Color, 1973, 83 mins. 29 secs. / 89 mins. 6 secs. / 78 mins. 7 secs.
Directed by William Herbert
Starring Laurie Walters, Joe Spano, Edna MacAfee, Harry Bauer, Ray Goman, Steve Solinsky, Richard Vielle
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9), Media Blasters (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.66:1) (16:9)

Not Warlock Moonexactly known as a Warlock Moonhotbed of '70s regional horror, California's Bay Area did produce a handful of oddities including this slow-burning but oddly memorable little occult chiller originally shot as Bloody Spa mostly in Livermore, California, which gives it a welcome change of scenery. Buoyed by sincere if unpolished performances by a couple of future TV stars and a lively finale, it's the sort of late night oddity that catches the attention of really dedicated horror hounds.

In between classes at Berkeley, psych student Jenny (Eight Is Enough's Walters) gets picked up by student reporter John (Hill Street Blues' Spano) while he's doing goofy accents and wearing a Groucho Marx disguise. He manages to use his knowledge of Manet to get her to go for an afternoon picnic outing, but they get lost and end up at an abandoned hot springs spa where the only human in sight seems to be the peculiar, elderly Agnes (MacAfee). Intrigued by the spooky discovery and not dissuaded by some drugged tea, they agree to go back a week later so John can do a story about it-- which runs them smack into Warlock Moonuncanny events involving a ghost in a wedding dress, a cannibalistic legend in the building's past, and a couple of axe-wielding yokels. Warlock Moon

If you're expecting anything like a nice, clean, linear story here with realistic character behavior, forget it. This whole film feels like a weed-fueled fever dream and moves at a very odd pace, with sudden irrational jolts breaking up all the strange comedy and endless wandering around. That method really pays off in the crazed final twenty minutes, with a number of plot turns and a fateful stroke of midnight setting this one apart from the pack a bit. Perhaps the most audacious aspect of the film is the end credits, which roll as the story continues -- with an extra stinger coming afterwards to boot.

Though it never really received a bona fide theatrical release after a handful of test runs with a PG rating, Warlock Moon did pop up on syndicated TV in a padded version clocking in at almost 90 minutes to fill up the required time slot. That Warlock Moonsame extended version was used for its VHS debut in one of those oversized clamshell boxes from Unicorn Video, and most American viewers didn't have a chance to see (sort of) the original theatrical cut until it made its legit DVD bow in 2004 from Media Blasters. That disc featured a damaged, significantly cropped 1.66:1 transfer (clocking in at a bit over 78 minutes) with an intro and "comedy commentary" by Joe Bob Briggs, plus the "recreated" trailer and a silent, not very interesting Warlock Moonalternate edit of the opening sequence. The commentary isn't quite as mocking as you'd expect as he does go into depth about hippie culture, the actors' careers, and the amusing fact that Tobe Hooper was nervous shooting The Texas Chain Saw Massacre at the same time with a handful of minor plot similarities. A Spanish language dub is also included, plus bonus trailers for Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, Zombie, Blood Shack, and Hell High. The same disc was later packaged in a three-film Cannibal Lunch Box set with the much rougher Man from Deep River and Blood Feast 2.

In 2017, Code Red brought the film back into circulation as a Blu-ray special edition (sold internationally via Diabolik) that ditches the Joe Bob Briggs material and brings in the two stars to share their own accounts of making the film. The transfer is a big step up from the DVD with more image info visible and less harshness in the whites, which often looked very hot on the older transfer. It's still a rough, soft-looking 16mm production of course (a handful of shots like the second one above in the stairwell are extremely mushy) so don't expect visual fireworks, but it's a definite uptick. The longer TV cut is also included as an extra from what purports to be the only surviving Warlock Moonfilm element, and it's a nice alternative if you're curious. Warlock MoonColors have gone pink but it's better than the Unicorn tape, and some of the framing from the original open aperture lensing is radically different in a few scenes (again, check out that stairwell shot).

A new audio commentary moderated by Jeff McKay and Damon Packard with Walters and Spano is very lighthearted and fun, starting off with frequent comparisons between her appearance and Gillian Anderson and moving through topics like the actors' romantic relationship at the time (which ended before shooting completed) and the challenges of going into acting or film production in the Bay Area. Spano and Walters also appear for separate video interviews (11m18s and 14m44s respectively) covering their careers in more general detail explaining how they got into acting and approached their characters, sometimes against formidable fashion obstacles. The trailer is included along with bonus ones for Simon - King of the Witches and Slithis, and playing the film kicks off with an odd video intro (1m57s) with the two leads and the label's Banana Man improvising in front of the camera.


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Reviewed on August 19, 2017