Get Paranoiac on Blu-ray

Monday, 26 July 2010 07:00

“Paranoiac” hails from the famous Hammer Studios, home of Dracula and Frankenstein. Do not let this movie’s relative obscurity put you off, however, not least because this is the first time it has been available on home video. Oliver Reed (“Gladiator”, “Tommy”) heads up the impressive cast as Simon Ashby, an obnoxious, alcoholic brat who is about to inherit over £500,000.

The Ashby mansion is also home to Eleanor (Janette Scott), Simon’s delicate and mentally unstable younger sister, their steely aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell), Françoise the saucy French maid (Liliane Brousse) and Williams the butler (John Stuart). Between them there is enough back-stabbing, distrust, lust and intrigue to fill a dozen novels. The film opens with the Ashby clan gathered at the annual commemorative service to mark the death of Anthony, elder brother of Simon and Eleanor.

Paranoiac comes to Blu-rayAnthony supposedly committed suicide by flinging himself off a cliff over a decade ago, but when Eleanor claims she keeps seeing him, the rest of the family think she has gone completely mad. When Eleanor tries to emulate Anthony’s reputed suicide, the mysterious man (played by Alexander Davion) saves her and comes forward, proclaiming that he is indeed their long-lost relative.

Eleanor appears to be the only one who believes Anthony’s story; the rest of the family does their utmost to quiz and trick him into revealing his true identity. Cue heaps of tense family friction, devious and deadly acts of subterfuge and more than a few skeletons in the closet that threaten to bring the wretched family to its knees.

This really is a cracking little thriller from double Oscar winner and cult film and TV director Freddie Francis (The Saint, The Champions, “Tales from the Crypt”). It bears all the hallmarks of a Hammer classic, not least bold, flawed characters and plenty of tense atmosphere. Although he is hardly cast against type, Reed excels as the leering, utterly unpleasant Simon. This is a tremendous character filled with bile, guilt and greed, a boorish man who is an insolent bully to those he dislikes, and holds contempt for everyone else! Reed steals every scene effortlessly and really proves what a great actor he could be when he set his mind to it.

The rest of the cast do their best to fill the gaps in between (a tough job), with plaudits going to Burrell as the suspicious aunt and Davion as the suave, too good to be true (or is he?) Anthony. The movie has masses of atmosphere, thanks partly to the crisp black and white cinematography and excellent sets. The mansion looks fantastic with all of its solid wooden paneling, rich fabrics, elaborate paintings and ornaments. It reminds us that there is plenty of history to this family that is tragically now imploding before our eyes. As the tension and intrigue grows, the revelations come thick and fast, and so too do a few nasty shocks that teeter over the brink from thriller to horror.

The Blu-ray version is incredibly sharp and full of wonderful detail. There is a persistent thin veil of grain but it is not intrusive and you forget about it after a short while anyway. The contrast in visual clarity between the main feature and that of the murky trailer is astounding. The sound quality is also very clear. Aside from the trailer, the disc features a separate music and effects audio track, and a nice gallery of HD production stills and lobby cards. Sadly there is no commentary track.

“Paranoiac” (1963) is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment. The running time of the main feature is 79 minutes approx., certificate ‘12’ and the movie retails for £15.99 (DVD) and £17.99 (Blu-ray), or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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