Blu-ray Review: Delightful Camp and Horror in PARANOIAC
Blu-Ray Review: Paranoiac
Ah, Hammer Horror, a happy (ish) gateway drug to the more horrific, violent, terrifying modern films of today. Hammer was known for mainly campy and gothic bodice-ripping films, dripping with lurid colors and malice, along with a certain off-the-rails glee.
Though Paranoiac (released in 1963) is one of Hammer’s earlier films in their horror repertoire, the story is lensed with this trademark salaciousness. Though in a supporting role, Oliver Reed (The Brood, Gladiator) takes over every frame he’s in with his massive presence and unhinged performance. Watching the film for him alone is worth it. Watching any film for his jaw-dropping theatrics is worth it.
Then there’s also the extremely unsettling visuals and breath-taking character motivations in the third act. Along with Michael Powell’s (of Powell and Pressburger fame; The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus) Peeping Tom, Paranoiac is a prototypical slasher — and a very effective one.
Though directed by Freddie Francis (Tales From the Crypt, The Evil of Frankenstein) in a campier style for most of the film’s running time, Paranoiac is still quite horrifying in certain moments. (Francis and Terrence Fisher were Hammer's best and most successful directors. Francis was also a celebrated cinematographer who shot Glory, The Elephant Man, and Scorsese’s Cape Fear.)
In the film, we follow the psychological adventures and anguish of the supremely gaslit protagonist, Eleanor Ashby (Jeanette Scott). She lives in an enormous mansion, by way of the Gothic rules, with her brother Simon (Reed), Aunt Harriet (Shelia Burrell), and her nurse, with whom the course Simon happens to be sleeping with.
At the memorial service for Eleanor and Simon’s long-dead brother Tony, a man appears in the shadows, causing Eleanor to faint. And he keeps showing up, nearly giving the almost-indestructible Simon a heart attack. You see, this guy is a (haha) dead ringer for Tony.
I hate to spoil the film, but it’s so well-constructed, and there’s enough red herrings to keep you guessing. Paranoiac is an enjoyable, twisted tale that author V.C. Andrews must have seen before she wrote Flowers in the Attic. Then again, there’s a whole long, Gothic tradition of this kind of scandalous entanglement.
The film’s 2K presentation is breathtaking. Scream Factory/Shout Factory has done an incredible job here, and this underseen film is now truly in a presentation format that should absolutely be seen by thriller and horror film fans. Sound is excellent as well.
• NEW 2K Scan From The Interpositive
• NEW Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck
• NEW Drink To Deception – An Interview With Author/Film Historian Kim Newman
• NEW A Toast To Terror – An Interview With Author/Film Historian Jonathan Rigby
• The Making Of Hammer’s PARANOIAC Hosted By Author Wayne Kinsey
• Theatrical Trailer
• Still Gallery
The featurettes are a bit on the dry side, but film historian Kim Newman is always fun to watch and listen to speak about British films.
If you haven’t seen this bonkers slice of weirdo cinema, you can fix that by heading over to Scream Factory’s page for the film here.
- Freddie Francis
- Jimmy Sangster
- Josephine Tey
- Janette Scott
- Oliver Reed
- Sheila Burrell