Toolbox Murders (The) (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - 88 Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (23rd February 2018).
The Film

Never released uncut in the UK before - TOOLBOX MURDERS stars the legendary Cameron Mitchell (BLOOD AND BLACK LACE) as a balaclava-clad badman who stalks and splatters a number of nubile and frequently nude young ladies across a Hollywood apartment block. Included in the vixen-victims is the legendary adult star Kelly Nichols (ROOMMATES) who is turned into a human pin cushion by our unapologetically evil antagonist. Banned as a video nasty in the UK, TOOLBOX MURDERS would be remade by the legendary Tobe Hooper (THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE) in 2004, but nothing beats this original nightmare which, along with HALLOWEEN, heralded a new era of slice and dice madness in the late 1970s. Finally unleashed in HD by 88 Films in an all-new special edition, this gore gem is ready to drill and thrill you in a brilliant Blu-Ray edition.


This is one of several proto slasher epics that came out before Halloween (1978); in fact this one was made the year before but held over into 1978 where it still predated John Carpenterís seminal film by several months. Itís more of an example of the kind of film whereby the viewpoint is mostly that of the killer himself. See also Deranged (1974), Maniac! (1980) and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) for other examples.

This is a real grindhouse production that looks like it was shot fast and dirty on 35mm. The basic image is generally very detailed with plenty of natural grain in evidence. Colours are rich and natural although contrast has been boosted when compared to the US Blue Underground disc. Black levels are generally good with little or no crush and print damage is virtually non existent.

This new disc from 88 Films has apparently been taken from a new 4K scan. Sadly, itís not entirely successful and although the Blue Underground (BU) disc uses a much older 2K scan (or less) itís actually preferable. Firstly, the new transfer is framed at 1.78:1 and seems a tad tight at times, especially when compared to the US discís 1.66:1 which allows the compositions more breathing room. Now, I know that when this film played in theatres it most likely was presented even tighter at 1.85:1 but cheapjack flicks like this were made under the gun and sometimes these concerns were glossed over. I tend to favour the 1.66:1 framing.

The other issue is the contrast boosting and which can alter shots significantly. Thereís one shot where a victimís corpse is laid back and blood can be seen on her lips; it looks quite natural in the BU transfer but appears darker and almost black in the 88 Films.

Now, before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, this is still a pretty sweet transfer of a problematic source. In motion and in isolation the vast majority (say 95%) of viewers will not notice much if anything untoward. I saw these issues because ... well, itís my job but I also happen to have the US disc to compare.

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.78:1 / 94:02


English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English LPCM 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English HoH

Using the US Blue Underground release as a baseline unfortunately finds the 5.1 track on the 88 Filmsí disc pretty useless with virtually no rear activity when compared to the lossless 7.1 or the lossy 5.1 found in the US disc. The mono track is however robust and a decent representation of the original theatrical 1.0 mono mix seen in theatres in 1978. Dialogue is always strong and clear with no issues created by the score.

A shame, because the US lossless 7.1 and the lossy 5.1 are pretty sweet with plenty of surround activity and a decent spread around the fronts as well.

The subtitles are - as always - a welcome addition for fans who are hearing impaired.


Audio Commentary with Justin Kerswell and Calum Waddell

Two old slasher fan pros ... also journalists who know their slasher films are on hand for a fact filled and very chatty commentary. Topics covered are all the usual aspects like cast and crew, body counts, SPFX etc. An enjoyable and essential view. It is actually a notch more interesting than the old track found on the Blue Underground disc which had surviving hands form the production.

"Slashback Memories: David Del Valle Remembers Cameron MitchellĒ featurette (24:33)

I could watch and or listen to Del Valle till the crack of doom and that coupled with the fact he was a personal friend of Mitchellís means we have a fascinating and passionately delivered piece about the late, great Hollywood star.

"Flesh and Blood: An Interview with Kelly Nichols" featurette (31:10)

The most prominent of all of the female victims in the film is on hand for a lengthy discussion about her career. Nichols is spirited and full of great anecdotes in a much more meaty piece than the brief 8 minute piece found on the US disc.

Theatrical Trailer (2:19)

Creepy trailer used to promote the film.

Reversible sleeve

Two different choices of art, both vintage.

4-page liner notes leaflet ďTools of the TradeĒ by Calum Waddell

Another fine article from Waddell who covers the history of the film, his personal history with the title (he didnít used to like it) and sprinkles it with comments from producer Tony Dideo. We also find out about Tobe Hooperís 2004 remake and the fact a third film is in the offing.


The film is a hard, tough view with an extremely seedy, creepy atmosphere in itís first, gory third. After that it goes in some surprising directions.

A problematic but still pretty good transfer of a tough source; itís a major step up on DVD and for most will suffice. For the hardcore, the boosted contrast and tight framing may be an issue. Stick to the original mono as itís best option by a long, long way. However, the extras are typically superb and are well worth the price of the disc on their own.

The Film: C+ Video: B Audio: A Extras: A+ Overall: B


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