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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.
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