• From A Whisper To A Scream



    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: April 28th, 2015.
    Director: Jeff Burr
    Cast: Vincent Price, Terry Kiser, Susan Tyrell
    Year: 1987
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    The Movie:

    The directorial debut of Jeff Burr (who was only twenty-three when he made this film), 1987’s From A Whisper To A Scream is likely better known to some viewers as The Offspring. The picture is an anthology film, a throwback to the format that was made popular some years prior by the likes of Amicus, but at the same time, there’s no doubt it was inspired by similar eighties efforts like Creepshow.

    The movie opens in Tennessee where a reporter named Bess Chandler (Susan Tyrrell) visits a library attended to by Julian White (Vincent Price), the uncle of a recently executed serial killer. As she chats him up, he regales her with stories of the town’s past to prove his point that violence in the area didn’t start with his late psychopathic niece’s activities.

    The first story revolves around Stanley Burnside (Clu Gulager), an awkward man tasked with doting over his sister who eventually musters up the courage to ask chilly but beautiful Grace (Megan McFarland), a co-worker, out on a date. The date doesn’t go nearly as well as either had hoped, ending when Stanley murders Grace in cold blood. Her death won’t be the end of their relations, however, as he’ll soon pay her a romantic visit in the city morgue.

    From here we voyage back in time to the fifties to witness the story of a robber named Jesse Hardwicke (Terry Kiser). Injured when we meet up with him, he’s trying to make it across a river to meet up with an old swamp rat who practices voodoo. Jesse figures he can hornswoggle the old man into giving up the secret to his longevity, but of course, that’s not going go as planned.

    The third story travels back further in time to the thirties where we meet Steven Arden (Rob Brooks), a man who makes a living for himself working as a glass eater in the sideshow at a travelling carnival. When he gets engaged to Amarrillis Caulfield (Didi Lanier) he plans to leave the group, however, the troop’s leader, Snake Woman (Rosalind Cash), has other ideas.

    Last but not least, the final story goes back to the Civil War where a Yankee sergeant named Gallen (Cameron Mitchell) leads what’s left of his men to a creepy old orphanage. Here they meet a bunch of equally creepy children but no adults… instead the kids answer to something known as ‘The Magistrate.’

    Price will no doubt be the top draw for most viewers, and he does well in his supporting role playing a southern gentleman with all the class and enthusiasm you’d expect given his pedigree as an actor. Surrounding him, however, are equally enjoyable turns from Tyrell, Gulager and even grouchy old Cameron Mitchell (who is quite well cast as the soldier in the last story).

    Shot on a tiny budget almost entirely on location in Georgia (which doubles nicely for Tennessee and the other locations conjured up in the imaginative stories told here) this one suffers from a few pacing issues and editing snags but is typically a pretty entertaining collection of horror shorts. The flaws are easy to look past when you’ve got a cast as interesting as the one Burr and company managed to assemble for this picture and the fact that the film is able to play towards its R-rating doesn’t hurt things either. There’s quite a bit of style here, both in the camerawork and in the costumes and set decorations, and there are a few impressive makeup and effects sequences (showcasing some reasonably strong gore!) thrown in to appreciate as well.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The 1.85.1 widescreen transfer, presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, looks great. Detail is pretty strong throughout the presentation and while a few minor specks pop up occasionally, for the most part the picture is sharp, colorful and quite clean. Detail and texture are quite a bit past where DVD could provide, clarity is much improved here, while black levels stay nice and deep. Colors are spot on, skin tones look nice and natural and there are no noticeable issues with edge enhancement or noise reduction.

    The only audio option offered for the feature is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track with optional subtitles provided in English only. The audio here also fares well, with clean, clear dialogue and properly balanced levels throughout. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and there is some noticeable and appreciable depth to the score and the effects.

    The first of two audio commentaries included on this release sees writer/director Jeff Burr flying solo for what is basically a scene specific walk through the history of this production. He covers not only the involvement of the cast and crew (making some nice statements regarding those involved who have since passed away early on in the track) but also the Georgia locations, the effects and the writing process. It’s a lively track with plenty of detail and information about what went into getting this movie made. The second track features writer/producer Darin Scott and writer C. Courtney Joyner and it too is worth listening too. They have a bit less to say here in regards to the technical side of things but offer plenty of input into the story and the writing process. They also share their own thoughts on the movie and elaborate a good bit about their respective experiences working on the film and interacting with the different cast and crew members affiliated with the project.

    From there, check out the massive documentary Return to Oldfield: The Making Of From A Whisper To A Scream, which clocks in at an hour and fifty-six minutes in length! Interviewed here are Burr, producer Darin Scott, co-screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner, star Clu Gulager, and many more including Jeff Burr’s mother, Jean, who worked as the cook on the shoot! We also get a vintage interview with Cameron Mitchell included here too. It’s a well put together piece and a surprisingly thorough one that covers pretty much every aspect of the production that you’d want it to and then some. Scores of behind the scenes footage and photos are used throughout the elaborate on various points made during the interviews and to give the documentary some nice visuals too.

    Also found on the disc is the seventy-seven minute A Decade Under the Innocence: Adventures In Super 8 Filmmaking featurette. This piece explores how Jeff Burr and others got involved in the Super 8 filmmaking craze while growing up in Georgia in the 1970s. Hear we learn first-hand through interviews how Burr and his friends were raised on monster movies and decided, once Super 8 became a viable way to do it, to make their own movies together. The interviews here are interesting enough but it’s the footage from these odd childhood artistic endeavors that really makes this piece shine.

    Rounding out the extras is a pretty massive still gallery that includes with commentary by Burr, a theatrical trailer for the feature, some TV spots for the movie under the alternate The Offspring title, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Shout! Factory has really rolled out the red carpet for this sorely underappreciated low budget anthology film. The movie isn’t perfect, but it definitely gets a whole lot more right than wrong and you’ve got to hand it to the production team for accomplishing what they did on such a low budget. This Blu-ray debut is a thing of beauty, offering up the move in very fine shape and with an absolutely amazing array of supplements.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

























    Comments 1 Comment
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Looks like I'm definitely going to have to upgrade on this one!