Night of the Eagle: Imprint Collection #261 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Via Vision
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (7th November 2023).
The Film

"Night of the Eagle," also known as "Burn, Witch, Burn!" is a classic supernatural horror film from 1962 directed by Sidney Hayers. Based on the novel "Conjure Wife" by Fritz Leiber Jr., the film offers a gripping narrative that explores the dark and mysterious world of witchcraft. It's a compelling piece of cinema that effectively blends elements of psychological horror and suspense.

One of the standout features of the film is its engaging story, which revolves around the life of a university professor, Norman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde). When Norman discovers that his wife, Tansy (Janet Blair), practices witchcraft for his protection, he initially dismisses it as superstition and paranoia. However, as strange and disturbing events begin to unfold in his life, he becomes increasingly suspicious and concerned. The film successfully builds tension by gradually revealing the extent of the supernatural forces at play, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.

The film's character development is another notable aspect. Norman's transformation from skepticism to fear and desperation is portrayed convincingly, and Wyngarde's performance is commendable. Janet Blair as Tansy delivers a strong performance, making her character's internal struggle and determination to protect her husband feel genuinely compelling.

The cinematography and visual effects are impressive for their time. The film captures the eerie and unsettling atmosphere of witchcraft, using lighting and camera angles effectively to create a sense of foreboding. Not a surprise from director of photography Reginald H. Wyer, who made a career of shooting genre pictures. The practical effects used for the supernatural occurrences in the film add to the suspense and mystery, with the climax delivering a particularly memorable and chilling visual spectacle.

One of the strengths of this film is its focus on psychological horror and the power of belief. It explores the idea that the fear of witchcraft can be as potent as the actual practice of it. This psychological element sets it apart from other horror films of its era and contributes to its enduring appeal.

However, it is not without its flaws. Some viewers might find the pacing a bit slow, as the film takes its time to build the tension. Additionally, the special effects, while effective for their time, may not meet the expectations of modern audiences accustomed to more advanced CGI. Films like these offer up a cool time capsule into how things where once done on a low budget and outside of the usual studio system, which would have had its benefits.

"Night of the Eagle" is a classic of supernatural suspense that continues to captivate audiences with its psychological horror elements and compelling performances. It stands as a testament to the era's ability to create atmospheric and suspenseful cinema, making it a must-watch for fans of classic horror. Despite a few shortcomings, the film's ability to delve into the fear of the unknown and the power of belief still resonates, solidifying its place in the annals of horror cinema history.

Video

Presented in widescreen 1.85:1 in HD 1080p 24/fps mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression. Filmed on a low budget and being 61 years-old this film is going to have its issues, while this is likely the best this film has ever and probably will ever (unless someone releases a 4K) look. The black and white levels look decent, there's ample detail and texture but there are instances of softness and contrast isn't consistent. Some film imperfections are evident too but overall this is a perfectly fine transfer for a film that not many are likely to have heard of outside hardcore horror fans.

Audio

A single audio track is included in English LPCM 2.0 Mono, this is the film's original audio and much like the image isn't perfect but does the job. Dialogue is clear and there are no noticeable issues that generally plague films of this age such as hiss, pops, or cackle. The overall track lacks depth but once again it's a mono track for a 61 year-old film. Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired only.

Extras

Kino released this film for the North American market under its alternative UK title "Burn, Witch, Burn!" which included a small collection of extras. Imprint have one-upped that release with not one but three audio commentaries, an interview, a featurette, two video essays, the original UK opening title sequence, and two theatrical trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is audio commentary is by screenwriter Richard Matheson, this one was ported over from the Kino Lorber release. The co-writer of the script, he talks about the writing process on how he wrote the first half, selling the movie, on the different titles of the film, as well as makes occasional observations of what is happening onscreen.

A second all-new feature length audio commentary by Flipside founders Vic Pratt and William Fowler. These two authors comment on the themes of the film, the characters and their motivations, on the film's plot and story structure, among other things.

The third and final audio commentary features film historian Scott Harrison, this is more of a technical track that delves deeper into the history of the film, how it compares to genre films from today, the difference between the US and UK versions of the film, among other things.

Next up is an interview with Peter Wyngarde (24:26), also ported over from the previously released Kino Lorber edition. The actor talks about his career and involvement in this film and the lasting impact of it.

"The Devil in the Music: Interview with author David Huckvale" featurette (21:27), this is a newly produced extra in which the author talks about the novel and the differences between the book and the film, and focuses on the musical cues and score for the film as he plays several of the cues on his piano.

"Fritz Leiberís Conjure Wife" video essay by academic Rachel Knightley (17:50) is a closer academic examination of the inspiration for this film, the original novel in which it is based.

"I Do Believe!: The Evil Eye of Sidney Hayers" A video essay by Film Historian Howard S. Berger (42:16) is a closer look at sci-fi and horror films from the era and how technology made them possible to bring to the screen in more believable ways, he examines the UK film industry and the rise of genre studios like Hammer and the prominence of supernatural films, the career and directorial style of the filmmaker Sidney Hayers, as he begins a deep dive into this film among other things. Berger is an incredibly informed speaker and this was my favorite extra on this disc for fans of the genre to explore the roots of these classic supernatural films.

Opening Title Sequence of the UK Version of the film (1:37) which featured the title "Night of the Eagle", the US title was called "Burn, Witch, Burn!".

Rounding out the extras are the film's original UK theatrical trailer (2:30) and the film's
US theatrical trailer (2:28)

Packaging

Packaged in a keep case housed in a side-loading slip-case. Limited Edition of 1500 copies.

Overall

An obscure horror from the golden age of low budget horror is blessed with a solid release from Imprint that features some excellent supplements.

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

 


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