Donald Pleasence (doing a bad Peter Lorre impression) is a university professor convinced that he can create plant/human hybrids that have the benefits of both species. He acquires unwilling human subjects thanks to erstwhile Doctor Who Tom Baker, here the deformed leader of a freak circus, who kidnaps young men and women, having been promised a cure for his condition.
The case boasts that his is a 70s version of Freaks, and the comparison is not inapt, since we are presente… with the real thing, putting on a show. Questions of exploitation arise, naturally, and audiences really are invited to gape at the deformities. The freaks are furthermore a sideshow (in every sense) in the film, rather than the main focus as they are in the Tod Browning film. In other departments, the plotting is a bit ragged, but the makeup effects are quite impressive and gruesome, and the score is very different. All in all, a real curiosity, and all thanks to Subversive for making it available again at long last.
The original mono is an option, as is a new 2.0 stereo mix. The latter has a decent music mix (though the volume in the rear speakers is quite low) and character voices have a minimum of problematic surround. The buzz, however, is very bad, and omnipresent.
The print is in very good shape, with no damage to speak of. There is no grain or visible edge enhancement, and the blacks are excellent. The contrasts, however, are too strong: reds and oranges are neon-bright, leading to odd skin tones, and taking over the rather soft image. Not the best of Subversive’s generally very fine releases.
There are two commentary tracks. The first, by writer/producer Robert Weinbach and actor Brad Harris (joining a moderator) is very good, and very informative. Director Jack Cardiff is interviewed on the other track (and is quite interesting, expressing, for instance, his dissatisfaction with Pleasence’s performance), but there are great big gaps and silences here.Also present is a solid retrospective making-of featurette, a still gallery, cast and crew bios, and trailers for the feature and other Subversive releases. The menu is fully animated and scored, but its transitions are way, way too long. As a special treat, there’s a poster reproduction and three lobby cards included in the case.
Though not as stunning a release as The Candy Snatchers, this is still a respectful packaging of a movie that still has its place in horror film history.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Making-of Featurette
- Cast and Crew Bios
- Still Gallery
- Poster and Lobby Cards