Posts Tagged ‘Science Fiction’

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: April 11, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:16:25

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Italian Mono Linear PCM Audio

Alternate Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English, English SDH

Ratio: 1.66:1

Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Notes: This release includes a DVD edition of the film.

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Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959) is a surprising film that combines a gothic horror aesthetic with a typical 1950s science fiction plot that is essentially a re-working of the same concept that gave audiences The Blob (1958)—although references to outer space and alien lifeforms are less explicit. While this is probably the minority opinion, this reviewer actually prefers Caltiki – The Immortal Monster to its American predecessor. This is mostly due to the fact that the Italian film’s gothic horror aesthetic gives it an eerie atmosphere that helps to sell the rather outlandish premise while simultaneously enhancing the scares. The Blob is more cartoonish in its treatment and uneven in its tone.

The film was a collaboration between Riccardo Freda (The Vampires, The Horrible Dr. Hichcock) and Mario Bava (Black Sunday, Black Sabbath). It seems that Freda wanted to give Bava an opportunity to prove his talents as a director, so he engaged him as the film’s cinematographer and special effects artist before leaving the project during the production. Bava would then take over as the film’s director. All of this was done in an effort to prove Bava’s talents to the film’s producers.

It should be said that the design for Caltiki is similar but more interesting than the design used for The Blob—even if its main ingredient is tripe. It was a missed opportunity if critics didn’t exploit this fact in some of the film’s more negative reviews. However, the film stands as one of the more interesting science fiction monster movies released during the late fifties, so any negative reviews should be swallowed with a grain of salt. The set-up for Caltiki is more exotic than the one used in The Blob: A team of archaeologists led by Dr. John Fielding (John Merivale, Circus of Horrors) descends on the ruins of an ancient Mayan city to investigate the mysterious disappearance of its inhabitants. However, the luckless explorers get more than they bargained for when their investigation of a sacrificial pool awakens the monster that dwells beneath its waters—a fearsome and malevolent god named “Caltiki.” Cinephiles with a fondness for the genre will certainly enjoy Caltiki – The Immortal Monster as it is a unique and unforgettable sci-fi chiller which showcases the talents of two legendary cult filmmakers.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys and the film’s original Italian one-sheet design.

Italian One Sheet

The Original Italian One Sheet

There is also an attractively illustrated booklet that includes three interesting essays: “Gothic Monstrosity, Radioactive Terror” by Kat Ellinger, “Deconstructing Caltiki” by Roberto Curti, and “Caltiki, More or Less by Tim Lucas. In addition to these essays, Arrow includes the usual credits and transfer information.

 [Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

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The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The collector’s booklet contains the following information about Arrow’s restoration transfer:

Caltiki — The Immortal Monster was restored by Arrow Films and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 with mono sound. All restoration work was carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna. As the original camera negative for this film has been lost, an original 35mm combined dupe negative was deemed to be the best-known element in existence. The material was scanned in 2K resolution on a pin-registered Arriscan with a wetgate and was graded on Digital Vision’s Nucoda Film Master. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, and scratches were removed through a combination of digital restoration tools. Overall image stability and instances of density fluctuation were also improved.” –Collector’s Booklet

Although one laments that the original negative for the film has been lost, the restoration team was still able to deliver a solid image with excellent contrast and strong black levels. Detail isn’t optimal but it is fairly impressive when one considers the film’s age and the fact that the original negative doesn’t exist. The grain structure is thick and gritty but resolves naturally enough and there aren’t any compression related issues evident.

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Sound Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The collector’s booklet also includes information about the audio restoration and transfer:

“The original Italian mono soundtrack was transferred from the dupe negative using the Sondor OMA/E with COSP Xi2K technology to minimize optical noise and produce the highest quality results possible. There are times in which audio synchronization will appear slightly loose against the picture, due to the fact that the soundtracks were recorded entirely in post-production. This is correct as per the film’s original theatrical release.” –Collector’s Booklet

Actually, Arrow provides two audio options—an Italian mono LPCM audio mix (with optional English subtitles) and an English mono LPCM audio mix. The English mix was derived from multiple sources due to the fact that the original English master no longer exists. There are no issues with the track worth noting, but the Italian mix is a better option. The original Italian mix is in excellent shape and seems to accurately reflect the source elements without any anomalies to distract the audience. It isn’t particularly dynamic and music can sound boxy, but it is doubtful that it ever sounded any better than it does here.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Full Aperture Version – (1080P) – (01:16:54)

This version of the film includes a textual introduction prior to the film:

Caltiki — The Immortal Monster was designed to be exhibited in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and is presented in this form on the default viewing option on this disc. However, an examination of the elements revealed that, while a significant amount of the film had been shot with an in camera hard matte, much of it—including most of the effects shot created by the film’s uncredited second director Mario Bava—was in fact shot with no in-camera matte present. An open matte presentation, therefore, preserves more of Bava’s remarkable effects work.

In consultation with Bava historian Tim Lucas, a decision was made to also provide this alternative, full aperture viewing option, which presents the film as directly captured 35mm dupe negative and provides both an expanded view of the film’s effects and a fascinating insight into its “mixed parentage.” –Introduction

This version is an interesting curiosity but certain aspects of the transfer are too distracting for casual viewing. Those who wish to watch this version will do so to analyze the framing differences between the two versions and to determine which shots were hard-matted.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Tim Lucas

Tim Lucas—author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark and a number of other books on horror cinema—offers an informative commentary track but there are times when this video watchdog critic is a bit too studied in his approach. This is a small complaint, and there is plenty here for both Bava fans and fans of Caltiki — The Immortal Monster.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Troy Howarth

Troy Howarth is the co-author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava, So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films (Volumes 1 & 2), Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films, and a number of other cinema-related books. His commentary is an informative discussion about Caltiki — The Immortal Monster and the cinema of Mario Bava. One only wishes that Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava were alive to provide a commentary for the film. First-hand recollection is simply superior to researched reiteration.

Introduction by Stefano Della Casa – (00:21)

Stefano Della Casa’s brief introductory comments don’t really add up to very much, but one appreciates Arrow’s efforts to carry over any existing archival supplementary material—even if they aren’t particularly enlightening.

Alternate US Opening Titles – (1080P) – (02:24)

One on the more interesting additions to Arrow’s supplemental package is this alternate opening titles sequence that was made and used for the film’s release in the United States.

From Quatermass to Caltiki – (18:13)

Kim Newman’s discussion about Caltiki — The Immortal Monster and the classic monster movies that had an influence on the film is incredibly entertaining and informative. Especially interesting is his comments about the early Universal monster movies on the film and his opinions as to why the science fiction genre didn’t translate as easily to Italian interpretation.

The Genesis of Caltiki – (21:33)

This archival interview with Luigi Cozzi is presented in Italian with English subtitles and finds the filmmaker discussing background information about the production of Caltiki — The Immortal Monster, the film’s pace in Italian cinema’s history, details about the distributor, and other pertinent subjects. Fans will no doubt agree that the information revealed is both informative and diverting.

The Return of Caltiki (19:05)

Stefano Della Casa’s archival interview is more worthwhile than his empty introduction and covers quite a bit of territory—including a few short analytical comments bout the film and Riccardo Freda’s career and legacy, the differences between American and Italian horror films, opinions about Caltiki — The Immortal Monster, and a range of other subjects that horror fans will find worthwhile.

US Theatrical Trailer – (02:07)

The film’s US trailer is in line with other genre trailers of the era and is a nice addition to the disc.

French Caltiki Photo-comic (BD-ROM)

A digital edition of a 54-page photo comic is available as BD-ROM content and is an interesting artifact.

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Final Words

Viewers with an affection for 1950s low budget science fiction will enjoy this Italian take on the genre and Arrow’s new Blu-ray is the perfect way to experience the film.

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Review by: Devon Powell

 

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