Release Date(s)1972 (November 5, 2019)
Studio(s)Agata Films (Severin Films)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: C+
- Extras Grade: F
Severin Films has been busy releasing a variety of films as of late, from Eurosleaze to the erotic to the undervalued, all on Blu-ray with fresh film transfers and extras. Their last several titles have been no different, offering up a kaleidoscope of cinema’s mostly forgotten films. Here are several recent releases that might be worth your attention if you’re a fan of off-the-wall cinema.
In Byleth: The Demon of Incest, Lionello (Mark Damon) welcomes his sister Barbra (Claudia Gravy) back to their ancestral home after time away in England. Having a strong bond with each other since childhood, Lionello is devastated to learn that while he was away, Barbra married a man named Giordano (Aldo Bufi Landi), all but destroying his plans for them to be together finally without persecution from the outside world. Mad with jealousy, Lionello turns to witchcraft, summoning the demon Byleth for assistance, though whether or not the murders than begin occurring in and around their home are being carried out by the demon, Lionello, or another unknown force, is unclear.
Byleth is not your typical Italian gothic horror, and perhaps has more in common aesthetically with films like Fangs of the Living Dead (aka Malenka) than other films from the same era. The performances are strong, but the story is never given a specific explanation about the events after they unfold. The ending, in particular, is more of head-scratcher than a satisfying conclusion. There are frequent moments of nudity mixed with occasional drops of blood (rather tame by Italian standards), as well lush cinematography of the open countryside in a 19th century setting, but it’s not an overly rewarding experience. Mark Damon gives a fine performance, but the characters are not served all that well, ultimately victimized by an ambiguous narrative.
The film comes to Blu-ray with a strong if imperfect presentation. The opening title card informs us that the 2K scan “is taken from the only known negative element of the uncensored German version: Trio der Lust. There is discoloration in some scenes due to damage in the element, but hopefully this will not mar your enjoyment of this sensual and perverse filmic experience.” The aforementioned discoloration is quite obvious in spots, but hues are more natural elsewhere. There’s excellent detail to be had, but leftover scratches and speckling, as well as occasional instability.
The audio is included in German and Italian 2.0 mono DTS-HD. Both feature obvious hiss and crackle, as well as moments of distortion, but there’s enough favorable dialogue reproduction and potent uses of score that make it worthy. The main difference between the two tracks is that the Italian audio offers higher treble. Subtitles are included in English for both tracks, but there are no extras included at all.
Byleth: The Demon of Incest is not perfect on all sides, but it’s certainly a title worth your attention if you’re a fan of off-the-wall cinema.
– Tim Salmons