How Code Red Saved The Eerie Midnight Horror Show (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

The Eerie Midnight Horror Show is an extremely misleading and pretty weird re-marketing of a 70s Italian flick called L'ossessa or Enter the Devil that tries to present this as a Rocky Horror Picture Show knock-off. But this film couldn't be further from that. It's also been given the exploitative title Sexorcist, but that's at least more representative of what the film's about; sex and exorcism are two major elements of the story. Eerie is hardly a dry or studious film - it definitely falls more onto the fun and trashy end of pile. But it is a fairly earnest little horror film that plays it straight - something you'd never guess from looking at the cover of Code Red's limited edition blu-ray here.

Update 4/9/18: Eerie Midnight has been re-released on blu-ray, this time as part of a "Drive-In" double-bill with The House That Vanished from Dark Force Entertainment.  We've got a proper comparison down below, but TL;DR?  It's just a slightly different encode of the same transfer.
Eerie's often referred to as an Exorcist clone, and I don't doubt that it was made to cash in on that film's success. But it's a very different movie that really doesn't start getting into The Exorcist's territory until the final half hour or so. It's the story of devilish possession, but this happens to a grown woman and is told through her perspective, where we see her Satanic visions. And our devil is played perfectly by Ivan Rassimov - we spend a lot of the film eagerly awaiting his next appearance. Our heroin is an art student who brings home a life-sized wooden sculpture of a crucified monk who'd given his life to Satan. We're treated to some surprisingly impressive effects of the wooden man coming to life, and naturally he corrupts his new owner. The film has a lot of off-beat themes and diversions, including art history and S&M sex - there's a whole weird subplot about her parents' semi-open relationship (are her mother's kinky affairs somehow to blame for everything?). But it's primarily just an interesting, stylish little flick about a woman possessed in Rome, with a bit of an unfortunate soundtrack.
Now, this film's been available for years on VHS and no-frills public domain DVDs, always in muddy, hissy fullscreen editions. And I've got the latest one of those of those releases - Mill Creek's version, included as one of their 50 film collection, called Pure Terror - right here so we can have make a proper comparison. Because Code Red has now finally given it respectable treatment, providing an illuminating, widescreen transfer taken from a 35mm print, presented in HD on their limited (to 1000 copies) edition blu-ray.  And even though that limited edition still seems to be readily available in 2018, it's been reissued anyway, by Dark Force Entertainment.  This disc is also limited to 1000 copies, and is part of DFE's "Retro Drive-In Double Features" series, which pairs Eerie Midnight with the completely unrelated British film, The House That Vanished.
Mill Creek's 2010 DVD top; Code Red's 2014 blu mid; Dark Force's 2018 blu bottom.
Code Red's case refers to its transfer as being in "Grindhouse Scope," a reference to the severe damage some of their source prints have been known to be suffering from. And it's true, the print this feature was scanned from is far from free of scratches, noise, and vertical green lines (as you can see in the first comparison shot). It's also a little soft for an HD image. But compare that to the hideous fullscreen transfer we've been living with (which isn't free of speckles and scratches either) and it's a freaking revelation! It's so much cleaner and more defined. The widescreen gives much more picture, which looks heaps better in its original aspect ratio. It finally looks like an actual movie. The colors are drastically improved from the DVDs' greenishly bland pallor. And the DVD has this weird double matting thing going on, giving the whole movie a grey bar going up the right side of the screen. I left the second set of comparison shots completely uncropped, so you can see exactly how it plays on your television. Ugh.
Oh, and yes, the DVD is heavily interlaced, resulting in ghosting frames like you see above, too - presumably due to a poor PAL/NTSC conversion. The blus are thankfully free of this issue as well. And yes, the both blu-rays are virtually identical, right down to matching chemical damage.  They are necessarily different encodes of course, and if you zoom all the way in, you can see the pixelation is technically different.  But the resulting image is too similar to say one is in anyway superior to the other.  And both blus feature the same mono audio track, which has all the hiss and pops you'd expect, but it's so bad that it gets distracting.  Basically, the found an old print, scanned it, and these are the direct results.  It looks like they color corrected it, too, which is a big plus.  But this is no fancy restoration from the original negatives or anything.
Mill Creek's 2010 DVD left; Code Red's 2014 blu right.
Now, again, The Eerie Midnight Horror Show was never the film's proper title. But the credits on the DVD are totally different from what's on blu-ray discs, with the DVD using cheaper, alternate credits. The blus go back to an earlier, superior version. The Mill Creek version also uses that same red title card (pictured) to cover up the ending of the closing credits sequence, which we see in its original form on the blu-rays, showing the alternate title The Tormented. The blus also run about 30 seconds longer, but I think the only difference is in the credits, neither version appears to be otherwise cut.

No edition of this film has any substantial extras to speak of, but Code Red's blu does have an amusing intro and outro sequence featuring Katrina Leigh Waters and the infamous banana man. Dark Force throws a few random things on its disc, but nothing to do with the film.  It's just about fifteen minutes worth of vintage drive-in intermission footage and bonus trailers that play between the two films when you watch the disc in "Drive-In Mode."  Sure, we'd all prefer some real extras, like an interview with Stella Carnacina; but I don't think we'll ever see this film get that kind of special edition treatment.
So, could this movie potentially look better if someone made a top of the line 4k scan of the OCN (assuming those materials still exist)? Sure. But the blu-rays are an amazing improvement on a film that was getting absolutely zero love or attention in a dreadful, public domain hell. Of course it's no cinematic masterpiece, but it's actually an entertaining and sometimes effective little flick, which you'd never realize if you'd only seen any of the previous releases. This film has been given new life, and hey! It turns out it actually kinda deserved it.

1 comment:

  1. On "video," the 1985 Continental Video print was sharp and clear but fullscreen (open-matte?). But the Planet Video release from 1982 was a little grainier but matted to around 1.66:1. I was surprised by that since movies were generally square until DVD came along in the late 90's (anything letterboxed before that were usually some kind of special edition),