Sunday, May 31, 2015

SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY (1970)


SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY (1970) 

Special Limited Edition 2-Disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray 


Label: Severin Films 
Region Code: Region FREE
Duration: 80 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: German PCM 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Jess Franco, Fred Williams, Paul Muller, Ewa Stromberg, Horst Tappert, Howard Vernon

Dr. Johnson (Fred Williams) is a scientist bent performing illicit experiments on human embryos for the benefit if mankind, or some such crock o' shit. However, when his research comes up for review by his peers he is discredited by a shocked and unsympathetic medical board who frown upon such things. Despite the fact that the doc has a gorgeous home on a private island and a stunning and devoted wife (Soledad Miranda, Vampyros Lesbos) he is so distraught by his fall from grace that he opts to slash his wrists and end it all. In the aftermath his supernaturally hot wife sets about to seducing and murdering each of the four members of the medical board, whom she blames for the death of her beloved husband. 

A very simple premise and to be honest there's just not much more to it. The murderous seductress sets out to seduce each of the board members, three men and one woman among them. It's a fun cycle of seduction and murder from start to finish. The four doctors are Dr. Crawford (Ewa Strömberg, Vampyros Lesbos), Dr. Houston (Paul Muller, Barbed Wire Dolls), Dr. Walker (Howard Vernon, The Awful Dr. Orloff) and Dr. Donen (played by director Jesus Franco). Howard Vernon's character has the most gruesome death scene with Miranda shredding Dr. Orloff's wedding tackle. 

There's not a lot to the story, very simplistic but what sells the movie for me is the stunning beauty of star Soldedad Miranda. Her turn as the murderous widow is so mesmerizing, there's very little dialogue but her eyes have a seductive sadness about them. Of course, this was the swinging 70's but even I thought that the ease of which she seduces each of the doctors is sort of funny. You'd expect that after the first corpse turned with a note indication that the other were are next they would be a heightened sense of self preservation among these highly educated professionals but never underestimate the draw of a naked woman,just thinking about it myself I might set aside my own fear of death for a chance to score with Soledad Miranda to be honest, she was something special and was gone way too soon, dying shortly after shooting wrapped on this picture. 

On top of that purely sexual reason for loving it we have some great visuals throughout the movie and an abundance of fantastic architecture with surrealistic cinematography by Manuel Merino. I couldn't write about the movie and not mention the awesome psychedelic  lounge score from Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab which is one of my favorite scores of any film. There's also some weird scenes of implied necrophilia between Mrs. Johnson the corpse of her departed lover whom she keeps around for cuddles, a nice twist of macabre Franco strangeness. 

Audio/Video: The 1080p HD transfer from Severin Films is quite nice, beginning with some nicely managed grain and fine detail. Colors are brighter and warmer when compared to my old Synapse DVD which was much cooler looking. Fans of the magnetic Soledad Miranda will no doubt appreciate the eye-popping HD transfer and the more natural looking skin tones, right down to the last freckle. Noticeable print damage is minimal but there are instances of speckling and scratches visible from time to time. 

The German PCM 2.0 Mono audio sounds quite nice, a few audio imperfections from the source material are evident but the sexy lounge score from Manfred Hubler and Siegfried Schwab comes through nicely and is included on this set as a bonus CD, and from what I can tell this release is a repressing of that 24-track Motel Records 1995 release minus the cool artwork and booklet. Optional English subtitles are provided on the Blu-ray. 


Onto the plentiful extras we begin with an intimate interview with the director filmed before his death in 2013, Jess is typically sprawled out on his couch chain-smoking while he discusses the making of the film and his fruitful and short-lived collaboration with star Soledad Miranda. He speaks very thick-accented English, optional English subtitles are provided. 


Soledad Miranda Historian Amy Brown offers up a 20-minute about the early life and career of Miranda who passed away at the tender age of 27 less than a year after shooting on the film wrapped. Stephen Thrower, the Author of ‘Murderous Passions – The Delirious Cinema Of Jess Franco’, chimes in for 13-minutes about the Euro-cult auteur. Thrower is always a fun commentator and I hope to eventually check out his numerous books on cult cinema at some point, but all this constant movie watching typically deters my literacy aspirations. 

The last of the disc extras is a German trailer for the film plus a 7-minute interviews with frequent Franco collaborator Paul Muller who speaks about his tme working with Franco, the interview is in Spanish with English subtitling. A bonus CD of the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for 3 Films By Jess Franco: Vampyros Lesbos / She Killed In Ecstasy / The Devil Came From Akasava. 


The discs are housed in a Criterion-style clear case within a dye cut slip case with brand new cover art by artists Wes Benscoter. There's also a postcard sized art card with an image from the film and a track list for the CD on the reverse. This release from Severin is a limited to just 4000 so act fast, you don't want to miss out on this one, no self-respecting Euro-cult fan can live comfortably knowing this is not in their possession. It should also be noted that this is the longest version available of the film, coming in at three minutes longer than the previous DVD from Synapse Films. 

Special Features: 
- Newly remastered HD presentation of the feature in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio
- Jess Killed In Ecstasy: Interview with Director Jess Franco (17 Mins) 
- Sublime Soledad: Interview with Soledad Miranda Historian Amy Brown (20 Mins) 
- Stephen Thrower on She Killed in Ecstasy: Interview with Author of ‘Murderous Passions – The Delirious Cinema Of Jess Franco’ (13 Mins) 
- Paul Muller On Jess Franco: Interview with the frequent Franco Star (7 Mins) 
- German Trailer ( 3 Mins) :
- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for 3 Films By Jess Franco: Vampyros Lesbos / She Killed In Ecstasy / The Devil Came From Akasava. Repressing of the ultra rare 24 track CD

She Killed in Ecstasy (1970) is an erotically charged revnge film laced with intoxicating visuals and scene after scene of the lovely Soledad Miranda, who fills nearly every frame of the movie. On top of that you have a swinging psychedelic lounge score that just cannot be beat. This movie was my introduction to the strange and provocative world of Jess Franco over a decade ago, and it remains so to this day, if you're a Franco fan this is the must-own edition of the film. 4/5

Friday, May 29, 2015

ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT CELEBRATES THE ‘80S WITH 'LOST AFTER DARK' ON 9/1

LOST AFTER DARK 

Street Date: September 1, 2015
Run Time: 88 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Format: Widescreen (1.78:1) 1080p
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Totally available on Blu-ray™ and DVD September 1st

If you thought the 80s were dead -- think again! On September 1st, Anchor Bay Entertainment goes full 80s retro with Lost After Dark, a loving but harrowing homage that takes audiences back to the decade when slashers ruled the silver screen. The exciting directing debut of writer/director Ian Kessner, Lost After Dark proudly features visceral, old-school prosthetic “kills,” and pop songs pulsing to an electronic beat. So thrown on a pair of acid wash jeans and go full-on tubular with Lost After Dark!

Spring Ball, 1984. Adrienne (, Midnight Sun, "Wingin' It"), a straight-A student, joins her quarterback crush Sean (Justin Kelly, Maps To The Stars, Big Muddy) and some friends in sneaking out of their high school dance for some unsupervised mayhem. The teens' party plans hit a snag when they run out of gas on a deserted road. They head out on foot and discover a rundown farmhouse where they hope to find help. Instead they find themselves at the mercy of Junior Joad (Mark Wiebe, Sweet Karma), a cannibal killer from an urban legend. After the brutal murder of one of their friends, the group's quest for help becomes one of survival. Will anyone survive the night?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS (1976)

SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS (1976) 

Label: VCI Entertainment
Region Code: Region Free
Rating: R
Duration: 93 minutes 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78.1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Greydon Clark
Cast: John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jack Kruschen, John Carradine, Sydney Chaplin

Horny cheerleaders and a cult of Devil worshipers collide in this fantastic slice of drive-in exploitation from low budget director Greydon Clark (Without Warning) who begins the film with a fun beach scene of horny bikini-clad cheerleaders playing a game of touch football with the school football team.  The frustrated coach implores the team to save their precious bodily fluids for the big game tomorrow, but the cheer squad have other plans, and the jocks will be scoring long before tomorrow's bug game.

The following day the cheerleaders and their air-headed PE coach (Jacqueline Cole) are en route to the big game when they're car breaks down on the side of the road, luckily for them Billy (Jack Kruschen) the school janitor Billy happens along and offers them a ride. What they don't know is that Billy is a sequin-studded peeping tom who regularly spies on the naked cheerleaders through a peephole in the shower room, and he has no intention of transporting them to the game. He kidnaps them and whisks them away to a Satanic altar out in the middle of nowhere where he will sacrifice them in the name of Satan, and get his rocks off in the process. Unfortunately for him things don't go as planned and one of the young cheerleaders named Patti (Kerry Sherman) strips nude and lays on the altar and is apparently raped by the Beelzebub while Billy throws a tantrum off to the side yelling that this was not the plan. There are corny red flashes on screen and Billy drops dead, seems making a deal with Old Scratch never goes as planned. Now slightly dazed poor Patty seem transformed by the Satan-rape experience, becoming more sinister herself. 

The girls make of with Billy's truck and encounter a bum on the side of the road, played by b-movie hero John Carradine (The House of Seven Corpses), who directs them into the town of Nether where they find Sheriff B.L. Bubb (John Ireland, Red River) and his wife. Emily, played by Yvonne Decarlo, whom you might better know as Herman's wife Lily from The Munsters TV program, but who had definitely seen better days at this point in her career. In a turn straight out of Race With the Devil it turns out that the Sheriff is the leader of the satanic cult and he and his devil-worshiping wife plan to make a virgin sacrifice at the stroke of midnight. There's only one problem, these cheerleaders have not been virgins for quite some time, which throws a wrench into the diabolical plans of the hayseed Satanists. 

Satan's Cheerleaders is a very silly and camp-infused seventies slice of Satanic cinema with oodles of poor acting and unintentional hilarity, it is a truly awful film but  manages to be immensely entertaining for those same reasons, it's just ridiculous fun. These ladies do not have an ounce of talent between them but they are super cute and very easy on the eyes, I love 70's babes. Add in phones in performances from b-movie stars John Carradine, John Ireland and Yvonne Decarlo and you have the makings of b-movie romp ready for ridicule with a few brews and a roomful of drunk friends, which really is the only way to watch something this bad. Of note, this was one of cinematographer Dean Cundey's early features, he would go onto a very storied career beginning with John Carpenter Halloween just a few year's later but don't go in expecting this to be an early example of his visual artistry, it's not. 

The disc from VCI offers the film in anamorphic widescreen for the first time but won't win any year end awards for the transfer, which is soft and flat with poor contrast, and muted colors. Day shots fare better than the under lit night scenes which are a murky undefined mess, but at least the source material is in fair condition without an abundance of print damage. There's a commentary from director Greydon Clark who tends to be technical and overly serious when discussing such a silly movie, but he does offer plenty of making-of anecdotes and behind-the-scenes info that fans of the film might enjoy.

Satan's Cheerleaders is a silly slice of devil-worshiping cinema that's sure to have your eyes rolling back in your head with loads unintentional camp and awful acting, but I wouldn't change a thing about it other than to say more nudity wouldn't have made it better, just more enjoyable. 2/5

DER SAMURAI (2014)

DER SAMURAI (2014) 

Label: Artsploitation Films

Region: A
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 80 Minutes
Audio: German Dolby Digital 5.1, German DTS-HD MA 5.1 with English Subtitles 
Video: HD Widescreen 
Director: Till Kleinert
Cast: Michel Diercks, Pit Bukowski, Uwe Preuss

Der Samurai centers on a young police officer named Jakob (Michel Diercks) whom resides in a small German village. At the start of the film he seems to struggle for recognition from the community, none of whom seem to take him seriously, you get the feeling that he's a bit of an outsider. There have been reports of wolves in the area and Jakob takes a keen interest in them, baiting the wolves with bags of fresh meat in the forests just outside of the village, in an effort to keep them away from the village where there have been reports of dogs going missing.

One night on patrol he spots a wolf in the woods and follows it when he happens upon an abandoned house in the forest, investigating he encounters a nameless man (Pit Bukowski) in a white dress. The sinewy man has an uncanny ability to get under Jakob's skin with some strange conversation and things escalate quickly from here and the young officer finds himself up against what might just be a shape-shifting samurai sword wielding weirdo in a dress, not the usual small town problems. The vengeful cross-dresser disappears into the night sets about decimating the inhabitants of the village with his sword while further antagonizing young Jakob.

Let me tell you folks that this one is an eyeful of awesome visuals and a head full of a psychological what-ifs, sometimes the unexpected is just what you need and this German film was quite an unexpected treat. The film is low budget but has some artful cinematography and shot composition with some clever editing and a few wonderfully kinetic action-sequences that will keep you glued to the screen, all wrapped up in nightmarish imagery within contemporaneity fairy tale setting, like a modern German folktale. 

If you wanna dig a little deeper under the surface of the bloody cat and mouse game there are some pretty overt themes of sexual identity throughout, but regardless of what level you choose to engage the film it is certainly an entertaining watch. The flow of film has a bit of a nightmarish quality about it which gives it a surreal Lynchian vibe, with added edge of a slip-wearing swordsman separating heads from shoulders, with some exuberantly bloody scenes with some dark humor thrown in from time to time.

Bukowski and Diercks are superb in their roles, both are fearless and Bukowski in particular has an almost supernatural menace about him, both impish and fatal at the same time, you just cannot look away from these very intense performances, the combination of powerful performances and artful direction makes for a strange and wonderful watch.

Der Samura arrives on Blu-ray from Artsploitation Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer that is completely solid, the color saturation is vibrant and the black levels are deep and rich. The color scheme is gorgeous, a lot of luscious green and accented by amber ighting and sploshes of blood red. There are two audio options, both German DTS-HD MA 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 with optional English subtitles. The sound design complements the gorgeous nightmare cinematography with a good atmospheric mix. 

Extras on the disc include an audio commentary from the director and producer who offera  lot of insight about the making of the film. There's also a making of featurette that goes into how certain scenes were achieved complete with outtakes, including a scene of Jakob running through the woods which was achieved in a way that reminded me of how Mario Bava achieved certain shots in A Bay of Blood, by pretty much slapping the actor in the face with tree branches on a stage. Extras are finished up with a selection of trailers for the film and others from Artsploitation Films. 

Special Features:

- Audio Commentary with Director Till Kleinert and Producer Linus De Paoli
- Behind the scenes Featurette (11 Mins) HD
- Trailer (2 Mins) HD
- Artsploitation Trailers 

A surreal take on a contemporary samurai film with some strange Lynchian notes and a transgressive sexual subtext that makes for some truly fascinating viewing, this is a high recommend for the more adventurous types who don't mind a samurai fairy-tale with a queer slant. Artsploitation are back, if you are crave strange and provocative world cinema their initial Blu-ray offering is something worth celebrating. 3.5/5

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

SCARECROWS (1988)

SCARECROWS (1988) 


Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: June 2nd, 2015
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 83 Minutes
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Video: HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: William Wesley
Cast: Ted Vernon, Victoria Christian, Kristina Sanborn, Michael David Simms, Richard Vidan

A group of mercenaries knock over the payroll office at Fort Pendelton, afterward they kidnap an airplane pilot and his daughter and force them to fly South towards Mexico. En route over rural Florida they are betrayed by one of their own who makes off with multi-million dollar loot. Now the irate mercenaries find themselves in rural Florida on the prowl for their missing money and to fuck-up their double-crossing teammate. On the ground they come across an abandoned farmhouse where there seems to have been some occult activity years earlier, which might explain why the scarecrows in the area are coming to life and killing the mercenaries one my one, turning them into more scarecrows in a variety of grisly ways.The group of mercenaries are armed to the teeth with weaponry and other cool techno gadget including night vision goggles and radio headsets which keep them in constant contact. They're tough guys all around but they're no match for the straw-stuffed supernatural force they encounter on this dark night. 

Scarecrows is quite a fun action-supernatural horror hybrid with a lot of creepy atmosphere, shot entirely at night the shadowy cinematography works wonders for this low-budget cheapie with scenes of darkened cornrows and creepy scarecrows  which more than once made my skin crawl. The gore is pretty good, we get some enjoyable blood and guts throughout. Severed heads, crucified corpses wrapped in barbwire and a body stuffed with cash are just a few of the morbid delights of Scarecrows. 

Our crew of crooks are tough guys through and through but we see them crumble a bit when confronted with murderous scarecrows, and rightfully so, these scarecrows are vicious and scary as shit! We don't get a ton of character development for anyone as the story takes place over the course of a few short hours, but we do get a feel for what type of people we are dealing with, they're crooks, but they're not the most awful people you could imagine, they have some honor about them. I thought the characters of the pilot and his daughter were extraneous to the story but at least the daughter was cute, and without her there wouldn't have been anyone to root for other than a group of money stealing crooks.  

Some comedy comes does through from time to time, not of the slapstick laugh out loud variety, but more along the lines of gallows humor, these guys are fighting for their lives against an absurd supernatural force, and that silliness is not lost on the filmmakers or the screenwriter, so you might find an uneasy chuckle or two to enjoy among the scenes of dread and tension. 

At the end of the day this is a film about creepy scarecrows stalking a group of crooks and murdering them one by one, turning them into twisted and bloody versions of scarecrows and that's a pretty bad ass premise. On top of that the movie is well paced and the special effects are top-notch, plus the mash-up of action and horror elements is fun, which at times made me think of Neil Marshall's awesome werewolf film Dog Soldiers, another film that pits a supernatural force against a small military squad. 

Audio/Video: Scarecrows looks pretty damn good on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, a nice HD upgrade with strong black levels which is a must as the film is shot almost entirely at night. The color timing is strong, skin tones are accurate and there's a pleasing amount of fine detail throughout with a modest amount of depth to the image.

Audio options include both English DTS-HD MA stereo and surround sound options, the surround mix is really enhanced the viewing experience, during the action scenes we get plenty of sub woofer action and during the creepier moments some nice use of the surrounds. Composer Terry Plumeri's creepy score sounds great, love the use of the oboe during a few of the score selections, it's not something you hear a whole lot of and it's effectively used, added a lot of atmosphere to the movie. 

Onto the bonus features we have a choice of two audio commentaries, one with director William Wesley And producer Cami Winikoff moderated by Rob Galluzo whom I know from the Killer POV Podcast, this is the one I enjoyed the most, with some great making-of anecdotes and a tale of a near tragic flight. 

The second commentary is with co-screenwriter Richard Jefferies, Director Of Photography Peter Deming And Composer Terry Plumeri moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures and seems to be stitched together from a series of interviews, another one loaded with great making-of info, both are solid bonuses. 

There are also two new video interviews produced by the Red Shirt Pictures crew, the first being with Special Make-Up Effects Creator Norman Cabrera who recalls his hero worship of Rick Baker and the grassroots adventures making Scarecrows. This was his very first film at just eighteen years old, he speaks about the challenges of doing the effects on a low-budget feature, good stuff. 

The second is an interview with Actor Ted Vernon who briefly looks back at his career as a wrestler and a fighter and his movie career, plus his TV show South Beach Classics, but the meat of the interview focuses on Scarecrows and his experience on the four week shoot, portraying tough-guy Corbin who turns out to have a heart. Apparently the shoot plagued by mosquitoes and he hints at nearly coming to blows with director William Wesley. He also recalls working with the rest of the cast whom he seems fond of. Watch through to the end of the credits for some fun bonus interview bits. The last of the extras are storyboard comparisons, a gallery of behind-the-scenes stills, and a theatrical trailer plus a sleeve of reversible artwork. 

Special Features:
- New Audio Commentary With Co-screenwriter Richard Jefferies, Director Of Photography Peter Deming And Composer Terry Plumeri moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures
- Audio Commentary With Director William Wesley And Producer Cami Winikoff moderated by Rob Galluzo of Killer POV Podcast 

- The Last Straw – An Interview With Special Make-Up Effects Creator Norman Cabrera (17 Mins)
- Cornfield Commando – An Interview With Actor Ted Vernon (9 Mins)
- Original Storyboards (4 Mins)
- Still Gallery (60 Images)
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) 


Scarecrows holds up quite well, a tense and dread filled action-horror hybrid loaded with creepy atmosphere and scary looking scarecrows out for blood, fun stuff. After Dark Night of the Scarecrow this was one of the first killer scarecrow movies, and it is still one of the best of the bunch to this day. I don't think this one had a wide audience, so I am glad to see it on Blu-ray where it will maybe earn a few new fans, this one deserves a wider audience. A great presentation from Scream Factory with a solid audio and video presentation and a bunch of cool extras, highly recommended. 4/5

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kino Lorber and Redemption Release Jess Franco's Gothic horror classic 'The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus' on 6/9

  THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS (1962) 

Release Date: June 9th, 2015 
Duration: 96 Minutes 
Video: HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: French with optional English subtitles
Director: Jess Franco 
Cast: Georges Rollin, Howard Vernon, Hugo Blanco

Kino Lorber and Redemption announce the Blu-ray and DVD releases of Jess Franco's The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, an atmospheric, stylish Gothic thriller about a small town haunted by the spirit of a deceased 17th-century baron whose penchant for torture lives on and brings a curse upon the family.

The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus is set to street on June 9th, with a  SRP of $29.95 for the Blu-ray and $24.95 for the DVD.


A series of grisly murders in the remote village of Holfen convinces the locals that the town is still cursed by the spirit of a 17th-century baron who maintained an elaborate torture chamber in the dungeon of his estate. Undaunted by the villagers' superstitions, a detective (Georges Rollin) quickly focuses his investigation upon the creepy Max von Klaus (Howard Vernon). Meanwhile, the youngest male descendant of the Von Klaus bloodline (Hugo Blanco) returns home to mourn the death of his mother, and must wrestle with his own connection to the cursed family.


In this follow-up to his groundbreaking film The Awful Dr. Orlof, Jess Franco (Female Vampire) continued to carve out a career defined by fantastic imagery and transgressive violence. Cult film historian Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog) called The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus's torture sequence "horror cinema's first sequence of 100-proof erotic horror."


Special Features: 
- Original Theatrical Trailer 

Monday, May 25, 2015

IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE

IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (1958) 

Label: Olive Films
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 69 Minutes 
Audio: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Video: HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Edward L. Cahn
Cast: Marshall Thompson, Shawn Smith, Ann Doran, Dabbs Greer, Paul Langton, Robert Rice, Shirley Patterson, Kim Spalding, Ray Corrigan

Synopsis: 
Following a rescue mission to Mars, the survivor of a space expedition claims that his crew was hunted down and killed by an alien creature. Skeptical, and believing that the survivor may have killed the crew in order to survive, the rescue captain dismisses the explanation only to find that a Martian creature has stowed away on the spacecraft and begins to hunt the human hosts. It! The Terror From Beyond Space stars Marshall Thompson (The Clock) as Col. Carruthers, Shirley Patterson (The Land Unknown) as Ann Anderson, Kim Spalding (The Gunfighter) as Col. Van Heusen and Ray Corrigan (New Frontier) as “It”.

I love these low budget science fiction movies from the 1950's, especially when there is a man-in-a-suit styled creature roaming around and sucking the life force from our astronauts, which is what we have happening here, while not on par with Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires (1965), the films do share something in common, both were enormous inspiration on Ridley Scott's Alien (1979), It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) shares a vaguely similar story line of an alien creature stowing away on a ship headed for Earth, while Mario Bava's film offer an equally familiar story and a lot of aesthetic choices that Scott and screenwriter Dan O'Bannon seem to have copped for their own seminal science fiction film. So, mentioning Alien and Planet of the Vampires may have your expectations slightly inflated, but come back down to earth because this one is neither of those film, not even close, so grab some tortilla chips because this one is total cheese. 


A rescue mission is bound for the planet Mars in the very futuristic year of 1973, the year was born! The first mission met with disaster having crash landed on the surface of the Red Planet, upon arriving they discover that the sole survivor is Col. Edward Carruthers (Marshall Thompson), whom the crew suspect may have killed the remaining survivors for their food and water rations, which he denies. He places the blame on a monstrous creature he says attacked the crew, but his story is met with skepticism, and the fact that one of the victims is found with a bullet hole on their skull doesn't help his case either.

The crew are in for a surprise all their own, because it turns out that the Colonel was telling the damn truth, but that bullet hole in the skull is never explained. As the rescue mission leave Mars for the six-month return trip to Earth the monstrous creature boards the ship and hides away away in the air ducts, where it remains unnoticed until it starts to kill off the crew members one by one, draining each of the victims of their precious bodily fluids leaving behind a seriously dehydrated corpse. 

The beast is humanoid and somewhat reptilian in nature, scaly skin and three rough clawed fingers. Quite beast, but for the most part the creature is caught only in shadowy glimpses, which was probably a smart move on the part of the filmmakers because it can look awfully cheap, but then again this was the 50's and by standards of the era probably not that awful looking.

What transpires is the crew must fend of the creature which is after their fluids, and the monster  turns out to be damn near impossible to kill. Bullets, grenades and massive amounts of radiation seem to have little effect on the beast, but as is so often the case it turns out that something quite simple can undo the creature. I laughed when I thought about the fact that this is a science fiction film, the human race have the ability to travel to and from the planets throughout our solar system but our weapons still consist of carbine rifles and grenades straight out of World War 2, just thought that was funny, no space-age ray guns in this one. 

As a kid I would eat these cheap sci-fi movies up with a spoon when they aired on TV during weekends afternoons and I still love 'em, while they may not have aged very I love 'em, there's just something about those corny futuristic sets and cheesy space ships I cannot get enough of, and they still have their charm and thirty-years of youthful nostalgia to keep me coming back. 

Audio/Video: 
It! The Terror from Beyond Space arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films with a pleasing transfer sourced from a clean print with very few flaws to speak of. The black and white cinematography looks nice with good contrast and a few moments of nicely resolved fine detail. 

The info on the disc case incorrectly lists the aspect ratio as full frame (1.37:1), the correct aspect ratio featured on the disc is widescreen (1.85:1).  

The English language DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio comes through with very few issues, the low-budget production has a limited sound design but for fans of schlocky sci-fi there's enough futuristic sound effects and overly-dramatic score to bring a smile to your face.

The only extra on the disc is a trailer for the film that's in pretty poor shape. Olive Films tend to go the bare bones route these days, and I think a commentary would have been a nice value-added feature. At least offer something for the fans of the movie who maybe wouldn't upgrade to Blu-ray unless you sweeten the deal with at least a cursory bonus features. 

It!  The Terror from Beyond Space is a fun slice of '50s science fiction with a man-in-a-rubber-suit monster, the sort of film that absolutely appeals to my monster movie matinee nostalgia, if you love cheesy sci-fi and creature features I think you would enjoy It! 2.5/5

Jorg Buttgereit' DER TODESKING (1990) Coming to DVD/BD from Cult Epic on 6/9


DER TODESKING (1990) DVD

Label: Cult Epics
Release Date: June 9th 2015
Run Time: 76 Minutes
Dolby Digital 5.1 German with English subtitles
Color Full Screen 1.33:1
Region 1
Not Rated
Director: Jorg Buttgereit
Cast: Nicolas Petche, Hermann Kopp

Cult Epics presents the third release in the series Corpse Fucking Art; Jorg Buttgereit’s powerful masterpiece Der Todesking (aka The Death King), made in-between Nekromantik (1987) and Nekromantik 2 (1991). Seven stories on Death and Suicide, each taking place on a different day of the week, enframed by the decomposition of a human body. Warning: extremely graphic. Der Todesking, available for the first time on DVD, is presented Uncut and Uncensored in a new High Definition transfer, including the bonus Shockumentary Corpse Fucking Art; an in-depth look behind the scenes of Nekromantik, Nekromantik 2 and Der Todesking.

Bonus Features:
- New Director’s Approved HD transfer (taken from the original 16mm negative)
- New Introduction by Jorg Buttgereit (2015)
- Audio Commentary by Jorg Buttgereit and co-author Franz Rodenkirchen
- The Making of Der Todesking
- Still Photo Gallery
- JB HD Trailers
- Corpse Fucking Art (Documentary) 1983, 60 Mins., HD transfer
- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack



DER TODESKING (1990) Blu-ray

Label: Cult Epics
Release Date: June 9th 2015
Run Time: 76 Minutes
Dolby Digital 5.1 German with English subtitles
Color Full Screen 1.33:1
Region A
Not Rated
Director: Jorg Buttgereit
Cast: Nicolas Petche, Hermann Kopp

Cult Epics presents the third release in the series Corpse Fucking Art; Jorg Buttgereit’s powerful masterpiece Der Todesking (aka The Death King), made in-between Nekromantik (1987) and Nekromantik 2 (1991). Seven stories on Death and Suicide, each taking place on a different day of the week, enframed by the decomposition of a human body. Warning: extremely graphic. Der Todesking, available for the first time on Blu-ray, is presented Uncut and Uncensored in a new High Definition transfer, including the bonus Shockumentary Corpse Fucking Art; an in-depth look behind the scenes of Nekromantik, Nekromantik 2 and Der Todesking.

Bonus Features:
- New Director’s Approved HD transfer (taken from the original 16mm negative)
- New Introduction by Jorg Buttgereit (2015)
- Audio Commentary by Jorg Buttgereit and co-author Franz Rodenkirchen
- The Making of Der Todesking
- Still Photo Gallery
- JB HD Trailers
- Corpse Fucking Art (Documentary) 1983, 60 Mins., HD transfer
- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
- The first 3000 Blu-ray copies include Collectible Artwork: 25th Anniversary (Silver embossed) Slipcover and Corpse Fucking Art Postcard


HORSEHEAD on Blu-ray/DVD from Artsploitation Films on 6/23

HORSEHEAD

Release Date: June 23rd 2015

Synopsis: Beautiful young Jessica returns to her family's countryside estate for her grandmother's funeral where she is haunted by recurring nightmares of a horse-headed monster. As she attempts to semi-consciously navigate through this dream landscape, Jessica begins to discover the secrets behind this sinister apparition. Haunting and horrific, surreal and shocking, HORSEHEAD is a horror-fantasy that pay tribute to the classic European shockers of Dario Argento and Mario Bava while delivering unforgettable images that both disturb and enchant.

Bonus Features: 
- INSIDE HORSEHEAD Making of
- Four short films
- Trailer
HORSEHEAD | Official Trailer | Artsploitation Films
HORSEHEAD Official Trailer

'DARK SUMMEr' and 'ALIEN OUTPOST' Available July 7th, 2015 from Scream Factory


This July, beat the summer heat with two highly stylized horror thrillers, Dark Summer and Alien Outpost, both making their Blu-ray and DVD debut on July 7th, 2015 from Scream Factory, in partnership with IFC Midnight. Featuring exciting new bonus content including cast and crew interviews, audio commentaries, making of featurettes and more, both titles can be pre-ordered now from ShoutFactory.com.

A claustrophobic modern ghost story, Dark Summer follows Daniel Williamson, a 17 year old under house arrest for the summer after cyberstalking a classmate. With his mother away on business, a horrifying incident occurs and Williamson soon experiences strange supernatural occurrences--which become increasingly more sinister and terrifying, with twists that will leave audiences reeling. Starring Peter Stormare (Fargo), Maestro Harrell (The Wire), Keir Gilchrist (It Follows, United States of Tara), Stella Maeve (The Runaways) and Grace Phipps (Fright Night), Dark Summer is a highly original twist on the supernatural summer season terror.

Dark Summer Bonus Features
- Audio Commentary with director Paul Solet
- Atmosphere and Style Featurette
- Director Paul Solet Featurette
- The Art of Dark Summer Featurette
- The Music of Dark Summer Featurette
- A Conversation with Peter Stormare Featurette
- The Kids - Cast interviews
- Theatrical Trailer

Set in 2021, Alien Outpost is the story of the aftermath of the First Earth War , in which an
invading race of aliens known as the Heavies are narrowly defeated. But thousands of the aliens were left behind, and a new war on terror now rages. In the wake of the war, a series of remote operating bases are created to defend the planet, with the deadliest being base Three Seven, positioned in the most hostile place on Earth.
A documentary film crew is sent to record daily life in Outpost Three Seven, where the men, led by hardened commander Captain Spears (Rick Ravanello, Dark Haul), are under constant enemy fire. When a member of the crew disappears during a Heavy ambush, the unit launches a raid deep into enemy territory to rescue him… only to make a terrifying discovery.

Directed by Jabbar Raisani (Visual Effects Supervisor on Game Of Thrones, Machete, Predators), the explosive Alien Outpost is a science-fiction gem with stunning effects and non-stop action.

Alien Outpost Special Features:
- Audio Commentary By Director/Co-Writer Jabbar Raisani And Director Of Photography/Co-Writer Blake Clifton
- Interviews With Cast And Crew
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer

FOXY BROWN (1974)

FOXY BROWN (1974)
Label: Olive Films
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Cast: Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Sid Haig, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown, Kathryn Loder
Director: Jack Hill

I must confess that pre-Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997) I knew very little about the 70's Blaxploitation era of cinema, having only the most vague knowledge of Richard Roundtree's Shaft (1971) film and very little else. I had not even heard of the director Jack Hill at that point. However, after taking in Pam Grier's return to prominence starring role in Jackie Brown and the many Tarantino interviews that accompanied the film I went straight to Foxy Brown (1974) to see what this '70's exploitation classic was all about, and it was a pretty fantastic watch from the get-go, definitely a slice of some bad ass soul cinema.

In reality director Jack Hill initially set out to film a sequel to the successful Pam Grier vehicle Coffy (1973), also on Blu-ray from Olive Films on June 9th, but when distributor American International Pictures opted not to go the sequel route he re-purposed the ebony revenger and gave us Grier as the smoking-hot, street-smart Foxy Brown who kicks major amounts of corrupt white ass when her DEA boyfriend is gunned down by an heroin dealing escort service run by the villainous Steve Elias (Peter Brown) and the deliciously evil Miss Katherine (Kathryn Loder, The Big Doll House).

Foxy's fuck-up brother Link (TVs Antonio 'Huggy Bear' Fargas) is a coke dealing delinquent and when his debt with Miss Katherine comes due he wins her favor by revealing the whereabouts of Foxy's DEA boyfriend resulting in his murder. Double-crossed Link ends up dead at the business end of a shotgun while his coked-up girlfriend gets her throat slit. The murder of both her lover and fuck-up brother sends Foxy off the deep end and into full-on revenge mode. Foxy sets out to infiltrate the whorehouse as would-be whore decked out in a few sweet seventies styles that are tight in all the right places, Grier is a stunning woman and those skintight outfits are very complimentary to her ass arsenal of kicking curves. Link at one point says Foxy is a "whole lotta woman" and he ain't lying, she's definitely an eyeful!

Foxy enlists the help of a vigilante group to reap her revenge but when they shake things up for the whore mongering heroin dealers get wise to Foxy's true identity and she winds up tied to a bed with heroin needle jabbed in her arm. Miss Katherine's diabolical scheme is to get Foxy hooked on smack and then pimp her out before sending her off to a slave-farm in Haiti - but you just know Foxy Brown ain't going out like that.

Jack Hill regular Sid Haig (The Big Bird Cage) arrives on scene as a pervy pilot in the service of the drug cartel, it's great to see him with Grier onscreen, there's an undeniable chemistry and they're quite a duo, even if the couplings short lived. Foxy Brown has a fun cast of seedy characters, including Antonio Fargas as Foxy's wise-cracking brother who cannot stay out of trouble, every one of his scenes is a winner, he cracked me up. Kathryn Loder's is fantastic as the villainous baddie plays well and Brown's portrayal of Elias is perfect, love it when he gets his comeuppance, a dong-slicing shocker that is long overdue.

Foxy Brown is an entertaining actioner chock full of 70's kitsch, black on white revenge, memorable bad ass dialogue and a sweet villainous duo, definitely one of my favorite of the 70's Blaxploitation movies, though admittedly there's a lot I have yet to see. If you dig the seventies exploitation films and you're not familiar with director Jack Hill's Coffy (1973) or his string of Filipino exploitation women-in-prison films you need to check 'em out right away.

Audio/Video: Foxy Brown (1974) makes it's American HD debut on Blu-ray from Olive Films, the 1080p widescreen (1.85;1) transfer is quite nice, sourced from a print in fantastic condition, the colors are vivid, contrast is sharp and there's a nice layer of film grain. The English surround sound audio is good, the dialogue, effects and the sweet 70's score are crisp, clean and free of any distortion. Willie Hutch's funk-soul score benefits the most from the HD audio upgrade, though I do which they offered the original mono audio as an option for the purists.

Unfortunately there are zero extras on the disc, if you crave commentaries and interviews you should check out the Region B Blu-ray from Arrow Video in the UK which is stuffed with goodies including a commentary from director Jack Hill and interviews with Sid Haid, Fred Williamson, Austin Stoker and Rosanne Katon. If you just want the film straight-up with no frills this Olive Films disc has a solid AV presentation that should suit your needs.

Foxy Brown (1974) is an essential slice of 70's soul cinema starring Pam Grier as the stunning and lethal Foxy Brown. It make for an entertaining Afro-centric actioner that's loaded with vintage fashions and gritty urban action, fun stuff and a definite recommend. 3.5/5

Sunday, May 24, 2015

MADMAN (1981)

MADMAN (1981) 

Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 89 Minutes
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Joe Giannone
Cast: Carl FredricksJan Claire, Tony Fish,  Gaylen Ross, Harriet Bass, Seth Jones, Paul Ehlers


Synopsis: Years ago, Madman Marz violently murdered his family only to escape into the woods before his execution could be completed. Legend has it that anyone who calls his name above a whisper can summon him back to continue his bloody rampage. But teenage Richie, away at camp, doesn’t believe the old legend and calls his name. As night falls, strange things start happening at camp and soon Madman Marz is back, axe in hand, to finish the killing spree he started decades ago. One of the true classics of 80’s slasher cinema, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents MADMAN on Blu-ray for the first time, newly restored in 4K from the camera negative!

I love me some Madman, a pretty fantastic and simplistic camper-slasher from the vintage age slasher era. It all starts with a creepy and atmospheric campfire tale as crusty camp owner Max (Carl Fredricks) tells the tale of Madman Marz to a group of horny camp counselors and fresh-faced adolescent campers. Madman was a crazed lunatic who murdered his family with an ax in a house conveniently located right next to the campgrounds. Marz was hung for his awful crimes but he slipped the noose and disappeared into the forest where is is told he still lurks the surrounding woods waiting to murder anyone who would dare speak his name. This is one of the better campfire tales and right away established not just an awesome origin story and the local legend but sets up he film, our group of campers and counselors and some frightful atmosphere, this is a great beginning. 



As the campers are about to return to their cabins for the night one of the campers, a smart-ass named Richie, mocks Madman by calling his name into the night and throwing a stone through the home of the killer. which is just a stones throw away. Of course this blasphemy stirs the madman and much slasher-riffic '80s awesomeness ensues. As the group depart from the campfire Richie looks up into the treeline and sees Madman silhouetted against the dark blue night sky among the branches, yet another creepy image right from the start.

Back at camp Max heads into town for supplies while the randy camp counselors settle in for a night on horny teenage naughtiness. Among the group are sweet counselor-couple  Ellie (Jan Claire) and Bill (Alex Murphy) who run off for some nookie, while T.P. (Tony Fish) hopes to patch things up with Betsy (Gaylen Ross), they're summer romance is losing steam but that doesn't stop them from heading off to the hot tub for a protracted and goody soft core courtship, circling each other around the hot tub for a very bizarre hot tub scene. Strange and prolonged though it may be it does pay off with Dawn of the Dead star Gaylen Ross dropping her top and baring her breasts, so just enjoy the soft core tub-circling and enjoy. Then there's Stacy (Harriet Bass) and Dave (Seth Jones), not sure if they're a couple but  Dave seems to be doing his best to weasel his way onto her panties. 


There's a surprising amount of character development for the teen counselors, they all get a decent shake and some superficial build-up before the inevitable ax murdering begins. Of note is the aforementioned Gaylen Ross of Dawn of the Dead notoriety, she's not the most spunky character but damn do I love her eyes. Honestly, her performance is a bit flat, not awful, but she seems to be half-hardheartedly channeling Amy Steel from Friday the 13th during her scenes with Madman Marz. 

Madman's murder-spree is fun stuff even if the set-ups and kills are pretty standfard, but they are well executed. Among them we have a throat slashing to start things off with, a great hanging scene, and multiple decapitations including one fun scene of a hood of truck which takes someones head clean-off. One of the young ladies gets an ax to the chest that is wonderfully bloody, and there's what appears to be a nod to Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a young women taking a meat hook through the chest. Slasher fans will have very little to complain about, this is a very solid camper-slasher from start to finish. 



The character of Madman Marz is wonderfully realized as an unkempt backwoods lunatic portrayed by actor Paul Ehlers, a white-haired dungaree clad madman with an ax, a ferocious presence who seems damn near unstoppable at times. The simplicity of the design cheap and effective with a nasty scar running down his rough face, and part of his nose missing. Watching this again I could not help but think that Madman was a huge influence on Victor Crowley from Adam Green's Hatchet series. 

I love the 80s atmosphere, the camp setting, the blue-tinted lighting and the synth score, this one is firing on all cylinders and while it's not original it does buck a few trends along the way, for instance, the expected final girl doesn't turn out to be the final girl and that little shit Richie who set-off the Madman in the first pace doesn't get his proper comeuppance, though he deserves a very painful death. 


Audio/Video: Vinegar Syndrome do it again with a brand new 4K restoration that gives us the best looking presentation of Madman (1981) yet, fan are gonna flip for this one. Sure, there's the inherent stylistic softness and an grainy film stock to deal with otherwise this is pretty fantastic. There are frames of print damage and we still have to contend with those annoying vertical red lines that pop up from time to time, but keep in mind that those are relics from the source material and no fault of the transfer from Vinegar Syndrome have done right by this '80s cult film.  

The English language DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0 audio sounds as good as the flat source material will allow, that said, the delicious '80s synth score sounds great and the dialogue and effects come through clean if not exactly crisp. 



Onto the bonus content you will be pleased to know that Vinegar Syndrome have ported over every special feature from the Code Red DVD release including the fantastic feature-length documentary The Legend Lives: 30 Years of Madman documentary by Victor Bonacore, which is a must watch for fans. 

New to this jam-packed edition are over 43 minutes of brand new interviews with producer Gary Sales, actors Paul Ehlers and Tom Candela all of whom seem genuinely fond to reminiscence about the making of the film over thirty years ago. There's also a new audio commentary track from The Hysteria Continues! Podcast with Special Guest Johnny Krueg of Krueger Nation Podcast, the crew also dedicated a podcast episode to the film that is worth checking out. 


There's also a sleeve of reversible artwork on this release, designed by Madman himself, Paul Ehlers, which s pretty cool. This being a DVD/BD Combo there are 2 discs and each one features artwork from the two sleeve art options, which I love, because I hate ti when we have 2 disc releases and they have the same artwork. 


Special Features:

- Blu-ray/DVD Combo | Region Free | 1.85:1 OAR
- Scanned and restored in 4k from 35mm original camera negative
- Gary Sales Intro (1 Min)
- NEW! The Early Career of Gary Sales (14 Mins) 
- NEW! Dead Pit Interviews Paul Ehlers ( 5 Mins) 
- NEW! Dead Pit Interviews Gary Sales (3 Mins)
- The Legend Lives: 30 Years of Madman documentary by Victor Bonacore (92 Mins)
- NEW! Madman: Alive at 35  (21 Mins)
- NEW! Commentary track by The Hysteria Continues! Podcast with Special Guest Johnny Krueg of Krueger Nation Podcast

- Commentary track with Producer, Director and Cast.
- Music Inspired by Madman (13 Mins)
- In Memoriam (6 Mins)
- Vintage Still Gallery (7 Mins)
- TV Spots (2 Mins)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- English SDH Subtitles
- Reversible cover w/ original artwork (Designed by Madman himself, Paul Ehlers)


Vinegar Syndrome have put together quite a treat for the Madman fans, this is a top notch Blu-ray edition that features the best transfer of the film we are likely ever going to see and a bunch of great extras, this is the definitive edition of Madman, which is a pretty great classic 80s slasher film and hopefully it will ear legions of new fans with this fantastic Blu-ray. 4/5