Friday, August 16, 2019

THE REPTILE (1966) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 91 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) & (1.85:1)  
Director: John Gilling
Cast: Noel Willman, Ray Barrett, Jennifer Daniel, Jacqueline Pearce

Hammer horror The Reptile (1966) is set in the rural Cornish village of Clagmoor Heath, a quiet community where people are found dead foaming at the mouth with strange wounds on their necks, their faces having turned black from some sort of venom. Harry Spalding (Ray Barrett, Terror From Under The House) arrives in the village along with his wife (Jennifer Daniel, The Kiss of the Vampire) to investigate his brother’s mysterious death, a recent victim of what's become known as the black death. 

Spalding as an outsider is shunned by the local folks but is befriended by a kindly bar owner, Tom Bailey (Michael Ripper, The Plague of the Zombies), and together the pair begin to sleuth the mystery of the black death that's befallen the village. The clues leading them to neighbor Dr. Franklyn (Noel Willman, The Vengeance Of She), who lives in the mansion next door with his daughter (Jacqueline Pearce, Doctor Who), both who seem to me under the influence of a strange foreigner (Marne Maitland).

The film is a wonderful rural village shocker along the lines of The Plague of the Zombies, a film which was also directed by John Gilling and starred Michael Ripper and the lovely Jacqueline Pearce. It was great to see Hammer regular Ripper get a meatier role in this film, this being one of my favorites of his, and Pearce is wonderful as the cursed young woman. The film is well-made and moves at a good clip with plenty of classic Hammer atmosphere, plus the make-up effects of the reptilian woman are still pretty cool-looking to me. 

This is a totally solid Hammer shocker set in a rural village, lots to love for the vintage Brit-horror fans who are looking for something not starring icons Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. 

Audio/Video: the Reptile (1966) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory in both 1.66:1 and 1.85:1 widescreen presentations in 1080p HD. The image is solid with well-saturated colors, and natural looking film grain throughout. Fine detail is also pleasing and the black levels are deep and inky. Notably, the film starts off a bit rough-looking during the opening title sequence but improves quickly from there. 

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Mono with optional English subtitles. It sounds excellent for a track of it's vintage, with no issues with distortion or hiss, and the score from Don Banks (Torture Garden) sounds terrific. 

Extras include yet another excellent audio commentary by film historians Steve Haberman, Constantine Nasr and Ted Newsom. It's an in-depth and highly enjoyable track that gets not just into the scene-specifics but also into the nitty-gritty of the film. Also new is a 21-min interview with 1st assistant director William P. Cartlidge, plus an archival making of that appeared on the UK Blu-ray of the film, featuring Hammer Film Historian Marcus Hearn, actor and writer Mark Gatiss, plus writers Jonathan Rigby, David Huckvale, and Wayne Kinsey, who give their own appreciation of the film. 

We also get a 25-min episode of The World of Hammer focusing on wicked women, double-feature trailers and TV spots pairing the film with Rasputin the Mad Monk, and a still gallery.  

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of artwork featuring an original movie poster illustration, the reverse side also featuring a striking black and yellow illustration also sourced from a vintage poster, with the disc itself featuring an excerpt of the a-side artwork.   

Special Features:
- Presented in two aspect ratios – 1.66:1 and 1.85:1
- NEW audio commentary by film historians Steve Haberman, Constantine Nasr and Ted Newsom
- NEW interview with 1st assistant director William P. Cartlidge (21 min) 
- The Serpent’s Tale – The Making of The Reptile (18 min) 
- World of Hammer – Wicked Women (25 min) 
- Theatrical Trailers (6 min) 
- TV Spot (1 min) 
- Still Galleries

This is another exceptional release of a vintage Hammer horror from Scream Factory, offering both a solid A/V presentation and a typically terrific set of extras to go along with it. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Cult-Classic A BUCKET OF BLOOD (1959) getting an Olive Signature Blu-ray on 9/24 dripping with extras!


(Gremlins, The Trip, The Wild Angels)
(Semi-Tough, Hero at Large, Susan Slade)
(The Trip, The Haunted Palace, The Wasp Woman)
(Extreme Close-Up, Pit and the Pendulum, Last Woman on Earth)
(Airport 1975, Runaway Jury, TV’s Peyton Place)

Directed by
(The Trip, The Wild Angels, Gas-s-s-s)

In honor of its 60th anniversary, this Olive Signature edition of A Bucket of Blood celebrates the film’s enduring legacy. Shot in five days on a shoestring budget of $50,000, A Bucket of Blood remains one of the most iconic collaborations between Roger Corman and Dick Miller, and has rightfully earned its “cult classic” status.

YEAR: 1959
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH (with optional English subtitles)
VIDEO: 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio; B&W


  • Mastered from new 4K scan
  • “Creation Is. All Else is Not” – Roger Corman on A Bucket of Blood
  • “Call Me Paisley” – Dick and Lainie Miller on A Bucket of Blood
  • Audio commentary by Elijah Drenner, director of That Guy Dick Miller
  • Archival audio interview with screenwriter Charles B. Griffith 
  • “Bits of Bucket” – Visual essay comparing the original script to the finished film
  • Essay by Caelum Vatnsdal, author of You Don't Know Me, But You Love Me: The Lives of Dick Miller
  • Rare prologue from German release
  • Super 8 “digest” version
  • Theatrical trailer
  • German theatrical trailer
  • Gallery of newly-discovered on-set photography

With A Bucket of Blood, the multi-talented Roger Corman singlehandedly created his own genre hyphenate: the black-comedy-beatnik-culture-horror film. Dick Miller (Gremlins, The Trip) stars as Walter, a busboy at the hep-cat hangout the Yellow Door Café who dreams of artistic greatness. Inspired by the scribes and artists who surround him, Walter is introduced to the world of sculpture quite literally by accident – thanks to thin walls and a sharp steak knife. From his very first piece – the aptly titled “Dead Cat” – Walter is hailed a genius by the art snob set, a wunderkind who, unbeknownst to his doting devotees, has raised murder to the level of high art. But when the tortured artist turns his creativity towards the human form, he’s sure to make their blood run cold.

Rounding out the cast are Barboura Morris (The TripThe Haunted Palace) as Carla, the woman of Walter’s dreams; Bert Convy (Semi-Tough) as undercover cop Lou Raby; Antony Carbone (Pit and the Pendulum) as Leonard, owner of the Yellow Door; and Julian Burton (The Masque of the Red Death) as Maxwell, the Yellow Door’s resident poet-philosopher.

A Bucket of Blood is written by Charles B. Griffith (Death Race 2000), photographed by Jacques R. Marquette (Burnt Offerings), edited by Anthony Carras (The Comedy of Terrors), with music by Fred Katz (The Little Shop of Horrors), and art direction by Daniel Haller (Pit and the Pendulum)

Saturday, August 10, 2019

DJANGO THE BASTARD (1969) (Synapse Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Synapse Films
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: PG
Duration: 99 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Sergio Garrone
Cast: Anthony Steffen, Rada Rassimov, Paolo Gozlino, Luciano Rossi

Django the Bastard (1969) a.k.a. The Strangers Gundown is a solid if somewhat slow-burning spaghetti western that adds some minor Gothic/horror touches to the usual 'mythical stranger in town for a bit of revenge' dust-up. The film stars Anthony Steffen (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave) as one in a long-line of onscreen Djangos through the years. This Django is a former Confederate soldier who arrives in a generic looking western town and sets about having his revenge against a trio of former commanding Confederate officers who years earlier set their troops up to be massacred after joining the Union, highlighted by the unhinged Hugh played by the Kinski-esque Luciano Rossi (Contraband)

Django as played by Anthony Steffen is a mysterious man of few words, the sort of man who prefers to let his six-shooters do the talking, slipping in and out of the shadows like a ghostly apparition, which further lends to the from-beyond-the-grave revenge elements peppered throughout the film. The story here is not at all that original, we've seen a lot of these elements in Sergio Leone's The Man With No name Trilogy, and this film itself seems to have informed Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter which came a few years later, but the films executes all these elements well with solid direction from Sergio Garrone (SS Camp Women's Hell). 

Adding to the atmosphere are flashbacks to the Civil War that inform the character's backgrounds and vengeful motives, but some might find the lack of the red stuff a bit of a disappointment. I also didn't think that the film itself was shot all that stylish, but it does a decent enough job capturing the grit of the spaghetti western and the gun-slinging mayhem with just a tiny bit of creativity behind the camera. 

Audio/Video: Django The Bastard (1969) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Synapse filmed, presenting the film on 1080p HD framed in 2.40:1 widescreen. This is a new 2K scan sourced from a 35mm negative element, and it looks terrific. it's pleasingly free of blemishes aside from a tiny bit of white speckling, carrying a strong natural looking grain presence with solid colors and black levels throughout. Fine detail is also strong with clothing and facial close-ups offering plenty of texture throughout. 
The dubbed English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono audio is solid, it's expectedly boxy sounding, which is par for the course for these 60's Italian westerns, with newly translated optional English subtitles. The score from Vasili Kojucharov and Elsio Mancuso gets some nice life in the mix as well. 

The only extra on this release is a solid audio commentary from Film Historian and Author Troy Howarth who walks us through the Italian and U.S. versions of the film, touching on the cast and crew, and speaking of the unusual horror elements. The single-disc release arrives in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a  one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the original illustrated Italian artwork which is also featured on the disc.  

Special Features

- All-New 2K Scan Created from a Beautiful Original 35mm Negative Element
- Audio Commentary from Film Historian and Author Troy Howarth
- Newly Translated Removable English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing

Django The Bastard (1969) is a solid spaghetti western with some interesting touches that set it apart. While I think it's a bit of a minor entry among the Italian westerns the dusty revenger offers plenty of violence by way of the mythical gun-slinging stranger, and Synapse give it a top-notch transfer with an excellent commentary to accompany it. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

KNIFE+HEART (2018) (Altered Innocence Blu-ray Review)


Label:  Altered Innocence
Duration: 103 Minutes
Region Code: A
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Audio: French DTS-0HD MA 5.1 with Optional English and Spanish subtitles
Director: Yann Gonzalez
Cast: Vanessa Paradis, Nicolas Maury, Kate Moran, Jonathan Genet, Romane Bohringer, Félix Maritaud

Set in Paris in the summer of '79 retro-giallo Knife+Heart (Un couteau dans le Coeur) (2018) stars French pop star Vanessa Paradis as Anne, the director of gay porn films. Her latest production runs into trouble when a leather-masked culprit begins murdering her stars with a bladed black-dildo. While the cops are investigating the deaths Anne takes pieces of the ongoing investigation and channels it into a new film, a gay slasher film. In true giallo fashion Anne begins doing some sleuthing of her own, along the way trying to win back the love of her life, her film editor Lois (Kate Moran).

Knife+Heart is a deliciously trashy queer-slanted giallo that channels vintage Dario Argento, William Friedkin's Cruising (1980) and Dressed To Kill (1980) era Brian DePalma, creating a lurid blend of euro-whodunit, outrageous characters and some campy gay-porn elements that keep things rather interesting, if not all together coherent. The queer-centric film might scare off the less adventurous types, but if you have a love for stylish 70's whodunits there's a lot here to love. 

The story itself is simple yet more convoluted than it needs to be, which is absolutely on-brand for the giallo my opinion, with solid direction from Yann Gonzalez who keeps tings trashy, ultra-stylish and delightfully lurid throughout. The kills are are well-executed with some truly disturbing imagery, offering up hallucinogenic visuals and neon-lit suspense, but it's the moody performance from star Vanessa Paradis that pulled me on this one, anchoring a film that while a stylish and surreal is a bit disjointed in it's storytelling, but I always found her platinum blonde smut-peddler intriguing and sympathetic.   

Audio/Video: Knife+Heart arrives on Blu-ray from Altered Innocence in 2.40:1 widescreen in 1080p HD. This looks to have been shot on film, everything is crisp and vibrant looking throughout, the deep red and blue saturated hues look terrific in 1080p. The amount of fine detail is pleasing, grain is well-managed,  and the black levels are deep throughout, creating a wonderfully lush visual presentation. 

Audio on the disc come by way of a strong French DTS-HD MA 5.1 track with optional English and Spanish subtitles. The dialogue is clean and the fantastic electronic-synth score from M83 (Oblivion).

Extras include a 20-min interview with Director Yann Gonzalez and co-writer Cristiano Mangione who go into how they met, and the process of making the film, plus the 24-min short film 'Les îles', a trailer for the film-within-a-film 'De Sperme et d’eau Fraiche', three trailers for the main feature, a fun and gory 4-min music video, and a selection of Altered Innocence trailers.   

The single-disc release comes housed in a Criterion-style clear Blu-ray keepcase with a reversible sleeve of artwork. Inside there's a mini-foldout of one of the artworks, the same artwork is excerpted on the disc itself, this is a stylish looking release with some serious shelf appeal. 

Special Features 
- Interview with Director Yann Gonzalez and co-writer Cristiano Mangione (20 min) HD 
- Short Film: Islands (Les îles) by Yann Gonzalez (24 min) HD 
- Music Video: Les Vacances Continuent (4 min) HD 
- A Gothic Video Introduction by Pierre Emö (4 min) HD 
- De Sperme et d’eau Fraiche (2 min) HD
- International Trailer (2 min) HD

- U.S. Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD 
- XXX Trailer (1 min) HD 
Trailers: Qeeercore (2 min) HD, The Wild Boys (2 min) HD, Permanent Green Light (2 min) HD, A Closer Walk With Thee (2 min) HD