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Currently showing posts tagged 1970s

  • Malibu High (1978) Blu-ray Review

    Malibu High (1978)

    Director: Irvin Berwick

    Starring: Jill Lansing, Katie Johnson, Alex Mann, Tammy Taylor, Stuart Taylor, Wallace Earl Laven, Garth Pillsbury, John Harmon & John Yates

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Jill Lansing, in her only film appearance, stars as underachieving high school student turned hooker in the sleazily fun Malibu High.  An avalanche of misfortune from flunking classes to getting dumped by her steady beau opens the attractively feisty Kim Bentley’s eyes to a whole new career of opportunity.  Before long, getting horizontal turns her grades around and fills her wallet but her scandalous way of life leads the barely legal teen down a deadly path.  Irvin Berwick (The Monster of Piedras Blancas, Hitch Hike to Hell) directs.

    A true crowning jewel from low-budget purveyors Crown International Pictures, Malibu High sells  a sultry cocktail of sex, crime and murder where putting out for a price comes at a fatal cost.  Tonally shifting from teeny sexploitation hilarity to coldblooded crime shocker, failing high schooler Kim Bentley, who self-medicates her troubles with booze and pot, finds her calling when taking up local drug dealer and smalltime pimp Tony (Alex Mann, I Drink Your Blood) on his offer to start hooking for him.  Wildly sexy, Kim takes to her new profession with ease, racking up a clientele of johns while learning the tricks of the trade to pocket extra cash every opportunity she gets.  Sleeping her way to better grades but, unhappy with her current wage, Kim trades up with crime kingpin Lance (Garth Pillsbury, Mistress of the Apes) who rewards her services in flashy cars and lavish accommodations.  In turn, Kim’s role as a high-end prostitute is morphed into a hit girl, commanded with blowing away Lance’s top competitors…  or else.  Fuming with typical teenage jealousy over her ex-boyfriend’s new girl before flaunting her untanned breasts during several sexual rendezvous and ultimately getting off on the pull of trigger, Jill Lansing commands this drive-in favorite with untamed energy and looks that kill, making her memorably but, all-too-brief film career a whirlwind of what could have been.  Constantly throwing curveballs at its audience culminating in a tragic conclusion that’s a far cry from its scandalously bubbly beginnings, Malibu High is exploitation excellence with the skin and violence to back it up!  

    Newly restored in 2K from the 35mm original camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome works wonders with this beaten to death favorite previously banished to a variety of multi-film budget packs.  Arriving with a gorgeous 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, colors are bursting with bright shades seen in such prominent vehicles as an electric blue Mustang and flashy 70s attire.  Additionally, skin tones are natural and sharply detailed while, age-related damage is practically nonexistent in this spectacular handling of one of Crown’s best pictures.  While not a wildly dynamic track, the DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix conveys speech with ease and only fleeting instances of an echoey presence with music inclusions also well supported.  

    Loading the release with a bevy of desirable content, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Producer Lawrence Foldes & Actress Tammy Taylor, Making Malibu High: An Interview with Producer Lawrence Foldes (26:40) is an exceptional sit-down with the producer who made the film at the shocking age of 18 while, sharing stories on the film’s sometimes challenging star, Crown International’s distribution capabilities and his lifelong obsession with films, Playing Annette: An Interview with Actress Tammy Taylor (12:42) catches up with actress who played Kim’s bitter rival in the film and her early desire to act that culminated in early roles in Don’t Go Near the Park and Malibu High while still in college.  Furthermore, Playing the Boss: An Interview with Actor Garth Pillsbury (14:51) finds the actor turned photographer expressing his head-scratching surprise at the film’s continued appeal with fans and recalls his other roles including appearances in two memorable Star Trek episodes, a Q&A from the New Beverly Cinema Screening with Producer Lawrence Foldes, Actress Tammy Taylor & Actor Alex Mann (27:02), Struggle for Israel: A Short Film by Lawrence Foldes (19:57) from 1976, Grandpa & Marika: A Short Film by Lawrence Foldes (11:07) from 1975, the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:17), a Promotional Still Gallery (2:52), DVD edition and a Reversible Cover with slightly modified artwork concluding the impressive slate of extras.

    Fun in the sun where a trigger happy teen hooker makes her living, Malibu High is a wildly different experience than one might expect from its sexploitation teasing poster but, a ride that exceeds itself in all the best ways.  Thriving on its genre-mashing DNA while supplying all the exploitation goods, Vinegar Syndrome’s definitive release does the impossible by urging fans to buy this drive-in staple one last time for its spectacular presentation and stacked supplements, making the release its final statement on home video.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Malibu High can be purchased via VinegarSyndome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Up All Night with Severin Films: Blackenstein (1973), Cathy's Curse (1977) & The Other Hell (1981) Blu-ray Reviews

      

    Blackenstein (1973)

    Director: William A. Levy

    Starring: John Hart, Ivory Stone, Andrea King, Liz Renay, Roosevelt Jackson, Joe De Sue, Nick Bolin, Cardella Di Milo, James Cousar & Marva Farmer

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Piggybacking on the success of American International Pictures’ black bloodsucker of the previous year, Blackenstein loosely modernizes Mary Shelley’s classic work for a new generation of exploitation-loving jive ass turkeys.  Attempting to rehabilitate her armless and legless Vietnam veteran boyfriend back to health, Dr. Winifred Walker (Ivory Stone) turns to her mentor Dr. Stein (John Hart, The Lone Ranger) to work medical miracles.  After rejecting a fellow lab assistant’s advances, the disgruntled helper sabotages Winifred’s lovers progress, transforming him into hulking monster.  Stalking the streets of Los Angeles in the shiniest of boots and ripping limbs off of unsuspecting whities before meeting his fate at the fangs of ferocious dobermans, Blackenstein is a tightly paced hoot that plays itself surprisingly straight for such a cooky concept whose behind-the-scenes making is even stranger and sadly more tragic than its own fiction.  

    Befit with a solid-looking 1080p transfer, presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Severin Films honors the blaxploitation-horror oddity with strong colors and only fleeting instances of cigarette burns while, its DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix relays dialogue crisply with no cracks or pops intruding.  Offering both its preferred Theatrical (1:17:46) and Video Release (1:27:05) versions, additional supplements include, Monster Kid (19:02) where June Kirk, sister of Writer/Producer Frank R. Saletri, reminisces about her multitalented brother, his lavish mansion previously owned by Bela Lugosi and later Johnny Depp, his genuine sense of pride producing Blackenstein and the emotional circumstances surrounding Salteri’s still unsolved murder in 1982.  Furthermore, an Archive News Broadcast on the Murder of Frank R. Saletri (6:17), Ken Osborne and Robert Dix Remember Frank Saletri (6:36), culled from the filming of Severin Films’ Al Adamson documentary, Bill Created Blackenstein (9:13) featuring an audio interview with Creature Designer Bill Munns (Swamp Thing, The Return of the Living Dead) and lastly, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (3:24) are also featured.  Electrifying with bolts of undead absurdity, Blackenstein rises from the examination table, courtesy of resurrectors Severin Films, with a striking HD upgrade, revealing extras and dual versions for completists of the underexploitated world of blaxploitation frighteners.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Blackenstein can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Cathy’s Curse (1977)

    Director: Eddy Matalon

    Starring: Alan Scarfe, Beverly Murray, Randi Allen, Roy Witham, Mary Morter & Dorothy Davis

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Using other satanically-charged killer kiddie flicks such as The Exorcist and The Omen as moneymaking references, the peculiar French/Canadian production of Cathy’s Curse unspools with a fatal car accident that leaves a stressed out father and his young daughter burning alive like logs on a flame.  Returning to his childhood home decades later, older brother George Gimble (Alan Scarfe, Double Impact) looks to start anew with his emotionally troubled wife and sweet daughter Cathy.  Shortly after stumbling upon her late aunt’s creepy doll, Cathy turns sour and is possessed, giving evil a prime spot at the dinner table.  Riddled with discombobulating jump cuts and eerie keyboard tunes, Cathy’s Curse lets the blonde little devil work her supernatural magic by forcing the housemaid out a window, hypnotizing the drunken caretaker with spiders, snakes and rats slithering across his still body while, a blood-filled bathtub and leeches are utilized to further her mother’s descent into madness.  A noble yet, imperfect terror effort from the tax-sheltered north, Cathy’s Curse may not spew pea soup across viewers but does make ample use of a minor amusingly spit firing profanities and rearing her own ghastly burnt face in a final showdown against mommy dearest.

    Newly transferred in 2K from recently discovered elements, Cathy’s Curse makes the wildly unexpected leap to high-definition with sound results that buries its previously underwhelming outings on home video.  Presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting its 1.85:1 aspect ratio, flashy colors seen in gaudier wallpaper selections pop appreciatively while, white levels, witnessed in snowfall and sunshine creeping through windows, appear naturally softer.  Meanwhile, print damage remains vastly minimal.  Joined by a respectable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that captures dialogue with general ease and only mild hiss detected, the film’s aforementioned keyboard selections are the track’s most memorable cues.  Featuring both the film’s go-to Director’s Cut (1:30:44) and an Alternate U.S. Release Cut (1:21:49), other bonus feature offerings include, an Audio Commentary with BirthMoviesDeath Critic Brian Collins & Filmmaker Simon Barret (U.S. Release Cut only), Tricks and Treats: Director Eddy Matalon on Cathy’s Curse (20:16), where the filmmaker, speaking mostly in French with subtitles provided, discusses the production, crew and incredible affordability shooting in Canada.  In addition, Cathy and Mum (12:42) catches up with the elusive Randi Allen who played the possessed titular character and her mother Joyce Allen who acted as the film’s Costume Designer.  Lastly, an Introduction to the Cinematic Void Screening at American Cinematheque by BirthMoviesDeath Critic Brian Collins (4:28) and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:36) wrap up the disc’s extras.  A true deep cut of Canadian chillers of the possessed persuasion, Cathy’s Curse has the power once more thanks to a crowd pleasing restoration fans will assume was achieved through a deal with the devil himself (at least we hope so!).

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Cathy's Curse can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    The Other Hell (1981)

    Director: Bruno Mattei

    Starring: Franca Stoppi, Carlo De Mejo, Francesca Carmeno & Susan Forget

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A sacrilege slice of nunsploitation, Italian cult cinema heavyweight Bruno Mattei (Hell of the Living Dead, Rats: Night of Terror), under the pseudonym Stefan Oblowsky, paints church walls red in The Other Hell.  Following several questionable suicides at a nunnery, the depraved Mother Vincenza (Franca Stoppi, Beyond the Darkness) attempts to derail Father Valerio's (Carlo De Mejo, City of the Living Dead) investigation so that her devilish methods may continue.  Narratively messy and lacking such sleaze factors as ample nudity and lesbianism, The Other Hell does little to rattle the cages of excess while, supernatural happenings stake their claim in the form of bloody stigmata and Hell’s head honcho rearing his red blazing eyes, revealing themselves to only be laughable light-up bulbs.  Certain that the evil happenings are the work of a flesh and blood deviant, Father Valerio asks for more than he bargained when a flashback sequence reveals the Mother Superior’s baby was violently boiled and, as the daughter of Satan, the living and badly burned child’s otherworldly abilities are the cause for the convents twisted events.  Certainly seedy with nuns performing grisly abortions and flexing their stabbing reflexes routinely, The Other Hell hardly lives up to its reputation as one of the subgenres best with Mattei and Stoppo’s attachment being the only cause for a passing glance.

    A mild improvement from its previous standard definition release, Severin Films readies The Other Hell with a 1080p transfer, culled from 35mm blow-up elements presented in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Still showing signs of noticeable wear in the form of scratches, cigarette burns and an intruding vertical line during one dinner sequence in particular, black levels show improvement but remain imperfect while insert shots of the Mother Superior stabbing Father Valerio appear to be sourced from a lesser reference.  Meanwhile, the LPCM 2.0 mix is audible with the English dub track relayed decently but, not without its own faults of cracks, pop and a thin veil of hiss detected throughout.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Director/Co-Writer Claudio Fragasso, moderated by Freak-O-Rama’s Federico Caddea, Sister Franca (13:13) catches up with Actress Franca Stoppi where she reveals working on The Other Hell and The True Story of the Nun of Monza simultaneously, often working on the same sets.  In addition, Stoppi recalls the warm and fun relationship working with Carlo De Mejo and as a niece of two nuns growing up, loved the aspect of dressing up as one for films.  Furthermore, To Hell and Back (11:22) features archive interviews with Director Bruno Mattei and Actor Carlo De Mejo with The Other Hell Trailer (3:34) and Reversible Cover Art concluding the release’s extras.  One may not require a bath in holy water after viewing The Other Hell but, that doesn’t make it the worst of its kind either, just simply less blasphemous than one might expect.  Completists of Mattei’s demented filmography won’t blink twice adding this unholy feature to their shelves with Severin’s noble efforts saving it from certain annihilation well worth falling to your knees for.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Severin Films, The Other Hell can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Drive-In Massacre (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Drive-In Massacre (1976)

    Director: Stu Segall

    Starring: Jake Barnes, Adam Lawrence, Douglas Gudbye & Verkina Flowers

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Although bearing a glorified grindhouse moniker further personified by its gritty photography, Drive-In Massacre falls short of living up to its promise of exploitation excess.  Co-scripted by Back to the Future’s quintessential hobo George “Buck” Flower, a sweltering California drive-in is targeted by a sword-wielding madmen with a penchant for necking couples.  Kicking off with an impactful opening leaving the heads of unsuspecting lovers literally rolling, Drive-In Massacre quickly veers off course as a dull duo of detectives investigate the murders leading them down a rabbit hole of red herrings ranging from public ejaculators and bumbling maintenance men to no avail.  Unsurprisingly shot in less than a week, this smartly marketed indie effort makes little case in the realm of appealing characters and a slim body count that can’t only help but disappoint based on the film’s tagline deeming itself too terrifying for the average moviegoer.  While its classic drive-in and latter carnival filming locations make for nostalgic eye candy, Drive-In Massacre ultimately dawdles for much of its barely hour-long runtime before the coppers zero in on a warehouse where yet another machete-wielding red herring withholds a young woman.  Completely unrelated to their actual unknown suspect, the film’s “killer is still out there” sendoff not only feels cheap but, lacks any sort of punch actual drive-inners may have had shifting their ride into reverse by the end credits.  Notable for preceding the slasher craze and boasting an uncompromisingly eye-catching title, Drive-In Massacre can be appreciated for its humble efforts but, hardly leaves a true developmental mark on the genre.

    Newly restored from the original camera negative, Severin Films presents Drive-In Massacre with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Although sporadic instances of scuffs, scratches and reel change snafus are to be expected, this no-budget crash course in exploitation moviemaking surprises with an overwhelmingly filmic appearance that comes alive best during the film’s sunnier sequences.  Furthermore, colors seen in drive-in manager Mr. Johnson’s flashy attire pop strongly while, the neon-lit carnival rides also spruce up the picture nicely.  Meanwhile, black levels vary in quality from serviceable to overly grainy.  Unfortunately, the film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix suffers from more innate issues of muffling and restraint making dialogue delivery a challenging but, not impossible feat to absorb.  Scoring cues are at least more functional while, traces of static interference also rear their head from time to time.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Stu Segall followed by an Easter Egg accessed by clicking left of its icon revealing the Theatrical Trailer for Segall’s 1972 effort C.B. Hustlers (2:52).  Next up, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:49) and Drive-In Days: A Conversation with Co-Writer/Actor John F. Goff (16:18) who recalls his early love affair with film through his uncle’s movie theater and his eventual affliction with the acting bug is provided.  Additionally, Norm Sheridan Recalls Drive-In Massacre (11:45) shares his own treasured experiences making the film that transpired several years after returning home from the Vietnam War.  Lastly, the vintage Making the Massacre: Interview with Director Stu Segall (6:32) is also included alongside Reversible Cover Art.  Far from an essential exploitation opus, Drive-In Massacre makes for a curious watch for grindhouse completists with its head-lopping introduction just worthy enough of its time.  Unfazed by its unavoidable wear and tear, Severin Films delivers this no-so trashy cheapie in the best shape imaginable for its high-definition domestic debut, befit with a generous helping of on-disc goodies.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Drive-In Massacre can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury (2017) Blu-ray Review

    Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury (2017)

    Director: Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As a surge of trailer compilations celebrating exploitation’s finest offerings continue to make their way to home video, Severin Films, in assosciation with The Cube, assaults viewers once more with a second helping of bone-cracking madness in Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury!  Collecting another 35 trailers consisting of over two hours of sizzling martial arts badassery, this celebration of kung fu cinema’s peak decades during the 70s and 80s spotlights such legends as, Angela Mao, Don Wong, Chang Yi and Bruce Li in some of their most prized efforts.  Unspooling in all their high-definition glory, prominent inclusions encompass, Thunderbolt, Kung Fu Master Named Drunk Cat, The Invisible Terrorist, Bruce and the Iron Finger, The Owl, White Haired Devil Lady, The Super Kung-Fu Fighter, Revenge of the Shaolin Kid, The Old Master, Itchy Fingers, The Dragon and the Tiger Kids, The Avenging Boxer among many more.  A natural extension of its impressive predecessor, Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury ensures a doubling of brutality and energetic fight choreography to make serious martial arts movie aficionados bowing in approval at its continued depth and preservation of these nostalgically tattered promotional pieces.  

    Severin Films presents Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio on the overwhelming majority of bumpers included.  While each trailer contains expected and varying levels of age-related anomalies including, faded colors, scratches, vertical lines and film tears, their enhanced resolution is evident with the overall quality of the 35 trailers surprisingly besting the original volume’s 31 without question.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that suffers from similar battle wounds with cracks and pops common on each trailer, traces of hiss and a general narrowness in their pitch are also unfortunately present but nonetheless expected given the condition of their elements.  Included as the disc’s sole special feature, an Audio Commentary with Kung Fu Movie Experts Ric Meyers, Frank Djeng, Greg Schiller & Rich Stelow is wonderfully chatty and informative, capturing the vibe of a casual party-like conversation with some of the genre’s biggest fans whose passion is as deep as their vast knowledge for the subjects on hand.  Fans breaking wooden boards in anticipation for another tidal wave of hand-to-hand combat trailers will be most pleased with Severin Films’ Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury.  Bearing their grindhouse wear with pride, two additional hours of content with yet another insightful commentary track is the perfect opponent for your Blu-ray player to do battle with. 

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Return of Kung Fu Trailers of Fury can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Doomwatch (1972) Blu-ray Review

    Doomwatch (1972)

    Director: Peter Sasdy

    Starring: Ian Bannen, Judy Geeson, John Paul, Simon Oates, Jean Trend, Joby Blanshard, George Sanders, Percy Herbert, Geoffrey Keen, Joseph O’Connor & Shelagh Fraser

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When citizens of a small island community develop aggressive behavior and monstrous disfigurements, Doomwatch finds the determined Dr. Del Shaw (Ian Bannen, The Flight of the Phoenix) and local schoolteacher Victoria Brown (Judy Geeson, The Lords of Salem) risking their lives to uncover the horrifying truth.  Costarring the likes of John Paul (A Countess from Hong Kong), Simon Oates (The Terrornauts) and George Sanders (The Jungle Book), Hammer horror veteran Peter Sasdy (Countess Dracula, Hands of the Ripper) directs.

    Spun-off from the short-lived BBC series of the same name while serving little to no consequence for the uninitiated, Doomwatch relegates several cast regulars to supporting parts in exchange for headliners Bannen and Geeson to pave a new path for its big-screen opus.  Marketed with an enticing campaign in tune with its director’s more horror-oriented efforts, Doomwatch’s environmentally cautious tale pits anti-pollution scientist Dr. Del Shaw on an investigation off the island village of Balfe where the citizens have demonstrated peculiar behavior and even more questionable physical changes.  While the townsfolk hold firm to their belief that their sickly states are God’s punishments for generations of inbreeding, Shaw suspects radioactive waste and illegal dumping in their surrounding waters to be the root of the problem.  Untrusted by the masses with many debilitating into murderous mongoloids, Shaw, along with his only onsite ally Victoria Brown and his headquarters of likeminded scientists, must make the citizens understand the gravity of their conditions before Balfe as they know it becomes extinct.  Loaded with lab coat deliberations, scuba-diving investigations and far too seldom appearances from the island’s mutated locals, Doomwatch's not-so subtle message signaling the dangers of pollution feels ahead of its time and far more potent in today’s environmentally conscience society yet, can’t help but mildly disappoint for cloaking itself as the sci-fi thriller it is not.  Boasting a stirring score from John Scott (Man on Fire) and watchable performances from its principal players, Doomwatch may not fully live up to its promotional campaign of island-infested monsters but, delivers a respectable message with a handful of thrills to go around.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Doomwatch with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Making a strong leap to high-definition, skin tones are consistently handled with detail in the disfigured local’s faces nicely highlighted.  Meanwhile, the softness found on the island’s misty surroundings remains intact while, black levels waver from respectable to slightly murky, seen most apparently during the film’s opening.  Lastly, scant scratches are observed but never deter from watchability.  Equipped with a satisfactory DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is crisp with only heavier accents occasionally requiring a boost in volume due more to their thickness and less with the mix’s performance.  In addition, John Scott’s riveting score provides exceptional ambiance on the track while, several cracks and pops make their presence heard.  Special features include, an On-Camera Intro by Director Peter Sasdy (2:18), an Audio Commentary with Director Peter Sasdy, Doomsday with Judy Geeson (6:20) where the film’s female lead recalls the difficult shoot on Cornwall and its unpredictable weather conditions, her attraction to the hot-button issue of pollution for taking the role and her admirations for her fellow costars.  Lastly, Trailers for The Island of Dr. Moreau (2:12), The Neptune Factor (3:02) and War-Gods of the Deep (2:21) are also included.

    Not quite the deep sea excursion into grotesque beasts one would hope, Doomwatch delivers a halfway decent plot exposing the dangers of pollution and a troubled island of misfits at its mercy.  Sure to please slightly more for those not expecting a B-movie bonanza, the environmental thriller would have only benefitted from more genre tropes but alas, remains a decent effort with a certifiably green agenda.  Meanwhile, KL Studio Classics delivers the film spinoff with a most pleasing presentation and a welcome array of special features including, a new interview with Star Geeson and commentary track from its 81-year-old director.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Doomwatch can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Black Christmas (1974) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Black Christmas (1974)

    Director: Bob Clark

    Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder & John Saxon 

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Bob Clark (Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, A Christmas Story), Black Christmas finds a houseful of sorority sisters stalked by a menacing stranger.  Harassed with obscene phone calls and violently picked off by the mysterious killer, fear and panic overwhelms the friends when their assailant proves to be closer than they thought.  Olivia Hussey (Romeo and Juliet), Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey), Margot Kidder (The Amityville Horror) and John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street) star.

    Hailing from the chilly Canadian north and predating John Carpenter’s 1978 trick-or-treating opus, Black Christmas, largely overlooked for its impact within the genre casts a masterfully suspenseful tone that continues to cut like a sharp icicle over four decades later.  Set within the bustling college town of Bedford, the ladies of the Pi Kappa Sigma house are prepping for their holiday getaways from school when terror strikes.  Disturbingly vulgar phone calls quickly turns into murder leaving the remaining sorority sisters scared for their own lives.  Brought to life by a diverse cast of local talent and thriving domestic stars, the house residents quickly gain the admiration of audiences for their naturalness and their unique character developments that find them struggling with alcoholism and relationship woes.  Unsettled by the murder of a young child and disappearance of their dwindling housemates, an investigation, led by Lt. Kenneth Fuller (Saxon), turns up more questions than answers related to the true culprit.  Incorporating POV footage from the killer long before its use became commonplace and encasing the film in a suffocating grip of dread eased only by well-injected touches of light humor, Black Christmas excels in its methodical plotting that although, slower-paced, serves the pre-slasher effort increasingly well.  Successfully tripping viewers up with several red herrings, tightly edited death scenes juxtaposed with Christmas caroling children and a strong “less is more” approach to its macabre narrative, Black Christmas remains one of the finest slices of holiday horror with twists not seen coming and a frightening finale that lives up to its cheeky tagline.

    Boasting a new 2K scan from the original negative, Disc 1 features Black Christmas with a 1080p transfer, sporting the director’s preferred 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  In order to temper expectations, Scream Factory appreciatively alerted viewers of inherent damage to the negative that remains present although, not hopefully intrusive.  True to their word and free of any digital noise, skin tones are natural-looking while, contrast is nicely more boosted than previous releases with colors in costume textures and patterns appearing lively.  Instances of speckling remain on display throughout the film but remain noticeably more cleaned up than before while, black levels also even out nicely with passing moments of murkiness observed.  Amidst its age-related anomalies, presentation is filmic as can be earning Black Christmas its best HD outing to date.  For completists, Disc 2 includes the equally adequate 2006 Critical Mass HD Master, screened in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio for those who fancy it.  Equipped with a serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that hones pleasing exchanges of dialogue, blowing winds and creaky floorboard ambiance in the sorority house, controversy has emerged regarding the track’s uses of substituted sound effects and drowned out lines while, its accompanying audio options (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo and Mono mixes, namely the latter) suffers from substantial cracks and pops.  Although an internal investigation appears to be underway for the tracks, the 5.1 mix remains the most effective listening option.

    Predominately packaged with recycled extras on top of a few new exclusives, Disc 1’s special features consist of three vintage Audio Commentary tracks.  The first including Director Bob Clark, the second featuring Actors John Saxon & Keir Dullea and lastly, one from “Billy”.  In addition, an Audio Interview with Director Bob Clark, lasting roughly 30 minutes, can also be listened to while observing the feature.

    Meanwhile, Disc 2’s bonus feature packed offerings include, the newly captured Film and Furs: Remembering Black Christmas with Art Hindle (26:11) and Victims and Virgins: Remembering Black Christmas with Lynne Griffin (26:35), both of which dig deep into the thespians respective careers and their time making Bob Clark’s Christmastime shocker.  Vintage additions cover, Black Christmas Legacy (40:22), a 40th Anniversary Panel at FanExpo 2014 (18:02), On Screen!: Black Christmas (48:41), 12 Days of Black Christmas (19:48), Black Christmas Revisited (36:25), Archival Interviews with Olivia Hussey, Art Hindle, Margot Kidder, Bob Clark & John Saxon (1:41:30), a Midnight Screening Q&A with John Saxon, Bob Clark & Carl Zittrer (20:21) and Two Scenes with a new soundtrack (3:04).  Finally, English and French Theatrical Trailers (8:16), Original TV and Radio Spots (3:09), an Alternate Title Sequence (2:47) utilizing the film’s Silent Night, Evil Night moniker and a Photo Gallery (53 in total) conclude the on-disc treats while, Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster is also provided.

    A genre staple that made way for the masked madman antics of the 1980s, Black Christmas has endured due to its chilling tone and strangulating suspense that makes it one of the scariest gift wrapped features to revisit during the jolliest time of year.  Early reports and ongoing speculation into the release’s audio issues aside, Scream Factory’s new 2K transfer makes for an early Christmas miracle that should easily satisfy dedicated fans while, the release’s few new extras and Joel Robinson’s cover artwork nicely compliment the hefty sum of repurposed supplements.  While its technical merits have rightly been questioned with a hopefully pleasing resolution to follow, Black Christmas remains highly recommend for the trailblazing shocker it is. 

    RATING: 4/5

    Available December 13th from Scream Factory, Black Christmas can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Fuzz (1972) Blu-ray Review

    Fuzz (1972)

    Director: Richard A. Colla

    Starring: Burt Reynolds, Jack Weston, Tom Skerritt, Yul Brynner & Raquel Welch

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When a crazed extortionist targeting public officials descends upon Boston, Fuzz finds the bumbling forces of local law enforcement determined to capture the mysterious criminal using any goofy means necessary.  Burt Reynolds (Deliverance), Jack Weston (The Thomas Crown Affair), Tom Skerritt (Top Gun), Yul Brynner (Westworld) and Raquel Welch (Fantastic Voyage) star in this crime-comedy from Director Richard A. Colla (Battlestar Galactica).

    Set in the 87th Precinct where an apple green makeover is in progress and incompetence runs thick, Fuzz oddly melds police procedural with comedic antics in pursuit of saving Beantown from a mysterious criminal mastermind.  Based on the popular book series and scripted by its creator Ed McBain (under the pseudonym Evan Hunter), Fuzz is as loud and bustling as its set city with rampant activity, chain-smoking and overlapping conversations taking place amongst the undercover detectives’ workspace.  Proving their hilarious nincompoopness time and again, Detective Steve Carella (Reynolds), masquerading as a hobo finds himself torched by youthful punks for kicks while, the arrival of the jaw-droppingly foxy recruit Det. McHenry (Welch) leaves the station struggling to pick their tongues up from the ground.  Following extortion demands and hits on several esteemed city officials from a villainous deaf man (Brynner), the entire department pull their efforts together to bring down the methodical baddie.  Boasting a fine ensemble cast, Fuzz is tonally peculiar but, generally succeeds in capturing laughs while, its more serious agenda as a hard-nosed copper feature feels rather routine.  Although charmingly dated with great moments featuring Reynolds and Weston undercover as nuns while, Welch and Skerritt get trapped within a sleeping bag conducting surveillance, Fuzz has sporadic shades of fun, best served as a nostalgic time capsule where antiquated appearances from speed dial cards and 25 cent peepshow booths take place.

    Newly remastered, Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Fuzz with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  While its opening titles of city life feature murkier black levels, skin tones are pleasing and well-detailed with the apple green paint applied to the 87th Precinct popping suitably.  In addition, textures seen in costume choices are respectable with natural grain well intact and print damage being of minimal concern.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is audible but can present challenges attributed to actors intentionally speaking over one another.  Occasionally hollow sounding with street ambiance and other subdued effects proving more fortuitous, the final product is decent at best.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Richard A. Colla, moderated by Filmmaker Elijah Drenner.  Covering a vast array of topics including, Brian De Palma’s original attachment to the film, praising Hunter’s charming script and location shooting versus backlots, Drenner does an admirable job pulling anecdotes from Colla about the production and his television career.  In addition, “Trailers From Hell” with Josh Olson (3:05) and Trailers for Fuzz (2:58), White Lightning (2:25), Gator (1:09), Sam Whiskey (2:24) and Malone (2:00) round out the bonus features.

    Aligning a comedic touch to the more traditional cop drama it becomes in its later half, Fuzz makes its goofiness prominent and enjoyable with the ensemble cast noticeably having a great time.  A relic of its era that still musters mild charm, Kino Lorber Studio Classics welcomes the adaptation to high-definition with middle of the road results and enlightening commentary on the film from its maker and Academy Award nominated Screenwriter Josh Olson (A History of Violence) respectively.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Fuzz can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Hardcore (1979) Blu-ray Review

    Hardcore (1979)

    Director: Paul Schrader

    Starring: George C. Scott, Peter Boyle, Season Hubley, Dick Sargent & Ilah Davis

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Writer/Director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, American Gigolo), Hardcore explores the seedy underbelly of pornography when religiously devout Midwesterner Jake Van Dorn (George C. Scott, The Hustler) scours Los Angeles to find his missing daughter subjected to the sex-driven trade.  Peter Boyle (Young Frankenstein), Season Hubley (Elvis), Dick Sargent (Bewitched) and Ilah Davis in her only feature film co-star.

    Haunting and uncomfortably captivating, Paul Schrader’s descent into the sleazy subculture of peep shows and underage pornography stabs like a knife that equally shocks and emotionally runs it toll on audiences and its traumatized characters alike.  Leading a simple life in the chilly, religiously-minded Grand Rapids, businessman and single father Jake Van Dorn sees his young daughter Kristen (Davis) off on a church sanctioned getaway to sunny California when every parent’s worst nightmare comes true.  Alerted that the adolescent girl has gone missing, Van Dorn wastes little time heading to Los Angeles where the local authorities offer little assistance outside of recommending the hire of a private detective.  Foul-mouthed and unorthodox, the troubled father enlists the services of Andy Mast (Boyle) who makes the harrowing discovery of a ratty stag film starring the precocious teen.  Virtually impossible to track and overcome with pain and anger, Van Dorn takes matters into his own hands to locate his child, leading him through a sensory shocking exploration of the adult film underworld and its unsavory operators.  Asking questions best left unanswered before masquerading as a film producer to better infiltrate his surroundings, the straight-laced Calvinist’s connection to a working girl (Hubley) with insider access sends the mismatched pair to the illuminated porn palaces and bathhouses of San Diego and Frisco where more depraved alleyways are opened to Van Dorn.  Subjected to grizzly snuff films and entry into bondage-style dungeons, the forever changed parent reaches rock bottom when a gut-wrenching revelation is made on his surreal odyssey of turmoil.

    Capturing the bygone storefronts and coin-operated sex shows of the Sunset Strip, Hardcore is an authentically gripping and viscerally effective feature that leaves scars long after its end credits fade to black.  The Academy Award winning Scott is exceptional as a father struggling to salvage his faith in the gutters of S&M debauchery while, Boyle makes for an intriguingly sordid private eye with sex on the mind.  In addition, Season Hubley greatly impresses in her role as the street hustling key to Van Dorn’s daughter with early appearances from Tracey Walter (Repo Man) as a perfectly cast adult store clerk and Ed Begley Jr. (St. Elsewhere) as a fully dressed porn star, also on hand.  Crafting outsider personalities and bringing hypnotic allure to urban decay like no other, Schrader’s West Coast-based feature, although narratively unique, serves as a welcome companion piece to his scripted Taxi Driver masterwork that both host psychologically wounded characters suffocating within their dark environments.  Although easing the brakes on a more appropriately traumatizing conclusion, Hardcore still leaves viewers in a state of awe and disbelief by the sights and sounds most would assume only reside in nightmares and not the very real crevices of our imperfect society.

    Limited to 3,000 units, Twilight Time presents Hardcore with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting natural film grain throughout with spot-on facial tones and soothing contrast, Schrader’s sophomore feature arrives free of scuffs and scratches with vastly impressive black levels seen during its many nighttime street sequences and in the backrooms of porn shops.  In addition, detail is striking with easily seen fingerprints on peep show booths plus, boastful colors admired though neon-lit lighting and Scott’s Hawaiian shirts greatly impress.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the track is far from spellbinding or wildly dynamic but, prioritizes dialogue and makes Composer Jack Nitzsche's (Cruising, Stand by Me) trembling guitar chords wholly impactful.  Special features include, a new 2016 recorded Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Paul Schrader followed by an Audio Commentary with Film Historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer & Paul Scrabo.  In addition, an Isolated Score Track, the Original Theatrical Trailer (1:21) and a 6-page booklet featuring another excellently authored essay by Julie Virgo conclude the supplemental package.

    One of Schrader’s most accomplished efforts that unquestionably influenced Joel Schumacher’s snuff film thriller 8MM two decades later, Hardcore is an unflinchingly brutal assault on parental fears and broken faith set under the hot, throbbing lights of pornography skid row.  Shocking and emotionally draining, Twilight Time ushers the controversial classic onto Blu-ray with a definitive presentation, chatty and informative commentary tracks from its creator and well-versed historians plus, engaging liner notes making the release essential to any 70s film enthusiast.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now and limited to 3,000 units from Twilight Time, Hardcore can be purchased exclusively via TwilightTimeMovies.com and ScreenArchives.com.

  • The Nice Guys (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Nice Guys (2016)

    Director: Shane Black

    Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Keith David & Kim Basinger

    Released by: Warner Bros.

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the City of Angels circa 1977, The Nice Guys centers on alcoholic private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling, Drive) and Irish Brooklyn brute enforcer Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind) as they team up to locate a highly desired missing girl.  Simultaneously juggling the unrelated death of a foxy porn starlet, the conflicting pair uncover a ring of conspiracy far beyond what they expected.  Angourie Rice (Walking with Dinosaurs 3D), Matt Bomer (White Collar), Margaret Qualley (The Leftovers), Keith David (The Thing) and Kim Basinger (Batman) co-star.

    Developed and failing to drum up interest in 2001, Co-Screenwriter/Director Shane Black’s (Iron Man 3) throwback to pulpy neo-noirs and hard-nosed buddy comedies gestated in earnest with the double barrel casting blasts of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling pushing the cinematic case through.  Capturing the time and place of the hardy-partying 70s with ease, The Nice Guys finds private investigator Holland March hired by the elderly Mrs. Glenn to locate her recently deceased porn star niece who she firmly believes is still alive.  Identifying an Amelia Kutner (Qualley) as a person of interest, hired tough guy Jackson Healy is paid by the woman in question to rough Holland up to keep her whereabouts unknown.  Shortly after meeting on unpleasantly physical terms, Jackson and Holland find themselves in the crosshairs of several thugs also looking for Amelia, prompting the two to join forces to crack the case they are now embroiled in.  Aided by Holland’s resourceful teenage daughter Holly (Rice), the investigative duo connect Amelia, the murdered centerfold and an experimental film with a political agenda regarding Los Angeles’ increasing smog problem to an intricate web of conspiracy with potential ties to the United States Department of Justice and the mob.  

    Comedically charged and consummately character driven, The Nice Guys is a refreshing reminder of Hollywood filmmaking that is all but extinct.  True to its tone and era without ever dependent on its nostalgia for the past, Black’s love letter to underdog private eyes in way over their heads is amusingly witty and action-packed when it needs to be with the smoggy streets of Los Angeles, host to flashy lights, iconic digs like The Comedy Store and billboards promoting Jaws 2 and the such, making the city a star in its own right.  Unabashedly drunk throughout and yelping like a girl at the sound of gunshots, Gosling’s eccentric performance as “the world’s worst detective” matches perfectly with Crowe’s dry man approach who lets his fists do most of the talking.  In addition, supporting turns from workaholic character actor Keith David as a senior ruffian and the forever gorgeous Kim Basinger as Amelia’s concerned and suspected mother bring added class to the funky feature.  Packing several twists along the way, The Nice Guys makes the strong case that blockbusters mustn’t always be tremendous in scale to make the proper impact with moviegoers.  Playing in the sandbox of multiple genres, Black’s period piece takes it to the max with a snappy screenplay and delightfully fun performances that stay contagiously cool from beginning to end.

    Warner Bros. presents The Nice Guys with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Beautifully relaying the occasionally soft lighting palette of L.A. with gorgeous color reproduction in pastel costume choices and lavish neon lights during a memorable nighttime house party, The Nice Guys presents skin tones and facial details including, wrinkles and five o’clock shadows with the utmost clarity.  Lastly, black levels are solidly inky leaving no room for error in this sharply handled transfer.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is crisp while, more action-geared moments of gunfire, screeching cars, revving motors and a party rendition of Kool & The Gang’s “Get Down On It” deliver knockout punches.  Unfortunately limited, special features include, the paint by numbers EPK Always Bet on Black (5:27) and Worst. Detectives. Ever. Making The Nice Guys (6:16) that explores the lengthy road to production for the film, its countless evolutions and character tweaks.  Finally, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also included with the package. 

    Celebrating the era where private dicks soared and genres were enjoyably blurred with little contemplation, The Nice Guys honors the best of both worlds with the casting combination of Crowe and Gosling earning their comedy team badges and Black’s cinematic prowess once again on its A game.  While the lack of supplements are disappointing and desperately in need of a writer/director commentary, Warner Bros.’ high-definition treatment flies and lights up the screen in style.  Can you dig it?

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Warner Bros., The Nice Guys can be purchased via WBShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Candy Tangerine Man (1974) / Lady Cocoa (1975) Blu-ray Review

    The Candy Tangerine Man (1974) / Lady Cocoa (1975)

    Director: Matt Cimber

    Starring: John Daniels, Eli Haines, Tom Hankason, Marva Farmer, Richard Kennedy & George “Buck Flower” / Lola Falana, Gene Washington, Alex Dreier, Millie Perkins, “Mean” Joe Greene & James A. Watson, Jr.

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Featuring a double serving of blaxploitation favorites from Director Matt Cimber (The Black 6), The Candy Tangerine Man centers on cool as ice pimp known as The Baron (John Daniels, Black Shampoo).  Hustling the mean streets of Los Angeles from the driver seat of his colorful Rolls Royce, Baron evades the authorities while, combatting local competition seeking to push the player out of the game.  Next up, Lady Cocoa finds recently released prisoner Cocoa (Lola Falana, The Klansman) agreeing to testify against her criminal boyfriend only to discover the danger that awaits her on the outside.

    Hailed by exploitation connoisseur Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, The Hateful Eight) and frequent collaborator Samuel L. Jackson, The Candy Tangerine Man brings hard-edged urban style and violence to the dangerous world of pimps and pushers.  Doubling as smooth as silk procurer and loving husband/father Ron Lewis in a separate area code, the Black Baron oozes swag on the seedy blocks of Sunset Boulevard, monitoring his clientele of feisty broads from his vibrant head-turning ride.  After selflessly winning a new trick during a game of pool to deter her from the life she’s chosen, Baron finds himself targeted by mafia kingpin Vincent Di Nunzio (Zenobia Wittacre, Black Lolita) and fellow, long-nailed pimp Dusty.  Consistently hassled by a bumbling duo of coppers, Baron’s operation is uprooted when Di Nunzio’s flunkies savagely slice the breast of one of his women.  Never one to retreat, Baron pushes back by introducing said flunkies’ hand to a garbage disposal and pumping other henchmen up with lead from his car’s installed machine guns.  Acknowledging the heat on the street, Baron looks to leave his empire behind with a lucrative savings bond hustle only to be double-crossed by his once trustworthy bookkeeper forcing the fedora-wearing pimp to take back what’s rightfully his.  Awesomely crediting the actual “hookers” and “blades” of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, The Candy Tangerine Man spares no jive and supplies bounds of entertainment thanks to the untouchably badass performance of Daniels and his mic-dropping one liners.  Further enhanced by generous doses of nudity, nostalgia-fueled footage of exotic clubs from yesteryear and a funky soundtrack provided by Smoke (later known as Blacksmoke), The Candy Tangerine Man may prove that pimpin’ ain’t easy but, its handsome handling of action and supafly attitude make it a sugar rush of blaxploitation bliss.

    Shot on location in the gambling state of Nevada, Lady Cocoa promises a feature of revenge-fueled thrills that unfortunately never comes to pass.  Released from prison in exchange to testify against her devious mobster beau, Cocoa is carted off to a slot machine filled hotel by Lieutenant Ramsey (Alex Dreier, Chandler) and patrolman Doug Fuller (Gene Washington, Black Gunn) before the crucial arraignment.  Bossy and demanding of relaxing service during her limited stay, Cocoa, in an excruciatingly squeaky pitch, sprouts off random facts while, also insistent of a shopping spree and the opportunity to mingle and dance the night away with a fellow couple.  Constantly butting heads before developing a flirtatious relationship, Cocoa and Doug get intimate as her criminal ex-lover Eddie (James A. Watson, Jr., The Organization) and his associates spy on with an intent to rub Cocoa out before she can utter a single word under oath.  Before its final act that results in a maid getting mistakenly shot, a car chase through a hotel lobby and a corrupt character being exposed, Lady Cocoa is largely uneventful, dragging itself to a boat showdown between baddies and goodies after a prolonged period listening to Cocoa complain in the confines of a hotel room.  Bland and monotonous, Lady Cocoa lands itself back in the slammer for such crimes.  

    Scanned and restored in 2K from 35mm archival prints, Vinegar Syndrome presents both The Candy Tangerine Man and Lady Cocoa with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  With the destruction and disposal of their respective negatives, each film bears noticeable grindhouse battle wounds including, varying degrees of scuffs and scratches, vertical lines and moderate to excessive instances of red speckling.  Although their conditions may be far from ideal with Lady Cocoa looking best, both features maintain filmic presentations and respectably rich colors with Baron’s bright fedoras and matching ties popping most nicely.  Appreciatively working from the best available materials, Vinegar Syndrome have treated fans to the best home video presentations of these Cimber co-features, warts and all.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mixes, each film contains their fair share of cracks, pops and an instance or two of dropped audio yet, both features are sufficiently audible given the less than stellar state of their utilized elements.  Featuring a Video Introduction by Director Matt Cimber (4:12) for The Candy Tangerine Man, additional special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Matt Cimber & Director’s Assistant/Actor John Goff on Lady Cocoa, a DVD edition of the release and a Reversible Cover Art spotlighting Cimber’s 1975 co-feature.

    From stylish pimps to whiny narcs, Vinegar Syndrome’s blaxploitation double bill from Director Matt Cimber provides viewers with uniquely suited urban tales shot during the glory decade of the 1970s.  While The Candy Tangerine Man is wildly fun and ranks highly amongst other well-praised genre efforts, Lady Cocoa lacks the punch of its co-feature and disappoints in its sense of marketed thrills.  Although ideal elements for both features no longer exist, Vinegar Syndrome have done their very best to ensure both films stay preserved and primed for consumption.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, The Candy Tangerine Man / Lady Cocoa can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #10 - Scream Factory Edition: The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) Collector's Edition & Bite (2015) Blu-ray Reviews

    The Boy Who Cried Werewolf (1973)

    Director: Nathan Juran

    Starring: Kerwin Mathews, Elaine Devry, Scott Sealey & Robert J. Wilke

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After a father-son camping excursion results in dear old dad getting bit by a bloodthirsty beast, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf focuses on curly-haired son Richie (Scott Sealey, Emergency!) and his unsuccessful attempts to prove to the local townsfolk that his father will morph into a turtleneck wearing hairy savage at the next full moon.  In his final directorial effort, Nathan Juran (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad) reteams with leading man Kerwin Mathews for this rather bland, modern day retelling of the famous folktale.  Highlighting the sign of the times with Richie’s parents being divorced and turning to child psychology for answers to their son’s manic stories, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf exudes a TV movie atmosphere that struggles to scare while, unintentionally bringing smirks to viewers’ faces courtesy of the film’s enjoyably dated werewolf design.  As Richie’s pleas go unanswered, secondary characters including, a camper humping couple, a monster believing psychologist (George Gaynes, Police Academy) and most hilariously, a bible hugging cult of hippies led by a Jerry Garcia looking messiah cross paths with the beast, few leaving with their lives.  Concluding uneventfully with a setup to a sequel that was not meant to be, this harmless PG rated opus mildly charms with its yesteryear plotting during such an artistically groundbreaking decade while, remaining largely forgettable for its bygone approach.  Paired with the snake-slithering shocker Sssssss throughout its drive-in heyday, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf earnestly howls for suspense but, unfortunately comes up scareless.

    Never before available, Scream Factory presents The Boy Who Cried Werewolf with a new 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Amid instances of minimal speckling, occasional cigarette burns and sporadic nighttime scenes possessing overly grainy appearances, the film’s color scheme is strong and vibrant with detail looking pleasingly sharp.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is efficiently relayed while, werewolf howls and the film’s few music cues make decent, if not limited, impacts on the otherwise basic track.  Unsurprisingly limited, special features include, a Photo Gallery (3:32) and the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer (2:24).  However lackluster the tame, fang-toothed feature is, horror/cult saviors Scream Factory must be graciously thanked for rescuing and presenting, for the first time on home video, a cobweb invested picture such as The Boy Who Cried Werewolf for horror enthusiasts to experience in noteworthy quality.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Boy Who Cried Werewolf can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

    Director: Philip Kaufman

    Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum & Veronica Cartwright

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kickstarting a movement of science fiction makeovers for golden age classics that would permeate the following decade, Invasion of the Body Snatchers takes place in San Francisco where Department of Health associates Matthew (Donald Sutherland, Don’t Look Now) and Elizabeth (Brooke Adams, The Dead Zone) discover a dark phenomenon of mysterious pods cloning the population and discarding the human originals.  Plagued by fear and paranoia, the silent overtaking of the planet increases aggressively as the desperate duo and their equally frantic friends rush to save the human race.  Impressively hailed by audiences and critics alike for its gloomy tone and nail biting suspense, Director Philip Kaufman’s (The Right Stuff) modernization earns the rare honor of taking a revered concept and pollinating it with unique touches that both adheres and expands upon its foundation.  Featuring an eclectic pool of talent from Sutherland and Adams to genre legend Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek), Veronica Cartwright (The Birds) and an early appearance from a youthfully scrawny Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) as a failed poet, all are perfectly in synch while, original Body Snatchers star Kevin McCarthy returns for a glorified cameo as a frightened civilian forewarning the danger coming.  Seeped in a cloud of dread that the cast admirably conveys through their frightened performances, Invasion of the Body Snatchers impresses doubly with its gooey special effects work that spotlights unsettling reproductions of the cast being birthed via pods.  In addition, a crossbred dog possessing its human owners face stands as yet another unforgettable snippet of disturbing imagery that enhances the film’s fear inducing aura.  While Jack Finney’s novel has inspired two more adaptations in the wake of Kaufman’s slow-building box-office favorite, 1978’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a championed chiller that will leaves audiences in a state of hypnotic fear all the way to its shocking conclusion.

    Scream Factory presents Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appreciatively scanned in 2K from the interpositive, the pod people redo looks refreshingly crisper than previous releases with a filmic quality throughout and colors respectfully leveled to more natural appearances.  Furthermore, detail is most impressive during pod birthing scenes allowing viewers to marvel at the intricate cob-like effects work on the bodies.  While the atmospherically dark cinematography still possesses moderate levels of noise speckling, Scream Factory’s handsome new transfer is a breath of preferable fresh air that should easily appease viewers.  Equipped with a perfectly satisfactory DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that relays dialogue and startling sound effects effortlessly, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Entered into the label’s esteemed Collector’s Edition series, bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman plus, a second vintage Audio Commentary with Director Philip Kaufman.  Other newly recorded supplements courtesy of the relentlessly talented Cavetown Pictures include, Star-Crossed in the Invasion with Brooke Adams (9:06) where the leading lady recounts her working relationship with Kaufman who allowed her to write her own scene in the film as well as her reservations appearing nude on screen.  Next up, Leading the Invasion with Art Hindle (25:04) who portrayed Adams’ quickly overtaken beau recalls his lifelong obsession with science fiction in this chatty featurette while, Re-Creating the Invasion with W.D. Richter (15:43) finds the writer discussing the San Francisco setting of the film and his original intentions and ultimate alterations that occurred throughout the film’s making.  In addition, Scoring the Invasion with Denny Zeitlin (15:34) explores the composer’s sole film credit and his unique approaches to the material.

    Ported over from MGM’s previous Blu-ray release, Re-Visitors from Outer Space, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Pod (16:14) features insight from Kaufman, Sutherland, Richter, Cartwright and others on the film’s enduring impact.  Practical Magic: The Special Effects Pod (4:38) allows SFX Artist Howard Preston to detail the creation of the film’s impressive opening sequence while, The Man Behind the Scream: The Sound Effects Pod (12:47) and The Invasion Will Be Televised: The Cinematography Pod (5:24) explores the film’s evocative sounds and camerawork respectively.  Lastly, the Theatrical Trailer (2:13), TV Spots (1:02), Radio Spots (4:46), a Photo Gallery (74 in total) and a bonus episode of Science Fiction Theatre’s “Time Is Just A Place” (25:53) based on Finney’s short story and directed by Jack Arnold (The Creature from the Black Lagoon) is also included.  Beautifully packaged bearing Justin Osbourn’s newly rendered artwork, a Reversible Cover Art featuring the film’s original 1-sheet poster concludes the stacked supplemental offerings.  At the risk of pumping a dry well by upgrading a previously available favorite, Scream Factory has made the decision a no-brainer with a new top-notch 2K transfer, a pod sized offering of new and vintage extra features and an exceptional new cover design that trumps the original poster art.  If the seed hasn't been planted more firmly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers Collector’s Edition easily earns a spot in your growing collection of cult gems.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available August 2nd from Scream Factory, Invasion of the Body Snatchers can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Bite (2015)

    Director: Chad Archibald

    Starring: Elma Begovic, Annette Wozniak, Denise Yuen, Jordan Gray & Lawrence Denkers

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After returning from a Dominican Republic getaway, Bite centers on uncertain bachelorette Casey (Elma Begovic, Save Yourself) as she succumbs to an infected bug bite that grossly alters her both physically and mentally.  Introducing viewers to a trio of girlfriends through the lens of their shaky camera as alcohol consumption, self-doubt and infidelity paint the portrait of their tropical vacation, Bite spares viewers further found footage style filming as the narrative thankfully reverts to traditional means.  Nursing an itchy insect bite received abroad, Casey’s case of marital cold feet and guilty conscience weighs heavily on the soon-to-be bride as she contemplates her true desires.  Disdained by her fiancé’s mother who disapproves of premarital sex, Casey’s uncertainty of her future increases as her health rapidly declines in the days to come.  Developing hypersensitive hearing and an endless urge to purge, Casey’s metamorphosis into a yellow-eyed, larva spewing insectoid with a killer instinct breeds creepy carnage for those who cross her path.  Embraced by audiences at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, Bite suffers from subpar acting, indubitably caused by its shaky screenplay that lacks meat on its bones.  While Casey’s troubling martial woes and dramatics brought upon by her jealous best friend are established if not, secondary to the film’s anticipated moments of gooey nastiness, Bite’s true saving grace is found in star Elma Begovic’s bold performance that strips away her attractive looks for the benefit of becoming a snarling, bug-eyed creature.  Much like Casey’s husband is forced to wait on consummating, viewers are tasked with settling for a mediocre tale until the anti-hero spews acidic vile upon her mother-in-law from hell and engages in a fatal girl on girl smooch while, a head crunchingly awesome blow befalls the creature formally known as Casey.  An impressive showcase of modern day special effects magic with minimal CG enhancements, Bite may not infest in all the right ways but, excels when living up to its creature feature markings.  

    Scream Factory presents Bite with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  While early POV footage ranks as some of the more crisper moments of the film, the remainder casts a colder, intentionally shadowier appearance that boasts respectable black levels yet, lacking continuous streams of detail.  Free of any unsightly anomalies, Bite looks as pleasing as can be.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is relayed with sterling clarity while, the slimy sound effects of Casey’s ever-changing body equally impresses.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Producer Chad Archibald and Co-Producers Cody Calahan & Christopher Giroux.  Furthermore, five behind-the-scenes featurettes consisting of Makeup (5:42), On Set (6:02), Fantasia (5:53), Chad’s Wedding (5:16) and Dominican (5:30) are also joined by the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:23) plus, a Reversible Cover Art.  Enjoyably revolting when it wants to be, Bite may make viewers wait for its more larva discharging moments but, thankfully makes the ride worth it in this commendable creepy crawly feature.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available August 2nd from Scream Factory, Bite can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) Blu-ray Review

    The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Jo Johnson, Rainbeaux Smith, Colleen Camp, Rosanne Katon, Ron Hajek, Ric Carrot, Jason Sommers, Ian Sander, Mae Mercer, Jack Denton, John Quade, Bob Minor & George Wallace

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Undercover as sidelining ra ra wailer, The Swinging Cheerleaders centers on Mesa University undergrad Kate (Jo Johnson) as she secretly pens an expose on female exploitation.  Shortly after realizing she’s in good company, Kate discovers a much juicier lead when a gambling circuit concocted by the football coach and his cronies is being carried out.  Fellow cult starlets Rainbeaux Smith (Cinderella), Colleen Camp (Death Game) and Rosanne Katon (The Muthers) co-star.

    Following the action-packed adventures of imprisoned women and the box-office popularity of his back-to-back blaxploitation classics, Director Jack Hill’s (Spider Baby, Pit Stop) field goal into the kinky and burgeoning end zone of the cheerleader feature would be perfectly designed for drive-in consumption.  Although not overly sexy yet, presenting plenty of buxom beauties showcasing their personal pom-poms that would make Russ Meyer proud, The Swinging Cheerleaders finds freethinking journalist Kate landing a spot on Mesa University’s coveted cheerleading squad in order to study the exploitation of women in today’s society.  Using her flirtatious skills and hot bod to her advantage, the undercover student catches the libido of the star quarterback while learning the privileged skinny on her squad-members.  As Lisa (Katon) carries on with an affair with the handsome Professor Thorpe (Jason Sommers, Detroit 9000) and shy virginal Andrea (Smith) finally gives it up through a deflowering gang-bang, Kate gets frisky with head jock Buck as jealous cheer captain Mary Ann (Camp) forces a marriage proposal out of the lug.  Stumbling upon the scandalous discovery that Coach Turner (Jack Denton, Little Cigars), along with a former alumni, is rigging games to further their gambling profits, Kate seeks to expose the truth after winning back the trust of her new friends and rescuing the kidnapped Buck to win the big game.  Boasting a cast of strong, attractive female leads common in Hill productions, The Swinging Cheerleaders may lack the steamier provocativeness that ran rampant in the short-lived genre while, maintaining a narrative that is slightly more politically charged without sacrificing its bubbly personality.  Packed with plenty of pep and a slapsticky finale where the football players charge and tackle a pair of corrupt coppers to save their QB as the cheerleaders do what they do best, Hill’s third to last feature may end rather abruptly but has a sexy and smart time getting there.

    Restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents The Swinging Cheerleaders with a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of rougher looking stock footage of football games, skin tones are warmly presented while, the yellow and green colors found in the cheerleaders and ball players’ uniforms pop most appreciatively.  Understandably shot on a limited budget, the film retains a mild softness that although of hardly much concern should still be taken under advisement before viewing.  Furthermore, excessive cleanup and removal of scratches is evident throughout the film’s runtime, ensuring its presentation to be the best to date.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is crisply supervised making for a satisfying watch.  Special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jack Hill while, Jack Hill: Swingin’ Alma Mater (8:08) sits down with the exploitation auteur as he details his earliest encounters with the film industry through his father and his experiences at UCLA’s film school.  Next up, a vintage Interview with Alfred Taylor (10:15) finds the cinematographer explaining his camera innovations that assisted him through productions such as The Swinging Cheerleaders plus, a many years passed Interview with Jack Hill and Johnny Legend (10:37) and the New Beverly Cinema Q&A (19:19) from 2007 with Hill and co-stars Rosanne Katon and Colleen Camp in attendance is also included.  Finally, TV Spots (1:36), a 23-page booklet featuring stills and Cullen Gallagher’s Pom Poms and Politics essay are joined by a DVD edition of the release and a Reversible Cover Art retaining the original 1-sheet poster.

    Although its title may suggest a sex-filled romp of epic proportions, The Swinging Cheerleaders plays more two-hand touch than full on tackle when it comes to risqué content.  Still managing to share some well-rounded skin with its viewers, Hill’s lively cast of cheerleaders are less bimbo-like while enforcing the film’s strong comedic slant.  Admirably brought to high-definition courtesy of Arrow Video in collaboration with Jack Hill, The Swinging Cheerleaders will undoubtedly make fans of Hill’s illustrious legacy of cult gems squeal with excitement for the home team.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, The Swinging Cheerleaders can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Slasher: Season One Blu-ray Review

    Slasher: Season One 

    Director: Craig David Wallace

    Starring: Katie McGrath, Brandon Jay McLaren, Steve Byers, Dean McDermott & Wendy Crewson

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    30 years after her parents were brutally slain, Slasher finds Sarah Bennett (Katie McGrath, Jurassic World) and her husband Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil) returning to her hometown of Waterbury when a series of copycat murders begin occurring.  With each victim’s death centered around one of the seven deadly sins, the identity of The Executioner comes into question as the original killer remains behind bars.  With the sleepy community’s body count rising, dark secrets of those closest to Sarah are brought to light making everyone a potential suspect.

    Descending from the northern region that bred such classics as My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night, Slasher rewards fans of body count pictures with a contemporary model that adheres to the beloved tropes of its influences while taking advantage of its episodic narrative to concoct a mysteriously geared plot and multi-layered characters.  Headlined by rising newcomer Katie McGrath whose Irish accent sneaks its way into many a episodes, Sarah Bennett’s return to her hometown of Waterbury is met with promise before slowly unraveling when a new series of murders takes place modeled after the seven deadly sins.  Racially and sexually diverse, Sarah’s friends and fellow townspeople including gay couple Justin (Mark Ghanimé, Helix) and Robin (Christopher Jacot, Rogue), her husband’s boss and publisher of the Waterbury Bulletin Alison Sutherland (Mayko Nguyen, Cracked) and the incarcerated Tom Winston (Patrick Garrow, Poltergeist) responsible for the murder of Sarah’s parents all become targets of the blade-wielding Executioner.  Shortly after surviving her own brush with the masked murderer, Sarah’s investigation into her past reveals unsavory secrets and deeply buried skeletons in the closet that paint a disturbing picture of the parents she never knew.  Determined to learn the truth regarding her parents and insight into who may be responsible for the new killings, Sarah relies on visits with Tom Winston to pave the way to answers.  Meanwhile, Sarah’s husband Dylan, serving as editor-in-chief of the local paper is conflicted when his own journalistic drive for a career making story unveils a series of lies pertaining to his relationship with his wife.  

    Notably influenced by John Carpenter’s Halloween and modern cult favorite It Follows, Slasher boasts a sometimes overabundant cast of characters, each with their own dark secrets that luckily all pay off with unexpected plot twists, intensely graphic demises or both.  Starring a cast of predominant Canucks, Dean McDermott (Power Play), impressively bouncing back from reality television hogwash, appears as Waterbury’s corrupt police chief and delivers the standout performance of the series showcasing the Toronto native’s diverse chops.  Creatively overseen by Creator/Writer Aaron Martin (The Best Years) and Director Craig David Wallace (Todd and the Book of Pure Evil), Slasher’s quality standards are evident in its plotting and suspense-driven jolts that never shy from cutting limbs off victims or showcasing a particularly unsettling drug overdose to make their violent points yet, gore never remains the primary focus for this tightly crafted whodunit.  Marking the Chiller Network’s first original program, Slasher may be horror’s closest answer to HBO’s True Detective with its small-town murder spree revived decades later where characters, many of whom corrupted by various factors, are hardly what they appear to be.  A fine melding of mystery, scandal and murder, Slasher may have minor setbacks namely its killer’s motivations but, its pros strongly outweigh its cons.

    Scream Factory presents Slasher with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  Presenting its eight episode debut season across two discs, black levels appear soundly inky with detail sharply evident in The Executioner’s leather hood while, skin tones look lush and natural.  Meanwhile, colors found in wardrobe choices and the show’s many blood splattering moments pop exceptionally well allowing for a respectably solid high-definition presentation for a modern series of its ilk.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes, dialogue never suffers and is consummately projected with the series’ more climactic areas involving stalking sequences, frightened screams, gunshots and police sirens making effective statements.  In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes are also provided on each episode.  Although brief, the sole Behind the Scenes (14:59) featurette provides a decent general overview of the series’ making with the majority of the headlining cast on hand for interviews plus, Creator Aaron Martin and Series Director Craig David Wallace discuss the show’s influences ranging from John Carpenter and Brian De Palma to Dario Argento.

    Hitting a home run with their first slice of original content, Chiller Network’s Slasher takes obvious cues from its 70s and 80s influences while spearheading a modern mystery brought to life by a diverse pool of onscreen talent and ripe with some of television’s most grisly gore.  Basking in an era of top-quality, small screen frights, Slasher may be the new killer on the block but cuts to the point with its terrifying and scandalous turns leaving viewers glued.  In only their second television series acquisition to date, Scream Factory has made a razor-sharp call adding this acclaimed newcomer to their ever-growing catalog, one that horror hounds will surely find much to chomp into.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 12th from Scream Factory, Slasher: Season One can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Two-Minute Warning (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Two-Minute Warning (1976)

    Director: Larry Peerce

    Starring: Charlton Heston, John Cassavetes, Martin Baslam, Beau Bridges, Marilyn Hassett, David Janssen, Jack Klugman, Walter Pidgeon & Gena Rowlands

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set during the biggest professional football game of the season, Two-Minute Warning finds a crazed gunman perched atop the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as he plots a murder spree across the sold out arena.  Determined to end the reign of terror before it begins, Captain Peter Holly (Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes) leads a tense mission with the responding SWAT team to protect the 91,000 potential victims.  

    Based on the novel by George LaFountaine, Two-Minute Warning joins the ranks of other disaster based epics from the decade where quiet, lone assailants struck fear into the hearts of its ensemble cast.  Juxtaposing between the unsettling viewpoint of the mysterious sniper and the journey to his next elaborate target, Two-Minute Warning bounces around several different groups of personalities ranging from Police Captain Peter Holly, a quarreling middle-aged couple (David Janssen, The Fugitive and Gena Rowlands, The Skeleton Key), a nervous gambler (Jack Klugman, The Odd Couple) and a clergyman (Mitchell Ryan, Dharma & Greg), a family of four headed by Mike (Beau Bridges, The Fabulous Baker Boys) and Peggy (Pamela Bellwood, Dynasty) Ramsay, a pair of pickpockets (Walter Pidegon, Mrs. Miniver and Julie Bridges, Bitter Heritage) among others, all of whom are connected by the championship football match between Los Angeles and Baltimore.  Patiently biting his time in an arena packed with thousands of innocent lives including, several politicians, the gunman is spotted by television cameras before Captain Holly is called into action alongside the trigger-itchy SWAT team, led by Sergeant Chris Brown (John Cassavetes, Rosemary’s Baby).  Attempting to thwart the sniper’s actions, difficulties arise when the motiveless madman realize he’s been had, igniting a deadly showdown during the game’s fleeting moments.

    Boasting an undeniably awesome cast of thespians that defined pictures of this caliber, Two-Minute Warning kicks off intensely enough as our antagonist target practices on an unsuspecting biker before a long, although quite enjoyable, introduction to the film’s many supporting players ensues.  Stadium filled with star power, Two-Minute Warning unfortunately comes up short developing the characters as strongly as desired while, suspense can run dry as the uniformed, Ray-Ban wearing heroes prepare for the worst which doesn’t come until, you guessed it, the game’s final moments.  Thankfully, the SWAT team’s cover being blown results in a pandemonium-filled spree of gunfire causing the hysterical crowd to charge the field and elbow anyone within reach.  As bleak as realities own headlines, Two-Minute Warning refuses to supply any answers for the killer’s motives leaving the wounded warriors triumphant if not, bewildered by the insanity.  A decently-sliced serving of terroristic thrills with Merv Griffin showing up to sing the National Anthem, Two-Minute Warning entertains in waves with star and future NRA President Charlton Heston’s appearance as a skeptical gun-use police captain being oh so charmingly ironic.

    Shout! Factory presents Two-Minute Warning with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing lusciously filmic, skin tones are consistently natural with strong detail admired in closeups while, bolder colors found in the film’s surprising levels of bloodshed and the football players uniforms popping sharply with only very fleeting instances of dust and debris noticed throughout.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is relayed with ease as the roar of the Los Angeles crowd and the powerful blasts from the sniper’s firearm provide admirable boosts in reach.  Special features include, the Television Broadcast Version (2:21:28).  Although sworn off by its director, this alternate version, presented in standard definition, is noticeably lengthier and devises an alternate subplot revolving around an art theft.  In addition, an extensive, newly recorded Interview with Director Larry Peerce (25:35), Radio Spots (2:53), the Theatrical Trailer (1:46) and a Photo Gallery (4:52) round out the disc’s supplements.  Furthermore, while advertised with a new Audio Commentary with Director Larry Peerce, the release does not in fact include one.  

    A fine inclusion into the popular disaster epics predominately produced by Universal Studios during the 70s, Two-Minute Warning is a tense, slightly underdeveloped thrill ride that props itself up with a memorable cast whose appearances more than make up for its slow build.  Rescued from the vaults, Shout! Factory awards fans with a sharp transfer and a commendable selection of bonus features including, the never before available television broadcast version of the film for completists.  With so little time to think, Two-Minute Warning might be the only warning you’ll have to experience disastertainment, vintage style!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 28th from Shout! Factory, Two-Minute Warning can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Elstree 1976 (2015) DVD Review

    Elstree 1976 (2015)

    Director: Jon Spira

    Starring: Various

    Released by: MVD Visual

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Documenting the lives of those behind the countless masks and helmets of George Lucas’ original sci-fi phenomenon, Elstree 1976 centers on the diverse personalities of the bit actors and extras that would ultimately comprise the film’s vast galaxy and how their lives have since been affected being apart of its global impact.  

    Spearheaded through a Kickstarter campaign, Director Jon Spira’s (Anyone Can Play Guitar) love letter to the unsung beings that donned heavy makeup and increasingly difficult to see through headwear in the original Star Wars are interviewed to divulge their unique tales landing fleeting yet, generally memorable roles in arguably the greatest blockbuster of all-time.  With many barely grasping the scope of what they were associated with at the time, Elstree 1976 allows each subject to reveal their early beginnings, long before the acting bug took hold.  Emerging from all walks of life across North America and overseas, the selection of interviewees spend considerable time sharing personal childhood memories and their earliest ambitions, providing a deeply rich portrait of each speaker.  Surprisingly, the film’s non-Star Wars related moments prove to be the most engaging as each subject’s candidness makes them solidly grounded and sympathetically relatable.  Featuring David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back) as the more prominent talking heads of the documentary, Elstree 1976’s other participants including, Derek Lyons (Temple Guard / Medal Bearer), Angus Maclnnes (Gold Leader) and John Chapman (Drifter), although loquacious in their interviews, have such “blink and you’ll miss them” appearances in the original film that their insight grows tiresome quickly.  

    With many of the participants no longer in the business, Elstree 1976 winds down with an interesting overview of the thriving Star Wars conventions that many of the film’s costumed players attend for financial means.  The interviewees discuss at great length the politics of their appearances and what they consider in bad taste when other unsung extras join the circuit to make a quick buck themselves.  No matter how minuscule their roles may have been, the subjects of Elstree 1976 hold warm memories of their once in a lifetime experiences onset yet, the overwhelming majority of the interviews related to Star Wars are never deeply interesting with the documentary suffering as it drags itself to a conclusion.  A well-intentioned salute to the background players that comprised both sides of the Force, Elstree 1976 is hardly a definitive document on Lucas’ runaway hit but, contains several worthy interviews that Star Wars devotees will find of interest.

    Shot digitally, Elstree 1976 is presented with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that appears as acceptable as can be.  Restrained to tight closeup style interviews, colors are presented adequately while, film clips from several films and onsite footage from autograph conventions also appear with ease.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, the controlled settings of each interview allows for perfectly audible dialogue levels to be captured.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has also been included.  Unfortunately, no special features have been included.

    Earning the adoration of fans worldwide for their brief but, endearing appearances, Elstree 1976’s willingness to shine an honorary light on Star Wars’ many costumed characters and the men and women behind those faces is a gracious notion yet, one that stumbles with one too many monotonous asides.  While the film’s earliest moments prove most interesting, only dedicated fans of George Lucas’ sci-fi saga will take interest.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 28th from MVD Visual, Elstree 1976 can be purchased via MVDShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Dolemite (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Dolemite (1975)

    Director: D’Urville Martin

    Starring: Rudy Ray Moore, D’Urville Martin, Lady Reed & Jerry Jones

    Release by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Capitalizing on his comedic antics, Rudy Ray Moore (Disco Godfather) lit the blaxploitation genre on fire with his feature film debut Dolemite.  After being released from prison following a frame job, badass pimp Dolemite seeks to reclaim his hotspot club and take revenge on his nemesis Willie Green (D’Urville Martin, Sheba, Baby).  Dressed from top to bottom in the flyest outfits South Central has ever seen and aided by his squad of sexy Kung Fu trained bombshells, Dolemite is determined to take his streets back.  In what lacked in professional training, Moore easily makes up for with his hilarious charisma that comes to life through his larger than life urban superman.  In order to restore his reputation and avenge the murder of his nephew, Dolemite hits the ground running pressing local junkies and a trustworthy Reverend for information while sparing time to spit beat poetry and make sweet love to his flock of lingerie wearing beauties.  Complimented by a soundtrack of funky grooves written by Moore and performed by The Soul Rebellion Orchestra, Dolemite is never in short supply of car chases, shootouts and a climactic table turning brawl concluding with a deliciously over the top, organ ripping death cementing Dolemite’s explosive strength.  With a corrupt honkey mayor puppet mastering the city’s crimewave, Dolemite, with unexpected assistance for a smooth brother from the FBI (Jerry Jones, The Long Goodbye), brings stone cold justice to his tormentors in one of blaxploitation’s first and funniest quasi-parodies.

    Beautifully restored in 2K from the rare 35mm negative, Vinegar Syndrome presents Dolemite with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the few exceptions of mild scuffs and scratches, the film is a remarkable upgrade with an undeniable filmic appearance bursting with bold colors, handsome skin tones and solid detail in city streets and interior club dwellings.  An alternate “Boom Mic” version, presented in full screen, is also included showcasing the intrusion of filming equipment and other intendedly offscreen activity.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, dialogue is well preserved with the film’s music cues and firepower effects making stronger mentions on the satisfyingly handled track.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Rudy Ray Moore Biographer Mark Jason Murray, I, Dolemite (24:01), Elijah Drenner’s (That Guy Dick Miller) newly crafted making-of doc on the feature and Lady Reed Uncut (23:14), a vintage sit-down with co-star Lady Reed on her experiences working on the film.  Furthermore, Dolemite Locations: Then and Now (1:47), a Dolemite Theatrical Trailer (2:55), The Human Tornado Theatrical Trailer (2:45), a DVD edition of the release and a Reversible Cover Art preserving the original 1-sheet artwork wraps up the supplemental offerings.  Flashy and unapologetically fun, Vinegar Syndrome’s impressive restoration of this blaxploitation favorite, joined by a loaded barrel of bonus features, proves that Dolemite is nothing short of dynomite!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Dolemite can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Dillinger (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Dillinger (1973)

    Director: John Milius

    Starring: Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Michelle Phillips, Cloris Leachman, Harry Dean Stanton, John Ryan & Richard Dreyfuss

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Chronicling the final months of the infamous gangster, Dillinger stars Warren Oates (The Wild Bunch) as Public Enemy No. 1 John Dillinger on his bank robbing exploits as determined FBI Agent Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson, The Last Picture Show) closes in on his gang’s reign of crime.  Michelle Phillips (Valentino), Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein), Harry Dean Stanton (Repo Man), John Ryan (It’s Alive) and Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws) co-star in John Milius’ (Red Dawn) directorial debut.

    Displeased with the outcome of his previously scripted features, the intimidatingly creative John Milius would be lured by American International Pictures to tell the tale of one of America’s most infamous characters.  Smooth as he was crooked, John Dillinger was idolized by the country’s average joes for his style and prison escape abilities while, law enforcement, rightfully so, had little affection for the criminal outside of seeing him push up daisies.  Creative liberties withstanding, Dillinger traces the famed bank robber’s assault on the midwest, his encounter and love affair with Billie Frechette (Phillips), the culmination of his cohorts including, Pretty Boy Floyd (Steve Kanaly, Dallas), Baby Face Nelson (Dreyfuss) among others and FBI Agent Melvin Purvis’ ruthless pursuit of Dillinger leading to his unapologetic demise.  Crafting a mythic tale that lives up to Dillinger’s legendary reputation, Warren Oates, reportedly never deeply researching his character, exudes charisma and ferocity as the commonly nonlethal criminal while, Academy Award winner Ben Johnson’s controlled demeanor and cigar chomping fearlessness wonderfully counterbalances the wildness of Dillinger’s gang of deviants.

    Although its female characters are grossly underdeveloped leading more to be desired from Dillinger and Billie’s relationship, Dillinger’s technical limitations affords the film a raw, documentary-like quality juxtaposed with black and white still photography and era accurate stock footage crafting a tonally rich presentation.  Far more brutal than the eternally hailed Bonnie and Clyde, Director John Milius' debut opus is an ambitious, down and dirty shoot’em up centered on the fascinating Dillinger gang and their violent assault on the country before succumbing to the returned fire of the capture hungry FBI.  Concerned with honoring the larger than life aspects of its titular character, Dillinger enforces the legend with its ruthlessly entertaining depiction.

    Restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents Dillinger with a 1080p transfer, retaining its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Casting a softer focus to retain a naturally lit appearance, colors can appear subdued with bolder choices found in wall paint and particular ensembles making stronger impressions.  Skin tones are rich with the gang’s suits appearing nicely textured while, black levels, although not deeply inky, are sufficiently pleasing with only minor instances of specks and flakes on display.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is audible while, the screeching sounds of getaway vehicles and tommy gun fire leave effective statements.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Author Stephen Prince, a Music & Effects Track, Shooting Dillinger with Jules Brenner (12:01) where the film’s cinematographer sits down for a newly captured interview, Lawrence Gordon: Original Gangster (10:08) hosts the producer as he recollects on his many credits and the film in question and Bullets and Ballads with Barry De Vorzon (12:00) finds the composer of The Warriors and Rolling Thunder sharing his personal experiences on many of his achievements.  Finally, a Still Gallery (99 in total), the Theatrical Trailer (2:23), a 23-page booklet featuring new and vintage essays from Kim Newman and John Astin, a DVD counterpart and a Reversible Cover Art boasting the film’s original 1-sheet poster conclude the releases supplements.

    Violently entertaining and wonderfully capturing a bygone era, Dillinger continues the assault of gangster cinema laid forth by Bonnie and Clyde with skilled performances and a rawness that draws viewers into Dillinger’s getaway ride.  Arrow Video does remarkable service to John Milius' directorial debut with a rich, newly transferred HD presentation and a strong stable of supplements that highlights the contributions of those behind the lens.  No one did it quite like Dillinger as Arrow Video’s capture and appreciation of this underrated AIP effort further cements its status.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Dillinger can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Pigs (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Pigs (1973)

    Director: Marc Lawrence

    Starring: Marc Lawrence, Toni Lawrence & Jesse Vint

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented in its original director’s cut for the first time on home video, Pigs centers on beautiful drifter Lynn Webster (Toni Lawrence, Beyond Reason) who descends on a sleepy California town while harboring a dark secret.  Gaining employment at a local cafe, her boss and former circus performer Zambrini (Marc Lawrence, The Man with the Golden Gun) cares for a pen of 12 hungry pigs with a penchant for human flesh.  Turning to the local population for his personal pig chow, Sheriff Dan Cole (Jesse Vint, Forbidden World) grows suspicious of the recent activity as he nears closer to the frightening truth.

    Billed under one of its many titles as The 13th Pig, Actor/Director Marc Lawrence’s indie budgeted opus paints itself as exploitation fodder that would weigh in its favor playing the drive-in circuit although, its artistic aspirations, however ambiguous, exceed its chase for the almighty dollar.  Starring his own daughter Toni as a woman with a skeleton in her closet, the out of town and relatively quiet Lynn starts anew as a waitress at the local looney Zambrini’s (elder Lawrence) cafe.  As elderly nosy bodies inform the local sheriff that Zambrini’s pen of pigs run freely in the evening and shockingly devour people, a previously ridiculous notion grows more believable in time.  A sight for sore eyes in a male dominated town, Lynn finds herself picked up by a fellow horndog whose passes ignite a razor-sharp reflex of Lynn’s located only in nightmares.  When a mutual understanding between the two outsiders form, the true state of Lynn’s mental health and Zambrini’s dedication to fatten up his piggies grows while risking further suspicion from Sheriff Dan whose own attraction to Lynn becomes harder to conceal.  Although containing horrific moments of murder, Pigs would be hard pressed to be strictly labeled horror with a stronger emphasis placed on the psychological construction of its peculiar leads and their unhinged yet, sympathetic allegiance to one another.  Containing freakish imagery of squealing pigs fighting over limbs and Zambrini in ghoulish clown make-up with the dark cloud of Lynn’s broken childhood revealed near its conclusion, Pigs establishes a peculiar atmosphere where a mental breakdown, loneliness and homicidal tendencies all converge during a most unusual odyssey, leaving viewers equally perplexed and captivated.

    Scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm interpositive, Vinegar Syndrome presents Pigs with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With select footage sourced from lesser quality theatrical prints, presentation is understandably uneven at times with less handsome footage showcasing murkier black levels and red hues in its photography.  Although ideal elements have long since been destroyed for said moments, the assembled final product looks overwhelmingly strong with properly lit sequences giving way to detailed facial features and bold colors seen in the blood spewed during Lynn’s razor assault popping most effectively.  While occasional scuffs and scratches are also on hand, Vinegar Syndrome’s painstaking dedication, with assistance from several other parties, to provide viewers with the film’s definitive version sinks any of its imperfections.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, dialogue is cleanly captured with high-pitched pig squeals making sharp strides on the track while, Composer Charles Bernstein’s (A Nightmare on Elm Street) hauntingly harmonious score makes a most effective mark.  Well stocked, bonus features include, Toni Lawrence: Back on the Menu (14:15) where the film’s lead actress sits down to discuss her father’s career and her own development as an actor.  In addition, Somewhere Down the Road with Charles Bernstein (13:35) interviews the famed composer on one of his earliest compositions and his unique payment for his services, an Audio Interview with Cinematographer Glenn Roland (1:20:42) and a Promotional Artwork Gallery (4:29) can also be found.  Finally, an Alternate Exorcism Opening (3:17), an Alternate Daddy’s Girl Opening (5:49), an Alternate Daddy’s Girl Ending (5:15), the Pigs Theatrical Trailer (1:41), the Love Exorcist Trailer (2:13) plus, a DVD edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art featuring work by Chris Garofalo rounds out the supplemental package.

    A truly unusual slice of indie cinema expression, Pigs remains a bizzaro examination of two lost souls whose unbalanced personalities connect over their shared killer instincts.  With the markings and promotional pull of a horrific exploitation opus, character actor Marc Lawrence’s final directorial effort is outside the perimeters of normalcy which makes it such an intriguing watch.  In their latest acquisition from the Troma vaults, Vinegar Syndrome have gone above and beyond to deliver Lawrence’s feature the way it was intended with fabulous results.  Further underscored by an insightful spread of bonus features, Pigs makes a strong case for rolling around in the mud of such weirdness.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Pigs can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Black Mama, White Mama (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Black Mama, White Mama (1973)

    Director: Eddie Romero

    Starring: Margaret Markov, Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Lynn Borden, Zaldy Zshornack & Laurie Burton

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From American International Pictures’ exploitation factory, Black Mama, White Mama centers on badass prostitute Lee (Pam Grier, Coffy) and local liberator Karen (Margaret Markov, Pretty Maids All in a Row) whose personalities immediately clash after being admitted to a dingy women’s prison.  Chained together, a violent ambush ensues allowing the ladies to escape into the jungles where danger awaits at every turn.  While Lee intends to reclaim stolen cash before her true escape, Karen vows to rejoin her fellow revolutionaries making survival for the two all the more complicated.  Sid Haig (House of 1,000 Corpses), Lynn Borden (Hazel), Zaldy Zshornack (The Hot Box) and Laurie Burton (Perfect) co-star.

    With a story notably influenced by 1958’s The Defiant Ones and crafted by Corman hopefuls Joseph Viola (Angels Hard as They Come) and Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs), Black Mama, White Mama appears at first glance strikingly familiar to previous chicks in chains flicks.  From its seedy barred location to a wicked lesbian warden who pleasures herself to the sight of bathing inmates, Director Eddie Romero’s (The Twilight People) prison break effort switches gears abruptly when the uncomfortably paired whore with a bad attitude (Grier) and blonde freedom fighter (Markov) take off into the heated jungles, shot in the inexpensively had locations of the Philippines.  Far from friends and each with their own agendas, Lee and Karen must mask the chain that binds them together while evading the authorities, a redneck bounty hunter (Haig) and Lee’s drug-pushing pimp (exploitation treasure Vic Diaz, Equalizer 2000) who wants her head for stealing a hefty $40,000 sum.  Disguising themselves as nuns and fending off potential rapists, the contrasting chicks develop mutual respect for one another before Karen’s troops rescue them on the heels of mini war exploding before their eyes.  Littered with tantalizing nudity and topless flashes from its sexy leads, Black Mama, White Mama pushes the WIP formula in new directions outside of its clichéd location with an appetizing cast and a bevy of firepower and bloodshed sprayed across the Filipino jungles.  Memorably topped off with the scar-faced Haig forcing an army captain and his superior to compare man part sizes and an underwear wrestling match with his associates' two daughters, Black Mama, White Mama is a solid link in the chain of great women in prison sexplosions.  

    Arrow Video ushers in Black Mama, White Mama with a 1080p transfer, presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Debuting slightly soft under the sunny exterior jungle foliage, quality immediately perks up with naturally realized flesh tones and crisp detail allowing for the most delicate of facial sweat droplets to be observed.  In addition, colors ranging from the immense greenery and the prisoners’ bright yellow uniforms pop nicely.  Appreciatively filmic looking and lacking any severe anomalies, Arrow Video treats this prisoner gorgeously.  Accompanied with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is decently handled but occasionally suffers from lower pitches, most likely attributed to less than perfect on-set sound recording.  Commonly packed with assorted extra offerings, supplements here include, an Audio Commentary with Filmmaker & Filipino Film Historian Andrew Leavold, White Mama Unchained with Margaret Markov (14:01), a top-notch, newly produced sit-down with the film’s lead as she traces her early desires to be an actress and her many memorable roles, Sid Haig’s Filipino Adventures (15:51) captures the AIP hall of famer as he reminisces on his many Filipino lensed productions and his loving working relationship with Pam Grier.  In addition, Andrew Leavold’s vintage featurette, The Mad Director of Blood Island!: An Interview with Eddie Romero (14:38) is also included serving as a welcome time capsule of the late director reflecting on his work.  Finally, the film’s Trailer (1:54), a Still Gallery (25 in total), an 18-page booklet featuring a nicely written essay by Chris Poggiali, Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet design and a DVD edition of the release round the release’s bonus content.

    Colorful characters, hot bods and machine gun warfare permeate the jungle bound fun of Black Mama, White Mama.  Perfecting the elements of the popular WIP features that came before, American International Pictures’ Filipino lensed sizzler is over-the-top entertainment.  Boasting excellent A/V specs and predictably solid supplements, courtesy of the combined efforts from Edwin Samuelson, Andrew Leavold, Chris Poggiali and Sean Phillips’ beautifully designed new artwork, Arrow Video breaks the chains on yet another exploitation keeper.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Black Mama, White Mama can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

                         

  • Kung Fu Trailers of Fury (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Kung Fu Trailers of Fury (2016)

    Director: Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In association with The Cube, Severin Films assaults viewers with over two hours of fist-smashing awesomeness in Kung Fu Trailers of Fury!  Presenting 31 of the genre’s rarest trailers from 1972-1983, subtitled mayhem ensues as prominent kung fu stars ranging from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Lo Lieh, Angelo Mao and Jimmy Wang Yu deliver intense intervals of high-octane martial arts.  Action-packed and rarely taking a breather, trailer highlights include, The Way of the Dragon, Daggers 8, Brutal Boxer, Enter the Fat Dragon, Kung Fu VS. Yoga, The Story of Drunken Master and The Damned.  While general audiences may be largely aware of Bruce Lee’s impact on the genre, Kung Fu Trailers of Fury opens the floodgates to countless other gems that provide hard-hitting punches and ample excitement all within the confines of a few minutes each.  A treasure trove of over-the-top brutality and eccentric performances, Kung Fu Trailers of Fury is a nostalgic necessity for genre enthusiasts raised on eastern culture’s cinema that shared marquee space with prominent blaxploitation and horror efforts during the grind house’s heyday.

    Presented in 1080p and sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Severin Films serves their smorgasbord of kung fu with obvious signs of wear.  Each trailer contains noticeable, if not unexpected, levels of dirt, debris and scratches, all varying in their severity.  Miraculously surviving through years of excessive damage, the trailers never adhere to immaculate standards yet, are wholly enjoyed under their more distressed presentations reminiscent of their original theatrical runs.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, cracks and pops are ever-present while never uprooting the realistic expectations from viewers.  While audio is far from perfect, the native-spoken trailers are attached with English subtitles allowing for nothing lost in translation.  Surpassing the enjoyability of the trailers themselves, newly produced special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writers Ric Meyers, Michael Worth, Martial Arts Instructor Greg Schiller and Drunken Master Video’s Rick Stelow.  In addition, A Brief History of Kung Fu Cinema (28:09) provides viewers with a solid crash course into the genre’s history and influence with expert insight from Ric Meyers and Frank Djeng.  Finally, The Way of the Cube (11:19) explores the inner workings of the beloved UK cinema and the owners’ surprising discovery of the original 35mm trailers utilized for the release.

    In a delectable year for trailer compilations, Severin Films’ Kung Fu Trailers of Fury gives fans a much-needed injection of roundhouse kicks and high-speed nun chucking.  Programmed with rarely seen favorites and scholarly supplements that arguably exceed its main feature, Kung Fu Trailers of Fury is a necessary board worthy of breaking into your collection.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Kung Fu Trailers of Fury can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • American Horror Project Vol. I: Malatesta's Carnival of Blood (1973), The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976) & The Premonition (1976) Blu-ray Review

    American Horror Project Vol. I (1973-1976)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Scouring the bizarre and obscure avenues of America’s horrifically under appreciated efforts, Arrow Video proudly presents American Horror Project Vol. I!  Curating a triple dose of features and scholarly supplemental evaluations, this 3,000 unit limited edition collection welcomes Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood where a family searching for their son finds themselves in the stranglehold of a dilapidated amusement park overrun by a peculiar host and cannibalistic ghouls.  Next up, The Witch Who Came from the Sea centers on a troubled woman with a traumatic past whose violent fantasies find their way into her reality.  Finally, The Premonition threatens the livelihood of a five-year-old girl when she is abducted, leaving her mother riddled with frightening visions that may also lead to her daughter’s rescue.      

    From the dilapidated backroads of Pennsylvania emerges Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood.  Marking the first and only feature from Director Christopher Speeth, this psychedelic blend of horror and high-art maintains the production quality of many independent efforts of the era while, constructing an identity of its own under the guise of carnie insanity.  Short on narrative structure yet, maximizing its visual splendor, Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood finds the central Norris family joining the sideshow business in order to conceal their true agenda of locating their missing son.  However earnest their quest seems, all plans are abruptly abandoned when their own survival is threatened.  Headed by the ominous Malatesta (Daniel Dietrich, Fleshpot on 42nd Street), the vampiric Mr. Blood (Jerome Dempsey, Network), devilish dwarf Bobo (Hervé Villechaize, Fantasy Island) and a colony of cannibalistic underground dwellers, the Norris family and other unlucky attendees fall victim to a grizzly rollercoaster beheading, stabbings and of course, feasts upon their flesh.  Guiding viewers through a funhouse of trashcan constructed production design where its grey-faced people eaters rally in front of silent film loops, Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood is viscerally unnerving with the trappings of its peculiar soundtrack and music cues heightening one’s fear of the offbeat attraction scattered across rural America.

    Teetering on the fringes of exploitation and psychologically frightening, Director Matt Cimber’s (Gemini Affair, Lady Cocoa) The Witch Who Came from the Sea is an unsung effort that explores the darkness of child sex abuse and the lifelong repercussions of the violated.  Starring Millie Perkins (The Diary of Anne Frank) as barmaid Molly whose violent daydreams including, the tying of two macho football players before straight-razoring their genitals proves wildly similar to recently reported events.  Adhering to a strict diet of alcohol and pill-popping, Molly’s romanticized memories, retold to her adoring nephews, about her late father is juxtaposed with uncomfortable imagery of her younger self faced with the overbearing seaman.  Robbed of her innocence while insistent on her late father’s perfection, Molly’s peculiar interest in the glamour of television and all its pretty faces compels the delusional woman to act out her fatal aggression on them.  The realms between Molly’s surrealistic episodes and reality come to a head when detectives (played by Richard Kennedy of Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS and George “Buck” Flower, best known for his roles as hobos in Back to the Future and John Carpenter’s They Live) begin connecting the dots back to Molly.  Hardly considered a horror film in the traditional sense with the exception of several razor slashing sequences, The Witch Who Came from the Sea is an uncomfortable yet, polarizing picture that strikes fear into the viewer with its touchy portrayal of incest and the physical and mental damage afflicted on its victims.  Complimented with early cinematography by Dean Cundey (Halloween, Jurassic Park) and a rather dreamlike aura, The Witch Who Came from the Sea stands as an exhaustive terror ride into the depravity of human beings.

    Long enchanted by the paranormal and the nature of interconnectivity, Director Robert Allen Schnitzer’s (No Place to Hide) metaphysical frightmare melds his respected interests with a tale detailing a mother’s worst nightmare.  Filmed in the tax-incentive region of Jackson, Mississippi, The Premonition introduces the mentally unstable Andrea (Ellen Barber, Blood Bride), assisted by the lovesick carnie Jude (Richard Lynch, Bad Dreams), as she attempts to steal back her young daughter from her adoptive parents.  In the film’s most hauntingly scarring scene, protective mother Sheri Bennett (Sharon Farrell, The Stunt Man) looks in on her sleeping child only to discover the eerie Andrea rocking the innocent girl to sleep before viciously attacking Sheri.  Although safe from capture, Sheri begins experiencing unexplainable visions that warn her of impending doom while, her scientific-minded husband Miles (Edward Bell, Helter Skelter) can’t wrap his brain around her condition.  After a freakish accident occurs, five-year-old Janie (Danielle Brisebois, Big Bad Mama II) is taken, increasing Sheri’s terrifying sightings of Andrea leading the Bennett’s to rely on spiritual forces beyond their understanding.  Although an investigation is put forth, The Premonition resists becoming a police procedural and wisely focuses on the film’s family dynamic, its gray-shaded characters and the emotional whiplash of a missing child to stay uniquely grounded.  While its horrific set pieces may not come in the form of a masked mute with a butcher knife, The Premonition presses on to deliver a film that is both respectfully challenging and psychologically engaging, leaving viewers with an added appreciation for its sophistication and artistic flair.  Enriched by an otherworldly score by classical composer Henry Mollicone, The Premonition is the standout opus of the collection that will stay with viewers long after the credits have concluded.

    Working from the best available materials for the collection’s obscure offerings, Arrow Video has restored each director-approved feature in 2K resolution with 1080p transfers, sporting their respective 1.85:1 (Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood and The Premonition) and 2.35:1 (The Witch Who Came from the Sea) aspect ratios.  Although excessive dirt removal was applied, each film still maintains their fair share of scuffs and scratches with varying degrees of vertical lines and cigarette burns on display.  Given the dire state of such rarely preserved films, their imperfections never deter from the viewing experience and, in the rare instance, actually add charm to their grindhouse roots.  Boasting respectable skin tones, fairly boosted color schemes, understandably speckled black levels and otherwise naturally filmic representations, The Witch Who Came from the Sea appears in the roughest shape with The Premonition unquestionably looking the best.  Joined by LPCM 1.0 mixes, each feature arrives with audible dialogue levels yet, imperfections are present.  Cracks and pops are common at reel changes and other various moments while, prolonged static is most noticeable throughout The Witch Who Came from the Sea.  Much like their visual counterparts, audio quality is not pristine but, easily does what is required for a pleasurable watching experience.  

    Unsurprisingly, supplements are plentiful with Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood arriving with an Introduction by Author and Co-Curator Stephen Thrower (3:41), an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith and The Secrets of Malatesta (14:06) featuring an insightful new interview with Director Christopher Speeth.  In addition, Crimson Speak (11:49) sits down with Screenwriter Werner Liepolt, Malatesta’s Underground (10:10) highlights Art Directors Richard Stange and Alan Johnson’s invaluable contributions to the film while, Outtakes (2:59), a Still Gallery (38 in total), the Draft Script (BD/DVD-ROM content) and a Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster is also included.  Meanwhile, The Witch Who Came from the Sea features an Introduction by Author and Co-Curator Stephen Thrower (4:52), an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Matt Cimber, Actress Millie Perkins and Director of Photography Dean Cundey plus, the brand-new retrospective documentary Tides & Nightmares (23:28) featuring interviews with the cast and crew.  Furthermore, the vintage supplement of A Maiden’s Voyage: Remembering the Witch Who Came from the Sea (36:14) is included alongside, Lost at Sea (3:55), a new reflection of the film by Director Matt Cimber and a Reversible Cover Art also showcasing the original 1-sheet design.  Finally, The Premonition hosts an Introduction by Author and Co-Curator Stephen Thrower (3:16), an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Robert Allen Schnitzer, the Isolated Score and Pictures from a Premonition (21:19) featuring new interviews with key talent behind the camera.  In addition, a vintage Robert Allen Schnitzer Interview (5:51), a vintage Richard Lynch Interview (16:06), Schnitzer’s Short Films including, Terminal Point (40:45), Vernal Equinox (30:08) and A Rumbling in the Land (11:05) are included alongside, Peace Spots (3:38), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:23), TV Spots (3:27) and a Reversible Cover Art incorporating the original 1-sheet imagery.  Lastly, DVD editions of each film are also included with an impressive 60-page booklet housing some of Arrow’s finest liner notes to date with insights on the films from Stephen Thrower, Kim Newman, Kier-La Janisse and Brian Albright.

    Exceptionally curated, Arrow Video’s American Horror Project Vol. I dusts the cobwebs off some of the genre’s oddest and under appreciated efforts to emerge from the independent mavericks of the era.  While personal favorites are subjective to each viewer, there’s no denying this triple threat of terror and madness is an invaluable crash course on three diamonds in the rough of low-budget American exploitation.  Although securing film materials was no easy task with all showing their share of mileage, each film’s director-approved transfers look better than ever with Arrow’s phenomenal supplemental package offering viewers top-rated scholarly insight into these forgotten features.  With immediate hope for future installments to grace their collection, Arrow Video’s American Horror Project Vol. I is the horror enthusiasts ideal roadmap to the weird and alternative.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, American Horror Project Vol. I can be purchase via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Vincent Price Collection III: Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe (1970) & Cry of the Banshee (1970) Blu-ray Review

    The Vincent Price Collection III (1961-1970)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking their third annual release of chilling tales from the master of horror, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents The Vincent Price Collection III.  Comprised of five more efforts across four Blu-ray’s, each bursting with bonus content, legendary star Vincent Price (The Pit and the Pendulum, House on Haunted Hill) makes headlining turns in Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970) and Cry of the Banshee (1970), presented with both its Director’s Cut and the commonly known American International Theatrical cut.

    Based on the novels by Jules Verne, Vincent Price stars as the God-complex suffering Robur in Master of the World.  Set in the 19th century and riding the skies above in his indestructible airship known as the Albatross, Robur takes capture of four individuals including, government agent John Strock (Charles Bronson, Death Wish) as he details his desire to bring peace to the world through intimidation tactics with the Albatross.  Countries resistant to surrender their militaries suffer the explosive wrath of Robur’s powerful creation, forcing the abducted prisoners to devise a way to overthrow the captain and destroy his destructive weapon.  Although portraying the film’s conflicted antagonist, Master of the World is hardly in the same vein as Price’s lauded frightful features but, more an adventurous tale with fantastical elements.  Commonly compared to similar efforts such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Master of the World is an exciting detour for the horror thespian who delivers another delightful performance as he wickedly drops bombs atop of warships and hangs his prisoners above the clouds via rope.  While taking expected shortcuts through use of stock footage and other such techniques, American International Pictures delivered their most expensive picture to date with its Verne adaptation with the results paying off handsomely onscreen.  Scripted by the brilliant Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone, Tales of Terror) and hosting one of Les Baxter’s (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) most impactful scores, Master of the World is a high-flying adventure with Price ably steering its ship.

    Blending history with gothic horror, Tower of London reunites Director Roger Corman once again with Vincent Price during the height of their popular Edgar Allan Poe series.  Retelling a reasonably accurate yet, still rightly fictionalized account of King Richard III’s rise to the throne and ultimate downfall, Price headlines as the dastardly Duke of Gloucester as he pays respects to his terminally ill brother King Edward IV before greed and the temptation of power consumes him.  Secretly murdering his other respected brother with the support of his equally vile wife Anne (Joan Camden, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), Richard weaves his influence around the kingdom by sending others who may threaten his plans to the torture chamber and deceiving his own nephews their birthright to the throne.  Expunging all who challenge him, Richard’s control of the kingdom comes at the cost of his own sanity as the ghosts of those slain return to haunt him.  Lacking the colorful composition of their Poe efforts, Tower of London’s black and white photography establishes its own moody ambiance that suits the film’s period setting.  Classically trained in theater, Price brings gravitas to his tragic hunchbacked role while, mixing the mad entertaining glee common to his other horror-oriented performances.  While not quite as applauded as their other collaborations, The Tower of London is an underrated feast with gorgeous camerawork by Archie R. Dalzell (The Addams Family) and an outlet for Price to proudly showcase his Shakespearean chops onscreen.

    Taking liberties with the tales of Guy de Maupassant, Diary of a Madman finds itself working backwards as onlookers gather at the funeral of Magistrate Simon Cordier (Price).  As close friends gather to read from Cordier’s locked diary, the truth of his fate is slowly revealed.  After witnessing a troubled murderer’s accidental death, Cordier finds himself consumed by the entity that forced the deceased’s hand to kill.  Known only as the horla, the respected judge, grieving for years after the death of his chid and suicide of his wife, attempts to counter the wicked voices in his head by embracing his artistic abilities and falling for the attractive Odette Mallotte (Nancy Kovack, Jason and the Argonauts).  Disrupted by the revelation that Odette is legally married to another and his intended bride-to-be favors his wealth over his love, the forceful nature of the horla compels Cordier to handle them accordingly.  Helmed by Reginald Le Borg (The Black Sleep), Diary of a Madman, although visually lavish in its design, tends to drag in several areas with its psychologically driving narrative growing monotonous.  Although Price is unsurprisingly charming and notably comes alive when possessed to stab his lover to death, Nancy Kovack stands as one of the horror maestro’s most intoxicatingly beautiful starlets and delivers a sound performance.  While it may not be Price’s most memorable feature, Diary of a Madman remains worthy of a watch on a preferably rainy evening.

    In this made for television special, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe spotlights Vincent Price, with minimal set dressing and few props, as he eloquently narrates four of Poe’s chilling works.  All told in the first person, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Case of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum come to life courtesy of Price’s intense conviction as he makes quoting Poe as effortless as breathing.  Well directed by Kenneth Johnson (The Bionic Woman), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe may not be feature length worthy entertainment but, serves as an exceptional showcase for the classically trained Price who makes Poe’s haunting tales even more effective than reading them independently under the blanket of darkness.  Longtime appreciators of the star’s many Poe adaptations will take delight at how ingrained the gothic poet’s works were installed in his vocabulary, greatly enriching their legacy in the process.

    Although prefaced by a passage from Edgar Allan Poe, Cry of the Banshee holds no correlation to the Corman/Price adaptations previously produced by American International Pictures.  Helmed instead by fellow Price collaborator Gordon Hessler (The Oblong Box, Scream and Scream Again), Cry of the Banshee focuses on vile witch hunter Lord Edward Whitman (Price) who uses his influence to exterminate those of the slightest suspicion of devil worship.  Murdering accused teenagers during a dinner party and ordering others to torturous whippings, Edward and his sons ambush a worshipping coven, resulting in several deaths before being cursed by its leader Oona (Elizabeth Bergner, As You Like It).  Summoning the beastly sidhe to rid the Whitman clan, the estate’s gypsy servant Roderick (Patrick Mower, The Devil Rides Out), who is also madly in love with Edwards’ daughter Maureen (Hilary Heath, Witchfinder General), becomes possessed and periodically morphs into the monster to bring death to the Whitman’s family line.  Sporting a colorfully animated title sequence by a young Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and injecting far more nudity (within its Director’s Cut) than most Price features, Cry of the Banshee suffers from an overloaded cast and largely detestable characters.  Juxtaposing from Price, who arguably takes a backseat for portions of the film, to his sons’ individual paths, his daughter and Rodrick’s forbidden romance, the coven of witches and its local villagers, the film struggles to streamline its focus while, Price, who delivers a respectable performance albeit grossly seedy and only second to his turn in Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General.  Achieving success during its original release, Hessler contends Cry of the Banshee to be his most uninteresting AIP feature which is respectfully agreed.       

    Culled from a variety of sources including, inter-positives (Master of the World, Diary of a Madman and Cry of the Banshee), a fine grain film print (Tower of London) and even original tape masters (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe), each feature is presented with 1080p transfers with the exception of the standard-def, televised Poe effort.  Sporting 1.85:1 (Master of the World, Cry of the Banshee), 1:66:1 (Tower of London, Diary of a Madman) and 1:33:1 (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe) aspect ratios, each film contains varying degrees of scratches and scuffs, all of which never greatly deter from the viewing experience.  From their striking color schemes, Master of the World and Diary of a Madman greatly impress while, Tower of London begins with rough around the edges before nicely improving, demonstrating pleasing black levels in its monochrome photography.  With expectations at bay regarding the sole SD feature included, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe looks as good as can be expected with only one minor coloring hiccup spotted.  In addition, Cry of the Banshee arrives in a virtually blemish free presentation that is both filmic and natural.  Given the fleeting state of materials for many elder features, Scream Factory has once again worked wonders in preserving several more of Price’s pictures.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes with Master of the World also boasting a newly created Stereo mix from the original 4-track mag, each film satisfies in delivering audible dialogue levels and worthy reproductions of their respective scores.  Admittedly, Diary of a Madman retains a mild hiss of little consequence on its track while, Tower of London has occasional cracks and pops heard throughout.  Unquestionably, Master of the World’s Stereo mix is the most effective of the bunch with Les Baxter’s thunderous score leaving lasting impressions.  

    With a variety of newly produced and vintage supplements, special features on Master of the World’s disc 1 include a new Audio Commentary with Actor David Frankham, an extended cut of Richard Matheson: Storyteller (1:12:05), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:28), Photo Gallery (2:18) and Photo Gallery II (1:59).  Disc 2’s Tower of London hosts a new Interview with Director Roger Corman (7:11), Producing Tower of London featuring interviews with Corman and his brother and fellow producer Gene Corman (14:04).  In addition to a Photo Gallery (4:31), two standard definition episodes of Science Fiction Theatre starring Vincent Price, “One Thousand Eyes” (26:09) and “Operation Flypaper” (26:05), supply fans with even more Priceless small screen entertainment.  Furthermore, Diary of a Madman includes a new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman, a Poster Gallery (1:44) and the Theatrical Trailer (3:16) while, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (also found on disc 3) includes, another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman and the newly produced Tales of Vincent Price with Kenneth Johnson (21:26).  In addition to both its Director’s Cut (1:30:49) and American International Theatrical Cut (1:26:37), disc 4’s Cry of the Banshee provides yet another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman on the Director’s Cut, A Devilish Tale of Poe (17:52) featuring an interview with Director Gordon Hessler with its Theatrical Trailer (2:28), TV Spot (0:58), Radio Spot (0:30) and a Poster Gallery (4:09) rounding out the final batch of on-disc extras.  Lastly, a 12-page booklet featuring rare photos is also included.

    In what appears to be their final curtain call for Mr. Price, Scream Factory’s The Vincent Price Collection III offers fans of gothic horror and atmospheric chills a throughly entertaining quintuple of features from the adventure-filled Master of the World to the witch hunting Cry of the Banshee.  Excellently presented and lovingly complimented with ample bonus content for after-movie consumption, The Vincent Price Collection III is a bittersweet accomplishment for the popular horror label that will easily rank as one of the year’s favored releases.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Vincent Price Collection III can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Serial (1980) Blu-ray Review

    Serial (1980)

    Director: Bill Persky

    Starring: Martin Mull, Tuesday Weld, Sally Hellerman, Christopher Lee, Bill Macy, Peter Bonerz & Tom Smothers

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Cyra McFadden, Serial takes a satirical look at the lives of California couples during the late 1970s.  Uptight and increasingly annoyed Harvey Holroyd (Martin Mull, Roseanne) becomes overwhelmed by his wife Kate’s (Tuesday Weld, Thief) new age personality while, their friends’ liberal behavior and stances on feminism, free love and other trendy traits creates a hilarious melting pot of absurdity for the simple-minded Harvey.  Sally Hellerman (Back to School), Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Bill Macy (Maude), Peter Bonerz (The Bob Newhart Show) and Tom Smothers (My Brother the Angel) co-star.

    Boasting a respectable ensemble cast and marking the feature film debut of television veteran Bill Persky (Who’s the Boss?, Kate & Allie), Serial is a comical sendup of the progressive culture sweeping the nation during the late 70s.  Undersexed and overwhelmed by his liberal-minded wife and equally ridiculous neighborhood friends, Harvey Holroyd (Mull) seeks a better paying position while, his marriage takes a plummeting turn resulting in both parties shacking up with other partners.  Attempting to fall in with the crowd, Harvey agrees to attending an orgy with his newly appointed secretary and awkwardly ends up in the sexual graces of 19-year-old cashier Marlene (Stacey Nelkin, Halloween III: Season of the Witch).  In addition to losing their daughter to a carnation selling cult, Harvey fails to relate to his new freedom while, Kate’s own flirtatious attraction ends up in disaster after realizing her pet-grooming stud is bisexual.  Poking fun at societies dependence on therapy and quaaludes plus, the gossip-obsessed nosy-bodies of every community, Serial makes pit stops for Harvey to hilariously bemoan Kate’s eco-friendly insistence on denying him to drive a car.  Congregating at a wedding while the groom accepts his role as an asshole, Harvey notably comments “these are exciting times, aren’t they?  Gas is over a dollar a gallon and it’s okay to be an asshole”, summing up the film’s sarcastic stance perfectly.  Aided by a leather-clad gang of gay bikers led by the mysterious Skull (Lee), Harvey and Kate rescue their daughter from the cooky-minded cult and set aside their differences to start anew without organic foods and therapeutic jargon getting in the way.  Although, modern audiences may find little to relate to in this comic time capsule, Mull’s sensibilities and utter distaste for those surrounding him make for the film’s funniest moments while, the narrative has fun taking jabs at the occasionally outdated examples of liberals before the rise of Reganomics.

    Olive Films presents Serial with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Possessing only fleeting instances of speckles, damage is practically nonexistent with the transfer supporting a pleasing filmic appearance.  Skin tones are natural while, colors are generally strong with only occasional moments of softness rearing its head.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is reasonably delivered with no hiss or pops detected.  Although audible, some moments appear hollow-sounding, capturing a slight echoey pitch.  With music relegated to its opening/closing credits and the use of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” during the climax, their appearances are not wildly impactful.  Meanwhile, no special features have been included.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Olive Films, Serial can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Sheba, Baby (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Sheba, Baby (1975)

    Director: William Girdler

    Starring: Pam Grier, Austin Stoker, D’Urville Martin, Rudy Challenger & Dick Merrifield

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After a local mob boss threatens her father’s life and loan business, Sheba, Baby finds Chicago based private detective Sheba Shayne (Pam Grier, Coffy) returning home to Louisville to even the odds.  Joined by her father’s loyal partner, Sheba proves to the roughest thugs that her killer instincts are on par with her good looks.  Austin Stoker (Assault on Precinct 13), D’Urville Martin (Dolemite), Rudy Challenger (Detroit 9000) and Dick Merrifield (The Hellcats) co-star.

    Returning to the Blaxploitation genre that catapulted her career, buxom beauty Pam Grier continues her reign of making jive-ass criminals pay the piper with the help of her trusty .44.  A joint production between American International Pictures and Mid-American Pictures, Sheba, Baby finds Grier trading her vigilante antics for a career as a private eye.  After returning home to Kentucky after her father is threatened to sell his business to mobsters, the tough as nails Sheba wastes little time interrogating local scumbags for information.  Using her curvy figure and sexy looks to her advantage, Sheba finds her way to crime boss Pilot (Martin) and his dimwitted cronies.  Engaged in a series of risky run-ins with her prime suspects at a local amusement park, the determined vixen never stops applying pressure, leading her to head honcho Shark (Merrifield) on his high-profile yacht.  Shootouts, water chases via jet skis and Grier’s badass attitude permeate the film until the goon population cowers in defeat.

    Continuing in the tradition of Grier’s other strong-willed roles for AIP, Sheba, Baby lacks the down and dirty edge of Coffy and Foxy Brown although, Grier’s acting abilities and action handling are never in doubt.  Helmed by notable cult director William Girdler (Abby, Grizzly) and produced by David Sheldon (Lovely But Deadly, Just Before Dawn), Sheba, Baby’s increased budget is apparent and effectively put to use in the film’s oceanic climax while, Grier’s rising star power unfortunately kept the bombshell from shedding any skin.  Advertised as “hotter ’n’ Coffy, meaner ’n’ Foxy Brown!”, Sheba, Baby may not quite live up to those expectations but, still greatly entertains with its action-packed sequences and funky tunes establishing the proper groove.  

    Arrow Video presents Sheba, Baby with a 1080p transfer struck from a new 35mm Interpositive, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Scratches and scuffs are nowhere to be seen while, skin tones appear natural and pleasing.  Sunny, exterior moments occasionally appear soft with colors found in the flashy 70s attire making striking statements.  Meanwhile, black levels are excellent with no evidence of crush in this wonderfully, filmic looking transfer.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is well supported and free of any distortion with gunfire and the film’s few music selections making strong deliveries.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Producer/Co-Screenwriter David Sheldon and Audio Commentary with Historian Patty Breen.  In addition, Sheldon Baby: An Interview with David Sheldon (15:16), Pam Grier: The AIP Years (11:54) finds Film Historian Chris Poggiali dishing the skinny on Grier’s knockout roles during her tenure at the drive-in cinema production factory.  The film’s Trailer (1:54), a Still Gallery (18 in total) and a 15-page booklet featuring an essay by Patty Breen are also joined by a Reversible Cover Art utilizing the original 1-sheet poster and a DVD edition of the release.

    Quite possibly the definitive figure of Blaxploitation, Pam Grier exudes attitude and sexiness while letting the barrel of her gun do much of the talking.  Although perfecting her craft with each new role during her formative years, Sheba, Baby lacks the grittiness of Grier’s collaborations with Director Jack Hill while, still upholding many of the entertaining tropes of its popular genre.  Admittedly not her finest outing, Arrow Video expectedly treats this cult favorite like gold with another eye-pleasing transfer and always enthralling new bonus features.  Fans of grindhouse cinema and Blaxploitation beauty Pam Grier cannot be without Sheba, Baby.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Sheba, Baby can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Pretty Peaches Trilogy: Pretty Peaches (1978), Pretty Peaches 2 (1987) & Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Pretty Peaches Trilogy (1978-1989)

    Director: Alex de Renzy

    Starring: Desiree Cousteau, Juliet Anderson, Joey Silvera, John Leslie & Paul Thomas / Siobhan Hunter, Tracey Adams, Hershel Savage, Ron Jeremy & Jamie Gillis / Keisha, Tracey Adams, Marc Wallice, Eric Price, Rachel Ryan & Jamie Gillis 

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome, the sultans of smut, proudly present erotic maestro Alex de Renzy’s Pretty Peaches trilogy in all its uncut glory!  In the original classic, Desiree Cousteau (Hot & Saucy Pizza Girls) stars as the bubbly and vivacious Peaches who after attending her father’s wedding, winds up in an accident resulting in a severe case of amnesia.  Rescued, for better or worse, by two horny men, Peaches’ road to recovery will be a long and hard one.  Next up, Pretty Peaches 2 centers on the sexually curious Peaches (Siobhan Hunter, Summer Lovers) as she hits the road to educate herself only to end up in San Francisco at her eccentric Uncle Howard’s (Ron Jeremy, Terms of Endowment) house.  Finally, Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest finds Peaches (Keisha, Uniform Behavior) ditching her trailer park life to search for spiritual enlightenment, leading to a series of sexual explorations.  

    Long considered de Renzy’s pornographic masterpiece, Pretty Peaches is equal parts scandalous and humorous made possible by the optimistically dopey performance of the gorgeous Desiree Cousteau.  After being knocked unconscious and sneakily raped by an uncontrollable fellow, Peaches awakes with no memory of herself prompting her two manipulative rescuers to take her in.  Concerned for his daughter’s whereabouts after her speedy exit from his wedding, Hugh (John Leslie, Candy Goes to Hollywood) attempts to enjoy his honeymoon with his black bride.  Between penetrating his new wife to a soundtrack of bed squeaks and engaging in a sweaty threesome with his blonde housekeeper, Peaches is no closer to remembering her identity.  Shuttled to the uncle of her rapist to help with her condition, the four-eyed horn dog instead performs an enema on Peaches, prompting the short-haired beauty to geyser everywhere in the film’s most hilariously over the top moment.  In addition, more bizarreness occurs when Peaches attempts to secure work as a dancer only to be sexually dog-piled by a swarm of strap-on wearing lesbians for the enjoyment of an audience.  As her unfavorable keepers get lucky with a duo of blondes, Peaches gets her own education from an especially thorough doctor.  Increased silliness and sexually-charged pandemonium converges at a lubed up swingers party where a most unexpected family reunion takes place restoring Peaches’ memory.  Deservedly awarded Best Actress by the Adult Film Association of America for her performance, Desiree Cousteau drives the picture in earnest with her adorably cute performance and unbelievably natural curves.  Providing wall to wall sequences of hot sex, Pretty Peaches’ notable sense of humor separates itself from other efforts as a bonafide erotic classic.

    Nearly a decade after the original film’s debut, Pretty Peaches 2 focuses on nearly 20-year-old Peaches (Hunter) longing for a crash course in sex.  Blocked from going all the way with her hunkish boyfriend Bobby (Peter North, The Bigger the Better), Peaches’ foxy mother Eunice (Tracey Adams, Angels of Passion) instead helps to ease his “lovers nuts” while, her stepfather (Hershel Savage, Losing Control) influences Peaches to seek answers out in the wild.  Hightailing it to San Francisco to shack up at her uncle’s pad, the sexually clueless picks up tips from a truck driver’s private party with a prostitute before arriving at casa de weird.  Ron Jeremy’s hilarious turn as the brightly dressed Uncle Howard is the film’s nonsexual highlight before engaging in an incestuous threesome with his wife and equally wacky son at the dinner table.  While former star Cousteau is sorely missing in action, Siobhan Hunter does well as the luscious Peaches of the 80s although, her role is limited to that of an observer until the film’s final act where she finally puts her lessons to use with a masquerading grandma played by Jamie Gillis (Corruption) and a steamy lesbian engagement.  Furthermore, although her fictional daughter headlines, Tracey Adams arguably steals the show with her knockout figure and increasingly hot encounters with several gents.  Sexier and surprisingly funnier than its predecessor, fans of big hair, amongst other “big” things, will take delight in de Renzy’s better late than never followup.

    Recasting the title role yet again, Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest finds sex queen Keisha stepping into the iconic role of Peaches in de Renzy’s underwhelming final chapter.  Unrelated to its previous installment where our protagonist was in search of sexual knowledge, Peaches, living in a trailer park with her attractive mother (played again by bombshell Tracey Adams), longs for spiritual enlightenment in her mundane life.  Under motherly orders, Peaches meets with the not-so-subtle Dr. Thunderpussy (Rachel Ryan, Private Places) to help ease her mind.  After a very lubricated examination, the lesbian doctor retreats to a backroom to fornicate with a sex doll.  Consistently gullible, our virginal lead then takes pity on a grieving TV preacher (Jamie Gillis returning in a new role) and aims to join him and his big-breasted assistant.  Just as things are getting hot and heavy, the FBI zeroes in on the deceitful preacher, edging Peaches out of her chances of enlightenment.  Persistent as ever, Peaches continues her journey leading her to a religious commune where she backs out of a lesbian threesome before losing her virginity to a hunk in a dojo-looking room.  Concerned for her whereabouts, Peaches’ mother and meathead boyfriend Bobby (Gene Carrera, Rock ’n Roll Heaven) pursue her, only to predictably end up riding the hobby horse together with muscles keeping his Reeboks well fastened.  Ultimately failing to find what she was searching for, Peaches is rejuvenated by a drunken hobo, inspiring her to be a strong voice for the needy.  Far too redundant to be original, Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest seemingly forgets the humor and boundary pushing elements that made its predecessors so memorable.  In addition, although attractive, Keisha is the least charismatic of the Peaches stars while, the film’s scandalous sequences appear by the numbers and lacking steam.  Understandably all great things must come to an end but, unfortunately Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest stands as the weakest chapter in a franchise that began so enthusiastically.

    Boasting a new encode restored in 2K from 35mm elements, Vinegar Syndrome presents the original film with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Filmically beautiful, natural grain is ever-present while, skin tones are highly detailed with colors of every variety making stunning impressions.  Mild instances of light scratches are occasionally spotted but hardly a cause for concern.  Meanwhile, its sequels, also restored in 2K from 35mm and 16mm elements with 1.85:1 aspect ratios, share equally pleasing presentations although, Pretty Peaches 3: The Quest suffers from noisy backgrounds and vertical splices appearing every now and again.  Individually equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mixes, dialogue is well-handled while music choices are appropriately balanced with wailing cries of ecstasy.  Once again, the third installment does suffer from noticeably lower pitches that require increases in volume to fully collect dialogue deliveries and other potent audio.  Although special features from Pretty Peaches’ original limited edition Blu-ray are not ported over making it a worthy keeper, the sole supplement is the Pretty Peaches 2 Trailer (3:38).

    Collecting underground pornographer Alex de Renzy’s trilogy of forbidden fruit, these golden age classics of erotica are of noted importance to adult connoisseurs for their sense of humor and sexual explorations of its charismatic title character.  In what appears to be a monthly basis, Vinegar Syndrome has yet again proven to porn preservers the labor of their efforts with another first-rate accomplishment sure to be appreciated for years to come.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, the Pretty Peaches Trilogy can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

    Director: Marielle Heller

    Starring: Bey Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Christopher Meloni & Kristen Wiig

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, The Diary of a Teenage Girl centers on 15-year-old Minnie Goetze (Bey Powley, Equals) at the peak of her sexual awakening.  Longing for love and acceptance, Minnie engages in a secret affair with her mother’s boyfriend while attempting to make sense of the turbulent world around her.  Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood), Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and Kristen Wiig (The Skeleton Twins) co-star.

    Marking the directorial debut of Marielle Heller following her stage adaptation of the same novel, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is an oftentimes scandalous yet, never judgmental portrait of the hardships of teen culture.  Set in the free-spirited 70s of San Francisco, aspiring cartoonist and increasingly hormonal teen Minnie Goetze (Powley) finds herself yearning for connection only to find it in the unlikeliest of persons.  Following a drunken night of laughs, Minnie willingly loses her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend Monroe Rutherford (Skarsgård), jumpstarting an infatuation that neither can resist.  Exploring her newfound sexuality, Minnie embraces her elder partner at every opportunity while experimenting with other teenage curiosities.  Dabbling with drugs and attracting the attention of other boys, Minnie documents her evolution by recording diary cassettes and allowing her thoughts to visually paint pictures of Bakshi-esque animation.  From shy and introverted to eccentric and heartbreaking, Bey Powley is remarkable, encapsulating the confused and emotionally disoriented feelings common to teen survival.  In addition, Alexander Skarsgård proves equally exceptional in a performance that is both layered and complex.  Although appearing less frequently than her co-stars, Kristen Wiig is the film’s cherry on top playing a progressive mother, indulging in the hard-partying culture while the unfathomable takes place behind her back.

    Beautifully honest and channeling the essence of other female driven, coming-of-age tales including Little Darlings and Foxes, The Diary of a Teenage Girl wears its heart on its sleeve, allowing viewers to recall their own teenage insecurities with humor and warmth.  Heller’s acute detail in realizing a bygone San Francisco and pulling the mesmerizing performances from her cast makes the rookie filmmaker one to pay close mind to.  Although told from the female perspective, The Diary of a Teenage Girl transcends sexes and relates to every teenager’s spinning world of emotions, earning itself worthy praise as one of the most memorable films of its ilk in recent years.

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents The Diary of a Teenage Girl with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Adhering to softer tones to capture its intended time period, detail remains crisp with skin tones appearing natural and lifelike.  Textures in costume choices are pleasing while, the color palette of the San Francisco streets and Minnie’s apartment are attractive.  In addition, the film’s brief animation moments pop most pleasingly with wonderful richness.  Meanwhile, dimmer moments with 70s era lamps lighting the way cause backgrounds to appear occasionally muddy but never overpower said scenes.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is appropriately prioritized in this character driven effort while, the film’s choice cuts from such leading acts as The Stooges, T. Rex and Heart provide nicely balanced gains further complimenting the track.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Marielle Heller and Actors Bel Powley & Alexander Skarsgård, Deleted Scenes (5:24) exclusive to Blu-ray, Marielle’s Journey: Bringing the Diary to Life (23:07) exploring Heller’s passion for the project that began as a stage play before boldly taking on the task to adapting it for film.  In addition, an LA Film Festival Q&A with Marielle Heller, Alexander Skarsgård and Bel Powley (25:19), the Theatrical Trailer (1:48) and Previews for Irrational Man (2:11), Jimmy’s Hall (2:20), Infinitely Polar Bear (2:23), Truth (2:12), Grandma (2:12) and Labyrinth of Lies (2:01).  Finally, a Digital HD Code has also been provided.

    Deeply personal yet, universally relatable, The Diary of a Teenage Girl is one of the finest coming-of-age efforts of the decade with its candid exploration of the teenage spirit.  An emotional rollercoaster packed with laughs and pain, Marielle Heller’s first outing behind the camera is an exemplary debut with a career destined for greatness.  Furthermore, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment bestows top-notch technical grades on its release with a sizable supplemental package worthy of indulging.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available January 19th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, The Diary of a Teenage Girl can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Assault on New Releases #9: Count Dracula (1970), Zombie High (1987), Axe (1975) / Kidnapped Coed (1976), Women's Prison Massacre (1983), Corruption (1983) & The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1963) Blu-ray Reviews

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #9

    Count Dracula (1970)

    Director: Jess Franco

    Starring: Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski, Herbert Lom, Maria Rohm, Soledad Miranda, Fred Williams & Paul Muller

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Intent on crafting the most faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s iconic novel, Director Jess Franco (99 Women) would lure Christopher Lee (The Wicker Man) from his fanged appearances for Hammer Films to headline as the Count.  Soaked appreciatively in gothic atmosphere, Franco’s interpretation unfolds faithfully enough before taking several liberties of its own.  Following Jonathan Harker’s (Fred Williams, She Killed in Ecstasy) escape from Castle Dracula, the film dawdles with recuperation and Van Helsing’s (Herbert Lom, Spartacus) convincing of the black arts to several characters permeating the runtime.  Although its narrative proves to be uneventful in several areas, Christopher Lee’s performance is captivating with his bloodshot eyes and graying mustache adding a visual flair to the timeless character.  In addition, Klaus Kinski (Jack the Ripper), perfectly cast as the disturbed Renfield, is grossly underused in a role otherwise tailor made for the thespians eccentric energy.  While lacking a more erotic flair accustomed to other Franco efforts, Count Dracula achieves moments of glory with Lee’s engrossing performance and the film’s grandiose locations yet, never overcomes its monotonous attempts at plot development.  

    Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Severin Films presents Count Dracula with a 1080p transfer capturing natural skin tones and boldly represented colors, best appreciated in the film’s period costume choices.  With the exception of one reinstated sequence of scratchier quality, the transfer is virtually free of any wear and tear while, black levels are satisfactory with only occasional murkiness on display.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible with the film’s chilling score effectively relayed throughout.  Accompanied with a five-star spread of supplements, Severin Films includes the expressionistic feature Cuadecuc, Vampir (1:06:18), an Audio Commentary with Horror Historian David Del Valle and Actress Maria Rohm, Beloved Count (26:24) featuring an interview with Director Jess Franco, A Conversation with Jack Taylor (10:00) and Handsome Harker (26:14) with Actor Fred Williams interviewed.  In addition, French Director Christophe Gans hosts an appreciation of Jess Franco’s Count Dracula in Stake Holders (7:32) while, Christopher Lee Reads Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1:24:08) plus, the German, French, Italian & Spanish Alternate Title Sequences (1:36) are also included alongside the film’s German Trailer (3:08).  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Count Dracula can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Zombie High (1987)

    Director: Rob Link

    Starring: Virginia Madsen, Richard Cox, James Wilder, Sherilyn Fenn, Paul Feig & Kay E. Kuter

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shot entirely at the University of Southern California, Zombie High stars Virginia Madsen (Candyman) as the bright Andrea Miller.  After accepting a scholarship to the prestigious Ettinger boarding school, Andrea takes notice of the unusual drone-like behavior of her fellow students.  Before long, a deep rooted secret amongst the school faculty is revealed leading Andrea and her boyfriend Barry (James Wilder, Delta Phi) to fend for their lives.  Scripted by no less than three writers, Zombie High was the brainchild of USC film stockroom handler Aziz Ghazal who, under a unique circumstance with producers, offered the school’s facilities and equipment in exchange for students to intern on a professional film set.  With the exception of its cast and several behind-the-scenes crew members, Zombie High is an impressive accomplishment yet, not one of renowned quality.  Devoid of any scares whatsoever, Director Rob Mink’s sole feature consists of a cast of talented up and comers including, the future Academy Award nominated Madsen, Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks) and future Bridesmaids director Paul Feig delivering a poor man’s Duckie.  While the vibrant young thespians give earnest performances, the dull storyline and two-dimensionality of their characters suffocate the film.  Although professionally produced under its student film-like circumstances, Zombie High is painfully uneventful and seemingly forgets to include its titular creatures until its final fleeting moments.  

    Scream Factory presents Zombie High with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Inherently soft at times, remnants of digital noise can be spotted in the film’s first half during dormitory scenes and dimly lit moments that thankfully subsides later on.  While flesh tones appear decently and bolder colors found in Madsen’s bright sweaters pop best, the transfer is satisfactory given its unconventional history.  Equipped with a disappointing DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue registers overwhelmingly low with volume increases essential during viewing.  In addition, the film’s generic rock soundtrack, while providing decent boosts in quality, does so at the expense of drowning out more dialogue.  Limited with its offerings, special features include the film’s Trailer (1:05), uncredited liner notes found on the reverse wrap and a DVD edition of the release.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Zombie High can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Axe (1975) / Kidnapped Coed (1976)

    Director: Frederick R. Friedel

    Starring: Leslie Lee, Jack Canon, Ray Greene & Frederick R. Friedel / Jack Canon, Leslie Rivers, Gladys Lavitam & Larry Lambeth

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Restored from their original negatives, Severin Films proudly presents the early efforts of Director Frederick R. Friedel on Blu-ray for the first time ever!  Marking his directorial debut, Axe centers on three murderous criminals who seek refuge at an isolated farmhouse occupied by a withdrawn teenager and her paralyzed grandfather.  Shot inexpensively and running barely an hour, Axe is an unsettling tale that presents its characters with little to no exposition yet, never compromising their chilling believability.  Following the murder of a gay man and dehumanizing target practice with a market clerk, the chain-smoking Steele (Jack Canon, Maximum Overdrive), Lomax (Ray Greene) and younger, more hesitant Billy (Frederick R. Friedel) invade a desolate farmhouse to evade capture.  The beautiful Leslie Lee plays the emotionally stunted Lisa as she calmly premeditates her brutal revenge against her unwanted guests.  Contemplating suicide before savagely fighting back, Lisa’s actions are equally warranted and alarming.  Unfairly included on the U.K.’s banned list of video nasties, Axe oozes rural dread with exceptional style and effective editing that increases its artistic quality more than its grindhouse reputation suggests.

    Next up, Kidnapped Coed, billed as The Kidnap Lover, finds money hungry crook Eddie (Canon once again) kidnapping red-headed richie Sandra (Leslie Rivers, Reform School Girls) only to have his hostage form an unusual attraction for her abductor.  Canon excels as the heavy determined to kill if his ransom isn’t delivered with the timid Rivers playing nicely off of him.  Encountering several unsavory characters that arguably rival Eddie’s own demeanor, the cigarette-puffing crook slowly opens up to his victim, igniting an unlikely romance between characters from different tracks of life.  Nicely developed and crafting a well-executed tonal change, Kidnapped Coed is a fitting followup to Friedel’s previous effort in terror that although briefly timed, plays exceedingly well.  

    Severin Films presents Axe and Kidnapped Coed with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Although speckles and instances of cigarette burns are apparent, both films admirably shine with noticeably filmic representations while, appreciative detail, natural skin tones and boldly presented blood pop nicely in both features.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is audibly satisfactory with mild instances of hiss and static occasionally detected.  Although Kidnapped Coed serves as the stronger audio candidate, both films get the job done.  In addition, each film contains an optional German audio track.  Rightly saluting both films with numerous bonus features, Severin Films provides Audio Commentaries on both with Writer/Director Frederick R. Friedel, Production Manager Phil Smoot & Makeup Artist Worth Keeter.  In addition, Friedel’s intriguing hybrid cut of both films entitled Bloody Brothers (1:29:11) is also included with an introduction by Friedel and an Audio Commentary with Nightmare USA Author Stephen Thrower.  Furthermore, At Last…  Total Terror!: The Amazing True Story of the Making of Axe & Kidnapped Coed (1:01:40) is a newly produced retrospective work featuring interviews with key talent and visits to the original shooting locations.  Also included, Moose Magic: The George Newman Shaw & John Willhelm Story (38:35) traces the history of the films’ talented musicians while, Stephen Thrower waxes intellectual on Axe & Kidnapped Coed (9:15) with a selection of Trailers, TV Spots & Radio Spots (8:31) rounding out the disc’s supplemental content.  Finally, located on a separate compact disc, both films’ original soundtracks are included with 7 bonus tracks from Shaw & Willhelm.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Axe / Kidnapped Coed can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Women’s Prison Massacre (1983)

    Director: Bruno Mattei

    Starring: Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Ursula Flores, Maria Romano, Raul Cabrera & Antonella Giacomini

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Repurposing much of the same cast and filmed back to back with 1982’s Violence in a Women’s Prison, Director Bruno Mattei’s (Hell of the Living Dead, Rats: Night of Terror) Women’s Prison Massacre continues the sleazy tradition of scantly clad females doing hard time.  When reporter Emanuelle (Laura Gemser, Black Emanuelle) is framed for drug smuggling and sentenced to prison, she is confronted with unspeakable violence from fellow inmates and guards.  While attempting to maintain her sanity, a deadly pack of arriving male prisoners invade the prison as Emanuelle and her trusting cellmates seek to regain control.  Gabriele Tinti (Rider on the Rain), Ursula Flores (Violence in a Women’s Prison), Maria Romano (Thor the Conqueror), Raul Cabrera (Allonsanfan) and Antonella Giacomini (The Seven Magnificent Gladiators) co-star.  A genre staple of grindhouse cinemas and drive-in theaters during the 70s and 80s, Women’s Prison Massacre takes the familiar tropes of attractive females, inhumane violence, corruption and nudity to steer its own exercise in exploitation.  Hypnotically beautiful, Laura Gemser headlines as the wrongly imprisoned Emanuelle who vows to expose the corrupt politician responsible for her incarceration.  In addition to defending her life against pale-skinned inmate Albina (Flores) and mistreatment from guards, Women’s Prison Massacre injects healthy doses of lesbianism for good measure.  Although the arrival of the male prisoners increases the action and exploitation including sequences of rape and a twisted game of Russian roulette, their inclusion feels slightly out of character for a traditional WIP film and steals attention away from Gemser and her supporting players.  Unquestionably cut from the same cloth as other films of its ilk, Women’s Prison Massacre is not nearly as impressive as other efforts although, its hilarious dubbing and jaw-droppingly funny dialogue provide plenty of entertainment.

    Scream Factory presents Women’s Prison Massacre with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Possessing a fairly soft appearance, the film is free of any scratches or other extremely undesirable blemishes while, skin tones are modestly pleasing.  In addition, black levels found in the dirty and dimly lit prison appear generally hazy at times yet, never overwhelm ones viewing.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the poorly dubbed dialogue is efficient although never overly impressive.  Scoring queues, gunshots and screams show signs of increased authority while remaining generally restrained.  Furthermore, no unfavorable levels of hiss or static were detected.  Surprisingly, no special features have been included on this release.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Women’s Prison Massacre can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Corruption (1983)

    Director: Roger Watkins

    Starring: Jamie Gillis, Kelly Nichols, Tiffany Clark, Tanya Lawson, Tish Ambrose & Vanessa Del Rio

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The desire for power becomes more than one man bargained for in Director Roger Watkins’ Corruption.  Unsure if he can repay a debt owed, Williams (Jamie Gillis, Dracula Sucks) finds his life controlled by his lenders only to have his associate betray him in exchange for his own sense of power.  Following the kidnapping of his sister-in-law, Williams is caught in a deranged sexual underworld with his unsavory half-brother as his guide and unlikely only hope for a way out.  An all-star ensemble of porn royalty including, Kelly Nichols (Dixie Ray Hollywood Star), Tiffany Clark (Hot Dreams), Tanya Lawson (Kinky Business), Tish Ambrose (Streetstar) and Vanessa Del Rio (Lips) co-star.  Although narratively vague in its storytelling, Corruption is undoubtedly a visual splendor, courtesy of valued Cinematographer Larry Revene (Deranged, Doom Asylum) whose lighting and camerawork intoxicates the frames with genuine atmosphere.  Juxtaposed with heavy doses of tantalizing sex sequences ranging from lesbianism and bondage to deep throated decadence and surreal necrophilia, Corruption may not gel with those left questioning its darkly surreal tone yet, deserves utmost appreciation for its rich photography and steamier moments brought to life by some of the eras most favored performers.

    Restored in 2K from the 35mm original camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome’s efforts are nothing short of exceptional.  With skin tones looking lively, detail in textures and closeups greatly impressing plus, striking colors found in sexy lingerie making admirable pops, Corruption spoils viewers with its near impeccability.  While black levels seen in a dimly lit bar scene and a sexual encounter in a black room showcase instances of flakes and noticeable digital noise, Vinegar Syndrome has treated the film with an expected level of care leaving it in better shape than ever.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, crackling is occasionally heard but, never interferes in the delivery of dialogue while, the eclectic score of sexy saxophone themes, wailing electric guitars and synthesized beats sound terrific.  Special features include, Through the Lens: Larry Revene & Corruption (12:25) where the talented DP reminisces on the productions charming cast and Watkins’ acute eye and talented abilities as a writer and director.  In addition, the Theatrical Trailer (3:18), Pressbook Gallery (0:53) and DVD edition of the release are also included.  Furthermore, Vinegar Syndrome has included the profound easter egg of Roger Watkins’ nasty 1977 shocker The Last House on Dead End Street (77:58) on disc.  Although a Blu-ray edition of the film is currently being prepped, this sample course is in fact uncut yet, far from what the finished release will look like.  Finally, a Reverse Cover Art utilizing Corruption’s original 1-sheet poster concludes the supplemental offerings.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Corruption can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com.

    The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

    Director: Joseph Green

    Starring: Herb Evers, Virginia Leith & Leslie Daniel

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Distributed by independent mavericks American International Pictures, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die centers on Dr. Bill Cortner (Herb Evers, Escape from the Planet of the Apes) who after losing his future bride in an accident, swears to resurrect her through medical experimentations.  Salvaging her head while feverishly scouring for a suitable body replacement, the conscience Jan (Virginia Leith, Violent Saturday) begins losing her mind while planning her revenge on the man who unethically kept her alive.  Cheaply produced for less than $70,000, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die laid dormant following its completion in 1959 before being acquired by AIP several years later.  Pushing its mad scientist agenda of absurdist surgeries and eerie experiments, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die relies equally on buxom beauties and curvy strippers to attract attention.  Following Dr. Bill Cortner’s desperate mission to locate a proper body to attach to the head of his lover, Cortner attends smoky bars and bikini modeling shows for prime candidates.  Busty broads and floor pummeling catfights add to the film’s sexual sleaziness that largely separates it from other Z-grade sci-fi pictures of the time.  Longing to be put out of her misery, Jan befriends an imprisoned creature in Bill’s laboratory to assist in her revenge scheme.  Tearing the arm off of the good doctor’s assistant, the concealed monster (played by noted Israeli circus performer Eddie Carmel a.k.a. “The Jewish Giant”) surprisingly lives up to expectations when his facially deformed, pinheaded self is revealed in the film’s final moments.  Undeniably bizarre and equally entertaining, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die follows the familiar path of a scientist with a god complex while, its inclusion of seductive pinups sells the film even more.

    Scream Factory presents The Brain That Wouldn’t Die with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Newly restored from its negative, this uncut presentation contains mild instances of speckles and cigarette burns while, its black and white photography largely impresses with admirable detail in closeups and wardrobe.  In addition, black levels appearing in Dr. Cortner’s vehicle and the bloody aftermath of Kurt’s arm being removed look refreshingly inky.  With filmic grain present throughout its entirety, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die lives on looking better than ever!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, several cracks and pops arise without sacrificing any dialogue along the way.  Otherwise presented cleanly, speaking bits and the film’s score come through nicely.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Steve Haberman and Author Tony Sasso with Haberman offering plenty of informative anecdotes along the way while, Sasso relies on pointing out the obvious onscreen.  In addition, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode of the film (presented in standard definition) is included alongside, Alternate Model Footage (1:26).  Culled from the international cut and lacking sound, this brief sequence showcases the beautiful Adele Lamont posing nude for photographers.  Finally, a Photo Gallery (3:46) and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:54) conclude the disc’s bonus content.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Walk 3D (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Walk (2015)

    Director: Robert Zemeckis

    Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, Clément Sibony, James Badge Dale & César Domboy

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a true story, The Walk stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper) as daring wire walker Philippe Petit.  Mentored by the talented Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley, Schindler’s List) and assisted by a pack of loyal international accomplices, Philippe plans to illegally stage the greatest performance of his lifetime by walking across the newly constructed Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  Charlotte Le Bon (The Hundred-Foot Journey), Clément Sibony (The Tourist), James Badge Dale (The Lone Ranger) and César Domboy (The Princess of Montpensier) co-star.

    Driven by determination and obsessive passion, Philippe Petit’s extraordinary journey from the streets of Paris to 1,350 feet above the city of New York remains an eternal testament to dreamers worldwide.  Based on Petit’s book To Reach the Clouds, The Walk traces his early beginnings as a juggler and amateur wire walker before inspiration strikes upon reading about the completion of the Twin Towers in New York City.  Donning blue contact lenses and perfecting the Frenchmans accent, Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers one of his finest performances with his intense training from the real Petit beautifully shining through.  Striking up a romance with fellow street performer Annie (Le Bon) and a friendship with photographer Jean-Louis (Sibony), the trio journey east to aid Philippe in his death-defying performance.  The up and coming Le Bon is a striking presence while her chemistry with Gordon-Levitt accentuates the loving commitment the couple have to seeing their dreams come true.  In addition, Sir Ben Kingsley delivers a quaint performance as Philippe’s experienced mentor who although, uncertain of his protégées goals, learns to love him like a son and ensures his safety on his surreal adventure.  Morphing into a caper film of sorts, Philippe, accompanied by several other local New Yorkers, plot “le coup” by masquerading as construction workers, weaseling their way to the tower rooftops and rigorously setting the necessary wires under the shadow of the night.  Although its climax is well-documented, Zemeckis’ masterful direction, complimented by Alan Silvestri’s (Forrest Gump) swelling score, transports viewers on the wire with Philippe for a truly breathtaking finale.

    Although unfairly tanking at the box-office, The Walk is a stunning piece of cinema that delivers phenomenal visuals with an emotionally inspiring story.  Respectfully dedicated to the victims of September 11th, Director Robert Zemeckis' (Back to the Future, Flight) cinematic ode to the people of New York celebrates another memorable day in its history where strangers looked to the sky and were joined together by the magic of a man on a wire.  Powerfully moving and leaving viewers on the edge of their seat, The Walk is a remarkable effort destined to be celebrated for years to come.

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents The Walk with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Marvelously achieved during its theatrical presentation, its home video 3D is equally immersive and projects solid depth as Philippe makes his suspenseful walk across the towers.  Greatly adding to the visual experience, The Walk is destined to become one of the new year’s finest 3D offerings.  Meanwhile, its 2D presentation is excellently detailed with skin tones represented naturally and black levels, most appreciably during Philippe and Jeff’s nighttime rigging of the wires, looking inky and free of digital noise.  Wonderfully bringing life to the New York and Paris of the 1970s with boldly captured colors and sharp crispness, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has delivered a stunning transfer worthy of its praise.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is strongly supported while, Alan Silvestri’s score (one of 2015’s best) is exceptionally handled.  Crowded city streets and sound effects of wire clattering are also nicely balanced in a presentation that doesn’t stray far from its essential character driven dynamics.  Special features include, Deleted Scenes (5:44), First Steps: Learning to Walk the Wire (9:11) where Gordon-Levitt, alongside the real life Petit and Director Robert Zemeckis, share the actor’s firsthand experiences learning to wire walk.  In addition, Pillars of Support (8:27) focuses on the supporting cast that help pull off Philippe’s caper while, The Amazing Walk (10:48) explores the fascinating work recreating the Twin Towers and the film’s 3D effects.  Finally, Previews for Aloha (2:41), Ricki and the Flash (2:40), Concussion (1:57) and Risen (1:31) are included alongside a standard Blu-ray edition of the release and a Digital HD Code.

    Failing to attract audiences during a time where theatergoers uninterested in Hollywood blockbusters scream for originality and emotionally driving stories, the mystery of The Walk’s disappointing box-office performance further perplexes the mind.  Severely underappreciated, The Walk weaves a compelling narrative enforced by a phenomenal performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Serving as another highlight in a career of classics for Zemeckis, The Walk is the rare exception where 3D greatly supports its narrative and enhances the experience like no other.  Although falling short on special features, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment delivers an astounding A/V presentation while, its immersive 3D kicks the new year off right.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available January 5th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, The Walk can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

    presents

    THE 2015 HOLIDAY GIFT

    • The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition: While the tikes of today rightly associate the artistry of stop-motion animation with the works of Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frankenweenie) and Laika Studios (Coraline, Paranorman), The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition presents viewers of all ages with timeless holiday entertainment from the influential Rankin/Bass Productions.  With such Christmas cartoon classics as UPA’s Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Cricket on the Hearth, Frosty the Snowman and Frosty Returns, this must-have collection also includes Rankin/Bass’ most beloved holiday-themed specials including, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.  Joined by additional special features such as sing-alongs and how-to tutorials on drawing your own Rudolph or Frosty, The Original Christmas Classics Anniversary Collector’s Edition comes highly recommended and will undoubtedly enjoy heavy rotation by viewers this holiday season.  Available now!

    • Home Alone 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition: Celebrating its unbelievable 25th anniversary, the original John Hughes produced classic returns to Blu-ray boasting a new superior-looking 4K restoration.  Collected in a paint can familiar to fans of the films, this excellently timed collector’s edition includes other treats such as, a collectible ornament, rubber spider, Battle Plan reproduction and a Wanted poster looking for the Wet Bandits.  While its equally beloved sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, is also included on Blu-ray, purists will be slightly disappointed that later installments, Home Alone 3, Home Alone: Taking Back the House and Home Alone: The Holiday Heist arrive only on DVD.  Although the lack of a complete high-definition collection is unfortunate, the original film’s highly improved transfer and conversation starting packaging makes Home Alone’s 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition well worth upgrading this Christmas.  Available now! 

    • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Similar to Home Alone’s previous outings on high-definition, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation has been the victim of dated masters leaving viewers with more to be visually desired.  Thankfully, Warner Bros. have heard fans’ calls and appropriately rescanned this Chevy Chase favorite in 2K from a brand-new interpositive.  Boasting a more filmic appearance and stronger skin tones, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, carrying all previous supplements from its past releases, finally arrives in the presentation fans of the Griswolds rightfully deserve.  Available now!

    • Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy: Marking Marty and Doc’s infamous journey into the distant future of 2015, Universal Studios proudly celebrates the occasion with an exceptional high-definition repackaging of the historic time traveling trilogy.  With all three films looking and sounding stellar, the Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy comes overwhelmingly packed with vintage supplements as well as other goodies including, Doc Brown Saves the World! with Christopher Lloyd reprising his role as Doctor Emmett Brown in this newly-produced short film.  In addition, diehard fans will be overjoyed with Universal Studios’ alternate limited edition release of Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures.  Housed in a light-up faux flux capacitor, this must-have set contains the film trilogy, a 64-page collectible booklet and all 26 episodes of the short-lived Saturday morning cartoon on DVD for the first time ever.  Hailed as one of the greatest franchises of all time, Christmas morning won’t be complete without journeying into the past with these ageless adventures.  Available now!

     

    • Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation: Continuing the popular exploits of IMF Agent Ethan Hunt, Tom Cruise (Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow) returns to the explosive franchise for his most dangerous mission yet.  When the IMF is shut down by the CIA, a dangerous network known as the Syndicate, comprised of former agents gone rogue, threatens the safety of the globe.  Wanted by their own government, Ethan and his loyal team, along with a mysterious double agent (Rebecca Ferguson, Hercules), must combine their limited efforts to bring the Syndicate down and restore their names.  Helmed by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher), Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation combines death-deifying stunts, intense action and a suspenseful narrative that stands proudly with Ghost Protocol’s universally hailed installment.  Arriving with reference worthy high-definition specs and countless special features including, an Audio Commentary with Director Christopher McQuarrie and Star Tom Cruise plus, several making-of featurettes, the fifth installment of Cruise’s exciting series is a mission all viewers should choose to accept this holiday season.  Available December 15th!

     

    • The Purple Rose of Cairo: Limited to just 3,000 units, Writer/Director Woody Allen’s (Annie Hall, Manhattan) love letter to cinema is an achingly moving achievement comprised of magic and romance.  Perfectly casted, Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby) and Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) star in this Great Depression-set tale about a movie obsessed dreamer enchanted by the arrival of her movie star crush who leaps off the screen to woo her.  A bonafide gem in Allen’s rich catalog of classics, The Purple Rose of Cairo casts an enchanting spell on viewers while, Film Historian Julie Kirgo’s enthralling liner notes increase ones appreciation for the content.  Available now!

    • The End of the Tour: Based on David Lipsky’s best-seller, this probing character study of Lipsky’s journalistic road-trip interviewing Author David Foster Wallace in the wake of his successful novel is one of the year’s smartest and genuine features.  Jason Segel (The Muppets) and Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) are excellently matched as two intelligent creatives, butting heads as they explore fame and the desire for normalcy on a journey of unexpected friendship and understanding.  Humorous and heartbreaking, this indie favorite arrives with an Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, a Conversation with Composer Danny Elfman and more.  Critically applauded, The End of the Tour is a moving piece of drama well worth taking the journey with.  Available now! 

    • Inside Out 3D Ultimate Collector’s Edition: From the creative minds of Pixar, Inside Out marks their most unique tale to date centering on the many emotions of an 11-year-old girl as she copes with her unexpected move to San Francisco.  Starring an eclectically hilarious voice cast including, Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation), Phyllis Smith (The Office), Bill Hader (Trainwreck), Lewis Black (The Daily Show) and Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Director Pete Docter’s (Monsters Inc., Up) deeply personal exploration of the mind is endlessly charming with audiences young and old finding themselves profoundly moved by its  conclusion.  Presented with immersive 3D and countless bonus features, Inside Out is the animated gem of the year perfect for acquisition this holiday season.  Available now!

     

    • Aladdin Diamond Edition: Highly anticipated and finally unleashed from the Disney vault, Aladdin makes its domestic high-definition debut with jaw-droppingly colorful clarity and countless special features including, the desirable and never-before-seen Genie outtakes performed by the late Robin Williams.  A magical tour de force, Aladdin remains one of Disney’s most beloved features and a wish come true for all street rats and riff raffs this Christmas.  Available now!   

    • Minions 3D: In Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me prequel, the yellow colored tribe find themselves deeply depressed following the accidental losses of their last several evil leaders.  Set in the progressive 1960s and determined to find their next kingpin, optimistic Minion Kevin, along with Stuart and Bob, road trip to Villain Con International to join forces with evil diva Scarlett Overkill.  After traveling to England to overthrow the Queen, the Minions must devise a way to correct their deeds in order to save their fellow friends and the world.  Accompanied by vocal work from Academy Award winner Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Jon Hamm (Mad Men), Michael Keaton (Toy Story 3) and Geoffrey Rush (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), Minions slapstick scenarios and soundtrack of rockin’ hits from The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Kinks and Jimi Hendrix make for a thoroughly entertaining ride.  Packed with eye-popping 3D and three brand-new mini movies, Minions is the animated release making audiences go bananas.  Available December 8th! 

    • Cinderella: Continuing their successful string of live-action features based on their esteemed animated classics, Disney brings the whimsy of Cinderella to a new generation.  Bursting with magic and elegance, Director Kenneth Branagh’s (Hamlet, Thor) modernization pays homage while, surpassing its 1950 counterpart with its grandiose production design and exceptional performances from Lily James (Downton Abbey) in the titular role and Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as her wicked stepmother.  One of the finest films of the year, Disney’s Cinderella is the glass slipper that should be under everyone’s Christmas tree this year.  Available now!

    • 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition: Although unhappy with the film’s visual outcome, Walt Disney’s dazzling London-based tale has long been cherished by adoring audiences since its debut in 1961.  Stylistically unique to the delicate precision of other Disney efforts, 101 Dalmatians offers an adventurous tale accompanied by memorable songs and one of Disney’s most beloved antagonists Cruella De Vil.  Shining brighter than ever on Blu-ray, reasons for scooping up 101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition this season far exceeds the number of its lovable polka-dotted puppies.  Available now! 

    • Mr. Bean - The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection: A quarter century since its debut, Rowan Atkinson’s hilariously dimwitted character returns with all 14 episodes of his memorable television show.  Presented by Fabulous Films, in association with Shout! Factory, Mr. Bean - The Whole Bean 25th Anniversary Collection provides viewers with suitable supplemental content while, the sheer silliness and physical hijinks of Atkinson’s predominately mum character in all his timeless sketches will most definitely tickle the funny bones of all viewers.  Available now! 

    • Star Wars Rebels - Complete Season One: With less than a month before Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes hold of audiences worldwide, Disney’s first attempts at reestablishing the brand ensures that the Force is in very capable hands.  Taking place before the events of the original film, Star Wars Rebels centers on a ragtag crew of do-gooders determined to take down the Galactic Empire.  With guest appearances from Star Wars alumni such as, Darth Vader, C-3PO, R2-D2 and Yoda, this computer-generated Disney XD series packs high-octane action and exciting new characters that have quickly become fan favorites.  With season two airing now, catching up with the crew of the Ghost in their first 15 adventures is the perfect training for young Padawans and Jedi Masters alike.  Available now! 

    • Manimal - The Complete Series: Airing for only a short-lived eight episodes, Fabulous Films and Shout! Factory welcome the animalistic adventures of Manimal: The Complete Series to DVD for the first time ever in the U.S.!  Centering on the wealthy and dashing Dr. Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale, Jaws 3-D), Manimal finds Chase using his abilities to morph into any animal of his choosing to aid the authorities in solving crimes.  Scheduled against the soap opera titan Dallas, Manimal found itself quickly extinct due to low ratings but, has maintained a cult appeal for its over the top premise and impressive transformation sequences.  Wickedly fun, Manimal: The Complete Series also arrives with an interview with Series Creator Co-Creator Glen A. Larson (Knight Rider, Magnum, P.I.), Concept & Production Notes, an episode booklet and more.  With Will Ferrel (Elf) and Adam McKay (Step Brothers) actively developing a film version, reliving its goofy originator this holiday season will serve as an ideal journey down memory lane.  Available now!

    • Automan - The Complete Series: From the creative minds behind Tron and Knight Rider, Automan unashamedly melds the two contrasting concepts for this long lost gem of Generation X.  Including all 13 episodes and countless bonus content including, an all-new 42 minute retrospective, Automan centers on computer nerd Walter Nebicher (Desi Arnez Jr., House of the Long Shadows) as he minds his desk work at the local police department.  Using his programming skills, Walter develops an artificial hologram that can exist in the real world.  Accompanied by the computer engineered Automan and a small droid, Walter hits the streets to battle crime.  Cancelled prematurely, Automan: The Complete Series is a sci-fi spectacle of 80s technology and street crime that has thankfully resurfaced in its entirety for the first time in America.  Available now!

    • Agent Carter - The Complete First Season: Reprising her role from Captain America: The First Avenger, Hayley Atwell stars as secret agent Peggy Carter as she attempts to cope with the loss of Steve Rogers and juggle her position in the male-dominated workforce of the 1940s.  After learning her friend Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) has been framed for supplying weapons to the enemy, Agent Carter must fight to clear his name and recover the stolen goods.  Delivering one of television’s stronger and well-written female characters, Marvel’s Agent Carter is an engaging, tightly paced mini-series that  fans of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will find themselves instantly hooked on.  Available now!

    • Blood and Lace: Long desired and finally available for the first time on home video, Blood and Lace serves as a bizarre precursor to what would become the slasher boom of the late 70s and early 80s.  Following the grizzly murder of her prostituting mother, Ellie Masters (Melody Patterson, F Troop) is placed in an orphanage, fearful that she will become the next target of her mother’s hammer-wielding assailant.  With orphanage head Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame, It’s a Wonderful Life) and her seedy handyman concealing their share of disturbing secrets, Ellie’s safety becomes even more uncertain.  Filled with an uncomfortable atmosphere and a disturbing twist ending, Blood and Lace is joined by an expert Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith, an alternate opening title, its theatrical trailer and reversible cover art.  In a year of seemingly endless titles from Scream Factory, Blood and Lace stands out as one of their most coveted.  Available now! 

    • The Car: Powered by high-octane evil, this cult classic from Director Elliot Silverstein (Nightmare Honeymoon) stars James Brolin (The Amityville Horror) as a newly appointed sheriff in a desert town disturbed by a devilish automobile hellbent on destroying anyone in its path.  Joined by new interviews with its director and Actors Melody Thomas Scott and Geraldine Keams, a theatrical trailer, a newly designed cover art by Scream Factory favorite Justin Osbourn and more, The Car races to Blu-ray just in time for viewers to hitch a ride this Christmas.  Available December 15th! 

    • Eaten Alive: Continuing to impress domestic audiences with their diverse output, Arrow Video delivers another first-rate effort with Tobe Hooper’s (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) Eaten Alive.  Set in the Louisiana wetlands at the seedy Starlight Hotel, owner Judd’s (Neville Brand, The Police Connection) homicidal tendencies run amuck as he feeds unsuspecting guests to his hungry alligator.  Bloody and bizarre, Hooper’s underrated gem arrives restored in 2K from the OCN while, bonus content runs deep with endless featurettes and an impressive 22-page booklet.  As if anymore bait were needed to lure viewers, Eaten Alive is one of the exploitation genres top releases of the year.  Available now!

    • Ghost Story: Based on the novel by Peter Straub, four elderly friends are haunted by a ghostly apparition in their wintry New England town.  Headlined by seasoned icons including, Fred Astaire (Swing Time), Melvyn Douglas (Ninotchka), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Little Caesar) and John Houseman (Rollerball), Ghost Story oozes atmosphere and supernatural tension.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory delivers this perfectly timed release with a filmic presentation and a slew of special features from an Audio Commentary with Director John Irvin and new interviews with key cast and crew to vintage trailers and a spooky reversible cover art.  Chilling and stylistically paced, Ghost Story makes for a frightening addition into your horror library this winter season.  Available now!

    • Goodnight Mommy: Hailing from Austria, twin brothers Elias and Lukas are troubled when their mother returns home from surgery, heavily bandaged and acting differently.  Growing more unconvinced of the woman who claims to be their mother, the twins take drastic measures to uncover the terrifying truth.  Similar to an unnerving fever dream, Goodnight Mommy seeps under viewers’ skin with an unsettling tone and an even more frightening finale.  Accompanied with a conversational interview with Directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, Goodnight Mommy is a shocking slice of foreign cinema that easily stands as one of the year’s standout contemporary horror releases.  Available now!

    • White of the Eye: All is not as it seems in 1987’s White of the Eye when an attractive woman falls victims to a demented killer of housewives who uses Indian rituals in his murders.  Helmed by Donald Cammell (Performance, Demon Seed) and starring David Keith (Firestarter) and Cathy Moriarty (Raging Bull), this suspenseful thriller will keep viewers’ blood thoroughly chilled.  Repurposing U.K. distributor Arrow Video’s superb transfer, Scream Factory compliments its release with an Audio Commentary with Director Donald Cammell and Biographer Sam Umland, deleted scenes, an interview with Actor Alan Rosenberg, reversible cover art and more.  Available now!

    • Society: Nightmarish and bold, Brian Yuzna’s (Bride of Re-Animator) directorial debut arrives in a definitive high-definition release from Arrow Video.  Suspecting his wealth family and privileged peers are hiding sinister secrets, paranoid teen Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock, Days of Our Lives) uncovers a twisted subculture for the richies of Beverly Hills.  Sporting a virtually flawless presentation bursting with bold colors and exceptional clarity, Society comes dripping with newly crafted bonus content that leaves no stone left unturned.  Although its original flesh-covered packaging edition has since sold out, Arrow Video’s standard release of Society is unquestionably one of the best horror releases of 2015!  Available now!

    • Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic by J.B. Kaufman: Celebrating its 75th anniversary, J.B. Kaufman’s definitive overview of Walt Disney’s animated followup to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a marvel to behold.  Containing over 200 pieces of art and culled from various interviews and recorded conferences, Kaufman’s expertly researched achievement is the finest of its kind and stands as our book of the year!  Available now! 

    • Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History by Michael Klastorin with Randal Atamaniuk: Complimenting the 30th anniversary re-release of the famed trilogy, Klastorin and Atamniuk’s literary companion is a treasure trove for dedicated fans.  Packed with overwhelming insight into each film’s extensive shooting schedule and incredible imagery of production art, Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History also treats readers to several removable posters and reproduction pieces.  Further documenting Back to the Future’s short-lived Saturday morning cartoon and their exciting attraction at Universal Studios’ theme parks, Klastorin and Atamaniuk’s passion project is essential reading for all Back to the Future devotees.  Available now!

    • John Hughes: A Life in Film by Kirk Honeycutt: Highlighting the eternally youthful enthusiasm of Writer/Director John Hughes, Honeycutt’s career spanning work contains interviews with Hughes collaborators including, Matthew Broderick (Ferris Buller’s Day Off), Ally Sheedy (The Breakfast Club), Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club), Steve Martin (Planes, Trains and Automobiles) and more.  Providing insight into Hughes’ family life and heartwarming friendship with the late John Candy, Honeycutt’s humanizing and photograph-filled coverage of Hughes is one you won’t soon forget.  Available now!

    • The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie by Jerry Schmitz: Making their cinematic return this year, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts gang comes alive in their first CG-animated 3D feature.  Adapting the simplistic yet, treasured designs and wit of Schulz’s beloved creations was no easy task as covered in Schmitz’s enthralling read.  With a foreword by Director Steve Martino, The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie describes the painstaking detail in bringing Charlie Brown and friends into a 3D realm while, cracking a story that would faithfully honor their 50-plus year legacy.  Unquestionably one of the year’s best making-of books, The Art and Making of The Peanuts Movie is an invaluable resource for one of the year’s finest films.  Available now!

    • Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents - The 100 Greatest Science-Fiction Films by Douglas Brode: Chronologically ordered, Brode’s historical journey through science-fiction’s latest and greatest cinematic achievements are compiled in one passionate collection.  From 1927’s influential Metropolis to the many gems consisting of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion wizardry, Brode’s analysis also awards George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Pixar’s Wall-E and Marvel Studio’s most recent Guardians of the Galaxy as sci-fi’s most remarkable efforts.  Accompanied with rare photographs, ratings and background information on each production, Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents - The 100 Greatest Science-Fiction Films will make a suitable stocking-stuffer for all sci-fi fans.  Available now!

    • Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness by Mark Salisbury: Considered one of our favorite films of the year, Mark Salisbury’s stunning look into Guillermo del Toro’s gothic romance is breathtaking.  With inspired production art and intriguing character bios, Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness also explores the practical and digital means in bringing the film’s ghostly creations to life.  With several takeaway items including, a miniature film poster, Salisbury’s guide to one of the year’s most eerily seductive films is an exceptional entryway into del Toro’s fantastical imagination.  Available now!

    • Before Ever After: The Lost Lectures of Walt Disney’s Animation Studio by Don Hahn and Tracey Miller-Zarneke: As Walt Disney looked beyond the success of his short films to the future of animated features, the educational efforts to perfect his artists’ abilities were increased.  Dormant for nearly 80 years, Hahn and Miller-Zarneke’s latest effort resurrects the countless lectures and transcribed classes Disney’s artists were educated in leading up to the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Animation enthusiasts will be fascinated by its indispensable lessons and extraordinary artwork making it one of Disney Editions’ most outstanding gems of the year.  Available now!

    • Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Cards Volume One with Commentary by Gary Gerani and Robert V. Conte: Serving as a bonafide nostalgia trip, Abrams Comicarts compiles all five collectible sets and stickers of Topps’ original Star Wars trading cards.  Presented in their entirety, first generation fans will be delighted to own the entire run in this wonderfully presented hardcover.  With welcome commentary from original cards editor Gary Gerani and four bonus trading cards included, Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Cards Volume One will return fans back to a childhood from a galaxy far, far away.  Available now!

    • Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History by Daniel Wallace: Akin to Harper Design’s Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History, Insight Editions’ 30 year overview of the Ghostbusters franchise is a rewarding read that traces the pop culture phenomenon of the original two films, their animated television shows plus, the endless merchandise that exploded in their wake.  With interviews from key talent and filled with behind-the-scenes photos and other specialty items, bustin’ will make you feel good after reading Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual HistoryAvailable now!

     

     

  • The Sentinel (1977) Blu-ray Review

    The Sentinel (1977)

    Director: Michael Winner

    Starring: Chris Sarandon, Cristina Raines, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith & John Carradine

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the death of her father and an urgent desire for independence, beautiful model Alison Parker (Cristina Raines, The Duellists) moves into a spacious New York brownstone unaware of the danger that awaits her.  Haunted by nightmarish memories and riddled by her peculiar neighbors, Alison learns her once desirable new residence is a gateway to hell.  Chris Sarandon (Child’s Play), Ava Gardner (The Killers), John Carradine (House of Frankenstein), Burgess Meredith (Rocky), Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation), Jerry Orbach (Law & Order), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park), Eli Wallach (The Magnificent Seven) and Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter) co-star.

    Based on the novel by Jeffrey Konvitz, Director Michael Winner (Death Wish) returns to the city that never sleeps for his controversial religious shocker.  Shot on location in Brooklyn Heights, Alison Parker (Raines) moves into the ideal New York brownstone, inhabited by a blind reclusive priest on the building’s top floor.  Shortly after settling in, Alison develops a series of medical drawbacks while becoming acquainted with her eccentric new neighbors.  Unsettled by reoccurring dreams of her recently deceased father and her own previous suicide attempts, Alison’s sanity comes into question after learning she, along with Father Halliran (Carradine), are the only occupants of the apartment complex.  Aided by her boyfriend Michael Lerman (Sarandon), Alison discovers her new home is a gateway to hell that the Catholic Church assign guardians to protect.  While the ailing Father Halliran upholds his duty, Alison has been selected as the next Sentinel for a chance at redemption for her previous sins.  As the demons’ influence take greater hold, Alison’s faith and will to fight back are mankind’s only hope against the forces of darkness.

    Boasting one of the most eclectic casts in 70s horror, The Sentinel continues to tap the hot-button subgenre of religious terror during a time when satan gripped audiences attention.  Matched with underrated makeup effects by Dick Smith (The Exorcist) and bizarre imagery of ballet dancing lesbians fondling themselves, The Sentinel packs a visual identity not soon forgotten.  Considered wildly offensive during its original release for the casting of actors with real-life deformities, Director Michael Winner’s sole horror feature achieves an authentic level of eeriness separating itself from other Catholic based dives into the supernatural.  While generally viewed as a mediocre effort, The Sentinel has rightfully developed an increased appreciation over the decades.  Guided by worthy performances from Raines and Sarandon, along with a scene-stealing Meredith, The Sentinel has kept its hellish inferno burning for viewers to rediscover its chilling charm.

    Scream Factory presents The Sentinel with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a noticeably filmic appearance, skin tones are generally natural looking with colors of the apartment’s greenery and the film’s bloodier moments popping nicely.  Aside from inherent age-related issues of mild scratches and scuffs, detail remains strikingly stable with Dick Smith’s frightening effects better appreciated while, black levels reveal no glaring crushing issues.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible and free of any intruding distortion.  Meanwhile, sound effects and Gil Melle’s (Blood Beach) moody tunes come across effectively.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Jeffrey Konvitz, Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer/Director Michael Winner and Audio Commentary with Actress Cristina Raines.  In addition, Working with Winner: The Making of The Sentinel (23:56) finds Second Assistant Director Ralph S. Singleton discussing his early starts in the industry and his working relationship with the often tough but respected Winner in this engaging featurette.  Furthermore, a Theatrical Trailer (2:35), TV Spots (1:39), Movie Stills (2:47), B&W Press Photos (2:30) and Lobby Cards and Posters (2:34) Photo Galleries round out the supplements.

    Nicely complimenting Scream Factory’s other resurrected religious frightener The Legacy, The Sentinel packs an impressively diverse cast with enough disturbing imagery to cement itself in horror lovers’ subconscious.  Graduating to high-definition with noticeably improved technical merits and a generous supply of bonus content for such an unsung feature, Scream Factory lures you to the hellish underworld with The Sentinel as your ideal host.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 22nd from Scream Factory, The Sentinel can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Report to the Commissioner (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Report to the Commissioner (1975)

    Director: Milton Katselas

    Starring: Michael Moriarty, Yaphet Kotto, Susan Blakely, Hector Elizondo & Tony King

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the gritty landscape of New York City, Report to the Commissioner stars Michael Moriarty (The Stuff) as rookie cop Bo Lockley whose youthful determination leads to the death of a fellow undercover officer.  Yaphet Kotto (Alien), Susan Blakely (The Towering Inferno), Hector Elizondo (Leviathan) and Tony King (Hell Up in Harlem) co-star in this dramatic thriller from the director of When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? 

    Based on the novel by James Mills, Report to the Commissioner opens on the tragic aftermath of a shootout leaving one female victim dead.  Redirecting viewers to the events leading up to this fatal outcome, inexperienced cop Bo Lockley (Moriarty) is assigned to track the whereabouts of a young runaway named Chicklet, rumored to be wandering the streets of the Big Apple.  Unbeknownst to Lockley, the alleged runaway is undercover officer Patty Butler (Blakely), willingly shacking up with heroin pusher Thomas “Stick” Henderson (King) in order to gather hard evidence.  While Lockley acts in good confidence to find the missing girl, his role contrived by his superiors is only meant to further convince Stick of his live-in girlfriend’s false identity.  After being advised to forget Chicklet as quickly as he finds her, Lockley is determined to rescue her causing a violent showdown between the inexperienced officer and the neighborhood drug lord.  Shot on location in the bygone grime of New York City’s grindhouse and strip club infested streets, Report to the Commissioner bolsters a strong supporting cast including, Yaphet Kotto as Lockley’s streetwise partner Richard “Crunch” Blackstone, Hector Elizondo as corrupt Captain D’Angelo and a young Richard Gere (American Gigolo) making his screen debut as a fedora wearing pimp.  In addition, Michael Moriarty carries the film superbly well as the conflicted Lockley struggling to maintain a decent stature while, confronted with the dark underbellies of criminals and interdepartmental politics.  After Butler is killed in the middle of gunfire, a tense chase sequence from rooftops to a stalled elevator shaft ensues between Lockley and Stick, leaving the two soaked in perspiration with their guns permanently pointed at one another.  While Lockley’s fate over the shooting of Butler is heavily questioned for the sake of his superiors’ livelihood, Report to the Commissioner concludes on an unexpectedly somber note that will stay with viewers long after the end credits.  Tightly paced and excellently acted, Report to the Commissioner delivers a hard-nosed tale of crime and undercover investigations come undone, leading to a thrilling conclusion.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Report to the Commissioner with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting natural grain and a noticeably filmic quality, Report to the Commissioner contains only minor flakes in its presentation while, skin tones are lifelike with crisp detail revealing aging lines and constant perspiration in facial closeups.  Meanwhile, black levels contain slightly more speckling without ever compromising watchability.  Joined by a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible even during the film’s many exterior scenes set against the hustle and bustle of New York City streets.  Composer Elmer Bernstein’s (The Great Escape, Ghostbusters) score and the film’s few gunfire moments ring loudly when designated.  Arriving virtually barebones, special features included are limited to the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:21).

    In his second to last feature film, Director Milton Katselas’ exploration of a rookie cop’s idealism amongst the crime and politics of New York City delivers ample drama and action.  Supported by a committed cast and the tonally perfect landscape of the Big Apple’s nearly forgotten dangers, Report to the Commissioner is an exceptional police procedural that showcases the seedier sides of those who are meant to uphold the law.  Graduating to an impressive high-definition transfer, Kino Lorber Studio Classics preserves the rich, filmic quality of this gritty drama much to the delight of viewers.  Suspenseful and action-oriented, Report to the Commissioner earns its badge of approval.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 7th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Report to the Commissioner can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Foxy Brown (1974) Blu-ray Review

    Foxy Brown (1974)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown, Terry Carter, Kathryn Loder & Sid Haig

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blaxploitation bombshell Pam Grier (Coffy) reteams with Director Jack Hill in Foxy Brown.  High on revenge following the murder of her government agent boyfriend, Foxy goes deep undercover into the seedy world of sex trafficking to make those responsible pay with their lives.  Antonio Fargas (Car Wash), Peter Brown (Teenage Tease), Terry Carter (The Phil Silvers Show), Kathryn Loder (Night of the Witches) and Sid Haig (House of 1,000 Corpses) co-star.

    Following the success of Coffy, American International Pictures hoped to recapture the excitement with a sequel before ditching the idea for an original concept.  With Director Jack Hill and star Pam Grier back in the fold, Foxy Brown may not feel wholly original from their previous collaboration but, most certainly excels in every way.  After her delinquent brother offers up her government agent boyfriend as debt clearance, Foxy Brown is determined to take her revenge.  While her occupation is never revealed, Foxy is a whole lot of woman that is capable of handling herself and anyone who steps in her way.  Adorned with flashy outfits and an even more empowering attitude, Pam Grier once again bears her assets to tantalize her way into a sex trafficking ring linked with high-level drug kingpins.  Grier appears more confident in her role as an independent soul that not only thoroughly entertains but, liberated female audiences during the turbulent decade.  With its theme of revenge carried over from Hill’s previous effort, Foxy Brown is noticeably more extreme with Foxy submitted to forced heroin injections and suggested rape only to respond accordingly by lighting her attackers on fire.  In addition, teaming up with a gang of neighborhood avengers, Foxy castrates a criminal in order to deliver his manparts to his prostitute ring leading girlfriend.  Effective and even more savage much to the delight of exploitation enthusiasts, Foxy Brown has little time for jive, delivering viewers one of blaxploitation’s finest and arguably, Grier’s most entertaining performance.

    Olive Films presents Foxy Brown with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Accompanied with fleeting instances of flakes and speckles, the flashy colors found in wardrobe pop nicely with skin tones and detail in facial features benefitting from its hi-def upgrade.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is pleasing while sequences taking place in a crowded bar suffer slightly from too many components overwhelming the track.  Unfortunately, once again surrendering to overseas releases overflowing with supplements, Olive Films provides no special features on this release.

    The creative combination of Director Jack Hill and leading lady Pam Grier has been cemented in the history of cinema as grindhouse gold.  Slicker, sexier and more violent, Foxy Brown stands as one of blaxploitation’s towering achievements and a standout role for Grier that made her an eternal pillar for 42nd Street.  Making its U.S. debut on Blu-ray, Olive Films delivers a transfer well worth celebrating while, the lack of bonus content disappoints.  The strength and essentialness of the film itself warrants Foxy Brown into every blaxploitation fans‘ collection.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 9th from Olive Films, Foxy Brown can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Coffy (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Coffy (1973)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw, Robert DoQui, William Elliott & Sid Haig

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From grindhouse directing icon Jack Hill (Spider Baby, The Big Bird Cage), Coffy stars Pam Grier as Nurse “Coffy” Coffin.  Determined to extract revenge on the drug pushers that hooked her young sister, Coffy uses her undeniable body language and arsenal of heavy firepower to take back the night from society’s scum.  Booker Bradshaw (The Strawberry Statement), Robert DoQui (Robocop), William Elliott (Night of the Lepus), Allan Arbus (Greaser’s Palace) and Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects) co-star.

    Following appearances in several women in prison pictures, Pam Grier would graduate to become one of the fiercest and most beloved icons of blaxploitation cinema.  Shot in a remarkable 18 days and centering on a liberated nurse disgusted with the seedy criminals poisoning society, Nurse “Coffy” Coffin (Grier) takes matters into her own hands to avenge the corruption of her young sister to junkies and their organization.  Demanding your attention from its earliest moments, Grier is a magnetic force of beauty that never shies from using her sexuality to con pimps and dealers before putting a bullet in them.  Simple in its execution with revenge her top priority, the stakes are elevated when thugs land Coffy’s longtime copper friend Carter (Elliott) in the hospital.  Displeased with ridding the city of only street level hustlers, Coffy decides to infiltrate drug kingpins with ties to corrupt city officials.  Engulfed in a world of prostitutes and narcotics, Coffy delivers a glorious highlight reel of exploitation from seedy characters and scantly clad women to a barrage of shootouts and an empowered protagonist that talks the talk and walks the walk.  Ever resourceful with razors stashed in her afro and bursting with nonstop attitude, Coffy is a landmark blaxploitation effort that catapulted Grier’s career to new heights and remains one of her most entertaining and enduring works.

    Olive Films presents Coffy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Exhibiting instances of flakes and speckles, Director Jack Hill’s low-budget effort retains a nice layer of grain while relaying natural skin tones and warm colors.  Black levels are respectable with flakes only slightly more apparent but far from discouraging.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is free of any troubling distortion but occasionally sounds restrained.  Unfortunately, unlike overseas counterparts bursting with bonus content, Olive Films‘ release arrives with no special features.

    Applauded for its tough female lead and exceptional exploitative highlights, Coffy set star Pam Grier on a road to stardom that is still revered today.  Serving as one of the finest examples from blaxploitation’s heyday, Coffy’s vigilante tale of revenge dished out by the baddest chick on the block packs the punches to deserve its rightful praise amongst grindhouse aficionados.  Making its long-awaited domestic HD debut, Olive Films delivers the film with appreciable looks and sounds but, drops the ball with zero special features for such a landmark picture of the 70s.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available June 9th from Olive Films, Coffy can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Massacre Mafia Style (1974) Blu-ray Review

    Massacre Mafia Style (1974)

    Director: Duke Mitchell

    Starring: Duke Mitchell, Vic Caesar, Lorenzo Dodo, Louis Zito & Cara Salerno

    Released by: Grindhouse Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A jack of all trades, Italian-American actor and nightclub singer Duke Mitchell would write, direct, produce and star in his response to The Godfather.  In Massacre Mafia Style, Mitchell portrays Mimi Miceli, the son of a mafia kingpin determined to carve a name out for himself by embarking on a bloody crime spree through Hollywood.  Low-budget and intensely violent, Massacre Mafia Style promises “more, guts, action and dynamite” than Francis Ford Coppola’s critically acclaimed gangster opus.

    As a noted nightclub singer who would transition to film with such appearances in Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, Duke Mitchell would graduate to producing his own feature ingrained in his Italian heritage.  Following the massive success of 1972’s The Godfather, Mitchell found a low-budget mafia picture a natural fit to spread his creative wings, wearing several hats on the production including, directing and starring.  Opening with an office building massacre at the hands of Mimi Miceli (Mitchell) and his associate to the upbeat tunes of Mitchell’s own recordings, Massacre Mafia Style makes firm on its promise of more violence than its Academy Award-winning predecessor.  Deported back to Sicily following his rampant crime activity in America, mafia kingpin Don Mimi (Lorenzo Dodo) is confronted with his son Mimi’s desire to reenter the mafia underworld.  Intent on relocating the action of New York City to Hollywood, Mimi travels to sunny California to rekindle his friendship with bartender Jolly (Vic Caesar, Alice Goodbody).  Joining forces with the former drink pusher, Mimi rattles the chains of west coast mob bosses by taking one ransom and wooing the girlfriend (Cara Salerno) of another to prove he means business.  As his notoriety rises, Mimi focuses his attention on bringing down Superspook (Jimmy Williams, Cockfighter), a noted pimp claiming ownership of prime real estate in the city.  Unwilling to easily surrender his turf and women, Mimi is at odds with his violent rise to power and may have bargained for more than he can handle.

    Unquestionably produced on a lower scale than Coppola’s masterpiece, Massacre Mafia Style pushes its exploitative nature of rampant shootouts and over-the-top bloodshed, juxtaposed with jovial music to delightful measure.  Independently funded and shot over the course of weekends in Los Angeles, Duke Mitchell embodies a captivating presence as a ruthless crime boss with a genuine knack for earnest mafioso speech most notably, during a sequence where Mitchell explains how men like himself have disgraced their Sicilian heritage.  Underneath its undeniable cult appeal and entertaining performances, Massacre Mafia Style injects a genuine context for fathers and sons that elevates the picture from other exploitation cash-in attempts.  A goldmine discovery for cult enthusiasts, Massacre Mafia Style stands as a testament of Duke Mitchell’s uncorrupted vision that takes gangster pictures to bloody, fun heights.

    Grindhouse Releasing presents Massacre Mafia Style with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Painstakingly restored, Duke Mitchell’s directorial debut bursts onto high-definition with excellent clarity putting to shame hazy VHS releases from yesteryear.  Appearing near immaculate with only scant traces of scratches, Massacre Mafia Style dazzles with warm skin tones and crisp detail in facial features.  Colors pop magnificently with bright red bloodshed bursting off the screen and black levels in top shape with no crushing on display.  A labor of love, Grindhouse Releasing’s transfer is the definitive statement on this cult favorite.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, the digital restoration of the original soundtrack keeps dialogue audible and clear with climatic gunshots and Mitchell’s songs packing a solid punch while, hiss is kept at bay and never intrusive.  Overflowing with impressive bonus content, special features include, Like Father, Like Son: Duke and Jeffrey Mitchell (43:33), an in-depth featurette detailing the relationship between the film’s star and real life son as well as Mitchell’s career highlights.  Also included, Matt Climber and Jim LoBianco Interviews (10:11), Duke Mitchell Home Movies (52:00), a Theatrical Trailer (2:18), five Radio Spots, five Still Galleries consisting of over 200 images, a Duke Mitchell Filmography, Cara Salerno Filmography and Grindhouse Releasing Prevues.  In addition and most excitingly, a bonus feature film, 1952’s Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (74:19) is included along with its Theatrical Trailer (2:10) and Still Gallery (34 in total).  Plus, a bonus TV special, An Impressionistic Tribute to Jimmy Durante (37:05), accompanied with Durante 16mm Dailies (6:31), a 10-page booklet with an essay from David Szulkin and a DVD edition of the release round out the grandiose supplemental package.   

    Also known as Like Father, Like Son and The Executioner, Massacre Mafia Style’s appeal has grown increasingly through theatrical revival screenings and steady word of mouth.  After nearly 20 years of tireless labor and dedication, Grindhouse Releasing’s Bob Murawksi and the late Sage Stallone’s efforts have paid off in spades with one of the finest treatments and restorations granted to a nearly forgotten gem of cinema.  Exploding with bloodshed and action, Duke Mitchell’s vision of mafia lifestyles and criminal activity unloads a firestorm of exploitation greatness that will easily appease the most casual of cult enthusiasts.  If you’re not in with Massacre Mafia Style, you’re in the way!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Grindhouse Releasing, Massacre Mafia Style can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.  

  • Blacula (1972) / Scream Blacula Scream (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Blacula (1972) / Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

    Director(s): William Crain / Bob Kellijan

    Starring: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee & Thalmus Rasulala / William Marshall, Pam Grier & Don Mitchell

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Adhering to the cries from the children of the night, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, delivers two long-awaited blaxploitation classics!  Taking place in 1780 Transylvania, Blacula centers on African Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall, Pee-wee’s Playhouse) as he seeks Count Dracula’s assistance in ending slave trade.  Instead, the evil count transforms the prince into a vampire and banishes him to a coffin.  Released nearly two centuries later, Blacula stalks the streets of Los Angeles for blood and a woman (Vonetta McGee, Melinda) he believes to be his reincarnated wife.  Thalmus Rasulala (Willie Dynamite), Denise Nicholas (Room 222) and Gordon Pinsent (Babar) co-star.  Next up, Scream Blacula Scream finds Willis Daniels (Richard Lawson, Poltergeist), the son of a late high priestess, fuming over his cult’s decision to nominate his foster sister Lisa (Pam Grier, Coffy) as their new leader.  Intending to curse Lisa with voodoo magic, Willis unknowingly resurrects the black bloodsucker, hungry for more bloodshed.  Don Mitchell (Ironside), Lynne Moody (That’s My Mama) and Michael Conrad (The Longest Yard) co-star.

    Released the same year as seminal blaxploitation classic, Super Fly, Blacula would not only follow suit in influencing the urban genre’s popularity but, would also become the first film named Best Horror Film of its year by the Saturn Awards.  Its period piece opening with the articulate Prince Mamuwalde (Marshall) urging Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay, Brute Corps) to assist in the demise of slave trading kicks the film off on a unique note.  Doused in appropriately gothic atmosphere, Dracula wastes little time feeding on his guest, transforming him into a vampire.  Locked away in a coffin for centuries, two flamboyant interior decorators unleash Blacula into modern day Los Angeles where flashy clothing and jive talkin‘ is commonplace.  Thirsting for blood, Blacula is quickly transfixed with the beautiful Tina (McGee) who bears a striking similarity to his late wife.  As bizarre murders of victims drained of blood begin occurring, Tina’s sister, Michelle (Nicholas), and her pathologist boyfriend, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Rasulala), grow suspicious, while, Tina falls deeper in love with the true culprit.  Complimented by its comical dialogue and a memorable club performance by The Hues Corporation, Blacula is slightly by the numbers but, greatly entertains thanks to Marshall’s commanding performance.  With a bloody yet, surprisingly poetic finale, Blacula is an enjoyable slice of blaxploitation horror with a dignified depiction of its antagonist and an equally funky and brooding score, compliments of Composer Gene Page (Brewster McCloud).  Continuously growing in popularity, Blacula would become one of the top moneymakers of 1972 and pave the way for a minor wave of other blaxploitation-horror efforts.

    From the director of Count Yorga, Vampire and its respective sequel, Scream Blacula Scream blends the worlds of voodoo and vampirism to great effect.  Vowing to take revenge against his foster sister Lisa (Grier) after being ejected from their peaceful cult, Willis (Lawson) uses voodoo practices in hopes to curse her.  Unfortunately, Willis revives the black prince of shadows to continue his reign of terror with the assistance of an undead army.  Where its predecessor may have slightly lacked in style, Scream Blacula Scream excels mixing African folklore and a more prominent blaxploitation attitude.  Co-starring genre goddess Pam Grier (Black Mama White Mama, Foxy Brown), this followup contains a tighter storyline, higher body count and more memorable performances, sure to quench the thirst of viewers.  As Blacula finds a kindred spirit in Lisa and sees her voodoo abilities as invaluable, her ex-detective boyfriend Justin Carter (Mitchell), finds the suspicious murders of fellow cult members far from a coincidence.  After heavily researching the occult, Justin is convinced a vampire is responsible and summons his former LAPD lieutenant to help track the nightcrawler.  Forever conflicted with his need to consume blood, Blacula urges to Lisa to use her voodoo spells to end his vampiric curse.  With a final showdown between Justin, joined by the LAPD, and Blacula’s minions, Scream Blacula Scream is endlessly entertaining and in the rare instance, surpasses its originator.  

    Scream Factory debuts Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream with 1080p transfers, both sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  While, the original film shows only minor instances of flakes and speckles with decent visibility during dimly lit sequences, both films greatly shine with bold colors, rich detail in facial features and their flashy 70s wardrobe.  Undeniably, both films look wonderful in high-definition with Scream Blacula Scream squeaking by as the frontrunner with a virtually spotless appearance.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films have no audio dropouts to report but, Blacula bears a noticeably tinny sound, creating an occasionally tedious echo effect, most noticeably during scenes at Count Dracula’s castle.  That said, dialogue is still audible with the sequel once again reigning supreme with a tinny-less mix and effective pitch during more horrific sequences.  In addition, special features include, an educational Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian David F. Walker on Blacula, joined by a Photo Gallery (68 in total) and Theatrical Trailer (1:54).  Finally, Scream Blacula Scream arrives with Interview with the Vampire’s Assistant: Richard Lawson from Scream Blacula Scream (13:35).  Lawson recalls his luck of winning the part of Willis, his fond memories of William Marshall and Pam Grier as well as his thoughts on the steady popularity of the Blacula films.  A Photo Gallery (69 in total) and Theatrical Trailer (2:03) for the sequel round out the disc’s supplemental offerings.

    Influential in the growing success of blaxploitation, Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream are a winning duo of entertaining vampire tales with an added dose of blackitude.  Intellectual and hypnotizing, William Marshall delights in his most memorable role as the African prince turned bloodsucker that stands proudly next to previous interpretations of the iconic Dracula character.  While, the original Blacula sets a terrific pace, its 1973 sequel is the more satisfying entry with a tighter storyline, voodoo worship and blaxploitation queen Pam Grier making an appearance.  Scream Factory debuts both films with gorgeous high-definition transfers, suitable sound mixes and a small but, worthwhile share of special features.  Deadlier than Dracula, the black prince of shadows makes a bloody fun splash in his only two outings, well worth adding into your tomb of terror.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 3rd from Scream Factory, Blacula / Scream Blacula Scream can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • God Told Me To (1976) Blu-ray Review

    God Told Me To (1976)

    Director: Larry Cohen

    Starring: Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin, Sandy Dennis, Richard Lynch & Mike Kellin

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Larry Cohen (Bone, It’s Alive), God Told Me To takes place on the streets of New York City where random acts of mass homicide are committed with the killers insisting God advised them to.  As NYPD Detective Peter J. Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco, The Honeymoon Killers) investigates the bizarre crimes, the repressed Catholic uncovers an underworld of twisted faith, corruption and supernatural occurrences hellbent on damning mankind.  Deborah Raffin (Death Wish 3), Sandy Dennis (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), Sylvia Sydney (Beetlejuice), Richard Lynch (Bad Dreams), Mike Kellin (Sleepaway Camp) and Andy Kaufman (Taxi) co-star.

    As citizens of the Big Apple were overwhelmed with fear as the Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, reigned his own terror, Director Larry Cohen would return to his beloved city to helm one of his most memorable films.  Incorporating the harsh realities of senseless murder, God Told Me To pulls no punches with its grizzly opening of a rooftop sniper picking off innocent pedestrians.  Estranged from his wife and committed to a new girlfriend, NYPD Detective Peter J. Nicholas (Lo Bianco) attempts to make peace with the mild-mannered shooter when asking for his homicidal motive.  Before willingly leaping to his death, the shooter claims God himself told him to kill, chilling Nicholas to the core.  In the wake of the horrific incident, more God-advised killings take place including, a loving father blowing his family away with a shotgun and a fellow cop (Andy Kaufman in his debut film appearance) heading a shooting spree during the city’s iconic St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Determined to crack the case, Nicolas spearheads an investigation that will open doors connecting him to the godless violence plaguing the city.  Realistically violent and gorgeously capturing New York City’s less than savory appearances, God Told Me To is a molotov cocktail of exploitation entertainment.  Tony Lo Bianco’s performance as the conflicted Catholic detective is played with terrific pathos and the proper gruff to believably sell a seasoned cop with the experiences to back it up.  

    Blending the worlds of the police procedural and the occult, God Told Me To never allows the viewer to get too comfortable before switching gears once again.  Dirty cops, the religiously unbalanced and interdimensional beings with a penchant for impregnating virgins sends this cult classic in countless directions with consistently pleasing results.  With his own faith waining, Nicholas zeroes in on his verdict to reveal a grim ending destined to leave a lasting impact on its audience.  Supported by a cast of respected cult stars, God Told Me To is a disturbing slice of real world terror meets the supernatural, orchestrated by 42nd Street legend Larry Cohen who glorifies the 1970s wasteland of New York City like few filmmakers can.

    Blue Underground proudly presents God Told Me To in 1080p, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Newly transferred in 4K from the original uncensored negative, Larry Cohen’s cult classic shines like never before.  A filmic layer of grain is well intact with a nearly spotless appearance making way for added appreciation of warm skin pigments and sharp detail.  Dimly lit sequences are vastly improved over the previous DVD release with visibility all the more enhanced.  Unquestionably, God Told Me To arrives with its definitive transfer and one of Blue Underground’s most noted accomplishments to date.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, God Told Me To sounds strong with audible dialogue levels and an impressive balance of authority during crowded city scenes and sharp gunshots.  In addition, optional Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes have been included for your listening pleasure.  Ported over from its previous DVD release, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Larry Cohen, moderated by Blue Underground’s Bill Lustig, has been included.  In addition, newly added bonus features, produced by Red Shirt Pictures, include, Heaven & Hell On Earth: Interview with Star Tony Lo Bianco (11:27) with the lead actor reminiscing on the film’s shoot and his fond memories of his late fellow co-stars and Bloody Good Times: Interview with Special Effects Artist Steve Neill (9:09) finds Neill providing a brief career retrospective and his various collaborations with Larry Cohen. Plus, other new supplements include, God Told Me To Bone: New Beverly Q&A with Larry Cohen (21:14) and a Lincoln Center Q&A with Larry Cohen (8:06).  Finally, two Theatrical Trailers (2:07), seven TV Spots (3:30) and a Poster & Still Gallery (42 in total) round out the disc’s impressive bonus offerings.

    Amongst an abundance of cult favorites including, Q: The Winged Serpent and The Stuff, Director Larry Cohen’s God Told Me To is a crowning achievement of exploitation filmmaking.  An entertaining blend of genres carried out by a wickedly talented cast and doused in a disturbingly somber tone, God Told Me To is an unholy alliance of drive-in staples.  Blue Underground’s gorgeous 4K transfer and first-class supplements not only solidify the film’s place on home video but, marks one of the distributors finest releases to date.  Forewarned on its artwork to contain scenes of violence and intense horror, God Told Me To makes good on its promise, deeming this jaw-dropping Cohen concoction an essential piece of exploitation.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Blue Underground, God Told Me To can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Love at First Bite (1979) / Love at First Bite (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Love at First Bite (1979) / Once Bitten (1985)

    Director(s): Stan Dragoti / Howard Storm 

    Starring: George Hamilton, Susan Saint James & Richard Benjamin / Jim Carrey, Lauren Hutton & Cleavon Little  

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents a pair of neck biting vampire comedies sure to tickle your funny bones!  First up, Love at First Bite stars George Hamilton (Zorro: The Gay Blade) as Count Dracula who, after being banished from his castle must relocate to New York City.  Out of touch with the times and society, the Count is determined to woo an attractive fashion model if the big city doesn’t swallow him first.  Susan Saint James (Kate & Allie), Richard Benjamin (Westworld) and Arte Johnson (Evil Toons) co-star.  Next up, Once Bitten finds Jim Carrey, in one of his earliest roles, as shy, awkward Mark Kendall.  When a sexy vampire countess (Lauren Hutton, American Gigolo) targets Mark’s virginal blood to retain her youthful beauty, a frantic race against time ensues to seduce Mark for good before he sheds his virginity.  Karen Kopins (Troop Beverly Hills) and Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles) co-star.

    Considered one of the top grossing films of its year, Love at First Bite focuses on the Count when his own locals grow tired of his antics, banishing him from his own castle.  Joined by his faithful companion Renfield (Johnson), Count Dracula heads to the Big Apple to start anew while, prowling for flashy fashion model, Cindy Sondheim (Saint James), who he’s admired from afar.  George Hamilton makes a convincing, if not strikingly tan, Dracula with a Lugosi-like accent firmly in place.  The hard-drinking, psychologist dependent Cindy falls victim to the charms of the Count while, her shrink and beau, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg (hilariously played by Richard Benjamin), takes none too kindly to the caped foreigner.  As a descendent of Van Helsing, Rosenberg (name changed strictly for “professional reasons”) vows to destroy Count Dracula once and for all.  While, Love at First Bite accounts for several humorous moments including, Rosenberg attempting to harm the Count with a Star of David instead of a cross and a barrage of comical cameos from The Jeffersons‘ Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford plus, Barry Gordon (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Michael Pataki (Rocky IV), the film suffers from a slight identity crisis.  Favoring its more romantic angle at times over knee-slapping laughs, Love at First Bite doesn’t reach its full potential but, does manage to capture the Big Apple during the last gasps of disco.  Joined by a groovy dance sequence between Hamilton and Saint James to Alicia Bridges‘ “I Love the Nightlife” (previously removed on past home video releases), Love at First Bite is a charming time capsule with noticeable wire-hanging bats and a memorable gothic score from Charles Bernstein (A Nightmare on Elm Street).

    An unabashed childhood favorite, Once Bitten pushes its teen comedy angle instead of attracting screams.  Hollywood newcomer Jim Carrey headlines as the slightly awkward 18-year-old Mark Kendall, determined to lose his virginity to girlfriend Robin (Kopins) to no avail.  A far cry from the comedic force the world would know a few short years later, Carrey’s nervousness plays to the advantage of his character.  Lauren Hutton stuns as the seductive Countess hellbent on literally milking Mark for his virginal blood.  After a one-night stand with the blonde bombshell, Mark begins growing paler and resistant to bright lights as his fixation on her strengthens.  Robin, along with Mark’s bumbling Burger Circus employee best friends, Jamie and Russ (Thomas Ballatore and Skip Lackey, respectively), become concerned with his appearance, the trio begin investigating.  Hilariously, Jamie and Russ decide to locate fang bites on Mark’s body in the locker room showers prompting gay gossip headlines among the other students.  With the Countess aided by her flamboyant butler (Little), a public attempt to lure Mark’s attention takes place at the high school Halloween bop.  Marking one of the cheesiest dance-offs of the 1980s, Kopins and Hutton battle for Carrey’s attention to the sounds of Maria Vidal’s “Hands Off” with hilarious choreography to boot.  As time looms, the Countess must continue feeding off of Mark’s blood before, his virginity is taken and her youthful looks gone, leading to a final chase and escape sequence at the Countess‘ upscale mansion.  Much like its 1970s co-feature, Once Bitten captures mid-80s Hollywood hot spots in all their neon glory with genuine punks and valley girls walking the streets.  Complimented with a synth-heavy, guitar riffing score from John Du Prez (UHF), Once Bitten unapologetically follows tropes of past teen comedies but, remains a nostalgic trip of cheese to please.  

    Scream Factory presents Love at First Bite and Once Bitten with 1080p transfers, both sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Marking their Blu-ray debuts, Love at First Bite arrives with slightly murky black levels seen mostly in Dracula’s fog-entrenched castle.  Colors are generally satisfying with warm skin tones and inky blacks relayed in Hamilton’s caped attire.  Instances of flakes and speckles are apparent but, far from intrude, leaving the film with pleasing clarity.  Meanwhile, Once Bitten kicks off with a softer appearance seen in the Countess‘ bright white mansion before transitioning to a lively picture of, at times, bursting color.  Skin tones are accurate with bold colors, most noticeably the Burger Circus‘ exterior and Mark’s ice cream truck, leaping off the screen while, scuffs and scratches are virtually nonexistent on this satisfying HD upgrade.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films have no trouble relaying dialogue while, musical moments such as, Love at First Bite’s “I Love the Nightlife” dance number and Once Bitten’s Halloween bop sequence, offer a nice additional boost in quality.  Relatively light on special features, this double feature of vampiric laughs comes with a Love at First Bite Theatrical Trailer (3:03) and Radio Spots (2:03) whereas, Once Bitten receives a Theatrical Trailer (0:57).

    Experimenting with new ground, Scream Factory takes a break from their bonafide horror classics to treat viewers with a double feature of fangtastic comedies.  While, Love at First Bite has its charms with memorable comedic cameos, nostalgia reigns supreme awarding Once Bitten the frontrunner of this collection.  Bare on special features, both films make their Blu-ray debuts with pleasing technical honors that should easily appease fans.  The blending of frightful funnies is a welcome change of pace for Scream Factory aficionados and one that will hopefully persist in the future.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available February 10th, Love at First Bite / Once Bitten can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Squirm Collector's Edition (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Squirm (1976)

    Director: Jeff Lieberman

    Starring: Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, R.A. Dow, Jean Sullivan & Peter MacLean

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of Jeff Lieberman (Just Before Dawn, Remote Control), this Southern spine-tingler is guaranteed to get under your skin.  Joining the ranks of their esteemed collector’s editions, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents Squirm on Blu-ray for the first time in the U.S.  Oozing with newly produced special features and retro-style artwork courtesy of Paul Shipper, Squirm will send you running for higher ground.

    Set in the deep south of Georgia, Squirm focuses on the aftermath of a powerful storm that has electrically charged the wet soil, causing bloodthirsty worms to rise.  When the fishing village of Fly Creek becomes overrun with terror, a group of locals must fend for themselves to survive the carnivorous creatures.  Don Scardino (director of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone), Patricia Pearcy (Cockfigher), R.A. Down, Jean Sullivan (Escape in the Desert) and Peter MacLean (Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo) star.

    MOVIE:

    On par with other “nature gone wild” efforts such as Day of the Animals and Dogs, Squirm rises above most exploitation fare due to its patient storytelling.  Maintaining a steady pace and allowing characters to properly develop, Squirm chooses to charm its audience instead of overwhelming with constant carnage.  Establishing a genuinely Southern tone and casting local talent, the humid, insect infested backwoods serves as an ideal setting for this creature feature.  Following a series of brutal storms causing fallen power lines, Geri (Pearcy) welcomes her city dwelling boyfriend, Mick (Scardino), to her neck of the woods.  Before long, the two lovebirds happen upon human remains with no luck of convincing the town sheriff of their existence.  In true Scooby-Doo fashion, the two make it their duty to get to the bottom of the dead bodies and the increased volume of worms in the area.  Unfortunately, as night falls so does the worms’ hunger for human flesh causing mass panic in the town of Fly Creek.  While, Squirm takes its time before true terror ensues, its final act of blackness and claustrophobia is well worth the wait.  In addition, the convincingly gory make-up effects, achieved by a young Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, Ed Wood), add another layer of genre appreciation to revel in Squirm.

    Well acted and undeniably soaking in B-movie charm, Squirm’s only minor setback falls in its ending which feels rather abrupt, leaving the viewer with questions rather than answers.  Nonetheless, Squirm is a wildly entertaining effort filled with cheesy Southern accents, impressive make-up effects and a creepy tone, courtesy of its slimy critters, that propels Squirm to the front line of 1970s creature features.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Squirm arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of murky stock footage during its opening, Squirm impresses with a clean appearance, leaving flakes and speckles to a minimum.  In addition, skin tones are warm and accurate with fine detail picked up in close-ups.  Natural grain is firmly intact, retaining an uncompromised filmic appearance.  Black levels, most appreciated during the film’s final act, are satisfying with respectable visibility.  Bracing for only mildly decent quality due to the film’s low-budget, Squirm has never looked better and greatly improves on past releases.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, Squirm is never wildly dynamic but, succeeds where it counts.  Dialogue is always clear and concise while, Composer Robert Prince’s (Night Gallery, Gargoyles) warp sounding score adds effective ambiance.  Scenes of creepy crawling carnage also add an extra, albeit contained, boost in authority.  Instances of hiss and pops are featured but fail to do any disruptive harm.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jeff Lieberman: Ported over from the previous DVD release.

    • Digging In: The Making of Squirm (33:11): Writer/Director Jeff Lieberman and Star Don Scardino share informative anecdotes about the production including its origins, casting (Pearcy beat out a young Kim Basinger for her role) and shooting on location.  Lengthy and detailed, Lieberman and Scardino look back on the film with vivid recollections of the experience.

    • Eureka! With Jeff Lieberman (7:04): Lieberman serves as your guide as he journeys back to his childhood home to retrace the early ideas of Squirm.

    • Theatrical Trailer (1:56)

    • TV Spot (0:55)

    • Radio Spot (1:01)

    • Still Gallery: 25 in total.

    • More from Scream Factory: Trailers include Pumpkinhead, Motel Hell and The Beast Within.

    • Reversible Cover Art: Utilizing the memorable Drew Struzan 1-sheet.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    Arriving on Blu-ray for the time in the U.S., Squirm is an essential addition to the Scream Factory library, filling the void of prominent creature features.  Endlessly fun and oozing with worm-infested debauchery, Squirm basks in its B-movie agenda much to the delight of likeminded viewers.  Once again, Scream Factory chalks up another stellar collector’s edition entry with exceptional technical merits and fan pleasing extras courtesy by the uber-talented Aine Leicht.  Sealed with gloriously slimy new artwork from Paul Shipper, Squirm Collector’s Edition makes it an easy skin-crawling selection to curl up with.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available October 28th, Squirm Collector's Edition can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 DVD Review

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3
    Director(s): Unknown
    Starring: Annie Sprinkle, John Holmes, Susan Nero, Bobby Astyr and Jamie Gillis
    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Impulse Pictures wastes no time welcoming viewers back to the dingy underworld of 42nd Street sleaze.  Another round of classic adult loops make up this copious collection of hardcore hijinks.  Re-mastered in high-definition, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 is a look back at nasty nudies from the golden era of grime.

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 features 15 8mm adult loops from the 1970s and 1980s.  Totaling nearly two hours worth of content, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 invites the seediest of voyeurs to saddle up with vintage stag reels featuring Annie Sprinkle, John Holmes, Susan Nero, Bobby Astyr and Jamie Gillis.

    MOVIE(s):
    Whether you were hunting the back of sex magazines or staking claim in one of the many peep show booths located in the country, a vast variety of hardcore stag reels were never in shortage.  42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 continues to award adult entertainment hounds with all the skin it can handle in two hours.  Karen finds a beautiful blonde, presumably the title character, rocking an Andy Warhol’s Bad shirt as her and her lover read up on the art of massaging.  Deep throating eventually turns into manual and doggy-style positioning before concluding with an Elmer’s Glue-like eruption on Karen’s face.  Don’t Splash finds a man, with a supremely 70s stache, and woman trading off oral and finger foreplay before the main event.  The nameless auteurs work is highlighted when a final climax shot is captured in slow-motion.  Classy!  Last Tango in Paris kicks off basic enough with a couple killing time at a poolside bar before some private fun.  Far from shy, the woman loves looking directly into the camera lens as she goes down on John Holmes’ uncircumcised shaft.  Things take an odd turn when Holmes uses butter as a lubricant before entering the backdoor.  Meanwhile, in Uncle Harry a schoolgirl virgin is given a pair of roller skates by her lusting uncle.  Sex ensues but, our virgin has tremendous difficulty placing a condom on her mate before oral play can proceed.  Finally, Uncle Harry of course rises to the occasion with his naughty niece chugging away at the prize that awaits inside.  Love Machines centers on two attractive lesbians getting hot and heavy before one of the girls intensely uses a strap-on, doggy style on her lover.  Shortly after, a buffet commences with salad tossing as the main course.  Other notable reels include Army Bitches, Playgirls (featuring Annie Sprinkle) and Her First Experience with two jailbait looking lesbians getting frisky before one gets basked in a golden shower.  42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 concludes on The Barbarian Girls, an incredibly bizarre and violent reel kicking off with two women wandering aimlessly before arguably, the worst fake hit and run takes place.  The injured female is quickly taken by her Ronald McDonald wig wearing companion to a secluded location to be tortured.  Bound by rope, the victim is whipped repeatedly before a sharp instrument is used on her no-no zone resulting in a bloody mess.  The nightmare seems almost over until the torturer puts her prisoner out of misery by stabbing her to death.  Somber and creepy, The Barbarian Girls is most certainly not for the squeamish.

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 does it again, providing former peep show attendees a diverse line-up of salacious material to escape in.  Treading on waters pertaining to straight and lesbian encounters, The Barbarian Girls is certainly the most eccentric of the bunch leaving you more spooked than aroused.  Nonetheless, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 does its service of putting these long dormant stag reels back into the laps of the perverts who adore them.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Remastered in high-definition from original film prints, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 is presented full frame sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  On par with previous volumes in the collection, the reels are loaded with scratches, lines and debris, but still watchable.  Offered with a “play all” option or an individual loop select feature, some reels suffer from more blown out light than others due to the cheap, unprofessional nature of the shooting.  Capturing the sleazy atmosphere you’d expect, these reels don’t look pretty but reek of their bygone period which is welcoming.    
    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 only presents a projector sound effect.
    RATING: -/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Liner notes from Cinema Sewer Publisher, Robin Bougie: Bougie compliments this release with his latest essay, Dear Old Dad.  Bougie touches upon the lengths Americans would go to procure stag reels before the dawn of the internet.  In addition, Bougie discusses finding his own father’s porn stash as a way of “passing the torch”.  A master of sleaze, even Bougie warns viewers of The Barbarian Girls‘ nightmarish nature.     

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 is another fitting entry into the endless world of hardcore stag reels.  Erotically charged and amateurishly shot, these grainy short form sex flicks capture skintastic footage, all in desirable close-ups.  Passionate porn enthusiasts will be delighted to own this retro compilation of steamy cinema from Impulse Pictures.   
    RATING: 3/5

  • 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 DVD Review

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2
    Director(s): Unknown
    Starring: Desiree Cousteau, Candida Royalle, Chris Cassidy & John Holmes
    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The unabashed building blocks of Times Square’s lovingly dingy peak years have returned!  Impulse Pictures proudly welcomes you back to a time where the insertion of quarters could open an endless world of sexual fantasy right before your eyes with 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2.  Re-mastered in high-definition, classic 8mm loops with familiar adult entertainment faces are included in this tantalizing time capsule.

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 features 15 8mm adult loops from the 1970s and 1980s.  Totaling over two hours worth of content, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 check marks a wide range of fetishes with noteworthy appearances from Desiree Cousteau, Candida Royalle, Chris Cassidy & John Holmes.

    MOVIE(s):
    Private peep show booths were the original gateways for those longing sexual stimulation, all at the price of a few coins.  Generally spanning 15 minute stretches, these hardcore loops presented no shortage of fantasies for those in need of relief.  42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 compiles another wild variety of loops sure to please the most dedicated of adult cinema fans.  California Girl finds a woman sitting at a basement bar stand while trying to seduce an uninterested man reading his newspaper.  Before long, our horny vixen administers oral pleasure to set the pace, prompting our male player to repay her with a golden shower.  In one of the collections sleazier pieces, Ripe Tomato finds an attractive woman doing yard work before taking a nude break in her bedroom.  A male intruder breaks in and forces himself on the clearly resistant female.  What follows is a series of blow jobs, doggy-style positioning and an expected climax on the victims face.  Uncomfortable and dirty, Ripe Tomato is definitely made for fans of roughies.  Meanwhile, Fucking United finds lesbian stewardesses walking in on a man getting very friendly with a pillow.  Clearly, the more are the merrier as the group enter into a sexy three way.  Other memorable untitled loops include a trio of bachelors inviting a group of ladies into their pad for a giant orgy that includes strap-ons and more.  

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 is made for porn connoisseurs hungry for the nostalgic days of seedy adult establishments.  While, there is plenty of skin and hardcore footage on display, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 works best as a wonderful time capsule of the glorious trash infested days of Times Square which are unfortunately behind us.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Remastered in high-definition from original film prints, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 is presented full frame sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Needless to say, these stag reels look as rough as one could imagine.  Offered with a “play all” option or an individual loop select feature, scratches, lines and washed out colors dominate the reels that are surprisingly still watchable.  Keeping a firm understanding of the content, these loops appear as good as they possibly could be, which was probably never very clean to begin with.  That said, the rough, grindhouse condition of these loops feels accurate to their period and compliments the nostalgic experience nicely.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 only presents a projector sound effect.
    RATING: -/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Liner notes from Cinema Sewer Publisher, Robin Bougie: Bougie returns with 8mm Memories, a fine essay establishing stag films’ place in history.  Bougie’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the adult cinema world is vast and humorous making his inclusion on these releases always a welcome one.  

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 is another worthwhile entry in Impulse Pictures’ successful line.  With over two hours of hardcore content, these 8mm loops offer a wild and salacious variety of sexual situations, porn lovers will eat up.  Presented as dirty and scratchy as the content, this latest collection brings viewers back to a sleazier time where sticky theater floors were attributed to more than just soda spills.  42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #2 comes recommended as a nostalgic reminder of how far our sleaze has traveled.
    RATING: 3/5

  • The Mechanic (1972) Blu-ray Review

    The Mechanic (1972)
    Director: Michael Winner
    Starring: Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Keenan Wynn & Jill Ireland
    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their working relationship, Director Michael Winner (The Sentinel) and star Charles Bronson (Mr. Majestyk) re-team for a tale about professionalism.  Tough and weathered, Bronson brings his always reliable acting chops to the table that would propel him to superstardom two short years later with Death Wish.  Stylistically taken for granted today, The Mechanic stands tall as a character-driven action thriller with stellar performances and an effective score from Composer Jerry Fielding (The Wild Bunch).  Available in a limited edition of 3,000 units, Twilight Time proudly presents this long appreciated Winner/Bronson collaboration for the first time on Blu-ray!

    The Mechanic stars Charles Bronson as Arthur Bishop, a professional hitman feeling the stress of his work.  After striking up a friendship with a hungry up-and-comer (Jan-Michael Vincent), the student/teacher partnership slowly unravels into dangerous territory.  Keenan Wynn (Nashville) and Jill Ireland (Hard Times) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    Kicking off with a 16-minute dialogue free introduction, The Mechanic quickly draws you into the gritty Los Angeles landscape and Bronson’s calculated surveillance of his next victim.  The fly on the wall approach as we witness Bronson’s crafty steps to ensure the job looks like an accident makes the viewer feel as if they are part of the hit.  Shortly after, Arthur Brooks (Bronson) is summoned by a friend of his late father (Keenan Wynn) for protection only to have Brooks double cross him in the way of business.  Ruthless yet reserved, Brooks is growing tired of his lifestyle and yearns for normalcy.  Returning home to what appears to be a beautiful girlfriend (played by Bronson’s real life wife, Jill Ireland) anxiously awaiting his presence, the two engage in a night of passionate lovemaking.  The following morning, Brooks is seen paying the woman and complimenting her on her role-playing skills, further cementing Brooks’ desire for a regular existence.  The void in Brooks’ life is filled in the form of Steve McKeena, (Jan-Michael Vincent), son of Brook’s last hit.  Surprisingly, McKeena’s determination impresses the seasoned hitman and the two form a partnership.  Deadly and less cautious, McKeena is the perfect contrast to Brooks’ old-school yet effective methods.  Thrilling sequences for the team include a hit gone wrong, escalating into a high-stakes motorcycle chase.

    Director Michael Winner’s focused and quick cut style keeps the energy high as Brooks and McKeena’s relationship is tested as the apprentice challenges the teacher.  Brooks’ anxiety and frequent fainting bouts doesn’t help matters as McKeena becomes more unpredictable.  Leading to an exciting third act with twists at every turn, The Mechanic is a testament to the changing climate in Hollywood at the time where gritty, independent cinema was beginning to take hold.  Remade in 2011 with Jason Statham (Crank) and Ben Foster (Lone Survivor) starring, Michael Winner’s original 1972 thriller maintains true style and Bronson’s steady performance would help reinvent the action star image for a new decade.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Twilight Time presents The Mechanic with a 1080p transfer sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Retaining natural grain, The Mechanic looks very pleasing and accurately captures its 70s city landscapes.  Flakes and specks are at a minimum with colors and detail popping nicely.  With the exception of some softer-looking scenes, The Mechanic looks more than satisfying.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, The Mechanic comes in loud and rather robust at times.  Dialogue is crisp while scenes of gunfire and explosions fill your speakers with force.  No noticeable distortion was found, making the audio treatment on par with the film’s excellent transfer.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Cinematographer Richard H. Kline: Moderated by film historian Nick Redman, Kline sits down for his first commentary discussing his early beginnings as a camera operator at Columbia Pictures as well as making over 100 films under Sam Katzman before eventually becoming a director of photography.  Kline recalls his working relationship with Director Michael Winner on several projects and regards him as a focused and talented artist.  Redman does his homework and engages Kline with great questions making this commentary a very beneficial one to listen to.

    - Isolated Score Track: Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

    - 6-page booklet: Includes a well done essay by Julie Kirgo accompanied with screenshots from the film.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Exciting and riveting, The Mechanic is a film many others try to replicate today with lesser results.  Simple in execution, the film thrives on Bronson and Vincent’s chemistry as well as the edge of your seat action sequences that helped propel Winner as a mainstay in the genre.  Twilight Time’s limited edition Blu-ray is a knockout with a clean, natural appearance and a lively sound mix.  In addition, Cinematographer Richard H. Kline’s first audio commentary is an informative one, well worth a listen.  Bronson fans will revel in this pre-Death Wish examination of a skilled hitman at odds with his apprentice.
    RATING: 4/5

  • The Chambermaids (1974) DVD Review

    The Chambermaids (1974)
    Director: Unknown
    Starring: Eric Edwards, Valerie Marron, Mary Stuart & Andrea True
    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Impulse Pictures continues their crusade of delivering more steamy cinema from adult entertainment’s prime decade.  Cheaply produced and showcasing its battle wounds, The Chambermaids comes newly re-mastered and determined to show just how “thorough” the maids at this particular hotel really are.  

    The Chambermaids centers on two attractive hotel maids, tired of their job and frequently short on cash.  Horny and determined, Mary Ellen and Sally hatch a plan to give guests some generous “room service” for extra money.

    MOVIE:
    A paper-thin plot and a painfully amateurish production sets the stage for this breezy hotel-set sexcapade.  Mary Ellen and Sally are far from shy when jumping in the sack with businessman or other women which leads to no shortage of sultry situations.  The Chambermaids comes packaged with a female three way, plenty of oral pleasure with quintessential 70s bush in extreme close-ups and a sexually engaged man with enough body hair to spare a grizzly bear.  Sadly, the players are not terribly attractive and their wooden performances can be laughably awful.  In addition, the poorly dubbed in moments of ecstasy solidify the bargain dollar production of The Chambermaids.  While, Impulse Pictures did a fine service rescuing this skin flick from extinction, The Chambermaids ultimately suffers from its low standards and bore factor.
    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Impulse Pictures presents The Chambermaids full-frame sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Utilizing a poorly kept theatrical print, The Chambermaids is plagued with every issue imaginable.  Extensive amounts of scratches and lines consume the picture while, colors are inconsistent and appear washed out.  The presentation is far from ideal but, the film is still watchable and maintains a very grindhouse aesthetic.
    RATING: 2/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, The Chambermaids sounds unimpressive largely in part to the poorly recorded audio during filming.  Dialogue, what little there is, sounds muffled and difficult to hear at times.  The presumably public-domain music heard during steamy sequences is far from crisp and experience minor dropouts as well.
    RATING: 2/5

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:
    The Chambermaids is a low-budget porn cheapie that leaves you vastly underwhelmed.  The array of performers are not exactly lookers and the less than professional production makes the film a chore to get through at times.  That said, Impulse Pictures should be praised for rescuing such an obscurity at the risk of it not surviving many more years based on its tarnished condition.  Uneventful and lazy, The Chambermaids simply doesn’t deserve a tip for their services.
    RATING: 2/5

  • )

    Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #6: Phantom of the Paradise, Dead Kids, Transformers: Armada & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #6 includes:

    - Phantom of the Paradise (1974) (0:33)
    Street Date: February 24, 2014
    Arrow Video: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/

    - In Fear (2013) (8:00)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Anchor Bay: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Dead Kids (1981) (11:46)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Severin Films: http://www.severin-films.com/

    - Thirst (1979) (16:27)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Severin Films: http://www.severin-films.com/

    - 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #1 (21:16)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Impulse Pictures: http://synapse-films.com/category/impulse-pictures/

    - Transformers: Armada The Complete Series (25:27)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (30:15)

  • Deep Roots (1978) / Starlet Nights (1978) DVD Review

    Deep Roots (1978) / Starlet Nights (1978)
    Director: Lisa Barr
    Starring: Jesse Chacan, Anita Sands & Liz Renay / Leslie Bovee & Candy Nichols
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome, the sultans of smut, have officially ushered in 2014 with another double bill of adult pleasuretainment under their new Peekarama banner.  Both films, directed by Joseph Bardo (under the pseudonym of Lisa Barr), involve unique tales of a Native American relocating to Hollywood to sow his oats while, a sexy retelling of Snow White keeps you seated for more scandalous fun.  Scanned in 2K from 35mm archival prints, Vinegar Syndrome continues to raid the vaults treating fans with more bygone executions in adult entertainment.  Let’s find out what awaits in this latest batch of X-rated goodies...

    Deep Roots finds Native American, Billy (Jesse Chacan), leaving his reservation behind to explore the lust capital of Hollywood where he finds himself surrounded by erotic temptation and beautiful women.  In addition, Andy Warhol superstar, Liz Renay (Desperate Living), makes an appearance.  Meanwhile, Starlet Nights performs a sexy retelling of Snow White with evil stepmother, Joyce (Leslie Bovee), attempting to corrupt her beautiful stepdaughter, Snow (Candy Nichols), with the more scandalous side of the Hollywood film industry.

    MOVIE(s):
    Kicking off with our Native American protagonist leaving his reservation in the dust, Billy (Chacan) hightails it to Hollywood on his flashy motorcycle.  It doesn’t take long before Billy befriends big breasted beauty, Joan (Anita Saunds), and the two head to Billy’s pad to get better acquainted.  Learning of Billy’s love for painting, Joan suggests Billy literally paint her nude body.  The two engage in a flirtatious game of foreplay before our uncircumcised Indian dives into steamy sex, covering every position in the book.  A brief scene hinting at Joan’s pending engagement to another man is showcased but never fully explored.  Billy continues his sexual odyssey with another female who begins going down on him before developing virginal nerves.  Billy is understandably frustrated when he exits the apartment and decides to walk a fellow female neighbor home.  Billy humorously speaks his mind and goes on a tangent citing the girl as a “cocktease”.  Luckily, Billy’s cries are heard as the young female neighbor seduces him for yet another successful round of fornication.  Deep Roots is not particularly well acted, leading to many humorous moments and awkward delivery of lines.  Lacking in talent, Deep Roots attempts to make up for in graphic visuals.  Joan, Billy’s first conquest, agitated with her engagement, visits her friend, Liz (Liz Renay), for moral support.  Liz throws on some tunes and urges Joan to join her in a scantily clad burlesque-like dance off.  While, the two never engage each other sexually, the sequence has an air of charm to it.  The climax of the film takes place at a crowded costume party, where “fifty beautiful people” are credited.  Dressed in revealing outfits and a moronic Groucho Marx ratting off jokes to the camera, an energetic orgy takes place amongst the party guests.  Joan wins a raffle prize making her the party’s sexual guinea pig as groups of guests take turns with her.  Plenty of partners are swapped and salads are tossed as this costume ball orgy marks the erotic highlight of the film.  The film concludes with Billy’s only failure, summoning him back to her apartment to finally go all the way.  Once Billy has had enough, he travels back to his reservation where his roots are firmly planted.  Deep Roots makes decent use of its Hollywood setting by capturing footage of the Hollywood sign and Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  Although, more vintage footage of this ilk would have been appreciated.  The film is poorly edited and injects badly dubbed dialogue during sex scenes, creating unintended humor.  Deep Roots lacks a decent story and wooden performances from its cast, but if all you desire is highly sexualized scenes of pleasure than Deep Roots may suffice.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    Next up, in the tradition of sexy fairy tale retellings, Starlet Nights conducts its own erotic spin with Snow White.  Leslie Bovee (Lustful Feelings) stars as Joyce, wicked stepmother to Snow (Candy Nichols).  Frustrated with her husband’s fawning over his daughter, Joyce intends on ruining Snow’s virginal reputation.  The film begins with Joyce admiring herself in the mirror as she conducts a solo pleasure session on herself.  Summoning her magic mirror’s human entity and a genie, the trio engage in a wild threesome.  Joyce devises a scheme for Snow to meet her agent about acting, where she will be given a poisonous apple to consume.  Joyce never shies away from thanking those helping with the plan such as her agent’s secretary.  The two ladies decide to have a steamy fling on the boss’s desk because, why not?  While, Snow is being pampered and never eats the apple, Joyce organizes a costume party to take place as a way for her to smooze with prestigious producers.  It may be considered laziness or genuine appreciation but, Director Joseph Bardo (who also executive-produced the bitchin Vicious Lips), seemed to really love capturing groups of people fornicating in ridiculous costumes.  Consisting of familiar faces from Deep Roots, the party quickly turns into yet another sexual romp where Joyce engages in more triple action fun, a man is caught having chains clipped to his junk and Snow debuts herself with a kinky striptease.  Taking a cue from Deep Roots again, Snow quickly becomes the highlight of the party and patrons are taking turns with her.  The producer for the television series Charlie’s Devils (clever, right?) gets it on with Snow and casts her in the role Joyce was gunning for.  As Snow gets her big break and begins filming, she finally eats the apple and presumably dies although, it’s never really made clear.  Joyce catches her own break as the same producer wants her for the lead in Francis Ford Cappuccino’s The Godmother trilogy (notice a pattern here?).  Happily agreeing to the role, Joyce repays the favor by engaging in a sex-fueled romp session with said producer but not before inviting the housekeeper to join in.  Starlet Nights offers some of its own vintage Hollywood footage with shots of a Warner Bros. building and billboards for Roots and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  The film is far more fun and tongue in cheek than its predecessor and possesses more professionalism with a pro like Bovee in the lead.  While, other X-rated fairy tales like Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella offer more entertainment, Starlet Nights packs a decent story with plenty of erotica to make it the superior flick of this package.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome have scanned both films in 2K from 35mm archival prints and presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Deep Roots kicks off in relatively rough shape with scratches and lines apparent and an odd pixelation in each shot.  While, the pixelation appears to be inherent in the transfer and not a technical glitch, the less than pleasing effect is distracting.  Colors are presented decently with detail looking most effective in extreme close ups of penetration and oral pleasure.  The second half of the film improves but imperfections are still prevalent throughout.  Starlet Nights is in much better shape with scratches and hiccups in lesser quantities and colors appearing much bolder.  Vinegar Syndrome’s latest Peekarama installment is a mixed bag with generally decent results.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Both films come equipped with Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes, with varying results.  Deep Roots is plagued with a constant hiss in its track making dialogue a struggle to make out at times.  In addition, audio nearly drops out making a few dialogue moments severely muffled.  These appear to be source related incidents and lack of proper audio handling during filming.  Luckily, Starlet Nights fares much better with a static hiss practically nonexistent and dialogue sounding more robust.  A brief audio drop occurs during a later sex scene which stabilizes quickly.  Certainly, another mixed offering, with Deep Roots borderline disappointing but Starlet Nights more than making up for it.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    Nothing to see here, folks!

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:
    Vinegar Syndrome’s second edition under their Peekarama banner goes down as a mixed offering of erotic selections.  Deep Roots sounded more appealing than it actually was with stiff acting crippling the flick, leaving the steamy sex scenes its only selling point.  Starlet Nights, the scandalous retelling of Snow White, fared much better with a funnier story and comical approaches to the characters.  Leslie Bovee steers the ship like an adult star pro making her the film’s highlight.  Orgy romps, oral pleasure and lesbianism pack all the necessary adult fun to make Starlet Nights the champ of this double bill.  Vinegar Syndrome accomplished the best results they could given the elements they were working from.  While, not stellar treatment, the films have been preserved in much better shape than originally found which is rewarding for all adult film fans. 
    RATING: 3/5 

  • That's The Way of the World (1975) Blu-ray Review


    That’s the Way of the World (1975)
    Director: Sig Shore
    Starring: Harvey Keitel, Ed Nelson & Earth, Wind & Fire
    Released by: Scorpion Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Independent distributor Scorpion Releasing is back with another sting of diversity in their exciting Blu-ray catalog.  Harvey Keitel (Mean Streets) stars as a hot-shot music producer who’s caught between creating the music he cares for and the music he’s forced into by his superiors.  Artistic tensions escalate as seedy business politics and corruption consume the purity of music.  Scorpion Releasing proudly presents That’s the Way of the World in a brand new HD master from an interpositive.  Produced and directed by Sig Shore (Superfly), this unique flick marks a time and place in music history, but is it a golden oldie or a one-hit wonder?  Turn up the jukebox and let’s boogie...

    That’s the Way of the World centers on Coleman Buckmaster (Harvey Keitel), an ambitious young music producer with A-Kord Records.  As he works closely with an up-and-coming band named The Group (played by Earth, Wind & Fire who also contribute the music to the film) who he believes has what it takes to make it big, Buckmaster is forced to concentrate all his efforts on an unknown trio The Pages.  The pressures and seedy business practices of the industry begin to weigh down on Buckmaster who must make crucial decisions that will impact the bands under his supervision and his personal relationships.

    MOVIE:
    Admittedly, I’m a sucker for films that take place deep within the entertainment industry.  There’s never a shortage of crushed hearts and broken dreams when it comes to characters navigating the world of razzle dazzle.  That’s the Way of the World takes place in New York City which is home turf to some of Keitel’s most memorable performances in such fare as Mean Streets and Taxi Driver.  Keitel breathes life into the role of music producer Coleman Buckmaster effortlessly.  It’s easy to believe in his performance as he focuses in on musical notes with the same precision a chemist handling chemicals would.  Paying more attention to the knobs and buttons in his recording studio, Keitel invokes a passion in his character that is obvious in his dealing with The Group (played by Earth, Wind & Fire).  When the president of A-Kord Records interrupts and forces Buckmaster’s attention on an unknown trio, The Pages, tensions rise.  Buckmaster is torn between his passion project with The Group while being forced into a sound he cares nothing for.  The Pages, a wholesome family trio are far from their cookie cutter image of perfection and hide a much darker backstory.  With the strain of industry politics weighing down and his personal and professional relationships suffering, Buckmaster decides to play the game to his advantage.  As the film progresses, Buckmaster’s motivations seem unclear as he surrenders himself to his seemingly hopeless situation by striking up a romance with The Pages‘ lead singer and eventually marrying her.  As the viewer, we’re confused by Buckmaster’s willingness to give up so easily on his passion since he doesn’t even go down the clichéd road of burning out on drugs.  Of course, the reasons behind this are all explained in the finale in a manner that Buckmaster puts as how the way the world works.  It’s a satisfying conclusion that took a road that left slightly more to be desired.  Luckily, the music from Earth, Wind & Fire is a major draw for the film as the influential band were at the peak of their careers.  In addition, live performances from the funkmasters (some of which take place at a roller derby!) are a wonderful sight with stage antics that excite and music that will keep you bopping your head to the beat.

    That’s the Way of the World also makes phenomenal usage of New York City streets that capture an incredible time in not only music, but the city itself.  In addition, when Buckmaster joins The Pages’ lead singer (played by Cynthia Bostick) on a trip to Hollywood, more terrific street shots are captured making this film a great time capsule of some of the country’s greatest cities at such an exciting time.  

    Many industry professionals have praised That’s the Way of the World for its accuracy in capturing the seedy underbelly of the record business.  The film definitely earns its marks in that department but still falls shy from being a truly great gem.  The film packs one of Keitel’s more intriguing performances of the 1970s with a killer soundtrack supplied by the iconic Earth, Wind & Fire along with some prime footage of New York City and the Los Angeles area.  That’s the Way of the World entertained me but fell slightly short due to the lack of drama some of the characters experienced throughout the film.  While, it strayed from selling the typical “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” story, more of that might have been beneficial in making the film all the more entertaining.  That’s the Way of the World is still a film that offers a lot of quality merits and shouldn’t be overlooked when discussing films about the entertainment industry.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    (NOTE: That’s the Way of the World is presented in HD from a slightly different cut than the original theatrical presentation.  Usable HD materials for the theatrical cut were not sufficient hence the cause for the slight difference in its HD presentation).

    That’s the Way of the World is presented in a 1080p anamorphic HD master (1.78:1) from the interpositive.  Overall, the film looks quite nice with a filmic layer of grain intact throughout the entire runtime and skin tones looking strikingly accurate.  Instances of debris and pops in the print are seen occasionally but nothing of real distaste.  Black levels leave slightly more to be desired with a faint haze in darker scenes but again nothing too distracting.  Considering the HD print was struck up from several different sources, I’m quite content with the video presentation.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    That’s the Way of the World comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that is decent enough.  Dialogue scenes come across clear for the most part but there are instances when conversations fall a little on the low side.  Nothing a little raise to the volume button won’t fix.  The powerful music from Earth, Wind & Fire is as loud and robust as one would hope and their musical live performances are some of the standout moments for the audio mix.  It should be noted that actors’ lips were always a hair behind the actual audio track.  This is certainly nothing that takes away from the serviceable audio quality but it couldn’t help but be noticed.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Theatrical Version: Presented in standard definition, the theatrical cut clocks in nearly four minutes longer than the HD presentation with the most noticeable inclusion being a sex scene between Keitel and Bostick.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - TV Spots

    - Still Gallery

    - Scorpion Releasing Trailers: Includes Horror on Snape Island, Grizzly, Deathship and Day of the Animals.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Scorpion Releasing never seizes to amaze me with their dedication to cult cinema of all genres.  That’s the Way of the World was an intriguing picture with standout performances from Keitel and a soundtrack so catchy, you’ll be singing it for days.  While, the film won’t go down as an essential film about the innerworkings of the record industry, it still comes recommended for its accurate depiction of a business that can make dreams comes true for the fortunate and destroy lives for the unprepared.  Scorpion Releasings‘ handling of the film is quite possibly the best this music-centered flick is bound to see.  The HD master looks about as pristine as one could hope to achieve considering the hurdles that were undergone.  The inclusion of the theatrical cut was also a nice touch for completists sake.  That’s the Way of the World may have fallen short of my expectations but it’s still a film I am pleased to have in my Scorpion collection and one I can see myself revisiting.
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • TV Terrors: The Initiation of Sarah (1978) / Are You in the House Alone?! (1978) DVD Review



    The Initiation of Sarah (1978) / Are You in the House Alone?! (1978)
    Director(s): Robert Day / Walter Grauman
    Starring: Kay Lenz, Morgan Brittany & Morgan Fairchild / Kathleen Beller, Blythe Danner & Dennis Quaid
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Embarking on uncharted territory, Scream Factory has jumped into your living room with a double dose of television frights from the 1970s.  Two flicks, both from 1978, center on a college freshmen with psychic powers while the other focuses on a high schooler who becomes the target of a stalker, make up this collection from a time when Dallas and Taxi ruled the airwaves.  In today’s reality TV obsessed culture, how do these bygone made-for-television efforts holds up?  Grab your microwavable dinner, turn out the lights and let’s find out…

    The Initiation of Sarah stars Kay Lenz (House) as Sarah Goodwin, a shy college freshman who joins a sorority as a way to fit in.  Unfortunately, the sorority’s housemother played by Shelley Winters, is a witch who knows Sarah has the gift of psychic abilities.  The twisted old woman encourages Sarah to use her powers for revenge.  The supporting cast includes Morgan Brittany (Dallas) and an exceptionally bitchy Morgan Fairchild (The Seduction).  Next up, Are You in the House Alone?! finds a beautiful high school student (Kathleen Beller of The Sword and the Sorcerer) the target of a sadistic stalker who has been leaving obscene messages in her locker and watching her every move.  The stalker is only getting closer and time is running out!  An all-star cast comprised of a young Dennis Quaid (The Rookie), Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents), Tony Bill (Shampoo) and Scott Colomby (Porky’s) all make appearances.

    This review was originally published through Euro Cult AV.  To view it in its entirety, click this link:

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/TV_Terrors__Initiation_of_Sara/tv_terrors__initiation_of_sara.html

  • Virgin and the Lover (1973) / Lustful Feelings (1978) DVD Review


    Virgin and the Lover (1973) / Lustful Feelings (1978)
    Director: Kemal Horulu
    Starring: Eric Edwards, Leah Marlon & Jennifer Welles / Leslie Bovee & Jamie Gillis
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome welcomes another double dose of passion and perversion in their popular Drive-In Collection!  The indie label continues to preserve and release some of the most obscure and erotic films in recent history with this latest release being no exception.  Two bonafide skin flicks from Director Kemal Horulu (The Sexualist) are paired up that’s sure to send your senses for a loop with featured talent from Jennifer Welles, Leslie Bovee and Jamie Gillis.  Let’s take a look at these erupting features…

    Virgin and the Lover centers on a filmmaker (Eric Edwards) who lives in a sensual dream world where he is torn between his love for a beautiful woman and his odd desires for a female mannequin.  In Lustful Feelings, a young woman (Leslie Bovee) is forced to earn an income in order to pay off the drug debt her lover (Jamie Gillis) owes.  Unknowingly to her significant other, she takes up prostitution and develops a knack for it.


    This review was originally published through Euro Cult AV.  To view it in its entirety, click this link:

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/Virgin_and_the_Lover_Lustful_F/virgin_and_the_lover_lustful_f.html

  • The Oral Generation (1970) DVD Review


    The Oral Generation (1970)
    Director: ?
    Starring: ?
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The exploitation hounds that make up Vinegar Syndrome are back at it again with some more scandalous cinemania from Times Square circa 1970! If you’re yearning for a crash course in the scientific study of how to please your significant other in the oral department, then you’ve come to the right place. The Oral Generation will provide with you all the necessary answers you desire in explicit detail but not before you are treated to four sexy shorts in the flesh. Feelin’ lucky tonight? Then, shut that mouth and prepare to enter The Oral Generation

    In true theatrical viewing experience, the sultry cinema begins as soon as you insert the disc in your player.  We are treated to a trailer for the main attraction, The Oral Generation, which showcases some true money shots that are awaiting the viewer towards the second hour. Next, the sexual odyssey continues in four skintastic shorts that, much like the main feature, are marking their home video debuts. Clinical Sex focuses on Alice, a patient seeking the help of her physician in regards to her inability to be sexually aroused while making love to her husband. Fear not because some “close bonding” with the doc will be sure to clear that right up. Meanwhile, Nurse Ella, the doctor’s faithful companion, tends to another female patient ensuring she is “well taken care of”. Unfortunately, we learn that once Alice’s husband catches wind of the doctor’s “break through” with his wife, he takes legal action and successfully closes down his practice… and things were going so well too.

    Any Way You Like It deals again with a concerned female patient seeking the guidance of her doctor after being disturbed by her brother stimulating a slew of maids with some contraption. The doctor decides the only way to break her mental block with vibrators is by using it on her. For what the check-up fee is, our patient isn’t pleased and insists on the “real thing” while the nurse becomes friendly with the contraption herself. The true oddball of the bunch is Naked Sexes which pits four topless women and three g-string wearing muscle men (who all look like they’d be very fitting in William Friedkin’s Cruising) literally giggling at each other for 15 minutes. There’s no sexual interaction between the opposite sexes just a weird face-off of laughing bursts as the men flex everything from their butt cheeks to their pecs. The short comes off quite hilarious at times but quickly runs out of gas as the constant laughing will drive you insane.

    The Different Sex, the final short, deals with sex education student Sandra, who while writing a paper on the human orgasm finds the best way to learn about the subject is experiencing it firsthand with her two male classmates who amazingly can have sex while wearing their shorts! As Sandra completes her “research” her female roommate and neighbor, Karen, both feel that Sandra could use some “extended notes”. It’s no mystery that Sandra could write her paper with such ease and knowledge on the subject after such intensive studies. Before the main feature begins, we are treated to an outtake from the film where a couple are having an arousingly fun time sucking each others fingers among other things all on a hideous plaid couch.

    Finally, after 52 minutes of shorts to prep you, The Oral Generation takes center stage. The film kicks off with some truly remarkable footage of Times Square 1970 and all the operating grindhouse and peepshow theaters of the time all in their blinking light glory. The Oral Generation certainly attempts to take a very educational standpoint on the oral satisfaction between lovers. The popular sex books at this time in history are discussed as well as the religions stances on certain areas of sex and love making. But, don’t be fooled thinking this is a health class video because before you know it, you are thrown into some truly explicit scenes. A wife narrates as she explains how she relaxes her husband in the shower after a long workday. In addition, a husband, during sex, fantasizes about his wife being a provocative secretary. The scene continues to cut back and forth from the couple going at it to the wife in sexy lingerie having some fun with herself for the camera. As the film progresses, an interracial couple are having an orally good time as the woman imagines her husband as some sort of karate master with sai in hand. Finally, the film climaxes literally with a couple inviting a female friend to join in on their sexual fun.

    MOVIE:
    Without sounding like a prood, I find it difficult to evaluate films of this caliber since they aren’t a major area of interest for me. I appreciate that they have such a dedicated fan base and the content, specifically of the 1970s, made up such a large part of what made that New York City scene so gritty and fascinating. The Oral Generation is certainly a genuine slice of programming from the Times Square theaters during the early 70s and that itself is intriguing. The explicit nature and rawness of the content on this release is something that I’m not even sure exists anymore so to see it saved and so well preserved is quite a sight. The shorts have more comedic moments than anything found in the main feature which was welcoming for someone who doesn’t view much of this content. Other than that, I suppose you get what you’re looking for when it comes to adult flicks of this time. Naked Sexes remains such an oddity to me that I don’t think I’ll be forgetting it anytime soon especially the one g-string wearing gent that sported a Groucho Marxesque mustache. The Oral Generation, the feature presentation, started off appealing to me simply due to the remarkable shots of Times Square early on in the film and other New York landmarks like the New York Public Library that would be so awesomely utilized over a decade later in Ghostbusters. Before long, the educational viewpoints that are presented earlier all take a backseat for the sexual and oral goodness people are coming to expect. Scenes of men and women going down on each other drag for 15 minutes at a time which quickly becomes boring. If you’re jonesing for money shots of penetration that are teased in the trailer then you’ll have to wait until the final moments of the film. I can’t say that I personally hated the film, it’s just not really my cup of tea. There’s no denying that there is a demand for vintage content of this kind and if you’re a lover of the material then The Oral Generation will fit in well with your adult cinema collection. It just wasn’t for me.
    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:
    If you asked me how circa 1970 pornography would look in this day and age, I would have naively said “it’ll look like shit”. But, I’d be wrong. Dead wrong! Vinegar Syndrome presents this release in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negatives. These flicks are quite the sight. Colors look remarkably bright while skin tones are as natural as can be. Detail is terrific picking up the sweat droplets on faces and every minor blemish one could possibly notice on a body. Minor moments of scratches are seen but they are so quick and insignificant that it barely makes a difference whatsoever. It’s hard to believe these films look as wonderful as they do but take my word for it, these are some top quality looking skin-flicks!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    The English Mono track does what it needs to do. No distracting hiss or anything to disrupt the film can be found here. Dialogue and groans of ecstasy come off nice and clear.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    Depending on how you look at it, everything that was discussed above, with the exception of the main feature, can be considered as an extra. That said, since the film automatically plays through everything together gives it the impression that it’s all one seamless program. But, for the sake of debating, I’ll re-list the extras in this section as well.

    - The Oral Generation Theatrical Trailer

    - Shorts restored in 2K from 35mm original camera negatives: Clinical Sex, Any Way You Like It, Naked Sexes & The Different Sex

    - 10 minute outtake scene from The Oral Generation

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    The Oral Generation is an explicit, sexually charged journey from yesteryear. A time when pornography was on the rise and really finding its footing in society. While I wasn’t particularly blown away by the material, there’s no denying the demand for content from this era and Vinegar Syndrome has done a remarkable job saving it from oblivion. The video quality is breathtaking when considering the kind of material this is and the extras are a nice assortment of adult goodness that makes this package a great bang for your buck. The Oral Generation is a film that was destined to live and die along with the Times Square scene of the 70s but thankfully Vinegar Syndrome came to the rescue and gave it superior treatment. Regardless of my overall opinion of the content, preserving any film, especially in this case, before they become extinct gets a praise from me. Well done, Vinegar Syndrome!
    RATING: 3/5

  • The Doll Squad (1973) w/ Mission: Killfast (1980s) Blu-ray Review



    The Doll Squad (1973) w/ Mission: Killfast (1980s)
    Director: Ted V. Mikels
    Starring: Francine York, Tura Santana & Lisa Todd / Cheng-Wu Yang & Sharon Hughes
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Exploitation label, Vinegar Syndrome, is back at it again with another dose of Blu-ray goodness for cult lovers everywhere.  In true grindhouse fashion, this releases comes with not one, but two feature films from the Ted V. Mikels Collection.  The man responsible for so many cult gems like The Black Klansman, The Astro-Zombies and The Corpse Grinders.  Vinegar Syndrome have presented both films on Blu-ray for the first time in this release which is also chocked full of special features and a groovy reversible cover art option.  Will a group of sexy female agents destined to bring down a criminal mastermind soothe the cult enthusiasts’ itch or will it be a master martial artist named Tiger, who goes toe to toe with weapons dealers resulting in shoot-outs and explosions be worth your time?  Think quickly because in five seconds this paragraph will self-destruct so let’s take a gander at The Doll Squad and Mission: Killfast

    The Doll Squad tells the story of a gorgeous group of female agents who are assigned to a top mission where an evil mastermind plans on unleashing the bubonic plauge on the world.  Interestingly enough, this film is said to have inspired the classic Charlie’s Angels television show.  The film stars a terrific group of cult actors such as Francine York (It Takes a Thief), Michael Ansara (Batman: The Animated Series), Lisa Todd (The Devil’s Rain) and Tura Santana (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!).  Mission: Killfast focuses on marital arts master, Cheng-Wu Yang (credited as Tiger Yang), who is called upon by his government to face off against an evil group of weapons dealers.  Violence, explosions and bikini clad women take care of the rest.

    MOVIE(s):
    The Doll Squad quickly sucked me in thanks to its very colorful and very 70s title sequence which highlights the beauty of our core cast.  As the leader of The Doll Squad, Francine York takes command of the film and has a hypnotizing beauty that truly shines.  She’s joined by several other team members, most famously Tura Santana  who also showcases her burlesque talents in the film.  While, a film about gorgeous secret agents should be a sure thing, The Doll Squad tends to lose its focus at some point.  The major drawbacks are the actual size of the team, there simply are just too many of them for us to really learn and appreciate their personalities.  With the exception of York and Santana (who clearly has cult cred), the other girls just feel like blank canvas‘ who are just following orders and shooting wildly at evildoers.  In addition, the plot of taking down a criminal hellbent on unleashing the bubonic plauge seems simple enough, but again that’s where another drawback is found.  The film tends to get wrapped up in its own dialogue which congests the story and makes it a slight bore to watch at times.  Thankfully, the redeeming qualities of this film come in the unexpected form of violence.  Make no mistake about it, The Doll Squad is a very classy exploitation film for its time.  If you’re looking for gratuitous nudity or raunchy sex scenes, look elsewhere because they’re not found in here.  That said, when the guns come out, lots of blood goes flying.  Bullet shots to the head and machine gun shootouts galore were a welcome surprise for what originally seemed like a very tame film.  The handling of explosions and electrocutions in The Doll Squad are quite hilarious, it made me feel like I was watching an episode of the 1960s Batman.  In addition, while most of the women are forgettable, there’s no denying how lovely they all look.  Director Ted V. Mikels certainly knows how to cast a sexy group of agents and there beauty is one of the driving contributers of the picture.  While The Doll Squad certainly beat Charlie’s Angels to the punch by a whopping three years, the television show perfected the concept of female secret agents.  The Doll Squad presents a simplistic story that gets a little too wrapped up in itself causing a slightly bumpy viewing experience.  Luckily, the film’s action and violence mixed with the lovely sight of the core cast makes the film a serviceable watch.  There’s no way this film is a terrible one, it’s just not particularly amazing either.  But, being from the Ted V. Mikels cannon, there’s no way any cult lover can’t have this in their collection.  Recommended.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    Next up, Mission: Killfast pits martial arts master, Tiger Yang, against a group of ruthless arms dealers.  Shoot-outs, blood and sexy women are all on board for this flick as well.  Mission: Killfast is a film that had a tremendously hard time being completed, starting in 1980 and principal photography not wrapping until 1989 with an actual release not occurring until sometime in 1991.  The trouble with this film is similar to what plagued The Doll Squad but on a larger scale.  The story is simple and easy enough to follow but as the film takes off, it just gets derailed with too many random plot points.  We get introduced to many characters and learn the criminals want to get their hands on nuclear detonators but never understand exactly why they want them.  The film just tends to drag itself to the finish line and even action-orientated moments aren’t enough to save it.  Unfortunately, even having a real martial artist like Tiger Yang onscreen doesn’t bring anything exciting to the table.  Yang’s talents are grossly underused in the film and fighting sequences come off laughable as a result.  While The Doll Squad kept itself classy with no nudity, Mission: Killfast sheds some skin on many of the ladies in the film.  By the time the final act comes around, it just seemed like a carbon copy of The Doll Squad with the good guys storming the bad guys‘ base, fighting ensues, inevitable victory for the good guys, etc.  It’s tough to be so critical of a film that probably lost sight of itself after many years in production.  Mission: Killfast clearly had a very long road from start to finish and unfortunately it just doesn’t make for a terrific viewing experience.
    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:
    The Doll Squad has been restored in 2K from 35mm original camera negatives and is presented in 1.85:1.  Simply put, the film looks stunning!  Colors are bright while flesh tones are natural and crisp.  Grain levels are near perfect and detail is beautifully apparent in close-ups.  The film has minor moments of softness and scratches that are so minimal, it wouldn’t take away from this fantastic transfer.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    Mission: Killfast has also been restored in 2K from 35mm original camera negatives and is presented in 1.85:1.  Softness and scratches are a little more apparent here but the film still looks quite nice with flesh tones looking good and colors popping where needed.  The transfer received the same great treatment that The Doll Squad was given but the added softness and scratches slightly took away from it.  Overall, still a terrific job!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    The Doll Squad sports a DTS-HD Master Audio mix which sounds stellar.  Dialogue and action are clear as bell with no noticeable hissing anywhere.  Anyone wanting to see how audio on a cult release should be handled, look no farther than The Doll Squad.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    Mission: Killfast was given the same DTS-HD Master Audio mix and sounds fine although there were moments during dialogue scenes where the audio sounded muffled.  Dialogue could still be heard but it just wasn’t as clean as The Doll Squad.  Still, nice work and arguably the best sound treatment this film will ever get.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:
    Vinegar Syndrome went above and beyond with special features utilizing the helping hand of American Grindhouse Director Elijah Drenner.

    - The Doll Squad Commentary with Director Ted V. Mikels: American Grindhouse Director Elijah Drenner moderates this chatty commentary with Director Ted V. Mikels.  Mikels has nothing but fond memories of the film and the two touch on a variety of topics including Mikels’ love for machines and his enjoyment incorporating them into his films.  In addition, the expensive title sequence is explained as Mikels expresses his dislike for boring black background title sequences.  Drenner does a terrific job conversing with Mikels as he injects his own interesting anecdotes about cult cinema.

    - Interview with Director Ted V. Mikels: This interview is composed of outtakes from Drenner’s American Grindhouse documentary that were shot between 2006-2008.  Mikels discusses his early beginnings performing magic shows with Leon Mandrake which morphed into his desire for filmmaking.  Mikels’ perseverance to never quit at his age is an inspiring one.

    - Mustache Commandos!: The Making of Mission: Killfast: Mikels is interviewed about the long road to making and completing Mission: Killfast.  Investments falling through, reels being stolen and only having three cast members return to finish the film after nine years makes this interview quite a watch.

    - Interview with Francine York: The leader of The Doll Squad sits down to reminisce about filming the movie.  York discusses the enjoyment she had working with Tura Satana and the admiration she holds for Mikels.  York still looks beautiful at her age and has nothing but fond memories of the film.

    - English Subtitles

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    The Doll Squad is a classy piece of early 70s cult cinema, the core cast of Dolls are just gorgeous and the violence found in the film was unexpected but certainly welcome.  The film tends to get wrapped up in itself which makes for some boring moments but as a whole, it still walks away being a fun watch.  Unfortunately, Mission: Killfast was a tougher pill to swallow as it suffers from the same missteps as The Doll Squad but manages to be more boring and not as satisfying.  Luckily, Vinegar Syndrome has given both these films top quality treatment with spectacular video transfers, more than adequate audio mixes, as many special features as one could expect from films of this caliber and groovy reversible cover artwork.  While, The Doll Squad ends up being the fan favorite for me, this package of films is a stellar release from Vinegar Syndrome and one all cult fans should add into their collections!
    RATING: 4/5