Weird Wisconsin: The Bill Rebane Collection
The Alpha Incident / The Demons of Ludlow
FROM THE WILDS OF WISCONSIN HE CAME…
Alien Invasions! Haunted Pianos! Sentient Monster Trucks! Arrow Video is proud to present the first ever collection of works by Bill Rebane, the epitome of an independent regional filmmaker who built his own studio in the wilds of Wisconsin. He acted for Hitchcock, he searched for the arms of the Venus De Milo, he turned a VW Beetle into a giant spider and he’s still at work today!
Bringing together six films, all new to Blu-ray and in brand new restorations, Weird Wisconsin: The Bill Rebane Collection packs in a mutant astronaut bothering blissful sunbathers (Monster A Go-Go), a contagion apocalypse as seen from the vantage point of a remote mountain cabin (Invasion from Inner Earth), deadly alien spores from the rocks of Mars (The Alpha Incident), rural gothic and outright horror (The Demons of Ludlow), an eccentric ‘body count’ movie (The Game) and a comedy smash-‘em up that pits three hillbilly stooges against a talking Monster Truck with artificial intelligence (Twister’s Revenge).
Loaded with new interviews and extras, this is an essential collection of features from one of America’s most tenacious outsider auteurs!
The second dual-layer disc in Arrow’s Bill Rebane box set, Weird Wisconsin, presents two more of the filmmaker’s works: The Alpha Incident and The Demons of Ludlow. Both films are presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and both presentations come from new 2K scans and restorations. The Alpha Incident was initially filmed on 16mm and then blown-up to 35mm, and its scan is sourced from a 35mm duplicate negative. The Demons of Ludlow was sourced from a 35mm colour reversal intermediate.
The presentations are still far from what most would call perfect, yet they still manage to be a huge step up from the films on the previous disc, Monster A-Go Go and Invasion from Inner Earth. Since The Alpha Incident is scanned from the blow-up and not the original 16mm elements (which I assume are long-gone) there is a very dense grain structure, which the digital presentation renders rather well, allowing the picture to retain a nice film-like consistency. Details are as strong as they can be, limited more by the source materials, but the image rarely comes off looking soft. Colours and black levels can be a bit of a mixed bag: blacks can be a bit faded and milkier, even fading more on the outsides of the frame (it could be lighting in some cases, though), and colours can have a muted look, with reds, pinks, and blues managing to come off looking good. Still, it’s about what I would expect for a low-budget feature circa 1978.
The Demons of Ludlow’s black levels and colours also have their ups and downs, which may come down primarily to the source elements: the process and stock are notorious for fading quickly. Blacks can get a little heavy and eat up the shadow detail while colours can come off a wee-bit pasty. Reds, greens, and oranges do manage to come off a little more vibrant. Despite any weaknesses present I imagine the original elements were a bit of a nightmare to work with, so the end results are impressive.
Scenes featuring optical effects can look a little fuzzy with a dupier quality, but the level of detail in the film can be very impressive otherwise, and it’s the sharpest looking film yet in the set; The Game, on the next disc, does manage to better it by a large degree,
Both films are encoded nicely, the grain looking natural and clean in both. Restoration has been performed on both films and they are far cleaner than I expected. Bigger, more complicated imperfections have been left in place, along with some fine scratches and such.
As with the two previous films in the set, the presentations are certainly not one would call perfect, but they’re far, far better than anything I would have ever expected. Arrow has done a remarkable job with these.
The two films receive DTS-HD MA 1.0 monaural soundtracks, just as the previous two films in the set had, but this time around the sound quality is significantly better. Sure, the acoustics can still stink and the equipment was more than likely far from top-notch, but I wasn’t straining to hear things, and music and some effects have some fidelity behind them. Dialogue is still flat, though, and range is severely limited.
The set comes packed with a number of supplements over its four discs, with Bill Rebane himself popping up to talk about each film, his interviews on this disc covering, naturally, The Alpha Incident (9-minutes) and The Demons of Ludlow (8-minutes). Not all that surprising, The Alpha Incident is probably Rebane’s favourite film, and he explains how he aimed to make a more character driven, slow-burn thriller with this project. It becomes obvious throughout some of the interviews around his other films that producers forced changes (like more gore, which he isn’t a fan of), but, outside of one gore effect that was added, Rebane got to mostly make the film he wanted. For Ludlow he explains how he came across the idea for the film (there was this old piano he didn’t know what to do with) and then talks a little about his new studio, where director Ulli Lommel also shot The Devonsville Terror, which shared some similarities to Rebane’s film (though, lto be fair, Rebane’s film isn’t all the different from John Carpenter’s The Fog, which comes up in the supplements here and there).
Like in the other interviews, Rebane keeps things short and sweet, and also very honest.
Richard Harland Smith then provides a 16-minute video essay around how The Alpha Incident is Rebane’s Key Largo. That’s how it starts off at least. While Smith points out how the film shares that film’s set-up around characters stuck in a small space together, the essay is more of a loving tribute to the film’s strengths (which I will admit it does have), which includes Rebane’s technical skills (when not held back by clumsy exposition or low production values), while also pointing out the various influences found within it, including Night of the Living Dead. It’s a little disappointing that the set doesn’t feature any other film-specific essays or interviews like this one, but since it’s easily the best film in the set (and that’s with a heavy grain of salt), it’s not hard to see why it’s the one that received such a feature.
The disc then closes with trailers for each film followed by galleries for each, which feature concept posters, finished posters, clippings, and video art.
Not as satisfying as the supplements on the previous disc, but Rebane’s interviews are (yet again) quite entertaining, and I enjoyed Smith’s essay about The Alpha Incident.
The features aren't as strong as the previous disc's, but Arrow does one hell of a job with the presentations for both films.