Friday, May 27, 2016

THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD (2016) (Blu-ray Review)


THE DAMNED: DON'T YOU WISH THAT WE WERE DEAD (2016) 


Label: Cleopatra Records I MVD
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 110 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen
Director: Wes Orshoski
Cast: Captain Sensible, Rat Scabies, Dave Vanian, Brian James, Roman Jugg, Fred Armisen, Jimmy Ashhurst, Jello Biafra, Gaye Black, Clem Burke, Jean-Jacques Burnel, Lu Edmonds, Steve Diggle, Dave Gahan, Jack Grisham, Paul Gray, Charlie Harper, Dexter Holland

Synopsis: From "Lemmy" filmmaker Wes Orshoski comes the story of the long-ignored pioneers of punk: The Damned, the first U.K. punks on wax and the first to cross the Atlantic. "THE DAMNED: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead" includes appearances from Chrissie Hynde, Mick Jones (The Clash), Lemmy and members of Pink Floyd, Black Flag, Depeche Mode, the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Buzzcocks, and more. Shot around the globe over three years, the film charts the band's complex history and infighting. It captures the band as it celebrated its 35th anniversary with a world tour and found its estranged former members striking out on their own anniversary tour, while other former members battled cancer.


Director Wes Orshoski's in-depth doc about British punk rockers The Damned is a damned fascinating watch, I've always loved the UK bands first few albums DAMNED DAMNED DAMNED, MUSIC FOR PLEASURE and MACHINE GUN ETIQUETTE but have known very little about the band other than these albums have been on heavy rotation in my ears for many years. It was quite a treat to get the inside scoop from the original four band members themselves, including original members Brian James and Rat Scabies who have been away from the the group for years now, as you will learn throughout the there's no love lost between these two and the current line-up which includes original members Captain sensible and Dave Vanian along side keyboardist Monty Oxymoron, drummer Pinch (formerly of UK pub rockers English dogs) and bassist Stu West. .


If you're not familiar with The Damned they were among the original '76 punkers out of London, along with Sex Pistols and The Clash. They were the first punks on vinyl with the release of the "New Rose" single and the first of the three to release a proper full length album, they were even the first to tour the US. Their tour in California is said to have inspired the faster West Coast hardcore punk sound, but despite these accomplishments they just do not have the notoriety of Sex Pistols or The Clash in the public eye. Personally, I've always thought they were champs, even if I am honestly not a fan of their later stuff in the 80s when they went down the path of nocturnal Goth rockers. 


The doc tells the story of the the band from the early days beginning with a blistering black and white performance with the original line-up as Sensible, Vanian, Scabies and James chime in on those early days, and the eventual falling out that lead to both Scabies and James leaving the band, and the years long revolving door of band mates who followed. Adding to the story are commentary and testimonials from insiders and fans including Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, Mick Jones of The Clash, Steve Diggle of the Buzzcocks, Dave Gahan of synth rockers Depeche Mode, the late Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead who played bass for a spell, Jack Grisham of T.S.O.L, Keith Morris of Black Flag, Dexter Holland of The Offspring, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd who produced the band phenomenal second album. I love it when Jack Grisham says the music of the damned is the "backdrop to crimes", probably my favorite testimony on the whole doc


The doc features a few live performances from the current line-up rexorded from 2011 to 2014 and the band sounds tight, Vanian's vocals are as good as ever and the guy remains an enigmatic presence who contributed the least to the interviews on the doc, you can see he is not happy to be on film, he even seems a mystery to his own bandmates. Guitarist Captain Sensible is still a punk rock clown of sorts, a phenomenal guitar player who still loves to clown around and strip down on stage, and comes off as a likable sort of asshole, with nothing kind to say about Rat Scabies, no rScabies anything kind to say about him. 


The doc does good work going through the various line-up of the band, following them from break-up to reformation in various incarnations, including a line-up known as The Doomed which signaled Sensible switching from bass to the six-string guitar, and you have to wonder why he ever played bass in the first place, a gifted guitarist who went on to create some magical riffs through the years. The doc did what any good band doc does, it made me appreciate the core members of the band, it shed some light on the tumultuous band chemistry through the years, and most of all it made me want to listen to some early Damned records, which I have been playing non-stop since watching the doc. 

Audio/Video: The Damned: Don't You wish That We Were Dead arrives on Blu-ray from Three Count Films I Cleopatra Records I MVD Visual Entertainment in 1080p HD widescreen looking par for the course for a doc with a mixed source material ranging from newer HD interviews and performance footage and some older vintage performance stuff. Unfortunately there is no lossless audio option and we are saddles with an English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 track, which does just fine for the doc, but I hate to see lossy audio on an HD format, particularly when the music is so damned sweet. The doc opens with what I consider the penultimate Damned song, "Neat Neat Neat" and boy does that song get the blood pumping! 


The DVD/BD combo comes housed in a Criterion-style clear keep case, which includes an eight-page booklet with writing on the making of the movie by director Wes Orshoski who tells of a mugging that occurred while making the doc, a story that feeds into the "curse of The Damned" anecdote, it's a good read with some cool pics. 

Onto the disc extras we have five minute piece with Captain sensible hanging out with mega-fan Fred Armisen (of SNL who also played drums for the band Trenchmouth) in L.A. with Armisen confessing his love for the Damned and what an Captain Sensible was on him. The two play guitar with each other, including busking "Smash It Up" on the streets of L.A.. There's also a seventeen-minute tour of London with Sensible including the Fairfirled, where he used to be a porter cleaning toilets as a teen, telling the story of slicing up a particularly hard turd with a knife and fork before returning the dirty utensils to the commesary. 


My favorite piece is the 12-minute The Anarchy Tour which tells the story of how the Damned were booted from the Sex Pistosl Anarchy in the UK tour in '76, how they were mistreated and made to feel second class by infamous SP manager Malcolm McLaren . There's also an 8-minute piece about the formation of The Doomed and the short-lived stint of bassist Henry Bedowski who didn't get along well with Scabies which lead to a brawl in the middle of traffic and his departure from the band. The last of the extras is a perfromac of "Smash It Up' recorded during Captain Sensible's 60th birthday party performance which sounds brilliant. 


Special Features: 

- Captain Sensible and Fred Armisen: Nobody Busks in L.A. (5 Mins_ HD 
- Captain's Tour of London (17 Mins) HD 
- The Doomed/Henry Baddowski (8 Mins) HD 
- The Anarchy Tour (12 Mins) HD 
- "Smash It Up" Live at Captain's 60th Birthday Party (and Around the world) (4 Mins) HD 

The Damned were one of the most musical of the first wave of UK punkers and while they may not have the infamy of the Sex Pistols theye will always be near and dear to my heart and this doc shed a lot of light on stuff I was not familiar with about the band, the various incarnations, the acidic hate/hate relationship between Sensible and Scabies, just how enigmatic singer Dave Vanian is and what a loud mouthed lunatic Sensible was and is to this day. I love the current incarnation of the band, they sound great, and I hope to catch them at some point before the break-up again or just up and die. This is fun warts and all doc about a kick ass punk band, this comes highly recommended. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

MANHUNTER (1986) (Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review)

MANHUNTER (1986) 
Label: Scream Factory 
Region Code: A
Duration: 120 Minutes I 124 Minutes
Rating: R I Unrated
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Dennis Farina, Stephen Lang, Tom Noonan, William Petersen, Joan Allen, Kim Greist, Brian Cox


Synopsis: The first film to feature the iconic character Hannibal Lecktor, Manhunter follows former FBI profiler Will Graham (William Petersen, To Live and Die in L.A., CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) as he reluctantly returns to his old job to track a horrific serial killer known as the "Tooth Fairy." But in order to get into the mind of this maniac, Graham must face another: Lecktor (Brian Cox, X-Men 2, Red), the imprisoned psychiatrist whose own insanity almost cost Graham his life… and whose insights into the "Tooth Fairy" could prove as dangerous as the killer himself.

A few years before The Silence of the Lambs (1991) swept through the cinema establishing Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lector as one of the premiere cannibal bogeymen of the ages Michael Mann first adapted Thomas Harris's novel Red Dragon into a '80s drenched slice of thriller cinema starring William Petersen as retired FBI profiler Will Graham who captured and imprisoned Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecktor years earlier. The capture took a toll on Graham, it nearly killed him and drove him insane, and now his FBI superior Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) has come to him in hopes that the uncanny profiler will advise on a new series of grisly murders, the new killer has been dubbed "The Tooth Fairy" by the press because of the bite marks left on the bodies of his victims. Against the wishes of his concerned wife who knows just how deeply affected Graham was by the Lecktor case, Graham accepts the case and begins down a disturbing path. Those who are familiar with the Hannibal TV show will recognize the influence of this movie on that show, the roots run deep into this movie as it firmly centered on Graham and how the process is hugely devastating on his own psyche. 


Graham begins by visiting the latest crime scene, a horrific blood-spattered home where an entire family has been slaughtered, shards of mirror have been jammed into their eyes. The profiler gets deep into the psyche of the killer but finds that he has lost some of his process through the years, to that end he visits Lecktor in the asylum hoping to pick up the old scent so to speak, and to consult Lecktor about the tooth fairy murders. However, Graham is unaware that Lecktor and the new serial killer have been corresponding through coded messages in the local paper, and are in fact working against him. Things are further complicated when sleazy tabloid journalist Freddy Lounds (an unrecognizable Stephen Lang of Avatar) snaps a pic of Graham emerging from the asylum angering his wife and disturbing Graham, there's a nice side story about Lounds and how he comes to meet the Tooth Fairy face to face, a very memorable scene with a nice payoff. 

The movie makes no attempt to mask the identity of the Tooth Fairy, his name is Francis Dollarhyde (a quietly menacing Noonan) who works at a film developing lab, where he begins a relationship with a blind co-worker named Reba (Joan Allen), whom is not at all put off by his weirdness and the two form a relationship. Just when it seems Dollarhyde's blood lust might be waning things begin to disintegrate for the lovers and the movie erupts into a climatic finale of violence set to the tune of Iron Butterfly's heavy anthem "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida", Mann sure knows how to make a thriller, I love this guys work in the '80s. 


Thomas Harris' Red Dragon was later remade with Anthony Hopkins in the role of Lector with a fine turn as Dollarhyde by Ralph Feines but an ill-cast Edward Norton as Graham, which ruined it for me. It is Mann's Manhunter that I return to when I feel the need to revisit the story, there's just something about William Peterson's admittedly blank and underplayed performance that I love. I also love the 80s vibe and synth heavy score, I love the nefarious Lecktor played by Brian Cox, a versatile actor who brings a load of polite menace to the small but pivotal role, and then there's Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde, a sadistic murderer who you actually have some sympathy for despite the violence you know he is capable of, you want him to fall in love but the guy is just too deranged for that too happen, it is just not in the cards and it is tragic.

In a lot of way this is a thriller that celebrates style over substance thriller, but Mann is such a vibrant stylist that I cannot help but forgive it's shortcomings, the way he strays from the book and takes so many short cuts in favor of creating an atmospheric and chilling movie. Silence of the Lambs might be a more cohesive and well-structured slice of cinema this is the Thomas Harris adaptation I return to when I get the urge, partly because of the slick and stylish atmosphere and partly because of the combination of William Petersen, Tom Noonan and Brian Cox, these guys are pure magic onscreen when combined with the style and visual alchemy of Michael Mann and cinematographer Dante Spinotti. 


Audio/Video: Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986) arrives n a 2idisc Blu-ray Collector's Edition from Scream Factory, presenting both the theatrical (120 Mins) and director's cut (124 Mins) of the film on separate discs. The theatrical cuts fares the better with some nice deep color saturation, the deep blue and colored hues really pop in HD, Mann's movie is stylish and artfully rendered and look nice and crisp for a mid eighties movie. The director's cut is in HD with standard definition inserts which to be honest are an eyesore, I do enjoy the director's cut and what it adds, but as an HD presentation it does suffer considerably. As an extra on disc two Scream Factory have also included a standard def version of the movie which make the inserts somewhat less unsightly or noticeable. 

Both versions of the movie have English language DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 and Surround 5.1 mixes with optional English subtitles. The glorious synth-heavy score comes through strong, some might say the mix is overpowering at times, but not for me, I loved it. Dialogue and sounds effects come through nicely balanced and crisp. 

Onto the extras which are spread out over two discs we have The Making of Manhunter which are brand new interviews produced for this release broken down into five interviews with William Petersen (18 Mins), Joan Allen (16 Mins), Tom Noonan (22 Mins), Brian Cox (40 Mins), and director of photography Dante Spinotti (36 Mins) which make for some fascinating viewing. Petersen looks back on working with Mann on a number of films in smaller parts such as Heat and Thief, his turn in William Friedken's To Live and Die in L.A. which wasn't even in theatres when he was cast in the role of Will Graham. Tom Noonan is always a great interview, the actor is a bit odd but that is part of the reason why I love him, he speaks about avoiding everyone on-set he shared a scene with until they filmed the scene, which must just be his thing, I seem to recall a similar statement from him on the Monster Squad Blu-ray extras. 

Fans of the synth score on the movie will ove the 42-minute The Music of MANHUNTER – including interviews with composer Michel Rubini, Barry Andrews (Shriekback), Gary Putman (The Prime Movers), Rick Shaffer (The Reds) and Gene Stashuk (Red 7), which s very in-depth. 


The First Lecktor – an interview with actor Brian Cox (40 Mins) is a nice sit-down interview with the actor who first brought Hannibal Lecktor (sic) to the big screen, and to be honest is still my favorite version of the character. Cox speaks at length about what research he did to inform the role and about nearly winding up as Lector in a version of Silence of the Lambs. Disc one is finished-up with a theatrical trailer for the movie and an image gallery of poster artwork, screenshots and behind-the-scenes pics. 

Onto disc two we have the previously mentioned standard-def version of the director's cut which makes the insert shots less jarring, but trust me, just watch the HD version. The extras on the second disc are carry overs from the previous versions of the movie including the audio commentary by writer/director Michael Mann, plus vintage interviews with cinematographer Dante Spinotti and stars William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox and Tom Noonan totalling about a half hour in length. 

The 2-disc Blu-ray set comes housed in a standard blue keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original one-sheet art and a new illustration artists Christopher Franchi which captures the dark neon feel of the movie, that particular 80s Michael Mann aesthetic. 

Special Features: 

Disc 1: Theatrical Version (HD) (120 Mins) 
- NEW The Mind of Madness – an interview with William Petersen (18 Mins) HD 
- NEW Courting a Killer – an interview with actress Joan Allen (16 Mins) HD 
- NEW Francis is Gone Forever – an interview with actor Tom Noonan (22 Mins) HD 
- NEW The First Lecktor – an interview with actor Brian Cox (40 Mins) HD 
- NEW The Eye of the Storm – an interview with director of photography Dante Spinotti (36 Mins) HD 
- NEW The Music of MANHUNTER – including interviews with composer Michel Rubini, Barry Andrews (Shriekback), Gary Putman (The Prime Movers), Rick Shaffer (The Reds) and Gene Stashuk (Red 7) (42 minutes) HD
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 
- Still Gallery (8 Mins) HD 

Disc 2: Director’s Cut (HD with Standard Definition inserts)(124 Mins) 
- Director’s Cut (Standard Definition)(124 Mins) 
- The Manhunter Look - A Conversation with cinematographer Dante Spinotti (10 minutes)
- Inside Manhunter with stars William Petersen, Joan Allen, Brian Cox and Tom Noonan (18 minutes)

Scream Factory's Manhunter (1986) 2-disc Collector's Edition is the definitive version of the movie with a sweet A/V presentation and a nice selection of new and old extras. If you only know this story through Red Dragon (2002) I recommend a viewing of Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986), this atmospheric slice of '80s serial killer cinema is a fantastic watch. 










Monday, May 23, 2016

GRINDHOUSE RELEASING BRINGS LUCIO FULCI’S ‘CAT IN THE BRAIN’ TO THEATERS, BLU-RAY!

CAT IN THE BRAIN (1990) 

The Most VIOLENT Movie Ever Made - Starring Godfather Of Gore Lucio Fulci!

Grindhouse Releasing has set a July 12 street date for the new deluxe 3-disc Blu-ray edition of Lucio Fulci's nightmare classic CAT IN THE BRAIN. The movie will be touring theaters all over the U.S. this summer, starting June 2.

CAT IN THE BRAIN is a psychological masterpiece in the tradition of such cinematic classics as PSYCHO, STRAIT-JACKET, ERASERHEAD and Fellini's 8 1/2. Acclaimed Italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci, director of ZOMBIE and THE BEYOND, stars in this blood-soaked epic as a director being driven insane by his own movies. Fulci is thrust into an ultra-violent nightmare of death and depravity where murder and madness consume his sanity in a vortex of violence.

“CAT IN THE BRAIN is my favorite Fulci movie,” says Grindhouse Releasing co-founder Bob Murawski. “How could it not be? It's wall-to-wall gore and stars Lucio Fulci playing himself. It delivers on all levels.”

As with Grindhouse Releasing's #1 best-selling smash PIECES, the new Blu-ray release of CAT IN THE BRAIN will be issued in two versions: the standard release, and a special edition for collectors limited to 3,000 copies.

The limited version of the CAT IN THE BRAIN Blu-ray includes a glow-in-the-dark slipcover and an original portrait of Lucio Fulci created especially for this release.

Grindhouse Releasing advises all customers who want to be guaranteed a copy of the limited edition to pre-order from Diabolik DVD, as Diabolik customers will get first priority and will receive the set early.

Supplies are not expected to last long -- if you do not pre-order from Diabolik DVD, there is no guarantee of receiving one of the limited collector’s copies.

As an additional exclusive, Diabolik DVD is offering a special bundle that includes the CAT IN THE BRAIN Blu-ray and the official Lucio Fulci bobblehead from Cult Colletibles. This offer is limited to 500 copies, as these are the last of the numbered Lucio Fulci "Weird Wobbler" bobbleheads - when they're gone, they're gone!

CAT IN THE BRAIN Blu-ray specs:
- Hi-definition digital restoration of the original UNCENSORED DIRECTOR'S CUT
- Presented with English and original Italian language soundtracks
- In-depth interviews with director Lucio Fulci and cult superstar Brett Halsey (REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, RETURN OF THE FLY, THE GODFATHER 3)
- New interviews with composer Fabio Frizzi, screenwriter Antonio Tentori, cinematographer Sandro Grossi and poster artist Enzo Sciotti
- Lucio Fulci's heroic appearance at the 1996 NYC Fangoria Weekend of Horrors
- Original Italian theatrical trailer and gallery of stills and poster art
- Liner notes by Antonella Fulci, David J. Schow, Eli Roth and Martin Beine
- BONUS CD - the original soundtrack by Fabio Frizzi!
- Chilling GLOW-IN-THE-DARK slip cover - limited to first 3000 copies
- Mini portrait of Lucio Fulci - suitable for framing - limited to first 3000 copies
- PLUS OTHER SURPRISES!

CAT IN THE BRAIN screening dates:
6/2/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse, Omaha, NE
6/3/2016 - Moolah Theatre, St Louis, MO
6/4/2016 - Moolah Theatre, St. Louis, MO
6/5/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse S. Lamar, Austin, TX
6/10/2016 - Hollywood Theater, Pittsburgh, PA
6/11/2016 - Hollywood Theater, Pittsburgh, PA
6/15/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse, Richardson TX
6/17/2016 - Coolidge Corner Theatre, Boston, MA
6/18/2016 - Coolidge Corner Theatre, Boston, MA
6/19/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse Mission, San Francisco, CA
6/20/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes, San Antonio, TX
6/20/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse Stone Oak, San Antonio, TX
6/21/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse, Dallas, TX
6/22/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse, Ashburn, VA
6/25/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park, Houston, TX
6/25/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse, Lubbock, TX
6/25/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse, El Paso, TX
6/27/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse, Kansas City, MO
6/27/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse Laredo, TX
6/27/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, New Braunfels, TX
6/27/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse Park North, San Antonio, TX
6/28/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse, Winchester, VA
6/29/2016 – Alamo Drafthouse, Yonkers, NY
7/1/2016 - Frida Cinema, Santa Ana, CA
7/8/2016 - Grand Illusion Cinema, Seattle, WA
7/13/2016 - Film Scene, Iowa City, IA
7/15/2016 - Circle Cinema, Tulsa, OK
7/16/2016 - Circle Cinema, Tulsa, OK
7/29/2016 - Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL
7/30/2016 - Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL
7/30/2016 - Metrograph, New York City, NY
7/31/2016 - PhilaMOCA, Philadelphia, PA
7/31/2016 - Metrograph, New York City, NY
8/1/2016 - PhilaMOCA, Philadelphia, PA
8/5/2016 - Hollywood Theater, Portland, OR
8/6/2016 - Hollywood Theater, Portland, OR
8/12/2016 - Cinefamily, Los Angeles, CA
8/31/2016 - Alamo Drafthouse, Littleton, CO

"A shattering exposition of gore, mutilation and sordid sex, certain to satisfy the sick set. A MASTERPIECE!" - David F. Friedman, legendary producer of BLOOD FEAST and ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE S.S.

"The fun never stops! Sadism, carnage, brutality, lust and utter psychosis delivered as only Lucio Fulci can." - CLIVE BARKER, director of HELLRAISER

More theaters and screening dates coming soon! Visit GrindhouseReleasing.com for updates!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Grindhouse-Releasing-125392227536411
Twitter: @GrindhouseFilm

For theatrical bookings and publicity, contact David Szulkin info@grindhousereleasing.com

Friday, May 20, 2016

SYMPTOMS (1974) (Blu-ray Review)

SYMPTOMS (1974) 
Label: Mondo Macabro
Region Code: Region-Free
Duration: 91 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Fullscreen( 1.33:1)
Audio: English PCM Mono Region:
Director: José Ramón Larraz
Cast: Angela Pleasence, Lorna Heilbron, Peter Vaughan, Nancy Nevinson, Ronald O'Neil, Marie-Paule Mailleux, Mike Grady



Symptoms (1974) is a quietly intense movie centered around a young woman named Helen, played by Angela Pleasance, the daughter of Donald Pleasance, who is most remembered as Dr. Loomis from the Halloween franchise. Angela herself featured in a few horror movies herself, including the anthology From Beyond the Grave and the surreal child-horror movie The Godsend, which not too long ago received a Blu-ray release from Scream Factory. Here she plays an awkward woman who lives alone in a secluded countryside mansion in a nicely wooded area with a nearby lake. The location makes for a gorgeous scene with the sun filtering down through canopy of leaves, but the idyllic scenario is betrayed by the young woman's frail mental state which threatens to doom her and those around her. 

Helen has just returned after travelling abroad and brought with a new friend, a short-coiffed woman named Anne (Lorna Heilbron) with whom Helen seems to be somewhat obsessed with, there's some one-way sexual tension happening here. It becomes clear to Anne that Helen is not quite right in her own mind, and despite some oddball happening chooses to stay around awhile and help her friend cope with whatever is troubling her. Adding some weirdness to the story are images of corpses floating in the nearby lake and a menacing handyman named Brady (Vaughan) who is antagonistic towards the rapidly unravelling Helen, making veiled statement to both her and Anne regarding another visitor to the country mansion who disappeared, a mysterious woman named Cora (Marie-Paule Mailleux) with whom Helen was also obsessed with, a woman who is glimpsed from time to time, seemingly haunting the troubled young woman. 

Without spoiling too very much this is a movie about a woman in a fragile state of mind, who may or may not be experiencing some form of haunting, and I like that I was never quite sure what was going on, which could be upsetting to some, so be forewarned about that. The movie unfolded in a wonderful 70s slow burn sort of way, punctuated by some small but powerful moments of violence and surreal camerawork with some creepy old dark house atmosphere. I loved the natural woodland setting, the natural sounds that comprise the soundtrack, and the way the quiet menace of the situation slowly unfold until a right and proper winner of an ending as madness completely washes over out troubled protagonist and her ghosts are revealed.

What won me over aside from the gorgeous scenery and haunting atmosphere of the movie was the rather good performance from Angela Pleasance, who was not an actress who starred in a lot of movies, but her slightly awkward demeanor and haunted expressions really sold me on the inner struggle and madness of the character that made for a compelling watch.

Audio/Video: Symptoms (1974) arrives on Blu-ray in the US from Mondo Macabro in the original full frame apsect ratio looking quite nice. The colors are slightly muted by the choice of autumnal colors but look quite nice, the lighting is very low-key and atmospheric  and works for the movie.  Audio comes by way of  clean PCM1.0 Mono track which exports dialogue and woodland sounds very nicely, the score from John Scott comes through nicely as well, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras we have the feature length Celia Novi doc On Vampyres and Other Symptoms, a documentary about Jose Larraz which focuses on his movies Vampyres and Symptoms. Also included is a 25-min made for TV documentary piece about the director. Additionally there is a trailer for the movie and interviews with stars Angela Pleasance, Lorna Heilbron and cinematographer Brian Smedley-Aston.

Angela Pleasance fondly remembers her role in the film and working with Larraz, how controlling he was on-set, and also talking about how innocent she was at the time and her refusal to do nudity, plus her thoughts on a nude body double used for her character in the movie. Actress Lorna Heilbron speaks about her early career and home life, speaking about the audition for the role with Larraz, remembering him as a smart and very intense persona. She also speaks a bit about working with horror icon Peter Cushing on Creeping Flesh and what a gentleman he was, which is no great surprise. Cinematographer Brian Smedley-Aston appears for a seventeen-minute interview speaking about his long and storied career beginning as AD on Lindsay Anderson's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner - what a sweet first gig, before going onto to work with Nicolas Roeg and working on Jeff Lieberman's drug-horror movie Blue Sunshine as well as Squirm! 

Special Features:

- Original Trailer ( 2 Mins) HD 
- Celia Novis Biography (Screen Text)
- On Vampyres and Other Symptoms - documentary about Jose Larraz directed by Celia Novis (74 Mins) HD
- From Barcelona to Tunbridge Wells - TV profile of Jose Larraz (24 Mins)
- Interview with editor Brian Smedley-Aston (17 Mins) HD
- Interview with Angela Pleasence (10 Mins) HD
- Interview with Lorna Heilbron (18 Mins) HD
- Specially commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

Symptoms (1974) is a movie that simply would have eluded me probably forever if Mondo Macabro hadn't brought it to Blu-ray, which would have been a damn shame. This is a very cool low-key 70s psychological thriller. If you're a fan of Roman Polanski's Repulsion or The Tenant I think this is gonna be something you will want to check out. During my second viewing it also brought to mind a more recent film, Peter Strickland's The Duke of Burgundy (2014) which shared many of the same aesthetic elements, the country mansion, and the woodland location. If you enjoyed that movie but maybe wished it were a bit on the darker side of things I would also recommend a viewing of this one. 


Thursday, May 19, 2016

DOLEMITE (1975) (Blu-ray Review)

DOLEMITE (1975) 
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
Label: Vinegar Syndrome
Rated: R
Region: Region-Free 
Duration: 90 Minutes 

Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: D’Urville Martin
Cast: D’Urville Martin, Jerry Jones, Rudy Ray Moore, Lady Reed 


What can I say about Dolemite that wiser and more worldly cult movie lovers have not said already? Maybe that this slice of 70's cinema is a fucking riot for starters, in all of blaxploitation there is nothing else quite like Dolemite, it is simply one of the most fun, outrageous and quotable blaxploitation movies of all time. A no-holds barred romp chock full of boobs, badassery and some of the most deliciously quotable dialogue of all time crammed into a fun, somewhat inept and completely awesome slice of 70's cult cinema. Comedian/actor Rudy Ray Moore created the Dolemite personality on his early comedy album, 'Eat Out More Often", a raunchy slice of urban humor which was an underground hit that actually made its way onto the top of the charts through his grassroots promotion. Moore was no dummy and wisely decided to further exploit the character by bringing him to the big screen with this independent production financed by sales of his won comedy albums - even if he had to do it hmself. The movie is directed by actor D’Urville Martin who was already a known character actor in blaxploitation movies like Sheba Baby with Pam Grier and Hammer and Black Caesar with Fred Williamson. Not sure why Rudy Ray Moore brought him into direct a film but I guess it could have been worse, as is the movie has a certain rough and inept charm about it and Martin gets to play another memorable character ontop of that.  

The movie centers around the mack daddy supreme Dolemite (Moore) who has just received an early release from a prison when the authorities realize that his old neighborhood has gone straight to Hell in his absence, his arch-nemesis Willie Green (played by director Martin) has not only taken over Dolemite's nightclub but also dragged the neighborhood through the mud with drugs and whores. Dolemite is greeted just outside of prison by a car full of hookers who provide him with some sweet pimp threads and a mouthful of appreciation. Also aiding him on his spree to rid the neighborhood of Willie Green is the nightclub singer Queen Bee (Lady Reed) who is a no nonsense madame who runs the multi-ethnic band of kung-fu hookers, that's right, multi-ethnic kunf-fu hookers. . 


If that sounds like a slice of '70s blaxploitation that would put a feather in your pimp cap you are probably gonna have a blast with Dolemite. On the downside... or upside, depending on your persuasion and appreciation for bad movies, the acting is mighty awful all the way around, which is not to say ruinous to the movie. In fact quite the oppsoite, the bad acting and awesome dialogue are a lot of the reason I love this movie. Moore may not be a great actor but very few actors could deliver lines like "I wanna let you know that Dolemite is my name, and fuckin' up motherfuckers is my game!" and "That rat-soup-eatin', insecure honky motherfucker!" with the charm of Moore, the guy is a goldmine of action-packed awesomeness. 

The movie is loaded with fun, oddball characters who pop up including the infamous Hamburger Pimp and a horny community priest, an FBI agent, and a couple of local copswithout a clue who love to hassle Dolemite. Its raw, fun and action-packed with no shortage of nude women, Dolemite is banging women left and right in this movie, which makes you wonder how he has the energy to fight crime and save the neighborhood from Willie Green and all those corrupt white people.


Audio/Video: Dolemite (1975) arrives on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome looking pimp with a brand nw 2K scan from the recently unearthed original negative of the movie, presenting the movie in the original 1.85:1 widecreen format. Vinegar Syndrome have also included a open matte version of the movie dubbed the "boom mic" version, which presents the movie the way many of us first saw it, full of boom mics and the movie crew caught on film. This version has been around for awhile and has lead to the movie being remembered as a much worse film that it might actually be, but it is not the technical nightmare it is often remembered as, though I do love this fullscreen version, it is always good for a bad movie night get together with friends. The properly framed widescreen version of the movie with the new 2K scan looks surprisingly good on Blu-ray, far and away looking the best it ever has on home video. There's some light scratching, cigarette burns and inconsistencies throughout, but on the plus side there's a fine layer of film grain with some decent clarity and a modest amount of fine detail. In fact watching this new 2K restoration might ruin some of the movie's bad-movie reputation to a certain degree, the new transfer definitely gives some new life to this cult-classic.


Audio on the disc is handled capably with an English language DTS-HD Master 1.0 Mono presentation which handles the side-splitting dialogue and funky score nicely, obviously this is not the most robust audio source but it does the job just fine. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided. 

Vinegar Syndrome have also included some qaulity bonus content for this release, beginning with the "boom mic" version in HD which as I have said alfready is a lot of fun. Then we have the 24-minute making of featurette directed by Elijah Drenner who directed the American Grindhouse doc, featuring various interviews with Moore in addition to his biographer Mark JasonMurray, cinematographer Nicholas Von Sternberg, actor John Kerry, Lady Reed, and friend and co-star Jerry Jones, offering insight into Moore's early career and the movie. 


The disc also includes what has been dubbed a "historical commentary" by Rudy May Moore biographer Mark Jason Murray, who covers a lot of ground on the track, and edits in his own audio interviews with Moore, co-stars Jerry Jones, Lady Reed and John Kerry and cinematographer Nick Von Sternberg, which was a nice change of pace for a commentary track. 


There's also a 23-minute interview with comedian and actress Lady Reed who speaks about her own career and working the comedy circuit with Moore. There's also a brief then and now location visit, a few  of which have not changed all that much in forty years, plus the awesome original trailer for the movie, including one for the sequel, The Human Tornado, which is also coming to Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome very soon. The dual disc BD/DVD combo comes housed in a clear keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original one-sheet illustration and a new one created by artists Jay Shaw, in a nice move the disc feature both versions of the artwork, too. 

Special Features: 

- I, Dolemite making-of documentary by Elijah Drenner (American Grindhouse) (24 Mins) 
- Lady Reed Uncut featurette (23 Mins) 
- Locations: Then and Now featurette (2 Mins) 
- Historical commentary track from Moore’s biographer Mark Jason Murray, featuring interviews with Moore as well as co-stars Jerry Jones, Lady Reed and John Kerry and cinematographer Nick Von Sternberg
- Original Theatrical Trailers (3 Mins) 
- Reversible sleeve of Cover Artwork


Dolemite is the first in a series of restored blaxploitation movie which are on the way from Vinegar Syndrome, this is a remarkable and noteworthy release, and if you're a fan of '70s blaxploitation cinema you need this one in your collection, this is essential stuff. I can gurantee that even if you're not familiar with the character of Dolemite that the character has worked his way into some form of popular culture you are familiar with, be it a send-up of 70's black cinema such as Black Dynamite, or the rap persona of Snoop Dog or the occasional refernce in a Beastie Boys song the man has made his mark on popular culture and he ain't going nowhere anytime soon. I am looking forward to Vinegar Syndrome's Blu-ray of The Human Tornado, the sequel which I have never watched, they've set the bar high so my expectations are through the roof. 


 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

VENOM (1981) (Blu-ray Review)

VENOM (1981) 
BD/DVD Combo Pack 
Label: Blue Underground 
Release Date: May 31st 2016 
Region Code: region FREE
Duration: 92 Minutes 
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD 7.1 Surround, DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo, Dolby Digital Surround EX 5.1 with Optional English SDH, French, Spanish Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Piers Haggard
Cast: Sterling Hayden, Klaus Kinski, Sarah Miles, Nicol Williamson, Susan George, Oliver Reed 


This was a first time watch of the hybrid serpentine-siege movie Venom (1981) starring two of cinema's most notorious madmen, the equally strong-willed Klaus Kinski and Oliver Reed. As the story goes we an asmthmatic 10-year boy named Phillip (Lance Holcomb) who is left alone for the weekend with his grandfather by his overly protective motherRuth (Cornelia Sharpe) at their posh London townhouse. It seems Ruth is off to Rome to join her husband who is away there on work. She leaves Phillip with her father Howard (Sterling Hayden, Dr. Strangelove) who was some sort of African big game hunter back in his prime. Ruth has some reservations about leaving her son alone with her elderly dad, but she is somewhat comforted by the fact that she has the chauffeur Dave (Oliver Reed, Burnt Offerings) and a nanny named Louise (Susan George, Crazy Mary Dirty Larry) to help keep the boy safe while she is away. 

What she does not know is that Louise and Dave are not good people, in fact they have partnered with an international criminal named Jacmel (madman Klaus Kinski) to kidnap her son and hold him ransom. However, before the trio can enact their kidnap plan the boy's grandfather throws a wrench into the works by allowing young Philip to take a taxi by himself to a pet shop to purchase a snake ...only the inept shop keepers send Philip away with not a harmless snake, but the deadliest snake ion the damned planet, a venemous black mamba! 


Philip arrives back at the home with his deadly new pet safely locked away in a wooden box, he runs to his room but not before an odd staircase encounter with Reed's character who confronts the boy by repeatedly calling him a "cheeky bastard". Just as Jacmel arrives on scene to kidnap the kid poor Louise is viciously bitten in the face by the snake in one of the movies more fun and thrilling scenes. Unfortunately Susan George is down for the count and out of the picture at this point which was awful for me, just a few moments earlier she was stripping off her maid outfit... which makes the cover art for the Blu-ray which teases a scantly clad Susan George versus the snake sort of funny, you just gotta love the exploitation movie marketing machine, they sure know how to tease us into watching a movie with a certain expectation. 

With Susan George's Louise writhing in pain and dying an awful suffocating death the kidnap plot is revealed to Howard, who is now held against his will at gun point along with his grandson. Right then a copper comes knocking on the front door, unbeknownst to the kidnappers he is there to make an inquiry about the unfortunate mix-up at the pet shop, before this is known trigger happy Dave blasts the cop right off the front door step with a shotgun, which incites a near instant stand-off with the authorities who arrive within minutes. Now the kidnappers and victims are trapped in the house with a deadly black mamba on the loose while the coppers surround the townhouse making escape difficult. 



This one is a claustrophobic bit of siege fun, we begin with a very simple kidnapping gone wrong scenario that turns into a oddball siege movie with a killer snake on the loose, which makes for good movie watching if not a great slice of cinema. Susan George is gone a bit too soon for my tastes, but turns is fine performance for her part. Surprisingluy Reed and Kinski are mighty restrained in their roles but they're bursting at the seems with tension, probably because they actually hated each other, and the always watchable Sterling Hayden turns in a wiley performance as the aging white hunter trying to protect his son. Young Lance Holcomb manages to not be too annoying for a kid actor, but doesn't get a lot to do, he's suffering from his asthma most of the movie. 

Venom has a reputation as having not enough siege nor enough snake for the most part, and I agree with the latter of the considerations, there is definitely not enough of the black mamba in the movie for my tastes, though there's plenty of siege, to that end we have Commander William Bulloch (Nicol Williamson) heading the siege against the kidnappers. He comes across as a smart and shrewd lawman during is negotions with Kinski but somehow allows the kidnappers to snatch away a snake expert who arrives on scene to consult about the deadly black mamba. She becomes a bargaining chip for the kidnappers who threaten to cut off her fingers if their ransom demands are not met. 


This is a good watch, it moves along at a fast pace, along the way the script seems to jettison a fair amount of logic to maintain that pace, but it was not anything I couldn't forgive. For myself the thrill of this one is the great cast and fun premise, a somewhat aloof siege movie married to a serpentine survival movie, starring Kalus Kinksi, Susan Geoge, Oliver Reed and Hollywood veteran Sterling Hayden cannot be that all that bad, in fact it's quite good. The biggest drawback for me would be the need for more snake onscreen, it is glimpsed only fleetingly, which works for some movies but not this one, especially when the few scenes we do get are so effcective, that snake was scary and  a few of the scenes made my skin crawl, while others made me laugh, such as the venemous serpent crawling up Reed's pant leg to bite the brute right on the schlong, this was a rare ustance of Reed underplaying a situation. Definitey check out Venom if you have not done so yet, it's not great cinema but it is a good watch, this new Blu-ray from Blue Underground is a great excuse to finally check it out or give it a rewatch.



Audio/Video: Venom (1981) arrives on Blu-ray from Blue Underground framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio with a new 2K transfer straight from the original camera negative looking very nice. The image is clean and crisp with a nice clarity and a modest amount of depth. Colors are strong and vibrant, the black levels and shadow detail are very strong all the way around.  Audio choices are plentiful with choice of English DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo, plus Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 Surround with Optional English SDH subtitles. The audio is clean and free of hiss, except for that of the deadly black mamba... drum roll please! The Michael Kamen score, sound effects and dialogue are nicely balanced and come through clean and with a sense of urgency, the surround options offers bit of discreet channel fun, but us unecassary, for me the original stereo mix sounded just fine. 

Special features on the disc are on the slim side, the Blu-ray and DVD discs come housed in a clear Criterion style keep case with a reversible sleeve of artwork and a 20-page collector's booklet with writing about the movie from Michael Gingold, the booklet also includes promotional images and artwork for the movie. Extras on the discs include a commentary with Director Piers Haggard moderated by Jonathan Sothcott, offering some solid insight about the making of this troubled movie production, with Haggard commenting on taking over the movie after the original director Tobe Hooper was fired, following what has often been reported to be a nervous breakdown on set. He also speaks volumes about the tumultuous on-set chemistry between stars Klaus Kinski and Oliver Reed who apparently loathed each other from day one, with Reed taunting Kinski by calling him a "nazi bastard" while for his part Kinski threatening to kill Reed. In a lot of ways the making of anecdotes are more interesting the movie to a degree. There's also a selection of trailers and TV spots for the movie, plus an image gallery of behind-the-scenes, and advertising and promotional images.  


Special Features: 

- Audio Commentary with Director Piers Haggard moderated by Jonathan Sothcott
- Theatrical Trailer (1 Min) 
- TeaserTrailer (1 Mins) 
- TV Spots (1 Min) 
- Poster and Still Gallery (78 Images) 
- BONUS Collectible Booklet featuring new writing by Fangoria Editor Michael Gingold

Venom (1981) is a movie I have known about for a long time but just never got around to seeking out, I think I first read about it about it on a list of movies that Tobe Hooper was booted from and/or quit, a list which also included werewold with laser-eyes movie The Dark, which is another strange one. This serpentine siege thriller is a good watch, the story has some huge holes in it but the cast do a fine job of bringing it home, and knowing the on-set acidity between Kalus Kinski and Oliver Reed only makes it that much more fun when they share scenes together, knowing the friction was real adds some depth to it. Blue Underground have done a great job bringing Venom to Blu-ray with a solid A/V presentation and an attractive package, highly recommended, another geat release from BU!