Daughters of Darkness (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Nov 05, 2020
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Daughters of Darkness (4K UHD Review)

Director

Harry Kumel

Release Date(s)

1971 (October 27, 2020)

Studio(s)

Showking Films/Maya Films/Cine Vog Films/Roxy Film (Blue Underground)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: A+
  • Audio Grade: A+
  • Extras Grade: A-

Daughters of Darkness (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

Made during an era when films about or relating to lesbian vampires were popular theatrically (such as The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula), Daughters of Darkness was a Belgian, French, and West German co-production that tackled similar subject matter, but did it with a combination of expressionism and underlying humor. Known by many titles in and beyond its native land, including Children of the Night and The Promise of Red Lips, the film continues to court genre audiences with its sophisticated and thematic beauty and effective erotic horror.

Though only knowing each other for a short while, Stefan (John Karlen) and Valerie (Danielle Ouimet) are recently married and honeymooning their way across Europe. They check into a hotel in Belgium whereupon they spend time seeing the sights and discovering more of each other’s personality. While having a late dinner, they are discovered by a strange and hypnotic older woman, who turns out to be the Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory (Delphine Seyrig). Aided by her young and beautiful consort Ilona (Andrea Rau), they take a strong interest in the couple, insisting that they spend all of their time together. After a series of grisly murders in the area, Elizabeth’s supernatural intentions towards Stefan and Valerie slowly come to light when the couple begin having disputes with each other. Elizabeth and Ilona intervene, but with tragic consequences.

Daughters of Darkness was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using spherical lenses. It was finished on film as a cut negative with an aspect ratio of 1.67:1. The Ultra HD is sourced from a 4K 16-bit scan of the newly-discovered original camera negative and features a restoration and high dynamic range color grade overseen and approved by director Harry Kumel (note that both HDR10 and Dolby Vision are available). Since previous DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film have featured transfers derived from 35 mm prints, this marks the first time that Daughters of Darkness has been seen on home video with such vivid clarity. In a word, the result is superlative—a revelation even. Gone are the crushed blacks of previous transfers, revealing an enormous amount of detail in the film’s dark and shadowy environments. Grain is well-attenuated, though one sequence late in the film reveals a few seconds of weak emulsion on the OCN. Everything appears crystal clear with a remarkable color palette, allowing for lush swatches of red, blue, and purple, as well as perfect flesh tones. It’s also free of any leftover dirt or debris. It’s a gorgeous and organic presentation, one that even long-time fans will marvel at.

The main audio is presented in English Dolby Atmos (7.1 compatible), with additional options in English 5.1 and 1.0 DTS-HD, and French 1.0 DTS-HD. Optional subtitles are provided in English SDH, French, Spanish, and English for the French audio. The new Dolby Atmos track widens the original mono to give it a fuller presentation, though adds little in terms of dynamics or speaker to speaker activity. The beautiful score in particular benefits from the extra space. Dialogue exchanges are clear while sound effects have about the same amount of potency. All four presentations are clear and the overdubbing is obvious, but all of them are clean with excellent amplitude and definition.

The following extras are also included:

  • Audio Commentary with Harry Kumel and David Gregory
  • Audio Commentary with John Karlen and David Del Valle
  • Audio Commentary with Kat Ellinger
  • Locations of Darkness (SD – 21:37)
  • Playing the Victim (SD – 15:31)
  • Daughter of Darkness (SD – 7:57)
  • US Trailer (HD – 2:11)
  • International Trailer (Promise of Red Lips) (HD – 3:56)
  • French Trailer (Les Levres Rouges) with Optional English Subtitles (HD – 1:43)
  • US Radio Spot #1 (HD – 0:34)
  • US Radio Spot #2 (HD – 0:34)
  • US Radio Spot #3 (HD – 0:33)
  • US Radio Spot #4 (HD – 0:33)
  • Alternate US Main Titles (HD – 1:56)
  • Poster & Still Gallery (HD – 115 in all)
  • Easter Egg (HD – 1:17)

The first audio commentary features director Harry Kumel with David Gregory sitting in as a moderator. Gregory occasionally questions Kumel about various scenes as they watch the film together, while Kumel also comments on the making of it. The second audio commentary features actor John Karlen with David Del Valle serving as a moderator, which is more of a laid back conversation as the film runs. New to this release is the third and final audio commentary featuring film critic and author Kat Ellinger. Not only a fan, but also someone who wrote a book about it, she takes us through the film with glee. Astonished by its restoration, she discusses various aspects of it in great detail and contextualizes its place within this era of horror. In Locations of Darkness, Harry Kumel and co-writer/producer Pierre Drouot revisit the filming locations and share their memories of the production. In Playing the Victim, actress Danielle Ouimet discusses working with Kumel and the cast, but also reveals her retrospective feelings about the final film. In Daughter of Darkness, actress Andrea Rau recounts her experiences in getting involved with the production and the making of it. The US and International trailers are HD recreations. The Alternate US Main Titles present the film with a different title card, but also with an added (and unnecessary) vocal to the opening score. The Poster & Still Gallery features posters, advertising materials, newspaper and magazine clippings, lobby cards, press photos, on-set stills, behind-the-scenes photos, book covers, and home video and soundtrack artwork. A hidden Easter Egg can be found by pressing up on your remote control when Extras is highlighted, which will cause Elizabeth's eyes to turn red. Pressing enter will make all of the women's eyes turn yellow simultaneously and you will then be treated to a TV spot and other random footage which runs silent

In addition to the UHD disc, there is also a Blu-ray of the film included in 1080p, utilizing the same restoration, audio tracks, subtitle options, and extras. The same Easter Egg can also be found, but by instead pressing up while Audio Commentary is highlighted in the Extras menu. Also included is a CD soundtrack comprised of 22 tracks of Francois de Roubaix’s score for the film, as well as a 20-page booklet, which contains cast and crew information, the essay Daughters of Darkness: A Family History by Michael Gingold, various stills, a soundtrack selection listing, and a chapter selection listing. All of this material is housed within a clear amaray case inside a lenticular slipcover. It’s worth noting that are are a couple of things from previous releases that haven’t been included. The original DVD and Blu-ray release from Blue Underground also included the film The Blood Spattered Bride as an extra in standard definition, which has since been released on Blu-ray. An overseas Blu-ray release includes the German version of the film, as well an additional commentary by the director in German, additional interviews with the director, a photo gallery with optional commentary by the director, stills of German lobby cards, and a video of the title song.

There’s no question that Blue Underground’s Ultra HD release of Daughters of Darkness is spectacular, breathing new life into a film that was previously hidden beneath murky shadows and unsatisfactory hues. It’s like seeing the film with new eyes, and with a great extras package to go with it, it’s another strong UHD title from Blue Underground.

- Tim Salmons

(You can follow Tim on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook. And be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel here.)

 

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