4K UHD Review: Night of the Blood Monster (The Bloody Judge)

Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews, Top Story

If you took an International Cinema class and your instructor didn’t mention Jess Franco, you were ripped off. From 1959 to 2013 (the year of his death), Franco’s output matched most studios. The Spanish director went all over world to make nearly 200 films (under 200 different names including his more fuller name Jesus Franco). One of his more high-profile times was when he hooked up with English producer Harry Alan Towers. They were able to get Christopher Lee to the star in at least seven movies during this era. In the middle of this association came Night of the Blood Monster which also played theaters as The Bloody Judge. I don’t know if there’s an exploitation educational history film genre, but Jess Franco made one.

Judge George Jeffreys (The Lord of the Rings‘ Christopher Lee) was the real Lord Chief Justice of seventeenth-century England during the 17th Century. He was moved up the judicial system during the reign of Charles II. He remained in power when James II took over the throne. This was a turbulent time in England since James II wasn’t respected or long lasting. Militias rose up and Prince William of Orange invaded. While the Glorious Revolution was gaining traction, Jeffreys’ didn’t care one way or the other because he was obsessed with ridding England of witches.

The countryside flourishes with women who enjoy being in touch with nature. A harvest festival is going on with women celebrating the bounty and getting freaky in a nearby corn field. The fun comes to an abrupt end when the Prude Patrol arrives on horseback to kill and arrest the partygoers. The ladies are locked inside a dungeon cell at Newgate prison. They’re going to get the witch treatment by the creepy jailers. Women are dragged into Judge Jefferys’ courtroom for rather abrupt trials. Even though Alicia Grey (Venus In Furs‘ Margaret Lee) can kiss a Bible, things don’t look good for her. Her sister Mary Gray (Count Dracula‘s Maria Rohm) begs the judge for mercy. But it is of no use. Alicia gets a grizzly fate involving a ladder being dropped into a bonfire. When Mary takes up with the son of Lord of Wessex (Moby Dick‘s Leo Genn), Jeffreys gets personally involved to save the young man from Mary’s influence. During this time, the loyalists and the anti-James gang battle outside London on horseback and with cannons. Things aren’t looking so stable. Jeffreys doesn’t seem to think he’s going to be out of a job no matter what side wins. He’s more focused on sentencing witches and occasionally convicting men of treason to the Crown. How long can he last in the courtroom?

Christopher Lee delivers a convincing performance as Jefferys. He adopts a bit of a Welsh accent and is always in discomfort. The judge had medical issues. The cast does come off better than a lot of the actors in other Jess Franco movies. Leo Genn was previously Oscar nominated for Quo Vadis. While the film does have elements of torturing the alleged witches, the special effects aren’t too stomach churning for the genre.

The real Jeffreys was born in Wrexham, Wales. You might recognize the name from the series Welcome to Wrexham. If you’re a fan of the soccer team owned by Ryan Reynolds, you need to get a copy of Night of the Blood Monster to go with your collection of Wrexham gear. Is there an episode dedicated to players watching this film?

What sets Night of the Blood Monster apart from other movies about witch hunts in Europe is that there really is a witch in the movie. Mother Rosa (Voyage of the Damned‘s Maria Schell) is a blind woman who lives in the hills that can see the future. But can she real see what Jeffrey’s goon squad is doing to the women who rely on her?

Because of the way the film was financed, there are several different cuts of Night of the Blood Monster for the various territories. Blue Underground went back the film elements in the vault to construct the most complete version of the story putting all the scenes into this cut. This version gives you all the drama, historical action, the dungeon delights and even a few romantic scenes. A few scenes have Christopher Lee and other actors slip into German since there was not English dub. The 4K UHD restoration enhances the experience of watching the definitive edition of Night of the Blood Monster. This is much better than what ran in theaters across America over a half century ago. This is Jess Franco getting to work with top notch talent and beautiful locations. If you took an International Cinema class that dared to mention Franco, Night of the Blood Monster would the movie to run after the lecture.

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The Video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The Ultra HD Blu-ray (2160p) transfer is from vault elements. The colors pop on the screen when the tools in the dungeon are in full use. The Audio is DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono. While most of the soundtrack is in English, there are short portions that lapse into German. English subtitles pop up at those times. The subtitles for the film include English, French and Spanish.

Audio Commentary with Film Historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson gets into the history of the film. They point out the US version released by AIP was reduced down to a PG Rated experience. They compare the film to Mark Of the Devil which dealt in European witch hunting.

Audio Commentary with Film Historians Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw starts off with them discussing the various names used when the film was released. They prefer to think of the film as The Bloody Judge.

Audio Commentary with Film Historians David Flint and Adrian Smith gets into the history of Wessex. There’s a bit of talk of authenticity. They get into comparing Franco’s work with Lee with Hammer productions.

Bloody Jess (25:10) features vintage interviews with Director Jess Franco and Star Christopher Lee about the film. Lee discusses the history of Judge George Jeffreys and how it reflected in his performance. Jess Franco delves into how Harry Alan Towers had distributors from different European countries paying for the films and each one had a different idea for what type of movie they wanted Night of the Blood Beast to end up. Thus the different edits. He shot most of the exteriors and castles in Portugal and the battles in Spain. He gets into how the cannons happened in the film.

Judgement Day (33:32) meets up with Stephen Thrower, author of Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco. He gets into the creative relationship between Franco and Christopher Lee. Thrower goes into how Franco was a filmmaking machine. He was making inexpensive and fast films while making the films for Harry Alan Towers. There’s talk about how Jess Franco shot the second unit action parts of Orson Welle’s Chimes At Midnight.

In The Shadows (24:15) has filmmaker Alan Birkinshaw and author Stephen Thrower give the background on producer Harry Alan Towers. He made 9 movies with Jess Franco during these years. He went all over the world to get backing for his movies. Harry went from syndicating radio shows on records, producing shows on ITV and finally got into films. There’s an interesting tale of how Harry got busted during a visit to New York City with his mistress on prostitution charges. There are rumors that Harry was involved in espionage since he fled America and hid in the Soviet Union. Was he a double agent? This explains why Harry didn’t go Hollywood. He was a fugitive from justice. Birkinshaw talks about his failed project of working with Klaus Kinski on The Raven. Harry was the master of figuring out how to qualify for various countries’ subsidies on the same film.

Deleted and Alternate Scenes includes Deleted Scene: Mary’s Grief (5:45) and Alternate Clothed Love Scene (1:15), Alternate Jeffrey’s Nightmare (0:44), Alternate Mary’s Release from Dungeon (1:22), Alternate “Bloody Judge” Main Titles (2:00), Alternate “Dex Hexentoter Von Blackmoor” Main Titles (2:14) and Alternate Ending from German Version (1:41). The alternate ending has the folks in West Germany getting to see the ending rearranged for a worse fate to the Bloody Judge.

U.S. Trailer (0:56) is for the Night of the Blood Monster release.

U.S. Combo Trailer (1:53) is from when American International Pictures put Night of the Blood Beast and Hammer’s Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb with Valerie Leon.

U.S. Combo TV Spot (0:34) is when AIP wanted the kids of 1972 to see the frights of the Blood Beast and Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb. This was the PG rated cut.

Still Galleries includes posters, advertising materials, lobby cards, B&W stills, Color Stills and Video & Soundtrack packaging.

Blue Underground presents Night of the Blood Monster (The Bloody Judge). Directed by Jess Franco. Screenplay by Jesús Franco, Colombo Enrico, Anthony Scott Veitch & Michael Haller. Starring Christopher Lee, Maria Schell, Leo Genn , Hans Hass Jr., Maria Rohm, Margaret Lee, Peter Martell, Howard Vernon & Milo Quesada. Running Time: 103 minutes. Rating: Unrated. Release Date: March 26, 2024.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.