Sunday, April 21, 2019

THE EPITAPH VOL. 15: SHEENA (1985) - SONGWRITER (1984) - THE TAKE (1974) & BLACK GUNN (1972) DOUBLE FEATURE - FORT YUMA GOLD (1966) & DAMNED HOT DAY OF FIRE (1968) WESTERN DOUBLE FEATURE - SOUL TEAM SIX: 6-FILM COLLECTION

THE EPITAPH VOL.15

MILL CREEK ENTERTAINMENT EDITION 

SHEENA (1985) - SONGWRITER (1984) - THE TAKE (1974) & BLACK GUNN (1972) DOUBLE FEATURE - FORT YUMA GOLD (1966) & DAMNED HOT DAY OF FIRE (1968) WESTERN DOUBLE FEATURE - SOUL TEAM SIX: 6-FILM BLAXPLOITATION COLLECTION 





SHEENA (1984)
Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: PG
Duration: 117 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: John Guillermin
Cast: Tanya Roberts, Ted Wass, Donovan Scott, Nick Brimble

Synopsis: Journey to deepest, darkest Africa for thrills, romance and high adventure! Orphaned in Zambouli territory, the blonde Sheena (Tanya Roberts) is raised by a noble tribe and taught to communicate telepathically with all creatures. She gets a firsthand lesson in love from Vic Casey (Ted Wass), a wisecracking TV journalist. In Africa for a story on a royal football player, Prince Otwani (Trevor Thomas), Vic soon finds himself embroiled in a web of political intrigue. And when the evil prince decides to invade the Zambouli' land, it is up to Sheena to rescue Vic and save her idyllic kingdom!

I was just barely out of the single-digits when Sheena (1983) came around and I remember thinking that 'oh, they made Tarzan into a woman, cool.' Watching it back then I loved it, pretty sure it was my first dose of PG-nudity, which back then was not that uncommon. it's a guilty pleasure of the 80's variety with some fun action sequences and cool scenery, shot in Kenya the backdrop makes for good viewing, but the dialogue and plot of this pulpy stinker are atrocious. That said, Tanya Roberts (The Beastmaster) is easy on the eyes, a gorgeous looker swinging through the jungle, and telepathically calling to wildlife for save her ass and whatnot, but her lines deliveries, which to be fair are written awful, sound atrocious. The film arrives on Blu-ray from MCE looking a lot better than the previous DVD which was pure shit, but in all honesty this new HD presentation surely won't win any A/V awards, it's got plenty of issues, but is an improvement over what came before it. As part of MCE's Retro-VHS series it comes with a slipcover with some fake wear around the edges and rental store stickers, which is cool-looking. The sleeve of art on the keepcase is different than the slip, mirroring the previous DVD artwork.

SONGWRITER (1984)
Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Alan Rudolph
Cast: Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Melinda Dillon

Synopsis: Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson as a pair of hard-living Texans in this funny, original and very real look at the country music business. Doc Jenkins (Nelson) may be one of C&W's most beloved stars, but his private life is a wreck. He's split up with his longtime partner, Blackie Buck (Kristofferson), a country outlaw with a heart of gold. Doc's singer-wife, Honey Carder (Melinda Dillon), has thrown him out of the house. And now he's gotten involved with a sleazy music manager, Rodeo Rocky (Richard C. Sarafian), who's out to steal his material. Teaming up with Blackie, Doc takes drastic measures to win back his family and reclaim his songs. It's Willie and Kris, on the road again, making music and raising hell!

Songwriter (1984) stars country legend Willie Nelson as a country performer/songwriter who feels royalty cheated by his seemingly unfair publishing deal with his publisher. He strikes out on his own, after burning down his former business, and starts up a new record label, signing a promising up and coming country starlet named Gilda, and hitting the road with his country singer pal (Kris Kristofferson) with plan to double-cross his litigious publisher. I fun bit of country-fried comedy and satire here, Nelson and Kristofferson are very likable, affable guys out on the road earning a living, with plenty of hard-drinkin', groupies and decent country songs to keep me plugged in for it's duration, which coming into I was not expecting, and it was great to see Rip Torn here in another country music film, he having stared in the hard-drinking, hard living' film Payday (1972), which is you're a fan of this film I highly recommend. Songwriter (1984) arrives on Blu-ray as part of the MCE Retro-VHS line-up, looking solid after an initially rough looking credit sequence in 108op HD with lossless audio, with a slipcover and different artwork on the wrap.


THE TAKE (1974) & BLACK GUNN (1972)
Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: PG & R
Duration: 187 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Robert Hartford-Davis
Cast: Billy Dee Williams, Eddie Albert, Frankie Avalon, Sorrell Booke & Jim Brown, Martin Landau, Brenda Sykes, Bernie Casey

Here we have a pair of blaxploitation films directed by Brit Robert Hartford-Davis who directed Corruption (1968) with Peter Cushing which is a bit of an underrated gem. I wouldn't say either of these were on par with Corruption in my opinion, but it was still a solid watch, having not seen either before. In The Take (1974) a pre-Star Wars Billy Dee William plays a smooth San Francisco cop on the take, assigned to a drug investigation in New Mexico where he working both sides of the law. The film also stars Eddie Albert (The Devil's Rain) and Vic Morrow (Twilight Zone: The Movie) as a strange crime kingpin, also be on the lookout for Sorrell Booke, Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazzard TV show! Black Gunn (1972) stars former pro-footballer Jim Brown (Mars Attacks) as a nightclub owner whose younger brother is killed after stealing a valuable book from the local crime lord, played by future Oscar-winner Martin Landua (The Being)! The nightclub owner teams-up with a militant African American organization known as BAG (Black Action Group) to revenge his brother's death. This is the better half of this double-bill in my opinion, plenty of gritty action and more traditional blaxploitation thrills, also featuring bearded Bernie Casey (Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde) as part of the Black Action group, and Bruce Glover (Chinatown) as a maniacal baddie working for the mob. No extras or slip on this one but the 1080p HD widescreen presentations licensed from Sony look solid.

FORT YUMA GOLD (1966) &

DAMNED HOT DAY OF FIRE (1968) 
Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration 201 Minutes
Audio: English Uncompressed PCM 2.0
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Directors: Calvin J. Padget & Paolo Bianchini
Cast: Montgomery Wood, Dan Vadis, Sophie Daumier & Robert Woods, John Ireland, Evelyn Stewart

Fort Yuma Gold (1966) aka "For a Few Extra Dollars" concerns a fanatical Southern soldier who refuses to stop fighting even though the war has ended, a sore loser indeed, he plans to launch a sneak attack on Fort Yuma, but a a captured confederate soldier agrees to a mission to thwart the diabolical confederate low-blow, along the way teaming-up with the aptly named saloon girl, Connie Breastfull, who threatens to derail the mission. The second half of this double-bill is Damned Hot Day of Fire (1968) aka "Gatling Gun", a film that rewrites a bit of American history for it's plot, wherein the inventor of the Gaitling Gun which can fore 300 rounds per minute has been kidnapped. His invention for meant to aid the North to victory might just have landed in the hands of the South, so the Pinkerton Agency sends to track it down. Plenty of violence abounds here in this western-spy mash-up, but it's a bit talky, making it overlong, but not without it's gritty charms. Both films arrives on Blu-ray from MCE framed in 1080p HD widescreen 2.35:1 looking a bit rough but acceptable, at least the first film. Damned Hot Day of Fire is rougher, assembled from a variety of sources as indicated by a text blurb that precedes it, quality of image and color timing shift throughout, and like the video, the audio of the Damned Hot Day of Fire is inferior but serviceable considering the bargain bin price. No extras, no slip, but the artwork on the wrap look great and there's a digital code for the film available from MCE's digital streaming service.

SOUL TEAM SIX - 

SIX-FILM BLAXPLOITATION 
COLLECTION

Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: 1
Rating: R, Unrated
Duration: 527 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital
Video: Fill Frame (1.33:1)

THE BLACK SIX(1973). Directed by Matt Cimber (The Witch Who Came from the Sea) this blaxploitation entry is the story of a group of African American ex-Nam vets who start up a motorcycle club, while touring they come up against some really awful racism, and then get news that one of the biker's little brother has been killed for dating a white girl back home. The six bikers return to avenge the young man's death, coming up against another biker gang comprised of white guys, making this z-grade slice of exploitation interesting in that it stars a grip of NFL players and is the are case of a biker biker film, and it has pretty funky theme song to go along with it.

THE BLACK GESTAPO (1975). In The Black Gestapo we have an African-American empowerment group in the Watts area of Los Angels, things start off positively with the group patrolling the neighborhood and making it a safer place to live for the black folk who have been terrorized by racist white mobs. However, when the sister of one of the group's leaders is raped by white men things turns sour, and the group turns tuns militant in the vein of the Gestapo, leading to some turmoil within the leadership. From director Lee Frost who directed Lovecamp 7 (1969) this slice of z-grade blaxploitation is entertaining and a bit ridiculous, but also strangely compelling in a weird way.

BLACK BRIGADE (1970). Produced by famous TV producer Aaron Spelling (90210) this 70's TV movie is set during World War II, with an African-American army company is given orders to destroy an important damn in Nazi occupied territory. The rag tag group are under the leadership of a prejudiced Captain, but they have to find a way to come together to accomplish the mission. As a TV film it's light on violence but has a good cast, notable starring Richard Pryor, Billy Dee Williams, Robert Hooks.

BLACK FIST (1974). Young Leroy Fisk (Richard Lawson) is making his living on the streets of Los Angeles as a street fighter and working for a local mob boss, but when he attempts to get out of the street fighting life the mob throws some retribution his way, and his brother and dies in a car bombing meant for him, and the expected revenge coming soon after. Not a great watch, but interesting in tat we have roles from Dabney Coleman (Cloak and Dagger) as a corrupt cop, Phillip Michael Thomas from Miami Vice as a pimp, and Edward James Olmos (Blade Runner) as a junkie.

THE BLACK GODFATHER (1974). Failing to deliver on the implied promise of the salacious title, we have the story of J.J., a low-level criminal who has worked his way up in the local crime scene, on the verge of becoming leader of his own syndicate, but the white Mafia's still got a hold on heroin trade in his neighborhood, resulting in a turf war. A flat and bland blaxploitation entry loaded with poor performances, lackluster in every way, the worst of the six on this set.

FIGHTING MAD (1978). Directed by Filipino exploitation legend Cirio H. Santiago Fighting made, maybe better known as Death Force, is the story of an American soldier on his way home from Vietnam is betrayed during a drug deal in China. Dumped overboard and left for dead he washes up on a remote island where he is rescued and healed by a pair of Japanese soldiers who've been holding out on the island since WWII, unaware that war is over! They nurse him back to health and train him in the way of the samurai allowing him to enact a run of bloody revenge on his tormentors once he returns to the U.S. Uneven and a bit sloppy the film has some pacing issues early on that threaten to stall the whole shebang, but once her gets back to the States and the revenge portion starts it's not a bad watch at all.

All six-film arrives on 2-disc DVD from MCE, three films on each disc, all presented in dupey looking full frame transfers heavily compressed and plagued by macroblocking. If you're looking for more pristine version of some of these I do know that Code red released Black Gestapo on Blu-ray and Vinegar Syndrome have released Fighting Mad under the alternate Death Force title on DVD, both widescreen and incalculably superior looking. If you're just looking to see these blaxploitation obscurities and don't give a whistle about the A/V this set can be picked up on the cheap, but the most attractive thing about it is montage from the original movie posters on the wrap. There's also a digital code for all six films through MCE's proprietary streaming service.


There you have it, five titles, thirteen films, all for a price that won't break the bank, a little something for everyone. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

HARD TICKET TO HAWAII (1987) (Mill Creek Entertainment Blu-ray Review)


HARD TICKET TO HAWAII (1987) 

Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A
Duration: 96 Minutes 
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Andy Sidaris
Cast: Ronn Moss, Dona Speir, Hope-Marie Carlton, Cynthia Brimhall, Harold Diamond, Rodrigo Obregon



Now if I have this right the "plot" of Hard Ticket To Hawaii concerns a pair of sexy DEA agents played by the more often than not topless Playboy Playmates Dona Speir (Hard Hunted) and Hope Marie Carlton, who are working undercover as inter-island airplane pilots delivering cargo for Molokai Cargo. Their latest shipment is a large snake meant for a local zoo, but in a strange mix-up they're accidentally given a lethal toxic-waste contaminated snake, whatever that is! Along the way the agents discover a stash of diamonds hidden away inside an RC helicopter that just happens to land right in front of them, with the lovely ladies becoming targets of a local crime Kingpin  Seth Romero (Rodrigo Obregon) and his assortment of dim-witted henchmen who wants those diamonds back.



The lethal-ladies get back-up from The Agency via bro-hunks Jade (Harold Diamond) and Rowdy Abilene (daytime soap-stud Ron Moss, of Bold and the Beautiful) who arrive on the island and are almost immediately set upon by a skateboarding assassin, who in one of the film's more infamous scenes is skateboarding along the side of the road holding a blow-up sex doll and a gun, during the skate-by-shooting Jade is injured, but the guys terminate him with extreme prejudice. First they hit him with their Jeep Wrangler which sends him flying through the air, and while he's still airborne they launch a land to air missile at him, which they just happen to have in their Jeep, firing a second missile at his harmless blow-up doll in a nice bit of 80's overkill! 



The film like its predecessor Malibu Express is overwrought and hilariously awful, but also lots of fun. That lethal toxic snake mentioned earlier ends up escaping from it's shipping crate and begins randomly attacking vacationers around around the island. The shit-looking snake is a stiff piece of rubber that looks about as animated as an oven mitt on the end of someone's arm. Sidaris is always dropping 007-on-a-budget references, here we have Rowdy throwing a razor-edged Frisbee that he uses to take out an enemy in a way that sort of recalls Oddjob's hat from Goldfinger, with the tanned hunk giving himself a silly fist-pump to celebrate his lethal accuracy! 



As with a lot of Andy Sidaris' films this feels like a cocaine-fueled fever dream of 80's excess. A bit like an R-rated mash-up of Three's Company and Mangnum P.I. with Playboy Playmates dropping their tops every three minutes or so, punctuated by some tasty camp dialogue and some deliciously over-the-top action. It's the sort of cheese-tastic T&A  that will put a smile on your z-grade cinema loving face.



I did miss the cheese-ball charmer Darby Hinton from the first film, but in his place we get the hunky Ron Moss, a guy I sort of grew up with thanks to my mother's strange choice of punishment. As a kid on summer vacation I would often get into trouble, as punishment my mom would make me sit in the living room and watch daytime soaps with her, and this guy was sort of a big deal on The Bold and The Beautiful at that time, playing a fashion house impresario Ridge Forrester, who was only slightly less cheesy than his character here! 


Audio/Video: Hard Ticket To Hawaii arrives on Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment with a new 4K restoration prepared by America Genre Film Archive (AGFA) that looks pretty dang spiffy. There's some rough edges by way of vertical lines throughout the presentation, but the grain structure is rich, colors are vibrant, and the plentifully displayed skin tones looks natural. The image and colors  are much brighter compared to the previously released DVD, but the image is cropped from the original full frame to create a widescreen 1.78:1 presentation that's HD TV friendly, but the cropping looks good and doesn't looked cramped. 



The English DTS-HD MA stereo audio sounds good, it's clean and well-balanced, it's a bit muffled in places, but it does the job. Optional English Subtitles are provided. 



The special features are carried over from the previous special edition DVD, we get an introduction from director Andy Sidaris who is joined by Julie Strain, plus an audio commentary from the director and his wife, 22-min of Malibu Bay trailers, and 37-minutes of behind-the-scenes footage which includes Joe Bob Briggs interviewing Dona Speir. Digging through the menu you will find an Easter Egg tucked away, a very brief video of Julie Strain nude and slipping a pair of underwear over her landing strip. This release also comes with a digital code of the film for Mill Creek Entertainment proprietary streaming service, it's won't work with Vudu or Movie Anywhere.  



Special Features: 
- Introduction with Andy Sidaris and Julie Strain (1 min) 
- Audio Commentary with Director Andy Sidaris and Arlene Sidaris
- Behind the Scenes (37 min) 
- Malibu Bay Trailers: Malibu Express (2 min), Hard Ticket to Hawaii (2 min), Picasso Trigger (2 min), Savage Beach (2 min), Guns (2 min), Do Or Die (1 min), Hard Hunted (1 min), Fit to Kill (2 min), Enemy Gold (2 min), The Dallas Connection (1 min), Day of the Warrior (2 min), Return to Savage Beach (2 min)



This slice of 80's sexploitation-action is bathed in a lethal mixture of tits, explosions and some fairly awful acting, but somehow it all comes together to form a shit-cinema burrito that pretty tasty, in a deliciously awful sort of way. I love seeing these film get the HD treatment, the restorations afforded them are well beyond what they deserve, it will make me very happy to see these films on the shelves at Walmart, and hope to see more of these sexed-up action films arriving on Blu-ray soon! 



LEVEL 16 Comes to Blu-ray and DVD on April 30th, 2019 from Dark Sky Films

LEVEL 16

"The plot is pitch-perfect, complimented further by each member of the cast's performance" 

"one of Fantastic Fest's best films...Don't sleep on this one!" - BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH 
  
  
"Level 16 builds a compelling, complete little world in the halls of this institution that would feel right at home in a better-than-average YA novel, though here it's perfectly scaled down for the requirements of a 102-minute movie." - COLLIDER

"a well-meaning film with some appealing retro-brutalist dystopian design" - FILMJOURNAL 
  
"Though the comparisons to "The Handmaid's Tale" are likely to arise, Level 16 is an altogether different beast. At its core, the two projects share a common theme of women fighting oppressive organizations but, thankfully, in the case of Esterhazy's film, there is some hope at the end of the story." - QUIET EARTH 

Sixteen-year-old Vivien is trapped in The Vestalis Academy, a prison-like boarding school, keeping to herself and sticking her neck out for no one. Until she is reunited with Sophia -- the former friend who betrayed her. Together the girls embark on a dangerous search to uncover the horrifying truth behind their imprisonment. Soon running for their lives, the girls must save themselves or die trying.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

THE EPITAPH VOL.14 - THE WITCHES (1966) - THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) - SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (1987) - WILLARD (2003) - WARNING SIGN (1985)

THE EPITAPH VOL.14 
SCREAM FACTORY EDITION!

THE WITCHES (1966) - THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) - SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (1987) - WILLARD (2003) - WARNING SIGN (1985) 


THE WITCHES (1966)
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 90 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Cyril Frankel
Cast: Joan Fontaine, Kay Walsh, Alec McCowe, Duncan Lamont, Gwen Ffrangcon Davies
 

A bit of lesser-appreciated slice of Hammer horror is The Witches (1966) which is better known here in the U.S. under the alternate title The Devil's Own, starring Joan Fontaine as a schoolteacher doing missionary work in Africa where she is terrorized by a witch doctor, causing her to have a nervous breakdown. We catch up with her some months later and she has been recovering from her breakdown, now accepting a teaching position job in a rural village in the English countryside. Funnily enough we come to find out there's some shady witchcraft happening there too! It a bit of a slow-burn after an initially strange beginning, but the over-the-top finale more than pays off the slow-burn build-up with a delirious dose of small town witchcraft. Scream Factory's release includes an audio commentary, Hammer Glamour featurette, trailer and still gallery plus a reversible sleeve of artwork with both U.K. The Witches and the U.S. The Devil's Own artworks!

Special Features:
- NEW Audio Commentary With Filmmaker/Historian Ted Newsom
- Hammer Glamour – A Featurette On The Women Of Hammer
- U.S. Trailer THE DEVIL’S OWN
- Double Feature Trailer PREHISTORIC WOMEN And THE DEVIL’S OWN
- Still Gallery


THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)
Label: Scream Factory
Rating: Unrated
Region Code: A
Duration: 77 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: B&W 1080p HD Full Frame (1.33:1)
Director: Robert Wise
Cast: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Henry Daniell, Edith Atwater, Russell Wade, Sharyn Moffett

This Val Lewton produced adaptation of a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, and finely directed by Robert Wise (The Haunting) has long been one of my favorite grave-robber thrillers. A vintage slice of the macabre, starring a devilishly delightful Boris Karloff as John Gray, a man who supplies corpses to a surgical school run by Dr. Wolfe "Toddy" MacFarlane (Henry Daniell, The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake), a man who doesn't question where all these fresh corpses are coming from. The film is full of references to the Burke & Hare and includes an appearance from Bela Lugosi as one of the Dr.'s assistant, who unwisely attempts to blackmail Gray, his fate sort of sadly mirroring what had already happened to his real career, his horror crown having already been usurped by Karloff! This new 4K scan from the original camera negative performed by Warner Bros. is absolutely stunning, the black and white cinematography is crisp, well detailed and offering excellent contrast like this film has not seen before. Extras include the archival 53-min doc Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy with appearances from Guillermo del Toro, Robert Wise, George A. Romero, John Landis and others, narrated by James Cromwell. There's also a 12-min appreciation from author Gregory William Mank, an audio commentary with the director Robert Wise and film historian Steve Haberman, plus a selection of galleries.

Special Features:
- NEW 4K scan of the original camera negative
- NEW You’ll Never Get Rid of Me: Resurrecting THE BODY SNATCHER (12 min)
- Audio Commentary with director Robert Wise and writer/film historian Steve Haberman
- Documentary – Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy (53 min)
- Still Galleries (5 min)
- Posters, lobby cards, movie stills (4 min)



SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (1987)
Label: Shout Select
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 106 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Tom Berenger, Mimi Rogers, Lorraine Bracco, Jerry Orbach

Romantic thrillers are not necessarily a genre of films I go out of my way to watch, but considering this one is directed by Ridley Scott (Alien) and my wife hates horror, I need to have a standby film that will work for both of us on those lucky nights when she wants to cuddle-up on the couch. Set in New York City the film has a great look, really capturing the sights of The Big Apple with attractive lensing. The story of a rough around the edges detective (Tom Berenger, Major League) who is tasked with playing body guard to a socialite (Mimi Rogers, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) who witnessed a murder. The cop and the socialite improbably start to fall for one another, straining the cop's home life with wifey played by Lorraine Bracco (Goodfellas). Not anywhere near the best of Ridley Scott's work in my opinion, but if you have a soft spot for romantic thrillers that are visually engaging you could do worse, plus you get an appearance from the late Jerry Orbach (TV's Law & Order) playing what else, a cop. The film arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory looking and sounding solid on Blu-ray, containing new interviews with both the director of photography and writer.

Special Features:
- New Interviews with Writer Howard Franklin (11 min) HD
- New Interview with Director of Photography Steven Poster (14 min) HD

WILLARD (2003)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 100 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1
Director: Glenn Morgan
Cast: Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey, Laura Elena Harring, Jackie Burroughs

This delightfully demented remake of Willard helmed by writer-director Glen Morgan (Black Xmas) hits all the right notes for me, a character study of a sad, awkward loner with no friends, other than some rats, who do his bidding, and much strangeness ensues. Crispin Hellion Glover was the absolutely the right choice to play the titular character who seeks revenge against his hard-nosed boss played by R. Lee Ermey (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and others who have shit on him through the years. The art direction and dour tone of this one didn't exactly burn through cinemas back in '03, I recall watching it in a theater all by myself, but I think it's developed a nice cult following over the years. The new Blu-ray from Scream Factory is not branded as a Collector's Edition but is absolutely crawling with extras, porting over the ample supplements from the previous special edition DVD and adding two brand new commentaries, plus over two hours worth of new interviews, plus a new 2K scan of the film. Willard is a  rat-tastic slice of creepiness, anchored by a wonderfully weird turn from the wonderfully weird Crispin Hellion Glover, some excellent rat-acting/wrangling and oodles of skin-crawling atmosphere. 

Special Features:
- NEW 2K scan of the original film elements
- NEW Audio Commentary with writer/director Glen Morgan and director of photography Robert McLachlan
- NEW Audio Commentary with animal trainers Mark Harden and David Allsberry of Animals for Hollywood
- NEW The Road to Willard – an interview with writer/director Glen Morgan (80 min) HD
- NEW Destination Willard – an interview with director of photography Robert McLachlan (46 min) HD
- NEW The Rat Trainer’s Notebook – behind-the-scenes footage from Animals for Hollywood (12 min)
- Audio Commentary with writer/director Glen Morgan, producer James Wong, actors Crispin Glover and R. Lee Ermey
- The Year of the Rat – a documentary on the making of WILLARD (73 min)
- Rat People: Friends or Foes? – A Real Rat Documentary (19 min)
- Deleted/Alternate Scenes with optional commentary (26 min)
- Music Video BEN by Crispin Hellion Glover with optional commentary (3 min)
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage and interviews from the EPK (30 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (4 min)
- TV Spots (4 min)
WARNING SIGN (1985)
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 99 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widecreen (1.85:1)
Cast: Sam Waterston, Kathleen Quinlan, Yaphet Kotto, Jeffrey DeMunn, Richard Dysart
Director: Hal Barwood

Eighties bio-terror film Warning Sign (1985) is a movie I hadn't even heard of until it was announced by Scream Factory, the story takes place in a secret government run research facility masquerading as an agriculture pesticide facility in rural Utah.  A biological weapon along the lines of the rage virus from 28 Days Later is accidentally released during a celebratory photo op in the lab, causing the facility to go into lock down. The local sheriff's (Sam Waterston, Serial Mom) wife (Kathleen Quinlan, Twilight Zone: The Movie) works as security for the lab and is trapped inside, trying to stay alive while the employees inside begin to succumb to the violence/paranoia inducing bio-weapon that's been unleashed. A shadowy government agent (Yaphet Kotto, Alien) shows up to contain the situation with lots of men in contamination suits, reassuring the local media with a steady stream of disinformation. Realizing that the agent is blowing smoke up his ass the sheriff reaches out to a rogue/discredited biologist (Jeffery DeMunn, The Blob) who once worked on the project. Rounding out the surprisingly stellar cast are Richard Dysart (The Thing) and G.W. Bailey (Police Academy) as researcher trapped inside the facility. The bio-thriller is surprisingly played straight, I was expecting something a bit sillier coming right smack dab in the middle of the 80's, but that's not to say that it isn't unintentionally humorous from time to time. There's something that cracked me up about the manic paranoia of Dysart once he began exhibiting signs of being infected, and the whole development and application of the cure also comes off rather goofy. That said, I had a blast with this film, the premise is semi-solid, while the execution and science seems less than perfect, but the cast is top-notch and really won the day for me. It's not great stuff, but absolutely entertaining junk food cinema. Scream Factory offer the film up in 1.85:1 widescreen with a losless stereo audio track, though the menu indicated mono, it's incorrect. Extras come by way of an archival commentary from the director, plus a pair of new interviews with the director and producer Jim Bloom, plus a trailer, TV spot and image gallery. The sleeve of artwork is reversible but both are generic looking.

Special Features:
- New interview with director/co-writer Hal Barwood (19 min) HD
- New interview with producer Jim Bloom (40 min)
- Audio commentary track with director/co-writer Hal Barwood
- TV Spot (1 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min)
- Still Gallery (2 min)

I'LL TAKE YOUR DEAD (2018) (Theatrical Review)

I'LL TAKE YOUR DEAD (2018) 

Label: Shout! Studios
Duration: 83 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Chad Archibald
Cast: Aidan Devine, Ava Preston, Jess Salgueiro, Ari Millen, Brandon McKnight, Michael Reventar, Adam Christie, Raffaele Brereton, Tavaree Daniel-Simms, Moe Jeudy-Lamou

Director Chad Archibald and Black Fawn Films have been toiling away making some very good indie horror films the past few years, first coming to my attention via the Wes Craven-ish bogeyman film The Drownsman (2014) and the extra-terrestrial thriller Ejecta (2015) - both of which I liked but didn't love. However, his next film Bite (2015) was firmly in the I loved it category, a body horror entry with some really gross effects, a tighter and more well-crafted film all around. This brings us to his latest film, I'll Take Your Dead (2018), starring Aidan Devine (Wolf Cop) as a rural farmer named William who lives on an isolated parcel of land with his precocious twelve-year old daughter Gloria (Ava Preston, TV's The Strain). William has a macabre side business her operates out of his basement, criminals bring him dead bodies and pay him money to make them go away. Using a bathtub full of acid and variety of knives and bone-saws he hacks up the corpses and makes them disappear, never to be seen again. 


His daughter is aware of what's happening down in the basement, she even helps out a bit, but she describes her father as a good man who does bad things, and sure enough he does seem to be a good father, caring and considerate but also strict, and in that line of work I guess you would have to have clear boundaries, which is kind of were William screws up later. With such gruesome things happening in the home the young girl's been touched by the macabre, she sees the ghosts of those who have been dismembered in the home, and at first it's sort of implied these could just be manifestations of her mind, not necessarily a real sixth sense sort of thing.  


We learn that William has developed a bit of a reputation among the local criminal community, they've dubbed him the "candy butcher", with wild rumors of cannibalism and bathing in a tub full of human blood.
These rumors are discussed by a local crew of hoods led by Reggie (Ari Millen, Orphan Black) who show up at William's farm  with a trio of bodies to dispose of. Things start-off on a bad note, one of the dead is a teen, which violates William's personal code of conduct - no kids, but when they throw money and a veiled threat aimed at his daughter he reluctantly accepts. Preparing the bodies down in the basement a young woman among the corpses, Jackie (Jess Salgueiro, Channel Zero), springs to life, not quite as dead as she at first seemed. This puts William in a weird position, he's not a killer, he's a disposer, and it's this conflict that leads into a messy unraveling of things. 


I'll Take Your Dead is a film with rich characters and drama that really hook you right from the get-go, but it's also macabre and gruesome, infused with an intriguing
supernatural element, and well-shot with moody cinematography. The main cast is solid through and through, there's not a weak link in the bunch, the human drama highlighted not just by the warm but strange father and daughter relationship, but also with the daughter reaching out for a female role model in an unlikely place. Then we have Ari Millen as the big bad, playing a low-life criminal to the hilt, it's all good stuff. 


This is far and away the best work yet from director Chad Archibald, I've always been keen to see what he's gonna do next, it's always something a bit different from what he did last time, and I'm even more keen to see what's comes next for this rising talent. I'll Take Your Dead opens in U.S. cinema and On Demand everywhere May 3rd, 2019, check it out, you won't be disappointed.