Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 1st, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1973
Director: Willard Huyck
Writers: Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz
Cast: Michael Greer, Marianna Hill, Joy Bang, Anitra Ford, Royal Dano, Elisha Cook Jr., Charles Dierkop, Bennie Robinson
DVD Released: October 27th, 2009
Approximate Running Time: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Code Red
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.98
Synopsis: A young woman tries to reconnect with her estranged father after she receives a foreboding letter from him. Shortly after her arrival at Pointe Dune a remote coastal town which her father now resides a series of bizarre events unfold. While trying to discover what happened to her father she encounters a young man who is conducting his own investigation about a local legend known as “The Blood Moon”. With his help she inches closer to the truth behind her fathers’ disappearance and what is really going on in Pointe Dune.
Messiah of Evil was co-written and directed by Willard Huyck, whose other notable credits include directing Howard the Duck and co-authoring screenplays for films like American Graffiti and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The screenplay for Messiah of Evil was co-written by Gloria Katz who is married to Willard Huyck and she has collaborated on the majority of the projects he has worked on. Some of the more notable cast and crew include cinematographer Stephan Katz (The Blues Brothers, Gods and Monsters), art director Jack Fisk (Carrie, There Will be Blood), editor Billy Weber (Top Gun, The Thin Red Line) and director Walter Hill (The Warriors, Southern Comfort), who appears briefly at the beginning of the film.
Messiah of Evil opens with an ambiguous scene in which a man is frantically trying to get away from his unseen pursuer. And just when it appears he may have found a safe haven a young woman slits his throat. While the events which follow this opening sequence set up the events which lead to the films open ended ending. The journey along the way is not as easy one as the film pacing tends to drag at early on. Once the film’s lead character Arletty, the daughter of the missing man pairs up with a drifter named Thom and his two female companions things start to fall in place.
Visually one can easily see the influence that filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, Dario Argento and Michelangelo Antonioni had on this films overall visual aesthetic. Also there are a handful of various visual set pieces like the sequences which take place at the gas station, the supermarket, the cinema and the not to be overlooked the films aforementioned finale. Even though the film is made with a horror film audience in mind, the filmmakers never fully abandon their art house ambitions. One of the more fascinating aspects of this film is how the flesh eating citizens of Pointe Dune are portrayed.
One of the more surprising aspects of this film is the performances from its two leads Marianna Hill (The Godfather: Part II), in the role of Arletty and Michael Greer (Fortune and Men’s Eyes), in the role of Thom. The cast also features a few other recognizable faces like Elisha Cook Jr. (Rosemary’s Baby), in the role of a drunk named Charlie and Anitra Ford who was one of the original, Price is Right models. Another performance of note is Bennie Robinson in his one and only film appearance in the role of the Albino trucker. Ultimately Messiah of Evil is an eerie tale that owes to the just as much to the literature of H.P. Lovecraft as it does to the European filmmakers whose films served as inspiration for this films visual style.
Code Red presents Messiah of Evil in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This transfer has been flagged for progressive playback. Colors look nicely saturated and at times vivid, flesh tones look healthy, black levels and details look strong throughout. There are some minor instances of print debris. All in all this is the best this film has ever looked on home video and now it is finally presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio for the first time ever on home video.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. Outside of some minor background noise that is never excessive, the audio sounds clear and balanced throughout.
This release comes with include two shorts films “The Bride Stripped Bare” (7 minutes 38 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), directed by Gloria Katz and “Down These Mean Streets” (13 minutes 31 seconds – 1.33:1 ‘full frame’ aspect ratio), directed by Willard Huyck. Other extras include an audio interview with actress Joy Bang (8 minutes 52 seconds) and a featurette titled “Remembering Messiah of Evil” 1.33:1 (21 minutes 41 seconds – ‘full frame’ aspect ratio), which includes comments from director Willard Huyck, producer / co-screenwriter Gloria Katz, cinematographer Stephan Katz, editors Billy Weber and Morgan Fischer and art director Joan Mocine (who also has an audio interview which is included as an Easter Egg on this DVD release). The main extra included with this release is an audio commentary with Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz and it is moderated by Lee Christian. The interviews and this audio commentary do a superb job covering all the making of this film. Also included with this release are a collection of trailers for other Code Red releases and they cannot be accessed separately. Overall Code Red gives Messiah of Evil a Definitive DVD release that is highlighted by an exceptional audio commentary track.