Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 19th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1973
Director: William A. Levey
Writer: Frank R. Saletri
Cast: John Hart, Ivory Stone, Joe De Sue, Roosevelt Jackson, Andrea King, Nick Bolin, Karin Lind, Yvonne Robinson, John Dennis, Liz Renay
BluRay released: May 30th, 2017
Approximate running times: 78 minutes (Theatrical Version), 87 minutes (Video Release Version)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Versions)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (Both Versions)
Subtitles: English SDH (Threatrical Version)
BluRay Release: Severin Films
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95
Though Blackenstein features many of the elements that have become synonymous with Blaxploitation cinema. This film also owes a great debt to Universal Studio’s monster movies from the 1930’s, more specifically Frankenstein.
The film’s premise is best described as a very loose adaption of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. With the most glaring difference in this adaptation being the instigator when it comes to bringing the monster to life. In this film, Dr. Stein is a main who is rooted in morality and his ultimate goal is to help his former protegee Winifred Walker in her quest to make her boyfriend whole again. It is Dr. Stein’s assistant who plays the role of god in this film and it is because of Winifred’s rejection that the monster is born.
The performances are best described a serviceable. With the most entertaining performance being Joe De Sue in the role of a Vietnam vet named Eddie Turner who is transformed into the monster. Notable cast members include, Liz Renay (The Thrill Killers, Desperate Living) and John Dennis (Psychic Killer) in the role of a hospital attendant who torments Eddie Turner.
For a Horror, themed film there are no real scares. With the gore, related moments being contained to the monsters rampaged in the film’s final act. Visually this film also draws inspiration from the aforementioned Universal monster movies. Reportedly this film uses stock music from that era and the devices in Dr. Stein’s labs are also carry overs from Frankenstein. Ultimately Blackenstein is a classic example of Shlock cinema.
For this release Severin Films have included two versions of the film. And it should be noted that the differences between these two versions is more than just one version omitting about nine minutes of footage. There are also moments are exclusive to each version.
Blackenstein comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. And this release comes with two versions of the film. Both versions of the film are presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The theatrical version comes from a film source and colors look accurate, details look crisp and there are no issues with compression. The video release version contains footage that is not in the theatrical version and this footage has been sourced from the only available source, a 1” master tape.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles. There are no issues with background hiss, dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (3 minutes 24 seconds), an archive news broadcast on the murder of writer / producer Frank R. Saletri (6 minutes 17 seconds), an interview with creature designer Bill Munns titled Bill Created Blackenstein (9 minutes 13 seconds) and an interview with Frank R. Saletri’s Sister, June Kirk (19 minutes 2 seconds).
Topics discussed in the interview with June Kirk include. her brother’s love for monster movies, how her brother at one time lived in a house that was formerly owned by Bela Lugosi, her brother’s friendships with the sons of Bela Lugosi and Peter Lorre, screenplays that he wrote that have yet to be made into movies, Blackenstein and her brothers murder.
Overall Blackenstein gets an excellent release from Severin Films, highly recommended.
Note: This film is also being released by Severin Films on DVD.