• Devil Story (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: September 7th, 2021.
    Director: Bernard Launois
    Cast: Véronique Renaud, Marcel Portier, Catherine Day, Nicole Desailly, Pascal Simon
    Year: 1985
    Purchase From Amazon

    Devil Story – Movie Review:

    Directed by 1985 by Eurcine alum Bernard Launois, Devil Story (or, if you prefer, Il était une fois le diable in its native France), starts out with a scene where a deformed man (Pascal Simon) referred to as a monster and then later as a gargoyle running about rural France in an SS uniform wreaking havoc. First a woman gathers logs in the woods and literally skips (no seriously, we see her skipping through the woods – and she’s not a little kid either, she’s at least late teens/early twenties from the looks of things) her way back to a tent – she doesn’t make it, he kills her. couple run out of gas on a remote road. The man gets out of the car, sees the mutant in Nazi garb, and wisely asks him for directions. It doesn’t end well. His girlfriend gets murdered next, her corpse left beside their late seventies model Peugeot sedan.

    A few more random deaths later and we meet a young couple, just married (Marcel Portier and Veronique Renaud), driving about France on their honeymoon. Their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and so, somewhat puzzlingly, she wanders off towards the white face of a mountain where she, a pretty blonde, is randomly attacked by a flying black cat. Her husband finds her soon after and consoles her – something is fishy in the area. From there, a storm breaks out and they take shelter for the night in a huge old mansion owned by a wacky old coot with a shotgun. As the couple approach the house the soundtrack switches from repetitive synth music to Bach’s ‘Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor’ for reasons unknown. The owner of the admittedly impressive home regales the young couple with tales of Napoleonic times and tells them a story about how a bunch of local assholes messed with ships that came near the shore in the night, causing them to wreck. From there he talks about how a woman who lives in the area had a daughter that has disappeared and how her ‘misshapen’ son may have something to do with it.

    As the evening wanes down and everyone goes to bed, they’re all woken up in the middle of the night by the sudden and unusually loud arrival of a horse that the old man believes belongs to the devil himself! He grabs his shotgun and goes after it. Blondie decides to take this opportunity to go for a midnight stroll (in some lingerie and a yellow rain slick!) only to get abducted by the mutant Nazi and his mother, the old woman that the shotgun blasting horse-hating guy told her about. It turns out blondie is a dead ringer for the missing daughter (which makes sense as Renaud plays both parts). Just when it looks like she’s done for the horse shows up and kicks the mutant Nazi in the balls, then the head and then through a wall and frees her – but then the mountain that blondie was obsessing over earlier, the one with the cat on it, well… it opens up and a ship from the Napoleonic story the old man told comes out and a fucking mummy shows up and starts killing people.

    HOLY SHIT!

    Devil Story is pretty nutty stuff. It doesn’t make very much sense so don’t think about it too hard, but man oh man oh man is it a lot of goofy, gory fun if you’re in the right mood for it. This was clearly made for peanuts and it would stand to reason that most of the budget went to the movie’s ‘never quite convincing but still kind of gross anyway’ gore effects – there are a lot of them, and they’re always awesome. At one point the mummy steps on a guy’s chest and his guts come oozing out, oh and the mummy likes to drool green/blue slime out of his mouth for some reason. The Nazi mutant is clearly just a guy in a goofy mask zipping about, but it works (sort of) thanks to the sheer absurdity of it all.

    It’s tough to really gauge the quality of the acting in the picture when the English dubbing is as… strangely inspired as it is in this picture. The voice actors approached their work with gusto, subtlety was not an option here. Still, the guy who plays the old man with the shotgun deserves special mention simply because seeing him obsessively go after the horse is nothing short of awesome (and it takes up an unusually large part of this seventy-three-minute film’s running time!). He really, really hates that horse. We’ve also got to admire Pascal Simon’s work as ‘du monstre’ in the film. He doesn’t really have any dialogue per se, but he does run around making strange growling noises for most of his screen time, kind of like the noises Karloff made when Frankenstein was being chased by the villagers at the end of the original Universal film. It’s never made clear why he was an SS uniform, but who cares.

    Quick in its pacing and nothing short of delirious, Devil Story may not stand as much of a testament to Bernard Launois’ directorial abilities, in fact it’s completely shoddy in every way a movie can be completely shoddy except for one – it’s never dull, and that’s what matters the most here. Yeah, it’s poorly made but it’s also completely unpredictable and wholly entertaining (if not necessarily for all the right reasons).

    For some reason one of the license plates on one of the cars in the movie is from Florida, ‘The Palm State.’

    Devil Story – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Devil Story to region free Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 18.1GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Presented “newly scanned and restored in 4k from its 35mm original camera negative” the picture quality here is really good. There are a couple of feint vertical scratches noticeable in a few spots but not much print damage to complain about outside of that. Colors look quite good here and detail is generally pretty strong as well. We get good black levels, nice depth and texture, and plenty of natural film grain.

    English and French language options are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD Mono with separate subtitles provided for each track. Quality is good, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are balanced properly throughout. There’s a bit of light sibilance in English mix here and there but it’s minor and not all that noticeable. Otherwise, no complaints and the film’s wonky synth score sounds really good here.

    The disc includes some nice extras, starting with twenty-five minutes of select scenes with commentary by the director Bernard Launois, in French with English subtitles. He notes here how his son played the Nazi killer in the film, how they used real blood bought at a drug store for the opening murder set piece, criticism that he faced when the movie was released, why the killer is dressed the way he is in the movie, how he enjoys shooting films from different genres, which scenes were added after principal photography wrapped, having to make the movie fast and cheap to stay on budget, what was shot on location versus what was shot on a set, creating some of the props for the film and lots more.

    As far as the new featurettes go, Once Upon A Time… Devil Story is a making-of featurette with the cast and crew that clocks in a thirty-four minutes. It features input from Bernard Launois, Frank Henenlotter, Véronique Renaud and assortment of French theater programmers and film journalist types. Here we learn how Launois got into filmmaking, how Renaud got into acting, where some of the real life locations seen in the movie are located, what makes the movie stand out from many other horror films, what makes the film so appealing to genre fans, the 'maddening' soundtrack, how and why certain parts of the movie loop the way that they do, the marketing and theatrical release of the film, why Renaud wears such a huge wig in the film, how the film came to be quite successful after it was released in over twenty countries and quite a bit more. It's a very interesting piece that does a great job of shedding some very welcome light on the history of the film and those who made it.

    Up next is Once Upon A Time… Bernard, a brand new interview with writer/director Bernard Launois that runs for twenty-eight minutes. It starts with some clips from an archival interview but then voyages into Launois' home where he speaks about how he got into filmmaking, how he's had a love of cinema since he was as kid, his training and how it helped him get into the industry, getting married and moving to Paris to find work, making good money shooting sex films, working on some quirky police comedy films in the late seventies, some of the actors that he's worked with over the years, making his own movies while also working as a distributor, details on shooting Devil Story and why it turned out the way that it did, how the film did very well on home video, later buying a movie theater and then getting his son into the movie business.

    Up next is a three minute behind the scenes piece that was recorded for French television back in 1985. It shows off some footage shot on the set during the production, including the scene where the Nazi guy is set on fire, and it includes some interviews with Bernard Launois and an out of makeup Pascal Simon. Oh, and we get to see the devil horse in action too.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is an original trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Also worth pointing out is that this release comes packaged with some nice reversible cover artwork with art by Steak Mtn. on one side and some original art on the reverse.

    Devil Story – The Final Word:

    Devil Story ranks up there alongside Ogroff The Mad Mutilator as one of the more bizarre horror pictures to come out of France – and it’s a blast from start to finish. Throw logic out the window and appreciate the lunacy that Launois and company are able to capture with this one! Vinegar Syndrome are to be commended for bringing this trash classic to Blu-ray in a proper special edition!

    Click on the images below for full-sized Devil Story screen caps!