The Fear (1966) Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: August 8, 2023 (Standard Edition)
Audio: Greek 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio
Run Time: 106:11
Director: Kostas Manoussakis
Anna (Elena Nathanail), a young female student living in Athens, returns to her family’s large farm in the remote Greek countryside, where she can feel the tensions that lie repressed under the apparently tranquil rural setting. Her only real friend is a mute servant girl named Hrysa (Elli Fotiou), who disappears. Anna suspects that her half-brother, Anestis (Anestis Vlahos), is responsible and starts to follow him, attempting to trick him into confessing. (From Mondo Macabro’s official synopsis)
Due to lack of infrastructure, lack of audience interest, and/or an excess of censorship issues, most European countries outside of Britain, Germany, and France didn’t regularly start producing horror films until well into the 1950s. Italy and Spain quickly made up for lost time and grew into two of the world’s largest genre exporters, but nearby Greece remained a minor player, even into the ‘70s, when movies like Kostas Karagiannis’ Land of the Minotaur (aka: The Devil’s Men, 1976), a Greek/UK/US co-production, and Nico Mastorakis’ video nasty shocker Island of Death (1976) finally made an impact in the international market. Among those few films that helped set the stage during that minor player era was Kostas Manoussakis’ dark, rural folk drama The Fear (Greek: O favos, 1966).
While not, strictly speaking, a ‘horror film,’ The Fear (not to be confused with Vincent Robert’s 1995 film of the same name) comes awfully close with a rich blend of Gothic atmosphere and Neorealist techniques that feels similar to the moody Italian horror dramas of the same period, such as Brunello Rondi’s The Demon (Il demonio, 1963) and Damiano Damiani’s The Witch (Italian: La strega in amore, 1966). Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) also seems to have been a major influence, as aspects of the pathetic peeping Tom antagonist seem to have been partially modeled on Norman Bates (minus essentially everything that makes Norman sympathetic). Still, no matter how hard I try to compare it to more familiar thrillers, everything about The Fear is unmistakably Greek, especially where the almost documentary-like glimpses into the mechanics of farm life are concerned. Enigmatic, but not impenetrable with a sometimes unbearably tense atmosphere and ominous tone. The deliberate pacing, impressionistic editing, and chillingly stark black & white photography slowly builds to a dizzying, kaleidoscopic, and uniquely exhilarating climax.
Celebrated upon release, The Fear was Manoussakis’ final film, rounding out a small trilogy that also included prison break romance Love in the Sand Dunes (Greek: Erotas stous ammolofous, 1958) and the WWII romantic drama Betrayal (Greek: Prodosia, 1964).
The Fear has never been released on home video outside of Greece and I don’t believe that the Greek DVD has an English subtitle option (I could be wrong), so it would have been nearly impossible to see it stateside until now. Mondo Macabro’s Blu-ray is sourced from a brand-new 2K scan of the original negative and is presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio (note that the framing seems natural, but that letters are cut off on the right side during the credit sequence). Cinematographer Nikos Gardelis’ rich black & white photography is neatly reproduced with deep-dark blacks and high contrast whites, yet relatively even-handed gradations between them. Details are especially tight in close-ups and become a little fuzzy in wide-angle shots, which is, in part, by design, but also possibly due to the condition of the negatives and quality of the scan. Grain texture is also soft and maybe a little blocky, but not enough to undermine the transfer’s better qualities. Print damage artifacts are limited largely to small dots/flecks, minor scratches, and a snowy quality to darker outdoor shots.
The Fear apparently wasn’t dubbed for export, despite having a decent initial worldwide release, so the only audio option is the original Greek language in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound. I believe the majority of the performances were captured live and not dubbed, but the mix is still purposefully minimalistic, creating an open, quiet atmosphere that is occasionally overwhelmed by stress-inducing racket. Dialogue is minimal and clean, despite the occasional aspirated consonant hiss. Composer Giannis Markopoulos’ fantastic, sometimes avant-garde score utilizes Greek instruments and melodies, but expertly utilizes driving percussion and odd time signatures to put the audience on edge. The music, which reminds me of everything from ‘60s Japanese horror to Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman’s acid bluegrass Ravenous (1999) score, is consistently clear and neatly layered, almost as effectively as a stereo track.
Kostas Manoussakis: The Exiled Filmmaker (50:14, SD) – This Greek documentary feature explores Manoussakis’ personal life and relationships, brief career, struggles with producers, the greater meaning and controversy behind his work (especially Betrayal and The Fear), The Fear’s fantastic critical reception, his unrealized fourth feature, and all the events that conspired to keep him from ever making another film.
Remembering Elena Nathanail (2:24, HD) – A slideshow tribute to the late actress.
Still and poster gallery
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.