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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Man Who Could Cheat Death / The Skull [Blu-ray]

 

(Terence Fisher, 1959 - Freddie Francis, 1965)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Paramount Pictures - Hammer / Paramount Pictures - Amicus

Video: Legend Films

NOTE: The Skull stats in green.

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:22:50.006 / 1:23:05.021

Disc Size: 13,208,969,956 bytes / 13,239,917,500 bytes

Feature Size: 13,158,598,656 bytes / 13,198,854,144 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.99 Mbps (both)

Chapters: 18 / 18

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 3rd, 2011

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1 / 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB (both)

 

Subtitles:

None (both)

 

Extras:

None (both)

 

Bitrates:

 

 

Description: This two-disc collection is filled with suspense and terror as it features classic, bonechilling tales from two of the biggest horror powerhouse producers: Hammer Studios and Amicus Productions.

 

The Man Who Could Cheat Death features a horror filled tale starring Anton Diffring as Dr. Georges Bonnet, a man with a hideous obsession to live forever all he needs are the glands of some very unwilling donors. Also starring Christopher Lee and the beautiful horror legend Hazel Court, this film is a suspense-filled ride for all who enjoy classic horror cinema.

 

The Skull weaves a chilling tale surrounding the real-life terrors of the Marquis de Sade. Featuring outstanding performances by Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, this tale introduces Dr. Christopher Maitland (Cushing) who purchases the infamous skull of the Marquis de Sade, a decision that he was warned against by his good friend - and previous skull owner - Matthew Phillips (Lee). The question is whether or not Dr. Maitland will live to regret his decision.

 

 

 

 

The Films:

Dr. Georges Bonnet has figured out a way to live forever. All he needs are the glands of some very unwilling donors! Anton Diffring stars as the mad doctor in this chilling Hammer Horror classic. As he struggles against the inevitable icy grip of death, the doctor begins a descent into madness that threatens to destroy the laws of nature and the lives of those he lusts after. It's up to horror legend Christopher Lee to stop his unholy quest before it takes a final deadly turn!

***

The Skull teams up horror legends Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in a chilling, supernatural tale of murder from beyond the grave. Based on a short story by Robert Bloch (Psycho), The Skull introduces us to Dr. Christopher Maitland (Cushing), a collector of the occult. When he is given the opportunity to purchase one of the infamous Marquis de Sade, he leaps at the chance. What he doesn't know is that his friend, Matthew Phillips (Lee) is the former owner of the skull - and quite happy to be rid of it. Possession of The Skull leads to a terrifying series of nightmarish events for Dr. Maitland as he tries to keep control of his life, the forces of unspeakable evil bear down upon him.

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Legend Films (notable for their colorization of films-to-DVD like The House on Haunted Hill, The Most Dangerous Game, Corman's The Little Shop of Horrors and even Pasolini's The Gosepl According to St. Matthew) have a new digital gimmick - dual-release bare-bones packages on Blu-ray. We have this U.K. Horror pairing (The Man Who Could Cheat Death / The Skull!) plus they have done Houdini + Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies and not yet reviewed; Student Bodies +Jekyll & Hyde Together Again.  I still think it's a pretty good idea since it is doubtful that many of these films would ever see the HD light of day via Paramount. So, again, this is 2 separate single-layered discs (maybe cheaper that way?) and both seem adeptly transferred with bitrates far in excess of SD.  They are both 1080P and The Man Who Could Cheat Death at 1.66: 1 aspect ratio tends to look weaker but still very watchable with some bright colors. I think it is the more entertaining film. The Skulls is tighter with better detail and some subtle instances of depth. Contrast on both is elevated thank to the HD transfer. There are a few speckles in The Man Who Could Cheat Death but nothing untoward and any weaknesses are the fault of the source as no restoration has been implemented for either film. These Blu-rays both gave me a decent and pleasurable viewing experience - and predictably, not in the league of most modern HD transfer appearances but in definite advance of SD.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

The Man Who Could Cheat Death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Skull

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

I'd still like to have uncompressed audio but we get the standard Dolby on both and there are some inconsistencies. Legend are certainly not taking advantage of one of the format's greatest strengths. Perhaps, again, though this is a factor of cost. There are no subtitles offered and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Extras :

Nutt'in on either disc and, frankly, I wasn't expecting anything at this price.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Man Who Could Cheat Death is classic Hammer Studios - meaning wonderful! Penned by writer Barré Lyndon - based on his own play "The Man in Half Moon Street". He was also notable for screenplays for The War of the Worlds, The Lodger, Hangover Square and the noirish The House on 92nd Street and Man in the Attic.  I slipped easily into the Hammer mood and had a fabulous viewing. I decoded to pull out, my favorite, the Hammer Horror Series DVD set and am watching it as I write this. I believe this is the third Hammer entry to reach 1080P - along with Paranoiac and Vampire Circus.

 

The Skull is from Amicus - the next best thing to Hammer but often leaning to the anthologies. It is helmed by Freddie Francis - director of Girly and notable cinematographer of "The Innocents" and "The Elephant Man".

 

Obviously this isn't the height of the format - but we get two films on Blu-ray for a very reasonable price. I endorse. I'm going to check out more and hope Legend Films continues with this trend especially more Hammer films to 1080P. I'm fairly sure we aren't likely to see either The Man Who Could Cheat Death or The Skull looking any better than this... and at this price it's an easy purchase. 

Gary Tooze

May 11th, 2011

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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