Thursday, April 27, 2017



Label: Olive Films 

Rating: Unrated 
Region Code: A
Duration: 152 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1), Full Frame (1.33:1) 
Audio: French DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Walerian Borowczyk

Polish-born filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk was a weird guy, a movie poster illustrator who moved to France in the 50's and became an avant-garde filmmaker whose later work were sometimes, and not wrongly, called artful pornography. Among these dirty works of cinema was the infamous Immoral Tales (1974), and while he never rose to prominence as did his fellow Polish filmmakers Roman Polanski (Repulsion) and Krzysztof Kieslowski (The Double Life of Veronique), his labors have had a recent reevaluations from the likes of Arrow Video, and now US distributor Olive Films. who are releasing a handful of the director's works, including Theatre of Mr. and Mrs. Kabal (1967), Goto, Isle of Love (1968), Blanche (1971) and this one, a compendium of 15 short films he made between 1959-1984, and they're just as weird and wild as I had imagined after viewing a few of his later films.

Borowczyk began his career as illustrator, and that comes through clearly in his early works, shorts made with still images and cut-out animations. I found hard to comprehend a lot of this to be honest, but something I did take away from it was the obvious influence his early animated work seems to have had on Terry Gilliam's animated works for comedy troupe Monty Python, he even does a brief introduction for the Blu-ray, acknowledging Borowczyk lasting impression.

The shorts:  

The Concert (1962) aka Le Concert de M. et Mme. Kabal (7 min) HD

An animated short about a married couple known as The Kabals, the Mrs. of which seems to be a concert pianist who doesn't appreciate her husband snoring his way through her recital. It all ends in bloodshed and dismemberment, wonderful use of music. These characters would be more fully fleshed out Borowczyk's animated film Theatre of Mr. and Mrs. Kabal (1967), also available on Blu-ray from Olive Films. 

The Astronauts (1959) aka Les Astronautes (13 min) HD. A man invents a spaceship, made from cardboard and newspaper, uses it to fight a space-war, sneak a peek of a nude woman, and surreal weirdness ensues. A mix of cut-out animation, illustration and stop-motion, this one is yet again very surreal, and the music cues and sound effects brought to the early LSD-fueled psych outs of Pink Floyd.   

Angels’ Games (1964) aka Les Jeux des Anges (12 min) HD. This one begins with some static shots of a train ride, it looks like we are looking out the window of a train in the dark, hearing the rhythmic clack and clank of locomotion, before we move into some sparse, dark rooms, there are organ pipes and organ music, then the Angel wings begin to be sawn off. Dark, weird and affecting, and again the music cues are essential to the cinema of the piece. 

Renaissance (1963)(9 min) HD. In this one a series of photographs depict a roomful of destroyed objects, which include fruit, an own, paintings, a doll and a horn, reconstituting themselves, until we see what caused the mayhem to begin with, this one has a great sound design, including the use of typewriter keys and rhythmic sound.

Joachim’s Dictionary (1965) aka Le Dictionnaire de Joachim (9 min) HD. A crudely drawn man illustrates a word for each letter of the dictionary with a nice muted horn accompaniment. 

The Greatest Love of All Time (1978) aka L’Amour Monstre de tous les temps (9 min) HD. A sort of wordless documentary French surrealist painter Ljubomir Popović accompanied by the soaring music of composer Wagner, nine minutes of the painter on the streets and painting on close-up, ending with the a view of his finished work.  

Diptyque (1967) (8 min) HD. In this film an elderly man is seen farming his land, enjoying the company of his dog, and driving into town from his rural estate. Then we are treated to a series of images of attractive flowers arrangements intercut with a kitten playing with a ball of yarn.  

Grandma’s Encyclopedia (1963) aka L’encyclopedie de Grand-Maman
(7 min) HD. A fun journey through time and illustration depicting three modes of transportation with some fun mishaps along the way. 

Venus on the Half-Shell(1975) aka Escargot de Venus (4 min) HD. Along the lines of The Greatest Love of All Time (1978) this one is a mini-doc of sorts from Borowiczyk documenting the erotic colored pencil artworks of artist Bona Tibertelli de Pisis with her narrating over it,its gorgeous, erotic and surreal. 

Gavotte (1967) (11 min) HD. A 18th century costumed dwarf  struggles for a comfy seat while a second dwarf endeavors to ruin his day, it's a brief bit of farce. 

The Phonograph (1969) aka Le Phonograph (6 min) HD. An antique phonograph which plays wax cylinders in both real-time and stop-motion photography, we glean the portrait of a young girl throughout, the piece ends with the sounds of gunfire and the wax cylinders and portrait being destroyed in the process. 

Rosalie (1966) (15 min) HD. With this one we have a harrowing confession by a woman on trial for the murder of her baby, very effecting, a powerful performance from Borowczyk's own wife Ligia. Powerful stuff, this is the most affecting and emotional short in the collection, adding punctuation to the emotion are images presented as evidence during the trial, including cloth that wrapped the baby, pillow, and a shovel.   

Scherzo Infernal (1984)(5 min) HD. A fun and blasphemous animation about an Angel named Purea and a devil down in Hell named Mastro, both coming of age and proving to be disappointments to their respective families, with Mastro fleeing to Heaven where he meets Purea and red-cocked sex ensues. This was my favorite of the animated shorts, loved the style and execution, good stuff that showcase some of Borowczyk's artful smut, and to be honest, that's the stuff i tend to enjoy the most about his work.   

A Private Collection Long Version Censored aka Une Collection (14 min) HD. This 14-min doc is a collector walking s through his private collection of vintage and antique erotica and erotic devices. We get everything from vintage prints and photographs, illustrations, and coin-operated machinations, and we get quite an eyeful of vintage smut, including imaged hidden with seemingly innocuous illustrations, an ivory dildo, vintage film reels, smutty pics, and a censored scene involving Victorian era bestiality! All proving that there have been pornography obsessed people since, forever! There's also a shorter version of the same film, running 12-min.  

Audio/Video: The Walerian Borowczyk Short Films Collection (1959-1984) arrives on region A Blu-ray from Olive Films on a single-disc release looking very nice, preserving the original aspect ratios. I do believe this is the same restoration work that Arrow Video released in the UK as part of their Walerian Borowczyk Short Films and Animation release in 2014, restored from the 35mm elements. The DTS-HD mono French audio sounds just fine, it's limited in how dynamic it can be, but the dialogue and score sounded just fine, the music accompaniments are integral to the shorts, optional English subtitles are included.   

Looking at the extras, we begin with an introduction by filmmaker and animator Terry Gilliam, plus the 28-min Film is Not a Sausage documentary about Borowczyk’s animated work featuring Borowczyk, producer Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin, assistant André Heinrich and composer Bernard Parmegiani. Both the intro and doc are straight from the Arrow Video release, though, notably, Olive's release also contains Venus on the Half-Shell (1975) and A Private Collection, both the Long Version Censored and the short versions. Arrow's collection did not have either, though both versions of A Private Collection are available on Arrow's  Immoral Tales (1974) Blu-ray release. Fairplay, missing from the Olive release is the Blow Ups, a visual essay by Daniel Bird about Borowczyk’s works on paper, and the Borowczyk directed commercials Holy Smoke (1963), The Museum (1964), Tom Thumb (1966), which are found on arrow's shorts collection, so there's some give and get between the two releases, though I am quite happy with the Olive release, which is more affordable, minus a few bells and whistles. 

Special Features: 

- Introduction by filmmaker Terry Gilliam (1 min) HD 
- Film is not a Sausage: Borowczyk’s Short Films – Interview program featuring Borowczyk, producer Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin, assistant André Heinrich and composer Bernard Parmegiani (28 min) HD

The Walerian Borowczyk Short Films Collection (1959-1984) is a wild ride, a stupendous and surreal compendium of the shorts from the very unusual mind of Polish born filmmaker Borowczyk. I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point for your entry into his filmography, this is surreal and abstract stuff that can be an assault on the senses and values at times, but if you've had a taste for his cinema and crave more, you might want to dip into this collection, or just throw yourself in and go for it you brave cinema-loving soul. 3/5 


UK distributor SECOND SIGHT FILMS are bringing the classic fright flick THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979) to Blu-ray in the UK for the first time! Of course they're classing it up with brand-new interviews with star James Brolin, screenwriter Sandor Stern and composer Lalo Schifrin. Look for this on June 26th! 

Limited Edition Steelbook 

Label: second Sight Films
Release Date: 26 June 2017
Region Code: B
Rating:Cert. 15 
Duration: 117 Minutes 

It’s one of the all-time horror greats, it spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs and inspired numerous haunted house copycats. It even became the subject of a top 20 hit single – Lovebug Starski’s Amityville (House on the Hill). And now, almost 40 years after it scared homeowners everywhere witless, The Amityville Horror is finally getting its first ever UK Blu-ray release in a limited edition Steelbook courtesy of Second Sight.

Stuart Rosenberg’s seminal shocker The Amityville Horror starring James Brolin (Westworld), Margot Kidder (Superman) and Rod Steiger (On the Waterfront), is a genuine horror classic based on terrifying true events, and makes its Blu-ray debut complete with brand new bonus features on June 26th 2017.

When George and Kathy Lutz and their children move to Amityville, Long Island they believe they have found the perfect family home. But the house has a shocking history and within its walls a demonic presence lies in wait that will turn the Lutz’s lives into a living nightmare. Their only hope is to get out before it’s too late.

Prepare to be scared when you visit the original haunted house in The Amityville Horror.

Special Features:
- NEW! Brolin Thunder’ – Interview with actor James Brolin
- NEW!‘Child's Play’ – Interview with actor Meeno Peluce
- NEW!‘Amityville Scribe’ – Interview with screenwriter Sandor Stern
- NEW! ‘The Devil's Music’ – Interview with soundtrack composer Lalo Schifrin
- ‘My Amityville Horror’ - feature-length documentary with Daniel Lutz
- ‘For God’s Sake, Get Out’ – featuring James Brolin and Margot Kidder
- Intro by Dr. Hans Holzer, PhD. in parapsychology (author of ‘Murder in Amityville’)
- Audio commentary by Dr. Hans Holzer
- Original trailer, TV spot, radio spots
- Four reproduction lobby card postcards (SteelBook Exclusive)
- New optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

Wednesday, April 26, 2017



Label: Arrow Video

Region: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 76 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Audio: Italian LPCM Mono 1.0, English LPCM Mono 1.0 with Optional English, Italian Subtitles 
Directors: Riccardo Freda, Mario Bava, Gérard Herter, John Merivale, Daniela Rocca,Didi Perego    
Cast: John Merivale, Didi Perego

Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) is an Italian knock-off of the American science-fiction film The Blob (1958), directed by Riccardo Freda (Murder Obsession) and lensed by Mario Bava (A Bay of Blood), who also completed the film when Freda walked off the project a few days before filming wrapped. Notably Bava also did the gooey special effects for the movie, which for '59 were mighty visceral. A nice touch is the addition of a Mayan back story involving a vengeful Mayan goddess Caltiki, who was ceremonially presented with human sacrifices by ancient Mayans. 

The film opens with a group of archaeologists investigating ancient Mayan ruins located deep in a cave, where they discover a underground pool with a statue of the deity Caltiki presiding over it. One of the archaeologists dons some scuba gear and heads into the pool of water in search of a missing fellow archeologist. In the depths of the water he discovers human skeletons scattered along the bottom of the underground lake, each adorned with golden artifacts from the Mayan era. He emerges from the water, not having found the missing archaeologist, he does however appear with a handful of rare artifacts, and his greed sends him back to the bottom in search of more loot, only to be attacked by a blob-creature which melts his face off, and it is really gooey for a 50's film! The blob-monster emerges from the pool and attacks the remaining archaeologists, with Max (Gérard Herter) losing his arm to the blob in the process, it envelops his hand with its fleshy mass, dissolving skin and muscle, leaving behind just the gruesome bones - another gooey special effect, courtesy of Bava. His colleague Dr. John Fielding (John Merivale) saves him, pulling him to safety and destroying the creature with a huge fireball explosion, he also manages save and isolate a piece of the creature, which he hopes to study, and to use it to save his friend Max, who while recovering in the hospital goes a bit mad, having been infected by the creature Max begins to go a bit mad, believing himself to have diabolical powers, overcome by greed and paranoia, he turns out to be a baddie in the film. 

All the while the seemingly dormant piece of the blob monster begins to reanimate when exposed to various amounts of radiation, and wouldn't you know it - a comet hurdling towards Earth's orbit is returning after several hundred years, bringing with it a radiation signature which ignites the blob into a massive spate of reproduction and intense growth, unleashing the blob in it's full force, leading to a showdown with the Italian military armed with flamethrowers, and it a makes for a fun 50's sci-fi horror stuff, for sure. 

In true 50's fashion we have some melodramatic drama that bogs down the otherwise well paced movie, for instance we have Max's suffering and ultimately doomed girlfriend Linda (Daniela Rocca), a nice girl who tries to nurse Max back to health, but she cannot do much for his burgeoning insanity, and she is helpless to find his heart when he pines away for Fielding's wife Ellen (Didi Perego). The melodramatic stuff is a bit of a yawner, but I do love this creature feature for the drive-in era fun and 50's schlockiness. As a knock-off I loved the creative special effects. Bava created the blob-mass by animating cow stomach (tripe), and it's effective stuff, coming off as a bit leathery, gooey and slimy looking, a pulsating mass of doom. The effects of the creature dissolving people are pretty great, the flesh is dissolved, revealing gooey skeletons and skulls beneath, as said before, it seems much more visceral than what I am used to seeing in 50's creature features. The creature and mythology itself has a strong Cthulhu/Lovecraft vibe, which I loved. 

The story is a fairly shallow monster movie, typical of the 50's, but what I thoroughly enjoyed about this is the deep noirish lensing from Mario Bava, it's shadowy and moody stuff, plus his wonderful special effects work, including some ingenious use of matte painting, forced perspective, miniatures and cow guts to create something weird and gooey, it may not be a great movie, but I think it's pretty awesome.

Audio/Video: Caltiki The Immortal Monster has been out of print on home video for awhile now, there was a No Shame DVD, but this is the debut on Blu-ray, and it looks great to see the film in HD! Framed at the correct 1.66:1 original widescreen aspect ratio the source looks great, the moody Mario Bava lensed noirish black and white cinematography looks solid, all things considered. The new 1080p transfer is sourced from a dupe negative, it was shot a bit dark - which is mentioned in the extras as perhaps a choice to mask certain seams in the special effects - however, despite that the image looks very nice with good contrast, a nice amount of fine detail and the grain is intact. The disc includes the original mono Italian track and an English-dubbed track, with optional English and Italian subtitles. Both tracks have okay fidelity, it does the job, but the English dub is pretty awful, adding more schlockiness to the b-movie than is actually there, the kid is the worst - reminded me of times of that kid Bob from Lucio Fulci's The House By The Cemetery! The Italian track is clean and reasonably crisp within the limits of the source.     

Arrow port over all the extras from the now out-of-print No Shame DVD including a very brief 21-second introduction from film critic  Stefano Della Casa (in Italian), a 21-min conversation with director Luigi Cozzi (Wax Museum) about Italian sci-fi and this film in particular, with some nice anecdotes about conversations he had with Freda, Bava, and others in respect to the movie, in Italian. Stefano Della Casa  shows up again for a 19-million conversation about the career of director Riccardo Freda, also in Italian. additionally we have the US trailer and the alternate US opening title sequence for the film. 

Of course Arrow throw in some pretty substantial new extras for the film, beginning with two brand new audio commentaries, the first with Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, another with Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava and So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films - and these are dense with Mario Bava-centric infor, combined these are like a masterclass in Italian cinema, and a must-listen for fans of Bava. As if that was not enough we also get a 18-min conversation with one of my favorite horror talking heads,  author and critic Kim Newman who goes into some depth about the influence of classic creature features on Caltiki. Also, not to be overlooked is a full aperture version of the film, the full frame image opens up the image with additional on the top and bottom of the image, some of the edges can be rough and there's a hair in there for a bit, but this version was interesting, it made it feel more like watching it on a Saturday horror matinee n TV as a kid. The release also features a sleeve of reversible artwork, plus a collector's booklet with new writing on the film by Kat Ellinger and Roberto Curti.

Special Features:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
- Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
- New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark
- New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava and So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
- From Quatermass to Caltiki, a new discussion with author and critic Kim Newman on the influence of classic monster movies on Caltiki (18 min) HD 
- Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master, an archival interview with critic Stefano Della Casa (19 min) 
- The Genesis of Caltiki, an archival interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi (21 min) 
- Archival introduction to the film by Stefano Della Casa (1 min) 
- Original English Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD 
- Alternate opening titles for the US version (2 min) HD 
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
 - FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring  new writing by Kat Ellinger and Roberto Curti.

It is wonderful to have this Italian 50's creature feature in HD and packed with so many cool extras, this is a true treat for monster movie kids and fans of Mario Bava. Arrow have gone above and beyond yet again and knocked it out of the park with a superior release of a cult-classic.  3.5/5 

THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (2016) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: IFC Midnight / Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 87 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: André Øvredal 
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Michael McElhatton, Olwen Kelly, Ophelia Lovibond

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) is the follow-up to director André Øvredal's wonderful found-footage fantasy film Troll Hunter (2010) wherein trolls turned out to be real, it's been a few years since that one and let me set you straight right up front - it is worth the wait. In this tense tale shrouded in weirdness we have a father and son mortician team, the gruff father Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox, Trick ’r Treat) and his son Austin (Emile Hirsch, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys) who are called upon by the local sheriff (Michael McElhatton, The Hallow) to perform an autopsy on a jane doe victim, a young woman found buried in the basement of a local home which was the scene of multiple grisly murders, and the jane doe they found in the basement is just one of numerous weird things about the unnerving crime scene, so much so that the sheriff is visibly shaken and confounded by the whole thing.

With the jane doe now at the basement mortuary of the Tilden's the father and son go about methodically examining the corpse for a proper cause of death. The victim is a young woman in her twenties, and very quickly the pair begin to note irregularities that defy easy explanation and an accurate cause of death, beginning with that her body look nearly pristine, the skin it smooth, unbroken and not discolored, there are no signs of rigor mortis, her wrists and ankles are brutally broken, her tong has been removed, her internal organs shows signs of scarring and burning... and that's not even the weirder stuff. As the postmortem continues the older Tilden mentors his son, correcting him, challenging him to draw the right conclusions based on the evidence the corpse presents, but this corpse is shrouded in mystery and is  presenting all manner of creepy and contradictory findings, that even the seasoned medical examiner finds himself struggling to understand. 

The movie started winning me over right away with it's craftsmanship, I love a well crafted movie, and this has a nice pace, it strings you along with moments of tension, and I loved the visual nuance and precise cinematography of Roman Osin (Pride & Prejudice)with the moody and atmospheric lighting of the basement mortuary set, but it is the father and son dynamic that glued it all together for me. The team-up of Hirsch and Cox is key, along with a rather good scene with the son's girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond, Guardians of the Galaxy), who is indulged her morbid curiosity by Tommy to peak at a corpse in one of the cadaver fridges, only to throw in a fun fright involving a bell strapped to the ankle of a corpse, it's good stuff. The character-bonds certainly help to make the weirder stuff more real, and there's some real gut-punch moments peppered throughout this one, which kept me on my toes, and plugged-in through to the end. Going into this one I had some preconceived notions about what the movie would be, though I had avoided all the trailers before viewing it, and while I was not completely surprised by what it turned out to be, I think the brooding and tense execution left we totally satisfied. I found it affecting and consistently creepy, this was one of my best home viewings experiences in quite a while, and by far my favorite of the IFC Midnight releases this year. 

Audio/Video: The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) arrives on Blu-ray/DVD Combo courtesy of another IFC Midnight/Scream Factory team-up, looking very nice all the way through. Blacks are deep and inky, colors are vivid and nicely saturated, and the fine detail is robust, some of those autopsy dissection scenes with Cox slicing into the corpse are uncomfortable to watch, good stuff. Audio on the Blu-ray includes choice of DTS-HD MA English 2.0 and surround 5.1, the track exports the creepy and atmospheric score crisply with some nice punch when the more visceral stuff begins. Optional English subtitles are included. 

The extras are slim with just a selection of TV spots, teasers and a theatrical trailer, but I wanted more, this is a movie I wanted to dive into the extras, and there were none. The DVD/BD combo pack, and includes a standard definition DVD with the same extras and lossy audio. The release comes in a standard blue keepcase with a slipcover (O-ring) featuring the same artwork as the sleeve. I also like that the DVD and Blu-ray discs have different artwork. 

Special Features: 
- TV Spots (1 min) HD 
- Teasers (2 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe(2016) is tense and claustrophobic with some icky and visceral body horror elements, the two leads are wonderful as the father/son mortician team, and the movie is well-crafted and keenly executed, I love this movie, this comes highly recommended, must-see fright cinema. Looking forward to what comes next from director André Øvredal, which according to IMDB is a project titled Mortal, about a young man who discovers he has God-like powers based on ancient Norwegian mythology, I'm down. The Autopsy of Jane Doe will be available as a WalMart exclusive on May 2nd and available everywhere June 27th, it is also currently streaming on numerous VOD platforms. 4.5/5

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

American Exorcism premieres on VOD this May from Uncork'd Entertainment!

Just your average, All-American, small town girl… possessed.


On VOD May 2, DVD August 1st

Studio: Uncork'd Entertainment
Cast: Braxton Davis, Michael Filipowich

Director: Tripp Weathers

Uncork’d Entertainment yields the cross and garlic this Spring, with the release of American Exorcism, premiering On Demand 5/2.
Damon Richter thought he left the world of possessions, exorcisms, and evil behind until an old friend arrives with frightening information about his estranged daughter knowing that only his otherworldly skills can save her.
Produced by Thriller Films in association with Master Key Productions.

Written and directed by Tripp Weathers, and starring Braxton Davis (The Butchers), Michael Filipowich (24), Sicily Fontaine, Jessica Morris (Lucifer), Kate Tumanova and William McKinney,  American Exorcism possesses VOD May 2 and DVD August 1.

Severin/Intervision Bring Back Two Home Video Oddities (One of them starring the late, great Vincent Price!)


Two Bizarre, Underseen Oddities Return From the Home Video Grave

On May 30th, Intervision Picture Corp. is ripping through the fabric of time to bring back two haunted relics of the analog past. This double feature is bursting at the seams with everything members of the video store generation crave - Bold fashions, mysterious videotapes, slasher hysteria, goofball teens, and some late career slumming by genre deity Vincent Price.

DARK HARVEST (1992): It’s stranded tourists vs. killer scarecrows in this early 90s SOV rarity. They planned on a relaxing horseback ride through the desert… They didn’t plan on engine trouble, long-winded campfire stories, deranged hillbillies with a shotgun, and a dangerous trek over cursed terrain. But the real terror begins when they discover that the creepy scarecrow overlooking their campsite has mysteriously disappeared from his cross.

ESCAPES (1986): Matthew Wilson didn’t order ESCAPES, but when a mysterious mail carrier delivers a VHS to his door, he pops it in his top-loader, not knowing what real life danger lurks inside the magnetic tape. Concluding his run of portmanteau chillers (TALES OF TERROR, TWICE TOLD TALES, THE MONSTER CLUB, FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM), horror legend Vincent Price presents these six bizarre tales of the uncanny. This new edition features the full Director’s Cut version!

Special Features:
- Actress Patti Negri Remembers Dark Harvest
- Actor Dan Weiss Remembers Dark Harvest Via Video Skype
- Distributor Tom Naygrow on Escapes Writer/Director David Steensland

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Archive Collection

Duration: 94 minutes
Region Code: All Regions
Rating: Unrated: 
Audio: English DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Cast: Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Mariette Hartley, Ronald Starr, Edgar Buchanan, James Drury, Warren Oates. L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong

In Sam Peckinpah's Ride The High Country (1962) we have aging lawman Steve Judd (Joel McCrea, Foreign Correspondent) at the turn of the 20th century, man on horses are giving way to the horseless carriage, and the remnants of old west are evaporating fast. Judd is in the process of signing on for work with a bank, hired onto guard a shipment of gold from the Coarse Gold mining camp in the Sierra Nevada's back to the bank in Hornitos, California. The job is dangerous, numerous men have died doing it, but the bankers don't think too much of the legendary lawman, who has seen better days, in fact he has to hide the fact that he needs reading glasses when reviewing the contract with the bankers, excusing himself to the bathroom to read it in private, it's sort of funny, and there's a lot of humor mixed into this movie. 

Finally offered the job Judd hires on an old gunslinger pal named Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott, Seven Men from Now) who has been working in a carnival sideshow attraction as “The Oregon Kid,”. The two past-their-prime gunslinger have both seen better days. Gil brings along his younger, hot-headed, sidekick Heck Longtree (Ron Starr) - love that name - on the job, and the three men set in the direction of Coarse Gold. But, unbeknownst to Judd the two men plan to double-cross him, and make off with the quarter million dollars in gold for themselves, unless they can convince the stoic, but well-worn, former lawman to swindle the bankers, too. 

They trio stop off along the way at a ranch run by uber-religious Joshua Knudsen (R.G. Armstrong, The Car) who lives with his attractive and rambunctious teenage daughter Elsa Knudsen (Mariette Hartley, The Return of Count Yorga), who is stifled by the strict upbringing by her father. She ends up running off with the trio of hired gunslingers, joining them on their trip to Coarse Gold, where she hopes to rekindle a romance with a young man named Billy Hammond (James Drury, TVs The Virginian) who once proposed to her, which doesn't turn out well for anyone. 

Peckinpah has always done well with stories about men who a bit out of time, a bit past their prime, and drawn into dangerous situations, and that was even true on this, his second film. McCrea and Scott are fantastic, veterans of countless Westerns, men of grit and presence, whose very appearance lends credibility to the film, but I have to admit, I have never been a huge fan of the American westerns. As a kid I hated them, it wasn't until I caught the wild Italian pasta-westerns of Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) and Sergio Corbucci (Django) that I came around to tales from the old west, mostly because I loved the lurid and violent ways and the keen cinematography, but to this day I don't much care for the John Ford (The Searchers) westerns of the films of John Wayne (True Grit), but I have come around to the movies of Sam Peckinpah, beginning with The Wild Bunch years ago, so it was a treat to dig into this revisionist western, even if it lacked the visceral punch of Peckinpah's later films. 

Back to the film, the gold shipment begins to take a backseat to the story about two aged lawmen, their codes of honor, and the betrayal, that's the real meat of the story. There's an impromptu marriage in Coarse Gold between her and her Billy Hammond, with a wonderfully demented exchange of vows overseen by drunk Judge Tolliver (Edgar Buchanan) who offers the most downer of warnings to the newlyweds. It turns out that Billy has an assortment of brothers,  they're a lecherous bunch, among them character actors Warren Oates (Race with the Devil)and L.Q. Jones (The Brotherhood of Satan), a slimy clan who at one point seem to threaten to gang-rape the poor girl!

The sex and violence is toned way down, particularly considering what would come from Peckinpah in later years, but the movie thrives on the honorable grit of McCrae and Scott, the latter of whom is not so honorable, but the finale buttons things up nicely, with Scott getting his wish to "enter my House justified.", both men facing the threat of death with old west dignity. 

Audio/Video: Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country (1962) arrives on Blu-ray from the venerable Warner archive, benefitting from a new 2K scan from a recent interpositive and the results are very nice. Colors are vibrant, the big blue sky and green tree lines look great. Grain is nicely resolved, fine detail is abundant, and the Lucien Ballard (The Wild Bunch) CinemaScope lensing looks phenomenal. While this is not the most colorful western, every once in awhile we do get some nice splashes of color, particularly during a visit to a local whorehouse. The one mark against it, the opening title credit sequence is window boxed for some odd reason, but I don't think that it's a deal breaker as the remainder of the film looks wonderful, but it is unfortunate.  

The English DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 Mono track sounds good, crisp, clean and while not overly dynamic, the movie is over fifty years old, it does the job and his free of any distortion, and the George Bassman score sounds great, even in mono. Optional English subtitles are included. 

Warner Archive bring over all the extras from ther 2006 DVD, beginning with the audio commentary with Peckinpah documentarians Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle. Nick Redman of Twilight Tie moderates, and this is a char filled to the brim with Peckinpah, if you're a fan of the director this is a mandatory listen There's also a 22-min interview with Peckinpah's younger sister, Fern Lea Peter, who recounts what it was like in the Peckinpah household when they were young, a few of her older siblings youthful behaviour and speaking a bit about his entry into the Marines, film school, and what drove her and Sam apart at one point in their adult lives. There's also a 3-min trailer for the movie included, which pales in comparison to the new 2K transfer, it makes for a nice comparison. 

Special Features:
- Commentary by Peckinpah documentarians Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle
- Documentary: A Justified Life: Sam Peckinpah and the Hogue Country (22 min)(SD)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (3 min)(HD) 

Ride the High Country (1962) is a classic American western, it lacks the visceral punch of later Peckinpah films but is a solid character-driven slice of Americana, featuring two legendary actors giving wonderful performances as a pair of gunslingers past their prime, fighting to hang onto their honor, sometimes straying along the way. This Blu-ray from Warner Archive looks phenomenal, definitely worth the upgrade! 3/5 

TORTURE GARDEN (1967) on Blu-ray May 3rd in Australia from VIA VISION!

Classic Amicus horror-anthology TORTURE GARDEN (1967)arrives on Blu-ray from Australia's VIA VISION ENTERTAINMENT on May 3rd! 


Label: Via Vision Entertainment 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Freddie Francis 
Cast: Jack Palance, Burgess Meredith, Peter Cushing, Robert Hutton

Via Vision Entertainment is thrilled to be releasing Torture Garden. It will be available on Blu-ray and DVD in Australia May 3.

Legendary cinematographer Freddie Francis (The Elephant Man, Cape Fear) directs this horror anthology written by Robert Bloch (Psycho) that features a cast to die for: Jack Palance (The Shape of Things to Come), Burgess Meredith (Burnt Offerings), Peter Cushing (Corruption), Beverly Adams and John Standing. Meredith frames each of the stories as the malevolent Dr. Diabolo, a con artist who might well have some real sinister powers as he entices patrons into his haunted house fairground attraction where he promises a glimpse into their futures. Beware the shears of destiny.

Vincent Canby of the New York Times called Torture Garden “irresistible.” 

“Palance and Cushing are excellent together and have a great repartee with one another,” notes Mitch Lovell in Video Vacuum, “making you wish they made more movies together.”

Friday, April 14, 2017

TANK 432 (2015) (Blu-ray Review)

TANK 432 (2015) 

Label: IFC Midnight/Scream Factory
Region Code: A

Duration: 88 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: Nick Gillespie
Cast: Deirdre Mullins, Gordon Kennedy, Michael Smiley, Rupert Evans, Steve Garry

Synopsis: Under siege by a mysterious enemy in an apocalyptic, war-torn landscape, a band of mercenary soldiers, hooded hostages in tow, seek refuge inside an abandoned military tank. But their sanctuary soon reveals itself to be a steel-walled prison. As the group succumbs to claustrophobia, paranoia, and increasingly disturbing delusions, it becomes clear that the real threat may lie not outside, but within. The directorial debut from longtime Wheatley collaborator Nick Gillespie unfolds like a delirious, pulse-pounding puzzle. 

Longtime Ben Wheatley (Kill List) cinematographer Nick Gillespie helms this murky and claustrophobic psychological thriller set during a non-distinct, apocalyptic war, wherein a small band of mercenary soldiers are tasked with seeking and capturing "cargo", a pair of human hostages. Right from the get-go the mercenaries seem to be on run from an ever present, but seldom seen enemy, always nipping on their heels. 

As night sets in they become desperate for cover, taking refuge in Bulldog tank found on the battlefield, but once inside they discover, too late, that the hatch is broken and will not open from the inside. Gathered inside the team, who were already a bit worked up and out of sorts at the start of the film, begin to succumb to paranoia and fear, as they are harassed by a creepy figure outside, an enemy who appears demonic in some scenes, with the very real possibility that it might not even exist. 

As the intense drama of the situation unfolds the men argue and bicker, they begin to turn on one another inside the confines of the tank, which has now become an iron prison. As certain certainties are disputed, and it becomes clear that something is wrong with the whole situation, and while the end does give us a bit of a revelation, which is somewhat expected, it leaves more questions than answers, a bit too much for my taste, particularly when the what ifs seem more entertaining than what I watched. The film has a some mildly interesting images, the look of the antagonistic enemy is keen, but the positives are too few and too far between, I found this one a bit impenetrable, which coming from a collaborator of Ben Wheatley shouldn't be too surprising, but while I find Wheatley's brand of coldly  alienating weirdness a much tastier treat, Tank 432 just feels a pressure cooker which never gets up to a proper boil.  2/5 


PIG PEN (2016) (DVD Review)

PIG PEN (2016)
Label: Dire Wit Films 
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 85 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby digital 2.0 Stereo 
Video: Anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Jason Koch
Cast: Lucas Koch, Vito Trigo

Synopsis: Forced to fend for himself on the streets, 13-year-old Zack has just been pushed out of his dysfunctional home by Wayne, his mother's sadistic boyfriend. When the two are brought back together by a murder, only one will survive this bloody tale of revenge. PIG PEN is a harrowing and relentless vision that follows its fringe dwelling characters down a spiral of intensifying and almost unwatchable violence and desperation. 

Whew, strap yourself in for a dire, gut-punch dose of reality based horror, this is some stuff stuff right here. Zack (Lucas Koch)is a young teenager, who goes by the nickname Pig Pen, living with his Oxy-addicted mom (Nicolette le Faye, WNUF Halloween Special), whose boyfriend Wayne (Vito Trigo, Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1) keeps her doped up while pimping her out to his friends.  Wayne is a real sick douchebag of a human, eventually he kicks Zack out onto the streets, telling him he cannot return unless he brings $50, with the advice to pimp himself out on the streets.

Zack hits the dirty streets of Baltimore, left to fend for himself, and were treated to some down and dirty urban street living, where he encounters menacing dope dealers, pedohiles, and street urchins. Along the way he meets a few good people who give him an assist and advice, but they are few and far between, this is a downward spiral of a tale, and there's no chance of this finishing up on a positive note.

As the story unfolds were treated to some flashbacks, we glimpse a bit of Zack's life with his mom before things got so bad, before Wayne came into the picture, but you see the writing on the wall early on, and these walls are covered in blood, no happy ending folks. 

Zack as played by Koch is good, an awkward skate kid, seemingly numbed by the endless stream of depravity that has washed over him, he;s quiet, he keeps it inside, but there's a rage burning, he hates Wayne, he hates to see his mother shamed and abused in his hand, and eventually you know something awful will happen... and boy does it, damn, this thing is unrelenting. 

Audio/Video: Pig Pen arrives on DVD from Dire wit Film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) looking modest - this is a low-budget movie and the cinematography and lighting looked to have been limited, but it looks good considering the seemingly lo-fi roots. The main issues are softness and poor lighting and contrast, which seem to go hand in hand, most of the scenes are dark, and the lack of proper lighting gives it a murky look. Audio on the disc comes by way of a stereo Dolby Digital track, which handles the dialogue, effects and Paul Joyce (Father's Day) score well, there are no subtitle options. The only extra on the disc is a 2 minute trailer for the film. 

The movie takes a while to get going, it takes its sweet time allowing you to get a noseful of the urine drenched street life, and the final string of violence is a sight to behold with some truly teeth-gritting damage being inflicted. I would strongly recommend this to fans of Ryan Nicholson's Collar (2014) and Harmony Korine's Gummo (1997), this is a brutal-downer of an ugly film. 3/5