The first two films in the unrelated CURSE series get high definition OAR releases courtesy of Shout! Factory's Scream Factory line.
"Wil Wheaton from STAND BY ME must stand alone against THE CURSE" as Zack, a put-upon teenager living with his sister Alice (Amy Wheaton) and mother Frances (Kathleen Jordon Gregory) on the Tellico Plains, Tennessee farm of her new husband Nathan Crane (Claude Akins, TENTACLES) and his bullying son Cyrus (Malcolm Danare, CHRISTINE). The farm is failing and Nathan has pinned his hopes on a new well providing irrigation for his crops. On the same night that Nathan discovers his sexually-frustrated wife cuckolding him with hirsute farmhand Mike (Steve Davis, BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS), a meteor crashes into his farm. Sleazy local real estate agent Charlie Davidson (Steve Carlisle, SONNY BOY), who is buying up property in the area in hopes of profiteering off of a proposed reservoir project, discourages business partner and local doctor Alan Forbes (Cooper Huckabee, THE FUNHOUSE) from contacting the EPA over his concerns after investigating the object. When the meteorite melts into the soil and mixes with the well water, Nathan's fortunes seem to take a turn for the good as his crops sprout to life overnight. When the ripe apples are revealed to be teeming with worms, tomatoes and lettuce disgorge slime, animals turn aggressive, and Frances starts exhibiting signs of madness, the religious Nathan believes that his farm is being punished for her sins. Zack comes to believe that the well water and he takes steps to protect himself and his sister while everyone and everything else on the farm seems to be rotting from the inside outwards.
Based on the H.P. Lovecraft story "The Colour Out of Space" – previously adapted by American International as DIE MONSTER, DIE! and more recently in Italy by Ivan Zuccon as COLOUR FROM THE DARK and in Germany as DIE FARBE – THE CURSE began life as THE FARM from a screenplay by David Chaskin (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE) through Trans World Entertainment. Co-producer Ovidio G. Assonitis (who receives both executive producer and producer credits) had used Italian crews on his directorial efforts and brought in ZOMBIE's Lucio Fulci (credited as "associate producer Louis Fulci") to direct the Italian-shot special effects sequences while direction of the actors was handled by actor David Keith (WHITE OF THE EYE). The principal performances are mostly decent but the film's unevenness plays like one of the tone deaf Italian genre production lensed in the states during this period by the likes of Joe D'Amato's Filmirage. The Southern setting is even farther away from Lovecraft's eldritch New England settings than DIE MONSTER, DIE!'s English manor house, and the worm storms are about as close as the film gets to Fulci's horrors, but the Italianate oddness of the production does set it apart from much of the (mostly better) low budget genre product of the period. Although John Schneider (THE DUKES OF HAZZARD) as a Tennessee Valley Authority surveyor is nominally the hero, Huckabee's conflicted character actually does all of the investigation while Schneider pops up for a couple innocuous scenes before playing the hero during the climax. The scope photography of Roberto Forges Davanzati (AMERICAN NINJA 5) is alternately artful and workmanlike while the scoring of Franco Micalizzi (THE VISITOR) consists predominately of twangy guitars and synthesizer choral voices.
THE CURSE came to VHS in a panned-and-scanned transfer from Media, and MGM's DVD double-bill with CURSE II: THE BITE was an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that fell short of the original scope ratio. The MGM DVD also presented the film in its international version (90:25) which had some extra bits include an extended ending that resolves the pre-credits teaser (although seemingly with a double for the actor) and some "it's not over yet" ropey miniatures. MGM's 1.85:1 transfer made sense of the compositions over Media's softish, squeezed and panned-and-scanned transfer, and Scream Factory's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer provides a better sense of compositional balance throughout. The Dolby Stereo soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with optional English SDH subtitles. The sole extra is the TWE theatrical trailer (1:42).
In CURSE 2: THE BITE, Clark (J. Eddie Peck, LAMBADA) and his country singer hopeful girlfriend Lisa (Jill Schoelen, POPCORN) unknowingly pick up a slithery hitchhiker while taking an ill-advised shortcut through nuclear testing site Yellow Sands on the way to California. Clark is bitten by the snake but traveling medical salesman Harry Morton (Jamie Farr, M*A*S*H) identifies the culprit as a chicken snake and gives him an antidote and the couple are back on the road. When Harry examines the dead snake (which Lisa has beaten to death with her guitar after finding it in her motel bed), he identifies the bushmaster as bearing signs of mutation but also realizes that he has given Clark the wrong antidote. As Harry takes to the road and tries to track down the couple with his CB radio and trucker friends – including old flame Big Flo (Marianne Muellerleile, THE TERMINATOR) – Clark starts exhibiting strange behavior that has Lisa questioning his sanity and the El Paso county sheriff (Bo Svenson, HEARTBREAK RIDGE) assuming that he is a junkie. To his horror, Clark discovers that his infected hand has taken on a mind of its own and starts killing as it undergoes a slimy mutation that starts to spread to the rest of his body.
Although produced by Assonitis, CURSE 2: THE BITE bears no relation to THE CURSE but would be marketed on video as a sequel by TransWorld (when the TransWorld library became part of the Epic library distributed by Columbia/Tri-Star, they would retitled the South African production PANGA as CURSE III: BLOOD SACRIFICE and the shelved Empire Pictures production CATACOMBS as CURSE IV: THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE). Boasting effects by Screaming Mad George (SOCIETY) are more imaginative than convincing, CUSRE 2: THE BITE takes its lead from Cronenberg's THE FLY with a romance too bland to be tragic and spiked by moments of gore that lead to Clark's inevitable full-body transformation (surprisingly, the film's climax makes nothing of the sexual contact Clark and Lisa have had post-infection). The supporting cast includes turns by Sydney Lassick (THE UNSEEN) as Georgie the motel clerk, a young Shiri Appleby (TV's ROSWELL) as the daughter of a Christian farming couple (PALE RIDER's Terrence Evans and BEYOND THE DOOR III's Savina Gersak) who provide Clark with shelter while he is on the run from the police. Cinematography duties this time around go to Assonitis regular Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli (BEYOND THE DOOR) while Carlo Maria Cordio (KILLING BIRDS) provides a synth score that runs together with much of his work from the period with only the end title theme standing out just because it seems more suited to his Joe D'Amato softcore outings (the soundtrack is available on MP3 through Amazon as compilations of his work from the Flipper Music library). Production designer Billy Jett (Dario Argento's TRAUMA) had served as property master on THE CURSE while second unit cinematographer Adolfo Bartoli would move up to principle DP on Assonitis' AMOK TRAIN which he sold in the states and some other territories as BEYOND THE DOOR III.
Released to home video by Trans World Entertainment, CURSE 2: THE BITE first hit DVD release from France in a fullscreen transfer and MGM's CURSE double feature also recycled TransWorld's fullscreen video master (the Japanese laserdisc and VHS were reportedly letterboxed). Scream Factory's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer bears the onscreen title THE BITE (as did international prints while the TWE VHS and MGM DVD had a video burn CURSE 2: THE BITE title card). Like BEYOND THE DOOR III, the film was lensed in flat 35mm rather than Super 35mm but composed for 2.35:1 matting; therefore, the fullscreen video master was blown-up slightly, losing some information on the sides but revealing more vertical information than the widescreen version (which does look better composed). Working from the sole remaining film element in MGM's vaults, the results are more than serviceable with only a few specs here and there, reel change marks, some jittering in one scene, while most of the haze comes from the diffuse lighting sources of the interiors while the exteriors during the opening seem to have been slightly overexposed to give the setting more of scorching appearance. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 rendering of the Dolby Stereo soundtrack gives more emphasis to the snake sound effects than it does to Cordio's score, and the optional English SDH subtitles do have one or two errors. There are no extras. (Eric Cotenas)
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