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

SOCIETY (1989) on BD/DVD from ARROW VIDEO 6/8 (UK) 6/9 (US)









DIRECTOR APPROVED BD/DVD DIGIPAK JUNE 8th (UK), JUNE 9th (US) 
IT IS A MATTER OF GOOD BREEDING. REALLY.






Arrow Video is thrilled to announce the UK Blu-ray and DVD release of the sordidly satirical 1989 body-horror shocker Society, arriving on 8th June. One of 2015’s most talked about Arrow Video releases, Society makes its Blu-ray debut in the UK as an exclusive digipak featuring Blu-ray, DVD and Society: Party Animal, the official comic book sequel. This exclusive set will be limited to a run of only 3000 copies only and comes with a full colour 24-page booklet, alongside a host of bonus features.

This director-approved digipak comes loaded with exclusive features including a brand new audio commentary by director Brian Yuzna, alongside a new interview with the director and a filmed 2014 Q&A with Yuzna, recorded at Celluloid Screams Festival.


The bonus content will also include brand new featurettes, including interviews with stars Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Ben Meyerson and Tim Bartell and interviews with FX artists Screaming Mad George, David Grasso and Nick Benson. Alongside this, the disc will also feature Brian Yuzna in conversation backstage at the Society world premiere and a Screaming Mad George music video.

The packaging features newly-commissioned artwork by Nick Percival and a collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Alan Jones, illustrated with original archive stills and posters.



To round this limited-edition release off, the set will also include Society: Party Animal, the official comic sequel to Society, reproduced in its entirety in a perfect-bound book.

Synopsis
After producing Stuart Gordon’s hit Re-Animator, Brian Yuzna (Bride of Re-Animator, Return of the Living Dead III) turned his hand to directing with 1989’s Society, and gave birth to one of the ickiest, most original body horror shockers of all time.

Teenager Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) has always felt like the odd one out in his wealthy, upper-class Beverly Hills family. For some reason, he just doesn’t seem to fit in. But his sense of alienation takes a sinister turn when he hears an audio recording of his sister’s coming-out party, which seems to implicate his family and others in a bizarre, ritualistic orgy. And then there are the strange things he’s been seeing – glimpses of people with their bodies contorted impossibly out of shape… Is Bill going mad or is there something seriously amiss in his neighbourhood?

Packing stomach-churning gore and thought-provoking social commentary in equal measure, Society is a biting horror satire which culminates in one of the most gag-inducing “climaxes”’ in all of horror history.

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 Yuzna
· Governor of Society – a brand new interview with Yuzna
· The Masters of the Hunt – a brand new featurette including interviews with stars Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Ben Meyerson and Tim Bartell
· The Champion of the Shunt – new featurette with FX artists Screaming Mad George, David Grasso and Nick Benson
· 2014 Q&A with Yuzna, recorded at Celluloid Screams Festival
· Brian Yuzna in conversation backstage at the Society world premiere
· ‘Persecution Mania’ – Screaming Mad George music video
· Limited Edition Digipak packaging featuring 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
· Society: Party Animal [Limited Edition Exclusive] – the official comic sequel to Society, reproduced in its entirety in a perfect-bound book

Specs
Release Date: Monday June 8th (UK), June 9th (US) 2015
Certificate: 18
Language: English
Running Time: 99 minutes
Number of Discs: 2
Region: Free
Aspect Ratio:1.85:1
Audio: Stereo 2.0

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

Arrow Video US to release Pit Stop on June 30th, plus La Grande Bouffe and Blood Rage in August

PIT STOP - DVD/BD - ORDER HERE

RAW GUTS FOR GLORY! FLESH AGAINST STEEL!

The most dangerous game ever devised, to pit man against man, flesh against steel - the figure-8 race! Jack Hill (Coffy, Foxy Brown) follows up Spider Baby, once again teaming up with Sid Haig (House of 1000 Corpses) in one of his greatest roles for this action-spectacular crash-o-rama!

Richard Davalos (East of Eden) stars as Rick Bowman, a street punk who winds up in jail after a street race goes wrong. Bailed out by race promoter Grant Willard, Davalos is put in the deadly track where he comes up against Haig's maniacal winner Hawk Sidney. Featuring an outstanding supporting cast including Brian Donlevy (The Quatermass Xperiment) in his last film appearance, Ellen Burstyn, billed as Ellen McRae (The Exorcist), and Beverly Washburn (Spider Baby), Pit Stop is one of Hill's lesser known films but arguably his greatest.

Filmed on a real figure-8 track, Hill and his crew were able to capture gripping real-life car wreck scenes lending the film a brilliant sense of realism. You've never seen a motion picture like this before - can you take it?

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
* New High Definition digital transfer supervised and approved by director Jack Hill
* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
* Original Mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
* New UK exclusive audio commentary with director Jack Hill moderated by his biographer Calum Waddell
* Crash and Burn! - Jack Hill on the making of Pit Stop
* Drive Hard - Actor Sid Haig speaks about his experience of acting in Pit Stop
* Life in the Fast Lane - producer Roger Corman on the genesis of Pit Stop
* Restoring Pit Stop - Restoration demonstration with Technical Supervisor James White
* Original Trailer
* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw
* Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Glenn Kenny and musicologist and writer Gray Newell on the film's soundtrack, illustrated with original stills and artwork

Release Date: June 30, 2015
Duration: 91 mins
Language: English
Subtitles: English SDH
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: Mono
Discs: 2
SRP: $39.95
Barcode: 760137764298
Cat Number: AV016



LA GRANDE BOUFFE - DVD/BD - ORDER HERE

The most famous film by Italian provocateur Marco Ferreri (Dillinger is Dead), La Grande bouffe was reviled on release for its perversity, decadence and attack on the bourgeoisie yet won the prestigious FIPRESCI prize after its controversial screening at the Cannes Film Festival.

Four friends, played by international superstars Marcello Mastroianni (Fellini's 8½), Michel Piccoli (Belle de jour), Ugo Tognazzi (Barbarella) and Philippe Noiret (Zazie dans le métro) retreat to a country mansion where they determine to eat themselves to death whilst engaging in group sex with prostitutes and a local school teacher (Andréa Ferréol, The Tin Drum), who seems to be up for anything...

At once jovial and sinister, the film's jet-black humour has a further twist as the reputed actors (whose characters use their own names) buck their respectable trend for a descent into fart-filled chaos that delivers a feast for the eyes and mind.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
* Brand new 2K restoration of the original camera negative
* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
* Original French audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
* Newly translated English subtitles
* The Farcical Movie - A French television profile of Marco Ferreri from 1975 in which the director discusses, among other things, the influence of Tex Avery, Luis Buñuel and Tod Browning's Freaks
* Behind-the-scenes footage of the making of La Grande bouffe, containing interviews with Ferrari and actors Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Ugo Tognazzi and Philippe Noiret
* Extracts from the television series Couleurs autour d'un festival featuring interviews with the cast and crew recorded during the Cannes Film Festival
* A visual essay on the film with by Italian film scholar Pasquale Iannone
* Select scene audio commentary by Iannone
* News report from the Cannes Film Festival where La Grande bouffe caused a controversial stir, including Ferreri at the press conference
* Original Trailer
* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
* Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Johnny Mains, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

Release Date: August 18, 2015
Rating: TBC
Duration: 130 mins
Language: French
Subtitles: English
Discs: 2
SRP: $39.95

BLOOD RAGE - DVD/BD  - ORDER HERE

IT'S NOT CRANBERRY SAUCE!

What do you get if you combine Thanksgiving, American TV star Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), killer 80s synths and some of the most gruesome special effects in all of slasher history courtesy of Ed (Terminator 2) French. Why, it's Blood Rage of course!

Todd and Terry seem like sweet kids - that is, until one of them takes an axe to face of a fellow patron at the local drive-in. Todd is blamed for the bloody crime and institutionalised, whilst twin brother Terry goes free. Ten years later and, as the family gathers around the table for a Thanksgiving meal, the news comes in that Todd has escaped - and he's heading their way. But has the killer twin in fact been in their midst all along? One thing's for sure, there WILL be blood...

Filmed in 1983 at the tail-end of the slasher golden era but not released until 1987, Blood Rage (also re-cut and released to theatres as Nightmare at Shadow Woods) has been lovingly restored from the original vault materials for its first ever appearance on Blu-ray and DVD. Happy Thankskilling! 

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
* Brand new 2K restoration from original vault materials of three versions of the film: Blood Rage, the original "hard" version, completely uncut and uncensored in a Blu-ray/DVD world premiere; the R-rated Nightmare at Shadow Woods 1987 re-cut, and a third "composite" cut combining all the footage from both Blood Rage and Nightmare at Shadow Woods
* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
* Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
* Brand new extensive making-of documentary featuring interviews with various cast and crew
* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork from Marc Schoenbach, to be revealed
* Fully-illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film
* PLUS MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED!

Release Date: August 25, 2015
Duration: 84 minutes
Language: English
Subtitles: English SDH
Discs: 2
SRP: $39.95
Barcode: 760137764496
Cat Number: AV018

Arrow's global reputation as one of the finest labels in the world has come about through consistent high quality product and a focus on fan-based products always at its core. This includes a major investment on restoring original material through modern techniques as well as pioneering packaging solutions and newly commissioned artwork for each release.

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