Nightmare AKA Here's the Knife, Dear: Now Use It (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (17th May 2021).
The Film

Hammer Volume Six: Night Shadows revives four consummate Hammer classics from the early sixties, exemplifying some of Hammer Films' best work in the horror and thriller genres. Edgar Allan Poe looms large in The Shadow of the Cat, a macabre ‘old dark house’ tale of feline revenge, starring André Morell (Cash on Demand) and Barbara Shelley (The Camp on Blood Island); Peter Cushing (The Gorgon, Corruption) and Oliver Reed (The Scarlet Blade) star in Captain Clegg, which sees Hammer fuse horror and adventure in an eighteenth-century-set tale of smugglers and marsh phantoms; Herbert Lom (Mysterious Island) stars as The Phantom of the Opera in Hammer’s acclaimed production of Gaston Leroux’s Gothic classic, whilst Freddie Francis (Torture Garden) directs Nightmare, a spooky psychological thriller in the Les Diaboliques vein, which benefits from full-blooded central performances by Moira Redmond (Jigsaw) and Jennie Linden (A Severed Head).

This collection contains a wealth of new and archival extra features, including documentaries and appreciations, interviews with actors and crew members, audio commentaries, and extensive booklets. Strictly limited to 6,000 numbered units.

Video

Quite possibly my least favourite of the Jimmy Sangster-scripted Les Diaboliques (1954) ripoffs that Hammer made dubbing them "Little Hitchcocks" and making them in the wake of the success of Psycho (1960). They really are much better being dubbed "Little Clouzots". The cycle kicked off with Taste of Fear (1961) and continued with Maniac, Paranoiac (both 1962), Nightmare (1963), Hysteria (1964) and concluded several years later with Crescendo (1969) and Fear in the Night (1972). All essentially have the same plot with variations on "they're trying to drive me mad!"

This one stars Jennie Lindon as the lead / victim and it's gorgeously shot in monochrome Scope by John Wilcox and directed with a sure hand by Freddie Francis, the reluctant horror specialist. My problem with most of these is that Sangster generally can't write good, solid female lead roles and having a screaming, feinting female lead just doesn't make for a compelling rudder; I find them annoying after about five minutes. Only Taste of Fear is a Hammer classic; the rest are enjoyable but disposable and Nightmare falls into that catagory more than most.

Apart from the usual mild distortions and softness due to the use of anamorphic lens (in this case Hammerscope) this is a crisp, strong HD transfer made by Universal. I'm guessing it's quite old and was probably the basis for the version of the film found in the 2005 R1 NTSC Hammer Horror set released by Universal with seven other films. As a result itKs one of the weaker masters used in this otherwise superb quality set. Make no mistake, it's still a peach of a master helped no doubt by the fact the film is so vividly shot and the film elements have been very well looked after. I saw little or no signs of age related wear and tear. Nor did I see any signs of digital tinkering.

The encode is extremely able and strong allowing grain to flow free and seem filmic and natural. As with all of the films in this set, flaws inherent in the material due to production methods are baked in such as transitions involving opticals and credits scenes. Grain is mostly fine becoming courser during darker and outdoor scenes. Black levels are very deep, dark and rich; this is one fine looking monochrome film. There's little or no unintended crush and contrast is complimentary; no blown out highlights. Also, gamma is expertly handed with no unwanted colour bias rearing their head.

Detail is mostly excellent but it fares best in closeups, obviously. Backgrounds are a little soft so the transfer is slightly soft when compared to the newer 2019-20 2K scan afforded The Shadow of the Cat; being anamorphic also doesn't help on that score. The weakest transfer in the set is still exrtremely good.

1080/24p / AVC MPEG-4 / BD50 / 2.35:1 / 82:22

Audio

English LPCM 1.0 (48K)
Subtitles: English HoH

As with the other three films in this wonderful set, Nightmare has a typical mono track from the period presented in uncompressed LPCM 1.0. It's naturally fairly limited in range by the standards of a 2021 Dolby Atmos track but is still robust and surprisingly strong with no distortions even at a high volume. About as good a mono track as I've heard from a '60s film. Very powerful when played via my amp.

Excellent hard of hearing subtitles are provided.:

Extras

Audio commentary with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby (2021)

Lyons and Rigby are old pros at this game and both have fan / historian pedigrees longer than the shows in Wilcox's cinematography when it comes to covering and discussing Hammer Horror. An excellent highly informative and listenable track, not to be skipped! Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

"The British Entertainment History Project (BEHP) Interview with Freddie Francis by Alan Jones and Syd Wilson" excerpts from interviews conducted on 24 November 1993 and 6 June 1994 (plays as an alternate audio track over the film) (82:15)

I wasn't familiar with Wilson prior to listening to this recording but he's a fine interviewer. I've been reading Alan Jones' work for 40 years and have listened to many of his commentary tracks. They both get much out of Francis who was always a great raconteur; a world-class celebrated cinematography who fell into directing horror films and was a solid man at the helm. However, he always seemed to hold his directing work mostly low regard. Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

"Nightmare .... in the Making" 2016 documentary (27:14)
"Jennie Lindon: Memories: Jennie Lindon Talks to Portia Booroff on the Isle of Wight" 2016 featurette (14:15)
"Madhouse: Inside Hammer's Nightmare" 2016 featurette (14:12)


Three fine featurettes ported over from the 2016 Final Cut Blu-ray release. The interview with Lindon gleans plenty of great info from the veteren actress but is technically a tad ragged. The other two are more slick and form a great retrospective discussing Nightmare. 1080/24p 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo sound.

"Something Lurking in the Chords: David Huckvale on Composer Don Banks and Nightmare" 2021 featurette (29:48)
"Hammer's Women: Pamela Hutchinson on Moira Redmond" 2021 featurette (10:02)
"Kim Newman Introduces Nightmare" 2021 featurette (8:10)


Three crackerjack new featurettes made especially for this Powerhouse Film's release; Newman & Huckvale are national treasures and I could listen to both of them waxing lyrical about music, film scores, films and any number of related subjects for a million years. Hutchinson is relatively new but I've encountered her several times in recent years and she does her usual bang-up job presenting with passion and a little cheeky wink.

Theatrical Trailer (1:03)

Vintage promo in 1080/24p with uncompressed LPCM 1.0.

Image Galleries:
- Nightmare Image Gallery: Production Stills (42 images)
- Nightmare Image Gallery: Promotional Material (41 images)


Two excellent HD galleries.

40-page liner notes booklet by Emma Westwood, extracts from original press materials, an overview of contemporary critical responses and film credits

Another absolutely superb booklet from Powerhouse; well up to standard.

Packaging

Hard card outer case with four standard, clear BD Keepcases.

Overall

Nightmare is an enjoyable if extremely formulaic "driving her mad" horror-thriller filled with hysterical and / or unappealing leads. Very fine image and superb sound and an extras package to die for. The transfer is slightly weaker than the other three in the set but it's no slouch. This sixth .hammer set will almost certainly be on many lists of the best discs of the year come December-January.

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

 


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