Release Date(s)1972 (March 13, 2018)
Studio(s)Dimension Pictures (VCI Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: C+
Twilight People (aka Island of the Twilight People) is director Eddie Romero’s second attempt at an Island of Dr. Moreau type story without actually acknowledging it (the previous film being Terror is a Man). Shot in the Philippines and released by Dimension Pictures on a double bill with The Doberman Gang, its long-standing “so bad it’s good” qualities have made it a minor cult film over the years. With a fairly generic plot about a man who is kidnapped and taken to an island for inhuman experiments, its execution left much to be desired, but plenty of entertainment value in its wake.
There are a number of things that make Twilight People stand out among many of the Filipino productions with plots involving man-beasts and their lady counterparts. For one, it may be the only time Pam Grier was ever put inside monster makeup, taking up a minor role as Ayesa the Panther Woman. That same year also saw the releases of Black Mama, White Mama, Coffy, and Scream Blacula Scream, meaning that she was quickly becoming one of the queens of blaxploitation and grindhouse cinema. It’s odd to see her in such a small role and barely recognizable, using none of her physical assets to portray her character.
Also in the cast is John Ashley, who worked in many A.I.P. and Dimension projects, several with Eddie Romero. Taking the lead in Twilight People, he’s given very little to do, and as such, isn’t all that memorable. On the other hand, there’s Jan Merlin, his nemesis in the film, who’d like nothing better than continue sneering with his creepy grin and hunting down humans for fun. But the most memorable member of the “animal” cast is Tony Gosalvez, portraying the amazingly hilarious Darmo the Bat Man. Sporting a large set of wings and fangs, we’re eventually treated to the moment when he takes off flying after the bad guys, stealing the show from the rest of the cast and winding up the most memorable aspect of the film. Twilight People as a whole is definitely cheap-looking, but moments of brilliance like this one make it worth seeking out.
VCI Entertainment presents the film on Blu-ray, according to the back of the case, “remastered in 2K from the 35mm negative – first time in widescreen!” While there are certainly positive aspects to this transfer, there are equal amounts of negative as well. Grain is minimal and the overall appearance is very clean and clear, but to my eyes, it looks too clean. Detail is merely decent with a slight softness while density issues crop up from time to time. Occasional speckling does appear, but the presentation doesn’t appear entirely natural anyway. A mild flicker is present, as is sporadic frame instability – with the opening titles being the most jittery of the lot. Nothing is really consistent from scene to scene, even from shot to shot, including the color palette. Sometimes it appears quite decent with naturally-appearing hues and skin tones, but other times it takes on a yellowish, dingy appearance. In scenes that take place during the middle of the film, nearly one quarter of the right side of the frame has a different color temperature and contrast to the rest of the material. So it’s a frustrating transfer at times, but when it looks good, it’s enjoyable, despite being plagued with so many visual flaws that a little more time spent on it might have improved. As for the audio, it’s presented via an English 2.0 LPCM track with optional English subtitles. It’s quite narrow, but not exactly flat. The score has a bit more edge to it than the rest of the track’s features. Dialogue is mostly clear when it’s dubbed, but when it’s not it’s questionable. Hiss and light crackle are also present. On the whole, it’s slightly better in quality than its visual counterpart.
The bonus materials on this release include an entertaining audio commentary with David Del Valle and David DeCoteau, who speak mostly about the film’s main players, more so than the film itself. Also included is an hour-long interview with director Eddie Romero, which is prefaced with a note explaining that it’s not the best quality video, but that it was all that was available. Also included is the film’s original theatrical trailer and 3 TV spots, all recreated in HD; a DVD copy; and reversible artwork with the film’s original poster art on the opposite side.
Long time monster movie fans and good/bad movie enthusiasts are going to get the most out of Twilight People than your average viewer. Although it occasionally pops up on Turner Classic Movies from time to time these days (maybe even on Svengoolie), this little gem is now presented on Blu-ray with a presentation that’s subpar, but adds some entertaining extras to supplement it.
- Tim Salmons