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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Curse of the Crimson Altar aka "The Crimson Cult" [Blu-ray]

 

(Vernon Sewell, 1968)

 

Tigon had a relatively small output (producing films from 1967-73) with modest budgets but are best remembered for its horror films, directly competing for audiences with Hammer and Amicus. They eventually drifted into distributing, mostly, sexploitation films.

Zeta One (1969)

The Blood Beast Terror (1968)

Witchfinder General

 (1968)

Curse of the Crimson Altar

(1968)

The Blood on Satan's Claw

(1971)

Hannie Caulder

(1971)

Au Pair Girls (1972)

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Planet Film Productions

Video: Odeon Entertainment / Kino Lorber

 

Disc:

Region: FREE / Region 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:27:04.250 / 1:27:26.241

Disc Size: 30,170,020,069 bytes / 22,496,292,893 bytes

Feature Size: 16,083,419,136 bytes / 13,666,332,672 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.99 Mbps / 17.78 Mbps

 Chapters: 13 / 9

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: October 13th, 2014 / July 7th, 2015

 

Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080P / 24 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
Commentary:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1587 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1587 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Commentary;

Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps

 

Subtitles (both):

None

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary by David Del Valle and Barbara Steele

Creating the Curse of the Crimson Altar (25:23)

• In Conversation With Christopher Lee (47:00)

Image Gallery (2:33)

Trailer (2:39)

Audio Commentary by David Del Valle and Barbara Steele
In Conversation with Christopher Lee (47:12)
Interview with Composer Kendall Schmidt (13:07)
US (2:03) and UK Trailers (2:44)
 

Bitrate:

1) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Description: When his brother disappears, Robert Manning (Mark Eden) pays a visit to the remote country house he was last heard from. Whilst his host Squire Morley (Christopher Lee) is outwardly welcoming - and his house-keeper`s beautiful niece Eve (Virginia Wetherell) his niece willing to fulfil his needs - Manning detects a feeling of menace in the air with the legend of Lavinia (Barbara Steele), the Black Witch of Greymarsh, hanging over everything. Will the village's renowned expert on witchcraft, Professor John Marshe (Boris Karloff), be able to shed light on the wicked going-ons at Craxted Lodge? This adaptation from Lovecraft`s `Dream in the Witch House` was shot in Grims Dyke, the allegedly haunted house of W S Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. It is remarkable for being the only time that Lee, Karloff and Steele appeared in the same film and is also the last British film to star Karloff, which was innovatively filmed by John Coquillon.

 

 

The Film:

In this spooky thriller, an evil sorcerer invites an innocent young man and his girl friend to his dark and scary mansion. The two have no idea that the black magician is planning to sacrifice the young man to atone for the evil misdeeds of his ancestors who 200 years ago burned the wizard's relative, a witch, at the stake. A crazy party precedes the gruesome ritual. Fortunately for the young couple the sage Professor March (80-year-old Boris Karloff in one of his final films) is also a skilled magic maker and is there to save them. The film is also titled Curse of the Crimson Altar and The Crimson Altar.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

A shoddy horror pic, notable only as the 81-year-old Karloff's last completed feature. Robert Manning (Eden) traces his vanished brother to Craxted Lodge in the village of Greymarsh, but the owner (Lee) - in fact taking revenge against the Manning family on behalf of a witch ancestor, Lavinia (Steele), burned in the 17th century - denies all knowledge of him. Robert has strange dreams featuring Steele, her face painted green, her lips blood-red, and wearing a ram's horn headpiece; but he and his girlfriend (Wetherell) are ultimately saved by a wheelchair-bound witchcraft expert (Karloff). The story has (uncredited) similarities to HP Lovecraft's Dream in the Witch House, but director Sewell never gets to grips with the muddled script.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

 

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

Curse of the Crimson Altar gets a decent-looking transfer to Blu-ray from Odeon Entertainment in the UK. It is dual-layered - mostly due to the abundant extras - a reasonable, but hardly dynamic, bitrate for the 1.5 hour feature, and is in 1080P in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Colors are true and there is some depth notable. Generally the visuals are reasonably watchable with some decent detail and contrast - actually a shade better than I was anticipating. It's clean without noise and the Blu-ray provides an adequate HD presentation.

 

Same video image. Although the Kino has a slightly lower bitrate - I can't really see much difference at all. Still 1.66:1, same colors, framing - and still single-layered and 1080P.

 

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

 

1) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Audio comes in a linear PCM 2.0 channel track at 1536 kbps. The music is as odd as the narrative and the score by Peter Knight (who had done mostly TV work) augments the weird atmosphere. There are no subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE - playable on Blu-ray players worldwide.

 

Note: Kino's release features a replacement music score, the UK version is the original, but the  DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel transfer at 1587 kbps sounds a bit 'hollow' (dialogue) at times but generally I cannot detect enough of a difference in quality from the similarly robust linear PCM of the UK edition. It also offers no subtitles but is region 'A'-locked.

 

Extras :

Quite a lot in the supplement-department. We get an audio commentary by David Del Valle and Barbara Steele - which is quite interesting with some well-researched points from the host. Creating the Curse of the Crimson Altar runs more than 25-minutes and deals with the production details. There is a lengthy 'In Conversation With Christopher Lee' piece running 3/4s of an hour with the gentleman actor discussing his career. Beyond that is an image gallery and a trailer.

 

We get the same educational audio commentary by David Del Valle and Barbara Steele as found on the Odeon as well as the same 3/4 of an hour In Conversation with Christopher Lee piece. We lose the 'Creating the Curse of the Crimson Altar' featurette but gain a 13-minute interview with composer Kendall Schmidt and two trailers (US + UK).

 

Odeon Entertainment - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

Kino Lorber - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Curse of the Crimson Altar is a very odd film. The atmosphere and pace seem erratic to me. But there are a few positives and I might even include the wheelchair bound Karloff, and Christopher Lee in that praise. The Odeon Entertainment Blu-ray is no champion but if this genre of film suits you, you will also appreciate the commentary. It has some inconsistency in the story and overall; a shade pricey for what is offered, in my opinion. I doubt I'll ever watch it again.

 

Too similar a package to really complain about any significant differences excepting those purists who want the original score (Peter Knight). I guess I was incorrect in that I did watch it again - and I liked it a smidgeon better - but doubt I will indulge again. It's odd, but some may like the atmosphere and stars.  

Gary Tooze

November 15th, 2014

June 23rd, 2015


 

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 5000 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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