Thursday, December 18, 2008

MESSIAH OF EVIL Going Wide

Joy Bang soaks in a stylishly creepy bathroom in MESSIAH OF EVIL.

Code Red, the exciting cult video label, has made my Christmas by announcing on their blog that the first-ever widescreen release of Willard Huyck's MESSIAH OF EVIL is currently being readied for DVD release next May or June. Huyck is supervising the 2.35:1 transfer himself and will be recording an audio commentary sometime in January.

Though it was made in 1973, I tend to think of MESSIAH OF EVIL as the American SUSPIRIA: I don't know if Dario Argento ever saw Huyck's film, but both pictures make similarly auspicious use of disorienting art direction and Technicolor. Unless you happened to see this film during its scattered original releases as DEAD PEOPLE or REVENGE OF THE SCREAMING DEAD, you've had to settle for one of many public domain releases that always make a hash of its original stunning anamorphic framing, making the film impossible to fully experience or appreciate. The mise en scène here, which makes extensive use of neon lighting and eerie post-Warholian murals by Joan Mocine, is truly unsettling.

This is always one of the first titles I mention to people who ask me to recommend an outstanding obscure horror movie; I advise them to run right out and pick up one of those cheap editions -- they won't regret it. But if you still haven't seen it, I would now suggest you wait and see it next summer the way it was intended to be seen. In the meantime, visit the Code Red site and check out some of the other fantastic frame grabs they've posted.

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