Digi-Schlock: CRAWLSPACE (Scream Factory Blu-Ray)

As they have plumbed the vaults at MGM, the Scream Factory crew has shown a certain fondness for the work of Empire Films via nice special editions for From Beyond and Terrorvision.  They recently unearthed another Empire favorite in Crawlspace, offering a nice little special edition for this underappreciated cable t.v. regular from the ’80s that offers viewers a bump in resolution and a few informative extras.

Things start with a solid anamorphic transfer that accurately reflects the film’s mid-’80s vintage while also offering a new level of clarity to the colors and the overall sense of detail.  The film’s original stereo mix is presented in DTS lossless style here and the results sound sleek, with a nice blend of elements and plenty of oomph for Pino Donaggio’s lushly textured musical score.

The extras begin with a commentary track from writer/director David Schmoeller.  He’s surprisingly down on the movie but still manages to give an informative track that reveals the fascinating story behind this film.  He offers insight into the Empire Films method of pre-selling films and how not only did Schmoeller design the film Crawlsp-bluto fit a standing set that Charles Band had read but he also had to rewrite the film quickly during pre-production to suit Band’s choice of villain!

Schmoeller also offers a lot of anecdotes about the infamously bad behavior of his star, Klaus Kinski.  There’s no shortage of gems in this area, as the director reveals that Kinski bought his own wardrobe to protest the production’s choices, would try to “sell” his lines to his cast mates and would wander off after lunch if not guarded by a production staffer.  The funniest (and saddest) anecdote has Schmoeller revealing how he had to conspire with the sound department to get extras takes out of Kinski, who would also edit his own dialogue mid-scene!  In short, it’s a must-listen for fans of this film to hear the tales of Kinski’s on-set mischief alone.

There are also a couple of featurettes on this disc.  An interview with makeup effects artist John Vulich was shot for this disc and he paints an interesting portrait of being a 21 year-old kid handling a major makeup gig in Italy.  Kinski is a major focus of the chat, with Vulich being surprisingly fond of the difficult actor and telling a hilarious story about a Kinski fight/tantrum that he witnessed on set.

The other featurette is an older one produced by Schmoeller himself.  It is entitled “Please Kill Mr. Kinski” and is essentially a snappily edited monologue about the director’s experiences with Kinski on Crawlspace,  which also incorporates film clips and on-the-set video footage of Kinski ranting about directors and picking fights with the crew.  It’s both scary and hilarious as Schmoeller calmly reveals how the actor engaged in psychological warfare with him and the rest of the crew, prompting the producer to consider having his assassinated and inspiring the crew to frequently murmur the phrase that gives this short its title.

The package is rounded out by a theatrical trailer and two t.v. spots: both benefit from deft editing that focuses on the shocks and all of the villain’s nasty little gadgets.  In short, Scream Factory’s disc of Crawlspace is a quality special edition that does well by a still-underrated film that deserves more fans.  Perhaps this disc will give the film a chance to find a bigger audience – and Schlockmania recommends it to any horror/exploitation buffs who have not yet experienced this film’s creepy charms.

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