• Nightbeast (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 24th, 2019.
    Director: Don Dohler
    Cast: Tom Griffith, Jamie Zemarel, Karin Kardian, George Stover, Don Leifert, Anne Frith
    Year: 1982
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    Nightbeast – Movie Review:

    The true shining star of the late Don Dohler’s storied career, 1982’s Nightbeast shows us what happens when an alien spacecraft crashes on the outskirts of a small, midwestern American town. The creature that piloted the craft escapes, but its vessel explodes, which draws the attention of some of the locals, most of whom are killed by the alien now skulking about the area.

    Enter Sheriff Jack Cinder (Tom Griffith), a top-notch lawman of the highest order with funny curly hair and a great moustache. He’s a hit with the ladies. When he loses some men to the beast, who doesn’t just strike during the day night but also during the day, he gathers up Deputy Lisa Kent (Karin Kardian) and local yokel Jamie Lambert (Jamie Zemarel) to do something about it. After a quick talk with Mayor Bert Wicker (Richard Dyszel), he wants to clear out the town so that the beast can be eliminated but NO! Bert’s got a party planned for the Governor and he’ll be damned if he’s going to let that shindig be cancelled in the name of public safety. Jack and Lisa, however, decide that they’re going to overrule the mayor and they go about kicking people out of town. A couple of doctors, Steven Price (Don Dohler regular George Stover) and Ruth Sherman (Anne Frith), stick around to help – because you’re going to need doctors when going up against a night or day beast, and as the party for the governor commences, the beast kills yet again while Doctor Steve finds what may prove to be the monster’s only weakness and their only chance for survival. Oh, and there’s a biker guy named Drago (Don Leifert) in here too!

    The most polished of Don Dohler’s films (which isn’t really saying much), Nightbeast is a blast. Yeah, fine, it might be a slightly bigger budgeted version of his earlier film The Alien Factor in many regards but that never once takes away from its wonky, backwoods charm. Dohler’s work ethic is on display throughout the movie, it’s a remarkably ambitious picture and one of those films where heart matters more than cash. The story is full of both logic gaps and genre clichés aplenty and the acting can sometimes leave more than a little to be desired but damn it these people are trying really hard to make something worthwhile here and through that sense of enviable passion and charisma, they succeed.

    The effects here are better than you might expect. The creature design is pretty cool and the opening scene where the ship crashes is actually really well done and ripe with plenty of retro charm. Like most of Dohler’s films, there are some nifty optical effects here that double for laser beams – LOTS of laser beams – and some of the gore is pretty solid too. Whenever the beast blasts someone, they ‘dissolve’ into a weird array of blinky lights – so that’s a plus, and sometimes they even explode for some reason – also a plus. We even get some completely gratuitous nudity here, the kind that brings the film to a bit of a halt and adds nothing to the story but, yet, somehow feels ‘right’ in the context of all of this.

    Dohler paces the film well. It moves quickly and gives fans a nice mix of carnage, action and rubber-suited monster mayhem.

    Nightbeast – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Nightbeastto Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio taken from a new 2k scan of the film’s original 16mm camera negative. While the transfer does nothing to hide the film’s low budget origins, this is a pretty massive improvement over what we’ve seen in the past. The image is plenty grainy, as you’d expect, and there’s a little bit of print damage here and there but overall the picture is surprisingly clean. We get vastly better detail than we’ve seen in the past and much more depth and texture as well. There are no problems with any noticeable edge enhancement nor are there any issues with compression artifacts or noise reduction – this looks like film. We also get much, much better color reproduction here as well, gone is the murkiness of the past and we can actually see what’s going on in a lot of the darker scenes now!

    The English language DTS-HD Mono track is clean and properly balanced and comes with optional English subtitles. No problems to note with any of the audio. Dialogue stays clean, clear and nicely balanced throughout and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. Things do tend to be a little on the flat side sometimes but that’s just part and parcel with older low budget films like this.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring Don Dohler and George Stover that’s definitely worth a listen. It’s reasonably scene specific, with Dohler doing most of the talking. He discusses the cut out and miniature effects work that opens the film, where some of the cast members came from that are used in the film, how and why he shoots so many of his movies in the woods in his backyard, his own cameo in the film, how some of the other locations used in the film were secured for the shoot, the complexity of the laser battle scene and more. They also talk about recycling lab coats, how Stover plays the same character here that he did in The Alien Factor and how he was named after Vincent Price, how the movie borrows from The Alien Factor, who wore the beast suit in various scenes, how various cast and crew members wore many hats on the film, where some of the paintings seen in the movie came from… lots more. It’s an interesting and detailed track.

    From there, dig into An Electric Performance, an interview with actor Jamie Zemarel that runs fifteen-minutes. He talks about how he came to get interested in acting in junior high school, how he first met Dohler one summer at a swimming club and how they started up a friendship. From there, he wound up getting involved with Dohler, got cast in the film and was basically handed the script on set after figuring he’d just play an extra. From there he speaks about what it was like working with Dohler, what it was like on set, how he felt about playing his first lead role, working as an extra in Hollywood on Grease, the fight choreography featured in the film and more.

    Crashing The Set is an interview with visual FX artist John Ellis that runs just under fifteen-minutes. In this piece, Ellis talks about production manager Dave Ellis, no relation, called him up to ask him if he could do the spaceship crash sequence that opens the film. He talks about working on The Alien Factor, his thoughts on the script, what it was like working with Dohler and some of the quirks that this entailed, the design work that went into creating the ship, how the models and miniatures were made, dealing with some of the explosions that were required in the film, and more. There are some neat behind the scenes photos and pre-production illustrations featured in this piece along with the interview footage.

    Shooting The Nightbeast is an interview with cinematographer Richard Geiwitz that runs nineteen-minutes. He speaks here about playing the deputy in the film and his duties as a cinematographer. He opens by speaking about how and why he got interested in cinematography as a kid when he was subjected to various blockbusters at a young age. He then talks about how he got started actually shooting feature films, how he met Dolher through his Cinemagic Magazine, what it was like on set, working on Fiend with Dolher, the differences between shooting indoor and outdoor sequences, how he tried to make certain shots more interesting, the process of learning through experience on some of these shoots and lots more.

    Nightbeast Returns is a collection of archival interviews that runs twenty-five-minutes. Featured here as Dohler, Stover, actor Don Leifert, crewmember Craig Dohler, actress Kim Pfeiffer and composer J.J. Abrams. Lots of talk here about how everyone pitched in, what it was like on set, the different characters in the film, Dohler’s directing, how the shoot went and other related topics. Interesting stuff, and it’s cool that a few of the people featured here and included in the newly shot extras.

    Also included on the disc is a selection of outtakes and bloopers, a visual FX gallery, an original theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD version of the movie taken from the same restoration and featuring the same extras.

    Additionally, this limited edition release which is currently only available from Vinegar Syndrome directly, includes some great reversible cover art and a collectible slipcover.

    Nightbeast – The Final Word:

    Don Dohler fans have wanted a Nightbeast Blu-ray for years now – and here it is! Vinegar Syndrome has done an excellent job on the restoration, bringing this micro-budget creature feature classic to Blu-ray in grand style with a great presentation and a lot of interesting extras. Highly recommended!

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