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The Psychopath (1966) - Blu-ray Review (2 Viewers)

t1g3r5fan

Reviewer
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Jul 1, 2012
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Real Name
Mychal Bowden
Movie: 3/5
Following the unexpected success of Dr. Terror's House of Horrors at the box office, Paramount Pictures and Amicus Productions entered into a three picture production deal; The Psychopath, the middle picture of said deal, is a entertaining horror thriller with a solid degree of style backed up with a script that offers up a few twists and turns along the way.

On a dark street in London, a man is fatally run over several times by a car and the only clue left at the scene is a doll bearing the likeness of the victim. When Inspector Holloway (Patrick Wymark) follows the lead to a reclusive doll collector named Ilsa von Sturm (Margaret Johnston) and her son Mark (John Standing), he learns about the family past involving the Allied commission after WWII which had Mrs. von Sturm's husband suspected of war crimes and that the victim was looking into the allegations at the behest of the family in hopes of clearing the family name. Meanwhile, when three more victims turn up in the same fashion as the first, there's reason to believe that the murders are indeed connected. However, when the Inspector himself is targeted by the killer, the investigation leads to a surprising truth about the killings and the murders take on a more personal tone from that point forward.

Freddie Francis, a well regarded cinematographer and equally adept director of horror movies, complements Robert Bloch's screenplay with a strong visual style that works hand in hand with the story. The scene where Inspector Holloway first meets Mrs. von Sturm is a great example, as Francis makes great use of widescreen by surrounding Ilsa with her extensive doll collection, allowing our eyes to search for her amidst the sea of miniature mannequins. Also notable is the lack of blood (with the exception of the first murder), instead relying solely on the audience's imagination to fill in the sordid details on each murder sequence as well as emphasizing tension and suspense. While also working in the "sins of the father" motif, there's some subtle humor worked into the movie, such as the scene at the toy factory where Holloway begins tracking down the lead in the case; they just simply don't really craft them like this anymore.

As far as performances go, Patrick Wymark is well cast as Inspector Holloway, giving the actor another solid and reliable performance in an all too tragically brief career. Character actors Alexander Knox, Thorley Walters, John Harvey, and Robert Crewdson make the most of their brief onscreen time as victims of the murderer, dispatched in various ways. Margaret Johnston is particularly memorable as the seemingly wheelchair bound Mrs. von Sturm, adding another notable screen part outside of her best known film performance - the occult thriller Burn, Witch, Burn (1962); as her son, John Standing gives off a British Norman Bates vibe that becomes crucial to the plot later on in the movie. Judy Huxtable, given an introducing credit here, is luminous as Knox's daughter while Don Borisenko, as the medical student betrothed to Huxtable, comes off as a bit bland compared to his fellow cast members. Other notable members of the cast include Colin Gordon as the doctor with a terrible bedside manner, Frank Forsyth as a forensic evidence examiner, and Tim Barrett as a toy factory worker with a very interesting view of the industry he's in.

Video: 3.5/5
Presented in the 2:35:1 aspect ratio, this Blu-ray represents the first time the movie has been released on home video on any format. Sourced from a recent 4K restoration performed by the Paramount Archives, this transfer finally allows us to see the movie in its full Techniscope glory. For the first twenty minutes of the movie following the opening credits, there are a few vertical scratches on the movie, probably owing more to the condition of the print used for the transfer than any other potential issue. Other than that, this is a quality effort, with a solid, film like grain structure and a strong color palette; skin tones are nicely done with some solid blacks and shadows and fine details coming across very well. All in all, the Blu-ray represents the best this film has looked in a long time. The film is divided into nine chapters.

Audio: 4/5
The disc is presented in a DTS-HD 2.0 mono audio track, giving a solid listening experience to match the solid transfer. The dialogue is well recorded and the creepy Elisabeth Lutyens score adds to the sense of dread that permeates several scenes in the movie. The dialogue, music, and effects tracks are discretely handled without so much as a pop, crackle or hiss noticed by the viewer. English subtitles are available for the hard of hearing.

Special Features: 2.5/5

Audio commentary by film historian Troy Howarth: While a bit disorganized at times, Howarth makes up for it by being both engaging and informative about the movie and its cast, delivering a few interesting notes and observations about the movie and Amicus productions. My favorite: The movie may have been influenced by the work of Mario Bava and there are certain points in the movie that could support that, particularly one sequence involving the killer and a victim wearing a bright red raincoat (fans of Bava's Blood and Black Lace will be quick to recognize that discrete reference).

The film's original theatrical trailer (2:16), taken from a lower quality source.

Trailers from Hell - Joe Dante on The Skull (2:36): This bonus feature, already present on Kino's earlier release of The Skull, has the director of The Howling, Gremlins, and Piranha sharing his thoughts on this earlier Amicus entry, made and released before The Psychopath and directed by Freddie Francis with a script by Robert Bloch, both of whom worked on this movie shortly after.

Bonus trailers for the following Kino releases: The Oblong Box, The Crimson Cult, Twice-Told Tales, Black Sabbath, and The Premature Burial.

Overall: 3.5/5
The Psychopath is a crackerjack horror thriller anchored by solid performances and a solid visual palette that doesn't overwhelm the story. Long unavailable on home video and seen on TV in cruddy pan-and-scan copies, Kino's Blu-ray release rectifies this and is a welcome addition to the collection of those who seen the movie and wanted it for years in addition to those wanting to seek it out for the first time. Recommended!
 

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