Monday, December 27, 2010

BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Horseman (2008)


DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella Entertainment

GENRE: Revenge Thriller
DIRECTOR: Steven Kastrissios
CAST: Peter Marshall, Brad McMurray, Jack Henry, Chris Sommers, Evert McQueen, Steve Tandy, Bryan Probets, Chris Betts, Caroline Marohasy
TAGLINE: He has some questions.

PLOT: An action-packed, award winning Australian thriller, THE HORSEMAN features a range of powerhouse performances in an unflinching study of grief and retribution. After learning of the suspicious death of his daughter, Christian (Peter Marshall) is sent a chilling video of what may have been her last hours alive. Driving through north Queensland to locate those responsible for his daughter's death, he reluctantly picks up Alice (Caroline Marohasy), an awkward young runaway and an unlikely bond develops. As he pieces the crime together, an ugly truth is revealed. Relentless in his pursuit of revenge, Christian leaves a bloody trail of bodies as he seeks those who harmed his daughter.

FILM: The revenge film, it can be such a fun and satisfying genre when done well. From the grindhouse classic I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978) on thru to the more mainstream   TAKEN (2008) to last years fantastic indie-exploitation feature RUN! BITCH RUN! (2009) the genre is still going strong and shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.

In Steven Kasrtissios nail-biting Australian revenge thriller THE HORSEMAN Christian (Peter Marshall) discovers the awful truth behind his teenage daughters death. Turns out she was mixed-up in the sleazy underworld of hardcore pornography and drugs and died just after shooting a threesome. The grieving father (a pest control technician by trad) sets out to take revenge on those complicit in her death beginning with the films distributor and then onto the film's producer who drops a few more names after being bound and tortured by the anguished father. And so it goes - a cycle of kicking ass and taking names and kicking ass again.  Armed with a growing list of names Christian takes his extermination skills on the road through rural North Queensland to locate the final few perpetrators. Along the way he reluctantly picks up a teenage runaway named Alice (Caroline Marohay) and the two  develop a strong bond. She seems to calm Christian's thirst for revenge and just when he decides to call an end to his vendetta things spiral out of control and endanger not just him but Alice as well.

 Peter Marshall as the obsessed revenge driven father is fantastic. He's the hard working every man driven to take revenge by the nature of his daughter's death. You feel his pain and anguish and then you feel his wrath. If you crave a film loaded with gruesome beat-downs you need look no further. Christian is armed to the teeth with a toolbox of murderous utilities. He seems to favor the crowbar (it really is an all-purpose tool) but he switches it up a bit. The film is slammed with brutality. Here's a smattering of the violence we see perpetrated in this film - sledgehammers to the face, claw hammers to the head, stab-wounds, numerous throats slit, knees broken, nipples severed, blow torch torture, penis trauma and a ton of sloppy hand-to-hand fist fights. The films nerve-shredding finale is fantastic stuff and I found it hard to believe this is director Steven Kastrissios's first film.  All in all THE HORSEMAN is a pretty straight forward revenge thriller at it's heart. What's sets it apart is how well done it is and an exceptional performance from Peter Marshall.

 DVD: This review is for Umbrella Entertainment's Region B,C Blu-ray of THE HORSEMAN. The film is also available here in the states through Screen Media Films FYI. The film is presented in 1080p 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen with a 5.1 Dolby True HD soundtrack. It's a grainy and contrasty film by design and the surround is plenty bombastic - I jumped a few times during the frantic fight scenes, good stuff. The look and feel of the film captures a certain gritty vibe that suits the film just fine. The Blu-ray is jammed with bonus content that includes two commentaries, deleted scenes, a making of featurette, interviews, theatrical trailer and the short-film used to raise money for the feature film which features actor Jack Henry (who plays Fin in the film) as Christian.

- Audio Commentary with Director Steven Kastrissios and Producer Rebecca Dakin and actor Peter Marshall

- Audio Commentary with Director Steven Kastrissios
- Making of the Horseman  (35 Mins)
- Deleted Scenes x 3 with optional audio commentary
- Short film with optional audio commentary (15 Mins)
- Peter Marshall Interview (5 Mins)
- Caroline Marohasy Interview (9 Mins)
- Chris Anderson (Stunts) Interview (7 Mins)
- At The Movies: Margaret Pomeranz with Steven Kastrissios
- Theatrical Trailer
VERDICT: THE HORSEMAN (2008) is simply one of the best revenge thrillers I've seen a quite some time, great stuff with a compelling story and gruesome bloody violence that you not only see but feel in your bones. A definite high recommend from me. A classic revenge flick for the ages. **** (4 out of 5 stars)

Sunday, December 26, 2010


AAAH! ZOMBIES!!  (2010)

GENRE: Horror, Comedy
DIRECTOR: Matthew Kohmen
CAST: Matt Davis, Colby French, Julianna Robinsonb, Michael Grant Terry, Betsy Beutler, Richard Riehle, Tracey Walter
TAGLINE: A new perspective on the zombie movie.

PLOT: Zombies. You know 'em, you love 'em. But what do they think of you? In this hilarious twist on the Classic Zombie Tale, we see the world through Zombie eyes when a barrel full of Toxic Goo transforms four friends in to the Walking Dead, and suddenly, it seems every one else has gone mad. In the most unique Zombie story in years, the Zombies embark on a bumbling quest to find the "Truth", completely unaware of their rotting undeadness. After all, Zombies are people too.

FILM: The U.S. military is working on a super-soldier serum but it has the unfortunate side effect of turning it's test subjects into gut-munching zombie fiends. Taking a page from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD the military decide to dump the unstable serum (labeled as infant formula) but it falls off the back of a transport (unnoticed, of course) and rolls right up to the backdoor of a bowling alley where it is mistaken for a keg of beer by four friends inside, one of whom decides to pour the beer into a soft-serve ice cream machine and they have at it. Oops. After consuming the alcohol infused soft-serve trioxin they writhe in pain and pass out and wake-up undead. Familiar stuff so far but here's the twist. They think everyone else has been infected, not realizing they themselves are zombies. The film is shot from their perspective in black and white for 85% of the film. Herein lies the comedy aspect of the film. They appear normal to each other and are able to communicate to each other but to everyone else they are shambling zombies moaning incoherently - unless the observers are supremely intoxicated, nice touch. To them everyone else appears super-caffeinated and sound like Foamy the Squirrel. Along the way they run into Nick Steel, a military black ops agent who's also infected. The quartet set out to get to the bottom of what's going on and discover new found strengths and a a hunger for human flesh. It's a novel idea and the comedy definitely has it's limits but it's fun stuff. The film could have easily lost 10-15 minutes from it's 90 min. running time to tighten things up a bit but it is what is. 
How they feel.

What they really look like.
The film is well-written and there are actual laughs to be had, it's a fun premise with some good gags throughout. The acting is uniformly good from a cast of young actors and there's a fun cameo from Richard Riehle of OFFICE SPACE (1999) as the cigar chomping Col. South and a brief appearance from REPO MAN (1984) alum Tracey Walter. The effects are definitely done on a dime-budget but the filmmakers didn't overreach their grasp and showed some effective restraint resulting in decent (if mostly gore-less) effects.

DVD: The DVD is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen  with 5.1 surround sound. The films looks quite good with a great soundtrack and good editing. The only supplemental material is a music video by Barricade. Would have loved to had a commentary here.  

VERDICT: A fun zombie-comedy with a unique premise and irreverent spirit. It's great to see that the tired zombie-comedy genre still has some spark left to it. Bonus points for featuring Camper Van Beethoven's "Take the Skinheads Bowling" - great song. I'll  be looking forward to director Matthew Kohnen's next film. Definitely worth a watch. *** (3 out of 5 stars)

AAAH! ZOMBIES!!! Official Site:


Saturday, December 25, 2010

DVD REVIEW: The Electric Chair (1985)


DISTRIBUTOR: Wild Eye Releasing/MVD Visual
DURATION: 105 Min.
DIRECTOR: Mark Eisensteen
CAST: Victor Argo, Tony Corona, Jessica Dublin, Tom Gannon, Tim Pankewic, John Iannaci
TAGLINE: A Comic's Nightmare

PLOT: Victor Argo (GHOST DOG, TAXI DRIVER) is a shoe store manager who attempts to revive a failed career as a stand-up comic by performing at a mysterious club where he finds himself sharing the stage with a looming, ready-to-shock electric chair... and performing before an audience of himself in the various stages of his life, and other friends, family and enemies - who are all subject to his cantankerous and biting routines on love, friendship and god.

FILM: THE ELECTRIC CHAIR (1985) began as one man play penned by Mark Eisenstein. When it was decided to turn the one-man show into a independent feature he approached actor Harvey Keitel to star. Keitel's other obligations prevented him starring but he wanted to direct the film. Eventually he withdrew from the project all together (leaving Eisenstein to direct) but not before suggesting fellow Martin Scorsese alum Victor Argo for the role of "The Comic" - a shoe salesman turned comedian who performs a cantankerous stream of consciousness routine in a smoke-filled dive bar. He shares the stage with an ominous electric chair as a man sporadically intones him to not sit in the chair. Argo is fantastic as the curmudgeonly salesman who is angrily eschews bitter and ranting monologues offering life-learned observations and hard truths to a room of uninterested patrons, equal parts Rodney Dangerfield ("Your wife runs off with your best friend, and you miss him.") and Charles Bukowski, it's scathing and stirring stuff.

Padding out the film's running time is intercut footage of Block Island in Rhode Island shot in 1971 - it makes for uneven viewing for sure and at time's tested even my ample patience. The film is shot on black and white super 16mm film with lots of hard shadows and washed out lighting. It looks pretty rough but what struck me about the film was Argo's great performance, why is this the man's only leading role?

DVD: THE ELECTRIC CHAIR DVD from Wild Eye Releasing marks the first time this film has appeared on the home entertainment market. Presented in a black and white it's a mix of 1.33:1 and 1.66:1 aspect ratios. The print is far from pristine and definitely rough around the edges (literally). Something I appreciate about the folks at Wild Eye/MVD Visual is that they're giving a voice to cult and indie filmmakers that simply wouldn't have an outlet otherwise. This is a 25 year old film that has never had a proper home video release and now thanks to Wild Eye Releasing we have it. The special features include a commentary with director Mark Eisenstein who is joined by gonzo filmmakers Keith J. Crocker (THE BLOODY APE, BLITZKRIEG: ESCAPE FROM STALAG 69) - very informative and fun as Eisenstein recounts his experiences making the film (with his film students) and working with Victor Argo. There is also a 23 min. mini-feature by Eisenstein called THE ROACH which really felt like a lackluster student film in my estimation, it did very little for me. There are also six short (and quite esoteric) Eisenstein films which didn't appeal to me. We also get trailers for THE ELECTRIC CHAIR and his unfinished film GOD IS ON THEIR SIDE (2002) which features David Johansen (of NEW YORK DOLLS and BUSTER POINDEXTER fame) as none other than God. From what I gleaned from the commentary the film is in the process of being finished for release from Wild Eye Releasing.

- Director's Commentary with director Mark Eisenstein and Keith J. Crocker
-  Mini-Feature THE ROACH (23 min.)
-  6 Short Films
- Mark Eisenstein Trailers for THE ELECTRIC CHAIR and GOD IS ON THEIR SIDE

VERDICT: THE ELECTRIC CHAIR is an interesting if uneven mid-80's document of New York City underground cinema featuring a stellar performance from prolific character actor Victor Argo. It's striking and darkly comedic, the stand-up stuff is great and Argo's performance is engrossing. So, while it's rough around the edges if you're a fan of Jim Jarmusch's films I can see it striking a chord with you. Definitely not for everyone though.
 **1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

DVD REVIEW: Puppet Master (1989)


DISTRIBUTOR: Full Moon Features
DIRECTOR: David Schmoeller
CAST: Paul Le Mat (Alex Whitaker), Jimmie F. Scaggs (Neil Gallagher), Matt Roe (Frank)Irene Miracle (Dana Hadley), Kathryn O'Reilly (Frank)Robin Frates (Megan), Barbara Crampton, William Hickey (Andre Toulon)
TAGLINE: A box of little toys has just become a gang of little terrors. This is not child's play...

SUMMARY: Psychics investigating Andre Toulon battle his five killer puppets—each one uniquely qualified for murder and mayhem: Tunneler, who has a habit of boring holes in flesh; Ms. Leech, who sucks her victims dry by regurgitating killer leeches; Pinhead, a professional strangler; Blade, who's armed with razor-sharp, killer hands, and Jester, the ruthless brains of the bunch. Together, they're an army of skilled assassins, diabolically programmed to guard the deadly secrets of the Puppet Master. Enjoy this original cult classic in all its bloody glory.

FILM: Puppet Master (1989) opens at the Bodega Bay Inn, California 1939. Puppeteer Andre Toulon is putting the final touches on a puppet called Jester. Toulon is played by the great William Hickey whom you may recall as Drogan from the "Cat from Hell" segment of the Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990) or as the voice of Dr. Finklestein in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). I recall him most fondly as the cantankerous Uncle Lewis from what I consider one of the top 3 Christmas films of all time - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989). Toulon performs a short incantation and the puppet springs to life. At the same time there are two puppets keeping a watchful eye on the Bodega Bay Inn; an unnamed oriental puppet (that never reappears during the film) and the menacing Blade who notices two Nazi operatives arrive at the inn. Blade makes a mad dash to Toulon's room to let the puppet master know he may be in danger. We get some great point-of-view cinematography as Blade traverses the lobby and hallways of the inn climbing over baggage and furniture. It seems that the Nazi's are after Toulon's secrets which is later expanded on in the prequel/sequel Puppet Master 3. Toulon takes his puppet and places them into a chest which he then hides in a hidden wall panel. Just as Nazis break down his door Toulon blows his brains out as blood splatters the wall behind him. That's the last we see of Hickey, a far too brief appearance in my opinion but a memorable one at least. Flash forward 50 years later and four psychics are being psychically summoned to the Bodega Bay Inn by their colleague Neil (Jimmie F. Scaggs) who's been searching for Toulon's alchemy secret for years, his investigations have led him to Toulon's last known whereabouts. As the psychics converge at the inn they meet Neil's wife Megan (Robin Frates) who informs them that he has committed suicide in a manner eerily reminiscent of Toulon's own death 50 years earlier. The psychic friends are Alex (Paul Le Mat) a Yale professor, Dana (Irene Miracle) a white witch fortune teller and lovers Carissa (Kathryn O'Reilly) and Frank (Matt Roe). Also in attendance is the nosy inn keeper Theresa (Mews Small). As the group settles in for the night several among them have visions foretelling of their own or other's deaths. The dream/vision sequences are well done, particularly those of Alex. As night falls the psychics and the innkeeper are killed off one by one by Toulon's puppets. But to what end? I won't spoil the rest of the film as it's definitely worth a watch.

The puppets featured in the film are the aforementioned Jester - an emotive clown. Blade - a knife and hook wielding puppet with a face modeled after actor Klaus Kinski. Pinhead - the muscle of the bunch with a head that's too small for his body. Tunneler - a Nazi-uniformed puppet with a drill-bit head. Ms. Leach - a lady puppet who can regurgitate deadly leeches. Oddly, he oriental puppet from the start of the film is never seen again. The marionettes do not get a lot of screen time in the film until the last 3rd but their sequences are well shot and their interactions with the actors are believable and eerily effective. I love stop-motion animation and rod puppeteering and there's some really great work here in that respect, and even more so in future installments.

Puppet Master is a bit slow in spots but is permeated by that peculiar Full Moon atmosphere that is so evident in most their films. The puppet design and articulation is very good and the psychics make for interesting characters. Alex is the most likable character of the bunch. He seems good natured while the others have selfish agendas. The films eroticism comes from the character of Carissa whose particular psychic talent is to channels past events. Throughout the film she becomes aroused while channelling trysts that have occurred at the inn. Dana as played by Irene Miracle is the bitch of the bunch. Genre fans may recognize her as the character Rose Elliot from Dario Argento's Inferno.

The gore effects of the films are handled well, nothing too bloody mind you. This film was Full Moon Entertainment's first offering and was intended for theatrical release until Charles Band realized there was more money to be made in the home video market. The rest is Full Moon history.

DVD: The remastered PUPPET MASTER is presented in a very clean looking anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio with  5.1 surround sound. The print looks great with only minor blemishes. The image appears a bit soft in places but otherwise very good image quality.

Special Features:
- Special Introduction by Charles Band
- Promo for Puppet Master: Axis of Evil
- No Strings Attached Original Making Of Featurette
- Original Trailers for the First 12 Full Moon Features

VERDICT: The long running PUPPET MASTER franchise has been good to Full Moon Features and this initial film is quite enjoyable. While watching I was reminded of another Charles Band production, Stuart Gordon's DOLLS (1987) which was a Empire Picture's production, a  precursor to Full Moon Features. DOLLS has better direction and is a superior film but Puppet Master is not without its 80's charm. Great puppet design, interesting characters, creepy atmosphere and a fairly good premise and finale. It definitely made me want to watch the other films in quick succession.
***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)


DVD REVIEW: Sister Smile (2001)


RATED: Unrated
GENRE: Drama
DIRECTOR: Roger Deutch
CAST: Ginevra Colonna (Jeanine), Antonio Salines (Vitale), Simon Caparrini (Clara), Francesca Bianco (Mother Superior), Stephen Bonafede (Claudia), Ana Veleria Dini (Elsa)RELEASE DATE: December 7th 2010 - Available Now!

PLOT: In 1963 a Belgian nun known only as Sister Smile (Giverra Colonna) topped the America pop music charts with the song "Dominique". SISTER SMILE (SUOR SORRISO) is a speculative account of her complex life and tragic suicide.

FILM: I'm only vaguely aware of the 1960's phenomenon Sister Smile, a Belgiun nun who gained worldwide success with the addicting pop-song "Dominique" only to spiral into a world of drugs and unhappiness. What director Roger Deutsch has done with Sister Smile (Suor Sorriso) is to create as speculative account of the tragic woman's life.  Shortly after the success of "Dominique" Deckers (Ginevra Colonna) leaves the convent and carries on a tumultuous affair with Clara (Simon Caparrini), an older ex-nun who runs a care shelter for wayward women. Clara is madly in love with Jeanine but it's a destructive relationship. Decker is wildly jealous and mentally unstable, the relationship is corrosive for both and costs Clara her career and possibly her sanity. Not helping matters is Jeanine's drug-dabbling ways and a bizarre relationship with her father that leans a bit sinister. Deutch's approach is not linear and is experimental in nature but the film is a striking and poignant. Actress Ginevra Colonna as Deckers is fantastic as the unhinged and spiritually compromised singing nun, she's imminently watchable and I'm saddened that since the theatrical release of  SISTER SMILE in 2001 she seems to have relegated herself to Italian television programs.

DVD: SISTER SMILE is presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen with Italian 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo with English language subtitles. Included are two award winning short films from director Robert Deutch and they are truly as compelling as the main feature in my opinion. The 1st film DEAD PEOPLE (1984) documents the rambling stories of the drunken Frank Butler. It's gripping and saddening and oddly affecting. The 2nd short subject is MARIO MAKES A MOVIE (2004) which recounts a filmmaking project assembled by director Deutsch's class of mentally challenged students focusing on a young man named Mario and his affinity for filmmaking. It's gripping, wonderful and weird stuff and (again) a bit saddening ...definetly a Roger Deutsch signature.



VERDICT: Definitely not an uplifting film, quite the opposite - more a spiritually harrowing true-to-life melancholic docudrama that follows a young woman as she succumbs to the demons of drugs, love and insanity. ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)


Monday, December 20, 2010

A Letter from DISMAL's Bill Oberst, Jr.

Last week I posted a review for the backwoods cannibal thriller DISMAL (2009) from director Gary King. I thought the film was a bit on the average side o' things but I was wowed by the stand-out performance from actor Bill Oberst, Jr. as Dale - the patriarch of the cannibal clan. Bill was nice enough to reach out the the Mausoleum via email to update us on a some future projects including a few behind-the-scenes set photos. Super excited for the film NUDE NUNS WITH BIG GUNS (2010) in which bill will portray "Brother John". The film is directed by Joseph Guzman whom directed the fantastic exploitation flick RUN! BITCH RUN! (available from Vicious Circle Films) which I reviewed, great stuff. He also mentions a new MTV horror anthology show which i know nothing about, but my interest has been piqued. Bill seems like one hell of a great guy who enjoys playing not-so-nice guys. Thanks for the email and info Bill!

Hey McBastard,

It's Bill, the guy who played Dale in DISMAL. Just read your review from yesterday. "A foreboding and demented bastard" is now officially my favorite review quote of all time! I am putting it, along with a link to the Mausoleum, on my website right now and also tweeted it. I'll be a regular visitor - love the genre and you guys have a great site. I got a couple things coming out that you might be interested in seeing and reviewing (or ripping a new one if they suck) in 2011 including NUDE NUNS WITH BIG GUNS; a Drew Daywalt film called NAKED and a Devanny Pinn gorefest called VIVID that I just wrapped.

And here's a couple links on the films I mentioned in the mail:


P.S. Ken, here's one more I just got; a behind-the-scenes shot from VIVID of me coming down the alley to creep out the delectable Devanny. Director Brandon Slagle in foreground. I swear, it is so much fun to be repulsive :)


VIVID on Facebook:!/pages/Vivid-the-film/150705361624430

NAKED by Drew Daywalt (cool concept: Orcs run amuk in the 1700's):

Drew is directing MTV's new horror anthology series so will will shoot this one when he is done with their first season in April; co-stars Edin Gali of MADMEN and Maria Olsen of PETER JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS. Creature effects by Jeff Farley (TALES FROM THE CRYPT, BUFFY, etc.) and Peter Giliberti (SPIDER MAN, etc.)

Thanks Ken, for writing back and Merry Christmas ~Bill

DVD REVIEW: Rare Cult Cinema - 12 Movie Collection DVD


STUDIO: Mill Creek Entertainment
YEAR: 1962-1994
RATED: Various Ratings
GENRE: Drama, Comedy, Western
RUNNING TIME: 18 Hours 42 Min. .

I love me some Mill Creek Entertainment box sets and they're back with the the 3-disc RARE CULT CINEMA set - a eclectic 12-movie collection of lost but not forgotten films from the legendary drive-in fare distributor Crown International Pictures archives. How does it fare? Well let's have a gander and this decidedly non-horror collection of films, shall we?

Documentary/G/98 Min
Director: Ronald E. Shanin
Narrator: Michael Rye
AFRICAN SAFARI (1968) is an account of a safari through the African continent by noted wildlife photographer Ronald Shanin. As a kid Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom was one of my favorite shows and this took me right back to those nostalgic days of wonder and curiosity of the natural world. Shanin takes us from the scorching deserts to the savannas of Africa  right up to the satisfying finale of Mt. Kilimanjaro erupting. Shanin is quite the independent filmmaker here  as he wrote, directed, produced, shot and edited this adventurous documentary on his own.  The film also features thoughtful and captivating  narration by voice actor Michael Rye who also provided his vocal talents to many Marvel, DC and Scooby-Doo animated television programs. The film is presented fullscreen and looks a bit worse for the wear but nonetheless a high recommend to fans of nature docs.
***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Thriller/R/96 Min.
Director: Michael Weaver
Cast: Nancy Alexander, Alicia Allain-Ryder, India Allen
ALMOST HOLLYWOOD is a pretty funny and biting indictment of low-budget erotic thriller film making in Hollywood. A sleazy Hollywood produced is at odds with pretty much everyone on the set of his latest soft core thriller including the films financiers who replace the films director in hope of classing up their movies. After the new director is murdered our sleazy producer is the lead suspect. Lots of double-dealing and back-stabbing ensue. The film features Playboy centerfold India Allen who really can’t act for shot, but she sure is attractive. It shares a kindred spirit in SWIMMING WITH SHARKS (1994) another satirical look at the film industry and its movers and shakers. The film is presented in fullscreen and looks quite good. ** (2 out of 5 stars)

Tagline: In the year 1991, contestants don't play for prizes...they play for their lives!
Comedy/R/94 Min.
Director: Mark Pirro
Cast: John McCafferty, Robyn Blythe, Beano
In this undeservedly obscure 80’s dark comedy Chuck Toedan (John McCafferty) is the effervescent host of a RUNNING MAN (1987) type game show called Live Or Die. It featuring death row convicts competing in life-or-death contests in hopes of cheating the executioner or perhaps winning some cash and prizes for their next of kin. McCafferty is great in the role; he’s smarmy and sleazy but oddly likable. There are a series of scenes not dissimilar of what we saw with Nicolas Cage’s character in the THE WEATHER MAN (2005) as people attack him on the street, he's rather disliked by the public despite the fact they're hooked on watching a show they deem despicable. After executing a mob boss Toedan is stalked by Luigi Pappalardo (Beano) - a hitman hired by the Mafia. Pappalardo shows up at Chuck's office. Through a series of miscommunication Pappalardo’s mother ends up on Live Or Die and 80’s hilarity ensues. I’d rank this right up there with any of Paul Bartel’s 80’s comedies. Pure 80’s Cheese. Deathrown Gameshow is presented in it's original 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 aspect ratio and looks very good. *** (3 out of 5 stars)

Western/G/91 Min.
Director: Norman Foster
Cast: Johnny Crawford, Jay Silverheels, Pat Hogan
As a kid I was not into Western films and television programs, it just didn’t interest me much at all. That was until my introduction to Sergio Leone's spaghetti western classic THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966). Then even still I’ve been slow to open myself up to the films of John Ford but occasionally I’ll squeeze in a western from Sam Peckinpah or Clint Eastwood. I’m definitely a novice to the genre save for my love of Peckinpah and Leone. INDIAN PAINT is the melodramatic tale of Nishko (Johnny Crawford, TV's THE RIFLEMAN) who is the son of Chief Hevatanu (Jay Silverheels, Tonto from the LONE RANGER series) in the Great Plains of North America prior to the arrival of the Europeans. Nishko is determined to tame a wild spirited painted pony and along the way must deal with an attack from a neighboring tribe and his mother’s illness. Definitely a fun coming of age film though probably a bit condescending towards Native Americans as so many film were of the time. A good looking film and it's presented here in a 16x9 enhanced 1.85:1 aspect ratio. **1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

Tagline: Unthinkable. Improbable. Incredible… but it could happen tomorrow!
Thriller/R/114 Min.
Director: George Mendeluk
Cast: William Shatner, Hal Holbrook, Van Johnson
A South American revolutionary terrorist named Roberto Assanti (Miguel Fernandes) manages to kidnap the U.S. President (Hal Holbrook) during a diplomatic visit to our Canadian neighbors in Toronto. With an armored truck, elaborately rigged with high explosives (and the President trapped inside) the two terrorists keep the Secret Service at bay. I am a sucker for any film featuring Hal Holbrook, I love this guy. He’s appeared in a few of my favorite films including John Carpenter’s THE FOG (1980) and George A. Romero’s CREEPSHOW (1982) and a lot of hits n’ misses in-between ranging slasher genre fare like GIRLS NITE OUT (1984) to surprisingly good survival horror fare like RITUALS (1977) and all point in-between. This time out Holbrook is the Commander-in-Chief Adam Scott and William Shatner stars as the hard-nosed Secret Service agent Jerry O’Connor who heads up the effort to rescue the pres from the bomb-laden armored truck. Good performances from Holbrook, Shatner and Fernandes, overall an intriguing political thriller that while not knocking it outta the park definitely proved entertaining. On the downside, there are a few extraneous plot points involving the Vice President (Van Johnson) and his conniving wife that I could’ve done without and there must be 15 renditions of “Hail to the Chief” in this film but I recommend it on the Shatner/Holbrook pairing alone.  The film is presented in a 16x9 enhanced widescreen transfer.  **1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

LIAR’S MOON (1982)
Tagline: They were hopelessly in love...
Drama/PG/106 Min.
Director: David Fisher
Cast: Matt Dillon, Cindy Fisher, Hoyt Axton
The summer after high school graduation, Jack (Matt Dillon) falls in love with Ginny (Cindy Fisher), the daughter of the town's banker who was once Jack's mother's high school sweetheart. Over her father's strenuous objections the young couple fall deeply in love and elope to Louisiana where Jack gets a job in the oil fields. Her dad hires a private eye (the ALWAYS menacing Richard Moll) to find them. Further complicating their lives is some troubling news the town doctor delivers to Ginny following the discovery that she’s pregnant. Not your typical boy-meets-girl drama, that’s for sure. Features great performances from a very young Dillon and Fisher plus an appearance from Alex Hoyt (GREMLINS) as Jack’s father. A tragic tale of young love, maybe a bit too melodramatic for some, it has a bit of a Lifetime channel feel to it but its well directed and looks great despite it's fullframe treatment here.  *** (3 out of 5 stars)

Tagline: Jennifer's mother is having an identity crisis.
Comedy/G/90 Min.
Director: Michael Fischa
Cast: Susan Blakely, John Saxon, Tina Caspary
The frustrated housewife Leslie visits an animal shop to purchase a flea-collar. Unknowing that the owner is a werewolf, she accepts his invitation to lunch and later in his apartment. Through a bite in her toe he starts her slow transformation in a werewolf. Once home she desperately tries to hide the often disgusting process from her family. My Mom's a Werewolf is a b-movie knock-off of TEEN WOLF. You can't have a film as successful as that and not have a c-grade cash-in. The transformation effects are quite terrible, the comedy is pretty flat, but nonetheless it features genre-legend John Saxon as the lycanthropic owner of a pet shop. It's pure 80's oddball stuff that's not great but good fun. Bonus, the film is presented in 16x9 widescreen.
**1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

Tagline: It's Pickin' and Singin' time with the Nashville Sound...Y'ALL COME!!
Music/Unrated/88 Min.
Director: Will Zens
Cast: Marty Robbins, Bill Anderson, Doodles Weaver
A Hollywood film company wants to make a movie about country music and sends Colonel Feetlebaum (Doodles Weaver) to round up talent to appear. It's a weak wrap-a-round plot line that proves unimportant though it's fun watching the cartoonish Doodles Weaver as the Co. Feetlebaum  a play on his character Prof. Fietlebaum from the Spike Jones Radio Show (1947-1949). Despite a weak set-up the film is heavy with stellar performances from country music legends. I loathe most country music post-1975 but this is jammed packed with country and western goodness from the like of the Carter Family, Johnny Cash, The Stoneman Family,Hank Snow and the legendary Marty Robins and much more***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

SANTEE (1973)
Tagline: He's the best tracker in the west, but sometimes justice can be hard to find.
Western/PG/93 Min.
Director: Gary Nelson
Cast: Glenn Ford, Michael Burns, Dana Wynter
Jody Deakes (Michael Burns) joins up with his father after many years, only to discover that his dad is part of an outlaw gang on the run from a relentless bounty hunter named Santee (Glenn Ford). Jody is orphaned soon after Santee catches up to the gang, and follows Santee in hopes of taking vengeance for his father's death. Instead, however, Jody discovers that Santee is a good and loving man, tormented by the death of his young son at the hands of another outlaw gang. Santee and his wife Valerie (Dana Wynter) take Jody in and an unlikely father-son relationship begins to grow. A really good western here with  great performances from Glenn Ford, Wynter (Valerie) and Jay Silverheel as ranch-hand John Crow. This would be Ford's final starring role in a western. For the non-western viewers out there you will know iconic Ford as Pa Ken from SUPERMAN (1978). A bit of trivia: SANTEE was the 1st western to be shot on videotape instead of film. It looks good but has a bit of a made-for-TV look stemming from the use of videography. That said the film looks good and is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. *** (3 out of 5 stars)

Tagline: Daringly takes you behind the studio gates!!!
Drama/Unrated/85 Min.
Director: Rudolph Cusumano
Cast: Robert Clarke, Maralou Gray, Francine York
An ex-detective gets a job as an investigator digging up dirt on celebrities for a tabloid scandal sheet. This is one of those films I've heard about for years, it's infamous for it's visible boom mics throughout the film and after watching it I'll verify it's all true. A bit o' trashy fun in a low-rent kinda way but more of a slog to watch than I'd care to sit through again.
*1/2 (1.5 out of 5 stars)
Tagline: Every BODY has its price!
Comedy/R/93 Min.
Director: Howard Avedis
Cast: Adam West, John Anderson, Ahna Capri
None other than BATMAN’s Adam West stars as a courtroom lawyer Jerry Bounds who finds himself involved with sex-pot juror Londa Wyeth (Ahna Capri) in this 70’s courtroom comedy. He discovers that Londa is actually a high-class hooker planted on the jury by Jerry’s courtroom rival in an effort to discredit him. The sexy shenanigans of Ahna Capri are indeed fun, she’s a gorgeous woman, but they aren’t enough to carry this one through. Surprisingly the film is presented in 16x9 widescreen and looks pretty great for its age. Good cinematography and a bumping’ 70’s soundtrack add to this otherwise flavorless courtroom drama that plays like an episode of MATLOCK with tits.
 ** (2 our of 5 stars)

Tagline: The Hot Pants Generation is Loose!
Color/Drama/PG/100 Min.
Director: Robert Anderson
Cast: Patricia Wymer, Tom Stewart, Gary Rist
Attractive and naughty high school senior Mindy Evans (Patricia Wymer) spurns her boyfriend Bill and has a fling with a married teacher which leads to a possible pregnancy. While waiting for the results of her pregnancy test Mindy decides to steal Bill's buggy and take a road trip to Big Sur, California with best friend Sandy. Along the way the two run amuck of a biker gang, skinny dip with hippies and generally cause a ruckus. The acting is pretty terrible throughout and the film meanders a bit too much and never fully commits to it's true trashy nature. My favorite parts of the film would have to be the crazy hep cat slang throughout and the performance by the band The Spare Change at the school dance, groovy man! You can see tons more of the vivacious Wymer in THE BABYSITTER (1969) which is available on the CULT TERROR CINEMA 12 movie collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. The film is presented in a 16x9 enhanced widescreen transfer. 
 ** (2 out of 5 stars)

DVD: The RARE CULT CINEMA set contain 12 films spanning 32 years culled from the archives of drive-in fare provider CROWN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. The films are presented on 3 double-sided flipper discs containing four titles per disc in black paper sleeves housed in a double-sized DVD case. Surprisingly 7 or the 12 features are presented in anamorphic widescreen and look pretty great. I hope this is a continuing trend with forthcoming Mill Creek Entertainment sets.

VERDICT: Mill Creek Entertainment budget collections are like your favorite pair of worn-out jeans. Sure they’re worn to shit, faded to hell and have seen better days but goddamn if there not comfortable. This set skews a bit too much on the melodramatic side of things for my tastes personally but there are some gems here including DEATHROW GAMESHOW, MY MOM’S A WEREWOLF and THE KIDNAPPING OF THE PRESIDENT. Something that sets this collection apart from other Mill Creek collections is the films don’t seem to have been recycled on countless other Mill Creek collections. Of the dozen films here I think only MY MOM’S A WERE WOLF is a repeat offender and THE YOUNG GRADUATES only appeared on the DRIVE-IN CULT CLASSICS VOL. 4 - which is a deleted title. I would dare say that Mill Creek Entertainment output has generally been improved and refined upon  since acquiring the Crown International Pictures catalog of films. Looking forward to what they’re still sitting on, there’s bound to be some goodies yet to see the light of day. Let’s hope we see more restored and anamorphic transfers and a special feature or couldn't hurt either.
OVERALL RATING: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)


Thursday, December 16, 2010

DVD REVIEW: Dismal (2010)

DISMAL (2009)

LABEL: Cinema Epoch 
GENRE: Backwoods Horror
CAST: Lydia Chandler, Tim Morris, Jack Harrison, Bill Oberst, Jr., Laura Kimsey, Will Triplett, Capel Kane
RELEASE DATE: December 21st 2010
TAGLINE: Eat Or Be Eaten

PLOT: Dana is failing Biology. To pass she must attend an extra credit assignment with several classmates that will lead them into a remote region of the Great Dismal Swamp, a place teeming with life... and death. While the group keeps one eye out for hungry bear, deadly snakes and lurking gators, they are unaware of the real danger. For the top of the food chain lives in a dingy cabin not too far from their campsite, and he has an appetite for human flesh.

FILM: I do enjoy a good ole backwoods horror film, them rural folk sure is scary. From TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1973) onwards through to the under-valued WRONG TURN films there is some goodness to be had with this sub-genre of horror. How does DISMAL fare? What we have here is a pretty standard group of college-type characters that include survival-girl Dana (Lydia Chandler), good gal Kimmy (Laura Kimsey), good guy Gary (Will Triplett), token black dude Jamal (Jade Arnold) and his sex-crazed gal-pal Shelly (Capel Kane) who head out to the Great Dismal Swamp to earn extra credit in their college biology class. Leading the trip is teaching-assistant Curt (Tim Morris).

Once settled in the group pitch their tents and separate into small groups and head out into the wilderness to take notes, samples and observe nature in action or something. Gary and Kimmy spend time together and develop crushes on each other, it's innocently sweet. Jamal and Shelly find a nice quite spot in the swamp and get their freak on. These two are a couple of horn dogs and Shelly provides a more than adequate amount of nudity to the film. That's a plus. Meanwhile back at camp Dana and Curt get to know each other a little better, it's pretty obvious that Curt sees Dana as more than a student but she's definitely not interested. Curt's a strange one, better keep an eye on him. As night settles in over the swamp the group start getting picked-off one by one by a hulking 7ft. freak called Idiot (Jack Harrison) that's fond of bashing people upside the head with a spiked club and occasionally snagging them with a grappling hook. The gore in the film is pretty good with the exception of some laughable CGI that wounds some otherwise well executed gore scenes. My favorites is a nasty little scene as one of the gals runs through the swamp and it tripped up by a bear-trap that takes her leg resulting in her falling face first into another bear trap, good stuff. Turns out the 7ft. freak is not alone and there's actually a trio of human flesh craving cannibals prowling the Great Dismal Swamp. Bill Oberst, Jr. as Dale (the patriarch of the cannibal clan) is a foreboding and demented son-of-a-bitch and he's got screen presence to spare - the definite stand-out performance of the film.

The story well paced but not original by any means. Your typical group of stereotypes out of their element hunted by cannibalistic backwoods folks, it's been done a zillion times (and better) but this one is decent if not very memorable. The swamp setting is a great set-piece and the shots are well-composed but the film is pretty standard backwoods horror that hits all the beats you'd expect and little else.

DVD:  DISMAL is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with 2.o stereo surround. It's a good looking film and the presentation looks great. Not much in the way of special features aside from previews of other Cinema Epoch titles.

VERDICT: This is director Gary King's first foray into the horror genre and I must say it's a decent effort but it's derivative and familiar material that we've seen time and time again. That combined with some lacklustre special effects work knocks the grade down a bit on this one. It's strives to be a WRONG TURN (2003) or HATCHET (2006) but falls short of the mark. Not quite a recommend but perhaps a rental. DISMAL (2009) comes to DVD December 21st 2010 from Cinema Epoch
 **1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)