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02 December 2009

Update

I haven't posted recently because I've been trying to move the content of this blog to one without such a sucky name. Here are the most recent reviews:

KOREAN HORROR ESSENTIAL COLLECTION (INTO THE MIRROR, THE WIG, ACACIA)
EURO KILLERS ESSENTIAL COLLECTION (MAN BITES DOG, H6, TATTOO)
PARK CHAN WOOK DOUBLE BILL (I'M A CYBORG BUT THAT'S OKAY, JOINT SECURITY AREA)
ASIAN HORROR ESSENTIAL COLLECTION (AUDITION, DARK WATER, THE EYE)
THE MAN AND THE MONSTER
THE WITCH'S MIRROR
CURSE OF THE CRYING WOMAN

Also, it was announced yesterday that Euro horror icon Paul Naschy (Jacinto Alvarez Molina) died at the age of 75. R.I.P.

18 November 2009

Robbe-Grillet Born of Fire in the Black Pit of Dr. M

Check out DVDBeaver for my reviews of Mondo Macabro's excellent DVDs of Alain Robbe-Grillet's GRADIVA and Jamil Delahvi's BORN OF FIRE. GRADIVA follows the twisted adventures of John Locke (James Wilby, GOSFORD PARK) in Morocco researching the art of Eugene Delacroix and the nineteenth century artist's relationship with Leila or Gradiva, a slave girl executed for her affair with him. Soon, Locke is haunted by Gradiva in the flesh (Arielle Dombasile of Robbe-Grillet's BLUE VILLA) and tangles with the Club of the Golden Triangle who stage sado-erotic tableaux vivants for their customers. Very disorienting, very Robbe-Grillet. Some shots from his earlier films EDEN AND AFTER and SLOW SLIDINGS OF PLEASURE are integrated into the film making one hope for English-friendly releases of the two (EDEN AND AFTER along with TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS have received beautiful HD masters but SLOW SLIDINGS has been difficult to see in good quality since its release and never with English subtitles). In BORN OF FIRE, flutist Paul (Peter Firth, EQUUS) is drawn to Turkey by bizarre hallucinations coinciding with a solar eclipse and a volcanic eruption. With the help of a mysteriously-attuned astronomer (Suzan Crowley, THE DRAUGHTMAN'S CONTRACT), Paul searches for The Master Musician, a demonic djinn who plans to set the world on fire (literally) with his magic flute. Wonderfully photographed in Turkey with incredible found locations and some trippy visuals and a great score by Colin Towns (FULL CIRCLE, RAWHEAD REX). Also at DVDBeaver is my review for Casa Negra's DVD of THE BLACK PIT OF DR. M, a little-seen Mexican classic horror film about an asylum director's journey into the beyond.
Casa Negra is no longer in business but their excess inventory is being sold by Synapse Films. The sales links at the DVDBeaver reviews will take you to the new product listings so you can get new sealed copies at regular retail price rather than paying high prices for used copies.

11 November 2009

Emmanuelle's Erotic Daughters in a Velvet Trap on Campus Doing It Until They Need Glasses

Check out DVDBeaver for my newest reviews. First up is Halo Park's DVD of Jean-Marie Pallardy's EROTIC DAUGHTER OF EMMANUELLE which has nothing to do with the Emmanuelle films and is actually better known as EROTIC DIARY OF A LUMBERJACK! Also check out Saturn Drive-In's double feature disc of THE VELVET TRAP and HOT NIGHTS ON THE CAMPUS. In the femme noir THE VELVET TRAP, waitress Julie flees from her drunken short-order cook boss to Vegas and marries a photographer who tricks her into a racy photoshoot and runs off with her money and the photos. Stuck in Vegas, Julie is continually tricked and swindled until there is nowhere to go but down. A forgotten low-budget gem beautifully restored in high definition. HOT NIGHTS ON THE CAMPUS tells the story of Sally, a country girl who comes to New York for college and soon finds herself in a relationship with an athlete and one of her professors. When she gets pregnant, what can she do but stick her head in an oven and turn on the gas. Finally, there's Code Red's DVD of the supremely unfunny CAN I DO IT... TIL I NEED GLASSES which plays out like a string of politically incorrect and sexist jokes from one of those seventies joke books you might find in your uncle's shag-carpeted den.

04 November 2009

Cheerleaders Wild Weekends, Butchers, and Thai Go-Go Dancers

Three more reviews up at DVDBeaver right now. My early review of Scorpion Releasing's other debut disc CHEERLEADERS WILD WEEKEND (out November 24) has three diverse squads of cheerleaders getting their bus hijacked and they're held for ransom by three horny ex-jocks and their female coach who doesn't mind offering the gals a little comfort. Hilariously funny, cheesy, and actually well-plotted. Thumbs WAY DOWN on THE BUTCHER, an extremley repellant (though not as gory as one would think) South Korean bid for the "torture porn" along the lines of HOSTEL and the like. Finally, British director Paul Spurrier tells the story of the monstrous transformation a small-town girl undergoes in a go-go bar when she uses magic to get ahead of her rivals in the Thai language P from Palisades Tartan (although it would likely get an R-rating, think of it as if SHOWGIRLS were a horror movie rather than a horror of a movie).

29 October 2009

Silent Scream and Sorcery!

Check DVDBeaver for my early review of Denny Harris' classic slasher film SILENT SCREAM with Barbara Steele. Four college students too late for registration end up at the seaside mansion of Mrs. Engels (Yvonne De Carlo, THE MUNSTERS) and her tightly-wound son (Brad Reardon, THE TERMINATOR) but there's a knife-wielding psycho lurking between the walls and watching them through the vents, waiting to strike. Cameron Mitchell plays a detective. Scorpion Releasing's DVD is beautifully mastered from high definition with a commentary featuring writers/producers/co-directors Ken and Jim Wheat (who rewrote the film around 12 minutes of usable footage from Harris' original) and star Rebecca Balding (THE BOOGENS). All three appear in a couple featurettes (including an entertaining 45 minute one called SCREAM OF SUCCESS) and director Denny Harris (R.I.P.) appears in an audio interview. Also included are the trailer and TV spots. Also up at DVDBeaver is my review for Brian Trenchard-Smith's cult film STUNT ROCK. Australian stuntman Grant Page travels to Los Angeles to do stunts for the DANGER GIRL TV series (starring Monique Van Der Ven) and helps out on the pyrotechnic stage performances of the band Sorcery. Lots of stunts, slimy Hollywood types, rock music, wizards, devils, fire. Code Red's 2 disc set features TWO audio commentaries. On the first, Trenchard-Smith appears with star Grant Page and co-star Margaret Gerard and on the second, the director appears with producer Marty Fink and co-star Richard Blackburn (director of LEMORA - LADY DRACULA). There are five interviews, the film's trailer, Trenchard-Smith's 45 minute documentary THE STUNTMAN, and a Q&A with the director.

26 October 2009

TARTAN TERROR PACK VOL. 1 and LEFT BANK

Check DVDBeaver for my reviews of the Belgian horror film LEFT BANK and Palisades Tartan's TERROR PACK VOLUME 1. LEFT BANK is kind of a disappointing horror film with a good premise. A track star suffers an injury and moves in with her boyfriend in an apartment on the Left Bank (which was a place of banishment for witches and plague victims in the middle ages) which was built over a sacrificial pit and weird things begin to happen. Well-made but utterly predictable even as it tries to be mysterious and ambiguous. Hardly "As important as LET THE RIGHT ONE IN" or "A Thinking Man's Horror FIlm" as the critical blurb say on the cover. Just in time for Halloween, Palisades Tartan releases the TERROR PACK VOLUME 1. Tartan went into administration last year and Palisades bought up their film library so some of the Tartan DVDs are back in print. The TERROR PACK includes the previous Tartan releases of the Japanese CARVED: THE SLIT-MOUTHED WOMAN, the Dutch SLAUGHTER NIGHT, and the French SHEITAN. The DVDs are the same as the previous Tartan releases but you can get all three for about $40 (or cheaper online).

HANNA D. THE GIRL FROM VONDEL PARK

Check out Lovelockandload for my review of Severin Films' DVD of Rino "WEREWOLF WOMAN" Di Silvestro's HANNA D. THE GIRL FROM VONDEL PARK. A rip-off of sorts of German arthouse hit CHRISTIANE F., Di Silvestro's (R.I.P.) film tells the story of Hanna, a young woman who has been prostituting herself to support her mother (and her layabout boytoy lover). After a fight with her mother (Karin Schubert), Hanna takes to the streets to hook for herself and gets addicted to heroin. She meets Miguel (Tony Serrano) and things seem rosy until he suggests she do adult films (and keep up her prostitution by night) and he'll be her manager (i.e. pimp). Things get ugly (uglier) when Hanna falls for straight-laced Axel (Sebastian Somma) and their relationship upsets Miguel's business plans. Beautifully shot by Franco Delli Colli, HANNA D. escapes being just a rip-off by the genuine feeling Di Silvestro has for the story and the issues it raises. The film also features an appearance by Tony Lombardo (who is better known to US viewers as the 80's and 90's spokesman for Boboli Pizza Crust). Severin Film's DVD has a nice transfer (it should be 1.66:1 as the 1.77:1 framing cuts off people at the hairline even in long shots - it gets annoying once you notice it especially because the film is so well shot). Di Silvestro provides a 45 minute interview in which he addresses every detail about the production. A theatrical trailer is also provided (its disclaimer says that the resemblance between Hanna and real people who suffer like her is NOT casual).

24 October 2009

Check out DVDBeaver for my review of Code Red's absolutely essential DVD of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz's (AMERICAN GRIFFITI) ultimate sleeper horror film of the 70's MESSIAH OF EVIL. Marianna Hill plays a woman who travels to the dying coastal town of Point Dune in search of her missing father and finds herself beseiged by inhabitants who have started developing a taste for flesh when the moon turns blood red. Long only available in horrible panned and scanned prints, MESSIAH OF EVIL is finally available here in its original 2.35:1 scope ratio and looking beatuiful. Huyck and Katz provide an audio commentary. There is a documentary with input from other crew members and an audio interview with the delightfully named co-star Joy Bang.

22 October 2009

GHOST STORY (1974)

Check out DVDBeaver for my review of Nucleus Film's new 2 disc special edition of Stephen Week's largely unseen and thoroughly underrated GHOST STORY (1974) starring Marianne Faithful and Leigh Lawson. Three university chums (Larry Dann, Murray Melvin, and Vivian Mackerrell; the latter being the inspiration for Withnail in WITHNAIL AND I) head out to a long-uninhabited country estate for a weekend of shooting. A creepy Victorian doll draws one of the men into the house's tragic past. Deliberately paced and atmospheric, GHOST STORY is rewarding viewing for those who prefer chills to all-out gore. The film had little release in the UK and only had ONE video release (the US tape retitled MADHOUSE MANSION to avoid confusion with the Peter Straub-adapted 1981 film). The DVD features a commentary by director Stephen Weeks (moderated by Sam Umland), the film's rarely seen trailer, 7 short films by Weeks (directed between 1965 and 1968) including the spooky MOODS OF A VICTORIAN CHURCH and the funny yet moving 1917 (Tygon's first production), a commercial Weeks directed for The Chelsea Cobbler store in London, the US videotape's alternate opening titles, PDF files, and trailers for other Nucleus releases.

14 October 2009

Skin in the 70's

Check out DVDBeaver for my review of Secret Key Motion Pictures' 2-disc 4-film grindhouse set SKIN IN THE 70S. First up is BLUE SUMMER, Chuck Vincent's road trip movie about two guys hitting the road in their van "The Meat Wagon" the summer before college. Mischief and sex ensues. Funny, fast-paced, explicit, harmless fun. In SOMETIME SWEET SUSAN, Susan suffers from multiple personalities as a result of past sexual trauma. Since her doctor is Harry Reems, he's sure to get to the bottom of it (although this is the first adult film registered by SAG, it is presented here in its soft version). Produced by Craig Baumgarten (former VP of Columbia Pictures), SOMETIME SWEET SUSAN has an interesting premise but the cutting of hardcore action lays bare the low budget and under-developed (serious) story. In SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS, three gals take summer teaching positions at a California high school, get into mischief, naughtiness, and expose corruption and sexism. Very funny, fast moving, and well-written (even though the high schoolers seem to be as old as some of the faculty), this and BLUE SUMMER are the ones to see. Produced by Roger Corman's New World Pictures and directed by Barbara Peters (HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP). In TEENAGE DIVORCE, two men (including George Takei) and a woman become disillusioned by their marriages and attempt to rediscover the free-love communal lifestyle of the sixties in 1970's San Diego. Well-meaning and somewhat moving but also pretentious (plenty of nudity though). Besides Takei, the other lead Tom Fielding is better known as Tom Holland (the future director of FRIGHT NIGHT and CHILD'S PLAY).

09 October 2009

Nerosubianco

Over at DVDBeaver, you will find my review of Cult Epics' DVD of Tinto Brass' ATTRACTION (NEROSUBIANCO). Originally released in the US firstly as BLACK ON WHITE and then THE ARTFUL PENETRATION OF BARBARA, the film follows a married woman's encounters with the sixties counterculture through a series of plotless vignettes scored by Freedom, a British rock band made up of members of Procol Harum ("A Whiter Shade of Pale"). Transferred from 16mm, this isn't the best looking version of the film but it is more complete than the nicer-looking Italian TV broadcast which added psychedelic spinning opticals to obscure nudity. Not only is it a Tinto Brass Collection title, it is also the first of Cult Epics' "Radley Metzger Presents" line which will hopefully restore several of Metzger's Audubon Films acquisitions.

08 October 2009

Bracula - Terror of the Living Dead!

Over at DVDBeaver, you'll find my review of Troma's not-so-perfect "restoration" of Jose Luis Merino's zombie chiller ORGIA DE LOS MUERTOS under its U.S. title THE HANGING WOMAN. A young man arrives in an Eastern European village for the reading of his uncle's will. On the lonely walk to the village via the cemetery road, he bumps into the hanging corpse of his cousin, the count's daughter. When it is learned that he is the principal heir, he becomes a suspect but the village has more than a few skeletons (and zombies) hidden away. A delightful piece of Eurocult horror with its share of sex and gore, this Italian-Spanish co-production was cut for an R-rating for its US release under the aforementioned English title but a longer version showed up on tape in the eighties as RETURN OF THE ZOMBIES but that was missing some dialogue scenes found in the US version (cut to fit the film on a 90 minute tape). Troma's composite is missing some footage despite claiming to be "The Final Cut" and it is NOT a restoration. It used readily available video sources rather than sourcing film elements. The uncut version has been available on tape but with foreign subtitles so the disc is not a restoration so much as a composite in disappointing quality. The extras are nice, though. We get a subtitled commentary (the comments lag behind the action because 1) it is recorded for the Spanish covered version, 2) it was recorded to accompany a PAL-speed recording, 3) there is a bit of missing footage early on that causes a further gap). There are subtitled interviews with the director and the actor Paul Naschy, a career overview of the actor, a trailer, a cool poster/lobby card gallery, and an entire second feature: the little seen SWEET SOUND OF DEATH, a black and white Spanish ghost story that is as inspired by THE TWILIGHT ZONE as it is CARNIVAL OF SOULS. There is also an interview with the English dubbing director of that film Ben Tator (who directed the dubbing of several major Spanish horror productions throughout the late sixties and into the late seventies).

07 October 2009

Italian Sex and Fish! Also a Djinn in a Bottle!

Over at DVDBeaver, I did a review and image comparison of the NoShame Italy and American MYA Communications DVDs of Sergio Martino's ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN. Originally released in the United States under the misleading slasher-esque title SOMETHING WAITING IN THE DARK and then under its more popular title SCREAMERS by Roger Corman's New World Pictures (with an added gory prologue with effects by Chris Walas who did the effects for Cronenberg's THE FLY), both DVDs present the original export version. A lifeboat from a prison ship crashes on an uncharted island in the 1890's inhabited by a megalomaniac, a captive girl, voodoo-practicing natives, and the titular fishmen. Also from MYA and reviewed at DVDBeaver is ITALIAN SEX, MYA's ridiculous retitling of the Italian sex comedy SESSO IN TESTA (SEX IN THE HEAD) in which a woman becomes a prostitute to study prostitution and relates her experiences to her thesis panel towards getting a diploma.

Up at Cult Movie Forums is my review of THE LAMP aka THE OUTING, an eighties horror film about some kids who decide to spend the night in a natural history museum; unbeknownst to them, an evil genie (djinn) has just been let loose from a lamp that was among the newest shipment of artifacts. Gory and cheesy, the film features some nice production design by Robert Burns (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) and some ridiculous overacting. Not on DVD yet but it used to be an eyesore on the video shelves before DVD.

28 September 2009

Long Weekend (2008)

At DVDBeaver, you will find my review of NATURE'S GRAVE, the extremely unnecessary 2008 remake of the underrated Australian horror classic LONG WEEKEND (the original is available in a beautifully HD-mastered transfer from Synapse Films). In the remake, Jim Caviezel and Claudia Karvan play an unlikable pair of yuppies who go on a camping trip. Their disrespect for the environment causes nature to revolt. Not much to say about the film, see the original instead. The barebones US DVD looks like it was thrown together with a consumer DVD template authoring program and features a low-bitrate, interlaced transfer that makes hash of high-movement scenes on a progressive monitor (looks fine on a regular TV).

24 September 2009

Oculto and Seom

Check out DVDBeaver for my review of the 2005 Antonio Hernandez Spanish erotic thriller OCULTO (HIDDEN). Underneath the mainstream gloss is a nice little thriller about the danger of looking for direction and meaning in dreams. Natalia's (Angie Cepeda) recurring dreams have guided the direction of her life and career but now they seem to be haunted by the restless soul of a dead lover. Stranger Beatriz (Laia Marull) seems to be mysteriously connected to Natalia's visions which take an even darker turn when magazine writer Alex (Leonardo Sbaraglia) becomes involved with both women. The US DVD from Venevision is marketed at the Spanish-speaking market but does have English subtitles. Netflix it! You can also find a review of the Kim Ki-Duk's bizarre erotic and brutal psychological drama THE ISLE also at DVDBeaver. All of I've done to that one is add caps and review content of the Spanish and US DVDs. The Spanish disc is the best this film has looked so far and has English subtitles for both the film and the filmmaker interviews included on the disc (the US DVD has more extras but the transfer is not that good-looking).

21 September 2009

Nightmares (1980)

Check DVDBeaver for my review of the Aussie slasher NIGHTMARES (aka STAGE FRIGHT - not to be confused with the superior Michele Soavi Italian slasher with an owl-masked butcher terrorizing the trapped occupants of a theater). Jenny Neumann (Victim #1 in the later American slasher classic HELL NIGHT) plays a young American actress who auditions for a part in a Victorian comedy by a vitriolic director (Max Phipps). Her romance with a co-star (Gary Sweet) is hindered by a killer wielding shards of glass (cue childhood trauma) slashing away at the cast and crew (cue lots of post-HALLOWEEN POV prowling through the theater). Umbrella Entertainment's Australian DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (the film is unwatchable on cropped videotapes - the UK release was also cut by the BBFC).

Even better, check out Paolo Franchi's THE SPECTATOR (La Spettarice) in which Valeria, a lonely young woman falls in love with her neighbor (who she spies on from her apartment across the street) Massimo (Andrea Renzi). When he leaves Milan for Rome, she impulsively follows him and insinuates herself into the life of Massimo's older lover law professor Flavia (Brigitte Catillon) in order to get closer to him. A slow-burn psychological drama that doesn't feel the need to degenerate into last-minute psycholgical thriller territory. Facets' US DVD unfortunately is a travesty. It is a direct conversion of the Italian DVD with the once anamorphic widescreen image now in 4:3 letterbox with heavy PAL-NTSC interlacing artifacts. The English subtitles have been burned in but there were already some permananent Italian subtitles for some English dialogue so in one or two scenes you have both English subtitles (for the Italian dialogue) and Italian subs (for the background English dialogue) onscreen at the same time. Giuseppe Lanci's (Tarkovsky's NOSTALGHIA) cinematography looks drab in this transfer but you can at least get an impression of how it is supposed to look in a better transfer.

08 September 2009

O Convento

My review of Manoel de Oliveira's underrated THE CONVENT is up at DVDBeaver now. In addition to reviewing the film, I compared the two US DVD releases of the film. The Wellspring DVDis out of print and is badly converted from PAL to to NTSC but has a better subtitle translation to the better-looking and cheaper release from LionsGate (whch tries to sell it as an exciting religious thriller) which has good image quality, runs at the correct film speed, but has some grammatical and translation errors which pop up late in the film during a crucial and lengthy conversation. A worthy viewing experience for the patient movie buff.

27 August 2009

3 More From Code Red!

My D reviews of the latest 3 Code Red DVDs are up now. In NIGHT OF THE DRIBBLER, a Canadian slasher-comedy, a stalker in a basketball mask is taking out the members of the Watergate Plumbers basketball team. Awful eighties hairstyles, clothes, and music abound along with some hit-and-miss Zucker Brothers style comedy. A cowboy physicist battles corporate thugs and a relentless mercenary when they try to force him off his land in order to dump a black ball full of atomic waste in CHOKE CANYON with Stephen Collins, Bo Svenson, and Lance
Henriksen. In the Exploitation Cinema double feature, a Swedish sex ed teacher comes under fire when a wild girl fakes a pregnancy in TEENAGE MOTHER while the foster son of a farming family has to face off against his resentful brothers when foster dad offers him the farm in TEENAGE GRAFFITI.

12 August 2009

The Howl

I reviewed Cult Epics' DVD release of Tinto Brass' rarely seen masterwork THE HOWL (L'URLO) for Gary Tooze's DVDBeaver. Shot during 1968, this near-plotless film concerns Anita (Tina Aumont), who runs out on her fiance, and Coso (Luigi Proietti) through a series of bizarre misadventures involving philosophical cannibals, a midget Napoleon, and tons of naked hippie extras. Fans of Fernando Arrabal and Alejandro Jodorowsky should check this out. Cult Epics' DVD is not the best transfer but it is derived from Tinto Brass' own print which is the only uncensored version available (the better-looking version that was shown on the Italian Sky Classics channel was cut). Brass provides an engaging English language commentary. His accent is thick and he trips over the language some times but it is still great to hear him talk about his films (his interviews on the previous Cult Epics discs are great but it is nice to hear him talk scene-specifically).

10 August 2009

Jonathan (1969)

My review of Kinowelt's German DVD of Hans W. Geissendorfer's rarely seen vampire film JONATHAN is up at Lovelockandload. Vampires have ravaged the countryside. The townspeople are afraid. A small band of idealists decide that the only way to stop the vampires is to destroy them all. Young Jonathan is recruited to get into the Count's castle and learn the layout in preparation for a full-scale attack. Along the way, Jonathan encounters various perils and bizarre sights. Visually ravishing (shot by Wim Wenders' regular cinematographer Robby Muller), JONATHAN's politics are naive but that does not make the film un-entertaining (except the unnecessary bit with the rat).

06 August 2009

Trapped!

My review of Code Red's DVD of William Fruet's TRAPPED is up now at DVDBeaver. A group of university students gone hiking in the south for the weekend (including Nicholas Campbell of TV's DAVINCI'S INQUEST) witness psychotic Chatwill (Henry Silva) brutally murder the man he caught in bed with his wife. Soon they are not only on the run from him but also an entire backwoods community.

03 August 2009

"At least this time no one can say the butler did it!"

Over at DVDBeaver, you'll find my advance reviews of Code Red's DVDs of Michele Lupo's THE WEEKEND MURDERS and THE STRANGENESS. In THE WEEKEND MURDERS, bodies start piling up on an English country estate after the reading of a will. A spoof of Agatha Christie-type thrillers that is funny as hell and will keep you guessing who the killer is. In THE STRANGENESS, miners re-open a condemned mine in search of gold. Little do they know that there is a tentacle-waving monster lurking in the shadows to eat them.

28 July 2009

Footprints on the Moon

My review of Shameless' excellent new DVD of Luigi Bazzoni's thriller FOOTPRINTS (aka LE ORME) is up at Lovelockandload now. If you've ever been curious about seeing this film, you need go no further than this release. I doubt any other company will best it. The film is fully uncut featuring footage included only in the Italian version. English and Italian soundtracks are included as well as English subtitles (and Italian subtitles for English language scenes on the Italian track for Italian viewers) as well as trailers for the film, the English title sequence, an image gallery, and trailers for all twenty of Shameless' DVD releases thus far. Marc Morris of the Cult Movie Forums put together this excellent release.

17 July 2009

Irfan Atasoy is SPY SMASHER!

One of the Onar Films releases that Marc Morris sent me for review at his Cult Movie Forums is CASUS KIRAN, a lovingly loopy Turkish homage/rip-off of the American SPY SMASHER serial. Irfan Atasoy, the actor who played "The Flying Man" (who wears a mask, cape, and has a big "S" on his chest in the KILINK films), plays Spy Smasher and he's up against the White Mask (played by Yildirim Gencer, who previously faced off against Atasoy as Kilink) and his blonde partner in crime Suzy (Suzan Avca who also played Kilink's lady love Suzy).

15 July 2009

"I'd Like to Paint You Nude in a Field of Wheat"

My somewhat overly analytical review of Shameless Entertainment's DVD of BABA YAGA: THE FINAL CUT is up at Lovelockandload. Milanese photographer Valentina (based on Italian comic book artist Guido Crepax's Louise Brooks-lookalike heroine) becomes the object of obsession for witchy Baba Yaga (Carroll Baker) who hexes her camera and gifts her with a Victorian doll dressed in leather gear. Valentina begins having surreal dreams and is further drawin into Baba Yaga's mysterious and perverse world. Previously released in a test-audience-approved cut version in the US by Blue Underground (with deleted scenes as extras), Shameless have collaborated with director Corrado Farina to restore the film to his intended vision with some politically-charged scenes of sex and violence (more campy than controversial these days) as well as some censor-mandated deletions. Farina appears in an interview and the disc also includes two of his short documentaries and a subtitle commentary fact track.

10 July 2009

The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence

Over at DVDBeaver, I did a comparison of three available versions of Sergio Martino's TORSO (aka CARNAL VIOLENCE) in anticipation of Blue Underground's new DVD release (which turns out to be a direct port of the 9 year old Anchor Bay disc). The comparison reveals that there is no definitive English language version of the film. The opening lecture scene (missing from the Anchor Bay/Blue Underground editions) and a few other bits of dialogue were never dubbed into English. The out of print German disc does not have English subs for the Italian scenes and replaces the opening music (the Italian track has the original score), the Italian disc looks the best but the English track is poorly put together and there are no subtitles for the Italian-only scenes, and the UK disc uses the same transfer as the Italian disc with subtitles and a better English track but the final two Italian-only lines before the closing credits are not included. As such, the UK disc is probably the best English friendly release as the new Blue Underground disc is still missing the opening scene but is a nice transfer and has subtitles for the Italian scenes.

08 July 2009

The World's Greatest Obscene Phone Call!

Marc Morris at The Cult Movie Forums sent me a screener of the Region 2 German Special Edition DVD release of the 1971 X-Rated comedy THE TELEPHONE BOOK for review. Sarah Kennedy (who replaced Goldie Hawn on LAUGH-IN) plays the "girl who falls in love with the world's greatest obscene phone call" alongside Barry Morse (TV's THE FUGITIVE), William Hickey (MOUSE HUNT), and a young Jill Clyburgh (TV's DIRTY SEXY MONEY). Sexy, hilarious, and poignant, this black and white film (with bits of color footage and animation) is given the special edition treatment (even if the restoration is not always pristine) with commentary by the producer Mervin Bloch (who has done the advertising campaigns for Woody Allen's films), the unreleased soundtrack, a trailer, radio spots, the script in PDF, and a 96 page book (in German and English) sold directly from the film's website for 49 Euros.

04 July 2009

Big First Posting

At the moment, this blog has little purpose other than to keep people updated on my reviews and other activities (including one or two projects I won't mention lest they do not come to fruition in this economy). I have not yet created a page with an archive of all my previous reviews but I'm including here some of my recent reviews that are still on the main pages of the sites I contribute to. I get screeners from Code Red to review for DVDBeaver, Severin to review for Lovelockandload, and others that people kick my way for the aforementioned sites as well as Cult Movie Forums. I also review stuff as a creative outlet in between working on my thesis and my attempts at creative writing. In the future, each new review will probably get its own posting (with a provocative title heading, hopefully) or in pairs as they are published.

From Code Red, I recently reviewed their releases of the surprisingly engrossing seventies documentary DERBY and the little seen eighties low budget action drama RUNNING HOT with Eric Stoltz for DVDBeaver.

Robert Kaylor intended to shoot a simple documentary on roller derby but then found his focus in 23 year old Dayton Tire and Rubber employee Mike Snell who aspires to become the next roller derby sensation. Kaylor follows Snell - who wants to quit his job and train for the roller derby on the west coast even though his income supports his wife, child, brother, and parents - and his mentor Charley O'Connell whose material success inspires Snell. Code Red's DVD was sourced from a print provided by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and features some great extras including two commentaries and a black and white short film by Kaylor.


In RUNNING HOT, Eric Stoltz plays a wrongfully convicted killer on the run with the help of a beautiful stripper who has fallen in love with him through the television. As if finding the real killer isn't hard enough, they also have to watch out for a relentless cop played by Stuart Margolin who is not above a little kidnapping and police brutality to get his man.

An early effort by director Mark Griffiths (touted on the cover as the producer of TV's THE O.C.) that was surprisingly entertaining if you can get past the early eighties TV movie feel and a bland lead performance (co-star Monica Carrico is certainly worth watching and not just for her frequent nudity). Griffiths and his producer provide a running commentary and interviews for this obscure slice of eighties nostalgia.

I was suitably impressed by Luchino Visconti's slightly-soapy final film THE INNOCENT to review the new Koch Lorber DVD. Tullio (Giancarlo Giannini in a role meant for Alain Delon) is bored with his modest wife Giulianna (Laura Antonelli, VENUS IN FURS) and carries on an affair with wealthy widow Teresa (Jennifer O'Neill). When scandalized Giuliana takes a lover in young poet Filippo (Marc Porel), Tullio becomes jealous. When Giuliana then becomes pregnant, Tullio demonstrates the double standard of male and female infidelity and punishes her. Although the scale of this period piece has been considerably reduced compared to his unparalleled masterpiece THE LEOPARD, L'INNOCENTE features some ravishing period sets and costumes from some of Italy's top technicians and designers. The DVD transfer is only a slight improvement over the previous DVD releases and shows a startling neglect for a film of its pedigree.

Italy's Raro Video's English-subtitled DVD release of the director's cut
of Tinto Brass' THE KEY gave me an excuse to do a review of this highly enjoyable and sophisticated work of arty erotica (based on a novel by Junichiro Tanizaki). After twenty years of marriage, art professor Nino (Frank Finlay) decides to manipulate his modest Teresa (Stefania Sandrelli, THE CONFORMIST) into an affair with their daughter's fiancée Laszlo (Brass regular Franco Branciaroli) by piquing her interest in his private diary. Onto the game, she in turn manipulates him into discovering her own diary to read of the affair. While Nino finds himself aroused by his own jealousy (which will come as no surprise to any one who has ever seen a Tinto Brass film), his fascist daughter Lisa (Barbara Cupisti) reactions are equally unconventional. Raro's DVD is runs five minutes longer than the US DVD (itself longer than previous releases of the film) and features Italian audio and English subtites (sadly, it does not include the English dub track for which leads Finlay and Sandrelli provided their own dubbing). Originally picked up by The Cannon Group for release in the states, it was shelved due to its erotic content.

Gary Tooze at DVDBeaver passed along another recent Brass release for me to review for his site: COL CUORE IN GOLA (A HEART IN THE MOUTH) which is better known in the United States as DEADLY SWEET. The great Jean-Louis Trintignant plays Bernard, a French actor looking for work in London. When he finds his business contact dead at the feet of heiress Jane (Ewa Aulin of CANDY), instead of turning her in, they take to the London underworld in search of the real killers. The plot is slight but the oh-so-sixties photography, sets, and costumes are eye-catching and the pace riveting with Brass employing split-screens and rapid editing to mimic the comic book aesthetic. Storyboarded by famed Italian comic book artist Guido Crepax with an irresistable score and theme song by Armando Travajoli, it is highly recommended viewing. Cult Epics' DVD presents the Italian language version with English subtitles and an audio commentary by director Tinto Brass. An English dubbed version was prepared for export and turned up in the UK but its US version was re-dubbed and has not turned up since its theatrical release. An archive copy is available for flatbed viewing by appointment according to this informative site.

Severin sent me handful of titles for reviewing at the British
Lovelockandload website including Patrice Leconte's seldom-seen-in-the-US arty erotic masterpiece THE HAIRDRESSER'S HUSBAND. I haven't seen many of Leconte's works but I managed to catch his great MAN ON THE TRAIN with Johnny Halliday and this film's Jean Rochefort at the Tower Theater a few years ago with some college friends. Rochefort plays Antoine, an old man with a fetish for getting his hair cut due to a pubescent crush he had on another hairdresser as a child (humorous flashbacks interspersed throughout show Antoine going for a haircut every chance he gets). As an adult, he becomes infatuated (or obsessed) with gorgeous hairdresser Mathilde (Anna Galiena of Tinto Brass’ SENSO 45). By turns tragic and funny, THE HAIRDRESSER'S HUSBAND belongs to a trilogy of films Leconte made about erotic obsession which includes the equally good MONSIEUR HIRE and the problematic but still entertaining and erotic YVONNE'S PERFUME (also out from Severin).

Severin Film's sub-label Private Screenings (referencing the
eighties video label and cable TV presenter of softcore European erotica) initially released a few single DVDs of their titles at $29.95 each which was steep for barebones presentations of somewhat obscure films. Recently, they paired four of their films in sets of two for the same price including the modern LA RONDE adaptation LOVE CIRCLES which follows a pack of cigarettes around the world through a series of erotic encounters. Despite its premise and production value locations, the film falls flat and may only interest those nostalgic viewers old enough to have remembered the TV run of Private Screenings titles.

Severin achieved some amount of notoriety recently with the HD-remastered release of THE SINFUL DWARF, one of the sleaziest titles I've had to review. Couple checks into a boarding house run by a creepy woman and her equally creepy dwarf son. Little do the couple know but the woman launders drugs and the dwarf keeps sex slaves hidden in the attic. Released in the states by Harry Novak's Box Office International Pictures, Severin is the perfect label for it (they do call themselves "The Criterion of Smut" after all). The HD remastering of the print probably cost more than the film itself cost to produce but here it is for those of you in the mood (you'll need a shower afterward).

For The Cult Movie Forums, UK pal Marc Morris sent me a bunch of diverse titles to review and I'm still plowing through them. Adventurous fans might be interested in the clutch of neglected Turkish exploitation cinema titles hitting Greek DVD with English subtitles and cool extras. In CELLAT, architect Orhan turns gun-and-coin-filled-sock-toting vigilante when dope-smoking hippie thugs rape and kill his wife and sister. If the plot sounds familiar, it is. CELLAT is a violent and unintentionally funny rip-off of the Charles Bronson flick DEATH WISH. The further adventures of KILINK are chronicled in the double feature KILINK VS SUPERMAN/KILINK STRIP AND KILL in which the super villain battles a copyright-infringing-superhero with an S on his chest and then turns two rival gangs against each other in pursuit of nuclear microfilm and smuggled gold. Also from the Greek label Onar Films is the pairing of THIRSTY FOR LOVE, SEX, AND MURDER and THE DEAD DON'T TALK. The former is an endlessly amusing rip-off of the Italian thriller THE STRANGE VICE OF SIGNORA WARDH rife with jet-setting parties, cat-fighting gals in paper dresses, razor-slashing fiends, and cartwheeling heroes. The latter is a black and white old dark house thriller featuring a creepy caretaker who talks with a permanent echo and a zombie killer whose "evil laugh" will drive you up the wall.

Marc also sent me for review two of the latest releases from appropriately-named DVD label Naughty. In JUSTINE'S HOT NIGHTS, a "serious" film director accepts a contract to direct an erotic film (adult films were considered a legitimate genre in seventies France) and with the help of his wife and the possibly-imaginary Justine (after De Sade's heroine) imagine an series of erotic vignettes referencing Diderot, Emmanuelle, De Sade, Tarzan, Last Tango in Paris, and even Henry Kissinger, in search of inspiration. In SCANDALOUS PHOTOS, adult-star-turned-legit-actress Brigitte Lahaie and her boyfriend arrange for the heiress daughters of corrupt corporate execs to be photographed in compromising positions for purposes of blackmail with a trench-coated detective on the trail who discovers a lot more than just blackmail in the dive clubs of Pigalle and brothels of Paris.

Stay tuned for "The World's Greatest Obscene Phone Call" and "I want to photograph you nude in a field of wheat."
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