Monday, April 21, 2014

DVD Review: JUNK (2012)

JUNK (2014) 
Label: Breaking Glass Pictures
Duration: 104 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamoprhic Widescreen 
Director: Kevin Hamedani
Cast: Kevin Hamedani, Ramon Isao, Brett Davern

Indie film makers Kaveh (Kevin Hamedaniwere) and Raul (Ramon Isao) were once the best of friends but after a falling out are estranged. Kaveh's girlfriend has dumped him and Raul is off doing his own things at Columbia University, a runion doesn't seem likely but when their action-comedy ISLAMA-RAMA 2: MOUSTAFA LIVES is accepted at the Outsider Film Festival in Seattle they're forced to patch things up in order to promote their movie and pitch a script to legendary b-movie producer Yukio Tai (James Hong, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA). 


Let me just start off by saying I have not see ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION so I came into this with some hesitation. I wouldn't say I am anti-weed comedy but the marijuana leaf on the cover sort of put me on guard and went in expecting straight-up stoner stupidity... and there was a bit of that but there's a lot more to it. I loved the interactions of the reunited friends. Kaveh's a bit of an emotional mess and a stoner who's definitely not over his ex quite yet. Raul is in a different place, happily in a relationship but he's a bit embarrassed by his involvement with ISLAMA-RAMA 2. Oppositely Kaveh's just excited to be at a festival promoting  one of his films and he thinks his friend has become a bit of a snob after being enrolled in an ivy league writing program. 

The duo have a great rapport which comes of very natural and playful with some moments of personal pain and humor - pretty sure these guys are probably longtime friends in reality and it shows onscreen. The film is also a send-up of indie filmmaking, the festival circuit and pitching movie ideas and that's the part I enjoyed the most. They're goal is to pitch a pro-life zombie western to schlock producer Yukio Tai but they have competition from another pair of arthouse filmmakers who have a weird Jodorowsky meets Kafka idea of their own. Along they way we get to see visualizations of their pitch for a CHUCKY sequel which is hilarious, I love the movie-within-a-movie moments.


we also have a fun cast of side characters including a festival liaison who throughout the film transforms from straight laced super-Christian into a sex-crazed hipster. There's an ego maniacal actor who betrays his friend in a very cutting way and a host of bodyguards who are a bit upset when the duo attempt to sneak into the producers penthouse, which doesn't go quite as planned. My favorite parts were the clips from ISLAMA-RAMA 2 and the CHUCKY sequel and the extreme lengths indie filmmakers will go to pitch their ideas. These guys obviously love genre film and it shows throughout, a very smart and honestly entertaining watch. . 

The DVD from Breaking Glass Pictures looks pretty decent - the image isn't the most stable or consistent but for a low-budget production it has a nice sheen to it. The stereo audio is pretty clean and the OK GO performances sound very nice. There's a feature length commentary from the filmmakers, a brief making of featurette and nearly an hour of deleted and extended scene plus trailers. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary by writer/director Kevin Hamedani, co-writer/actor Ramon Isao, and actor Brett Davern
- Deleted Scenes (52:47)
- Making of Junk featurette (8:51)
- 2 OK Go music Videos (6:24) 

- Trailer (2:38) 
- Breaking Glass Trailers

Verdict: An entertaining satire of low-budget fimmaking/writing with some fun movie-within-a-movie moments and if that's not enough there's also a very small appearance by TROLL 2 star George Hardy! 3 Outta 5 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

DVD Review: OZPLOITATION TRAILER EXPLOSION (1970-1986)


OZPLOITATION TRAILER EXPLOSION (1970-1986)

Label: Intervision Picture Corp
Region Code: 0
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 165 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Anamoprohic Widescreen


Everything about this 165 minute slab of Aussie exploitation screams b-movie awesomeness! The period of Australian cinema from the early seventies on through to the mid eighties was very special time indeed, a time when the flea pit American cinemas were crammed with  hi-octane Aussie exports dripping with gratuitous sex, violence and horror - everything I required as a growing boy perusing the VHS store shelves for b-movie goodies.

Re watching these I was reminded of just how many awesome ozploitation gems I have in my collection and just how many more I need to get my grubby little hands on. I don't watch a ton of trailer collections but once in awhile when doing chores around the house I'll toss on one of the 42ND STREET FOREVER discs and keep it on in the background with the commentary track running - something I don't have to pay too much attention to but can enjoy for minutes at a time. Unfortunately this disc doesn't have a commentary track or any other features but it is crammed with a ton of ridiculous trailers. This would make a great companion piece to Mark Hartley's hugely entertaining NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD documentary and a fun background video at your next kegger.

The quality of the sixty-five trailers vary in quality but are generally quite good ranging from what appear to be VHS transfers to anamorphic presentations. Not sure about you guys but I do enjoy a bit of grit and grain to enhance the seedy grindhouse aesthetic of these trailer collections. The menu divides the trailer viewing experience into three categories: sex, horror and action... or the play-all option for the truly depraved. Plant yourself in your seat, pop open and beer and prepare yourself for nearly three hours of unhinged and unadulterated mayhem from the land down under. I wish there were a commentary option on this disc of vintage Aussie trailers but I give it a recommend even if it's not essential viewing. 3 Outta 5

DVD Review: BIG BAD WOLVES (2013)

BIG BAD WOLVES (2013)

Label: Magnet Releasing
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Duration: 110 Minutes 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Audio: Hebrew 5.1 Dolby Digital with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Directors: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Cast: Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad, Dov Glickman, Menashe Noy, Rami, Dvir Bebedek

BIG BAD WOLVES (2013) comes by way of the demented duo of writer/directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado who first popped up on TV with the film RABIES (2010), a nasty slice of cult cinema shaded with a streak of dark humor that's fully intact with their newest endeavor.


This ones a kidnapping thriller that touches on some pretty dark subject matter - a small city is plagues by a child killer who abducts, rapes and decapitates young school girls. The victims bodies are staged minus their heads with their toenails removed, the unthinkable crimes are the stuff of stomach churning nightmares. The prime suspect is a quiet religious studies teacher named Dror (Rotem Keinan) but there's very little evidence against him other than suspicion a desperate Det. Mickey (Lior Ashkenazi) who attempts to beat a confession from the teacher. The incident is captured on video and posted on YouTube and in the aftermath Mickey is suspended from the police department while Dror loses his teaching job when parents protest the employment of a suspected child murderer. 

Enter 
Gidi (Tzahi Grad) the father of the murderers most recent victims, a young girl found mutilated at the park. When the identity of the teacher is revealed through the YouTube video the vengeful father plots to abduct and torture the suspected murderer until he confesses to the horrific crime. However, the vigilante detective has similar plans and the two uncomfortably join forces, kidnapping the Dror and strapping him to a chair in a basement where they begin to administer a series of gruesome tortures in an effort to squeeze a confession from the teacher. 

They really put the thumb screws to poor Dror, the torture sequences had me squirming - this is some uncomfortable stuff. These sequences are unsettling but are punctuated by some dark humor. One minute were witnessing a gruesome nail-through-the-knee when suddenly we're baking a cake in the kitchen. At one point the young girl's grandfather unexpectedly shows up and at first tries to dissuade his son from carrying out his revenge before taking part in the proceedings with a certain glee. While the scent of Dror's burning wafts through the air h comments that the odor makes him crave the taste of beef. Yup, this comic kidnapping thriller definitely has some very quirky moments of humor peppered throughout, sorta a mash-up of Kim Jee-Woon's I SAW THE DEVIL (2010) by way of the Coen Bros. FARGO (1996), 


The DVD from Magnet Releasing presents the film in it's original scope aspect ratio  with strong color reproduction, accurate skin tones and strong black levels. The Hebrew 5.1 Dolby Digital audio options strong and well-balanced. Extras on the disc include a 16-minute making of doc in Hebrew with English subtitles and the standard issue AXS TV featurette plus selection of trailers from Magnet.

Verdict: BIG BAD WOLVES has a superb cast, the cinematography is quite nice and a great score from composer Moshe Edery. Director/writers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado are definitely a film making duo to watch. This is a razor-sharp kidnapping-thriller with a wicked sense of humor that will have you wondering right up till the end if this guys a child murderer or not. Not sure what their next project might be but they will have a segment on the upcoming ABCs OF DEATH  2 anthology film. 4 Outta 5

DVD Review: HERE COMES THE DEVIL (2012)

HERE COMES THE DEVIL (2012) 

Label: Magnet Releasing 
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 98 Minutes
Audio: Spanish and English 5.1 Dolby Digital with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director:  Adrian Garcia Bogliano 
Cast: Francisco Barreiro and Laura Caro, Alan Martinez, Michele Garcia and Barbara Perrin Rivemar, Jessica Iris and Dana Dorel

A young couple are on a day trip in Baja, California when their pre-teen kidSara (Michele Garcia) and Adofo (Alan Martinez) disappear on what turns out to be a cursed mountain. The parents argue and lay blame on each other but thankfully the kids are found the next day and returned to the parents seemingly unharmed... but there's somethings not quite right about the kids afterward, there's something sinister about them. 

Director Adrian Garcia Bogliano grabbed my attention from the first shot of two attractive young women engaged in a strenuous scissoring-session -  it's hot stuff. Surprisingly there's a strong sexual element to the movie with multiple moments of onscreen sex and sexuality - some of it straight-up and some of it more subtle and darker. Scenes of finger-banging, scissoring and pierced nipples pepper the film as do more disturbing implications of incest.

The mother (Laura Caro) is the first to notice that something is wrong with the children. Concerned for their well-being she takes her daughter to a doctor and a psychologist - the doc tells her that her daughter's hymen is missing and the head-shrink says that the children may have suffered a traumatic sexual encounter on the mountain. Out of their minds with the idea that the children may have been sexually assaulted the parents investigate the involvement of a dim-witted weirdo named Lucio (David Cabezud) who frequents the mountain. When they discover that Lucio has a pair of their daughter's period-stained panties in his possession you can imagine the encounter tuns dark. I will say that the gore throughout is not overwhelming but this scene specifically is tense and very brutal.

Afterward the strange occurrences continue and while the father chooses to ignore it altogether mom discovers that the kids have been skipping school and returning to the mountain, but to what end? As mom sleuths the mystery she discovers the horrifying truth about her children and the dark forces at play. 


There's some decent side characters including the dim-witted Lucio and the creepy gas station attendant who provides a dark mythology about the cursed mountain with his own tragic connections to the events. There's also police officer who assists with the kids recovery but whom also suspects the parents in the  death of Lucio, this cop has one of the most magnificent mustaches of all time, it's quite a soup-strainer. 

The supernatural element become more pronounced as the movie rolls along which includes the babysitter recounting a surreal and trippy nightmare scenario which occurred  while she watched the kids one night. It's a hallucinatory encounter involving lost time, incestuous overtones and the existence of Satan which ends with her revealing two large footprint-shaped bruises across her chest and barbel-pierced breasts - by far my favorite sequence of the movie. 

Verdict: Here Comes the Devil (2012) has an effective creepy kids vibe and unsettling supernatural elements plus shocking moments of sex and carnage. This gets a definite recommend to horror fans who can tolerate a bit of a slow build-up. 3.5 Outta 5 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

DVD Review: THE REFLECTING SKIN (1990)

THE REFLECTING SKIN (1990) 

Label: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Duration: 96 Minutes
Rating:  R
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Cooper, Duncan Fraser, Lindsay Duncan
Director: Philip Ridley 
Tagline: Sometimes terrible things happen quite naturally.

Seth is an impressionable and disturbed eight-year-old growing up in the rural America of the 1950, a warped David Lynchian-Norman Rockwell nightmare, an American Gothic tale populated by murderous greasers and an eccentric one-eyed sheriff with a prosthetic arm. The kind of place where a bored young boys resort to exploding frogs for fun and a child's friends are murdered one by one until his only companion is the discarded corpse of a fetus kept in a box under his bed. The sort of place where the widow down the road is certainly a vampire, where a domineering wife drives her husband to to commit suicide in a gasoline fueled dust devil. Prepare yourself for a melancholic nightmare set to endless fields of grain and big sky.

For years director Phillip Ridley haunting debut film The Reflecting Skin (1990) was unavailable on DVD and sat in the Miramax vault gathering dust. Echo Bridge Home Entertainment licensed a number of titles from Weinstein's and now we have it on DVD for the first time. Unfortunately the transfer is a fullframe port of what would appear to be a VHS master or Laserdisc with the grain smeared away. The image is undefined, drab and plagued by artifacting. The Dolby Digital stereo audio is soft and the levels fluctuate wildly, it's just not a pretty sight.  

This is a gorgeously shot film and for it to languish on such a poor DVD is quite a crime, this might not be a lost classic but it's certainly a neglected slice of 90's cinema deserving of a new HD transfer. Fans of  disturbed youth cinema like Butcher Boy (1997) or The Other (1972) definitely need to check this one out, it's a kindred spirit. 3.5 Outta 5 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blu-ray Review: MR. JONES (2013)

MR. JONES (2013) 

Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Region Code: A
Duration: 84 Minutes
Rating: PG-13
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD with Optional English, Spanish Subtitles
Cast: Jon Foster, Sarah Jones, Mark Steger, Faran Tahir, Stanley B. Herman, Ethan Sawyer, Jordan Byrne 
Director: Karl Mueller

A young couple Scott (Jon Foster) and Penny (Sarah Jones) move into a remote cabin-in-the-woods to escape society and work on a nature documentary - sounds like a fun time. After weeks of not being very productive they discover strange folk-art type sculptures deep in the woods which turn out to be the product of a Banksy-type reclusive artists. The sculptures made of wood, bone and metal are creepy in a Blair Witch Project sort of way. The artist is a bit creepy too, only emerging from his decrepit shack at night with an oil lantern to set-up his creepy art installations. Realizing they have a rare opportunity before them the couple decide to make a documentary about the eccentric artists but the endeavor plunges them straight into a nightmarish world of madness. 

Sounds like pretty decent set-up and it is. The couple played by Foster and Jones come across as realistic, when she finds out he's off his meds her reaction seems authentic. So we have a cute and realistic couple, a gorgeous setting in the wilderness and some creepy sculptures plus strange things start to occur - like strange noises in the night and masses birds crashing into the cabin in the dead of night - tension start to rise and they get a bit freaked out. Things intensify when despite what common sense would dictate they enter the shack of Mr. Jones and mess around with his creepy sculptures and then things get really weird as reality and nightmares become entwined and the confused couple are seemingly trapped in a nightmare reality and pursued by multiple doppelgangers. 

There's definitely some decent atmosphere and Lovecraftian creepiness on display here, plus the camerawork is quite nice considering this is a bizarre variation on the found footage genre with a weird twist which I won't spoil. A promising start with a decent build-up but the overdrawn third act and an unsatisfying strange finale failed to deliver the evil-in-the-woods goods. 

The Blu-ray from Anchor Bay looks quite nice and had an effective TrueHD 5.1 track but no special features whatsoever and I sort of wanted to hear a commentary on this one. The movie comes out on Blu-ray and DVD May 6th with a limited theatrical run in L.A. beginning May 2nd. 2 Outta 5 


ARROW VIDEO SUMMER TITLES: SISTERS, THE 'BURBS, VINCENT PRICE, PORKY'S AND MORE!



UK distributor Arrow Video have quite a summer line-up so far beginning with a Blu-ray release of Brian De Palma's seminal psycho-thriller SISTERS (1973) starring Margot Kiddo. The label has been illing it with a long string of De Palma releases this past year and I am pleased to see this streak continue. Vncent Price also continues to get the deluxe treatment with Blu-rays of THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973), THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) and both of the classic DR. PHIBES films on a 2-disc set. Scream Factory released a sweet 4-disc Vincent Price Collection last year on Blu-ray but this is a first-time on Blu-ray release for PHIBES sequel and my favorite price feature THEATRE OF BLOOD!

Then we have the eighties actioner DELTA FORCE (1986) with bad-asses Chick Norris and Lee Marvin, Philip Mora's creature feature THE BEAST WITHIN (1982) and comedy cult-classics PORKY's (1982) and THE 'BURBS (1986) - many of these are also available as Steelbook editions!

Checkout the artwork, extras and pre-orders below. Which is your most anticipated Arrow Video titles of the Summer? 



SISTERS (1973) 

Release Date: April 28th  2014
Format: Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD
Starring: Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles Durning
Directed by: Brian De Palma

Synopsis: WHAT THE DEVIL HATH JOINED TOGETHER LET NO MAN CUT ASUNDER!

Before 1973, Brian De Palma was impossible to pigeonhole: he made comedies, political satires and openly experimental pieces. But with Sisters (originally released as Blood Sisters in the UK) he turned to the suspense thriller and discovered his natural home - and a style that would lead directly to later masterpieces like Carrie, Dressed to Kill and Blow Out.

When Danielle (Margot Kidder) meets potential boyfriend Philip (Lisle Wilson) after appearing on the TV show Peeping Toms (a nod to the Michael Powell shocker), she invites him home, only to attract the ire of her twin sister Dominique. From across the courtyard, Rear Window style, reporter Grace (Jennifer Salt) witnesses Philip being murdered by one of the twins - but the police find no body or any physical evidence. Naturally, Grace takes things into her own hands, and discovers more about the sisters’ relationship than she bargained for…

Strongly influenced by Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski, and with a score by the great Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane, Psycho), Sisters was the first true “Brian De Palma” film.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Brand new High Definition digital transfer
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
- Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- What the Devil Hath Joined Together: Brian De Palma’s Sisters – A visual essay by author Justin Humphreys
- All new interviews with co-writer Louisa Rose, actress Jennifer Salt, editor Paul Hirsch and unit manager Jeffrey Hayes
- The De Palma Digest – a film-by-film guide to the director’s career by critic Mike Sutton
- Archive audio interview with star William Finley (excerpt)
- Theatrical Trailer
- Gallery of Sisters promotional material from around the world
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women) as well as -Brian De Palma’s original 1973 Village Voice essay on working with composer Bernard Herrmann and a contemporary interview with De Palma on making Sisters, and the 1966 Life magazine article that inspired the film.

DETAILS: 

Region: B/2
Rating: 15
Cat No: FCD919
Duration: 93 mins
Language: English
Subtitles: English SDH
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: Mono
Colour: Colour




THEATRE OF BLOOD (1973) 

Release Date: May 5th  2014
Format: Blu-ray
Starring: Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry
Directed by: Douglas Hickox

Synopsis: VINCENT PRICE HAS RESERVED A SEAT FOR YOU IN THE “THEATRE OF BLOOD”



It’s never been tougher to be a critic than in THEATRE OF BLOOD, one of the greatest horror comedies of all time. Vincent Price gives a career best performance as Edward Lionhart, a veteran Shakespearean actor who, when passed over for the coveted Critic’s Circle award for Best Actor takes deadly revenge on the critics who snubbed him.

With one of the greatest ensemble casts ever assembled for a horror film including Diana Rigg, Harry Andrews, Jack Hawkins and Arthur Lowe, THEATRE OF BLOOD is an dementedly funny and deliciously macabre cult classic.




SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Limited Edition SteelBook packaging
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM
- Original uncompressed mono PCM audio
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with The League of Gentlemen, Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith
- A Priceless Potboiler: Victoria Price discusses Theatre of Blood
- A Fearful Thespian: an interview with David Del Valle
- Staged Reaction: an interview with star Madeleine Smith
- A Harmony for Horror: an interview with composer Michael J. Lewis
-Original Trailer
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by film critic Cleaver Patterson and a reproduction of original press book material, illustrated with original archive stills

DETAILS:
Region: B
Rating: 15
Duration: 104 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: Mono





THE DELTA FORCE (1986) 

Release Date: May 5th 2014
Format: Blu-ray
Starring: Chuck Norris, Lee Marvin, Martin Balsam
Directed by: Menahem Golan

Synopsis: THE HIJACK....THE ORDEAL....THE RESCUE..
.
Cannon Films are known for producing some of the most enjoyable and eccentric action flicks of the ’80s – but The Delta Force, which boasts scenes of Chuck Norris flying through the air on a missile-mounted motorbike, surely stands as one of their most entertaining efforts.

American Travel Ways Flight 282 has been hijacked by a group of terrorists claiming to represent the New World Revolutionary Organisation. The Delta Force, under the leadership of Captain Scott McCoy (Chuck Norris), is called in to handle the situation. Still smarting from an ill-fated hostage rescue mission several years prior, this elite squad of special forces are determined to succeed in their mission this time – and assert the might of the American military once and for all.

Drawing on a number of true-life terrorist incidents for inspiration, most notably the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, The Delta Force is a non-stop thrill ride which culminates in one of the most explosive action flick finales of all time. With Chuck Norris on hand to provide the muscle and gravelly-voiced Lee Marvin (The Killers) in his last ever screen role, The Delta Force is one mission you can’t afford not to accept.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM<
- Original uncompressed 2.0 PCM stereo Audio
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Genre Hijackers: Mark Hartley on Cannon Films – The filmmaker discusses the explosive legacy of Golan and Globus
- Chuck Norris Scribe: An Interview with writer James Bruner
- May The Delta Force Be With You! - An interview with Commandant Christian Prouteau, founder of the French GIGN and instructor of the first Delta Force
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author John Kenneth Muir and a contemporary article on Cannon Films, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

DETAILS: 

Region: B
Rating: 15
Cat No: FCD921
Duration: 129 mins
Language: English
Subtitles: English SDH
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: 2.0 PCM Stereo
Colour: Colour

THE BEAST WITHIN (1982) 

Release Date: May 12th 2014
Format: Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD
Starring: Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens
Directed by: Philippe Mora

Synopsis: KILL ME, PLEASE KILL ME… BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

Late one full moonlit night, a woman stands alone on the roadside waiting for her husband to return to their broken-down car. All of a sudden she’s pounced upon, dragged into the dark woods and savaged by a barely-glimpsed assailant. But this is only the beginning of the terror in The Beast Within…

Seventeen years on, and the devoted parents of teenager Michael are at their wits’ end. Their son lies in a hospital bed, his body wracked by a mysterious illness. With doctors unable to offer any diagnosis, Michael’s desperate parents are forced to seek out the answer themselves – by digging up traumatic past events and confronting the true nature of their son’s conception.

The Beast Within stands apart from other creature features due to its decidedly grim tone – the scenes in which the monster violates his victims proved too strong for some critics – and standout transformation sequence to rival the likes of An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. Add to that strong lead performances from Paul Clemens and Ronny Cox (Deliverance, RoboCop), alongside a stunning score by the late, great Les Baxter, and you have yourself one absolute beast of a monster movie!

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM - available uncut in the UK for the first time!
- Original stereo 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray) 
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing 
- New audio commentary with director Philippe Mora moderated by author Calum Waddell 
- I Was a Teenage Cicada: The Making of The Beast Within - An in-depth look back at Philippe Mora’s creature feature classic featuring new interviews with writer Tom Holland, actors Paul Clemens, John Dennis Johnston, Katherine Moffat and effects wizard Garry Elmendorf 
- Storyboarding The Beast – An all-new animated featurette in which Philippe Mora discusses the film’s journey from storyboard to screen 
- Image Gallery – Including rare production stills from the private collection of star Paul Clemens plus new photographs of various special effects props 
- Original Trailer 
- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach 
- Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Lee Gambin, author of Massacred by Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film plus a contemporary article on the film’s production, all illustrated with original stills and artwork.

Region: 2/B
Rating: 18
Cat No: FCD922
Duration: 98 mins
Language: English
Subtitles: English SDH
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Stereo 2.0
Colour: Colour

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961) 

Release Date: May19th  2014
Format: Blu-ray
Starring: Vincent Price, Barbara Steele, John Kerr
Directed by: Roger Corman

Synopsis: THE GREATEST TERROR TALE EVER TOLD!

A horse-drawn carriage pulls up on a deserted beach. A sombre figure dismounts and gazes up towards his destination – a foreboding cliff-top castle perched high above the crashing waves. Thus the perfect Gothic scene is set for Pit and the Pendulum, the second of Roger Corman’s celebrated Poe adaptations once again starring the ever-reliable Vincent Price (The Fall of the House of Usher, Theatre of Blood) alongside the bewitching Barbara Steele (Black Sunday).

Having learned of the sudden death of his sister Elizabeth (Steele), Francis Barnard (John Kerr) sets out to the castle of his brother-in-law, Nicholas Medina, to uncover the cause of her untimely demise. A distraught, grief-stricken Nicholas (Price) can offer only the vaguest explanations as to Elizabeth’s death – at first citing “something in her blood”, but later asserting that she quite literally “died of fright”. What sort of unspeakable horrors are buried within the walls of this castle that could cause one’s heart to stop so? With Francis determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, the terrible truth will not stay buried for long.

Right from its brooding kaleidoscopic opening titles, Pit and Pendulum draws you into its world of cobwebs, secret passageways and dusty suits of armour. All the necessary elements are present and correct and, along with one of Vincent Price’s most tortured performances, make Pit and the Pendulum every inch the Gothic masterpiece.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM
- Original uncompressed Mono PCM Audio
- Optional Isolated Music and Effects Track
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with director and producer Roger Corman
- Audio commentary by critic Tim Lucas
- Behind the Swinging Blade – A new documentary on the making of The Pit and the Pendulum featuring Roger Corman, star Barbara Steele, Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria Price and more!
- Added TV Sequence – Shot in 1968 to pad out the film for the longer TV time slot, this scene features star Luana Anders
- An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe with Vincent Price [52 mins] – Price reads a selection of Poe’s classic stories before a live audience, including The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum (with optional English SDH)
- Original Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Gothic Horror author Jonathan Rigby, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

DETAILS: 

Region: B
Rating: 12
Duration: 81
Language: English
Subtitles: English SDH
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Mono PCM
Colour: Colour

PORKY'S (1982) 

Release Date: May 26th 2014
Format: Blu-ray
Starring: Dan Monahan, Mark Herrier, Wyatt Knight
Directed by: Bob Clark

Synopsis: YOU’LL BE GLAD YOU CAME!

Long before American Pie and Superbad came the original and best sex comedy. A firm favourite of teen movie fans, Porky’s introduced audiences to Kim Cattrall (Police Academy, Big Trouble in Little China) and made an absolute killing at the box-office.

It’s 1954 and the sex-obsessed boys of Angel Beach High School are looking to get laid. Porky’s is their destination, local nightclub and whorehouse. Only its redneck owner has other plans, as does his sheriff brother. Will Meat, Mickey, Tommy and the other guys in the gang get their own back? And will the barely-endowed Pee Wee finally lose his virginity?

Having established his credentials as one of Canada’s top horror filmmakers with the likes of Black Christmas and Dead of Night, Bob Clark took an unexpected turn into the world of the teenage sex comedy and inadvertently made the most successful Canadian motion picture of all time, an honor it still holds today.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Limited Edition SteelBook packaging
- New High Definition digital transfer
- Newly created exclusive content
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film, archive content and more!
- More to be announced closer to the release date

DETAILS:
Region: B
THE COMPLETE DR. PHIBES (1971-1972) 

Release Date: June 9th 2014

Synopsis: “Nine killed her, nine shall die, nine eternities in doom!”

Horror legend Vincent Price (The Fall of the House of Usher, Theatre of Blood) is Dr. Phibes, former musician, current murderer. Seeking revenge from the medical staff that left his wife for dead, he sets about knocking them off one-by-one in a series of elaborate murders based upon a Ten Plagues of Egypt. Death by bats, by boils, by blood and more await the nurse and surgeons who failed to save the life of the beloved Victoria Regina Phibes!

A camp classic, The Abominable Dr. Phibes sets itself apart from the seventies horror crowd with its knowing humour and art deco sets, and also prefigures the Saw movies with its increasingly fiendish set of murder devices.

Pairing the original film with sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Complete Dr. Phibes provides viewers with a double diabolical dose of macabre thrills and black comedy.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
- New High Definition digital transfer
- Newly created exclusive content
- Deluxe Edition Collector’s box featuring original artwork
- 100-page Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film, archive content and more!
- More to be announced closer to the release date

DETAILS:
Region: B


THE 'BURBS (1989) 

Release Date: June 23rd 2014
Format: Blu-ray
Starring: Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher
Directed by: Joe Dante

Synopsis: HE’S A MAN OF PEACE IN A SAVAGE LAND… SUBURBIA.

The films of director Joe Dante have taken us to some strange places – a mysterious Chinatown antique store in Gremlins; a secluded resort populated by werewolves in The Howling; even deep inside the human body in Innerspace. But now he takes us to the strangest place of all – surburbia!

Family man Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) is looking forward to a week of putting his feet up at
home in the quiet, leafy cul-de-sac of Mayfield Place. But his plans are scuppered by the arrival of new next-door neighbours, The Klopeks, whose behaviour and habits are more than just a little kooky. But things go from kooky to downright sinister when local old boy Walter disappears, leading Ray and his buddies to suspect their new neighbours of killing and eating him! Sure, the Klopeks are a strange bunch what with their digging up the backyard in the middle of the night – but they’re not devil-worshipping cannibal killers… are they?

If you’re looking for a knowing slice of tongue-in-cheek terror then look no further than The ’Burbs. A standout horror comedy from a director who has given us more than his fair share of fun frighteners, The ’Burbs assembles a superb cast including Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher and Corey Feldman in a tall tale of small-town terror. You’ll never look at those eccentric neighbours in the same way again!


SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Limited Edition SteelBook packaging
- New High Definition digital transfer
- Newly created exclusive content
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film, archive content and more!
- More to be announced closer to the release date

DETAILS:

Region B

Blu-ray Review: THE KILLERS (1964)

THE KILLERS (1964) 
Label: Arrow Films
Region Code: B
Rating: 18 Certificate
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English 2.0 LPCM Mono with Optional English  SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p  Fullscreen (1.33:1) and Widescreen (1.85:1)
Cast: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes, Clu Gulager, Claude Akins, Norman Fell, Ronald Reagan
Director: Don Siegel


A pair of hired guns walk into a school for the deaf and blind and rough-up the receptionist before walking into a classroom and gunning down the shop teacher Johnny North (John Cassavetes, Rosemary's Baby) in a spray of gunfire. Afterward the hitmen Charlie (Lee Marvin, The Big Red One) Lee (Clu Gulager, Vic) reflect on the lucrative job and begin to wonder about the peculiarities of the hit. Why did it pay so well and why did Johnny not even attempt to run - it just seems a bit odd.  The assassins decide there must be more to it and set about to uncover what turns out to be a twisted web deceit involving mob boss Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan) and his double-crossing dame Sheila (Angie Dickinson, Dressed To Kill) plus a million dollars in cold cash from a heist.

Directed by Don Siegel (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) The Killers is a gritty noir-styled thriller starring the bad-ass Lee Marvin as a stone-cold assassin joined by his younger partner played by b-movie legend Clu Gulager (Return of the Living Dead). Marvin is his usual tough as nails self while Gulager is fun as the health-obsessed scene stealer. They're a great duo and watching them it's not hard to image Quentin Tarantino watching this and dreaming up Vincent and Jules from Pulp Fiction. It was a blast to see ex-president Ronald Reagan as a women-slapping baddie here in his last onscreen role before entering politics and Angie Dickinson as his double-crossing dame is pretty cute. Add John Cassevetes to any production and he just classes it up, we get nothing less with race car driver Johnny North, a skilled driver who falls for the wrong girl and winds-up in an awful mess. 


Aside from the leads we have a few side characters along for the ride, there's Johnny's longtime mechanic (Claude Akins, Rio Bravo) and mobster Mickey Farmer played by character actor Norman Fell (Bullitt)  whom I mostly associate as Mr. Roper from TV sitcom Three's Company. Mickey is memorably interrogated by the pair of assassins while taking a sphitz at the health club. A great watch with a strong cast of characters and performers, hard to believe this was filmed as a TV movie, some of the violence is pretty shocking even today. 

Blu-ray: The Killers (1964) looks gorgeous in 1080 from Arrow Video with a new HD transfer courtesy of Universal Pictures. We have the option of viewing the film in it's original TV aspect ratio or the cinematic widescreen (1.85:1) option. The television version offers more image on both the top and bottom as it was cropped for projection in the theaters, originally filmed as the first-ever made-for-TV film it eventually ended up in cinema when it proved to be too violent for prime time. A nice layer of film grain with some fine texturing, the colors are strong and black levels are decent. We can see some very minor print damage but this is a very pleasant HD presentation. 



Audio chores are handled by an English 2.0 LPCM Mono track with Optional English  SDH Subtitles. The mono presentation is pretty flat but the very cool score provided by Henry Mancini and John Williams sounds just great, a wonderful brassy score with a lot of bongo drums. 

A nice selection of extras from Arrow including an interview with New York Times bestselling writer Marc Eliot, author of ‘Ronald Reagan: The Hollywood Years who  talks about Reagan the actor and his place in Hollywood and how the ex-President felt about playing a baddie in his last onscreen role. I thoroughly enjoyed the interview with Dwayne Epstein, author of ‘Lee Marvin: Point Blank’ who speaks about  Marvin's time on set and his place in Hollywood during the filming plus some great anecdotes about pranks he pulled and his consumption of vodka on set. The last of a trio of video extras is a vintage interview with the director from 1984 discussing his style of film making. Lastly we have a 40 pg. booklet, reversible artwork and a gallery of rare behind-the-scenes images. 

A nice set of interviews that give some interesting insights into the making of the film - surprised there wasn't an interview with co-star Clu Gulager or Angie Dickinson - would have greatly appreciated input from actors who are still alive and kicking.This is a region-B locked Blu-ray. 

Special Features:
- Reagan Kills: interview with New York Times bestselling writer Marc Eliot, author of ‘Ronald Reagan: The Hollywood Years’ (20:45)
- Screen Killer: interview with Dwayne Epstein, author of ‘Lee Marvin: Point Blank’ (30:45)
- Archive interview with Don Siegel (1984) from the French television series ‘Cinéma Cinémas’ (10:36)
- Gallery of rare behind-the-scenes images
- Reversible sleeve featuring the original poster and new artwork by Nathanael Marsh
- 40 pg. Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mike Sutton, extracts from Don Siegel’s autobiography and contemporary reviews, illustrated with original lobby cards


Verdict: The Killers (1964) is a top notch noir-styled thriller with a great cast that moves along

swiftly with some hard-boiled crime elements, plenty of double-crossing and great shocker of an ending. Worth a watch and glad to finally get this one under my belt, an unexpected treat. 3.5 Outta 5 




Sunday, April 13, 2014

Blu-ray Review: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (LIMITED EDITION)

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (1986) 
Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: B/0
Rating: 18 Cert.
Duration: 101 mins
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: 2.0 Stereo PCM with Optional English SDH Subtitles

Cast: Dennis Hopper, Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson, Lou Perryman, Chris Douridas
Director: Tobe Hooper

A decade after the original film director Tobe Hooper resurrected the terror classic with an offbeat sequel infused with pitch black humor and outrageous gore gags. Now thirteen years after the events of that fateful night in 1973 the Sawyer clan have traded-in the rural farmhouse for a labyrinthine underground maze beneath a run down amusement park. They're traded in carving-up 
hippies for eviscerating yuppies and patriarch Drayton Sawyer tours Texas in a lunch truck winning chili competitions. The secret to his prize-winning chili is the prime meat, of course! 

As the adventure begins a pair of douche-nozzle yuppies are en route to Dallas for a weekend of debauchery when a pickup truck pulls up next to them, they're stunned when Leatherface wielding a chainsaw attacks the car while puppeteering a desiccated corpse. Were already off to a phenomenal start  with the opening scene setting the pace with black humor and terrific gore gags as the driver loses half his face to the saw. 


As it turns out the yuppies were live on-air with a local radio DJ named Stretch (Caroline Williams) during the encounter and the horrifying incident was caught on audio tape.  A former Texas Ranger named Lefty (Dennis Hopper, Mad Dog Morgan) arrives on scene to investigate the bizarre deaths. Lefty's the uncle of Sally and Franklin from the first movie and he's on a quest to avenge their deaths. The audio recording comes to his attention and the Ranger doesn't so much team-up with the DJ as use her as bait to attract the attention of the sadistic cannibals by having her replay the broadcast on air. Fearing the tape will lead to their discovery Leatherface and his 'Nam obsessed brother Chop Top (Bill Moseley) arrive at the radio station and terrorize the DJ who's clearly in over her head. 


Leatherface's dead-skin mask in this film may just be my favorite incarnation of the chainsaw wielding maniac. Chop Top is one of my favorite characters from any movie, a bizarre skittish nut who picks away at his scalp with bent coat hanger before eating the tasty bits of flesh. He's one of the most quotable characters in any horror film and after Otis from The Devil's Rejects is one of Moseley's most iconic creations onscreen, definitely a signature performance. You cannot watch this movie and not appreciate the demented performance Jim Siedow as the demented Drayton Sawyer, the cantankerous and eccentric patriarch of the flesh eating clan, his dialogue and delivery are creepily side-splitting and he perfectly embodies the tone and spirit of the production. 


At the station Leatherface and Chop Top terrorize Stretch and when her producer L.G. returns to the station he gets a hammer to the skull after discovering Chop Top raining the vinyl archives. Somehow Stretch is able to use her charm coerce the love-struck Leatherface into letting her live and soon the duo leave with L.G. corpse in their pickup.Lefty and Stretch follow them to their underground lair beneath a condemned amusement park and what they find is a nightmare carnival of macabre weirdness. 


Dennis Hopper was fresh off David Lynch's Blue Velvet and his character here is just as unhinged and strange as Frank, or maybe at this time Hopper was just a nut in every movie, this was the same year as Rivers Edge. Obsessed with revenging the death of his nephew Lefty enters the underground lair with no less than three chainsaw at his disposal - prepare yourself for the glory of dueling chainsaws! Hats off to the production designers for the surreal atmosphere and lighting of these underground sets, it definitely creates a tone. 


The film has received criticism for straying so far from the original in terms of tone and pitch but I love this damn thing to death. It's straight-up demented from start to finish with my favorite sequence being the assault on the radio station as they torment Stretch. You wanna see strange, how about Leatherface mock-fucking her with his chainsaw spraying a slurry of shaved ice and Big Red soda cover her, a surreal sexual nightmare. Caroline Williams (Contracted) screams her damn head off throughout this nutty film, one of the most memorable scream queen performances in my opinion. Hooper re enacts the infamous dinner scene from the first film here and it's a nightmare scenario that's more effective and creepy than the original in my opinion.


While the first original is a notoriously bloodless shocker the sequel  is dripping with grue thanks to the gore-master Tom Savini and his crew. When L.G. is brought back to the Sawyer kitchen they flay the skin from his legs and chest with an electric carving knife before peeling off his face and placing the dead-skin mask onto a hysterical Stretch. It's an over-the-top sequel that just layers on the excess and over-acting and I love it for it. My only objections with the movie are some pacing issues and a weak score but they make up for it with the inclusion of The Cramps classic "Goo Goo Muck". 


Blu-ray: Arrow's treatment of Tobe Hooper's satirical sequel to the original gets nothing less that the deluxe treatment using the same HD master supervised by cinematographer Richard Kooris with some additional restoration to remove additional dirt and debris giving this edition a very slight bump over the MGM Blu-ray. The colors are strong with some nice contrast levels and a nice layer of film grain which during some scenes is quite coarse to be honest but I love it. All the gory bits look fantastic with the hi-def bumbp. 


Audio chores are handled with an very capable English LPCM Stereo track with optional English SDH subtitles. There's some nice depth to the crisp stereo presentation - the uncompressed audio really punches it up a bit. 

Arrow's release carries over all the MGM extras with a host of  new supplements courtesy of Red Shirt Pictures, High Rising Productions and Nucleus Films. Carry overs begin with two audio commentaries, the first from director Tobe Hooper moderated by David Gregory and a second commentary with stars Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and special-effects legend Tom Savini, moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures. Also ported from the previous Blu-ray is the definitive retrospective doc It Runs in the Family and the alternate opening sequence and deleted scenes - one featuring Joe Bob Briggs from MonsterVision and some of Tom Savini's excised gore effects! 

Exclusive to Arrow's edition are the Still Feelin’ the Buzz video interview with horror expert Stephen Thrower produced by Nucleus Films. The noted author who speaks for about a half-hour on the challenges Hooper faced in making a sequel to what he considers a near perfect film and pointing out the changes in tone and hyper-reality of the sequel. 


Another new extras Cutting Moment with Bob Elmore is a video interview with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 stuntman Bob Elmore who played Leatherface in the sequelas he recounts what appears to have been a grueling experience lugging around a seventy-five pound chainsaw in the Texas heat,  

A second disc features two early film the director, we have silent comedy The Heisters (1964) and his debut feature film Eggshells (1969), a weird hippie-centric slice of art house student film making. Eggshells benefits from an audio commentary from the director and Louis Black. I cannot say I loved either of these but they are available for the first-time on home video ever and I do appreciate the inclusion as they're both interesting glimpses into Hooper's pre-TCM career.  Additionally there's a 20 plus minute interview with Hooper conducted by High Rising Production's Calum Waddell with the director looking back on his career, plus a
24-minute trailer reel highlighting Hooper's body of work in horror. Arrow's disc is region-B so make sure you have a multi-region player before you snag this one, yet another reason you need to have a multi-region player. 

Special Features:

Disc 1
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation from a digital transfer supervised by Director of Photography Richard Kooris
- Original uncompressed Stereo 2.0 audio
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with director and co-writer Tobe Hooper, moderated by David Gregory
- Audio commentary with stars Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and special-effects legend Tom Savini, moderated by Michael Felsher
- It Runs in the Family – A documentary looking at the genesis, making-of and enduring appeal of Hooper’s film. With interviews including star Bill Johnson, co-writer L. M. Kit Carson, Richard Kooris, Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams, Tom Savini, Production Designer Cary White and more!
- Alternate Opening sequence with different musical score
- Deleted scenes
- Still Feelin’ the Buzz – Interview with horror expert Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA
- Cutting Moment with Bob Elmore – Interview with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2′s stuntman
- Gallery featuring never-before-published behind-the-scenes images
- Original Trailer


Disc 2 
- Standard Definition (DVD) presentation of two of Tobe Hooper’s early works restored by Watchmaker Films with Tobe hooper, available on home video for the first time in the world
The Heisters (1964) Tobe Hooper’s early short film restored in HD from original elements [10 mins] and Eggshells (1969) Tobe Hooper’s debut feature restored in HD from original elements (90 mins)
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio Commentary on Eggshells by Tobe Hooper
- In Conversation with Tobe Hooper – The legendary horror director speaks about his career from Eggshells to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
- Trailer reel of all the major works by Tobe Hooper
- 100-PAGE BOOK – AMERICAN FREAK ILLUMINATIONS – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE:

Verdict: A demented sequel that dares to stray from the formula and one of my favorite horror comedies of all-time.  Arrow's audio/video presentation and extensive extras make this the definitive edition of the gore-comedy classic - a must own for serious collectors. 4.5 Outta 5