• The Devil’s Nightmare (Mondo Macabro) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: May 14th, 2019.
    Directors: Jean Brismée
    Cast: Erika Blanc, Jean Servais, Daniel Emilfork, Jacques Monseau, Lucien Raimbourg
    Year: 1971
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    The Devil’s Nightmare – Movie Review:

    The Devil's Nightmare opens with a black and white prologue that takes place in 1945 where a Nazi soldier murders his infant daughter in her crib after the mother dies in childbirth. It’s an unsettling scene that sets up the strange events to come.

    From there, we travel through time to the modern day and meet Baron von Rhoneberg (convincingly played by Jean Servais), an older man who lives in an antiquated and creaky old castle. It’s a rare occasion that the Baron ever receives any visitors, but one night seven tourists - a seminary school student named Alvin (Jacques Monseau), married couple Nancy (Colette Emmanuelle) and Howard (Lorenzo Terzon), sultry Corinne (Ivana Novak), foxy lesbian Regine (Shirley Corrigan), crotchety old man Mr. Mason (Lucien Raimbourg) and their bus driver Ducha (Christian Maillet).- find themselves lost while traveling along the roads surrounding the area around the castle. Of course, they wind up taking shelter at the Baron’s castle.

    Baron Rhoneberg plays quite the gracious host to the travelers. However, his butler, Hans (Maurice De Groote), is all too eager to spill the beans about the Baron’s curse and the horrifying history of the castle in which they are about to spend the night. When it comes time for the butler to take each one of the tourists to their rooms for the night, he drops a few hints to them and lets them know who died within each room of the castle and how the met their demise. But unfortunately for them, there are even more dark secrets about the Baron's castle as there is also happens to be a succubus (played by the gorgeous Erika Blanc) roaming about the castle. Later that same night, a female reporter writing a piece on the history of the castle winds up dead, the mark of a cloven hoof found on her body. During dinner, an unexpected guest named Lisa (Erika Blanc) shows up just in time to further complicate things.

    That night, the succubus takes on a human form. Before the night is over, lesbians will have lezzed, men will be seduced, snakes will appear and people will be killed off one at a time until there is only one of them remaining… and of course, all of this insanity ties into the prologue.

    As atmospheric and eerie as it is surprisingly sleazy, The Devil’s Nightmare is solid Eurotrash entertainment through and through. Brismée directs this, his only feature effort, with loads of style and with controlled pacing while the cinematography does a great job of bringing out all the shadowy interiors nicely. There are a few memorably odd murder set pieces here and some moderate gore thrown into the mix alongside some surprisingly strong nudity (the lesbian scene in this uncut version is considerably longer than you’d probably expect), hitting the sex and violence quota with ease. On top of that, the plot is quirky enough to hold our attention, with various characters making obviously shifty decisions throughout adding a completely off the wall element of mystery to the proceedings.

    The cast are solid enough. Jean Servais is great as the older man with a dark past, while the naturally bizarre looking Maurice De Groote is fantastic as the butler. The cast members that play the seven guests in the old castle all do a fine job here, but (and this will not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with her work), it’s Erika Blanc who steals every scene that she’s in. Whether she’s all dolled up in fancy attire, strutting about in a black bathing suit type thing (or sometimes less) or made up to look like a ghoul, she cuts an impressive figure in this picture and steals pretty much every scene that she’s involved with.

    The Devil’s Nightmare – Blu-ray Review:

    The Devil’s Nightmare is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.66.1 widescreen with a new transfer taken from a 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. While there is a bit of print damage here and there, mostly thin vertical lines, and some spots where colors shift a bit, this is by and large a very nice transfer and a pretty huge upgrade over the various ‘public domain’ DVD releases that the film has seen over the years. Prior to this, at least domestically speaking, the non-anamorphic Redemption DVD was the one to beat but this disc clearly leaves that one in the dust in a big, big way. Detail gets a massive upgrade here and there’s way better depth and color reproduction here, making it easier than ever before to appreciate the film’s gothic atmosphere and interesting locations. Skin tones look great, black levels are strong and the disc is free of compression problems. There are no noticeable issues with any noise reduction or edge enhancement either, the whole thing is very filmic in appearance.

    Audio options for the film are supplied in LPCM 2.0 Mono in your choice of English or French with optional subtitles provided in English only. The French track not only suits the film better than the English track, but it sounds a lot better as well. The English dubbed version is a little wobbly in spots with some occasional hiss noticeable throughout. The French track is much cleaner and clearer with better depth and it’s clear that this is how it was shot. It’s still limited by the source material but it’s definitely been better preserved than the English option. Still, it’s nice to have choices and those more familiar with the English track will certainly appreciate having it included here.

    Extra features start off with a new audio commentary from Troy Howarth that offers up a mix of facts and trivia with his own observations about the film. He covers a fair bit of ground here, detailing the locations, the film’s unique spot in the annals of Belgian horrordom, and different directorial flourishes on display throughout the film. He also covers the score, the mood and atmosphere, the film’s correlation to other gothic horrors and the cast, with an understandable emphasis put on the contributions of Erika Blanc. No dead air here, Howarth keeps things moving at a very quick pace!

    From there, we dig into a series of interviews, the first of which is with director Jean Brismée that runs just under thirty-three-minutes in length. He speaks here about the Belgian film scene of the day, the making of The Devil’s Nightmare (including working with Blanc and the live snake featured in the film!), the different short film and TV projects he had a hand in, setting up a film school, the differences that exist between Belgian films made in the north and south of the country and quite a bit more. Up next is an interview with Roland Lethem, the film’s first assistant director, that runs twenty-three-minutes. In this piece, Lethem discusses his education and his background and how he got into filmmaking as well as some of the specifics regarding what he did on the set of the film, which sequences he shot, and more. The third and final interview is a twenty-nine-minute segment with assistant director Robert Lombaerts who details his education and early days in the business, how he wound up working on The Devil’s Nightmare, what it was like collaborating with the cast and crew and more.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are two different American theatrical trailers, a TV spot, the UK trailer, the Mondo Macabro preview, menus and chapter selection.

    The Devil’s Nightmare – The Final Word:

    The Devil’s Nightmare works really well, a sleazy slice of gothic horror ripe with atmosphere and tension made all the more appealing by the presence of Ms. Blanc. Mondo Macabro brings this one to Blu-ray in grand style with a great presentation and lots of extras too. Highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Devil’s Nightmare Blu-ray screen caps!