Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Blu-ray Review: EVILSPEAK (1981) [Scream Factory]

Evilspeak (1981)

Buy the Blu-ray

The Movie

Some movies just cannot be summed up in a brief synopsis. More specifically, some movies are just so batshit crazy that trying to explain their plot and/or events while conveying the tone is nearly impossible. Some people would refer to this type of movie as one that “needs to be seen to be believed.”  I just call it EVILSPEAK.

Genre fanatics are probably well aware of EVILSPEAK’s existence, as it was one of the infamous “Video Nasties” that were banned by the BBFC back in the 1980s. That’s a whole different subject beyond the scope of this review – in fact, Jake West already made a long, excellent documentary on it – but essentially, the movies were blamed for containing graphic violence and/or sex that was purported to have the potential to turn those who view it into immoral, violent delinquents. Kind of along the lines of what led to the whole Comics Code fiasco; only decidedly more British. And people got arrested over it.

As such, EVILSPEAK was always a bit of an oddity, and the versions that did exist of the film were mostly cut to hell; with much of the gore excised. Eventually, we here in the US did get a couple of “Uncut” versions on DVD, but neither really did the film justice, as the incorporation of the missing footage led to tampering with other aspects of the film and resulted in pacing issues and missing dialogue. What’s more, those discs have been out of print for a while now, and were fetching absurd prices on the second-hand market.

Just when it seems that we are likely to never see a proper release of EVILSPEAK, Scream Factory swoops in and saves the day by bringing us not only a Blu-ray release of the film, but one that comes with a remastered version from a newly discovered 35mm inter-positive that  includes all of the wonderfully nasty stuff we’ve been missing out on.

The official synopsis of the film is as follows:

Life sucks for Stanley Coppersmith (Clint Howard, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School), a teenage outcast who’s bullied by everyone at a strict military academy. When Stanley discovers the crypt of a 16th Century Satanist beneath the chapel, he creates a computerized Black Mass that unleashes unholy revenge upon his tormentors. Now, all hell is about to break loose!
However, as mentioned earlier, that description doesn’t do the movie justice at all. To be frank, EVILSPEAK is one seriously crazy movie, and it is a hell of a lot of fun.

It’s not often that Clint Howard is given the lead in a film, and he does a wonderful job holding down a movie that, quite frankly, features one of the most absurd premises around. A computer named Esteban that is possessed by satan, killer pigs, levitating Clint Howard, Richard Moll in a hooded robe cutting a woman's head off... It's all here. Sure, the first two acts are a bit goofy, but never once was I bored, and by the time the finale hits, I was loving every minute of it.

Ultimately, EVILSPEAK isn't a movie that's going to go down in cinematic history, and for many, it may not even live up to its infamy. However, it's a bizarre, gory, B-Movie that could have only been made in the 1980s, and it's one that I think should be seen by more people. Luckily, thanks to the folks at Scream Factory, it's easily obtainable in all of its uncut glory. 

Movie Score


The Blu-ray

Scream Factory does what they do best and delivers EVILSPEAK to us in a wonderful Blu-ray package. The artwork is the original key poster art, and there are alternate, foreign poster designs on the reverse; though the summary is not featured there, so this isn't really a "reversible" insert. While the release is not a "Collector's Edition," there are still a good amount of extras, and they are all worth your time.

Video Quality (4/5)

EVILSPEAK is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, in a 1080p AVC-encoded transfer that was remastered from a "newly discovered" IP 35mm print. In general, the print looks very good. There are some dirt and debris that occasionally rear their head, but considering the source, and its rarity, it's very forgivable and never distracting. Detail is very good, with the image never looking softer than expected and good black levels throughout. Those expecting a jaw-dropping HD experience should note that EVILSPEAK probably never looked amazing, and this is the best it has ever been presented on home video and feels very true to the original source.

Audio Quality (4/5)

The provided audio track is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix that will keep purists happy. It sounds very good and gets the job done without ever dropping levels inappropriately or muffling dialog. The score, by Roger Kellaway, is very fun and sounds wonderful here; with its Satanic piano/synth and choral notes. No complaints here.

Extra Features (4/5)

Scream Factory is known for including great extras with their discs, and EVILSPEAK is no exception. The best feature on the disc is easily the commentary track with Director Eric Weston, who is pretty honest and entertaining about his experiences with the movie; and Hollywood in general. The Making-of featurette is also entertaining and better than most of the generic EPK pieces we tend to get from other companies these days. The interviews are interesting as well. The full list of extras, and their runtime, is below:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Eric Weston; Moderated by Bill Olson
  • Satan's Pigs and Severed Heads: The Making of EVILSPEAK (28 min)
  • Effects Speak with Allan A. Apone (15 min)
  • Cast Interviews (29 min)
    • Clint Howard
    • Donald Stark
    • Joe Cortese
  • Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts

If you read my thoughts, or listen to the podcast, on a regular basis, then you probably know how I feel about Scream Factory. Quite frankly, I think that they (and their parent company, Shout Factory) deliver the best packages for retro genre titles in the current marketplace. They always deliver quality materials, and I applaud their efforts with bonus features. EVILSPEAK may not be a "Collector's Edition," but the picture and sound are very good, the extras are highly entertaining, and overall, it's a release that I really stand behind. I have absolutely no reservations in recommending this release to genre fans in general, and for fans of EVILSPEAK, this is a must-buy.

Highly Recommended

Blu-ray Score


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