The Hunger: The Terence Stamp Collection (1997)
By: Trist Jones on January 20, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
DV1 (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 586 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director:Tony Scott, Jake Scott, Russell Mulcahy, Erik Canual, Darrell Wasyk, Howard Rodman, John Hamilton, Jeff Fazio, Pierre Delpe, John Warwicker, Richard Ciupka, Michel David, George Mihalka, Tom Dey, Jimmy Kaufman
Starring: Terence Stamp, Balthazar Getty, Jason Scott Lee, Margot Kidder, Brooke Smith, Sally Kirkland, Chad Lowe, Timothy Spall, Curtis Armstrong, Michael Gross, Tomas Arana, Ian Finlay, Esai Morales, Terry Simpson, Stephen McHattie, Jesse Borego, Joanna Cassidy, Sofia Shinas, Frank Fontaine.
Country: USA
Many people in Australia probably have no idea what The Hunger is. Unless you had access to the Arena channel on Pay TV about six years ago, you're not likely to have seen it on television.

Based on Tony Scott's 1984 movie of the same name, The Hunger is a series of half hour episodes, telling tales of sex, power, greed and the supernatural. Set up in a similar style to Tales from the Crypt, each episode is presented by The Host, a character who's implied immortality allows him to relate the many stories from across the globe. It could also be taken that the Host (in this series at least) bears some relation to the characters of the film it stems from, as the extravagance of his surroundings and unearthly eccentricity and knowledge make him seem like a supernatural anachronism like David Bowie's character in the film.

The series takes the erotic nature of the film and applies it here for television, so you're guaranteed to see some boobs in every episode, even when they aren't needed. And in case there are any deviants wondering, yes, there are a couple of beaver shots here and there as well.

The host in this particular series (Series 1) is Terence Stamp, who's general demeanor and well educated voice boosts the over indulgent extravagance The Hunger exuded. The Hunger, as it says in the opening titles, would usually involve tales of power, sex and money, and Terence Stamp definitely gives the impression that he's well versed in each subject, through both look and performance. While Stamp does a good (though somewhat overly Shakespearean) job of being the Host, I still much prefer David Bowie's Julian Priest from The Hunger Series 2, who's tales often worked into his wrap-arounds (unlike many of Stamp's). Bowie's performance also feels far more natural than Stamp's, and in my opinion the stories, along with their production values, were far better than this series.

That isn't to say that this isn't a good show, it's just not as good as the second season (which was released here first for some reason). It's also not a show that lends itself to continuous watching. As much of a fan as I am of the second season, which I can watch over again, I don't really have much desire to re-watch any of these episodes. If they were on TV, sure, I might sit through them again, but I'm not likely to sit down and say "Hey! I'm gonna watch that episode from the Terence Stamp Collection!"

I also found that I couldn't watch multiple episodes in one sitting. It just felt too dragging if I did. It could be that, in spite of the fact that each episode runs for twenty five minutes, they do feel quite long, and the filming style used (although clearly shot on video) makes it feel like a short film.

Still, if you're curious, here's a rundown of each of the episodes found in the set.

THE SWORDS - Directed by Tony Scott

A young man is sent to London to escape his drug addled past and prevent it from souring his fathers business. Whilst there he comes across a strange poster at a nightclub for The Swords, a stage act featuring an alluring young girl. He goes to the show and finds that the girl on the poster can be pierced by a sword anywhere in the abdomen without feeling pain, nor leaving a wound. Instantly he is mesmerised by her, and befriends the promoter of the show to get to know her. As they do, the two form a bond, but the young man's fear of commitment has dire repercussions for the girl.

A good way to start the series. It's not over the top in anyway (except for the two gay cosmetics punks) and the erotic overtones are really well handled. Performances by all are great considering they're pretty much nobodies (with the exception of a few brief appearances by Timothy Spall). 4/5

MENAGE A TROIS - Directed by Jake Scott

This episode felt a lot like the film on which the series was based. Not quite as much thematically (though still very similar), more visually and stylistically. A pre-bond Daniel Craig stars as an artist working as a handyman/butler for the aristocratic and wheelchair bound Ms. Gatty (Karen Black), who has just hired a new nurse, Steph, to help her around the house. Steph and Jerry (Craig) hit it off rather well and are going at it like bunnies in no time. Eventually they discover a collection of bizarre sexual paraphernalia in a hidden room, neither one game enough to try any of it. As things progress, Steph becomes more and more sexually charged and begins trying the newly found toys, much to Jerry's dislike. However, things escalate and Jerry soon discovers that someone or something has control over Steph.

As I said, this one is in much the same vein as the film, visually more than anything, and doesn't deal with the vampires. Karen Black is frightening in this; just as disturbing as the sexual tools hidden in her house, though Daniel Craig isn't anything spectacular. 4/5

THE SECRET OF SHIH-TAN - Directed by Russell Mulcahy
Based on a story by Graham Masterton

Starring Jason Scott Lee (The Jungle Book, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) in one of the strongest performances this series offers, The Secret of Shih-Tan revolves around a highly-skilled chef (Lee) who is becoming increasingly frustrated with his work in his restaurant. That is until a mysterious stranger appears in the restaurant with a beautiful young woman and a lethal proposition. The stranger wants him to cook a rare poisonous fish, having heard that he was the best. Lee claims it can't be done, but the stranger offers him a page of the Shih-Tan (the Necronomicon of cookbooks) revealing how to do it. Lee's character becomes obsessed with the book and the stranger offers him a job as his personal chef, allowing him to read the Shih-Tan as much as he likes, and allowing him to create the most exquisite of dishes. However, one dish remains uncooked and the stranger demands it. A human.

Not a bad way to start the second disc. I found Jason Scott Lee's performance to be surprisingly strong amidst a couple of bad apples, but the story is well told and doesn't rely on the erotica the rest of the series seems to rest on for it's premise. 4/5

BRIDAL SUITE - Directed by Erik Canual

Based on a short story by Graham Masterton, Bridal Suite tells the tale of adultery and fidelity, and a pair of newly weds on their honeymoon. In the dead of winter, a couple find a vacant bed-n-breakfast run by a mysteriously cryptic, but light-hearted woman. She gives them the bridal suite (which is surprisingly large when you take a look at the place from the outside). After their first night of sexually charged passion as a married couple, the nameless wife (played by Sally Kirkland) turns to find her husband, Peter (Colin Ferfuson) no longer in the bed next to her. After searching the house thoroughly and coming to the conclusion that he can't have gone out into the cold, the wife begins to lose her cool and gets nasty with the widow. The widow talks her down, but she's not convinced, and a little while later hears moaning coming from the bridal suite. She busts in and finds the widow writhing around on the bed with some unrecognisable men, except one. Furious she pulls back the drapes around the bedposts, but when she does, the men are gone… here, the supernatural kicks in, and the secret of the bridal suite and the whereabouts of her husband is revealed.

Not a fantastic episode by any stretch, and the acting is a little below the average, but once the wife becomes frantic, things start getting interesting. 2.5/5 for this one.

ROOM 17 - Directed by Erik Canual

In a suitably dingy little room, in an equally seedy motel, a down on his luck sales perve (Curtis Armstrong, Booger from Revenge of the Nerds) decides to kick back with a bottle of hard liquor and a bit of porno. All well and good, until the girl in the porno starts talking to him through the TV set. He suspects shenanigans until she reveals intimate details about him, and proceeds to give him head through the TV. Things escalate and after a night of crazy sex, Burt (the salesman) asks how they can be together forever. There is a way, and that way is to kill his wife. Little does Burt know the true intentions of the woman in the TV…

Overall an entertaining episode, in spite of some bizarre moments (Booger having sex) and the amount of belief suspension that has to take place (…Booger having sex). Most episodes revolve around demons and possession or spirits, this is a little more out of this world than that. Terence Stamp's bookends seem completely irrelevant in this though, spinning some crazy jibe about motorcycles, but the performances were surprisingly strong. 4/5

ANAIS - Directed by Darrell Wasyk
Story by Graham Masterton

An architect in Montreal finds himself in moral turmoil as he begins to realise he doesn't miss his wife at all, and that he's constantly lying about how much he wishes she were there. It's not that he doesn't care for her; it's just that after a moment of miscommunication with a French-Canadian woman, he begins to have doubts about his life and his marriage. His colleague however knows the girl he's talking about and warns him not to get involved, and to go home to his wife. But he can't get rid of these fantasies he has of her. After one involving implied sodomy, he is accosted on the streets by the girl's boyfriend, and the lines between what is real and what is not start to blur. Actually, they blur so much it becomes a little more than confusing as it starts to throw around whose reality is whose.

If the episode itself weren't so damn baffling it'd be amongst the best of this series. As it is though, it all comes out a little up in the air, with no real (satisfying, at least) conclusion. This episode however is shot and acted far better than most of the others, not falling into so many of the visual traps of the other episodes (porno lighting and sets, Tony Scott overexposure to name a few). 3/5.

NO RADIO - Directed by Howard Rodman
Based on a story by Mickey Friedman

How this one made it in is beyond me. A vague tale of two fuck-buddies whose relationship is pretty much doomed from the beginning. He wants more, she's a bitch. Oh and her husband is a bit weird. It's pretty straight forward, and doesn't really go anywhere. It has none of the trademarks of the series and is really quite boring. I'm sure this one will have fans somewhere out there, but if you ask me, you can do without seeing this one. The final shot is among the stupidest things I've ever seen on TV.
1/5, weak performances, annoying characters, and a nowhere plot make this one a massive dud. The only thing it has going for it is the Terence Stamp bookends, which don't really tie in once again, but are amusing to watch.

BUT AT MY BACK I ALWAYS HEAR - Directed by Darrell Wasyk
Based on a story by David Morrell

Another "what's real, what's not" episode, though far more entertaining than the last (ANAIS) is probably less satisfying once the end comes around. Michael Gross (The dad from Family Ties, the Tremors films) plays a college professor who finds himself the object of obsession for an attractive though somewhat snotty blonde girl in his literature classes. She makes advances towards him, but he knocks her back, though he can't get the fantasy of her out of his mind. She calls him later that night, as though she could hear his dreams calling out to her. As the episode goes on, the student's obsession with her teacher escalates until he is informed that the student committed suicide two days before he last received a call from her. From here the obsession switches and the teacher becomes obsessed with the student, trying to prove that he isn't insane.
Terence Stamps opening and closing comments tie directly into this one, but as I said earlier, it's a little unfulfilling. While the performances are great, and the shots are well thought out, the ending is a real let down. 3/5

RED LIGHT - Directed by Darrell Wasyk

Highly melodramatic, with a no-name cast as ugly as sin, and a blatantly synthetic brass score, Red Light is a lowlight. While it deals with an interesting premise – that of a Russian model who discovers her soul is being destroyed with each photograph that is taken of her. The acting is terrible, the main character is one of the ugliest dudes ever put to screen and the episode itself is surprisingly boring. What's even more surprising is the reaction of the photographers at the end. 1/5 for this stinker.

I'M DANGEROUS TONIGHT - Directed by Russel Mulcahy
Based on a story by Cornell Woolrich

Everyone knows that anything inspired by the devil or a demon is bad news. Any kid that grew up on The Real Ghostbusters can tell you that. Songs, music, machines, children, anything that comes about because of visions of demons will always go wrong. In this case it's a dress. A high-end fashion designer is inspired by a demon to make a bright red dress. She does, but her apprentice steals it and things start going slightly murderous.

Once again, it's a case of great idea, poor execution. There are so many accents and cultures colliding here it's impossible to ascertain a setting or mythology to attach the supernatural to. The acting is decent, though there are no noticeable names, and the soundtrack isn't the overly obtrusive synths that appear so often in this series. A so-so episode that's fairly predictable. 2/5

THE SLOAN MEN - Directed by Darrell Wasyk
Based on a Story by David Nickle

There's something peculiar about the Sloan men. Herman Sloan and his father don't open books, have twelve toes, bone instead of finger nails, hideous teeth, glowing blue eyes and long navels. Margot Kidder stars as Helen, Herman Sloan's stepmother, who is meeting Judith (Herman's fiancé) for the first time. Helen eerily recounts exactly how Judith and Herman met, based purely on her experience with Herman's father. After showing Judith a disturbing collection of photographs she'd taken, Helen and Judith set off to find the place the two Sloan men are drawing their power from, revealing them as the true monsters they are and hopefully break the spell they are under.

A fun little episode, made better by Kidder's eccentric performance. Leans a little more towards the X-files or the Twilight Zone, but with nudie bits and sex. Some of the set pieces are a little on the budget side, but it's forgivable. 5/5

A MATTER OF STYLE - Directed by John Hamilton
From a story by Ron Dee

Neville is a virgin. He's a geek, a loser, has no style and also happens to be a vampire. A much lighter episode this time around with the erotica focus shifting to comedy as Neville is trained as a vampire by a sultry vampiress. Think The 40 Year Old Virgin meets Tales from the Crypt. The only problem I have with this episode is that it feels really out of place in this particular series. It feels more at home on Amazing Stories. 4/5

HIDEBOUND - Directed by Jeff Fazio
Based on a story by Gemma Files

Based on Native American mythology of nature spirits, this somewhat slapdash tale of a security guard who comes into contact with an aforementioned spirit is a lot closer tonally to what The Hunger is than the previous two episodes. A newly hired security guard, in the midst of a terrible break-up with her boyfriend, becomes aware of strange happenings at the dilapidated buildings she is posted to guard. It isn't until her supervisor is attacked and torn to pieces that the nature of the happenings become clear. A spirit is on the loose in the area.

It's a decent episode, but it comes to a poorly written conclusion and the last five minutes of the episode are really rushed. Still, everything before that is pretty good. The acting is nothing special, but the overall aesthetic of the episode is nice and makes do with what it has really well. 3.5/5

FLY BY NIGHT - Directed by Pierre Delpe
Based on a story by Gemma Files

Sonya (Kim Feeney) is a patient in a psychiatric hospital. When a howling black man is dragged in naked and thrown into solitary confinement she pinpoints him as being a vampire and that he needs blood. After strangling her doctor, they agree to let her meet him. When the two meet, delusions fuse and it becomes a matter of who's telling the truth and who's just plain crazy.

Another poorly executed episode that tries to be too many things it can't be. Flashbacks to some ridiculous military past of Sonya tie into a ludicrous ending that feels like a poor man's Jacob's Ladder, the play off between who's insane and who might be telling the truth is really hampered by Feeney's piss-poor acting and the erotic element (or rape here essentially) is needlessly tacked on, and because of Feeney it looks like a big, scary, black dude savaging a little boy. 1/5

A RIVER OF NIGHT'S DREAMING - Directed by John Warwicker
Based on a story by Karl Edward Wagner

Worst backhand of all time. A prison van escorting a convict is involved in an accident and winds up in the bottom of a river. Somehow (don't ask me how, must be minimum security) the prisoner, Gena, manages to escape the van, and winds up stumbling upon a dilapidated house in the middle of a woodland area. Owned by a religious matriarch and her mute but attractive daughter, Gena realises that things are a little off as they try to coerce her into becoming part of their religion. But as the daughter and Gena form a bit of a friendship (wink wink, nudge nudge) the pious mother takes matters into her own hands.

An interesting episode. Great visuals, it's clear a bit more time went into some of the shots and the symbolism therein. There are a few abrupt moments that tend to jar (Gena's mother masturbating, getting caught by Gena and then suddenly asking for a hug from her daughter even though she's holding a massive knife in the Michael Myers "I'm gonna kill you now" position), and the no-name that plays Gena may not have even graduated Porn Acting School. A couple of protracted scenes play out a little longer than necessary such as the lesbian scene (who'd've thunk it?) and when Gena jumps out a window (it gets kinda funny after the first few shots). 3/5

THE LIGHTHOUSE - Directed by Darrell Wasyk
Based on a story by Robert Bloch

Bruce Davison (Senator Kelly from the X-Men movie) stars as a novelist, recently jaded by a six year relationship gone terribly bitter, who decides to find solitude by becoming caretaker of a lighthouse, writing his novel in his spare time. After Hurricane Monica hits the coast, he takes this as being a personal blow (as the hurricane bears the same name as his ex-wife). Progressively, the novelist loses his mind, conjuring up a rose and then attempting to conjure up the perfect woman. But when the woman arrives, she's more than a figment of his imagination, but she's also something more than human…

Among the best of the series, but I'm a fan of Bruce Davison's little contributions to the entertainment industry. He never really gets the big roles, but he usually pulls them off really well, and this is no exception. Very simple, straightforward storytelling, nothing overly complex in terms of shots or editing and reasonably well paced. 4/5.

THE FACE OF HELEN BOURNOUW - Directed by Richard Ciupka

Another episode that rings closer to what I read as being the strongest themes behind the hunger; greed, obsession and lust and the risks and evil that comes from both. A man chases a blonde woman out into the street, screaming her name, begging her to come back. When she doesn't he pulls out a gun and shoots himself in the head. We cut to another art studio, the artist on the phone, screaming at his agent, he loses it and starts tearing up his works, but up in a room overlooking the studio with the blonde woman we glimpsed earlier. While the artist is screaming torrents of abuse down the phone, the woman gets up and leaves. The artist, as did the man in the earlier scene, drops the phone and starts begging the woman to come back, and when she doesn't he slits his wrists. The events repeat themselves and a reporter catches onto the story, and tries to track this seemingly faceless but evil woman down with some trippy consequences.

Tonally, this one has the overall themes that make The Hunger down pat. The conclusion it comes to however leaves you out a little cold. Good, but not great. 3/5

PLAIN BROWN ENVELOPE - Directed by Michel David
Based on a story by Lyn Wood

Sophie hitches a ride with a truck driver on her way north. The truck driver, Jesse, doesn't seem like you average truck driver. Drinks herbal tea, very well spoken, hasn't made the girl provide any sexual favours in exchange for the ride… it all seems to be going pretty well, until the truck breaks down. To avoid freezing in the winter night, Jesse suggests they get into the trailer, using the cargo for warmth. Turns out (funnily enough) that he's delivering a massive amount of sex toys and display items, so the truck is basically a moving porno set. Predictable things happen and copious amounts of sexual ecstasy occur.

Pretty good performances, though clearly on a very low budget. Some of the fantasies are pretty hilarious (the polar bear? Light up dildo fingers?), however the twist at the end is slightly more disturbing than the majority of the series. 3/5

THE OTHER WOMAN - Directed by George Mihalka
Based on a story by Lois Tilton

No supernatural creepies here folks. Straight up tale of obsession, jealousy, power, love and lust. A high end fashion designer (Cronenberg regular Nicholas Campbell) is amazed by the talent displayed by a new designer under his label and gradually finds himself more and more in love with her, knowing little of her full blown obsession for him. When she designs the perfect dress the two give in to desire, but Campbell's suspicious wife takes matters into her own hands.

A good little episode, no confounding supernatural twists or blurring of realities to be found. The only problem I really had with this episode was the main girl (another television no-name) who seemed completely out of place and acted as though she were in a soap opera most of the time. 3/5

CLARIMONDE - Directed by Tom Dey
Based on a story by Theophile Cauthier

Set in Quebec 1856, a young and devoted priest is plagued by visions of a beautiful French mistress. As the visions become more and more vivid he finds himself questioning his faith and his position as a priest in the church. When his mentor reveals to him the true nature and origin of the mistress, he is forced to decide where his loyalties lie.

An interesting approach, this is the first to be set outside of the modern timeframe, but when you watch it, you begin to wonder why. It could possibly have been more powerful in it's religious overtones than it was, but still the story is the story and it works. 3/5

FOOTSTEPS - Directed by Jimmy Kaufman
Based on a story by Cordwainer Bird

Claire flees New York for Paris, on the run from the pursuing footsteps, burning with hunger. When she arrives in Paris she decides to give in to the hunger, and Claire is revealed as being some sort of lycanthropic beast disguised as a human. The hunger continues, but eventually she begins hearing the pursuing footsteps once again. Fearing for her life and the hunger that consumes her constantly, she meets a strange man in a nightclub who is himself, more than human.

A nice way to finish off the series. It's a monster one, not quite as light as the other monster episodes, but far from those that truly define the style of the series. Some poorly edited sequences really stand out though, and the special effects aren't very special. Still, it's worth 4/5.
Video
Given that this is a television series we're looking at, and a fairly recent one, still showing on American PayTV, getting masters couldn't have been a problem. The prints are all clean and clear, just as they would appear on TV.
Audio
The sound mix is in standard 2.0, seeing as this was a television production made in the mid-90's. It's clean, but it's not going to blow your mind even if you have a good sound set-up.
Extra Features
There aren't any truly noteworthy extras on the DVD's. Two of them have trailers for the David Bowie series, all of them have a couple of actor and director biographies, depending on whether or not the names are big enough to be mentioned. I was surprised to see Russell Mulcahy, who directed Razorback and The Highlander, to be a prominent director on the series. You can listen to the theme song, remixed by DJ Italic, and check out the screening order of the episodes in both the Terence Stamp collection and David Bowie collection.
The Verdict
The Hunger: The Terence Stamp Collection is a hard one to judge. I'm pretty sure I would've looked at it differently had I not seen the Bowie episodes first and not dug them as much as I did. The logic behind putting out the first series after the Bowie one is a little questionable, obviously testing the market using Bowie's name to sell them. But people expecting the same standard as that set by the Bowie episodes will likely be disappointed. At roughly $80 for the set, it's really only for true fans of the series, and isn't available locally as individual DVD's like the second season. Go for the Bowie ones instead.
Movie Score
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