• Who Can Kill A Child?



    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: July 10th, 2018.
    Director: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
    Cast: Lewis Fiander, Prunella Ransome, Antonio Iranzo, Miguel Narros, Maria Luisa Arias, Marisa Porcel, Fabián Conde
    Year: 1976
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    The Movie:

    When 'killer kid' movies hit big with American audiences in the seventies, exploitation giants American International Pictures released a trimmed down version of Narciso Ibáñez Serrador's Who Can Kill A Child under the more acceptable title of Island Of The Damned. The film has retained a cult following ever since. It was previously released uncut on DVD through Dark Sky Films and now gets a very welcome Blu-ray upgrade from Mondo Macabro, once again in its uncut form, beautifully restored and loaded with extra features.

    As to the movie itself? After a grisly opening credits sequence in which we're bombarded with real life footage of starving and malnourished children, war victims all, we're introduced to Tom (Lewis Fiander) and his pregnant wife Evelyn (Prunella Ransome), a married couple from England enjoying their vacation together in sunny Spain. Things get a little chaotic when a crime spree in the area results in a few corpses pilling up. As such, they decide to spend the rest of their time in Almanzora, a more remote island village just off the coast. They reasonably figure that the crime from the mainland won't have much effect there.

    Shortly after their arrival at the picturesque village, the couple notice that there are no grownups and the inhabitants are made up only of a small group of young kids. Tom and Evelyn decide to investigate, to try and find out what happened to the adults that obviously once lived in the town. What they find is shocking, disturbing, and completely unexpected.

    Directed with plenty of style by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, the same man who directed the excellent The House That Screamed in 1969 (also known as The Finishing School), Who Can Kill A Child? is one of the few 'killer kid' films that plays things completely straight. Let's face it, the genre is full of entertaining movies but many of them are a little tough to take seriously - not so with this film. The very title of the film implies the movie’s central theme, that of the morality involved in defending one’s self against children. Not many people would be willing to raise arms against young kids, even with their own lives in danger. This is what makes the movie work, as it is something that at least most of us can relate to... very few of us out there would ever want to hurt a kid (hopefully), end of story. This makes the finale all the more chilling, particularly because we're never told why the children have behaved the way they do in this film, it's simply left to our imagination just as it was in George A. Romero's original Night Of The Living Dead (to which Serrador’s picture occasionally mirrors in tone).

    The film might move a little slow for some tastes, but those with just a little bit of patience will be rewarded with a very well-made picture. The performances are uniformly good across the board, with Ransome doing an extremely good job in her part. The cinematography from José Luis Alcaine is top notch and it does a very good job of capturing the sun drenched Spanish locations and the desolate feel that the script evokes. A few truly disturbing set pieces will no doubt upset the queasy or easily offended but the film never goes so far as to feel tasteless or base. This isn't a happy film, nor is it always an easy film to digest, but it works extremely well. Fans of smart horror films should very definitely give this one a look if they haven’t already.

    Note that you can watch the movie either in its complete form as Who Can Kill A Child? and also, should you prefer, in its alternate Island Of Death cut that runs about ten-minutes shorter and removes entirely the stock war footage, features shorter opening credits and also makes a few other (minor) brief snippets here and there.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Mondo Macbro brings the film to Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation taken from a ‘brand new 4k transfer from the film negative’ and it looks outstanding. Detail is very strong from start to finish and while the color timing looks a little ‘hot’ when compared to the old Dark Sky Films DVD, it suits the tone of the movie and the location that it plays out in. The picture quality is quite clean, showing almost no actual print damage, while still retaining the natural amount of film grain you’d expect from a picture of this vintage. Colors look good, black levels are fine and skin tones appear lifelike and natural throughout. The picture is free of any obvious compression issues and devoid of noticeable edge enhancement or noise reduction problems. All in all, this is a very strong and pleasingly film-like presentation.

    The main audio is an ‘English/Spanish audio choice’ presented in DTS-HD Mono with optional subtitles appearing automatically for the scenes spoken in Spanish. Alternately, a full Spanish language with English subtitles is provided as is the alternate US audio dub (which allows you to watch the complete version of the film, albeit with a few Spanish language audio bits here and there to make up for what was cut from the alternate US version), both of which are also available in DTS-HD Mono. Sound quality is fine here. Levels are properly balanced, the score sounds good and dialogue is fine. Range is understandably limited as these are older, single channel mixes, but there aren’t any problems to report and the subtitles are clean, clear and easy to read.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger (from the Daughters Of Darkness podcast) that tackles a lot of the film’s social commentary, exploring the obvious anti-war slant that the movie takes and discussing the use of the war footage to create its message early in the picture. There’s a lot of talk here about the effectiveness of the story itself, the effects of Spanish politics on the picture, the locations used for the shoot, the score, the effects and more. Also covered is the expected biographical details and observations about the effectiveness of the efforts of the cast and crew. It’s a good track, well-informed, insightful and fairly packed with information.

    Up next is the first of two featurettes carried over from the previous DVD release from Dark Sky Entertainment. Who Could Shoot A Child? is an interesting sixteen-minute interview with the film's cinematographer, José Luis Alcaine, who has since gone on to a fair bit of critical success working with famed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. Alcaine talks about working with the director, about where and how various portions of the film were shot in different parts of Spain and concludes by talking about where his career has gone since working on this picture. The second featurette, Child Director, is a nine-minute interview with director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador himself. Serrador talks about the relationship his film has to the book version and about casting the film. Interestingly enough, he wanted Anthony Hopkins for the male lead - while that would have changed the film drastically, it does make for interesting food for thought.

    Appearing on disc for the first time with this release is Version Española. This is a forty-six-minute documentary from 2001 wherein Cayetana Guillén Cuervo hosts a talk with Serrador, Alcaine and film festival programmer José Luis Rebordino. It’s an interesting talk where Serrador explores the movie’s literary origins and details his efforts to adapt the source material under an alias, while Alcaine shares some insight into his creative process and talks about what he tried to do in order to give the film the specific look that it has. There’s also talk of the justification for including the stock footage of the war, the locations, the film’s ending and more. Art director Ramiro Gómez also pops up briefly to discuss what he had to do to tweak the island where the film was shot to make it work for the production.

    Up next is Kim Newman On Killer Kids wherein the writer and commentator lends insight into the history of the ‘killer kid’ subgenre, starting with some early literary incarnations before then exploring how filmmakers dove into the subject matter at various points over the decades and with varying degrees of effectiveness.

    Rounding out the extras is a double feature trailer for the picture, a trio of radio spots, the obligatory but always welcome Mondo Macabro promo reel, menus and chapter selection options.

    The Final Word:

    An intelligent, albeit very grim, thriller, Who Can Kill A Child? holds up well as a great piece of tension filled filmmaking. The Blu-ray release from Mondo Macabro is loaded with extras and presents the film fantastic shape – this is one of the best discs of the year so far.

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








































    Comments 1 Comment
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      Those skin tones seem to accurately capture the lobster colour of pale white tourists in Spain. None more pink.