Color, 1991, 86m.
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Starring John Savage, Sandi Schultz, Richard Castleman, Jennifer Loeb
Severin (US R1 NTSC)

Suspense and horror directors have a funny way of closing out their careers. Alfred Hitchcock turned out the decidedly family-friendly and bloodless Family Plot before his death, and Lucio Fulci, the master of shambling zombies and psychedelic thrillers, bid adieu to his fans with the likewise bloodless and oddly ethereal Door into Silence (with the film's credits listing the director as "H. Simon Kittay" for some reason). The film was financed by Joe D'Amato's s short-lived Filmirage, a company better known for Stage Fright, Witchcraft, and, uh, Troll 2. This film, Fulci's only for the company, came near its final days, and D'Amato was fond of lensing softcore films in New Orleans like Any Time, Any Play. Of course, this was also Fulci's old stomping grounds from The Beyond, and a modest, peculiar supernatural quickie was born.

While driving through Louisiana, Melvin Devereux (Savage) passes a funeral where his last name is prominently on display. He becomes more alarmed when he sees that the body bears a striking resemblance to him, and that night he encounters a beautiful but spooky woman (Schultz) who helps him find an auto repair shop. As he passes further away from the city, he repeatedly becomes involved in a Duel-esque game of cat and mouse with a slow-moving hearse whose creepy driver (Castleman, D'Amato's location scouter) won't let him pass. A colorful gallery of characters also passes through, including a hot-to-trot teenager trying to get to Memphis for the "Country Music Festival" ("Randy Travis! Tammy Wynette! It's gonna be great!") and offers to sleep with him for fifty bucks.A ter a particularly nasty phone call involving a tarot reader, Melvin finally reaches his destiny involving the hearse and a particularly fateful sunset.

On the surface this story might sound like yet another predictable knock-off of Carnival of Souls, though Fulci's script somehow manages to still make it odd and perplexing with an odd ghost story twist at the end which makes the seemingly obvious payoff a little more interesting. Of course, anyone looking for his trademark splatter antics will be left in the dust; he definitely bid farewell to his gore days with Cat in the Brain. However, the comparatively low gore factor in The Psychic and Manhattan Baby didn't stop them from finding an audience, so his decision to go plasma-free here shouldn't stop any of his fanatics from seeking this one out. The arty, meandering tone of the story is offset by a strong, paranoid, somewhat Brad Dourif-like performance by the still-busy Savage (definitely the biggest name Fulci had in the second half of his career), and his decision to shoot on the obscure backroads of Louisiana rather than the familiar tourist areas makes for much more visual interest than usual for the area. Of course, this also means some weird, stilted performances by some of the locals who were apparently non-actors recruited on the spot (check out the two cops), and the one-off score by Franco Piana veers wildly from jazz to thunking suspense cues, with some uncredited filler dropped in from the score to Stage Fright. Incredibly, this was the first Fucli score released in its entirely on CD, while the film itself was barely distributed at all, popping up most widely as a Japanese VHS which barely made a blip on the bootleg market.

Like most Filmirage productions, Door into Silence seems designed more for a home video market than the big screen, so it's not surprising all the masters are full frame. Nothing substanital seems to be missing on the sides, and the 1.33:1 framing actually looks about right. (The same goes for most of D'Amato's films around the same period.) The transfer used for Severin's DVD, the first release ever in the U.S., is several notches above the mediocre VHs dupes floating around for years; it won't win any AV awards given the nature of the source, but it's surprisingly colorful and clean and still plays well on larger monitors, too. Bear in mind it'll still look like a 1991 low budget production, and the disc comes through just fine. The mono English audio (which uses on-set dialogue recording for all the actors) sounds okay and true to the original sound mix. The DVD is no frills, containing only chapter stops from the main menu. Someone should get around to asking Savage about this film one of these days, as his memories of its creation would be quite interesting.

Color, 1969, 103m.
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Starring Marisa Mell, Jean Sorel, Elsa Martinelli, John Ireland, Faith Domergue, Alberto De Mendoza
Severin (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

"Nude is not enough. It needs to be disgusting!" So proclaims a minor character early on in Lucio Fulci's Una sull'altra, better known in English as One on Top of the Other and christened on DVD under its even more lurid European title, Perversion Story. Stylish, sexy, and unpredictable, it marked a turning point for the director after churning out a series of comedies and historical dramas. Perhaps inspired by writing a thematically similar Edgar Wallace adaptation, the quasi-giallo Double Face with Klaus Kinski, Fulci begins the film in San Francisco with wealthy Dr. George Dumurrier (Short Night of Glass Dolls' Sorel) tending to his ailing asthmatic wife, Susan (Mell), whose sleeping and respiratory medications cannot be taken together or else she will - gasp! - expire horribly. Naturally she drops dead in the first reel, leaving poor George fingered for her possible murder when he winds up inheriting her mult-million dollar insurance policy. As if George's life weren't complicated enough, his partner and brother, Henry (De Mendoza), is prone to arguing with him about the state of their clinic and their various medical announcements to the press. When George and his unhappily married mistress, Martha (Martinelli), decide to get away from it all by visiting an upscale strip club, he's transfixed by dancer Monica Weston (also Mell), a dead ringer for his wife who does a sultry striptease astride a motorcycle. When he follows Monica to her place, they fall into the sack together... but when he discovers she has the same sleeping medication as his late wife, George becomes suspicious. Unfortunately, the authorities quickly gather enough evidence to land George behind bars in San Quentin, so he and Martha must race against time to unravel the mystery before he winds up in the gas chamber.

A pivotal giallo long circulated on the gray market, Perversion Story benefits from excellent performances by its cast, with the frequently undraped and multi-wigged Mell especially having a field day in two - or is it three? - roles. Sorel also gets to exercise his thespian skills more than usual as the caddish George, who goes through the wringer during the course of the labyrinthine story. American actors John Ireland and Faith Domergue pop up in minor supporting roles, but it's really the European actors' show all the way. Riz Ortolani also contributes a scorching jazz and lounge score that's been an established Euro soundtrack favorite for years, and Fulci keeps the story moving along and surprising at every turn with some wonderful mod touches thrown in like wild multi-split-screen effects and colorful strip sequences bursting with psychedelic colors.

Anyone who's viewed this film in its past VHS incarnations (or miserable-looking US prints) will be flabbergasted by Severin's DVD transfer, a beautifully pristine presentation that lays waste to every version before it. This edition comes complete with the much snazzier Italian opening titles, which dynamically cut and shift across the screen Psycho-style rather than the comparatively drab English credits. This also represents a significantly different edit of the film, clocking in with an extra four minutes of saucy footage missing from prior English releases. It would be bad form to list the details, but let's just say that Mell and Martinelli fans will be very happy with what they see-- and anyone annoyed by the film's relative lack of sexiness considering its title will find this release much more satisfying.

The familiar English dub track is present here and is serviceable enough despite the flat dubbing of Sorel. (Whoever dubbed Mell certainly jumped in with gusto!) However, the Italian track feels more organic to the film, has more dialogue than the English track, and uses Ortolani's score much more prominently, though the final scene with the radio reporter still plays better in English. (For some reason Mell's first scene always has her clearly speaking in a hallway without any words coming out on both versions, which appears to be sloppy sound editing in the original film.) It's really a toss-up between the two, but newcomers may find the Italian track with its more complete and literate English subtitles the more accessible option. As for extras, you get the very long and spoiler-laden English theatrical trailer (as One on Top of the Other), which touts this as the first film to realistically show the incarceration and execution process at San Quentin, and a bonus soundtrack CD containing the full 11-track version of Ortolani's score.

Color, 1984, 90m. / Directed by Lucio Fulci / Starring Olga Karlatos, Ray Lovelock, CLaudio Cassinelli, Cosimo Cinieri / Media Blasters (US R1 NTSC), Marketing-Film (Germany R0 PAL) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9) / DD2.0

Apparently when you're a director like Lucio Fulci, the usual standards of cinema don't apply. You can stage any kind of tasteless atrocity for the camera involving bodily dismemberment, child endangerment, or sexual mutilation, and the audience will eat it up; however, if you bore them, watch out! That's the fate that befell Murderock, a pop-horror giallo that owes more to music videos than Bava.

At a New York dance academy obviously inspired by a recent viewing of Fame, tough-love dance instructor Candice (Zombie's Karlatos) pushes her aerobicizing charges to new heights of glory when three spots open up at a prestigious agency. Unfortunately their routines are disrupted when one young lady winds up getting a long metal pin fatally shoved into her breastplate during a nocturnal shower in the lockerroom, and everyone becomes a suspect. Meanwhile Candice suffers from surreal dreams in which she's chased by a sinister man (Lovelock) whose face happens to pop up on a billboard. A little detective work reveals he's a waning actor with ties to the victim, and soon the body count rises. Who's responsible? And who will live to dance another day?

Fulci got a lot of flack over the years for this one, primarily for its back-to-back opening musical sequences which segue from an ill-advised breakdance routine (intercut with shots of the Big Apple skyline) to a Flashdance-inspired class number, both to songs that will linger forever in your memory ("Streets to Blame" and "Tonight Is Your Night," for the record). In the film's defense, it pretty much throws out the whole '80s dance fixation after that and goes into proper thriller mode, complete with the illogical plotting and flat-as-paper characterizations you might expect. The plot is really a thinly-veiled rehash of Fulci's New York Ripper (complete with a similar dream-motivation tactic and red herring ploy), but this time Fulci leaves the gore back in Italy and focuses instead on lots of nudity that can't be classified as gratuitous since, well, the killer likes to poke the dancers in the chest. Prog rocker Keith Emerson returns from Inferno for his second Italian horror score, and... well... it's certainly memorable, though no one will ever confuse it with his Argento masterpiece. Easily the most successful aspect of the film is the striking cinematography by Giuseppe Pinori (Contamination), who uses strobing lights and filters to a surprisingly rich effect throughout in a manner similar to The Fifth Cord.

Fortunately after years of substandard video transfers (and complete dismissal in America after a fleeting theatrical release as The Demon Is Loose), Murderock looks just fine on Media Blasters' DVD edition. The anamorphic transfer is rich and colorful, with some of that '80s grain still intact where it should be. Note that the opening credits tend to scrape very close to the bottom of the frame, so depending on your set's overscan settings, you might have some issues there. Audio is presented in a fine but dated English stereo mix (canned but appropriate since it matches most of the actors' lip movements) and the original Italian mix, which features much less channel separation and is pretty much indistinguishable from the ancient Domovideo VHS tapes. No English subtitle options are provided, so really the English track is the only way to go.

Media Blasters has somehow managed to bless this unlikely title with a double-disc set, and the results are definitely more satisfying than their previous Lizard in a Woman's Skin. Along with the film itself, the first disc contains an audio commentary with Pinori and writer Federico Caddeo (in Italian with optional subs) that covers the basics of the film's productions and memories of working with Fulci. You also get a fake, video-era Murderock preview from the European release (too bad as the real Japanese trailer is far superior -- and did an American one ever even exist?), plus a fantastic international trailer for Witchery and promos for other titles including The Being, Hiroku the Goblin and Shadow: Dead Riot. Disc two features a half-hour tribute video to Fulci entitled "Tempus Fugit," with a variety of luminaries including Dario Argento (via phone), Luigi Cozzi, Claudio Simonetti, Ray Lovelock, writer Antonio Tentori and others sharing their memories of the director, albeit most of them briefly given the compact running time. Lovelock gets more breathing room in a separate 16-minute piece reflecting on his work with the director, and it's a nice companion piece to his appearances on previous Italian genre releases. (Someone should do a comprehensive interview on all of his horror and sexploitation roles, pronto!) Pinori also returns for a video interview, mostly rehashing material from the commentary but also covering his views on the entire industry as a whole during a period when Italian horror was generally considered to be going downhill (and is now unfortunately pretty much extinct). Other extras include a small photo gallery of promotional art and, similar to their Joe D'Amato titles, a continuous selection of Fulci trailers including Zombie, City of the Living Dead, Touch of Death, A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Sweet House of Horrors and House of Clocks.

Color, 1989, 80m. / Directed by Lucio Fulci / Starring Cinzia Monreale, Pascal Persiano / Shriek Show (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

A made-for-TV companion piece to House of Clocks, this gory oddity finds Fulci returning to the theme of haunted children explored in his more widely seen House by the Cemetery and Manhattan Baby, among others. As this is later period work for the director, the film's execution is bumpier than his golden age classics but still bears the unmistakable stamp of his gore-soaked obsessions.

Things start with a bang, literally, as a married couple is slaughtered in their home, with the husband's head pulverized against a wall and the wife viciously knifed. The children of the deceased, Sarah and Marco, become the charges of their aunt and uncle, Marcia (Cinzia Monreale) and Carlo (Jean-Christophe Bretigniere), at the family estate. Unfortunately the grounds seem to be haunted, much to the childrens' delight, and cruel mishaps befall visitors including a real estate agent and the neurotic gardener (Demonia's Lino Salemme). Marcia is terrorized by the ghostly presence, which appears to manifest itself as a glowing, animated swirl of light; however, the spirits turn out to be as protective as they are ruthless, and the true villain is soon unmasked.

Apart from the sadistic opening (which is replayed later for good measure), Sweet House of Horrors is a competent but fairly restrained ghost yarn. The murder mystery angle is no great shakes, with the culprit unmasked and dispatched in an offhand manner long before the wind-and-thunder finale. Unlike House of Clocks, this film suffers from one of the most grating dubbing jobs in recent memory; though the actors often appear to be speaking English, the looped voices are so disembodied and inappropriate they constantly detract from Fulci's modest visual achivements. The children are a particular embarassment, voiced by lousy adult voice performers who just yell in a high pitched tone. It's enough to make the dubbing of Bob in House by the Cemetery almost sound seamless.

Shriek Show's DVD sports the usual lavish extras for what once amounted to a throwaway title relegated to the graveyard of Japanese home video and bootleg traders. The letterboxed image quality looks very good overall, and the hazy '80s cinematography (a trademark of most of Fulci's work from the period) registers well enough with only a couple of darker scenes betraying any mild digital flaws. Extras include an introduction from the lovely Monreale (probably shot the same time as her interview from Beyond the Darkness, while video interviews go to Bretigniere, Salemme, and actress Pascal Persiano, all of whom offer their own recollections of working with Fulci. (For some reason, Bretigniere is mentioned nowhere on the box's special features.) Salemme has surprisingly little to say considering his oddball genre experience (both Demons films, for example), but the others are cheerful and more than forthcoming. Also included are the usual trailers, including an incredibly clumsy, bleary-looking promo for Sweet House could single-handedly account for its lackluster international distribution.

Color, 1989, 80m. / Directed by Lucio Fulci / Starring Keith Van Hoven, Karina Huff / Shriek Show (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Designed as part of a four-film series for Italian television entitled Houses of Doom, the quasi-metaphysical House of Clocks is certainly gorier than most countries' concept of made-for-TV fare and makes for minor but enjoyable late-period Fulci viewing. Wisely kept to a small scale and limited to a single remote country location, this modest effort delivers some gruesome goodies to satisfy hardened Luciophiles.

An elderly couple, Victor (Paolo Paoloni) and Sarah (Bettine Milne), passes the time by collecting clocks, ambling around their nicely appointed country home, and killing off those who prove to be inconvenient, such as the nosy maid (Carla Cassola). Meanwhile three semi-young delinquents stop off to loot the house by pulling a Clockwork Orange traffic accident story and then raiding the premises, killing the husband and wife along with the devoted handyman, Peter (Zombie's Al Cliver). However, the guard dogs prevent the homicidal trio from leaving; even worse, all of the clocks begin to turn backwards as time itself reverses, bringing the dead back to life...

Though it makes little to no sense (especially the pointless "gotcha!" final scene), House of Clocks ambles along well enough for most of its running time and features some halfway competent dubbing, unlike Fulci's other TV movie, Sweet House of Horrors. Naturally the characters are all one-dimensional pawns in a game ultimately proven to have no point, but the central conceit is an intriguing one and makes one ponder what Fulci might have done at the peak of his powers with this material. Some nice gothic touches like the cadavers stashed in the cellar bounce nicely off the suitably gory effects, including some nasty shotgunnings and an effective nod to the malicious hands-in-the-lawn scene from Mario Bava's Shock.

Previously released only in Japan (with lots of hazy-looking bootlegs generating in years since), House of Clocks receives an unlikely and surprisingly lavish American welcome with Shriek Show's DVD. Considering the preponderance of filters used throughout the film, the DVD looks relatively good with stable colors and only a few compression-generated problems cropping up during some dark hallway scenes in the film's midsection. Extras include a strange, noisy-looking trailer with video-generated text, as well as trailers for Zombi 3, Sweet House of Horrors, House on the Edge of the Park, and Eaten Alive. Paolini and Cassola turn up for video interviews running 5 and 9 minutes respectively; both seem to have fond memories of working on the low budget production, with the special effects and make-up receiving most of the attention. R. Ian Jane contributes an overview of the House of Doom series on the printed insert's reverse side, though the black on dark red type causes more than a little eyestrain.

Color, 1975, 104 mins. / Directed by Lucio Fulci / Starring Fabio Testi, Lynne Frederick / Anchor Bay (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Though ostensibly a western, the grisly and bizarre Four of the Apocalypse fits more snugly with director Lucio Fulci's gothic horror outings than most of his other work outside the genre. Many of the collaborators who would shape some of Fulci's most nightmarish visions, such as composer Fabio Frizzi and cinematographer Sergio Salvati, demonstrate how significant their contributions were even this early in the game, and for once, Fulci seems to be engaged enough in the proceedings to experiment with his visuals and narrative form in some unexpected ways. Though possibly a difficult place to start for newcomers, Apocalypse is a must see for Fulci fanatics and proves once again that his grisly excesses were grounded in a firm stylistic approach.

In the late 1800s, con artist Stubby Preston (Fabio Testi) arrives in Salt Lake City and promptly winds up tossed overnight in prison, with his marked cards consigned to a fireplace. In the cell he meets three fellow misfits: young pregnant hooker Bunny (Schizo's Lynne Frederick), town drunk Clem (Michael J. Pollard), and delusional slave Bud (Harry Baird), who has an unusually friendly relationship with cemeteries. A brutal attack by masked gunmen leaves the town back under the thumb of the law, so the sheriff (Zombie Holocaust's Donald O'Brien) ejects them from town into the desert. Along the way to a new destiny they meet Chaco (Tomas Milian), who seems like a nice guy until he gets everyone stoned on booze and peyote, then proceeds to blow out Clem's kneecaps and rape Bunny while Stubby and Bud are tortured and left tied to the ground. The four manage to escape and resume their trip to the promised land, only to encounter something far different from what they expected. After a number of sacrifices and tragedies, fate finally allows events to come full circle as Stubby decides to seek revenge against Chaco.

Spaghetti western fans expecting cool, mysterious gunmen shooting in out against mythic landscapes will be shocked by this downbeat, deliberately paced portrayal of the West as a merciless land capable of swallowing men's souls without leaving a trace. The criminally underrated Testi is excellent in the lead role, which allows him to transform both physically and emotionally several times throughout the course of the sprawling narrative. However, Milian also swipes his precious minutes of screen time as the memorable villain, a nightmarish figure whose sadism hits a fever pitch when he skins off one unlucky victim's stomach and pins a sherrif's star into his the flesh of his chest. The always eccentric Pollard (best known for Bonnie and Clyde) really doesn't have much to do; he made a much stronger impression as a western figure in 1972's rarely seen oddity, Dirty Little Billy. Like many other '70s spaghetti western scores (most obviously Keoma), this one sports a freakish mixture of vocals and experimental instruments interrupted by crooning folk tunes which are, shall we say, best appreciated as irony.

The back cover for Anchor Bay's DVD of Four of the Apocalypse promises the inclusion of footage deleted from all circulating prints of the film, with the reinstated dialogue in Italian with optional English subtitles. These scenes include the aforementioned Chaco torture routine as well as a greatly expanded version of Bunny's rape (though only the former contains subtitled dialogue). The only previous English language release in Japan looked watchable despite these studio-imposed cuts, but the DVD's quality is tremendously improved. Though detail is hampered by some of Salvati's soft focus compositions, particularly during the misty opening scene, the transfer looks as good as one could expect, with accurate color reproduction. The only significant debit is a tiny vertical line running through a few scenes near the right side of the screen, similar to the flaw in the negative of Fucli's The Black Cat. The film can also be played with its entire Italian language soundtrack, though alas no English subtitles are provided. The Italian track contains several notable variations from the English version, including the (thankful) absence of an opening narration.

Extras include the nicely edited English language European trailer, cast and crew bios (including some illuminating anecdotes about Testi), and a compact but informative featurette, Fulci of the Apocalypse, in which Milian (in English) and Testi (in Italian) reminisce about working with the notorious director, whose questionable behavior is one of the primary focuses. Milian also offers some hilarious stories, expanded further into an Easter Egg on the special features menu.

Color, 1988, 84 mins. / Directed by Lucio Fulci / Starring Brett Halsey, Meg Register / Shriek Show (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1)

An ambitious but ultimately failed attempt to recapture the mood of Lucio Fulci's gore-drenched gothic masterpieces from the 1980s, Demonia is arguably the most frustrating of the director's attempts to recharge the Italian horror industry. Less demanding than A Cat in the Brain and certainly more compelling than Zombi 3, this is an odd footnote in its creator's career but a fairly worthwhile outing for less discriminating fans of onscreen bloodshed.

Our supernatural yarn begins appropriately with an extended historical flashback in which a group of Sicilian nuns winds up crucified and burned by locals in a cave underneath their convent. The ordeal is relived as a dream by Liza (Meg Register), an archaeologist who goes on a dig in the same area with Professor Evans (Brett Halsey). Liza discovers the walled in skeletal remains of the nuns, which leads to a series of inexplicable and gruesome deaths. A fellow researched winds up harpooned and decapitated, a spike trap wipes out a pair of Irish diggers, and Liza becomes pulled deeper into a centuries old mystery which has now returned to take its toll on the present.

The structure of Demonia closely follows the models of such favorites as The Beyond and City of the Living Dead, but the sense of irrationality and foreboding which characterized those masterpieces is awkwardly fumbled here. The lackluster performances, flat cinematography, and watery electronic music sap away most of the potential suspense, but on the positive side, Fulci does cut loose with a few anarchic gore scenes to goose viewers awake. In the most memorable (and puzzling) of these, one character is wishboned in half while tied between two trees, a sequence done earlier (and more convincingly) in Ruggero Deodato's Cut and Run. The most extended death finds a poor soul impaled through the neck with a meathook and his tongue nailed to a table for good measure, but the effects keep it from reaching the delirious heights reached by the likes of FX maestro Gianetto de Rosi. Oddly, the most shocking and memorable moments comes during a mid-film flashback, in which a simple knife to the throat during the throes of lovemaking is filmed in a very unexpected fashion. Finally, the puzzling finale seems to follow City's example but comes off even more confusing in the process.

Media Blasters, a company best known for its Japanese anime and fantasy film releases, has made a solid attempt at enterting the Eurohorror DVD sweepstakes with the first North American video release of Demonia. The DVD finally offers fans the chance to appraise the film outside of a fuzzy, third generation VHS bootleg, and overall it's hard to imagine the film looking much better. Apart from some grain and flickering dirt during the opening sequence and a few mist-laden moments in the crypt, the transfer and overall presentation is fine. Considering the budget, the film may have been shot in mono originally (though the lack of official video releases makes this hard to verify); assuming it was originally mixed in single channel sound, the audio is fine apart from the painful dubbing. The disc comes with as many extras as one could expect for an essentially unreleased film. "Fulci Lives!" is a four minute camcorder documentation of the director at work on the tree scene, as he stands around answering questions about his recent work. Interestingly, he pegs Aenigma, House of Clocks, and Sweet House of Horrors as his favorites. A print interview offers a chat with Brett Halsey (who also appeared in several other Fulci films around the same time, most significantly The Devil's Honey), and the disc is rounded out with a Fulci biography and, printed on the back of the chapter listing, a Fulci filmography.