Roger Corman’s Horror Classics Volume 1 (2013) – By Duane L. Martin

I absolutely love classic movies. I got my start in film reviewing covering classic films on my personal site, B-Movie Central. You know what else I love? When a company shows these great old films the respect they deserve when they do releases of them, and that’s exactly what Film Chest does.

This three film collection contains three of Roger Corman’s classics that have been transferred from the original 35mm elements and then painstakingly restored so that they look absolutely pristine, and sound just phenomenal.

Volume 1 of this collection contains:

A Bucket or Blood (1959) – Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) works in a beatnik cafe. He’s verbally abused constantly and everyone sees him as nothing more than an insignificant waiter. He’s a frustrated artist at heart though, and just wants to be accepted. His attempts at sculpting are fruitless however, as he simply has no talent. When his landlady’s cat gets stuck in the wall, and he accidently stabs and kills it trying to cut it free, he attempts to cover it up by covering the cat in clay and making it look like a statue. When he’s suddenly considered a genius sculptor for his amazing dead cat sculpture, the people want, and demand more of his great work. Now he’s stuck. Where’s he going to get more subjects to turn into sculptures? I’ll bet you can guess.

Dementia 13 (1963) – The Haloran family has a very tragic past. The youngest daughter, Kathleen, drowned, and every year, they hold a special ceremony for her at the family estate in Ireland. The matriarch of the clan won’t be around forever, and money grubbing Louise Haloran wants to get her hands on the inheritance. Unfortunately for her, while they’re on their way to the estate, her husband John, who knows what a money grubbing witch she is, has a heart attack in the rowboat, and fearing the loss of the inheritance, she throws his body overboard into the lake and tells the family that he had to go off on an urgent business trip. Now that she’s in the thick of family intrigue though, her greed may just cost her more than she ever dreamed of as family secrets are revealed and the past comes back to haunt them.

The Terror (1963) – Lt. Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson) was a member of Napolean’s army. One day, he’s riding exhaustedly in the saddle, and eventually falls off of his horse on a beach by the sea. When he stands up and looks around, he sees a beautiful woman standing out in the ocean waters. She doesn’t speak at first, but when he tells her he’s thirsty and needs some fresh water, she leads him to a pool that’s fed by runoff from the mountain. She keeps disappearing though when he’s not looking. He eventually ends up at the castle of Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe (Boris Karloff), and asks for shelter. The Baron doesn’t want him there, but Lt. Duvalier wants some answers about the girl, which brings up some very painful memories, and a serious crime from the Baron’s past.

Now, of the three films in this collection, The Terror is probably the weakest of the three, while Dementia 13 is the most intense and involved, and A Bucket of Blood is the most fun.

Now when I say that The Terror is the weakest, that’s not to say it’s a bad film at all. It’s just not as engrossing or as entertaining as the other two. The performances are good, and it even has Dick Miller as the Baron’s butler, but it just feels like the story doesn’t develop quite fast enough.

Dementia 13 is pretty famous, and probably the most famous of the three. There’s something really creepy about this film, and the performances are amazing. Everything just falls into place in this one to create an atmospheric and genuinely suspenseful film.

A Bucket of Blood is just fun, and what makes it fun really, over and above anything else, are all the weirdo beatniks. Take a bunch of those types and mix them into a story where a guy is killing cats and people to make them into statues so they’ll think he has talent, and you’re in for a great time. If you’re looking for a good time, look no farther than this one. Dick Miller is great at playing the simpering little guy who’s been verbally abused for a very long time when all he really wants to do is to fit in. Julian Burton is also very entertaining as the barrel chested beatnik, Maxwell H. Brock, that improvises meaningless poetry that’s just oh so deep.

Film Chest did a spectacular job with the restorations on these, and to prove it, one of the special features is a before & after restoration demo. I’ve seen their demos like this before and it’s really amazing what an incredible difference the restoration makes.

The only two things I can ding this collection on at all, is that I would have loved to have seen a blu-ray release of the collection, and I would have also liked to have had English subtitles. There are Spanish subtitles, but none in English. As my wife has slight hearing loss, the subtitles are extremely helpful for her, and I’ve often found them to reveal things in the dialogue that I would have otherwise missed. I’m a very big proponent of adding English subtitles to all releases. Is it required? No, obviously not, but still, it’s a good thing to do.

As soon as I opened the press release on this one and saw that it was a Roger Corman collection, that was all I needed to know. When I then saw that it was restored versions from Film Chest, a company that I know does absolutely incredible work with their restorations, I got excited. If you love Corman’s films, you’ll want to add this volume, and all of the future release volumes to your collection.

If you’d like to find out more about Film Chest Media Group, you can check out their website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.