Short Sharp Shocks Volume 2 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (4th December 2021).
The Film

Short Sharp Shocks Volume 2

Cinema wasn't always about the feature length film. One must remember that the cinematic medium started with short clips of every day life, experimental works, and working its way into storytelling. Short films were later made to accompany the feature length films as part of a pre-show arrangement. Later in the MTV age the short film format would make a massive impact in promoting music videos. Cut to the age of the Internet, people would upload shorts to YouTube or TikTok to amass millions if not billions of views. Even with its lengthy lifetime in public and critical consciousness, short films are not as discussed or appreciated compared to the long form features. At major awards shows the features get all the attention while shorts are relegated to their own category.

From the early fantasies by Georges Méliès, Vitaphone musicals that showcased talents of song and dance in early Hollywood, the theatrical cartoons by Disney, Warner Brothers and other studios, there certainly are many classics that many can consider as favorites. Some have brought laughs and tears, but for the most part. short films have been basically filler pieces rather than true standalone works, making them feel lesser in comparison. They have a shorter amount of time to establish character, space, and plot, but some have been able to pierce through into the hearts of audiences. But how about with horror? There have been short horror works that have been effective, but many have relied on jump scares to quick cuts rather than establishing characters and atmosphere, therefore losing some of the impact that the feature length horror works have had. Is horror a harder genre to portray in the shorter runtimes? It is harder, but not impossible, and with the short film not having a specified runtime as a rule, there can be enough time to establish settings within a less than one hour runtime.

Last year the BFI released "Short Sharp Shocks", a 2-disc Blu-ray set in their Flipside series that collected nine short films from the vaults. Ranging from the 1940s to the 1980s, each film were works that fit into the horror/thriller genres, all being somewhat forgotten over time. There were some surprisingly great works in there, as well as some that didn't quite hit their marks, but all were fascinating pieces that deserved another look after so many years being unavailable to the masses. A year later, the BFI has gone into their archives again to bring a second volume of short films to Blu-ray, with "Short Sharp Shocks Volume 2.

The following shorts are included in this two disc set.

The Films (with Play All) (96:54)
* "Quiz-Crime No. 1" (1943) (13:31)
* "Quiz-Crime No. 2" (1944) (18:41)
* "The Three Children" (1946) (2:58)
* "Escape from Broadmoor" (1948) (38:30)
* "Mingoloo" (1958) (20:29)
* "Screaming Lord Sutch: Jack the Ripper" (1963) (2:42)

The Films (with Play All) (123:44)
* "The Face of Darkness" (1976) (56:36)
* "The Dumb Waiter" (1979) (17:26)
* "Hangman" (1985) (16:34)
* "The Mark of Lilith" (1986) (33:16)

"Quiz-Crime No. 1" and "Quiz-Crime No. 2" were both produced by British Foundation Pictures Limited. A detective talks to the audience and describes a crime which is reenacted, along with clues to what really happened. Like Sherlock Holmes or Poirot, the audience also plays along trying to find what truly happened with the limited amount of information given. After the descriptions, the detective reveals what the major clues were and what the answer is in the whodunit case. Each two-reel short has two crimes each, using documentary-like approaches for the storytelling, and since BFP was known for their documentary work, as well as director and writer Ronald Haines having experience in the field, the works are fun short pieces that have an interactive element with the audience, rather than the standard documentary or narrative fare. Since they are short, they don't give too much time for audiences to put the pieces together or give convoluted backgrounds or red herrings, so they are fairly straightforward if paid attention to. The BFI acquired six of the "Quiz-Crime" series of films in 1973, and these are the first two. Will the rest eventually surface in future installments of this Blu-ray series perhaps?

"The Three Children" starts like a standard public service announcement film, with happy suburban families, children playing, and citizens going about doing their daily business. But it is a story about child abduction. Audiences are not shown the actual abduction or struggle, but instead the remnants of what the children left behind, making it quite shocking to visualize what really happened. It's quite effective what was centralized in the less than three minute runtime, giving both awareness for viewers and a sense of fear. Little is known about the short, with no credits for the cast or crew, though there is a credit for "AF Bishop" for the script which there is no other information about. Produced by BFU Limited, even they are a bit of a mystery, with the BFI speculating it could be the initials for Blackheath Film Unit. Here is truly a prime example of a "found film" and the mystery surrounding it is as fascinating as the film itself.

"Escape from Broadmoor" may take its name from Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, where incidents of escaped inmates were big news stories in the late 1940s, but the short here has little if any to do with the true incidents. Instead it focuses on a criminal that returns to the scene of a crime more than a decade later. Not just a crime story, but this is also a supernatural tale of vengeance by the spirt of the woman he killed, and the psychological torment it takes on his mind. John Le Mesurier plays the escape convict Pendicost, though the casting seems a bit off since he doesn't particularly have the demeanor of a psychotic killer, instead having a more intelligent and sometimes gentleman like appeal. Victoria Hopper who is top billed is the spirit that haunts him, though her presence being very brief makes it a bit of a wasted opportunity in this appearance. Written and directed by John Gilling, this was his first time in the director's chair in which he would later make a great amount of horror features for Hammer Films in later years, such as "The Pirates of Blood River", "The Mummy's Shroud", as well as in television such as "The Saint". His first is a bit of a miss as it doesn't use the time wisely, being a bit of a drag until the climax. At least the future looked much better for Gilling career-wise.

"Mingoloo" is one of three short films directed by debonair celebrity Theodore Zichy in 1958, the other two being "Death Was a Passenger" and "Portrait of a Matador", both featured in the first "Short Sharp Shocks" Blu-ray set. Artist and sculptor Mark Langtree (played by Anthony F Page) awakens from a dream and immediately crafts what he saw - a mysterious Chinese doglike creature. While it may look fairly ugly, the figure becomes the central case of stolen goods in this mysterious caper short, featuring some very nice setpieces including the artist's workshop, a lavish nightclub, all with Zichy's flair. The fictional "Bakanese" people that are after the figure are unconvincingly in brownface makeup here with inconsistent accents, but this is one of the more "fun" shorts in this set, relying on comedy more than terror or horror elements. While Zichy did have talent as seen in his three shorts featured in these sets, his directing career unfortunately became a minor footnote rather than into something much larger.

"Jack the Ripper" has become a legendary figure in true horror as a notorious unsolved mystery case. Countless stories, films, parodies, and more have been based around the killings, but most people will not recall that it was also the title of a 1963 song by Screaming Lord Sutch. Born David Edward Sutch, the singer frequently dressed in a cape and top hat and awakening from a coffin for his live shows, predating many of the shock rockers of the 70s and 80s. His third single "Jack the Ripper", Sutch filmed a prototype music video, shot on film in studio on color 35mm film with psychedelic lighting, abstract setpieces, and bizarre angles, which were all more fitting with MTV which would launch two decades later. Sutch's music career never grazed into the mainstream, though "Jack the Ripper" would go on to be a cult staple, covered by prolific artists such as The Horrors (as their first track from their 2007 debut album "Strange House"), The White Stripes and more, long after his death in 1999.

"The Face of Darkness" starts off being a documentary like film with an interviewer asking a politician questions about his conservative policies, but things take quite a darker turn with the supernatural and occult in this short by writer and director Ian FH Lloyd. Lennard Pearce plays the politician in question, who wants to restore the death penalty in his new bill, but his turn towards the devilish "Undead" (played by David Allister) for assistance becomes much more than just a helping hand. There is political unrest, supernatural force, and an eerie tone throughout this very low budget independent short film, and while there is a lot of good to be shared, it doesn't feel as if it had the impact it could have. The consequences didn't seem to resonate, and the lack of characters also made the short a bit disjointed and not have enough of an impact, even though there was a bombing in the story. Shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm for screenings, it was the second and last film directed by Lloyd, who directed the documentary short "The Overdue Treatment" in 1973.

"The Dumb Waiter" may not be the most suitable name for this piece, the first film directed by the underrated Robert Bierman. The title sounds like a screwball comedy, but this is the polar opposite, being a stalker film. Sally (played by Geraldine James) is on the run from a stalker (played by John White) who follows her home in this tight and tense thriller. There is little motive given, there is no concern for backstories on if they have met or known each other, and instead relies on the atmosphere and tension in this piece that could be one section of a slasher movie rather than a short on its own. From the opening segments in the neon lit streets to the dreary indoors at night, it certainly works here with the added mystery of not knowing when a crazed person may come after you for no reason. Tight and at the bare minimum of exposition, this is one of the more effective shorts in this release.

"The Hangman" opens with a series of accidents. Construction workers falling to their deaths, bricks and wooden planks being knocked down from above and hitting people on the ground, these re-enactments with professional stuntmen and clever editing certainly will get the viewers' attention quickly. Millbank Films produced this instructional safety film, featuring a masked man who calls himself The Hangman showing examples of what not to do and various quizzes on what should have been done differently. Fun and sometimes shocking with its elaborate setups and stuntwork, it certainly captures the intention quite well by also being fairly entertaining.

"The Mark of Lilith" is the most experimental of the films featured in this set. Directed by students Bruna Fionda, Polly Gladwin and Isiling Mack-Nataf (now Zachary Nataf) has Zena (played by Pamela Lofton) who often looks directly to the camera to talk directly to the audience, searching for "the monstrous feminine", and links between cinema and tales of horror, as she starts a relationship with Lillia (played by Susan Franklyn, a vampire. The film looks a cinema metaphysically, being a pseudo documentary in its appearance while also having abstract segments to take advantage of the cinematic medium. Shot on 16mm film as their graduation film, the short eventually played at various festivals in the United Kingdom and abroad, becoming a cult favorite with its experimental sensibilities. It certainly feels like a student film, as it takes risks by breaking the traditional rules, incorporating new and different ideas, and appealing to a smaller arthouse audiences. Sure it is amateurish on certain levels and may be slightly pretentious at times, but it is still a fascinating watch and an interesting view from the minds of three women.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray set


The BFI presents all the films in this set in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. "The Dumb Waiter" is in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio while all others are in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio. All the films have been remastered at 2K resolution from the original film materials.

The "Quiz-Crime" shorts were remastered from original 35mm fine grain duplicating positives held at the BFI National Archive. The shorts look quite nice with good greyscale, a fairly stable picture, and good detail especially in the indoor shot sequences. Some damage marks are visible but quite a lot have been removed leaving a good looking picture throughout both.

"The Three Children" was remastered from an original 35mm duplicating negative held at the BFI National Archive. The damage marks a little more prevalent on this short, as is detail being slightly softer.

"Escape from Broadmoor" was remastered from an original 16mm print held at the BFI National Archive. As it comes from a 16mm element, the transfer is quite soft and lacking detail, with some jitter to the frame. Damage is visible but it seems much has been removed. Greyscale is stable side, though whites may be a bit blown out and blacks are quite dark. It does keep with the horror mood, but undoubtedly it is due to the source material.

"Mingoloo" was remastered from the original 35mm negative held at the BFI National Archive. The transfer here looks exceptional with great detail, a stable image, and minimal damage marks while still retaining film grain.

"Jack the Ripper" was remastered from an original 35mm interpositive held at the BFI National Archive. The color short shot in a stylized studio environment with bold colors are reflected very well in this transfer, with very little to no damage marks to be found.

"The Face of Darkness" was remastered from an original 35mm print on loan from the film's director. The print does have some issues with colors being washed out and pale looking in many sequences, though colors can have some depth to them such as in the forest scenes. There are some damage marks visible but much has been cleaned up for this transfer.

"The Dumb Waiter" was remastered from an original 35mm print held at the BFI National Archive. The neon lights of the sequences outdoors at night look quite good, contrasting with the darkened portions, though fine detail may not be as strong. On the positive side the transfer has been fairly cleaned with very few damage marks being visible.

"The Hangman" was remastered from an original 16mm print held at the BFI National Archive. The short is quite heavy with damage marks such as speckles, scratches, and tramline marks throughout, and detail is a bit soft at times. Colors are also a bit dull, but there have been some efforts to present the short in a watchable state.

"The Mark of Lilith" was remastered from an original 16mm print on loan from director Bruna Fionda. The print does have its weaknesses with damage marks, lost detail, and washed out colors. Efforts were made to restore the film through digital cleanup, but imperfections are still noticeable. On the positive side it is still in a good state with a healthy amount of film grain and colors being brought to life even in the darker sequences.


English LPCM 1.0
All films feature their original mono audio uncompressed. Due to each coming from different source materials, their quality varies between each film. Some such as The "Quiz-Crime" shorts, "The Three Children", "Escape from Broadmoor", "The Hangman" have some noticeable noise in the audio with hisses, pops, and crackle. "Escape from Broadmoor" can sometimes sound a bit muffled with the dialogue and is probably the weakest of the soundtracks in the set of films here. The others mentioned are much better in reproduction of dialogue.

"Mingoloo" and "Jack the Ripper" sound the best of the bunch. "Mingoloo" has the benefit of coming from the original negative which is in great shape, and with the indoor recordings of the voices sounding quite clear. "Jack the Ripper" sounds quite good as it is a prototype music video with the music and vocals being recorded in studio and synchronized to the image. While it doesn't sound as good as it would be from the original master tapes, the mono soundtrack is keeping with the original film source, without any particular issues to speak of.

"The Face of Darkness" is one that has some hiss and distorted dialogue, though it is not too distracting. "The Dumb Waiter" is one that relies on sound more than the dialogue and it does sound fairly good in this transfer, if not a bit on the flat side. "The Mark of Lilith" also has its issues with hiss and distortion, but it is fair to say the least.

All shorts include optional English HoH subtitles in a white font.


All of the extras are found on DISC TWO

"Darkness Falls" interview with The Face of Darkness writer and director Ian FH Lloyd (43:23)
In this new interview with the writer/director, Lloyd recalls the political situation in the country at the time, from the resurgence of the IRA and political corruption, but admits the film didn't have its subtleties that it could have had instead. He also talks about the casting process, the fairly low £15,000 budget, having to buy a bunch of David Bowie albums for one of the cast members, the use of music, costumes, and also how the school that was used for a scene was not happy with the end result. A great conversation here, and frankly is more enjoyable than the short itself as it admits its shortcomings as well as diving into the production process.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Heads Will Roll" interview with The Dumb Waiter writer and director Robert Bierman (39:45)
Bierman sits for this new interview as he discusses both his career and the film itself. From his early days as a camera operator, the initial plans to produce the short, the writing process and more, he is also frank about the mistakes he made in the learning process. He shows the original script in hand which was much too long and detailed, as well as not being particularly clear in direction, plus he regrets that there was no major setup to the terror that happens. (Although I happen to disagree here and it does still work as a tense piece of work.) He also discusses further into his life and career, including being hired by Paramount to make "White Dog" which he left during pre-production, the tragedy of losing his daughter in an accident during pre-production of "The Fly", directing the cult favorite "Vampire's Kiss" and much more. Another great interview here being very honest and informative.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Making Their Mark" interview with The Mark of Lilith directors Bruna Fionda, Polly Biswas Gladwin and Zachary Nataf (33:03)
This newly recorded interview has Fionda and Gladwin together in the UK while Nataf is interviewed remotely from his home in Brooklyn, New York. They discuss the project being a collaborative work, the inspiration from "The Hunger" (1983) and vampire lore, the gay subtext, and more. They also discuss raising the £7,000 by begging and borrowing, their excitement from having the film shown at festivals and even receiving kind words from filmmaker Derek Jarman about it.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Puttin’ on the Ritzy" featurette (12:42)
Clare Binns, who started working at London's Ritzy cinema in 1981 as an usher eventually became the acquisitions & programming director for Picturehouse, discusses about the history of the theater in this remote interview. She talks about its history of showcasing independent work, the renovation in later years, and more. While it doesn't mention it directly, this was the theater shown in "The Mark of Lilith".
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

- "The Face of Darkness" (3:30)
- "The Dumb Waiter" (5:10)
- "The Mark of Lilith" (12:20)

A series of rare stills from three of the shorts included in this set.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

A 32 page booklet has been included for the initial pressing. First is the introduction "The Long and the Short and the Tall Story" written by the BFI's Vic Pratt, William Fowler and Josephine Botting which is a quick overview of the films included in this set and the continuation of the "Short Sharp Shocks". In addition there is information for each film in the set with full credits, as well as writing by Pratt, Folwer, Botting, freelance writer Jon Dear, author Jonathan Rigby, writer Caroline Champion, and also the filmmakers themselves for "The Face of Darkness" and "The Mark of Lilith". There are also stills, transfer information, and acknowledgements.


This is the 42nd title in the BFI Flipside series.


"Short Sharp Shocks Volume 2" dives a little deeper into the vaults of the BFI National Archive for some more curiously bizarre and rare works, and like the first volume can be a bit of a hit and miss with the quality and execution. They are still fascinating to see and the BFI has given the films great restored transfers with excellent extras as well. Very recommended.

Note the ratings below are an average rating for all the films in the set.

The Film: B Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: B+ Overall: B+


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