PREY (1977) Blu-ray/DVD combo
Director: Norman J. Warren
Vinegar Syndrome

A decade before Stuart Gordon's FROM BEYOND, British-accented aliens discovered humans are easy PREY in Vinegar Syndrome's Blu-ray/DVD combo of the Norman Warren lesbian gore sci-fi classic!

One night, an alien ship comes into Earth's orbit and alien Kator beams down into the middle of the English countryside. The bear-faced alien brutally murders a necking couple and takes over the body of the man Anderson (Barry Stokes, ENEMY MINE) and presents himself as a wounded, disoriented stranger to the residents of a nearby sprawling estate: young Jessica (Glory Annen, FELICITY) and her older companion Josephine (Sally Faulkner, VAMPYRES). Jessica is sympathetic and even intrigued by the stranger, but Josephine is repelled by him yet too dismissive to take his odd behavior beyond face value ("He's no weirder than any other man"). Growing jealous over Jessica's infatuation with Anderson, Josephine welcomes the man to stay if only to show him up to Jessica as nothing more than an animal. As Anderson fails to rise to her bait, Josephine becomes increasingly frustrated and less credible to Jessica as she becomes the one to insist that there is something wrong with the man; instead, Jessica starts to suspect that Josephine may have been behind the mysterious disappearance of their last male visitor. While Anderson has unknowingly become part of a psychosexual triangle, the women do not realize that his only real interest in is finding a food source that is "high in protein and easy prey."

Predating the trendsetting ALIEN, PREY has been likened to a sexed-up exploitation version of D.H. Lawrence's novel "The Fox" – previously adapted by Mark Rydell in 1967 with Sandy Dennis, Anne Heywood, and Kier Dullea – but it also feels somewhere between Harry Bromley Davenport's later tits and gore British sci-fi flick XTRO and Jose Ramon Larraz's SYMPTOMS. Although shot on a very low budget with a minimum of special effects, and only three principals on a Shepperton Studio backlot – including interiors from the house also scene in many an Amicus production – PREY holds interest not because of the nudity and gore but because the script provides enough for the human characters to work with in order for them to be more than inevitable victims, immersing the viewer in the love triangle that Josephine and Jessica believe they are in with the alien until the sticky climax. Faulkner and Annen play well off of each other, and Stokes' emotionless performance is also very effective in places (particularly when playing off the other two). Director Norman J. Warren's earlier SATAN'S SLAVE had previously combined a gothic setting with modern sex and gore. After his next film TERROR – a homage to Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA only in the sense that it was a series of supernatural stalk-and-kill set-pieces – Warren dabbled with sci-fi again with the sex comedy SPACED OUT and then the ALIEN-concurrent gore flick INSEMINOID (released stateside as HORROR PLANET). The film was released in Italy as TERROR AT AMITYVILLE PARK.

Unreleased theatrically stateside, PREY came to VHS uncut as ALIEN PREY from Comet Video, a sublabel created by Continental Video who featured highlights from the film on their TERROR ON TAPE compilation. When Image Entertainment released it on DVD as part of their Redemption line in 2004, it was the same cropped and cut master – a PAL-NTSC conversion running just under 78 minutes – that appeared on Anchor Bay's NORMAN J. WARREN COLLECTION coffin boxed set the same year in the UK (although the theatrical cut ran 84:36 at 24fps with BBFC cuts while subsequent tape releases were shorter even when one takes PAL speedup into account). While the Image DVD had a Warren interview, the UK DVD had a commentary track with Warren - moderated by Jonathan Rigby who points out the similarities between PREY and the Spanish CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER in which Stokes is a drifter in a triangle with Jean Seberg (BREATHLESS) and former child actress Marisol - as well as an extra featurette on the fifth bonus disc. When Kino Lorber started distributing Redemption, PREY was reissued in 2009 utilizing the same transfer but featuring a new commentary track by Warren and actress Faulkner as well as a different featurette. Vinegar Syndrome's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen Blu-ray is derived from a 2K scan of the original camera negative, restoring information to the sides of the frame that balance out compositions and keep the opening and closing credits in the frame. Colors are slightly richer and detail is improved, although not always to the film's benefit since Stokes' prosthetic alien snout does not mesh with the rest of his skin and the dead fox now looks much more like a stuffed animal. The image is virtually spotless apart from reel change marks. The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono track boasts clear dialogue, a sparse effects track, and an emphatic electronic score by Ivor Slaney (DEATH SHIP) which was released in 2009 on CD with his score for TERROR.

Extras include an audio commentary by director Warren and actress Faulkner in which the director recalls that producer Terry Marcel was an assistant director on major British productions and had just finished working on one of the Pink Panther series and got the idea to use the Shepperton facilities for a low budget horror film, having three weeks pre-production with no finished script, and how the slump in British filmmaking during this period (aside from the occasional Pink Panther, James Bond, or Star Wars entry) availed him of top talent behind the camera. He also credits art director Hayden Pierce (THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR) who had to furnish the Shepperton studio house with available props and furnishings, resulting in an eclectic look to go with the rooms of the house which had been altered for use in different productions. Faulkner initially just reacts to Warren's comments but becomes a more active participant once she starts to recall the story, particularly the hints at backstory around which she built her character. They recall the lesbian angle (with Faulkner snarking that the bits of her and Annen wandering hand-in-hand throughout the countryside look like they came from a David Hamilton calendar), obligatory sex scene, the catfight, handling real weapons on the set, the physicality of the roles (including what Stokes had to endure with contact lenses that dried out his eyes, a prosthetic snout that he could not breathe through, and fangs that could puncture his palette if he moved his mouth), and how the three cast members had to get tetanus injections after doing the scene in the sludgy lake during which all three swallowed mouthfuls of the water (although shooting in slow motion meant that they were in the water for less time than it seemed).

“Directing the Prey” (21:57) is a new interview with Warren in which he reiterates many of the stories from the commentary while also discussing the casting, the make-up work of seasoned Harry Frampton (THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD), and newly assessing Annen's debut performance. In “Becoming the Prey” (13:56), Faulkner recalls liking to play nasty characters and finding the character engaging, the physicality of the role, and the contrast of the commune-like atmosphere on the set with the drama in the film. In “Producing the Prey” (7:17), producer Marcel also covers the origins of the project coming off one of the Pink Panther films, involving Warren and the script by Max Cuff coming in fragments as production started, as well as shooting on short ends which was common practice with low-budget American films but was unheard for technicians working in studio conditions on major productions. The film's British theatrical trailer (1:00) is also included. The film's British theatrical trailer (1:00) is also included. The Blu-ray/DVD combo comes packaged with a reversible cover. (Eric Cotenas)