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Curse of the Crimson Altar aka "The Crimson Cult" [Blu-ray]
(Vernon Sewell, 1968)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: Planet Film Productions
Video: Odeon Entertainment / Kino Lorber
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
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Resolution:1080P / 24 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
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)
Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps
• Audio Commentary byDavid 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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