Color, 1974, 94m.
Directed by Oliver Stone
Starring Jonathan Frid, Martine Beswick, Joseph Sirola, Mary Woronov, Christina Pickles, Hervé Villechaize, Troy Donahue, Richard Cox, Henry Judd Baker
(Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)


Long before he became everyone's favorite political conspiracy filmmaker, Vietnam veteran turned director Oliver Stone Seizuremade his debut with this bizarre, eerily effective little horror indie shot in Quebec. Expanding his range a bit outside of his role as TV's favorite reluctant bloodsucker on Dark Shadows, Jonathan Frid stars as Edmund Blackstone, a novelist working on a scary children's book out in the countryside with the company of his wife (St. Elsewhere's Pickles) and son.

Of course, this turns out to be the stage for a series of horrific events as Edmund suffers from harrowing dreams that seem to be bleeding into reality. Specifically, all of his fantasies revolve around a trio of villains: the Queen of Evil (Hammer goddess Beswick), Spider (Fantasy Island's Villechaize), and Jackal the Executioner (Baker). Enter a quintet of guests for the weekend including his brother-in-law Charlie (Cox), arrogant fat cat Charlie (Sirola), his unfaithful wife Mikki (Woronov), middle-aged jock Mark (former teen idol Donahue), and another very eccentric couple, Serge (Roger De Koven) and Eunice (Anne Meacham). Home invasions soon follow with the guests either killed off or forced to partake in twisted party games, with occasional dollops of perverse sexuality and dark philosophy to heighten the mood.

The PG rating slapped on the poster for this film Seizuremight look puzzling now, but bear in mind this was a time when a film with that classification could still play pretty rough. That's certainly the case here as Stone and company imply all sorts of sordid nastiness (with Woronov's memorable scene in skivvies being a highlight). There isn't any overt gore or nudity, but it still isn't something you'd want to show to kids without warning. It's also very much of a piece with other films of the era about creative types finding their reality turning into a murderous nightmare; it bears a particularly close to kinship to Robert Altman's Images from Seizuretwo years before and would probably make for a particularly jarring double feature. Stone later went on to explore a similar concept in his next feature, The Hand, which wasn't made until 1981 and revolved around a cartoonist plagued by a murderous severed hand... or is he? Stone has since brushed off this film for some reason, but as far as first efforts go it's actually very entertaining and sometimes quite stylish with evocative use of candlelight and distorted lenses often creating a wonderfully queasy atmosphere. The great break-in scene just after the half-hour mark is a virtuoso achievement, too, ranking up there with The Return of Count Yorga among the decade's Manson-inspired cinematic nightmares.

Released by Cinerama in U.S. theaters, Seizure popped up on VHS from Prism in the early '80s with an EP-speed budget reissue from Starmaker shortly afterwards. Then it promptly vanished into obscurity for decades, refusing to even turn up on TV and spawning rumors of various legal entanglements. Dark Shadows fans in particular were keen on getting a decent presentation of the film to see Frid in a rare starring role outside of Barnabas Collins, and a miserable bootleg DVD in 2004 didn't offer much hope. Fortunately the authorized 2014 release from Scorpion Releasing on both Blu-ray and DVD (will wonders never cease?) looks great, with an authentically dark and moody '70s atmosphere but with far more clarity than the tape. You can finally make out what Seizurethe heck's going on in this nocturnal outdoor scenes, and the various shades of red and gold now look wonderfully robust. The DTS-HD mono track does a good job with an undemanding source, including an eccentric but sometimes skin-crawling music score. Seizure

As for extras you get the original U.S. theatrical trailer and a pair of new featurettes. The always enjoyable Mary Woronov talks for 15 minutes about her time on the film set and hanging out with Oliver Stone (who had a significant behind-the-scenes role in another of her films from the same period, Sugar Cookies), plus various memories of her cast members like Frid (whom she compares to Dracula). She also touches on some of her other films, such as the sad fate of Kemek and more familiar ones like Night of the Comet and her work with Paul Bartel. Then Richard Cox (on the darkest set you've ever seen) has a 23-minute chat about meeting Stone (who was plagued with Vietnam flashbacks), the Quebec crew and shooting locations (complete with lots of French cooking), and some of his other significant roles including quite a bit of time devoted to his memorable, ambiguous turn in Cruising(including a hilarious Halloween anecdote). Definitely worth a look if you like your horror on the freaky side.

Reviewed on September 7, 2014.