Warlock Collection: Vestron Video Collector’s Series

| July 25, 2017

As I discussed in my review of The Unholy (1988), Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series has brought a number of my childhood obsessions to Blu-ray in a shockingly short time. The Saturday movie matinees on cable and odd video rentals of my youth instilled in me a deep affection for many of the films released by Vestron Video. With the exception perhaps of the two Waxwork films though, none of the titles announced for the Collector’s Series filled me with as much excitement as the announcement of the 3-film Warlock Collection did. Julian Sands’ Warlock was to young Jef every bit the horror icon that Freddy Krueger or Jason was. He was horror royalty, standing alongside the likes of Pinhead, Chucky and Leatherface. This is as much a testament to Sands’ performances in Warlock (1989) and Warlock: The Armageddon (1993) as it is the overall rewatchability of those two films, the first of which I’ve rewatched more times than I could possibly recall.

The Vestron Video Warlock Collection not only brings these two films to Blu-ray for the first time in North America, but it also includes the far lesser seen, Julian Sands-less installment in the series, Warlock III: The End of Innocence (1999), to Blu-ray alongside them. What’s more, the collection is so packed with special features that Lionsgate left themselves no room whatsoever on the back of the release’s slipsleeve for images after having listed all the features! It’s truly the set that Warlock fans deserve, combining solid transfers of the films with enough special features to fill many nights’ viewing on their own. (I’ll list the features at the end of the article here so you can get an idea of how impressive this bonus content is.)

 

The first Warlock film offers a smart combination of supernatural horror with a fish-out-of-water tale that could have been patronizingly played for laughs but doesn’t pander as other films might. Directed by Steve Miner (Friday the 13th: Parts 2 (1981) and III (1982), House (1985)) and written by The Fugitive (1993)-screenwriter David Twohy, Warlock follows witch-hunter Redferne (Richard E. Grant) from the 17th Century to the 20th in pursuit of Julian Sands’ titular Warlock. Rather than constantly marveling over technological innovations and getting his fingers caught in toasters or some other such nonsense, Redferne moves through the new world with purpose, often aided by modern technology in his endeavor as much as he’s hindered by them. It’s a simple story with a clear trajectory as Redferne and modern woman Kassandra (Lori Singer) chase the Warlock across the United States, but it’s peppered with plenty of clever ideas throughout. Apart from a terribly dated score and Singer’s sometimes cartoonish portrayal of Kassandra, Warlock has stood the test of time rather well and remains one of my personal favorite films.

Warlock looks phenomenal on its Vestron Video Blu-ray release. The bright red of the title at the film’s opening shows just how true the colors are overall to the filmmakers’ original vision and I spotted no evidence of any grain-scrubbing tarnishing the image. Having only ever watched the film on VHS or television, I found myself appreciating the artistry of the film more than ever here in HD, particularly the cinematography by Mad Max’s director of photography David Eggby.

 

Warlock: The Armageddon looks great on Blu-ray as well, though it’s clear the original film elements sourced for the release were nowhere near as pristine to begin with as those of the first film. In particular, most of the special effects shots are incredibly muddy, showing how inherently problematic the process of integrating CG into a low budget film was in 1993. The transfer of Warlock: The Armageddon is also plagued by a bit of speckling, a few stray soft shots that don’t actually include any obvious effects, and some occasional, minor discoloration.

Still, to revisit Warlock: The Armageddon for what must have been the first time in 20 years proved to be incredibly rewarding—more so than I expected even. Somehow it had eluded my attention all these years that The Armageddon was directed by Anthony Hickox, the writer/director of the aforementioned Waxwork films as well as Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992). And mulling over the similarities between The Armageddon and Hickox’s Waxwork films/Hellraiser III has kept me busy ever since.

Warlock: The Armageddon establishes a whole new mythology absent from the first film relating the millennia-old efforts of God-serving Druids to stave off the birth of Satan’s son: the Warlock (again played by Julian Sands). With the Warlock searching for a set of stones he can use to release his Hell-bound father, two young Druids must learn to control their mystic powers in order to prevent Hell on Earth. This of course leads to a massive, climactic showdown with the Warlock pitting his dark powers against the Druids’ white magic and nearly levelling a small country town in the process!

If Warlock: The Armageddon has any shortcomings apart from the dated CG effects (the practical effects look great though, by the way), it’s that the construction of this mythology all seems a bit rushed. Though it’s similar in many ways to the mythology of Hickox’s Waxwork films, the big difference between this film and those is that Hickox was able to build the Waxwork mythology over the span of two films. Here, he had but 90 minutes to accomplish the same task and it’s left feeling a bit thin as a result. Still, I can’t help but admire the ambition of the piece, and its similarity to that other beloved Hickox series doesn’t hurt it any either!

 

This brings us to the final installment in the Warlock franchise, which I had honestly never seen until watching it for this review. Sadly, Warlock III: The End of Innocence doesn’t hold up so impressively well as its predecessors. Happily, however, it was included in the Vestron set at really no extra charge, meaning that the completionists among us don’t have to pay more for a standalone release of Warlock III later. It can just be the one film in the set you watch considerably less frequently.

Starring Hellraiser’s Ashley Laurence but lacking Julian Sands in the role he made iconic (Bruce Payne replaces him and does a fine job with what he’s given), Warlock III is unmistakably a sequel in title alone. It follows the Warlock’s attempts to turn a young woman’s (Laurence) friends against her that they might sacrifice her to his evil plan. It’s more complicated than that, sure, but the bulk of the film finds characters talking over meals or in hallways with only the occasional horror element popping up. It’s a film hindered by what I can only imagine was the most shoestring of shoestring budgets. Given that there are still some graphic/clever kills throughout, you can tell the filmmakers did what they could within their extremely limited means, but there’s no denying it pales in comparison.

In the end, buying the Vestron Video Collector’s Series Warlock Collection gets you three films for what is currently less than $30 at most online retailers, three films that are supplemented by an incredible wealth of special features. So get a load of this! Special features accompanying the original Warlock (Disc 1) include:

  • NEW Audio Commentary with Director Steve Miner
  • NEW Isolated Score Selections/Audio Interview with Author Jeff Bond
  • NEW Interviews
  • “Satan’s Son” with Actor Julian Sands
  • “The Devil’s Work” with Director Steve Miner
  • “Effects of Evil” with Make-up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage
  • Vintage Interview Segments with Cast and Crew
  • Vintage Featurette with Make-Up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz
  • Vintage Featurette with Visual Effects Supervisors Patrick Read Johnson and Robert Habros, Animation Supervisor Mauro Maressa, and Matte Artist Robert Scifo
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Video Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

 

Warlock: The Armageddon’s (Disc 2) accompanying features include:

  • NEW Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox
  • Vintage Making-of Featurette Behind-the-Scenes Footage
  • Extended Vintage Interview Segments with Actor Julian Sands, Director Anthony Hickox, and Actress Paula Marshall
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Still Gallery

 

Warlock III: The End of Innocence’s (Disc 2) accompanying features include:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage
  • Vintage Interview Segments with Cast and Crew
  • Trailer
  • Video Sales Promo
  • Still Gallery

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
×

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.