Home Video Hove: Destroyer / Edge of Sanity, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Scream Factory delivers another oddball horror double feature with their recent release of two motion pictures on one Blu-ray, Destroyer and Edge of Sanity. Although the back of the box highlights Anthony Perkins being in both movies, it should be noted he has a supporting part in the former and plays the lead in the latter. Both flicks are late entries in Perkins’ career, coming out between the release of Psycho III and Psycho IV: The Beginning. Both films aim for wildly different tones with a moderate degree of success.
Destroyer opens with an odd title card specifying the version of the film print used for this HD remaster has Shadow of Death as its title. Given the movie’s over-the-top violence, Destroyer is a much better title. Shadow of Death sounds like the title of a film noir. In a creepy prologue, convicted killer Ivan Moser (former NFL defensive lineman Lyle Alzado) gets sent to the electric chair. Unfortunately, setting the electric current at full blast short circuits the entire prison’s power, leading to a bloody rampage. A year and a half later, director Robert Edwards (a sassy Anthony Perkins) is shooting a women in prison horror movie entitled Death House Dolls. The more screenwriter David Harris (Clayton Rohner) asks the locals about Ivan Moser’s mysterious death, the more trouble he gets in with
For a schlocky horror movie made on the cheap, Destroyer sure takes its time to get to the kills. Prologue aside, we have to wait nearly 30 minutes into the picture for another. The death scenes are rather inventive (one involves a flamethrower and a bathroom stall), and Lyle Alzado makes a formidable presence as the killer who turns out not to be dead after all. Destroyer is the only theatrical film Robert Kirk directed, and it’s not the most impressive effort. At best, it comes off as a lesser episode of Tales From the Crypt with far too many close-ups. Things pick up towards the end when the picture turns into a C-level knock-off of The Terminator. Perkins is OK as the fussy director, but is given little to do besides roll his eyes and reference classic oldies like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?.
Edge of Sanity is by far the more interesting picture out of the double feature. It’s a loose Dr. Jekyll adaptation that feels like a lost early work of Paul Verhoeven. Its period setting and moody lighting give the movie far more class that one might expect. In this version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale, Dr. Jekyll (Anthony Perkins) is experimenting with cocaine as an anesthetic for use on patients. After a monkey knocks over some ether onto some of his cocaine supply, the fumes turn Dr. Jekyll in to Mr. Hyde (this scene is less funny than it sounds). After killing several prostitutes, his wife Elisabeth (Glynis Barber) starts to catch on that something not right is going on with her husband.
Perkins gives a restrained performance here in both roles. Mr. Hyde is wisely prosthetic-free with sunken red eyes and a pale face. Barber makes for a believable Mrs. Jekyll, although she has little to do except fret about what her husband is off doing at night. The murder scenes combine horror and eroticism in surprising, surreal ways. There are plenty of bodices to be ripped, but the decent acting and set design put this movie in a higher caliber that one might suspect. An abrupt ending hurts the picture, but it’s still worth a watch.
The picture quality on both movies is mediocre and full of grain. Destroyer has a bit of a sharper image than Edge of Sanity. Both movies has DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo tracks that feature decent sound quality. As is the case with most of these double features, there are no extras save for a lone trailer for each movie.