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Currently showing posts tagged 1976

  • Car Wash (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Car Wash (1976)

    Director: Michael Schultz

    Starring: Franklyn Ajaye, George Carlin, Professor Irwin Corey, Ivan Dixon, Antonio Fargas, Jack Kehoe, Clarence Muse, Lorraine Gary, The Pointer Sisters & Richard Pryor

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in sunny Los Angeles, Car Wash hosts a day in the life of a ragtag group of car washers and and the hilarious hijinks that ensue on the job, all to a fast-moving, body-shaking soundtrack of hits.  Scripted by Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys, Falling Down) and starring a diverse roster of character actors, musicians and comedy’s finest, Michael Schultz (Cooley High, The Last Dragon) directs this hot wax of hilarity.

    Uncontrollably fun and capturing the laughs of the blue-collar grind, Car Wash, originally intended as a Broadway musical, uses its nonlinear construction to great effect, making viewers apart of the onscreen ball-busting camaraderie and radio wave boogieing.  Best known for their “hand job” touch, the stocked staff of a busy car wash including, Justin (Leon Pinkney, Deadly Hero), an African-American constantly hassled by his girlfriend to ditch his position and return to college, T.C. (Franklin Ajaye, Convoy), an afro-rockin’ employee determined to win a local radio contest and woo the local diner’s waitress, Abduallah (Bill Duke, Predator), a Black Muslim revolutionary formerly known as Duane, Lindy (Antonio Fargas, Starsky & Hutch), a flamboyantly gay employee who dishes attitude better than anyone else and the musical, dancing duo of Floyd (Darrow Igus, Fridays) and Lloyd (Otis Day, D.C. Cab), among others all bust a move while making Cali cars sparkle and shine.  From erroneously tackling a customer thought to be a criminal bomber, fellow employee Hippo (Jamie Spinks, The Big Score) knocking the boots with a local prostitute who is hilariously pursued by an all too trusting cabbie (George Carlin, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) for skipping out on a fare and graced by the money-hungry presence of a pimp-like preacher known as Daddy Rich (Richard Pryor, The Toy), Car Wash is never in short supply of comic situations and absurdness.  Rightfully earning a Grammy for Best Album written for a film, Car Wash is never overly crude or falters due to its unconventional plot that is more inclined to let audiences hang with the gang than anything else.  Instead, the cult hit keeps the fun times rolling and holds the jive allowing for an effort doused in outrageous laughs.

    Shout Select presents Car Wash with a 1080p transfer, sporting its 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With only the faintest of speckling popping up every now and again, colors pop remarkably well with the employee’s orange jumpsuits, bright yellow taxi cabs and the establishment’s big-lettered signage all making top-notch bursts on screen.  Furthermore, skin tones are exceptional with detail evident in close-ups and white levels, most noticeably seen in Daddy Rich’s gaudy suit, looking solidly.  A most filmic representation of the musically-driven comedy, Car Wash truly shimmers in high-definition.  Matched with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is overwhelmingly audible with only occasional moments where outdoor ambiance can drown out character exchanges.  That said, the film’s constant undercurrent of music is balanced appreciatively with talky moments while, specific music-driven cues including the opening and closing titles will leave viewers singing along for days and impressed by the song’s depths.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Schultz, Workin’ at the Car Wash with Otis Day (12:13) where the actor recalls a 2 week rehearsal period on the Universal soundstages that greatly developed the cast’s chemistry before filming commenced.  Understandably, Day mentions growing incredibly sick of hearing the title song on a daily basis while also praising Schultz’s direction and hailing him as someone who truly cared about the project.  Car Wash from Start to Finish with Gary Stomberg (34:22) finds the film’s producer sharing his early starts in public relations repping the likes of Ray Charles before forming his own company that would ultimately represent Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf and The Doors.  Stromberg also remembers coming up with the idea of Car Wash during a particularly loaded evening citing Robert Altman’s Nashville as an inspiration.  Understanding the music world while Universal were left scratching their heads about the film’s potential, Stromberg’s theory to spread head the project with an album produced by Norman Whitfield that would ultimately pay for the film’s making proved true and one the studio immediately responded to.  Lastly, Radio Spots (2:59), the film’s Trailer (2:21) and Reversible Cover Art conclude the release’s extras.

    Although not an original commercial success before graduating to cult accolades, Car Wash is a hilarious hangout session with the working man where pranks, kooky customers and a rhythm-splitting soundtrack take shotgun.  A groovy time capsule with funny performances from its many principal players, this lighthearted blaxploitation romp is prime picking for all 9-5ers.  Meanwhile, Shout Select’s high-definition upgrade is a filmic stunner with a smaller but, nonetheless engaging offering of extras and dynamite new cover art provided by Paul Shipper that shines the flick up nice.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Shout Select, Car Wash can be purchased ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Wolf Lake (1980) Blu-ray Review

    Wolf Lake (1980)

    Director: Burt Kennedy

    Starring: Rod Steiger, David Huffman, Robin Mattson, Jerry Hardin, Richard Herd & Paul Mantee

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Writer/Director Burt Kennedy (The Train Robbers), Wolf Lake centers on decorated WWII veteran Charlie (Rob Steiger, In the Heat of the Night), along with his war buddies, who travel to a Canadian lakeside for a weekend of hunting.  Shortly after meeting caretaker David (David Huffman, Blood Beach) and his girlfriend, tension rises once his recent past as a war deserter is revealed.  Short on tolerance, Charlie engages in a crazed hunt for the couple, invoking David’s own ruthless survival instincts.  Robin Mattson (Santa Barbra), Jerry Hardin (Cujo), Richard Herd (Planes, Trains & Automobiles) and Paul Mantee (Framed) costar.

    Surprisingly filmed in Mexico, Wolf Lake is a rarely seen yet, masterfully achieved effort that examines the contrasting viewpoints amongst soldiers, divided by generations and unique experiences.  Delivering a powerhouse performance, Rod Steiger conveys unwavering patriotism, vulnerability, anger and madness in his role as lead hunter and WWII vet Charlie whose crackpot remarks towards reserved caretaker David ignite a war of differences between the two former soldiers.  Learning of David’s wartime desertion while coping with the death of his own son killed in Vietnam, Charlie’s emotions run rampant with desires to make David pay for his cowardice ways.  When a belligerent evening of drinking brings harm to David’s girlfriend, a new war is claimed between the two parties.  Methodically tracking the couple with rifles, Charlie and his cohorts find an admirable opponent in David who is merely trying to stay alive.  Featuring a shrieking score from Composer Ken Thorne (Superman II) and nail biting suspense throughout, Wolf Lake is a vastly underrated chapter in the annals of Vietnam War centered pictures with Steiger’s phenomenal performance ranking among one of his best and unfortunately overlooked.  

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Wolf Lake with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While image stability is slightly uneven at times with scratches and scruffs making occasional notices, skin tones are accurate and well-defined while, the isolated scenic locations retain their natural splendor.  Furthermore, speckling is not uncommon in lower lit sequences with the overall condition of its elements satisfying otherwise.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, cracks and pops make seldom statements while, dialogue is audibly relayed with outdoorsy ambiance including, howling winds and chirping birds sounding clear while, Thorne’s musical queues make passable strides in effectiveness.  

    Special features include, Jerry Hardin and Richard Herdon on Wolf Lake (10:17).  In this brief featurette, the elderly actors recall the bond formed between the cast at the film’s isolated location with mentions of Burt Kennedy’s own decorated war history and his respected talent.  In addition, Lance Hool on Wolf Lake (11:21) finds the producer recollecting on his unique upbringing in Mexico that earned him parts in Howard Hawks films and other features before transitioning to producing.  Hool discusses the casting of Steiger and his unbelievable audition, the film’s controversial themes that caused physical fights during test screenings and its slow distribution death resulting in Hool turning down future Vietnam related pictures such as First Blood and Platoon.  Furthermore, a Trailer Gallery consisting of Avenging Force (1:18), Malone (2:00), Assassination (1:57), Steele Justice (1:36) and Hero and the Terror (1:26) are included with Alternate Artwork concluding the supplemental package.

    Emotionally charged and unnervingly thrilling, Wolf Lake stands as one of Steiger’s most passionate performances that has remained largely unseen due to the film’s hot-button themes released in the wake of the controversial Vietnam war.  Although not taking place on the frontline of battle, Writer/Director Burt Kennedy’s character-driven opus, surrounding the expectations of a soldier and the damaging effects of war on those involved, is a powerful showcase of different opinions turned deadly.  Worthy of praise for rescuing such a rediscovered gem, Kino Lorber Studio Classics welcomes the film to HD with expected quality and insightful interviews regarding the film’s unique making and unfortunate release history.

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

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

    Carrie (1976)

    Director: Brian De Palma

    Starring: Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, Nancy Allen, William Katt, P.J. Soles, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley & Piper Laurie

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on Stephen King’s esteemed debut novel, Carrie centers on teenage outcast Carrie White (Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner’s Daughter) who quietly discovers powers of telekinesis.  Abused by her religious mother and tormented by sadistic classmates, the shy introvert exacts her revenge during the student body’s most anticipated evening.  John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever), Nancy Allen (RoboCop), William Katt (The Greatest American Hero), P.J. Soles (Halloween), Amy Irving (Voices), Betty Buckley (Eight Is Enough) and Piper Laurie (The Hustler) costar.

    Marking the first of many adaptations based on the works of horror maestro Stephen King, Carrie expertly melds relatable teen angst with supernatural suspense under the stylish direction of Hitchcock devotee Brian De Palma (Dressed to Kill).  Awkward and friendless, Carrie White’s desires to fit in amongst her peers are consistently shattered when cruel classmates take delight in making her life a living hell.  Following her first unexpected period in the girl’s locker room, Carrie suffers emotionally shattering and embarrassing abuse when her fellow students manically laugh at her traumatic meltdown and respond by piling the bleeding teen with tampons.  From the damaging hallways of high school to her mentally destructive home life soured by her religiously unhinged mother (Laurie), Carrie’s tidal wave of emotions allows her to channel telekinetic abilities.  While her tormentors are punished for their actions, lead heel Chris Hargensen (Allen) rebels, costing her entry to the much anticipated senior prom and making vengeance against Carrie her main priority.  Developing sincere regret for her part during Carrie’s incident, Sue Snell (Irving) is determined to make peace by excusing herself from the prom and urging her popular boyfriend Tommy Ross (Katt) to take the shy Carrie instead.  Experiencing an evening of dreams come true after being crowned prom queen, unparalleled resentment and hate for the introverted teen creates another scarring moment in her life of endless torment.  Unrestrained and empowered by revenge, supernatural occurrences and a fiery inferno turns the once magical evening into a hellish nightmare.

    Brought to life by a cast of relative newcomers who fully embody their onscreen counterparts, Carrie’s simplicity and timeless approach in capturing the harsh struggles of teenage survival is key to its success.  Perfectly cast as the film’s tragic protagonist, Sissy Spacek, nominated by the Academy for her performance, channels the introvert in all of us while demonstrating a wide range of emotions in her pursuit for happiness and eventually fatal revenge.  In addition, Piper Laurie, also nominated for her equally stunning performance as the crazed Ms. White, issues genuine chills of terror while, Nancy Allen delivers one of cinema’s finest villainous roles as high school hell raiser Chris Hargensen making hating her an audience’s pleasure.  Matched with dreamlike cinematography by Mario Tosi (The Stunt Man), an evocative score by Pino Donaggio (Blow Out) and tight cutting by Editor Paul Hirsch (Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back), Carrie maintains its suspenseful build through use of nail biting slo-mo and screen splitting chaos during the film’s fire breathing finale.  Mesmerizingly haunting and easily one of De Palma’s finest hours, Carrie, much like its literary masterpiece, continues to live on as a gold standard example of horror cinema.

    Newly scanned in 4K from the original camera negative, Scream Factory proudly presents Carrie with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Improving on its dated past release, Brian De Palma’s supernatural shocker arrives with natural film grain firmly intact throughout while, skin tones are warmly inviting and nicely detailed.  Furthermore, dirt and debris are virtually absent paving the way for an exceptionally clean presentation.  The surreal, softer focus of Mario Posi’s cinematography demonstrated during sunny exterior sequences are preserved while, black levels cast appreciatively inky levels and bold colors spotted during the iconic pig’s blood poured on Carrie and the prom’s variety of spotlights pop quite nicely.  Without question, Carrie has made her definitive statement with this wholly impressive transfer.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the film’s soundscape has never been regarded for its dynamics yet, dialogue is consummately produced with Pino Donaggio’s exceptional score fully encompassing sequences.  In addition, chaotic screams and destruction of the high school gymnasium offer notable rise.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.

    Spread across two Blu-ray discs, special features located on Disc 1 include, the Theatrical Trailer (2:06) and a Carrie Franchise Trailer Gallery (4:12).  Continuing on Disc 2, newly recorded supplements include, Writing Carrie: An Interview with Screenwriter Lawrence Cohen (29:07), Shooting Carrie: An Interview with Director of Photography Mario Tosi (15:22) and Cutting Carrie: An Interview with Casting Director Harriet B. Helberg (16:03).  The repurposed Acting Carrie (42:42) is also joined by the new More Acting Carrie: Featuring Interviews with Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Edie McClurg & P.J. Soles (20:19).  Additionally, the vintage Visualizing Carrie: From Words to Images (41:33) and a brand new featurette, Bucket of Blood (23:53), interviewing the Italian speaking Composer Pino Donaggio about his experiences is included with English subtitles.  Furthermore, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (11:25), hosted by Sean Clark as he visits the shooting locations today and Carrie, The Musical: Singing Carrie (6:23) continue the bonus feature packed release with TV Spots (3:11), Radio Spots (1:29), a Still Gallery - Rare Behind-the-Scenes (59 in total), followed by another Still Gallery - Posters and Lobby Cards (47 in total), Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie Text Gallery (13 in total) and a Reversible Cover Art boasting the original 1-sheet design concluding the nearly endless supply of content.  

    Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Carrie continues to shock viewers with its supernatural scares while effectively tapping into the real-life and arguably more frightening torment outcast teenagers continue to face.  Treasuring De Palma’s adaptation for the classic it is, Scream Factory’s gorgeous 4K transfer, joined by its Collector’s Edition level of new and vintage supplements delivers the home video release of Carrie fans have been clamoring for.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Carrie 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.

  • Assault on New Releases #5: Nightmare Weekend (1985), Gravy (2015) & Eaten Alive (1976) Blu-ray Reviews

         

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #5

    Nightmare Weekend (1985)

    Director: Henri Sala

    Starring: Debbie Laster, Dale Midkiff, Debra Hunter, Lori Lewis, Andrea Thompson & Robert Burke

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Filmed on location in Florida by a crew of French filmmakers, Nightmare Weekend is a bizarre blending of horror and softcore sex plagued by a blatant communication breakdown during its making.  When a brilliant scientist with the ability to alter personalities allows a fellow specialist to test the experiment on a group of hard-partying females, chaos erupts when they are turned into bloodthirsty savages.  Comprised of a young and inexperienced cast, including Dale Midkiff (Pet Sematary) and Robert Burke (Robocop 3), Nightmare Weekend is a nonsensical head spinner that continues to live up to its moniker as one of the odder offerings of the 1980s.  Loaded with surprisingly impressive make-up effects by Dean Gates (Maximum Overdrive, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), an eye-raising hand puppet named George, a quintessentially 80s aerobics sequence, sex atop a pinball machine and hilariously dubbed dialogue, Nightmare Weekend baffles the senses while charming the appetites of oddball cinema enthusiasts.

    Vinegar Syndrome presents Nightmare Weekend with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Presented uncut for the first time ever, colors appear refreshingly vivid with skin tones relayed naturally and nicely detailed.  A filmic layer of grain is apparent with occasional instances of scratches and vertical lines sneaking their way into the otherwise impressive transfer.  Meanwhile, black levels are satisfactory while the warm Floridian setting looks lively.  Licensed from Troma Entertainment following less than desirable releases of the film, Vinegar Syndrome restores Nightmare Weekend to top-notch quality.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, the dubbed dialogue is fairly clear with only a hint of hiss detected.  Music and other potent sound effects offer moderate enhancements that compliment the mix nicely.  Special features include, Thanks God It’s Monday: Surviving Nightmare Weekend with Dean Gates (22:54) has Make-Up Effects Artists Gates sitting down for a detailed and lengthy interview as he recalls the shooting of the film, the occasional difficulties working with a mostly non-English speaking crew and the constraints of creating on a low-budget.  In addition, Killer Weekend: An Interview with Marc Gottlieb (12:50), Alternate “R Rated” Edits (7:47), the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:26), Reversible Cover Art and a DVD edition round out the supplemental package.

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Gravy (2015)

    Director: James Roday

    Starring: Michael Weston, Jimmi Simpson, Sutton Foster, Gabourey Sidibe & Sarah Silverman

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Complimenting their steady diet of cult favorites, Scream Factory, the horror offshoot of Shout! Factory, craves a little Gravy.  Set on Halloween night, a motley crew of bar workers are caught off guard when a trio of costumed cannibals invade their Mexican cantina and add them to their personal menu.  Starring a diverse cast including Michael Weston (Cherry Falls), Jimmi Simpson (Zodiac), Academy Award nominee Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) and Sarah Silverman (Wreck-It Ralph), Gravy crafts a hilarious concoction of home invasion terrors meets cannibalism with its tongue never leaving its cheek.  As the witty yet deranged trio with a craving for flesh hold an entire bar staff captive, a fatal game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon ensues while the bar’s accomplished chef is forced to turn his friends into ravishing meals.  For all its suggestive gory scenarios expertly realized by legends Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead) and Howard Berger (Drag Me to Hell), Gravy keeps its sense of humor prominently prioritized allowing viewers to be more tickled pink than repulsed.  Accompanied by choice soundtrack cuts from Cutting Crew, Katrina and the Wave and Los Lobos, Gravy nicely balances the frightening and funnier aspects of its narrative with amusing performances from the entire cast.  Marking the film debut of Director James Roday (Psych), Gravy is a horrific hoot that unexpectedly stands as one of Scream Factory’s most refreshing contemporary offerings.  

    Scream Factory presents Gravy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Shot digitally, colors are bright and nicely saturated in costumes and bloodspraying moments while skin tones read naturally.  The dimly lit, windowless bar setting is wonderfully presented with detail never losing consistency.  In addition, black levels are always inky and free of any anomalies allowing for a most pleasing picture.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is clearly presented with occasional moments being overwhelmed only by loud bursts of music.  Sound effects of shattering bottles, bar brawls and shrieks of terror come across effectively with memorable songs such as “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” gracing the mix with an authoritative presence.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Finally, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director James Roday and Actors Sutton Foster & Jimmi Simpson, a humorous What is Gravy? (5:56) featurette, an EPK (6:23), Trailer (2:16) and Reversible Cover Art.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available October 6th from Scream Factory, Gravy can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Eaten Alive (1976)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Marilyn Burns, William Finley, Kyle Richards & Robert Englund

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the breakout success of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Director Tobe Hooper would look to the humid south once again to stage his next effort in terror.  Shot completely on Hollywood soundstages, Eaten Alive takes place in the Louisiana wetlands at the dreary Starlight Hotel, ran solely by the peculiar Judd (Neville Brand, The Police Connection).  Originally seen as odd yet harmless, Judd’s over the top temper and sheer insanity is revealed when a former prostitute rents a room prompting the elder owner to make his guest food for his enormous alligator.  As more patrons including, a family with a young daughter and a desperate man in search of his runaway daughter rent rooms at the Starlight Hotel, Judd’s homicidal behavior increases making a scythe his weapon of choice.  While murdering the handicapped in his shocking directorial debut kept viewers on the edge of their seats, all bets are off in Hooper’s followup as an adorable puppy falls prey to the film’s reptilian monster and a heart-pounding game of cat and mouse between Judd and effective child actor Kyle Richards takes place under the hotel.  In addition, Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street) makes a most seedy appearance as scene stealing scumbag Buck, nicely complimenting another bizarro performance from co-star William Finley (Phantom of the Paradise).  Admirably capturing an uneasy atmosphere courtesy of the film’s claustrophobic production design, Neville Brand’s deranged performance is the glorified stamp on the film making Eaten Alive one of Hooper’s best and often underrated gems.

    Restored in 2K from the film’s original camera negative, Arrow Video presents Eaten Alive with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing the approval of Director Tobe Hooper, colors are bold and defined with skin tones looking warm and natural.  While a softer appearance is occasionally spotted during Buck’s first encounter with runaway prostitute Clara, dirt, debris or other such blemishes are virtually nonexistent in this impressively cleaned up transfer.  In addition, detail is strikingly sharp with the Starlight Hotel’s dim lighting being of no issue as wallpaper stains and other intentional imperfections are spotted clearly.  Continuing to make great strides in the U.S. market, Arrow Video have treated viewers with the definitive presentation of this exploitation favorite.  Accompanied with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is strongly relayed while the screams of child actor Kyle Richards and the film’s unique score are excellently balanced.  Overflowing with content, special features include, an Introduction with Director Tobe Hooper (0:20), an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Producer Mardi Rustam, Actors Roberta Collins, William Finley & Kyle Richards and Make-Up Artist Craig Reardon.  In addition, newly recorded interviews featuring Blood on the Bayou: An Interview with Tobe Hooper (14:03), Gator Bait: An Interview with Janus Blythe (11:38) and Monsters and Metaphors: An Interview with Craig Reardon (11:25) are also included.  Furthermore, The Gator Creator with Tobe Hooper (19:38), My Name is Buck: A Look Back at Eaten Alive (15:05) and 5ive Minutes with Marilyn (5:18) have been ported over from Dark Sky Films’ previous home video release.  Additionally, The Butcher of Elmendorf: The Legend of Joe Ball (23:05), Theatrical Trailers (13:35), TV and Radio Spots (2:52), Alternate Credits (1:05), a Behind the Scenes Slideshow (8:09), Stills and Promo Material Gallery (1:02) and Comment Cards Gallery (0:33) are provided while, a 22-page booklet featuring an essay from Brad Stevens, Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s original 1-sheet poster and a DVD Edition of the release conclude the film’s first-rate supplemental package.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Eaten Alive can be purchased via ArrowFilms.co.uk, 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.

  • Bloodsucking Freaks (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)

    Director: Joel M. Reed

    Starring: Seamus O’Brien, Luis De Jesus, Viju Krem, Niles McMaster & Alan Dellay

    Released by: Troma Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Nearly 40 years after its original release, Director Joel M. Reed’s satirical shocker breathes new life in the HD generation.  A bizarre odyssey through New York’s dangerous Soho district, centered on a band of eccentric sadists makes this indie effort an unsettling time capsule of cinema.  Newly transferred from original vault materials and including a never before seen title sequence bearing the Sardu, Master of the Screaming Virgins moniker, Troma Entertainment proudly presents the enduring Bloodsucking Freaks on Blu-ray!

    Bloodsucking Freaks centers on the unusual off-broadway Theatre of the Macabre, hosted by the infamous Sardu (Seamus O’Brien).  Shocking forms of torture, dismemberment and more are all fictionally staged for audiences every night but, when countless people begin disappearing around New York City, the truth is revealed about Sardu’s temple of terror.  Luis De Jesus (Let My Puppets Come), Viju Krem (Fourplay), Niles McMaster (Alice Sweet Alice) and Alan Dellay (Trading Places) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    A blatant satirization of the theatre world, Bloodsucking Freaks also expands on the gory 1960s exploits of Director H.G. Lewis (Blood Feast, Color Me Blood Red).  Sardu’s Theatre of the Macabre is New York’s seedy Soho response to the Grand Guignol where torture and dismemberment are for the entertainment of audience members.  Sardu, brilliantly portrayed by the late Seamous O’Brien, is the perverted, deviant equivalent to Vincent Price.  Aided by his loyal dwarf assistant, Ralphus (Luis De Jesus), Sardu is obsessed by the macabre and has a weakness for whippings at the hands of his female dominatrixes.  When snobbish reviewer, Creasy Silo (Alan Dellay), insults Sardu’s performance, the unhinged entertainer kidnaps and forces him into an imprisonment of torture.  In addition, Sardu has big plans for his grim theatre as he also abducts ballet star, Natasha Di Natalie (Viju Krem) and threatens her into his grandiose vision for a new show of pain and decadence.  Soaked in black humor, Bloodsucking Freaks highlights shock value moments of Ralphus electrically shocking a woman’s nipples and sawing another’s hand off.  In addition, Sardu takes great pleasure in his domineering role by substituting a nude woman as a dinner table and operating a white slave trafficking ring below his theatre.  A demented dentist is also welcomed into Sardu’s sanctuary to perform an unorthodox surgery on a female prisoner, before he is torn apart by mentally insane slaves.  Teaming up with a corrupt detective, Natasha’s football player boyfriend, Tom Maverick (Niles McMaster) is determined to find his love and tracks her to the twisted theatre.  Brainwashed, Natasha performs a sadistic ballet as she repeatedly kicks the imprisoned critic to death onstage.  

    Thin on plot, Bloodsucking Freaks is an exploitation affair that is best appreciated for its grizzly and over the top moments of bloody carnage.  In addition, the quirky cast of characters are beyond memorable with Sardu and Ralphus‘ peculiar submissive/domineering relationship the oddity that keeps eyes glued to the screen.  Bloodsucking Freaks is also noteworthy for its timeless footage of a seedy New York City before its squeaky clean overhaul.  The sleazy, Soho district captured in the film makes one wonder if Sardu’s torture chamber is really half bad in comparison.  Still shocking and unusual as ever, Bloodsucking Freaks is a freak show of torture, sadomasochism and nude, helpless prisoners bound with no escape in sight.  Repulsively rewarding, Bloodsucking Freaks is essential viewing for all trash cinema aficionados.  

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Bloodsucking Freaks is presented in a 1080p transfer sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Transferred from the original materials, this shock classic hasn’t aged considerably well.  Riddled with scratches and speckles, black levels appear mostly fuzzy and tough to make out.  Meanwhile, colors are mostly dull with exceptions being Ralphus’s brightly colored sweaters and the overly red blood which pops nicely.  Detail varies from hazy to decent with closeups most impressively picking up the dirt found underneath Ralphus’s fingernails.  Bloodsucking Freaks has never looked breathtaking on any format and it can be easily argued that its grindhouse imperfections benefit the viewing experience.  Troma Entertainment’s transfer is arguably the best the film has looked but that doesn’t necessarily make it pretty.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, Bloodsucking Freaks certainly sounds a pinch better than it appears.  Dialogue is picked up nicely with only minor instances of static and pops throughout.  In addition, shrieking sounds of screams and Michael Sahl’s carny-infused music sound nicely.  Not a wide-ranging track, Bloodsucking Freaks is an audible one that is more than sufficient.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    • New Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman

    • New Uncut Version (1:29:54): Running 43 seconds longer than the original cut and incorporating the Sardu, Master of the Screaming Virgins title card, a deleted scene has been reinstated spotlighting Sardu submitting to Ralphus.

    • Audio Commentary with Blood and Guts Expert Eli Roth: Ported over from the original Troma DVD release.

    • Eli Roth Interviews Cast & Crew (3:48): Also ported over from the DVD, Roth sits down with Arlana Blue who appeared as one of the ravenous nude prisoners, the demented dentist Ernie Rysher and Co-Editor Victor Kanefsky.

    • Interview with Eli Roth (20:07): The Cabin Fever director sits down for this newly shot interview recounting his contributions to the original DVD release during the early internet days.  Roth expresses genuine love for the low-budget schlock fest and his appreciation for the sleazy pre-Giuliani New York setting.  Plus, Roth discusses his own films including his upcoming The Green Inferno.

    • Interview with WWE Superstar Chris Jericho (14:32): Longtime fan, Chris Jericho discusses his earliest introduction to the film on VHS.  Jericho’s fascination with the film lead him to introduce an assistant/henchmen named Ralphus during his WCW days.  The former WWE champion also waxes intellectual on some of his favorite horror films including Amityville II: The Possession and Cabin Fever.

    • Theatrical Trailer

    • Tromatic Extras: Includes Radiation March, Tromaloha! and Sell Your Own Damn Spider!

    • Troma Trailers: Return to Nuke’Em High Vol. I, The Toxic Avenger, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead and The Taint.

    • DVD Copy

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Hilariously shocking and supremely weird, Bloodsucking Freaks has rightfully earned its status in cult history with a tale of endless torture and eccentric performances like no other.  A minimal plot hardly matters when a perverted dwarf, dismemberments, corrupt cops, a sleazy New York setting and pitch black humor substitute.  While, the original elements’ condition plague the technical side, Troma Entertainment’s Blu-ray treatment  is a rewarding package with a wealth of vintage and newly composed special features for fans to cut into.  Gruesomely fun, Bloodsucking Freaks deserves to be with fans harboring an appreciation for the sick and twisted.

    RATING: 4/5