Release Date(s)1981 (August 25, 2020)
Studio(s)Fulvia Film/Almi Pictures/Levy Films (Blue Underground)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A-
When The House by the Cemetery (aka Quella villa accanto al cimitero) premiered in Italy in 1981, Lucio Fulci was in the midst of a career renaissance with Zombie, City of the Living Dead, The Beyond, and The Black Cat. Taking influences from The Shining, The Amityville Horror, and the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, this blood-soaked tale of a family moving into a country home inhabited by a hidden murderous presence intent on slaughtering everyone who enters was highly successful, but wasn’t released in the US until 1984.
In the film, Norman and Lucy Boyle (Paolo Malco and Catriona MacColl), and their son Bob (Giovanni Frezza), move from New York to an abandoned New England house where a former colleague of Norman’s is said to have gone insane before committing suicide. Their real estate agent, Mrs. Gittleson (Dagmar Lassander), attempts to hide the history of the house, but Norman does his own digging, becoming more and more curious about its past. While under the care of his new babysitter Ann (Ania Pieroni), Bob begins receiving regular visits from Mae (Silvia Collatina), an odd little girl who warns him to stay away from the house. Unbeknownst to all of them, a ghoulish murderer dwells within the boarded up basement, waiting for them to find him.
The House by the Cemetery is much tamer to Fulci’s previous films by comparison. By this time, his name had become ubiquitous with Italian horror, specifically for his extreme uses of violence and gore (later on receiving accusations of misogyny for The New York Ripper). Though the film contains a severe throat-cutting sequence, as well as an extended scene of a repeated stabbing via a fireplace poker, it’s not quite as grisly as Fulci’s previous work. However, it does offer an effective villain, whose child-like cries are enough to send shivers up anyone’s spine.
Throughout the 1980s and beyond, the film had a number of home video releases from different labels in different versions. Many of the criticisms laid against it spawned from its reels sometimes being shown out of order, making it more of a joke than intended. Also hampering it was the young Giovanni Frezza, whose girlish voice in the English dub, as well as his blonde moppet-like appearance, was excruciating to many. At best, The House by the Cemetery is a mixed bag, but it brings enough interesting material to the table to make it worth the effort.
The House by the Cemetery was shot on 35 mm film in Techniscope. It was finished on film as a cut negative with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The 66GB double layered Ultra HD is sourced from a 4K 16-bit scan of the original uncut and uncensored camera negative (also used for the recent Limited Edition Blu-ray release). It features a high dynamic range color grade in Dolby Vision (with HDR10 available as well). The accuracy of the film’s color palette has always been debatable on previous releases. The original Blu-ray bordered on anemic and the subsequent Blu-ray pumped more obvious blue into the palette. This new release is a happy medium between the two, giving skylines a more natural tint while still maintaining the light blue present on the sides of the house. The rest of palette is much more boosted thanks to the HDR pass, allowing for more depth in the interiors of the house with healthy blacks, crimson reds, and higher levels of fine detail than anything previous. Grain levels are organic with a steady but smooth appearance and the overall image is clean and stable throughout. The amount of disc space and higher encode allow the presentation more breathing room as well.
The audio is included in English Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 and 1.0 DTS-HD, and Italian 1.0 DTS-HD. Subtitle options include English SDH, French, Spanish, and English for the Italian Audio. The new Dolby Atmos track does a much better job at spacing out the film’s original mono soundtrack than the 5.1 track does, though a slight volume adjustment might need to be made depending on one’s setup. Many will likely want to stick with the original Italian track due to how awful the dubbing for Bob’s character is, which is admittedly atrocious. The 5.1 doesn’t offer much in terms of dynamics or a wide sound field, meaning there’s no ambient activity that’s spread out successfully that wasn’t already there in the original mono. Conversely, the score gets the biggest boost out of the extra space. The English mono is much of the same, just without the additional room to breathe. The Italian mono is much flatter with lower treble. It also features minor hiss and not as much push for the score. It’s a more natural option as the dialogue, also dubbed, is more authentic to what was actually shot, though your mileage may vary.
The following bonus materials are also included:
DISC ONE: UHD (FILM)
- Audio Commentary by Author and Film Historian Troy Howarth
- Deleted Scene (SD – 1:00)
- International Theatrical Trailer (HD – 3:22)
- US Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:47)
- TV Spot (SD – 0:32)
- Poster & Still Gallery #1 (HD – 71 in all)
- Poster & Still Gallery #2 (SD – 22 in all – 2:21)
DISC TWO: BLU-RAY (EXTRAS)
- Meet the Boyles (HD – 14:17)
- Children of the Night with Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina (HD – 12:18)
- Tales of Laura Gittleson with Dagmar Lassander (HD – 8:56)
- My Time With Terror with Carlo De Mejo (HD – 9:21)
- A Haunted House Story with Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti (HD – 14:07)
- To Build a Better Death Trap (HD – 21:32)
- House Quake: Giorgio Mariuzzo and His Memories of Lucio Fulci (HD – 14:46)
- Catriona MacColl Q&A (HD – 29:37)
- Calling Dr. Freudstein (HD – 19:34)
This release carries over all of the video-based material from the previous Blu-ray releases of the film. On Disc One, the audio commentary with Troy Howarth is upbeat, informative, and thorough, offering plenty of insight into the film’s production, the interplay between the director and the cast and crew, and backgrounds on all of the major players involved. The text before the deleted scene informs us that it was found on the original camera negative but missing the sound element, offering a brief moment of peace after the bat attack in the kitchen. Rounding out the disc is a pair of trailers, a TV spot, and two still galleries featuring a total of 93 on-set photos, behind-the-scenes stills, posters, lobby cards, and newspaper clippings.
Disc Two contains a set of interviews, primarily produced by Red Shirt Pictures. Meet the Boyles interviews Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco about working on the film, but having somewhat conflicting views on Fulci and how he works with actors and children. Conversely, Children of the Night speaks to Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina, and they confirm that Fulci was pleasant but very demanding. Tales of Laura Gittleson talks to Dagmar Lassander about her memorably bloody appearance, but the actress also acknowledges her appreciation of American audiences who embrace her work. My Time With Terror speaks to Carlo De Mejo about his brief scene in the film. A Haunted House Story speaks to co-writers Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti about the genesis of the script. To Build a Better Death Trap interviews cinematographer Sergio Salvati, special make-up effects artist Maurizio Trani, special effects artist Gino De Rossi, and actor Giovanni De Nava about the film’s extensive make-up and gore effects. House Quake speaks with co-writer Giorgio Mariuzzo about his contributions to the script. The 2014 Spaghetti Cinema Festival Q&A featuring Catriona MacColl, moderated by Calum Waddell, is fairly lengthy and asks the actress some surprisingly interesting questions. Last, but not least, is Calling Dr. Freudstein, which contains an interview with Stephen Thrower who gives his view on the film and the state of Fulci’s career at the time of its release.
Not carried over from the Limited Edition Blu-ray package is a CD containing 31 tracks of the film’s score by Walter Rizzati and Alessandro Blonksteiner, as well as a 20-page insert booklet containing cast and crew information, the essay Freudsteinian Slips: Inside The House by the Cemetery by Michael Gingold, CD soundtrack information and track selection, and a set of film chapter selections. The Region B Blu-ray release of the film from Arrow Video features its own set of extensive bonus materials, most of which are not included in this release.
Though not regarded by many as one of Fulci’s best, Blue Underground’s treatment of The House by the Cemetery, complete with another one of their amazing 4K presentations and a boatload of entertaining and informative extras, make it yet another must-have UHD release. Highly recommended.
– Tim Salmons