Bits BD Review – Jim Hemphill on Henry Hathaway’s 1954 western Garden of Evil from Twilight Time https://t.co/1dv9ZM2buy
Release Date(s)1981 (May 13, 2014)
Studio(s)Shout!/Scream Factory (Code Red)
Evilspeak tells the story of Coopersmith (Clint Howard), a young military cadet who is picked on by virtually everyone he encounters, but what Coopersmith lacks as a person, he makes up for in devil worshipping. After everyone has pushed him too far, he contacts the devil priest Esteban through the use of his computer and a demonic book, helping him to exact revenge on the people who’ve wronged him.
What Evilspeak boils down to, essentially, is the same formula that made Carrie work. You push your lead character really far to curry sympathy for them and then let all Hell break loose at the end. It’s very cathartic for an audience and draws them into it more than most horror films. In this instance, every obstacle you can imagine is thrown at Coopersmith to push him over the edge. It starts with simple bullying by his classmates, instructors and other personnel, but it soon turns into terrorizing, embarrassment and emasculation, and ultimately, a very bad thing happens to make Coopersmith go bananas. It’s all pretty much what you would expect to happen, and the final minutes of the film are the reason to slog through all of that.
Even though this is a trashy horror revenge movie, there are some good performances in it. I’d say the best scenery-schewing award goes to Don Stark, who really hams it up in the film’s second half. Clint Howard is his usual kooky self, but sympathetic as well, which is what makes the film work. You’ll also find small parts containing Richard Moll, R.G. Armstrong, Charles Tyner, Hamilton Camp, and surprisingly, Lenny Montana (Luca Brasi from The Godfather). The film was shot in three weeks for a million dollars and was banned in the UK for a while, but went on to garner a cult following with horror fans. It can be a fun movie, and all of the blood and gore is there for those who clamor for it (and in uncut form, I might add).
For Scream Factory’s highly anticipated release of the film to Blu-ray, they’ve gone the extra mile and acquired a new high definition transfer that has been both supervised and approved by director Eric Weston. For a film that’s been hacked to pieces over the years by censors and distributors, it’s amazing that the film is in as good of shape as it is. You’ll find a very healthy amount of film grain throughout the presentation, as well as a great amount of detail (you can actually see the cables suspending Coopersmith in the air in the film’s finale). Colors are pretty good, although none of them quite popped out at me, and neither did skin tones. They’re not bad, per se, but they just don’t have much life to them. Shadow detail is real good, and both brightness and contrast are mostly consistent. I didn’t notice any signs of digital enhancement, but that being said, the print that’s been used does carry some damage over into this transfer. Personally, I think it’s a good thing, and being that it’s director-approved, I’m fine with it. You’ll see lots of white specks and lines throughout the movie, and there were even a couple of moments where I spotted splices. All in all, it’s a great transfer, but just don’t expect perfection. The film’s soundtrack, which is a single English Mono DTS-HD track, is good without being great. Dialogue is always clean and clear, and the score has some depth to it, but the sound effects seemed to be lacking that extra sonic edge. There’s not much dynamic range to the track either, as you might expect. It’s a decent enough soundtrack that gets the job done without any bells or whistles to it, which is fine for this kind of movie. There are also subtitles in English for those who need them.
Having been previously released by both Code Red and Anchor Bay, Scream Factory’s release carries over almost all of the extras from those releases. There’s an audio commentary with producer/director Eric Weston; the Satan’s Pigs and Severed Heads: The Making of Evilspeak documentary (a new addition); the Effects Speak With Allan A. Apone interview (also new); a set of three separate Cast Interviews with Clint Howard, Don Stark and Joe Cortese; and finally, the film’s original theatrical trailer. Missing from the previous DVD releases are the poster and stills galleries, which is a bummer.
While Evilspeak may not be in the top tier of horror titles, or even cult titles for that matter, it’s nice to see new life breathed into it, and Shout! Factory’s Scream Factory label has managed to do that time and time again with just about every one of their releases. To make it simpler, this is another fine addition to any horror geek’s library.
- Tim Salmons