Fear Chamber DVD Review
Written by Peter West
DVD released by Elite Entertainment
Written and directed by Jack Hill
1968, Region 1 (NTSC), 89 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on December 13th, 2005
Boris Karloff as Dr. Carl Mandel
Julissa as Corinne Mandel
Carlos East as Mark
Isela Vega as Helga
Yerye Beirute as Roland
Santanón as Dwarf
From Elite's product description:
After receiving strange signals on his equipment, brilliant geologist Dr. Carl Mandel (BORIS KARLOFF) sends a team to search the depths of the earth in an effort to learn its origin; what they discover is a lifeform encased in solid rock which can communicate telepathically.
Upon bringing the mass to the surface, it is determined that this entity is “pure crystallized intelligence” and is thought to hold many of the secrets of existence. However, the only message this mysterious stone is transmitting is what kind of food it needs to thrive – a particular chemical that can only be produced by bodies of humans which are experiencing pure terror. Faced with this unusual dilemma the good doctor devises the “FEAR CHAMBER” where he has kidnapped subjects frightened to no end with all sorts of satanic rituals and creepy-crawlies so he may obtain this precious chemical.
Even though Dr. Mandel and his assistants take care not to physically harm their subjects, the living stone begins evolving. It starts growing appendages and learns how to capture its own prey and extract the fluids it needs. The scientists begin to realize what a dangerous force they have unleashed on the surface of the world…
In no way think that my excitement about the job Elite does on the DVD translate to this being a good film. Let's face it, it's a low budget Mexican film. However it is one of the last performances of Boris Karloff and for that reason alone this is a must buy. Early in Karloff's career he had few speaking roles. That was such a waste of talent because Karloff's voice and acting ability should not be dismissed. Every kid that has ever seen The Grinch That Stole Christmas (not the Jim Carrey version) is mesmerized by Karloff's voice!
In Fear Chamber every scene Karloff is in he steals the show. No matter how bad the material, Karloff delivers conviction in every scene. Fear Chamber is pretty good for laugh value. Wait till you see the computer systems in the film, they were pretty state of the art in '72 though. I should know I used to work with them. What good low budget is is worth it's salt without a horny midget? Well Fear Chamber has one! With a $9.99 list price and available even lower online, Fear Chamber is well worth the trip down memory lane.
Video and Audio:
Elite remarkably gives us a 16x9 anamorphic widescreen presentation on this DVD. Considering the age of the film (1972) and the fact that it's a Mexican film to have the surviving elements to do so is quite rare! While showing some of it's age the image is clear and sharp and colors are vivid. It may look almost as good on this DVD as it would have in any theater at the time.
Elite does it again! Fear Chamber has a remixed 5.1 Dolby soundtrack. While it's not in the same league as surround tracks for modern films, I'm shocked to even see they remixed it! It's probably the best I've heard for such a low budget film of the era.
While I personally don't rate a 16x9 presentation and DD 5.1 audio track usually as extras, on this DVD I am. Combine them with a director's commentary, it's a pretty decent effort!