Invitation to Hell (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (29th January 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 – a total of more than thirty completed films over a half-century, of which twenty-six survive – Murphy’s 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 Murphy’s personal tape masters, this extensive retrospective of the obsessive auteur’s 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 Britain’s great unheralded DIY filmmaker.


DISC ONE: The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 1980-82
The 120-page booklet has this to say regarding the films on DISC ONE:
... were scanned, restored and colour corrected in 2K. A combination of MTI and Nucoda DVO image-processing tools were used to remove many thousands of instances of dirt and sparkle, reduce or eliminate scratches and other imperfections, and repair damaged frames, tears, etc. No grain management, edge enhancement or sharpening tools were employed to artificially alter the image of any of the films in any way. ... Although not as extensively affected by missing sections, it was also necessary to include some SD material in the restorations of a number of the other films in this set. Death in the Family, ... required short SD inserts to enable the presentations to be as complete as possible. For Invitation to Hell, the original 16mm element was missing the film’s entire finale, requiring that section to be sourced from an SD master.

Invitation to Hell has the following on screen text:
Invitation to Hell is presented here in both its original version, and in a revised version that was prepared according to Murphy's instructions for the 2008 Sarcophilous Films DVD release, completing some previously unfinished 'red eye' visual effects. Unfortunately, although original 16mm camera elements exist, they are incomplete, and the final section of both presentations has had to be sourced from a standard-definition master.

1.66:1 productions: The Cell and Stay

Both of these are presented entirely from 16mm film, matted to 1.66:1 and are pretty colourful, film like presentations beautifully encoded as with the filmed material on DISC ONE. Black levels are deep and rich although there's not much shadow detail and plenty of crush. I believe that it's par for the course for how these micro-budgeted films were made; shot quickly for very little money. Contrast is strong and does allow detail to shine through when scenes are lit more brightly. The Cell is the more closeted, darker, interior based film so the image has stronger colour values, Stay is more sun drenched and pastel in it's look. The brief inserts in The Cell set outdoors are obviously brighter with more detail. Stay is a mixture roughly 50/50 interiors and exteriors and has some of the same qualities of The Cell although it's got modern setting (The Cell is a period piece set in the middle ages). It's sun drenched and has stronger shadow detail with more subdued flesh tones.

1.37:1 open matte / Academy productions

This section refers to Death in the Family, Invitation to Hell and The Last Night. Being presented full aperture and open matte means that grain is slightly less course or at least appears that way. Encoding is superb and keeps it all filmic. The colour values are more akin to Stay with with natural flesh tones, solid, deep black levels and layered contrast. Detail is acceptable for ultra low budget 16mm but don't expect miracles or much depth. The upscaled standard definition inserts and sections are very soft and colours have some bleed. Detail is fuzzy at best. Interiors and darker scenes are richer, exteriors less so. There's lots of crush but no blowouts. It must be noted that there are some mild frame issues on The Last Night due to the framerate it was shot in, technical producer Michael Brooke explains:

... for some reason (presumably to save film) The Last Night was shot at 16 2/3 fps [sic], which gave us a pretty major headache as the Blu-ray spec doesn't allow anything below 24fps (or 23.976fps). The solution that we came up with was to transfer it at 18fps and then give it the treatment usually given to silent films, by inserting one duplicate frame every three frames. It's not ideal, but that was pretty much our only option.

Overall the transfers here are as good as they can possible be.

1080p24 / AVC M-PEG4 / BD50 / 1.37:1, 1.66:1 (only The Cell and Stay) / 13:38, 58:29, 54:51, 43:53, 46:36


English LPCM 1.0 (48kHz)
Subtitles: English HoH

All five films on disc two sound rather similar to those on disc one only a notch better . The 1.0 tracks are solid, nicely restored but bear all the hallmarks of the five films ultra low budget productions. If your amp is set to ProLogic II (or similar) then there is bleed and echo into the rear surround channels, so the films are best viewed with the amp switched to straight (or the equivalent) in which it plays the sound precisely as presented on the disc with no processing and no bleed or echo.

The music used throughout disc two is more low key than on disc one and well represented by the uncompressed track being surprisingly robust and clear with decent fidelity and even occasionally getting the subwoofer rumbling ever so slightly.

Dialogue sounds breathy and canned, but there's no distortions and is obviously added to the soundtrack in post production although generally the dubbing and sync jobs are very good. In any case, given the state the assets were in, these LPCM tracks get the job done for these films. Broadly speaking, audio quality is more consistent on DISC TWO from film to film.

Hard of hearing English subtitles are present for all of the main films on the set and are typically excellent as we've come to expect from Powerhouse Films.


Audio commentary on "Invitation to Hell" with Michael J. Murphy, Phil Lyndon and Sally Duncan (28 July 2008)
Audio commentary on "Invitation to Hell" with Johnny Walker (6 July 2022)
Audio commentary on "The Last Night" with Michael J. Murphy, Phil Lyndon and Sally Duncan (28 July 2008)

The two vintage commentaries (recorded for the 2008 DVD release) are extremely chatty and amongst old friends. They all seem to be very aware of the kind of films they made and are both informative about the making of them and enjoy each other's company with lots of laughs. The Walker track is new and unique to this Powerhouse Film's release. He describes himself as a media historian and he knows the subject well covering the film, Murphy, his career and micro-budget amateur film production in the UK. All three tracks are presented in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Play both Invitation to Hell and The Last Night as a double bill
"Invitation to Hell and The Last Night Together Again" 2008 featurette (15:00)

The disc provides the viewer with the option to play both Invitation to Hell and The Last Night in double bill format as they were designed to be, made to be. Two options exist with each film taking position one in the double bill. The retrospective plays on my system as 1080p24 1.78:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. It has Murphy having a chat with Phil Lyndon and Sally Duncan (all three off the commentaries above) and reminiscing about the productions.

The Last Night Alternative Titles and Credits (2:11)

What it says on the tin. These were prepared for the 2008 Sacophilous DVD version. Presented in 1080p24 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

Stay Outtakes (2:29)

Silent outtakes set to the film's score presented in 1080p24 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

Stay Theme (3:06)

The Stay theme tune presented in 1080p24 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound. The music is accompanied by an image of a spinning record.

Reissue Trailers:
- Invitation to Hell Trailer (1:57)
- The Last Night Trailer (0:47)
- Invitation to Hell & The Last Night Double-Bill Trailer (1:10)

All are upscaled standard definition, vintage video trailers presented in 1080p24 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

Custom Video Reel (2:12)

Murphy's own, short-lived video label logos upscaled standard definition, vintage video trailers presented in 1080p24 1.37:1 with lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.

The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 1980-1982 Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (68 images)

Chunky HD still gallery.

Invitation to Hell Image Gallery: Original Shooting Script (46 images)

The complete shooting script.

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 contextual added value.


Unknown at this time.


DISC TWO presents Murphy's five 1980-82 films in their best possible condition with stunning new restorations. Image and sound is as good as can be for these micro-budget productions shy of complete image and sound stem assets turning up. There are sections that exist in standard definition (the most sizeable being the last ten minutes of Invitation to Hell) but the vast majority is from the 16mm film assets. Extras are typically excellent and informative.

This set comes with my highest possible recommendation and I suspect that it'll be high on the list of best disc releases for the year come January 2024.

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


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