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Vampyres + Styria



Format: DVD

Release date: 5 September 2016

Distributor: Soda Pictures

Director: Victor Matellano

Writers: José Ramón Larraz, Victor Matellano

Cast: Caroline Munro, Verónica Polo, Marta Flich, Almudena León

Spain 2015

82 mins


Format: DVD

Release date: 11 July 2016

Distributor: High Fliers Films

Directors: Mauricio Chernovetzky, Mark Devendorf

Writers: Karl Bardosh, Mauricio Chernovetzky, Mark Devendorf

Based on the novella by: Sheridan Le Fanu

Alternative title: Angel of Darkness

Cast: Stephen Rea, Eleanor Tomlinson, Julia Pietrucha

USA, Hungary 2014

89 mins

Kim Newman rummages through the straight-to-DVD treasure trunk

This double bill of European vampire movies revisits oft-told stories. Indeed, the ghosts of earlier incarnations hang as heavily over the films as the curses of the past affect their mostly doomed characters.

José Ramón Larraz’s Vampyres (1974) is among the most minimally-plotted horror films – a fusion of the Spanish director’s sensibilities with the last gasps of the British Gothic boom as a pair of lesbian vampires who might have come from a Jesús Franco or Jean Rollin film (or a Halloween layout in Knave magazine) bloodily prey on feeble men in that familiar decaying mansion that turns up in so many UK-shot horror films. Contemporary Spanish director Victor Matellano shares his script credit with Larraz on Vampyres (2015), a close remake – it even restages some gore/sex scenes shot-for-shot as in the Gus Van Sant Psycho, though a few new ones are thrown in (the ever-popular Bathory-inspired human blood shower is featured). 1970s genre fixture Caroline Munro gets a non sequitur role as a hotel owner and seems as out of place in these surroundings as she did in the New York sleaze of Maniac in 1980. Spanish horror star Lone Fleming, heroine of the first Blind Dead films, also pops up. Further evidencing Matellano’s interest in genre history, new passages of the script have the hapless Harriet (Veronica Polo) – reduced to a tent, since this even-scantier production can’t stretch to the camper van of the original – discover a copy of Théophile Gautier’s vampire story ‘La morte amoureuse’ and ponder how it might feed into the current situation. Marta Flich and Almudena León replace Marianne Morris and Anulka as vampire vixens Fran and Miriam – they are pretty, and willing to do nude splatter scenes with abandon, but Matellano doesn’t get out of them what Larraz did of his stars. It’s a case of the direction being at fault rather than any thespic lack: Morris and Anulka were nude models rather than actresses and their performances were entirely shaped by Larraz (and professional dubbing). As properties suitable for remaking go, Vampyres was an odd choice – a film distinguished by approach and ferocity rather than any particular strength of concept or story. Transplanting the whole thing to contemporary, non-specific Spain from the tatty, fraying edges of 1970s Britain cuts away much that makes Vampyres interesting. It’s a remake that feels like a footnote, and – though it’s scarcely an hour and a quarter long – your attention is likely to wander quite a lot while it’s running.

Writer-directors Mauricio Chernovetzky and Mark Devendorf’s Styria (released on UK DVD as Angel of Darkness) tells an even more familiar story. It adapts J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s much-filmed ‘Carmilla’, with moments that explicitly evoke many of the story’s earlier incarnations (Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr, Roger Vadim’s Et Mourir de Plaisir/Blood and Roses, Roy Ward Baker’s The Vampire Lovers, Vicente Aranda’s La Novia Ensangrientada/The Blood-Spattered Bride) and such Carmilla-by-association efforts as The Moth Diaries and Byzantium. In a more sophisticated manner than the simple Gautier-read-aloud sessions of Vampyres, Styria draws on a wealth of pre-Bram Stoker vampire stories to present a version of the myth that’s unusual and distinctive. Carmilla films often seem odd because the Stoker/Lugosi/Hammer vampire myth is so entrenched in pop culture that Le Fanu’s more nebulous, ambiguous creatures appear somehow ‘wrong’ in interesting ways. Even the very physical Ingrid Pitt in The Vampire Lovers, Hammer’s own take on the story, does some ghostly vanishing that wouldn’t do for Christopher Lee’s Dracula.

Styria sets the story in Hungary in 1989, and pares away much of Le Fanu’s plot and most of the supporting cast. Dr Hill (Stephen Rea) comes to a shuttered castle to examine murals that have been papered over, working under the threat of the collapsing communist regime levelling the building. Lara (Eleanor Tomlinson, who has now taken the Angharad Rees role in the remake of Poldark), his teenage daughter, has just been expelled from school after a violent incident. The sulky girl’s interest is piqued when she learns the castle once belonged to the family of her absent mother, whom Dr Hill doesn’t like to talk about. In the forest, Lara sees Carmilla (Julia Pietrucha) escape from a car driven by a bullying official, General Spiegel (Jacek Lenartowicz), and befriends the blonde, peculiar girl, who becomes a major influence in her life.

Though there’s a kiss that mimics a scene in Blood and Roses, Styria plays down the lesbian eroticism – too often taken to be the only interesting feature in Le Fanu’s extraordinarily complex story – and makes Carmilla possibly the protagonist’s alter ego, imaginary friend, sister, incarnated wild side or reincarnated mother. The film mostly stays in the crumbling castle to concentrate on the two girls … only venturing into the village near the end, to show the gruesome depredations of the vampire (whoever she may be) among the local population. It’s a successful evocation of the approach Euro-horror took in the 1970s rather than simple pastiche, and there are creepy, fresh scenes: a night-long sleepover on a bare mountain, which ends with Lara waking to find a bloody smiley face scrawled on a rock, a midnight swim with cold fingers that might be dumped statues or petrified corpses brushing Lara’s feet. The performances are all pitched slightly high – and Lenartowicz goes over the top as a malign take on the fearless vampire killer – and there’s attention to décor and atmosphere rather than shock, though the last reel (which borrows a lick from Hammer’s Kiss of the Vampire) is eventful and gruesome. Following The Moth Diaries by blurring the roles of vampire and victim, Styria gives Tomlinson (who is excellent) as much to play with as Pietrucha. This gets around the persistent problem that Le Fanu’s heroine, Laura, is a passive doormat who tends to be the dullest part of any film adaptation, even when played by Elsa Martinelli or Madeline Smith. Arty and sometimes too elliptical for its own good – Carmilla draws art film attention as much as commercial horror – Styria is nevertheless an interesting, unusual vampire movie.

Kim Newman



Format: Dual Format (DVD + Blu-ray)

Release date: 26 September 2016

Distributor: BFI

Director: Don Sharp

Writers: Julian Zimet, Arnaud d’Usseau

Cast: George Sanders, Beryl Reid, Nicky Henson

UK 1973

90 mins

The unlikely mix of black magic, undead bikers and Safeway makes this 70s British oddity endurably appealing.

‘Deep shame,’ was how Nicky Henson characterised his feelings about this suis generis exploitation weirdie, when quizzed by Matthew Sweet, but really, though the lovable thespian has obviously had great moments on stage, this is the one he’ll be remembered for. Witchfinder General is the superior film, but it’s not really a Nicky Henson film. Psychomania, God bless it, despite top-lining oldsters George Sanders and Beryl Reid, is Nicky Henson’s film, whether he wants it or not.

As if cobbled together from a fever dream about The Wild One and Polanski’s Macbeth, the film combines black magic and biker gangs, stone circles and juvenile delinquency. The script is by the same duo of blacklisted Americans who wrote Horror Express, and it has the same rather appealing mixture of strange, vaguely clever ideas, goofball nonsense and bizarrely naive exploitation elements. I wish the pair had written a whole bunch more horror films: they had a unique sensibility.

Genre specialist / all-rounder Don Sharp directs ably, starting the film rather brilliantly with slomo cyclists roving round a set of papier mâché megaliths on a misty morning, with John Cameron’s sonorous wacka-wacka score adding a kind of camp solemnity. Sharp had an affinity for overcranking, opening his Curse of the Fly (1965), a belated sequel to the Hollywood teleportation horror, with a surprisingly atmospheric, oneiric nocturnal chase, shot at around 48 fps. He’d also made Witchcraft (1964) with Lon Chaney Jnr. as an unlikely English warlock, and Hammer romps Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966), as well as the first two of Christopher Lee’s Fu Manchu outings.

Henson plays the biker son of medium Beryl Reid who acquires the power to come back from the dead through a mysterious ritual involving a frog (don’t ask). Sanders plays a butler who might be Satan, or something (I wasn’t totally clear: see what you think). Soon, Henson, looking damned good in his leather trousers, is converting his whole gang to an afterlife of mayhem, running amok in a Walton-on-Thames branch of Safeway.
The film’s take on youth culture is wonderfully peculiar: the bikers bury their leader on his bike in the stone circle to the tune of a folk song strummed on acoustic guitar; the gang wear crocheted waistcoats; nobody smokes (the producers were afraid they wouldn’t be able to sell the film to TV); nobody swears. But they run over a baby in a pram, and that was considered perfectly OK.

The violence and criminality is still slightly shocking, maybe because all the surrounding action is so absurd. The bikers are the main characters, and they will keep killing people. Elsewhere, there is amusing dialogue: ‘Abby’s dead.’ ‘You must be very happy.’ ‘I’ve always fancied driving through a brick wall.’ But then the movie will alternate pathetic, puerile hi-jinks (spanking a young mother in a hot-pants one-piece) with cold-blooded murder. The two tones only come together as black comedy during the impressive stunt sequences where the bikers commit suicide in order to rise again.

Rumours that old pro Sanders killed himself in response to seeing a print of this, his final movie, are doubtless false. The old rogue had gotten himself involved in a crooked business venture, hilariously called Cadco, and was facing possible financial ruin and legal proceedings, a likelier motivation for suicide than either a bizarre horror film or boredom, the cause cited in his note. And after all, the man had already worked for Jess Franco.

Scattered throughout Psychomania are familiar faces from TV shows like All Creatures Great and Small, Eastenders and Dad’s Army, with everyone managing to appear perfectly earnest and, in Henson’s case, actually cool, even though his character is a colossal jerk. The leftist writers appear to have had some kind of critique of youth culture in mind: Henson’s undead cyclist espouses a plan to kill every policeman, judge and teacher in the land, but once back on his bike, he always seems to gravitate back to Safeway.

David Cairns

The Wicker Man: The Final Cut

The Wicker Man Final Cut
The Wicker Man: The Final Cut

Format: Cinema

Release date: 27 September 2013

Distributor: Studiocanal UK

Director: Robin Hardy

Writer: Anthony Schaffer

Cast: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland

UK 1975

84 mins

So here it is again, resurfacing once more, this time in a handsome restoration, apparently the most complete version there is ever likely to be*, after a 40-odd year journey from cult oddity to classic status. In 1972, Robin Hardy’s film was very much the bottom half of a double bill with Don’t Look Now (there’s a night at the movies!). Heavily edited and under-ballyhooed, The Wicker Man seemed destined to sink without trace. Later, after decades of late night viewings, Hardy’s film began to be seen, together with the messy, oddly beguiling Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971), as being in the vanguard of a British sub-genre that never blossomed, a road not taken – call it the folk horror film, or horror pastoral. Today, that sub-genre seems to be on the up again, at least for as long as Ben Wheatley’s got anything to do with it, and so it’s a good time for The Wicker Man to be back on our screens.

If you haven’t encountered the film before, it goes like this: Edward Woodward plays Police Sergeant Howie, a devout Christian officer, tasked with flying to a remote Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, Rowan Morrison. Upon arriving at Summerisle, however, he finds his efforts frustrated by the locals, who variously deny that the girl is missing, or that she existed at all. As he tries to find out what lies behind these contradictions, he is appalled to discover that he is surrounded by practising pagans, whose belief system has held sway over the island since the 19th century, and is currently overseen by Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee). The fields are filled with copulating couples, the schoolchildren are being taught about phallic symbols, and the whole island seems transfixed by a cult of fertility, except, as he discovers, the previous year the crops disastrously failed. Could the islanders be planning to sacrifice Rowan to appease their gods? As the May Day festivities approach, and with no help coming from any quarter, Sergeant Howie desperately resolves to find, and rescue, the girl.

The restored ‘Final Cut’ version of The Wicker Man is released on Blu-ray/DVD in the UK by Studiocanal Home Entertainment on 14 October.

If the presence of Christopher Lee and Ingid Pitt, who pops up as a librarian, suggest links with the Hammer tradition, The Wicker Man largely plays against them. Lee, here, gives a much more nuanced and playful performance than he was generally required to deliver in a cape. The film is contemporary rather than period, location shot rather than studio bound, and benefits hugely from found imagery and the use of non-pro actors. It builds a sense of nightmare from an accumulation of creepy details, mostly seen in broad daylight, and a ripe vein of folk weirdness that seems miles away from Hammer’s dusty castles. And moreover, it is, oddly enough, a musical of sorts: besides the incidental score by Magnet, we have the locals in the Green Man bursting into Paul Giovanni’s largely saucy numbers at the drop of a hat, and maypole dancers and fire leapers accompanied by catchy little ditties (the song ‘Gently Johnny’ has been restored for this version, sung, distractingly enough, by a Neil Gaiman lookalike). This is before the landlord’s daughter and island’s Aphrodite, Willow (Britt Ekland, and body double) has her finest screen moment, tunefully testing Woodward’s faith by writhing naked against his door. This kind of thing didn’t happen in your average Amicus production (more’s the pity…) While its influence has grown over the years, The Wicker Man still has the feel of a film apart, an island detached from the mainstream.

‘Only as a comparative religion’ is schoolteacher Miss Rose’s (Diane Cilentro) blithe reply when asked if she teaches Christianity in her classes. And that’s very much the name of the game here, as Howie’s dutiful, establishment religion is repeatedly contrasted with the shag-happy islander’s unorthodox beliefs. However, Anthony Schaffer’s** script plays sly games with our sympathies. A young audience in post-hippy 1972 would be expected to find much to like about Summerisle’s horny paganism, and a lot of fun is had at Howie’s expense as he boggles at the rampant sexuality and freaky-folky business on display. In this cut, we see him in church at the outset, singing hymns and taking communion, and these images recur later on, the church rituals looking cold and empty against the pagan rites, with their animal eroticism. For much of the film he looks a bit of a fool, especially when resisting the advances of Willow, trembling in his brown pyjamas. But… slowly our sympathies turn; the locals may be colourful, but they’re also evasive, mocking and increasingly sinister. Howie may be a humourless, self-righteous stiff but, largely thanks to Woodward’s performance, he’s also human, and admirably driven, on the side of the angels. At the climax of the film, the islanders swaying rendition of ‘Summer Is Icumen In’ seems brainwashed and deranged, while Howie’s ‘The Lord Is My Shepherd’, by contrast, has some kind of powerful dignity. Take your pick, you heathens!

*If you’re curious, the ‘Final Cut’ is the version Hardy assembled for distributors Abraxas in 1979, now cleaned up and looking decidedly spiffy. For those only familiar with the short version, this means a little restructuring, plus a brief bit of Howie on the mainland, the song ‘Gently Johnny’ as mentioned above, and a sequence introducing a kilt-wearing Lord Summerisle on Howie’s first night on the island. For my money this scene telegraphs the rest of the movie a little too much, but hey, it’s nice to see it.

** Incidentally, the title credit actually reads ‘Anthony Schaffer’s The Wicker Man’. Offhand, I can’t think of any other film that credits the screenwriter this way. Odd. And well deserved.

Mark Stafford

Watch the trailer:

Horror Express

Horror Express

Format: Blu-ray (US)

Release date: 29 Nov 2011

Distributor: Severin

Director: Eugenio Martín

Writers: Arnaud d’Usseau, Julian Zimet

Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alberto de Mendoza

UK/Spain 1972

90 mins

There are few films that fit the title of ‘cult favourite’ better than Eugenio Martín’s Horror Express (1972). Despite being one of the best Spanish horror films of the 1970s, Horror Express didn’t make much of a splash in the domestic market, but even today cult fans recognise it for what it is: a colourful, fast-paced monster movie filled with oddball characters and equally loopy plot twists.

Most of the action takes place on the Trans-Siberian Railway as it hurtles across the Siberian tundra from Peking to Eastern Europe. Among the passengers are two British scientists, Sir Alexander Saxton (Christopher Lee), an archaeologist, and biologist Dr Wells, played by Peter Cushing. Others travelling on the train include a Polish nobleman (George Rigaud), his beautiful young wife (Silvia Tortosa), and their unstable, Rasputin-like priest (Alberto de Mendoza); a Spanish engineer; a Russian detective (Julio Peña), and a woman later revealed to be an international spy (Helga Liné). Saxton is travelling with several crates containing the finds from his latest expedition, including the frozen corpse of a primitive humanoid, believed to be millions of years old. Before the train has even left the station the curious properties of the thing in the crate have begun to emerge; after attempting to open the box, a Chinese thief is found dead on the platform, with his eyes completely white. Later that night a hairy, bestial hand emerges from the crate, finds a rusty nail and expertly picks the lock. Before long there is a mounting pile of corpses on the train, and all with the same white eyes. Dr Wells performs autopsies and discovers another bizarre symptom: the victims’ brains are entirely smooth, leading the doctor to conjecture that they have been drained of memory and learning. Whatever is loose on the train is not simply killing, it’s also accumulating the knowledge and experience of all its victims.

As you might guess from the two main stars, Horror Express draws much of its inspiration from the Gothic horror tales of Hammer, but Martín and his scriptwriters can at least be commended for not repeating the usual Cushing/good vs. Lee/evil set-up. In many ways Saxton is a typical Lee character: proud, aristocratic and distinctly unlikeable, the opposite of Cushing’s good-humoured Dr Wells. Despite this, Horror Express does give Lee a chance to flex his heroic muscles – something he rarely did with Hammer – as he leads the fight against the prehistoric monster and rescues the damsels in distress. Saxton might be an insufferable snob, but he does at least manage to save the day. Further references to Hammer’s films are dotted throughout Horror Express, whether it’s the prehistoric beasts of Val Guest’s When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), the disastrous archaeological expeditions of Terence Fisher’s The Mummy (1959) or the sensationalist pseudo-history of Don Sharp’s Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). Naturally, no true Hammer tribute would be complete without Peter Cushing opening at least one skull with a saw and chisel, and sure enough, there’s one here too. There’s also plenty of Hammer-style pseudo-science: ‘The creature’s visual memory resides in the eye, not the brain!’

Such knowing references might well appear lazy and derivative in a lesser work, but in Horror Express – a film that displays its influences openly – they contribute to its considerable charms. A key factor in this is a witty and original script that treads comfortably between humour and horror, without undermining either of them. It’s a claim that’s often made and rarely warranted, but there really isn’t another film like Horror Express. At first it’s a fairly standard creature feature, with the victims locked in an enclosed space with an ancient monster, but before long the bizarre plot developments start to appear. [SPOILER ALERT] The primitive primate is not the creature itself, it’s just a body the being inhabits – and it can move bodies too, along with a few other abilities that make killing it a bit more difficult. The heroes’ task is complicated by human factors too, including the increasingly unstable priest who comes to believe that the monster is a being of divine origin. Fed up with pandering to the ‘spiritual needs’ of the nobility, he decides to offer himself to the diabolic creature and tries to stop Saxton and Wells from killing it. Even more troublesome is the presence of Captain Kazan, an army officer played with enthusiasm by Telly Savalas. Sent to deal with the problems on the train, Kazan believes it’s all the work of agitators or anarchists, and his solution involves whipping or beating anyone whose face doesn’t fit. Naturally the Count and Countess are spared this treatment and allowed to return to their carriage. [END OF SPOILERS] If there’s a subtext to Horror Express, it concerns the insulation of the Count and his wife. Appropriate surrogates for Generalissimo Franco, still in power at the time, they sit in luxurious and comfortable surroundings while their servants brutalize anyone they please with impunity.

As well as Cushing and Lee, Horror Express features a number of well-known faces from the European horror scene. Seasoned gialli stars Alberto De Mendoza and George Rigaud both appeared in Lucio Fulci’s One on Top of the Other (1969) and A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) together, as well as a handful of Sergio Martino films separately. German-born actress Helga Liné is much the same, having racked up an impressive number of genre credits, including Amando de Ossorio’s When the Screaming Stops (1976). Before his death in 1972, Julio Peña had been a mainstay of Spanish cinema, appearing in almost 100 films since the 1930s. Although Horror Express is one of her few genre credits, Silvia Tortosa is still a popular TV star. Special mention much go to Telly Savalas, whose flamboyant, over-the-top performance as the thuggish vodka-drinking Captain Kazan is one of the film’s most memorable aspects, even though Savalas is only on screen for about 15 minutes. Whether it’s entirely appropriate is up to the individual viewer, but Kazan’s sudden appearance kicks the film into high gear and brings in the energetic final act as Saxton and Wells make one last attempt to save the passengers and destroy the monster.

Although it doesn’t play fair by bringing some new monstrous abilities for the climax, such left-field plot developments are comparatively commonplace in Spanish horror films of the 1960s and 70s. Thankfully Martín and his two leading men have the sense to approach the film’s increasingly loopy narrative entirely straight, aware that even a hint of irony or condescension could have a disastrous effect on a movie like this. The finished result is an atmospheric, original and very entertaining film, and one of Spanish horror cinema’s best works. Ironically enough, it’s also the kind of film that British studios were finding it increasingly difficult to produce. Hammer’s most recent efforts were not inspiring: Dracula A.D. 1972 was a misbegotten attempt to bring Dracula into the 20th century, while the promising Vampire Circus (1972) was hampered by rewrites and post-production difficulties. Similar problems afflicted Amicus, the producer of endless anthologies of short horror films. In comparison with Horror Express, the 1970s output of both Hammer and Amicus looks somewhat pale indeed. Jorge Grau’s excellent The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974) is another Spanish horror film that makes far better use of its English locations than most British directors could.

Jim Harper



Format: Blu-ray

Release date: 26 July 2010

Distributor: Eureka Entertainment

Director: Freddie Francis

Writers: Jimmy Sangster

Cast: Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell, Maurice Denham, Alexander Davion

UK 1963

80 mins

The quality David Lynch most valued in the late Freddie Francis, his cinematographer on The Elephant Man, Dune and The Straight Story, was not so much the technical knowledge accrued through a long apprenticeship in the British studios of the 1940s and 50s, remarkable though that was, but the more elusive ‘sensitivity’, Francis’s ability to respond evocatively to dramatic situations, characters and spaces.

This was not a quality Francis could use to full effect on projects like The Deadly Bees or The Creeping Flesh, his bread and butter when he became a director, although even in patently absurd projects like the Joan Crawford apeman movie Trog, you can see him striving to inject some interest. But occasionally the scripts he dealt with was just about good enough to allow him to shine. Paranoiac (1963), his third credited feature, is such a movie. Since Francis the director was as sure a hand as Francis the cinematographer at creating atmosphere through lighting, composition and movement, this convoluted country house crime story is rich material.

Now available from Masters of Cinema, Paranoiac is an early entry in Hammer studio’s long line of twisty thrillers ‘inspired’ by the success of Les Diaboliques, and to a lesser extent Psycho. Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, a driving force behind Hammer horror, could apparently knock these out in his sleep: weave together at least two criminal conspiracies, add some false identities, leapfrog from one shock or suspense sequence to another as rapidly as possible, and strain credibility until it groans but doesn’t quite give way.

Here, we have a confused heiress (Janette Scott, of Day of the Triffids fame) being driven insane by her wicked, drunken brother (Oliver Reed, playing very much to type), until another, long thought dead, brother (Alexander Davion) shows up. Suspicions quickly arise that this interloper is an impostor, part of a Tichborne claimant-style plot to steal the family inheritance, but where does the eerie, masked figure armed with a lethal hook fit into the puzzle, and who is singing at night in the crypt?

The answers probably won’t startle you too much, but this handsome edition shows off Arthur Grant’s widescreen black and white cinematography to terrific effect - Francis had shot The Innocents just a few years before, and he uses many of the same tricks in this less sophisticated country house melodrama, from the elegant mise en scène to the subtle vignette effect that darkens the corners of the frame. His camera glides and arcs almost ceaselessly, explicitly taking over the storytelling at times, a creeping, constant presence; and then jabbing and swinging in rhythm with Reed’s unrestrained, gorilla-like machismo. When Martin Scorsese hired Francis to photograph Cape Fear, Francis said it was because he would know how to shoot a young lady in a night gown wandering around a dark house when she ought to be in bed. He does indeed have a feel for the modern Gothic. Playing it just straight enough (Reed occasionally mugs too vigorously, but he’s electrifying the rest of the time), Francis uses everything he’d learned as a cinematographer to create a genuinely beautiful-looking movie, moody and powerful, combining the gusto of Hammer with some of the eeriness of the classic English ghost story.

David Cairns