ONE DARK NIGHT (1982) Blu-ray
Director: Tom McLoughlin
Code Red Releasing

Before TEX, Meg Tilly spent a "night in the crypt" in the 1980s horror pic ONE DARK NIGHT, on Blu-ray from Code Red Releasing.

Jealous of her jock ex-boyfriend Steve's (David Mason Daniels, HARRY'S WAR) interest in "good girl" Julie (Tilly), "mean girl" Carol (Robin Evans, RAGE OF HONOR) and her cohorts Leslie (Elizabeth Daily, PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE) and Kitty (Leslie Speights) cook up a very special initiation stunt for Julie to join their clique: to spend a night in the local mausoleum. Dosed with Demerol, Julie starts hearing strange noises, seeing moving severed limbs, and is attacked by shrouded phantoms as the girls endeavor to give Julie the fright of her life. Unbeknownst to them, the mausoleum's most recent deposit is "psychic vampire" Raymar who was found dead of apparent natural causes (in his apartment with the bodies of six young women) but has no intention of resting in peace.

A memorable slice of eighties horror which frightened more than its share of younger viewers due to its PG rating (the filmmakers thought they would get an R-rating despite the removal of some profanity at the behest of the film's Utah-based Mormon backers), ONE DARK NIGHT boats atmospheric photography, striking production design (the mausoleum set a particularly ambitious construction for the film's $800,000 budget), and some creepy corpses provided by Tom Burman (predating his studio work with Universal's CAT PEOPLE remake) and crew. Although the storyline of a character spending the night in a creepy location with the intention of scaring them only for an authentic supernatural force to assert itself is nothing new, the film's backstory of Raymar's experiments as relayed by colleague Dockstader (Donald Hotton, THE HEARSE) to the man's daughter Olivia (Melissa Newman, daughter composer Randy Newman not the like-named daughter of Paul Newman) – who has been having visions of her father's crimes and prescient ones of Julie's plight – makes the former aspect seem like padding for the latter, particularly as Tilly has nothing to do but run around terrified (only slightly more than prominently billed Adam West as Olivia's attorney husband) before getting sidelined for an extended period for cutaways to Steve trying to track her down and the other girls getting their just desserts. While a less-satisfying viewing this time around, the film still has much to savor for eighties horror fans and makes for popcorn viewing on a stormy night.

Released theatrically by the short-lived Comworld Pictures (THE FINAL TERROR), ONE DARK NIGHT earned most of its cult following through Thorn EMI Home Video's dark VHS release. Media Blasters' Shriek Show treated the film to a double-disc special edition in 2005 with an anamorphic transfer of the theatrical cut and the workprint of the director's cut on a second disc but the quality of the theatrical cut left something to be desired. Code Red's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray is a definite improvement on the DVD but there is only so much that can be done as both had to depend on a composite of best material from a number of prints due to defunct Comworld's handling of the elements before they came into the possession of Liberty International (during the Shriek Show days) and successor Multicom who licensed the title for Code Red. At its best, the image is in keeping with the better non-negative transfers of the film's eighties genres contemporaries (despite the low budget, this is a professionally-shot production under controlled studio conditions for the most part) while there are occasional scratches, dirt and debris, marks, and a rare torn frame at a shot change. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is relatively clean – enough to notice for the first time that the end title theme is so different from the rest of the score that it might have been a pre-existing piece by seasoned composer Bob Summers (BEYOND DEATH'S DOOR) that was repurposed for the film – and the dialogue is always clear.
The film is accompanied by two audio commentary tracks. The first track from the Shriek Show release includes director/co-writer Tom McLoughlin (JASON LIVES: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI) and co-writer Michael Hawes (FAMILY REUNION) who reveal that the concept came out of McLoughlin's visit to the Paris catacombs and Hawes' interest in psychic research, including the concept of psychic vampirism. He describes the original opening, his penchant for "Fellini" casting of extra faces, the producers' interference (including an on-set Mormon backer to monitor the content) including the addition of voiceovers to fill in the silence over McLoughlin's attempts at "pure cinema", as well as being informed of the similarities between the film and POLTERGEIST by Spielberg DP Allen Daviau. The new audio commentary by McLoughlin and producer Michael Schroeder (TORCHLIGHT) who go into more detail about the changes made to the final cut without their involvement (including crediting McLoughlin as "Thomas" from his driver's license) after cutting down their budget from the promised one million. The full workprint cut of the film (89:55) is also included in its entirety with the original intended opening in downtown Los Angeles (the dream sequence was added in post-production with footage meant to illustrate Dockstader's description of Raymar's experiments to Olivia) and the title card A NIGHT IN THE CRYPT. The extended Panaglide tracking shot uses different angles and there are no cutaways to the cracked marble of Raymar's crypt. If anything, the workprint illustrates the improvements made with reshoots before the producers had their say with the editing, although the ending in the workprint is definitely superior. Image quality is variable but it is there is not a lot that could be done with the videotape source. Also carried over from the Shriek Show disc is the "R.I.P.” documentary (38:52) which is actually a montage of behind the scenes video from the shoot with picture-in-picture of the scenes in the finished film, revealing the artifice of the mausoleum sets as well as the chaos of the downtown Los Angeles shoot for the opening.

Also included are a selection of newly recorded interviews, including McLoughlin (16:15) who goes into more detail about his subsequent projects in film – among them DATE WITH AN ANGEL and FRIDAY THE 13TH – as well as his more prolific work on television, including Lifetime movies and Stephen King's SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK which went out as an anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 feature in Europe and was cropped to fullscreen to debut on television stateside. Actress Daily (32:03) discusses studying with Tilly before being cast, her typecasting in quirky roles, and her newfound genre fame in her Rob Zombie roles while producer Michael Schroeder (14:42) – interviewed in the former studio location used for the mausoleum – reveals that he was the film's production manager but ended up replacing the producer, and that the film was part of a three picture deal with Comworld. He also discusses his subsequent credits as assistant director and then director, including the reshoot for HIGHLANDER 2. In his interview, (18:15) cinematographer Hal Trussell (THE NAKED CAGE) surmises that film buff McLoughlin selected him because of his connection to François Truffaut (JULES AND JIM) via cinematographer Nestor Almendros (DAYS OF HEAVEN). He describes the ways in which McLouglin collaborated with him on the look of the film as well as the need to do in-camera effects, requiring slower framerates and push-processing to expose the Tesla coil effects. He also reveals that the producers double-crossed him and did not allow him to color correct the film's answer print.

McLoughlin's wife actress Nancy Mott appears in an interview (10:53) in which she discusses appearing in her husband's short films, how lucky he was in being so prepared to pitch the film since he had been developing the idea for some time, and her activities behind the scenes during the shoot. She also reveals that Hotton was her acting teacher and that she replaced Evans in the reshoots. Production designer Craig Stearns (10:40) reveals that he went to film school to be a cinematographer but found production design more appealing because it offered greater input into the overall look of the film. He had already worked on HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, and JUST BEFORE DAWN (assisted on those projects by Randy Moore as he was here), and that he had collaborated with McLoughlin and Trussell on the film's Tesla coil lighting effects. He also discusses his work on the Stephen King TV miniseries adaptations that extended to directing second unit scenes. Makeup effects artist Paul Clemens (17:07) discusses his fascination with make-up effects, meeting Dick Smith (THE EXORCIST), and meeting Burman on THE BEAST WITHIN. Of ONE DARK NIGHT, he reveals that he and Burman consulted the "Color Atlas of Forensic Pathology" for the corpse designs, and that actual skeletons imported from India were used in the film (this practice is now illegal). He also discusses subsequent credits on THE OUTING/THE LAMP and THE HAUNTING OF WINCHESTER HOUSE as well as his work in custom monster mask designs. Clemens shows up again "Photos from Paul Clemens Personal Collection" (3:28) showing off some of his mask designs and production photographs. The film's theatrical trailer is also included, and appears to be an assemblage of clips from the film with no narration. The title is distributed by Kino Lorber but a limited run from Ronin Flix will include a slipcover. (Eric Cotenas)