Deadly Manor Directed by: Jose Larraz Starring: Clark Tufts, Greg Rhodes, Claudia Franjul, Kathleen Patane
Deadly Manor is the last film by Spanish directory Jose Larraz. The film follows a group of teenagers that take refuge in an old abandoned mansion. The typical sex and debauchery ensues until the teens discover that someone is killing them off one by one. This film is a by the numbers 80’s style slasher film. It literally hits every beat you expect to such an extreme degree that it almost feels like parody. There’s nudity and gore fx, although compared to previous installments of the genre what is here is pretty mild. Dialogue is bad, characterizations are wooden, and the eventual twist, while not predictable, is kind of standard in retrospect.
Deadly Manor really feels like the end of an era, both for the 80’s and for filmmaker Jose Larraz. This director began his career crafting some truly atmospheric horror gems most notably Vampyres. This film isn’t as atmospheric in that cool unique way that defines his career but it is atmospheric in the 80’s horror sort of tribute way. He went the way of other icons from the 70’s such as Dario Argent in that he was a master of the genre in the 70’s and ended his career having fun with base style films of the genre. The film itself heralds the end of the 80’s slasher film. It highlights the tropes of the era of the genre and sort of says goodbye to those tropes in favor of the lighter more comedy driven era of the 90’s. From a film history perspective, Deadly Manor is well worth a watch for 80’s slasher fans. The film isn’t a good one, but it is the epitome of guilty pleasure.
Wow, this is quite a nice restoration from Arrow Video. I recommend taking a look at the promo video on the disc and then watching the movie. You will really be slapped in the face by the quality of the transfer. The film never made the move from VHS, so this is the first HD transfer of the film. The film was originally titled Savage Lust on VHS. Colors really pop and detail is pretty strong in brighter scenes. Dark scenes do tend to get a bit muddy and skin tones are often just a little red but overall this new video presentation is shockingly nice looking considering the age of the film and the low budget nature of it.
The audio doesn’t get the love that the video received. All we are given is an English mono option. The dialogue is mostly clear but the mix overall has a muffled feeling, which can add to the retro nature of the viewing experience but a cleaned-up surround mix would have really gone a long way, or even just a Dolby 2.0 option.
Packaging and Bonus Features
Arrow Video is one of the best boutique labels releasing cult films today. Often Arrow releases are on par with something you’d expect from Criterion. Deadly Manor doesn’t get the same level of love as The Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes but it is a very collectable presentation.
House of Whacks is a lengthy interview with actress Jennifer Delora. This interview is easily the high point of the bonus features on the disc. She discusses where she was in her career at the time this film was made and how she was brought on board. Delora is completely candid about the production speaking about her excellent relationship with the director, the struggles of low budget filmmaking, and the negative attitudes of some of her cast mates. Her recounting of the major sex scene in the film is quite entertaining.
Making a Killing is a brief but new interview with producer Brian Smedley-Aston. He discusses his previous work with the director and the struggles involved with getting Deadly Manor made. It’s not as in depth as Jennifer Delora’s interview but it does feel honest, both for the good and the bad.
There is a small segment from an archival interview with director Jose Larraz. While this interview is way to brief, from a film history perspective, it’s great to at least have his comments here.
There’s a feature audio commentary with Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan. They host a podcast discussing cult films outside of this commentary. Their commentary on the film seems reasonably informed but a commentary with someone actually involved with the film would have been preferred. This sort of fanboy approach to film commentaries by some of these boutique distributors isn’t appreciated. I’d rather have heard a commentary with Jennifer Delora and Brian Smedley-Aston.
The original VHS promo reel is provided, albeit in really rough shape. This reel is a great time capsule of the era but it does contain spoilers for the film. Finally, there are photos from the film and if you have access to BD-ROM there’s a copy of the script and the original shooting schedule, which is really awesome.
While this presentation of Deadly Manor isn’t at the top tier of Arrow Video presentations it really shouldn’t be. Considering the quality of the film Arrow has still shown it more love than it probably deserves. The new 2K scan of the film is really nice even if the audio isn’t and the bonus interviews do offer a real look into what it was like making a low budget film in 1989. While there is no slipcover we do get reversible art that includes some original art on one side and newly commissioned art from Adam Rabalais on the other. As is typical with Arrow Video the film comes with the new art on the outside. The original art is nice to see but it does seem to be a little low res compared to the new art. There’s also a pack in booklet with new writing about the film from John Martin. The booklet also features some great photos from the film. Overall this is a solid presentation from Arrow Video with a guilty pleasure from the end of the slasher era and enough supplemental material for the student of film looking to learn about low budget horror filmmaking in the late 80’s. The spine is also numbered for those hardcore Arrow collectors.
Deadly Manor is no icon of the slasher genre, it’s in fact not particularly good, even within a genre that will let a lot slide in favor of good fx. It is a guilty pleasure though; and it does sort of close the door on the explotation genre of the era. It can be an entertaining watch with friends if you go in with low expectations and cocktails. Arrow shows the film a lot of love in presentation and packaging and makes it a worthy addition for the Arrow, or just slasher film in genreal, collector.