When Scream Factory began crank­ing out vin­tage hor­ror titles on blu-ray and DVD this year, they start­ed with famil­iar cat­a­log peren­ni­als like Halloween III, The Funhouse and They Live.  However, as their future announce­ments began to pile up, they let it be known that future releas­es would be mov­ing in to lesser-known and more eso­ter­ic ter­ri­to­ry.  Death Valley rep­re­sents one of their first jour­neys into the obscure — and while it’s a lit­tle lighter on extras than their past releas­es, it’s still a nice­ly assem­bled set.

Things start with a crisp new anamor­phic trans­fer of the title attrac­tion.  One of Death Valley’s best assets is its visu­al style and this trans­fer does jus­tice to Stephen Burum’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy: black lev­els are rich dur­ing the night sce­nes and the details are sharp in the day­time desert pho­tog­ra­phy.  In terms of audio, a Dolby HD loss­less ver­sion of the orig­i­nal mono sound­track is used.  It gets the job done nice­ly with­out dis­tor­tion or defects and adds some oom­ph to Dana Kaproff’s creepy orches­tral music score.

Extras are simple but worth­while.  First up is a trail­er gallery that includes both the­atri­cal and t.v. spots for Death Valley as well as bonus the­atri­cal trail­ers for The Island and They Live.  Warning: the the­atri­cal spot for Death Valley gives away one of the sur­prise kills so don’t watch it until you’ve seen the main attrac­tion.

The oth­er, more size­able extra here is a com­men­tary track with direc­tor Dick Richards, mod­er­at­ed by Edwin Samuelson of A.V. Maniacs and The Cinefiles.  Richards is a dif­fi­cult inter­view sub­ject — he’s terse with his com­ments and can be fog­gy or vague on specifics — but Samuelson does a good job of prim­ing him with ques­tions.  Better yet, Samuelson turns the talk to the his­to­ry of Richards’ career, which includes some inter­est­ing sto­ries on Farewell My Lovely, March Or Die and Tootsie (which Richards pro­duced).  There’s even a brief but inter­est­ing tale about how he was offered Jaws and why he didn’t end up doing that film.

The com­men­tary starts to run out of steam in the last fif­teen min­utes, with Richards seem­ing to lose inter­est, but Samuelson keeps it going to the end cred­its with good ques­tions (even if the sub­ject doesn’t always want to offer detailed answers).  Overall, there’s enough good mate­ri­al here to make it worth a lis­ten for fans.

In short, this is a solid edi­tion for a cat­a­log title.  Slasher fans will be hap­py to see this edi­tion of Death Valley, espe­cial­ly since it has been out of print since the VHS era, and col­lec­tors of obscure hor­ror in gen­er­al can rest assured that Scream Factory has assem­bled a worth­while high-def­i­n­i­tion set for it.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Death Valley, click here.