Qušlen AKA The Hereafter (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (12th February 2023).
The Film

Amongst overlooked filmmakers, British director Michael J. Murphy ranks as one of the most sorely neglected. Having cut his teeth on a variety of homemade 8mm shorts, he had completed three feature-length productions by the age of eighteen. Over the next five decades, Murphy would go on to make many more films across a variety of genres, dividing his production time between Greece, Portugal and the UK, with family, friends, and local stage performers becoming his regular cast and crew in exchange for holidays in the sun.

Despite this prolific output Ė a total of more than thirty completed films over a half-century, of which twenty-six survive Ė Murphyís work remains rarely seen and little championed. Fitfully available on videotape and barely represented on DVD, this comprehensive and long-gestating ten-disc Blu-ray collection seeks to rectify that situation once and for all. Boasting all-new 2K restorations from archival 16mm and 8mm elements, as well as a number of new digital captures from Murphyís personal tape masters, this extensive retrospective of the obsessive auteurís work is bolstered by a wealth of bonus features, including surviving fragments from lost works, and a 120-page book, all of which provides the definitive account of the weird and wonderful worlds of Britainís great unheralded DIY filmmaker.

Video

REVIEW 3/4: Discs 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8

Section 1 - Material made in 8mm presented in 1080p24: Bloodstream
The only film in this set shot on the amateur film gage of 8mm, it's preceded by this menu text when you select either of the two versions:
Bloodstream was never officially released. However, an early version was pirated, and this bootleg' version - presented here from a VHS source - features the voices of the original actors who play William King and his secretary, Nikki. In Murphy's director's cut - presented from a 2K scan of the original Super 8 elements - both actors have been re-dubbed, with Murphy himself voicing the role of King.

In this section I'll cover the film sourced director's cut, see below (section 3) for the VHS sourced bootleg version. Given this is super 8mm Bloodstream looks amazing, not too far removed from the 16mm productions. Powerhouse Film's team has done a stunning job bringing the most out of the surviving assets. Colours are strong and natural, black levels are deep and contrast is strong and supportive. There's no real shadow detail and it's on this score that the differences when set against the 16mm-shot films can be seen. Detail only really manifests in closeups and well-lit medium shots and even then textures aren't fully realised. However, although not released, it was intended for crap-vision VHS with it's subpar resolution even for standard definition and any deficiencies in the 8mm format would've been undetectable. In 1080p24 everything in terms of visual data has been resolved, a 4K release wouldn't get anything more from the negative.

Section 2 - Material made in 16mm but upscaled to 1080p24 from surviving standard definition elements:
Qušlen / The Hereafter, Tristan '86, Death Run, Avalon, Second Sight, Road to Nowhere


These titles only now exist in standard definition and have had their tape masters used as the source of the new 1080p24 transfers, which have had substantial restoration work done. The images are clean and stable but understandably soft and lacking in fine detail. The images are also slaved to the quality of the vintage telecine transfers which means at times colours can be muted (at others warmer, richer), detail is lacking, blacks although deep and rich are filled with crush. Contrast can be muted as well. The restoration team have done their level best with these transfers but don't expect miracles. There are moments of film dirt (baked into the masters at the time of creation) and the odd moment of fleeting dropout.

Section 3 - Material made in 16mm but presented unrestired in standard definition from tape elements, upscaled to 1080p24: Bloodstream bootleg, Legend of a Hero (alternate cut of Tristan '86), alternate cut of Tristan '99, alternate cut of Rite of Spring

These standard definition versions show the limitations of their tape sources. Soft, indistinct and entirely lacking in any fine detail or filmic grain and they have much worse black crush. Faces and surfaces are waxy and video-like, background detail is very indistinct. These are very soft looking and do have plenty of moments of tape dropout.

Section 4 - Material made in 16mm and presented in 1080p24: Moonchild, Torment, Atlantis, Rite of Spring, Tristan '99

1080p24 / AVC MPEG-4 / All discs BD50 / 1.37:1 (all films), 1.66:1 (alternate cuts of Rite of Spring, Tristan '99)

Running times:
Disc 3: Qušlen / The Hereafter (84:25, under both titles), Bloodstream (79:44, bootleg 80:47)
Disc 4: Tristan '86 (108:40), Legend of a Hero (87:44), Death Run (73:36)
Disc 5: Avalon (84:08), Moonchild (87:35)
Disc 6: Torment (90:28), Atlantis (82:32)
Disc 7: Second Sight (89:58), Road to Nowhere (95:25)
Disc 8: Rite of Spring (90:22, 81:18), Tristan '99 (108:11, 101:29)

Audio

English LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz)
Avalon, Moonchild, Atlantis and Road to Nowhere
English LPCM 2.0 Surround (48kHz)
Torment and the re-edited version of The Rite of Spring
English LPCM 1.0 (48kHz)
Qušlen (and under the alternate title), Bloodstream director's cut, Tristan '86, Death Run, Second Sight, The Rite of Spring original version, Tristan '99 original version and the re-edited version of Tristan '99
English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
The bootleg version of Bloodstream
Subtitles: English HoH

Given that these are micro-budgeted, amateur productions (albeit labours of love!) they have pretty solid mono tracks with decent fidelity and no real instances of distortion, at least not that I heard or that will hinder enjoyment. Lets be frank, these are very low budget so there is a slightly canned, slightly muffly quality and most of the actual dialogue has been re-voiced in post production and is uneven in volume and quality, sometimes breathy as if those speaking are too close to the microphones. Sounds effects and score come off generally well. Occasionally sound levels do vary but that seems to be baked into the soundtracks, interiors can be a tad echoey at times. They ain't gonna win any awards but equally no one has any reasons to complain who knows and accepts the conditions under which these micro-level productions were made.

I could discern no real qualitative differences between the varying sound formats, all bar the bootleg version of Bloodstream are uncompressed with the later in lossy Dolby Digital and I suppose I found the volume level was a little lower and they were hissier at louder volumes. As is usual for Powerhouse Films, the hard of hearing subtitles are superb and translate everything, at least in the lengthy sections I sampled.

Extras

DISC 3:
"Michael J. Murphy Presents" 2015 featurette (18:40)

A 2015 interview conducted on Wednesday the 18th March, in which Murphy discusses his compulsion to make his films, his career and his love of working with friends. Presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

16mm Test Footage (3:12)

Short behind the scenes look at Murphy's working processes (partially narrated by him) in transferring films to tape, discussing the elements, use of telecine equipment etc. Presented in upscaled 1080p24 1.33:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. In addition to some mild film dirt on the films when transferred to tape there's also some moments of tape dropout. Sound is a little muffled.

Bloodstream Promo (2:41)

2008 promo trailer created by Sarcophilous Films for a DVD release that never happed die to the company folding. Presented in upscaled 1080p24 1.33:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 1980-1982 Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (27 images)
Qušlen Image Gallery: Original Shooting Script (91 images)
Bloodstream Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material [script] (60 images)


Three extensive galleries mostly focussing on scripts (in HD).

DISC 4:
Murlyn's Cave" 2023 featurette (21:55)
An onscreen caption informs us:
After Michael J Murphy's death, friends and collaborators, including Phil Lyndon, Chris Porter, Mark lain Davidson, Jude Flanagan and June Bunday, made one final trip to the director's home to salvage what they could from his house, loft and studio garage. The following video footage documents some of this salvage operation. 2nd May 2015
... and that's what we get in this new featurette presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. A document of thise people searching through Murphy's house.

Legend of a Hero Trailer #1 (1:39)
Legend of a Hero Trailer #2 (1:14)
Death Run Trailer #1 (2:12)
Death Run Trailer #2 (0:59)


Trailers presented in upscaled 1080p 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. I age is soft and smeary and variable sound. The first Legend of a Hero trailer has distorted sound. The two Death .run trails are of similar image and sound quality.

The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 1986-1987 Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (41 images)
Tristan Image Gallery: Original Shooting Script (79 images)
Death Run Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (47 images)


Another set of chunky HD galleries.

DISC 5:
"Murphy's Lore, Part 2: Method" 2017 featurette (20:37)

The second part of this 3-part documentary. Interviews with Murphy, Phil Lyndon and Patrick Oliver. Presented in 1.78:1 with uncompressed LPCM 2.0 surround. In a communication with disc technical producer Michael Brooke* I asked if this documentary was 1080i50 or i60 because it didn't activate the 24p on my player. His response was thus:
The overwhelming majority of the video material across the entire box set will be 23.976fps for maximum compatibility. The Murphy's Lore episodes were the major exception because they were natively 29.97fps, so it made sense to retain that framerate (even if it didn't do some of the clips too many favours).

* Wayne Maginn is the overall producer of the set.

Avalon Trailer #1 (2:20)
Avalon Trailer #2 (1:26)
Moonchild Trailer (1:35)


The first trailer is from film, the second is upscaled and the third is a reconstruction. All are presented in 1080p24 1.37:1 with uncompressed LPCM 2.0 mono sound.

The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 1988-1989 Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (29 images)
Avalon Image Gallery: Original Shooting Script (68 images)


More HD galleries.

DISC 6:
Audio commentary on Atlantis with Michael J. Murphy, Judith Holding, Phil Lyndon and June Bunday (3 January 2010)

Warm, laid back commentary in which a bunch of mates enjoy recounting their time making the film with plenty of anecdotes and trivia about the making of this ultra low budget and ambitious little movie. Presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Atlantis Featurettes:
- "The Making of Atlantis" (2000) (7:10)
- "The Making of Atlantis" (2009) (6:52)


Two vintage retrospectives with Murphy designed to accompany the film on home video featuring clips and outtakes and the second also covers his 1966 film Atlantis: City of Sin (made my Murphy at age 14-15). The second also features comments from Phil Lyndon, Judith Holding and June Bunday from the 1990 version. The first is 1080p24 1.37:1, the second is 1080p24 1.78:1 both with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Atlantis Alternative Titles and Credits (5:34)

What it says on the tin. Presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Bloopers Reel (from Death Run, Moonchild, Torment, Atlantis, Second Sight) (5:21)

Cut ups and outtake footage of the cast some silent set to score and others with production sound presented in upscaled 1080p24 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

Torment Trailer (2:13)
Atlantis Trailer #1 (2:02)
Atlantis Trailer #2 (2:17)


Trailers upscaled in 1080p24 1.37:1 / 1.66:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Galleries:
- The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 1990-1991 Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (44 images)
- Atlantis Image Gallery: Original Script Gallery (67 images)


More HD galleries.

DISC 7:
"Mike Gives Us a Tour of His Home and Studio: Unused B-roll from Murphy's Lore" 2015 featurette (11:16)

Recorded not long before Murphy sadly died (he's on fine form and seems in fine health), this is a pleasant little trawl through memorabilia in Mike's house. He's being interviewed and filmed by two individuals. Looking at posters etc as he recounts memories and anecdotes about the films concerned. We also get a look at his garage studio (now a gym). The posters and production stills are all very good and make things look much slicker than they are albeit for films in the largely straight to video arena. Presented in 1080i60 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Road to Nowhere Alternate Credits (1:30)

Alternate credits presented in 1080p24 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

Road to Nowhere Trailer (2:13)

Cheesy trailer with naff narration, pulpy, amusing. Presented in 1080p24 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 1991-1993 Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (34 images)

HD gallery.


DISC 8:
"Horror-on-Sea 2013 Presents: An Exclusive Interview with Michael J. Murphy - Recorded on New Year's Day 2013 with Questions Supplied by Darrell Buxton" 2013 featurette (64:13)

Massive, lengthy interview with the great man conducted in an eccentric manor, prerecorded at (what I assume is) Mike's home on new years' day with Christmas decorations. He starts off explaining he's spending time with his sister in law on her 70th birthday and also that he is a little shy of publicity and interviews. He doesn't attend festivals mainly due to being too busy filming so this is the next best thing. Questions supplied by Darryl Buxton and read by Phil Lyndon and Judy Bunday. Intercut with some featurettes presenting snippets and clips from his films. Presented in 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

The Rite of Spring Behind the Scenes (40:20)

Standard def B-roll footage shot during the shoot presented in upscaled 1080p24 1.33:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. No doubt of huge interest as a window into the behind the scenes aspects of Rite of Spring.

Tristan Alternative Titles and Credits (3:52)

Alternate credits presented in 1080p24 1.66:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. When the screen turned black with video generated text I could see some strobing horizontal patterns that moved from bottom to top of the screen. Not noticeable on the footage with actors etc.

The Rite of Spring Trailer (2:15)
Tristan Trailer (2:57)


Both are presented upscaled to 1080p24 and in a ratio between 1.37:1 and 1.66:1. Sound is lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and gets the job done.

The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 1995-1999 Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (15 images)
Tristan Image Gallery: Original Shooting Script (159 images)


Exceptionally chunk HD gallery. Manna from heaven for fans!

IN THE BOX:
120-page liner notes book with new essays by Murphy experts Wayne Maginn, Paul Higson, Darrell Buxton and Johnny Walker, a comprehensive filmography and film credits

A massive hardcopy tome designed to increase understanding and appreciation of Murphy's films. The booklets that Powerhouse Films do for their Indicator releases are second to none and this one is well up to their supremely high standards. The articles here provide exceptional added value.

Packaging

Not sent for review.

Overall

Discs 3-8 contains 12 films shot originally on film, most on 16mm and one on 8mm. Image and sound are about as good as it's possible to be given the various elements used. Some from film, some from standard masters as they're all that survives, Murphy hasn't really looked after his assets very well. Those who purchase this set will need to bear in mind the micro-budget nature of these productions that are one or two notches above home movies. They're very like much more professional, slicker fan made films of the kind one would see in film clubs. Keep expectations modest. Extras are excellent and provide much contextual added value. This set is an absolute labour of love and has been curated within an inch of it's life. It gets my highest possible recommendation.

Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: A+ Overall: A-

 


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