Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 25th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: UK / Belgium, 1974
Director: José Ramón Larraz
Writers: José Ramón Larraz, Stanley Miller, Thomas Owen
Cast: Angela Pleasence, Peter Vaughan, Lorna Heilbron, Nancy Nevinson, Ronald O’Neil, Marie-Paule Mailleux, Mike Grady, Raymond Huntley
BluRay released: May 10th, 2016
Approximate running time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 aspect ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Mondo Macabro
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.98
Symptoms was co-written and directed by José Ramón Larraz whose other notable films include, Whirlpool, Vampyres and Black Candles, Key collaborators on Symptoms include, composer John Scott (The Million Eyes of Sumuru, The Final Countdown) and editor Brian Smedley-Aston (The Shuttered Room, Performance).
Content wise, this film has all the ingredients that one would want and more importantly expect from a psychological thriller. And the bulk of the film takes place at one central location a remote estate in the English countryside, which is in its own state of decay. Another strength of this film is its well defined protagonist and her deteriorating state of mind. It is made crystal clear the moment she arrives onscreen that something about her is off balance. Also though the secondary characters are not as well defined as the protagonist, fortunately the film builds them up just enough that their presence greatly adds to the story at hand.
From a production stand point there is not an area where this film does not deliver. The film’s visuals are rock solid and they take full advantage of this film’s central location. Also the film’s visuals are filled with atmosphere and they do a superb job reinforcing the mood. And when it comes to pacing things start off slowly as the first act is used to establish all the main players. Followed by the middle act reveals the things that are just lingering beneath the surface, while the final act serves as the moment of truth for the protagonist.
Without a doubt this film’s greatest asset is its leading lady Angela Pleasence who delivers an utterly convincing performance in the role of this film’s disturbed protagonist Helen. Another performance of note is Lorna Heilbron in the role of Anne, the friend staying with Helen. Overall Symptoms is an extraordinary psychological thriller that has been cut from the mold as films like, Repulsion and Don’t Look Now.
Symptoms comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. This release has been flagged for progressive playback and the film is presented in its intended 1.37:1 aspect ratio. This release in done in conjunction with BFI’s own release in the UK. Both releases use the same source as their 2k transfers, a restoration of the film’s original negative. Colors and flesh tones look accurate, black levels look very good and details look crisp. Also grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English and removable English subtitles have also been included with this release. There are no issues with background noise distortion, dialog is clear and everything sounds balanced. Also range and depth are very good. With the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack being well represented.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (2 minutes 6 seconds), a text based bio for Celia Novis who directed the documentary On Vampyres and Other Symptoms, a featurette titled From Barcelona… To Turnbridge Wells: The Films of José Larraz (24 minutes 11 seconds), three interviews – the first interview with actress Angela Pleasence (9 minutes 37 seconds), the second interview with actress Lorna Heilbron (17 minutes 57 seconds) and the third interview with producer Brian Smedley (17 minutes 4 seconds) and a documentary titled On Vampyres and Other Symptoms (73 minutes 54 seconds).
Topics discussed in the interview with Angela Pleasence include, her casting in the lead role, her refusal to do nudity, working with José Ramón Larraz, thoughts about the character she portrays, the cast, one set memories and her thoughts about the film.
Topics discussed in the interview with Lorna Heilbron include, her casting, her influences, the cast, working with José Ramón Larraz, how the film was part of the Cannes film festival, om set memories and her thoughts about the film.
Topics discussed in the interview with Brian Smedley include, how his father and uncle were in the film industry, his early days working in the film industry, working as an editor and the editor’s relationship with the director, Symptoms and other films that he collaborated with José Ramón Larraz.
The extra titled From Barcelona… To Turnbridge Wells: The Films of José Larraz is a well-rounded overview of Larraz’s filmography.
The extra titled On Vampyres and Other Symptoms is an in depth discussion with José Ramón Larraz about Vamoryres and Symptoms.
Rounding out the extras is the Mondo Macabro preview trailer which includes clips from titles they have currently released or about to release. Overall Symptoms gets an exceptional release from Mondo Macabro, highly recommended.