• Cthulhu Mansion (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: March 2nd, 2021.
    Director: Juan Piquer Simón
    Cast: Frank Finlay, Marcia Layton, Luis Fernando Alvés, Brad Fisher
    Year: 1992
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    Cthulhu Mansion – Movie Review:

    One of Spanish director Juan Piquer Simón’s later efforts, 1992’s Cthulhu Mansion opens with an interesting scene documenting a very sinister magic act wherein a is made to float above an altar, raised by the magical abilities of a man in a cloak and turban. His assistant stands nearby, holding a torch, and there’s a large pentagram on the wall behind them with a goat’s skull in the middle of it. This ain’t Doug Henning, kids!

    From there, we get into the story proper when a group of bad ass punks led by a guy named Hawk (Brad Fisher) winds up killing a drug dealer named Eddie (Emilio Linder) when the deal goes south. Before the heat comes down on them, or worse, they get caught by Eddie’s partner Fatman (Ronald Faval), they split and decide to try and hide out in a nearby amusement park. Here they come across the aged magician from the opening scene, Chandu (Frank Finlay), and his hot daughter Lisa (Marcia Layton) hostage, their mute assistant Felix (Frank Braña) along for the ride. They force Chandu to bring them to his ancient mansion where they want to hide for the night while things cool off.

    What they don’t realize is that the pentagram in Chandu’s act wasn’t just for show. He’s a master of black magic and has much stronger occult powers than any of them realized, and he’s used those powers to summon an ancient evil that soon takes over the house and quickly rages out of control, killing off Hawk’s buddies one by one and endangering the lives of all involved.

    Clearly inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft, Cthulhu Mansion doesn’t have the budget to really go all in with the scope and scale you need to adapt some of his more grandiose tales of what lays out there in the great beyond, but to his credit, Simón does a decent job of conjuring up some atmosphere and making the most of the creaky old house that serves as the picture’s main location. Feeling very much a product of the late eighties/early nineties, the film is rife with bad fashions and goofy characters but Simón paces the picture well enough. If the script fails to offer an serious surprises, there’s enough entertainment value to be gleaned from the frequent doses of hokum and schlock that it isn’t difficult at all to have a good time with the movie.

    Production values are okay. The movie has a pretty cool score and the cinematography is more than solid. This isn’t quite as effects-intensive as you might expect, given the premise, but when they are used they’re handled well. This won’t rank up there with Simón-helmed classics like Slugs and Pieces, but it’s a pretty fun watch and an underappreciated little slice of Euro-horror.

    Cthulhu Mansion – Blu-ray Review:

    Cthulhu Mansion arrives on region free Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen transfer taking up 27GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Presented “in a new 2K restoration of archival 35mm film elements,” which means it wasn’t taken from the negative but it still generally looks really nice and shows good detail. Much of the film takes place at night, often times indoors in dimly lit conditions, but shadow detail remains quite strong. Some very minor compression artifacts might be noticeable in a couple of spots but otherwise there’s nothing to complain about here, the image is free of any noise reduction or edge enhancement issues and boasts strong black levels and very nice color reproduction.

    Audio is handled by a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track that sounds quite good. The track is nicely balanced, the dialogue is clear and there’s pretty decent range here as well. Optional subtitles are provided in English only and a Spanish language Dolby Digital Mono option is also included.

    The main extra on the disc is The Simon's Jigsaw: A Trip To The Universe Of Juan Piquer Simón, which is a Spanish documentary on the man’s life and career that clocks in at just over an hour and forty-minutes in length. Directed by Luis Esquinas in 2015 and hosted by Lone Fleming, this piece is made up of interviews with actors Emilio Linder, Antonio Mayans, Hilda Fuchs and Jack Taylor, cinematographer Juan Marine, special effects artists Colin Arthur, Basilio Cortijo, Domingo Lizcano and María Luisa Pino, directors Carlos Puerto and Victor Matellano, editor Pedro del Ray and a few others, this is a very thorough and comprehensive look at his influence on and importance in Spanish genre cinema. It covers Simón’s early days all the way through to his final years and does a great job of shedding some very welcome light on the man.

    Aside from that, the disc also contains a featurette called The Special Effects Make-up Magician which interviews SFX artist Colin Arthur that runs just a hair under twenty-five-minutes in length. He talks about opening his own SFX studio in Spain, which is rare at the time, and what it was like working with Simón on this low budget picture as well as the importance of the contributions of some of his fellow crew members in getting the film finished.

    Cthulhu Mansion – The Final Word:

    Cthulhu Mansion isn’t Juan Piquer Simón’s masterpiece but it’s a pretty entertaining later entry in his filmography. Vinegar Syndrome has done a nice job bringing the film to Blu-ray, providing the film a nice presentation and the inclusion of the massive documentary covering the filmmaker’s life makes it worth the price of admission alone. All in all, a solid release.

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