Now on Blu-ray: We All Shout For Scream Factory! THE BURNING, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, VAMPIRE LOVERS

J Hurtado, Contributing Writer
We should all just surrender our credit card info to Scream Factory right now and acquiesce to the fact that we'll just be working to support our habits into the foreseeable future. This week saw a pair of fantastic releases and there are many, many more on the way. We'll also take a brief look at a release we missed over the last few weeks that definitely deserves recognition. But first...

The Burning
I've owned The Burning on DVD since the 2007 special edition DVD came out from MGM, but had never made the time to actually watch it. Thankfully this Blu-ray release from Scream Factory forced me to make the time and I'm damned glad I did. Not only is the film one of the better summer camp slashers of the early '80s (better than the vast majority of the Friday the 13th films, including the first), it's also remarkably well made. The direction from Tony Maylam (who also made the Rutger Hauer sci-fi classic Split Second), is quite effective, and the score from Rick Wakeman (?!) is about as '80s synth-tastic as you can get.

Scream Factory
After a cruel joke goes awry, severely burning him and subjecting him to five years of intensive, unsuccessful skin graft treatments, Cropsy (Lou David) is back at camp...and ready to wreak havoc on those who scarred him! With his hedge clippers in hand, he terrorizes the camp and systematically mutilates each victim. Can a few courageous campers save themselves and destroy this demented madman before he kills them all?
The disc itself is a gem, and makes the film look far better than it probably ever did on the big screen. The image quality is excellent, with lots of fine detail and bright contrast on this disc. The sound is also excellent, there is a very clear DTS-HD MA audio track that, while obviously not as crazy as today's surround mixes, supports the dialogue and effects very well. As usual, the disc excels in the bonus materials where, in addition to porting over the 2007 commentary and featurette, Scream Factory has also included new featurettes with Lou David (who played Cropsy in the film), Leah Ayres, and editor Jack Sholder along with a new commentary from stars Shelley Bruce and Bonnie Deroski. Overall, an another amazing release from Scream Factory, an imprint less than a year old making a serious name for itself with genre fans.

dreadedsundown.jpgThe Town That Dreaded Sundown / The Evictors
About three hours east of my home in suburban Dallas is the medium sized town of Texarkana. In the years immediately following the end of World War II this town experienced one of the most horrifying string of serial murders in American history, made all the more frightening by the fact that it happened so far from the big cities where we've begun to expect this kind of thing. Exploitation director Charles B. Pierce (Coffy, The Legend of Boggy Creek) took this story and made the film The Town that Dreaded Sundown, which may be of questionable veracity, but certainly conveys the palpable fear felt by Texarkana's residents back in 1946.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown feels kind of like a TV movie, but a really good one. The cinematography is no great shakes, but the film itself is still pretty damned creepy. The film is full of classic '70s character actors but is still headlined by Gilligan's Island girl-next-door, Dawn Wells, who puts in a decent performance as a terrorized farm wife. Here's what Scream Factory has to say about this hidden gem:
When two young lovers are savagely beaten and tortured on a back country road in Texarkana, local police are baffled. Three weeks later, two more people are slain in a similar setting and Deputy Norman Ramsey fears a pattern might be developing. Texas Ranger J.D. Morales (Ben Johnson, The Wild Bunch) is brought in to help. The two officers must find "the Phantom Killer" before he can kill again. Also starring Andrew Prine (Grizzly) and Dawn Wells (Gilligan's Island), directed by Charles B. Pierce (The Legend Of Boggy Creek), and based on one of America's most baffling murder cases, this horrifying suspense thriller is a shocking experience you'll never forget.
Scream Factory's Blu-ray release of The Town that Dreaded Sundown is yet another winner. The image, as dull and relatively static as it is, is also very clean and free of debris with plenty of fine detail and no evidence of intrusive digital tinkering. The image is significantly grainier than that of The Burning, but not out of line with what should be expected. There is no amazing synth score to go with this one, but the DTS-HD MA audio track does a fine job with what it has and I'm fine with what I got in that department. The extras go nuts, though, and are worth the purchase by themselves.

Along with the main feature, Scream Factory also presents one of Pierce's other rural terrors, The Evictors, on the included DVD. The Evictors stars a post-Suspiria Jessica Harper as a woman terrorized after she and her husband (Michael Parks) purchase a home in another rural town. There are some nifty twists and turns, but it's definitely a tier below The Town That Dreaded Sundown in terms of quality. (You can read more about the film in this article by Twitch's Peter Martin.) In addition to that we also get more cast interviews from the Sundown team as well as an informative commentary from historian Jim Presley that covers the truth and myths around The Phantom Killer case as they pertain to the film.

Vampire-Lovers-Cover.jpgVampire Lovers
This is the one that somehow slipped by me. Vampire Lovers is the first of Scream Factory's releases to come from the hallowed stables of Hammer Horror. A little over a year ago I reviewed Synapse Film's stellar disc of Hammer's Twins of Evil, and Vampire Lovers is yet another story adapted from the same source material, Carmilla. There are three films in the so-called Karnstein Trilogy (the last being Lust for a Vampire), and Vampire Lovers is the first, and arguably least sleazy (by only the slightest of margins). Ingrid Pitt (The Wicker Man) and Madeline Smith (Live and Let Die) lead the cast of buxom beauties either fighting off or possessed by vampiric lust in this unrepentantly sensual horror.

Scream Factory
CAUTION: Not for the mentally immature!

A female vampire with lesbian tendencies ravages the young girls and townsfolk of a peaceful hamlet in eighteenth century Europe who, years earlier, killed off her fellow vampires. A rousing hunt for the vampiress ensues as a group of men follow her bloody trail of terror through the countryside. Adapted from J. Sheridan LeFanu's novella "Carmilla," The Vampire Lovers stars Ingrid Pitt, George Cole and Peter Cushing.
Oh yeah, did I mention that Peter Cushing was in this? Probably not, as he's only in it for about five minutes altogether, but he does get to play the hero, so that's something. The disc from Scream Factory is up to their usual standards with strong audio and video and nothing to complain about. The extras are also worth checking out with a full length commentary from director Roy Ward Baker, writer Tudor Gates, and Ingrid Pitt; as well as a lovely interview with Madeline Smith, who is just adorable, interviews with various Hammer scholars about the film's place in the history of Hammer's productions, and a reading of selected portions of Carmilla by Ingrid Pitt herself. While it isn't quite up to the standard of Twins of Evil as a package (few discs can match the feature length documentary on that disc), it's more than the film has ever received and should please fans.
Around the Internet:
  • mightyjoeyoung

    "This is the one that somehow slipped by me. Vampire Lovers is the first of Scream Factory's releases to come from the hallowed stables of Hammer Horror."

    I hardly remember this one, maybe I should buy it, after all..... Ingrid Pitt is topless....hahahhahahha...thanks for the reviews Mr Hurtado.

  • TheGhostOfGriffinMill

    Favorite thing about THE BURNING: story credit to Paramount Chairman and CEO Brad Grey (and, yes, it really is THAT Brad Grey).

  • Paul

    Slight correction: "Twins of Evil" is actually the third and final film in the Karnstein trilogy, not "Lust for a Vampire," which is the second one.

  • J Hurtado

    I meant the last as in "the last one I haven't mentioned yet", but thanks

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