Code Red Catch-Up, Part 1: Demon Witch Child!!! And Some Other Piece of Crap

So, ever since I first did a "Catch-Up" series on this site, I knew it was only a matter of time until Code Red's.  There's just all these great, older Code Red releases that need covering on here: great but overlooked DVD-only horrors and yes, a couple more DVD/ blu-ray comparisons.  And we start out with one of my favorite horror DVD, which I can't believe isn't better known and in more fans' collections.  I mean, don't get me wrong; I completely understand why it isn't in most peoples' collections and isn't regarded alongside mainstream horror classics like A Nightmare On Elm St or The Omen.  We're talking crazy, cult, obscure 70's insanity, not slick, streamlined, and glossy high production values.  This is for a select audience only.  But that select audience should be all over this disc.
Oh, but this is a double-feature.  And before we get to the neglected masterpiece, let's get the other film out of the way first, the "piece of crap" from this post's title.  It's a little film called The Possessed.  Actually, both films have been called The Possessed.  That's why they're paired up on the same disc: because, at some point in time, both films had been released under the title The Possessed.  Otherwise, they have nothing in common.

This The Possessed - on-screen title: Help Me... I'm Possessed - is an American film from 1974.  Screenwriter Bill Green also stars as a doctor of a sanitarium/ castle somewhere in Southern California.  He has a hunchbacked assistant, a mad woman for a sister and a new bride who begins to suspect unorthodox things are going on behind closed doors.  Patients are tortured and killed, and an unseen monster chases a nurse through the woods.  But things aren't nearly as interesting as that description makes it sound.  It's mostly long, droll scenes of conversations as characters stand around in front of a static camera.  It's just tongue-in-cheek enough that there's nothing to get invested in, but utterly fails in its attempts at humor with dialogue like, "who are you?"  "I'm fine.  How are you?"
I have to admit... I do love this location.
The police come and just... mill about the grounds aimlessly.  The premise and marketing promise sleaze and shocks, but that mostly just amounts to women in their bras pretending to be dead and a rubber leg or two.  It's absolutely Mystery Science Theater fodder-level (Season 12 show runners, take note), and deserves a little credit for trying to be an 'everything and the kitchen sink' movie where you never know what's coming around the next corner - mad scientist, hunchback, lunatic or off-camera monster?  But it's all just so flat and lifeless in execution, the fun the premise could offer just makes the film all the more disappointing.  If you're in the absolute right mood, and very patient, you might be slightly amused, in a laughing at it as opposed to with it kind of way.  But it's definitely not the reason to add this DVD to your collection.

Although, if you are interested in The Possessed, this Code Red double-feature does appear to be its only release on disc ever.  And since Code Red got their hands on it instead of some generic public domain company like Platinum, Alpha, Mill Creek, etc, this is a widescreen presentation taken from a film print instead of a fullscreen dupe of a VHS tape.
2013 Code Red DVD.
...Of course, it's not a pristine, or in any way cleaned or remastered film print.  This is another one of Code Red's patented "grindhouse" experiences, where the print is covered in dirt and chemicals, with green spots and lines everywhere.  It's also got a faded, washed out and soft look.  But it's still 100% more authentic and satisfying than any of VHS dub.  It's 1.78:1 (or more like 1.76 with the dead space in the overscan area's edges) anamorphic, progressive, and the mono audio, well, it matches the print.  There's a bassline soft hiss that isn't too distracting, with plenty of pops, but surprisingly robust library music and clear dialogue.  Of course there are no subtitles or alternate audio tracks.
But the real gem is 1976's The Possessed - on-screen title: Demon Witch Child - a delightful killer kid film from Spain.  This one's written and directed by none other than Amando de Ossorio, the man behind The Blind Dead and Lorelei's Grasp.  But Demon Witch Child may have actually usurped all his other work as my favorite de Ossorio film.  It's just so much fun.  If you appreciated Cathy's Curse, oh boy, this is like its equally nutty prequel.

The premise is perfectly simple: the local police bust up a coven of witches, so their leader takes revenge by possessing the chief's daughter.  It's starts off in some predictable Exorcist rip-off territory - not that that's a bad thing - with the girl floating out of her bed and a priest being brought in to chase the evil out of her.  But she quickly transforms into a delightful, balding foul-mouthed witch child, using her powers to wreak havoc on everyone in her life.  She laughs maniacally as she displays all kinds of fun magical powers and goes pretty psycho in some pretty edgy ways that I'm super tempted to spoil right now, but I won't.
Meanwhile, everyone's trudging around in super 70's earth tones, and there's a melodramatic subplot where the priest's ex-girlfriend has become a prostitute.  The local townspeople form a mob and dig up graves, the bad-ass police captain, the parents, the priest and an ace reporter are all following separate paths to find the truth, and the witch cult comes back to help their crazy little girl kidnap a baby.

Admittedly, the pacing drags at points, with dubbed dialogue and scenes which can only be honestly described as bad writing.  The score is also clunky, though it concludes with a pretty dramatic, rousing number, that reminded me of Frizzi's main theme for The Beyond.  And Code Red clearly agrees with me, because it's the music they use for the DVD menu.  There's also a weird aspect to this presentation where the first minute of footage repeats with alternate credits over it.  I'm sure it wasn't meant to be shown twice in a row, but it is here.
This print's been badly damaged, but we've got the fingerprint of the man responsible!
This time Code Red's disc isn't the only release of Demon Witch Child.  It was included in one of those no frills budget packs of multiple films called Grindhouse Experience: 20 Film Feature Collection from 2007.  But that's reportedly another one of those 4:3 VHS-sourced editions.  Meanwhile here, just like the other The Possessed, we've got another, much more satisfying anamorphic widescreen transfer of a film print.
2013 Code Red DVD.
And I mean really just like the other The Possessed.  I could pretty much copy the entire paragraph I wrote about that transfer and it would apply equally to this one.  1.78:1 anamorphic, progressive transfer, with slivers of pillar-boxing down the sides making it more accurately 1.76:1.  Tinted and drained colors with washed exposure, and yes, plenty more green chemical damage all over the place.  This film certainly has better cinematography, but in terms of its presentation, it almost looks like the same film.

The mono audio's about the same, too; except the crackly hiss and pops just a little bit worse.  A word or two are dropped when damage causes the film to be spliced, but for the most part, it's fine once you get used to it.  Again, it fits naturally with the condition of the print.  We still only get the English dub (and no subtitle option), but considering the tone of the film, that's not as damaging as it would be with something more serious and delicate like Zeder
There's basically nothing by way of special features here; we don't even get the films' trailers.  We just get the traditional Family Honor trailer on start up and a couple of Code Red bonus trailers.  They are what they are: direct, unrestored standard def transfers scanned from a pair of beat up old film prints.  But they sure beat the video-tape crapola that came before 'em.  This disc is a real treat.  Well, half of it is, anyway.

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