The overweight debutante daughter of the world's wealthiest couple falls in with a gang of tripped out, skydiving pseudo-reactionary pop stars, who take their beliefs of the American ideal to profoundly impossible heights.
The year 1969 was a special one. It was a turbulent time for sure in the world, where in the USA, a ton of people rebelled against the government and big business to create peace through sex, drugs and rock n' roll. Needless to say, Woodstock, one of the biggest music concerts took place in 1969. Not only that, film impacted tons of people of all ages back in the late 60s and early 70s in the form of change. Whether it was political, religious, societal, or cultural redesign; most people were embracing this change, and movies helped a bit in leading that bandwagon.
One of the forgotten films from the late 60s was a film called 'Angel, Angel, Down We Go', however it is now called 'Cult of the Damned'. Probably a good move, since this film needs all the help it can get to keep people interested, despite Lou Rawls and Roddy McDowall starring in the movie. In fact, director Robert Thom and actress Jennifer Jones had more interesting lives than this film, but that's besides the point.
This was the only film Thom ever directed, but he did go on to write a few of the 'Death Race' films along with a few other B-movies. Jennifer Jones was actually married to big time producer David O. Selznick (King Kong) until his death, where she attempted suicide and was found unconscious at the bottom of a cliff. Her daughter then committed suicide by jumping out of a 20-story window. It's a very sad story, but this film 'Cult of the Damned' was the first film Jones did after her attempted suicide, so I imagine she had quite a few things going through her head that she could relate to in the film.
The film follows a young girl named Tara (Holly Near) who we see as a child at the start of the film. Her father Willy (Charles Aidman) a wealthy airplane businessman who has a sexual secret and her mother Astrid (Jennifer Jones), a free-spirited adult film star send their daughter off to a commune where she can be a free spirit. Time goes by and Tara ends up at a boarding school where she is taught ethics and manners, which her free-loving parents might not be happy about.
In order to have their daughter be socially acceptable and free-thinking, they throw her a party where a rock-star named Bogart (Jordan Christopher) takes a liking to the young girl. Bogart comes with his bandmates as well, which include Lou Rawls and Roddy McDowall. Bogart and his bandmates have a sinister plan though. They aim to tear this family apart piece by piece, by manipulating everyone into despair. Bogart uses extreme sports and sex to lure his victims in, and when Tara is no longer paying attention to him, he sets his sights on Astrid. '
Cult of the Damned' has a good set up, although it's one we've seen before. I take it that Thom wanted to show us the temptation of the sex, drugs, and rock n' roll, and how a young girl had to struggle with that along with her insane home life and unorthodox relationship with her parents. It's hard to believe that anyone would follow or listen to this slime ball of character in Bogart, as he seems to be a budget Jim Morrison of The Doors. That and the fact that this movie runs at a snail's pace, ultimately bring down the whole experience. 'Cult of the Damned' is intended to shock you, but falls short.
'Cult of the Damned' comes with a very good 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. For a film that's almost fifty years old, 'Cult of the Damned' looks very good, despite having a couple of issues. The detail here is quite vivid and sharp throughout, although there were a few instances of out of focus shots and some murkier scenes. It's noticeable, but not annoying. Textures in costumes, individual hairs, and beads of sweat can be seen through this new transfer, which is nice, but this only seems to be the case in closeup shots.
The wider shots look a little softer. Colors are bright throughout and pop off screen, which is nice, considering the film's age. Every color was well balanced and saturated without any color correction problems. The black levels were consistently deep and inky and the skin tones were natural and true. There was some light speckling throughout the film and there was an issue were horizontal lines showed up during the middle of the film, but then disappeared. It was strange, but they never appeared again. For being an older film that did not have a particularly high budget, this video presentation looks solid.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 stereo mix. Unfortunately, the audio portion didn't hold up as well like the video presentation did over the years. The sound as a whole fluctuates in volume and clarity throughout. It's as if they were trying to find the perfect pitch and volume, but never did. The score probably sounds the best here. It comes across as full and robust, although the instruments sound a little muffled at times.
Dialogue is easy to follow and crisp, however there were some shrills when things got heavier in the film. There is not a particularly wide dynamic range as and the LFE is decent at best. Sound effects are loud, but never sound realistic nor pack any directionality. I would have thought that since this has a ton of music in it, that the audio would have had a fuller sound or at least a 5.1 option, but sadly, that's not the case. There were no instances of any pops, cracks, or hiss, but the other problems make this audio option a somewhat difficult one to listen to.
Audio Commentary - Film historians Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer sit down ad deliver a very informative commentary track. They discuss the life and career of the cast and crew, as well as talk about the movie shoot and the late 1960's film era.
Still Gallery - Here are a dozen or so images from the film.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
'Cult of the Damned' is a forgotten piece of the late 1960's shock and awe genre. Director Robert Thom tried to show how the different age gaps and generations dealt with change and temptation here with tons of music, politics, and war. It never quite gets off its feet and becomes a visual experience more than trying to tell a cohesive story. The video and audio both do their job, but have some issues. The commentary track is worth listening to, but that about does it for extras. If you're curious about this long lost film, rent it first, before purchasing.