Cathy's Curse, Huzzah! (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Oh man, I have been waiting for this release!  It's been killing me that there's no special edition, or even halfway decent release of Cathy's Curse ever since I fell in love with it in one of those generic 50 Movie Pack DVD sets.  Specifically, it's Chilling Classics from Mill Creek, which I still own, so we can have us a comparison.  Because boy, wait 'till you see the difference!  The Mill Creek DVD isn't just barebones, it's cut, interlaced, fullscreen, soft, stretched, damaged, watermarked, and orange... oh, so orange.  Happily, Severin has arrived to save the day at last with their brand new blu-ray release.

Update 5/25/17:  But is this extended version of Cathy's Curse still cut?  Apparently this film still has some missing footage...

Update 9/14/17: Resolved! I'm now pleased to report that this extended version of Cathy's Curse is indeed completely uncut. But read on for the story of the supposedly missing footage.
2005 Mill Creek DVD on top; 2017 Severin blu-ray below ...as if that wasn't painfully obvious.
Now, when I say I fell in love with Cathy's Curse, that doesn't mean it's some great film.  It's kind of a mess.  But it's a delightful, endlessly entertaining mess.  If you're a fan of Beyond the Door, and enjoyed the little foul-mouthed kids, then this movie is gonna be like Christmas for you.  Conceptually, it's closer to Beyond the Door 2 (the Bava one), focusing on one possessed kid and a lot of weird issues; but tonally it's closer to the original.  It's not Italian, though; it's Canadian.  But it's just as light on coherence and sense as the best of Fulci.  The only thing it's lacking, which would've made this a much better known cult film, is a few over-the-top gore scenes.
I'm guessing S.C. stands for Sinister Cinema, who once released this film on VHS.
Now, I had to do a little research outside the film to put this together, because the film's back-story is confusing as heck.  But essentially this film is about a guy named George.  As a kid, his mother ran off with him, leaving behind his father and sister, who immediately proceed to die in a car wreck.  Decades later, in present day 1979, George returns to his family home with his wife, who just so happens to have a habit of suffering nervous breakdowns, and his daughter Cathy, who immediately gets cursed by George's late sister.  This curse essentially makes her act like a rotten brat, but one who can back it up with a cavalcade of supernatural powers.  Soon, everybody's getting tormented in one random way after another, except for George, who can't understand what everybody's always so upset about.
And I mentioned that all previous releases of Cathy's Curse were cut, right?  Yeah, they're not censored for sex or violence or anything; they've just had about ten minutes removed, making the movie even more incomprehensible.  The extended cut isn't much better in that regard, but it is a bit, and also has some amusing extra bits of dialogue, so is probably the superior version of the film.  Severin doesn't make us choose, though; they've included both cuts.  The shorter, cut version doesn't have anything unique to it, though, except for a couple of title cards to attempt to make up for the exposition they cut.
A scene only in the full, director's cut.

But thanks to a helpful anonymous commentor (see below), it turns out there was still possibly more to be seen from this odd, little film.  He pointed out that a 1985 Comet Video compilation film called Terror On Tape included a gruesome shot from Cathy's Curse not seen on the Mill Creek or Severin discs, and he's quite right!  Terror On Tape is a direct-to-VHS film in the vein of Terror In the Aisles, The Best Of Sex and Violence or Zombiethon, where it's really just a clip show of a bunch of horror films with a little wrap-around to it.  In this case, the wrap-around stars Cameron Mitchell as a bit of a ghoul who runs the Shoppe of Horrors Video Store, where people come in seeking recommendations and he shows them gruesome selections from his movies.  And one film they show a solid four minutes to is Cathy's Curse.  Everything they show is what can be seen in previous versions except for the scene where Cathy "pushes" the old lady out of a window and her mother rushes up to the body in their lawn.  In Terror On Tape, there's an extra shot: a close-up of the woman's head where blood spurts out the top of it!  Then the next shot is the mother running to the body and it's the same as every other release.
Cathy's Curse deleted scene?!
Now, it did occur to me that maybe the Terror On Tape editor took some liberties and edited in a shot from one of the other Continental VHS films they feature, like Nightmare City or Return of the Alien's Deadly SpawnTerror does proceed to show other clips from Cathy's Curse after this one, jumping about from one moment to another with no transition (except at the end, when Mitchell says, "just a second, I've got to show you what she does to her mother!").  So maybe Terror decided to spice the clip up with a shot from something else?  Watching the whole movie, they doesn't seem to goose up any of the other films they highlight, but looking back at that whole scene in Cathy's Curse, it is a very awkward edit there, so it does look like it could be a cut to an insert shot...

And thanks to another helpful commentor - ciasisback - the source of that footage has been found!  It is indeed an insert shot of gore taken from another movie.  Another movie featured in Terror On Tape, even.  It's a quick snippet from when the zombies violently raid the television dance studio in Nightmare City.  So apparently Terror did have a little fun with Cathy, and actually, it's not a bad creative decision.  But it's nice to know that the Severin blu of Cathy's Curse is complete and totally uncut.
as seen in Terror On Tape
So Cathy's Curse has been released on DVD a bunch of times before, actually.  But it's always been by budget labels like Brentwood, Alpha Digital and Mill Creek, and usually in multi-disc collections like my Chilling Classics box.  Severin is the first to even come close to giving it a respectable disc, and they've actually come through for the film in spades.  Both cuts are fully restored in widescreen HD with an all new, 2k scan from "recently found film elements," and as you can see, the difference is night and day.  Of course, the distinction is helped a lot by the fact that the DVD version may well be the worst digital transfer I've ever seen in my life.  But still, the blu looks great in its own right.
So, the Mill Creek DVD is presented in about 1.30:1, looking vertically stretched and cutting off the sides.  If I push myself to find once nice thing to say about it, it's at least slightly open matte, so it shows a little extra vertical information for the curiosity seekers among us.  The Severin blu, on the other hand, is slightly letterboxed to 1.85:1.  I already listed all the major problems with the DVD in the opening paragraph, and I'm glad to report Severin doesn't have a single one of those issues.  Among a million other improvements, we can finally see what color things are supposed to be.  And the old DVD isn't just interlaced, it looks like it was originally interlaced and then badly de-interlaced so it was left with ghosting frames, and then copied with additional interlacing on top of that, so motion has an almost spacey look.  Now it looks like an actual movie with a pretty smart looking transfer.  Blacks are a little milky and crushed; I'm guessing the "found film elements" were a print not the negatives.  But I can't imagine anyone being at all disappointed with this.  Really, who thought we'd ever see Cathy's Curse looking this good?

Curiously, the back of Severin's case promises English, French, Italian and Spanish audio; but really both versions of the film just have the original English mono track in DTS-HD 2.0.  Optional English subtitles are also included.
And for the first time, Cathy's Curse has extras!  Good ones, too.  We get a 20-minute on-camera interview with the director, in French with English subtitles.  And we get a featurette with the actress who played Cathy (she says, "don't see this movie, it is not worth your time;" but she is so wrong!), and her mom who did costumes for the film.  There's also a short introduction to the film from some screening, where the host dresses as Cathy.  And there's a fan commentary (on the shorter cut) by a couple critics who helped convince Severin to restore this film, which is pretty amiable for that kind of commentary.  There's also the trailer, and if you pre-ordered the film direct from Severin, you got a nice 12"x18" poster as well.  In fact, you could really go all out and order their "Cursed Bundle," which includes a signed copy (by the director), the poster, a glow-in-the-dark t-shirt, a mask(!), a pin, "and some creepy crawlies," whatever the heck that means.
I'm thrilled to have this release, but do I recommend it?  Not if you're looking for a top notch, genuinely scary horror movie.  The Exorcist, this ain't.  Mainstream viewers will just see a stilted, cheesy, low budget mess with sub-par acting and effects.  Cathy's Curse is only for the kind of fan who sees the charm in offbeat cult flicks.  But if that's you, you're gonna love it.

Oh, and if you're wondering: The Alpha Incident isn't nearly on the same level as Cathy's Curse, but it has an absorbing premise and one pretty neat scene.

5 comments:

  1. I swear there is a scene in the Cathy's Curse segment of the 1983 compilation film, "Terror On Tape" where an old woman is pushed out a window, hits the ground and large spurt of blood shoots from her head, none of the new or old versions seem contain that scene.

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    1. Whoa! I just went and watched Terror On Tape, and you are absolutely correct! All the other footage of Cathy's Curse is just like in the movie (except, of course, ToT re-edits stuff around); but yes, they definitely have an additional gore shot when the woman falls out of the window and hits the ground!

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  2. Hello the extra scene present in the terror on tape cut, is taken from Lenzi's cult movie NIGHTMARE CITY (1980)
    Here the scene at minute 20'37
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7pXN2-wB34
    So it looks like they wanted to make the scene bloodier and so put an insert, because as you can see they just take the scene from lenzi's movie.
    by the way i one im one of the few but i like very much cathy's curse, it have a nice creepy atmosphere, despite some flaws.

    nice site by the way !

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    1. Oh wow! Great catch. Glad that solves that mystery, and there's not some extended Cathy's Curse still lost. It's interesting, though, Terror On Tape doesn't seem to add similar scenes to any other clips.

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  3. LOVE CATHY'S CURSE! Only seen the can't tell what anything actually looks like-print, though! Adore the terrible jump-cut at the beginning of the movie....the horrendous and poorly-timed and matched overdubbing of the possessed voice... and isn't this also another of those movies (like the original MOTHER'S DAY) where we see some blood-letting inside of a shot seconds before anything physically happens to someone which warranted even a drop of spilled blood? CATHY's CURSE should be shown on a double bill with THE APPLE (1980). NO! I take that back... CAN't STOP THE MUSIC!!

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