THE OUTING (1980)/THE GODSEND (1987) Blu-ray
Directors: Tom Daley/Gabrielle Beaumont
Scream Factory/Shout! Factory

Scream Factory gives an HD upgrade to two of its MGM horror acquisitions they previously released on DVD from tape masters with THE OUTING and THE GODSEND.

In THE OUTING, the grisly murder of an extremely elderly Arab woman in her house by quickly dispatched robbers reveals a horde of antiquities from the Middle East (including a 3,500 year old lamp). The items wind up at the Texas Museum of Natural History where Dr. Wallace’s (James Huston, THE BOSTONIANS) BLOSSOM-hat-wearing daughter Alex (Andra St. Ivanyi) rubs the lamp and unleashes a malevolent Claymation djinn (voiced by Jackson Bostwick, the odd ranger hero of THE PREY). The djinn possesses Alex and convinces her high school friends to spend the night with her in the museum. They are not the only unwanted visitors since Alex’s rapey ex-boyfriend Mike (Red Mitchell, FOREVER EVIL) and his buddy Tony (André Chimène) have also snuck into the museum in order to get even with Alex and her boyfriend (Scott Bankston); but the djinn has plans for all of them.

Released overseas under the more fitting title THE LAMP, the Texas-lensed THE OUTING – no more commercial a title, and not to be confused with Byron Quisenberry’s literal 1981 sleeper released as SCREAM – should be a guilty pleasure with attractive teens having sex and being gorily dispatched (it also predates WISHMASTER with its malevolent djinn character). That said, its exploitation elements are often simply unpleasant: from Mike’s battering of Alex (despite his subsequent ass-kicking) to the rape of one of her friends. Associate producer Deborah Winters (BLUE SUNSHINE) plays three roles in the film (well, two in the US version): Alex’s ass-kicking teacher (who is secretly dating her father) and the Arab woman under make-up; but she seems more to be “filling in” since her principal character actually has little influence on the story (which pretty much precedes exactly how one expects it will). The film does feature some interesting and attractive production design by Robert Burns (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE), make-up effects by John Naulin (FROM BEYOND) and Gabe Bartalos (LEPRECHAUN), and visual effects by exploitation director David L. Hewitt (THE WIZARD OF MARS).

THE OUTING was released in two versions internationally. The US R-rated theatrical version from Skouras Pictures (87:57) was released on VHS by International Video Entertainment in 1986, the hazy 1" tape master of which was presumably the source from the version on Scream Factory's two-disc, four-film double feature (reviewed HERE) with this disc's co-feature THE GODSEND, the blackly comic THE VAGRANT, and Curtis Harrington's WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN the odd one out. International prints of the film bore the original title THE LAMP (88:52) and featured a period flashback sequence under the opening credits (the US credits were on black) in which a ship carrying artifacts from Damascus reaches the Texas Gulf Coast port with the crew slaughtered, with a young Arab woman (the third of Walters roles in the film) as the only survivor. It’s strange that this sequence was deleted from the US releases because it adds some production value to the film, although it is not essential. This version was released in the UK on VHS, and then later on VHS-quality barebones DVD, but with BBFC-mandated cuts to the rape scene (which may or may not be a plus).

Scream Factory's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 encode, surprisingly, is the full international version (88:54) with THE LAMP opening title sequence but with the offending footage deleted from the UK tape and disc intact. Gone is the haze that blanketed the previous video master, and the image is sharp enough to betray the pattern of the scrim used to diffuse the light in exterior day scenes in a few shots. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 encoding of the Ultra Stereo track improves a little over the previous master as well, with the chiming musical motif associated with the djinn and some directional effects seeming to have a bit more width. Optional English subtitles are another new addition.

In THE GODSEND, artist Alan Marlowe (Malcolm Stoddard, RAIN ON THE ROOF) and his aspiring writer wife Kate (Cyd Hayman, MASK OF MURDER) live in the country with their four children. One day they are visited by a strange young pregnant woman (Angela Pleasence, SYMPTOMS) who goes into labor and disappears the next morning leaving the baby behind. Although Kate immediately becomes attached to the child, Alan is uncertain about keeping her until their infant son dies in the crib shared by the two children. In order to help Kate get over the death, he agrees to adopt whom they christen Bonnie (“because of her bonnie blue eyes”). As Bonnie grows up, she becomes more attached to Kate and starts to come between her and Alan. When their older son Davy mysteriously drowns on a picnic outing, Alan gets the first inkling that something may not be right with Bonnie despite the fact that she’s only a toddler. He is even more suspicious when middle son Sam and daughter are afraid to be alone with Bonnie. Sam’s accidental death drives the family to the city, not because of bad memories but because of harassment from suspicious locals and the local press. When Alan believes he witnesses Bonnie attempt to kill daughter Lucy, he insists that they send Bonnie away; but Kate will not hear of it, and Bonnie seems determined to have her mother to herself.

Based on a 1975 novel by Bernard Taylor (MOTHER’S BOYS) of the same name, Cannon’s THE GODSEND was likely greenlit after the success of THE OMEN but it plays like an overlong HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR episode – somewhere between “Growing Pains” and “The House That Bled to Death” (both of which were shot the same year by the film’s cinematographer Norman Warwick) – without the gruesomeness despite the body count consisting entirely of children. The placid atmosphere of the film’s first half extends not only to the score by Roger Webb (BURKE & HARE) but also to the pacing and the execution. The camera often cutting away from the discovery of the deaths before any hysterics to later that night or the next day after the parents have calmed down; as such, there are just disturbing incidents rather than horror set-pieces. Neither Pleasence’s disquieting stare nor Stoddard’s uneasiness can wring out any tension from the opening or the circular ending scenes. In spite of the film’s demerits, seeing it for the first time (especially on a wintry day) is like discovering a lost British horror film (of which there were precious few in the early 1980s outside of the television medium). The screenplay was written by actor Olaf Pooley who had previously written and co-starred in the more ambiguous, arty, and atmospheric CRUCIBLE OF HORROR produced by THE GODSEND’s director Gabrielle Beaumont for Cannon's earlier incarnation run by Christopher Dewey and Dennis Friedland (who serves as executive producer here alongside Golan and Globus). Beaumont has few features under her belt, but she does have a wealth of episodic British and American television from the 1970s onwards (although her only other genre credits are an episode of HAMMER HOUSE OF MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE and an adaptation of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” for the short-lived Showtime NIGHTMARE CLASSICS series). Patrick Barr (THE HOUSE OF WHIPCORD's blind judge) appears as the family’s physician and confidante.

Previously released on VHS in 1983 by Vestron, THE GODSEND arrived on the aforementioned Scream Factory DVD set in an interlaced, drab-looking, anamorphic widescreen (1.66:1) transfer. Their 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is rarely impeded by the vertical cropping, and the image is sharper while maintaining the customary seventies softness (with diffusion causing some slightly blooming in the whites and highlights in exteriors). The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 encoding of the mono track gives a richer rendition of the film's score than the older SD transfer. According to the BBFC, THE GODSEND was released theatrically in 1980 with a 90:27 running time. The 86:06 running time of the Scream Factory DVD transfer (85:55 on the Blu-ray) would have suggested a PAL-to-NTSC conversion if not for the fact that the BBFC also lists the PAL running time of the 1986 Rank video release as 82:19 seconds. This suggests that the film was trimmed down for international exhibition after the UK theatrical release, and that version ended up on videotape (the Cannon production LINK ran 115 minutes in its UK theatrical release but all subsequent editions have been the 102 minute international cut). The only extra is a trailer for THE GODSEND (1:55) but the uncut version of THE OUTING and the video upgrade of both titles should be irresistible for the films' fans. (Eric Cotenas)