The cover itself is promising you that there's a less FSK
heavy option on the reverse side. Jesus, Germany...
I was lucky enough to watch DAGON on 35mm a few weeks ago, which to both director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna's recollection might have been the first time an actual print was played in the United States. On the opposite end of the viewing perspective, this could literally have been the very last movie I ever rented on VHS, and despite having thought it was pretty good I never picked it up on DVD, so my memory was a bit hazier on the whole thing than I'd like to admit. Upon a second, much-belated viewing I think I like the film better than when I'd seen a fuzzy pan-scan print, finally getting to appreciate just how atmospheric and uncomfortable the mostly untouched Spanish locales the film takes full advantage, and the film's big twist - which actually begins in the first reel and only becomes obvious towards the end - works better than I remembered. Ezra Godden was decent enough a bastard who couldn't have worse luck if he'd tried, and having learned that he was actually British but perfected a flawless American accent gave me a new level of respect for him as a performer. Macarena Gómez also impresses as well as the pagan priestess who shifts gears seamlessly from childish damsel in distress to sadistic murderous psycho-bitch without missing a beat. Celebrated Spanish character actor Francisco Rabal also makes something of an extended cameo in the thankless role of a filthy drunk filled with exposition, but he does a lot with just a little and is rewarded with, easily, the most disgusting set piece in the whole movie.
Dagon - or, really, Shadow over Insmouth - is perhaps looked at less fondly than Gordon's other attempts to bring H.P. Lovecraft to life due to its troubled, decades long history. The plan was actually to shoot this as a sort of sequel to Re-Animator with Jeffery Combs and Barbara Crampton as the stars, but a lack of sustainable funding and being unable to find a suitably scummy New England fishing village half a century after the original tale was penned kept pushing production back, until Gordon and Yuzna had essentially pushed it off to produce a string of other Lovecraft-themed works, which ended in Gordon directing the thematically similar From Beyond and Castle Freak (and, much later on, Dreams in the Witch House), and Yuzna directing a pair of sequels to Re-Animator, an interesting choice considering there was lore left over to explore, even though the titular character was torn to shreds in the final reel of the first film. It's never as overtly grotesque or emotionally as its better known Gordon/Yuzna/Lovecraft brethrin, but Dagon is still a great, perhaps underrated horror film, and likely the most complete, faithful, and on some levels perhaps even the most satisfying adaptation of Howard Philips' universe of eldritch terror to date.
The only part of the film that really drags it down is the clumsy CG, which was pretty bad even when the film was released in 2001, but it only crops up in a handful of scenes and the over the top nature of the material meant they had to roll the dice one way or another. The majority of the film's effects are of the practical variety, and all of them look fantastic, as do the religiously themed set designs and unnerving score which literally uses the now ironically legendary Call of Cthulhu chant as its basis. There's little doubt that Guillermo del Toro's At the Mountains of Madness had at least the potential to take be the "Ultimate" Cthulhu Mythos movie, but unless Del Toro and Tom Cruise can convince producers that $200 Million is a small risk to take on an R-rated 3D horror film based on an 80 year old novel that sounds almost suspiciously like the 2011 "premake" of The Thing (which flopped pretty hard), I'm happy with Gordon's film taking the top spot on the pyramid of cinematic attempts to bring Lovecraft's madness into the 20th and even 21st century.
Naturally I was excited when I saw that a new German Blu-ray was making the rounds... and then immediately recoiled when I saw the CAPS-A-HOLIC COMPARISON with the R1 DVD. I'll grant that the German release is a minor upgrade over Lionsgate's horribly compressed DVD, but the total lack of fine detail, grain, and heavy issues like edge-ringing and aliasing all make this look suspiciously like an SD upscale. Even if it's not an upscale and I'm just being thrown off by a terrible HD master (as was the case with Image's 2012 BD release of Re-Animator), I stand by my bitter disappointment. The 35mm print I saw was full of print damage and had a generally soft, hazy appearance, but it still looked substantially better than anything in those above comparisons. The fact that the US DVD KINDA' SUCKS compared to the uncut German release makes this comparison even less telling than it could have otherwise been.
If you're still on the fence, also keep in mind that this is the FSK 18 cut of the film, which is missing 20 SECONDS. The FSK board might as well be dragging their balls all over the negative with that cut!
Censored, upscaled, and not even a sweet Digibook to distract you from the rest of those issues? Yeah, this is one German release I'm going to sit out. It's a damned shame, since having been reminded how good this movie is I'd love to get my hands on a nice HD release.