One of the major sources of titles for Scream Factory label has always been the MGM film library: their arrange­ment with this stu­dio has result­ed in fine discs of titles like The Burning and Lifeforce.  Their lat­est treat­ment of an MGM-sourced acqui­si­tion is a new blu-ray/DVD set of Motel Hell: and the result makes for a wor­thy addi­tion to the can­ni­bal sec­tion of your hi-def hor­ror col­lec­tion.

MotelH-bluThings start off with a solid trans­fer for the film.  Motel Hell is a chal­leng­ing title because sev­er­al sequences go for that “dif­fused” look that was so pop­u­lar in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s.  The non-dif­fused day­time exte­ri­ors look the best here, with the rest doing as well as the nat­u­ral­ly soft and dim look of the film allows.  The results don’t stun but there is a notable upgrade from its DVD incar­na­tion in detail and depth.  Colors pop here and there (look out for those swirling lights that Vincent brings out for his live­stock).

The audio part of the trans­fer sticks to the film’s orig­i­nal 2.0 Dolby Stereo mix, deliv­ered in loss­less form on the blu-ray, and it sounds pret­ty good for its age: stereo pan­ning effects are sub­tle but notice­able and the rich musi­cal score sounds real­ly nice.

MotelH-05This set also boasts a full, com­pre­hen­sive set of extras that will keep the film’s fan­base busy.  Things start with a new com­men­tary track that pairs direc­tor Kevin Connor with moderator/filmmaker Dave Parker.  Though Connor’s mem­o­ry can get fuzzy on some of the super-speci­fic details, he’s frank about his first American film­mak­ing expe­ri­ence and reveals some inter­est­ing details.  For instance, he reveals that he played a role in ton­ing down the script from its John Waters-ish ini­tial ver­sion  and how Dr. Gene Scott inspired the film’s use of tel­e­van­ge­lists.  Parker keeps him primed with ques­tions and adds some fun triv­ia here and there, like how The Devil’s Rejects was shot at the same ranch loca­tion and the con­tro­ver­sy cre­at­ed by the film’s MotelH-06infa­mous Fangoria cov­er.

Next up are five fea­turettes, two cre­at­ed for this set and three car­ried over from Arrow Films’ U.K. spe­cial edi­tion.  The first of the new fea­turettes is a mak­ing-of piece enti­tled “It Takes All Kinds” that fea­tures writers/producers Robert-Charles and Steven Jaffe, Connor and actor Marc Silver.  The Jaffe broth­ers reveal how a mix­ture of bizarre child­hood inci­dents and hor­ror films inspired their script’s out­ré sen­si­bil­i­ty, Connor expands on some of his sto­ries from the com­men­tary track and Silver tells a few fun sto­ries about being “in the pit” MotelH-07as one of Farmer Vincent’s vic­tims.

The oth­er new fea­turet­te is a 16-min­ute chat with Thomas Del Ruth, the vet­er­an cin­e­matog­ra­pher who shot Motel Hell.  He offers a relaxed yet infor­ma­tive stream of chat: he starts with tales of grow­ing up in show­biz, includ­ing an ear­ly run-in with Rory Calhoun, and then dis­cuss­es work­ing with Connor and the rig­ors of shoot­ing the chain­saw duel finale.  A sur­pris­ing moment comes when he reveals his wife died short­ly before the shoot and he con­tin­ued to work to keep him­self occu­pied.

MotelH-08From there, the disc gets into a series of Arrow-sourced fea­turettes.  “Ida Be Thy Name” col­lects inter­views with a pair of female gen­re crit­ics and a cou­ple of mod­ern day scream queens to cre­ate a thought piece about the func­tion of the female vil­lain in hor­ror, includ­ing an analy­sis of Ida in this con­text.  The focus of the piece drifts to and fro but there are some inter­est­ing com­ments to be heard, includ­ing Elissa Dowling’s take on how a female hor­ror vil­lain should be played.

MotelH-09The next piece is a brief (11:30 min­utes) chat with Rosanne Katon.  She starts with some brief com­ments about her work as a mod­el and Playboy Playmate before get­ting in some fun tales about the shoot, includ­ing fond mem­o­ries of Parsons and how hilar­i­ous it was to shoot the “gar­den” sce­nes despite their phys­i­cal demands.  She shares her mem­o­ries with a con­ta­gious joy and shows a like­able appre­ci­a­tion of the film.

The last of the fea­turettes is a fif­teen min­ute chat with actor Paul Linke.  He reveals how a col­lege friend­ship with one of the Jaffe broth­ers led to a role being writ­ten for him in the film then goes on to tell tales about shoot­ing his big chain­saw fight and his sur­pris­ing dis­ap­point­meMotelH-10nt with the final pro­duct.  He also dis­cuss­es his sub­se­quent stage career, which has includ­ed a famous one-man show and work with Ben Gazzara.

The remain­der of the disc is devot­ed to pro­mo mate­ri­als.  The film’s the­atri­cal trail­er tries to play the film as straight hor­ror and most­ly jet­ti­sons its humor ele­ments.  Two image gal­leries fol­low.  The first is a brief behind the sce­nes gallery that gives a nice impres­sion of the sense of fun involved in the film’s shoot.  This is fol­lowed by an exten­sive poster and pro­duc­tion gallery that includes tons of stills, a few lob­by cards and array of posters, includ­ing sev­er­al unused con­cepts.  The disc clos­es out with a “More From” trail­er gallery that is appro­pri­ate­ly ‘80s-cen­tric, includ­ing titles like Without Warning and The Funhouse.

In short, this is anoth­er strong entry from Scream Factory that gives a new trans­fer to a deserv­ing cult fave and pro­vides a red-car­pet treat­ment when it comes to extras.  If you already love this flick, don’t hes­i­tate to dig in.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Motel Hell, click here.