In October, Network will release, for the first time in high definition, DVD and Blu-ray versions of two British horror features — The Dark Eyes of London (1939), starring Bela Lugosi, and The Monster (AKA I Don’t Want to Be Born; 1975), with Joan Collins — and a Blu-ray version of an East German fairy tale classic, The Singing Ringing Tree (Das singende, klingende Bäumchen; 1957). All three offer a fair share of creepiness for decidedly different reasons.

The Dark Eyes of London

Often cited as the first U.K. film to receive an “H” rating — meaning “Horrific for Public Exhibition,” for which only persons aged 16 or above would be admitted —The Dark Eyes of London (AKA The Human Monster) finds Bela Lugosi in the role of Dr. Orloff, owner of a life insurance agency that comes under suspicion when a series of drowning deaths share the common thread that the policies of the victims have all been paid out to the Dearborn Home for the Destitute Blind. On the case are Detective Inspector Larry Holt (Hugh Williams), who is saddled with visiting American police Lieutenant Patrick O’Reilly (Edmon Ryan, bringing corny but fun comic relief with frequent wisecracking to the more reserved members of Scotland Yard).

When Diana Stuart (Greta Gynt), daughter of one of the drowning victims, comes calling at the insurance agency office, Orloff offers to help her get hired on at the Dearborn Home as blind Dearborn’s secretary. Diana begins to find that odd things are afoot there, and when Holt and O’Reilly get involved, the proceedings heat up, with some nasty events involving forced medical operations and a blind killer (Wilfred Walter as Jake), among other macabre goings-on.

Lugosi is very good here, with a gentlemanly manner and a hypnotic stare reminiscent of his turn as Count Dracula in, of course, Dracula (1931). It’s a meatier role than some of those in the low budget films he had recently worked on, and he seems to relish in that fact. The supporting cast members also give fine performances.

Based on the novel of the same name by prolific writer Edgar Wallace, the film version of The Dark Eyes of London goes for a more lurid approach than its source, which makes for fun, chilling viewing. To the film’s credit, though, although the murderous Jake is made up to have a monstrous appearance, he and the other blind characters are ultimately portrayed sympathetically as fellow humans who happen to have no sight.

Made by Argyle Productions and shot at Welwyn Studios in Hertfordshire, The Dark Eyes of London boasts solid direction from Walter Summers, who cowrote the screenplay with Patrick Kirwan and J.F. Argyle. The film moves along at a nice clip, with mystery and suspense continually mounting to a climax that holds up well after so many years.

This high-definition version looks fantastic, with crisp, clean presentation in crystal-clear black-and-white.

​​Special Features

– Brand-new audio commentary with Kim Newman and Stephen Jones

– Kim Newman and Stephen Jones discuss Lugosi’s work in the UK at the Edgar Wallace pub in London

– US titles

– US trailer

– Image gallery

– Limited edition booklet written by Adrian Smith

– Limited edition O-card (Blu-ray exclusive)

– Limited edition poster postcards (Blu-ray exclusive)

Tech Specs

– 1080p HD

– Aspect ratio: 1.37:1

– Running time: 76 mins

– HOH subtitles

Certificate: PG

Region code: B

Original Release: 1939

The Monster

Unabashedly attempting to cash in on the success of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Exorcist (1973) while somewhat telegraphing the following year’s The Omen (1976), The Monster (AKA I Don’t Want to Be Born, Sharon’s Baby, and The Devil Within Her) is an absolute hoot. Directed and acted in an earnest, straight-faced manner, the film is chock full of unintentional humor and puzzling performance choices, including Ralph Bates and Eileen Atkins speaking with varying Italian-ish accents, a baby with super strength, and a distinctly unsexy sex scene.

Former exotic dancer turned social butterfly Lucy Carlesi (Joan Collins) has a troublesome birth, but obstetrician Dr. Finch (Donald Pleasance) is there to deliver such sage opinions to Lucy and her Italian husband Gino (Bates) as “Maybe she was cuddling it too tightly. Even at this age, babies have an extraordinary instinct for survival” after the newborn claws at mom’s face. Viewers soon learn that this is no ordinary baby, as it was brought on by a curse from Lucy’s former little-person dance partner Hercules (George Claydon) after she rebuffs his advances and, mere moments later, goes for a bit of the beast-with-two-backs action with smarmy club owner Tommy (John Steiner). Gino’s nun sister, Sister Albana (Atkins), believes that the baby needs a bit of exorcising which leads to an amusing bout of nun vs. man of science and reason dialogue with Dr. Finch.

If I haven’t yet convinced you that The Monster is a fun bad movie that more than deserves an hour and a half of your time as soon as possible, I further submit that there are many more reasons to do so, not the least of which are Caroline Munro’s dubbed appearances as Lucy’s best stripper friend Mandy (Perhaps Munro just couldn’t nail the Cockney accent required of her character?!?) and the combination jaw-dropper and head-scratcher of a third act. Director Peter Sasdy already had such Hammer hits as Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Hands of the Ripper (1971) under his belt, along with other quality genre fare, so what happened with The Monster is something to ponder.

Network’s high-definition version looks spectacular, bringing out the best in scenes involving Tommy’s gaudy nightclub, the Carlesi’s spatial residence, Hercules’ startling surprise appearances, the baby’s diabolical mayhem, and everything in between. This one has a high rewatchability factor.

Special Features

– Brand-new audio commentary from the cult Second Features podcast team

– Theatrical trailer

– Alternative I Don’t Want to be Born titles

– Image gallery

– Limited edition booklet written by Adrian Smith

Tech Specs

– 1080p HD

– Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

– Running time: 94 mins

– HOH subtitles

– Certificate: 15

– Region code: B

– Original Release: 1975

The Singing Ringing Tree

Reputedly a major source of kindertrauma for a generation of British children who watched it on television beginning in 1964, The Singing Ringing Tree is an East German fairy tale film that was released theatrically in that country in 1957. It certainly has its share of eerie moments, which should not be surprising because it is based on a story by The Brothers Grimm.

A handsome prince (Eckart Dux) travels a great distance to woo a beautiful but bad-natured princess (Christel Bodenstein), but she rebuffs him and demands that he bring her the titular tree instead of the pearls he initially offers. Inexplicably, he sets off to meet the spoiled, rude young woman’s demands, and gets tangled up in a diabolical deal with a small man who has magical powers that he uses for nefarious purposes (Richard Krüger in a role that he must have had a blast portraying). He agrees to let the prince take the tree but if the princess does not profess her love for him within a certain amount of time, he will turn the prince into a bear. You can guess how that goes. But will the princess experience a character arc that helps her see the error of her selfish ways?

Director Francesco Stefani wonderfully helms an absolutely beautiful “They don’t make them like this anymore” film. Fanciful set decoration and impressive special effects — including a very cool-looking giant goldfish, stop motion, wire work, a grand waterfall, and weather effects, to name but a few — are on constant display. Cinephiles of all ages and stripes should find plenty to enjoy in this lavishly produced effort.

This high-definition version looks delightful, making the beautiful primary colors, lovely matte work, and lush visuals pop. It is truly a gorgeous restoration that makes The Singing Ringing Tree all the more enchanting.

Special Features

• Widescreen theatrical version with German audio or alternative music-only soundtrack • Fullscreen version with English narrated soundtrack or alternative French and Spanish soundtracks

• Interview with a Princess: a 2003 interview with ‘The Princess’ Christel Bodenstein • Image gallery

• Limited edition booklet by cultural historian Tim Worthington

Tech Specs

• 1080p HD

• Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1/1.33:1

• Running time: 74 mins

• Language: EN/DE/FR/ES

• Subtitles: English

• Certificate: U

• Original Release: 1957 (East Germany), 1964 (UK)

The Dark Eyes of London and The Monster are on Blu-ray and DVD 11 October from Network.

The Singing Ringing Tree is on Blu-ray 18 October from Network.