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Redemption presents
Neither the Sea Nor the Sand (1972)

"You can't die. You said you'd never leave me. Please come back to me!"
- Anna Robinson (Susan Hampshire)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: February 07, 2007

Stars: Susan Hampshire, Frank Finlay, Michael Petrovitch
Other Stars: Michael Craze, Jack Lambert, Betty Duncan, David Garth, Anthony Booth
Director: Fred Burnley

MPAA Rating: R for (nudity, sexuality, thematic material)
Run Time: 01h:35m:14s
Release Date: January 30, 2007
UPC: 014381173123
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Necrophilia is a pretty touchy subject even in the most liberal of times; it tends to get relegated to back-alley brown paper wrapper low budget productions such as Jörg Buttgereit's Nekromantik films. But these disreputable pictures had a fairly obscure antecedent as far back as 1972. What's even more surprising is that some fairly reputable names are attached to the project, which uses misdirection to make its thematic material all the more horrifying.

For the first half of the movie, it masquerades as a standard-issue romance, delving slightly into naughtiness through the adulterous heroine. Anna Robinson (Susan Hampshire), on the outs with her husband, travels to the windswept isle of Jersey in the Channel. There she meets and is charmed by a lighthouse keeper, Hugh Dabernon (Michael Petrovitch), who lives with his fretful gay religious fanatic brother George (Frank Finlay). Soon Anna and Hugh have fallen deeply in love, and travel to Scotland holding themselves out as husband and wife. When Hugh dies suddenly, Anna refuses to accept it as a fact, and appears to bring him back to life through sheer willpower. Unfortunately for her, he continues to decompose....

There are obvious borrowings from such chestnuts as The Monkey's Paw here, but the tone of the two halves is so different as to be utterly jarring even when you know what's coming (the plot being set forth in detail on the keepcase cover). That difference is underlined by the score, which for the first 40 minutes is a bland, sugar-coated Europop that could come from any romance of the period. The latter half has an eerie character that highlights the increasingly uncomfortable subject matter and Anna's ever more erratic behavior as Hugh deteriorates.

One might be inclined to think that, like the governess in Turn of the Screw, Anna is merely engaging in delusional wish fulfillment, if not for the fact that Hugh is seen ambulating by numerous people. Reserving some of that for later on so that there was a bit of incertitude probably would have lent more interest to the proceedings. Anna's character is written rather unevenly, making Hampshire seem half deranged much of the time. One of the most disturbing aspects of the last portion of the movie is her continuing to talk to Hugh even though he never responds to her, the silences becoming an accusation of insanity. At one point she seems to be calculatedly commanding Hugh's zombie form to commit murder for her convenience, which hardly seems in character with the rest of the picture. When Hugh takes her into a zombified embrace and she struggles to evade his putrefying kisses, one can hardly sympathize with her any more; during these power-mad episodes a vital thread of connection is lost that reduces the impact of the tale.

Hampshire does what she can with the character, however, and Hugh's death scene allows her to convincingly go off the deep end with rage and pain. Petrovich is pretty much a zombie even before he dies, so there's not a lot to compare him to. With his dark hair, rings under his eyes and omnipresent sweater, Hugh is very suggestive of Cesare the somnambulist in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Finlay gets second billing for a fairly small and thankless role, requiring him to engage in a good deal of snuffling and petulantly English eccentricism. He does send the plot veering into potential Exorcist ripoff territory with his insistence that Hugh undergo an exorcism (the film was apparently released in the US under the title The Exorcism of Hugh, if the IMDb is to be believed, just to cash in on this aspect), but we're mercifully spared the pea soup regime.

Despite some serious shortcomings, the picture does manage to be deeply unsettling at times. It's not quite what it could be, but there is some intriguing material here nonetheless.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Redemption seems to have used a PAL source for this anamorphic widescreen transfer, since it is plagued with frequent combing and moderate ghosting. On the other hand, the source print is quite clean other than some modest speckling. Black levels are reasonable for a 1972 vintage film, with shadow detail a little plugged up. Textures are reasonably good, as is color, though the latter is sometime a bit unstable. Detail is somewhat limited.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is surprisingly clean and clear, with good presence. Nachum Heiman's score is a bit shrill, though that's inherent in many similar scores of the period. Some of the looping of dialogue is rather shoddy, but it's nothing that seriously harms the effect overall.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 9 cues and remote access
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Gallery
Extras Review: The sole extra is a gallery of several dozen stills and a handful of posters and video covers. This is such an unusual title that a good deal more background information certainly would have been welcome; since Hampshire is still quite active in television, an interview with her would have really been intriguing. Chaptering is far too thin to be satisfactory, with a mere nine stops.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A strange and idiosyncratic look at love with a zombie, far ahead of its time in many respects. The transfer is reasonably good, other than some shaky PAL/NTSC conversion, but it's short on extras.


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