Blu-ray Review: Cthulhu Mansion



During the mid-80s, the work of H.P. Lovecraft once more began to get popular among those looking for mysticism in their horror. His Call of Cthulhu was turned into a board game for the Dungeons and Dragons set that wanted to skip over the medival characters and pretend to be people from New England in the early 1900s dealing with the Great Old Ones reemerging. While films linked to H.P. Lovecraft didn’t exactly mean massive box office like Stephen King, his work was public domain so you didn’t have to worry about paying a fortune for the rights. Juan Piquer Simon brought in the Lovecraft angle into a twisty tale about youth gone wild, cocaine and a magician who went too far in Cthulhu Mansion.

A local carnival holds dark secrets. In one tent is the magical performance of Chandu (Frank Finlay of The Three Musketeers). Through a bit of flashback we see that him and his former assistant had a bit of a catastrophe when he used a spell from an ancient book during a performance. Now he works with his daughter Lisa (Marcia Layton) with less dramatic tricks for the audience. While the magic is being performed Hawk (Brad Fisher) and his gang are about to pull off a trick of there own. He gets on a ride to make a deal for a large amount of cocaine. But instead of giving his connection the cash, he pumps him full of lead and leaves him in the ride. As he and his gang that includes Melanie Shatner attempt to escape, the carnival security is onto them. One of them gets shot and they need to get him help without alerting the authorities. This leads them into taking Chandu, his daughter and their assistant hostage in their station wagon. While it seems like their escape is flawless, they order the magician to take them to his house so they can get medical attention to the injured gang member. Little do they know that the magic man lives in Cthulhu Mansion and there’s a dark secret in the basement that will give them a nightmare worse than sniffing the entire supply of cocaine.

Cthulhu Mansion is a bizarre piece of Euro-horror that won’t have you feeling like you’re missing something by not reading all of H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories. It doesn’t really seem based on his works so much as the vibe you get from being told about his stories. The movie moves at a fine pace since it has enough dumb kids to get into trouble with the supernatural horror. If you enjoyed Simon’s Slugs and Pieces, this is must viewing. You might know him from his Pod People that was a favorite on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The cast is rather solid with Finlay as the magic man. He was Oscar nominated and had been in major productions. The gang of kids are hilariously annoying so you don’t mind most of them getting tortured by what lurks in the cellar. One of the gang is Melanie Shatner. She’s William Shatner’s daughter. That’s Captain Kirk’s kid looking tough in the leather jacket with the hoop earrings. She’s peak ‘late ’80s sassy on the screen. Cthulhu Mansion has what you want for a trashy film that mixes cocaine with supernatural horror from Spain.

The video is 1.66:1 anamorphic. This is probably the best the film has ever looked in America. You’ll see the icky nature of what lurks in the basement with clarity. The audio is DTS-HD MA Stereo. The film was made in English so you won’t notice the words not fitting in the actors’ mouths. There’s also the original stereo mix which isn’t quite as powerful as the DTS-HD mix. The movie is subtitled in English.

The Simon’s Jigsaw: A Trip To The Universe of Juan Piquer Simon (101:20) is a feature documentary about the work of the director. This goes deep into what films inspired him as a kid and the films he made as an adult. The movie is in Spanish with English subtitles.

The Special Effects Make-Up Magician (24:42) interviews special effects artist Colin Arthur. He explains that Simon’s movies weren’t “C” budget movies, but Capital “B” films. He explains how they were shooting near Franco’s home. He talks about how the art department were excellent. They were still under the gun from the tight budget.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Cthulhu Mansion. Directed by: Juan Piquer Simon. Screenplay by: Juan Piquer Simon. Starring: Frank Finlay, Marcia Layton, Luis Fernando Alvés, Brad Fisher, Melanie Shatner, Kaethe Cherney, Paul Birchard and Frank Braña . Running Time: 92 minutes. Rated: Unrated. Released: March 2, 2021.

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