Friday, April 20, 2018

SOCIETY (1989) (Umbrella DVD Review)

SOCIETY (1989) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment 
Region: Region-Free 
Rating: M
Duration: 99 Minutes
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.77:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Brian Yuzna
Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards

Synopsis: Legendary schlock producer Brian Yuzna (Re-animator, Return of the Living Dead), creates a tense and gory work of horrific social satire in his directorial debut. Billy Whitney (Billy Warlock - Baywatch, General Hospital), a model rich kid and prefect at the Beverley Hills Academy who enjoys rubbing oil into his girlfriend around the pool, is inexplicably embroiled in a spiraling web of fear and paranoia, a surreal, psychotic world that is fast becoming a nightmare. His worst fears are realized when he crashes a perverse socialite gathering that turns into a shocking, and sticky, shunting ritual. The sick and disturbing finale was made possible through ultra-special effects by Screaming Mad George! After 4 minutes were censored for its American release, Society is now presented totally uncut and uncensored, including full restoration of the infamous orgy scene.

High schooler Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock, Halloween II) seems to have it all on the surface, he's a good looking teen with a cute looking cheerleader 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 least I did, until I realized that most people in Wranglers were sort of douche nozzles, you ever notice that? Despite his good breeding, 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, My Chauffeur), to address the paranoia-laced nightmares he suffers from, but when Blanchard (Tim Bartell, Meatballs, Part II) 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 he 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 least. This contorted bit of kinky weirdness is just our first glimpse at the weird body horror elements that await us in this one, but certainly not the last, there's plenty more to come as the layers begin to peel back 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 (Curse II: The Bite) 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 tagline for 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, it's so damn creepy, gross and gooey.  

While I do love the movie I admit that it suffer a bit from stiff acting, particularly the attractive young ladies cast in the movie, they're easy on the eyes but maybe not the most gifted actresses ever put onscreen, nope, these gorgeous ladies were cast for certain other top-shelf criteria. In a weird sort of way the flat line deliveries work in the film's favor, creating a strange atmosphere and that feeling that somethings 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 transitory age. I remember as a young boy I watched the original Invaders from Mars on TV, afterward I was convinced the neighbors were aliens, I can only imagine what sort of fucked-upped weirdness I would have suffered if I'd watched Society in my early teens, it's a strange one, lovers of bizarre body-horror should seek this one out.

Audio/Video: Society (1989) arrives DVD (What? No Blu-ray, c'mon Umbrella!) framed in 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen, it's a good looking transfer, not sure what the source is, but it's free of blemishes and colors looks solid. The film has always had a certain softness about it, but this looks accurate to the source as I've seen it represented on various other home video releases. The English Dolby Digital 2.0 audio sounds good, clean and free of distortion, there are no subtitles. 

The extras are slim, offering an audio commentary from director Brian Yuzna (I believe this is the same commentary as the Arrow release), a trailer for the film and a handful of Umbrella trailers.  The single-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in a standard DVD keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of featuring the original movie poster illustration, which is also featured on the disc. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary by Director Brian Yuzna
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- Umbrella Propaganda: Spontaneous Combustion (2 min), Candyman (2 min), Bride of Re-Animator (1 min), The Stepfather (2 min)

That Society (1989) is only available from Umbrella on DVD is a bit head scratcher, it's already received the deluxe treatment from Arrow Video on Blu-ray in other territories, here's hoping that down the line this ends up as part of Umbrella's recently announced  Beyond Genres: Worlds on Film series, which has already announced three Yuzna productions slated for deluxe Blu-ray releases in 2018, those being Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003) - both directed by Yuzna - and Dagon (1001), which he produced for director Stuart Gordon, so that would make sense, but we will have to wait and see. 






THE BLACK SCORPION (1957) (WAC Blu-ray Review)

THE BLACK SCORPION (1957) 

Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 88 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English (ALL CAPS) Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Edward Ludwig
Cast: Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro, Carlos Muzquiz, Pascual Garcia Pe?a, Fanny Schiller, Pedro Galvan, Arturo Martinez

This low-budget 50's giant-bug movie features the stop-motion magic of Ray Harryhausen mentor Willis O'Brien (King Kong), a black and white creature-feature that borrows pretty liberally from Warner's own superior giant-ant film Them! (1954). When a volcano erupts in Mexico an American geologist named Hank (Richard Denning, Creature from the Black Lagoonteams-up with his Mexican counterpart Arturo (Carlos Rivas, They Saved Hitler's Brain) to study the geological phenomena near the village of San Lorenzo. Arriving at their destination via Jeep they find a badly damaged police car, a dead cop with a look of horror on his face, and the village in near total ruin. While rummaging through the ruins for signs of life Hank discovers an unattended infant in a crib, and in perhaps the most alarming single scene in the whole damn film Hank points the kid out to Arturo using his pistol as a pointer, aiming directly at the kid, goddamn Richard Denning had no paternal instinct whatsoever.

The scientists take the kid to a neighboring village while curiously pondering what could have caused such catastrophic damage to town, with the local folk attributing the damage and death to a demon-bull said to haunt the area. Only slightly less ridiculous than a demon-bull is the truth, that giant black scorpions are to blame. In a nice change-up the insects are not made monstrously big by radiation from the atom bomb - which was a popular monster catalyst at the time - but just prehistoric creatures that were released from their subterranean cavern-prison by the recent volcanic activity. 

When the Mexican military prove themselves to be near useless the  scientist end-up descending into the cavern to scope out the enormity of the situation, finding not just the nocturnal black scorpions they figured on but also other gigantic insects, including a creepy over-sized worm and spider - the latter of which tries to make a pint-sized meal out of an annoying kid named Juanito (Mario Navarro, The Beast of Hollow Mountainwhom has unbeknownst to the scientists tagged along on their underground exploration. 

The Black Scorpion (1957) doesn't offer anything particularly new of inventive for those who have indulged in more than just a handful of creature-features from he 50's as a kid like myself, it's by-the-numbers stuff, there's even a leaden love-interest for the American scientist by way of sexy pin-up queen Mara Corday (The Giant Claw) as a rancher named Teresa, those scenes slowing the movie down considerably. What saves this one from being a standard issue giant bug movie is the stop-motion carnage provided by Willis O'Brien and his trusty assistant Pete Peterson, offering up some great stop-motion fun with the scorpions attacking a crew of telephone linemen, taking on helicopters, military tanks and even a passenger train, plus the stuff down in the cavern with the oversized worm, scorpions and that spider are well executed. Not all the effects are fantastic, the film switches back and forth between the miniature stop-motion effects of the scorpion and the close-up of a working model of the insects head, the copious amounts of drool pouring from it's mandible always makes me laugh, the two images don't blend well and look nothing alike, but stuff like that's all part of the schlocky charm of 50's sci-fi and creature features. 

Audio/Video: The Black Scorpion (1957) arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Archive with a new 2018 scan in 2K, framed in 1.78:1 widescreen the black and white image looks decent but problematic. There's quite a few source elements competing for screen time, we have combination of stop-motion creature effects, stock footage of erupting volcanoes and some newsreel footage, they don't exactly mix seamlessly. The image is not ideal but it's the best I've seen it look on home video, but this is no one's idea of reference material when it comes to home video on Blu-ray with fluctuating film grain, varying softness and a general lack of fine detail. 

The DTS-HD MA mono English audio is fairly flat, with the Paul Sawtell (It! The Terror from Beyond Space) score and creature sounds fairing the best, dialogue is never hard to decipher but there is hiss present on the track. Optional English subtitles are provided, the usual yellow all-caps variety that's standard issue for WAC. 

Onto the extras WAC carry-over all the extras from the previous DVD, we get a 3-min featurette with late Ray Harryhausen speaking about his mentor Willis O'Brien, particularly how he adored King Kong and how it is he came to work for him. We also get Harryhausen's and O'Brien's animation sequence from Irwin Allen's The Animal World (1956), a wonderful color sequence of dinosaurs battling with an introduction by Harryhausen. A nice addition is the inclusion of two brief silent animation test footage films shot by Willis O'Brien and his assistant Pete Peterson in the 50s, one of a large mutated baboon and the other of a horde of alien creatures on the move, both are intriguing snippets, there's also a brief text detailing how the footage was found. The last of the extras is a trailer for the film, which references the film Them! 

Special Features:

- Stop Motion Masters with Ray Harryhausen (3 min) 
- Harryhausen's Dinosaur sequence from "The Animal World" (12 min) 
- Las Vegas Monster and Beetleman Test Footage (5 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 

I'm always happy to welcome vintage schlock onto Blu-ray, Warner Archive come through with another wonderful b-movie blast from the past, a black and white creature feature sure to please fans of schlock, giant-bugs and vintage stop-motion special effects. It's all wrapped-up in a kitschy 1950's veneer that really got my retro monster movie pulse racing, highly recommended for monster kids both young and old!  .   

 

THE SOULTANGLER (1987) (AGFA DVD Review)

THE SOULTANGLER (1987)

Label: AGFA/Bleeding Skull
Region Code: ALL
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 90 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 
Video: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Director: Pat Bishow
Cast: Bill Bernhard, Jennifer Brown, Tom Ciorciari, Pierre Devaux, Ginny Dunlevy, Jamie Kinser 

Synopsis: If Re-Animator was shot on Long Island for the price of a used car, The Soultangler would be the result. Insane genius Dr. Anton Lupesky has developed a drug that allows users to inhabit corpses and transform into rabid maniacs! Can reporter Kim Castle stop the carnage and save our species from annihilation?! This epic of outsider filmmaking is a dream-like wasteland that’s punctuated with severed heads, evil beasties, and hooded slashers. Filmed in basements and garages, director Pat Bishow’s earnest devotion to storytelling in the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft elevates The Soultangler beyond kitsch and into heavenly territory.

Shot on the cheap in Long Island back in 1985 this lo-fi Re-Animator (1985) riff from backyard movie maker Pat Bishow is the mind-bending tale of Dr. Anton Lupesky (Pierre Devaux), a greasy sort of Herbert West character who like the Lovecraftian mad doc has also created a nightmarish green-serum, not a re-animating agent, but a drug he calls "anphorium" that allows him to project his soul into the bodies of corpses (as long as they have eyes), but it also afflicts the user with horrific hallucinations and sends them careening into a void of insanity. 


At the start of the film Lupesky has been expelled from legitimate medical practice at the Whitewood Institute by Dr. Janet Simpson (Ginny Dunlevy) who objected to the docs unorthodox experiments on the insane, an expulsion and professional disgrace which sent him to Germany in search of more medical freedoms abroad, but after a year he returns to the U.S. after finding that Germany's medical facilities were not up to his high standards. After returning to Long Island he settles into a makeshift basement laboratory, and with the help of adoring assistant Jessica (Louise Millmann) and hammer-wielding henchmen Carl (Bob Cederberg) the doc begins his mind-altering experiments anew, with Bob cruising the streets in a van and procuring a supply of fresh souls/corpses for the doc to experiment on. The scenes of Bob in a hooded mask chasing down and hammering his chosen victims is an inept sort of low-budget spectacle, hammering folks in their front yards and stalking a woman in a basement, ripping off his mask and stiffly (maniacally?) laughing. 


Lupesky's return to Long Island draws skepticism from Dr. Janet Simpson who unwisely decides to confront the doc face-to-face, and then there's a local reporter named Kim Castle (Jamie Kinser) who is obsessed with the doc, looking for a connection between him and her late religious father who warned against the maniacal madman. Castle becomes entangled in the story, also managing to rope-in her boyfriend Zack (Tom Ciorciari) and her concerned roommate Sandra (Susan Chase). 


This cheap splatter film is poorly made but the director's love of horror bleeds through with a trippy homegrown aesthetic that I can get behind, the low-budget gore is actually quite astounding once it gets going, but the film starts of deathly slow with a lot of boring filler-scenes. Apparently the director was contracted by the distributor to turn in a ninety-minute version of the movie, and it's padded with numerous scenes of people walking and/or driving around and close-ups of eyeballs!  However, once we get to the final third it ramps up nicely with scene after scene of exquisitely cheap practical effects. We get all sort of gooey stuff, decapitations, gouged eyes, cadavers in various states of dissection, nightmare zombie dreams, and a doll stuffed guts, all sorts of nasty fun to be had, including a memorable scene of a soul-tangled corpse with a wildly flicking tongue strangling someone with it's own bloody intestines, and a scenes of a disembodied brain that looks like Gary the snail from Spongebob Squarepants with two eyes attached via optic nerves! It's all very cheaply done but I have to give it up to the folks who made it for going all-out with the imaginative gore in the final stretch, it was breathtaking in in a lo-fi sort of way. 


Now the acting throughout is bad, real bad, the cast is made-up of friends and relatives of the director doing their best but somehow still coming up short in the traditional sense. Pierre Devaux as the mad doc turns in the best of the bunch, and by best I mean absolutely unhinged, he goes for it with a lot of heart and overshoots it by a mile with an enthusiastic bit of scene-chewing fun, he's out of his mind high on his own mind-bending drug, it's endlessly entertaining. The Soultangler (1987) is a trippy bit of homegrown horror cinema, the line "Re-Animator was shot on Long Island for the price of a used car" from the synopsis really captures the essence of the film, if you're the sort of demented horror fan who craves micro-budget gore and cheap backyard production values you could do a lot worse than The Soultangler, a film that wears it's heart on it's sleeve and is dripping with cheap atmosphere and plenty of blood-colored Karo syrup.  

Audio/Video: The Soultangler arrives on DVD from AGFA/Bleeding Skull, having previously been issued as a limited edition VHS release from Bleeding Skull/Mondo a few years back. The gory lo-fi nightmare was originally shot on 16mm film but transferred to and then edited on 1" videotape, as the original 16mm elements are no longer in existence the film was transferred from the original 1" master tapes for this release. It has a bit of that lo-fi shot-on-video sheen, but considering the source the colors look fairly good and the details are relatively, well, not crisp, but decent enough you know? The image looks a bit soft and the darker scenes can be a bit murky murky but this is pretty impressive looking all things considered, it certainly looks better than the average SOV oddity, but you still get some video scan lines showing up from time to time. 

Audio comes by way of an English Dolby Digital mono, it's on par with the visuals and maybe a bit worse with poorly recorded natural audio, strangely overpowering overdubbing, and startling loud music cues in place of where some dialogue should be. There's also a wonderfully cheesy 80's synth score, there are no subtitles are included on this release. 




Onto the extras we get an audio commentary from director Bishop who is very forthcoming about the quality of the film, it's equal parts praise and a realistic awareness of how bad it is, it's a good listen detailing what it was like making this splatterific cheapie with friends and family in Long Island in '85. 

Also included is a shorter 62-minute director's cut of the film which trims a lot of the slower parts - which were only added at the insistence of the distributor who demanded a longer cut, but for the record I prefer the longer cut as it has a strange otherworldly quality about it, it's hypnotic in a stoner watching a bad horror movie sort of way. 


The disc also include 12-min of behind-the-scenes footage shot on a camcorder during filming, it's fun peak behind the curtain of the film, it made me wish me and my like-minded friends would have made a movie back in the 80's.  There are also trailers for The Soultangler and Bishow's previous film Dead of Night Town, a music video for Long Island rockers Hypnolovewheel's "Wow" directed by Bishow, plus a 12-page Blu-ray sized booklet with liner notes/conversation with Bishow penned by Bleeding Skull's Zack Carlson. The single-disc release comes housed in a clear DVD case with a sleeve of reversible artwork, the a-side featuring a gore-a-dellic illustration from Matt “Putrid” Carr, the b-side looking like a VHS-style image, it very well could have been the original artwork for the movie, not sure but I prefer the a-side 

Special Features:
- Transferred from the original 1” master tapes!
- Unseen 62 minute alternate director’s cut!
- Commentary track with director Pat Bishow!
- Behind the scenes footage!(12 min) 
- THE SOULTANGLER Trailer (1 min)
- DEAD OF NIGHT TOWN! Trailer (1 min) 
- Music video for “Wow” by Hypnolovewheel! (3 min) 
- Liner notes by Bleeding Skull’s Zack Carlson!
- Reversible cover art!

Fans of homegrown horror and lo-fi gore need The Soultangler (1987) in their lives, while it's not a shot-on-video film it certainly fits right in with the strange 80's backyard productions you'd associate with SOV, plus we gets loads of gooey and gross special effects which are totally fun. You can tell the director was in love with the film Re-Animator, it doesn't rip it off but he's definitely riffing on the whole madman with a strange serum idea, and I had a blast with it, but at the same time I could see more mainstream horror fans thinking this was one of the worst movies they've ever seen, they're not wrong, they're just not demented enough to love it the way I do. 













Thursday, April 12, 2018

Massacre Video Presents ENTER THE DEVIL (1974) on Limited Collector's Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo with an exclusive slipcover on May 8th

ENTER THE DEVIL (1974) 
Limited Collector's Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo 

Label: Massacre Video
Release Date: May 8th 2018
Duration: 81 Minutes
Region Code: All regions
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Director: Frank Q. Dobbs
Cast: David S. Cass Sr., Irene Kelly, Joshua Bryant


Synopsis: Following the mysterious disappearances of several travelers in a rural part of southern Texas, a detective and a scientist from a nearby city are sent to investigate. Made to immediately feel unwanted by the locals, they soon discover the remains of one of the missing, but in doing so begin to sense that something sinister is afoot in the desolate community they've entered. Determined to uncover the truth, the duo quickly find themselves faced with an unimaginable evil; a terror linked to Satan himself!

Massacre Video proudly presents the Blu-ray debut of Frank Q. Dobbs' low budget regional chiller, ENTER THE DEVIL (aka DISCIPLE OF DEATH), newly restored from a recently discovered inter-negative.





Special Features:
- Limited Edition Slipcover
- 2k Master from original 35mm Inter-negative element
- English Captions
- SIZZLING BONUS FEATURE: Frank Q. Dobbs' CALIFORNIA CONNECTION (THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF PETERE GALORE)
- Video Nasty Scholar, Kim Newman talks ENTER THE DEVIL
- Extensive still gallery
- Trailers for other Massacre Video releases