MGM continues their impressive line of Midnite Movies with a host of double feature discs. I took a look at the pairing of The Attic and Crawlspace presented on one double-sided disc. Two very different films that oddly enough seem to have been paired in namesake only. No one could have predicted these films would have ever surfaced on DVD in neatly preserved transfers. High on quality MGM has kindly left the MSRP deliciously low (most stores are selling these discs for less than 10 bucks). The drive-in has never been so close to home.
The Attic - Carrie Snodgrass (The Fury) stars as Louise, a retiring librarian who also happens to be the alcoholic, suicidal daughter of wheelchair bound Wendell (Ray Milland; Man with X-Ray Eyes, Frogs). Domineering and thoughtless Wendell forces his daughter to wait on him hand and foot with nary a nice word about her thoughtful duties. Wendell's coarseness provokes Louise to have many a death/humiliation fantasy at his expense (including electrocution and a chocolate cake to the face). Meanwhile, Louise develops a close relationship with co-worker Emily (the two bond as Emily has a domineering mother to deal with as well) much to the chagrin of Wendell. Emily even goes so far as to buy her friend Louise a chimpanzee (with hilarious results) as an attempt to bring some happiness to her life. Well, things only go from bad to worse as Louise delves deeper into madness and develops the reputation of town tramp (she has a one night stand with a sailor) and town nut case (caused by repeated calls to authorities for leads on her missing fiancee of 19 years). Needless to say that none of this sits to well with Wendell (who's hiding a few secrets of his own). The downward spiral continues until we get to the ultimately depressing (if not all too predictable) finale, which you're not likely to soon forget.
An utterly bizarre "hard" PG rated film (short on violence, but not short on masturbation scenes) I wound up enjoying The Attic more than I could have ever anticipated. It may be a bit overly long at about 100 minutes and the action is a bit predictable but the shock ultimately winds up being exactly that, a shock. Milland is wonderful in one of his last roles as the crabby Wendell and the bizarre dream sequences wind up being unintentionally (?) hilarious. Although much of the film may appear to be comical in its absurdity, when all is said and done, The Attic is no laughing matter.
Crawlspace - Klaus Kinski stars as Karl Gunther a psychotic doctor and even more psychotic ex-nazi who runs a local boarding house. Karl has some odd habits, such as spying on his female tenants from air ducts, creating booby traps in and out of each apartment, and wearing make-up. In addition to all of this madness, Karl also keeps a young woman captive in a cage for conversational purposes despite the fact that he keeps her severed tongue in a jar. Every once in a while, Karl slips out of "peep" mode and decides to go for a slaughter or two. Karl ends (or begins, it's never made clear) his days with a quick round of Russian Roulette to determine if he should go on with his murderous ways.
Not nearly as disturbing as it really wants to be Crawlspace was too glossed over and too blatantly 80's for my taste (too much big hair, yeesh). With the look and feel of a direct to video feature, I just didn't find the film to be creepy or disturbing despite the fact that it really wanted to be these things and more. Ultimately I didn't wind up loving or hating the film; it was just there. Klaus Kinski is wonderful (as always) as the psychotic Karl, but aside from his performance, the film itself has little to offer fans of the genre. Crawlspace fills the screen with random acts of terror and a few scenes of mild gore, but unfortunately it never reaches the gritty grindhouse level of depravity it seems to be striving for. Much like Tourist Trap (also directed by David Schmoeller) the film tries too hard to be like something we've already seen (and probably enjoyed a hell of a lot more).
Both films are presented in their original aspect ratios and the result is nothing short of a miracle. Each film looks great (in their own way) with Crawlspace receiving a slight edge over The Attic in terms of both quality and clarity. Both films feature little to no evidence of print damage with only the occasional speckle or blemish. Colors are sharp and vibrant with solid definition throughout (once again, with a slight edge given to Crawlspace). Each film also features a pleasing mono audio track. Dialogue is crisp and clear and the awesome Pino Donaggio score from Crawlspace (one of the high points of the film) sounds phenomenal (an isolated track for the score would have been a dream).
Extras include a trailer for Crawlspace. That's all, nothing else. Not much room for complaint considering the pricing structure. I'm sure that if a trailer for The Attic had been available, it would have been included.
MGM has produced a fine double feature DVD and at about 5 bucks a flick you just can't go wrong. The Attic is really worth the price of admission on its own, just think of Crawlspace as one of those extended DVD extras. If you happen to be a Crawlspace fan, more the better then. Both films have been treated with much respect including incredible picture and sound quality. It would have been nice to see both features on a single sided dual layered DVD (preferably with a play all option), but alas it was not meant to be. Pop the corn and pour the root beer, MGM has joined the double feature team and it's gonna be a long night at the drive-in.