutes of footage from a lost project in which Lee talks about Boris Karloff, a 16 minute Swiss documentary short titled “Horror!!!” that primarily covers famous monsters (Lee himself is interviewed here), a “Crypt of the Vampire” making of featurette,” and “O Sole Mio/It’s Now Or Never” and “She’ll Fall For Me” music videos for Christopher Lee and Gary Curtis tunes with optional Gary Curtis commentary (sadly no vids for his metal songs are included) and 2001 Christopher Lee interview outtakes from the “To The Devil…A Daughter and Theater Of Death” featurettes.
* A 35 minute interview with Italian cinema expert and author Roberto Curti about “Challenge The Devil.” You learn more about the movie than you ever thought possible.
* “Challenge The Devil” trailer.
* Interviews from 2 different time periods with actor Giorgio Ardisson about his career.

July 29, 2021 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , , ,

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