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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

 

directed by Ted Nicolaou
USA/Romania 1991

 

Comely grad students Michelle (Laura Tate, DEAD SPACE) and Lillian (Michelle McBride, Alan Birkinshaw's THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH) join school friend Mara (Irina Movila, DIPLOMATIC SIEGE) in Transylvania to do research in the village of Prejnar. They have obtained permission to stay at a historic fortress along with seldom-seen zoologist Stefan (Michael Watson, TV's GENERAL HOSPITAL) who is only around at night because he is studying nocturnal animals (hmm...) While exploring the ruins of the nearby Castle Vladislas (actually Castle Hunyadi in Hunedoara), the girls catch the eye of vampire Radu (Anders Hove, TERRIBLY HAPPY) who has returned - along with his more-adorable-than-frightening pint-sized demon minions - after years in exile and murdered his "king of the vampires" father (Angus Scrimm, PHANTASM) in order to possess the "Bloodstone", a holy artifact stolen from the Pope which drips the blood of the saints (given to the king in gratitude by the villagers for killing off the invading Turks) making feeding off of humans unnecessary; thus, Prejnar has been free of vampire attacks... until now, that is...

The first American film shot in post-Chauchescu Romania, SUBSPECIES marked the establishment of Full Moon Entertainment's other franchise (the first being the
PUPPET MASTER series) and director Ted Nicolaou's first Full Moon directorial effort (the former editor, who started collaborating with Band with TOURIST TRAP, made his feature directorial debut with TERRORVISION for Band's Empire Pictures). The film was photographed and produced by Vlad Paunescu, who - along with his costume designer wife Oana Paunescu - would become co-owners of the studio (now Castel Film) Band built in that country. The titular subspecies were meant to have more involvement in the plot, and were originally conceived as actors in body suits performing against giant sets (which were built at an expense); however, Band was dissatisfied with the footage and called upon David Allen (PUPPET MASTER) - assisted by Randall William Cook (whose climactic stop-motion beast for John Carpenter's THE THING appears only fleetingly in the final cut) - to replace them with stop-motion puppets (in several cases, Allen had to work with existing footage as background plates so its very obvious in the clarity of the digital production that they are sometimes poorly composited).

The love story between Stefan and Michelle is a bit flat; but, thankfully, Radu is a memorable villain, and Band and Nicolaou exploit the Romanian setting and folklore to good effect (despite the fact that much of the vampire legends we associate with the region come more from the imagination of Bram Stoker and later historians who tried to link his Dracula character with Vlad Tepes, who is actually regarded as a hero by the Romanians [the quirky British/Romanian STRIGOI is probably more accurate to the local folklore). The score by The Aman Folk Orchestra - actually Stuart Brotman, Richard Kosinski, William Levine, Michael Portis, and John Zeretzke - incorporates diverse folk instruments and vocals to atmospheric effect and principle themes would be incorporated intot the other series entries along with new compositions (the score was released on CD by Band's Moonbeam logo). The SUBSPECIES series would be less prolific than
PUPPET MASTER because of the Romanian setting (Band would end up selling his interest in the studio to partners Vlad and Oana Paunescu) - whereas the PUPPET MASTER series entries could be (and have been) set anywhere - the storyline that requires recurring characters (and cast members), and the overseeing of writer/director Nicolaou; however, a script does exist for SUBSPECIES V (production of which was initially planned for 2010).

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Theatrical Release: 8 August 1991 (USA)

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DVD Review: 88 Films - Region 0 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

88 Films

Region 0 - PAL

Runtime 1:19:39 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.83 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: 88 Films

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by producer Charles Band and Filmthreat.com founder Chris Gore
• Making SUBSPECIES: the recollections of Ted Nicolau, Anders Hove, and Denice Duff (16:9; 8:37)
• Killer Montage (16:9; 1:44)
• VideoZone making-of (4:3; 9:54)
• Trailer (16:9; 1:14)
• Trailers for SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA, CASTLE FREAK, THE DEAD WANT
• WOMEN, PUPPET MASTER III, TOURIST TRAP, ZOMBIES VS STRIPPERS, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM,
• PUPPET MASTER, MERIDIAN, and CANNIBAL WOMEN IN THE AVOCADO JUNGLE OF DEATH

DVD Release Date: 18 March 2013
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

88 Films' DVD does what it can with Full Moon's less-than-satisfactory HD master (which had already received heavy criticism when it appeared on Full Moon's 2011 "20th Anniversary" DVD and Blu-ray). 88 Films have reportedly done some additional digital work on the master (which, of course, is miles ahead of the film's previous DVD releases which utilized the older VHS/LD master). Some of the daylight exteriors seem to have been filmed with some diffusion, but detail is generally not impressive. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio features clear dialogue, forceful sound effects, and some nice separation in the score (one of the film's most accomplished aspects).

New extras include an audio commentary by producer Charles Band (recorded in 2009 along with the one for
PUPPET MASTER in prep for that film's twentieth anniversary release) as well as a featurette combining the recollections of the director, star Anders Hove, and Denice Duff (who was not in the first film, but replaced actress Laura Tate for the three sequels). The commentary is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it features a compelling narrative by Charles Band about being the first American filmmaker to shoot in Romania after it political upheaval; however, the non-scene-specific commentary doesn't address the casting (other than lead Hove, casting locals, and a brief mention of guest star Angus Scrimm over the end credits), Greg Cannom's make-up effects, the Romanian folk-influenced score, and pays lip service to Ted Nicolaou's script and direction. It also makes only scant mention of cinematographer/producer Vlad Paunescu and his costume designer wife who would become major contributors to his subsequent Romanian films, co-owners of his studio in that country, and would later become a major force behind virtually all of the more recent high and low budget American films cost-effectively shot in Romania.

The retrospective interview segment with the director and stars fills in some of the blanks (I'm assuming that the commentaries with the same participants on parts 2 and 3 will provide some additional contextual info on the first film as well). Hove talks about the grueling make-up sessions and shooting schedule, Duff on replacing the lead actress from the first film (as well as her first experience will Full Moon fan mail). Nicolaou also describes some of the detail of the as-yet-unproduced SUBSPECIES V. The VideoZone making-of segment is a nice contrast to the film, showing the reality of post-Chauchescu Romania as well as the locals' reaction to their country and heroic historical figure Vlad Tepes being associated with vampires. The featurette also offers rough footage of the live actors playing the "subspecies" - against oversized props - that was subsequently replaced with stop-motion rod puppet work by David Allen. The film's trailer has also received an anamorphic upgrade.

A Blu-ray is also available HERE, and appears to be the superior choice over the Region A edition HERE since the 88 Films Blu features a 24p encode (Full Moon's is 1080i), lossless audio (the US disc has Dolby Digital 2.0), as well as the extras described above.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

88 Films

Region 0 - PAL

 




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