I know it seems like Arrow central over here but they do send us review stuff in of the films that I love. They are not alone in releasing the classics of old and getting former video nasties through the censors onto glorious Blu-Ray though. 88 Films are a company whose products have been getting snapped up too and I have found myself enjoying the likes of Joe D’Amato’s entrail eating ‘Anthropophagus The Beast,’ Scavolini’s sordid slasher ‘Nightmares In A Damaged Brain’ and Sergio Garrone’s silly shocker ‘SS Experiment Camp’ in new hi def transfers recently. They say you never forget your first time and this was indeed the first bona-fide nasty I viewed, fittingly at a video night in the air cadets! Someone had gone and managed to get hold of this completely uncut, whether it had been banned at the time and was an under the shelf jobby is uncertain but the 1981 USA movie the directorial debut of Eric Weston quickly found itself on the infamous list of 39 DPP prosecuted movies. Of course now we can laugh about all that and see it completely intact in all its satanic gory glory. As with the former Anchor Bay DVD the movie is presented here in two versions, the shorter US Unrated cut 92:29 and the extended 99:32 minute version, which was naturally my choice to watch first.
We are transported to 15th century Spain where evil devil worshipper Estaban and his cult are being banished by the Inquisition. He is not going without one last sacrifice though and a poor lass has her head lopped off by his big sword. It spins through the air and lands in the present as a football at a match in a military academy in a deft piece of editing. It is quickly established that one of the players Stanley Coppersmith played by Gentle Ben’s Clint Howard is none too popular among his peers and we get embroiled in an age old story of bullying by a group of 4 of his classmates. It’s not just them though and it transpires that Coopersmith is a bit of a charity case being accepted to the academy due to his parents being killed in an automobile accident. He gets plenty of nasty punishment details and is picked on by those in charge such as the team coach, reverend and Colonel at the academy as much as anyone else. One of his punishments is clearing out a dirty cellar space where he uncovers Estaban’s tomb, magical texts and a whole lot more. Pushed to the limits and armed with an old-school and very early 80’s computer he sets about summoning Estaban’s very essence and wreaking deadly revenge on those that have trespassed against him.
It was as much the satanic subtext of the film that got it in trouble as the gore which really doesn’t come into play until near the end of the film. This is an evil-over-good film and apparently it was a favourite of none other than Anton LaVey himself. Coopersmith has to go through uncovering the keys to the kingdom of Satan’s magic by performing a ritual which has to be completed by nothing other than human blood sacrifice. Once he does all hell is literally unleashed along with some great primitive computer graphics which I remember having a great impact on me at a young impressionable age. The gore when it comes is particularly brutal helped no end by the academy’s livestock pigs getting in on the action. Heads are cut both vertically and horizontally by a levitating Coopersmith and his sword and there’s even a spot of blasphemous Christly intervention from a crucified stone Jesus. I guess the fact that most of the carnage is conducted in a church had the conservative censors gnashing their teeth in disgust at the time too.
Coming across as a hybrid of two famous books both made into films Stephen Kings ‘Carrie’ and Pat Conroy’s ‘The Lords Of Discipline’ Evilspeak still manages to maintain a real unique feel about it and it was a true satanic horror that frankly stood out in many ways from the other 38 prosecuted films at the time. It could be considered a bit slow certainly in the extended cut but it makes up for it all in the final 15 minutes when it gets nothing short of delirious. One facet of the film that should not be overlooked is the excellent score by Emmy Award winning composer Roger Kellaway. It really heightens the atmosphere with baroque and devilish chanting choral parts, creepy dulcimer clad stalking tension and some pumped up frenetic attacking parts literally scything away along with the on-screen carnage. If you were one of many that dismissed this film as you accidently picked up the ‘horror classics’ versions on VHS or DVD which were butchered of all gore, now is definitely the time to go back and revisit this classic in full. As Anchor Bay’s DVD uncut as it was film-wise had nothing extra apart from commentary track I was very keen to watch what new features 88 Films had got together here.
In his early 20’s when he played Stanley Coopersmith but already a star of many TV series and films and continuing as a popular actor today with well over 200 credits to his name Clint Howard is first to take a look back at his exercise in Demonology 101. He describes it as a wonderful experience despite having trepidations on taking the role due to the dark themes involved being a bit against character. He also discusses relationships with other actors including veterans such as R.G. Armstrong and Charles Tyner interestingly mentioning that with some approaching their parts in method meant that they distanced themselves from each other off screen too. He definitely suffered for his art as the words “I ate so much pig shit on this picture I had my mouth full for days” attests. Dishing out as much crap as possible in his direction was chief bully Bubba played by Don Stark who is next up for a chat. He was just 17 and jumped at the chance of playing a nasty tough guy and found it all a lot of fun playing such a ‘heartless’ character. Mentioning something that was naturally on my mind and I guess other old fans of the film he hypothesises about an updating of the film with more modern technology. Not an Evilspeak 2 exactly but for once I have to admit if it were done with respect to the original it could benefit from a reboot as long as it is not toned down. Final interview is with the Reverend Jameson played by Jersey boy Joe Cortese who admits to not being a horror fan and being surprised the film’s legacy has lasted so long. He seems more into talking about other movies from his career and seeing as it’s a short piece don’t expect too much insight here. At least he knows what a computer is now!
Many of the other cast and crew pop up in a half hour making of segment ‘Satan’s pigs and severed heads.’ It’s quite a surprise how many people they managed to get together from bully Charlie Boy (Loren Lester) to Haywood Nelson who played Kowalski, Coopersmith’s one sympathetic classmate, The coach (Claude Earl Jones) the Colonel’s sexy secretary (Lynn Hancock) and even Father Estaban himself (Richard Moll) Initial impressions of the script are described as weird and nonsensical and even avant-garde but as a tale of revenge and retribution nobody is denying that it works. It’s a really interesting feature with lots of anecdotes and memories of times on the set and is certain to appeal to any fans. Final part is with Alan A Apone talking about the special effects on Evilspeak. Having started out on another nasty ‘Faces Of Death’ and having progressed right through to recent Marvel superhero films he has had a varied and interesting career. There’s no shortage of pre-CGI gags involved in the film and many of them are revealed on here and as far as I am concerned most are pretty solid and convincing; part of the reason the film has proved memorable for so many fans. Backing it all up are commentary track, original trailer and pretty groovy artwork by Graham Humphreys along with the original on the reversible cover. This should be the final word on this most enjoyable splatter shocker or it would be if not for the promise that Estaban will return again through an incarcerated Coopersmith; whether this happens remains to be seen. In the meantime have some devilish fun and get into the carnage via the following link.