Wednesday, February 25, 2015

CARRIE (2000) / THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (1999) On Blu-ray April 14, 2015

CARRIE (2000) /THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (1999)
On Blu-ray April 14, 2015

Get ready for a double dose of telekinesis terror! Scream Factory presents Carrie & The Rage: Carrie 2 on Blu-ray on April 14, 2015, with bonus features that include new audio commentaries with Carrie director David Carson andThe Rage: Carrie 2 director Katt Shea and director of photography Donald Morgan.


CARRIE (2000)
Angela Bettis (May) stars in this 2002 adaptation of Stephen King's classic tale of horror and retribution, featuring eye-popping special effects and a shocking, all-new twist ending! Carrie White (Bettis) is a lonely, awkward teenage girl who just doesn't fit in. At school, she endures her classmates' constant ridicule, and at home she suffers endless psychological torture at the hands of her fanatically religious mother (Patricia Clarkson, Six Feet Under). But Carrie has a secret. She's been cursed with the terrifying power of telekinesis. And when her tormenters commit an act of unforgivably cruel humiliation at the prom, they'll soon learn a deadly lesson. Taking its inspiration from King’s book rather than the original film, Carrie was written by Bryan Fuller (TV’s Hannibal, Pushing Daisies) and stars Emilie de Ravin (Lost), Katharine Isabelle (See No Evil 2, Ginger Snaps) and Chelan Simmons (Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil).

SPECIAL FEATURES
- NEW Audio Commentary with director David Carson
- Trailer

THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (1999)
In this horrifying 1999 sequel to Brian DePalma’s 1976 classic, Rachel (Emily Bergl, The Knick) is a high school misfit who gets caught in the middle of a vicious prank orchestrated by a group of jocks that turns deadly. Once the police bring one of the boys in for questioning, his teammates target Rachel for squealing, and hatch a devious scheme to publicly humiliate her. But messing with Rachel is worse than playing with fire, for when her temper's crossed, it triggers a powder-keg of anger and unleashes horrifying powers that turn a wild teen house party into a wilder mad-house inferno! Also starring Jason London (Dazed And Confused), Rachel Blanchard (TV’s Clueless), Mena Suvari (American Beauty) and Amy Irving (reprising her role as Sue Snell from Brian DePalma’s original Carrie), this fast-paced, white-knuckle revenge fantasy takes telekinesis to the next level of terror!

SPECIAL FEATURES:
- NEW 2015 Audio Commentary with director Katt Shea and Director of Photography - Donald Morgan, moderated by filmmaker David DeCoteau
- Original 1999 Commentary with Katt Shea
- Alternate Ending with “before and after” special effect sequence
- Additional scenes not seen in theatres
- Theatrical Trailer


MOONTRAP (1989)

MOONTRAP (1989) 
Label: Olive Films
Region Code: A
Rated: R
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Robert Dyke

Cast: Walter Koenig, Leigh Lombardi, Bruce Campbell
Tagline: For Fourteen Thousand Years... It Waited

SYNOPSIS
A 1980s cult-movie phenomenon, Moontrap stars Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead) and Walter Koenig (Star Trek‘s original Chekov) as astronauts sent to the moon to investigate evidence of what appears to be signs of human life. They reanimate the body of a woman (Leigh Lombardi), who warns them that the moon is under the control of a race of alien cyborgs, which have been awaiting the opportunity to stage their invasion of Earth. The humans realize that desperate measures must be taken to halt the cyborgs’ departure from the moon — even if it ends in their own destruction.

MOONTRAP (1989) begins as you might expect - in outer space - with Mission commander Colonel Jason Grant (Walter Koenig, STAR TREK) and his co-pilot Ray Tanner (Bruce Campbell, EVIL DEAD) orbiting the Moon. Out there they encounter a derelict alien space craft orbiting the Earth. Grant slips into his space suit and boards the vessel where he finds the mummified remains of a humanoid alien and a strange red pod, both of which they bring return to their ship and to Earth for further examination. If you even have a cursory knowledge of these types of films you know that this is a bad idea, and nothing good can happen because of it. 

Back on Earth NASA carbon dates the corpse and figure that it is about fourteen thousand years old. It does not take long for things to turn South quickly when the pod turns out to be some sort of cybernetic weapon which creates a deadly cyborg using the mummified body and lab equipment. After a brief but fun assault the mechanized menace is stopped when it's head is blown off.  Afterward NASA deduces that the cybernetic menace is based on the moon send Grant and Tanner back to the Lunar surface to seek and destroy the enemy. Once on the moon they find a humanoid survivor at a moonbase, of course it's an attractive woman in a cryogenic chamber. Opening the chamber they awaken the woman, her name is Mera (Leigh Lombardi), She doesn't speak English but does at lest give a name to the mechanized baddies, the Kaalium. The Kaalium are planning to launch an invasion force to Earth and it's up to our trio to stop the cybernetic threat.

There are moon crater sized gaps in logic to contend with this one but I didn't find it too hard to enjoy for the goofy science fiction film that it is. The filmmakers are definitely fans of '50s sci-fi films and that seems to be the somewhat hokey direction they were aiming for with MOONTRAP and are largely successful. 

On the moon we get some great old school matte shots of the lunar landscape as the astronauts traverse the moon's surface riding around on an authentic looking lunar vehicle which was pretty cool. While there may be plenty of b-movie cheese peppered throughout the film I was pleased with how cool the lunar surface appeared, though that ever present blue tint does get annoying after awhile.  

Colonel Grant is played by none other than Walter Koenig, who played Russian navigator Ensign Chekov on the original Star Trek series. The guy must have jumped at the chance to finally be the captain of his own damn space ship after 25 years of saying "warp factor three, Captain". Unfortunately he has absolutely zero charm, so we should be thankful to have Bruce Campbell as the second in command, a man never short of charisma and wit, his character having what turns out to be the most memorable line of the movie "We don't take no shit from machines!".

The influence of Tobe Hooper's space vampire epic LIFEFORCE is felt heavily at the beginning of the film, when the astronauts happen up a derelict ship in space is a straight-up lift... I mean homage. But it would seem that this movie has had some minor influence of it's own on cinema. the idea of cybernetic menace is something we would see again with the movies VIRUS (1999) and SCREAMERS (1995). I can certainly appreciate are the use of practical special effects work used to create the cyborg menace, at times they can be a bit on the ropey side but are way more enjoyable than the shitty digital stuff you see on the Syfy Channel these days. 

MOONTRAP seems to be going for a retro science fiction aesthetic and conjures memories of craptacular monster movie matinees from the '50s, it's corny stuff, with one dimensional characters but with the addition of a very solid performance from Bruce Campbell and some awesome b-movie special effects... and some much appreciated nudity. 

BLU-RAY AUDIO/VIDEO
MOONTRAP was remastered in HD by Olive Films specifically for this release, as a result we can now see this cult classic presented in the proper widescreen aspect ratio, which is awesome, unfortunately the image that's been digitally manipulated and scrubbed of clean of film grain, what's left of the image is plasticine and devoid of fine detail. Facial features are waxy and undefined as are clothing and landscape textures. Color saturation is decent, the rampant blues pop nicely, but the shadow detail is murky at best. Not the crisp HD image you have come to expect from Blu-ray, a very flat and undefined image. 

The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono is unremarkable and anemic -  the sound design just feels off, though I have little doubt that has everything to do with it's modest budget and audio original source elements. No subtitles are provided. 


SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Interview with Bruce Campbell (21 Mins)
- Interview with Walter Koenig (33 Mins)
- Audio Commentary with director Robert Dyke and Screenwriter Tex Ragdsadle

Onto the extras we have several interviews and a commentary that appear to have been recorded in 2014. We begin with a pretty great audio commentary with director Robert Dyke and Screenwriter Tex Ragdsadle who offer up a tn of fun anecdotes about making the film and working with the cast. They go into some detail about how certain effects were achieved using miniatures and puppets, using cement mix to simulate moon dust and are very honest about their ambitious but low-budget endeavor, often filling in the blanks that don't quite come across through the film. 


The interviews with Bruce Campbell and Walter Koenig total about 52 minutes total and cover some good stuff with Bruce offering some fun behind-the-scene anecdotes and speaking of his enjoyment making independent films, working with Koenig and his own fandom for the Star Trek series. Walter Koenig speaks about coming onto the film, his career and the love scene with Leigh Lombardi, plus working with director Robert Dyke and his own adolescent fantasies of being chained to a wall by a gorgeous woman, who knew!

VERDICT
MOONTRAP is an ambitious b-movie production that falls way short but manages to keep it fun and fast-paced with a blend of practical effects and goofy sci-fi action. A Blu-ray was long overdue for this title, I just wish it were a more satisfying transfer. If you can get past the poor AV presentation the bonus content is decent and movie is entertaining, cult-cinema fans and sci-fi schlock fans will definitely want to pick this up.

Manborg now available on limited edition VHS from CELLULOID APOCALYPSE

After the almost-instantaneous selling-out of Celluloid Apocalypses debut title A Gun For George, we are proud to announce our latest release, Steve Kostanski's MANBORG

The armies of Hell have taken over the Earth, and all that stands in the way of the villainous Count Draculon and humanity’s total extinction is the mighty MANBORG: Half Man, Half Machine, All Hero.

A loving ode to the halcyon days of VHS, MANBORG is one of the most spectacularly trashy joyrides you are ever likely to encounter. Sit back, adjust the tracking and LIVE!

 
Available now for the first time on VHS
A Gun For George VHS - SOLD OUT
Eurocrime! VHS - COMING SOON!
Celluloid Apocalypse is a journey into fevered nostalgia championing the humble VHS tape. A boutique distribution label releasing a curated lineup of new and classic titles that will shock, drop and propel you into a magnetic fury!
Created by a group of Generation X veterans,  Celluloid Apocalypse aims to press rewind on the psyche of film fans world-wide with a series of special limited edition VHS releases featuring original artwork and packaging and a host of other exclusive wonderment!

THE DROWNSMAN arises on Blu-ray and DVD May 12th from Anchor Bay Entertainment!


Enter a world where a drop of water becomes an ocean of nightmares...


THE DROWNSMAN
EMERGES FROM
ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT

Blu-ray™ and DVD bubbles up May 12th

THE DROWNSMAN Blu-ray™
Street Date: May 12, 2015
Pre-book: April 8, 2015
Run Time: 86 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Format: Widescreen (2:40:1) 1080p
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Can a glass of water kill? When you see a puddle on the floor, do you fear you’ll fall into it? What if the stuff of life was a gateway into your worst dreams? On May 12th, Anchor Bay Entertainment presents the provocative and highly anticipated Canadian horror film The Drownsman on Blu-ray™ and DVD. SRP is $26.99 for the Blu-ray™ and $22.98 for the DVD, with pre-book on April 8th.

After almost drowning in a lake accident, Madison (Michelle Mylett, Antisocial) develops hydrophobia: an abnormal fear of water. After shutting the world and her friends out for over a year, her friends attempt an intervention. But, instead of curbing Madison’s fear, they unknowingly unleash something far worse: The vision of serial killer – turned- supernatural psychopath Sebastian Donner – known as “The Drownsman” – who begins to stalk the women one by one, dragging them into a lair of submerged torment from which there is no escape.

The Drownsman has captivated audiences at film festivals all over the world, including Fantasia Film Festival, Toronto After Dark, Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival and Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre Film Festival. Accolades include winning Best Horror Feature at Buffalo Dreams and Best Feature at Buenos Aires RSFF.

The Drownsman was directed by Chad Archibald (Neverlost, Ejecta), written by Cody Calahan (Antisocial) and Chad Archibald, produced by Christopher Giroux (Dead All Night) and stars Michelle Mylett, Caroline Korycki, Gemma Bird Matheson, Sydney Kondruss, Clare Bastable and in the horrifying title role, Ry Barrett (Neverlost, Kingdom Come, If A Tree Falls).



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963)

THE COMEDY OF TERRORS (1963) 
Label: Arrow Video
Region: B/2
Rating: 12 Certificate
Duration: 83 Minutes
Video HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 Mono with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Cast: Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Orangey, Joe E. Brown, Basil Rathbone
Director: Jacques Tourneur

SYNOPSIS
Price plays Waldo Trumbull, a perpetually inebriated, down-on-his-luck undertaker who has struck on an interesting way to boost business – by hastening the deaths of those whom he buries. When landlord Mr. Black (Basil Rathbone) threatens to put him out on the street for falling behind with the rent, Trumbull, together with his reluctant and bumbling assistant Felix Gillie (Lorre), hatches an ill-advised plan to “kill two birds with one stone”, so to speak…


There's a lot to love about this comedy classic, an American International Pictures production directed by a truly talented man, Jacques Tourneur who helmed the Val Lewton produced classics of suspense I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and CAT PEOPLE in the '40's for RKO Pictures. By the sixties his career was somewhat waning, and the same can be said for a few of the stars of this movie, too. Both Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre's best days were in the rearview mirror by this point, though Karloff featured in a few decent b-movies afterward, notably Peter Bogdanovich's meta thriller TARGETS (1967). The exception being Vincent Price who would have a string of notable  film throughout the '60s and '70s with directors Robert Fuest (THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES), Roy Ward Baker (THE MONSTER CLUB), Michael Hickcox (THEATRE OF BLOOD) and his chilly turn as Anthony Hopkins in Michael Reeve's classic THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL. All three had previously appeared together in the films THE RAVEN and TALES OF TERROR just a few years previously and were reunited here with the aid of the very talented director Jacques Tourneur. 

The addition of Tourneur secured a stylish production and the script written by master storyteller Richard Matheson guaranteed the cast are in top form with a macabre combination of wit and physical comedy from start to finish. We have Price as drunken undertaker Waldo Trumbull, who along with his diminutive bug-eyed assistant Gillie (Peter Lorre) find that business has dried-up and the landlord Mr. Black (Rathbone) hounding them for over a year of back rent. In a desperate attempt to put some money in the coffers Trumbull devises a macabre plan to murder an elderly and wealthy member of the community to drum up business, but his plan backfires when the widow leaves town with the money stiffing Trumbull. He's quite a character, plenty of time for his drink but very little for his busty wife, we are shown the extent of his cheapness in the first scene establishing that he has used the same coffin for thirteen years, after the ceremony they just dump the corpse in the open grave and shine up the coffin for the next burial. 

With the threat of winding up penniless on the street looming over him it is decided that Mr. Black would be an ideal candidate for a premature death, but what the duo are unaware of is that Mr. Black suffers from a history of death-like sleep, which leads to a fun romp as the undertakers try to keep him dead long enough to stick him in the ground.


A terrific comedy, reuniting Lorre, Price and Karloff gain, with Karloff portraying the nearly deaf father in law of Price's mean-spirited undertaker. Trumbull's wife is Amaryllis (Joyce Jameson) ho dreams of being an opera singer but cannot carry a note to save her. Price does not have any time for his affection starved wife who craves attention, but his assistant (Lorre) has quite a fondness for her, and dreams of the pair running away together.

The surprise here for me was how damn funny Rathbone was as the landlord who fancies himself quite the Shakespearean actor, reciting selected scenes from the Bard in the privacy of his bedroom before he drifts off to sleep for the night. 

All of this is wrapped up in a cinematic presentation directed by Turner who casts this comedy against a New England Gothic backdrop which is a feast for the eyes, beginning with a fog drenched cemetery scene with whooshing winds, some very nice set design throughout the film and a fun film score from Les Baxter. don't forget about the appearance of Orangey the cat in the role of Cleopatra, a talented cat who features prominently in the film and during a fun end credits sequence.  

A fun time from start to stop, no scares, just macabre comedy executed to perfection by a cast of legends aided in no small degree by a superb script from Richard Matheson and the directorial style of Jacques Tourneur. 

BLU-RAY AUDIO/VIDEO
THE COMEDY OF TERRORS arrives on Blu-ray (Region B Locked) in the UK from Arrow Video with a transfer provided by MGM. It looks quite pleasing with a finely managed layer of film grain bringing with it some fine detail with a decent amount of depth and clarity. Skin tones look accurate, colors saturation is nicely robust and shadow detail is strong. A few instances of print damage and dirt do crop up throughout but are mostly relegated to the occasional white speckling. The LPCM Mono 2.0 audio is crisp and clean, striking a nice balance of dialogue and the very cool Les Baxter scorer, optional English subtitles are provided. 

BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM
- Original Mono 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio Commentary with author and film historian David Del Valle and cult director David DeCoteau
- Vincent Price: My Life and Crimes (52 Mins) – The previously unreleased, alternate cut of the 1987 David Del Valle/Vincent Price interview in which the actor looks back over his extraordinary career
- Whispering in Distant Chambers: The Nightfall of Jacques Tourneur (17 Mins) – A specially-commissioned video essay by David Cairns looking at the various themes and stylistic motifs which reappear throughout the director’s work
- Richard Matheson Storyteller (10 Mins) – An archive interview with the Comedy of Terrors writer
- Original Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins)
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper
Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Chris Fujiwara, author of Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall



The disc from Arrow is nicely stuffed with bonus content that bests the US Blu-ray from Scream Factory (on the VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION II) with an arsenal of cool extras beginning with a fun commentary from film historian David Del Valle and cult director David DeCoteau (PUPPET MASTER III) filled with a rich history of the film and the stars. 

There's also a 50-minute Vincent Price interview conducted by David Del Valle, and is apparently an alternate version different than what appeared on the Scream Factory THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION. A fascinating journey with Price as he speaks about his long and storied career in cinema, for Price fans this is an essential interview. 


Borrowed from previous releases is the Richard Matheson Storyteller (10 Mins) archival interview, there's also brand new content including the video essay Whispering in Distant Chambers: The Nightfall of Jacques Tourneur (17 Mins) which walks us through the films of Tourneur from the Val Lewton era and beyond. Extras are finished up with a theatrical trailer for the film, a sleeve of reversible artwork, and an illustrated collector's booklet with 
new writing on the film by author Chris Fujiwara.



VERDICT
A fantastic and macabre combo of wit and comic timing performed by legends of both comedy and fright over a backdrop of 19th century Gothic atmosphere and light-hearted chills, this one did not disappoint in anyway. The AV presentation from Arrow Video is superb and the extras are bountiful and informative, this might be the definitive edition of the film for some time to come, a very high recommend for those who can appreciate a few macabre laughs without the benefit of gore and scares.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 (1983)

EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 (1983) 

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 103 Minutes
Audio: DTS-HS Master Audio Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Jules Harrison
Cast: Eduardo Fajardo, Luca Venantini, Alan Collins, Alicia Moro, Robert Jannucci, Fernando Bilba

While we feverishly await the arrival of George Miller's MAD MAX: FURY ROAD to hit the cinemas we can spend our time with some trashy Italian knock-offs of the earlier MAD MAX movies, which there are many. This post-apocalyptic slice of schlock is a Spanish-Italian co production directed by Giuliano Carnimeo (THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS) that steals straight from George Miller's THE ROAD WARRIOR without an ounce of shame. 

Earth is a post-nuke wasteland burned clean of vegetation and water is as scarce as an original idea in the Italian film industry in the 1980s, damn rare. A rogue barbarian named Alien (Robert Jannucci) encounters wasteland cops and a chase ensues,  after a decent amount of screeching tires, bumper to bumper action and high speed thrills Alien ends up turned upside down in a ravine trapped in his car.  


Not far away a community of survivors have created a life for themselves inside a series of caverns, it's not idyllic but they are surviving on green house vegetation and a swindling supply of eater. They've previously sent a tanker truck in search of water but fear that it may have been ambushed by a group wasteland barbarians lead by dreaded Crazy Bull (Fernando Bilbao), marauders who roam the wastelands. Crazy Bull is a mash-up of both Humongous and Wez from ROAD WARRIOR with none of the charisma of either. His dialogue is some of the most laughable in the film and that is saying something, calling his crew of barbarians "muther-grubbers" and "you lousy splot of aberrations"!


With water supplies reaching critical the community of peaceful survivors send a convoy out into the wasteland to recover water from a fabled underground spring, a young boy named Tommy (Luca Venantini, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD) hides away on one of the trucks, he is desperate to locate his missing father who was sent on the previous mission and is presumed dead. The convoy is attacked by the marauders and everyone is killed with the exception of Tommy who remains hidden with the only map to the underground spring.

Wandering the desert alone Tommy stumbles upon Alien in the overturned car and the two strike up an uneasy alliance with the young boy promising to give Alien a share of the water if he is willing help get the water back to the community. Alien agrees but turns out to be one of the most untrustworthy anti-hero ever committed to film, one moment saving Tommy and the next abandoning him to the mercy of the violent marauders, before saving him yet again. 


Along the way they hook up with a former love interest of Alien named Trash (Alicia Moro, SLUGS) and Papillon (Luciano Pigozzi, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE) a former astronaut turned junk collector, both of whom offer assistance on the quest for the coveted water. Alicia Moro is quite an attractive woman and it's a shame she did not go onto make more films, she had some decent onscreen presence and chemistry with our anti-hero Alien.


Crazy Bull's favorite henchmen is Shadow (Beryl Cunningham, SCREAMERS) a deadly black motorcycle  mama with cool retractable claws she uses to deadly effect, she seems to be assuming the mantle of Wez from THE ROAD WARRIOR. The remaining group of marauders are familiar looking though cheaper knock-offs from the films of George Miller.


The plot is simplistic, just think Road Warrior and substitute water for petrol and you have a pretty good idea what's happening here - it's not rocket science - but the boy does have a bionic arm so there's some science involved, ha ha. There's also not much of any world building happening outside of the barren mountainous terrain, there's no burned out cities abandoned highways littered with cars, stuff like that requires more of a budget and way more inspiration than anyone involved with this film would care to administer.


It goes without saying you cannot knock-off MAD MAX without some post-apocalyptic car chases and the film delivers on multiple occasions with a pleasing mix of low-budget, high-octane thrills throughout. No one on Earth can film car porn like the Australians managed in the '70s so what we do get is watered down but there's plenty crash n' burn with huge fiery explosions and mondo car stunts - even a shit attempt to recall the stunning camper crash from MAD MAX! 


BLU-RAY VIDEO/AUDIO

EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 (1983) debuts on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory horror imprint Scream Factory with an AVC encode and framed in widescreen (1.78:1), which might be the first time we've seen this one in a proper widescreen aspect ratio on home video, I believe the previous DVD from Code Red was full frame. Unfortunately the HD master provided for release has been manipulated to death, each frame digitally scrubbed of all grain leaving behind an undefined and overly smooth image devoid of grain and fine detail. 

The DTS-HD MA MONO does a decent job exporting the dialogue, score and effects sounds with a decent balance, but there's only so much you can do with the source material which was shot on the cheap and poorly dubbed in post. At times the organ score from composer Detto Mariano can sound like a church organ falling down a flight of stairs, one of the trashier scores I've heard in recent memory.  


SPECIAL FEATURES
- Audio Commentary With Actor Robert Iannucci Moderated by Bill Olsen of Code Red
- Interview With Actor Robert Iannucci (18 Mins) HD

- Theatrical Trailer (4 Mins) HD
- TV Spots (1 Mins) SD


Extras on the disc are carried over from the Code Red DVD beginning with an audio commentary with Actor Robert Iannucci Moderated by Bill Olsen of Code Red DVD. Iannucci speaks about getting the role base on his print ads as a model for Calvin Klein and his time in Spain shooting the film, commenting on his experiences with various actors and in particular the body odor of actor  Fernando Bilbao who portrayed the leader of the wasteland marauders.Olsen is not the most informed moderator but does chime in throughout for better or worse. 


There's also an on-camera interview with Iannucci who covers a lot of the same ground plus going into the dubbing process and how each of the actors spoke their own native language and were dubbed in English at a later date. also speaking about how getting paid by the Italian producers was not always easy, at one point threatening to walk-off the film unless he received payment. Extras are finished up with a theatrical trailer and TV spots for the film. 


VERDICT

A very cheap knock-off of the MAD MAX films but it's good trashy fun, long in the tooth but there's enough post-apocalyptic scavenging and vehicular crash n' burn to keep it interesting right up until the final scene. Unfortunately the transfer is marred by rampant digital manipulation sucking the life right out of the image, but still an entertaining watch and a recommend for fans of the post-apocalyptic stuff. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

HOUSE OF LAST THINGS (2013)


HOUSE OF LAST THINGS (2013) 

Label: Revolver Entertainment
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 110 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Michael Bartlett
Cast: Lindsey Haun, Blake Berris, RJ Mitte, Randy Schulman, Diane Dalton, Micah Nelson

I found myself home sick today with the what feels like plague, not capable of much other than vegging out in front of the TV on the couch wrapped in my favorite afghan blanket. A screener for this film arrived yesterday and was conveniently near the DVD player so I curled up with my blanket and watched it, which turned out to be a good decision, even in my delirium thus surreal haunter kept me rapt for the next two hours. Alan (Randy Schulman) and his wife Sarah (Diane Dalton) live in a very nice house in the Portland area where he is apparently a successful classical music critic... is there such a thing as a successful critic anymore, are people making a living reviewing film and music these days?

Sarah has just been released from an institution where she ended up after an unspecified family tragedy some months earlier. Arriving at home it's easy to see that she is still in a fragile state but Alan surprised her with a trip to Italy, which she is hesitant to accept, but she does agree to go with some prodding. 

Watching the house while they are abroad is an attractive young blond named Kelly (Lindsay Haun) and her younger brother Tim (RJ Mitte) who looks to be suffering from some form of mental illness of his own. As soon as Alan and Sarah are out of the house Kelly's boyfriend Jesse (Blake Harris) arrives and makes himself right at home. He's a bit of a scum bag, not a nice guy, and apparently quite a thief as Kelly warns him right away that he is not allowed to steal anything from the home. 

As the three settle into the home they become aware of a few strange happenings around the home, it house seems to be casting some kind of spell over them, particularly Jesse who begins to wear some of Alan's clothing and begins listening to classical music, in addition to wearing glasses and driving Alan's car around town. On one short jaunt to the store he meets an eight-year-old boy named Adam and on the spot decides he should take him home, the idea being that he can ransom the boy for profit, which does not sit well with Kelly.

With the arrival of young Adam the house has an even more profound effect on the inhabitants of the home all of whom begins to transform to one degree or another, there's some kind of transformative process happening but what it all means is not quite clear. As the strange events unfold at the home in Portland we have the story of Alan and Sarah unfolding in Italy. Some of the strange happenings have are eerie synchronicity to what's happening back at home in Portland as the couple start to argue and the cause of their emotional turmoil is revealed.

I loved the David Lynchian vibe throughout the film, a surreal haunter that reminded me at times of Lynch's BLUE VELVET and TWIN PEAKS, both feature idyllic locations with a dark underbelly. That actress Lindsey Haun bares a resemblance to Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) from TWIN PEAKS certainly didn't hurt either. There's a dream logic narrative at play throughout the film that might make it hard to embrace for some but having a predilection for odd narrative structure and my own cough syrup fueled convalescence I was transfixed, not a film that lays it all out on the first viewing, this is something that can be enjoyed during multiple viewings. There's some nice shot composition and design behind the film, an attractively shot low-budget feature with some thoughtfulness behind the camera which I can appreciate. 

There are a lot of cool visual motifs at play, including an abundance of symbolic red delicious apples, creepy yellow balloons and golf balls throughout this haunting tale of possession and transformation, there's a menace to what's happening but not the kind that inspired terror at any time, it's a tension filled eeriness that permeates this one, this is something quite different altogether. It also features some fine lensing from cinematographer Ken Kelch (Abel Ferarra's DRILLER KILLER, BAD LIEUTENANT) 

The principle cast is almost uniformly good from start to finish, with the exception of RJ Mitte as the disturbed younger brother. he came across odd and uneven throughout for me, which may have been an acting choice on his part being that he was portraying someone with a mental illness of some sort, but it drew attention to itself, and not in a good way. Haun and Berris do the lions share of the work here, particularly Berris who goes through the most significant transformation both visually and internally during the length of the film. 

Unfortunately there are absolutely no extras on the disc from Revolver Entertainment, this is a film I would have enjoyed hearing the writer/director Michael Bartlett discuss the making of and his inspirations, if just to unravel some of the mystery about it. Not a film for everyone, the odd narrative structure ensures that but for those who don't mind a little off kilter narrative this strange haunter is highly recommend.  


BLACULA: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (1972-1973)

BLACULA: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (1972-1973)

Label: Eureka Classics
Duration: 190 Minutes
Region Code: B
Rating: 1 Certificate
Video: HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio
: English LPCM Stereo Audio with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Director: William Crain, Raymond Koenig
Cast: Denise Nicholas, Thalmus Rasulala, William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Charles Macaulay, Gordon Pinsent, Michael Conrad, Don Mitchell, Pam Grier, Richard Lawson


SYNOPSIS: 
Urban action and fatal attraction give rise to a groove from beyond the grave in this funkadelic, fangadelic Soul Cinema sensation! The eternally cool William Marshall puts a fresh spin on the age-old legend of the vampire, condemned to wander the earth with an insatiable lust for blood. In 1780, African Prince Mamuwalde (Marshall) pays a visit to Count Dracula in Transylvania, seeking his support in ending the slave trade. Instead, the evil count curses his noble guest and transforms him into a vampire! Released from his coffin nearly two centuries later by a pair of luckless decorators, Mamuwalde emerges as “Blacula,” one cool, dressed to kill, dude strollin’ the streets of L.A. on a nightly quest for human blood and fine women!

In Scream, Blacula, Scream Blacula lives, and only the legendary Pam Grier (Jackie Brown) has the power to deep-six his reign of terror. William Marshall returns as the noble African prince turned bloodthirsty fiend in this hair-raising sequel to the terrifying hit Blacula! This time, it’s voodoo power versus vampire fury when Willis (Richard Lawson), the son of the late high priestess, seeks revenge on the cultists who have chosen his foster sister Lisa (Grier) as their new leader. Hoping to curse Lisa, Willis unwittingly resurrects Blacula’s earthly remains and lets loose the Prince of Darkness and his freaked-out army of the undead!

BLACULA (1972)
William Marshall appears as African Prince Mamuwalde in BLACULA as the funk soul brother of his white bread progenitor Count Dracula, whom you might be surprised to learn was a racist. At the start of the film Prince Mamwalde is turned into a bloodsucker by Dracula and imprisoned for nearly 200 years inside of a coffin until he is accidentally released by a pair of gay decorators, who purchased the coffin at an estate sale. Of course they are the first to fall victim to his blood thirst. The vampire adjusts to life in modern L.A. with surprising ease and soon encounters an attractive young woman named Tina Williams (Vonetta McGee) whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his beloved wife Luva.

The two soon start to date but Tina's sister Michelle (Denise Nicholas) and her pathologist boyfriend, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), suspect her new beau may be the culprit responsible for a series of strange murders, notably the deaths of the decorators. Michelle and Gordon visit the grave of one of the decorators and discover him to be a blue-skinned bloodsucker, learning the supernatural truth of the matter they set out to save Tina from the vampire. 


No one will ever accuse the Blacula films for being politically correct, from the very start we have the white bread Count Dracula scoffing at the idea of stopping the slave trade pitched to him by the African Prince Mamuwalde, who is in turn made a vampire and dubbed "Blacula" by the white prince of darkness, which is pretty funny, c'mon folks, loosen up. Then you have the stereotyped portrayal of homosexuals and suspect black culture references but that's par for the course for a blaxploitation film so you just have to roll with it on this one, it was the era and if you can just except it there's a lot of fun to be had with this funk soul cinema fright fest. 

Marshall cuts quite a figure as the soul brother bloodsucker, a proud, deep voiced vampire, whose baritone easily draws comparisons to Hammer's own bloodsucker extraordinaire Christopher Lee. If you close your eyes you would be hard pressed not to make the comparison yourself but I cannot imagine Christopher Lee saying most of these lines. Marshall brings gravity to the role that could have easily been played for laughs in less capable hands, a proud figure that commands respect, not laughs. 

Loads of side characters bring some fun to the film, notably Ji-Tu Cumbuka in a memorable appearance during a dinner scene whom calls Blacula "one strange dude", and Thomas Rasulala is pretty great in the role of vampire hunter. One of my favorite scenes is that of one of the bloodsuckers victims reanimating at the morgue and attacking the morgue attendant in slow motion, very creepy stuff, but the following scene with the vampire yelping like a chihuahua is cringe worthy, it's a film of lows and highs that way.  

The film has a fantastic soul soundtrack and offers a unique take on the vampire lore with a sweet blaxploitation bent that covers familiar ground but also adds a few new flavors to the mix to keep it interesting. I have to imagine that a strong black character killing white L.A.P.D. officers with impunity must have been quite a scene and offered some much need escapism during a tumultuous era, and framed within the context of a supernatural thriller maybe didn't draw too much attention to itself.

SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973)In the sequel Mamuwalde is resurrected through a voodoo ritual by a guy named Willis (Richard Lawson) who wishes to use the bloodsucker  to usurp the throne of newly crowned voodoo priestess Lisa Fortier (Pam Grier). However, Blacula turns Willis into his own vampire minion which displeases the young man who can now no longer adore himself in the mirror, just one of the many curses of the damned. 

In the role of vampire hunter this time we have Lisa's boyfriend, Justin Carter (Don Mitchell), a former LAPD officer and avid collector of African art who becomes hip to Mamuwalde's bloodsucking ways following a series of strange murders which leave the corpse drained of blood... the victims becoming one of Blacula's resurrected bloodthirsty minions. 

While I enjoyed the first film this sequel is even more enjoyable, and not solely for the addition of the black beauty of Pam Grier as the voodoo priestess. The story arc is far superior this time around and I loved the addition of the voodoo angle, the one area this does not improve upon is the demise of Blacula, the stop-frame end was a real bummer.

I do love how he acquires a horde of bloodsucking minions this time around who take up residence in a mansion and do his bidding, the blue skinned ghouls look great on film and I love the exaggerated incisors which reminded me of Hammer's TWINS OF EVIL. Again we have a funk soul score but nowhere near as enjoyable as the first film in my opinion, but overall this is the better film of the two with a more enjoyable story and just better execution. 

BLU-RAY
Having just reviewed the Scream Factory Blu-ray I can say that the transfers seem very similar and probably derived from the same HD master in my opinion after  comparing still frames from each film, I could not detect a difference. A nice healthy layer of fine film grain, some solid color saturation and decent black levels, a surprisingly satisfying HD transfer. 

Extras do vary between the two, Eureka have not opted for a commentary on either film but do offer a 24-minute piece with critic and author Kim Newman recorded in his home, the shelves and posters will be familiar to anyone who has watched any of his introductions for the VIDEO NASTIES: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE. The critic and author offers up an entertaining and informative analysis of the films that puts them each into the context of the era with some insights about the cast and crew.The only other disc extra is a theatrical trailer for each film. 

The Blu-ray screener disc sent for review did not include artwork or the 32-page booklet and retail copies are dual-format and offer the film and extras on a separate DVD disc.  

SPECIAL FEATURES
- Brand new 1080p high-definition transfer
- Progressive DVD encodes
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Trailers for both films (4 Mins)
- New and exclusive introduction to the films by critic and author Kim Newman (24 Mins)
- 32-page booklet featuring new writing by Josiah Howard, author of Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide; reprints of original Blacula ephemera; and archival images

VERDICT
The BLACULA series may not be up there with the Hammer horror films but William Marshall is one of the more memorable bloodsuckers in cinema and as far as blaxploitation fright films go these might just be the cream of the crop, which may not be setting the bar very high but true nonetheless. 

BLACULA (1972) / SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973)

BLACULA (1972) / SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973)
SCREAM FACTORY DOUBLE FEATURE 

Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: March 3rd 2015 

Duration: 189 Minutes
Region Code: A
Rating: PG
Video: HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Director: William Crain, Raymond Koenig
Cast: Denise Nicholas, Thalmus Rasulala, William Marshall, Vonetta McGee, Charles Macaulay, Gordon Pinsent, Michael Conrad, Don Mitchell, Pam Grier, Richard Lawson


BLACULA (1972)
William Marshall appears as African Prince Mamuwalde in BLACULA as the funk soul brother of his white bread progenitor Count Dracula, whom you might be surprised to learn was a racist. At the start of the film Prince Mamwalde is turned into a bloodsucker by Dracula and imprisoned for nearly 200 years inside of a coffin until he is accidentally released by a pair of gay decorators, who purchased the coffin at an estate sale. Of course they are the first to fall victim to his blood thirst. The vampire adjusts to life in modern L.A. with surprising ease and soon encounters an attractive young woman named Tina Williams (Vonetta McGee) whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his beloved wife Luva.

The two soon start to date but Tina's sister Michelle (Denise Nicholas) and her pathologist boyfriend, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Thalmus Rasulala), suspect her new beau may be the culprit responsible for a series of strange murders, notably the deaths of the decorators. Michelle and Gordon visit the grave of one of the decorators and discover him to be a blue-skinned bloodsucker, learning the supernatural truth of the matter they set out to save Tina from the vampire. 


No one will ever accuse the Blacula films for being politically correct, from the very start we have the white bread Count Dracula scoffing at the idea of stopping the slave trade pitched to him by the African Prince Mamuwalde, who is in turn made a vampire and dubbed "Blacula" by the white prince of darkness, which is pretty funny, c'mon folks, loosen up. Then you have the stereotyped portrayal of homosexuals and suspect black culture references but that's par for the course for a blaxploitation film so you just have to roll with it on this one, it was the era and if you can just except it there's a lot of fun to be had with this funk soul cinema fright fest. 

Marshall cuts quite a figure as the soul brother bloodsucker, a proud, deep voiced vampire, whose baritone easily draws comparisons to Hammer's own bloodsucker extraordinaire Christopher Lee. If you close your eyes you would be hard pressed not to make the comparison yourself but I cannot imagine Christopher Lee saying most of these lines. Marshall brings gravity to the role that could have easily been played for laughs in less capable hands, a proud figure that commands respect, not laughs. 

Loads of side characters bring some fun to the film, notably Ji-Tu Cumbuka in a memorable appearance during a dinner scene whom calls Blacula "one strange dude", and Thomas Rasulala is pretty great in the role of vampire hunter. One of my favorite scenes is that of one of the bloodsuckers victims reanimating at the morgue and attacking the morgue attendant in slow motion, very creepy stuff, but the following scene with the vampire yelping like a chihuahua is cringe worthy, it's a film of lows and highs that way.  

The film has a fantastic soul soundtrack and offers a unique take on the vampire lore with a sweet blaxploitation bent that covers familiar ground but also adds a few new flavors to the mix to keep it interesting. I have to imagine that a strong black character killing white L.A.P.D. officers with impunity must have been quite a scene and offered some much need escapism during a tumultuous era, and framed within the context of a supernatural thriller maybe didn't draw too much attention to itself.

Don't be put of by the corny title, BLACULA is a solid vampire tale with a groovy musical score, some sweet '70s threads and a smattering of social commentary, a film well worth your time. 


SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM (1973)In the sequel Mamuwalde is resurrected through a voodoo ritual by a guy named Willis (Richard Lawson) who wishes to use the bloodsucker  to usurp the throne of newly crowned voodoo priestess Lisa Fortier (Pam Grier). However, Blacula turns Willis into his own vampire minion which displeases the young man who can now no longer adore himself in the mirror, just one of the many curses of the damned. The addition of Pam Grier as the voodoo priestess definitely amps this one up to the next level, a truly excellent castingg decision from the filmmakers. 

In the role of vampire hunter this time we have Lisa's boyfriend, Justin Carter (Don Mitchell), a former LAPD officer and avid collector of African art who becomes hip to Mamuwalde's bloodsucking ways following a series of strange murders which leave the corpse drained of blood... the victims becoming one of Blacula's resurrected bloodthirsty minions. 

While I enjoyed the first film this sequel is even more enjoyable, and not solely for the addition of the black beauty of Pam Grier as the voodoo priestess. The story arc is far superior this time around and I loved the addition of the voodoo angle, the one area this does not improve upon is the demise of Blacula, the stop-frame end was a real bummer.

I do love how he acquires a horde of bloodsucking minions this time around who take up
residence in a mansion and do his bidding, the blue skinned ghouls look great on film and I love the exaggerated incisors which reminded me of Hammer's TWINS OF EVIL. Again we have a funk soul score but nowhere near as enjoyable as the first film in my opinion, but overall this is the better film of the two with a more enjoyable story and just better execution.

BLU-RAY
BLACULA and SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM share space on a dual-layered disc from Scream Factory with a very nice presentation that does not appear to have been scrubbed of grain or manipulated unduly. Detail and color reproduction are strong, with some modest depth and clarity to the image, a surprising amount to be honest, the source material used for this master was in great shape. The DTS-HD MA Mono track does a fine job exporting dialogue, effects and the sweet funk score, optional English subtitles are provided.. 

Extras on the disc feature an audio commentary on BLACULA from author/film historian/filmmaker David F. Walker, who offers a fun and fact-filled commentary that doesn't get too bookish, he manages to keep it conversational and comes across as more of a fan, not just a well-studied scholar. Additionally there is a photo gallery containing 70 images and the theatrical trailer for the film.

Onto the extras for SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM we have a brand new video interview Actor Richard Lawson who speaks of losing out on the role and then having it offered to him once production began on the film. Again we have a photo gallery and a trailer for the film. 

BLACULA SPECIAL FEATURES
- Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian/Filmmaker David F. Walker (Reflections On Blaxploitation: Actors And Directors Speak)
- Photo Gallery (70 Images)
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Minutes)

SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM SPECIAL FEATURES
- New Interview With Actor Richard Lawson (13 Minutes) 
- Photo Gallery (71 Images)
-Theatrical Trailer (2 Minutes) 


VERDICT
After a couple of somewhat mediocre double feature releases I am happy to report that Scream Factory have done a fine job with this BLACULA double feature, a very fine presentation of two solid blaxploitation horror spins. The HD transfer is not eye-popping but I suspect it does accurately reflect the source material and they've done a damn decent job adding a brand-new audio commentary and the interview, plus trailers and galleries. William Marshall is a memorable bloodsucker and if you needed more convincing, all I have to say is Pam Grier in HD! Hope to see more blaxploitation titles from scream Factory and very pleased to see them digging into some Italian schlock in the near future, these are two avenues worth exploiting on Blu-ray.