Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Press Release:
 BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Anchor Bay Films announced today the acquisition of distribution rights in the English-speaking territories (U.S., Canada, UK, Australia-New Zealand) for The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse, a new animated motion picture based on the comic book by the same name from Dynamite Entertainment Comics. Produced by Shoreline Entertainment, the film debuted this past weekend at Comic-Con International. The deal was announced by Bill Clark, President of Anchor Bay Entertainment. 

The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse premiered at Comic-Con in San Diego on Saturday night to a sold out, raucous and cheering crowd,” stated Morris Ruskin, producer of the film and CEO of Shoreline Entertainment, Inc. “According to co-creator of the comic, Ken Haeser, the fans seemed to really appreciate that the production captured the essence of the graphic novel.”

The film is an adaptation of the underground hit graphic novel by Ken Haeser and Buz Hasson. A guilt-ridden corpse takes on a heavy burden when he agrees to help a Fallen Angel keep the other undead in their graves and powers of evil from corrupting our world.

The nature of the superhero making its transition from the sublime pages of comic books to the magical screens of cinema, however, will be slightly unique this time around. For starters, the title character isn’t your typical caped crusader – he’s a zombie. And he’s not just a typical zombie, either. He’s a contentious, imposing citizen of the walking dead club with an intact memory from when he was alive, and a mission to protect the Earth from other brain-sucking flesh-eaters. The Amazing Adventures of the Living Corpse, which was directed by Justin Ritter, produced by Ritter and Ruskin and Executive Produced by Eduardo Castro, Eileen Craft, Darcy Feld and Dennis Sonnenschein, took three years to animate and was rendered in state-of-the-art RealD 3D.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

DVD Review: DEAD SEASON (2011)


Label: Image Entertainment
Release Date: July 31st, 2012
Rating: Not Rated
Duration: 88 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)

Director: Adam Deyoe
Cast: James C. Burns, Scott Peat, Marissa Merrill, Corsica Wilson
Tagline: On this island, survival is no game.

The Film: Personally I don't need a zombie film to be necessarily epic or even to rewrite the book of the well familiar zombie lore we've seen so many times before. Nope,  I prefer to keep it simple and rooted in the mythology established by George A. Romero's original Trilogy of the Dead. What I do need is some decent moments of gut-munching and a compelling human drama unfolding amidst the zombie apocalypse with some in-fighting amongst the survivors - it's a pretty simple formula. The last zombie film that really stuck with me was the Ford Brother's African set gut-muncher The Dead (2010) which was a great entry in the zombie canon that I heartily recommend.  Now let's take a bite out of the latest indie-zombie thriller Dead Season (2011) from director Adam Deyoe (Psycho Sleepover) and see how it stacks up amongst the countless zombie hordes streaming on Netflix and on the shelves at your local Walmart...

We get a well familiar set-up which succinctly lets us know that a planet-wide viral  outbreak of unknown origin has ignited a plague of flesh-eating zombies upon the Earth decimating the population in just under a year. The creature comforts of modern day are but a thing of the past leaving survivors to scavenge for food and shelter. Elvis (Scott Peat, Transformers) is a former EMT who's wife and daughter were lost in the early days of the plague, he now  survives on a steady diet of scavenged cans of food and booze - slightly drunk really does seem the only way to properly survive the zombie apocalypse. He's a nice guy and it's easy to like him, along the way he aligns himself with another survivor named Tweeter (Marissa Merrill, Photographic). The two flee the mainland for the island of Desoto off the coast of Puerto Rico with the help of a fellow survivor (Danny Hicks, Intruder)  who arranges for a boat. They're hoping for fresh start away from the zombie hordes, however, once they arrive on the island what they discover is quite less than an island paradise. On the island all animal and plant life have been made toxic by years of military ordinance testing and a small group of ex-military men have taken refuge at a former Naval base located on the island. The men are led by the steely-eyed Conrad (James C. Burns, Dinocroc vs Supergator) a man consumed by the well-being of his 17 year-old daughter Rachel (Corsica Wilson, Veer!) after the tragic death of his wife and daughter. To my eyes he seemed a bit like a more redeeming version of "Rhodes" from Romero's Day of the Dead (1985) and while Conrad certainly makes some questionable decisions he's a more likable character than "Rhodes".

Both Elvis and Tweeter are allowed to join the ranks of the military men after proving their worth to the small community. Elvis as a trained EMT proves most useful with his medical skills and it turns out Twitter is a major ass-kicker. Marissa Merrill is a fanboys wet-dream and if there's ever a zombie apocalypse I want her on my team. She's not just a machete-wielding zombie killer but a rather attractive young woman that brings to mind a pleasant mixture of Breakfast Club-era Molly Ringwald with her fiery red hair with a just a splash of Toni Collette - she's very easy on the eye as they says. 

The island scenery is gorgeous and is a great backdrop to the zombie carnage and human drama. The setting brought to mind Lucio Fulci's Zombie (1979) with lush jungle scenery and ocean vistas though not as nearly well-shot but the HD-shot film does look quite good. Add to that some use of existing locations, including a unused set built for Clint Eastwood's Heartbreak Ridge (1986) , and you have a low-budget film with some decent production value, definitely a film that stretches it's dollar for maximum effect.

There's tons of zombie carnage with loads of of flesh-tearing fun over-flowing with intestines, splatter, vehicular obliteration, gunshots to the head, machete whacks and a soda machine that splats a zombie real nice. There's definitely some decently grotesque splatter onscreen for the gore-hounds to enjoy.

The acting from the three main characters is pretty decent throughout and the supporting cast perhaps not so much - Conrad's band of soldiers are pretty weak  but adequate, nothing was ruinous to the overall enjoyment of the film. Scott Peat and James C. Burns are definitely the stand apart performances here with some nice touches of pathos and complexity and each get a few nice character moments.

The look of the zombies were pretty uneven in my opinion running the spectrum from pretty great to just sorta lame.  The undead here are of the slow shambling variety but the filmmakers mix-it up a bit with some runners late in the film and while I'm not against fast-moving zombies I didn't feel it was needed here and it felt kind of just tossed into the mix for no real reason. 

There's a nice selection of special features including a spirited and informative audio commentary with the filmmakers, a behind-the-scenes making of featurette, trailer, outtakes  and 16 minutes of deleted scenes that include an alternate opening with a bunch of gore fx not seen in the film.

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with director Adam Deyoe, producer/editor Loren Semmens, actor Scott Peat and director of photography Jeffrey Peters
- The Making of Dead Season (9:05) 16x9
- Deleted Scenes (15:55) 16x9
- Outtakes (5:45) 16x9
- Trailer (1:29) 16x9

Verdict: Dead Season is an gritty  zombie-chomper with plenty of action and a decent amount of pathos and gore. It gets a medium recommend, it's not gonna blow your mind but it's a fun weekend watch.  2.5 outta 5 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

DVD Review: MIDNIGHT SON (2011)


Label: Image Entertainment

Release Date: July 17th 2012
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: Not Rated
Duration: 92 mins
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)

Director: Scott Leberecht
Cast: Zak Kilberg, Maya Parish, Tracey Walter, Arlen Escarpeta, Kevin McCorkle, Jo D. Jonz

Synopsis: Midnight Son (2011) is the story of Jacob, a young man confined to a life of isolation, due to a rare skin disorder that prevents him from being exposed to sunlight. His world opens up when he meets Mary, a local bartender, and falls in love. Tragically, Jacob's actions become increasingly bizarre as he struggles to cope with the effects of his worsening condition. Forced by the disease to drink human blood for sustenance, he must control his increasingly violent tendencies as local law enforcement narrow their focus on him as a suspect in a series of grisly murders.

The Film: The vampire genre like the pale-skinned corpses of its victims has been drained of it's vitality time and time again through the ages and maybe never more so than with the tepid tween juggernaut Twilight and it's sequels.  Fear not though for not unlike like the fanged creatures of the night the genre is resilient and regularly resurrected and unleashed upon the masses with renewed vigor and threat - which brings us to director Scott Leberecht's low-budget vamper Midnight Son

This is a quiet sorta thriller that's definitely not of the shock and awe variety, it's more indie and thoughtful but also dark and quite wonderful, too. Zak Kilberg (Zombie Strippers) portrays Jacob a night security guard at an office building where he works alongside a sage custodian (Tracey Walter, Repo Man). Jacob has suffered with a rare skin disorder from a young age that forces him to avoid sunlight - this particular condition may or may not be vampirism - its not really spelled out for you clearly but that's definitely what it feels like. Aside from the sun-aversion he is also super pale and anemic - the worst complexion you've seen in sometime. On top of this he has a growing thirst for blood which early on he procures from a meat market which he keeps in a thermos and sip from a coffee cup.

As the film moves on in its quietly intense sorta way Jacob's symptoms start to worsen and he becomes more and more jaundiced in appearance, the iris of his eyes turn a striking yellow and his blood lust grows more and more insatiable. When the meat market no longer proves sufficient enough supplier he turns to a hospital employee (Jo D. Jonz) who really only complicates things with his less-than-legal  skill set for acquiring blood on-demand.

Along the way Jacob meets and falls in love with a bartender named Mary whom struggles with a her own addiction - cocaine.  The couple each struggle on their own to maintain a normal relationship in the face of  their own increasing demand for their drugs of choice.

I talk about the film having a quiet intensity to it but it is also quite violent at times if short on gore but there's blood aplenty. Where the film excels is as a modern vamp story of a lonely man's struggle to maintain normalcy and indulge in the pursuit of love during a very strange time in his life. There's some great performances here and particularly from Kilberg who nails the loneliness of the character, there's some nice character moments and  pathos that really sucks you in.  

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Director Scott Leberecht and Stars Zak Kilberg, Maya Parish and Jo D. Jonz
- Interview with Zak Kilberg (4:43), Maya Parish (5:02)), Jo D. Jonz (5:02), Scott Leberecht (17:47) and Lyn Moncrieg (8:09)) 
- Three Deleted Scenes ((1:58) 16:9 
- Trailer (2:27) 16:9

Verdict:  This gets off to a slow start but if your looking for a vampire flick with a new take on things that doesn't bleed rote familiarity director Scott Leberecht's Midnight Son may be just what you're looking for. The film shares a kinship with films off-kilter but awesome tales of vampirism like George A. Romero's Martin (1976) and Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark (1987) - if that strikes you as a good thing this is an easy recommend. 3 outta 5

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blu-ray Review: THE RED HOUSE (1947)

Blu-ray + DVD Combo
Label: HD Cinema Classics
Region: 0 NTSC [DVD] Region-FREE [Blu-ray]
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 100 mins
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Delmer Daves
Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Judith Anderson, Julie London, Lon McCallister, Allene Roberts
Tagline: You Dare Not Even Guess The Strange Love Story pf The Red House

Pete Morgan (Edward G. Robinson, The Strangers) and his sister Ellen (Judith Anderson, Hitchcock's Rebecca) live on an isolated farm on the outskirts of a small town just on the edge of a dark and allegedly haunted forest. There they've quietly raised their adopted teen daughter Meg (Allene Roberts, TV's Dragnet) since she was abandoned by her parents years ago. Things around the farm are pretty quiet until Meg's friend Nath (Lon McCallister) comes on as a hired hand at the farm assist the aging and one-legged Pete. Meg's teen hormones kick-in and she falls in love with Nath much to the dismay of his smoking-hot girlfriend Tibby (Julie London, Night of the Quarter Moon) who in turn gives her affections to a brooding young man named Teller (Rory Calhoun, Motel Hell).

Pete's a pretty sweet man but his pastoral demeanor starts to unravel when Meg and Nath  explore the swampy forests near the farm despite Pete's alarming warnings of superstitions and soul-shattering screams that emanate from a mysterious red house. As teens are prone to do the warnings on serve to peak their curiosity and it seems the further they delve into the woods the deeper Pete's sinks into madness. 

Edward G. Robinson (Key Largo) is truly fantastic as the unraveling Pete whom bit by bit loses his grip on reality leading to tragic and dizzying finale  - he is the stand apart performance here.  A particularly effective scene has Pete careening into a furious rage that sends a table flying across the room injuring his sister when a dark secret is revealed, it's great stuff. Worth mentioning is cinema great Judith Andrews as Pete's tragic sister Ellen and it was a treat to see "Vincent Farmer" himself Rory Calhoun of the nutso 80's slasher  Motel Hell (1980) portraying the rogue who steals the affections of Nath's girl.  Tibby played by the big-eyed beauty Julie London of TV's Emergency is simply smoldering as the sexually aroused Tibby. We also get good performances from Allene Roberts and Lon McCallister as the young lovers but they really pale in shadow of Robinson's unhinged Pete and the conflicted Tibby who really made the film me. 

The film is definitely a slow burn - at 100 minutes in length the thrills don't really kick in till  the final act which ratchets up the tension and insanity. The night scenes in the woods  are creepy and intense with howling winds and strange noises everywhere. When Nath ignores Pete's warning not to enter the woods he is stricken with an unnatural panic returning to the farm terrified, it's great stuff. Bert Glennon's (The House of Wax) attractively lensed cinematography is strikingly lit and gives  this thriller a definite noir feel at times. 

Blu-ray: HD Cinema Classics presents The Red House (1947) with a restored full-frame transfer sourced from original 35mm elements. Like many of HD Cinema Classics's restored public domain films there's been a thick application of digital noise reduction that's not only sucked away the film grain from the image but left it bereft of fine detail leaving in it's place a waxy plasticine image with rampant smearing. On the plus side there's little visible damage but film grain lovers will not exactly rejoice over this one. 

The Blu-ray features English language DTS-HD mono audio with optional Spanish subtitles. This is the first title from HD Cinema Classics to offer a lossless audio option and it's much appreciated despite the limited fidelity of the mono presentation, there's some minor distortions throughout but it's not an unpleasant listen and Mikola Roza's (Ben Hur) theramin-tinged score sounds pretty great, too.

Special features include a pretty dry audio commentary with author William Hare, the signature movie art postcard that are synonymous with HD Cinema Classics titles, a brief before and after restoration demo, trailer for the film and a standard-definition DVD version of the film that carries over the bonus content.

I just can't give the transfer very high marks particularly after seeing recent black and white  classics like Swamp Water (1941) and Fritz Lang's blistering-noir The Big Heat (1953) from Twilight Time label with gorgeous restored 1080p transfers with the film grain and fine detail intact. To play devil's advocate it must be a tough business model restoring these public domain titles that are freely available online and on numerous budget collections.

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with author William Hare
- Movie Trailer (1:24) 4:3
- Before and After Restoration Demo (1:05)
- Original Movie Art Postcard

Verdict: The Red House (1947) is probably a bit slow but if you have the patience for a slow-burn with an amped-up finale with a satisfying and dizzying conclusion this is a first-rate psychological-thriller with some great noir-styled thrills.  3 outta 5 

Other HD Cinema Classics reviewed on the site, follow the links to read: Zaat, Poor Pretty Eddie, The Terror, Dementia 13

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Blu-ray Review: TWINS OF EVIL (1971)

Blu-ray + DVD Combo 
Label: Synapse Films
Region: Region A
Duration: 87 minutes
Rating: Unrated

Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.66:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 
Director: John Hough
Cast: Peter Cushing, Damien Thomas, Dennis Price, David Warbeck, Madeleine Collinson, Mary Collinson
Tagline: Which is the Virgin? Which is the Vampire? 

Synopsis: Two beautiful orphaned identical twins, Maria and Frieda Gellhorn (Playboy centerfold models Mary and Madeleine Collinson), move to the village of Karnstein to live with their uncle Gustav Weil (played by Hammer horror favorite, Peter Cushing), a fanatical puritan and leader of the local witch-hunting “Brotherhood.” The village Count (Damien Thomas, Never Let Me Go), an evil man who secretly practices Satanism, uses black magic and transforms into a vampire. Unhappy with her new life, Frieda seeks escape and tragically falls under the spell of the Count. Now overcome with an insatiable hunger for human blood, Frieda has to hide her secret from her sister, and escape her uncle’s killing grasp!

The Film: Twins of Evil (1971) is Hammer's third and final entry in a series of films known as the Karnstein trilogy following The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Lust for a Vampire (1971)  and in it village elder Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing, Shock Waves) is the stern and rather unpleasant leader of a fanatical group of witch-hunters called The Brotherhood. Cushing's portrayal of the witchfinder is differentiated from Vincent Price's depiction of Mathew Hopkins in the film The Witchfinder General (1968) in that he truly and sincerely believes he's doing the Lord's work while Price's character was merely profiteering from other's misery in the most reprehensible way. The true tragedy is that while these busty innocents burn there is actually a devil among them - Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas)  looms over the village from his castle where he engages in wicked orgies and Satanic rituals but The Brotherhood dare not touch him for he is under the protection of the Emperor, the monarchies weren't really down with religious fanaticism... so let's burn some busty blondes instead, right? Right! The decadent Count Karnstein comes from a long lineage of sadistic evil-doers and and his depraved aristocratic lifestyle leaves him yearning for a taste of true-evil but he surrounds himself with wannabe cultists and so he grows bored and deeply unsatisfied, that is until one-night when he offers up a human sacrifice conjuring the long dead Coutness Mircalla (Katya Wayeth, Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange), a true beauty who fornicates with the Count and in the process gives us a nice tidbit of eroticism as she simulates a hand-job with a candlestick - it's a nice touch, way to go Hammer. Oh yeah, and she transforms him into a vampire - that's important to know.

It's right about then that Weil's newly orphaned identical twin nieces Maria (Mary Collinson) and Frida (MadelineCollinson) arrive in the village of  Karnstein and quickly discover what a strict and religious man their Uncle Weil truly is - he's definitely no fun. His puritanical persecution of the voluptuous beauties pushes them away and none more so than kinky Frieda who is quite obviously the more deviant of the duo with a keen interest in the darker side of what life has to offer.  It's not long before freaky Frieda falls under the spell of the Count after overhearing tales of wild orgies and his wicked ways. She steals away in the dark of night to his castle swearing her sister to secrecy, she's a pretty typical teen. Maria, the more virginal of the twins, takes a liking to a much nicer young man, a schoolteacher named Anton Hoffer (David Warbeck, Lucio Fulci's The Beyond) who studies superstitions and believes in witchcraft and vampirism. Weil not surprisingly doesn't approve of Anton's interest in the occult but when Freida falls victim to Karnstein's vampirism becoming a bloodsucker and killing one of The Brotherhood the two men join forces and lead The Brotherhood on a bloody assault of Karnstein's castle.

The film was shot on many of the sets used for Hammer's Vampire Circus so it definitely has that Hammer familiarity to it. The outdoor scenes shot in Oxhead Park are outstanding, particularly an early night scene wherein The Brotherhood capture and burn a suspected witch - the nighttime woods laden with fog are quite eerie and wonderfully Gothic, the film is drenched with loads of tense atmosphere.

As with the preceding films in the Karnstein trilogy it's saturated with overt and lurid sexuality though perhaps not as much vampire lesbianism as one might expect from a film featuring Playboy Playmate twins, there's just a brief titillating moment that passes far too quick. Fear not though, this is an early 70's Hammer endeavor from the production duo of Harry Fine and Michael Style so there's plenty of blood, breasts and other exploitative elements on display. It's lurid but definitely not to such great heights (or lows) as the aforementioned Vampire Circus which reviled us with elements of pedophilia and the murder of small children but it's pretty great nonetheless. 

Peter Cushing is a legend among legends and the star of countless horror classics and his performance is a coldly intense and blistering, I think it's a standout even among his oeuvre. Damian Thomas as the evil Count Karnstein turns in a decent performance but I just wasn't feeling it, not to constantly compare this film to Vampire Circus but Robert Tayman's perverse-bloodsucker Count Mitterhaus runs circles around Karnstein. Thomas is a bit goofy at times I must admit his fanged facial expression elicited more than a few a laughs, it's not fatal to the film but it detracted a few points. The Collinson Twins are are gorgeous from head to toe, voluptuous brunette beauties who were very easy on the eyes.

There's some nice carnage up on the screen to, the blood flows deep red and quite freely. Of course we get a few nice burnings at the stake, each one staged quite nicely, a machete to the head, fire applied to the eye, a shocking decapitation and an axe flung into someones spine - pretty great stuff.

Blu-ray: Hammer's Vampire Circus was Synapse's initial Blu-ray offering and it was quite a presentation, probably my favorite Blu-ray of that year. With Twins of Evil I would say they've raised the bar even from that high watermark. The film looks quite brilliant in 1080p high definition presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 widescreen sourced from a very nice print. There are a few rough moments particularly during some noisy nighttime scenes but overall this is a stunner with a nice layer of natural film grain and with beautifully resolved fine details and texture. The colors are appropriately vibrant and black levels are consistently strong. The English language DTS-HD mono audio track sounds great, too. It's a mono track so we don't get any dynamic range or use of the surrounds but the audio is crisp and the dialogue rings through clear.

The audio and visual presentation is sweet let us look into the wealth of special features beginning with a feature length documentary The Flesh and the Fury: X-Posing Twins of Evil (1hr 24 mins) is nearly as long as the feature itself, a fantastic retrospective exploring the origins of the film's story in Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu novella Carmilla (1872) - a story that pre-dates Bram Stoker's Dracula by some 25 years. While discussing the Carmilla aspects of the film there's some dramatic re-enactment video footage accompanying the story, fun stuff. There's a ton of cinematic adaptations of the story from Joseph Dreyer's Vampyr (1932) on through to Blood and Roses (1960), Terror in the Crypt (1964) and Roy Ward Baker's The Vampire Lovers (1970) starring Ingrid Pitt. There's plenty of involvement from director John Hough too who openly discusses many facets of the film and it's origins, it's great stuff. There's also plenty of Hammer facts, trivia and critique from authors, critics and film historians Kim Newman, Joe Dante, Tim Lucas, Eric Hoffman, Ted Newsom - all quite enriching and not just about this film specifically of Hammer in general, particularly 70's Hammer and the sexploitation direction they were headed. Everything you could want to know about Twins of Evil and this particular era of Hammer is here for your enjoyment and nicely put into context. If the feature alone weren't enough this fantastic documentary is worth the price of admission alone.

The next feature is The Props that Hammer Built: The Kinsey Collection (23:28) featuring a guided tour of Hammer historian Wayne Kinsey's private collection of Hammer memorabilia which begins with a saddening story of Pinewood Studios tossing many of Hammer's props in the trash-bin, ugh. Kinsey shows us a model castle that was retrieved from the bin by a technician working on the lot at the time, the castle was used in the films Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)  and The Gorgon (1964) - truly  sweet piece of Hammer history. We also get to see bats used in Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and Brides of Dracula (1960) . An eyeball prop from Frankenstein and the Monsters from Hell (1973) and a few others including a prized jacket and books from Peter Cushings own collection. Kinsey's a bit dry honestly but the props and the story behind each one is pretty awesome.

On top of these features we also get a Motion Still Gallery (14:01) with tons f production and promotional stills and artwork not to mention a bunch of sexploitation promo shots of the Collinson Twins - sweet stuff. There's a US Trailer (2:31) plus a Double Bill Trailer (2:31) with Hands of the Ripper (1971) a selection of TV Spots (1:10) and an odd musical  Deleted Scene (1:09) that's more a curiosity than unburied treasure. There's also a DTS-HD MA mono Isolated Music and Effects Track highlighting Harry Robertson's dramatic score of the film. This is a Blu-ray/DVD combo but it should be noted that not all of the special features are carried over on the DVD.

Special Features:
An all-new, feature-length documentary exploring Hammer's infamous 'Karnstein' trilogy from the origin of Carmilla, to the making of TWINS OF EVIL! Featuring exclusive interviews with director John Hough, star Damien Thomas, cult film director Joe Dante, Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas, and more!
- Motion Still Gallery* (14:01)
- Deleted Scene* (1:09) 16:9
- Original Theatrical Trailer* (2:31) 4:3
- Double Feature Trailer (2:31) 4:3
- TV Spots* (1:10) 4:3
- Isolated Music and Effects Track 
* (Blu-ray Exclusive)

Verdict: Twins of Evil (1971) gets an easy recommend from me - this is essential stuff. It's not quite the lurid shocker that Vampire Circus (1972) was but it's fantastic just the same. Synapse Films have done right by Hammer with a gorgeous presentation and a wealth of bonus content - the feature-length documentary is just as essential as the film itself. Yet another superb presentation from Synapse - and there's more Hammer on the way from 'em too with The Complete Hammer House of Horror 5-DVD Collector's Edition
4 Outta 5 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blu-ray Review: THE BIG HEAT (1953)

THE BIG HEAT (1953) 

Label: Twilight Time
Region: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 90 mins
Video: 1080p Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with English SDH Subtitles 

Director: Fritz Lang 
Cast: Glenn FordGloria GrahameJocelyn BrandoAlexander ScourbyJeanette NolanLee Marvin 
Tagline: "Somebody's Going to Pay...Because He Forgot to Kill Me..."

Synopsis: A dark masterpiece of film noir, pantheon director Fritz Lang’s excoriating The Big Heat (1953) takes an unflinching look at the endemic corruption of small-town America, pitting a tough cop against the forces of evil represented by a syndicate boss  and his all-too-obedient flunkies within the police force. Gloria Grahame co-stars, indelibly, as a gangster’s moll with a decent heart, exploited by both good guys and bad; and Lee Marvin makes a terrifying early appearance as a thug whose sharp clothes and fancy apartment do little to conceal his animalistic nature.

The Film: I've had the pleasure of viewing two of Fritz Lang's films the dark masterpiece of German expressionism Metropolis (1927) and the disturbing M (1931) which deals with a villages struggle to capture a child-killer, it's grim stuff with an amazing Peter Lorre performance. Otherwise I am largely naive about Lang's other works. Once again niche label Twilight Time DVD have opened my eyes to a classic bit of cinema that heretofore had escaped mine eyes, this time it's Fritz Lang's noir masterpiece The Big Heat (1953). 

When corrupt Kenport cop Tom Duncan blows his brains out at his home it's Sgt. Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford, Superman: The Movie) whom is called into investigate what appears to be a open and shut case of suicide. The seemingly grieving widow Bertha (Jeanette Nolan)  explains that his poor health may have lead to the tragedy but his mistress Lucy (Dorothy Green) casts doubt on that scenario - planting a seed of foul-play in the mind of the Sgt. There might be something to her suspicions too because the very next day Lucy's corpse is thrown from a car covered in cigarette burns and strangled. Lt. Wilks (Willis Bouchely) tells Bannion to drop the case which is out of his jurisdiction and to ease off  the widow too - the case is closed as far as he's concerned. This doesn't sit well with the justice-minded Sgt. and it soon becomes apparent that both Lt. Wilks and the Police Commissioner (Howard Wendell) are clearly having their strings pulled like puppets by wiseguy Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby, The Stuff). Undeterred the Sgt. shows up at Lagan's home stirring up a hornet's nest of trouble which results in Lagana ordering a hit on Bannion. The hit claims the life of Bannion's beloved wife Katie (Joclyn Brando, Dark Night of the Scarecrow). The tragic loss of his wife further pushes the obsessed Sgt. to the breaking point, after resigning from the force the enraged, armed and grieving Bannion will stop at nothing to bring those responsible for his wife's death to justice - badge or no badge.  

Lee Marvin (The Big Red One) appears as Lagana's henchman Vince Stone, a sadistic brute of a man whom alongside conspirator Larry Gordon (Adam Williams, North by Northwest) carried-out the car-bombing that claimed Katie. Bannion makes the connection when Stone's sassy-mouthed boozer girlfriend Debbie (the fantastic Gloria Graham, Blood and Lace) betrays him after he throws a scalding hot pot of coffee into her face, disfiguring the mouthy dame.  She's a fiery, sharp-tongued presence who's smart-mouth makes for an amazing performance.

Glenn Ford is a true force of vengeance as a man driven by a sense of justice but who is quite willing to skirt the law as necessary. He's definitely an anti-hero who's colored in shades of grey - the man leaves a trail of dead women as collateral damage in his wake. Lee Marvin as the menacing Vince is quite an imposing figure who dishes out grotesque violence throughout the film - a truly despicable man.  While it must be said that the violence is implied rather than depicted it is nonetheless brutal and affecting - there's torture, mutilation and disfigurement - not pleasant stuff at all - this film has a definite sting to it. 

Blu-ray: Twilight Time's Blu-ray presents the film in gorgeous 1080p black and white in it's original 4:3 aspect ratio. Sourced from a pristine print it looks fantastic with great contrast. It's a sharp image with an appropriate amount of film grain and fine detail. The film lacks the classic deeply shadowed noir aesthetic but its a great looking image nonetheless. The English DTS-HD MA mono audio renders dialogue and score accurately. Overall another great presentation from Twilight Time. 

Special features include the signature isolated music score, a re-release trailer of the film and my favorite part of any Twilight Time presentation - Julie Kirgo's liner notes which never fail to enrich the viewing experience.

Special Features: 
- Isolated Score Track 
- Re-release Theatrical Trailer (1:43) 4:3
 -  8 pg. Booklet Featuring Extensive Julie Kirgo Liner Notes and Film Art

Verdict:  Fritz Lang's The Big Heat (1953) is a brutal and stinging noir thriller that holds up quite nicely and while it may not be shocker it surely once was it's still a mighty potent cocktail of sadism and corruption. As with all of Twilight Time's Blu-rays the release is a limited edition run of 3,000 - so get it while you can exclusively from 4 outta 5 

Saturday, July 7, 2012



Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: R
Duration: 97 Min.Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 
Director: Jack Perez
Cast: Kevin Corrigan, Barry Bostwick, Karen Black, Ariel Glade, Lucy Davis

Synopsis: At first glance, Ken Boyd (Kevin Corrigan, TV's Fringe) may seem like an average comic enthusiast, living with his mother (Karen Black, Trilogy of Terror) and working to make ends meet as an underpaid, underappreciated ice cream parlor attendant. But Ken has a dirty little secret: he fantasizes about killing people. After being released from a stay in the loony bin, for severe mental trauma suffered when he was beaten and tortured by a gang of high school thugs, Ken’s repressed anger suddenly reaches a boiling point. With gleeful enthusiasm Ken hunts down his tormentors, one by one, and exacts his bloody revenge.

The Film: I love me some Kevin Corrigan, from Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990) on thru to TV's Grounded for Life and dark-comedies like Superbad (2007) and Pineapple Express (2007), the guy just adds value to any endeavor and I was just as pleased as punch to see him in a starring role. In Jack Perez's indie-slasher Some Guy Who Kills People (2011) Corrigan plays an awkward outsider employed at anl ice cream parlor alongside his loyal friend friend Irv whom is played by Leo Fitzpatrick whom you may recall as "Telly" from the still  super-disturbing film Kids (1995). Ken's just been released from the loony-bin and is trying to get back on his feet, unfortunately he lives with his mother Ruth (Karen Black, Burnt Offerings) who's more than just a little bit nagging. It's not too hard to see where some of  Ken's  insanity might have come from. Not helping with his mental well-being is a ridiculous ice cream costume he wears during catered events - if I was forced to wear that monstrosity I might think about killing a few folks too.

It turns out Ken is a pretty gifted comic artists. When he isn't laying in bed staring intently at the ceiling he spends his time scrawling macabre images of death into a sketchbook. Throughout the film we get flashback to Ken being bullied in high-school - it's more than bullying though - it's torture at the hands of kids back in high-school. Obviously this trauma has left an indelible mark on his fragile psyche. In fact it seems he's knocking off this former tormentors and displaying their corpses in bizarrely staged poses. The deaths aren't particularly elaborate or ingenuous but they're effective nonetheless - we get a hatchet to the head, a machete decapitation, a throat slashed and a brutal stabbing - not too gory but bloody as Hell. 

There's an unexpected introduction of Ken's estranged daughter coming into his life - a child even his own mother was unaware of until she shows up on the doorstep. Amy (Ariel Gade, Dark Water) is a precocious 11-year old who decides to spend time with her father against her mother's wishes after arguing with her and her Jesus-freak boyfriend. It's an awkward transition for the socially inept Ken but he tries his best. There are a surprising number of tender moments between the damaged father and daughter - they're good for reach other but when she observes daddy's night-time activities it strains the relationship to say the least. Also figuring into the film are a quirky sheriff (Barry Bostwick, The Rocky Horror Picture Show) who's dating Ken's nutty mom and Lucy Davis (Shaun of the Dead) as a not-too-annoying a love interest.

The films has a great cast too with solid performances from start to finish, it's a bit quirky from time to time but appropriate for the material which goes right back to the script which is spot-on witty and darkly comedic -  a great blend of genre film-making. The gore leaves a bit to be desired but it's  definitely an entertaining character study of a wounded psyche laced with some sharp dark humor. 

Special features on the disc include the short The Fifth (2007) which inspired the film and stars Sam Lloyd of TV's Scrubs as a an unemployed serial-killer whose nighttime activities put the damper on poker night, fun stuff. We also get a theatrical trailer, an audio commentary and a 'Making of' featurette which includes a brief video interview with executive producer John Landis (American Werewolf in London) who was originally slated to direct the film before dropping it to direct his passion-project Burke and Hare (2010) starring Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg.

Special Features: 
- Audio commentary with co-producer/director Jack Perez and writer/producer Ryan Levine
- Short Film, "The Fifth," That Inspired The Feature (12:36) 16:9
- Making Of Featurette (13:06) 16:9
- Trailer

Verdict: This was quite a fun watch, it's not necessarily what I was expecting but that's not a bad thing either- the unexpected is nice from time to time and especially when it stars the awesome Kevin Corrigan, this is a rental at the very least. 3.5 Outta 5 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Blu-ray Review: BELL BOOK AND CANDLE (1958)


Label: Twilight Time DVD 
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 103 Mins
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p High Definition / 16:9 Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Richard Quine

Synopsis: After teaming memorably in Alfred Hitchcock’s haunting Vertigo, James Stewart and Kim Novak are together again in the whimsical Bell Book and Candle (1958), a spellbinding romantic comedy directed by Richard Quine and based on John Van Druten’s Broadway hit. Stewart plays a New York publisher entranced by a mysteriously bewitching young woman (Novak); mesmerizing supporting performances by the likes of Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, Elsa Lanchester, and Janice Rule lend quirky comic charm to the proceedings. Cinematographer James Wong Howe gives us a glamorous vision of Manhattan, enhanced by George Duning’s sophisticated score.

The Film: The story begins on Christmas Eve and Gillian (Kim Novak, Vertigo) is a modern day witch living in Manhattan. She's the proprietor of a primitive art shop on the ground floor of an apartment building where she lives with her cat Pyewacket. She's a bit bored with her life and longs for true love - something witches are not capable of feeling. The object of her affection is Shepherd (James Stewart, North By Northwest) a book publisher living in the apartment above her, but they are strangers and have never met.

Gillian's nosy aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester, Bride of Frankenstein) lives in the apartment above the book publisher and uses a bit of witchcraft to prompt an introduction between the two by jinxing Shep's telephone. When he pays Gil a visit to use her telephone to call in a repair he overhears the witchy women speak of a nightclub called The Zodiac. Later that night Shepherd attends The Zodiac club with his fiancee Merle (Janice Rule, 3 Women) unaware that the nightclub is actually a nightspot for Manhattan's witch and warlock community. It's here we meet Gillian's brother Nicky (Jack Lemon, Grumpy Old Men) - an effervescent  bongo-playing warlock.

Over drinks we discover that Merle and Gil attended the same college and the two are a bit adversarial, the conversation over drinks is just short of being catty, it's fun stuff. Spurred perhaps by her distatse Merle the yearning witch casts a spell on Shepherd with the assistance of her cat Pyewacket the night before he's too marry Merle which sends him head over heels in love with her - not that one requires the assistance of magic to pine away for Kim Novaks, she's such a stunner, truly an otherworldly beauty and never more mesmerizing that here.

James Stewart as the romantic lead is just what you would expect, a well-meaning rubber-faced straight man in what would be his last romantic lead role. Kim Novak is captivating from start to finish as the slightly bored witch looking for love. Supporting comedic roles from Lanchester and Lemon bring with it much of the films humor as does a too brief appearance from funnyman Ernie Kovacs as the red-nosed author writing an expose on the Manhattan witchcraft scene.

The jazzed-up score from George Dunning is a keeper and James Wong Howe's cinematography looks fantastic, particularly scenes of a snow-covered Manhattan and the wonderfully lit interior scenes of The Zodiac club, great stuff.

Blu-ray: Twilight Time's Blu-ray presentation sourced from a Sony master looks quite fetching  in 1080p. The 16:9 enhanced widescreen (1.85:1) looks fantastic with vibrant colors,  a nice layer of film grain with pleasing fine detail and a crisp sharpness - the images of a snow covered Manhattan are truly mesmerizing as are the scenes at the Zodiac club - James Wong Howe's cinematography is something wonderful here.

The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA also sounds superb, dialogue and the jazzy George Dunning (Picnic) score sound great. The dialogue is crisp and the score sounds truly vibrant, particularly when a jazzed up version of "Stormy Weather" - great stuff.

Special Features: 
- Isolated Score Track 
- "Bewitched, Bothered and Blonde" 
- "Reflections in the Middle of the Night" 
- Original Theatrical Trailer
-  Exclusive 8pg. color booklet featuring extensive Julie Kirgo liner notes and film art

Twilight Time aren't exactly known for their wealth of bonus materials but here we a bit more than the usual beginning with an isolated music score of George Dunning's great jazz-inflected score in 5.1 DTS-HD MA - it's a great score - the isolated score is a Twilight Time signature, they do love a good score.

We also get to featurettes, the first Bewitched, Bothered and Blonde features an audio interview with star Kim Novak speaking of her time on Bell Book and Candle and her relationship with co-star James Stewart whom she clearly adored and director Robert Quine whom it is rumored she was having an affair with during filming. The second featurette Reflections in the Middle of the Night features Novak talking about her next film following Bell Book and Candle,Middle of the Night (1959). Each featurette is comprised of a moderated audio interview with  accompanying footage of the film. Rounding out the features is the original theatrical trailer.

Verdict: Bell Book and Candle is a truly bewitching 50's romantic comedy featuring the fantastic duo of James Stewart and the stunning Kim Novak whom appeared the same year in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo - they are a great pair. The film is an odd marriage of romance and the occult that's a bit dark at times but with just the right amount of fantasy and whimsy - definitely not the usual cult, horror and exploitation fare you read about here at the Mausoleum but this gets a high recommend from me.  Fans of Kim Novak should take not that Twilight Time also have Blu-rays of Pal Joey (1957) and her star-making performance in Picnic (1955) but as with all of the Twilight Time Blu-ray they are limited edition releases of 3,000 only and available exclusively from so get 'em before they're gone. 4 outta 5