Nightbeast Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome
Written and directed by Don Dohler
1982, 81 minutes, Rated R
Released on May 23rd, 2019
Tom Griffith as Sheriff Jack Cinder
Jamie Zemarel as Jamie Lambert
Karin Kardian as Lisa Kent
George Stover as Steven Price
Don Leifert as Drago
Anne Firth as Ruth Sherman
Richard Dyszel as Mayor Bert Wicker
The peace and quiet of small-town Maryland is disrupted one night when an alien spacecraft crashes in the woods and explodes. The surviving monster leaves a path of destruction in its wake as it kills everyone it comes across. Sheriff Jack Cinder and his deputies investigate the wooded area and get into a gunfight with the creature. It zaps both deputies and locals alike, forcing the sheriff and his team to retreat. Later, Cinder returns with the coroner, but the bodies have disappeared. Working closely with Deputy Lisa and law enforcement enthusiast Jamie Lambert, the sheriff orders the evacuation of the town.
The alien continues to wreak havoc on the community, striking at several isolated locations and following the wounded to the doctor’s office. The beast seems indestructible and our heroes desperately await reinforcements from the state that never seem to arrive. The mayor is reluctant to do anything that will cause panic, even if it means costing several more innocent lives. Cinder does his best to protect the locals and somehow manages in the thick of a crisis to make time for some sweet lovin’ with his chief deputy! The group holes up at the doctor’s place for a final stand-off with the creature that may just save the planet.
Don Dohler (Dead Hunt) was a successful newspaper and magazine editor with a passion for film. In 1978, he broke onto the scene with the cult hit The Alien Factor, a movie about aliens attacking a small Maryland town. A few years later he returned to the subject matter with Nightbeast (1982), a similar story serving as a companion piece, featuring some of the same characters from his previous effort. There’s just the one monster this time, but it is a formidable enemy hell-bent on global destruction. Dohler’s efforts are an homage to classic science fiction movies of the 1950s and are extremely entertaining. This film brings an added level of violence and nudity into the mix, catering to the taste of contemporary 1980s audiences.
The budget is low and production values are limited, but Dohler is having a lot of fun shooting the picture with friends and family, frequently in his own back yard. The acting is a bit scattershot and some of the gore is a bit dicey, but the picture works more often than not. The real draw in this type of movie is the alien and here Dohler really succeeds. The creature looks terrific and is undoubtedly menacing. He keeps it in the shadows at first, but isn’t afraid to let it take center stage when attacking people. The creature is a combination of a man-in-a-suit and occasional hand puppet and evokes a fair amount of 1950s nostalgia. Dohler also makes great use of miniatures and classic special effects techniques that serve the picture well.
Nightbeast shines as a low-budget endeavor and Dohler proves himself as an engaging storyteller. His good-natured grass roots approach to filmmaking is to be admired and his directing style is quite satisfying. The script moves at a brisk pace and offers plenty of screen time to the titular alien creature giving audiences what they want in a monster movie. Dohler made ten movies over the years until his death in 2006, frequently using the same group of talent on both sides of the camera. He created a family environment and never grew cynical, always keeping his love of 1950s sci/fi flicks as his inspiration. This film is a particular favorite and serves as a career highlight, finding the director in top form.
Video and Audio:
Previously released on DVD by Troma, the image was dark and murky, leaving much to be desired. For this release, the original camera negative has been lovingly restored and remastered with stunning results. Presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the picture has never looked better, with bright colors and solid black levels and plenty of small-object detail.
The DTS-HD MA 1.0 track preserves the film’s original mono recording and really gets the job done. Dialogue levels are clean and clear and never distorted. Music and effects cues are well-balanced and not intrusive.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Extras kick off with an audio commentary by writer/director Don Dohler and actor George Stover recorded in 2004 for the DVD release.in which the two old friends share their memories of the production. Dohler is quick to reveal some of the low-budget tricks he employs throughout the shoot. They reminisce about the cast and crew and the general good times everyone had making the picture. This is an entertaining conversation well worth a listen.
Nightbeast Returns (25 minutes) is a collection of archival interviews with cast and crew – featuring Dohler, Stover and actor Don Leifert discussing the original failed attempt to bring this project together. The team rallied a few years later and tried again with more success. The real coup of this featurette is the inclusion of future director J.J. Abrams (Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens), who turns up in an interview reflecting on how Dohler gave him his start in the industry providing music for Nightbeast. Abrams has a lot of nice things to say about the experience and looks to Dohler as a mentor.
Actor Jamie Zemarel is the subject of the all-new interview An Electric Performance (16 minutes) in which he talks about getting his first gig working for Dohler. He reflects on the physicality of the role and shooting the fight scene. He shares some interesting production stories and gives his thoughts on the finished film.
In Crashing the Set (15 minutes), visual f/x artist John Ellis discusses his work on the production designing the space ship and working with miniatures. He admits working with Dohler was not always easy but the two remained friends for many years after.
Cinematographer Richard Geiwitz talks about the film in the segment Shooting the Nightbeast (19 minutes). He reveals how he got into photography, transitioning from actor in The Alien Factor to shooting Dohler’s next picture Fiend. He discusses the importance of fluid camera work and the challenges of shooting at night and with optical effects. This is another interesting segment worth checking out.
A collection of outtakes and bloopers (7 minutes) showcases flubbed lines, blown takes and general silliness.
A visual f/x gallery plays as a slideshow (4 minutes) set to the film’s score offering lots of behind-the-scenes images of designs, models and miniatures.
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