Originally lensed in 1967, CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND ("Die Blaue Hand") was a later entry in a long sting of German "krimis" films based on the writings of Edgar Wallace. This entry was shortened and released in the U.S. on a double bill with BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT in 1971. Always the great showman, Sam Sherman and Independent International later added some gore and extra footage and retitled it THE BLOODY DEAD for a late 80s home video release. This version didn't actually have a public view until the late 90s, when it was released on VHS as part of the short-lived "Very Strange Video" series. Now, for the first time, Image presents both versions on DVD.
Let's start with the original film, CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND. It concerns Dave Emerson (Klaus Kinski) who is committed to an asylum after being accused of murdering a gardener. Dave manages to escape, and makes his way back to his family estate, trying to convince his relations and Scotland Yard that his brother Richard (Kinski again) is the guilty party. In the meantime, a strange figure with a black hood and a knight's iron glove with deadly retractable claws is bumping off virtually everybody.
Put aside its undeserved bad reputation, and CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND is quite enjoyable and nicely paced. Although the English dubbing (including Kinski's voice) is laughable, the film is atmospheric, has some good suspense, as well as light touches of humor. The interiors are very impressive, and although the film is set in its present time-frame, it could almost be a period piece. Some of the memorable imagery include pranks with dressed mannequins, an inmate who is also an obsessive stripper, and a cell full of snakes and rats.
THE BLOODY DEAD takes CREATURE and adds a few minutes of new footage (trying to match sets and events) shot a fully 20 years after the original film. There are new sequences with a nurse (played by Australian actress Denise Coward), make-up man Ed French, and a couple of overweight cannibal inmates. Also, the various glove murders are now beefed up to more modern tastes with some gory inserts. The opening sequence where Kinksi is sentenced in a courtroom now appears at a later period. CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND actually works better without the new footage, so I suggest watching the original film first, and then watching BLOODY DEAD with the commentary.
Image's presentation of CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND looks pretty good. Colors are nice, and although its original aspect ratio appears to be cropped, no vital picture information seems to be missing. There is minimal speckling and dirt on the source print, but nothing too distracting. THE BLOODY DEAD utilizes the exact same print source for the CREATURE footage, but the newly shot scenes (shot specifically for the home medium) are a bit murky and underlit and don't look as good as the rest of the feature. The mono audio plays fine with no noticeable defects.
The primary extra is an audio commentary by Sam Sherman, featured for 40+ minutes on THE BLOODY DEAD. Another informative listen, Sherman explains how he sold the original film to Roger Corman (who added "Creature" to its title) for his newly formed New World Pictures, and how he managed to retain the TV rights. Sherman also explains how he shot the new footage in New Jersey for a proposed late 80s video release that was canceled due to a competing Mafia-owned VHS bootlegger who had the film out on the rental shelves at the same time! Very interesting stuff indeed!
Inside the disc, you'll find some excellent, fact-filled liner notes (with several rare BLOODY DEAD publicity photos) by Jim Arena. I have such a soft spot for his writing since he was seeing these films at drive-ins in my neighborhood, as well as watching them on one of my favorite late night TV programs: WOR Channel 9's "Fright Night." Other extras are carryovers from previously released Image discs: Theatrical trailers for BRIDES OF BLOOD, MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND, THE BLOOD DRINKERS, BEAST OF BLOOD, BRAIN OF BLOOD and BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRES (aka CURSE OF THE VAMPIRES) and the "House of Terror" live horror show promo. I wish they could include the original U.S. CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND trailer which promoted Klaus Kinski as the "new horror star!" (George R. Reis)
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