Wednesday, March 30, 2011

McBastard's Cinematic Alphabets

Here's something fun I came across on the RUPERT PUPKIN SPEAKS blog yesterday. It's a Cinematic Alphabet list. The idea is to come up with a  favorite films for each letter of the alphabet. Not having any original inclinations of my own I have followed suite and put this rather stream of conscious list together during my lunch break today. Not sure this is a favorite film list but it definitely represents many films I hold near and dear to my cinematic heart. It was fun slapping it together and I would encourage any other blogs out there do do the same, it's a ton o' fun.

A is for AGGUIRE – THE WRATH OF GOD (1972)

B is for BLUE VELVET (1986)

C is for CHINATOWN (1974)

D is for DEAD AND BURIED (1981)

E is for EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN (1987)


G is for GUMMO (1997)

H is for HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)

I is for IRON GIANT (1999)

J is for THE JERK (1979)


L is for LIFEFORCE (1985)

M is for MAD DOG MORGAN (1976)



P is for THE PROWLER (1981)

Q is for Q THE WINGED SERPENT (1982)

R is for RE-ANIMATOR (1985)

S is for SPIES LIKE US (1985)

T is for TOUCH OF EVIL (1958)

U is for USED CARS (1980)

V is for VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972)

W is for WAR OF THE ROSES (1989)

X is for XTRO (1983)


Z is for ZOMBI 2 (1979)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cult favorite GARGOYLES (1972) coming to DVD in May from Henstooth Video

While cruising Amazon I came across some very exciting news. The 1970's made-for-television cult favorite GARGOYLES (1972) is coming back to DVD after being out of print for quite a while. The Henstooth Video label are giving it a May 17th release. This is just outstanding news. I'm not familiar with Henstooth Video but after checking out the site here are a few awesome genre titles that caught my eye - THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (1984), COMMUNION (1989), ALICE SWEET ALICE (1976) and a Blu-ray of the classic murder-mystery comedy PRIVATE EYES (1980) featuring legendary funnymen Don Knots and Tim Conway. While I'm not at all familiar with the company or the quality of their releases in regard to transfers and bonus features I am very intrigued and will definitely be checking 'em out. GARGOYLES is a film I saw when I was in kindergarten and the image of Bernie Casie as the leader of the demonic gargoyle clan haunted me for weeks, it's just a fantastic film and features make-up effects from none other than Stan Winston. It's great to see these slightly obscure telefims get proper DVD releases. When VCI Classic released the made-for-television classic  THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1981) last year I was ecstatic and I'm just pleased as punch at this news.


LABEL: Henstooth Video
RELEASE DATE: May 17th 2011
REGION: Region 1
RATED: Not Rated
ASPECT RATIO: 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
LANGUAGE: 2.0 Mono with English Subtitles
DURATION: 74 mins
DIRECTOR: Bill L. Norton
CAST: Cornel Wilde, Jennifer Salt, Bernie Casey, Scott Glenn, Grayson Hall.
TAGLINE: They're Coming For You!

PLOT: Cornel Wilde stars as an anthropology professor who stumbles upon a clan of demon gargoyles living in the desert Southwest. Since its first airing in 1972, this low-budget gem has earned an enduring spot in the hearts of horror fans worldwide. It won the Emmy® award for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup for Del Armstrong, Ellis Burman Jr., and Stan Winston (Jurassic Park, Avatar). The special effects were created by Milt Rice and George Peckham. Stars Cornel Wilde, Jennifer Salt, Bernie Casey, Scott Glenn and Grayson Hall. In color, 74 Minutes, Not Rated, Original Full Screen (1.33:1) SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary by Director Bill L. Norton & Optional English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired.

- Audio Commentary by Director Bill L. Norton

Monday, March 28, 2011

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Embodiment of Evil (2008)

Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack

LABEL: Synapse Films
RELEASE DATE: March 28th 2011
REGION: Region ABC [Blu-ray] Region 0 NTSC [DVD]
ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1 (16x9)
AUDIO: DTS-HD 5.1 Surround Portuguese, DTS-HD Dolby Digital Stereo Portuguese
DURATION: 94 minutes
DIRECTOR: José Mojica Marins
CAST: José Mojica Marins, Jece Valadão, Adriano Stuart, Rui Resende
TAGLINE: The Master of Horror is Back.

PLOT: After serving a 40-year prison term, Coffin Joe is finally released from the Mental Heath wing of the São Paulo State Penitentiary. Back on the streets, the sadistic undertaker is set upon fulfilling the goal which sent him to jail in the first place: find a woman who can give him the perfect child. Accompanied by his faithful servant, the humpbacked Bruno, Coffin Joe leaves behind a trail of horror and is haunted by ghostly visions and the spirits of his past victims.

FILM: The Coffin Joe Trilogy is a series of films spanning four decades that began with the macabre AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964) which marked the first Brazilian horror film and introduced the world to a true horror icon. Then came the sequel THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSES YOUR CORPSE (1967).  For those unfamiliar with the mythos of Ze Do Caixao aka Coffin Joe he is a murderous undertaker whom  passionately despises religion and spits in the face of morality. He is possessed by an all consuming obsession to find the perfect woman whom will bare his perfect son and thus guarantee his immortality through "the continuation of the blood". It's a sadistic and bloody quest that has left many corpses in its wake throughout the years. Ze is a truly macabre character who is attired in a signature black suit, long black cloak, a top hat and unnaturally long and gnarly fingernails.


At the end of the second film THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSES YOUR CORPSE (1967) Ze is shot while being pursued by an angry mob. He falls into a pond and appears to die as his body sinks into the dark waters. It's a fantastically macabre ending that would seem to sound the death knell for our sadistic protagonist but then again so did the the previous film.  A whopping 4o years later the third installment of the trilogy EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (2008) begins as Coffin Joe is released from a prison for the criminally insane. Outside the prison he's greeted by the Renfield type servant character Bruno a familiar character from THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSES YOUR CORPSE (1967) and the two immediately form a legion of followers culled from a fanatical cult that have sprung up around the legend of Coffin Joe. Once Ze is satisfied that they are of the proper calibre of insanity he sets about to continue his quest for the perfect woman and the elusive immortality through blood. Our first victim is Dr. Hilda who appropriately is a doctor of the study of selective breeding. Sounds like a perfect match, right? She probably thinks differently as she's tied down, drugged and has a crazy hallucination wherein Coffin Joe gruesomely slices of a slab of her ass and feeds it to her which she ravenously consumes. Ze begins to have nightmarish visions of his past victims which haunt him throughout the film. Marins' patented nightmarish and surreal imagery is fully intact and it's definitely where the film excels. The scenes are particularly haunting and have the effect of humanizing the sadistic Ze and giving him an emotional complexity. Spiritual apparitions aside Ze is also pursued by more physical manifestations in the form of Colonel Pontes, a police captain who was blinded in one eye by Ze and a man of the cloth Father Eugenio whose own father was murdered by Ze in THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSES YOUR CORPSE (1967). The two make a pact to destroy Ze with Captain Pontes swearing to kill Ze while the priest damns his soul to Hell for all eternity.

The film excels in the creation of nightmarish imagery and one of the film's finest involved Ze having sex with a young woman named Elena while the blood of her aunts whom he's just killed pour over them both in a deep red cascade of blood. During the carnal act Coffin Joe has a vision where he is transported to Purgatory which resembles an cavernous intestinal tract. There the eerie figure called the Mystifier guides Ze through purgatory which emerges upon an arid desert landscape where he meets Death. It's another surreal and unsettling vision that would not seem out of place in THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973) as hordes of naked figures consume each others in an orgy of cannibalism and perversion, it's a thing of grotesque beauty. Sensing his life may soon end Coffin Joe steps-up his efforts to find the perfect woman with whom to sire a child. A montage of his monstrous efforts to prove these women's worth is pretty horrific. One particular nasty bit involved pouring melted cheese over a woman's body and then placing a ravenous rat into the woman's naughty parts. Others include a woman's scalp being peeled from the back of her neck and up over her head while another is sewn into the carcass of a swine, just weird and visually awesome stuff. The special effects in the film are uniformly outstanding, the film definitely steps-up the gore and perversion that we've seen in the previous films. This flurry of sadistic activity leaves a trail of corpses and leads both Captain Pontes and Father Eugenio to Ze's hideout but too late, he's fled through the woods. In pursuit of Ze Captain Pontes catches up to him at an amusement park where Coffin Joe decapitates and impales his head on a pike. Father Eugenio fares better and faces off against Ze. The priest gains the upper hand and impales him through the heart with a spear-like crucifix. The priest is pleased with himself but finds himself haunted by the disembodied shadow of Ze who torments the priest as he flees the scene. As Coffin Joe's body lies dying Elena emerges from the shadows of the amusement park and has sex with him as he dies. The final revelation of the film shows Elena and several other female followers pregnant with Ze's offspring gathered around his grave, his quest for immortality through blood has come to fruition several time over.

I thought this was  fantastically entertaining film. Definite kudos to the Marins and co-writer Dennison Rumalho whom crafted a film that is a wonderful continuation of Coffin Joe's macabre mythos and what came before, it ups the ante and is completely enjoyable as a stand alone film. It's macabre, over-the-top grotesque a bit campy and overflowing with an excess of gorgeous Brazilian beauties - what's not to love?
DVD: Synapse Films presents EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (2008) in a 1.85:1 (16x9) high-definition transfer created from the original camera negative. The film looks simply stunning with vibrant colors, deep black levels and a crisp and finely detailed image. The Portuguese language DTS-HD 5.1 surround is well utilized and enhances the viewing experience with a good amount of depth. The dialogue is always clear and the filmscore and sound effects fill out the surround quite well.

- MAKING OF EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (32 mins) - when I initially watched the film I had not had the pleasure of seeing the two previous Coffin Joe films. I've since gone back and watched them but this comprehensive mini-documentary filled in of the gaps in my knowledge at the time. There are a great number of behind-the scenes clips with interviews with cast and crew. The film is obviously a labor of love and those involved and is a great watch.
- FOOTAG FROM THE FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL PREMIERE - a entertaining a celebratory Q+A from the Fantasia Film Festival as writer/director Jose Mojica Marins accepts a lifetime achievement award honoring his 50+ years in horror cinema. The man knows how to make an entrance, that's for sure as he was wheeled out onstage in an upright coffin to the delight of throngs of fans. Co-writer Dennison Rumalho introduces him in English and relays the question to Marins in Portuguese and then likewise translates Marins answers to English from Portuguese.

VERDICT: EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (2008) comes just after Synapse Films fantastic VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1973) and maintains the high standards set with that. It's great to finally see a Jose Mojica Marins film gets a release that truly respects the film and presents it in an optimal package. EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (2008) is highly recommended . While your at it treat yourself to AT  MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL (1964) and it's sequel THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSES YOUR CORPSE (1967) both of which are included on the Region 0 PAL 4-disc DVD  COFFIN JOE BOX SET from Umbrella Entertainment.  I'm looking forward to Synapse next release which is the 80's slasher THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1982) in a fully uncut and never seen before version. 4 outta 5

Friday, March 25, 2011

Arrow Video unleash the bloody revenge of SAVAGE STREETS (1984) this summer.

Release Date: June  20th  2011

ASPECT RATIO: 1.85:1 Anamorphic
DURATION: 93 mins
CAST: Linda Blair, Linnea Quigley, Robert Dryer
DIRECTOR: Danny Steinmann
TAGLINE: Brenda’s got a switchblade and she knows how to use it...

See Linda Blair (The Exorcist) take bloody revenge on a gang of low down dirty street punks in Savage Streets, a brutal journey into rape, violence, switchblades and bear traps.

When Brenda (Blair) and her all-girl gang of tough talking chicks, The Satins, refuse to party with a car full of local drug pushers called The Scars, the girls think nothing of it, but they didn’t reckon on the bruised ego of Jake and his feral pack of no good thugs. Targeting Brenda’s deaf sister, they invade the school and savage her, leaving her on the critical list.

Now Brenda must scour the streets in search of crossbow vengeance in a dangerous B-movie classic that’s the perfect antidote to 80s high school flicks.

- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork
- Double-sided fold-out poster
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on Savage Streets by Kier-la Janisse, author of ‘A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi’ and ‘House of Psychotic Women’
- Brand new transfer of the film presented in original 1.85:1 anamorphic aspect ratio
- Original mono audio
- Audio commentary with stars Sal Landi, Robert Dryer and Director of Photography Stephen Posey
- Audio commentary with director Danny Steinmann
- Audio commentary with producer John Strong and stars Robert Dryer and Johnny Venocur
- Video interviews with Linda Blair, Linnea Quigley, Robert Dryer and John Strong
- Original Trailer

Bill Oberst is the Devil incarnate in Aashe Aaron's horror feature 333

Super great guy/actor Bill Oberst Jr. sent us an email letting us know he's appearing in the Illusion Film Studios production 333
(formerly Tormented Souls) which is being directed by Australian  writer/producer/dissecting triple threat Aashe Aaron and produced by the master of modern day exploitation Chad Ferrin of SOMEONE'S KNOCKING AT THE  DOOR (2009) and EASTER BUNNY, KILL! KILL! (2006) infamy.

The film's described as "a couple on a romantic roadtrip spend the night at an eerie honeymooner's retreat, which they soon suspect is haunted...or that it's creepy caretakers are up to something far more sinister." Sound awesomely eerie.

Oberst plays "a shadow man with goat eyes who torments the main character, Amy, and pursues her at supernaturally high speed, all the while whispering sweet nothings in her terrified ears like "You're gonna burn Amy!"" Director Aaron described Oberst's character to the actor as "He's like the devil incarnate, with a Johnny Cash style; a real David Lynch moment."" Sounds like yet another unsettling and unsavory characters that Oberst has such an uncanny knack for portraying.

333 is set to commence filming in Topanga Canyon this weekend.

Being the awesome guy that he is Oberst was kind enough to send a make-up test pic from the just-wrapped  SOMETHING WICKED DWELLS, a horrifying "Renaissance Painting In Hell" short about "shackled prisoners in an ancient dungeon waiting to be be dragged into a demon's lair. That's me before and after make-up by Veronica Rodarte of the Cinema Slaughter crew, who is an artist with the airbrush for sure."

I first caught notice of Bill Oberst in the backwoods fright flick DISMAL (2009) a gritty swampland cannibals flick. I would dare say he was the most memorable aspect of that film as the unsettling patriarch of the cannibal clan. I'm  psyched to check him out in RUN! BITCH RUN! (2006) director Joseph Guzman's next project NUDE NUNS WITH BIG GUNS (2010) so keep an eye out for Bill Oberst Jr.. It'll be hard for genre fans to miss him in the coming months with parts in Brandon Slagle's VIVID (2011) and even in an uncredited role as an "emaciated pirate" in Rob Marshall's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (2011) and numerous other projects.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

DVD REVIEW: Damned By Dawn (2010)


LABEL: Momentum Pictures
BBFC RATING: 15 Certificate
DURATION: 81 mins
DIRECTOR: Brett Anstey
CAST: Renee Willner, Bridget Neval, Dawn Klingberg
TAGLINE: When the Banshee cries... the Dead will rise.

PLOT: After receiving a mysterious gift from her dying grandmother, Claire takes her new boyfriend home to meet her family who live on an isolated property in the country. The family reunion begins well but Claire soon becomes increasingly uneasy with her grandmother's medicated mumblings about a screaming banshee intent on coming for her during the night. It's not long before the family's worst fears become their reality as the banshee and her army of undead arrive to unleash blood soaked fury on them all.

FILM: For the past ten years Australia experienced an Ozploitation rebirth of sorts with a new wave of low-budgeted horror films  beginning with the Spierig Brothers alien/zombie romp UNDEAD (2003), then the  brutal serial killer film WOLF CREEK (2005), a killer croc flick ROGUE (2007) and the grindhouse revenge thriller STORM WARNING (2007). The latest entry is writer/director Brent Anstey's debut feature film DAMNED BY DAWN (2010). This micro-budgeted supernatural thriller is sure to give you a case of the goosebumps.  Claire (Renee Willner) and boyfriend Paul (Danny Alder) arrive at her family's estate in rural Australia to visit her dying grandmother Nana (Dawn Klinberg) who lives with her father Bill (Peter Stratford) and younger sister Jen (Taryn Eva). The elderly woman tells Claire that as death draws near The Banshee (Bridget Neval) will appear to guide her soul from this world to the next and that this sacred rite must not be interrupted at any cost. Claire assumes this to be the ramblings of a woman suffering late stage dementia but that same night the family are awakened by a frightful wailing sound emanating from the fog-shrouded woods. While the others enter the forest to investigate the eerie screams Claire remains with Nana and does exactly what she was warned not to when the apparition comes to claim Nana's soul. The angered spirit calls upon an army of the undead who will not rest until the they've claimed not only the departed woman's soul but those of the entire family as well. 

The family estate is set in a heavily forested area that's covered in a thick blanket of fog. It makes for a fantastically eerie location. DAMNED BY DAWN is a seriously foggy film, it's right up there with THE FOG (1980) and THE WOLF MAN (1941) and any number of Hammer films. The Banshee appears as a ghastly apparition in white, blood trickling from her eyes, it's quite spooky but the effect falters some when the films strays from it's less is more approach. Other skeletal wraith-like apparitions are not so effectively realized however and have all the fright of a WalMart  skeleton decoration. More effective are the zombie-like undead that are achieved with practical effects, particularly the undead Nana who has a decidedly Deadite appearance and actually intones "join us" at one point.  That's just one of many EVILDEAD (1981)  invocations right down to the title which smacks of  EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN (1987). While the film's short on originality it's a highly entertaining watch.

DVD: The Momentum Pictures DVD presents the film in it's original 1.85:1 (16x9) anamorphic aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The film image looks quite good. Colors are vibrant if muted by a blue-tint, the details are crisp and the film has decent black levels which is important as 95% of the film takes place in the dark of night. The 5.1 surround effectively utilizes the film score and effects, particularly the banshee's wails which about lifted me outta my seat. It's creepy stuff and my hats off to the sound design. Special Features include a spirited commentary track with many, many stories about the making of the film, technical talk and fun anecdotal stuff. The nearly hour long Making-of Featurette (55:32) covers a lot of the same ground as the commentary but is actually more entertaining and sprinkled with clips from the film as well as snippets of the Amazing Krypto Bros. earlier films which just look like pure fun. If it came down to one or the other I say just watch the making-of doc as the commentary mirrors a lot of it. For the Region 1 locked-crowd the Region 1 DVD from Image Entertainment mirrors the R2 release with the addition of a second commentary track with writer/director Brett Anstey and actors Renee Willner, Dawn Klingberg, Bridget Neval, Peter Stratford, and Taryn Eva.

- Audio Commentary with writer/director Brett Anstey, producer Luke Gibson, editor Dave Redman, production designer David Jackson, and fog wrangler Darren Maxwell
- Making-of Featurette (55:32)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:30)

VERDICT: DAMNED BY DAWN (2010) offers some genuinely creepy supernatural thrills and is a notable entry in the cabin-in-the-woods sub genre. Director Brent Anstey is someone to watch for and while this film lacks bucket loads of originality it quite obvious that he loves old-school horror and has a great eye for spooky visuals and exciting camera movement. Like the Spierig Brothers who directed UNDEAD (2003) and went on to do the underrated sci-fi vamp actioner DAYBREAKERS (2009) I would very much like to see what Anstey is capable of with a more inventive script and a few dollars more. Not an blind buy but definitely worth a rental. 3 outta 5

Monday, March 21, 2011

DVD REVIEW: Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976) 35th Anniversary Edition

DR. BLACK, MR. HYDE (1976)
 35th Anniversary Edition DVD

LABEL: VCI Entertainment
DURATION: 85 mins
DIRECTOR: William Crain
CAST: Bernie Casey, Rosalind Cash, Marie O'Henry, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Milt Kogan
TAGLINE: A Monster He Can't Control Has Taken Over His Very Soul!

PLOT: Dr. Henry Pryde (Bernie Casey) is a noteworthy scientist who is working on an experimental remedy for liver damage. He perfects a serum that has the potential to reverse damaged liver tissue. Pryde also donates his services as a medical practitioner to a free clinic in the Watts projects. Pryde begins a series of unorthodox experiments to test his serum, and uses the serum on himself. The results are disastrous: he transforms into a hulking white-skinned hooker-murdering lunatic.

FILM: Former 49ers footballer turned actor Bernie Casey stars in this 70's blaxploitation take on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of duality Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Director William Crane mostly directed 70's era TV series S.W.A.T. and THE MOD SQUAD but also BLACULA (1972). Dr. Pride is a respected African-American biochemist and an upstanding member of the Watts area community in Los Angeles where he practices medicine at the Watts Free Clinic treating a steady parade of prostitutes and drug addicts. His latest experiment is a serum designed to regenerate damaged liver tissue. Displeased with the progress and convinced that a break through is just around the corner if only he could facilitate human testing the good doctor injects himself with the serum, probably not a good idea, right? Sure 'nuff the serum transforms him into a white-skinned murderous hulk of a man with a penchant for prostitutes. Eyewitnesses describe him as white but honestly he just looks a bit ashy to me but whatever. The film definitely aims to offer some social commentary as the well meaning black pillar of the community is reduced to a  diabolical white monster who terrorizes the predominantly black neighborhood, it's an interesting turn on the Jekyll and Hyde mythos.

The acting is uniformly sketchy with the exception of main-man Bernie Casey who made memorable appearances in several of my favorite 80's comedies including THE REVENGE OF THE NERDS (1984) and SPIES LIKE US (1986). His portrayal of Dr. Pride is sympathetic and mostly carries the film. There's also Dr. Pride's girlfriend played by Rosalind Cash in what amounts to a bit part but it's worth mentioning her work in the another film featuring black folks turned white-skinned monsters OMEGA MAN (1971). Then there's the sexy Marie O'Henry as Linda the hooker with a heart of gold and Ji-tu Cumbuka as Lt. Jackson who gets perhaps the films only memorable line "brother man, this situation is rapidly becoming insalubrious meaning we about to stomp a mud hole in your ass!" and what blaxploitation flick didn't have a pimp? Here we have the sleazy but smooth Silky (Stu Gilman) a pimp with a fabulous cape, cane and all the greatest 70's pimp accessories.

The film is very gritty and one might never suspect the talents on the film include make-up effects by the late Stan Winston who would go onto glory with ALIEN (1986), TERMINATOR (1984) and PREDATOR (1987) and whose first film credit was the made-for-television film GARGOYLES (1972) which also starred Casey as the leader of a clan of gargoyles. Further proving that everyone starts somewhere is cinematographer Tak Fujimoto who just a few years earlier lensed Terrence Malik's BADLANDS (1973) and would go onto THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991), and THE SIXTH SENSE (1999).

The film poorly paced and is weighed down by some rather sluggish melodrama that really does grind the film to a near-halt but it picks up with some decent fight and chase sequences featuring our albino beast. While there's plenty of physical violence the film lacks any real bloodshed, bummer. Likewise, the transformations from mild mannered physician to white-skinned terror are mostly acted-out by Casey himself with only minor make-up effects to enhance the performance. Perhaps the most bizarre aspect he film is a finale that pays homage to KING KONG (1933) as Casey scales the Watts Towers and nose-dives into an expected ending. It's a bit out of place but just kooky enough to work for me.

DVD: DR. BLACK, MR. HYDE's 35th Anniversary Edition sports a 1.85:1 (16x9) anamorphic aspect ratio transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. No subtitle options are available and the only bonus feature is a theatrical trailer. Why tout this bare-bones release as a 35th Anniversary Edition and not include a little somethethin' somethin' for the fans is saddening. There's no commentary, no interviews, not even a radio spot and there are some great radio spots for this film out there, it just seems lacklustre to me. The print is well worn with obvious damage, tinny sound and an abundance of audio pops.  It's a gritty affair that looks to have had a few good years on the drive-in circuit prior to being transferred to DVD but it's probably a better viewing experience for it. The previous DVD edition featured a VHS-quality 1.33:1 aspect ratio so lack of bonus features aside this is an improvement.

VERDICT: While not a classic by any means this Afrocentric take on the duality of the human psyche works remarkably well thanks in large part to the talents of Bernie Casey. This is a genre of film I'm not well versed in but based on this viewing I am intrigued enough to make an effort to seek out BLACULA (1972), BLACKENSTEIN (1973) and the EXORCIST-tinged ABBY (1974). I can't give this a high recommend and I'm a bit perturbed by the lack of extras but if you're looking to explore the horror sub genre of blaxploitation this is a fun start. 2.5 outta 5

Friday, March 18, 2011

Scott Kenmore's novel Zombie, Ohio - a Shocking Tale of the Undead out now!

Greetings visitor to the Mausoleum. Haven't read this one myself but for those craving some fresh zombie fiction you may want to check out Scott Kenmore's zombie murder-mystery ZOMBIE, OHIO - A SHOCKING TALE OF THE UNDEAD (2010). It sounds like a fun read that blends traditional zombie action with humor and the mystery of a detective novel, cool.

A Shocking Tale of the Undead

Skyhorse Publishing Paperback Original
Price: $16.95

What’s scarier than an invasion of mindless, brain-hungry zombies? The creation of highly intelligent ones! In Zombie, Ohio, wildly successful zombie-humor author Scott Kenemore takes a stab at a zombie murder-mystery that will make you gasp, squirm, and guess whodunit until the very end!

When rural Ohio college professor Peter Mellor dies in an automobile accident during a zombie outbreak, he is reborn as a highly intelligent – yet somewhat amnesiac – member of the living dead. With society crumbling around him and violence escalating into daily life, he finds that the humans who he once called friends, family, and even lovers, are now trying to kill him! What’s worse is that even though he knows it’s wrong, he can’t kick the constant cravings to cut their heads open and eat their brains!

As if all this wasn’t bad enough, Peter soon learns that his car accident was no accident! Since zombies are immortal, and require no sleep at all, Peter decides to devote the increasingly eternal amount of time on his hands to solving his own murder!

Skillfully combining the genres of horror and humor, Zombie, Ohio weaves an enthralling and innovating tale that fans of the current zombie craze and detective-story addicts are sure to relish! Will Peter get his friends and girlfriend back? Will he find out who killed him? Will he join the brain-eating zombies against the humans? Will he help them fight back? There’s only one way to find out!

About the Author:
SCOTT KENEMORE is the author of The Zen of Zombie, Z.E.O, The Art of Zombie Warfare and The Code of the Zombie Pirate. He is also the drummer for the Chicago–based rock band The Blissters. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. This is his first novel.

DVD REVIEW: BMX Bandits (1983)

BMX Bandits (1983) DVD

Label: Severin Films
Region Code: 0 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 91 Min.

Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Cast: Nicole Kidman, David Argue, John Ley, Angelo D'Angelo, James Lugton

Synopsis: The future Academy Award® winner made her movie debut at 16 years old as the pouffy-haired star of this action/comedy about a cache of stolen walkie-talkies, three BMX-riding friends, and the ruthless bank robbers who will pursue them through every graveyard, shopping mall, construction site and water park in New South Wales, Australia. It’s a high-flying ride to adventure filled with wild stunts, cool BMX outfits, creepy innuendo, cheezy synth music, an obnoxious fat kid, and gobs of fast and furious fun. John Ley (Mad Max), David Argue (Razorback) and Bryan Marshall (The Long Good Friday) co-star – with thrilling cinematography from future Oscar® winner John Seale (The English Patient) – in this Down Under ‘80s cult classic from ‘Ozsploitation’ master Brian Trenchard-Smith, the legendary director of Turkey Shoot, Dead End Drive-In and Stunt Rock!

Film: The early to mid 1980's were a fantastical era filled with neon-dreams and new wave synth pop, a time when every kid on the street either owned or desired a BMX. Atari hadn't yet dulled the natural instinct of children everywhere to congregate in the great outdoors. It confounds me that while the BMX figured so prominently in my youth somehow this film eluded me 30+ years. Circa 1983 prior to THE GOONIES or MONSTER CLUB this would have undoubtedly been a Top 5 film for me.

This is a classic 80's kids vs. criminals action/adventure film from Brian Trenchard-Smith, the director of the Ozploitation classics STUNT ROCK (1980), TURKEY SHOOT (1982) and DEAD END DRIVE-IN (1986) which are featured prominently in the documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF OZPLOITATION! (2008) which if you haven't seen I would suggest you definitely check it out, it's a blast. Trenchard-Smith also directed NIGHT OF THE DEMONS 2 (1994) which was a good bit of bloody fun but on the other end of the spectrum he also helmed LEPRECHAUN 3 (1995) and LEPRECHAUN 4: IN SPACE (1997) so obviously something went terribly wrong for him in the mid 90's which truly were a bland cinematic wasteland.

The film begins on a surprisingly dark note featuring a bank heist perpetrated by four men in pig masks. It's a bizarre and tightly edited intro that gets the film on it's feet right at the start. You gotta show some love for the crazy 80's cuz these shenanigans just wouldn't snag a kiddie friendly rating today. Our three adventurers are P.J. (Angelo D'Angelo), Goose (James Lugtion) and Judy, a super-cute and never curlier Nicole Kidman whose efforts to scrape up some scratch for BMX bikes puts them in the sights of the bank robbing duo of Moustache (John Ley) and Whitey (David Argue) who are out to recover some walkie-talkies the trio have happened upon. There you have it, and so the chase begins in a world where parents just don't seem to physically exist.

To be honest the acting on the part of our trio is not worth a lot of praise except for maybe James Lugton whose wryly delivered humor is rather awesome. Also worth mentioning is David Argue as Whitey who supplies many of the films physical gags to great effect. He stole the show for me, he's an intense and irrational character who early on passes himself off as an officer of the law and at some point it's quite clear to me that he actually believed he was. I also love that there's a "fat kid" character who's one part Francis Buxton from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and one part Chunk from The Goonies. What film is not made that much better by the addition of a fat kid?  The film plays as a series of fun action sequences featuring our trio evading the crooks as they give chase through a dark cemetery, a construction site, a wharehouse and what self-respecting 80's film didn't feature a chase though a mall prominently featuring an escalator? Highlights for me were an extended night chase through an eerie cemetery featuring the crooks in goblin masks and a wonderfully wacky chase down a waterslide. It's a mostly harmless film meant to entertain the kiddies but with Brian Trenchard-Smith at the controls you know the film will be littered with fun chase sequences and a few large explosions. BMX Bandits it's just retro-80's goodness and the foam fight finale is appropriately nutty in a REAL GENIUS (1985) mountain of popped kernel corn kinda way. I don't know if the youth of today are gonna go ga-ga for this but being a child of the 80's myself it was hard not to commandere my sons BMX and pop a wheelie.

DVD: BMX Bandits gets a pleasing 2.35:1 (16x9) anamorphic transfer and it looks pretty great for a 30 year film. There's minimal print damage, vibrant 80's colors and fairly sharp details. We get Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio with no subtitles. Not a ton of bonus features but what we do get are pretty entertaining. There's an Trenchard-Smith commentary that is both congratulating and a bit self deprecating at the same time with numerous anecdotes about the making of the film, the actors and the beautiful locations throughout the film. BMX Buddies is a compact featurette with interviews from writers Patrick Edgeworth and Russell Hagg, actor James Lugton, producer Tom Brodebridge and plenty of Brian Trenchard-Smith. Notably missing is Nicole Kidman who from what I gather is a bit embarrassed by the film. Like Kevin Bacon she needs to get over it and embrace her humble beginnings. The special features are rounded out with a teaser trailer and three Severin Film trailers. Like I said, not a ton of bonus features but between the commentary and the featurette there's a lot of great content.

- Audio Commentary With Director Brian Trenchard-Smith
- BMX Buddies: Featurette with Cast and Crew (38:02)
- Nicole Kidman on Young Talent Time (2:32) 
- Theatrical Trailer (0:32)

Verdict: Having just watched the film for the 1st time it's difficult to rank this alongside my favorite 1980's kids flicks without the benefit of the inherent nostalgia factor but my initial thoughts are that it's right there alongside THE GOONIES (1985), MONSTER SQUAD (1987) and CLOAK AND DAGGER (1984) as an 80's cult classic, that's no small praise and it's totally warranted here. Fantastically frivolous and awesomely 80's
3.5 outta 5