Thursday, October 31, 2019

3 FROM HELL (2019) (DVD Review)

3 FROM HELL (2019) 

Label: Lionsgate

Region Code: 1
Rating: R 
Duration: 115 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Rob Zombie
Cast: Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, Richard Brake, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Danny Trejo, Sid Haig, Bill Oberst Jr, Dee Wallace

This sequel might come as a bit of a surprise to some after the events in The Devil's Rejects (2005), a film which sure looked like it put the final nail in he coffin for the Firefly clan. The opening explains it all through newsreel footage showing the million-to-one recovery of the clan after being shot up like Swiss cheese, the ensuing trial for their heinous crimes and eventual incarceration. We catch up with the Firefly's ten years later still in prison, with Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig, Pit Stop) giving an interview shortly before his execution. That's right, my favorite member of the Firefly clan is gone too soon from this one! Obviously Haig was in poor health while making this, passing away not too long after the film's opened in the cinema, so what can you do? I will say that for what he does show up for onscreen is memorable stuff and won't disappoint fans!

While in prison the surviving Firefly clan have really captured the macabre imagination of the youth, with both Otis (Bill Moseley, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) and Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie, Lords of Salem) developing a bit of a cult-fan following, with the film continuing to play with the idea that the Fireflys are strange anti-heroes, with the authority figures not being much better than the killers. While we don't get anyone as unhinged as Sheriff Wydell from The Devil's Rejects (2005), we have corrupt prison warden Virgil Harper (Jeff Daniel Phillips, Halloween II), and his right-hand lady Greta (Dee Wallace, Cujo), the latter of whom really develops a distaste for Baby when she breaks her nose during a parole hearing. 

While on a work detail outside of the prison walls Otis manages to escape with the help of his half-brother Winslow 'Foxy' Coltrane (Richard Brake, 31), and the pair set about hatching a plan to spring Baby from the slammer, which involves kidnapping the Warden's wife, forcing the warden to sneak Baby out of prison disguised as a guard. The newly reunited Firefly trio meet-up at the warden's home and celebrate with a bloodbath in true Firefly style, making their captives extremely uncomfortable before killing them all, then fleeing to Mexico where they end up facing off against a brutal crime syndicate out for their blood. 

Rob Zombie's films are a bit of an acquired taste, and while I admit I am not a fan of his Halloween films I sort of dig his white trash aesthetic, he's got good feel for scumbags characters and a good eye for stuff that looks cool on film, though his dialogue, while entertaining on a base level, is oftentimes ridiculous, and this film is no exception. It was great to see Bill Mosely back in his Otis wig, after Chop Top from TCM2 I think this is his defining role. I also love having Sherri Moon Zombie back as the shrill-voiced Baby, this is a role that she was born to play, the demented killer-girl with a maniacal laugh, and this time she plays it even more detached, so strange in fact that Otis feels the need to make comment of it! With Captain Spaulding is largely missing from the film newcomer Winslow 'Foxy' Coltrane (Richard Brake) manages to capably fill the void, my favorite scene of his is a brain-splattering encounter in the woods with a hunter played by Bill Oberst Jr. (Dis), with a fun bit of trashy dialogue exchanged. 

If you're one of those people who love seeing familiar faces in small roles be on the lookout for Danny Trejo returning as as Rondo from The Devil's RejectsAustin Stoker (Assault on Precinct 13) as a newscaster,
Sean Whalen (The People Under the Stairs), Richard Edson (Ferris Bueller's Day Off), and Clint Howard (The Funhouse Massacre) as an unfortunate party clown named Mr. Baggy Britches.   

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Rob Zombie
- “To Hell and Back: The Making of 3 From Hell” Featurette (4-Part Documentary Available on 4K and Blu-ray, Only Part 1 Available on DVD)

3 From Hell (2019) will likely please die-hard fans of the first two films, if you're a Rob Zombie hater though this is not the film that's gonna change your opinion. I dig it, it's not on par with The Devil's Rejects but I'll watch this ten times before I watch House of a 1000 Corpses (2003) again, in fact I enjoyed it enough to order the unrated 4K UltraHD release, because what Lionsgate sent for this review was only the R-rated theatrical version DVD, which is cut and only includes the first-part of the four-part making of documentary.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967) (Warner Archive Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 107 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Roman Polanski
Cast: Jack MacGowran, Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate, Alfie Bass, Fiona Lewis, Ferdy Mayne, Ian Quarrier, Terry Downes 

Synopsis: It’s the living end, a fancy-dress ball for blood fiends in Count Von Krolock’s Transylvanian castle. Surely no mortal would be foolish enough to infiltrate this hemogobbling horror of a soiree. But partygoers notice something in the ballroom mirrors: the reflections of humans – vampire killers – dancing among them. Director/cowriter Roman Polanski (The Pianist, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown) spoofs vampire movies with this droll balancing act of shocks and laughs. He also portrays Alfred, mousy apprentice to a doddering researcher of vampirism (Jack MacGowran)...and the lovestruck defender of gorgeous Sarah (Sharon Tate) when the Count (Ferdy Mayne) tries to make her the ghoul of his dreams. It’s all fang-tastic fun!

I remember watching Roman Polanski's vampire comedy The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) on TV as a kid still in the single-digits and really not liking it at all, I don't think I had even seen a vintage Gothic horror film yet, so I found it rather slow and not very funny. Years later I would revisit it and with a it more refined taste in cinema, arguably, and I was able to appreciate it for what it is, an affectionate lampooning of Hammer's Gothic vampire films with fantastic set design and a wry slant of humor. 

Set in the nineteenth century the film transpires in the mountainous area of Transylvania where the absent-minded Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran, The Giant Behemoth) and his trusty but dim apprentice Alfred (Roman Polanski) are searching for proof of the vampires of lore. During their travels they end up at mountaintop tavern owned by Jewish proprietor Shagal (Alfie Bass, Revenge of the Pink Panther) and his impressively large wife (Jessie Robins, Magical Mystery Tour), both of whom are overly protective of their attractive daughter Sarah (Sharon Tate, Repulsion), and for good reason. The tavern is decorated in strings of garlic, which gives the Professor hope that they are on the right path, and they surely are, for that very night Sarah is attacked by the vampire Count Von Krolock (Ferdy Mayne, Frightmare) while enjoying a forbidden bubble bath. 

Alfred has been smitten by the tavern keeper's daughter so he and the Professor travel to Von Krolock's Gothic castle, where they are welcomed by him, only for their host to disappear during the daylight hours, allowing for the pair of inept vampire hunters to explore the castle looking for both Sarah and for the Count's crypt. The plan is to stake the vampire through the heart while he slumbers, but this plan falls apart when the Professor gets stuck in a tiny window when entering the crypt, and then Alfred accidentally drops their vampire-hunting toolkit, which comically tumbles down the snow-covered mountain.

All the while they must contend with the Count's grotesque hunchback servant Koukol (Terry Downes, A Study in Terror), and the Count's bloodsucking gay son Herbert (Ian Quarrier, Cul-de-Sac) who becomes fixated on young Alfred! We also get a Jewish vampire by way of a turned tavern owner Shagal who offers some comedic hijinx, and I thought Ferdy Mayne was pretty terrific as the vampire Count Krolock, he has plenty of that aristocratic charm the role requires, able to come off as a real threat but also able to play it for laughs without being too jokey, which is something I could say about the whole film, it walks a fine line, balancing a finely tuned Hammer homage with satirical humor that manages to not be too slapstick for it's own good. 

The film culminates with an extravagant  fancy-dress ball happening at the castle, an event attended by the newly risen bloodthirsty undead who rise from their stone tombs in the castle's courtyard. The Professor and Alfed infiltrate the ball in disguise, only to be betrayed by their reflections in a gigantic mirror in the ballroom, then escaping in a horse-drawn slay through the snow covered mountains, comically pursued by the hunchback Koukol on a toboggan, with a fun ending that betrays the vampire hunters true intentions with a nice wink and a nudge.  

The film though a spoof is an opulent homage to the Gothic vampire films from Hammer, with the comedy playing much better for me now than it did when I was a kid in the single-digits, with the chemistry between the absent-minded professor and his dim but loyal assistant standing-out as the film's strong suit. Plus we have a strong supporting cast of quirky characters, especially Alfie Bass as the comically protective father, who also lusts after his busty barmaid (Fiona Lewis, Strange Invaders).

The Gothic sets and locations look fantastic on Blu-ray, the film is probably a bit better produced than most of the Hammer films it's sending up in truth, with excellent direction from Polanski that balances the vampiric threat with some goofy humor. The film looks absolutely gorgeous, I loved the snow-covered mountains and fairy-tale look to the nighttime mountainous area and crumbling Gothic castle. 

Audio/Video: The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) arrives on Blu-ray in it's full 107-min director's cut framed in the original  2.35:1 widescreen, this being a brand new 2019 2K scan presented in gorgeous 1080p HD. The vampire spoof looks fantastic on Blu-ray. The source is clean and blemish free, colors are vibrant when called upon, with finely resolved detail and some modest depth and clarity that brings new life to the opulent period setting. The Gothic castle location, snow covered mountains, and vintage clothing textures all look marvelous in HD, this is an impressive looking restoration through and through.

Audio on the disc comes by way of English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0, the presentation is clean and well-balanced throughout, the wonderful score from Krzysztof Komeda (Rosemary' Baby) sounds terrific, with optional English ALL CAPS subtitles included.    

Onto the extras we get a few vintage carry-overs from the previous DVD and the laserdisc release before it, beginning with a vintage 10-min pre-release promotional piece, an alternate 4-min animated opening sequence that originally appeared on the butchered American cut of the film, plus a rough-looking 2-min trailer that promotes this film as more of a slapstick comedy than it really is. 

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of featuring the original Frank Frazetta illustrated artwork for the film, with the disc featuring an excerpt of the same key art.  

Special Features: 

- Vintage Making of Featurette "The Fearless Vampire Killers: Vampires 101 (10 min) 
- Alternate Animated Title Sequence (4 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD

The Warner Archive Blu-ray of Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) looks gorgeous, it breathes new life into this vampire spoof, showcasing the opulent Gothic visuals and offering a cool selection of vintage extras. This comes highly recommended to fans of vintage Gothic horror who don't mind the genre being gently lampooned.