Halloween Hangover continues on The Bits today with Tim's look at Michael Winner's The Sentinel (1977) on Blu-ray http://t.co/WoH2lC0UVm
X-Ray / Schizoid
DirectorBoaz Davidson/David Paulsen
Release Date(s)1983/1980 (August 20, 2013)
Here we are again with another pair of titles from a distributor that many people are calling “the Criterion Collection of horror movies”: Scream Factory. First there’s X-Ray, known by most people as Hospital Massacre, directed by Boaz Davidson, starring Playboy Playmate Barbi Benton and released in 1983. Next is Schizoid, written and directed by David Paulsen, starring genre veteran Klaus Kinski and released in 1980.
X-Ray follows the story of a young mother, played by Barbi Benton, who visits her local hospital for a check-up but is being held by the staff against her will because someone in the hospital is “doctoring” all of her x-rays and test results and killing everyone around her, eventually leading to a confrontation between the two. The movie is more or less a slasher, but with a bit of giallo mixed in. The killer could be anybody, and lots of red herrings are thrown out for possibilities. Barbi Benton herself isn’t a terribly good actress, but she seems like she could have played a crazier character in a different kind of movie wherein she was the killer instead. The other performances are pretty good, and the movie itself is pretty entertaining, if a bit on the campy side. Certain things about it made me laugh, like the killer who runs around in surgical garb, breathing heavily and loudly pretty much all of the time. For the film’s debut on Blu-ray, I think they could have stuck with the Hospital Massacre title, which seems to make a little more sense to me than X-Ray, but oh well. Those are the perils of distribution.
Schizoid tells the story of a newspaper columnist and her therapist, the latter of which is having problems with his young teenage daughter who blames him for her mother’s death. A killer is butchering women from the therapist’s group and sending letters to the columnist as the police attempt to put the pieces together and figure out the identity of the killer on the loose. The film is also notable for having Donna Wilkes in the cast, who became famous later for the Angel series, as well as Christopher Lloyd and Craig Wasson, the latter of which I felt stole the show in the second half of the movie. This one is also a bit of a slasher and a giallo, perhaps much more strongly than X-Ray. It feels like an attempt at a giallo with a subplot about a troubled teenager tacked on for a more fuller story. Otherwise, the story is relatively straightforward. I also think it’s remarkable that some of the score from Schizoid is quite reminiscent of the score from Halloween, and when I say reminiscent, I mean extremely similar. Not the main theme from Halloween, mind you, but the theme or when Dr. Loomis tells the town sheriff about Michael Myers. I’m not saying that anyone is owed money or anything, but it stood out prominently to me when I heard it. You be the judge. This was also another film with alternate titles, the main one being Murder By Mail, which I’m thankful didn’t stick as it doesn’t make much sense as a title.
Between the two films, I found X-Ray to be the more entertaining of the two. Schizoid promises the goods in terms of slasher and giallo movie moments but never really delivers them. Both can be hilarious at times, but X-Ray seemed to strike home a little more than just watching a bratty teenager with daddy issues trying to kill herself while her daddy tries to stop her. I didn’t come to a slasher to see that, so in that regard, it’s the weaker of the two. The trouble is though that the performances in Schizoid are actually better than X-Ray, by comparison. With better acting talent, it’s not hard to understand why. Craig Wasson, for instance, gives a terrific performance, even though he isn’t given a whole lot of screen time. It’s easy to understand why Scream Factory paired these two titles together, the reasons not the least of which being that they’re both Golan-Globus productions, but they’re also sort of similar. X-Ray may hold up a little better than Schizoid, but it’s nice to see them both being given better treatment on home video than none at all.
Film Rating (X-Ray): B-
Film Raiting (Schizoid): C
The transfers for both films sport very good quality images, while X-Ray looks to be the cleaner print of the two. Its grain structure is very solid without appearing too smooth or overly blocky. Colors are decent, for the most part, but I didn’t find them to be eye-popping or anything. Blacks are also nice, but not as deep as one would hope. Brightness and contrast are also very good. Schizoid has a stronger grain structure, being the grainier-looking film between the two. The colors are much better, although skin tones don’t always seem accurate. Blacks are a little deeper without being perfect, while both brightness and contrast could’ve given a slightly higher boost. Both transfers are relatively free from defects, scratches or other film impurities of the like. Schizoid has some stability issues in the very beginning, but seems to settle down after a few minutes. Both prints also appear to be free of digital noise removal or sharpening, thank goodness. Both films also come with an English DTS-HD stereo soundtrack. X-Ray’s soundtrack is very tame when it comes to the music and the effects, but the dialogue is front and center and very clear. Schizoid, however, seems to have had a relatively good sound mix. The score has a very nice thrust to it, especially during the first murder that takes place. Dialogue is good, but not quite as good as X-Ray, and the sound effects are much better by comparison, as well. Both soundtracks aren’t amazing, but there’s been no attempt to change or improve them it seems. So while these films aren’t perfect when it comes to their inherent look and sound (low budget films are like that), they’re better than ever in high definition. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
Extras for this release are sparse, but worth a look. Since the films come on one disc, you have to select each film in order to watch it or view its extras. For X-Ray, you get Bad Medicine, which is an interview with director Boaz Davidson. For Schizoid, you get Dear Alison..., which is an interview with Donna Wilkes, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer. As far as I can find, there was no theatrical trailer for X-Ray, which is most likely the reason why it wasn’t included with this release. The DVD that’s included is exactly the same, except that you get Dolby Digital soundtracks instead of DTS-HD.
Video and Audio Ratings (X-Ray): B-/C+
Video and Audio Ratings (Schizoid): B/B
The bottom line here is that both X-Ray and Schizoid are long overdue for some Blu-ray and DVD love. They may not be the best genre films out there, but damn it all if Scream Factory hasn’t knocked it out of the park again by making them available in the best quality possible. If you’re a slasher fan, this one’s a no-brainer, blood-soaked camp and all.
- Tim Salmons