Strait-Jacket (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (29th January 2019).
The Film

Renowned for his imaginative and eccentric marketing ploys, William Castle became synonymous with delivering lurid horror films backed-up by his trademark publicity gimmicks (‘Illusion-O’; ‘Percepto’; the ‘Punishment Poll’; ‘Fright Breaks’, etc.). WILLIAM CASTLE AT COLUMBIA VOLUME TWO features four more weird and wonderful films from the outrageous showman’s illustrious career with Columbia Pictures, all presented on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK.

Containing a wealth of new and archival extras this stunning Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set from Indicator is strictly limited to 6,000 units.

Video

Castle's gimmicky films are great fun and this second set from Powerhouse Films is a keeper.

Zotz! (1962) Is a charming family film with plenty of laughs about a languages professor (Tom Poston) who gets special powers when he translate an ancient coin.

Strait-Jacket (1963) is a barmy and enjoyable entry in the '60s Hagsploitation fad initiated by Robert Aldrich's Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and starring Joan Crawford.

13 Frightened Girls (1963) is a very silly children's film about schoolgirls who are diplomats daughters getting involved with espionage.

The Old Dark House (1962) is a fun remake of the 1932 James Whale classic made with Hammer and starring Poston again.

All four films in this set were shot soft matte with a OCN ratio of 1.37:1 but designed to be matted in projection to 1.85:1. Two are in glorious, inky black and white and two in colour.

The B&W films (and the B&W version of The Old Dark House) look very sharp and as with other contemporaneous B&W films released by Powerhouse Films the usual high standards are maintained.

The balance of contrast and darkness displays plenty of highlights and lovely, velvety deep blacks with absolutely no signs of crush. The contrast ratio is so good details in some of the darker areas of the screen still stand out. Background detail is sharp as a tack and closeups are ravishing with skin and fabric textures very much in evidence and being a film shot almost entirely on studio interiors faces, fabrics and set dressing are the whole show.

Grain is generally very fine with the MacKenzie / Fidelity in Motion encode handling everything well. On some low lit scenes and big exteriors the grain can become courser but I saw no clumping or holes in the grain field.

The only notable flaws being at moments where optical fades between shots are used causing a softness and mild density issues; usually at scene changes and in the credits sequences. There are no signs of print damage that I noticed and it would seem the source materials have been looked after beautifully. These are taken from older Sony masters but they hold up extremely well and were strong in their day, more than acceptable now. Obviously, if new 2019 4K masters were created there would be improvements.

I saw no signs of digital artefacts or tinkering with the image such as DNR or edge enhancement. It's fair to say that an online acquaintance claims that on his 4K OLED display he noticed mild posterization throughout Zotz!, but on my 58 inch 4K LED I only saw some mild noise in darker scenes but it was brief and not a cause for concern.

The monochrome films obviously haven't any colour but the gamma has been expertly controlled so no bias have crept in, at least none that I could detect. Obviously your ability to sense bias will be determined as to how your TV is setup.

The colour films are pretty typical of the period with 13 Frightened Girls having that slightly slick, flat, TV-movie look of an American film shot quickly and on a budget. The palette is generally naturalistic and muted with a pastel quality. Whereas The Old Dark House favours a richer look with more vivid colours typical of Hammer Horror.

Both have been well looked after with the elements in fine shape, but these are again older masters. Master David Mackenzie has done his usual fine job on the encodes, so no issues to report there. Detail and definition does drop slightly when optical process shots, credits etc are on screen as does the density. However, these issues are inherent and unavoidable short of doing a complete rebuild assuming Sony has all of the various bits and pieces ... which would be prohibitively expensive for such minor titles. Grain is ever present and satisfyingly even

13 Frightened Girls is presented in three versions.
*The Film: as "13 Frightened Girls" (87:31)
*The Film: as "The Candy Web" (87:31)
*The Film: as "The Candy Web" with William Castle 'Danger Card' messages (88:45)

The Old Dark House is presented in three versions.
*The Film: Colour Version (86:24)
*The Film: B&W Version (86:24)
*The Film: UK 'A'-Certificate Version (83:44)

1080/24p / MPEG-AVC / 1.85:1 / Zotz! (85:35), 13 Frightened Girls (87:31, 88:45), The Old Dark House (86:24, 83:44), Strait-Jacket (92:51)

Audio

English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

The audio on all four films are fine, lossless renderings of limited mono sources; and, low budget sources at that. There are no issues that I could detect with dialogue coming through nice and clear and no distortions at the higher end. The melodramatic scores blast out at appropriate times but dialogue is always audible. Subtitles for the hearing impaired are included and useful.

Extras

Audio Commentary on Zotz! by film historian Kat Ellinger
Audio Commentary on The Old Dark House by critics Kim Newman and Stephen Jones
Audio Commentary on 13 Frightened Girls by film historian Sam Deighan
Audio Commentary by film historians Lee Gambin and Emma Westwood


A fine series of commentary tracks all well handled by experts who are dab hands at these things.

Isolated Music and Effects Track (in LPCM 1.0) on all four films

Score fans will be happy.

"Stephen Laws Introduces Zotz!" (6:06)
"Stephen Laws introduces 13 Frightened Girls" (10:21)
"Not Too Spooky: Jonathan Rigby on The Old Dark House" (28:37)
"Mirror Images: Jonathan Rigby on Strait-Jacket" (27:19)
"The Horror of it All: Kim Newman on Ray Russell" (24:00)
"House and Castle: Presented by Dr. Paul Frith, University of East Anglia" (7:22)
"Joan Crawford Had Me Fired" interview with actress Anne Helm (6:45)
"On the Road with Joan Crawford" interview with publicist Richard Kahn (6:33)
"Battle-Axe: The Making of Strait-Jacket" (14:39)


A fabulous collection of featurettes old and new that provide plenty of context, interest, trivia and value.

Zotz! Theatrical Trailer (2:41)
The Old Dark House Theatrical Trailer (2:47)
13 Frightened Girls British Trailer Introduction (0:38)
13 Frightened Girls theatrical trailer (2:36)
The Candy Web theatrical trailer (2:31)
Strait-Jacket TV Spots (0:33)
Strait-Jacket Theatrical Trailer (2:14)


Vintage trailers with plenty of hyperbole and William Castle doing what he does best.

Trailers from Hell with David DeCoteau on Strait-Jacket (2:17)

Director DeCoteau is also a major fan, and it shows.

13 Frightened Girls: William Castle Danger Card Messages (1:26)
13 Frightened Girls Alternative Opening Scenes (with "Play All" option; 15:44):
British Opening (3:55)
French Opening (3:56)
German Opening (3:56)
Swedish Opening (3:55)


A selection of alternate openings and promos.
"How to Plan a Movie Murder" vintage featurette with star Joan Crawford, director William Castle, and author Robert Bloch (4:34)

Vintage puff piece.

Joan Crawford Screen Tests:
Joan Crawford Wardrobe Tests (3:27)
Joan Crawford Axe Test (0:37)


Some short production pieces ported over from the old DVD.

Strait-Jacket Super 8 Version (19:35)

Before the home video revolution, these short digests of films were a way to revisit them in between TV broadcasts. Image quality is poor by today's standards but they're fascinating artefacts. I can remember borrowing these from the Penfield and Pittsford (NY) libraries

Zotz! Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (59 images)
The Old Dark House Stills, Lobby Cards and Posters (67 images)
The Old Dark House Press Books and Promotional Material (69 images)
13 Frightened Girls Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (22 images)
Strait-Jacket Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (39 images)


An extensive and satisfying collection of stills and other ephemera in HD.

40-page liner notes booklet on Zotz! by Joe Jorden and Jeff Billington with vintage writing by William Castle, Carla Lowry and Bob Thomas, an article on author William Karig and his very different book. Also cast and crew credits and vintage critical responses

40-page liner notes booklet on The Old Dark House by James Oliver and Anthony Nield (on the film vs the BBFC) with vintage writing by William Castle, J. B. Priestly. Also vintage press book, cast and crew credits and vintage critical responses

40-page liner notes booklet on 13 Frightened Girls by Rachael Nisbet with vintage writing by William Castle. Also vintage press book, an article on producer Dona Holloway cast and crew credits and vintage critical responses

40-page liner notes booklet on Strait-Jacket by John Oliver with vintage writing by William Castle. Also vintage press book and article on Joan Crawford, an article on producer Dona Holloway cast and crew credits and vintage critical responses


Another superb collection of booklets that provide bags of contextual material that enhance the enjoyment of these films.

Overall

A welcome BD release of four of William Castle's beloved films; these were probably among young film goers first experiences with fantasy cinema. As with the first boxset, the transfers are top notch with excellent picture and sound and the extras are extensive and deeply satisfying.

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

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.