Sunday, January 27, 2013



Label: Image Entertainment

Rating: Not Rated
Duration: 77 Minutes
Video: 16:9:Widescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1

Cast: Rachel Blake , Tom Butcher, Jumayn Hunter
Director: Paul Andrew Williams

Synopsis: A young family is pushed to the very edge of terror and brutality in Paul Andrew Williams' (London to Brighton, The Cottage) horror-thriller, Cherry Tree Lane. Mike, Christine and their son Sebastian have always felt safe in their peaceful suburban neighborhood, but a savage home invasion changes everything, pushing the family into a hellish fight for survival. As their nightmare unfolds, they learn the shocking cruelty that strangers can inflict… and what they'll have to do to save themselves.

Threw this on today, seemed like a good Sunday watch with the wife, a home invasion thriller from the UK from the director of The Cottage, Paul Andrew Williams. Christine (Rachael Blake) and Michael (Tom Butcher) are a quarrelsome couple setting down for dinner, there's some  tension between 'em, some jealousy on the part of Mike for sure, it's pretty typical marital dysfunction. They're awaiting the arrival of their son Sebastian (Tom Kane) when the doorbell rings. Answering the door the couple are brutalized, incapacitated and duct taped by a trio of violent street toughs. It seems they're son has wronged these three in some way severe enough that they feel the need to mead out some form of violent retribution, that's pretty much the gist of the film, there's not much here on paper but Williams does quite a bit with very little, one of the first scenes quite literally informs you this is gonna be a potboiler and sure enough it is. 

I live in an area where home invasions are not uncommon, the wrought iron on the entries provide some comfort but the very notion that it could happen menaces me. One minute your at home sipping pinot noir while eating a bit of dinner and a ring at the door sets the world on it's skull. Beaten down and tied up, your loved ones just out of reach and subjected to a beating, rape or maybe worse. All the while you're powerless to do anything about it, outnumbered and impotent - it's truly the stuff of nightmares.

Williams film is punctuated by some nice lensing, slow camera push-ins and static shots, not at all what I was expecting with a home invasion film, it's surprisingly quiet and peppered with moments of frustration and violence, it's powerful stuff, think Funny Games (2007) by way of Gus Van Sant.  

There's some good atmosphere and tension being built-up throughout, which is great but now for the not so great. While the acting is across the board quite good overall the portrayal of the underclass youths just didn't seem to give me much in the way of the something to grab onto, and our captive couple definitely don't get much in the way of characterization either, what there is doesn't give you much to side with other than this maritally challenged couple are victims, which is unfortunate, but they are never more than unfortunate characters, the situation is awful but we never get a feel for anyone here except for maybe one of the street toughs whom apparently has a heart and prattles on while stoned about the good life and how Chris shouldn't worry so much about what might be happening to his wife in the next room. The most over-the-top performance comes from the lead thug who's just this side of ridiculous but it's not ruinous, just a bit much. Another befuddling element is the inexplicably late arrival of three other guests who do little to service the story. 

The film running just under seventy-eight minutes is a bit short on characterization but I still give Cherry Tree Lane a recommend, it lacks the exploitation elements of say something like House on the Edge of the Park with the sexual violence happening off-screen but it does nicely tap into middle class fears of urban violence, something done considerably better with Eden Lake (2008) but this well-paced thriller though soft on character is plenty full of tense and uneasy moments. 3 Outta 5 


Saturday, January 26, 2013

ARROW VIDEO Q2 Titles Announced!

Arrow Video have announced a slew of 2013 titles and it's some pretty exciting stuff. First up in February are a double-dose of Mario Bava with BLACK SUNDAY (1960) and LISA AND THE DEVIL (1974) - the former of which presents ‘The Mask of Satan’ – the European version with score by Roberto Nicolosi and ‘Black Sunday’ – the re-edited and re-dubbed AIP version with Les Baxter score, on home video for the first time, very cool! In April we get Bava's BARON BLOOD (1972) with three versions of the film including for the first time on home video, the AIP version with alternate score by Les Baxter. Also on the docket are a trio of sexy titles from Tinto Brass - fans of exotic and erotic tastes should rejoice following Arrow's recent 1080p version of three Radley Metzger titles. Blaxploitation classic FOXY BROWN (1974)  is getting her 1080p justoce with cool featurettes and a Jack Hill commentary. We get more Jack Hill cult classics with his film SPIDER BABY (1968) starring Lon Chaney Jr. and Sid Haig - a real weird one, too. Last and probably my own most anticipated titles are George A. Romero's cult classic about jousting motorcyclists KNIGHTRIDERS (1981) comes to Blu-ray as does the fantastically odd MOTEL HELL (1980) with a host of special features and brand new commentary. The final entry is Brian De Palma's classic John Travolta / Nancy Allen thriller BLOW OUT (1981) which features the same transfer as the Criterion edition and a few new interviews, you may recall Arrow previously released Brian De Palma's fantastic OBSESSION (1976) on Blu-ray, looking forward to their Blow-Out disc.  All the artwork, details and special features can be found below along with Amazon pre-orders....

Blu-ray + DVD Combo 

Release Date: February 4th 2013
Cast: Barbara Steele, John Richardson and Andrea Checchi
Director: Mario Bava
Rating: 15
Region: B/2

Overview: Limited Edition Slipbox Edition - only 1000 copies! Available exclusively from the Arrow store.

STARE INTO THESE EYES... discover deep within them the unspeakable terrifying secret of BLACK SUNDAY... it will paralyze you with fright!

Legendary Scream Queen Barbara Steele (Shivers, Caged Heat) stars in this classic slice of gothic terror from the father of fantastic Italian cinema Mario Bava (Lisa & the Devil).

A beautiful witch is sentenced to death for her evil deeds by her own brother, condemned to die by having a metal mask hammered onto her face before being burnt at the stake. As she passes, she puts a terrible curse on all her future descendants as the spikes of the death mask pierce her flesh... But when two unwitting travelers discover her final resting place and worse, drip blood on her resting corpse, they unleash her once again in all her stunningly beautiful, terrifying glory....

Banned in the UK on its release, Black Sunday is a groundbreaking film that opened the door for Spaghetti horror in all its gory glory.

Special Features:
- Limited Edition Slipbox Edition with 4 panel reversible sleeve featuring 4 artworks including 3 original posters and a newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of two versions of the film; ‘The Mask of Satan’ – the European version with score by Roberto Nicolosi and ‘Black Sunday’ – the re-edited and re-dubbed AIP version with Les Baxter score, on home video for the first time
- Three audio versions: Optional Italian, European English and AIP English re-dub and re-score
- English SDH subtitles for both English versions and a new English subtitle translation of the Italian audio
- Audio Commentary with Bava biographer and expert Tim Lucas
- Introduction to the film by author and critic Alan Jones
- Interview with star and horror icon Barbara Steele
- Deleted Scene from the Italian version with notes by Tim Lucas
- International Trailer
- US Trailer
- Italian Trailer
- TV Spot
- I Vampiri (1956) – Italy’s first sound horror film directed by Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava
- US I Vampiri Trailer ‘The Devil’s Commandment’
- Trailer reel – trailers of all the major works by Mario Bava
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films by Matt Bailey and Alan Jones, illustrated with original archive stills and posters


DVD + Blu-ray Combo 

Release Date: February 4th 2013
Cast: Telly Savalas, Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina
Director: Mario Bava
Rating: 18
Region: B/3
From the father of Italian Horror Mario Bava (Black Sunday, The Whip and the Body) comes a tale of nightmarish surrealism and supernatural suspense.

Lisa (Elke Sommer) - an American tourist travelling in Spain - loses her tour party and seeks refuge in the tumbledown mansion of a blind countess after being guided there by the distinctly satanic butler of the house, Leandro (Telly Savalas – Horror Express, Kojak). The Son of the Countess notices Lisa’s striking resemblance to his dead lover and pursues her as a night of murder, strange eroticism and dark hallucinations begins.

Re-cut in the US to cash in on the popularity of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist and released as The House of Exorcism (included in this special edition) the original Lisa & the Devil is Bava at his abstract and delirious best, delivering a 70s horror classic and a masterclass in cinema as feverish nightmare.

Special Features:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of both versions of the film: ‘Lisa and the Devil’ and ‘The House of Exorcism’ producer’s cut
- Optional English and Italian audio on ‘Lisa and the Devil’
- English SDH subtitles on both features and a new English subtitle translation of the Italian Audio of ‘Lisa and the Devil’
- Audio Commentary on ‘Lisa and the Devil’ by Bava biographer and expert Tim Lucas
- Audio Commentary on ‘The House of Exorcism’ by producer Alfredo Leone and star Elke Sommer
- Introductions to both films by author and critic Alan Jones
- The Exorcism of Lisa – Assistant Director Lamberto Bava, screenwriter Roberto Natale, Roy Bava and Alberto Pezzotta discuss the making of both versions of the film
- Deleted Scene
- Original trailers
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic and author Stephen Thrower illustrated with original stills and archive posters

FOXY BROWN (1974) Blu-ray 

When Foxy Brown’s undercover-agent boyfriend is gunned down on the orders of evil drug kingpins, she stops at nothing to exact a thrillingly brutal revenge. This is one of the all-time great blaxploitation films, pulling out all the stops at a time long before anyone thought of inventing political correctness.
Pam Grier was given the role of a lifetime as the street-smart yet intensely sexy Foxy, modelling a stupendously varied range of Seventies threads while righteously kicking villainous white butt at every opportunity. She’s also given sterling support from Antonio ‘Huggy Bear’ Fargas as her no-good younger brother and a memorably funky soundtrack.

It’s clear that Quentin Tarantino is a huge fan: he cast Grier in the title role of his direct homage Jackie Brown, while the one-woman revenge scenario that fuelled the Kill Bill films didn’t just come from the Far East.

Special Features:

- Restored High Definition Blu-ray presentation (1080p)
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with director Jack Hill
- From Black and White to Blaxploitation – Actor Sid Haig speaks about his long and influential friendship with Jack Hill
- A Not So Minor Influence – An Interview with Bob Minor, the first African-American member of the Stuntman’s Association, and co-star of Foxy Brown
- Back to Black – Legendary actors Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (Black Caesar) and Austin Stoker (Sheba Baby, Assault on Precinct 13), alongside Rosanne Katon (Ebony, Ivory, and Jade) and film scholar Howard S. Berger speak about the enduring popularity of the Blaxploitation film
- Photo gallery of behind-the-scenes and publicity images
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Trailer Reel – Trailers for all the major works by Jack Hill including Foxy Brown, Coffy and Switchblade Sisters
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Red Dress
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Josiah Howard, author of Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide, a new interview with Pam Grier by Jack Hill biographer Calum Waddell, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

Region B

BLOW OUT (1981) Blu-ray 

Release Date: May 27th 2013

One of Brian De Palma’s most acclaimed films, this brilliant fusion of the obsessive sleuthing of Blow-up and The Conversation with themes drawn from real-life political scandals (the JFK assassination, Chappaquiddick, Watergate) starts wit
h sound technician Jack Terry (John Travolta) accidentally recording what might be explosive evidence of a deadly conspiracy.
Brilliantly shot by the then recent Oscar-winner Vilmos Zsigmond, this terrifically stylish thriller co-stars Nancy Allen as the eyewitness who becomes the unwitting target of John Lithgow’s serial killer as he ruthlessly attempts to bury all the evidence.

It’s also a film about the filmmaking process: Terry is originally hired to work on the low-budget slasher film Coed Frenzy, and later turns his technical skills to much more serious use as he tries to reconstruct a political assassination on film in a way that will stand up in court.

Special Features:
- Limited Edition SteelBook packaging
- New, restored digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Brian De Palma
- Original Dolby 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Black and White in Colour: An Interview with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond
- Rag Doll Memories: Nancy Allen on Blow Out
- Return to Philadelphia: An interview with Producer George Litto
- A gallery of on-set photos by photographer Louis Goldman
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Atkinson, a conversation between Quentin Tarantino and Brian De Palma and more to be confirmed!

Region B
DVD+ Blu-ray Combo

Release Date: May 20th 2013

Diana (Claudia Koll) and Paolo (Paolo Lanza) are happily married despite her much greater sexual appetite: he’s content to simply listen to the stories of her various adventures. But when she has an affair that’s much too close to home, he throws her out, and she moves into a Venetian flat to embark upon an erotic voyage of discovery, while at the same time trying to win him back.

Loosely inspired by the Mozart opera Così fan tutte (the title is a direct translation), the film tackles a crucial question: why shouldn’t women enjoy the same sexual freedom that they’ve long had to tolerate in their men? Especially when they have such shapely and inviting rears?

Once again, Tinto Brass proves his unmatched skill at balancing eroticism and humour in this lively and beautifully photographed comedy, both wittier and more sexually explicit than the average softcore romp.

Special Features:
- High Definition Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD Presentation of the film in widescreen for the first time!
- Optional English and Italian audio
- Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian audio
- Featurette on the film with director Tinto Brass
- Original Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly illustrated artwork by The Red Dress
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic David Flint, illustrated with rare production stills

Region B/2

MOTEL HELL (1980) 
DVD + Blu-ray Combo

Release Date: May 13th 2013

“It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent fritters!” cackle the brother-and-sister team behind the finest smoked meats in the county. They also run the friendly Motel Hello (the ‘o’ in the neon sign sometimes goes on the blink), and no matter how many times you’ve seen Psycho or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, you can be sure that everything will be perfectly above board here as Vincent’s brother Bruce is the local sheriff.

Western veteran Rory Calhoun gives a lipsmackingly demented performance as Farmer Vincent, whose twinkling bonhomie conceals a deeply depraved secret.

Directed by Kevin Connor (maker of much-loved British genre classics The Land That Time Forgot and Warlords of Atlantis) and with legendary DJ Wolfman Jack as a fire-and-brimstone TV preacher, this is a gleefully twisted horror-comedy that climaxes with a showstopping chainsaw duel.

Special Features:

- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the film
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with director Kevin Connor moderated by Calum Waddell
- Another Head on the Chopping Block: Interview with star Paul Linke
- From Glamour to Gore: Interview with co-star, and former Playboy Playmate, Rosanne Katon
- Ida, Be Thy Name: A look back at Motel Hell’s frightful female protagonist Ida Smith – and the secrets of creating a convincing slasher siren, with Scream Queens Elissa Dowling and Chantelle Albers, genre commentator Staci Layne Wilson and critic Shelagh Rowan-Legg
- Back to the Backwoods: Director Dave Parker (The Hills Run Red) speaks about the importance of Motel Hell
- Original Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jeff Zornow
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Kim Newman, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

Region B/2
Blu-ray + DVD

Release Date: April 29th 2013

One of horror giant Mario Bava’s biggest hits, Baron Blood returns to the all-stops-out Gothic atmosphere and the central theme of a witch’s curse that fuelled his breakthrough film Black Sunday twelve years earlier.

This time, the curse was placed on Baron Otto von Kleist, Austria’s legendarily murderous ‘Baron Blood’, whose corpse is inadvertently revived when an ancient incantation is read out as a joke by a descendant and his girlfriend. Naturally, the Baron decides to carry on where he originally left off, with the help of an entire vault of elaborate torture devices.

Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane, The Third Man) has a whale of a time as the deceptively charming Baron, and is given sterling support from Elke Sommer (Lisa and the Devil), who is chased through fog-shrouded alleyways in one of Bava’s most memorably atmospheric set-pieces.

Special Features:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of three versions of the film: Gli orrori del castello di Norimberga with Italian opening and closing titles and Baron Blood with English opening and closing titles and the European English export version audio, and for the first time on home video, the AIP version with alternate score by Les Baxter
- Three audio versions: Optional Italian, European English and AIP English re-dub and re-score
- English SDH subtitles and a new English subtitle translation of the Italian audio
- Audio Commentary with Bava biographer and expert Tim Lucas
- Introduction to Baron Blood by author and critic Alan Jones
- Trailers for Baron Blood
- Baron Blood Radio Spots
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Oliver James, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

Region B/2
THE KEY (1983) 

Tinto Brass’s first major film since the notorious Caligula stars Frank Finlay as a man who is terrified of losing his voluptuous wife Teresa (Stefania Sandrelli) because he is unable to satisfy her sexually. He arranges for her to have an affair, by taking erotic photographs of her and asking her would-be lover to develop them. Meanwhile, he keeps abreast of her burgeoning relationship by reading her diary, in the full knowledge that she in turn is reading his...

One of Brass’s most critically acclaimed films, The Key is also one of his most elegant, with wintry Venetian locations, a beautiful Ennio Morricone score and a strong sense of period - it’s set in 1940, just before Mussolini’s Italy entered World War II.

However, it also unmistakably shows the path that Brass would eventually follow, with startlingly graphic sex scenes for a supposedly ‘respectable’ film cast with serious actors.

Special Features:
- High Definition Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD Presentation of the film in widescreen for the first time!
- Optional English and Italian audio
- Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian audio
- Original Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly illustrated artwork by The Red Dress
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Tinto Brass scholar Alexander Tuschinski, illustrated with rare production stills

Region B/2
Blu-ray + DVD

Release Date: April 29th 2013

Made after the zombie classic Dawn of the Dead, George A. Romero’s Knightriders is both clearly the work of the same director (there are lots of familiar faces from his other films) and a marked change of tone. There’s still plenty of action, but it takes the form of jousting by people wearing full medieval armour... while riding motorbikes.

Ed Harris, soon to become a major star, is the leader of a troupe of travelling entertainers trying to live their lives according to the ideals of King Arthur - no easy feat in Reagan’s America, where the outside world and its financial realities constantly encroach on their dreams.

With a memorably eccentric cast of characters (including make-up effects genius Tom Savini in a major role, and a cameo from novelist Stephen King) and a complex, nuanced script, Knightriders is Romero’s warmest and most personal film to date.

Special Features:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation
- Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Audio commentary with George Romero, Tom Savini, John Amplas and Christine Romero
- The Genesis of a Legend – Star Ed Harris remembers his first leading role
- A Date with Destiny – Co-star Tom Savini reflects on Knightriders
- Medieval Maiden – An interview with actress Patricia Tallman
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Nat Marsh
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author and critic Brad Stevens, an archival interview with Romero and a new interview with composer Donald Rubinstein, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

Region B/2

Release Date: June 24th 2013

The credits dub this “the maddest story ever told”, a promise that’s well on the way to being fulfilled in the opening scene alone, when Virginia traps and kills a hapless deliveryman in her makeshift web. She’s one of three siblings who suffer from a unique genetic disorder that causes them to regress back to childhood, while retaining the physical strength and sexual maturity of adults.

Lon Chaney Jr gave one of his most memorable late performances as Bruno, their guardian and protector, who has managed to cover up their crimes until two distant relatives lay claim to their house. When they insist on moving in, Bruno has to cross his fingers and hope that the ‘children’ behave towards their new guests...

This was the first solo feature by Jack Hill, whom Quentin Tarantino dubbed “the Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking”, and it remains one of his wildest and weirdest.

Special Features:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the main feature, available in the UK for the first time
- High Definition transfer of the feature approved by director Jack Hill
- Isolated Music and Effects track
- English SDH subtitles for deaf and hearing impaired
- Audio commentary featuring Jack Hill and star Sid Haig
- The Hatching of Spider Baby – Interviews with Jack Hill, Sid Haig, star Mary Mitchel, fan Joe Dante and more on the making of the film
- Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein – The composer of ‘The Terror’ and ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Woman’ among others is remembered by Harlene Stein, Jack Hill, American Cinematheque’s Chris D. and others
- The Merrye House Revisited – Jack Hill revisits the original house that was used as the main location in the film
- Alternate opening title sequence
- Extended scene
- Gallery of behind-the-scenes images
- The Host (1960) – Jack Hill’s early short film featuring Sid Haig in his first starring role [30 mins]
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humpreys
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by artist and writer Stephen R. Bissette, and more to be confirmed!

Region B/2

BONUS! Check out the two very cool Steelbook variants!

Monday, January 21, 2013



Label: VCI Entertainment
Region Code: 0 NTSC

Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 78 Minutes / 72 Minutes 
Video: 16x9  (1.66:1) /  4x3 (1.33:1) 
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono
Cast: Christopher Lee, Dennis Lotis, Betta St John, Patricia Jessel, Venetia Stevenson
Director: John Moxey / Malcolm Leigh

John Moxley's Gothic  chiller City of the Dead (1960) opens with a fantastic post-credit sequence featuring a witch hunt and burning at the stake in a deeply fog-drenched forest, the witch Elizabeth Selwyn is taken and burned at the stake, before her demise she makes a pact with Lucifer for her soul. Years later a young college student Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) travels to the village of Whitewood in Massachusetts over winter break on the recommendation of her professor Alan Driscoll  (Christopher Leeto do research for a paper on witchcraft. Once there she takes up residence at the Raven's Inn run by Mrs. Newlis. Nan finds the hotel occupied by some strange occupants indeed, namely the reincarnation of the infamous witch Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel) who was burned at the stake in the 17th century. The blonde cutey has unknowingly found herself marked for sacrifice by a coven of the witch's followers. While poor Nan goes the way of Psycho's Janet Leigh her brother Dick (Dennis Lotis), friend Lottie (Ann Beach) and boyfriend  Bill (Tom Naylor) descend upon Whitewood in hopes of finding what has become of her.

That's the set-up, it's simple and effective. This is a first rate British chiller steeped in fog, cobwebs and creepy atmosphere. It hearkens back to a time when horror was creepy and not so steeped in visceral gore and blood-letting, as such those with preconceived notions of something a bit more gruesome may be turned off. Those in the mood for a well-paced atmospheric chiller are in for a treat. We have a small rural village, a cast of creepy characters, the old dark hotel, stony walled catacombs laden in cobwebs and a great cast. Christopher Lee's Prof. Driscoll is of course more involved that it would first appear, Patricia Jessel as the virgin murdering witch fantastic - the stand-out performance and Venetia Stevensen as the smartly naive Nan draws you in right from the beginning. All this creepy build-up pays off at the end with a great finale, this is a top notch chiller, a definite high recommend.

The second feature on this double bill appropriately enough is director Malcolm Leigh's documentary Legend of the Witches (1969). It traces the historical origins of witchcraft in moon-worship and the witches’ legend of creation, it also traces some of these pagan rites to their eventual adoption by Christianity. On paper this seemed like a great double bill but I just found this documentary a bit too dry for me to sink my teeth into at one point tuning it out completely and listening to Black Sabbath's Masters of Reality album with the TV muted, which made for some great imagery in the background which was altogether more interesting to me than watching the doc itself.

The Scream Theater double feature is bare-bones meaning you lose out on the features from VCI's single-disc editions which is not too insignificant, The City of the Dead edition comes with a feature length Commentary with actor Christopher Lee, a 45-minute Interview with Christopher Lee plus the Legend of the Witches contained a trailer, the latter of which is not a problematic but that commentary and interview with icon Christopher Lee is missed! This is a great set at a bargain price but if extras are a concern I say skip the dry Legend of the Witches and snag the stand alone City of the Dead DVD from VCI and let's hope at some point for a Blu-ray, this is an attractive feature and I would love to see it pop in 1080p. 

Both films look fantastic in black white presented in their proper aspect ratio. The City of the Dead look particularly fantastic, a Gothic chiller steeped in fog and cobwebbed creepiness that has been painstakingly restored by VCI (with the cooperation of the British Film Institute) and is presented fully uncut; containing more than 2 blasphemous minutes of additional footage cut from the U.S. version, titled Horror Hotel. 3.5 Outta 5 

DVD Review: COMBAT SHOCK (1984)

Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: 0 NTSC
Duration: 94/97 Min. 
Rating: Unrated 
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Cast: Rick Giovinazzo, Veronica Stork and Mitch Maglio
Director: Buddy Giovinazzo

Synopsis: ‘Nam, a green jungle hell. A terrifying place of death, violence and bloody war where seeing your buddies die in front of you is a daily event and getting your seed corrupted by Agent Orange is an occupational hazard. Poor Frankie came home with a messed up head and scrambled DNA, now he has a mutated baby, a nagging wife and a grim collection of junkie friends to deal with. In the dilapidated tenements of Staten Island, life is harsh and sanity is transitory at best.

Here in my hands I have Buddy Giovinazzo's gritty descent into urban madness, Combat Shock (1984). It's  a film I saw on the VHS shelf many times as a young teen while browsing for horror and one I passed over every single time for several reasons.  One, it was marketed as a war film of sorts, the title just didn't draw me in while I was on the prowl for previously unseen gems from John Carpenter and George A. Romero, the directors of choice at the time. If I had actually known what a gritty and demented head-trip this  was I probably still would have passed it over as that too wouldn't have been my cup of tea at the time, it would have been too fucked-up for me to truly appreciate at that age.

Arrow Video's edition offers two versions of the film, we have Combat Shock (1984) and Govonazzo's original cut of the film American Nightmare that runs about five minutes longer, this is the cut I watched for the reviw. It opens with a nightmarish 'Nam sequence as Frankie (Ricky Giovinazzo) is pursued through the jungles by the Viet Cong, his voice narrates over the scenes explaining that he "goes back there every night, I know it isn't real but the terror is real" just before he abruptly wakes up in his dingy Staten Island, New York apartment. It's straight from one nightmare and directly into another, he wakes up to the sound of his nagging and pregnant wife, the hiss of a humidifier and the otherworldly cries of his deformed infant son, apparently the victim of his father's exposure to agent orange. The dingy apartment is completely disgusting, the toilet is broke, the fridge is empty and the walls are covered in grime - it's a shit hole. When your day begins with a glass of soured milk, what can you say, it's gonna be a shitty day.

Suffering from some pretty obvious post-traumatic stress Frankie is outta of work and he's struggling just to scrape out an existence and provide for his wife and son. The wife ain't no picnic either, she's hungry and tired of living the way they do, she's quite unsympathetic to his post-'Nam struggles and adds more stress to his already dire state of mind. Then there's the clay-faced child screaming away in the background, it's haunting wail is nerve shattering, a hideous aberration of a child that Frankie doesn't really seem to have any attachment to  This creepy child aspect of the film bares more than a passing resemblance to  David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977), there's a lot of Lynch's film present throughout the film, right alongside gritty NYC cinema like Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976) and William Lustig's Maniac (1980) - I would say these three film's definitely informed Giovinazzo's vision without resorting to copying any one of them but the influence is present throughout.

Most of the film is dedicated to Frankie walking the streets of Staten Island,  it's a wastelands and the landscape is oppressive, it's looks burned out and one wouldn't be too surprised if cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers might emerge from the sewer and drag Frankie screaming to his death, but that's not what happens. The creatures on these streets are child prostitutes, pimps, drug addled homeless and violent street toughs.  When Frankie walks past a stray dog eating scraps off the street I was unsure of he would fight the animal for the scrap of food or possibly kill and eat the dog, that's how desperate things are here, this is dark and haunting stuff.

While walking the streets Frankie winds up at the unemployment office where there's no respite given, he bares witness to the harsh realities of poverty including child prostitution, a random woman stealing a gun off a junkie's corpse, plus he is subjected to the menace of thugs to whom he owes some debt, the scumbags threaten the safety of wife and child if the debt is not repaid, and he encounters his childhood friend Mike whom is now a destitute junkie resorting to street crime and pouring drugs directly into his  festering sores for lack of needles, perhaps this is a glimpse into Frankie's own not-too-bright future, things definitely seem hopeless. On top of everything else his own sanity is being chiseled away by not just the oppressive nature of his own reality but by memories and vivid flashbacks to his time in 'Nam as a POW. Watching the film I was overcome with hopelessness and despair, this is potent stuff. 

The acting is a bit spotty at times but Ricky Giovinazzo is outstanding as the crumbling Frankie, he secures the film, it's a fantastic portrayal of a desperate life  Some of the effects work is extremely accomplished for such a low budget endeavor with some great blood work, gunshot wounds and scenes of torture, the finale especially exceeds with bits of viscera and grue on display. The deformed child abomination maybe not so much, but for a puppet created for $140 it's not too shabby either. Adding to the atmosphere of the film are several memorable music ques from actor/musician Rick Giovinazzo who performs a haunting synth score.  The film's nihilistic ending is deeply affecting, as his frayed sanity snaps under the strain of poverty and hopelessness Frankie takes things into his own hands to save his wife and child in the only way that makes any sense to him, and it's a shocker ripped right outta the tabloids. 

DVD: The film is presented in it's original fullframe 1.33:1 aspect ratio and like the film itself it's a gritty and sleazy affair. The interlaced transfer is dull, colors are muted and black levels are pretty awful but some might argue that the trashy presentation, artifacting and all, might just add to the potency of the  film, it doesn't in my opinion but it's not likely we will ever see a restored, cleaned-up high definition presentation either so it is what it is. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is a bit muffled at times, shot on a 16mm Bolex camera the audio was post-dubbed and for what it is it's not awful but like the video it's not great either, that said this is completely watchable and it's distracting to the point of being unwatchable. 

Arrow Video's 2-disc edition mirrors Troma's own Tromasterpiece Collection with the added incentive ofa  reversible sleeve with newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphries and a collector’s booklet with writings from author Anthony Timpone, press book extracts and a new introduction by director Buddy Giovinazzo.

It contains both the 94 minute Troma theatrical version  of the film and the longer 7 minute American Nightmare version constituting Giovinazzo's  original cut - the Tromatic version also benefits from an audio commentary with the director whom is joined by Nekromantik (1987) director Jorg Buttgeeit - it's a great commentary with the director rattling off pretty much anything you could want to know about the film, it's quite candid and he openly addresses the film's shortcomings and limitations plus Troma's re cutting of the film.

Post-Traumatic: An American Nightmare (29:12) is a half hour documentary on the film’s impact and influence featuring interviews with William Lustig (Maniac Cop), John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), Scott Spiegel (Intruder), Richard Stanley (Hardware), Roy Frumkes (Street Trash), David Gregory (Plague Town) and others offering their appreciation of the film and it's haunting power. A lot of credit is given to Chas. Balun's Deep Red fanzine for spreading the word about the film. 

Also included are five of the director early short films including Mr. Robbie (7:56) featuring Joseph Spinel (Maniac) as a children's TV clown whom answers kids letters for help and meads out punishment brutally, this was a fun one with some good gore. Jonathan of the Night (12:58) is a modern day vamp tale, Subconscious Realities (15:26) is a drug tale, after dropping some serious acid a young man is plagues by nightmarish visions of pervy priests, coffins and vile wedding vows. The Lobotomyy (7:13) features a chronic masturbator at an asylum, this one is particularly memorable for a fun electronic freak-out score and the last tale Christmas Album (7:04) has a couple gathered around the Christmas tree unwrapping each other's gifts, for some reason the young man becomes increasingly unpleasant after opening each gift until the situation spins wildly out of control, fun stuff. Also included are three music videos for Rick Giovinazzo's post-punk band Circus 3000.

Interview with director Buddy Giovinazzo (4:06) is an on-camera interview conducted by Lloyd Kaufman wherein Buddy discusses the film's truth, the infamous sour milk scene and the guilty pleasure of putting his brother through the wringer during filming. Unscarred: Interview with star Rick Giovinazzo (6:33) features the star of the film revisiting it after 30 years, topics covered are the tribulations his mother endured during the filming and the final scenes, which were quite upsetting for him. Der Combat: Buddy Giovinazzo and Troma President Lloyd Kaufman at the Tromanale in Berlin (4:25) again features Lloyd catching up with Buddy and discussing the origins of the film, shooting it on 16mm and the film's influences. 

Rounding out the features on disc two are an interview with  Buddy Giovinazzo and Jorg Buttgereit at the Berlin Film Festival (7:53) who appear together on the commentary track which I would assume was recorded around the same time, the Original Theatrical Trailer (3:17) and Hellscapes: The Locations of the film revisited (2:42) featuring then and now video shots of locations used in the film.

Special Features: 

- Feature Presentation of “American Nightmares”, director Buddy Giovinazzo’s Original Cut
- Feature Presentation of “Combat Shock”, the Troma theatrical cut of the film
- Audio Commentary with writer-director Buddy Giovinazzo and Jorg Buttgereit (Nekromantik)
- Post-Traumatic: An American Nightmare (29:12)
- Buddy’s Early Works: Five short films directed by Giovinazzo

- 3 Circus 2000 Music Videos (11:36)
- Interview with director Buddy Giovinazzo (4:06)
- Unscarred: Interview with star Rick Giovinazzo (6:33)
- Buddy Giovinazzo and Jorg Buttgereit at the Berlin Film Festival (7:53)
- Der Combat: Buddy Giovinazzo and Troma President Lloyd Kaufman at the Tromanale in Berlin (4:25)
- Hellscapes: The Locations of the film revisited (2:42)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (3:17)

Verdict: Combat Shock/American Nightmare rises above it's shoe-string budget to offer up something quite unique and unforgettable, a soul-shredding post-'Nam nightmare that just makes you wanna take a razor and open up your wrists out of despair, this is powerful film making albeit one of the most unpleasant viewing experiences you might ever have, a post-war tale of poverty and insanity that contains just as much unpleasant truth today as it did 25 years ago. 
4 Outta 5 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

DVD Review; X-GAME (2010)

X-GAME  (2010)
Label: Danger After Dark
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 119 Min. 
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (2:35:1) 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Yôhei Fukuda
Cast:  Hirofumi Araki, Kazuyuki Aijima, Shôta Chiyo, Meguru Katô, Ayaka Kikuchi
Tagline: Ready or Not... It's Time to Play. 

Synopsis: In 'X-GAME,' Hideaki is kidnapped and when he awakens the next day, finds himself in a recreation of his old schoolroom, along with his recently reunited classmates. Trapped and held captive by mysterious hooded figures, each of them must now play a brutally violent, version of the punishment game...or face death. A twisty, horror/mystery 'mash-up' peppered with dark humor and inventive gore, director Yôhei Fukuda's ('Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad aka Chanbara Beauty') shows how revenge is a dish best served cold and not very sweet - Japanese style

If you've seen the Japanese film DEATH TUBE (2010) then director Yôhei Fukuda's X-GAMES (2010) will seem slightly familiar in design and concept, four people wake up in a classroom held against their will by masked figures armed with ass-whooping cattle prods. In the center of the room is a TV set and a small red box with the letter X emblazoned upon it. A spinning wheel of misfortune on the TV screen chooses one of the four whom are then required to draw a punishment from the "X" box. These bizarre penalties must be administered by the others under penalty of an even more severe punishment - branding with an "x" shaped branding iron seared into their flesh.

Most are a bit reluctant to dole out the punishments but quickly come realize that the consequences of not performing the penalties in the prescribed manner are far worse. There is one guy who seems to relish performing the sadistic and brutal penalties, the characters are not particularly well developed but you do get a feel for who they are just underneath the surface, it's enough to keep you interested in the dynamic amongst them .

As it turns out the four all attended the same grade school and were somehow linked in varying degrees to the bullying of a young girl, could it be that she's behind this bizarre brand of revenge? There's some decent gore and violence on display here, the penalties are based on the pranks and punishments perpetrated upon the young girl whom was bullied years earlier only more extreme. We get a version of sitting on tacks which is now a chair studded with ass-piercing nails, the pencil guillotine just might take a finger off and the clothespin torture has now upgraded to flesh-tearing meat hooks - it's pretty twisted and outrageous stuff. There's definitely some black comedy at work here, it's not laugh out loud funny but a sort of nervous laughter as we witness to the increasingly over-the-top penalties, it's hard not to think of SAW (2004) when watching it, but infused with a dose of twisted humor. 

The film is definitely messaging over and over again that bullying is a pretty terrible thing that leaves deep scars and that the monster you create through you actions might just come back and bite you on the ass in horrific ways, that is messaged throughout the film over and over again, perhaps a bit more than was needed. The major downside to the film is that it's a bit overlong at nearly two hours in length, my interest really started to wain a bit in the final third and the extended ending is a bit more convoluted than I think it needed to be. 

The film is peppered with some neat flashbacks to the bullying years earlier from different points of view that inform the proceedings and fill in some of the missing gaps, it's pretty cool and really changes the way we view some of the characters and alters our sympathies slightly. This is was an entertaining watch with some awesome murder set pieces, a nasty bit of dark comedy with some decent gore, shocking violence and tense moments, definitely worth a watch. 3 Outta 5 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Blu-ray Review: OUR MAN FLINT (1965)


Label: Twilight Time DVD

Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Not Rated 
Duration: 108 Minutes
Video: 1080p Anamorphic Wiescreen (2.35:1)
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HD MA with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Director: Daniel Mann
Cast: James Coburn, Lee J. Cobb, Jean Hale, Andrew Duggan, Anna Lee, Steve Ihnat

Derek Flint (James Coburn)—super-spy, man of multifarious skills, playboy extraordinaire—has his hands full in Our Man Flint (1965), the Bond spoof to end all Bond spoofs. With a team of mad scientists plotting to rule the world by controlling the weather, Flint is called into action by the chief (Lee J. Cobb) of Z.O.W.I.E.—Zonal Organization for World Intelligence and Espionage. Now he must contend with a seductive counter-agent (Gila Golan) and her evil cohort (Edward Mulhare), in a race against time to save the swinging world as we know it. 

James Coburn is the star in this whimsical Bond-spoof actioner from director Daniel Mann (BUtterfield 8), in it we're treated to equal parts homage and anti-007 shenanigans. It's got everything one could hope for from a Bond film plus some wonderfully irreverent humor, too. It's not quite as over-the-top as the Austin Powers films but it's pretty damned funny just the same, and it's interesting to note just how much Austin Powers copped from this film, from the particular tone of a phone to the idea of fem-bots - it's all right here. We get the nifty gadgets, the chics, garish fashions, the shag carpeted bachelor pad, not one, but three villains set on word domination, some hot pleasure unit action plus an awesome volcano lair plus it's all wrapped up in candy-colored 1960's technicolor.

Our super-spy is Derek Flint (Coburn), the character is pretty anti-Bond, the man is just not Sean Connery in any way, shape or form but is instead a lanky fellow with a toothy smile - not what one has come to expect from the super-spy genre but he brings his A-game with charisma to spare and an ultra-cool detachment, it makes for a great performance and he really makes it his own, which is something given how easy it would have been to just give what Coburn himself called a "Bond-age" performance.  

Flint is a former operative of the spy agency Z.O.W.I.E.  and is reluctantly brought back in by the spy chief (J. Cobb) to help stop a trio of scientist bent on controlling the world through means of weather manipulation, these weather manipulation scenes are a mixed bag of awful looking stock footage and dated (but awesome) miniature sets, some far worse than others. Shot relatively cheap the film definitely has it's share of schlocky moments, some o the sets visibly shake at times, but I sort of love that sense of underlying cheapness, it's part of the fun. 

Our Man Flint is fun stuff, there's so much to enjoy here for fans of the spy and spy-spoof genre, this one really holds up, there's some great super-spy riffing to be had and I would find it hard to believe that if you are a fan of the 007 series you won't love this spy spoof on the genre, I prefer it to many of the Roger Moore entries myself, this is great stuff. 

Blu-ray: Twilight Time presents Our Man Flint in a 1080p AVC encoded transfer in the original 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio. The print used for the transfer is in fantastic shape with few if any instances of dirt, scratches or specks and it has a healthy amount of natural film grain too, which is wonderful. The image doesn't exactly pop with 1080p brilliance like you would get from a new title and the fine detail while decent for a film of this age is not all one would hope for but overall this is a very nice image, aside from the truly awful stock footage elements.

The English language DTS-HD Master Audio Mono sounds quite nice, dialogue, score and effects all sound quite good and are presented with wonderful clarity, it's a lively audio track and the Jerry Goldsmith score sounds fantastic, even more so is the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 isolated score track that brings the Jerry Goldsmith score to life when broken free of it's mono theatrical track.  

We get quite a few more extra features on this disc that I am accustomed to seeing from Twilight Time, it's a pleasant surprise. First we get Jerry Goldsmith's isolated music score for the film, a fantastic score with a few nods to John Barry's iconic themes. 

The Audio Commentary with Film Historians Lee Pfeiffer and Eddy Friedfeld is a nice listen, pleasantly conversational and not at all academic or dry, good stuff.  There's an extended Theatrical Trailer (6:42)  for the film presented in 2.35:1 - it's a great trailer, too. 

The first of several featurettes begins with Spy Style (6:48) a brief and fun look back at the film with film critic Chris Gore and set designer Perry Blake that puts the film in context of the spy craze of the 1960's following the box office phenom that was Dr. No (1962)

Up next is Spy-er-Rama (9:14) features Pfeiffer, Friedfeld and screenwriter Ben Starr discussing the film's origins beginning with 20th Century Fox's reluctance to finance any more epic films after the fiasco that was Cleopatra (1963) which nearly bankrupted the studio, plus them wanting to cash-in on the Bond zeitgeist with a mainstream hit. 

Perfect Bouillabaisse (1:30) is a fun recipe laden goof paying tribute to one of the film's tastier subplots. A Gentleman's Game (4:13) is a fond appreciation of James Coburn from cast and crew, remembered as a one of a kind gentleman by all accounts. 

Derek Flint: A Spy is Born (24:29) is the longest of all the other featurettes and also puts the film into context with the 60's and the spy craze, it talks about film's like The House on 92nd Street (1945) and it's gritty docudrama style and the evolution of the spy spoof which aped similar spoofs like The Pink Panther (1963) which were big box office successes. There's some talk about a nutty first draft of the script which involved an alien angle, really weird stuff. eventually screenwriter Ben Starr was brought onto the project and he speaks a bit about his own life's experiences finding their way into the script. James Coburn's daughter Lisa makes an appearance and offers an appreciation of her father's character and sense of style. 

Directing Flint: Daniel Mann (11:09) is a look back at the film's director with fond remembrances from son-in-law Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters) and his son who speaks of ruining the final shot of the Judith (1966) when he inadvertently walked onto camera during an impossible to re-shoot explosive finale. 

My favorite segment was Flint vs Kael (6:07) in which we learn how the legendary film critic loathed the film and the controversy her scathing review stirred up, even ending in her firing from McColl's magazine.

The special features are rounded out by three storyboard to film comparisons totaling about 10 minutes in length  featuring Jerry Goldsmith's score. Lastly but not least are two screen tests featuring James Colburn and Gina Golan in black and white plus another with Coburn opposite a very lovely Raquel Welch who was up for the role of the seductive counter-agent but who instead went on to feature in The Fantastic Voyage (1966) instead. Last but certainly not least is an full-color 8pg. booklet with writings from regular Twilight Time writer Julie Kirgo offering the always insightful liner notes, this time pitting the film's inherent sexism up against the delightful whimsy of the spy spoof.

The disc is jam-packed with extra goodies, a fantastic edition from Twilight Time and surely one of their most well-stocked with extras so far. As with all Twilight Time DVD Blu-ray release this title is limited to just 3,000 editions and is available exclusively from  so snap it up quick if it's appealing to you. 

Special Features: 

- Isolated Score Track 
- Audio Commentary with Film Historians Lee Pfeiffer and Eddy Friedfeld
- Derek Flint: A Spy is Born (24:29) 
- Directing Flint: Daniel Mann (11:09) 
- Spy-er-ama (9:14) 
- Spy Style (6:48) 
- Flint vs Kael (6:07) 
- A Gentleman's Game (4:13) 
- Perfect Bouillabaisse (1:30)
- Screen Test - James Coburn and Gila Golan (4:40)
- Screen Test - Raquel welch and James Coburn (1:54) 
- Storyboard Sequence 1 - Arrival at Galaxy Island (3:46)
- Storyboard Sequence 2 - Control Room Battle (4:31)
- Storyboard Sequence 3 - Escape from Armageddon (1:23)  
- Original Theatrical Trailer (6:26) 

Verdict: This was a first time watch for me and it was quite a romp, James Coburn at first seemed an odd choice to me but he completely owns this film. Our Man Flint is a quite a romp, chock full of jokes, gadgets, lavish sets, volcano lairs and world threatening baddies all wrapped up in garish 60's technicolor awesomeness, this gets a high recommend. 4 Outta 5