This is a must-own and must-see DVD, not only for horror movie enthusiasts but for anyone who has ever admired a horror movie, and also for anybody who has even entertained the notion of making an independent film. Sure, there are some slightly better organized tracks by filmmakers and crews, but few by filmmakers who made movies at this modest level of production, and who succeeded in generating anything nearly as good as Richard Blackburn's Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural (or, as it was often shown, Lemora, the Lady Dracula). The film was a complete anomaly at the time of its release in 1973, a gothic horror tale steeped in Catholic iconography but dressed up in old-line Southern Protestant drag that also bypassed Richard Matheson's existing modern vampire imagery and leaped right over Stephen King's work, landing squarely in Anne Rice territory, long before Rice herself was known. Actually, the mere existence of Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural on DVD is something of a miracle. It was maintained for many years that no preservation materials existed on the movie -- an archival presentation in New York during 2002 was shown from a one-inch video master that was reputed to be the closest thing to a film print that was known to exist. This release, made from the rediscovered original, uncut, uncensored camera negative (and pre-mastered in high-definition video), letterboxed to a non-anamorphic aspect ratio of 1.78:1, is gorgeous in all the places (mostly in Lemora's home) that it is supposed to be gorgeous, and it looks great throughout. That's far better than television presentations (the only way that 98 percent of its fans ever saw the movie) from the 1970s and early '80s, with deeper, richer colors and enveloping pure blacks, as well as resolution so good that you can see the weave in some of the fabrics of the clothes. It's also nicely, newly scary, for all of that detail -- a bit like seeing it for the first time. There's usable picture information everywhere, even in the darkest shots, and the scenes lit for their exposure of detail absolutely sing compared with previous incarnations. The seamless presentation gives one a chance to properly appreciate everything that the director had in mind and that we were supposed to see. What one appreciates fully, seeing the movie here, is that its commercial failure was a genuine tragedy, caused by its unique attributes. Lemora looked too arty for the exploitation market, and its action and plot were seemingly rooted too much in exploitation cinema (and the sleazy swampy South) to find an audience in art houses of the period (though today it would have killed at Sundance and cleaned up on the art-theater circuit). Leslie Gilb's portrayal of Lemora at moments bears an uncanny resemblance to Klaus Kinski, while still looking ravishingly feminine, and is one of the most dreamily seductive characters ever to grace the screen. She could have been a serious lesbian icon if Lemora had been widely seen, and there's an inescapable haunting quality to Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith's portrayal of her victim. Yet, at other times, the whole production recalls the best work of horror producer Val Lewton as it might have looked updated by three decades. The 85-minute movie has been given a very generous 20 chapters, all well chosen based on the major plot and dramatic points. If that were all that were here, it would justify owning this disc, because, on its own terms, this is one of the neatest pieces of low-budget cinema ever released. The makers have also loaded it up, however, with a wall-to-wall commentary track by director Richard Blackburn, producer Robert Fern, and star Leslie Gilb, who take us across the entire 85 minutes recalling aspects of the production, significant and otherwise (but always illuminating), and the way decisions were made and the reasons for those decisions. The great virtue of the commentary track, beyond its content, however, is the fact that everybody is obviously having such a good time participating and watching the movie, and they're so unguarded in what they have to say, unlike even the most comfortable commentators on higher-profile and bigger-budgeted movies; there's a lot of funny stuff discussed here that's worth hearing. The disc also contains a selection of continuity photos from the production of Lemora, and the trailers to three movies distributed by Synapse, including Frank Henenlotter's Brain Damage and Jeff Lieberman's Blue Sunshine (the trailer for the latter may almost be creepier than the movie, if that's possible). There's also a DVD-ROM function that offers users the shooting script. The disc opens automatically to a simple, easy-to-use menu that allows one to switch the commentary on and off as the movie progresses without losing one's place in the film. It's all thoroughly enjoyable and informative, and worth more than a lot of higher-profile horror movies released before and since.
New uncut, uncensored anamorphic (1.78:1) widescreen transfer, supervised and approved by director Richard Blackburn; RSDL dual-layered edition; Bonus trailers; Liner notes; Audio commentary from director Richard Blackburn, actress Lesley Gilb and producer Robert Fern; Still gallery including rare on-set continuity photos; DVD-ROM content: original shooting script
Side #1 -- 1. Singing Angel [4:42] 2. Mysterious Letter [3:03] 3. Hitching a Ride [5:18] 4. Bus Ride to Hell [6:49] 5. Little Girl Lost [4:24] 6. Escape [5:46] 7. Lila's Room [3:43] 8. Lemora's Spell [5:35] 9. Running Wild [1:27] 10. Bedtime Bath [4:39] 11. Father? [7:26] 12. Mary's Diary [2:58] 13. Run [1:02] 14. Alone in the Dark [6:16] 15. Abandoned [6:32] 16. "Come to Me" [2:30] 17. Battle of the Dead [3:09] 18. A Child's Destiny [2:24] 19. Forbidden Love [2:44] 20. End Titles [1:37]
Side #1 -- Play Movie Special Features Audio Commentary With Actor/Director/Producer/Writer Richard Blackburn, Writer/Producer Robert Fern and Actress Lesley Gilb: On/Off Still Gallery DVD-ROM Content Also Available From Synapse Films Chapter Selections
Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural 5 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Horror fans have been waiting for a respectful DVD release of LEMORA for years and Synapse Films has done a brilliant job here of delivering the goods. This DVD was mastered from the original camera negatives and fans of LEMORA will be shocked by the beauty of the film that has unfortunately only been available via poor quality, dark vhs releases over the years. Director Richard Blackburn has made a surreal vampire tale full of atmosphere and unique characters and visuals, despite a very low budget. The film tells the story of young Lila Lee, beautifully played by the late cult film actress and musician Cheryl 'Rainbeaux' Smith,and her search for her missing father in the haunted and spooky town of Asteroth where Lemora lives with her coven of vampires surrounded by ghouls. LEMORA is a dark gem of '70's horror and not to be missed. The DVD extras include an excellent commentary track by director Blackburn, Lemora herself Lesley Gilb and producer Robert Fern, rare photos taken on set in '72/'73, a dvd-rom of the original script and a photo dedication of the disc to the late Smith who would go on to make many well loved cult and genre films after LEMORA. Smith is a treasure and so is this spooky, atmospheric horror classic.