Destroyer / Edge of Sanity Blu-ray Review

Anthony Perkins and Lyle Alzado star in this double pack

Two cheesy but entertaining horror films from the late 1980s get put together in this double-bill since both feature Anthony Perkins. Forever famous for his iconic role as Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s Psycho, by the time of these movies the Hollywood actor was mostly slumming it in low-rent, b-movie fare. Destroyer is probably most notable for NFL star Lyle Alzado’s role as a hulking maniac. Edge of Sanity has Perkins playing a more sexually twisted version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde than seen before.

Edge of Sanity is the more ambitious movie of the two titles rescued from MGM’s vault. Director Gérard Kikoïne puts together a satisfying new take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by crossing it with elements taken from Jack the Ripper. Set in a timeless version of Victorian London, the script coherently pushes its lurid violence and psycho-sexual drama as Perkin’s twisted Mr. Hyde starts mutilating prostitutes.

Unlike many adaptations, the prim and frail Dr. Jekyll receives interesting character development. His loving wife Elisabeth (Glynis Barber) gets drawn into the sordid consequences of Mr. Hyde’s shocking behavior. This is wonderful storytelling by the standards of b-movie filmmaking, neatly incorporating darker ideas into the well-known story by Robert Louis Stevenson. The thriller crackles with several twists and turns in its tidy narrative and slick direction.

It is at this point that I must reveal I have never thought much of Anthony Perkins as an actor and Edge of Sanity is a perfect example. The movie works in spite of his clumsy performance. His Mr. Hyde is little more than a sloppy junkie with a penchant for slicing up prostitutes. Perkins’ physical transformation consists of nothing more than some eye-liner and a different hair style. For an actor that was once considered a legitimate Hollywood performer in the Sixties, his hammy work in Edge of Sanity isn’t much better than what you’d see at the local park. I guess some fans may enjoy that theatricality, but Edge of Sanity could have been a true horror classic with a better lead actor.

… Lyle Alzado was born to play a psychotic killer in the mold of Jason Voorhees.

While Edge of Sanity aspires to be something more than a schlocky b-movie, Destroyer is a completely different kind of film. Ivan Moser (80’s NFL star Lyle Alzado) was a hulking serial killer planned to be executed by electrocution. The power fails during his execution, leading to the worst prison riot in decades. After dozens of prisoners and guards die in the conflict, the prison is shut down. No proof of Moser’s death exists and some locals believe he’s still alive. When a director played by Anthony Perkins uses the condemned prison to film his next movie, you can put two and two together. Crew members start disappearing one by one in the most violent ways possible. It’s up to the movie’s screenwriter and his girlfriend to stop Moser.

Having never seen Destroyer before and only familiar with him as an NFL player, Lyle Alzado was born to play a psychotic killer in the mold of Jason Voorhees. He is absolutely perfect in Destroyer as a physical force of evil, juiced to the gills. The football player was still in playing shape and convincingly terrorizes everyone he meets. The movie doesn’t call for a lot of lines by his character but Alzado’s manic intensity and death stare speak volumes. It’s a shame he didn’t get the opportunity for more horror roles before his untimely death from a brain tumor in 1992. It’s worth sitting through Destroyer’s fairly middling second act to see Alzado as Moser go on a rampage of carnage and slaughter. For those wondering, Perkins here seems much more comfortable playing a bitchy movie director than he ever did as Dr. Jekyll.

Both movies have their fans for different reasons. Connected only by the presence of Anthony Perkins, one is a wild slasher with a menacing Lyle Alzado as the main killer. The other is a more sophisticated reconstruction of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with far more violence and sexuality than seen in prior adaptations.

Video

Scream Factory rescues these two Eighties’ films from MGM’s vaults, going so far as striking a new film transfer for Destroyer from the only surviving elements. It will likely be the first and last time the horror movie hits Blu-ray. Both films are presented uncut in their original R-rated versions. Edge of Sanity has the clear edge in picture quality, taken from better elements with more detail and definition. Destroyer looks fairly decent, all things considered. Taken from a film print with the movie being called Shadow of Death, an alternate title, it is rather soft with merely adequate definition and clarity.

The two films share a BD-50, both encoded in AVC at respectable compression parameters. Both movies feature solid grain reproduction without noticeable filtering, which is more important for the denser secondary elements used for Destroyer. Destroyer’s contrast and saturation could be richer but its color timing has been left untouched. The black levels aren’t perfect but mostly convey a decent sense of shadow delineation.

Edge of Sanity has clean, well-shot cinematography with fine clarity. This is definitely a sharper, tighter Hi-Def experience than Destroyer’s more limited video quality. Regular detail and better shadow delineation reveal a much closer experience to the original negative’s appearance.

Neither presentation will win videophile awards for catalog fare but each shows an unmolested transfer taken from true film elements. The double-feature is recommended for this improvement in video even if you own the DVDs.

Audio

Both films come in stereo presented in 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound. Something is up with the audio elements for Destroyer. The recording has plenty of snaps, crackles and pops heard under its normal dialogue and music. Some audio clean-up would have done wonders for the dated recording. It’s not a deal-breaker but this is limited audio fidelity, even for a low-budget horror thriller from the 80s. The mix itself is also a bit wonky and crude, often switching channels.

Edge of Sanity has a much stronger stereo mix with lush fidelity. The symphonic score has been nicely recorded in pleasant tonality and timbre. Everything about Edge of Sanity screams a classier, more professional production than Destroyer and its audio is no difference. Crisp dialogue nicely sits in the stereo mix’s clean, sweet soundstage.

Each film offers optional English subtitles in a white font.

Extras

Scream Factory includes two movies but the only special features are each film’s trailer.

Destroyer Trailer (01:03 in SD)

Edge of Sanity Trailer (01:08 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

Destroyer screen captures:

Edge of Sanity screen captures: