Tuesday, November 28, 2017

THE VIOLENT YEARS (1956) (AGFA Blu-ray review)


Label: AGFA (American Genre Film Archive)
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 65 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: William Morgan
Cast: Jean Moorhead, Barbara Weeks, Art Milan

Synopsis: "I shot a cop... SO WHAT!" So say the girl gang thrill-killers of Ed Wood's delirious THE VIOLENT YEARS! Written by legendary Hollywood outsider Edward D. Wood, Jr. (PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE), this is the story of Paula Parkins, a good-girl-gone-bad who leads her degenerate teenage hellcats down a path of gas station hijackings, pajama party orgies, and cold-blooded murder! From Wood's patently deranged dialogue to the scene where the gang performs a ''man attack,'' THE VIOLENT YEARS is an essential expose on crime, gender politics, and sweater-stealing. Remember, ''This is a story of violence!''

Teen delinquency films were quite a thing in the 50's, dire warnings of the most exploitative kind, salacious exposes of what unchecked youth can get up to without proper parental supervision and moral values. Such is the story of the perky nice-girl Paula Perkins (Jean Moorhead, Playboy Playmate 1955), daughter of workaholic  newspaper editor Carl (Arthur Millan) and social-bee Jane (Barbara Weeks), both are so preoccupied with their own lives to give much thought to their daughter and what she's up to. As it turns out she is the ringleader of an all-girl gang of juvie-delinquents along with school pals Phyllis (Gloria Farr), Geraldine (Joanne Cangi), and Georgia (Theresa Hancock). The teens go out at night and violently rob gas stations, also getting their kicks by sexually assault young men! However, when a night out destroying a highschool classroom goes wrong the cops show up and a shootout ensues, a cop dies, and young Ms. Perkins winds up on trial and imprisoned for life for her crimes. Not to worry though, her life doesn't end up being all that long. The movie begins and ends with a judge, played by I. Stanford Jolley (The Crimson Ghost) shaming the parents for being absent in their daughters life, leading to her moral decay. It's another highlight of this over-dramatic and deliciously awful slice of teen delinquency. Having been written (not directed) by Ed Wood (Plan 9 from Outer Space) this one was never gonna be a dramatic masterpiece, while the film is not too poorly shot, it is woodenly acted and badly edited, but damn if it isn't a trashy slice of 50's exploitation, chock full of busty teenage nihilism.

Audio/Video: Teenage delinquent cult-classic The Violent Years (1965) arrives on Blu-ray from AGFA with a brand new 4K scan of the original camera negative. The black and white image looks strong there's some minor print damage by way of speckling, scratches and frame damage, but the contrast is good, it truly is a revelation compared to what we had before. Audio comes by way of an English DTS HD MA Mono 2.0 track that sounds good, appropriately  flat and unremarkable, but surprisingly clean. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extra we begin with a new audio commentary from Basketcase director Frank Henenlotter and Ed Wood biographer Rudolph Grey, a fun listen, Grey has an early draft of the script in front of him which they occasionally reference, Grey having interviewed Ed Wood has lots of great stories, and Henenlotter is a treasure trove of juvenile delinquent cinema trivia. We also get 15-min of Gutter-noir trailers from the Something Weird vault, 10-min of footage Ed wood shot for an unfinished feature called Hellborn (from a poor VHS source), and a wonderfully  salacious theatrical trailer for The Violent Years. 

Making this release a double-feature we get Anatomy of a Psycho (1961), presented in a raw 2K scan of a theatrical print, framed in 1.78:1 widescreen with DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 audio, optional English subtitles provided for this one, too. The source has plenty of scratches but looks remarkably good, the first few minutes and the last few are the worse for wear, but easily blowing away anything I've seen previously on numerous public domain budget collections, though I have not seen the Vinegar Syndrome release. Directed by Boris Petroff Anatomy of a Psycho stars Ronnie Burns as teenage Chet, who is driven to the edge of insanity by the execution of his older brother. After having his face slashed in a senseless alley-way brawl paranoia begins to set in, everyone around him seems an enemy. Chet turns to his sweet younger sister, his slutty girlfriend, and even his old poker buddies for solace, but each seem to have real or imagined links back to the ill-fated trial that condemned his brother, thus aggravating Chet's growing psychosis. After viciously assaulting the prosecuting attorney's son the troubled youth draws the attention of detective Lt. Mac. Spiraling out of control Chet commits an arson and then a senseless murder. With Lt. Mac ratcheting up the pressure, he sinks deeper and deeper into the bottomless pit of his own psychotic delusions. Notably, this was actor Ronnie Burns final performance, he being the adopted son of George Burns and Gracie Allen.

This single-disc Blu-ray comes in a clear Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, plus a collector's booklet with an introduction from Joseph A. Ziemba, excerpts from the Something Weird paper archive, including what appears to be a shooting script, images from the film, behind the scenes pictures, plus we get notes about the transfer, production credits, and info about AGFA and Something Weird Video.  

Special Features: 
- New 4K scan from the original 35mm camera negative!
- Commentary track with Director Frank Henenlotter and Ed Wood biographer Rudolph Grey!
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD 
- Hellborn (10 min) HD 
- Gutter-noir trailers from the Something Weird vault! (15 min) HD 
- Bonus Movie: ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO (1965), new 2K scan from an original 35mm theatrical print! (74 min) HD 
- Booklet with Memorabilia scrapbook

The Violent Years (1956) is a super-trashy slice of 50's teenage delinquency cinema, it's a poorly made and stiffly delivered piece of work, but this thing had me laughing for the whole hour! Teenage girls knocking over gas stations is just the beginning, then it's onto destroying classrooms and unwittingly carrying out a clandestine commie agenda, layer onto that the teens group-raping a man off screen (we hear him screaming), plus a cop killing and a jailhouse pregnancy that goes horribly wrong. There's a lot of bad here to love. While I'm not sure how many folks were screaming for a definitive Blu-ray edition of this delinquent teen cult-classic I know that AGFA and Something Weird Video had to be the ones to do, so dig in. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

THE PAUL NASCHY COLLECTION II (Scream Factory Blu-ray Review)

5-Disc Blu-ray Set 
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Duration: 450 Minutes 
Rating: Unrated
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, English  DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles  
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1), Full Frame (1.33:1) 
Directors: León Klimovsky, Juan Bosch, Javier Aguirre 
Cast: Paul Naschy, Maria Perschy, Norma Sebre, Rosanna Yanni, María Kosty, Guillermo Bredeston

Synopsis: Paul Naschy (born Jacinto Molina Álvarez) was Spain's answer to Lon Chaney. He has portrayed many classic monsters – the Wolfman, Frankenstein's monster, Count Dracula, the Mummy and more. He was not only a terrific actor, but an accomplished writer, producer and director. This Blu-ray box set includes five stellar films from his long and distinguished career.


Rating: Unrated 

Duration: 82 Minutes 
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, English  DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles  
Video: 1080p HD Full Frame (1.851) 
Director: Javier Aguirre
Cast: Paul Naschy, Rossana Yanni, Vic winner, Alberto Dalbes, Maria Perschy

In writer/director Javier Aguirre's (Count Dracula's Great Loves) Hunchback of the Morgue (1973) Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy plays Gotho, a hunchback who lives in a small German village working in the local hospital morgue for Dr. Orla (Alberto Dalbes, Cut-Throats Nine). The simpleton hunchback is tormented by the locals and obsessed with his beautiful friend Ilse (María Elena Arpón, Tombs of the Blind Dead), the two have been friends since childhood but she suffers from a respiratory illness that is killing her. While at a local pub Gotho is mercilessly picked on, afterward he follows one of the drunk tormentors home, witnessing the man fall down drunk and apparently die, but I thought it was sort of ambiguous if the man dies or was just dead-drunk, regardless Gotho carts his corpse back to the morgue and delights in severing the mans feet and hands, reveling in the thought of the man being dissected by medical students. 

Sadly Ilsa passes on and Gotho goes a bit mad when a pair of coroner desecrate her body, forcing the hunchback to murder both men and hide his beloved's body away in a catacomb of tunnels located beneath the hospital. Eventually Dr. Orla figures out that Gotho is behind the recent spate of murders/missing people in the area, but is willing to turn a blind eye to it if Gotho assists him with his own mad science project which requires fresh corpses, promising the hunchback he will re-animate his dead beloved. Meanwhile Gotho becomes infatuated with Orla's attractive assistant Elke (Rosanna Yanni, Sadist Erotica) who for some reason seems to fall for the disfigured murder, fully aware of his distasteful penchant for murder.

This Gothic slice of Spanish horror features a good turn from Naschy as the sympathetically loathsome Gotho, he's not all that unattractive here, more sad than ugly, but he does what's necessary to make you feel for him to a degree. However, why these Hammer-esque gorgeous women are falling for him is less successfully conveyed, must be that winning personality that makes him so desirable. There's some nice moments of bloody carnage here, we have some severed heads and appendages, flesh melting in a vat of acid, and an unfortunate real-life rat being set on fire, which was completely unnecessary. There's also a scene of Gotho throwing one of the coroners into an iron-maiden, which is an odd piece of lab equipment to have at a morgue, but there it is!  There's also a hideous single-celled monstrosity that Dr. Orla grows in his lab which becomes a flesh-eating monster which out anti-hero hunchback most contend with.

The movie is a fun watch, fans of Gothic horror with a Spanish flavor will love this early and bloody tale of obsessive/deformed love and mad science, it has plenty of atmosphere and a surprising amount of gore-gags. 
Audio/Video: Hunchback of the Morgue arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory from a master provided by Spanish licencor Victory who would not allow Scream access to the original elements, which is sad, but what can you do. what we get is sourced from the available HD master framed in 1.85:1 widescreen looking attractive, but perhaps not Blu-ray defining. There's some minor speckling and scratches evident throughout, but overall it's pleasing to the eye, fine details look good, it's not the most crisp image, but never having seen it before on any other format I was very pleased with it. There are two audio options, we have the original Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, plus the option to watch with the English dub via a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. Audio sounds good for both tracks, though there is some slight hiss but otherwise the mix is decent and the English dub is not awful, though Paul Naschy is dubbed as he is on all the English dubs on this set. 

Extras for this one includes a brand new audio commentary from the guys at the Naschycast podcast, Spanish title/credit sequences, theatrical trailers and an image gallery.   

Special Features: 

- NEW Audio Commentary By Rod Barnett And Troy Guinn Of The Podcast, NaschyCast
- Spanish Title Sequence (2 min) HD 
- Spanish Credit Sequence (1 min) HD 
- Spanish Intertitles (1 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailers (Spanish And English) (6 min) HD 
- Still Gallery (4 min) HD 


Duration: 89 Minutes  
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0, English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0  with Optional English Subtitles  
Video:  1080p HD Wiescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Leon Klimovsky 
Cast: Paul Naschy, Norma Sebre, Guillermo Bredeston, Vidal Molina, Graciela Nilson  

This medieval film set in France is directed by Leon Klimovsky and scripted by Naschy, based on the true life story of 14th century knight and Lord Gilles de Rais, a notorious child serial killer who was also said to dabble in black magic, before being hung. Here we have Naschy portraying a similar character Gilles de Lancre, a Baron who once fought bravely for the French crown against England, but when he falls out of favor with the crown he turns his eye toward alchemy and mysticism, encouraged by his witchy wife Georgelle (Norma Sebre)and a sorcerer named Simon de Braqueville (Eduardo Calvo) to seek out The Philosopher's Stone, requiring blood drinking and ritual sacrifices. 

A french soldier named Captain Gaston de Malebranche (Guillermo Bredeston) learns firsthand of the Baron's madness and puts together a small ensemble of men to storm the castle and rid the realm of his evil ways. This one is slightly out of sync with the horror-theme of this set, a medieval tale of evil, sorcery and swordsmanship that is light on gore and nudity, but filled with plenty of action-adventure, including an eye-gouging joust, with some well choreographed swordplay and decent moments of dungeon torture, including setting a red-hot crown on the former King's head, ouch.

Naschy is in full beard mode here, which is always a good thing, looking badass with a patch over his eye, like a demented Snake Plisken from past, he does the role justice, his descent into madness and mysticism well played, there's a lot here to love, but it might be a hard sell for the hardcore horror fan who might be looking for some Spanish sleaze and gore, it's here in small amounts, but not enough to get a lot of love from the horror crowd, but if you love swashbuckling adventures this is a top-notch watch.  

Audio/Video: The Devil's Possessed (1975) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, again licensed from Victory who offer only the existing HD masters with no option to create a new master from the existing elements. Framed in 1.85:1 widescreen the image looks good, colors are nicely reproduced, fine detail is adequately resolved, black levels are decent, but not great. Grain is a more pronounced with this one, but there's not much to complain about in the way of artifacting or print damage other than some white speckling. There are two audio options, we have the original Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, plus the option to watch with the English dub via a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. Audio sounds decent for both tracks, though the English dub is anemic, seemingly missing effects sounds and score hear in the Spanish track, and the Spanish track has a repetitive thrum that shows up in the final third I found annoying, the the dialogue and mix is more nuanced with it, . The score from composer Carlos Viziello fairs well in the mix, which has some oddball electronic excursions for a Medieval set film. 

Onto the extras we get no commentary on this one, what we do get is the Spanish credit/title sequences, and a selection of trailers, pretty bare-bones, was hoping we would get something from the Naschycast crew or Troy Howarth, a missed opportunity. 

Special Features: 

- Theatrical Trailers (Spanish And English) (7 min) HD 
- Spanish Title Sequence (1 min) HD 
- Spanish Credit Sequence (1 min) 


Rating: Unrated 

Duration:  94 Minutes
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, English  DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles  
Video: 1080p HD Full Frame (1.33:1) 
Director: M.I. Bonns  
Cast: Paul Naschy, Grace Mills, Sylvia Solar, Luis Induni, Gil Vidal

In the wild and furry The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975) Naschy returns as Waldemar Daninsky, an anthropologist working alongside Professor Lacombe (Josep Castillo Escalona) and his lovely daughter Sylvia (Grace Mills) in Tibet on the trail of the mythical Yeti creature.  Against the advice of Lacombe, Waldemar hooks up with a mountain guide Joel (Víctor Israel) who says he'll take him through the mountains to the last known whereabouts of a colleague lost in the treacherous snowbound terrain the two become lost and Joel runs off on his own after hearing the howls of the mysthical devil's said to inhabit the area. Lost and alone Waldemar wanders until he comes upon a cave, inside he finds  a strange temple, he also meets a pair of sisters who live in the cave, the two gorgeous women seduce him, but it tuns out that these women are the fabled devils, and he glimpses them eating human remains, possibly those of Joel. As he attempts to escape the cave he is overrun by them women who reveal themselves to be werewolves. he manages to kill them but not before he is bitten, this being cursed by lycanthropy. 

Seeking a cure for himself Waldemar finds a monk who tells him how to rid himself of the curse, but he is then captured by a local warlord Sekkar Khan (Luis Induni) who has also captured the professor and Sylvia, intended for us by the warlord and the witchy  Wandessa (Silvia Solar), the pan is to peel their skin and use t for a bizarre skin treatment for the warlord. 

This is a crazy watch, it has werewolves, a yeti, blood rituals, skin-peeling, warlords, and cannibalism - there's a little bit of everything here for everyone, all mixed up in a goody stew of action and horror that never gets boring. Naschy is clean-shaven here for those keeping rack, in his eight film as the werewolf, and I love the look of the werewolf, Naschy's lycan is one of my favorites, I love the dark hair and enormous teeth, and he's very acrobatic in this one, leaping quite a bit as he stalks his human (and yeti) prey, especially great is the scene of him leaping from a large boulder onto a victim riding a horse.

Now onto the bad, for a film with yeti in the title the big-footed action is anemic at best, we get a scene of the hairy creature attacking the explorers and it ends with the titular fight, but the costuming looks horrendous and the creature is kept out of sight and understandably obscured for most of it, it's a real let down, but even that couldn't diminish the fun I had with this mythical mayhem.   

Audio/Video: The Werewolf and the Yeti arrives on Blu-ray in what I believe to be the full frame (1.33:1) open matte format, the image looks decent, the image quality fluctuates quite a bit, and there are what look to be some standard definition inserts from an inferior source that pop up very noticeably. Again, this is sourced from an existing HD master from the licensor with no option for a new scan from the original element.

There are two audio options, we have the original Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, plus the option to watch with the English dub via a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. Audio sounds good for both tracks, some slight hiss and pops are definitely audible, and the English dub has a stronger music cues, but otherwise the mix is decent. 

Onto the extras we get hardly anything for this intriguing film,  not even a commentary track. This title was a bonafide video nasty, it has a little bit of everything thrown into it and I would have loved a commentary from Troy Howarth or the Naschycast guys to walk me through it, surely there are some interesting facts I need to know about this crazy film. As it is we only get an image gallery for the movie, but there's a booklet with this release with notes on the film.  

Special Features: 

- Still Gallery (3 min) HD 


Rating: Unrated 

Duration: 91 Minutes  
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, English  DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles  
Video: 1080p HD Full Frame (1.33:1)
Director: Juan Bosch 
Cast: Paul Naschy, Maria Perschy, Maria Kosti, Grace Mills 

Written by Paul Naschy and directed by Juan Boesch (The Killer Wore Gloves)this Spanish Exorcist knock-off finds Paul Naschy in unfamiliar territory - as the good guy! Naschy plays Father Adrian Dunning, a priest called in by the family of a young woman named Leila (Grace Mills, Night of the Howling Beast) who at the start of the film is partaking in a satanic blood-drinking ritual, it's a fun beach-side scene with 70's hipsters gathered around a fire sharing a joint, drinking blood and dropping their clothes. Afterward she and her boyfriend are involved in a car accident that sends them plummeting down a steep embankment, while in the hospital recuperating Leila begins acting strangely aggressive towards mother and family, apparently having been possessed by the spirit of her dead father who was sent to the asylum years earlier, where he died. Arriving home she gets worse, this is when Naschy's priest character is called in by the family.

Adding to the intrigue is a series of neck-snapping killings around
the home which may or may not be attributed to the young possessed woman, I'll leave that kernel of intrigue for you readers to watch for yourselves. Naschy appears here in full-on beard-mode, damn that man could grow some sweet facial hair! as the subdued, pipe-smoking priest he is reluctant to declare the  troubled girl possessed, attributing her derangement to a psychiatric persuasion, not demonic possession, but once the girl begins speaking in her father's voice he changes his attitude, and a proper exorcism finally gets underway. 

Naschy is good in the role of melancholic priest, smoking away thoughtfully on his pipe, but the role is perhaps a bit too subdued, particularly when the priest begins having hallucinations of a snake coming out of the water faucet, he doesn't seem too unnerved by it. Another shade against it is that the gore and special effects are toned down, we don't get much in the way of supernatural action till over an hour in, though the final twenty minutes are electrifying. Leila doesn't go full-on Linda Blair till late in the game but the transformation is well-done, discolored and torn skin, with unnerving marble colored contacts in her eyes, predating in similar visual in Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981). Despite Naschy claiming the script was written before The Exorcist hit the cinema it's hard to deny the final film bares a few knock-offs of the popular film, including the vomit-spewing (okay, maybe vomit-dribbling is more precise) and a tumble down the stairs in the final act, though there's a nice man's best friend spin at the end and an ambiguous ending that could go several ways.

The movie has some pacing issues, it hints at some sordid goings on, some psychic/incestuous sexuality, and we get some minor nudity and gore, but this one doesn't have broad appeal, even for a Naschy film, but it's a good watch, those final 20-minutes make-up for it's previous shortcomings I think. 
Audio/Video: Exorcism arrives on Blu-ray in what I believe to be the full frame (1.33:1) open matte format, despite being advertised on the box as 1.78:1 widescreen. It looks good, colors are solid, print damage is minimal and contrast is decent throughout, it's not reference quality by any means, and it looks slightly waxy to my eyes. For the two full frame presentations on this set think it would have been cool if Scream Factory could have offered a matted widescreen presentation in addition to keeping the open matte format, if that's indeed what we're seeing here. Audio comes by way of both Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0, and an English dub via a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. Audio sounds good for both tracks, some slight hiss discernible, and I noticed some additional music cues on the English track not heard on the Castilian version otherwise the mix is decent and the English dub is not awful. 

Extras on this one include a good commentary track from Try Howarth, it's scene specific in addition to offering up some scholarly insight into he film and Naschy's career, also pointing out that the English dub versions of Naschy's film's were done by actor Jack Taylor (Pieces). If you're looking for an additional commentary I would point you in the direction of the Naschycast podcast, the guys over there offer up one for this one and Hunchback of the Morgue on their feed.  The disc is finished up with alternate clothed versions of the racier scenes intended for release in span during the oppressive Franco regime, theatrical trailers, and English credit sequence, and an image gallery. 

Special Features: 
- NEW Audio Commentary By Author Troy Howarth
- Alternate “Clothed” Versions Of The Nude Scenes For The Original Spanish Release (6 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailers (Spanish And English)(5 min) HD 
- English Credit Sequence
- Still Gallery (4 min) HD 


Rating: Unrated 

Duration: 89 Minutes  
Audio: Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono, English  DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles  
Video:  1080p HD Full Frame (1.85:1) 
Director: Leon Klimovsy
Cast: Paul Naschy, Erika Blanc, Angel Aranda, Maria Kosti, Ricardo Merin

The Spanish/Italian co-production A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (1975) was again written by star Paul Naschy and directed by Leon Klimovsy (The Devil's Possessed), a stylish Spanish giallo with a nicely evocative insect themed title, which was par for the course in the early 70's, along the line of Argento's Four Flies on Grey Velvet. This time around Naschy (once again playing against type as a good guy) is the superbly mustached Paolo Scaporella, a cigar-chomping detective with a tarnished reputation assigned to investigate a string of recent murders. A killer is cleaning up the streets of Milan, murdering a counter-culture dropout scum, beginning with a dope fiend before moving on to a hooker and then a trio of swinging hippies who are doped-up after some apparently strenuous group-sex! 

Assisting Paolo is the pre-requisite amateur sleuth we so often see in these Italian-style whodunits, this time embodied by red-haired Italian cult-icon Erika Blanc (The Devil's Nightmare) as the detective's wife Sylvia, a woman unafraid to drop her clothes whenever called upon, and there's a great scene here of her laying in bed looking through crime scene pics with a magnifying glass, completely nude of course.

The killer is black-gloved and features a face obscured by fabric, not unlike that of the killer in Mario Bava's seminal giallo Blood and Black Lace (1964), using an arsenal randing from a long bladed knife, to a small hatchet and a secretly-bladed umbrella! In standard giallo fashion there are numerous red-herrings, a veritable smorgasborg of suspects spanning the spectrum from lowlifers to high-society types, and in a very Argento-esque way it also features a stereotypically gay character, though treated with a bit more care than Argento normally did, but still just as flamboyantly, and we get not one but two transvestite characters. The clues include a missing button and a birthmark, but can out murder-solving power couple put the pieces together before it too late? 

I have not watched too many Spanish giallo films, so this was a notable entry, very stylish and with many of the hallmarks of a true Italian whodunit, including some well staged cinematography, a groovy score and black-gloved tropes, including some perverse sexuality and twisted psychology. It's clear that Naschy had a firm understanding of the genre, I'm curious to seek out more of his films and see if there are other giallo-flavored whodunits, this was pretty great.        

Audio/Video: This Spanish-Italian Giallo arrives on Blu-ray from an existing HD master framed in 1.85:1 and looking very nice, this is perhaps the most stylish of films on the set, attractively shot by cinematographer Miguel Fernández Mila (The Return of the Evil Dead), colors are robust, fine detail is decent, but there is a brief insert from an inferior source that mars it  a bit, but overall this is a very pleasing image that looks clean. Audio comes by way of both Castilian DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0, and an English dub via a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. The score is pretty swanky, too, with loads of fuzzed-out guitar and a good groove, not on par with Argento's Goblin or Morricone scores but pretty great just the same. 

Again we have another fine commentary from author Troy Howarth, who does a great job filling in some details about Naschy and the film, how it relates to the Italian giallo films, and humorously apologizing for his admiration of Erika Blanc's nude scenes. We also get the Spanish title/credit sequences and an image gallery.

Special Features: 
- NEW Audio Commentary By Author Troy Howarth
- Still Gallery (2 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (No Audio)(3 min) HD 
- Spanish title Sequence (1 min) HD 
- Spanish Credit Sequence (1 min) HD 
- 24-Page Collector's Booklet by author Mirek Lipinski.

This 5-disc Blu-ray set comes housed in an flipper-style Blu-ray keepcase, each film presented on it's own disc, with a sleeve of artwork by illustrator Joel Robinson who's been ding some great work for Scream Factory. The reverse side features cast and crew info. The discs themselves do not feature any notable artwork, and there's a 24-page booklet with extensive writing on each film from author Mark Lipinski, making up in part for a lack of extras on the discs, particularly for The Devil's Possessed and The Werewolf and the Yeti. The booklet also contains stills, lobby cards, and poster artwork for each film. This release also includes a slipcase featuring the same artwork. 

The Paul Naschy Collection II 5-disc set from Scream Factory is fantastic stuff, it's great to see Naschy getting more love in HD from a another U.S. distributor. The Spanish horror icon has quite a legion of cult-followers, hopefully that will only grow with this release. I myself have only had a cursory introduction to the icon's body of work, so I appreciate this five-film deep dive into his filmography. While I do wish it had been possible to strike new HD transfers fir these and that we had more extras from fans and the surviving cast and crew I'm actually very content with what we get here. Here's hoping there's a third volume of Naschy goodness coming our way!     

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Region-Free Dual Format Edition 

These all-time classic adventures, each featuring pioneering special effects by filmmaking legend Ray Harryhausen, are presented here in stunning restorations. Containing a wealth of new and archival extras – including audio commentaries with the great Ray Harryhausen himself, a Jason and the Argonauts commentary with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, new interviews with SFX maestro Hal Hickel and genre-film expert Kim Newman – this ravishing Limited Dual Format Edition Box Set from Indicator is strictly limited to 6,000 units.


Label: Powerhouse Films/Indicator
Rating: BBFC cert: PG 
Duration: 101 Minutes 
Region Code: Region Free  
Audio: English LPCM 1.0 Mono, English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Cy Endfield
Cast: Michael Craig, Joan Greenwood, Michael Callan, Gary Merrill, Dan Jackson

Based on the story from Jules Verne  Mysterious Island is set during the American Civil War, where three Union soldiers Cyrus Harding (Michael Craig), Herbert Brown (Michael Callan), Neb (Dan Jackson) and Union war correspondent Gideon Spillet (Gary Merrill) escape from a Confederate prison camp via a hot air balloon during a monstrous storm. They drag along a confederate soldier named Pencroft (Percy Herbert) and decide not to throw him overboard when it turns out he can pilot the balloon to their benefit. 

As they drift along they realize that they're above the Pacific ocean, a bit further West than they'd set out for, and during another whopper of a storm the balloon springs a leak they quickly descends, plummeting into the ocean just off the shore of an uncharted island. As they set about exploring the lush island they are attacked by an enormous crab, a fantastic Harruyhausen creation, but the castaways prove resourceful and end up pushing it into a boiling natural spring - which is awfully convenient, and ends up being whats for dinner!

The men discover  that are not alone on the island, upon the initial landing one of them men was knocked unconscious, his life saved by an unseen savior who pulled him up onto the beach and lit a fire for warmth, and after exploring the island a bit they run across two English women who were shipwrecked during the storm, the spunky Lady Mary Fairchild (Joan Greenwood) and her niece Elena (Beth Rogan). As they come together to form a clan and take up residence in a cave they must face a huge chicken, a swarm of giant bees, a group of cutthroat pirates and a monstrous octopus. During the encounter with the pirates the group's mysterious benefactor emerges, it's none other than Capt. Nem(Herbert Lom, 99 Women), the sea-terrorist who with his iron submarine The Nautilus sank many ships before supposedly going down with his ships eight years earlier. 

Thankfully for them Nemo seems to have reformed his ways, and instead of destroying military sea vessels plans to curb world war by supplying the world with an endless supply of genetically modified animals and grains which he has been hard at work on for years while trapped on the island, but there's one problem, the active volcano on the island is ready to cover the lush island in a covering of molten lava, and they must devise a way off the island or perish. 

Here we have a wonderful fantasy adventure film, directed by Cy Enfleild (Zulu) who rises to the challenge that few others have in my opinion, crafting an engaging story around the eye-popping stop-motion visuals supplied by Harryhausen, and he does it very well, though it still feels like a canvas for the special effects to a degree, but is highlighted by a sassy turn from Joan Greenwood as the sassy English Lady Fairchild and a good turn from Lom as Nemo. On top of that you have the wonderful Harryhausen stop-motion creations and some fun matte painting as the backdrop, though the live action does not mesh seamlessly as one would hope for I think they still stand tall in HD. 

Like most of these vintage science fiction/fantasy adventure films the science and logic are slap dash and improbable but epic fun just the same, turning a blind eye to some of the conch shell scuba gear is easy to do when the film is so front-loaded with wonderful visuals and imagination, and a wonderfully brassy score from Bernard Hermann.
Audio/Video: Mysterious Island arrives on Blu-ray from Indicator with a brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative, looking wonderful with a nice layer of grain intact, colors are rich and vibrant, skin tones look natural, everything is in order and looks great. Audio options include English LPCM 1.0 Mono and English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English subtitles, the phenomenal brassy Bernard Hermann score sounding full and crisp, love it.  

Onto the extras we get two audio commentaries, one with Ray Harryhausen and Film Historian Tony Dalton, and a second with film historians Randall William Cook, C. Courtney Joyner and Steven C. Smith. There are also interview with SFX maestro Hal Hickel, camera assistant Ray Andrew, Hal Hickel and a vintage interview with Harryhausen himself. One of my favorites is a 21-min interview with film critic Kim Newman, he goes into how the flick is a dual-sequel of sorts, it' a great watch. We also get a comic book adaptation of the film, a 19-min super 8 version, isolated music score, and a selection of trailers and TV spots, plus an image gallery. 

Special Features: 
-  2K restoration of Mysterious Island from the original camera negative 
- Audio Commentary with Ray Harryhausen and Film Historian Tony Dalton 
- Audio commentary with film historians Randall William Cook, C. Courtney Joyner and Steven C. Smith
- New interview with SFX maestro Hal Hickel(10 min) HD 
- Ray Harryhausen on 'Mysterious Island' (10 min)
- Michael Craig on 'Mysterious Island'(3 min) HD 
- Ray Andrew on 'Mysterious Island' (3 min) HD 
- Hal Hickel on 'Mysterious Island' (2017): new interview with the special effects maestro (10 min) HD 
- Kim Newman on 'Mysterious Island' (2017): new appreciation by the author and genre-film expert (21 min) HD 
- Islands of Mystery: vintage featurette (6 min) HD 
-Mysterious Island comic-book
- Super 8 versions of Mysterious Island (19 min) HD
- Isolated scores: experience the music of Bernard Herrmann )LPCM 2.0) 
- Back to Mysterious Island comic-book (68 Images) HD 
- Original Trailer (3 min) HD 
- Teaser Trailer (3 min) HD 
- 2 TV Trailers (2 min) HD 
- 3 TV spots (2 min) HD
- Harry Hausen Intro (1 min)HD
- Image galleries: extensive promotional and on-set photography, poster art and archive materials (69 Images) HD 

Mysterious Island (1961) is an epic adventure film with wonderful Harryhausen special effects, based on the beloved Jules Vern story, there also seems to be elements of H.G. Wells' Food of the Gods thrown in there, it holds up and this presentation from Indicator is phenomenal. 


Label: Powerhouse Films/Indicator Series
Rating: BBFC cert: PG 
Duration: 104 Minutes 
Region Code: Region Free  
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Don Chaffey 
Cast: Edward Judd, Martha Hyer, Lionel Jeffries

Few movies take me back to being a kid watching the Saturday movie matinee on WPIX on my living room floor the eating PBJ sandwiches the way the stop-motion masterpieces of Ray Harryhausen do, particularly 
the tale of Jason and the Argonauts (1963), while I was never an enormous fan of Greek Mythology in school and in literature it was hard to resist the charms of this fantasy world come to life through the stop-motion magic of Harryhausen, who's movies invaded my dreams and imagination. 

In short Jason and the Argonauts is the story of Jason (Todd Armstrong) whose sister, mother and father King Aristo are murdered by Pelias (Douglas Wilmer) who misinterprets the will of the god Zeus (Niall MacGinnis). Queen of the gods Hera (Honor Blackman) is angered by Pelias's actions, who desecrated her temple by murdering  Aristo's wife there, in the aftermath she warns him to be wary of a one-sandaled man who will prove to be his undoing. The infant Jason escapes with the intervention of the god Hermes (Michael Gwynn), and twenty years later an adult Jason rescues Pelias from drowning in the sea, during the rescue he loses a sandal, which alerts Pelias to his identity. Pelias keeps his own identity a secret as he encourages Jason to go to the ends of the world to steal the legendary golden fleece, hoping he will die in the process, but with the aid of the goddess Hera he assembles a team and builds a ship called "The Argo", together he and his team, including strong-man Hercules, a champion archer, master wrestler and others, head to the ends of the earth on an adventure filled with sword fighting, mythical monsters and prophecized outcomes, of course all this centered around the wonderful stop-motion imagery of Harryhausen.

On their travels Jason is able to call upon the goddess Hera five times, as declared by Zues, and she is represented on the ship by a carved ornate masthead which from time to time speaks, opening her eyes and speaking to Jason. The winner here for me has always been the stop-motion creations of Harryhausen, my favorite being the attack of the giant bronze titan Talos on the Island of Bronze who is angered when Jason steals an item belonging to the gods, the way that Jason defeats him always made me feel sick as kid, slicing open his heel as his molten-blood leaks, for some reason it still affects me, which is quite a feat for a stop-motion death. Other obstacles to his journey include a pair of tormenting winged Harpies, a seven headed hydra, and of course the army of sword-wielding skeletons which grow from the teeth of the Hydra, once you see it you will never watch Sam Raimi's Army of Darkness the same way again.  

Audio/Video: Jason and the Argonauts arrives on Blu-ray from Indicator looking like it's a straight port of the Sony Blu-ray from a few years back, it has the same menu and extras, and no new Indicator exclusive extras, which is a shame, but the the A/V looks excellent throughout, there's a nice layer of grain, skin tones look accurate, colors are nicely vibrant, no complaints. Audio comes by way of a lossless DTS-HD MA surround 5.1 track, including an optional for a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 track, the Bernard Hermann (Psycho)score sounds robust in the mix but not overpowering, dialogue is well-balanced, crisp and clean, optional English subtitles are provided.

Onto the extras, as this is a straight port of he Sony disc we sadly do not get any new extras aside from the booklet that comes with this release but what they carryover is excellent! There are two audio commentaries, one with Ray Harryhausen and Film Historian Tony Dalton, and a second with director Peter Jackson (Dead Alive) and Visual Effects Artist Randall William Cook. Sony offer up a lot of Harryhausen love with a 26-min featurette,the hour-long The Harryhausen Chronicles narrated by Leonard Nimoy, and a 12-min interview with Harryhausen by director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), all of which are Harryhausen-nirvana for fans, and a wonderful appreciation by all the people in Hollywood  he influences through the years. Finishing up the disc we have a selection of trailers and a storyboard sequence of the skeleton fight. Unfortunately we do not get an isolated music score or image gallery for this one, but we still get loads of Harryhausen-centric extras. 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Ray Harryhausen and Film Historian Tony Dalton 
- Audio commentary with filmmaker Peter Jackson and Visual Effects Artsit Randall William Cook
- 'Jason and the Argonauts' Original Skeleton Fight Storyboards (10 Images_ HD 
- The Harryhausen Legacy (26 min) 
- The Harryhausen Chronicles narrated by Leonard Nimoy (58 min)
- John Landis interviews Harryhausen (12 min)
- Original Theatrical Trailer 1 (1 min) HD 
- Original Theatrical Trailer 2 (3 min) HD 
- Sweepstakes Trailer (1 min) HD 

Jason and the Argonauts holds up well, lover's of vintage stop-motion adventure films are in for a treat, and you need not be and old codger to love 'em, my own teenager was fascinated with these, too. Not even my years of listening to me speak so fondly of this one could numb him to the vintage awesomeness of this Harryhausen epic. 


Label: Powerhouse Films/Indicator
Rating: BBFC cert: PG 
Duration: 103 Minutes 
Region Code: Region Free  
Audio: English LPCM 1.0 Mono, English DTS-HD MA 3.0< English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Nathan Juran
Cast: Edward Judd, Martha Hyer, Lionel Jeffries

First Men In the Moon (1964) is the only film on this set that I'd never watched before, based on the story by H. G. Wells, it opens in '64 with the first U.N. sponsored manned-mission to the moon landing only to discover to their extreme surprise evidence somehow someone beat them to the moon sixty-five years earlier. A note left on the moon leads them to an old timer named  back on earth Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd) now living at an old-age home, leading to him telling the fantastical tale of how he visited the moon back in the year 1899, as one of a trio of Victorian era astronauts, along with his fiancée Katherine Callender (Martha Hyer) and an eccentric inventor named Joseph Cavor (Lionel Jeffries, The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb). Back in 1899 Cavor created/discovered a gravity defying substance he called "cavorite", which when applied to an any object lets it defy the laws of gravity, as humorously scene when Arnold takes a seat in a chair painted with the substance.

I found Jeffries wonderful as the madcap and manic inventor, bursting with energy, charm and occasionally absent-mindedness, he makes the movie for me, that and Ray Harryhausen's inspiring lunar vistas and miniature spaceship work. The two men join forces and make plans to travel to the moon via a steampunk spherical spaceship coated in cavorite, basically a diving bell. At the last minute they are forced to take Kate with them as improbably make their way to the surface of the moon. The men venture outside their spaceship to the moon's surface via enhanced deep diving gear - minus any gloves - these men are braving the cold of space minus protective hand-gear! While exploring the surface they discover a large shaft hidden beneath an artificial dome, travelling inside they discover a race of hive-minded insectoid creatures which Cavor names "selenites", there's an altercation and the men escape but come to find that as Kate, who remained behind in the ship, has been dragged beneath the surface of the moon by a legion of bee-creatures

With little other choice them men follow the drag marks in the lunar sand and make their way back into the alien hive, along the way the men encountering more of the selinites, which are created both through stop-motion magic and throwing some kids in rubber suits, and they both work for me. There's also a creature dubbed a "moon bull", looking very much like a menacing over-sized caterpillar with big red eyes and ferocious pincers, a fantastic creation, there's also some fun miniature and stage work done creating the subsurface lair of the creatures with crystalline structures, and a ray gun. 

The flick is just straight up fun, the scientific inaccuracies are hilarious, even for '64, but it all makes sense in a Victorian steampunk sort of way. The wrap around story is a nice touch, I particularly liked they way the Victorian era moon trip is resolved and how it played out in '64, all good stuff.
Audio/Video: The First Men In the Moon (1964) arrives on Blu-ray from Indicator with a 4K restoration from the original camera negative, and it looks superb. The shots of the ship landing on the moon, the lunar surface and subsurface caves and tunnels are bursting with fine detail and vibrant coloring. Audi includes three options, we get English LPCM 1.0 Mono, English DTS-HD MA 3.0 English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English subtitles, I preferred the 3.0 4 channel track third time around, the rumbling adventurous score from composer Laurie Johnson (Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter) sounds terrific, we even get the option to listen tot he isolated music score. 

Onto the extras we get a massive amount, beginning with a vintage audio commentary with Ray Harryhausen and special effects man Randall William Cook, and an introduction from Cook. There are also new interview with Special Effects Assistant Terry Schubert, Title Designer Sam Suliman and production manager Ted Wallis, plus a vintage featurette, a trailer commentary from director John Landis, and a selection of trailers and TV spots, and an image gallery. 

We were only sent screener discs sans any packaging for the sake of this review, so I have no insights into that, but from what I've seen online and in the press materials the packaging and booklets for this set look prestigious and match the A/V and extras, this would look great sitting on your shelf.  

Special Features: 
- 4K restorations of First Men in the Moon from the original camera negative 
- Audio Commentary with Ray Harryhausen and Randall William Cook 
 -Randall William Cook Introduces 'First Men in the Moon' (5 min) HD
- Tomorrow the Moon: vintage featurette (5 min)HD 
- Interview with Special Effects Assistant Terry Schubert (5 min)HD
- The Ripple Effect - interview with Title Designer Sam Suliman (4 min) HD 
- Original Men in the Moon - interview with production manager Ted Wallis (16 min) HD )
- Isolated scores from composer Laurie Johnson (LPCM 2.0)
- Original Theatrical Trailers (3 min) HD 
- Teaser Trailer (1 min) HD 
- Trailer from Hell: John Landis trailer commentary for First Men in the Moon (4 min) HD
- Image galleries: extensive promotional and on-set photography, poster art and archive materials (48 Images) HD
- Limited edition exclusive 80-page book with new essays by film experts Kim Newman and Tim Lucas, an in-depth oral history of all three films, and full film credits 
- Limited Dual Format Edition Box Set of 6,000 numbered units

While I'm just a tiny but sad that First Men In the Moon eluded me for so long, I think this new 4K restoration made for a stunning first-time watch. As a kid this would have captured my imagination something fierce, but even now in my decrepit/semi-jaded 40's it pulled me in and won me over with it's Victorian steampunk charms.  

This is the second Harryhausen set from Indicator, and is truly full of wonder and awe, it's a nice revisit of some childhood favorites, and a great introduction to a Victorian astronaut tale I has previously missed till now. The A/V on these is top-notch, chock full of tasty extras and looks to have some gorgeous packaging. While I do not have the first volume I know what I'll be getting for Christmas for myself this year. Remember, while this is a UK release the discs are region-free and play just fine on a standard U.S. Blu-ray player!