Sunday, 28 June 2015

Candle For The Devil

Directed by the man behind the classic Horror Express Candle for the Devil (more appropriately known in the US as It Happened at Nightmare Inn) was made in Spain (largely Madrid and El Paular) in 1973, featuring two God-fearing sisters who run a small hotel in a traditional Spanish village,  They get a lot of English-speaking tourists but don't exactly approve of their more liberal ways, although the local men are somewhat more forgiving of course.  An argument with one of their guests, who is attracting attention with some topless sunbathing, results in the girl's accidental death.  Interpreting a divine message in the death they cover up the accident but don't reckon on the girl's sister arriving to meet her a day or so later.  They let her stay at the hotel under the impression that the dead sister has already left of her own accord.  The new arrival suspects something is amiss when another guest vanishes, and launches into her own investigation to find out what's going on in the sinister little equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle.

The film has a nice funereal atmosphere with a screwed-up pair of sisters at the centre of the mess of corpses that starts building up around them.  They're not even what you might necessarily call 'evil' (however you want to argue the definition of that) - rather, they are misguided in their beliefs.  There is a poignant reflection of this even in today's political climate as certain terrorist organisations around the world choose to kill off others simply because they do not comply with their own belief systems.  It goes without saying that this kind of mind-set can also be found throughout history.
Odeon's UK Blu is quite a barebones affair similar to previous releases on disc that I'm aware of, with a cover that is not exactly going to win any design awards (although it is arguably sexy).  You only get a trailer for the film, and on the inside of the box is poster art (they could have expanded this into a reversible cover perhaps).  I had heard that it was a 'bad' transfer but this is nowhere near what I would call bad (many people troll these Blu releases with no understanding of the kind of sources that the distributors have access to, or the work that needs to be done to bring them up to standard with many films rotting in their cans as we speak, or they simply fail to contextualise something against releases of the same film on other formats, which are almost always inferior).  I suspect this one is taken from a print that is not in the most magnificent shape, but the digital transfer itself does not appear to be flawed, and certainly preferable to watching a DVD.  It does exhibit a slightly soft, grainy appearance, but I felt that it was organic and possibly an indication of how it might have looked at some fleapit cinema in the early seventies.  Audio track is functional, and English language only.  I'm aware there is also a Spanish language track out there but it's questionable which is more appropriate.  The location would suggest Spanish of course, but Geeson speaks/dubs English, while some of the other actors appear to be speaking English also.  As with many Euro films it's difficult to categorically state which language the film should be viewed in, although I think it would have been nice if Odeon could have obtained the Spanish track (with English subs, naturally) so that we could make up our own minds.

There is a Blu out in the US by Scorpion that is slightly better specified (it contains an 18 minute interview with Geeson - I don't count that Katarina rubbish as extras I'm afraid).  The problem is that the Scorpion disc is not easy to get hold of, especially if you live in the UK, or at least not for a reasonable price.  Hence you can either go for the extortionate Scorpion and get the interview, or pay about a third of the price for the Odeon without the interview.  I think the colour timing may be different between the two transfers but personally I liked the almost autumnal representation of the film on the Odeon Blu, and I bought it for a fair price on Amazon (surprisingly) saving a fortune on the US disc.  Not a stellar release but being the second best overall presentation of this edgy little film (possibly that we're ever likely to see) I'm pretty happy with it.

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