Tuesday, June 30, 2015

GIUSEPPE MAKES A MOVIE (2014)


GIUSEPPE MAKES A MOVIE (2014) 
Label: Cinelicious Pics
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 82 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen 
Director: Adam Rifkin
Cast: Giuseppe Andrews, Vietnam Ron, Big Ed, Sir Bigfoot George, Ed, Mary,Mike dougal, Walt dongo, Tyree, Walter Patterson, Tiffany Naylor, Spit, Bill Nowlin, Gayle Wells, Ruth Estes

While the rest of America slept, DIY filmmaker/musician Giuseppe Andrews (a one-time teen actor in Independence Day and Detroit Rock City) has made over 30 experimental features with titles like Doily’s Summer of Freak Occurrences, Trailer Town and Utopia Blues. Set in some demented alternate universe (i.e. Ventura, California), they are populated by real-life alcoholics and drug addicts, trash-talking senior citizens and trailer park residents dressed in cow outfits and costume-shop wigs, acting out booze-fueled vignettes of severe psychosis filtered through Giuseppe’s John Waters-meets-Harmony Korine-meets-Werner Herzog sensibility.

From Director Adam Rifkin (Look, The Dark Backward) comes a very strange documentary chronicling the film making efforts of former teen actor Giuseppe Andrews, a young man whom you might remember from appearances in the Blockbuster Independence Day and Rifkin's own Detroit Rock City, or as more recently as the bumbling stoner-cop in the Cabin Fever movies. What you may not know is that for the past 12-years Andrews has been making series of no-budget outsider movies, way out there avant-garde cinema populated by a cast of characters fresh from the trailer park, which is where Giuseppe shoots these slices of lower-culture life, in and around the trailer park where he lives in Ventura, California, surrounded by a cast and crew of societal rejects and dregs that most would avoid, but the young director embraces. 

Surprisingly this is not seem to be a case of the filmmaker exploiting the down-trodden, Giuseppe truly loves his drug and booze addled crew with all his heart -- there's a mutual respect for one one another and everyone involved is so damn passionate about the movies they're creating together, however humble they may be to the average eye. This is pretty out there stuff, outsider cinema way beyond (and below) anything from Harmony Korine (Gummo), amateur just doesn't even begin to describe it. The doc is peppered with scenes from they're previous films  Doily’s Summer of Freak Occurrences, Trailer Town and Utopia Blues while also showing us a glimpse of his latest venture, a two-day shoot for a film called Garbanzo Gas, starring Vietnam Ron as a Cow who had been granted a weekend reprieve from the slaughterhouse at a local motel - yeah, just try to make sense of that one my friend.

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary by director Adam Rifkin and producer Mike Plante. 
- Garbanzo Gas: The Feature Film Being Made in Giuseppe Makes a Movie (75 Mins) 
- Schlock Oysters: Extra scenes from Giuseppe Makes a Movie (25 Mins) 
- Visual Medium Observation: Producer Mike Planet Talks with Giuseppe Near His Home in Austin, Texas (29 Mins) 
- Bill Nowlin Lives: Giuseppe Interviews Bill Nowlin, an Actor in His Early Films (14 Mins) 
- 5th Wheel: The TV Pilot by Giuseppe Widely Pitched to Networks, roundly Rejected (22 Mins) 
- 16 Page Collector's Booklet with writings on the films by Bill Gibbons and Mark Borchardt
- Directed by Giuseppe: Highlight Reel of Giuseppe's Filmography (5 Mins) 
- Trailer (3 Mins) 

The cast of transients, recovering addicts and alcoholics put on quite a show for the camera, this is cinema in it's most pure form, there's no ego or pretense, but there's plenty of vibrant and foul-mouthed dialogue delivered by as cast of well worn and weathered lunatic fringers, it makes for a very surreal viewing experience -- there's something quite beautiful about it -- but this documentary and the movies made by the subject thereof are certainly not for anyone. I myself would certainly prefer watching the documentary again over the movies themselves, they're an acquired taste, but I love the pure spirit of all involved -- even if I don't see myself tracking any of them down to watch anytime soon -- the documentary is quite a success. 3/5

DOG SOLDIERS (2002)

DOG SOLDIERS (2002)
Label: Scream Factory 
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 105 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Neil Marshall
Cast: Liam Cunningham, Kevin McKidd, Thomas Lockyer, Emma Cleasby, Sean Pertwee, Neil Marshall

A squad of six regular British Army soldiers lead by Sgt. Harry G. Wells (Sean Pertwee, Gotham) are dropped by helicopter into the chilly Scottish Highlands for what is to be a standard military exercise, they are up against a Special Forces unit lead by Captain Ryan (Liam Cunningham, Centurion). Suddenly the training exercise turn to shit when the soldiers find the Special Forces unit have been eviscerated by an unknown enemy, the encampment is covered in blood and guts, with only the critically wounded Ryan having survived. While Ryan keeps repeating "there was only supposed to be one" the enemy make themselves known and the group retreat into the forest, in the ensuing panic one of the soldiers impales himself on a tree branch and Sgt. Harry is disemboweled by what turns out to werewolves. Patching the Sgt. up the remaining soldiers are found by a woman in a Jeep who transports them to a nearby woodland cottage where they regroup, and treat the injured. Meanwhile, the werewolves gather around the cottage and lay siege throughout the night. Neil Marshall made quite a werewolf film back in 2002, a darkly funny and gory mash-up combining a gritty war movie with the hairy-howls of a Howling-esque terror film, that at its prime feels a bit like Assault of Precinct 13 with werewolves thrown-in to the mix. 

The group of soldiers are spot-on fantastic, a great assortment of actors who imbue their characters with some minor depth as they each share war stories and fret about missing the big soccer match in between barbing each other about this and that, the dialogue is snappy and vibrant. An earlier scene with Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd) establishes both his own moral code and his antagonistic relationship with Capt. Ryan from the Special Forces. These are all decent blokes, except for maybe Ryan who is keeping vital information from the other soldiers, and whom strangely has recover from his injuries in record time, I wonder...

The pace is kinetic and the atmosphere is tense, the Scottish Highlands (Luxembourg actually) look damn great, loads mist-laden greenery with rocky outcroppings made even more ominous by the black and white wolf-vision employed by the filmmakers for the POV shots of our hairy-antagonists. The design of the werewolves is great, seven foot tall beasts with the head of a wolf, their bodies are somewhat hairless with a long mane descending down their back from their head, long-clawed fingers with seemingly overlong arms with quite a reach... the better to disembowel you with with my dear. I think the design gives a wink to the creatures from Joe Dante's The Howling, but they manage to hold their own without resorting to outright theft, plus we do not get an elaborate transformation scene, mostly achieved quite simply with just yellow contact lenses and a set of teeth, they duck down below a table or whatnot, a boom  they're transformed. I love that Marshall went practical for the appearance of the werewolves, thereby avoiding the shock and awfulness that was An American Werewolf in Paris, this has an great old school special effects vibe.

Audio/Video: Dog soldiers was previously issues on Blu-ray from First Look Studios in North America and the image was lacking to say the least, when Scream Factory announced a new Collector's Edition of the movie was in the works I was very pleased. After a bit of a delay what we ended up with was a new 2K scan HD transfer approved by director Neil Marshall. Unfortunately, not from the original negative -- which by all accounts seems to be lost -- but from two 35mm film prints. So the expectations of a new 2K scan must be tempered by the fact that we have no negative and there's only so much you can do with a 35mm print -- that is actually a Super 16mm negative blown-up to 35mm. 


Keeping that in mind the PQ is not ideal, by the director's own admission the film is contrasty, overly bright and cursed with black crush and an abundance of grain. I don't mind the film grain, I love it, but the brightness and contrast issues are unsightly, but overall I think the grittiness of the image is actually complimentary to the kinetic hand-held nature of the film. Perhaps down the road someone will uncover the seemingly lost original 16m negative for the movie as we will have a superior transfer, but until such a time we will have to make due with what source elements that were available, and this appears to have been the best of what was available, not ideal but that's the reality.

There are two audio options, English language DTS-HD 2.0 and a Surround 5.1 mix, both are adequate but neither are gonna blow-up your home theater system. Dialogue, the score and special effects audio are nicely balanced, the surround sound option is more active with some use of the rear surrounds during the more action-oriented sequences with some pleasing ambient sound and gunfire. There are optional English subtitles are provided. 

Bonus content on the disc include an hour-long making of documentary with input from Director Neil Marshall, Producers Christopher Figg And Keith Bell, Actors Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Leslie Simpson And Emma Cleasby, Special Effects Artist Bob Keen. There's also a new featurette with Production Designer Simon Bowles who brings out a scale model of the cottage and speaks about the design and logistics of the cottage sequences.There's also a new audio commentary from the director loaded with anecdotal info about the making of the film, the cast and crew, and the genesis of the project. Neil Marshall's short film 'Combat' from 1999 is included on the set, a fun war-themed version of the pub dating scene at the time, it's a fun addition



A few extras not carried over from previous DVD editions worth mentioning are an audio commentary by writer/director Neil Marshall, producer Keith Bell, cameraman Sam McCurdy and actors Kevin McKidd, Liam Cunningham and Sean Pertwee which can be found on the Region 2 DVD, plus a  commentary by producers David Allen and Brian O'Toole which can be found on both the R2 and R1 DVD. Also missing are a brief Making of Dog Soldiers featurette (found on the R1/R2 DVD) and a selection of deleted scenes and gag reel with optional audio commentary by writer/director Neil Marshall -- only found on the R2 DVD from Pathe. Depending on your love of extras you might want to hang onto those DVDs. Notably, the previous Blu-ray from First Look Studios was completely bereft of extras, so this release from Scream Factory is much appreciated, and the new making of doc more than makes up for the missing supplemental material. 

As one of Scream's Collector's Edition we have a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring original artwork -- which sort of reminded me of the baboon horror fest 'Shakma' -- and new artwork from illustrator Scream regular Nathan Thomas Milner, with a slipcase featuring the new artwork. This is a DVD/BD Combo with a DVD disc that mirrors the same feature and extras only in standard edition, the disc art is the same on both the DVD and Blu-ray, which I think is a missed opportunity to showcase the new artwork. As I recall most of Scream's combo releases typically have the same artwork, with the exceptions of Escape from New York and Motel Hell which two art options on the disc -- it's a small thing but I love it when they do it. 

Special Features
- NEW 2K Scan HD Transfer Supervised And Approved By Director Neil Marshall
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Neil Marshall
- NEW The Making Of DOG SOLDIERS Featuring New Interviews With Director Neil Marshall, Producers Christopher Figg And Keith Bell, Actors Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Leslie Simpson And Emma Cleasby, Special Effects Artist Bob Keen, And More! (62 Mins) HD
- NEW A Cottage in the Woods: A Look At The Model Of The Sets Created By Production Designer Simon Bowles (13 Mins) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (5 Mins) HD
- Neil Marshall's Short Film: Combat (8 Mins) HD
- Two Still Galleries – Photos From The Film And Rare Photos From Production Designer Simon Bowles And Special Effects Artist Dave Bonneywell's Archives (69 Images) SD


Dog Soldiers is in my opinion one of the best werewolf movies of the past twenty-years, without a doubt. Other than the very recent Late Phases: Night of the Lone Wolf (2014) there are precious few werewolf movies worth a re watch these days, if there are, please tell me what they are. Scream Factory new edition is a solid purchase, loaded with cool extras and highly recommended.  4/5

Monday, June 29, 2015

GHOSTHOUSE / WITCHERY DOUBLE FEATURE

GHOSTHOUSE (1988) / WITCHERY (1988) 
SCREAM FACTORY DOUBLE FEATURE 

Label: Scream Factory 

Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated I R
Duration: 94 Minutes I 96 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Umberto Lenzi I Fabrizio Laurenti
Cast: Ron Houck, Martin Jay, Kate Silver, Greg Scott, Lara Wendel, Mary Sellers I Hildegard Knef, Linda Blair, David Hasselhoff, Annie Ross, Catherine Hickland

GHOSTHOUSE (1988) 

Synopsis: Your tour of terror begins with Ghosthouse, in which a group of visitors to a seemingly-deserted home find themselves tormented by demonic spirits – including one particularly freaky little girl and her creepy clown companion. Soon, our hapless heroes find themselves powerless to conquer the evil of the Ghosthouse – where death holds the mortgage and if you move in… there'll be Hell to pay!

Italian horror movies are typically strange, somewhat surreal and usually a cheap knock-off of a then current popular American horror, and Ghosthouse comfortably falls into that category for sure. Directed by the infamous director Umbert Lenzi who brought us the vicious Cannibal Ferox and the outrageous zombie actioner Nightmare City, this time we find him up to something a bit more subtle and ghostly, okay, so maybe it's not so subtle, but it's not mean-spirited cannibalism or kung-fu zombies either. 


We begin with HAM radio operator Paul (Greg Scott) picking up on a creepy transmission of a man screaming followed by some eerie carnival music, afterward he and girlfriend Martha (Lara Wendel) head off in search of the transmissions origin, which brings them to a creepy old house in near Boston. While there they encounter Jim (Martin Jay), his sister Tina (Kate Silver), and their friends Mark (Ron Houck) and Susan (Mary Sellers) who just happen to be investigating the strange HAM radio transmission. I would be hard=pressed to think of another film so focused on HAM radio, it's a silly sort of set-up for a damn goofy tale of haunting, one that  might have made for a decent episode of Scooby-Doo.

The culprit behind the mystery is the angry spirit of a young girl and her creepy clown doll, obviously the writers had watched Poltergeist and knew that clowns were something worth exploiting, but they should have tried harder, the clown is pretty silly. There's a back story about the owner of a Mortuary who took the clown doll from a coffin, which leads to some possession and murder, and the death of the young girl. The gore is pretty decent and opens with a father finding his daughter in the basement with a pair of blood-soaked scissors, next to her is the corpse of the family cat. Of course the father is alarmed by this, but he doesn't have to worry long for just a few short moments later someone buries an ax into skull just before mommy dearest is stabbed through the neck, it's good stuff. 



The move certainly has its own brand of ghostly charm, full of creaking doors and breaking glass, a cheesy synth score, and plenty of horrifying screams. It's fun as the spirit of the evil little girl and her creepy clown companion murder the gathering of HAM radio enthusiasts, each time the warped carnival music chimes in before something awful happens. No, it's not a great film but certainly entertaining, limping along to the end on an atmosphere of goofy synth score and schlocky Italian camp. 

This is the third in a series of film known as La Casa, which were "sequels" to Sam Raimi's Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 movie, which in Italy were marketed as the La Casa  and La Casa 2. Yet another example of the Italian penchant for cashing in on American movies even odder is that parts five and six in the La Casa series are House and House II.

WITCHERY (1988) 

Synopsis: Then, a new address brings new frights as the immortal David Hasselhoff and The Exorcist's Linda Blair turn up the terror in Witchery. When a terrible storm leaves a motley assortment of people stranded on an island resort, they soon find they have more to worry about than not packing rain gear! A horrible witch unleashes her wrath on the unwanted visitors – and no one is safe from her unquenchable thirst for death!

The sorta of sequel to Ghosthouse is a haunter from director Fabrizio Laurenti and is centered around Gary (David Hasselhoff, Knightrider) and girlfriend Linda (Catherine Hickland) whom arrive on an island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the paranormal activity at an abandoned resort hotel. Linda is writing a book on local witchcraft and hopes to capture the fabled "Witch Light" on camera, and investigate the decades old death of a suspected witch who lived on the island at one point, and it's connection to the suicide of an aged actress whom also lived on the island years later. 



They're not alone on the island, the Brooks family have arrived and hope to buy the property for a song turn it into a resort. They've brought with them their pregnant daughter Jane, played by Linda Blair (Savage Streets, The Exorcist) and a few business partners.  The night the group are collectively stranded on the island by a storm front, and they are picked-off one by one by the mysterious Lady in Black (Hildegard Knef), whom transports each victim through a portal to a cavernous netherworld where they are tortured and killed by witchy tormentors. 

The visual effect that makes-up the portal is hilariously bad, but the torture and murders are executed nicely, compared to Ghousthouse the gore is more creative and consistent. The gruesome scenes include a mouth being sewn shut, burned alive, an upside down crucufixtion, rope strangulation, a woman raped by a gnarly mouthed demon, and a stabbing through the neck by a mounted swordfish, the gorehounds who might have been disappointed by the a-side of this double-feature will most like appreciate the increased horror quotient. 


Of the two I would have to say this one is my favorite of the two films on the double feature, benefiting from a superior story and the one-two punch of Linda Blair and David Hasslehoff! There's a pretty great scene of the Hoff catching a mouthful of blood straight straight from a wound on someones neck, that right there is worth the rpice of the double-feature alone. 


Audio/Video: Both movies are presented on a single-disc Blu-ray from Scream Factory in 1080p HD widescreen framed at 1.66:1. They look pretty good considering both favor soft-focus cinematography which never translates well to HD in my opinion. Both appear a little on the soft side but colors look good, black levels are acceptable and the skin tones appear accurate. I give Witchery the slight upper hand in respect to the better transfer, but it's really a toss-up. Both movies have English DTS-HD 2.0 Mono audio tracks sound good, the dialogue, score and effects are nicely balanced and free of any noticeable hiss or distortion, optional English subtitles are provided. Extras are nearly non-existent except for a pair of trailers for the movies. I was hoping for an interview with Blair and/or Hasslehoff but it just wasn't in the cards this time. 

I have quite a fondness for the cheesy Scream Factory Double Feature Blu-rays which in my mind are carrying-on the cult and b-movie tradition of the MGM Midnite Movies series, many of which Scream have give HD upgrades. I hope this continues for a long time to come, there are still many American International Pictures/MGM titles I would love to see sweetened with a new 1`080p presentation. These two slices of Italian schlock are not classic haunters by any definition, but they are fun double-feature and well worth the money. Love seeing Scream Factory dip their toe into Italian horror, I hope they agree with the waters and take the full-on plunge and we see more Euro cult movies on the way. 3/5

SOCIETY (1989)

SOCIETY (1989) 
2-Disc Director-Approved Limited Edition Blu-ray 


Label: Arrow Video
Region: Region-Free
Rating: 18 Certificate
Duration: 99 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English PCM Stereo 2.0 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards
Director: Brian Yuzna

High schooler Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) seems to have it all on the surface, he's a good looking guy with a cheerleader of a girlfriend, and he comes from an affluent Beverly Hills family. He even drives around in a Jeep Wrangler, which in the 80s was what every teen wanted, at I did, until I realized that most people in Wranglers were sort of douche nozzles. Despite his good fortune and affluence something has always seemed a bit off to him. Billy doesn't seem to fit into the Beverly Hills high society crowd, he's an affluent outsider. He regularly sees a therapist, Dr. Cleveland (Ben Slack), to address the paranoia-laced nightmares he suffers from, but when Blanchard (Tim Bartell) approaches hims with an audio cassette with what sounds like a bizarre incestuous orgy involving his sister and their parents things begin to spiral out of control for the young man. When approaches his therapist with the wild story the doc doesn't believe his story, only prescribing a stronger prescription for happy pills, but it will certainly take more than Prozac to set things right for the troubled teen when he discovers the grotesque truth about high society in Beverly Hills.

Society begins like a nightmare version of Beverly Hills 90210 with some affluent high school drama, teenage angst with a few small scenes of weirdness, such as when Billy walks in on his sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings) in the bathroom, she's in the shower but appears to have breasts on her backside, which is confusing to say the very least. The contorted bit of kinky weirdness is just our first glimpse at the weird body horror element that await us in this one, but certainly not the last, there's plenty more to come as the layers begin to peel pick exposing the awful truth of the matter. 

The money-shot of the movie is an extended orgy of stretched out flesh, a strange celebration of twisted bodies and kinky oddness that drives home the point that upper high society has always fed off the lower classes. The surreal special effects of Screaming Mad George are in full force, creating a dizzying series of body-horror sights like you've never seen before, this is why I love the 80's -- the over-driven special effects were awesome. The strange feeding/orgy scene is bathed in red light with a the darkly comic tone about it, very weird and wonderful, while the film Screamers (1980) promised a scene of a man being turned inside out, this film actually delivers on that promise with a very memorable "shunting", body-horror fans are gonna love this one, so gross and gooey.  

I do love the movie, but must admit that it suffer a bit from stiff acting, particularly the attractive young ladies cast in the movie, easy on the eyes, but not the most gifted actresses ever put onscreen, nope, these gorgeous ladies were cast for certain other  criteria. In a weird sort of way the flat line deliveries work in the film's favor, creating a that strange atmosphere and that feeling that something is not quite right. This was Brian Yuzna's directorial debut which probably attributed to the stiffness of the film, but overall this is a solid movie, and a body-horror powerhouse of a film. It does help that Warlock as Billy is an easy guy to get behind, he does a great job tapping into that weird teen paranoia that I think we all experienced at one point at that very special age, if I had watched this in my early teens I would have been highly disturbed by it, after I saw the original Invaders from Mars I was convinced the neighbors were aliens for a bit, they were pretty strange. 

Audio/Video: Brian Yuzna's Society (1989) finally arrives on Blu-ray here in the U.S., having been long out-of-print. Arrow have created a brand new 2K scan of the film and the results are pretty damn sharp, beginning with a nice layer of film grain that is nicely managed and consistent, there's some decent depth and fine detail to the image and the colors are strong and saturated, very nice all the away around. The English PCM 2.0 does a good job exporting the dialogue, score and gooey special effects noises, it comes with optional English SDH subtitles.  


Arrow Video have stuffed this one with some great extras beginning with a brand new commentary recorded for this release, plus Governor of Society (17 Mins), an interview with the director who speaks about going from producing to directing and the making of the film, if you are a fan of the film there's a lot to enjoy here. Then into The Masters of the Hunt (22 Mins), a brand new featurette including interviews with stars Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Ben Meyerson and Tim Bartell whom all speak about reading the oddball script and their time on the set making the film. 

Of course you cannot speak about Society without an interview with the FX team who created the surreal body horror, The Champion of the Shunt (21 Mins) has interview with the notorious Screaming Mad George, David Grasso and Nick Benson who speak about the freedom of creating such strange and disturbing images for the film, fun stuff. The extras are finished up with a 40-minute Q&A with Brian Yuzna from 2014, a brief backstage clip with Yuzna backstage during the world premiere of the film, and a screaming Mad George music video for the song "Persecution Mania" .  



For the sake of review I was sent a screener disc without any of the packaging extras (poor me, right?), but the Director-Approved Limited Edition comes with deluxe Digipak packaging featuring newly-commissioned artwork by Nick Percival, the Society: Party Animal official comic sequel to Society, reproduced in its entirety, and a collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Alan Jones, illustrated with original archive stills and posters for the movie, a pretty grand edition all the way around, Arrow Video went all out for this one.

Special Features:
- Newly remastered 2K digital transfer of the film, approved by director Brian Yuzna
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
- Original Stereo 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Brand new audio commentary by Director Brian Yuzna
- Governor of Society – a brand new interview with Brian Yuzna (17 Mins)
- The Masters of the Hunt – a brand new featurette including interviews with stars Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Ben Meyerson and Tim Bartell (22 Mins)  
- The Champion of the Shunt – new featurette with FX artists Screaming Mad George, David Grasso and Nick Benson (21 Mins)
- 2014 Q/A with Yuzna, recorded at Celluloid Screams Festival (39 Mins)
- Brian Yuzna in conversation backstage at the Society world premiere (2 Mins)
- ‘Persecution Mania’ – Screaming Mad George music video (6 Mins) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Nick Percival
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Alan Jones, illustrated with original archive stills and posters


The wait for a proper North American release of Society has been a long one and the Director-Approved Limited Edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video was definitely worth the wait, a fantastic transfer with loads of awesome extras and some inspired packaging extras. Society is a body-horror classic, definitely one of the most anticipated releases of the year, and sure to be on my year end top 10, this is top-notch and highly recommended. 3.5/5


Friday, June 26, 2015

Giallo-Styled Greek Thriller THE WIFE KILLER (1976) on DVD 8/18 from MONDO MACABBRO!

THE WIFE KILLER (1976)  DVD

Label: Mondo Macabro
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Duration: 87 Minutes
Video: Full Screen (1.33:1)
Audio:  English Dolby Digital Mono with English subtitles
Region 1
Director: Dacosta Carayan
Cast: Larry Daniels, Dorothy Moore, Vagelis Seilinos, Leslie Bowman, Dimitris Bislanis

Synopsis: Penniless playboy Captain Jim is in hock to his rich older wife, Helen. She has even bought him the fancy yacht that now bears his name. But Jim does not want to be Helen's toy boy any more. He wants to marry his lover, Laura. He pays a psychopathic killer of women to murder Helen so that he will inherit his wife's millions. But the psycho killer has his own plans. Suspecting Jim will double cross him, he engineers a complex scheme that will give him the upper hand. Very much in the style of the violent and baroque "Giallo" thrillers from 1970s Italy, The Wife Killer is a twisted, shocking and brutal exploration of the devious male psyche. Previously only released to cinemas in a cut version, this is the first official DVD release of the film in the U.S., complete and uncensored. He forced his victims to submit to abnormal sexual behavior...

Bonus Features:
- Brand new transfer from film negative
- Uncut Version
- Greek/English audio choices
- Newly created optional subtitles
- Extensive production notes
- Interview with producer
- Documentary on Greek Cult Cinema
- Trailers

- Mondo Macabro previews

Thursday, June 25, 2015

CANNIBAL FEROX (1981) 3 DISC DELUXE EDITION

CANNIBAL FEROX (1981) 
3 DISC DELUXE EDITION 2BD/1CD

Label: Grindhouse Releasing
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 93 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo, Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Umberto Lenzi. 
Cast: Giovanni Lomardo Radice, Lorraine De Selle,  Zora Kerova, Danilo Mattei, Perry Pirkanen, Robert Kerman. 93 Mins.

Synopsis: They were cold, sadistic killers who thought they could hide from justice. But now they must face the harsh law of the jungle.  Shot on location in the savage Amazon wilds of South America, Cannibal Ferox is one of the most violent and shocking films ever made. There are at least two dozen scenes of barbaric torture and sadistic cruelty graphically shown. If the presentation of disgusting and repulsive subject upsets you, please do not view this film. They must now pay for their crimes with blood and pain. For what they have done, Make Them Die Slowly. 


Cannibal Ferox is a very clear knock-off of Ruggero Deadato's superior effort Cannibal Holocaust (1980), have no doubt about that. While it's true that Umberto Lenzi kick-started the cannibal cycle with Man From Deep River in 1972 it was Deodato who put the definitive stamp on it with hos own controversial and putrid classic -- a film that really puts the spotlight on who the real savages are, and it's not the indigenous people of South America, no, it is without fail the Westerners who come into a pure place and pollute it with their corrupt morality and exploitation of the indigenous people, which again without fail, comes back upon them in the most horrific of ways, and deservedly so. 

Umberto Lenzi's film amps up the gore and shock-value with out any of the more redeemable underpinnings of the superior Cannibal Holocaust, but that doesn't mean you cannot enjoy this slice of cheap jungle exploitation that it is. We begin with a trio of anthropological students headed to the jungles of South America to prove Gloria's (Lorraine De Selle) theory that cannibalism is only a myth --  which already sounds like a recipe for disaster. Gloria is joined by her cameraman/brother Rudy (Danilo Mattei) and promiscuous friend Pat (Zora Kerova). After becoming stranded in the jungle without a vehicle jungle the trio encounter Mike (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) and his partner Joe (Walter Lloyd), two American on the run from the mob and the law in New York City. A parallel story involving Lt. Rizzo (Robert Kerman) investigating Mike's rime back in the U.S. plays out during the film, but you have to wonder why. 

Back in the jungle our five Americans band together but it comes to light that Mike and his friend are a pair of coke fiends who have enslaved a local tribe whom they force to harvest cocoa for cocaine and emerald riches. After killing several of the indigenous people, including the tribal leader's daughter, the tables have turned and the five Americans are now hunted by the indigenous people who are out for revenge against the murderous coke-fiend Mike. 

The movie is aggressive and gruesome with plenty of shocking atrocities committed, we really get an eyeful of awfulness with this one, including genital mutilation and fun brain-eating. The film is particularly notorious for a scene of a women being impaled by two large hooks through her breasts and then suspended from ropes till she bleeds to death, it might me cheap but this shot is very well executed. Additionally we have some brutal amputation a piranha attack and loads more awful stuff, a lot of wince-inducing violence with this one, but it lacks the resonance of Cannibal Holocaust. 

Unfortunately that most regrettable of the Italian cannibal movies trademarks is fully intact - the onscreen death of animals. Like some nightmare version of Animal Planet a pig is stabbed to death onscreen, a jaguar kills a monkey, and an anaconda crushes a large rodent as cameras roll in the most exploitative way possible, unfortunately there is not animal-cruelty free version as we saw with Grindhouse's Cannibal Holocaust Blu-ray, that would have been a good alternative viewing option, maybe it lacks the visceral gut-punch of the slaughtering of the turtle but any death of an animal for the sake of entertainment is not justifiable in my opinion and that viewing option would be warranted and appreciated. 

The basic storytelling process is similar to Cannibal Holocaust, in fact quite derivative of it on many levels,, but this movie is way more exploitative and cheap, and that's saying a lot. This is probably due to the fact that director Umbert Lenzi set out to top Deodato's repulsive film by amping up the gore and violence, but in doing so he loses any of the resonance and deeper meaning that Deodato managed to infuse his film with, it's a cheap and gruesome cash-in, but as cannibal films go it's pretty potent stuff.

Audio/Video: Cannibal Ferox arrives on Blu-ray from Grindhouse Releasing as a massive 3-disc Deluxe Edition with a brand new 2K transfer from the original camera negative and the result are pleasing. The repulsive film is looking pretty sharp in HD, sure there's a ton of grain but it is nicely managed with more fine detail and clarity than we've ever seen before, which is both a plus and a negative -- this is some truly grotesque stuff, and the HD presentation puts it right in your face, more than ever before.  Sure, the jungle canopy greens pop but so too does the stomach-churning scenes of animal cruelty -- that pig killing is still awful. 

There are three audio options to choose from  - we have the Italian DTS-HD MA 1.0 Mono, English DTS-HD 1.0 Mono and a newly created stereo English re-mix by academy Award winner Paul Otterson. Of the three I preferred the new stereo mix, which is nicely balanced and free of the hiss of the mono presentation. The score from Budy-Maglione sounds fantastic, a strange mix or funk, winds and string instrumentation, synth and electronic noise, highlighted by the easily recognizable eerie "Jungle Theme" and foot tapping funk of "NYC Main Title" themes. 

The amounts of gut-munching extras on this three-disc set is just crazy, beginning with a great commentary from director Umberto Lenzi and star Giovanni Lombardo Radice, the commentaries are recorded separately and stitched together. These two hate each other and having them in the same room to record a commentary might have ended in a fist-fight!

Then we have the feature-length documentary  Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film produced by Arrow Video ex-patriot High Rising productions, featuring interviews with Umberto Lenzi, Luigi Cozzi, Me Me Lei, Kim Newman, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Ruggero Deodato, Sergio Martino and Robert Kerman - a fantastic watch and a great Cannibal 101 introduction to the genre. The piece is moderated by author Shelagh Wowan-Legg.  Finishing up the extras o disc one we have a variety of trailers for the movie, and footage from the 1997 Hollywood premiere of the film, which looked like a blast.

Digging into disc two we have a collection of interviews from Umberto Lenzo, a particularly venomous Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Danillo Mattei, special effect legend Gino De Rossi, and starlet Zora Kerova. There's an exhaustive amount of production stills, behind the scenes images and other promotional materials including video artwork, press clippings.
As of this review I have found five Easter Eggs hidden away on the various menus of both Blu-ray discs. revealing additional interviews material with Gino De Rossi and Danillo Mattei. 

Packaging extras include a fantastic embossed slipcover  with vibrant orange/red/yellow color scheme that leaps off the box. Inside the Criterion-style clear case we have a 12-page booklet with Liner notes by legendary Times Square historian Bill Landis (SLEAZOID EXPRESS) and director Eli Roth with stills and behind-the-scenes photographs, plus the reverse side of the sleeve includes a extensive Umberto Lenzi filmography ranging from '58 through '92 with selected poster art inserted. Separate from the Blu-ray discs we have the original motion picture soundtrack by Budy-Maglione housed in a separate slipcase of it's own, just like we saw with the Grindhouse Releasing deluxe editions of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond and Ruggero deodato's Cannibal Holocaust, a very nice addition, and a fantastic soundtrack to boot. We have the original 20 track score plus an additional 28 tracks of bonus material and alternate takes, this is a fantastic supplement. 

Disc 1 Special Features (Blu-ray) 
- Original uncensored director’s cut
- Spectacular new 2K transfer - scanned from the original camera negative
- Candid and shocking audio commentary by director Umberto Lenzi and star John Morghen
- Shocking Deleted footage - Lost for Over 30 years! "Killing Pig (2 Mins), "Pirahna Scene"  (1 Mins) 
- Eaten Alive! The Rise and Fall of the Italian Cannibal Film (86 Mins) 
- International Trailer  (3 Mins) 
- German Trailer (3 Mins) 
- U.S. Trailer (4 Mins) 
- Mexican Trailer (4 Mins) 
- Hollywood Premiere - February 15th 1997 (5 Mins) 
- Easter Egg - Still Gallery (9 Mins) 

Disc 2 Special Features (Blu-ray) 
- Umberto Lenzi: Hooked on You (20 Mins) 

- The Many Lives and Deaths of Giovanni Lombardo Radice (51 Mins) 
- Zora in Cannibal Land - Interview with Zora Kerova (25 Mins) 
- Danillo Mattei's Amazon Adventure (21 Mins) 
- They Call Him Bombadore - Iterview with Gino De Rossie from May 2011 (25 Mins) 
- Umbert Lenzi Interview - May 1998 (8 Mins) 
- Production Stills (56 Images) 
- Behind the Scenes (35 Images) 
- Promotional Materials: Italy (13 Images), Germany (37 Images), France (15 Images), Spain (16 Images), US (26 Images), Various (9 Images) 
- Video Releases (41 Images) 
- Ferox Fever - Press Clippings (58 Images) 
- Grindhouse Releasing Previews (32 Mins) 
- Easter Egg - Gino De Rossi (3 Mins) 
- Easter Egg - Danillo Mattei (1 Mins) 
- Easter Egg  - Danillo Mattei (1 Mins) 
- Easter Egg - Gino De Rossi (1 Mins) 

Cannibal Ferox (1981) is a truly vile and repulsive cannibal entry, that on a surface level is on par with Cannibal Holocaust, though one I would be cautious to recommend to the average movie fan fr fear it might have the more casual horror fan spewing chunks. This is hands-down the definitive version of the infamous cannibal classic for what will be a very long time, I cannot imagine anyone topping this stunning three-disc set, a very high recommend to the strong stomached cannibal connoisseurs out there. 3/5 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX (1983) BD/DVD Combo 2-Disc Collector's Edition



ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX (1983) 
BD/DVD Combo 2-Disc Collector's Edition 

Label: Blue Underground
Release Date: June 30th, 2015
Rating: R
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 89 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD Mono, Dolby Digital Mono with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Cast: Mark Gregory, Henry Silva, Valeria D'Obici, Timothy Brent, Paolo Malco, Antonio Sabato, Massimo Vanni

The sequel to 1990: The Bronx Warriors is a down and dirty action fest with more than enough gun fire, flames throwers and huge slow-motion violence to appease the most ardent junk-cinema connoisseur. so strap yourself in and enjoy the low-budget mayhem for all it's worth. 

It's been a few years since the events from Bronx Warriors and Trash (Mark Gregory) is no longer the leader of the Riders biker gang. Now he's a smuggler running arms in the Bronx, supplying  ammunition to a the remnant of the gangs who now reside underground  where they are lead by Dablone (Antonio Sabato), a hairy son-of-a-bitch who keeps underground, away from the eyes of the GC Corporation who are currently campaigning to rebuild the Bronx as a city of the future. Before they can begin reconstruction they must rid the burrough of the scum and villainy inhabiting it. Under the false image of a mass relocation program the GC Corporation hires a disgraced prison warden named Wrangler (the always fun Henry Silva) to burn the streets clean of the scum, Wrangler heads the Disinfestation Squad, a troop of murderers bent on erasing the left over gang members from the streets. Silva is a good stand-in for Vic Morrow, though he never does go quite as insane as Morrow did at the end of Bronx Warriors. This time out the death troops have upgraded from black leather to shiny foil uniforms, which is pretty corny and yet another layer of cheese on an already packed action-quesadilla of a movie. 

As the death troops sweep the street eliminating pretty much anyone who won't take them up on their offer to relocate to sunny New Mexico Dablone and his crew are content to keep underground and not engage Wrangler and his merciless minions. However, things heat-up pretty quickly when Trash's parents are burned to cinder by the death squads, who then push deeper into the underground territory of Dablone, forcing him to team-up with Trash and enlist the talents of a loner named Strike (Giancarlo Prete) and his fire-bug son Junior (Alessandro Prete), coming up with a ridiculous  plan to kidnap the president of the GC Corporation and much violence and slow-motion mayhem ensues. 

Shot on the cheap by a man who knew how to stretch a dollar the movie is loaded with plenty of action things considered, you can see every penny onscreen with a few too many slow-motion action sequences and huge fireballs -- this is mindless fun at it's finest ...and cheapest. Trash shooting down a well-gunned helicopter out of the sky with his tiny snub nosed .38 was a favorite of mine, and that's just the beginning of the gratuitously cheap onscreen mayhem, a film that is dripping with Italian testosterone, machismo and sweat from start to finish, so much good stuff. 

Mark Gregory seems way more comfortable in the role of the long-haired street tough, he moves more naturally, not sure if Enzo pulled him aside for a chat or what but for whatever reason he seems more badass. Henry Silva as Wrangler is straight-up maniacal and a lot of fun, so evil in fact that sugar is just too damn sweet for him, there's a fun scene of him losing his shit over a cup of sweetened coffee, fantastic stuff. Additionally we have Valeria D'Obici as mouthy reporter Moon Gray who is out to expose the corruption of the GC Corp. plus a love interest for Trash, unfortunately the pair have zero chemistry, their scenes are sort of hilarious in an overly-dramatic doomed love sort of way. Fortunately no one is coming into a Enzo G. Castellari joint for the deep character development and a thoughtful storyline, you are here for the awesome low-budget action fun and we have plenty of that! 

Audio/Video: Escape from the Bronx (1983) arrives on Blu-ray from Blue Underground with a brand new 2K HD transfer and it looks pretty damn nice with a nice layer of fine film grain, a few of the scenes are stronger than others with a few looking a tad soft from time to time, but surely this is an issue with the source elements and not of the transfer itself. Colors are vibrant, skin tones look good and the black levels are pretty decent all around, a damn nice transfer. The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono audio sounds crystal clear, well balanced with Francessco De Masi's cheesy score, hilarious English-dubbed audio and the wonderful array of loud sound effects sounding really great. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the special features we have an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari and Enzo's son Andrea with David Gregory moderating the whole affair, a good commentary and a lot of fun. Then we have part three of the Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation with the producer and director reuniting and speaking at length about the film and their various collaborations through the years. A fun inclusion id The Hunt For Trash - Interview with BRONX WARRIORS Superfan Lance Manley featurette with a superfan who has spent years trying to locate actor Mark Gregory who has seemed to have dropped of the face of the earth after a brief stint in Italian cinema in the eighties. Finishing up the extras are the International and Italian trailers for the film and a poster a still gallery, a very solid array of extras for an awesomely fun actioner.  

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari

- Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 3 (13 Mins)
- The Hunt For Trash: Interview with Bronx Warriors Superfan Lance Manley (13 Mins) 

- International Trailer: (3 Mins)
- Italian Trailer: (3 Mins)
- 1990: The Bronx Warriors Trailer (3 Mins) 
- The New Barbarians Trailer (3 Mins) 
- Poster and Still Gallery

The movie is all sorts of awesome, if you love low-budget violence, funny dubbed-dialogue and slow motion action this just might be a slice of Italian exploitation worth checking out. Of the three Enzo G. Castellari Blu-rays coming out from Blue Underground this one offers the most bang for your buck, and benefits from a slightly more comprehensible storyline than it's predecessor, but this is still bug-nuts insanity as only the Italian could give us. 4/5