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Dark Sky Films presents
Violent Midnight (1963)

Dolores: Do you think he looked at me through the window just now?
Adrian: Through the window? Max is many things, my dear, but not so far as I know, a voyeur.
Dolores: A what?
Adrian: A peeping tom.
Dolores: Oh stop kidding me.

- Kaye Elhardt, Shepperd Strudwick

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: March 29, 2006

Stars: Lee Phillips
Other Stars: Jean Hale, James Farentino, Dick Van Patten, Shepperd Strudwick, Lorraine Rogers, Kaye Elhardt, Margot Hartman, Sheila Forbes, Sylvia Miles, Day Tuttle, Mike O'Dowd
Director: Richard Hilliard

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:32m:31s
Release Date: March 28, 2006
UPC: 030306773292
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- B-BB B+

DVD Review

Violent Midnight was originally released in 1963 as Psychomania, and neither title is particularly accurate or representative of the film itself. Whatever you call it, it remains a highly watchable B-movie, produced by Del Tenney (Horror of Party Beach, Zombies), with this Richard Hilliard-directed whodunit following a wealthy, troubled artist considered the numero uno suspect in a series of brutal murders, true to form, in a town with more suspects than you can shake a stick at. Lee Philips is the tortured Korean War vet/artist with some serious daddy issues, and when the body count starts rising Dick Van Patten shows up as a kindly police detective sent in to follow the clues.

As an example of second-tier early 1960s filmmaking, Violent Midnight mixes a fair amount of mildly exploitative nudity with a familiar story of a mysterious killer apparently framing our misunderstood lead with a payoff that may not completely baffle seasoned genre fans. But that's not to say this is completely awful, because Hilliard and Tenney cram this one with a gamut of mismatched supporting (and suspicious) characters, including tight-sweatered college girls, hard-drinking tough guys (an early role for James Farentino), a peeping tom professor and a towering mute bodyguard played by hulking ex-boxer Max O'Dowd.

And even if Lee Philips was a particularly bland leading man here—tortured or not—the rest of the film has a tendency to work as a genre title because of these colorful secondary players. Shepperd Strudwick's cane-toting lawyer and Day Tuttle's horny prof seem more alive than Philips, and Jean Hale provides the requisite good girl eye candy while the likes of Kaye Elhardt, Sheila Forbes, and Lorraine Rogers get to apply copious amounts of bad girl sexual temptations. I never really cared who the killer was, or why for that matter, but I liked the universe of characters that surrounded Philips, just because they were a hell of lot more fun.

It's hard to completely fault a film where unnecessary college girl showering and nude models get lumped in with a trenchcoat-wearing, knife-wielding killer. Some of the acting is questionable, but there's a throwback charm to a film like this, and the exploitation edge really helps out. It isn't an especially well-known title, and to their credit Dark Sky has been coming through with a library full of similar releases in recent months.

This is a hip little discovery.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 black-and-white transfer looks quite good, considering the film's age and its B-movie roots. A few instances of specking, but very, very moderate, and overall the print is full of strong contrast levels and dark blacks. Grain issues are minimal, but more evident in certain scenes (such as the opening) than in others. Not a flawless transfer, but an impressive one for a small niche title such as this.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in 2.0 mono, and the track is largely hiss-free throughout. Nothing flashy, but dialogue is always clear and serviceable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Horror of Party Beach, The Curse of the Living Corpse
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Del Tenney, Shade Rupe
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Kudos to the extras, because there's a wonderful commentary here from Del Tenney, moderated by Dark Sky's Shade Rupe, and the soft-spoken track does a fine job tracing not just the film's history and origins, but Tenney's as well. Rupe does some modest prodding with questions, but it's mostly all Tenney, whose recollections for this 1963 film are still rather vivid.

There's also a short photo gallery of assorted poster art and lobby cards, as well as some stills from the film. Dark Sky has packaged the disc in a clear case, with additional artwork/chapter info visible on the inside. The disc is cut into 17 chapters, with optional subtitles in English.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Here's a fun 1960s B-grade noir thriller peppered with a wee bit of nudity and some occasional campy acting, released as part of Dark Sky's unofficial Del Tenney collection. A whodunit with more red herrings than I could count, Violent Midnight (or Psychomania as it was originally known) is aided by an informative commentary from Tenney, and that's a real plus for this release.

 


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