DirectorJohn D. Lamond
Release Date(s)1980 (March 28, 2023)
Studio(s)Roadshow Entertainment (Umbrella Entertainment/Vinegar Syndrome)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B+
John D. Lamond had already made a name for himself in the Australian film industry with a number of softcore and sex comedy pictures in the 1970s, among them Australia After Dark and Felicity. By 1980, he was given the task of putting together a quickie horror film, shooting it back to back with another film, Pacific Banana. The result was Nightmares aka Stage Fright. Very little money and time were provided and the resulting film was, shall we say, less than good. It’s a slasher film akin to a giallo, but it fails due to how chaotic and seemingly unfinished it feels. There’s no real mystery to the killer’s identity, even though the film tries its best to hide it, but it winds up more frustrating than satisfying. The best performance in the film is from John-Michael Howson, a deliciously deviant theatre critic with a penchant for lovers on both sides of the aisle. He eventually gets his just desserts after treating everyone he meets with total disrespect, but the man is clearly having a blast with the role and it shows. Regardless of its confusing titles, which likely left many scratching their heads in the video store (“is this the Emilio Estevez movie or the Alfred Hitchcock movie?”), Nightmares is a very poor film. One can certainly argue that it’s not boring by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s not enough to salvage it.
As a child, Helen witnesses her mother sleeping with another man, leading to a car accident in which her mother dies in front of her. Scarring her for life after her father tells her that it’s all her fault, Helen (Jenny Neumann) grows up damaged. She longs to be an actress with a local theatre company, befriending and eventually dating TV actor Terry Besanko (Gary Sweet), whom she meets at an audition for a play. They’re both given parts by the play’s director, George D’alberg (Max Phipps), who is under pressure from the ruthless critic Bennett Collingwood (John-Michael Howson). In between rehearsals and eventually performances, someone is viciously murdering the theatre troupe with shards of glass, which triggers Helen’s traumatic childhood flashbacks.
Nightmares was shot by director of photography Garry Wapshot on 35 mm film using Panavision cameras and lenses, finished photochemically, and framed at the 2.35:1 aspect ratio for its theatrical release. The materials used for Umbrella Entertainment’s US Blu-ray presentation release of the film are unknown, though it looks to be from an interpositive element. (It’s also the same presentation as their Ozploitation Classics Blu-ray release from 2021.) It’s a great improvement over previous home video releases with deeper blacks and sharper detail, though grain can be a little chunky in darkened environments. Textures are pleasant on skin and clothing, as well as the murky areas in and around the theatre. The color palette offers a nice variety of rich hues, including strong uses of red, green, and purple. A bit of telecine wobble, splice marks, and speckling are leftover, but it’s a mostly satisfying presentation of the film.
The audio is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. Depth is achieved in regards to Brian May’s repetitive score, and sound effects have decent impact. Dialogue exchanges are mostly clear and discernible as well. Minor hiss and a couple of thumps accompanied by dropouts are present. It should also be noted that if you haven’t seen this film before, watching it with the subtitles on your first time through is not recommended as it spoils the identity of the killer. A curious oversight.
Nightmares sits inside a clear amaray case with double-sided artwork, featuring the Australian theatrical poster art on the front, and a still from the film with a quote by director John D. Lamond on the inner sleeve. Included in the package is an 8-page insert booklet featuring the essay Australia Day and Other Nightmares by Alexandra Heller-Nicolas, which is an exclusive addition to this release. On their website, Vinegar Syndrome offers a limited edition embossed and spot gloss slipcover, designed by Black Coffiend, which is limited to 2,000 units. The disc-based extras include the following:
- Audio Commentary by John D. Lamond and Mark Hartley
- Not Quite Hollywood: Extended Interviews (SD – 28:06)
- Deleted Scenes (SD – 14 in all – 9:04)
- Confessions of an R-Rated Movie Maker (Upscaled SD – 8:09)
- John D. Lamond Trailer Reel (Upscaled SD and HD – 21:17)
- Stills and Poster Gallery (HD – 26 in all – 1:21)
- TV Spot (HD – :26)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD – 3:19)
The audio commentary with director John D. Lamond and Not Quite Hollywood director Mark Hartley was recorded for Severin Films’ 2011 DVD release of the film. They’re not shy about their opinion of the film, and get that out of the way right off the bat. It’s a fine commentary, although Hartley is the driving force, doing his best to keep things moving as Lamond sounds tired and/or in poor health. However, Lamond is still in good spirits and between him and Hartley’s enthusiasm, it makes for an informative and fun listen. The Not Quite Hollywood Extended Interviews feature John D. Lamond, actress Nina Landis, and Garry Wapshot. The set of Deleted Scenes are mostly scene extensions. Confessions of an R-Rated Movie Maker (titled Confessions of an R-Rated Filmmaker on the main menu) is a hotel-bound interview with John D. Lamond. The Trailer Reel features trailers for Australia After Dark, The ABC of Love and Sex: Australia Style, Felicity, Nightmares, Pacific Banana, Breakfast in Paris, and Sky Pirates. The Stills and Poster Gallery features 26 posters, publicity photos, production stills, and behind-the-scenes photos. Both the TV spot and the theatrical trailer are HD recreations.
Despite its flaws, Nightmares manages to be a cult favorite for a very small niche of fans who enjoy it for its off-the-wall sensibilities. It’s an acquired taste, and with Umbrella Entertainment’s new US Blu-ray release, which replicates their Ozploitation Classics Blu-ray release to the letter, it’s the best option available in order to judge for yourself.
- Tim Salmons