• Haus Des Grauens (Paranoiac!)

    Released by: Anolis Films
    Released on: February 16th, 2018.
    Director: Freddie Francis
    Cast: Janette Scott, Oliver Reed, Sheila Burrell, Maurice Denham, Alexander Davion, Liliane Brousse
    Year: 1963

    The Movie:

    Directed by Freddie Francis in 1963, his first for Hammer Studios and written by Jimmy Sangster, Paranoiac! is more of a psychological thriller than the type of horror that the company was known for, but that doesn’t make it any less great.

    The film revolves around Simon Ashby (Oliver Reed), a young man with a very real drinking problem. He’s a bit of a bastard, really, in that he intends to drive his genial but fragile sister Eleanor (Janette Scott) insane so that the inheritance she’s set to receive since their parents passed away in a plane crash years ago. It was to go to their older brother Tony (Alexander Davion), but before that could happen he committed suicide, so these days? Well, it’s just Simon and poor Eleanor... who insists that she sees Tony around regardless of his passing. As such, she’s under the care of a beautiful French nurse named Francois (Liliane Brousse). Simon’s financial situation is rather dire, making his actions increasingly aggressive, and Aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell) doesn’t seem able, or really all that willing, to do much about it.

    With Simon set to receive the money in only a few short weeks, things take an interesting turn when Tony, long thought to be dead, shows up at the family home. Eleanor couldn’t be happier to see him and soon, they’ve become quite close, leading her to realize that maybe she wasn’t as crazy as Simon and Aunt Harriet had led her to believe. Increasingly desperate, hard drinking Simon decides he’s going to take Tony and Eleanor out of the picture all together, with some help from Harriet, but of course, it doesn’t go as planned and before it’s all over, the truth about the whole matter is exposed.

    Clearly influenced by the success of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho made just three years earlier, Paranoiac! is nevertheless very much a worthwhile film. Francis directs with skill, controlling the pacing quite deftly and doing a very good job of unveiling the clues to the film’s big finish at just the right speed. The black and white cinematography from Arthur Grant, who worked on scores of Hammer productions from the fifties through to the seventies, creates plenty of shadowy mood and atmosphere. This really is a very sharp looking film. Elisabeth Lutyens, who worked for Hammer on this film and on Never Take Sweets From A Stranger as well as on a few Amicus productions, provides a score that works well enough. If it’s not a classic, it’s at least reasonably interesting, heightening drama, suspense and horror as a good score should.

    The acting in the film is pretty solid. Janette Scott is well cast as troubled Eleanor. She has the right sort of fragility to her look and her performing style to work quite well in the part, we buy her with no problems at all. Sheila Burrell also does just fine as shifty Aunt Harriett, while beautiful Liliane Brousse, who appeared in Maniac for Hammer the same year (also penned by Sangster), delivers quality work as Eleanor’s mysterious nurse even if she’s rather underused in the movie. Alexander Davion, who had a very prolific television career, is also very good here. The real star of the show, however, is Oliver Reed. Interesting that he’d be cast as a troubled alcoholic, given his relationship with liquor and trouble, but he turns in a powerhouse performance as Simon. He stops short of chewing the scenery but manages to bring his inimitable intensity and brooding screen presence to the film in a big way and Paranoiac! is all the better for it.


    Anolis offers up Paranoiac! on a 50GB Blu-ray (the transfer uses up just over 23Gbs of space) in its proper aspect ratio of 2.35.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation that looks quite excellent. The black and white image shows great contrast, strong detail and nice depth. It retains a filmic texture throughout, showing natural looking film grain but very little actual print damage outside of a white speck now and again. Black levels are nice and deep and the picture is free of any obvious noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts.

    The disc contains both German DTS HD-MA 2.0 Mono and English DTS HD-MA 2.0 Mono audio options with removable subtitles provided in German only. The English track on the disc sounds fine. It’s properly balanced, clean and quite clear. The dialogue is easy to understand and there are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion to note.

    There’s a decent amount of supplemental material included here, starting with an audio commentary by Dr. Rolf Giesen and Volker Kronz that is, unfortunately, in German language only with no English friendly audio or subtitles. However, given that this is a German market release, that’s completely understandable.

    The disc also contains a featurette entitled The Making Of Paranoiac, a twenty-eight minute piece that cover the influence of Psycho, Universal’s happiness to cash in on the trend that it started, where Hammer was at during the time this movie was made and how this film differs from many of the studio’s other output. It also cover Reed’s performance, Francis and Sangster’s contributions (Sangster is interviewed), the importance of the supporting players, Hammer’s history of psychological thrillers and more. Appearing here, sometimes in newly shot footage and sometimes by way of archival clips, along with Sangster are Alan Lavender, Don Mingaye, Haugh & Pauline Harlow and Oliver Reed. Wayne Kinsey hosts the piece.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are the original American theatrical trailer, a few different still galleries showing off various European advertising art and film programs, a general still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Anolis’ Blu-ray release of Hammer Films’ Paranoiac! is a good one, presenting the film in beautiful shape and with a nice selection of extra features. The movie would be worth seeing for Oliver Reed’s performance alone but has much more to recommend it than just that, including great work from the rest of the cast and some impressive production values.

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