In the earlier days of boutique home video distributors like Anchor Bay, Elite Disc, and yes Blue Underground had a few solid licenses they could update, reissue with new transfers or bonuses that would help make up for chances they took on lesser known, but fantastic foreign films, extreme genre films, and indies. For Anchor Bay it was the Evil Dead films and the majority of the Halloween franchise, the original film in particular. Blue Underground took more chances, but they had their own successes, and continue to have them. For Blue Underground it was Lucio Fulci’s Zombie and of course the owner’s own film Maniac and others. The thing about Blu Underground that has helped them outlast other similar distributors such as Anchor Bay is they know their core audience, and like their core audience they love the films they release. A film like Daughters of Darkness does not at first blush seem like a film deserving of multiple releases but Blue Underground has released the film to DVD, then blu-ray, and now a spiffy new 4k edition. What Blue Underground understands is yes the audience for this film is much smaller than that for Halloween, but that small audience is rabid for this level of cult film. The Daughters of Darkness blu-ray went out of print and over the years has skyrocketed in value on the second hand market.
The Movie 7.5/10
The Video 8.5/10
The Audio 6.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8.5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
Daughters of Darkness is a re-envisioning of the story of the Countess Dracula, who was said to bathe in blood in order to stay youthful. In this film a young newlywed couple is traveling by train to meet the husband’s mother. As things happen, they miss a connection and have to stay the night in an eerily empty, but quite extravagant hotel. There they meet Countess Bathory and her, well it is a European film, let’s say her friend. From here out a game is afoot full of lies and sex and as expected murder.
This film is destined to disappoint a lot of people. Those looking for a gory vampire film will not find it here and those looking for an edgy exploitation film will be disappointed too. There is nudity, some being the full frontal variety, but with all the kissing and touching there’s no real or simulated sex scene in the film. This film is also much slower paced than you might expect. What I find most interesting about the film is the mix of influences. The film was made in a time when Hammer Films could do no wrong and Daughters of Darkness is obviously looking that direction with its heavy splashes of color and its infusion of eroticism. Also apparent are the Euro-trash influences, the modern time but 1930’s costumes and the out of time setting and lighting. The biggest failing of the film is the genre in which it is placed. If this were called an erotic thriller rather than a horror film, the audience would be better prepared for the film they are about to view. It’s well acted and overall well executed for what it’s trying to be, if just a little slow moving. Fans looking for a different more subtle approach to the traditional vampire story may want to give this one a look. There is a bit of blood, and a good bit of nudity, but it doesn’t get too gory, and the sex scenes never get too edgy. The film is more about atmosphere and sexual energy, and in that it succeeds in spades.
Oh man here’s another stellar presentation from Blur Underground. This film is nearly fifty years old and it doesn’t look a day over thirty! In all seriousness this is a phenomenal restoration. The blu-ray did a great job of color representation and detail within the limits of the resolution, but this brings the film to life and gives it a really unexpected freshness. For the most part the image is extremely clean and the vibrant reds just pop off the screen. Grain is lighter than expected and consistent. In some scenes you might not even notice the grain much except on people’s faces. Speaking of faces skin tones are quite good other than the opening scene being a bit on the pink side. Specular highlights including reflections from red lips and props stand out and are gorgeous. There are just a couple of quick scenes where the image quality drops for a few seconds but overall, an outstanding presentation. The fact that there’s no HDR10 support is kind of crazy since pretty much every TV/projector has that, but not necessarily every TV/projector has Dolby Vision. THIS IS SUPER ANNOYING BLUE UNDERGROUND. The projector I review films with typically is HDR10 so I had to move it to a television outside of the studio to take a look at the Dolby Vision.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We were advised that this release is in fact HDR10 enabled and sure enough after a little work on our projector (well essentially a reboot) it came through beautifully. The dolby Vision is a bit more vivd to my eye but the two options are very very close. With that we had to bump up the video score a bit!
Blue Underground brings us an upgrade in the audio here with a Dolby Atmost mix that is as clean as we are likely to get from this film. Dialogue doesn’t have ADR-ish sound that older film’s so often have. It really feels within the film. The score sounds great and fills the room. Most of the film sits in the center channel, but it’s not an action film so their is really very little opportunity for whooshing sounds across the sound stage. In reality the mix sounds pretty basic, but for a film as old as this one it’s a solid uptick from the mono source. There’s also a DTS option that sounds great as well as a momo option, both brought over from the previous blu-ray release.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
We get a beautiful slip cover with lenticular art and a continuation of Blue Underground’s mostly black design. These 4k’s look great on the shelf together. The three disc set comes in a standard amaray fat case but this time Blue Underground chose to go with the white box style, similar to what Vinegar Syndrome has been doing for a while. The artwork on the inside is reversible with the original art on the inside. I recommend flipping it so with the slip you get both versions of the art. Very nicely designed and sophisticated. It all feels premium.
There are a number of features to support the film all taken from the original DVD release. First up are two feature length audio commentaries. The first is with Director/co-writer Harry Kumel and the second is with star John Karlen and journalist David Del Valle. Both commentaries offer some great behind the scenes information but I actually preferred the second as it seemed to stay more active having the journalist to keep things moving along.
“Locations of Darkness” is an interesting interview with the director and co-writer/producer of the film. They discuss the process of making the film and the locations they used. They also offer up a couple of really good behind the scenes anecdotes. “Playing the Victim” is a featurette that’s really just an interview with female star Danielle Ouimet. That featurette along with “Daughter of Darkness” and interview with Andrea Rau offer the female perspective on making the film with good discussion of doing nude scenes and how they were just getting to be more prevalent in that era of filmmaking.
There’s also a trailer and radio spots. Fans of this film will really enjoy what turns out to be a solid and fascinating mix of bonus features. The only problem is that there’s noting here new and special for the 4k. These extras hopped from the DVD to the blu-ray, to the 4k. The only new extra here is a great booklet with stills from the film and an essay on the film. Finally we again get the complete soundtrack of the film on a bonus CD. In total there are three discs, the 4k, the blu-ray version, and the soundtrack CD.
EDITOR’S NOTE AGAIN: The third trailer is actually new to this release. I didn’t listen through it because I thought it was on a previous release. In fact Kat Ellinger brings something very new and necessary to this release with her commentary, a female perspective. Kat is a writer and a host of a Daughters of Darkness podcast so she knows her stuff when it comes to this movie. There’s also more trailers, more stills in the gallery, and an additional alternate main titles sequence.
Daughters of Darkness is has been a cult favorite of Blue Underground collectors for years and now the ultimate edition is available. It is missing some previously created bonus material but the beautiful restoration pretty much makes up for that loss.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10