Symptoms [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (24th April 2016).
The Film

“Symptoms” (1974)

Helen Ramsay (played by Angela Pleasance) returns to her estate in the English countryside along with her girl-friend Anne Weston (played by Lorna Heilbron). Anne who had recently split with a boyfriend is looking forward to some peace and quiet in the rural area. When Helen goes to town to buy some medicine, the chemist Mr. Burke (played by Raymond Huntley) is quite surprised to see her back in town. When he asks if she had brought her friend Cora along, Helen replies that she is alone - strangely not mentioning anything about Anne. At first all seems peaceful and comforting at the estate, but Helen starts to behave slightly unusually. When the two of them go to the lake for a row, Helen mentions about a drowning. When Anne goes out to the post office, Helen becomes extremely distraught with the idea of being left alone. On the way back from the post office, Anne encounters Mr. Brady (played by Peter Vaughn), a groundkeeper that knows she is staying at the Ramsay estate. He mentions creepily about Cora - a woman who stayed at the estate prior with Helen, one that Helen mentioned as not having met for a long time. With Anne starting to have nightmares, hearing strange voices at night, and feeling utterly scared by staying with Helen, it’s only a matter of time until the mental anguish turns into physical terror…

“Symptoms” is a psychological horror film that certainly messes with the minds of viewers as much as it does with the characters within the story. But the film is not entirely a straightforward affair that starts to take deep twists and turns. The cryptic dialogue between the characters gives a sense of strangeness, and since they speak very little to reveal much backstory, It’s sometimes hard to place what the characters’ individual intentions are. But again, that is what makes the story so creepy, by not giving away all the answers. There are suggestions of lesbianism - with the brief nudity, the looks that Helen makes toward Anne, and the setting of two young females staying together (possibly) alone. Helen’s anxiety may be due to sexual repression, or possibly due to jealousy, but that is a topic easily arguable even by the end when more is revealed. Mr. Brady is a usual suspect as is the caretaker Hannah (played by Nancy Nevinson) - people that are constantly around the place that know its disturbing history. It’s not particularly a spoiler, but there is a bit of a body count in the film. “Symptoms” unusually reveals the killer around halfway through. Films such as “Psycho” and “Scream” made it a guessing game until the end. Others such as “Halloween” (starring Angela Pleasance’s father Donald Pleasance) or “A Nightmare on Elm Street” make it quite clear from the start who the killer is. “Symptoms” pulls back the curtain on the reveal halfway to also give time for the audience to piece together the “why” for the second half. Films such as “Repulsion” (1965) and “High Tension” (2005) also have a similar psychological tension, of the physical violence reflecting the mental nightmares.

“Symptoms” was the third film directed by directorJosé Ramón Larraz, a former comic book artist and photographer from Spain that made his previous two films in England as well. The use of sexuality and violence would become a staple of his later works especially with his breakthrough following film, “Vampyres” also released in 1974. Though most of his films would be labeled as “Eurotrash” for many years, “Symptoms” was actually favored quite well by the few critics that had seen it at the time. The film was entered into the Cannes Film Festival in 1974 to represent the UK, but quickly fell into obscurity due to poor distribution. For many years the only way people could see it was from bootlegged VHS recordings, as the film’s original negatives and prints were considered lost. Fortunately in 2014, the original negative was miraculously located and restored in 2K by the Belgian Cinematek. More than 40 years after it screened theatrically, the general public can finally see the often heard about but seldom seen film fully restored.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray which can be played on any Blu-ray player worldwide


BFI presents the film in 1080p in the full negative ratio of 1.33:1 in the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Considering that the film was most likely screened in the 1.66:1 or 1.85:1 ratio theatrically, this transfer slightly opens the matte on the top and/or bottom to reveal more information. Restored in 2K from the long thought to be lost original negative, the film looks very good. The old VHS bootlegs can be tossed for good. ”Symptoms” is not the most colorful film, with lots of browns and greys in the color palate. The colors are dull and dirty, but at least the print is extremely clean. There are very minor specs here and there, scratches are non-existent, and the framing is always stable. Good job by the Belgian Cinematek and the BFI for additional grading and transfer to Blu-ray and DVD.

The film’s runtime is 91:32


English LPCM 1.0
There is only one audio track on the Blu-ray disc and it is the original mono with no fancy upgrade. The soundtrack has been remastered and it is good, though nothing earthshattering. Hisses and crackles have been removed and dialogue and sound effects sound very good.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font.


This is a 2-disc dual format Blu-ray + DVD release, with the DVD mimicking the same content as the Blu-ray but only in PAL standard definition. The full details are listed below:

DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

"On Vampyres and Other Symptoms" 2011 documentary by Celia Novis (73:37)
This documentary is a look at the life and career of Jose Larraz, from his days in Spain as a comic book artist frequently censored, his life-changing meeting with film director Josef von Sternberg, and his career in film. Interspersed are comic book style recreations of events, footage of Larraz in his own words, and festival appearances. The footage from “Symptoms” used in the documentary was taken from the old inferior tape source which you can see how different the restoration looks in comparison.
in 1080p, in 1.78:1, in Spanish/English Dolby Digital 2.0 with optional English subtitles for the non-English portions

"From Barcelona... to Tunbridge Wells: The Films of José Larraz" 1999 featurette (24:10)
The Channel 4 TV special from 1999 features interviews with Larraz, editor and producer Brian Smedley-Aston, and actress Marianne Morris. “Symptoms” is covered very little while the breakthrough film “Vampyres” is talked about in detail the most. Larraz certainly is a character at an old age with his very funny non stop chatter.
in 1080i 60hz, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

An Interview with Angela Pleasance (9:35)
Pleasance talks about her experience making the film, in which she was quite excited about making a film with a Spanish director because she was a fan of European cinema. She mentions also about Larraz’s temper, an accident on set in which she was hospitalized for, and that the nude shot was not her but a body double. Sorry to break it, Pleasance fans!
in 1080p, in 1.33:1 and windowboxed 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

An Interview with Lorna Heilbron (17:55)
Heilbron talks about the unusual start of not even receiving a script until the production process, the intensity of Larraz as a director, and how she and Pleasance stayed great friends after the completion of the film. She also gives some info on memories of “The Creeping Flesh” which she starred in a year prior to “Symptoms”.
in 1080p, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

An Interview with Brian Smedley-Aston (17:02)
Smedley-Aston edited “Symptoms” and later worked producing “Vampyres” for Larraz. With an impressive resume editing films such as “Performance” (1970), “Squirm” (1976), and “Blue Sunshine” (1978), Smedley-Aston recalls meeting Larraz, his particular style of directing and comic book influence of his works.
in 1080p, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0

Original Theatrical Trailer (2:04)
The trailer has its fair share of dust and specs, but looks quite good in color and clarity.
in 1080p, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0

Included is the standard BFI booklet. First in the contents is Demons of the Mind: Contextualizing Jose Ramon Larraz’s Symptoms by Vanity Celis who is a programmer for the Offscreen Film Festival in Brussels, Belgium. Next is a 1976 review of the film by David Pirie for Monthly Film Bulletin. Also included are full cast and crew credits, special features information, and about the restoration of the film.

One thing conspicuously missing is English subtitles for the bonus features. Previous BFI Blu-rays and DVDs offered English subtitles on the extras, but for some reason, the three recent BFI Flipside releases “Beat Girl”, “Expresso Bongo”, and “Symptoms” are missing them. Why BFI stopped the practice is a mystery as it was always a given that there would be captioned extras.


This is spine #32 of the BFI Flipside series, showcasing various offbeat, forgotten, and overlooked British films.


“Symptoms” can finally be seen in its full glory and this is one of the more important rediscoveries out there. Granted it is not a lost masterpiece of horror that it may be hyped up to be, but it is a very good piece of psychological gothic horror with its share of blood and sexual undertones. BFI gives the film a deserving presentation with great extras. Absolutely recommended.

The Film: B Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A-


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