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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
Sale Price: $35.49 Last Price: $ Buy now! 3rd Party 35.49 In Stock
Release Date: November 28th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1973

Inn of the Damned + Night of Fear

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: Bruce Douglas
Fans of Ozploitaiton flicks will relish the Blu-ray debut of Inn of the Damned + Night of Fear from rebel Aussie director Terry Bourke. This combination of an ultraviolet Western and a grisly backwoods Horror makes for an excellent double feature! The Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment and OCN Distribution presents the exploitation features with a respectable A/V package and plenty of bonus features for fans of Terry Bourke’s filmography. Recommended

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
This special limited edition spot gloss slipcover (designed by Black Coffiend) is limited to 2,000 units
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Special Features:
Spyforce TV Episode (50mins), Terry Bourke Trailer Reel (27mins), Night of Fear Stills Gallery (5mins), Inn of the Damned Stills Gallery (5mins), Night of Fear Trailer (2mins), Inn of the Damned Trailer (3mins)
Release Date:
November 28th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

“Your cannon, Kincaid. It makes a mess.”

A through-line of Australian cinema in the early '70s and '80s was the attempt to produce homegrown versions of international hit movies. With the introduction of ratings certificates keyed towards regulating more violent and sexual content, the movement known as Ozploitation took hold and ran into the horizon with every genre trope in its grasp. Unfortunately, filmmakers riding the wave of incoming films had to deal with distributors salivating over American output flooding the market. One such trailblazer, Terry Bourke, would become known as an unstoppable force in the system. A fan of Hitchcock and AIP exploitation flicks, Terry would produce two features back-to-back that would become classics of Aussie genre cinema. 

Inn of the Damned begins In the deep southern wilderness of Victoria, Australia, in 1869. A seemingly ordinary inn hides a sinister truth. Deranged couple Lazar (Joseph Fürst, Diamonds are Forever) and Caroline (Judith Anderson, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) are fueled by tragedy and lure unsuspecting travelers to their deaths, hoping to feed a powerful desire. Kincaid is the American bounty hunter (Alex Cord, Stagecoach) who stumbles upon the inn's dark secret and becomes their next target. Forced to fight for survival against the murderous innkeepers, all secrets are revealed in a thrilling conclusion.  

Set in 1896, Inn of the Damned was initially pitched as “Hitchcock on Horseback,” hoping to ape the qualities of a razor-sharp thriller while maintaining a Western set storyline. The film cleverly weaves horror elements throughout, adding intensity and brutality to an otherwise smart tale of a bounty hunter in too deep. While horror westerns aren’t anything new, for audiences in Australia, this would’ve been a shot in the dark compared to the popular bushranger-style actioners. Performances from Alex Cord and Judith Anderson are keyed into their characters, giving us an entertaining juxtaposition of American cowboy swagger and deranged German psychopath. While it didn’t win over audiences, the film is notorious for its steamy bathtub scene depicting an incestuous lesbian relationship. 

Night of Fear follows the terrifying journey of a young woman (Carla Hoogeveen, Inn of the Damned) stranded on a deserted road after a car accident.  She encounters a menacing hermit (Norman Yemm, Plugg) living in a desolate cabin. She is relentlessly pursued through the forest, fighting for her life against his sadistic threats. With only a single line of dialogue from a trucker’s radio, the film is largely silent save for the screams, moans, and cries from our deranged predator and his helpless prey. This grimy exercise in sadistic violence predates The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which carry similar themes of backwoods horror on unsuspecting victims. Hell, even the hermit’s kitchen table resembles the one in the Sawyer house! 

Night of Fear was the first installment of a proposed TV series called Fright but was never picked up due to censors disgusted at his pilot episode. You can see the title card in the film’s intro. Initially banned, the R certificate was new and became one of the first productions to use it. The shocking TV pilot would become a popular second-bill feature in softcore adult film houses around Australia. Featuring a swarm of live rats, unsettling imagery, and an eerie score, the film is a brilliant horror thriller all in under 53 minutes. 

Inn of the Damned + Night of Fear is an entertaining double feature about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For the strong-willed Bourke, this theme was ever-present in his filmmaking career. When distributors filled cinemas with American films, he sought to develop features in the country, hoping to grow the market while maintaining commercial sensibilities. These two films mark a turning point in the underappreciated director’s filmography and should be celebrated as an integral part of Australian genre cinema. 

4/5

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Inn of the Damned + Night of Fear arrives on Region Free Blu-ray thanks to Umbrella Entertainment and OCN Distribution. The disc is housed in a transparent keep case with double-sided artwork and an insert booklet featuring an essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. Loading the disc presents the Umbrella logo before landing on a static Main Menu screen with typical navigation options for both films. 

Video Review

Ranking:

Both features on the disc benefit from a serious upgrade in image quality since their last appearance on DVD. Improved framing, color saturation, and detail are welcome improvements. Dirt and debris, while cleaned up considerably, are still prevalent in both features. Compression artifacts or banding wasn’t evident to me in either presentation. Those with the 2002 Australian Umbrella Blu-ray release will find the transfers identical to this one. Check out my notes below for each feature. 

Inn of the Damned checks in with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio from a new HD scan. This new image sees high contrast with heavy grain and robust colors. Solid black levels throughout the feature are apparent in night-time scenes and those terrifying moments at the Inn.  Specks, dirt, and slight print damage are apparent, but none detract from the feature's enjoyment.  Primaries are dynamic and strong, and reds and greens look fantastic. Some overexposed outdoor scenes cast a halo around actors and objects. The breathtaking wide shots of the Australian wilderness are the highlight of this feature’s photography for me. Cinematographer Brian Probyn also shot the Terrence Malick film Badlands a few years before working with Terry on two of his features. 

Night of Fear arrives in a new 1.85:1 HD scan that elevates this TV pilot with improved image quality. Moderate grain levels pair with slight print damage to complement the grimy feature’s aesthetic. Solid black levels aid the presentation with moderate detail in medium and close-up shots. Primaries are dull, though reds and greens appear strong when in frame. Textures in clothing and facial features are evident but never pronounced. The dark and moody image compliments the feature well, offering a pleasing experience for audiences. 

3.5/5

Audio Review

Ranking:

Both films include a single DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track that is satisfying enough for the features. Dialogue for Inn of the Damned is muddy, and when combined with the Aussie accents, renders some exchanges difficult to discern. Thankfully, English Subtitles are available here. Scoring and effects are pronounced, offering a pleasing mix for this Ozploitation classic. As a rousing Western, I wish there was more depth to the track, but considering the source audio limitations, it still sounds pleasing. On the other hand, Night of Fear features little dialogue, so the heavy lifting from effects and scoring is critical. Hiss and pop are evident as our damsel in distress avoids capture, though there's not enough noise to detract from the presentation of the feature.  3/5

Special Features

Ranking:

Umbrella Entertainment and OCN Distribution load this double feature with heaps of bonus material for both films. I recommend starting with the Ozploitation featurette before moving through the other selections. Collectors should know that the bonus features are directly ported over from the Australian Blu-ray release of the film. 

  • Night of Fear Audio Commentary: A 2005 audio commentary track with producer/editor Rod Hay and Actress Carla Hoogeveen moderated by filmmaker Mark Hartley. 
  • Inn of the Damned Audio Commentary: A 2005 audio commentary track with producer/editor Rod Hay and actor Tony Bonner.  
  • The D.W. Griffith of Ozploitation (HD 17:54) A visual essay on the career of filmmaker Terry Bourke presented by film buff Paul Harris. Spanning Burke’s career from Noon Sunday to Brothers, Harris details the director’s journey with tight narration and archival photos. This is an excellent primer on the rebel Australian filmmaker. 
  • Interviews (HD 46:28) These extended interviews from the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood feature Rod Hay, Carla Hoogeveen, Norman Yemm, and Briony Behets. Everyone speaks well of Bourke sharing anecdotes and tales of the rebel director’s on-set tactics and freewheeling lifestyle. A common thread is a discussion on Night of Fear's “Nightmare” sequence.    
  • Spyforce TV Episode titled “The Raiders” (SD 49:29) This Terry Bourke-directed episode of the hit Aussie TV series sees the low-budget director flex his muscles with a much bigger production. You also get an optional Introduction by director Jack Thompson (HD 1:29). 
  • Terry Bourke Trailer Reel (HD 27:10) Trailers for Sampan, Noon Sunday, Inn of the Damned, Night of Fear, Plugg, Little Boy Lost, and Lady Stay Dead
  • Night of Fear Stills and Poster Gallery (HD 4:51) A slideshow of on-set photographs and poster images cycles as the film's score plays. 
  • Night of Fear Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:06)
  • Inn of the Damned Stills and Poster Gallery (HD 5:29) A slideshow of on-set photographs and poster images cycle as scoring from the film plays. 
  • Inn of the Damned Theatrical Trailer (HD 3:39) “A big picture set in a big country!” 

Final Thoughts

 Inn of the Damned + Night of Fear showcases the underappreciated director Terry Bourke as he struggled to produce exciting and scintillating fare for the Australian market at a time when distributors were hungry for American fare. Brutal, nasty, and shocking, these two features are excellent curiosities for Ozploitaiton fans. The Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment and OCN Distribution provides the films with satisfying A/V packages and entertaining bonus features for fans of the films. Recommended

Order Your Copy of  Inn of the Damned + Night of Fear on Blu-ray