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Pam Grier Becomes the Sexy Panther Woman
What do you get when director Eddie Romero makes a movie crossing James Bond (clearly taking cues from Sean Connery) with The Island of Dr. Moreau? Maybe even throw in a few Planet of the Apes tropes for good measure.
Featuring a young Pam Grier in a non-speaking role as a half-panther, half-human creature, The Twilight People is perfectly cheesy retro entertainment. It is enjoyable exploitation fare made for the drive-in movie theaters of the early 1970s. Taking its animal-human hybrids far more seriously as a concept than the low-budget film’s questionable prosthetic and make-up work, The Twilight People remains an amusing genre movie.
Eddie Romero, the Roger Corman of the Philippines, directs this corny adventure film starring John Ashley, Pat Woodell, Jan Merlin, and Charles Macaulay. As much as the ad copy promises Pam Grier, this is a small role for the cult icon made before her big breakout success. Here she appears as Panther Woman, a wild creature of violent impulses. Eddie Romero had a long and fruitful career making low-budget, but usually entertaining, films across a wide range of genres. The Twilight People fits right into his usual canon of cheap b-movies made for disposable movie viewing.
… a must for die-hard Pam Grier fans
… a must for die-hard Pam Grier fans
The rugged Matt Farrell (John Ashley) is kidnapped from the sea while scuba-diving, taken by underlings working for the mad Dr. Gordon. Matt is to become part of the doctor’s diabolical plan to create a race of super beings as the next test subject. Fed up with mankind’s self-destructive habits, Dr. Gordon is engineering half-animal, half-human creatures at his island lair for the next phase of evolution. There Matt meets the beautiful Neva, Dr. Gordon’s daughter and possibly the only woman on the island. She has lived her entire life on the island and becomes intrigued when she meets the suave agent.
The twisted doctor’s experiments have so far only created hideously warped creatures, locked away in cages. Trouble ensues when an unlikely ally helps free these poor creatures on the jungle island, soon becoming a bloodbath of revenge and terror.
The Twilight People is solid fun. It’s probably a must for die-hard Pam Grier fans. For exploitation fare made in the early 1970s, the cast is surprisingly steady in their roles. The screenplay doesn’t toy around with unnecessary side stories, clocking in at a lean 80 minutes. It includes romance, a couple of great villains in Dr. Gordon and Steinman, likable protagonists, and enough wild action to keep things lively. This is filmmaking meant to cheaply entertain the audience and succeeds as a nice blast of drive-in nostalgia.
Those aware of cult label VCI Entertainment’s spotty track record on Blu-ray are in for a surprise with The Twilight People. The original DVD, also released by VCI Entertainment way back in 2000, had a full-screen transfer. That was the only way to see The Twilight People for many years on home video.
This new Blu-ray transfer has been remastered in 2K resolution from the 35mm camera negative in solid condition. But the biggest news is that the movie is shown for the first time in its intended 1.78:1 aspect ratio (technically, it was originally a 1.85:1 theatrical presentation). While it’s not a state-of-the-art restoration, this is a respectable film transfer that greatly benefits the movie. It’s a massive upgrade over any prior version and essential for its fans.
The 80-minute main feature is encoded in rock-solid AVC at excellent parameters, given a BD-50 to ensure the grain structure and compression are transparently rendered. Some filtering has likely been applied. The print is in extremely clean condition for this kind of underground vintage fare (if you can get beyond the odd palette shifts and occasional lapses in brightness). Some shots have phenomenal clarity and sharpness, mostly capturing the raw detail and decent definition in the 35mm negative. There aren’t any obvious or intrusive artifacts left over from the video processing. A few shots have a much softer, gauzier focus.
Some color fading is visible in the palette’s erratic saturation. Black levels could be better, though this effect greatly varies depending on the scene and location. The contrast is serviceable, lacking the rich saturation often found with re-timed film restorations.
The Twilight People comes with an adequate 2.0 PCM soundtrack preserving its original monaural mix. It is limited in fidelity and bass. Like many vintage recordings, it lacks the air and range of better recorded sound. Some dialogue exchanges have a drop in volume. While not exactly muffled, these drops in volume miss the sparkling clarity of Hollywood filmmaking. Some dialogue has been looped into the soundtrack, introducing minor sync issues.
Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font.
VCI Entertainment includes a reversible cover in a transparent Blu-ray case. This combo set also includes a DVD copy. The rare video interview with director Eddie Romero appears to have been done years ago in the VHS era. He passed away in 2013.
Audio Commentary by film historian David Del Valle and filmmaker David DeCoteau – A mildly amusing commentary by knowledgeable enthusiasts on cult films. The discussion does tend to leave the gravity of this particular movie fairly quickly, moving on to different subjects.
Interview with director Eddie Romero (58:44 in upscaled HD) – This vintage archival interview has the director sharing many personal anecdotes from his career.
Original Theatrical Trailer (01:51 in HD)
TV Spots (01:34 in HD)
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.
The Twilight People
Eddie Romero’s B-movie is low-budget fun from the early ’70s that rips off The Island of Dr. Moreau and features a scantily-clad Pam Grier as Panther Woman.
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