Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Blu-ray Review: ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (2006)


Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 90 Minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio with Optional English DH Subtitles
Video: 1080p widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: Jonathan Levine
Cast: Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Whitney Able, Michael Welch, Edwin Hodge, Aaron Himelstein

Jonathan Levine's debut feature film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) has been sitting on a shelf gathering dust for seven-years. In that time we've seen three of his films come to cinema and home video including The Wackness (2008) and Warm Bodies (2013) both of which I enjoyed quite a bit. Now that his first film has finally comes to Blu-ray we will find out, was it worth the wait?  

Teenager Mandy Lane (Amber Heard, Zombieland) has blossomed over the summer break from awkward teen to stunning teen beauty and not without the notice of her classmates. As the film opens a jock named Dylan invites her to his pool party, she agrees to attend but only if her outsider friend Emmet can accompany her, which he does. At the party Dylan clumsily attempts to seduce Mandy but she's just not having it, when Emmet embarrasses him by calling attention to this it pisses off the jock and there's a short-altercation in the pool. Afterward Emmet winds up sulking on the rooftop overlooking the pool when Dylan approaches him, he convinces Dylan that jumping from the roof into the pool below might attract Mandy's attention. Convinced he triumphantly yells "Mandy lane!" before leaping to his death after cracking his skull open on the edge of pool as horrified classmates look on. 

Now nine months later Mandy and Emmet are no longer friends and she's fallen in with the popular crowd, we get a nice mix of catty, Ritalin-snorting whores with body issues, jocks and an affable pothead. When she's invited to spend the weekend at a secluded ranch it's supposed to be a fun time drinking beers and swimming but it's not long before the teens each come to a bloody end. It's a pretty standard slasher set-up, there's not a lot new under the sun here but Levine does manage to squeeze some fun out of well-worn premise.

The music, score and cinematography set a specific tone and atmosphere that is pretty great, the aesthetic landing somewhere between The Virgin Suicides and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, it's hypnotic and some decent tension that slowly builds to a crescendo. So we have some great atmosphere and on top of that we have some decent characters with some depth and pathos, even the jocks and sluts have redeemable qualities, for the most part anyway. The killer's identity isn't really a shocker but the surreal finale is pretty great, this was a lot of fun. It might start off s bit slow, it takes it's time priming the pump before it flips the switch but when it does it pays off wonderfully and the kills are decent, not great. 

So yeah it was worth the wait and this Blu-ray looks a lot better than watching it on YouTube. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) won me over with some great atmosphere and fun characters, it's not at all original but it's a quality slasher and a very confident first film from Jonathan Levine who has already gone on to more acclaim. In my opinion with slashers it's not always about doing something completely new and original, it about just nailing it. 
4 Outta 5 

Blu-ray Review: THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991)


Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: B
Rating: 15 Certificate
Duration: 102 Minutes
Audio: PCM 2.0 Stereo with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Cast: Brandon Quintin Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, AJ Langer, Ving Rhames,
Director: Wes Craven
Tagline: In every neighborhood there is one house that adults whisper about and children cross the street to avoid…

In Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs (1991) we find ourselves in the L.A. ghetto with a young boy named "Fool" (Brandon Quintin Adams, The Sandlot) who lives with his sister Ruby (Kelly Jo Minter, The Lost Boys) and their cancer stricken mother. Times are difficult and Fool and the family are on the cusp of being evicted by their landlords, the Robesons, a very strange couple known as Mommy (Wendy Robie, The Dentist 2) and Daddy (Everett McGill, Silver Bullet). From the outside they appear a pretty straight couple but they're harboring a few shocking secrets, they have a daughter named Alice (A.J. Langer, Escape from L.A.) who is never allowed to leave the house, the neighborhood is full of gossip about what goes inside the home but it's way worse than anyone could have imagined.

A friend of the Fool's sister named Leroy (Ving Rhames, Pulp Fiction) convinces Fool to aide him and his associate Spenser (Jeremy Roberts, The Thirteenth Floor) in robbing the Robeson's home,  Fool needs the money to pay for an operation that could save his mother's life. Spenser dressed as a utility worker gains access to the home, but Mommy is suspicious of him right from the start and both Fool and Leroy worry when Spenser does not reemerge from the home in a timely manner. Soon after Mommy leaves and the two force their way into the home to discover Spenser's corpse in the basement while pale-skinned cannibals imprisoned within the walls gnaw on him. Soon after the Robeson return home and unleash their vicious dog Prince on the two, in the aftermath Leroy is shotgunned to death leaving Fool trapped in the house alone with no way out.

Fool manages to evade capture with the aid of the couple's sympathetic daughter Alice and a hyper-kinetic boy named Roach whose tongue has been removed, unable to speak he can only communicate in moans. Roach lives within the labyrinth of crawlspaces in the walls of the home and is a source of frustration for the twisted duo that has been unable to capture and kill him for years.

This is a weird one with lots of commentary on corrupted sexuality and the distribution of wealth, and it's also laced with some wickedly dark humor. I have given Craven grief for his clunky attempts humor (the keystone cops in Last House on the Left?) but I think he nailed it here, committing to it for the duration of the film, it's not a weird insert that disrupts the flow of the movie, and it feels balanced and suits the tone and theme of the film.

The highlight of the film for me are the characters of Mommy and Daddy, you may recognize this nutty duo from David Lynch's Twin Peaks TV series where they played another bizarre couple, but this is way weirder! Robie as the demented matriarch is unhinged in the best Mommy Dearest sort of way, no more wire hangers to the nth degree, when she hisses "Total spring cleaning!" it's chilling stuff and sort of comical, it's a nicely balanced performance.

Everett McGill is just as creepy, appearing at one point decked out head-to-toe in a leather studded gimp outfit toting a shotgun and screaming "Get you!" on a blood lust rampage, it's the stuff of nightmares. Adolescent star Brandon Quintin Adams does a bang-up job delivering his oftentimes comedic lines with zeal; usually kids in an R-rated horror film annoy me, not this time. AJ Langer and Sean Whalen also turn in decent performances, particularly Whalen who makes the most of a small, quirky role. Re watching this I was surprised just how little screen time he had, next to that frightening gimp suit his performance as Roach is what sticks in my mind. . 

Blu-ray: The 1080p widescreen (1.85:1) transfer done by Universal is very strong with a surprising amount of fine detail and vibrant colors, skin tones look natural and black levels are fairly deep. The elements used for the transfer are in great shape with only very minor instances of speckling, another nice presentation from Arrow Video. The only audio option is an uncompressed PCM 2.0 with optional English SDH subtitles. Dialogue is strong and clear, it's never drown out by the effects and Don Peake (The Hills Have Eyes) score, very nice.

Previously only available as a bare-bones DVD edition it was a treat to get a new set of extras from Arrow Video and High Rising Productions. First up is a new audio commentary moderated by Calum Waddell with star Brandon Quentin Adams. The actor was pretty young when he made the film but does a decent job providing anecdotes about his experiences on the film. It's not an essential commentary but a decent listen for fans.

There are also four featurettes with interviews from Director Wes Craven, actors A.J. Langer and Sean Whalen plus an appreciation by Final Destination creator Jeffrey Reddick. In lieu of a commentary is was nice to hear Craven discuss the true-life origins of the story and dreaming the solution to the script, working with young folks and the ideas and themes found in the film.

Starlet AJ Langers goes into quite a few facets of the film starting with the audition process and how she was excited to work with Wes Craven, whom she remembers quite fondly, and admiring how Wendy Robie immersed herself in the role of the deranged mother. Sean Whalen speaks a bit about crawling around Craven's office on his hand and knees during the audition, the prosthetic fingers and tongue-piece he wore, and a fun anecdote about attending a screening of the film with friends who seemed to be familiar with his character's signature moan.  Final Destination series creator Jeffrey Reddick also offers up an enthusiastic appreciation for the film.

Not included with the "check disc" sent for review are the reversible artwork and collector's booklet with new writings on the film from Brian J. Robb, author of Screams and Nightmares: The Films of Wes Craven - but that's what you'll find with your retail copies. A very nice Blu-ray edition of the film from Arrow Video with some quality extras.

Special Features:
- High Definition digital transfer of the film by Universal Pictures
- Original uncompressed Stereo 2.0 audio
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with star Brandon Quentin Adams, moderated by Calum Waddell
- Fear, Freud and Class Warfare: Director Wes Craven Discusses the Timely Terrors of the People Under the Stairs (24:38)
- Behind Closed Doors: Leading Lady A.J. Langer Remembers The People Under the Stairs (13:38)
- Silent But Deadly: Co-Star Sean Whalen on the People Under the Stairs (14:00)
- Underneath the Floorboards: Jeffrey Reddick, creator of The Final Destination series, recalls the lasting impact of The People Under the Stairs
- Original Trailer (1:29)
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Stephen R. Bissette
- Collectors booklet featuring new writing on the film by Brian J. Robb, author of Screams and Nightmares: The Films of Wes Craven, illustrated with original archive stills

Verdict: Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs (1991) offers up some fun commentary on 90's Bush-era class structure and the deterioration of the family unit wrapped up the very strange and demented happenings at a house in the L.A. ghetto. It's not top tier Craven but its worth a re watch, you just might be surprised how much fun it is. The Blu-ray from Arrow Video looks and sounds terrific with a great set of extras. 3 Outta 5 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Blu-ray Review: NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)

Collector's Edition Blu-ray+DVD Combo

Label: Scream Factory / Shout! Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78;1)
Director: Thom Eberhardt
Cast: Robert Beltran, Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Sharon Farreel, Mary Wornov, Geoffrey Lewis
Tagline: It Was the Last Thing on Earth They Ever Expected.

Night of the Comet (1984) at it's core pretty much boils down to The Last Man of Earth (1963) by way of Valley Girl (1983) starring the super-cute duo of Catherine Mary Stewart (The Last Starfighter)  and Kelli Maroney (Chopping Mall) as teenage sisters who wake up the morning after the Earthis buzzed by a strange comet to discover that pretty much everyone else have been reduced to a pile of red dust. Oh boy, and the few remaining survivors have been infected by the effects of the comet and are becoming violent zombified maniacs that our totally awesome valley girls must face-off against to survive. If that brief synopsis sounds a bit goofy let me assure you that it really is but it's a lot of cheesy 80's fun. 

Maroney and Stewart do a great job as the sisters, they come across as believable with the expected quarreling and worrying for each other, plus they're super cute, the relationship is the centerpiece of the movie and what drives it. As a kid watching it on TV I was totally in love with these girls, they kicked my burgeoning hormones into top gear of you know what I mean, boner city. The older sister Reggie works at the local cinema (the famous El Ray) and her film projectionist boyfriend Larry (Michael Bowen) deals prints of obscure sci-fi films out the back door of the theater. I loved how Reggie is obsessed with keeping the high scores on the Tempest video game in the theater lobby, it's such an 80's thing, I myself had a similar addiction to the Galaga arcade game at the local five and dime. Younger sister Sam is a bratty blond cutey, decked out in a cheerleader outfit, there's just nothing I didn't like about that. 

During their end-of-the-world travels the sisters encounter another survivor at the local radio station, a young truck driver named Hector (Robert Bertrand, Eating Raoul). After a rough start the trio team-up and the sisters argue over who has dibs on the seemingly last man on Earth. Not too long after they encounter a group of scientist from a secret underground base and it seems they've been rescued, but of course the scientist have ulterior motives and want the teens blood to save their own skins, no surprise there, once I spotted sinister character actor Geoffrey Lewis (Salem's Lot) I knew something was wrong. One of the scientist named Audrey (Mary Warnov, The House of the Devil) is more sympathetic to the teens survival, while she doesn't get a lot of screen time she makes the most it, her scene with Hector at the radio station is memorably dark and poignant. 

The writing from director/writer Thom Eberhardt (Captain Ron) is very good, this is a funny script that doesn't stoop to ridiculous levels of camp, it's littered with fun Easter eggs for genre fans. The setting is great, the eerily empty L.A. streets with a red-tinted sky definitely sets a tone, the effects are very lo-fi but they work. Other than some cool zombie make-up effects from David B. Miller there's not a lot of special effects work here which helps not date the film, but there are some truly awful 8-bit light show in the sky effects as the comet passes which is vintage 80's cheese, just awful, also be on the lookout for some LA window washers in one shot who shouldn't be there.

Maybe the effects aren't dated but pretty much everything else about the film screams early 80's with no shortage of period fashions, neon lighting, the Tempest video game, those old Diet Pepsi cans and of course Kelli Maroney's wonderful valley girl affectations, it was a real blast from the past, if you're nostalgic for the 80's this should satisfy all your cravings and then some. 

The score from composer David Richard Campbell (All The Right Moves) is weirdly awkward, and while it's certainly 80's is pretty cheesy. Worse yet are the synth-pop tunes that pop up from time to time, the only respite comes in the form of Tami Holbrook's very decent cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" which blasts during an apocalyptic shopping spree at, where else, the mall. 

It's a goofy sci-fi film that comes with a lot of nostalgia for this reviewer, it was plastered on the cable networks throughout the 80's and I have fond memories of it, and while I can appreciate how this might fall a bit flat for a younger, modern audience I think this one still offers a lot of bang for the buck and Scream Factory's Blu-ray+DVD combo has some great features. 

Blu-ray:  Night of the Comet (1984) comes to Blu-ray from Shout! Factory imprint Scream Factory with a 1080p hi-def transfer in (1.78:1) widescreen and like a lot of cheapies shot on shitty 1980's film stock it's not exactly overwhelming, colors are nicely saturated and look accurate but can be soft from time to time and lacking the clarity and richness of a modern presentation, but that's to be expected and Scream Factory have done a fine job with what they had to work with, there's a nice layer of film grain intact and while the source material does show some minor dirt, speckling and grit throughout it's very watchable and a step-up from the previous DVD. 

Audio options include DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with optional English SDH subtitles. The 5.1 offers some very cosmetic immersion from time to time, it's front heavy and did not blow me away, I actually preferred the 2.0. Whichever option you choose the dialogue comes through strong alongside the effects and (awful) score, no distortions, a very clean presentation. 

Scream Factory have done a great job with the extras on this edition with three audio commentaries! We have brand-new commentaries Writer/Director Thom Eberhardt, Stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart and Production Designer John Muto all moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures. The commentaries with Eberhardt and stars Maroney and Stewart are fantastic and full of anecdotal behind-the-scenes info, fun stuff.  The commentary with Muto is a bit more on the technical side and pretty interesting and recommended to anyone with an more than a passing interest in what happens behind the scenes on a low budget film set. 

There's a handful of newly produced featurettes with video interviews with stars  Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Beltran and Special Make-Up Effects Creator David B. Miller adding up to just over 32 minutes, it's fun stuff. 

Bertrand speaks about taking the role following Eating Raoul (1986) and recommending Warnov to the producers. He didn't much care for initially but loved the idea that the last guy on Earth was Chicano, he speaks about making changes to the character and fighting to maintain the integrity of the role.

Maroney and Stewart are still cuties today and offer up some fun memories of the shoot and working together to form a real camaraderie on set, what it was like to be a working actor in LA in the 80's, early morning and xmas shoots, the reception of the film and it's cult status in the age of the internet. 

Special Make-Up Effects Creator David B. Miller recalls what a great year he was having at the time following his work on Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video with make-up master Rick Baker and working on this b-movie out of his one car garage, this was his first solo outing as a special effects make-up artist. 

Finishing up the extras we have a theatrical trailer and photo galleries with over 100 images from the film, a slipcover with new artwork from David Levine, who's done some great artwork for Scream Factory including Funhouse (1981) and The Burning (1981), a reversible sleeve of artwork with Levine's and the original theatrical artwork plus a standard-def DVD disc featuring the same set of extras. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Thom Eberhardt
- Audio Commentary with Stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart
- Audio Commentary with Production Designer John Muto
- Valley Girls At The End Of The World – Interviews with Stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart (14:59)
- The Last Man On Earth? – An Interview with Actor Robert Beltran (12:32)
- Curse of the Comet – An Interview with Special Make-Up Effects Creator David B. Miller (6:32)
- Film Photo Gallery (3:27)  

- Behind the Scenes Gallery (5:02) 
- Theatrical Trailer (1:14)

Verdict: Night of the Comet (1984) is a fun sci-fi mash-up thrown into the neon-blender of the early 80's which riffs on quite a few films including Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978). It's not a horror film but it has elements that will appeal to fans of horror, I would place this firmly in-between Chopping Mall (1986) and Terrorvision (1986) as a goofy 80's science fiction entry, a nice slice of 80's cheese and Scream Factory's new Blu-ray is stuffed with some great extras, a recommend. 3 Outta 5 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Blu-ray Review: BODY BAGS (1993)

BODY BAGS (1993)  

Collector's Edition Blu-ray+DVD

Label: Shout! Factory / Scream factory 

Region Code: A
MPAA Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 95 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Directors: John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper
Cast: Stacey Keach, Mark Hamill, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Deborah Harry, John Agar, David Naughton, Sheena Easton, Roger Corman, Tobe Hooper

Directors John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper direct the TV 
horror anthology Body Bags (1993) which started out as sort of Showtime's answer to HBO's anthology Tales from the Crypt with director John Carpenter acting as the macabre host, a creepy character known as the Coroner who intros/outros each segment a very cornball sense of the macabre 

First up we have "The Gas Station", a nice young woman named Anne (Alex Datcher) arrives to work at a 24-7 gas station in a rural area just outside Haddonfield, Illinois, horror fans will no doubt recognize this as the home of Michael Myers from John Carpenter's Halloween (1978). The departing gas station attendant (Robert Carradine, Revenge of the Nerds) warns her to be aware that a murderous escaped mental patient is on the lose in the area, poor Anne is already a bundle of nerves and only  gets more paranoid as the night wears on.  Throughout the night she encounters various late-night patrons ranging from a weirdo vagrant, a total creeper and celebratory boozers, but locked away inside the booth she feels relatively safe, until she accidentally locks herself outta the booth. This segments has a bunch of fun cameos including Buck Flowers (They Live) who seems to never have passed up the chance to play a bum ever, directors Wes Craven (Last House on the Left) and Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) plus David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London) and Peter Jason (The Driver), it's stacked pretty heavy and Wes Craven is scary good as a creeper, what a weirdo! Once the killer is revealed the tension which has been somewhat steadily mounting explodes onscreen as he tries to ax his way inside the booth through the bay window, it's a very striking scene. The performances from Datcher and the antagonist are quite excellent, one a frantic victim the other a cold-blooded murder, fun stuff. 

Then we're onto "Hair" starring Stacey Keach (The Ninth Configuration) as aging businessman Richard Colberts who is super self conscious about his thinning hair, he's totally consumed with finding a cure for it. It's a very light-hearted and goofy entry. He tries all those late night TV hair-loss miracle cures, even the ridiculous spray on hair stuff. When a new TV ad promises a miracle cure for his thinning hair he ends up at the office of Dr. Lock (David Warner, Tron) who offers an experimental treatment which much to his excitement produces a flowing head of hair overnight, a ridiculously amount in fact. Like pretty much everything in life, something that seems to good to be true usually is an there are weird side effects to the treatment, hair is now growing where it should not and his skin begins to blister and boil. When he returns to Dr. Locks office the extraterrestrial truth about his treatment is reveled. Stacey Keach's insecure and neurotic performance is pitch-perfect for the segment but it's a pretty damn goofy segment.

The third and final segment "Eye" is directed by Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce) and feature Luke Sywalker himself Mark Hamill as Brent Mathews, a Major League Baseball player who loses an eye in a car accident which sends jagged glass shards right into his eye socket  His career threatened he submits to  revolutionary new eye transplant which comes with a hitch, he begins to have vicious nightmares and visions of raping and murdering young women, even his own wife. When he confronts the doc (John Agar, Tarantula) who performed the surgery it is revealed that the donor of the miracle eye came from a recently executed necrophiliac murder of women, ouch. As the urges to rape and murder intensify can he resist the urge to kill his loving wife? It's a nail-biter of a segment and it's pretty gruesome, the Skywalker rough sex-scene is pretty disturbing stuff, might not wanna watch that one with the kids or they'll never look at Star Wars the same way again! A very effective entry and pretty gruesome, I would say it's the last best thing Hooper's directed outside of the remake of Toolbox Murders (2004) in the past. Watch for the Roger Corman cameo! 

Now the wrap around pieces with Carpenter as The Coroner are a guilty pleasure, they are ghastly awful and a total rip on the Crypt Keeper but that's sort of what I love about it. Maybe not the most quality anthology ever put to film but it's plenty macabre, a bit goofy and there's a lot of fun cameos, a very entertaining watch

Blu-ray: Body Bags (1993) for the first time ever is presented in the widescreen (1.78.1) aspect ratio from Shout! Factory horror imprint Scream Factory with an AVC encode on 1080p Blu-ray. It looks surprisingly good for an early 90's cable TV movie with a fine layer of film grain, strong saturated colors and the darker scenes nice and deep. We have the option of an English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 with optional English subtitles, occasionally some effects and the John Carpenter score do bleed into the surround but it's just decent, not outstanding. 

Extras include a the Unzipping Body Bags (20:07) featurette featuring John Carpenter and his wife Producer Sandy King alongside actors Robert Carradine and Stacy Keach. we get some information about the project coming together, the fact that Clive Barker turned down an offer to appear in a segment and the truth behind the production. For years I have read that Showtime anted an anthology series similar to HBO's Tales from the Crypt and that they got cold feet at the last minute and pulled the plug, but to hear John Carpenter tell it the project was always intended as a stand alone cable film, and while there was a proposal for a TV series it was he who turned it down noting it was underfunded, it's a very cool featurette. 

There are also audio commentaries recorded for each segment including the wrap-around. Director John Carpenter is joined by actor Robert Carradine for "Gas Station" and Stacy Keach on "Hair", both are more interviews being performed by the director than a scene specific anecdotal track, but we do get some of that as well. Carpenter inquires about Carradine's early career working with John Wayne on The Cowboys (1972) and Walter Hill's The Long Riders (1980). He probes Keach to talk about his favorite Shakespearean roles and the two, who are also musicians, talk about music. Unfortunately we do not get a Tobe Hooper commentary on "Eye" but Producer Sandy King steps in to talk about the segment and is joined by special features producer Justin Beahm. all in all some decent commentaries but not on par with the director's essential commentaries for Escape from New York (1981) or The Thing (1982), it's pretty breezy but a decent listen. 

Finishing up the extras on Scream Factory's 2-disc Collector's Edition is a trailer for the film. This release also comes with a standard-def DVD of the feature film mirroring the same features as the Blu-ray plus slipcover featuring the artwork of Justin Osbourne who also created  the new artwork for Scream Factory's  editions of John Carpenter's The Fog (1980) and Prince of Darkness (1987). This is the first time I recall one of the Collector's Edition's not having the option of  reversible artwork. If my memory serves me correctly I believe this has something to do with the rights holder of the film so detesting the original artwork that it was stipulated that it not be included on the new edition, not sure about that one though so make of it what you will. 

Special Features: 
- Unzipping Body Bags (20:07)
- Segment Specific Audio Commentaries from John Carpenter, producer Sandy King, actors Stacey Keach and Robert Carradine
- Trailer (1:20)

Verdict: I have a real warm and fuzzy soft spot for horror anthologies having grown-up on a steady diet of Amicus omnibus chillers, and while Body Bags (1993) may not be on par with Creepshow (1982) or Trick 'r Treat (2007) it's definitely a ton of macabre fun, recommended.  
3 Outta 5 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Blu-ray Review: MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE (1993)

Release Date: November 19th 2013
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 85 Minutes 
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital Surround EX 2.0, Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: William Lustig
Cast: Robert Davi, Caitlin Dulany, Gretchen Becker, Paul Gleason, Doug Savant, Robert Z'DAr
The Wrong Arm of the Law Is Back!

In the third and final installment of the Maniac Cop series the Maniac Cop Matt Cordell (Robert Z'Dar, Beastmaster) is resurrected by a voodoo priest named Houngan (Julius Harris, Super Fly) for nefarious reasons. Now, what exactly those reasons were I could not say at this time, even after just having watched the movie, but trust me and just go with it, through whatever contrived means necessary the Maniac Cop is back on the beat with vengeance!

This time out Cordell is preoccupied with NYPD Officer Kate Sullivan (Gretchen Becker) who has earned the nickname "Maniac Kate" from fellow police officers for her brutality against the vermin on the street, one night while responding to a robbery in progress she arrives at a pharmacy where a junkie (a fun Robert Earl Haley, Watchmen) is holding a store clerk hostage, there's a double cross and in the aftermath the store clerk is dead with a bullet to the barin and Kate lays brain-dead in the hospital.

Two unscrupulous tabloid video journalist capture the entire incident on film but edit in a way to make it appear the Officer Sullivan murdered the clerk in cold-blood, the junkie survives and threatens legal action against the city. Crooked politicians fearing legal action conspire with the attending physicians at the hospital to take Kate off life support, but the Maniac Cop has other plans for Maniac Kate. 

This strange third entry in the Maniac Cop series  brings back Robert Davi (Goonies) as the hard-nosed Det. McKinney who teams-up with an attractive physician Dr. Susan Fowler (Caitlin Dulany, Project X) to probe the accusations against Officer Sullivan, it's a pretty forced romantic angle, ugh. The journalist characters are pretty annoying and when the Maniac Cop catches up to them, in one of the most contrived sequences of the film, their deaths are pretty lame, but we do get some fun kills with Maniac Cop 3, at one point the movie detours into a hospital horror entry along the lines of X-Ray (1983) which is quite a bit of fun. At the hospital Maniac Cop turns one doc's brains to jelly with a pair of defibrillator paddles and another is strapped to a gurney and x-rayed to death It's pretty awesome but the strange thing is that these two docs are played by Paul Gleason (Breakfast Club) and Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), they just show up outta nowhere and are gone just as quickly, strange cameos but pretty awesome. 

Maniac Cop 2 was a pretty fantastic action-horror hybrid and some of what we get here is outstanding but you can definitely tell which sequences were directed by William Lustig and which were directed by producer Joel Soisson, he just doesn't have the action-chops of Lustig but he gives it quite a shot with the crazy police cruiser vs. ambulance car chase at the end of the movie, it's completely fucking nuts and the man-on-fire stunt-work rivals what we saw with Maniac Cop 2. 

Blu-ray: Blue Underground bring Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence comes to 1080p Blu-ray with an AVC encode in it's original widescreen (2.35:1) aspect ratio with a
 brand-new 4K High Definition transfer from the original uncensored negative. The hi-def image looks excellent with strong saturated colors, deep blacks and some decent depth and fine detail, a very strong presentation all around. 

The 2-disc edition come with choice of English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound EX and Dolby Surround 2.0. with optional subtitles. The DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 does a great job with the Joel Goldsmith score and effects making effective use of the surrounds, the action sequences particularly benefit from the surround mix, very nice. 

Extras on the set include the excellent Wrong Arm Of The Law - The Making Of MANIAC COP 3 (25:05) featurette featuring director William Lustig, writer Larry Cohen and producer turned director Joel Soisson speaking about the movies troubled production which resulted in Lustig walking off set. It's very candid as the two sides speak about the problematic shoot. Actors Robert Davi, Robert Z’dar, Gretchen Becker, Caitlyn Delany and stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos also chime in throughout the doc, it's a great extra and gives you some interesting insight into just what can go wrong with a small budget production. 

We also get a selection of deleted and extended scenes, a theatrical trailer, a poster and still gallery and the original synopsis for the film from writer Larry Cohen which is quite different than what ended up onscreen. This 2-disc set also
 comes with a standard-def DVD mirroring the same  extras and with a cool embossed slipcover, it should also be noted that his is the Unrated Version, not he R-rated cut of the film. 

Special Features:

- Wrong Arm Of The Law - The Making Of MANIAC COP 3 (25:05)
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (10:20)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:48)
- Poster and Still Gallery
- Original Synopsis
- Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems

Verdict: Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1993) is a pretty ridiculous action-horror hybrid with a weird Bride of Frankenstein subplot, while it's definitely the weakest of the series it's still quite a bit of fun and Blue Underground have done a fantastic job bringing it to Blu-ray. If you can shut your brain off and just enjoy it for the b-movie mess that it is there's some fun to be had. With that said, not a recommend unless you're a huge fan of the series or completest, but this would be a fun Friday night rental with a few brews. Cannot say I would look forward to a continuation of the series but I wouldn't mind if a young, hungry director with vision resurrected Maniac Cop for a new generation of horror fans. 2.5 Outta 5 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Blu-ray Review: MANIAC COP 2 (1990)

MANIAC COP 2 (1990)
Collector's Edition Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack

Label: Blue Underground
Release Date: November 19th 2013
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: R
Duration: 87 Minutes 
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: William Lustig
Cast: Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon, Robert Z'Dar, Leo Rossi
Tagline: You Have The Right To Remain Silent... FOREVER!

Matt Cordell the Maniac Cop returns from his watery grave yet again in this action-packed sequel from director William Lustig (Maniac) and writer Larry Cohen (The Stuff, Q the Winged Serpent). Having somehow survived being impaled through the chest at the end of Maniac Cop (1989) he back on the beat and patrolling the streets of NYC with a vengeance. His first order of business is to interrupt a robbery in progress at a bodega where a junkie with the gnarliest teeth you've ever seen is holding a shotgun to the face of the cashier, when he finds that the cash drawer is empty the junkie directs the cashier to start scratching off lottery tickets looking for an instant winner, the cashier is surprised when one turns out to be a 5K winner, and that's when Cordell arrives on scene. The shopkeeper cannot believe this fortune turns of events, he plans to pocket that winning ticket for himself but then the Maniac Cop blows im away to the surprise of the disbelieving junkie. As cop cars arrive the undead cop disappears leaving the armed junkie trying to explain that one of their own perpetrated the murder, but the NYC cops blast him to pieces. It's a great opener and the film rarely let's up from there, this is quite the sweet slice of brutality.

Also returning from the last film are officers Jack Forrest (Bruce Campbell, Mindwarp) and Theresa Mallory (Laurene Landon, The Stuff), whom after passing a psych evaluation are placed back on active duty by Commissioner Doyle (Michael Lerner, Barton Fink). Forrest is happy just to be back on the force but Mallory is convinced that Cordell will return again and causes quite a fuss about it, and she's right. For my tastes Campbell and Landon exit the film a bit prematurely, the Maniac Cop definitely holds a grudge, but in their place are cop psychologist Susan Riley (Claudia Christian, The Hidden) and hard-boiled Detective McKinney (Robert Davi, The Goonies). 

Minor spoiler alert, Forrest is taken out by Cordell when the Maniac Cop takes his patented knife-baton and stabs him through the neck, it's pretty brutal but the character deserved better, I wanted more Campbell! Afterward Cordell steals a vintage police cruiser and chases after Mallory and Riley, there's a great chase sequence with bare tire rims sending sparks flying. In the aftermath Maniac Cop snaps Mallory's neck but only after she attacks Cordell with chainsaw! With Mallory out of the way Cordell handcuffs the psychiatrist to the steering wheel of the car before sending her careening out of control down a busy street, the action sequences here are fantastic, with a bit of a larger budget it's great fun to see what Lustig throws up onscreen! 

There's an weird subplot with a serial killer named Turkell (Leo Rossi, Halloween II) who's killing strippers around NYC, Maniac Cop shows up during one of his attacks and the two become fast friends, with the serial killer leading Cordell back to his pad for some bonding between killers, it's the weirdest onscreen team-up ever, but somehow it works, gotta hand it to Larry Cohen for a wacky but awesome script on this one. When Turkell lands in a jail cell soon after he tells the cops that his buddy Cordell is coming to bust him out and he ain't just blowing smoke, Maniac Cop arrives and completely destroys the police station, it's a bloody massacre. Oodles of bloodshed and broken glass, Lustig seemed to really enjoy breaking glass in this film, and setting people on fire, but more on that in a minute.

Somehow all the major players end up back at Sing Sing Prison so that Cordell can have his revenge on the death row inmates who fucked-up his face and killed him in prison years earlier. It's during this killing spree that Maniac Cop is bombarded with Molotov cocktails and engulfed in flames, but that does not deter him in the slightest - he just keeps killing the three inmates who mutilated him! The man-on-fire stunt work during the last 10 minutes of this film are so worth the price of admission on their own, it's awesome! Manic Cop 2 is a bad-ass revenger, and even when it gets a bit silly it never get's too silly for it's own good, I loved it. 

Blu-ray: Blue Underground have gone all out for Maniac Cop 2 (1990) on Blu-ray with a brand-new 4K hi-def transfer from the original camera negative, it's fantastic. Color reproduction is excellent, the darker scenes look pretty crisp and there's some nice depth, clarity and fine detail is strong, no complaints with the video in any way whatsoever, there's even a nice layer of natural film grain with no harmful noise reduction, this is outstanding.

The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is pretty active, nice use of the surrounds to create an immersive experience, Jay Chattaways creepy and atmospheric score sounds great, fans of the score will enjoy the isolated music track on the disc. 

We get some great extras beginning with an Audio Commentary with Director William Lustig and Filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, plus a making-of documentary featuring director William Lustig, writer Larry Cohen, actors Robert Davi, Leo Rossi, Robert Z'Dar, Michael Lerner, Claudia Christian and composer Jay Chattaway. Davi is great fun as he talks about being hoodwinked into taking on the role by Lustig, while Lerner laughs about playing an Irishman. Director Lustig and actress Claudia Christian sorta take a few jabs at each other during their interviews, neither seem enamored with the other. During the Cinefamily Q+A from back in 2012 Lustig let's loose a ton of great anecdotes about Larry Cohen, Joe Spinell, Leo Rossi and Robert Z'Dar plus the great crew who worked on the film and the possibility of a sequel/reboot. 

Finishing-up the special features we have trailers, a deleted scene featuring Sam Raimi (Evil Dead), a gallery of posters and pics plus the aforementioned isolated music track and it's D-Box Motion Code enabled, it's a great set of extras. There's the added bonus of a standard-def DVD disc mirroring the features and supplemental materials of the Blu-ray, and an embossed slipcover, this is a very nice edition from Blue Underground. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Director William Lustig and Filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn
- Back On The Beat - The Making Of MANIAC COP 2 (46:42)
- Cinefamily Q+A with Director William Lustig (28:36)
- Deleted Scene (1:31)
- Theatrical Trailers
- Poster and Still Gallery
- Isolated Music Track (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0)
- Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems

Verdict: Maniac Cop 2 (1990) is a pretty kick-ass revenger with supernatural elements, we get some fantastic action set-pieces, brutal deaths and a fantastic finale that's engulfed in flames. it's action-packed from start to finish and a shit-ton of fun, a very worthy sequel to Maniac Cop (1989), this is recommended with extreme prejudice. When the topic of 90's horror comes around I don't think Maniac Cop 2 gets it's due, this was a blast. 3 Outta 5 

Monday, November 4, 2013


Label: Mya Communications
Region Code: 0 NTSC
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Duration: 96 Minutes 
Audio: English, Italian Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 with optional English Subtitles
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Sergio Martino
Cast: Edwige Fenech, Ivan Rassimov, George Hilton, Conchita Airoldi

Julie Ward (Edwige Fenech, Strip Nude for Your Killer) is the gorgeous and affection-starved wife of a Austrian diplomat who is left on her own way more often then a woman of her caliber should be. She's a striking woman with the most alluring eyes, actress Edwige Fenich is a haunted beauty in every film and never more so than in Sergio Martino's classic whodunit Blade of the Ripper (1971). That there's a razor-wielding sex maniac is on the lose mutilating women is yet another reason not to leave her alone, plus her pervy former lover Jean (Ivan Rassimov, Planet of the Vampires) pursues her relentlessly, and then there's the fact that she's fallen in love with her friend Carol's handsome cousin George (George Hilton, The Case of the Bloody Iris). When her romance with George is uncovered she is blackmailed by a stranger who might just be the sex maniac, when she confides this turn of events to Carol (Conchita Airoldi, Torso) her friend offers to meet the blackmailer in a public perk on her behalf, but the hand-off does not go as planned and she's razor-slashed to death in the park, it's a fantastically shot scenario, a true slice of Giallo stalk and slash at it's finest.

The camera shots and angles are wonderfully executed, there's a shower scene slashing that's pure Hitchcockian perfection, on par with anything Argento has put onscreen. Yet another memorable shot features a violent sex scene during a torrential downpour which elevates eroticism to high art, it's hard to believe this was Sergio Martino's first Giallo, it's a masterful watch with no shortage of onscreen beauties, we have Fenech of course, plus Conchita Airoldi, both women have a magnetic sexuality. Nudity pours from the screen, the opening shots near the airport begin with a flash of breast and ends in sudden death, plus women wrestling nude at a swinging party and several tasty nude bathing scenes, there's definitely no shortage of erotic-laced violence here. 

I found the cast in Blade of the Ripper (1971) to be quite good, there's not a bad performance in the bunch. Edwige is a true Euro-beauty and a sympathetic enough victim, plus George Hilton as her playboy lover is quite affable. Ivan Rassimov as the violent ex-lover is quite menacing in the sadistic role, he's perfectly cast with his sinister grin, he truly made my skin crawl in every scene, and the trippy flashbacks to his relationship with Julie are quite strange. 

Screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (Torso) offers many twists and turns along the way to the end, a red-herring laced whodunit, you definitely won't see this ending sneak up on you, that's for certain, this one is right up there with Sidney Lumet's shocker Deathtrap (1982)! A stylish Giallo laced with pulse-pounding eroticism, sexualized violence and dizzying cinematography, it just doesn't get much better than this, a top-tier thriller from start to finish. 

DVD: Blade of the Ripper (1971) alternately knows as The strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh receives a very attractive anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) interlaced transfer from Mya Communications on DVD. Sourced from the original 35mm negative it's nearly pristine with only very minor instances of white speckling, colors saturation is deep and skin tones are accurate, while there's some crush in the darker scenes it's nothing too alarming. This would look stunning on 1080p Blu-ray with a nice transfer, a very attractive film. 

Audio options include choice of Italian or English presented in Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 with optional English subtitles. The Italian audio presentation is more robust, the score in punchier and the dialogue more present. It should also be noted the English audio drops at out for a few seconds at the 9 minute mark and again at 66 minutes, the Italian audio does not. Nora Orlandi's haunting score sounds fantastic with some nice jazzy psychedelic touches, it's one of my favorite Giallo soundtracks. Quentin Tarantino was quite a fan and even re-used some of it in Kill Bill Vol.2 (2004). 

Extras are limited to the original Italian language theatrical trailer and a poster and still gallery  unfortunately we do not get the half hour making of doc "Fear Behind the Door" from the 2005 No Shame DVD. 

Special Features:
- 16:9 Original Trailer (3:03) 
- Photo and Poster Gallery (4:03) 

Verdict: I have only just scratched the surface of Sergio Martino's filmography with viewings of Torso (1973) and now Blade of the Ripper (1971), now that I have plundered the depths of the Italian masters Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci I am quite excited to jump into the films of Sergio Martino. A stylish Giallo entry, gorgeously shot and drenched in eroticism,violence and dizzying whodunit twists. On par with Deep Red (1975) and Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971), this is one slice of Euro-sleaze that should not be missed, an essential slice of Euro-cult cinema. 4 Outta 5 

SCORPION RELEASING Street Date Update 2013/2014

Here's a quick round-up of titles coming from SCORPION RELEASING in late 2013 and January 2014 - lots of fun and nutty stuff including a James Cobourn starring TV mini-series THE DAIN CURSE (1978) and the Leonard Nimoy TV movie BAFFLED (1973). Pre-orders at the bottom of the page.

Street Date: 11/19/13

JAN MICHAEL VINCENT, CYBILL SHEPHERD, MARTIN LANDAU and RAYMOND BURR stars in this sci-fi terror from the director of WITHOUT WARNING! Two young children and an adult in a small town have an encounter with an alien spaceship. 25 years later the children are reunited as adults in the same town which is now beset by strange cattle mutilations. Matters become worse when the cattle mutilations are joined by human murders and mutilations. Neville Brand and Vincent Schiavelli co-stars. Now see the film from a brand new HD master from the original camera negatives and an on camera with director Greydon Clark plus a fun fact and trivia segment

DAY OF THE ANIMALS (1977) Blu-ray 
Street Date:  11/26/13

A group of hikers are victims of an ironic twist of fate when wildlife reigns terror over them in this fang-baring suspense film. The hikers have convened in the woods of Northern California for a two-week camping trip. Soon, they are attacked by wild animals that have gone insane due to the depletion of the ozone layer. Now see this cult classic from a brand new HD master in 2.35:1 16x9 widescreen, from the original IP, for the first time in its proper presentation anywhere in the world! This title will be available in both BR and SD.

LURKERS (1988) / DIE SISTER, DIE! (1972) 
Street Date: 11/26/13

Its a American Grindhouse double bill! Both for the first time digitally remastered from the original vault elements!

First up, LURKERS! From cult director Roberta Findlay (SNUFF) comes a psychological thriller about a beautiful, young New York cellist, whose demonic childhood nightmares have returned, plunging her into a horrific series of events that threaten her success, her sanity...and her life. Now see the horror from a brand new 16x9 master from the original IP first time anywhere!

Next up, DIE SISTER DIE!. A man (Jack Ging-SSSSSSS) hires a nurse (Antoinette Bower - PROM NIGHT) to care for his ailing but nasty and shrewish sister. What he really intends to do, however, is to convince the nurse to join him in a plot to kill her! Watch this film in its fist official/authorized DVD release, from a brand new master from the original negatives, first time anywhere!
Street Date: 1/7/14

A man comes into possession of an ancient Aztec doll. However, the doll is possessed by an evil spirit, which takes over his body. This one gets a brand new 16x9 Master 

THE BEACH GIRLS (1982) Blu-ray 
Street Date: 1/7/14

It's a nonstop vacation celebration with The Beach Girls. The beautiful Sarah heads for the beach to spend a few weeks quietly working on her tan and relaxing peacefully at her Uncle Carl's palatial beach house in Malibu. But when her rowdy girlfriends Ginger and Ducky show up unannounced and ready to party, Uncle Carl's serene beach retreat turns into a loud, rip-roaring celebration that would make even a Roman orgy pale by comparison. Celebrate summer and sun with a slew of frolicking beach bunnies and some good old-fashioned outrageous hot-tubbin' fun! Now in a brand new HD master from the original camera negatives! This will be available on BluRay and DVD.
PAPER MASK (1990) 
Street Date: 1/7/14

THE DAIN CURSE (1978) 2-Disc DVD 
Street Date: 1/14/2014

BAFFLED! (1973) 
Street Date: 1/21/2014,