One of British genre cinema’s most important and distinctive independent filmmakers, Norman J Warren made a series of horror films which were at the forefront of a new wave in British horror during the 1970s. Reflecting a period of permissiveness and fearlessness, Warren’s distinctive stylings are far removed from the Gothic conventions of Hammer Films, deliberately upped the ante in terms of sex, violence and gore to create a new breed of horror that was designed to shock for shock’s sake.

Indicator has released a monster of a boxset of the five horror films Warren released during this time with well north of 10 hours worth of featurettes to get through including extensive interviews with Warren himself that are spread throughout the discs that go through his entire career. Also included are an abundance of interviews with cast and crew from the five films that detail how the shoots went.

 

SATAN’S SLAVE

Director: Norman J. Warren
Screenplay: David McGillivray
Starring: Michael Gough, Martin Potter, Candace Glendenning
Year: 1976
Duration: 90 mins
Country: UK
BBFC Certification: 18

Norman J. Warren’s first foray into the horror genre was in 1976’s Satan’s Slave where our protagonist Catherine (Candace Glendenning) has come to visit the stately home of her Uncle Alexander (Michael Gough) and cousin Stephen (Martin Potter) after the death of her parents. Unbeknownst to Catherine her family are deeply involved with a satanic cult who have a par chant for sacrificing women. Catherine soon starts having strange visions of rituals and witches, is the cult trying to recruit her? If so for which purpose?

Fans of Warren will know his directorial history of venturing down the exploitative path with his films and without a doubt, he is able to use these past skills to create a film with just the right amount of sleaze and horror to entertain. Although Warren was known for being exploitative he was also known for being a director that could get the most out of his limited budgets and while the budget is seemingly wafer thing (not a surprising thing to know considering the state of British horror films at this time) he does an excellent job with what he has and as with the other five films in this box set you will learn he was able to cast his films perfectly.

By casting Satan’s Slave with talented actors who did not need much direction, Warren is able to create this surreal supernatural world that keeps us entertained for the entire duration of the film. As mentioned the cast is strong her and were American horror films of the same ilk went awry with their films is that they cast actors just out or still in film school who were not entirely polished and confident enough to carry a performance. Glendinning is a great lead and is able to do a lot of the carrying of the film while Gough is able to plan a very convincing antagonist instead of going too far with the role and playing it a bit too comedically. Having the cast believe what is happening is happening is rule one for an effective horror film and this happens her (and to be fair in all of Warren’s horror films)

The film is not without its faults however, there are periods of unoriginality, but with the glut of supernatural and satanic cult films released around this time, it was to be expected that some portions of those films would be lifted into this piece. But, the faults do not outweigh the pros with Satan’s Slave and with the better than expected atmosphere and death scenes you will be set for a great watch.

Extras Include

2K restoration, newly supervised and approved by director Norman J Warren

Original mono audio

Two presentations of the film: the director’s cut (89 mins); and the export version (90 mins)

Audio commentary with Warren and screenwriter David McGillivray (2004)

Audio commentary with Warren and composer John Scott (2019)

Before the Blood (2019, 29 mins): Warren recalls his earliest experiences in the film industry

All You Need Is Blood (1976, 13 mins): vintage ‘making of’ documentary, presented in High Definition for the first time

All You Need Is Blood Outtakes (1976, 33 mins): rare and previously unseen footage shot on location

Creating Satan (2004, 30 mins): archival documentary featuring interviews with Warren, McGillivray, actor Martin Potter, and others

Devilish Music (2004, 13 mins): archival interview with John Scott

Two deleted scenes with commentary by Warren

Censoring ‘Satan’s Slave’ (2019, 16 mins): video demonstration of the cuts imposed by the British Board of Film Censors in 1976

Original ‘U’ certificate theatrical trailer

Original ‘R’-rated theatrical trailer

Image gallery: promotional and publicity material

New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

UK premiere on Blu-ray

EXTRAS THOUGHTS

Again this will get mentioned often in this review, but Warren enjoys talking about his films and that positivity and strong personality ring through in the commentaries with screenwriter David McGillivray and composer John Scott (yes two separate commentaries). I viewed the commentary with Warren and Scott to be akin to commentaries with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, just two friends catching up and chatting about the film they enjoyed making.

There are two cuts of the film, happily, neither are the BBFC enforced cut, and though there is an interesting featurette regarding the cuts imposed on the filmmakers with video demonstrations on what was done. I enjoyed this little featurette as it is rare that you get to properly see the changes as usually the changes are just added back into the film so you have to remember. More films should do that in my opinion.

The disc is choked full of featurettes which make for a great watch. It is mostly a talking headpiece, however, it was a pleasant surprise to see so many people talking about the film who had different roles in the feature. Usually, these are left for just the Director, producers and cast, but we get a full range of the crew who all have their own unique memories of the production.

Overall this disc is packed with goodies that will keep you entertained for a fair few hours!

 

PREY

Director: Norman J. Warren
Screenplay: Max Cuff
Starring: Barry Stokes, Sally Faulkner, Glory Annen
Year: 1977
Duration: 85 mins
Country: UK
BBFC Certification: 18

As Satan’s Slave had strong Rosemary’s Baby vibes, Prey has some slight vibes of The Man Who Fell To Earth mixed with D.H. Lawrence’s novella The Fox. Prey’s story is a pretty simple one, an alien (Barry Stokes) lands in the English countryside and animates itself into a man. Portraying itself as an injured wanderer the creature finds itself on the property of a private lesbian couple(Sally Faulkner and Glory Annen). The younger of the two welcomes him to the home to get healed up and becomes fascinated by his oddness. The older partner is dubious of this unwelcome guest, but both are unaware of the creature’s true intentions.

The trick to making Prey work as well as it does is that it required all three of the main cast to be at their best and that is a happy success with the film, if this trio does not work well off each other then the entire premise of the film falls apart pretty quickly. Stokes is the standout, but that is mostly due to his character having so much to do throughout the film. Perhaps it is due to his two counterparts being female, but he exudes a chilling dominance over them as the film goes on. I feel this is due to the alien adapting to being human and becoming more confident in its own façade.

Happily this isn’t a standard slasher film that many would have expected, yes it does have it’s quite a low budget gory moments, but for the most part, this is a tense thriller. The credit of this has to go to Warren who realised that this film had to be a slow burn. Too many horror films at the time went straight to the horror and never let off the accelerator, whereas, being able to see these characters grow and take turns in having dominance on each other was interesting. It allows the viewer to learn about them and try to feel more emotion to that character. Warren would continue his allowance of character development even into Inseminoid.

In comparison to the other death scenes in the box set, there is one in Prey that just feels so real and raw that it almost takes you out of the film purely because you are not expecting it from a film with such small a budget. It is said that the film was produced at a breakneck speed of 10 days and while there are times this is clearly evident, it is very admirable that they were able to make what they did in such a time frame.

 

Extras

2K restoration, newly supervised and approved by director Norman J Warren

Original mono audio

Audio commentary with Warren and film historian Jonathan Rigby (2004)

The BEHP Interview with Norman J Warren – Part One (2018, 60 mins): archival video recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring Warren in conversation with Martin Sheffield

Keep on Running (2004, 28 mins): archival documentary on the making of Prey, featuring interviews with Warren, actor Sally Faulkner, producer Terry Marcel, and others

On-set Footage (1977, 3 mins): rare behind-the-scenes footage with commentary by Warren

The Bridge (1955–57, 7 mins): rare footage from Warren’s ambitious early film project about a pilot on a mission to locate a bridge in Germany during World War II, with optional director’s commentary

Making ‘The Bridge’ (1957, 2 mins): rare and previously unseen footage with commentary by Warren

Carol (1962, 3 mins): mute test footage from Warren’s unrealised feature about teenage pregnancy and backstreet abortion, featuring Georgina Hale and Michael Craze, with optional director’s commentary

Drinkin Time (1963, 3 mins): silent comedy short directed by Warren

‘Drinkin Time’ Introduction by Norman J Warren (2019, 4 mins)

Whipper Snappers (c1977, 1 min): toy advertisement directed by Warren

‘Whipper Snappers’ Introduction by Norman J Warren (2019, 4 mins)

Original theatrical trailer

Image gallery: promotional and publicity material

New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

UK premiere on Blu-ray

EXTRAS THOUGHTS

Warren and film historian Jonathan Rigby share commentary duties for this release, where Warren is able to explain in a bit more detail about how short the turnaround was for pre-production and production itself. Warren provides ample tidbits to keep the viewer interested throughout.

Prey contains one of Bloody Terrors bare discs for features, (though that isn’t saying much as there is still well north of two hours’ worth of features here to devour. We get the first part of the British Entertainment History Projects interview with Warren that delves into his life and works up to 1975. It is a very interesting interview to learn how people worked themselves up to the ladder in the British film industry during that era. We then are given an archival documentary that goes over the making of Prey, it is sad that there wasn’t more time with Sally Faulkner as she was quite entertaining!

For the rest of the extras, we are provided with a few short films and advertisements that Warren directed, along with introductions. It is sometimes good to see a director now so well-known with horror and exploitation to have done other things.

 

TERROR

Director: Norman J. Warren
Screenplay: David McGillivray
Starring: John Nolan, Carolyn Courage, James Aubrey, Sarah Keller
Year: 1978
Duration: 84 mins
Country: UK
BBFC Certification: 18

Film Producer James Garrick (John Nolan) delves into his family history for a story for his latest horror film about a witch who cursed his family who burned her at the stake. During the wrap party of the film, things start to go wrong for the attending cast and crew, was the curse real or are someone taking advantage of it to get some vengeance on their colleagues?

There is a lot of fun to be had here, but in comparison to the others in the box set Terror is probably the weakest. The premise is as solid as it can be, especially considering that Warren and McGillivray wanted to step away from the Hammer Horror aspect of their previous work as they did in Prey. Sadly, the plot starts to unravel after the opening scenes as some aspects of the film simply do not link well together. It is rather convenient that a group of actresses live in a hostel together nearby to the studio that can allow them to be attacked for example.

Another slight disappointment is that unlike Prey, Inseminoid and Bloody New Year, we do not get enough time with this cast to learn about them to gain that emotional attachment to them. This sadly falls on McGillivray’s script as the plot jumps far too many times from one location to another. If the film had settled in Garrick’s home and the film studio there would be far fewer issues. But these jumps and subplots begin to lose the viewer despite the work from the more than capable cast.

The influence from Suspiria is a bit too evident for some tastes with Warren enjoying perhaps too much how he can create a lower budget homage to it and Dario Argento’s Inferno. It is clearly evident and openly admitted that for Terror they tried to go more along with the visuals than the plot and it just didn’t work as well as they hoped here sadly. It is especially disappointing knowing that this duo can write well and develop interesting, sympathetic characters that an audience can rally behind.

Despite this, there is a lot to love throughout the film. Warren’s direction works to his usual high quality and it is able to keep away from the Hammer Horror vibe to great success. The death scenes, as expected if trying to follow Argento’s lead are gory and brutal. It is just a shame that something is just missing in the film as it could have been something truly wonderful, rather than just a fun horror jaunt that it turns out to be.

Extras Include

2K restoration, newly supervised and approved by director Norman J Warren

Original mono audio

Audio commentary with Warren and screenwriter David McGillivray (2004)

The Early Years (2019, 17 mins): Warren recalls his first films as director

Bloody Good Fun (2004, 41 mins): archival documentary on the making of Terror featuring interviews with Warren, McGillivray, actors Carolyn Courage, Mary Maude, James Aubrey and Elaine Ives-Cameron, and others

Tales of Terror (2019, 13 mins): actor John Nolan reflects on Terror’s production

Norman J Warren: A Sort of Autobiography (2004, 28 mins): archival interview with the director

Four extended scenes, with introductions by Warren

Norman J Warren Presents Horrorshow (2008, 33 mins): anthology film of five horror tales, hosted by Warren

Daddy Cross (2011, 2 mins): trailer for a 1978 ‘lost film’, with voice-over by Warren

Original theatrical trailer

French theatrical trailer

TV spot

Radio spot

Image gallery: promotional and publicity material

New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

UK premiere on Blu-ray

EXTRAS THOUGHTS

Luckily for us, we have received the better Warren and screenwriter David McGillivary commentary in comparison to the phone interview that was not scene-specific from previous reissues. Having the duo talk about the film and be specific to certain parts as it is playing is a far more enjoyable experience.

If you were wanting a few extras’ relating to the film then sadly you are out of luck as we only get two featurettes regarding the film with archival footage and talking-head interviews with a large portion of the cast and crew. There are lots of great bites of information present here and it is great to see the team remember the film so fondly.

The next featurette about Warrens early years as a filmmaker as he discusses his short films and what it was like to try and produce such content in 1960’s England. We also get a lengthy featurette of Warren reminiscing on his childhood and general love of film. For fans of his work, these really are must watch.

For the rest of the disc, we get the Norman J. Warren Presents Horrorshow which is an accumulation of multiple horror short films with introductions from Warren himself. It is a great idea to get some of these added to the release as it isn’t necessarily something you would expect from a box set feature-length director. Horror shorts are always welcome in my world so to see this is quite refreshing.

 

Inseminoid

Director: Norman J. Warren
Screenplay: Nick and Gloria Maley
Starring: Robin Clarke, Jennifer Ashley, Judy Geeson, Stephanie Beacham
Year: 1981
Duration: 91 mins
Country: UK
BBFC Certification: 18

An archaeological team are on an expedition on a distant planet after discovering remnants of an ancient civilisation an accident occurs from within the underground caverns. The crew save the two members of the team, despite everything not being as it seems with the rescued Ricky, the expedition continues until crew member Sandy is captured by something within the cavernous structure. Like Ricky, she seems different, but is it too late for the crew to escape?

Inseminoid has the case of being released too soon after Alien due to having a character impregnated. While there is an impregnated character the similarities with Alien start and end with the opening scene. In Alien we see some of the crew enter an alien spaceship and one of the team is attacked by a face-hugger alien and obviously impregnated by said face hugger. In Inseminoid the team are Archaeologists purposely exploring the underground cavern of an alien planet. It would be far more pertinent to compare Inseminoid with The Thing or other films in which there is a large cast who will continually have large portions of dialogue to relay to each other.

The fact that there is such a large cast for this film is a plus, but yet also a negative. On some occasions, you do lose track of who is who regarding the male characters as there are just so many of them for a small film. The plus is that everyone who was cast put everything into their role and you will not find anyone phoning it in. Judy Geeson playing the unlucky Sandy has the difficult task of playing the role of someone not in control of herself, but to also appear like she could dominate others in a physical way. She is obviously having a lot of fun in the role as she flip flops from normal Sandy to out of control Sandy.

The film does occasionally fall apart with instances of a lot of the team not being able to save a stricken crew member mere yards away from their hatch as she tries and fails to reconnect the oxygen tubes to her spacesuit. That is a minor complaint however as the film is as fun as you imagine, especially when you go into the film knowing that budgets were not the highest for British horror films in the early 1980s. This is shown in some of the sets like the computer room which is just a room covered in black drapes with some screens in it to show the technical side.

The film is a blast with a very solid script that goes along at a good pace enhanced by the synth-heavy score from John Scott. Worth a watch just to dispel the poorly labelled Alien rip off tag alone. This is a film standing in its own right.

Extras include

2K restoration, newly supervised and approved by director Norman J Warren

Original mono audio

Audio commentary with Warren and assistant director Gary White (2004)

The BEHP Interview with Norman J Warren – Part Two (2018, 67 mins): archival video recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring Warren in conversation with Martin Sheffield

Norman J Warren at the Manchester Festival of Fantastic Films (2011, 62 mins): an archival video recording of the director in conversation with horror author John Llewellyn Probert

Subterranean Universe (2004, 45 mins): an archival documentary on the making of Inseminoid, featuring interviews with Warren, actors Stephanie Beacham, David Baxt and Barry Houghton, and others

Alien Encounter (2019, 6 mins): actor Trevor Thomas recalls playing the part of Mitch

Electronic Approach (2004, 13 mins): an archival interview with composer John Scott

Original theatrical trailers

Horror Planet teaser trailer

TV spot

Image gallery: promotional and publicity material

New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

World premiere on Blu-ray

EXTRAS THOUGHTS

The audio commentary is one of the better I have heard due to there being a duo there with Warren and the AD Gary White. Luckily Warren is ready-made for commentaries with his ease at bringing up topics. Usually with commentaries, you can tell the person is reading their plot points. For the production design fan, it is a must of a listen.

The abundance of interviews packed into the features is plentiful with two conversations with Warren lasting over two hours. Warren provides a great insight into the film and quite happily he doesn’t broach on all of the topics that are mentioned in the commentary. In Subterranean Universe and Alien Encounter, we are treated to over 45 minutes with an interview with the cast who chat about Warren’s techniques and extra information with a good bit of humour in both.

We get part two of the British Entertainment History project interview that covers his life and career from Satan’s Slave until 2018, an utterly fascinating look at a British genre filmmaker. Knowing how low the budgets were for all of his films we find out information on just how they were able to stretch that budget as well as they did. If you did not have your fill of that hour-plus long interview, Indicator has provided another from the Manchester Fantastic Film Festival. 

 

Bloody New Year

Director: Norman J. Warren
Screenplay: Frazer Pearce
Starring: Suzy Aitchison, Nikki Brooks, Daniel James, Colin Heywood, Catherine Roman
Year: 1987
Duration: 93 mins
Country: UK
BBFC Certification: 18

A group of English friends save an American tourist from an attack from a few local carnival employees. While escaping the troublesome crew they escape on one of their boats and find themselves stuck on the nearby island that had the opening scene introduces us to. When the group enter the hotel to take shelter for the night they find that everything is still mysteriously decorated for New Years in 1959. The five “guests” find out that they are not exactly alone in the abandoned hotel.

Bloody New Year is peak Warren with great casting and a surreal story. Sadly for Bloody New Year, it does tend to get confused as to what genre it is in. While Warren is an expert at meshing multiple genres to make his films work it feels that there are too many different types of horror films trying to come out of this one. In some instances it is a ghost house, then it is a science fiction, then a possession-based film and then almost a revenge film. There is just too much going on to keep the flow of the film going. But, for some reason, it works in that classic 80’s horror style.

Despite the plot being a bit wayward the film is very enjoyable as you can never truly predict the next death with some actually causing surprise. The effects in the film are also impressive, considering that Warren always had to work with terribly low budgets, though on occasion that high level does slip, with a scene where two members of the shipwrecked group hearing laughing all around them, while the camera just pans around to nothing in the field they are in due to the ghosts being invisible at this time.

Warren has always been excellent in his casting as that then allows him to be experimental with his filmmaking, sadly here there are a few poor performances and that may be due to the group being younger than what he usually casts. It doesn’t help that when some of the characters die and are reanimated to attack their friends that the dead character doesn’t seem to remember if they are playing a zombie or someone possessed. It may sound as if I am being negative, but I enjoyed the film for the fun that it was… Though I would love to know how one of the carnival gang was able to jump through a first-floor window INTO the hotel!

Indicator have done their best with the restoration work but with the only print remaining of the film being an old 35mm print there was just a bit too much work to be done to make it pristine, but the damages done are not distracting enough to take you out of the film. Again the work carried out is exceptional considering the circumstances.

Bloody New Year has a great premise with even better than expected death scenes that make for a truly great horror film.

Extras include:

2K restoration, newly supervised and approved by director Norman J Warren

Original mono audio

Audio commentary with Warren and film historian Jo Botting (2019)

Norman’s Wisdom (2019, 29 mins): Warren discusses some of the lesser-known areas of his career, including his work in television and documentaries

New Blood (2019, 16 mins): actor Catherine Roman warmly remembers her first film role

The Art of Blood (2019, 15 mins): screenwriter and set dresser Frazer Pearce relates the production history of Bloody New Year

Fights, Camera, Action! (2019, 11 mins): actor and stuntman Steve Emerson recalls his work with Warren on Terror and Bloody New Year

Working with Warren (2019, 10 mins): an interview with filmmaker and Warren collaborator Yixi Sun

Turn Off Your Bloody Phone: Norman J Warren and the Ghost (2013, 1 min): short produced for FrightFest, starring Warren, Sun, and David McGillivray

Original trailer

Image gallery: promotional and publicity material

New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

UK premiere on Blu-ray

EXTRAS THOUGHTS

Joining Warren on this commentary is the BFI’s Jo Botting who is able to keep Warren focused in an entertaining way throughout. It is another great commentary track from Warren who just loves getting to talk about the films he made, and rightfully so!

We get the last of Warren’s interview session where he talks about his other work, again, another great little featurette that makes you just fall in love with the passion that he has for filmmaking. Catherine Roman talks about being in her first feature film and the trials and tribulations of learning on the job in such a film.

Sadly there are not too many other extras on this disc, but considering the number of hours of featurettes we have been provided in the previous four, it is hard to think negatively about it.

Overall

A wonderful box set with so many little treasures hidden inside. For the cinephile, it is a must purchase, for the horror fan out there, it is another must purchase. Prey is the standout film of the boxset, but for features that honour goes to Satan’s Slave. It would be unfair to say that Warren peaked in the first two films from this set as Inseminoid and Bloody New Year saw a director trying to evolve from his previous exploitation ways and they do still play well even 30 years after the fact. In the end, this is a fabulous celebration of one of the best genre filmmakers in Britain and well worth your time.

Get Bloody Terror: The Shocking Cinema of Norman J. Warren, 1976-1987 box set while stocks last as this is released at a limited run and is available at https://www.powerhousefilms.co.uk/products/bloody-terror-le.

Bloody Terror: The Shocking Cinema of Norman J. Warren, 1976-1987
Satan's Slave
Prey
Terror
Inseminoid
Bloody New Year
Overall
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A creative guy from Northern Ireland creatively trying to create things in a creative manner.

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