• Human Experiments (Scorpion Releasing) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: June 14th, 2018.
    Director: Gregory Goodell
    Cast: Linda Haynes, Aldo Ray, Jackie Coogan, Geoffrey Lewis, Bobby Porter
    Year: 1979
    Purchase From Amazon

    Human Experiments – Movie Review:

    Directed in 1979 by Gregory Goodell from a script he co-wrote with Richard Rothstein (who would later go on to mainstream success with the Universal Soldier series), Human Experiments, a rare non-sex picture produced by prolific smut peddlers Essex Distributing, tells the sordid tale of one Rachel Foster (Linda Haynes). She makes her living as a singer, travelling across the United States playing honkytonks and dives eventually making her way to Putnam, California. Here she winds up in a joint owned by a sleazy guy named Matt Tibbs (Aldo Ray). She plays for him, he hits on her and she doesn’t want any of what he’s got to offer. As such, he decides not to pay her and he’s got the sheriff (Jackie Coogan), who just so happens to by his older brother, on hand to back him up just in case she should decide to get uppity with him.

    Rachel splits, and while understandably flustered, she barely misses a woman in the road while driving away. Her swerve causes her to get into an accident. When she heads to a nearby home for help, she comes across a homicide! She shoots the killer, Derril Willis (Bobby Porter), in self-defense. This puts her in a hot spot, because none of the townsfolk believe a stranger like Rachel would need to defend herself against someone like Derril, who probably didn’t kill his own family anyway. Add to this the fact that the Tibbs’ brothers testify against her in court and, well, Rachel loses her temper and is sentenced to life in prison. Here she catches the eye of rehabilitation therapist Dr. Kline (Geoffrey Lewis). His unorthodox experiments, approved by Warden Weber (Mercedes Shirley), essentially break the inmates and turn them into adult babies in hopes of then re-raising them to be responsible members of society. The more Rachel is drawn into all of this, the clearer it becomes to her that she needs to escape.

    Nicely shot by João Fernandes (who shot loads of adult films like Memories Within Miss Aggie and The Devil In Miss Jones before moving on to more mainstream films like Missing In Action and Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter), Human Experiments is a genuinely interesting film. There’s more character development for Rachel than you would probably expect from a picture like this, one that essentially plays with women in prison film stereotypes for most of its running time. We get to feel for her as her story evolves, and Haynes does a fine job in the lead role, creating an interesting character for us to latch on to (even if her singing is… less than amazing).

    As to the rest of the cast? Geoffrey Lewis may be an atypical choice for the role of Dr. Kline, particularly as some of us tend to think of him more associated wit comedic roles than serious parts, but he’s good in the movie. He’s got enthusiasm and screen presence and he works quite well here. Aldo Ray isn’t stretching as an actor here but he’s amusing enough as the sleazy bar owner, while an aging Jackie Coogan plays his stereotypical corrupt small-town sheriff role pretty much exactly as you’d expect him to. If there aren’t any surprises from him, he does what he does well enough. Mercedes Shirley, recognizable from a career of vintage television work, was in her early seventies when she played the warden but she too is entertaining enough in her role to make the part her own.

    The story itself throws in a few interesting plot twists before it comes to its inevitable conclusion. A few keen surprises keep this interesting, while Goodell’s direction ensures that the pictures moves at a good click. Throw in a decent soundtrack from Mark Bucci and, yeah, this one delivers the goods.

    Human Experiments – Blu-ray Review:

    Scorpion Releasing touts this transfer of Human Experiments as being taken from a ‘brand new HD master from the original 35mm A/B roll camera negative’ and it looks very good. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition image is framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and the framing looks just fine. Detail is quite strong here, and there’s good depth and texture evident as well. Colors are reproduced quite nicely and while the image shows a fair bit of natural film grain, there isn’t a whole lot of noticeable print damage to discuss. The colors look a little odd in spots, but without an alternate version to compare it to I can’t say if it’s accurate or not – they look fine, just a little boosted at times. Otherwise, no complaints here at all. Skin tones, which are frequently on display in the picture, do look very natural and black levels are good too. The transfer shows not a trace of obvious noise reduction nor does it exhibit any compression artifacts or edge enhancement. All in all, a nice film-like presentation from Scorpion – things shape up really nicely here.

    Human Experiments arrives on Blu-ray with an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track generally sounds fine. There are a couple of spots where the levels on the score do bump up a bit, pouncing on unprepared viewers for a few jump scares now and then, but there are no problems understanding any of the dialogue at all and the track is free of hiss or distortion. There are no alternate language options or subtitles offered on this release.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with the film’s director, Gregory Goodell, moderated by Katarina Leigh Waters and Lee Christian. It’s a good track, with a lot of talk about the casting of the picture and in particular Haynes’ work as the female lead in the picture. There’s discussion of the film’s alternate title, the original script, how Goodall got along with his producers, and quite a bit more.

    The movie is also playable with the optional Katarina's Nightmare Theatre mode wherein Ms. Waters offers a five-minute intro and a two-minute outro, offering up some interesting facts and trivia about the picture and those who made it. She also refers to an interview with Hayes having been included on the disc but unfortunately, it’s nowhere to be found. Aside from that, the disc also includes two different theatrical trailers for the feature, bonus trailers for Death Ship, Silent Scream, The Psychic and The Unseen, menus and chapter selection. The disc comes packaged with a slipcover and some cool reversible cover art as well.

    Human Experiments – The Final Word:

    Human Experiments is pretty entertaining stuff, mixing WIP clichés with some horror movie elements and hicksploitation tropes to create an engaging film worth seeking out. Scorpion’s Blu-ray is a good one, offering up an excellent transfer, fine audio and a solid audio commentary as its main extra feature.

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