Given its access to the MGM cat­a­log, Scream Factory is sit­ting on a lot of hor­ror titles that col­lec­tors would love to see in high-def.  To their cred­it, they are pro­lif­i­cal­ly dol­ing out a lot of key cult titles from this sub­stan­tial archive.  One of the most recent is The Beast Within, an ear­ly ‘80s shock­er that became a cult fave on home video.  It’s not the full-blown spe­cial edi­tion you get with some Scream Factory releas­es but it does offer a nice A/V upgrade plus a few choice extras that make it much bet­ter than your stan­dard cat­a­log reis­sue.

Things start swim­ming­ly with a new anamor­phic trans­fer.  It eas­i­ly bests the ear­lier MGM DVD edi­tion, offer­ing a new depth to the col­or palet­te and impres­sive clar­i­ty that shows off how well-shot this film is.  It also includes a loss­less pre­sen­ta­tion of the film’s 2.0 stereo mix.  The results sound nice and crisp: dia­logue is clear through­out, the sound effects have punch and the thun­der­ous Les Baxter musi­cal score has the prop­er amount of son­ic mus­cle.

BeastW-bluThis disc also fea­tures a pair of audio com­men­taries that make their debut here.  The first fea­tures direc­tor Philippe Mora and star Paul Clemens.  The two have a fun, jokey rap­port, with Mora deploy­ing a sly wit while Clemens cracks bad jokes with glee­ful aban­don.  It takes a lit­tle while for the two to find their rhythm (the excit­ed Clemens talks over Mora ear­ly on) but the results offer plen­ty of inter­est­ing fac­toids, with Clemens being par­tic­u­lar­ly sharp at remem­ber­ing the most obscure things.

For exam­ple, there are tales of the film being pick­et­ed by the KKK for hav­ing a black cast mem­ber and a real­ly unique tale of how a crew and cast mem­ber who worked togeth­er on the trau­mat­ic finale end­ed up get­ting mar­ried after­wards! Elsewhere, Mora speaks frankly about how he had to tone the film down to appease the stu­dio execs and Clemens offers an inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion of the trans­for­ma­tion sequence, reveal­ing how the effects were done and what it was like to be in the mid­dle of all that latex and blad­der work.

The sec­ond com­men­tary track fea­tures Tom Holland and is mod­er­at­ed by Robert Galluzzo.  These two have worked togeth­er before on com­men­taries so their com­ments have a nice, steady flow.  Holland offers plen­ty of inter­est­ing detail about how he tran­si­tioned from act­ing to writ­ing and the nuts and bolts of how this, his first pro­duced script, came togeth­er.  Basically, he was hired by pro­duc­er Harvey Bernhard to con­coct a sto­ry revolv­ing around a man-to-mon­ster trans­for­ma­tion scene (the book that is list­ed in the cred­its of the film actu­al­ly hadn’t been writ­ten yet!).  He talks about reverse-engi­neer­ing the sto­ry to fit this pur­pose and how he designed it to ref­er­ence goth­ic hor­ror lit­er­a­ture, espe­cial­ly Lovecraft.

Holland also dis­cuss­es how the expo­si­tion­al sce­nes were cut by the stu­dio and how the nature of his mon­ster changed from the script as the film went into pro­duc­tion.  Fans will be glad to hear him give his full expla­na­tion of the film’s back­sto­ry, how the curse it revolves around works and why the cicada is used as a metaphor in the film.  Galluzzo asks some good ques­tions about his writ­ing process and the film’s his­to­ry but Holland doesn’t need much prompt­ing.  A par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing moment arrives when he talks about how he lat­er explored the same revenge, curse and rebirth motifs from The Beast Within in his more suc­cess­ful lat­er effort, Child’s Play.

The disc clos­es out with a few pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als.  First up is a the­atri­cal trail­er that uses the kind of charm­ing huck­ster-style come-ons not seen since the days of William Castle, com­plete with warn­ing about the film’s “shock­ing” trans­for­ma­tion sce­nes.  There is also a pair of radio spots that mine the same ter­ri­to­ry as the trailer’s nar­ra­tion.  It’s fun stuff, the kind of thing one wish­es would be revived for mod­ern film pro­mo­tion.

All in all, The Beast Within is anoth­er qual­i­ty cat­a­log release from Scream Factory, boast­ing a strong trans­fer and throw­ing in a few good com­men­taries that shed light on the film’s tor­tured gen­e­sis.  Fans of ear­ly ‘80s hor­ror shouldn’t hes­i­tate to snap it up.