Evilspeak is an interesting example of a title that benefitted from the kind of resurrection that the advent of DVD special editions made possible. In his VHS incarnation, it was only available in the U.S. in a badly-gutted version that removed most of the makeup effects, complete with noticeable jumps in picture and soundtrack.
Anchor Bay created a nice DVD for this title in 2004, restoring the missing gore effects and adding some special features. There was also a foreign disc that contain some extensions of scenes and more recently a newly remastered DVD from Code Red that offered up a new set of extras with its freshly-minted transfer. Scream Factory has picked up the gauntlet for the blu-ray edition of this title and the results take the film to the next level in both the technical and special feature departments.
The transfer that Code Red worked up gets the full high-definition treatment on this disc and the results do well by this film. The mixture of colorful exteriors and earthy-looking interiors registers nicely here, getting a new bump in richness and clarity. Film grain is noticeable in the frequent dimly-lit interiors but it’s an appropriate representation of the source materials.
The disc utilizes the film’s vintage mono mix, presented in a lossless form here, and the results are surprisingly punchy and layered for a single-channel mix. When Stanley starts lopping off heads during the finale, you’ll be impressed by the punch of the gruesome decapitation sounds that accompany these moments.
Those who missed out on the Code Red disc will be happy to learn that Scream Factory has retained all its extras. The first and largest of these extras is a commentary track with director/co-writer Eric Weston that is moderated by Code Red honcho William Olsen. It’s an informal affair, with Weston sometimes having trouble hearing Olsen’s queries, but there is plenty of interesting information for fans here.
Weston goes into detail about which scenes were shot on sets or at locations, reveals how they found a church they could blow up and offers plenty of details on the stunts and effects in the finale. There are also interesting off-the-cuff anecdotes, like a tale about how Joseph Cortese almost ended up in Raging Bull and what Sam Peckinpah had to say to Weston when he saw the film(!).
Next is a trio of interviews carried over from the recent Code Red DVD. The first features Clint Howard, who self-depcratingly discusses the small toupee he had to wear for the film and how he initially struggled over whether or not he should do the film. He also offers his thoughts on his cast mates and reflects fondly on how Weston and the cinematographer brought him into their decision-making process. Don Stark is the next interview and he cracks jokes a-plenty as he discusses how he got the role, discusses his cast mates and offers a fun account of his character’s final scene in the film. The last segment focuses of Joseph Cortese, who praises the director’s willingness to allow him to improvise and also discusses his work in Death Collector and Monsignor.
Scream Factory has also added a few new interview-oriented extras that further enhance the set’s value. The first is an interview with Allan Apone, who was one of the makeup effects designers on the film. He goes into detail about how several different effects were achieved, including the nail-in-forehead bit and the infamous “pigs in the shower” scene, and also tells a funny anecdote about he gave himself a nasty scare in the FX lab one night.
The Apone interview is solid stuff but the other new extra is the best of all. It’s called “Satan’s Pigs And Severed Heads” and is a retrospective piece built on interviews with five cast members: Haywood Nelson, Claude Earl Jones, Loren Lester, Richard Moll and Lynn Hancock. This piece was produced by Aine Leicht and is as compelling as the retrospective interview docs she produced for Scream Factory’s Witchboard and Night Of The Demons discs. All five participants reveal how they got the job, their thoughts about the bizarre storyline, tales about working with Weston and Howard and their reflections on the cultish longevity of Evilspeak.
However, the real delight of this featurette lies in the off-the-cuff remarks and side-anecdotes told by the actors. Hancock tells some hair-raising stories about the filming of the pig scene, Moll throws out a few stories about his work with Charles Band and Nelson offers a thoughtful analysis of the film’s enduring appeal with horror fans. Elsewhere, Lester does a funny impression of Weston and, in a surprise touching moment, he and Jones revealed how they formed a friendship and creative collaboration that has continued since the film. It’s all briskly edited by Sean Cain and the 30 minute length zips by. If you’re an Evilspeak fan, you’ll get a kick out of it.
The last of the extras is the theatrical trailer, a clever spot that plays up the film’s Carrie-esque revenge appeal. All in all, Scream Factory has done a nice job bringing this cult favorite into the blu-ray era. Your shelf of ’80s high-def horror won’t be complete without it.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of Evilspeak, click here.
(Full Disclosure: I am thanked in the end credits of “Satan’s Pigs And Severed Heads” featurette. I earned this credit by providing the segment’s producers with a lead for an interview. I was not directly involved in the production of this featurette or the disc itself.)