Sunday, June 30, 2024

BANDITS OF ORGOSOLO (1961) (Radiance Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Radiance Films
Region Code: A,B
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 96 Minutes 10 Seconds
Audio: Italian PCM 2.0 Dual-Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Fullscreen (1.37:1)
Director: Vittorio De Seta
Cast: Michele Cossu, Peppeddu Cuccu, Vittorina Pisano

Directed by Vittorio De Seta, who prior to making this, his first feature-film, made stark documentaries about Italy's poorest people, and that theme carries over here as well. 
It tells the tale of a Sardinian peasant Michele (Michele Cossu) who works as a shepherd named  alongside his younger brother Peppeddu (Peppeddu Cossu). After an encounter in the mountains with bandits on the run from the law he is accused of not only livestock-rustling but of murder when the bandits open fire on the Carabinieri officers in pursuit. The tale of an honest man caught up in circumstances which to survive he must turn to banditry, all the while trying to protect his younger brother, and at the same time forced to move their flock of sheep to higher, rockier mountainous terrain, and get their flock to market, all the while the threat of starvation, dehydration and disease looms large. 

The film has an almost documentarian feel to it, the main cast are non-actors I believe, and the sense of realism is palpably throughout. With the desperate tension of the situation unfolding, leading to Michele forced into becoming the very thing he has falsely been accused off. Aside from the deeply dramatic story being told there's lot here to love, the cinematography is stunning, the craggy Sardinian mountaintops and vistas look gorgeous, dwarfing the human characters, and there's a timeless quality to the lifestyle and surroundings of the shepherds, taking refuge in privative stone huts, the nomadic lifestyle, and the simple dress,  

Audio/Video: This is yet another gorgeous Blu-ray from Radiance Films who offer up a 4K restoration from the original camera negative by The Film Foundation and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in association with Titanus with funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. Gorgeously shot in black and white in rural mountainous areas the sumptuous visuals are beautifully rendered with well-resolved grain, excellent grayscale, brilliant whites and deep blacks. The lensing is breathtaking, shots of the mountainous terrains and expansive vistas look fantastic. There's some flicker and patches of softness, but overall, and considering the film is making it's worldwide home video debut with this release, it looks stunning. Audio comes by way of Italian language PCM 2.0 dual mono with optional English subtitles. The neorealist production's sound design is sparse, capturing dialogue and the ambient sounds of sheep and the mountainous terrain quite naturally, benefitting from a solid score from Valentino Bucchi.

We get a trio of extras, starting off with a new 28-min Interview with cinematographer Luciano Tovoli (2024); and another new 11-min Interview with curator and filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht (2024); plus the 3-min Trailer

The single-disc release arrives in a clear full-height Scanavo packaging with a Reversible Sleeve of Artwork original and newly commissioned artwork by Filippo Di Battista, plus Radiance's signature Removable OBI Strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings if you so wish. Inside is a 25-Page Limited Edition Booklet featuring new writing by Roberto Curti, as well as notes about the cast, crew, transfer, and release credits. As usual it's a very classy presentation, both the A/V and the packaging are Criterion worthy. 

Special Features: 
- New 4K restoration from the original camera negative by The Film Foundation and Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory, in association with Titanus with funding provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation
- New interview with cinematographer Luciano Tovoli (2024) (27.48)
- New interview with curator and filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht (2024) (11:16)
- Trailer (2:52) 
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Filippo Di Battista
- Limited edition booklet featuring new writing by Roberto Curti

OFF BALANCE (1987) (Cauldron Films Blu-ray Review)

aka Phantom of Death
aka Un Delitto Poco Comune

Label: Cauldron Films 
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 91 Minutes 57 Seconds 
Audio: English or Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 Dual-Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Cast: Michael York, Donald Pleasence, Edwige Fenech, Giovanni Lombardo Radice

Another Italian rarity gets the Cauldron Films Blu-ray treatment, this time it's Off Balance (1987) aka Phantom of Death from director Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust), starring Michael York  (Logan's Run) as the 
virtuosic pianist Robert Dominici who begins a violent at the top of his game stricken with a rare form of progeria that starts to rot his brain and his mind at an accelerated rate. At the top of the film we see him playing a concert, this is intercut with scenes of a young woman bring brutally murdered by a sword to the neck, followed by near Tenebrae levels of the groovy red stuff. At the top of his game professionally we find Robert having not one but two love interests by way of his girlfriend Susanna (Mapi Galan, The City of Lost Children) and attractive fashion designer Helene (giallo-queen Edwige Fenech, The Case of the Bloody Iris). 

Meanwhile police inspector Daddi (Donald Pleasence, Raw Meat) begins to investigate the murder of the woman earlier, who turns out to have been a scientist. Soon after Robert's girlfriend is murdered at a train station on her way to meet with Robert, freeing him up to pursue the relationship with Helene. The film starts off as a bit of a giallo-esque whodunit with the murder unseen, but the identity of the killer is revealed pretty early on, so spoilers ahead. 

It turns out that Robert's disease is warping his mind, and he is quickly becoming unhinged as he begins to rapidly age, setting about on a wild, murderous rampage, seemingly killing anyone who reminds him of his diminishing youth.  All the while he phones Inspector Datti anonymously and taunts him throughout the investigation, making threats against his flute-blowing daughter Gloria (Antonella Ponziani). Datti is initially unaware that it is Robert who is the killer, or that he has been stricken with the disease, which makes identifying the killer difficult since eye witness accounts portray the killer as a man in his thirties, and then in his 50's, and then elderly, so it's hard to pin him down. 

We get some splashy special effects by Dino Galiano (Four Flies on Grey Velvet), the kills being a highlight of this later era thriller, the scene of Susanna's death by sword to the throat followed by an Argento-esque head-first crash through a window was a definite highlight. Another scene of Robert encountering a man in a gas station bathroom who makes an off-handed comment about aging also suffer his wrath rather brutally. Other kills include a sword to the neck, a table lamp to the neck, and a good old fashioned razor blade across the throat. As far as special effects go there are a few that aren't great, the decapitation scene in a dream looks terrible, and the progressive old-age make-ups vary from good to terrible, but the murder set-pieces are all well done. 

The film has a lot of weird elements and choices being made, none more so than the scenes of York training in the martial arts which never seems to come into play other than a dream sequence in which he chops of his master's head!  In some territories the fim was titled Phantom of Death, and seeing how Robert is a musician and plays concert halls it would seem an appropriate spin on The Phantom of the Opera, but a clumsy scene of Robert wearing a Phantom-esque mask walking into a concert hall with a cloak does seem sorely out of place.   

There are some fun cat and mouse moments of the elderly looking Robert evading Datti, and while Pleasance was in his advanced years here he is quite good still, though coming off as pretty much a variation on his Dr. Loomis character.  I thought York was pretty great, I have always thought of him as being emotionally-cold as an actor but I have not seen him in a ton of stuff either, and I thought his transformation from handsome and passionate musical genius to demented and disease stricken killer was well-handled, especially as he sets out to kill Helene, who becomes pregnant with his child, realizing the offspring might also be afflicted with his same disease he convinces himself he must kill her and the child.

It's a weird flick for sure, coming off as a psychological slasher with giallo-esue elements that is perhaps stymied by the revel of the killer perhaps a bit too early, but still a fun Italian horror romp with some nicely splashy set-pieces, enhanced by a synth score from Pinno Dionaggi (Dressed To Kill). Not top-tier Deodato by any means, even he was not a huge fan of it, but as he's since passed I took great pleasure in discovering this somewhat obscure late-era slasher from Deodato thanks to the good work of Cauldron Films. 

Audio/Video: Cauldron Films presents Off Balance on Blu-ray, uncut and restored in 2K from the camera negative, framed in 1.66:1 widescreen. It looks quite good in HD, it looks filmic, there;s nice color saturation, solid black levels and modest death and clarity. Audio comes by way of English or Italian DTS-HD MA 2.0 dual-mono with optional English subtitles. I preferred the English track, it was clearer and had more depth to it, plus it features York and Pleasances' actual voices which is always a plus. Both tracks are clean though, I just preferred the English track personally. 

Extras on the Cauldron release include a new Audio Commentary with Italian cult film experts Eugenio Ercolani and Troy Howarth that is well-informed and entertaining, covering quite a bit about the production, cast and crew; plus we get a candid 34-min An Uncommon Director - An interview with Ruggero Deodato, one of the final interviews with the controversial director filmed July 2022; wherein he discusses how this was not a film he felt passionate about, disagreements with the producers,  how he wanted Kelly LeBrock (Weird Science) instead of Fenech, how much he appreciated Pleasance as an acting professional, and some less flattering gab about York and Fenech. He also discusses how Cannibal Holocaust was a bit of an albatross around his neck and took a lot of the oxygen out of his career, but then he never stops talking about it, so... Disc extras are finished up with a English and Italian Trailers

The single-disc release arrives in a clear keepcase with a Reversible Blu-ray Wrap featuring a front new cover illustration by Eric Adrian Lee, and the alternate “Phantom of Death” artwork that I think was featured on the Vidmark Entertainment VHS release. The film was also previously available as a now OOP Limited Blu-ray/CD w/ Slipcase release from Cauldron Films.  

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Italian cult film experts Eugenio Ercolani and Troy Howarth
- An Uncommon Director - An interview with Ruggero Deodato, one of the final interviews with the controversial director filmed July 2022 (33:50) 
- Trailers: English (3:21) and Italian
- Reversible Blu-ray wrap with alternate “Phantom of Death” artwork
- Front cover artwork by Eric Adrian Lee

Buy it!

CROCODILE (1978) (Synapse Films Special Edition Blu-ray Review)

Special Edition Blu-ray 

Label: Synapse Films 
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: R
Duration: 91 Minutes 48 Seconds 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Sompote Sands
Cast: Manop Aussawathep, Nat Puvanai, Min U, Wang Eun-hui, Sin Chan-il

Strap yourself in for some giant-croc carnage via this unhinged Taiwanese/Korean Jaws knock-off, a very entertaining slice of late 70s nature-run-amok awesomeness that is super-cheesy yet quite fun. Opening with a hurricane force storm which according to some later lip service might have been caused by an atomic explosion, we then get a crocodile wreaking havoc in the rivers and ocean around a quiet beach town, devouring innocents and seemingly growing (and shrinking) in size depending on the scene. When the croc kills the wife (Nie Tien, Human LanternsCleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold) and the young son of Dr. Akom (Nat Puvani) during a beach vacation he teams-up with his pal Dr. Stromm (Min Oo) and a very Quint-like fisherman named Tanaka (Manop Asavatep, Courier of Death) to avenge the deaths of their loved ones.

Originally filmed in 1978 as Crocodile Fangs (Agowa gongpo), the film was released in slightly different versions all around the world during, including an international version that was re-edited and Frankenstein by notorious producer Dick Randell (Pieces), that incorporated some new footage, outtakes from another croc-flick Krai Thong, and a slightly different ending. The film is a total hot-mess, but thoroughly entertaining with rough looking edits and gaps in logic and storytelling that are befuddling to say the least, but the carnage is fantastic and I love all the miniature works used to showcase the destructive storm, and mini-sets of a riverside village being destroyed by the flapping tale of the apparently giant killer croc. There are copious amounts of scene of people screaming and thrashing about in the water which is turning red, the head-prop of the croc looks terrific, meanwhile the full-body shots are less impressive when it comes to realism, but quite impressive in regard to schlocky awesomeness. Rather comically the size of the croc seems to shift from large but no quite abnormal to almost Godzilla/kaiju sized, and at certain points it has glowing-red eyes for some inexplicable reason, and again, there's some lip service paid to the fact that the same alleged atomic explosion that caused the opening storm might have mutated the croc in some way. The actual gore is pretty slim, what we do get are a lot of clips of nature docs about crocs, croc eyes peering above the water, red dye thrown into water, and occasionally someone getting bitten by the head prop of a pretty cool looking croc. Other croc carnage comes by way of the croc patrolling the river and chowing down on old people and kids, a herd of water buffalo, and a monkey. 

As a Jaws knock-off it starts off sort of doing it's own thing, we have the doctor losing his family to the croc, sneaking into the coroner's office to view their remains to make the determination what killed them, deciding on the fact that it was indeed a croc, and then formulating a plan to find and kill the creature. The final third of the film is where it really launches into Jaws territory with the doctors, fisherman and a photographer named Peter (Robert Chan Law-Bat) heading out into the open sea to pursue the croc, with a harpoon gun and some dynamite. The miniature work during the finale involving the boat and the giant-croc is hilariously bad, clearly shot in a bathtub, but hey, it's an explosive finale that delivers the low-budget, killer-croc exploitation well-enough. I will say, that like many of the cannibal films there is some real-life animal cruelty inflicted on a crocodile for a moment, so if you are sensitive to such content please be aware. 

While not quite on par with other killer croc/gator flicks like Alligator (1980), Dark Age (1987), Lake Placid (1999), Black Water (2006), and Crawl (2019), I would easily put this above both Killer Crocodile (1989) and The Great Alligator (1979) as far as pure schlocky gator/croc Jaws knock-offs go. It's a frenzied mess for sure but it is a very entertaining frenzied mess. 

Audio/Video: The U.S. cut of Crocodile (1978) makes its worldwide Blu-ray debut from Synapse Films in its original U.S. release version, meticulously restored from the original English 35mm camera negative. The results of the restoration look great, the non-stock footage shots look terrific with nice color, good contrast and solid black levels. The grain and blemished stock footage is less pleasing but there's just not much you can do about that. 
Audio comes by way of English-dun DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono with optional English subtitles. The track is a hot mess but delivers the English-dud well enough, a track that has very low fidelity, sounding quite thin and shrill a lot of the time, music cues are have some warble and distortion in the low and high registers. 

Extras on the Synapse Blu-ray include the 3-min Original Theatrical Trailer; an Audio Commentary with writer and film historian Lee Gambin; a 32-min Video interview with original Crocodile Fangs director, Won-se Le; and 23-min Deleted and Alternate Scenes. It's great to get another solid animal-attack commentary track from the late Lee Gambin who passed recently, gone too soon, but his love of animal attack flicks is preserved here with a solid track. Also quite interesting is the interview with original Crocodile Fangs director, Won-se Le. 

The singe-disc release arrives in a black keepcase with a Reversible Sleeve of Artwork featuring two original illustrated movie poster artworks that are fantastic, lots of giant-croc carnage depicted there. Additionally, if you order it from Synapse Films or you get a Limited Edition "Nude" Variant Slipcover, which is limited to 1500 copies. 

Special Features: 
- Audio commentary with writer and film historian Lee Gambin
- Video interview with original Crocodile Fangs director, Won-se Le (31:44) 
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes: Original Thai Ending (2:37), The Monkey and The Little Boy (4:41), Extended Town Attack (5:50), Crocodile Cruelty (1:16), Alternate Spanish Release Ending (3:32), Alternate International Opening (4:15) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2:54) 
- Limited Slipcover Edition available now from Synapse Films and DiabolikDVD!

Buy it!

Saturday, June 29, 2024

ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948) (Warner Archive Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 82 Minutes 35 Seconds 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Dual-Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: B&W 1080p HD Fullscreen (1.37:1) 
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Cast:  Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh

In the noir-thriller Act of Violence Frank Enley (Van Heflin, Possessed) is a well- respected businessman of good character in the small California town of Santa Lisa, where he and his wife Edith (Janet Leigh, Touch of Evil) have a young baby. He seems to have a charmed life, but one day when he discovers that a man with a limp named Joe (Robert Ryan, The Boy with Green Hair) is looking for him, and his demeanor changes drastically. We know Joe is stalking Frank with the intent to kill him, why exactly we do not know, but we do initially learn that it stems from an event that occurred during WWII, when they were both imprisoned at Nazi prison camp, and a certain betrayal that occurred there, and apparently Joe is pretty sore about it. In an attempt to evade his dogged pursuer Frank leaves town and heads to a convention in L.A. where Joe catches up to him, but Frank further evades him by sucker punching him. Afterward Frank gets good and drunk and encounters a  weary hooker with a heart named Pat (Mary Astor, The Maltese Falcon), she in introduces him a slimy lawyer named Gavery (Caged) in an effort to get him out of his pickle, resulting in a transaction being made with a thug for hire named Johnny (Berry Kroeger, Nightmare in Wax), which sets up a tragic series of events that carry the film to it's close. 

As Frank's life quickly begins to unravels his wife who is  unaware of the full story struggles to understands what's happening, meanwhile Joe's girlfriend Ann (Phyllis Thaxter, Superman), in the know but equally frustrated, travels 3,000 miles to stop him from throwing away his life on a quest for vengeance, but her pleas seem to fall on deaf ears. 

I was hooked from the get-go with this noir thriller, a terrific set-up that throws you right into it, you're not sure what this vendetta is at first, but it's intense stuff chock full of shadowy noir atmosphere, sleazy underworld characters, tension, suspense and it's incredibly well-acted by the two leads, both Joe as the unflappable stalker bent on revenge, and Frank as a seemingly good guy with a past that has come back to murder him, and that big bad secret at the heart of it all is a doozy! I also loved the cat and mouse encounters between the two, early on Frank is able to almost supernaturally evade Joe several times, which makes it quite a nail-biter. The finale that is both punctuated by violence and fiery but somehow doesn't quite live up to the phenomenal first half, but still a top-notch noir gem. 

Audio/Video: Act of Violence (1948) arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Archive in 1080p HD framed in 1.37:1 fullscreen The image is sourced from a 4K scan of the best possible preservation elements. This largely looks terrific with deep blacks, intact film grain, and solid grayscale, though you can tell that some elements were better than others, whatever the source, where some compressions comes into plays in the darkened edges of the film, but it was quite minor and not ruinous. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 2.0 dual-mono with optional English subtitles. Like the source it is not immaculate, there's a light bed of hiss in spots, but again it's not ruinous, dialogue and the moody score by Bronislau Kaper (Them!) sounds just fine to these ears, zero complaints. 

Extras include an archival Audio Commentary by film historian Dr. Drew Casper; the 5-min archival "Act of Violence: Dealing with the Devil" featurette featuring clips of Oliver Stone, Alain Silver, Christopher Coppola, Glenn Erickson, and Richard Schickel discussing the merits of the film, plus a pair of Classic Cartoons by way of the 7-min Goggle Fishing Bear and the 7-min The Shell-Shocked Egg - the first one being the superior toon with Barney Bear on an underwater adventure that includes an encounter with a grumpy shark. The disc extras are buttoned-up with the 2-min Original Theatrical Trailer. The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the original illustrated movie poster which is also features on the Blu-ray disc artwork. 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary by film historian Dr. Drew Casper
- "Act of Violence: Dealing with the Devil" - featurette (5:08) 
- Classic Cartoons: Goggle Fishing Bear (7:21) and The Shell-Shocked Egg (6:50) 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2:27)

Buy it:
Moviezyng - use code: MOVIEDEAL at checkout to get 5% off your entire order!
Physical Media Land - use code: MOVIEDEAL at checkout to get 5% off your entire order!

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE (1962) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review + Screenshots)


Label: Severin Films 
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 85 Minutes 44 Seconds 
Audio: English or German DTS-HD MA  2.0 Dual-Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Terrence Fisher
Cast: Christopher Lee, Thorley Walters, Senta Berger, Ivan Desney 

The German-French-Italian co-production Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962) re-teamed two Hammer legends, director Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula) and star Christopher Lee (The City of the Dead) for the first-time since another Holmes film, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), in which Lee played not Holmes but Sir Henry Baskerville. Based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fourth and final Holmes novel, The Valley of Fear, with a screenplay written by Curt Siodmak (The Wolf Man), this black and white whodunit stars Lee as Sherlock Holmes, it was his first stab at the character, which was followed by later turns in the made-for-TV films Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1991) and Incident at Victoria Falls (1992), neither of which I have seen, yet, but I do believe this is his only turn as Holmes on film.  

Here he is backed up by his ever trusty sideman Dr. Watson, played this go around by another Hammer familiar, Thorley Walters (Vampire Circus), as the pair look into the mystery surrounding the disappearance of an priceless artifact, a necklace allegedly worn by none other than Cleopatra. The prime suspect is of course Holmes nemesis Prof. Moriarty  (Hans Söhnker, The Phantom of Soho), whom at one point Holmes indicates he would like to see hanged, and with this the game is afoot! I thought Lee made for a terrific Holmes, wearing the familiar cloak and deerstalker cap, and flexing his master of disguise title in various disguises - including a lowlife wharf-thug, we get a murder in a mansion and of course Moriarty and Holmes engaged in multiple battles of wit and cunning, and you know there's some terrific scenes of Holmes piecing the puzzle of the antiquities theft, as well as a later connected murder at a mansion involving a three-sided love entanglements of Peter Blackburn (Wolfgang Lukschy, A Fistful of Dollars), his wife, Ellen (Senta Berger, The Terror of Dr. Mabuse) and their friend Paul King (Ivan Desney), with the characters usual arrogant panache. I rather liked how Lee's portrayal leaned into the antagonistic and sometimes unpleasant nature of the detective, it has a nice edge to it, countered by Watson's comic relief. I was not expecting the humor and comedy that this one offered, it's not a comedy but there's certainly quite a bit of humor to it that I found quite amusing. Handsomely directed by Hammer legend Terence Fisher, and attractively shot and well-staged, I thought this period detective game was quite good, not a top-tier Sherlock Holmes entry but still quite a gem in Lee cannon and worthy of checking out. 

Audio/Video: Previously issues on Blu-ray exclusively as part of The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee box set from Severin Films the distributor have saw fit to release it as a standalone Blu-ray with the same artwork, technical presentation and extras. Advertised as being scanned in 2K from the German OCN this monochromatic presentation is framed in 1.66:1 widescreen. The source is in wonderful shape, grain is nicely resolved and retain's filmic qualities, with fine detail and textures and close-ups being particularly revealing. Grayscale and contrast are strong and blacks are pleasing if not exactly inky black. Audio comes by way of English or German DTS-HD MA  2.0 Dual-Mono with optional English subtitles. The German track is the tighter of the two, dialogue is more refined, the balance and depth are superior. The English track is perfectly serviceable, save for the mind-blowing decision to have someone else dub Lee's (and Thorley Walter's) dialogue! Anyway, that travesty aside it sounds quite good, and the strangely jazzy score by Martin Slavin (The Pit of Darkness) sounds a bit too modern for the material, but sounds good. 

Extras include an Audio Commentary With Film Writers Kim Newman And Barry Forshaw, which is another jovial conversation with the pair who both lay out quite a bit of knowledge about the production but also knit pick some elements that are not so great. We also get a 13-min 
Tony Dalton Interviews Terence Fisher, an audio only interview with Fisher fondly recalling his time at Hammer and working with Lee and Cushing, plus the 27-min 
Tony Dalton On Terence Fisher wherein the author talks about first meeting Fisher on the set of Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, becoming fast friends, and then getting into an overview of the director's early career and tenure at Hammer, and of course Sherlock Homes and the Deadly Necklace. The disc is buttoned-up with a 3-min  Trailer. The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork, the same artwork as was featured on the disc from The Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee set.   

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary With Film Writers Kim Newman And Barry Forshaw
- Tony Dalton Interviews Terence Fisher(12:35) 
- Tony Dalton On Terence Fisher(26:48).
- Trailer (3:11) 

Screenshots from the Severin Films Blu-ray: 

Buy it!

Friday, June 28, 2024

GHOSTBUSTERS: FROZEN EMPIRE (2024) (Sony Blu-ray Review)

Blu-ray + DVD + Digital 

Label: SPHE 
Region-Code: Region-Free
Rating: PG-13 
Duration: 115 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround French (Doublé au Québec), Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English & French (Doublé au Québec) Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital with Optional, English, French, Spanish Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.39:1)
Director: Gil Kenan
Cast: Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, McKenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts

In Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, the Spengler family returns to where the franchise began, back in New York City at the old firehouse! Returning from the last film are Spangler's estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon, TV's Fargo) and her boyfriend Gary Gooberson (Paul Rudd, Ant-Man), her genius daughter Phoebe (Mckenna Grace, The Haunting of Hill House) and awkward son 
Trevor (Finn Wolfhard, Stranger Things). At the start of the film they're on patrol in the Ecto-1 chasing a ghost through the streets and causing quite a bit of destruction with errant proton pack streams, which puts them in a bad-way with the newly elected mayor, who just so happens to be Walter Peck (William Atherton, The Sugarland Express) - the EPA prick from the original film who had it out for the Ghostbusters then, and let's just say that time has not healed all wounds.

Also returning are Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson, Leviathan) who runs a paranormal research center now,  and its him that Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd, Dragent) who brings a powerful brass relic that threatens to unleash a frozen Hell on Earth, which he acquires from the shifty Nadeem (Kumail Nanjiani, The Eternals), who may or may not be the next-gen of an ancient order of ghost-busters known as FireMasters. It's the evil inside, known as Garraka, that is the big bad this go around and it's a pretty decent evil baddie I must say. 

Also new this time around is a mythological lore xpert Dr. Hubert Wartzki (Patton Oswalt, Observe & Report) and a seemingly friendly ghost named Melody (Emily Alyn Lind, Doctor Sleep) who befriends the increasingly lonely Phoebe, who is increasingly desperate for a friend to talk to. 

I saw the original Ghostbusters on my 11th birthday at the cinema, when I saw the TV spot for it I told my parents I don't want a birthday party, I just want to go see Ghostbusters, and that's what we did, and it's pretty much been my favorite film of all-time ever-since. There's just something so very special about that first film, they really captured lightning in a bottle; it's firing on all-cylinders, the script is tight, the comic cast is perfection, and the phantasmagoric special effects were absolutely jaw-dropping. Not even the sequel Ghostbusters II managed to capture that same peculiar magic, but I am a total mark for any Ghostbusters sequel that has come along since the OG. I am not a total hater of the female-led reboot, but I will say that it certainly didn't recapture the magic of the original, not even close, and it's probably telling I have only ever watched it twice since the cinema. I do actually love Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which was directed by Jason Reitman (Juno), the son of the original Ghostbusters films Ivan Reitman (Meatballs), it's touching tribute to his father's legacy, and I loved the rural setting and how they connected the dots there with Spengler's estranged family. During that finale when the spectral Egon show's up there were tears running down my cheeks, sure that might just be the nostalgia of it all, but it worked for me, so I had high expectation for the sequel. 

Did I enjoy Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire? Hell yes, did I love it, not quite as much as I love the first film or Ghostbusters :Afterlife, but I did have blast watching it, imperfect though it may be. The main cast still won me over, the dysfunctional family dynamic still works, but it feels more like a warm retread this time around, but Rudd is still the film's best comic asset. 

I thought that bringing Phoebe's pal Podcast (Logan Kim, The Walking Dead: Dead City), who has matured a lot since the last film, and Trevor's girlfriend Lucky (Celeste O'Connor, Madame Web) as employees at Zeddemore's lab felt extraneous and forced, it's not terrible, but they just do not have much to do this time around.  Bringing Oswalt and Nanjiani on board were top-not additions though, as is Lind as the ghostly almost love-interest for Phoebe. Of course Zeddemore, Peter Venkman (Bill Murray, Groundhog Day) and Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts, Who's Harry Crumb?) end-up gear-up for a proper final showdown with the big bad, which brought a big smile to my face, and we get the return of Slimer as well for a few brief scenes that also brought a smile. 

I thought the big bad was pretty creepy, very menacing as it spreading an ice-covered Armageddon across NYC, and when he faces off against the Spenglers and the OG ghostbusters crew I also like the way the traditional proton-packs prove useless, turning the streams into ice, which was a cool effect, forcing the ghostbusters to improvise a new game planthanks to gal-genius Phoebe. I enjoyed pumped-up action this time around, the return to the familiar NYV environs, and the fantastical special effects. While I thought it lacked the heart of Ghostbusters: Afterlife was still an entertaining ghostbusting romp, not a classic, but a fun popcorn muncher that I liked quite a bit with plenty of nostalgic Easter eggs, whole also sort of handing off the franchise to the next gen of Spenglers.  

Audio/Video: Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024) arrives on Blu-ray from Sony in 1080p HD framed in 2.39:1 widescreen. A big budget studio flick that's digitally shot and looks pretty fantastic in HD with excellent color reproduction and deep black levels. Fine detail is excellent, textures look wonderful, and the blend of practical and digital VFX shine in HD. Audio comes by way of English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround with optional English subtitles. The track is full-bodied and  offers a wide soundstage with plenty of nuance and bombast, the supernatural thrillride gets a top-notch audio presentation and the score by Dario Marianelli (V for Vendetta) sounds wonderful. I was a little unhappy that we don;t get the Atmos upgrade from the UHD, but the DTS-HD still sounds terrific. 

Plenty of EPK style extras for this one, we get 9-min of Deleted & Extended Scenes (Headlines, I'm am a Doctor, Ghost-chopper, News Report, Rooftop Consolation, Slime Bath), the 7-min Easter Eggs Unleashed; the 22-min Return to the Firehouse: Making Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, the 12-min Busted: Capturing the Ghosts of Frozen Empire; 4-min Manifesting Garraka, 7-min New York, New Gear, 5-min Welcome to the Paranormal Discovery Center; 7-min Knowing the Score, plusan Audio Commentary with Director, Co-Writer Gil Kenan; and Trailers for Garfield, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Gran Turismo. Madame Web. The 2-disc BD/DBD arrives in a dual-hubbed keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork, plus a Slipcover with the same artwork. Inside is a redemption code for a digital HD copy of the film. 

Special Features: 

- Deleted & Extended Scenes: Headlines, I'm am a Doctor, Ghost-chopper, News Report, Rooftop Consolation, Slime Bath  (8:44) 
- Easter Eggs Unleashed (6:34) 
- Return to the Firehouse: Making Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (21:40) 
- Busted: Capturing the Ghosts of Frozen Empire (11:38) 
- Manifesting Garraka (3:55) 
- New York, New Gear (7:05) .
- Welcome to the Paranormal Discovery Center (4:44) 
- Knowing the Score (6:33) 
- Audio Commentary with Director, Co-Writer Gil Kenan
- Trailers: Garfield (2:31), Across the Spider-Verse (2:38), Gran Turismo (2:33), Madame Web (2:34)  
- Slipcover 

Buy it! 

STOPMOTION (2024) (Acorn Media International Blu-ray Review)


Label: Acorn Media International 
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: Cert. 18
Duration: 93 Minutes 39 Seconds 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround, DTS-HD MA 2.0 Audio Description with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Robert Morgan 
Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Tom York, Caoilinn Springall

In Robert Morgan's Stopmotion (2023) we have a tortured artists and somewhat of a social misfit named Ella (Aisling Franciosi, The Nightingale) who is a stop-motion artist, who at the start of the film is assisting her domineering mother (Stella Gonet, Spencer) finish her final film. Her mother's hands have been crippled by severe arthritis and she is unable to manipulate the stop-motion puppets herself. Ella is clearly quite talented but the collaboration with her mother is very one-sided, her mother proving to be rather stifling to her own creative instincts, and her input is not valued. However, when her mother suffers a debilitating medical emergency Ella sets out to finish her mother's film, but eventually ends up channelling her newfound creative freedom into a new project. 

With the help of her boyfriend Tom (Tom York) she sets up a makeshift studio in a new apartment and begins making her own stop-motion film, after initially struggling a bit with inspiration she finds her muse after arrival of a mysterious little girl (Caoilinn Springall) who suggests that the story should be about a young girl lost inthe woods who encounters a scary entity called the Ash Man, This fuels Ella's creativity, but then the little mysterious girl begins to make strange suggestions, such as constructing the puppets out of the rotting flesh of a dead fox she found in the nearby woods, it's then that things start to get really weird. It seems that Ella has finally finding her creative voice, albeit under the strange influence of a nameless young girl, and finding herself consumed by her creative impulses, struggling with her own demons in the process, she begins to unravel in a way that brought to mind Roman Polanski's Repulsion as well as Lucky McKee's May

The deeper Ella dives into her stop-motion film the more nightmarish her actual life becomes, peppered with creepy stop-motion footage with her creepy puppets infiltrating her actual life, her muse influencing her to act is darker more violent ways that threaten to upend her life. The creepy imagery of this one certainly strikes a tone that is hard to shake, the character designs of the girl lost in the woods and the malevolent entity stalking her are grotesque and nightmarish looking, and the scene of the Ash Man entering her own reality and tearing open her skin is quite unsettling. The cracked-sanity / blurred reality narrative filtered through the tortured artists is pretty interesting, I don't think it's 100% fully realized, at least not to its fullest potential, but it is a visually intriguing experience. Once things start getting grotesquely surreal I was hooked and the cast is phenomenal, especially Aisling Franciosi. I think your milage may vary depending on your appreciation for arthouse weirdness, it's certainly not a general audience crowd pleaser, but this is easily one of my favorite Shudder offerings of 2024. 

Audio/Video: Stopmotion (2023) arrives in region-free Blu-ray from Acorn Media International in 1080p HD framed in 2.35:1 widescreen with uncompressed English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo or 5.1 Surround with optional English subtitles. It looks and sounds terrific and we get a handful of extras by way of a 4-min 
Interview with star Aisling Franciosi; a 10-min Interview with director Robert Morgan, a 10-min Behind-the-scenes of Stopmotion, and Trailers for Mad God and  Skinamarink. The single-disc release arrives in  keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork. 

Special Features:
- Interview with star Aisling Franciosi (4:15) 
- Interview with director Robert Morgan (9:35) 
- Behind-the-scenes of Stopmotion (9:26) 
- Trailers: Mad God (1:14), Skinamarink (1:43)

Thursday, June 27, 2024

BLUE SUNSHINE UHD + Blu Limited Edition Slipcover Available NOW from Synapse Films!


Slipcover front (above) and disc cover artwork (below)

The Limited Edition (4,000 units) UHD + Blu-ray Slipcover combo for BLUE SUNSHINE is available NOW exclusively from the Synapse Films website and

“A hippie-era hangover and acid-tongued denunciation of political-commodity fetishism, Blue Sunshine remains an unjustly neglected genre classic that delivers a deft fusion of horror-movie tropes, social satire, and cult-film weirdness.” - Budd Wilkins, Slant Magazine

As the Love Generation of the 60s faded and the Me Generation of the 70s took over, the remnants of the 60s counterculture proved fruitful ground for the horror greats of the 70s, from Tobe Hooper’s THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE to Philip Kauffman’s INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. But none were more precise as writer/director Jeff Lieberman’s BLUE SUNSHINE, a still-potent mix of conspiracy thriller, psychological horror film and social satire that takes viewers on a trip they’ll keep flashing back to, especially on Synapse Films’ new Limited Edition 4K boxed set.

It starts off as a great party—just eight people in a secluded lodge. One of the guests suddenly goes on a shockingly violent, murderous rampage. There is something wrong with his hair, and pure evil in his eyes. What he does to three of the girls there is too hideous to describe. Falsely accused of the brutal killings, Jerry Zipkin (RED SHOE DIARIES’ Zalman King) goes on the run. More bizarre murders occur, and while trying to clear his name, Jerry discovers the shocking truth: The people losing their hair and turning into violent psychopaths may be connected to a drug each killer took a decade before. A drug known as “Blue Sunshine.”

Synapse Films is proud to present Jeff Lieberman’s 1977 cult-classic horror film BLUE SUNSHINE in an all-new 4K restoration presented in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) and loaded with hours of supplemental material. This three-disc set contains a 4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray, a Blu-ray (1080p) and a CD soundtrack album, and is strictly limited to 4,000 copies.

Synapse’s exclusive limited edition features hard chipboard slipcase packaging with stunning new artwork by artist Wes Benscoter. Inside is a dual-wall o-card wrapped around a clear three disc Criterion-style case.

PLEASE NOTE: This release is only available direct from Synapse Films and our distribution partner, DiabolikDVD, at this time.

- 4K restoration of the original 35mm camera negative mastered in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
- Lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio original theatrical mono and a 5.1 surround sound mix supervised by director Jeff Lieberman
- Two audio commentaries featuring director Jeff Lieberman
- New introduction to the film by director Jeff Lieberman
- Archival 2003 interview with director Jeff Lieberman
- “Lieberman on Lieberman” video interview
- Channel Z “Fantasy Film Festival” interview with Mick Garris and Jeff Lieberman
- Fantasia Film Festival 4K Premiere Q&A with moderator Michael Gingold and director Jeff Lieberman
- Anti-drug “scare films”: LSD-25 (1967) and LSD: Insight or Insanity? (1968), courtesy of the American Genre Film Archive
- Jeff Lieberman’s first film The Ringer, included here in two versions: the original uncut version (from a projection print source) and the final release version (remastered in 4K by Synapse Films from the original camera negative) with optional audio commentary on the uncut version by Jeff Lieberman and moderator Howard S. Berger
- Theatrical trailers
- Still gallery
- Liner notes booklet by Jeff Lieberman, featuring a chapter on the making of Blue Sunshine from his book Day of the Living Me: Adventures of a Subversive Cult Filmmaker from the Golden Age
- Limited-edition fold-out poster

Order BLUE SUNSHINE now from Synapse Films:

Order BLUE SUNSHINE now from Diabolik DVD:

2160p Ultra High Definition (1.85:1) Presentation
· DTS-HD MA English 5.1/2.0
· Optional English SDH Subtitles

1080p High Definition (1.85:1) Presentation
· DTS-HD MA English 5.1/2.0
· Optional English SDH Subtitles

44.1kHz/16bit · 13 tracks
RATED R – 1977 – COLOR – 95 MINS. – SFD0224
UPC CODE: 654930324790
- Slipcover back and O-Card front and back.
- Artwork by Wes Benscoter.