Monday, November 30, 2015

BLOOD RAGE (1987) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)

BLOOD RAGE (1983) 
Label: Arrow Video
Rating: Certificate 18
Duration: 82 Minutes
Region: Region Free
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Uncompressed PCM 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 

Director: John Grissmer 
Cast: Louise Lasser, Mark Soper, Marianne Kanter, Julie Gordon, Jayne Bentzen 

Synopsis: Twins Todd and Terry seem like sweet boys that is, until one of them takes an axe to face of a fellow patron at the local drive-in. Todd is blamed for the bloody crime and institutionalised, whilst twin brother Terry goes free. Ten years later and, as the family gathers around the table for a Thanksgiving meal, the news comes in that Todd has escaped. But has the real killer in fact been in their midst all along? One thing’s for sure, there will be blood and rage!

Now I fancy myself something of a slasher movie connoisseur but this is one movie that had evaded me until it was announced by Arrow Video for release, so there's some amount of obscurity to it. Shot in 1983 but not released until 1987, Blood Rage is a gruesome and fun slasher movie, with an offbeat tone and a wicked vein of mean spiritedness. It begins innocently enough at a drive-in movie theater in the year 1974 during a presentation of the b-movie chiller The House that Cried Murder. Horny single mother Maddy (Louise Lasser - Frankenhooker) is on a date with her boyfriend, her adolescent twin boys Terry and Todd are asleep in the back of the car> When Maddy and her boyfriend start groping each other the boys awaken and leave the car through the back without the notice of their irresponsible mother. They wander the drive-in and along the way Terry finds a hatchet in the back of a pick-up truck. When the boys come upon a car with a pair of young lovers screwing in the backseat Terry murders the teen with an ax to the face, it's a wonderfully gruesome scene. As the young woman runs away from car nude, screaming for help, Terry smears blood on Todd's face and paces the murder weapon in his hand, blaming him for the murder. In the aftermath Todd is sent away to an asylum in a catatonic state, unable to speak the truth about his innocence.

Now ten years later Todd is beginning to speak to his doctor Dr. Berman (Marianne Kanter) at the asylum, and he now says that it was his twin Terry who committed the heinous ax murder a decade ago at the drive-in. When Todd's mother comes for a Thanksgiving visit to the asylum to see her son the doc informs her of what Todd has said, but Maddy refuses to accept any of it. That night Todd escapes the asylum and returns home to the Shadow Woods apartments, followed by a string of bloody murders. 

I love the set-up of this movie, it's not original in that it apes John Carpenter's Halloween to a certain degree with a child-murderer sent away to the asylum, only to escape on a holiday and return home years later. This time around it's Thanksgiving, even though turkey day is give short shrift with only a few nods to the day of feasting, though we do get a memorable turkey carving scene. The addition of a twin-thread is a nice move but is wasted, we know that Todd is innocent and Terry is the demented killer from the very start, so there is never a chance to build any sort of suspense or intrigue around the whodunit. It seems to me they could have milked that for a bit more than they did, which is a bit of a waste.

As for the cast we have the raspy voiced Louise Lasser from Frankenhooker as yet another slightly demented mom, she plays it straight and over dramatic to great effect. Actor Mark Soper plays the dual-role of the twins, you might remember him as the teen who gets his cock bitten off in The World According to Garp. He plays Terry as outgoing and cocky, his murder-spree at time reminded me of eric Freeman from Silent Night, Deadly Night Pt. 2, very bizarre. Soper's version of "it's Garbage Day!" comes by way of "It's NOT cranberry sauce". Terry's virginal girlfriend Karen (Jayne Bentzen) proves to be the final girl and looks a bit like Amy Steele from Friday the 13th Pt. 2, which doesn't hurt. 

Most of the fun happens in and around the Shadow Woods apartment complex, or the nature walk in the woods nearby, it's a cheap setting and the sets are rather dull honestly. The wooded area nearby proves more atmospheric but for some reason is over lit and not that scary a place, the movie seems too bright in general for a slasher. Where the movie excels is in the gore gag department, courtesy of special make-up effects creator Ed French who cut his teeth on early '80s horror movies like Sleepaway Camp, Breeders, C.H.U.D. and The Stuff. He creates some fun, creative gore, though some of the seams do shows through with this new HD presentation. The torso cut in half, a head split in two exposing a halved brain, the ax to the face, a decapitation, slashed throats and deep knife wounds will keep the gore hounds happy. There's also multiple scenes of nudity from Andrea (Lisa Randall) and others that will keep the pervs properly aroused, nothing too sleazy, a few shots of horny lovers and a prerequisite shower scene. 

The movie has some issues that might dampen your fun,as stated before the apartment is a dull setting, the pace lags from time to time, and the cast ranges from bad to just offbeat, but Mark Soper and Louise Lasser do offbeat to great effect. Particularly Lasser who plays the loony mom to the hilt, stuffing her face with Thanksgiving leftovers while slumped on the floor in a fit of hysterics, some good stuff from her throughout as she takes it over-the-top. 

Blood Rage is certainly not a top-tier '80s slasher and that's okay by me, it's still a gruesome and mean-spirited slice of slasher cinema that I would put alongside the holiday themed slasher New Year's Evil, not truly awful but entertaining for not quite the right reasons. 

Audio/Video: Slasher obscurity Blood Rage arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow Video in a rather deluxe 3-disc presentation featuring three cuts of the movie. The main course is a brand-new 2K restoration of the “hard” home video version featuring all the gore bits you slasher nuts are gonna want. Framed in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) the HD image looks surprisingly nice, with an over abundance of grain the image can be a bit thick and scrappy at times, if you know anything about me you know I don't mind a some film grain in my movies. I prefer it to the excessive digital scrubbing that wipes away fine detail and tone. Colors are nicely saturated and the black levels and shadow detail are good, though I will say that the brightness level seems a tad high, this might be the brightest slasher since Dario Argento's Tenebre, the woodland nature walk scenes look like they were shot on a football field at night with the lighting cranked-up to max. it certainly takes away from the tone and atmosphere of the movie. 

Audio chores are capably handled by an uncompressed English PCM Stereo 2.0 with some good oomph to it, everything comes through well balanced with good fidelity. I love the synth score from composer Richard Einhorn (Shock Waves, The Prowler) with the perfect amount of synth tinged menace and '80s cheese, the recurring main title theme is a knock-out in my opinion. Optional English subtitles are provided for hard of hearing and hearing impaired, or if you just live with loud kids who make it near impossible to watch a movie ...not that I am speaking from experience.  

Onto the extras this is where Arrow Video have gone above and beyond. Let start with the fact that we have three-versions of the movie beginning with the aforementioned 2K restoration of the “hard” home video version, transferred from the camera negative and featuring the original "Slasher" title card, which is my preferred version. We have all that great gore from special make-up effects creator Ed French. Then we have the Nightmare at Shadow Woods version, a shorter theatrical re-cut featuring footage not seen in the Blood Rage home video version, but minus a lot of the great gore, which has either been omitted or cut down significantly.  The third and final version is the longer alternate Composite Cut of the movie combining footage from the home video and theatrical versions, sourced from various elements the quality fluctuates a bit from scene to scene, but it is an interesting watch, though at the end of the day the "hard" restored home video version is the one to go with in my opinion. 

There's also an audio commentary from director John Grissmer and movie rights-holder John Daly moderated by Ewan Cant from Arrow Video. I have not had a chance to pour through the commentary just yet given I watched all three versions of the movie, I anticipate a commentary viewing in the coming days. 

Arrow Video have teamed-up with Red Short Pictures to bring us a series of brand-new interviews with actors Mark Soper and Louise Lasser, plus Ted Raimi who made his first onscreen appearance with Blood Rage as a condom-selling dweeb at a drive-in. There's also a great interview with producer/actress Marianne Kanter who speaks about the challenges raising money or and the making the movie, plus special make-up effects creator Ed French speaks about his time on the movie creating the gruesome special effects. 

There's also featurette revisiting the original locations in Jacksonville, Florida with film historian Ed Tucker, an alternate VHS opening titles sequence featuring the "Blood Rage" title card, plus an image gallery featuring some cool behind-the-scenes shots of the make-up effects being created and applied, courtesy of Ed French. 

This release also includes a collector's booklet with writing on the movie by Joseph A. Ziemba, author of BLEEDING SKULL! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey, plus a sleeve of reversible artwork. Arrow Video have truly gone above and beyond for this release, they are deserving of the Criterion of Horror honor that is so often thrown their way. Maybe Criterion should be called the Arrow of non-horror...

Special Features:
- Brand new 2K restoration of the “hard” home video version, transferred from the camera negative and featuring the original title card Slasher
- Audio commentary with director John Grissmer
- Both Sides of the Camera – an interview with producer/actress Marianne Kanter (10 Mins) HD
- Double Jeopardy – an interview with actor Mark Soper (11 Mins) HD
- Jeez, Louise! – an interview with actress Louise Lasser(10 Mins) HD
- Man Behind the Mayhem – an interview with special make-up effects creator Ed French (13 Mins) HD
- Three Minutes with Ted Raimi – an interview with actor Ted Raimi (3 Mins) HD
- Return to Shadow Woods – featurette revisiting the original locations in Jacksonville, Florida with film historian Ed Tucker (6 Mins) HD
- Alternate VHS Opening Titles with the "Blood Rage" Title Card (5 Mins)
- Motion still gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes make-up photos (5 Mins) HD 
- Nightmare at Shadow Woods – the re-edited 1987 theatrical re-cut featuring footage not seen in the Blood Rage home video version (79 Mins) HD
- Alternate composite cut of the feature combining footage from the home video and theatrical versions (82 Mins) HD
- Never-before-seen outtakes (27 Mins) HD 

- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach

- Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Joseph A. Ziemba, author of BLEEDING SKULL! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey

Blood Rage is a cheesy eighties slasher, there's not a lot of originality about it, the acting is offbeat to say the least, but it does manage to pass the time nicely.  For me it's the loony performances of Louise Lasser as the loving mother and the dual-role from Mark Soper, plus the creative gore from Ed French that will keep me coming back to this one. On top of that we have a solid A/V presentation with loads of awesome extras, this anemic '80s slasher had received one mighty fine release from Arrow Video.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


3-Disc Limited Edition BD/DBD/CD
Label: Blue Underground
Release Date: December 15th 2015 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 87 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English DTS-HD Mono, Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Marie Liljedahl, Maria Rohm, Jack Taylor, Christopher Lee, Paul Muller

Synopsis: Marie Liljedahl (the luscious star of INGA) is Eugenie, an innocent young woman taken to an island paradise where she is initiated into a world of pleasure and pain controlled by the sinister Dolmance (the legendary Christopher Lee). But when she surrenders to her own forbidden fantasies, Eugenie becomes trapped in a frenzy of drugs, sadomasochism and murder. Can a frightened girl in the grip of carnal perversion find sanctuary in the orgies of the depraved? 

A young woman named Eugenie (Marie Liljedahl) becomes an unwilling pawn in a soul-maddening game of sexual corruption when the sultry Marianne Saint-Ange (Maria Rohm) seduces the young woman's father, somehow convincing him to let the young girl spend a weekend on her private island for some fun and games. Marianne also invites her creepy half-bother Mirvel (Jack Taylor) to the island for the arousing weekend, and together the pair of pleasure and pain crazed siblings set about drugging and corrupting the young girl. 

Eugenie is essentially a movie about the diabolical corruption of a young woman by two demented and incestuous siblings. They set about drugging her with drug-laced wine and having their way with her in a myriad of way. Afterward they re dress her and when she awakens she's confused and unknowingly used. Eugenie is so out of her mind on drugs that she believes the half-remembered orgies may have just been a bad wine-induced dream, but little does she realize. By the end of the movie she becomes entangled in sadomasochistic orgies and murder, with a shocker multi-twist finale that might leave your head spinning in the aftermath of this erotic tale of corruption. 

The early '70s were a great period of cinema for director Jess Franco, who at the time was just coming off the adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's Justine, the modern era sits well with the somewhat difficult sexual-deviancy of the material, though this adaptation also softens the blow of the source material, which is rather shocking even to this day. The production is lavish and the locations are pretty fantastic, the island location is something Franco would return to again and again in later movies, from She Killed In Ecstasy to Countess Perverse. As with may of his seventies movies the lensing is top-notch, gorgeous shots of the coastline and beaches surrounding Marianne's lavish island paradise are eye-catching with some great lensing and shot composition, with one awful exception. I couldn't ignore the numerous shots that were slightly out of focus, making me feel like my eyes were failing me. Some say that these focus-challenged shots are a device meant to convey the surreal, drugged-up state of mind of young Eugenie, but I that's a crock of shit, this is just not properly focused, and if you've watched any number of Franco movie yo know that this happens from time to time. It did begin to wear on me after awhile but I must say that in the long run the movie is so well shot that it's not ruinous to the movie overall, this is still a fantastic slice of '70s art house sleaze from Franco with a very cool exotic jazz score from Bruno Nicolai.

The cast is superb, we have the young and attractive Marie Liljedahl as the wide-eyed Eugenie, she's coming of age, sexually charged and a bit doe-eyed, but in a good way, not like Romina Power in Justine with her vacant expressions. Liljedahl has more range and nuance in her role, but she always comes through as a corrupted innocent, not a sex-kitten playing an innocent. Maria Rohm is fantastic as the gorgeously deviant Marianne Saint-Ange, she is detestable but she's so damn sexy, I wouldn't mind it if she corrupted me, as long as she kept her creepy brother out of it. Speaking of whom, we Eurocult star Jack Taylor as the half-brother of Marianne, a suitably creepy and deviant portrayal, Taylor always brings some heat to any of his roles. Horror icon Christopher Lee drops in for an extended cameo as the on-screen narrator Dolmance, of course adding a touch of class to the otherwise devious movie. 

Audio/Video: Eugenie ...the Story of Her Journey into Perversion (1970) arrives on Blu-ray from Blue Underground benefiting from a brand-new 4K HD restoration and as with Marquis de Sade's Justine the image is fantastic. This time out Franco with with scope aspect ratio and the results are wonderfully filmic. The HD image has a nice clarity about it, the organic film grain is nicely managed and the fine detail and colors are robust. Skin tones appear natural with just the right amount of sensual warmth, the movie also uses colored-tinted scenes bathed in red and they look great. The English DTS-HD Mono 1.0 audio is crisp and clean, the English-dubbed dialog and Bruno Nicolai's haunting exotic score come through nicely, optional English SDH subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras we get 17-minute Perversion Stories extra carried over from the 2004 Blue Underground DVD featuring Interviews with Director Jess Franco, Producer Harry Alan Towers, and Stars Marie Liljedahl and Christopher Lee who speak about the making of the movie. Franco discusses the casting of the movie, and working with Christopher Lee, and a few of the locations used in the movie. Actress Marie Liljedahl also speaks about accepting the role, figuring that if Lee was on board it must be alright, while Lee for his part says he had no idea of the erotic nature of the movie, which I find a little hard to swallow. 

There's also a 18-minute interview with Stephen Thrower, author of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco", who again speaks about the various differences between the source material and the adaptation that appears on screen, not the least of which would be the contemporary setting, pointing out that Eugenie is toned down quite a bit, coming off a bit more like Sade's Justine than Eugenie. As with the Justine release from Blue Underground there's also writing on the film from Thrower adapted from his book "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco", featuring promotional images and poster art, a CD track listing, chapter selection, and production credits for the movie.  Additionally there's a DVD featuring the movie with the same set of extras and a bonus CD of Bruno Nicolai's exotic lounge score, and a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original 2004 Blue Underground DVD artwork and an alternate artwork option. 

Special Features:
- Perversion Stories - Interviews with Director Jess Franco, Producer Harry Alan Towers, and Stars Marie Liljedahl and Christopher Lee (17 Mins) 
- Stephen Thrower on EUGENIE - Interview with the author of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco" (18 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins) HD 
- Poster and Still Gallery (123 Images) HD 
- 20-Page Collectible Booklet includes writing by author Stephen Thrower
- Eugenie Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by Bruno Nicolai (19 Songs, 55 Mins) 

This just might be a top five Franco movie for me, a nice blend of art house erotica and lurid exploitation, Franco was a master of both and rarely did they come together in such a delirious and woozy way onscreen, this is primo Franco. If you're a Franco-phile this is a serious no brainer, you need to own this. 4/5

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE (1969) (Blue Underground Blu-ray Review)

3-Disc Limited Edition BD/DVD/CD

Label: Blue Underground 

Release Date: December 15th 2015 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 124 Minutes
Rating: Unrated 
Audio: English DTS-HD Mono 2.0  / Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 with optional english Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Romina Power, Maria Rohm, Klaus Kinski, Akim Tamiroff, Howard Vernon, Rosalba Neri, Jack Palance

Synopsis: Romina Power (18-year-old daughter of Tyrone Power) stars as Justine, a nubile young virgin cast out of a French orphanage and thrust into a depraved world of prostitution, predatory lesbians, a fugitive murderess (Mercedes McCambridge), bondage, branding, and one supremely sadistic monk (an outrageous performance by Jack Palance). It's a twisted tale of strange desires, perverse pleasures and the ultimate corruption of innocence as told by the Marquis de Sade. JUSTINE is one of the most lavish and bizarre erotic shockers ever made by the notorious Jess Franco (SUCCUBUS), bursting with wanton nudity, sexual perversion, and an all-star cast that also includes Akim Tamiroff (TOUCH OF EVIL), Maria Rohm (EUGENIE) and Klaus Kinski (NOSFERATU) as the Marquis de Sade. Also known as JUSTINE AND JULIET and the heavily-cut DEADLY SANCTUARY, this infamous film is presented completely restored and uncensored in a gorgeous new 4K transfer from the original camera negative!

More Jess Franco in HD will always be a good thing for us lovers of Eurocult and '70s cinema sleaze, praise be to cult movie distributor Blue Underground for bringing a pair of Franco's most lavish '70s productions to Blu-ray for the first time in North America! The first of Franco's partnership with producer Harry Alan Towers spawned an adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's story of Justine, wherein sisters Justine (Romina Power,) and Juliette (Maria Rohm, Venus in Furs) are orphaned after the death of their father. With no money to pay for their education the young women are booted from the convent and sent out into the streets with only a small amount of gold to see them through. The more lascivious sister Juliette takes refuge as a whore at Madame de Buission's brothel where she becomes the lesbian lover of whore Claudine (Rosemary Dexter). The younger and more virginal sister Justine chooses not to live the life of a whore and puts her faith in a priest she meets n the streets, only to be cheated of her gold by the frocked bastard, and so begins her descent into a series of unfortunate depravity and corruption. 

Justine finds shelter as a maid working for an innkeeper named Monsieur du Harpin, but when she refuses his direct orders she is framed for the theft of an amulet and sent to prison as a thief. In prison she encounters an aged murderess named Monsieur Derroches (Mercedes McCambridge, 99 Women) who enlists the young woman's aid to free themselves from the prison prison, which she does, the daring escape involves a fire which burns to the prison ground, killing both guards and prisoners. Once freed Justine is betrayed by Derroches who offers the nubile woman to her lecherous henchman as a reward for their service, she only narrowly escapes the rape when the men begin to fight among themselves, quarrelling over whom should have the honor of deflowering the young woman first.

As viewers we are privy to the parallel adventures of her sister Juliette (Rohm), who along with her lover Claudine have murdered Madame de Buission and made off with her gold, but Juliette turns on her lover in a moment of greed, drowning her for her share of the gold. Meanwhile Justine finds herself a servant to the Marquis de Bressac who asks for her help in poisoning his wife, when she refuses the Marquis proceeds to frame her for murder of hs wife, branding Justine with the mark of a murderess on her breast. Afterward the suffering Justine end up at a monastery where she feels she may have finally found salvation, only to realize she's ended up amidst a cult of sex-crazed Monks lead by deviant Father Antonin, actor Jack Palance in one of his most crazed performances, drunk and slurring his words, chewing-up the scenery like you won't believe. Spotted amongst the cult members are Franco regular Howard Vernon (She Killed In Ecstacy), whom torture the poor young woman, before she escapes their clutches and into the awful hands of fate who continue to deliver blow after blow to the virtuous young woman. 

In true Sade form those with vice profit from their deviancy while the virginal Justine only finds cruelty and betrayal at every turn, each vignette of her story further worsening her situation as she slips from one corruption to the next. Unfortunately actress Romina Power is a bit too doe-eyed and non-expressive in the role of the tortured Justine, she's truly not as awful as Franco recounts but she is not on par with Rohm, or Soldedad Miranda either, though she does exude a certain naive innocence. At times she looks like she might me a be strung-out or otherwise emotionally disengaged. Madman Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu the Vampire) appears in a weird and unnecessary framing device as the imprisoned Marquis de Sade, the white-wigged author who seems to be penning the story of Justine as he paces around his cell looking bored and little frustrated. At over 120-minutes in length I think this is a bit of padded fluff that could have been excised, but it's always nice to see Kinski in a Eurocult-classic, the guy's face is worth a thousand lunatic word and he exudes madness, even in a wordless role. As mentioned previously we have Jack Palance as Father Antonin, on the extras Franco says the actor would start drinking red wine at 7 a.m. and not let up, and it shows in his performance, he is unhinged and unrestrained. Maria Rohm (Franco's Venus in Furs) doesn't get a lot of screen time here but she's solid, I can see why Franco used her more prominently in Eugenie just a few months later, she has a classic old Hollywood beauty about her, but is also sexy and charming. 

This is a lavish production from Franco and Towers with wonderful period costuming and some great locations, with some great lensing from cinematographer Manuel Merino who lensed a few of Franco's finest, notably Vampyros Lesbos. There's also a great symphonic score from Ennio Morricone acolyte Bruno Nicolai that complements the movie with a wonderfully dramatic score with sweeping orchestral compositions. This might mark the beginning of a familiar Sade theme among the movies of Jess Franco, tales of the elite and powerful of society corrupting the innocent and the naive, themes we've seen in How To Seduce a Virgin and the even more erotic (and x-rated) The Hot Night of Linda, but it was the movies with producer Harry Alan Towers that were the most lavish and beautifully shot. If you're only familiar with Franco's more cash-strapped productions this might be an eye-opener for you, he was a a capable craftsman when give the proper resources and this is proof of that. 

Audio/Video: Distributors Blue Underground bring Marquis de Sade's Justine to Blu-ray with a brand new 4K transfer from the original camera negative and the results are outstanding. Grain is nicely managed, colors are vibrant, and there's some wonderful clarity and openness to the image with loads of fine detail accenting the period costuming and the tender flesh, this is a fest for prying eyes. Onto the audio we have a solid English DTS-HD Mono 1.0 track that has a nice fidelity about it, balancing the dubbed-dialogue and the symphonic Bruno Nicolai score very nicely, optional English SDH subtitles are provided. 

Blue Underground offer a few informative bonus features, beginning with carrying over the The Perils And Pleasures Of Justine featurette, with interviews with Co-Writer/Director Jess Franco and Producer Harry Alan Towers, Franco goes into the tone of the screenplay, the shooting locations, how this was an expensive production for him at the time and touching on the various cast, including the notoriously drunk Jack Palance, his unhappiness with the casting of Romina Power and her performance, and how he found it rather easy to work with Klaus Kinski, who is famously portrayed as one of the most tyrannical actors of cinema by directors such as Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the Warth of God) and David Schmoeller (Crawlspace). Franco also speaks about the censorship the movie faced and the various cuts of the film. 

There's a new 18-minute interview with author Stephen Thrower on Justine who speaks about the movie and the differences in the source materials and what ended up onscreen, and for someone like myself who is not well-versed in the literary works of Sade I found it very interesting. He also puts the movie into context among Franco's other movies, this being one of his largest budgeted productions at the times, also speaking about the cast of the movie, though he doesn't savage Power's performance quite a much as Franco himself. 

Additionally on the disc we have a gallery of 70-images featuring various production stills, international poster artwork, and the video releases. There's also a French language trailer for the movie. separate from the disc we have a 20-page booklet with writing on the film from Thrower adapted from his book "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco", featuring promotional images and poster art, a CD track listing, and production credits for the movie.  Additionally there's a DVD featuring the movie with the same extras, plus a CD of the Bruno Nicolai score, and a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original 2004 Blue Underground DVD artwork and an alternate option. 

Special Features: 

- The Perils And Pleasures Of Justine - Interviews with Co-Writer/Director Jess Franco and Producer Harry Alan Towers (20 Mins) 
- Stephen Thrower on JUSTINE - Interview with the author of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco" (18 Mins) HD 
- French Trailer (4 Mins) HD 
- Poster and Still Gallery (70 Images) HD 
- 20-Page Collectible Booklet includes writing by author Stephen Thrower
- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by Bruno Nicolai (27 Tracks, 58 Mins) licensed from Beat Records 

Marquis de Sade's Justine (1969) gets a top-notch release from Blue Underground with a fantastic 4K transfer from the original camera negatives, the A/V presentation is one of the best I've seen this year, with some great extras and the added bonus of a Bruno Nicolai score on CD. Franco-philes and Eurocult lovers are in for a real treat, this may not be my favorite Jess Franco movie but this is one of the best Franco releases on Blu-ray to date, on par with Severin's superb Blu-rays of She Killed in Ecstasy and Vampyros Lesbos, it's has been a banner year for Jess Franco in HD. 



Label: Olive Films
Region Code: A
Rated: R
Duration: 110 minutes
Audio: Enlish DTS-HD MA 5.1 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen ( 1.85:1)
Cast: Simon Pegg, Jeff Bridges, Kirsten Dunst, Danny Huston, Megan Fox, Gillian Anderson
Director: Robert B. Weide

Synopsis: Based on the memoir by Vanity Fair columnist Toby Young, How To Lose Friends and Alienate People stars Simon Pegg (Shaun of The Dead) as journalist Sidney Young, a fictionalized version of the author. Hired by Sharpes magazine editor Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski), Sidney moves from his native England to the United States to write celebrity profiles for the glossy monthly. Much like oil and water, Sidney does not mix well with his interview subjects, the Sharpes staff or people in general. Despite biting the hand that feeds him, turning “celebrity” into “mockery,” Sidney soon finds himself in the limelight when he’s promoted. But he’ll discover that fifteen minutes of fame is indeed fleeting.

I will pretty much watch any movie starring Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead, I love the guy, add to that supporting roles from Jeff Bridges (The Big Lebowski) and Gillian Anderson (X-Files) and I am already in favor of your movie without having watched it. The movie is based on a memoir by an infamous  Vanity Fair columnist I've never heard of, so accordingly I cannot account for how wildly inaccurate it may or may not be based on the memoir or reality, and I don't really care, it's a movie. Pegg stars as journalist Sidney Young who lampoons celebrity culture in his indie tabloid the Post-Modern Review, who somehow winds up on the staff of the wildly popular Sharpes magazine, run by editor Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges), who sees the irreverent Young as a reminder of his own early days in tabloid publishing, and Young is a bit of a fanboy of Harding's earlier work as well, and looking forward to working for one of his heroes. 

Once on staff at the respectable magazine things don't go well for the formerly venomous journalist who fails to find his niche in the magazine, now that he's been invited to rub elbows with the stars of the days his muse seems to have escaped, now that he must contend with pretentious young directors and vapid young actress named Sophie Maes (Megan Fox) and her scheming publicist (Anderson). A backstabbing coworker (Danny Huston) who also steals his few good ideas for his own career benefit and Pegg has a love/hate relationship with his coworker Alison. 

At the end of the day this is a decently fun romp through Hollywood celebrity culture that will appeal to fans of reality TV and E entertainment Television, but its lacks any direction and is very middle of the road. At the heart of the story is the tale of how Pegg's character goes from celebrity-envious blogger to sell-out journalist and back again, with a love interest thrown into the mix by way of Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man),  his coworker with a heart of gold, whom carries around a notebook in which she is writing her first novel, which is all a bit eye-rolling to be honest.

Pegg is great fun as ever and if you're a fan of his work you will probably love him, but the movie is a mediocre send-up of the movie industry and celebrity culture that lacks true wit I felt this needed to be a darker comedy, and if it weren't for the inclusion of Pegg and the goodwill of the supporting cast (Anderon, Bridges, Dunst) I don't think I would have made it through to the end. This falls somewhere between The Devil Wears Prada and something else I normally wouldn't want to watch, but just on the goodwill of the ensemble cast I made it through. I didn't hate i, but this is disposable comedy, a one and done for me, but probably a perfectly enjoyable watch for most. 2.5/5

Saturday, November 21, 2015



Label: Impulse Pictures

Region Code: 1
Rating: Unrated Duratin: 61 minutes
English: English Dolby Migital Mono 
Video: Full-Frame (1.33:1) Presentation
Director: Zebedy Colt
Cast: Spalding Gray, Gayle Leonard, Susan McBain, Nancy Dare, Jon Black

Synopsis: An innocent afternoon of spying on their parents having sex (and then forcibly sexually assaulting the farm hand) turns even more vile for three daughters when escaped convicts pick their farm to hide from the cops! A horrifying, hardcore afternoon of assault, torture and incest follows as the convicts take advantage of the entire family, culminating in a shocking, perverted game of “Simon Says” and a weirdly mixed and edited final montage. This film is the very definition of “hardcore,” and one of the most eyebrow raising films in the Impulse Pictures library!

What starts off as a goofy hayseed porno with a trio of sisters watching their ma and pa bone through a bedroom window increasing turns darker and darker as the events unfold. Farmer's Daughters (1976) is a hairy-bushed slice of  '70s porn laced with enough unflattering close-ups of pussy-penetration that it might put you off of eating hot dogs for a while afterward, haha. 

After seeing their hayseed parents bump uglies for awhile the trio of sexy young ladies, one with a notably gorgeous ass framed in a pair of knock out cut off shorts, are interrupted by the annoying farm hand Fred, which they don;t seem to appreciate much at all. They drag poor Fred back to the barn and have their way with him, sucking on his cock, forcing hm to eat pussy, mounting him and threatening to bite his cock off between moans of pleasure. When they've had their fill of Fred's johnson they unleash a barrage of golden-showers upon him. 

After that the movie takes a turn for the darker aspects of "roughie" porno when three thugs show up at the farm armed with guns. They force the bearded father to watch his wife be raped, forced to perform various sex acts. The movie started off with a playful with the daughters watching mom and dad bone, but now we have a weird version of The Last Farm on the Left, and it's played very straight without any humor. When they've had their fun with tormenting mom they move onto the trio of young ladies, sodomizing them while they cry that it hurts... damn, this is getting darker by the second and makes for some uneasy viewing, despite that this looks like it cost about a buck to make and the acting is awful I have to say it certainly captured a lewd depravity that made for an uneasy watch. 

But fear not, the thugs didn't notice the farm hand Fred from earlier , whom has since escaped from his bondage and wiped away the urine and found a gun. He shows up and shoots one of the thugs, but is still pissed-off about the whole rape and golden-showers scenario that played out earlier. His first order of business is forcing the mom to suck his cock before moving on to worse things, such as forcing the father to have sex with his daughter, and forcing the daughters to sex-up the mom... yep, we've gone to incest folks. 

This was a crazy watch, I don't have a lot of experience with '70s roughies so this was quite an eye-opener. It started off with a playful porn scenario but went dark  and kept getting darker, and I must say it didn't do much for me in any arousing way, but I have to give it props for the story premise, a weird hayseed version of Wes Craven's Last House on the Left. I also liked that it had it's own bluegrass theme song, and the corny dialogue is worth the price of admission alone, the low-budget hairy-bushed porn is just a cum-drizzled bonus. Not my cup of tea but o each their own. 

BLOOD AND LACE (1971) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory 
Release Date: November 24th 2015 
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 87 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Philip Gilbert
Cast: Melody Patterson, Dennis Christopher, Gloria Grahame, Milton Selzer, Len Lesser, Vic Tayback

Synopsis: After her mother's brutal murder at the hands of a hammer-wielding maniac, teenaged Ellie Masters (Melody Patterson) is suddenly orphaned. She is sent to a home for children run by the enigmatic Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame, a 1952 Best Supporting Actress Academy Award® winner for her role in The Bad and The Beautiful), in spite of the concern that Ellie will be the newest target of her mother's killer. But as terror strikes again and again, it becomes unclear who might be the bigger threat to Ellie's life: the mysterious murderer with a hammer… or her sadistic new caretaker. With borderline insane plot twists, and some unexpected performances by two faces familiar to fans of classic sitcoms – Vic Tayback ("Mel" from Alice) and Len Lesser ("Uncle Leo" from Seinfeld) – this little-known horror gem is a jolting, terror-filled thriller you've got to see to believe.

In this '70s proto-slasher shocker we have a hammer-wielding maniac on the loose, making an orphan out of a whore's daughter. We begin with some tasty POV from the killer's perspective as he sneaks into a house through a window, rummaging through a tool-drawer in the kitchen where he discovers his weapon of choice, a claw hammer. Now we switch to some gruesome hammer-cam shots of the murderer smashing a woman's face in repeatedly with the claw-end of the hammer, along with that of her hourly-rate lover who is sleeping beside her. It;s a terrific start to the move, and I couldn't help but wonder if the creepy POV shots might have been a bit of an influence on not just John Carpenter's Halloween but maybe even the seminal Black Christmas, which didn't come to cinema for another three years. After the lovers are properly dead the killer throws the bloodied hammer on the floor, sets fire to the curtains, and flees the scene while the house burns down. 

In the aftermath the whore's teen-aged daughter Ellie (Melody Patterson, TVs F Troop) becomes an unfortunate and mentally unstable orphan, sent to an orphanage for wayward children run by the demented Mrs. Deere (Gloria Graham, The Big Heat) and her handyman, played by Len Lesser, better known to my demographic as "Uncle Leo" from Seinfeld, and if you thought he was just a bit odd on Seinfeld you ain't seen nothing yet my friend.  Mrs. Deere and Tom have quite a scheme in place at the orphanage, they receive a monthly fee from the county for taking in the orphans, but the place is awful and they work the kids to the bone, and many of the kids would rather run away, but if they try and get caught it means certain death for them at the hands of the handyman. 

There's a scene early on of a young boy running away from the orphanage, the handyman follows him into the nearby woods with a hatchet in hand. The boy tries to hide behind a too-skinny of a tree with his arms wrapped-around the trunk in plain site of the handyman who flings the ax which slicing off the boy's hand. The kids gets away, sort of, and the handyman tucks the severed appendage into the boys suitcase and tucks it away in the basement, where it will obviously be found later by someone to push along the story. 

We discover how the scheme works, when the kids attempt to runaway and are killed their corpses are stored in a walk-in freezer in the basement, when the local county case worker shows up to do a head count they thaw the kids out and place them in the infirmary, but they warn the case worker Mr. Mullins (Milton Selzer) that the kids are contagious and he should keep his distance.

There's also a weird story thread that goes absolutely nowhere, a demented science fiction arc after we discover that Mrs. Deere's deceased husband is stored down in the freezer, too. Apparently having died of natural causes, but Deere goes on for a bit about how someday in the near future science will find a way to cure the dead of their illnesses. She drops it just that once to us and it is never again brought up, which is so damn weird to me, it makes me think that there must have been a longer variant of the script that touched on that topic more. 

I almost forgot, fans of the long running TV show Alice (1979-1985) will get a kick out of seeing Vic Tayback who portrayed the owner of Mel's diner in the show, appearing here as the cop investigating the murder of Ellie's mother. In another weird twist the guy who is way to keen on the young girl, if you know what I mean. At one point mentioning that the young Ellie would make good "breeding stock", uh-oh. 
Tayback's cop character suspects that whomever murdered her mother and burned down the house might still be around and may come after young Ellie to tie up any loose ends, and sure enough a freak with a burned face shows up around the orphanage and things get even weirder/

Blood and Lace is a cheap and demented slice of '70s exploitation and I loved every frame of it, this is a terrific slice if drive-in terror fuel. Loaded with many familiar faces and shocking - and often head-scratching - twists and turns that will have you coming back for more again and again, and that zinger of a shocker at the end will have you scratching your head in disbelief.

Audio/Video: Blood and Lace (1971) arrives on Blu-ray for the first time from Scream Factory looking a little on the soft side at times but otherwise quite nice. I see some organic looking film grain and decent fine detail during the close-ups. There's a surprising lack of print damage aside from a few white specks now and again this looks pretty great in HD. The DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 audio is solid, dialogue and the library sourced music cues are clean and crisp, but the music can be a bit jarring at times,  sounding like a a cross between the Universal Monsters movie music from the '30s and the Dragnet TV show, a bit on the brassy and dramatic side of things, which only adds yet another layer of weirdness ot he movie. 

Supplemental materials are on the thin-side of things but not bare. There's a pretty fantastic commentary from Film Historian Richard Harland Smith who gives a lively presentation with loads of fun facts and anecdotes about the cast, particularly star Melody Patterson, whom he had a crush on back in the day. There's also an alternate opening title sequence featuring the 'Blood and Lace' title card, the print used for the HD transfer uses the alternate title of 'The Blood Secret', which is actually more apt as I didn't see any lace throughout the movie. There's also a theatrical trailer for the movie and a reversible sleeve of artwork.

Special Features

- NEW Audio Commentary By Film Historian Richard Harland Smith
- Alternate Opening Title (1 Mins) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) 

Apparently this is the first time the sleazy hammer-slammer whodunit has received any legitimate home video release, so I tip my hat to Scream Factory for rescuing this one from whatever dusty vault they found it in, they're doing the cinema-lords work right here. On top of just the fact that the A/V quality is very pleasing and it might be a bit thin on bonus content, that commentary track is fun and fact-filled. Lovers of corny pre-slasher mayhem and seedy drive-in cinema aren't going to want to miss out on this one, highly recommended. 3/5 


Thursday, November 19, 2015

DEATH NURSE (1988) (DVD Review)


Label: Olive Films / Slasher // Video 

Region Code: 1 NTSC
Duration: 58 Minutes 
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 
Video: Full Frame (1.33:1) 
Director: Nick Milland
Cast:  Priscilla Alden, Albert Eskinazi, Royal Farros

Welcome to the Shady Palms Clinic, a medical facility where Nurse Edith Mortley (Priscilla Alden) and her demented brother, Doctor Gordon Mortley (Albert Eskinazi) will welcome you in with a smile and murder you with a grin. This trashy SOV entry may be one of the most laborious and boring of all the Shot-On-Video movies... and that is saying something quite damning. Director Nick Millard also brought us the SOV oddity Cemetery Sisters (1988) a year a later, a movie that shares the murder for profit motif and also also borrows a lengthy scene from his earlier movie Criminally Insane (1975) to pad out the running time. And even then this anemic production comes in at just under 58-minutes.  A short run time seems to be the director's stamp of grade-z awfulness, but after watching it I couldn't imagine it running any longer without inducing a cinema-coma. 

The movie seems to borrow a thread from the proto-slasher Blood and Lace (1971) in which the culprits reuse the corpses of their victims by staging the stiffs to fool a nosey social worker into thinking all patients have been accounted for, so they can keep on murdering for profit. When it comes identifying the worst movie ever made I cannot definitively say that Death Nurse is the winner, but I will say that anyone who says Troll 2 or even Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space might be the worst clearly have not see any Nick Milland movies, a man who knows a thing or two about extending a scene of scooping ice cream and grave digging to the point of ridiculousness. This boils down to a whole lot of nothing punctuated by some mind-numbing moments of murder with some schlocky splashes of blood and an angry looking nurse who scowls a lot. 

Audio/Video: Disclaimer: Death Nurse, originally Shot On Video, is presented using the best available elements provided by Slasher // Video. That's right, it looks awful and sounds bad, this was shot on video back in the '80s and it looks and sounds exactly how you would imagine a VHS sourced movie should appear - not very good. 

I have so much admiration for Slasher // Video's Jesus Teran for the love and care he puts into these straight-to-video releases, he goes above and beyond what is called for. This release comes fully loaded with an arsenal of bad movie goodies, beginning  with an audio commentary with Director Nick Millard and Producer Irmi Millard moderated by Terán of Slasher // Video. There's also a scathing but completely honest video review of the movie from Paul Zamarelli of Additionally we have a Q and A with the director, an image gallery, a tribute to actress Priscilla Alden, and trailers for the movie and the... sequel. As they say, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Director Nick Millard, Producer Irmi Millard, and Jesus Terán of Slasher // Video
- Exclusive Film Review By Paul Zamarelli of (14 Mins)
- Remembering Priscilla Alden (Featurette) (14 Mins)
- Shady Palms Waiting Room (1 Mins)
- Death Nurse Q and A (15 Mins)
- Photo Gallery (39 Images)
- Original VHS Release Intro
- Death Nurse Trailer (1 Mins)
- Death Nurse II Trailer (3 Mins) 

Quite a slice of trashy SOV awfulness through and through, there's nothing redeemable about this one and if you're a fan I think you need to question the decisions you've made in you're life. On the plus side, if someday you are told you only have 58-minutes to live I promise you that if you have the resources to find this movie and watch it you will have felt like you lived for at least eight more hours, but then you have to ask yourself if was it worth it? No matter how long you have left in this life I promise you that there will never be enough time for you to have sit through this movie in your lifetime, or the next. 1/5