Monday, January 31, 2011


DEEP RED (1975)

LABEL: Arrow Video
DIRECTOR: Dario Argento
CAST: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril, Eros Pagni, Giuliana Calandra, Piero Mazzinghi, Glauco Mauri, Clara Calamai, Aldo Bonamano, Liana Del Balzo, Nicoletta Elmi
RATING: 18 Certificate
REGION CODE: Region Free
DURATION: 127 mins / 105 mins
TAGLINE: Flesh ripped clean from the bone… And the blood runs red…

PLOT: A black gloved killer hacks a psychic to death but there was a witness… Marcus Daly, an English pianist, rushes to the scene but he’s too late to save her. He sets out to solve the murder but at every turn the mysterious slayer strikes, cutting off each line of enquiry with acts of grisly violence, each more shocking than the last!

FILM: Dario Argento's directing career began with three quite brilliant giallo films all in short order. The Italian Giallos were in essence proto-slashers that laid the blueprint and fueled the late-70's and early-80's slasher genre. This trio of films included THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970), CAT O' NINE TAILS (1971) and FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET (1971). Each an exciting and stylish genre defining film. Next, Argento would go onto direct the comedic period piece FIVE DAYS IN MILAN  (1973) which was quite a failure at the box office. This stands as the only Argento film I have not seen and the only title not widely available on DVD (anyone wanna help me out with that?). Fresh off that disappointment Argento again returned to the genre that brought him notoriety with what many consider to me his masterpiece DEEP RED.

It's familiar territory as an everyday man finds himself mixed-up in the dealings of a black-gloved murderer, it's a pretty standard giallo set-up. This time our amateur sleuth is an English musician  working in Rome named Marucs (played by David Hemmings fresh off Antonion's BLOW-UP). Marc is out for a drink when he runs into drunken friend Carlo outside a piano bar when both men hear a frightful scream ring out in the night. Carlo merely raises a toast to the "deflowered virgin" and heads back to a nearby bar. Marc remains a bit longer and witnesses the murder of a woman from outside her apartment window. The woman is struck with a hatchet to the back of the head and crashes through a thick window pane and her throat is slashed by the jagged glass. Marc dashes to the woman's aide but is too late. Through the window Marc spots a figure fleeing the scene in a rain jacket and hat obscuring the killer's identity. The woman was a psychic medium named Helga who earlier in the evening attended a conference for paranormal psychology when she sensed the thoughts of a murderer amongst the theatre goers.  The traumatic experience leaves her stricken and terrified. The murderous minded figure leaves the theatre unnoticed but follows Helga back to her apartment where she's attacked after hearing the strains of children's lullaby. After the police arrive at scene of the murder Marc meets bubbly tabloid journalist Gianni played by a never lovelier Daria Nicolodi. The two develop a playful relationship as Gianni vies for Marcus's attention. They're a fun dynamic duo and easily stand as Argento's most defined character pairing. In typical giallo fashion the police prove to be largely inept and most of the sleuthing is left to the unlikely pair. As the intricate thriller plays out Marc is dogged by the fact that he cannot recall a crucial piece of the puzzle,  something is missing from the scene of the murder that he cannot remember. Together he and Gianni set out to follow the clues beginning with the psychics death which lead them to some truly improbable deductions that lead them further down the mystery laden path, the killer seemingly one-step ahead of them. Each murder is preceded by the haunting refrain from a reoccurring children's lullaby.

Argento is sometimes pegged as a visually stylish director who forgoes certain narrative elements in favor of striking imagery and I see it myself in films like the visually delightful but narratively shallow SUSPIRIA (1977) but Deep Red is an exception. The characters are interesting and defined, particularly the two leads. The plot is full of subtly intricate twists and turns but Argento's signature style is ever present and in full force. Each shot is meticulously staged and framed by Luigi Kuveiler's wonderfully fluid scope cinematography. The killings are magnificent, great staging, sharp editing and some very fine special effects that hold up some 35 years after the fact. A particularly brutal scene involves a man having his teeth repeatedly smashed on the corner of a marble table after being attacked by a nightmarish porcelain-faced mechanical doll. Then there's a gorgeously shot drowning in a tub of scalding hot water, great stuff.

BLU-RAY Dario Argento's DEEP RED is given it's due respect by Arrow Video whom also have planned editions of TENEBRAE, CAT O' NINE TAILS and PHENOMENA planned on top of a brilliant INFERNO: 30th Anniversary Edition released late last year. There are two versions of the film; the Theatrical Cut  (105 min.) and the Director's Cut (127min.)  - both have been given gorgeous new 2.35:1 1080p transfers. While this isn't the stuff of 1080p legend it is truly fantastic and by far the best the film has ever looked. Crisp, vibrant and finely detailed with a healthy amount of grain. The image appears slightly brighter than previous DVD editions I've seen, but the colors are vivid and the black are deep and inky. Audio options include a striking Italian language DTS-HD 5.1, an Italian Language Dolby Digital stereo mix and an English language Dolby Digital Mono track. The DTS-HD 5.1 track is remarkable with the Goblin score heard as if for the first time. While not my personal favorite Goblin theme it's a truly iconic score and is reinvigorated by a brilliant mix. Optional English language subtitles are included. The English audio on the Director's Cut of the film has some portions of English audio missing that was either never recorded or has been lost and has been re-assembled from various audio sources. So, at times the audio will go from English to subtitled Italian. It's not too distracting but I recommend the rich Italian language DTS-HD 5.1 over it just the same, it's a great mix with some decent depth to it.

It wouldn't be an Arrow Video release without some amazing exclusive extras and there's no shortage bonus content here. A brief introduction from Goblin composer Claudio Simonetti voicing his pleasure at being involved with a film he considers a masterpiece. Then onto Lady In Red: Daria Noclodi Remembers Profondo Rosso (20:39). Argento's former lover and mother of his children discusses not only her involvement with Deep Red but her other works, Argento's career and Argento himself who she described rather unflatteringly several times. It's a great piece. Music to Murder For! Claudio Simonetti on Deep Red (15:26) an interview with the Goblin Composer who is as much a part of Argento lore as the master himself. Like Nocilodi I always find the Simonetti interviews to be quite interesting and revealing. Rosso Recollection: Dario Argento's Deep Genius (13:59) features the director himself speaking about his family and the film. The Argento family and the depictions of his wife and daughters is an interesting one. Rosso: from Celluloid to Shop (14:46) is a tour of the Profondo Rosso Shop in Rome an guided by filmmaker Luigi Cozzi . The place is a museum to all things Argento and rounding out the special features are both an Italian and U.S. trailer for the film. It's interesting to note the difference in approach between the two markets. All the special features are 16:9 and 1080p. And then there's the fantastic Arrow Video packaging detailed below which includes an 8 page booklet with new writing from Argento scholar Alan Jones, reversible 4-panel sleeve with 4 art options including 3 one sheets and newly commissioned artwork from Arrow Video regular Rick Melton plus a two-sided fold out poster featuring the U.S. one sheet and the Melton panel.

- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned art work
- Two-sided fold-out poster with new art work
- Exclusive collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on Deep Red by Alan Jones, author of ‘Profondo Argento’

- Introduction by composer Claudio Simonetti 16:9 1080p
- Audio Commentary with Argento expert Thomas Rostock (2:06:34)
- Rosso Recollections – Dario’s Deep Genius (13:59) 1080p
- Lady in Red: Daria Nicolodi remembers Profondo Rosso (20:39) 1080p
- Music to Murder For! Claudio Simonetti on Deep Red (15:26) 1080p
- Original Italian Trailer (1:52) 16:9 1080p
- Original Trailer (2:47) 1080p

- A Tour of the Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) shop in Rome with long time Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi (14:46) 1080p
- Easter Eggs - a brief interview Claudio Simonetti about the use of the GOBLIN score in a SUSPIRIA remake.  (0:39) 1080p

VERDICT: The Italian maestro of the macabre Mario Bava more or less created the giallo film with THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1963), but Argento fine tuned it with his debut feature THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE and arguably perfected it with DEEP RED. The giallo genre is a precursor to the 80's slasher craze and this along with Mario Bava's A BAY OF BLOOD (1971) are essential viewing for genre fans.  Arrow Video's lovingly assembled Blu is by far the most definitive release of the title and comes with high recommend from the Mausoleum. Treat yourself to a true masterpiece of Italian slasher cinema in a gorgeous 1080p presentation.  Arrow Video's Blu-ray is region free and I suggest the Blu-ray over the DVD if only to avoid the PAL speed-up and the fact the the audio commentary is a Blu exclusive. Up next from Arrow Video is a DVD of the Oswaldo De Oliveira's women-in-prison film BARE BEHIND BARS (1980)  as well as Blu-rays of the 80's neon comedy-horror VAMP (1986) and the gore-filled surreality of Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND (1981). Outstanding. ****1/2  (4.5 out of 5 stars)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

DVD REVIEW: Patrick (1978)

PATRICK (1978)
Pt. 1 of 6 reviews from the OZPLOITATION VOLUME 3 (6-Disc Set)

LABEL: Umbrella Entertainment
REGION: Region 0 PAL
DURATION: 108 Min.
RATING: M (R equivalent)
DIRECTOR: Richard Franklin
CAST: Susan Penhaligan, Robert Helpmann
TAGLINE: He's In a Coma... Yet He Can Kill

PLOT: In room 15 of the mysterious Roget clinic lies a young comatose murderer  named PATRICK. His doctor thinks he's nothing more than 170 pounds of limp meat hanging off a comatose brain, but a young nurse, Kathy (Susan Penhaligon from THE UNCANNY), knows very differently. Patrick has burgeoning psychic powers and a crush on Kathy - and his affection is about to turn into a deadly and bloody obsession!

FILM: PATRICK (1978) comes to us by way of Aussie director Richard Franklin whom is noted for several films; the slasher ROAD GAMES (1981) starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Stacey Keach, one of the more Hitchcockian Psycho sequels PSYCHO II (1983) and a film near and dear to my heart - CLOAK AND DAGGER (1984) starring Dabney Coleman which I caught a screening of at the Willard Psychiatric Center in Willard NY when I was 13 years of age. Before your imagination runs wild dear reader you should know that I wasn't committed to the institution but my father worked there and was privy to the fact that the institution screened 35mm prints of films for the patients once a month in a great old auditorium and somehow a few of us neighborhood kids were allowed inside to watch while seated quite literally next to the clinically insane. I saw a ton of great stuff there and a lot of it I wouldn't consider appropriate for the venue but whatever. On yet another aside the book 'The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic' is a great read and tells the haunting stories of several patients whom lived and died at the Willard Psychiatric Center in Willard, New York. It's a poignant and slightly disturbing read about the perceptions and treatment of those who may or may not have been afflicted with mental illness. On a lighter note, the show Ghost Hunters also recorded an episode at the institution. Here's are a smattering of films I recall watching at the venue: GREYSTOKE THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (1984), FOUL PLAY (1978), SPIES LIKE US (1985), GANDHI (1982), 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968), GOONIES (1985), KING KONG LIVES (1986) and many others I seem to have forgotten. It's a matter of some debate but I swear I saw ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST (1975) there but that can't be, can it? I would love to find out who programmed that theatre. What a weird venue for film but I can trace my love for cinema to that nutty place during a special time in my life. 

Well, the long and short of it is that it's appropriate that I discovered the films of Richard Franklin through a viewing of CLOAK AND DAGGER (1984) at a psychiatric center when the film PATRICK (1978)  takes place at the Roget Clinic which a bit of convalescent nut house. At the start of the film Patrick (Robert Thompson) is forced to endure the sounds of his mother and her lover as they have a bit of nasty fun in the tub. This is just too much for the disturbed young man to bare and he interrupts their frolicking by tossing a space heater into the tub which lands squarely on his mother's back searing her flesh like a steak on the grill, sizzle sizzle. While gruesome this was not the intended outcome. When her lover tosses the heater out of the tub Patrick throws it in again electrocuting both with nary any sign of emotion on his face. Now it's three years later Patrick is at the Roget Clinic in a vegetative state. It's not quite clear why but perhaps psychological trauma from the event. The clinic is staffed by the cantankerous physician Dr. Roget (Robert Helpmann) and the creepy Matron Cassiday (Julia Blake) who have just hired a new nurse named  Kathy  Jacqaurd (Susan Penhaligon) who's new in town and recently separated from her husband Ed (Rod Mullinar). She's been assigned to room 15 where the coma stricken Patrick  is  sustained by life support. Right away she is struck by the fact that Patrick's eyes are wide open, they stare intensely off into the distance and it's pretty unnerving stuff. He also reflexively spits on occasion (which I think Tarantino homages in KILL BILL VOL. 1). As she goes about her routine bathing and caring for him she comes to realize that he is somehow aware and quickly things get weird from there beginning with him being able to pass her alarming notes through the typewriter. Not only has Patrick developed a crush on the attentive nurse but when the hunky Dr. Wright (Bruce Berry) hits on her at a party he is nearly drowned by an invisible force, Patrick is using newly developed psychokinetic powers to ward off any would be suitors. Angered by her interactions with other men Patrick trashes her small apartment which she blames on her estranged husband. Eventually Kathy comes to realize that Patrick is somehow manipulating her and influencing those she cares for building to a final shocking psychokinesis fueled crescendo.

One of PATRICK's best qualities is the tense and atmospheric pace but I fear it may be too slow for younger or impatient audiences. The dialogue is well-written, the acting is great and there's no denying that director Richard  Franklin is a true Hitchcock devotee with some great homages throughout. Even the late composer Brain May's score recalls Bernard Herman's iconic themes. The film's special effects are pretty minimal to be sure,  there are only 3 moments of minimal grue throughout the film. It is a credit to the direction of Richard Franklin that PATRICK is an effective a shocker given the limiting nature of the film's comatose protagonist.

DVD: The film is presented in a 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 aspect ratio transfer with English 2.0 Mono audio. No subtitle options are provided. There's a good amount of grain present stemming from inferior film stock from what I've read but not distractingly so. The image is soft and  lacks detail but looks quite good nonetheless. There's an interesting anecdotal commentary with Frankin filled with references to Hitchcock, an assortment of OZploitation trailers, a 1978 on-set interview with the late Franklin and a 2008 interview with producer Antony L. Ginnane who relates several colorful recollections of the film and Franklin. A PDF of the an unproduced sequel treatment is also included. A very fine disc indeed, and this is just one of 6 films on the OZploitation Vol. 3 set. Things I would have liked to seen on this disc are the making of featurette from the Patrick: Ultimate OZploitation Edition and I think the filmscore used in the Italian market by frequent Dario Argento collaborators Goblin would have made a fantastic alternate audio option. Legend tells of the original cut of the film being a whopping 140 minutes. Perhaps someday someone will find the missing 32 minutes of film and a truly special edition will emerge. That would truly be the METROPOLIS of OZploitation films.

- Brand new 16x9 transfer
- A Coffee Break with Antony I. Ginnane (15:55)
- Archival on-set interview with Richard Franklin (7:27)
- Audio commentary with Director Richard Franklin
- Excerpt from dubbed US version (3:29)
- The Man Who Wasn't There: Story outline for the unproduced PATRICK sequel (PDF)
- Original Australian Trailer (2:57)
- US trailer (1:38)
- Stills and poster gallery
- Antony I. Ginnane Trailer Reel: Snapshot (2:11) 16:9, Thirst (1:37), Harlequin (2:43) 16:9, The Survivor (2:50) , Turkey Shoot (2:40) 16:9, The Time Guardian (1:29)
- More Umbrella Ozploitation Trailers: Road Games (2:12) 16x9, Long Weekend (2:02) 16:9, Razorback (2:21) 16:9, The Chain Reaction 3:23) 16:9

VERDICT: Richard Franklin's PATRICK (1978) is a high recommend from me. This Aussie exploitation gem is deliberately paced, well-acted and truly wonderful. The concept sounds limiting but trust me on this it's a great watch. While this 6-disc set is an Australian exclusive it should be noted that the discs are region free and playable worldwide, so dig in! ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

This is but one of six reviews forthcoming from UMBRELLA ENTERTAINMENT's  OZPLOITATION VOL. 3. It's chock full of Aussie Ozploitation goodness featuring some of the most madcap and erotic exploitation films from The Outback! Prepare yourself for reviews of the following films to come your way in short order. Listed below are the other five films on the set. Up next -for review: Dennis Hopper in MAD DOG MORGAN (1976).

You call that exploitation? Now this is exploitation!

AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK (1975) At Last! The Australia you've always wanted to see - but until now have never DARED! A kinky collection of 37 unusual and titillating stories

THE ABC OF LOVE AND SEX (1977) A witty look between the sheets at modern sex and love – 1978 style! Not only the ultimate guide to getting it up down under – it’s the holy grail of true-blue retro skinema!
BARRY McKENZIE HOLDS HIS OWN (1974) Excitement brews and Fosters flows as Bazza sets out to rescue the Dame-to-be in distress from the clutches of Erich Count Plasma (Donald Pleasence), the sinister head of the Transylvanian Tourist Commission. Can Bazza pull it off?

MAD DOG MORGAN (1976) Set in gold rush-era Victoria, and based on a true story, this violent, rollickingg portrayal of infamous Irish outlaw Dan Morgan (a bravura performance from an intense Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now) is a classic of Australias 70s cinema renaissance.

LES PATTERSON SAVES THE WORLD (1987) The one-time Australian Minster for the 'Yarts', Sir Leslie Colin Patterson KBE (Barry Humphries), is a lecherous, drunken, chain-smoking slob and vaunted cultural attache. Now, Sir Les has received a promotion, as Australia's ambassador to the United Nations, and is sent to an oil-rich Gulf state to try to make peace after a UN blunder.

FELICITY (1978) Felicity (the gorgeous Glory Annen) is a sheltered teen who surrenders her blossoming body to a world of bold sexual adventure in this homegrown erotic sin-sation from sexy Ozploitation auteur John D. Lamond.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blue Underground Vs. Arrow Video - Which Argento Blu is for you?

It's a great time to be a Dario Argento fan with a Blu-ray player. Blue Underground have announced that a Blu of INFERNO (1980) is on the way this March and a Blu of DEEP RED (1975) is to follow in April. That's antastic news through and through no matter how y slice it. To you make an informed purchase though you realize that there are other options out there for the 1080p Argento connoisseur. The UK label  Arrow Video have their own Blu-rays of DEEP RED and INFERNO available in region free deluxe editions. So what's an Argento nut to do? That is the question we all ask ourselves when confronted with different editions of the same titles. I say snag 'em both but that's no always an option either. So for you dear reader I have hastily thrown together a quick side by side comparison of the different editions. I should disclose that Arrow Video have sent me screeners for both releases and they look fantastic. I have not yet  seen the Blue Underground Blu's but their MANIAC: 30th Anniversary Edition looks stunning. What I've got for you here is not a comparison of image quality but of the supplemental materials and technical specifications for each release to help you make an informed purchase with your hard earned cash.

Blue Underground Catlog No: (BD-50)
Release Date: April 26th 2011

- Interviews with Co-Writer/Director Dario Argento, Co-Writer Bernardino Zapponi and - Goblin (Claudio Simonetti, Massimo Morante, Fabio Pignatelli & Agostino Marangolo)
- U.S. Trailer
- Italian Trailer
- Goblin Music Video - "Profondo Rosso" (2010)
- Daemonia Music Video - "Profondo Rosso" (Directed by Sergio Stivaletti)

- 7.1 DTS-HD; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX; Original Mono
- English, Italian
- Optional Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, English for Italian Version
- 2.35:1
- English: 105 Mins / Italian: 126 Mins
- Not Rated
- Region Code: ALL

Arrow Video Cat No: FCD443
Release Date: Available Now

- Introduction by composer Claudio Simonetti16:9 HD
- Audio Commentary with Argento expert Thomas Rostock (2:06:34)
- Rosso Recollections – Dario’s Deep Genius (13:59) 16:9 HD
- Lady in Red: Daria Nicolodi remembers Profondo Rosso (20:39) 16:9 HD
- Music to Murder For! Claudio Simonetti on Deep Red (15:26) 16:9 HD
- Original Italian Trailer (1:52) 16:9 GD
- Original Trailer (2:47) 16:9 HD

- Brand new transfer of the International Theatrical Cut in High Definition (1080p)

- A Tour of the Profondo Rosso (Deep Red) shop in Rome with long time Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi (14:46) 16:9 HD
- Easter Egg (0:39)

Blue Underground Cat. No. (BLU-BD-7025)
Release Date: March 29th 2009

- Art and Alchemy - Interview with Star Leigh McCloskey
- Reflections of Rose - Interview with Star Irene Miracle
- Interview with Writer/Director Dario Argento and Assistant Director Lamberto Bava
- Theatrical Trailer
- Dario Argento Intro

- 7.1 DTS-HD; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX; Dolby Surround 2.0

Arrow Video Cat. No. Cat No: FCD454
Release Date: available Now

- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned art work
- Double-sided fold-out poster
- Collector’s Booklet featuring brand new writing on Inferno by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento

- Brand new restoration of the film, available fully uncut for the first time in the UK
- High Definition Presentation of the film (1080p)
- Optional 5.1 DTS / Stereo / Mono audio
- Choice of original Italian and English audio

- Introduction by star Daria Nicolodi (1080p)
- Dario’s Inferno (1080p)
- Acting in Hot Water: An Interview with Daria Nicolodi (1080p)
- The Other Mother: Making the Black Cat - Director Luigi Cozzi goes behind the scenes of The Black Cat, his rarely seen, totally unofficial, 1989 sequel to Inferno (1080p)
- Inferno Q&A with Irene Miracle, Keith Emerson and Tim Lucas [Blu-ray exclusive] (1080p)
- X marks the spot (1080p)

- Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava on Inferno
- 'Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror' Mark Kermode narrates this documentary on Argento’s career including interviews with George A. Romero and John Carpenter
- The Complete Dario Argento Trailer Gallery [18 films]

And here is our review for the INFERNO 30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION 2-Disc DVD. The DVD has the same special features as the the Blu-ray, enjoy the review. Well, I hope this quick comparison helps guide to you to the edition that best suits your needs. Blue Underground and Arrow Video are both distributors that I cherish. These folks know their genre films and treat 'em with the love and respect really makes for great home viewing. They both deserve your support so have at it!

I just found out there's a Region 2 Blu of SUSPIRIA from newly created label called Nouveaux/Cine-Excess so let's hope for a Region 1 or Region Free Blu-ray sometime in the near future. Like I said, it's a great time to be an Argento fan with a Blu-ray player.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

DVD REVIEW: Bonded By Blood (2010)

Release Date: February 1st 2011

LABEL: Revolver Entertainment
RATING: Unrated
DIRECTOR: Sacha Bennet
TAGLINE: The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Fucking Truth!

CAST: Vincent Regan, Tamer Hassan, Dave Legeno, Adam Deacon PLOT: In 1995, drug suppliers and career criminals Tony Tucker, Patrick Tate and Craig Rolfe were blasted to death by a shot gun whilst waiting in a Range Rover in Rettendon, Essex. BONDED BY BLOOD charts their rise to becoming the most prolific drug dealers and feared criminals in the south of England, maintaining the hold on their empire with fear and violence until their untimely death.

FILM: BONDED BY BLOOD is a British crime thriller based on the 2006 memoir written by Bernard O'Mahoney detailing the rise and fall of three British drug peddlers found slain in a Range Rover on a snowy road in Essex, England. Apparently the real-life events were quite the to-do in 1995 as there are a handful of books and no-less than three films about the infamous Essex Boys.

The film begins with a blast, several actually, as two men armed with 12 gauge shotguns plug several large holes into Darren (Deacon). What has led to this brutal event? The following 92 minutes inform us what brought this bit of violence up him in a fractured bit of narrative as told by Darren. Before you know it were back a few years earlier as Darren is serving out a short prison term when he aligns himself with smuggler extraordinaire Mickey Steele (Regan) and his muscle man Jack Whomes (Legeno). Soon after the trio align themselves with yet another trio comprised of the hulking drug peddler Pat Tate (Hassan), and the fast-talking Tony Tucker (Stone) and Craig Rolf (Maskell) and form an alliance that develops into a successful drug peddling ring once outside the prison walls. What follows is a fast-paced telling of their rise to power and grisly deaths. Steele's trio smuggles the drugs into the country and Tate and Tucker peddle their wares while consuming a great number of the narcotics themselves. Their a nasty and brutal bunch of blokes that terrorize the drug addled underworld. Stone as the vile Tucker is a site to behold as he chews up the scenery like Britain's own Tony Montana. Hassan as the brutish Tate is no softie either and spends most of the film coked outta of his mind. In quick order the two trios find themselves at odds resulting in each looking to wipe the other off the face of the Earth. Who do we as viewers root for? The best we get is the snot-nosed Darren and the smuggler with a heart of gold Steele. What soft spot we have for these character is short-lived though.

Is this a great gangster flick? No, its too flashy and the script is shallow. The dialogue while snappy loses it's potency when the turn of a phrase is lost in the thick Cockney translations and the characters are just downright unlikable which is probably pretty damn accurate so I guess that's an unfair critique. I must say that this film does for "cunt" what SCARFACE (1983) did for "fuck". On the plus side its thick with vulgarity, spotted with nudity and there's no shortage of the ultra-violence. If you're looking for action, drugs, stabbings, shootings, whores, and dueling egos it's got it. Plus it doesn't glamorize the filth that peddles drugs either.

DVD: Bonded By Blood is presented in a sweet looking 16x9 enhanced 2.35: aspect ratio transfer with the option of a 2.0 stereo or more robust 5.1 surround sound. Great image quality, nice and crisp. I bet this would look fantastic on Blu-ray with  TrueHD 5.1 surround. No subtitle option which is a shame as  a lot of the dialogue is delivered in rapid fire Cockney and I'm sure I missed a few tasty bit of dialogue. That said, the word "cunt" was quite clear and well enunciated throughout the entire length of the film. A generous amount of bonus features are included, mostly fun and spirited featurettes plus a decent feature-length commentary.

- Commentary with Sacha Bennett, Terry Stone and Dan Toland (96:06)

- Cast and Crew interviews (12:41)
- Interview with Bernard O’Mahoney (9:02)
- Behind-The-Scenes Featurette (3:11)
- B-Roll footage (21:58)
- Bonded By Blood premiere and after-party (2:06)
- The C Word (0:56)
- Welcome To Tony Tucker’s Mansion (1:45)

VERDICT: BONDED BY BLOOD is a nasty slice of British gangster cinema that's a bit slick and short on substance but not substance abuse. I give it a Red Box or Netflix  recommendation. Slick though it may be it's good fun and has a tasty soundtrack. Worth the price of admission if only for image Tate grabbing a hand-job from a whore dressed in a nurse's uniform while driving a high speed in gold Porsche. Wonderful.
**1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

Monday, January 24, 2011

DVD REVIEW: Disturbed (2009)


Label: Echo Bridhe Home Entertainment
Genre: Slasher
Cast Melissa Deverian, Alex Aldridge, Peyten Aldridge, Randy Aldridge, Gary Slayton
Directors: Brian McLaughlin, Randy E Aldridge

Plot: When deranged serial killer Charles Mason escapes from death row, the quiet town of Quartz Hill is in for a blood bath. On his hunt for the children of Congressman Fontaine—against whom he seeks revenge—Mason leaves a trail of victims brutally murdered. Now it is up to Ashley Fontaine to protect her siblings while her parents are out of town…before Mason settles the score.

Film: What we have here is Halloween (1978) rip-off number 12,566,921. When a serial killer escapes from death row he makes his way to the town of Quartz Hill to take revenge on the Fontaine famil stemming from the fact that the father is a congressman who's on vacation with his wife which leaves his three chuildren to fend off the escaped lunatic. This is a really low budget film with a student film quality to it which I wouldn't hold against it other than the film was mediocre and formulaic. While the killer Charles Mason (that's a bit on the nose, ain't it) is never truly glimpsed there's a decidedly Michael Meyers-esque quality to his shadowy appearance. Some good bloody kills but not much else.

DVD: Disturbed comes to DVD in a 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio with 2.0 stereo sound. The film definitely sounds better than it looks, the film looks to have been filmed on consumer grade digital video and is quite uneven throughout in regards to sound and  lighting. Add to that some rampant digital attracting and while it's watchable it ain't pretty.

Verdict: Whenever I see a film that so clearly wants to be Halloween (1978) it makes me appreciate what John Carpenter was able to accomplish over 30 years ago, clearly one of the most influential genre films of all time. While Disturbed is highly unoriginal there are some effective character moments bloody kills but not enough to rock it out of a deep Slasher 101 rut.  1.5 outta 5


Release Date: January 31st 2011
LABEL: Chelsea Films
RATING: Cert. 15
DIRECTOR: Takashi Shimizu
CAST: Yuya Yagira, Shoichiro Masumoto, Ryo Katsuji, Ai Maeda, Suzuki Matsuo

PLOT: When a small group of young friends spending the day at a theme park near the foot of Mount Fuji sneak into the park’s haunted house attraction after hours, the innocent children’s escapade results in the mysterious disappearance of one of them, Yuki. On a rainy evening ten years later, Yuki inexplicably reappears, turning up at the apartment of one of the girls who was present when she disappeared. Yuki is soon reunited with her friends but shortly afterwards collapses and the group rushes her to a nearby hospital where they are unable to find anyone to treat their friend. With little option but to wait in the hospital, they begin to look for help but soon find things are not as they seem. As the night wears on, the friends begin to relive the events from a decade ago and soon come face to face with the terrible truth behind Yuki’s disappearance.

FILM: When it was announced that Japanese master of horror Takashi Shimizu (JU-ON-THE GRUDGE) would be filming Japan's first-ever 3D J-Horror flick I was pretty excited. Whom better to helm a haunted attraction film then Shimizu? The Grudge is a fantastic ghost story and Shimizu's surreal and haunting style would seem to lend itself well to the concept. It was when I realized that the film was based-on 'The Haunted Hospital' the world's largest walk-through haunted house I was less excited. There's something about properties based on theme park attractions that just saddens me. Don't get me wrong, I think the amusement park is a great setting for a horror film, just check out FUNHOUSE (1986) and ZOMBIELAND (2009), good stuff. That the film industry is so unwilling to fund new and innovative film properties that it plunders theme parks and board games for inspiration is what's disheartening. My initial excitement for the film was now tempered by the fact 1. I realized I haven't seen any of Shimizu's films since The Grudge and 2. the basis for the film was a theme park attraction. It was with this cynicism in mind I entered the 3D world of Shock Labyrinth 3D.

A group of friends are startled when Yuki (Misako Renbutsu), a childhood friend whom disappeared ten years previously at a theme park attraction, reappears at the door step of Rin (Ai Maeda), a young blind woman. Shocked at the incredible news the group of childhood friends reassemble. Shortly after the awkward reunion Yuki collapses unconscious to the floor. The friends rush her to the hospital where she disappears once again. While searching for Yuki the group discover that the hospital is deserted, the rooms are eerily empty and as they explore the upper levels of the hospital things only get weirder. They come to realize that somehow they've returned to the haunted attraction where Yuki disappeared a decade earlier. From here the film quickly loses reasoning as each of them begin to have flashbacks to the events that unfolded that fateful day. All the while they are haunted by the reoccurring images of her death, a floating rabbit and they're own guilt ridden memories.

Shock Labyrinth looks quite beautiful at times, vibrant colors, great set dressing and a creepy atmosphere. It definitely feels like a haunted house with all it's novel 3D parlor tricks. Quite a few things worked against the film for me. The first would be some lazily rendered flashbacks framed in hazy halo which I found annoying. The acting is only passable, the characters undeveloped and the PG13 equivalent rating does not allow for anything approaching actual fright. Sure, there's some spooky stuff here but nothing that stirred me and the 3D effects are mostly gimmicky and give little depth to the goings-on. That sorta makes sense as the film is based on a gimmick to begin with but it does little to enhance the film. That's not to say that all is lost here, there are bits and pieces that intrigued me. The fractured non-linear narrative made for some fun viewing as we jump through the past and into present, the overlapping time lines added a sense of the unexpected to the proceedings and the ending caught me by surprise. In the end Shock Labyrinth just seems to be aimed at a much younger audience than myself and will probably play well to the 13-15 mall rats looking for some superficial, creepy fun but not to die-hard horror fanatics.

DVD: Shock Labyrinth 3D is presented with 2-D version on double disc Region 2 DVD with a 16x9 enhanced widecreen transfer with a decent 5.1 surround mix. The films looks quite good with a vibrant color palette. The 3D probably looked pretty good in theatres with RealD)) glasses, no doubt. Unfortunately the cardboard framed red and green 3D here is nearly unwatchable in my opinion. The films is rich in saturated colors and lighting in 2D but the 3D washes it out and lacks definition so much so that halfway through the film I switched to 2D and restarted the film. There's a decent amount of features here but nothing essential. We get an array of behind-the-scenes featurettes regarding the 3D process, press junkets and on-set interviews with the cast and crew.

- Interviews with: Takashi Shimizu (Director), Yuya Yagira (Cast), Ryo Katsuji (Cast), Ai Maeda (Cast), Erina Mizuno (Cast), Misako Renbutsu (Cast)
- The haunted house and the scary dummies
- The Secret of the Stereoscopic Camera
- Cast + Crew fooling around and shooting last scenes
- Venice Film Festival with Takashi Shimizu
- Press Conference and Opening Day

VERDICT: At it's heart Shock Labyrinth 3D is a rather pedestrian teen-haunting flick mixed with some elements of psychological horror and gimmicky 3D. It was surreal and at times visually intriguing but the characters fell flat, there's no emotional center, no connection for the viewer. It's a novelty, it doesn't push the 3D technology but is a pleasant enough diversion, just don't expect THE GRUDGE as this is a lesser film. Shock Labyrinth 3D is released with 2-D version on double disc DVD by Chelsea Films on January 31st 2011. As of press time there is no Region 1 release currently scheduled.

**1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

Here's the UK trailer:

Friday, January 21, 2011

DVD REVIEW: Paula-Paula (2010)


LABEL: InterVision Picture Corp.
REGION CODE: Region Free
RATING: Unrated
DIRECTOR: Jesus "Jess" Franco
CAST: Paula Davis, Carmen Montes, Lina Romay

InterVision Picture Corp. is a newly launched niche cult and exploitation DVD label whose initial salvo of releases are from the Spanish master of Eurosleaze - Jess Franco. Beginning with the "lost" film THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. OLOFF (1973) and Franco's "lesbian Jekyll and Hyde fever dream" called PAULA-PAULA (2010). Up next are two films from Ozploitation soft-core auteur pioneer John D. Lamond, the director of FELICITY (1979). Lamond's THE ABC OF LOVE AND SEX: AUSTRALIA STYLE (1978) and AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK (1974) will be coming to DVD with brand new transfers. I'm anxious to see what else lies awaiting release in Gold's 850 plus film vault. The mind reels...

PLOT: Alma Pereira is a female police officer investigating the murder of an exotic dancer at a sleazy club in Malaga, Spain. Called to the Flamingo Club in a back alley of Antofagasta she confronts the prime suspect, Paula, a friend of the victim. After a brief Q+A the balance of the film shows what happened in the interval leading up to the killing, which turns out to be a crime of passion. Or is it all in the mind of Paula?

THE FILM: I'm only just beginning to enter the lurid world of the legendary Spanish filmmaker Jess Franco and I was excited to see what the master of Eurosleaze had in store for us in the year 2010 after 200 plus films. So what's Franco got for us? Well, first off you should realize this is not an average film with a linear narrative. It's being touted as an "An AudioVisual Experience" which it is - then again, isn't every film since the first talkie an audio-visual experience? From what I've been able to glean after some close scrutiny and some internet reading we have Paula (Carmen Montes, the star of Jess Franco's SNAKEWOMAN) in the main role. She  is an erotic dancer who has been arrested for the murder of another dancer also named Paula (Paula Davis). Paula only shares the same name but is not an visual twin/doppelganger ala THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (1991). Once taken-in for questioning she in interviewed by Alma Pereira (Lina Romay of Jess Franco's THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. OLAFF also out on InterVision). She's not forthcoming with the answers though, she's a few tacos short of a combination plate. From there we see fragments of what may have transpired leading up to the point of the murder as seen through Paula's mind's eye. Maybe. This shit was confusing. What it basically boils down to is a fairly trippy and artsy striptease followed by  20 minute lesbian sex scene culminating in a baffling and anti-climactic murder with a loose-narrative prologue. Aside from the lurid appeal of a tasty striptease and some girl-on-girl  action this was a bit of a slog for me.

Franco makes the assertion that the inspiration for PAULA-PAULA came from Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll/Hyde. There's some tiny hint of such a things with some odd mirror and digital effects works but that's really stretching it. If I hadn't of read it in the press kit I don't think I would have made this connection, but I did so there it is.

One thing I can say about this film is that the jazz score provided by the late Austrian composer Friedrich Gulda (who scored Franco's SUCCUBUS/NECRONOMICON) is brilliant. The films serves more as a erotic visual backdrop to the brilliant score. A bit of a role reversal here as the film serves as a backdrop to the score. It should be noted that the music was not scored specifically for the film and was gifted to Franco by the children of Gulda after the composer's death - perhaps the films is a tribute to the composer's score. Now that's interesting.

DVD: The film is presented a 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a Spanish Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack with optional English subtitles. The transfer seems to accurately represent the digital video  cinematography and is augmented by some artsy digital effects wizardly. The Spanish dialogue seems a bit buried int he mix throughout but the amazing jazz score sounds mighty fine indeed. Bonus content includes an introduction and two interviews with Franco. The introduction to the film was recorded mere moments after the initial filming of PAULA-PAULA and Franco seems quite excited about the project. The other interviews have Franco discussing the state of filmmaking, the music and cast of PAULA-PAULA all of which I found more intriguing than the film.

- Introduction by Jess Franco (1:24)
- Jess Franco on Contemporary Filmmaking (17:43)
- Jess Franco on PAULA-PAULA (8:30)

VERDICT: Thanks be to InterVision Picture Corp for making this available for the Region 1 Franco fanatics. PAULA-PAULA (2010) works better as an odd extended music video or video art piece than an narrative filmin my opinion. Not a recommend unless you're a Jess Franco completest. During the interviews Franco suggests this may be one of 2 or 3 of his weirdest films. Agreed.
** (2 out of 5 stars)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

ALIEN 2 ON EARTH (1980) coming to DVD from Midnight Legacy

ALIEN 2 ON EARTH Coming to DVD and Blu-ray 
on March 22 via Midnight Legacy

Release Date: March 22nd 20111
DIRECTOR: Ciro Ippolito
CAST: Belinda Mayne, Mark Bodin, Roberto Barrese, Benny Aldrich, Michele Soave

Classic Italian Horror / Sci-Fi Film Never-Before-Released in the United States

For their inaugural release, Midnight Legacy is presenting the first-ever widescreen release of Alien 2 On Earth. The uncut, English language, 1.85 widescreen release of the 1980 Italian Horror / Sci-Fi film directed by Ciro Ippolito (Sam Cromwell), is coming to DVD and Blu-ray on March 22.

This film has never been released in the United States... Only a handful of countries saw a cropped and edited VHS release nearly thirty years ago. This definitive version, transferred from the original 35mm negative, runs longer than any other version seen throughout the world. It is the presentation that finally represents the intended vision of Alien 2 On Earth.

"We are immensely pleased to have partnered with MVD as it presents a strong opportunity for strategic market penetration for our releases with a distributor who shares our vision for preserving and delivering films of the highest technical quality," said Dolph Chiarino, Co-Founder of Midnight Legacy. "MVD possesses a rather unique model within key business sectors bringing Midnight Legacy titles to the broadest possible audience."

For the past 10 years, Chiarino and Bill Knight (founders of Midnight Legacy) has been the go-to people for independent genre labels to release European horror and sci-fi titles on DVD. Whether it is to provide elements, ensure a title was uncut, or to advise what titles would be choice candidates, their knowledge proved to be quite lucrative for companies such as Anchor Bay, Blue Underground, Synapse, Media Blasters, and quite a few others.

"When we started this venture, we knew we had to be fully committed to going the distance when preserving many rare films without the typical cost cutting procedures employed throughout the industry," said Chiarino. "A rather distinctive hands-on approach encompassing personally supervising the transfer work in Rome, the disc work here, and simply building relationships with some of the most respected film and post-house individuals that share our vision. These are all key facets that deliver a measurable benefit to the viewer. As far as we are aware, we are the only genre company creating Digital Intermediates (DIs) for all of our titles. The results are more of a major restoration rather than simply a "new" transfer, and it certainly is visible to our viewer base."

Midnight Legacy's most fundamental principal was to establish a trust between the consumer and the brand... One that ensures all titles are fully uncut, properly framed, and presented in a definitive version of the absolute highest quality. With over 23 years experience dealing in these types of films, Midnight Legacy is proud to bring many rarely seen titles to the their collection. They pride themselves on respecting the original intentions of the filmmakers, and preserving the legacy these films have created.

"MVD is proud to represent Midnight Legacy," said Ed Seaman, COO of MVD Entertainment Group. "Between the classic content they are uncovering and their commitment to excellence, they separate themselves from the pack. MVD has a lot of experience representing classic horror, and Alien 2 On Earth is a great start with Midnight Legacy, particularly considering the great job they have done with the restoration, transfers and packaging."

"Alien 2 On Earth" SYNOPSIS:
A group of cave explorers are confronted in an underground cavern by a mysterious living rock. Little do they know that it bears home to deadly, flesh-eating creatures, intent on wiping out the entire human population. Can they survive and ultimately prevent earth's total annihilation? The film stars Belinda Mayne, Mark Bodin, Roberto Barrese, Benny Aldrich, Michele Soavi and Judy Perrin.

- Brand new 1.85:1 high definition transfer from the original 35mm negative featuring significant additional footage not seen anywhere in the world.
- Ultra high bitrate AVC encode @36 MBS, on a BD-50, faithfully representing our 2k scan and preserving the integrity and look of film.
- English DTS MA 2.0, fully restored from the original audio masters, and respectful of the original sound design.
- Special features include the only surviving trailer from the mega rare Dutch VHS , and effects outtakes transferred directly from the negative B-roll in full HD.
- Limited Collector's Edition designed as a true collector's item.