DECEMBER 30, 2008
I kind of like the irony of Mill Creek providing widescreen transfers on a few of the films from the Tales of Terror set, because the whole idea of providing a widescreen image is to allow viewers to enjoy the film as intended. But I highly doubt that director Massimo Pupillo intended Terror Creatures From The Grave (Italian: 5 Tombe Per Un Medium) to be seen on what appears to be a VHS transfer of a camera shot bootleg, with sound that occasionally turns into underwater garbling noises and the occasional jarring splice. I swear there are actually two prints being used, because occasionally a splice will come and then the film will look better (or worse) then it did a second ago. But hey, A for effort and all that.
I should make a separate tagging for movies that I wish I could watch again on a decent transfer, because all the image/sound problems were really distracting from what is otherwise a pretty solid movie. It reminded me of some of the other 60s Italian films I’ve seen, such as The Ghost (which also starred Barbara Steele), but in a good way. I liked the mystery angle especially; I’ve seen so many of these horror movies in which the “monster” turns out to be just some guy that it’s now a nice surprise when there are legitimate supernatural elements behind it all.
Unfortunately, because of the attempts to keep this sort of a mystery, not a lot happens onscreen. We see a lot of people FINDING corpses, but not a lot of people BECOMING corpses. Luckily, the few we are offered are pretty fun, particularly a wheelchair bound guy. What is it about wheelchair-bound victims that make their deaths such a mean-spirited joy? I think of the old hag in Gremlins, and of course the death of Mark, patron saint of wheelchaired horror movie characters, in Friday the 13th part 2.
Also, because a lot of the movie is talk, there’s an issue that comes up a lot – dubbed dialogue overlapping. Because the English takes longer to say than the original Italian (I guess), we often have conversations in which people reply much quicker than they naturally should, because the pause in between one character’s line and another’s is wiped out by the longer dub track. It’s kind of funny to see someone “reply” so quickly to a question though.
One line might be a mistranslation, but either way it’s a gem. When delivering some exposition (the backstory involves the Plague, which was apparently enough to get Edgar Allen Poe a writing credit), a guy mentions “horribly severed heads”. As opposed to all of the wonderful and beautifully severed heads you are accustomed to?
Also, our hero looks like Joe Pesci from My Cousin Vinny. I’d screenshot it, but I already took the DVD out and it’s so blurry you probably wouldn’t be able to see the resemblance anyway.
So, yeah, if you can find a good copy, I’d recommend this one. It’s slow, but the payoff is pretty good, and it has all the hallmarks of the 1960’s Italian “horror movie in a castle” genre: crypts, inheritances, moors, and well, Barbara Steele.
What say you?