Saturday, January 23, 2016

OVER YOUR DEAD BODY (2014) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 94 Minutes
Audio: Japanese DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, Stereo 2.0, English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Ebizô Ichikawa, Kô Shibasaki, Maiko, Miho Nakanishi, Toshie Negishi, Hideaki Itô, Hiroshi Katsuno, Ikkô Furuya

I will say at the top of this review I am an admittedly casual Takashi Miike movie fan. I have seen a dozen or so of his better known and widely distributed movies, from about 1999 forward. Like many I first became aware of Miike through the notorious movie Audition (1990). I specifically became aware of it and the director through Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments which aired in 2004. It was one of only a handful of the movies featured on the list that I hadn't seen at that point. As any respecting horror fan would I made it a point to seek it out, I found it hard to digest, a slow-burn for sure, but with these weird disturbing moments peppered throughout which hinted at something awful just ahead... and then that payoff ...whoa. 

Afterward I set out to watch more from Miike, I had just started my Netflx physical DVD subscription and they had a decent array of his movies. I saw the more notorious Yakua movies (Ichi the Killer, Deadly Outlaw: Rekka) and a few samurai films (13 Assassins, Hara-Kiri), then onto his Three... Extremes anthology entry and I caught up with his notable episode of from Showtime's Masters of Horror once it hit DVD. All in all  I have seen about a dozen of his films, which is only a tenth of a percent of his over 100 movies! Miike is like Jess Franco during his most prolific period in the seventies and eighties on anabolic steroids, keeping up with his filmography nearly qualifies as a life style choice, it's massive. So, here I am with one of his more recent entries, the Miike journey continues. 

The happenings of this movie revolve around a trio of young actors entwined in a tragic love triangle. Actress Miyuki Goto (Ko Shibasaki), her husband actor Kosuke Hasegawa (Ebizo Ichikawa), and his mistress actress Rio Asahina (Miho Nakanishi). They form a love triangle in the stage play Yotsuya Kaidan within the movie, and off stage in their own private lives the same dynamic holds true, with certain events in the stage play weirdly mirroring what's happening off stage. 

Kosuke carries on an affair with his co-star Rio while his starlet wife Miyuki stays at home with dreams of having Kosuke's child, a thought that weighs heavily on her mind, as does the affair which she seems well aware of. Her sleepless nights at home alone are preoccupied with cooking large amounts of pasta and repeatedly using a home pregnancy test to determine if she's with child, the strain of the relationship and want of a child are clearly driving her away from the safety of sanity, her adulterous husband does little to improve her state of mind, his action may come back to haunt him, much as they do his character in the play. 

The trio are rehearsing for the stage play of Yotsuya Kaidan which concerns a scorned wife who becomes and vengeful ghost spirit, the fun of the movie is that the lines between the play and reality seem to be bleeding into each other as the movie advances, which at times made it hard for me to discern what was real, imagined or maybe even supernatural, which is by design, Miike is in full control as a director and storyteller with Over Your Dead Body, it might not have much weight for the straight horror fans looking for blood and carnage, though there are ample amounts of both, but as a taut psychological thriller that blurs the lines of reality this is an engaging slow-burn with a streak of black humor which I loved. 

The movie is gorgeous and the sets of the play are amazing, at times I wished I could just see the play performed in it's entirety as staged by Miike. Each set has a vibrant and colorful design, both elaborate and surreal. I loved the meta turn of this one, very well crafted. Takashi Mikke can pretty much take on any genre and make it his own, a master craftsmen of cinema, and with Over Your Dead Body he's made a surreal ghost story and a tense psychological love-triangle thriller, it might appeal to every horror fan, but any dark cinema fan should be able to appreciate it, particularly if you enjoyed Audition, which treads similar themes.

Audio/Video: Takashi Miike's Over Your Dead Body arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a sharp and attractive 1080p HD presentations, colors are robust, the image is clear and sharp, the wonderful cinematography and staged set designs looks wonderful with some great textures and fine detail ...not to mention the bloody gore that punctuates the movie looks exquisite, with a fine decapitation!.

For the sake of this review I watched the movie with the original Japanese DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with English subtitles, the presentation is nice and nuanced, I wouldn't say the surround was overpowering but I will note that my pooch kept peering off in the direction of the surrounds when the discreet sound effects kicked in. The dialogue and score come through crisp and clean, I switched over to the English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 a few times during my viewing and was slightly put off by the dub, not awful but it did lack the subtlety and nuance of the Japanese track.

Unfortunately this is a bare bones Blu-ray from Scream Factory with only a trailer for the movie, I would have appreciated a commentary as I am not familiar with the Yotsuya Kaidan stage pay which is art of the movie, and the movie reality and the play reality begin to blur, I would have enjoyed a few insights into the source material from Miike. I don't think my unfamiliarity with the play detracted from my viewing, but knowing more might have enhanced it.  3/5

THE GUARDIAN (1990) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory 
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 92 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: William Friedken
Cast: Dwier Brown, Miguel Ferrer, Brad Hall, Carey Lowell

When young Los Angeles couple named Kate (Carey Lowell) and Phil (Dwier Brown, Red Dragon) have a child they take on a live-in nanny named Camille (Jenny Seagrove), who comes with good references. She seems to be an unreal find, she loves on their child as if it were her own, she cooks and cleans... but as the movie unfolds the truth is revealed, the attractive nanny is really a demonic tree nymph with a penchant for kidnapping and sacrificing infants to a gnarly ancient and evil tree in the nearby woods. 

The Guardian is a strange slice of '90s cinema, co-written and directed by William Friedkin of The Exorcist after original director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead 2) left the project to direct Darkman. Raimi would have seemed a more suitable choice with the inclusion of an evil tree and copious amounts of blood, stuff right in his wheel house of horror. Friedkin tries to class it up a bit with the trappings of a '90s psychological thriller with bizarre supernatural elements, but the various elements don't come together at the end of the day, the mix is off and the movie seems adrift without a clear direction. 

The evil wood nymph and her gnarly demon-tree are cool ideas, the imagery is creepy, a knotty old tree with the images of infant babies visible through the bark does make for memorable visuals, as do the various bloody killings throughout the movie, but they just don;t come together in a very pleasing way. I think the biggest beef I have with the movie might be the undefined horror, the way the villain is kind of ambiguous, the why of what's happening is never clear. Sure we see loads of strange stuff happening, surreal nightmares, gruesome killings done by an ancient and evil tree out in the woods, a pack of ravenous wolves, but the set-up and execution are flat and there's so little suspense, what little there is doesn't carry through to any proper end. 

The special effects work by Matthew Mungle are beyond reproach, the tree branches coming to life, impaling victims, this is good stuff  but it is poorly edited with few exceptions. There's an early scene of the demonic nymph holding a baby up into the air as an offering to the demon-tree... then it just blinks out of existence, gone from her hands. There's a ham-fisted scene of a trio of thugs attacking the nanny in the woods, as they attempt to rape her the tree kills all three, one is brutally impaled and is then suddenly engulfed in flames, it's an abrupt and weak edit. I did find myself enjoying the bloody movie magic, but with all due respect to Friedkin the movie feels amateurish and confused about what it wants to be. 

Not an unwatchable movie, but a curious entry from William Friedkin that is seriously flawed. No doubt injured in the scripting process during various rewrites that jammed too many ideas into a jumbled script. none of which are properly fleshed out to any satisfying degree. The strong cast do what they  with the material they've been given, but there's only so many ways to polish a turd, you know? 

Audio/Video: The Guardian arrives on Blu-ray with a nice 1080p HD transfer, framed in the original 1.85 aspect ratio. Not sure what the source for the transfer is but it  is in good shape, there's some good depth and clarity to the image, details are crisp. The skin tones look natural and the black levels are deep. There's also a nice layer of fine film grain intact, this has not been subjected to overly heavy digital clean-up, which is always appreciated. Despite the box indicating there's a 5.1 surround sound mix that is not the case, what we have is a crisp and well-balanced English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 audio track, with optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired. The stereo track is plenty powerful, nicely balanced with clean audio, the score comes through with some good presence, not overpowering.  

Onto the extras we have a nice array of brand new interviews beginning with actor Dwier Brown (22 Mins) who played Phil in the movie. He speaks about landing the role following Field of Dreams, and how embarrassed director Friedkin was when he didn't recall working with him on a earlier movie. He talks about the cool evil-tree special effects, and what it was like on-set working for Friedkin. There's also a brief interview with Actor Gary Swanson (10 Mins) HD who speaks more about studying with Lee Strasberg and working on Vice Squad than discussing the movie. Actress Natalija Nogulich pops-up for a twelve-minute interview, discussing her fondness for Friedkin and her turn on Star Trek.

Score composer Jack Hues shows up for seven-minutes to discuss his work scoring the film. I didn't realize he was the singer from '80s rockers Wang Chung, which was pretty neat. He speaks about enjoying the opportunity to work alone and the influence of Hitchcock's Vertigo on his own score. There's also a an interview with Makeup Effects Artist Matthew Mungle (The Kindred) who created the bloody special effects, including that gnarly demonic tree. I think the movie is sort of a mess but the special effects are top-notch, he says that Friedkin always wanted more blood and more violence onscreen. 

Scream Factory have also included three vintage interviews produced by Severin Films in 2011 that were included on the Second Sight DVD in the UK. Furst up is Director/Co-writer William Friedkin who speaks about his love of the original Grimm Fairy tales and how they informed his own contemporary version of those tales. He speaks of how he and co-writer Stephen Volk had a falling out during the writing process and tells an interesting personal story about his own experiences with a not-so-great nanny. For her part Jenny Seagrove speaks about how she wanted to make a more straight-forward nanny-kidnapper psychological thriller and how producers scoffed at the notion at the time, until a few years later when The Hand That Rocks the Cradle blew-up at the box office two years later, long after this movie sunk beneath the waves of obscurity. 

Co-screenwriter Stephen Volk sheds light on the origins of the story, adapting the source novel, and working with original director Sam Raimi who saw the project as a tongue-in-cheek horror film. Raimi ended up leaving the project when given the opportunity to direct Darkman. He also speaks about the difficulties of co-writing with Friedkin, who ended up finishing the script on his own after Volk left the project after a nervous breakdown. This was an enlightening interviews that helps explain the mess of a movie we ended up with onscreen. 

Screams Blu-ray is top-notch, but not definitive, missing is an alternate TV cut of the movie with additional scenes,  which Friedkin has disowned. The TV cut is credited to Alan Smithee, and contains additional scenes plus an alternate ending, unfortunately these scenes are not included on the disc, nor is the director's audio commentary from the out-of-print Universal DVD. While this is not the definitive version of the movie, it it well-stuffed with over two hours of extras, which are a better watch that the actual film. 

Special  Features
- NEW A Happy Coincidence - An Interview With Actor Dwier Brown (22 Mins) HD 
- NEW From Strasberg To The Guardian - An Interview With Actor Gary Swanson (10 Mins) HD 
- NEW A Mother's Journey - An Interview With Actress Natalija Nogulich (12 Mins) HD 
- NEW Scoring The Guardian - An Interview With Composer Jack Hues (7 Mins) HD 
- NEW Tree Woman: The Effects Of The Guardian - An Interview With Makeup Effects Artist Matthew Mungle (13 Mins) HD 
- Return To The Genre - An Interview With Director/Co-writer William Friedkin (18 Mins) 
- The Nanny - An Interview With Actress Jenny Seagrove (14 Mins) 
- Don't Go Into The Woods – An Interview With Co-writer Stephen Volk (21 Mins) HD 
- Still Gallery Of Behind-The-Scenes Photos (2 Mins) HD 
Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 

What could have been a fun tongue-in-cheek horror film about a demonic tree-nymph is bogged down in '90s thriller conventions and poor execution. Fortunately the extras are more entertaining than the movie, they alone are worth the price of purchase. Definitely a movie worth a watch for the curious minded, it has been out-of-print for sometime and it is nice to see it widely available again, for better or worse. 2/5


Thursday, January 21, 2016

BACKGAMMON Official Trailer And Poster!

Based on R.B. Russell’s novella Bloody Baudelaire

BACKGAMMON will be released theatrically by 3:1 Cinema and digitally by Gravitas Ventures on March 11, 2016

Check out the official poster and trailer, exclusively on Indiewire:


Directed by Francisco Orvañanos
Starring Brittany Allen (“All My Children”), Noah Silver (“Tyrant,” “The Borgias”), Alex Beh, Olivia Crocicchia (“Rescue Me”) and, Christian Alexander (“General Hospital”) 

Part psychological sexual thriller and part classic mystery, Backgammon explores sexual tension, danger and mind games between a group of college students during a getaway in a country mansion. When Andrew invites Lucian and his girlfriend Elizabeth for a weekend vacation, they don’t expect Andrew’s sister Miranda and her Baudelaire-obsessed boyfriend Gerald to show up as well. Overwhelmed by Gerald’s antics and the constant irritating horseplay with Miranda, Andrew and Elizabeth split. Lucian, however, decides to stay, as a simmering, sexual tension develops between him and the flighty, flirtatious Miranda. When Gerald explodes after losing everything during an alcohol-fueled poker game with Lucian, Miranda finally gives him the boot. But as she and Lucian begin to dance around each other, their surroundings show threatening signs that Gerald may never have left. 

For more info:
Official site:
Official Facebook:

Lucio Fulci's A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (1971) on Blu-ray from MONDO MACABRO on 2/9


Label: Mondo Macabro

Releae Date: February 9th 2016 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration:104 Minutes 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Stanley Baker, Florinda Bolkan, Jean Sorel, Anita Strindberg

Mondo Macabro is very proud to present A Lizard In A Woman's Skin, released in HD on Blu-ray for the very first time in North America. Carol Hammond, the frustrated wife of a successful London lawyer, is having bizarre, erotic dreams about her uninhibited neighbor, Julia Durer, who presides over noisy, sex and drug filled parties in the house next door. One night, Carol's dreams culminate in violent death and she wakes to find her nightmares have become reality - Julia has been murdered and Carol is the main suspect. This frightening discovery is just the beginning of a labyrinthine psycho sexual shocker which takes the viewer on a wild ride through a series of frequently breathtaking set pieces that set new standards for the Italian thriller.

This first US Blu-ray release of the film, taken from the original negative, is the longest, uncut version currently available and comes with a host of exclusive extras. Directed by controversial film maker Lucio Fulci (The New York Ripper, House by the Cemetery, Zombie), Lizard in a Woman's Skin is considered by many critics to be his finest achievement.

Special Features:

- Brand new HD transfer from film negative
- Shedding the Skin - documentary
- Dr Lucio Fulci's Day for Night - directed by Antonietta De Lillo - interview with Lucio Fulci
- Interview with writer Stephen Thrower
- Interview with actor Tony Adams
- Audio commentary with Kris Gavin
- Two original trailers
- Radio spots
- Italian/English Language/subtitle choices

Sunday, January 17, 2016

TRIUMPH OF THE WILL (1935) (Blu-ray Review)

2K Remastered Edition Blu-ray 
Label: Synapse Films 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 111 Minutes
Rating: Unrated 
Audio: German DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 2.0 with Optional English, French, Spanish and Japanese Subtitles 
Video: Full-Frame (1.19:1) Pillarboxed Presentation
Director: Leni Riefenstahl
Starring: Adolph Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Goring, Rudolf Hess

Synopsis: Leni Riefenstahl’s classic piece of historical film making, filmed during the 1934 Nazi Party Rally in Nuremberg, Germany, is considered by many to be one of the most important films ever made. Realized by Paul Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, this film was created to influence all of Germany to support the “power” of the Nazi Party.

Historically significant and, at times, a horrifyingly manipulative exercise in propaganda for the Nazi regime, TRIUMPH OF THE WILL continues to be controversial eighty years after its original release and has been banned in Germany for many decades. Until her death in 2003, Riefenstahl was under fire for her personal relationship with Adolph Hitler, spending her life haunted by the shadow of the Nazi Party.

The Leni Riefenstahl Nazi-propaganda film Triumph of the Will is a powerful document leading up to the rise of Hitler, as much as one can loathe and be horrified by what the Nazi party brought forth you sort of have to be fascinated by this inspired and manipulative slice of Nazi iconography, notably directed by a woman, Leni Riefenstahl, whom captured through carefully and artfully staged celluloid the magnetism and charisma of Adolph Hitler at the Nazi Party Rally of 194 in Nuremberg. 

The opening scenes are shot from the cockpit of Hitler's plane descending through the clouds over Nuremberg, circling the gorgeous city and announcing his arrival - the scenes are rather impressive. The Fuhrer descends from the plane along with other notable Nazi leaders and they're greeted like rock stars by deafening cheers of the crowd - travelling by motorcade they make their way through the streets cheered along the way by the German people. The imagery is impressive, persuasive and carefully manipulated - framing Hitler as a God among men, and the saviour of the German people, who at this point were coming off years of poor economics following World War I. 

Its hard not to appreciate the scenes of the pageantry that the Nazis were so well-known for, symmetrical gatherings of soldiers looking sharp and moving in unison, well-tailored and clean-cut. This rally coming shortly after the infamous 'Night of the Long Knives", a mass series of political executions carried out by the SS on Hitler's orders, a purge of left-wing and anti-Nazi party leaders, the absence of which cemented the Nazi regime and Hitler's power. 

This was my first watch of the movie in full, and it was potent and powerful, this is something that shows you first-hand the power of the moving image, the power it wields, the lies it can conceal. It's politically repugnant stuff, but it is also a document that needs to be remembered and should be seen by all, this is not something to be swept away and forgotten. The beauty of documentaries, and even propaganda movies like this, are that they stand witness to history, and this slice of Leni Riefenstahl directed Nazi propaganda is rather fascinating, and an interesting watch for all. 

Audio/Video: This fascinating slice of Nazi propaganda arrives on Blu-ray from Synapse Films in a brand-new remastered version of sourced from a new 2K scan, digitally corrected and restored under the supervision of film historian and preservationist, Robert A. Harris with digital restoration performed by Greg Kimble. Having never sat down to watch this before in it's entirety I can only put the image quality up against clips I've seen in other documentaries, none of which was anything short of ugly. This is probably about as good as we will ever see on any format, the image quality varies widely from scene to scene but there's some decent texture and contrast to the image, looking better than I can recall without having compared any other sources. The burned-in subtitles and watermark might detract a bit for some, but I did not find that it hindered my viewing experience, as a documentary I can accept it. The German language DTS-HD Master Audio Mono 2.0 like the visual aspects of the movie are varied, but nicely restored and generally free of hiss and distortions, The often rousing scores from Horst Wessel and Richard Wagner sound great when put up against scenes of this infamous propaganda-film. The film is presented in the original German language with all-new on screen identifications which pop-up often, plus we have the burned-in subtitles, and newly translated removable subtitles in English, French, Spanish and Japanese, as this is a region-free release from Synapse Films he multi-language options should come in handy.

Onto the extras we have Leni Riefenstahl’s short film Day of Freedom, which was sort of a dry-run leading up to Triumph of the Will. Additionally there is a fantastic audio commentary by Dr. Anthony R. Santoro, specialist on National Socialist German history, his guidance was appreciated, pointing out key figures and themes throughout the movie.  There's also a a four-page booklet with writings on the film from Films in review editor Roy Frumkes, the director of Document of the Dead, which I also found interesting. The back of the booklet also contains technical notes regarding the restoration of the film and audio sources used for the new version. 

Special Features

- Leni Riefenstahl’s short-film DAY OF FREEDOM, remastered in HD (17 Mins) HD 
- Audio Commentary by Dr. Anthony R. Santoro, specialist on National Socialist German history
- Booklet with writing on the film from Roy Frumkes

I wouldn't say that I am a history buff but I am glad to have this slice of Nazi propaganda available to the world, cleaned-up, and given some perspective by Dr. Anthony R. Santoro. If you're a history nerd I imagine this is something you will want to own, a solid presentation through and through, 

Friday, January 15, 2016


DEEP RED (1975) 

Label: Arrow Video 
Region: Code: B 
Rating: 18 Certificate:
Duration: 127 Mins (DIRECTOR’S CUT) 105 Mins (INTERNATIONAL CUT)
Audio: Italian/English DTS-HD MA MONO 1.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Dario Argento
Cast: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Méril, Eros Pagni, Giuliana Calandra, Piero Mazzinghi, Glauco Mauri, Clara Calamai, Aldo Bonamano, Liana Del Balzo, Nicoletta Elmi

When was the last time you were really scared?  From Dario Argento, maestro of the macabre and the man behind some the greatest excursions in Italian horror (Suspiria, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), Arrow Video is thrilled to announce the release of his iconic filmDeep Red, considered by many as the ultimate giallo movie. Limited to 5,000 copies, this exclusive 3-disc release offers up a stunning new 4k transfer of both the international cut (105 mins) and the director’s cut (127 mins).

This new release will also include a wealth of bonus content, alongside the complete 28-track original soundtrack recording, housed together in deluxe packaging including an all-new exclusive booklet, 6 x postcard set and feature newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx.

One night, musician Marcus Daly (David Hemmings,Blow Up), looking up from the street below, witnesses the brutal axe murder of a woman in her apartment. Racing to the scene, Marcus just manages to miss the perpetrator… or does he? As he takes on the role of amateur sleuth, Marcus finds himself ensnared in a bizarre web of murder and mystery where nothing is what it seems…

Aided by a throbbing score from regular Argento-collaborators Goblin,Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso and The Hatchet Murders) is a hallucinatory fever dream of a giallo punctuated by some of the most astonishing set-pieces the sub-genre has to offer.

 - High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of two versions of the film
- Original Italian soundtrack in DTS-HD MA mono 1.0 and lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio, and original English soundtrack in DTS-HD MA mono 1.0*
- English subtitles for the Italian Soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the English Soundtrack
- Limited Edition Soundtrack CD
- 6 x postcard-sized lobby card reproductions
- Reversible fold-out poster featuring two original artworks
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
- Limited Edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mikel J. Koven, author of La  Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinem and the Italian Giallo Film and an archive piece by critic Alan Jones, illustrated with original archive stills

 - Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative
- Isolated Score in Stereo 2.0
- Audio Commentary with Argento expert Thomas Rostock
- Introduction to the film by Claudio Simonetti of Goblin
- Profondo Giallo– a brand new visual essay by Michael Mackenzie featuring an in-depth appreciation ofDeep Red, its themes and its legacy
- Rosso Recollections: Dario Argento’s Deep Genius– the Deep Red director on the creation of a giallo masterpiece
- The Lady in Red: Daria Nicolodi Remembers Profondo Rosso
- Music to Murder For! Claudio Simonettion Deep Red
- Profondo Rosso: From Celluloid to Shop– a tour of the Profondo Rosso shop in Rome with long time Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi
- Italian Trailer

- Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative
- US Theatrical Trailer

 - 28-track CD featuring the entire Deep Red film score from Italian progressive rock band Goblin and composer Giorgio Gaslini

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

THE DICKS FROM TEXAS doc coming to DVD on February 12th

coming to DVD on February 12th

The real deal true story of Texas punks The Dicks!

"It had never occurred to me before seeing the Dicks that being afraid of the band 
could be a cool idea." - David Yow, The Jesus Lizard

The Dicks were a punk rock band from Texas who defined hardcore. Every traveling punk rock band demanded the Dicks open for them including Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, Mike Watt, Texas Terri, and David Yow (who are all featured in the film). The DVD also includes 30 minutes of live never-before-seen performance footage.

The Dicks started when singer Gary Floyd returned to Austin, TX after seeing the Sex Pistols in San Francisco. He started claiming he had a band called the Dicks. This was known as a "poster band." Fliers were made with fake shows and non-existent groups. 

"Gary Floyd would go around town putting up posters advertising The Dicks with crazy ass pictures and promises that first ten people with guns drink for free," said producer / director Cindy Marabito. "It was a wild and crazy time in Austin, back when 'keeping Austin weird' got you thrown in jail."

The Dicks soon became a reality when bassist Buxf Parrott and guitarist Glen Taylor joined up with Floyd to form the band. All they needed was a drummer who they found in Pat Deason just in time to play the Punk Prom with the Big Boys.

The Dicks From Texas follows the evolution of the Dicks from Floyd as a local celebrity through band formation to punk legend. He had a flamboyant outwardly gay personality with a voice that still rivals the hardest / heaviest / bluesiest singers from Texas, or anywhere else. 

The Dicks were together for nearly four years and put out 'Dicks Hate the Police" 45 and two albums, "Live at Raul's" and "Kill From the Heart" which have lived on for coming up on four decades, inspiring other musicians and fans with songs like "Bourgeois Fascist Pig," "Dead in a Motel Room," and "Dicks Hate the Police." 

The Dicks never sold out, never budged one fraction from their militant principles at the cost of no big record deals and acclaim. What they got in return was the respect of longtime hardcore followers who still turn out at the rare live reunion shows where the Dicks still deliver.

DVD Product Details:
Release Date: February 12th 2016 
Genre: Alternative/Punk
Run Time: 70 mins
Number of Discs: 1
Year of Production: 2015
Director: Cindy Marabito
Producers: Cindy Marabito
Actors: Gary Floyd, Buxf Parrott, Pat Deason, Glen Taylor, Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, David Yow, Mike Watt, Texas Terri and more


REQUIESCANT (1967) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)

Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: A/B, 1/2
Rating: 15 Certificate 
Duration: 107 Minutes 
Audio: LPCM Audio Italian Mono 1.0, LPCM Audio English Mono 1.0 with Optional English Subtitles  
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Carlo Lizzani
Cast: Lucio Battistrada, Andrew Baxter, Lou Castel, Mark Damon, Franco Citti, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Barbara Frey

Synopsis: Directed by Carlo Lizzani (Wake Up and Kill, The Hills Run Red) and with a superb soundtrack by Riz Ortolani (Day of Anger, Cannibal Holocaust), Requiescant – Latin for ‘Rest in Peace’ – ranks among the finest Spaghetti Westerns. Alex Cox named it the “one film to prove that the Italian Western was not solely Sergio Leone’s”. Lou Castel (Fists in the Pocket, A Bullet for General) plays a young man who was raised to be a pacifist by a travelling preacher after Confederates massacred his family. But when his step-sister runs away, the pursuit reveals a natural talent as a sharp-shooter as well as a bloody and unexpected confrontation with his past.

At the top of the movie a group of Mexicans and US Army meet to a disagreement over land rights, they drink together and enjoy music, but the Mexicans are betrayed and are massacred in a hail of treacherous machine gun fire. Dozens of unarmed men, women and children lay dead on the ground, the lone survivor is a young boy maned Requiescant who has a minor head-wound, and left to wander the desert alone. Luckily the injured boy is found he by a religious man named father Juan (Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salo) who takes him in and raises the boy as his own son, along with his wife and young daughter Princy (Barbara Frey). 

As Requiescant grows into a young man he is played by actor Lou Castell (A Bullet for the General) and like his adopted father is man of the Lord, but one with an unnaturally accurate gun hand. When his sister Princy disappears with a group of chorus girls looking for the finer things in life Requiescant sets out to find her. His search leads him to San Antonio where he finds his ginger-haired sister working as a whore for saloon owner Dean Light (Ferruccio Viotti, Day of Anger), who works for wealthy aristocrat Ferguson (Mark Damon, Black Sabbath), both men turn out to have ties to the massacre that orphaned Requiescant, which leads to Requiescant remembering the traumatic vents. 

Requiescant sets out to free his sister from her slaver, winning her back in a drunken shooting match, but he is betrayed and hanged, left for dead. he manages to survive the noose and aligns himself with a group of Mexican freedom fighters and returns to San Antonio seeking vengeance against the slave-owning aristocrat and his henchman, ending back where it all began, at the site of the massacre in a pretty damn exciting shootout.

Director Carlo Lizzani made some solid Italian Westerns, Requiescant isn't overly epic or grand in the scheme of Italian westerns but it is a tight and entertaining one that has some serious grit to it. Lou Castell as the hero of the movie keeps you plugged-in. He can come across a bit aloof at first, an early shot of him riding off in search of his sister with a cooking pan as a horse prod made me laugh a bit. His persona is modest and unassuming, that is until he quick draws and sends you to your grave. Another nice touch would be his dedication to the Lord, after he guns down rivals he says a prayer over the corpses and insists they receive proper burials, which when observed by passerbys creates a sort of urban legend about the young man. Mark Damon turns in a wonderfully performance as the aristocratic baddie, very charming and charismatic, but a bad man through and through, his pale complexion, easy charm and hypnotic eyes made me wonder if he'd ever been cast as a vampire.  

Audio/Video: Requiescant arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow Video with a brand new 2K
restoration o from the original camera negative, and it looks impressive all the way around. Skin tones look natural, colors are vivid and theres some real nice fine detail in the close-ups, showing off the textures and grit of the fabric and faces. We have the option of both the LPCM Audio Italian Mono 1.0 and LPCM Audio English Mono 1.0 with newly translated English subtitles for the Italian track. The audio is nicely robust for a mono presentation, dialogue, gunfire and the Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust) score sound just fine, free of any hiss or distortion. 

Onto the extras we have a new fourteen-minute  interview with the star of the movie, Frenchman Lou Castel which is conducted in French with English subtitles. There's also a twenty-eight minute  interview with director Carlo Lizzani in Italian with English subtitles that covers a lot of ground. A three-minute trailer for the movie is also included.The screener disc sent for review dies not include cover art or the booklet, but retail copies have a sleeve or reversible artwork and a booklet with writing on the movie.

Special Features:- An all-new interview with Lou Castel, recorded exclusively for this release (14 Mins) HD 
- Archive interview with director Carlo Lizzani (28 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins) 
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
- Illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Pasquale Iannone

Requiescant (1967) is solid pasta Western with a thoroughly wonderful A/V presentation from Arrow Video. Not every western can be on the grand scale of a Sergio Leonne epic, but Requiescant is quite entertaining with some unique qualities, I think the bible-thumping gunslinger is a nice touch. If you're a fan of the Italian Westerns you're gonna love this one. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

JACK'S BACK (1988) (Blu-ray Review)

JACK'S BACK (1988) 
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: January 26th 2016
Region Code: A
Duration: 97 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Rowdy Herrington
Cast: Chris Mulkey, Cynthia Gibb, James Spader, Jim Haynie, Robert Picardo, Rowdy Herringto

I only vaguely recall this movie from cable TV viewings in my teens and I am pretty sure I never watched the whole things, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it appear on Blu-ray from Scream Factory. I confess that I love pretty much anything James Spader appears in for better or worse, he was one of the penultimate assholes of '80s cinema, in everything from The New Kids (1985) to Less Than Zero (1987), so it was nice to see him stretch his acting-muscle with this one which offered him the chance to play the dual-role of twins Jack and Rick Wesford, playing opposite sides of the same coin so to speak, one brother is an altruistic medical student with a promising future, the other is a shoe store manager with a shady past.  

As the movie begins it has been one-hundred years since Jack the Ripper carved a bloody swath through the red-light district of London, now in the modern age someone is re enacting the Ripper murders in downtown Los Angeles. One night Rick is plagued by a nightmare of his brother being attacked and murdered, and it turns out what he saw in his nightmare actually happened, he somehow experiences his twins death through dreams. The L.A.P.D. believe his brother may have been the Ripper killer, which he knows not to be true. Rick teams-up with his late brother's lady friend Chris (Cynthia Gibb, Youngblood) to help clear his brother's name, but the local cops think that Rick might be a suspect in both his brother's murder and the string of Jack the Ripper slayings, which could prove problematic.  

Right from the start of the movie you know in which decade this is set, the score has a very late-eighties sound that is heavy on saxophone, a bit too much for my taste. Thankfully it also begins with a brief but effective scene of a prostitute murdered in an alleyway, but then things begin to slow down, though it is never dull. I have to credit Spader who turns in his usual magnetic performance, the guy oozes a dark coolness in every movie, and we have more of the same here. Cynthia Gibb is decent as the wide-eyed pseudo love interest, I sort of liked how she didn't jump right into bed with this guy, who is the spitting image of her former best friend who was murdered. They have a decent chemistry, you sort of feel like they have a budding love connection, but you have to remember that this is whodunit murder movie, can she really trust this guy? 

The movie has a few familiar faces popping up, beginning with character actor Robert Picardo (The Howling), who is actually the first face you see onscreen after the opening murder. appearing as psychiatrist Dr. Carlos Battera who is working with the L.A.P.D to develop a criminal profile of the killer. The guy seems shady, and this movie has not shortage of could-be killer types to choose from, it that respect is has a certain Italian whodunit feel about it, minus the black gloved killer and stylish kills.  

For a scrappy eighties whodunit this one is pretty decent, but I didn't love it. I had issues with the lack of decent kills, which is what separates this dramatic thriller from the eighties slashers which were winding down about this time. We are given an effective strangling that is made to look like a suicide by hanging, which worked wonderfully, but otherwise this is pretty anemic and blood and creative kills. Additionally there's a huge gap in logic when one of the characters is caught in a compromising position and goes to the extreme to cover it up, it just didn't make sense to me and stretched credibility a tad too far. 

Audio/Video: Jack's Back arrives on Blu-ray with an AVC encode from Scream Factory from a brand-new HD transfer from the original negative with restoration done at Pinewood Studios. The new transfer looks nice, skin tones and colors are a bit on the cool side and seem to favor greens, I am not sure how accurate that is to the original presentation but I enjoyed it. Grain is nicely managed and looks natural, carrying with it some impressive fine detail. Some soft focus cinematography and smokey-atmosphere don't make for the crispest image you've ever seen on Blu-ray, but this seems accurate, and the clarity is quite nice. The English audio is capably managed by a DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 track with well-balanced audio and score, optional English subtitles are provided. Audio elements are crisp and clear, no issues with distortion of any kind. 

Onto the extras we have an audio commentary with Writer/Director Rowdy Herrington, which can be a bit on the dry side, leaning more towards the technical stuff. There's also a new twenty-four minute making-of doc with interviews from Writer/Director Rowdy Herrington, Producer Tim Moore, Actress Cynthia Gibb And Director Of Photography Shelly Johnson, a highlight for me was Herrington speaking about how Spader was actually choked out during the hanging scene! Finishing up the bonus content we have a brief theatrical trailer for the movie. This is one of Scream Factory's Blu-ray and DVD Combo releases with a standard definition DVD featuring the movie and the same set of extras as the Blu-ray.

Special Features
- NEW High-Definition Transfer From The Original Negative
- NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Rowdy Herrington
- NEW The Making Of JACK'S BACK - Interviews With Writer/Director Rowdy Herrington, Producer Tim Moore, Actress Cynthia Gibb And Director Of Photography Shelly Johnson (24 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (1 Mins) HD 

Jack's Back is a solid eighties thriller with a fine dual-role performance from James Spader, with the benefit of some stylish low-budget cinematography. I liked the Jack the Ripper copycat aspect of the story but it drops off way too early and does not go anywhere, which was a missed opportunity as that was one of the more interesting plot threads. 2.5/5

SONNY BOY (1989) (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

SONNY BOY (1989) 
Label: Scream Factory 
Release Date: January 29th 2016 
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Robert Martin Carroll
Cast: Brad Dourif, Conrad Janis, Alexandra Powers, David Carradine, Michael Griffin, Paul L. Smith, Savina Gersak, Steve Carlisle, Sydney Lassick

Strap yourself in for a slice of weirdo-cinema by way of Robert Martin Caroll's Sonny Boy (1989), a dark fairytale set in the dusty back roads of New Mexico. The movie begins with an attempt to steal a car by Weasel (Brad Dourif, The Exorcist III) who is interrupted by the owner of the car. Weasel turns a gun on the couple, murdering them and making off with the sweet ride, which he brings to small town criminal boss Slue (Paul L. Smith, Pieces), a very violent man who is less than pleased to discover that along with the car, and a crappy black and white TV, the crook unknowingly brought him a young baby boy who was hidden away in the backseat of the car. 

Slue's first instinct is to toss the baby to his ravenous hogs as food, but his wife Pearl (David Carradine, Death Race 2000) begs him to keep the child, as she has always wanted a family of her own. Pearl is played by David Carradine dressed in drag, I am not sure if his character is supposed to be transgender, a man in drag, or just a manly woman, the movie doesn't say, but it's a strange touch, and it worked for me. Carradine ages throughout the movie, donning a series of wigs before ending up looking like a granny in a silver-haired wig. Carradine made a string of quality-challenged b-movies throughout the '70s and '80s, but this is somethings special amongst his repertoire, this is something quite different, and I was surprised how well Paul L. Smith and himself worked as the oddball couple. 

Slue begrudgingly takes on the role of a demented father, subjecting the child to various tortures throughout the years, which includes cutting out his tongue, dragging him behind a car and subjecting him to fire. Keeping the boy chained-up outside like a dog, becoming a violent man-beast, more an animal than a human being. The older sonny Boy is played by actor Michael Griffin, the character is mute and his body scarred from years of abuse, the actor does a phenomenal job of using body language, and facial expressions to convey the humanity of the tortured character, I am not familiar with his other work, but what is onscreen here is pretty impressive. 

Crime boss Slue is surrounded by a cast of low-life henchmen, we have the aforementioned Weasel played by the always interesting Brad Dourif, who comes off as a back road metal head, he's the more outrageous of Slue's crew. There's also Sydney Lassick (The Unseen) as Charlie P., I found it disconcerting to see Lassick with a moustache, so weird. There's also a disgraced local doctor named Bender (Conrad Janis) with an odd back story, all of these make for interesting side characters that flesh out the strange world of Sonny Boy. 

Slue will occasionally throw Sonny Boy into the back of a caged ice cream truck and drive him to the homes and businesses of his enemies, unleashing the feral teen on them, which always ends in their screaming and painful death. One of these attacks occurs at a church, where sonny sees the image of the crucified Christ, he seems drawn to the character, it's a nice touch to an otherwise strange and brutal scene. While in the back of the truck Sonny is approached by a young woman named Rose (Alexandra Powers) who confesses her problems to the feral teen, and I think it is this encounter that sets Sonny on a road to redemption in an odd sort of way. 

As the movie nears the end we have Sonny Boy escaping from Slue and wandering about town as the angry town folk rise up against Slue and his crew, with some decent siege scenes, including an angry mob cornering Sonny Boy in a barn, with the expected bloody results, though the movie is mostly bloodless, it relies more on black humor and weirdness. As I said before, I enjoy the movie for the weirdness of it, and it is surprisingly touching, but you can tell the movie had some issues during production, that freeze-frame final scene seemed awfully uninspired and a bit desperate.  

The movie is well shot by cinematographer Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli who some good work on Italian knock-off movies likes Beyond the Door (1974), Starcrash (1978) and Raiders of Atlantis (1983), he does fine work capturing the almost apocalyptic New Mexico landscape. The movie also benefits considerably from a harmonica-infused score from Carlo Maria Cordio (Pieces, Witchery), which accentuates the themes of humanity and sorrow. Also of note is a twangy tune written and sung by actor David Carradine that plays over the opening credits.  

Sonny Boy is a deranged slice of movie making, that it died a painful death at the cinema is not at all surprising. Fans of cult-cinema who have not yet discovered it should give it a watch. No, it's not a perfect movie by any means, but as an odd bit of what-the-fuckery this is fun watch, there's nothing else quite like it. 

Audio/Video: The movie arrives on Blu-ray with an AVC encode from Scream Factory, presented in the original scope aspect ratio, which gives the exterior shots a very nice openness.  I imagine using the same master that MGM used for the Limited Edition Collection DVD last year, and it looks decent and free of print damage, with a nice layer of film grain, some modest depth, but nothing too Earth-shattering in respect to depth, clarity and fine detail though. The English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 audio does the job, free of any hiss or distotion, dialogue and the Carlo Maria Cordio score are nicely balanced, optional English SDH subtitles are included. 

Scream fatory offer two brand new commentaries, one from Director Robert Martin Carroll and another from  the original Writer Graeme Whifler. Carroll speaks about taking on the strange project and working with the actors, some of whom were not keen on the movie at first, how he was not allowed to speak with Writer Graeme Whifler about the script, and the troubles ge faced making the movie. He also speaks about his troubles with producers, casting directors, and some of his ideas that maybe used in the movie. It's a pity the movie killed his career, he made a unique slice of eighties cinema, I would have enjoyed a few more movies from him. 

Writer Gtaeme Whifler (Dr. Giggles) does his own commentary moderated by Mathew Churnoff from who gets right into things with the origin of the story, based on stories told to the writer while house-painting. He also goes into whom he based the characters on, many coming from a neighborhood biker gang he was familiar with. He talks about his dismay with the finished movie upon first seeing it, muttering how he wanted to kill him, though he does say he received an apology letter from Carroll at some point after the movie was released into theateres, but you can tell he's stil pissed that they turned his Frankenstein into a pretty boy. Extras are finished up with a theatrical trailer for the movie plus the first draft of the original script which is available via BD-ROM, plus a sleeve of reversible artwork. 

Special Features

- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Robert Martin Carroll
- NEW Audio Commentary With Writer Graeme Whifler
- Script – 1st Draft (Accessible Via BD-ROM)
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 

I love it whenever Scream Factory rescues something from the vaults of obscurity and bring it to the fans on Blu-ray. Sonny Boy is a strange one, and I love that it fully embraces the weirdness and somehow manages to make it touching at the same time, coming off as David Lynch's Wild At Heart by way of The Baby. Not a movie for everyone, but for those who love to plunder the cinema vaults for the obscure and weird there's some fun to be had.