Blu-ray review | Motel Hell | Time to check into the UK HD release of the 1980s black comedy horror


Cheery Farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun) and his sister Ida (Nancy Parsons) are famous for their organic hickory-smoked meats – but their secret ingredient is human flesh. The siblings ambush people they consider scum and bury them in a secret garden with their vocal chords slit to fatten them up for slaughter. But Vincent and Ida’s enterprise is soon under threat when a pretty young stranger called Terry (Nina Axelrod) catches Vincent’s eye…

Motel Hell

Motel Hell is a 1980 tongue-in-cheek axe-ploitation film from the producers of Time After Time and the writer of Demon Seed that tiptoes the fine line between an all-out horror film and a comedy.

It was also the US debut of British director Kevin Connor, who scored great success with family friendly adventure films like 1975’s The Land That Time Forgot for Amicus. Moving into horror territory, Connor’s style is very much in the vein of 1950s EC Comics like Tales from the Crypt, fusing black humour with an American Gothic feel and a dollop of satire that takes a swipe at Ronald Reagan’s capitalist America.

Rory Calhoun, who made his name in Westerns like the late-1950s TV series, The Texan, perfectly balances the folksy friendliness of his character Farmer Vincent with the script’s dark humour; while you can’t help but love Nancy Parsons (of Porky’s fame) as the crazed Ida – pig-tails and all. The film also features Playboy centerfolds Rosanne Katon and Monique St Pierre and famed DJ Wolfman Jack in cameos. This film came out the same year as another EC Comics inspired horror, The Monster Club, which is also deserving of a HD restoration (well, I think so).

Motel Hell

The Arrow Video UK release of Motel Hell features a fully restored HD print of the film on DVD and Blu-ray (a world’s first). The bonus materials include director’s audio commentary and interviews with cast members, three brand new and exclusive featurettes, original trailers and promotional material, and a collector’s booklet featuring extracts from Motel Hell
Motel Hell was intended as a horror based on the Beauty and the Beast tale with Tobe Hooper (of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame) directing. The film didn’t end up having Hooper, but it does feature chainsaws in a now legendary duel scene – photos of which ended up on the cover of Issue 9 of the iconic horror magazine Fangoria. But the sight of Calhoun wearing a giant pig’s head wielding a blood-drenched chainsaw was deemed so disturbing that the issue was banned in both the United Kingdom and the United States.

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