The Devil's Partner Special EditionOverview -
Film Masters continues their impressive quest to give forgotten and abandoned gems their rightful place on home video with a pair of Corman classics - The Devil’s Partner and Creature from the Haunted Sea. Both films boast strong transfers looking and sounding better than ever with an excellent collection of bonus content to devoir. Your Corman collection keeps growing with this Recommended double-feature release.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Roger Corman and his brother Gene seemed to have been the right guys at the right place and at the right time in Hollywood. Between them, hundreds of films would be produced giving the career jumpstart to numerous filmmakers, writers, and actors. While they made an almost uncountable number of films on their own, they also acquired a fair number of independently produced films giving them double-bill releases keeping theaters stacked with content.
For The Devil’s Partner, they played the releasing partner for director Charles Rondeau and his creepy folk horror show. The film is about near-death Old Man Richards who cuts a deal with the Devil to lease his soul and regain his youth. Returning to town posing as his nephew Nick (Ed Nelson), he sets his plans in motion to seduce the beautiful Nell Lucas (Jean Allison) daughter of the town doctor, and sustain his youthful vigor. To pay the Devil’s due, others will have to be sacrificed and their souls committed to the depths of hell! Nelson would go on to star in several Corman productions (Night of the Blood Beast is a personal favorite) but for this outing, he delivers a genuinely creepy performance. When we first meet him he’s amiable, charming, and all-around likable. Then his true desires come out and he’s just damned creepy. It's an underrated gem for sure. 3.5/5
Next we have Roger Corman directing Creature from the Haunted Sea. While this may sound like a typical sleazy low-budget Corman creature feature, the film is actually a crime/noir spoof! Tasked with ferrying money and valuables from Cuba to Florida, no-good crook Renzo Capetto (Antony Carone) has other plans. Using his yacht to transport the goods, he cooks up a plan to bump off the Cuban loyalists tasked with guarding the loot by creating a made-up creature from the deep depths of the ocean. It’s a daffy movie for sure, not the greatest film by the measure of most yardsticks, but it is entertaining. It almost feels like Corman is poking the big studios in the eye with a sharp stick shredding any number of classic plots and tropes. The silliness may get the better of things at times, but it’s a fun film. 3/5
All the more important for this double feature release; this is how these films were shown way back during the summer/fall run in 1961. Truthfully, you couldn’t have found a more disparate pairing of films. You have a Southern Folk Horror creeper that’s played deadly seriously and then you have this silly over-the-top spoof comedy romp. Both are great movies on their own but together is a bit of a genre jumble. Neither film has enjoyed a healthy life on home video, most presentations have been pretty grave or cheaply colorized, so it was fun to watch these films back-to-back as they were originally offered 60 years ago in theaters and looking this good. For dedicated Corman fans, these films finally being treated with some respect is a true treat for the collection.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Devil’s Partner Special Edition comes to Blu-ray as a two-feature two-disc collection from Film Masters. Both The Devil’s Partner and Creature from the Haunted Sea score their own Region Free BD-50 discs. The discs are housed in a standard two-disc case with separate trays without being stacked. Included is a booklet featuring great essays from Mark McGee and Tom Weaver.
I’m starting to wonder if the team at Film Masters has some kind of secret vault of archival prints no one else knows about. After some great initial releases, they continue to wow with the transfers for both The Devil’s Partner and Creature from the Haunted Sea. To cap it off, you have two different aspect ratio options - the true widescreen theatrical framing as well as the more commonly experienced 1.33:1 TV and home video framing. And both options for both films look fantastic.
The Devil’s Partner clearly made a deal with someone because the 4K restoration is fantastic. I’d only seen this film a couple of times and it never looked good. Here, the black and white photography practically shines like new with lovely details, a richly cinematic appearance, with excellent grayscale for brilliant whites, deep blacks, and lovely shadows. To see this movie looking this clean but with that much depth and clarity was quite striking.
Next we have Creature from the Haunted Sea which also never had a great home video run. I think the last time I saw this film it had been cheaply colorized and generally looked terrible. Whole sourced from a 35mm print, extra work had to be done to clean up the image with some scenes supplied from 16mm elements. To be honest, it’s hard to knock this one any which way. While you can see the step back in overall quality when those 16mm sections kick in but it’s hardly distracting or ruins the experience. Past editions I saw just looked like mud, especially dark scenes, so it’s a treat to have it looking good but in a form that you can actually see facial features and clothing/production design details.
Both films ride in with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track. Starting with The Devil’s Partner, the sound design might not be very aggressive, it’s a pretty quiet film that’s mostly conversational, but it’s in pretty good shape. Dialog is clean and clear, there are a couple of wispy exchanges but nothing gets lost or overdrawn by hiss or other age-related issues. The Ronald Stein score is a nice accompaniment even if it doesn’t get a lot of big play moments. Like I said, it’s not aggressive so sound effects for the setting and atmosphere are sparsely populated. 3.5/5
For Creature from the Haunted Sea, the mix is notably more active and engaging given the story and the auditory punchlines. It’s relatively clean, dialog is easily discernable, but there are a bit more age issues to contend with. Hiss isn’t overly dominant but it’s there. The titular “creature” can be a bit shrill sounding for those higher register sounds, but nothing to get too huffed up about. The Fred Katz score is a nice silly side to the film. 3/5
Not content with simply offering the best A/V packages for two of Corman’s forgotten gems, Film Masters again packs in a very respectable assortment of entertaining, informative, and worthwhile extras. The Monster Party Podcast commentary for The Devil’s Partner is quite good but I can’t deny hearing another very unique Tom Weaver-hosted commentary with a number of interesting personalities was a lot of fun for Creature of the Haunted Sea. Then you get another entry in their history of Corman’s The Film Group series, a nice sitdown with Corman himself, and some restoration demos. The Creature from the Haunted Sea offers up the extended TV cut that adds about fifteen minutes to the film. Now that seems like a lot, but it’s also a lot of extraneous padding. The film feels nice and breezy at just over an hour but this extra time slows it down and makes the pace feel off a bit. Still worth checking out though and the whole collection of extras is pretty nifty stuff when you get right down to it.
The Devil’s Partner
- Audio Commentary featuring Monster Party podcast members Larry Strothe, James Gonis, Shawn Sheridan, and Matt Weinhold.
- Hollywood Intruders - The Film Group Story Part 3 (HD 21:04)
- Roger Corman: Remembering The Film Group (HD 10:46)
- 2024 Recut Trailer (HD 1:24)
The Creature from the Haunted Sea
- Extended TV Version (HD 1.33/1 1:14:53)
- Theatrical Version Audio Commentary featuring Tom Weaver, Roger Corman, Kinta Zertuche, and Larry Blamire
- Original 16mm Trailer (HD 1:00)
- 2024 Recut Trailer (HD 1:25)
- Before and After Restoration Comparison (HD 2:36)
With a name like Corman, you know it’s good. Well, “good” may be subjective, but you’re at least in for an entertaining evening! Once again Film Masters combines two of Corman’s underrated gems for a proper double feature pairing on Blu-ray. They may be very different films in style, tone, and genre, but they’re both solid in their own ways. The Devil’s Partner is a damned respectable little low-budget creeper while Creature from the Haunted Sea is just a silly romp with a fun sense of humor. Both films have been lovingly restored looking better than ever, sounding great, and packed with some excellent worthwhile bonus features. These Film Masters releases just keep getting better and more exciting so if you haven’t started grabbing them for the collection, this is a great release to start with. Highly Recommended.
Order Your Copy of The Devil's Partner with Creature from the Haunted Sea on Blu-ray
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