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Currently showing posts tagged Grindhouse

  • 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.

  • Doctor Butcher M.D. (1980) Blu-ray Review

    Doctor Butcher M.D. (1980)

    Director: Frank Martin

    Starring: Ian McCulloch, Alexandra Delli Colli, Sherry Buchanan, Peter O’Neal & Donald O’Brien

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fully restored from their original vault materials, Severin Films proudly presents both versions of the infamous grindhouse classic Doctor Butcher M.D.!  After a hospital orderly is discovered feasting on deceased bodies, anthropologist Lori (Alexandra Delli Colli, The New York Ripper) and Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch, Zombie) make a connection to the cannibals exotic home island and chart an expedition to further investigate.  Assisted by the local Doctor Obrero (Donald O’Brien, Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals), the unsuspecting team find themselves hunted by a cannibalistic tribe and reanimated zombies, shockingly developed by the unhinged Obrero.

    As goretastically eyeball-plucking as promoted, Doctor Butcher M.D. continues the flesh devouring exploits of other Italian gutbucket efforts of the era that would, thanks solely to its American distributor, make 42nd Street history with its genius marketing campaign and exceptionally exploitative re-titling.  After a series of bizarre human consuming episodes occur at several hospitals, smart and sexy anthropologist Lori and the noted Dr. Peter Chandler discover all the assailants hail from a territory of Asian islands that surely will reveal more answers to the stumped scholars after journeying there.  Joined by Chandler’s assistant George (Peter O’Neal) and his journalist girlfriend Susan (Sherry Buchanan, Tentacles), the team are warmly welcomed by Doctor Obrero and his loyal guides.  Before long, the unwelcome visitors are targeted by the cannibalistic tribesman using makeshift bamboo traps to puncture the nosy outlanders with fatal precision.  Armed with firearms do little good as the crew are largely outnumbered and fall victim to having their intestines revealed and their eyeballs gouged for vile consumption.  While the film remains narratively similar to other foreign travel pictures gone horrifyingly south, Doctor Butcher M.D. remains graphically entertaining with its over the top, bloodthirsty excess and zombie corpses who, although visually striking, interestingly enough don’t indulge in the eating of its victims.  As the deranged Doctor Obrero’s twisted experimentations are revealed to the good doctor Chandler, the tribe’s abduction of Lori goes haywire when her godly nude bodice sporting painted rose pedals prompts the cannibals to rebel and dine on their former puppet master instead.        

    Tightly trimming several sequences and tagging on a brief opening from an unfinished Roy Frumkes (Street Trash) horror opus, Doctor Butcher M.D. is the epitome of exploitation mayhem that would excitedly rouse the Deuce’s red light district where junkies, prostitutes and gorehounds all got their rocks off.  Further supported by a window dropping suicide, throat slashings and nauseating brain operations, Director Marino Girolami's (Nude Odeon) (working under the pseudonym Frank Martin) sadistically fun people eater feature can’t be praised for being wholly original but, takes mammoth sized bites with its flesh-tearing gore output and its one of a kind title that depraved viewers can’t help but love.

    Severin Films presents Doctor Butcher M.D. (and its original Zombie Holocaust cut) with 1080p transfers, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing battle scars from its grindhouse cinema days, scratches, scuffs (most commonly during the Frumkes shot opening scene) and occasional vertical lines are not uncommon during viewing yet, never deter from one’s enjoyment.  Excellently overseen, Severin Films’ new scans easily trump past international releases of the film with a much more naturalistic color scheme and warmer skin tones that rectify the unpleasant faded quality of previous versions.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the English track is well-handled with easy to follow dialogue levels while, its Zombie Holocaust counterpart features an equally pleasing DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English dubbed Mono mix along with an Italian LPCM 2.0 track san subtitles.  

    In addition to including both the Doctor Butcher M.D. (1:21:46) and Zombie Holocaust (1:28:57) cuts of the film, special features found on Disc 1 include, Butchery & Ballyhoo: An Interview with Aquarius Releasing's Terry Levine (31:36) which serves as the release’s finest inclusion hosts Levine as he charts his career in the film business, the many different releases he acquired throughout the years and their unique promotions, and the unfortunate demise of the 42nd Street of yesteryear.  Next up, Down on the Deuce: Nostalgic Tour of 42nd Street with Filmmaker Roy Frumkes & Temple of Schlock’s Chris Pogialli (21:55) is an excellent journey through the tourist trap of today’s Times Square as Frumkes and Pogialli detail what stood before the McDonalds and Starbucks of the block took over.  Also included, Roy Frumkes' Segment of Unfinished Anthology Film Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out (8:07), The Butcher Mobile: A Conversation with Gore Gazette’s Rick Sullivan (12:33), Cutting Doctor Butcher: An Interview with Editor Jim Markovic (10:12) plus, Trailers for the film’s Theatrical (2:44) and Video (1:14) / (0:56) releases.  Finally, the towering first serving of supplements concludes with Gary Hertz’s Essay: “Experiments with a Male Caucasian Brain (…and other memories of 42nd Street)”.

    Hosting the Zombie Holocaust edit, special features continue on Disc 2 with Voodoo Man: Interview with Star Ian McCulloch (8:14), Blood of the Zombies: Interview with FX Master Rosario Prestopino (23:03), Enzo on Marino: Enzo Castellari Recalls his Father Marino Girolami (7:46), Sherry Holocaust: Interview with Actress Sherry Buchanan (24:04) and Neurosurgery Italian Style: Interview with FX Artist Maurizio Trani (4:36).  In addition, New York Filming Locations: Then VS. Now (3:03), Ian McCulloch Sings “Down By the River” (2:40) recorded in 1964 and a Theatrical Trailer (4:16) joined by a German Trailer (3:17) is also included.  Finally, the release tops itself off with a Reversible Cover Art featuring the equally eye-catching Zombie Holocaust 1-sheet artwork while, an Official Barf Bag (limited to the first 5,000 units) is packaged inside for more squeamish audiences.

    Choke full of face-chewing craziness and blood splattering cannibals, Doctor Butcher M.D. remains a grindhouse heavyweight that turned its roadside marketing into a theatrical spectacle, worthy of disapproving riots.  Continuing to assault new generations of exploitation junkies through VHS discovery and enduring word of mouth, Severin Films has delivered the definitive house call in the film’s long running infamous history.  Presenting both versions newly restored, sadistically uncut and barf bag full of phenomenal bonus features, Doctor Butcher M.D. is an essential cut for gore and guts connoisseurs while, Severin Films’ finger lickin’ good release ranks as one of the year’s best!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available July 26th from Severin Films, Doctor Butcher M.D. can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, 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.

  • 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.

  • Supersoul Brother (1978) DVD Review

    Supersoul Brother (1978)

    Director: Rene Martinez

    Starring: Wildman Steve, Joycelyn Norris, Benny Latimore, Lee Cross & Peter Conrad

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In this sci-fi urban oddity, Supersoul Brother focuses on a duo of criminals investing in a dwarf-sized scientist to concoct a serum that grants superhuman abilities.  Easily convincing homeless wino Steve (Wildman Steve) to take the serum in order to assist in a jewel heist, Steve grows savvy to the deadly aftereffects of his injection and attempts to outsmart the thieves while creating an antidote to save his life.  

    Presented under its controversial title, The Six Thousand Dollar Nigger, Director Rene Martinez’s (The Guy from Harlem) low-budget bizarro effort melds the worlds of science fiction and comedy to deliver a most unusual caper film.  Rambunctious Wildman Steve (Ain’t That Just Like a Honkey!) stars as a desperate drunk who hits the jackpot when Ben (Benny Latimore) and Jim (Lee Cross) sway him to be their guinea pig in a $6,000 investment.  Developing a revolutionary formula that grants immeasurable strength, cigar chomping midget Dr. Dippy (Peter Conrad, The Funhouse) has been tasked by his criminal investors to inject the serum into Steve in order to pull off a lucrative jewel heist.  Also credited as dialogue supervisor, Wildman Steve lives up to his name and is a hilarious force of uncontrollable energy that lets his libido and profane dialect do the talking.  Overwhelmed with his new luxurious accommodations and taking a noticeable liking to Dr. Dippy’s assistant Peggy (Joycelyn Norris), Steve agrees to take part in the heist only to discover his accomplices’ ulterior plans.  Concerned for both his and Peggy’s well-being, this is one super brother that won’t go down easily.

    Filmed in Miami, Supersoul Brother’s plot is as basic as it gets but, handsomely delivers in its many eccentricities and hilarious dialogue.  Silly and soulful, Wildman Steve keeps the humor in steady supply with his clear desires for barbecued grub and persistent charm that successfully pops Peggy’s cherry.  Straying near the farther skirts of traditional blaxploitation, Supersoul Brother adheres to its promotional campaign of a sexy stud transformed into a black Superman that will keep viewers weirdly invested thanks to Wildman’s zany personality.

    Scanned and restored in 2K, Vinegar Syndrome, in conjunction with The American Genre Film Archive, presents Supersoul Brother in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio utilizing AGFA’s 35mm theatrical print.  Showing its mileage, Supersoul Brother is littered with excessive scratches, tears and cigarette burns.  Grindhouse quality damage aside, the film manages to demonstrate instances of solid detail in closeups with colors varying from strong to washed out, most noticeably in exterior sequences.  A far cry from the majority of Vinegar Syndrome’s impressive transfers, Supersoul Brother’s weathered appearance does lend a charm to its viewing experience for such an obscure effort.  Accompanied with a Dolby Digital 1.0 mix, static is heavily present making a vast increase in volume a necessity.  Brief audio dropouts and occasional muffled moments are also prevalent making dialogue at times difficult but, never impossible.  In addition, no special features are included on this release.

    Marking its first authorized DVD release, Supersoul Brother is a peculiar exploitation offering that will provoke as much laughter as it will raise eyebrows with Wildman Steve’s off the wall humor and unstoppable mouth making the film as racy and enjoyable as it is.  A match made in exploitation heaven, Vinegar Syndrome and The American Genre Film Archive’s collaboration to deliver this oddball effort is one that likeminded viewers will revel in.  While the technical end of the release is a notch below what some may expect, its beat to hell presentation adds an air of nostalgia back to a time where ratty film prints thrived and 42nd Street was dangerous.  Super weird and super outrageous, Super Soulbrother deserves a spot in cult lovers collections.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available April 14th from Vinegar Syndrome, Supersoul Brother can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977) DVD Review

    Gestapo’s Last Orgy (1977)
    Director: Cesare Canevari
    Starring: Daniela Levy & Marc Loud
    Released by: Intervision Picture Corp.

    Reviewed by Mike Keeny

    Appearing on the renowned “video nasties” list of the 1980s and still currently banned in the UK, Intervision unleashes one of the most notorious Nazisploitation epics of all time.  Depraved and sadistic, this Italian production exploits the nightmarish treatment of prisoners at the hands of the Third Reich.  Infamously sleazy, Gestapo’s Last Orgy, also known as Last Orgy of the Third Reich and Caligula Reincarnated as Hitler, is not for the faint of heart!

    Gestapo’s Last Orgy stars Daniela Levy as a beautiful concentration camp prisoner forced to endure unthinkable torture and sexual degradation at the hands of Hitler’s minions.  When a Nazi Commandant’s abuse increases, the desperate prisoner is forced to unleash her revenge.

    MOVIE:
    Released during the peak years where Nazisploitation thrived in grindhouse theaters, Gestapo’s Last Orgy is unquestionably more twisted than 1975’s more commonly discussed, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS.  Switching from past to present, Lise (Levy), returns to the abandoned scene of her imprisonment with her primary abuser as she recalls the terror she experienced.  Shocking moments included a nude troop of Nazi soldiers having their way with the female prisoners, a female warden tossing a menstruating prisoner to a pack of ferocious Dobermanns and a sickening dinner sequence that is the primary cause for the film’s banishment in the United Kingdom.  Nazi generals and other high-ranking officials feast on the meat of deceased prisoners before stripping down another.  The wicked dinner guests use her naked body as a food platter before igniting her in flames.  Gestapo’s Last Orgy is a sickening slice of trash cinema whose sole purpose is to shock with each scene.  Successful in its execution, this notorious nasty is tasteless and pushes the envelope of extreme brutality.  Lise’s resistance to show fear to the Commandant creates an obsession for the Nazi.  Torturing her with rats and acid pale in comparison to the murder of his own newborn with Lise based on the child’s “half-breed”.

    Revolting and gruesome, Gestapo’s Last Orgy strays closely to the Nazisploitation tropes of past efforts but does little more than shock.  Appropriately praised for its harsh nature, Gestapo’s Last Orgy was not quite my cup of tea and deserves a shower after viewing.  Perhaps, that’s the intent.
    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Intervision Picture Corp. presents Gestapo’s Last Orgy in an anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.78:1).  Reasonably soft looking, the film showcases signs of scratches and flakes throughout its runtime.  Colors pop decently with black levels on the murkier side.  Overall, the presentation is a decent upgrade from past releases and gets the job done fine.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, the audio is represented well, if not a tad flat while sporting a low hiss throughout.  Dialogue is audible with composer Alberto Baldan Bembo’s score coming in with static during sharper notes.  A mediocre mix that has its share of hiccups.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - A Brief History of Sadiconazista - Interview with Film Historian Dr. Marcus Stiglegger: Dr. Stiglegger of the University of Mainz, Germany sits down for an informative 36-minute interview.  A noted authority and author of several book on the subgenre, Stiglegger provides a scholarly background of Nazisploitation’s roots dating back to anti-Nazi propaganda of the 1940s, the grindhouse era films of the 60s and 70s plus, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.  The interview is engaging and a true crash course on the subject.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Gestapo’s Last Orgy remains an ultra sleazy and cruel piece of Nazisploitation.  Shocking and vile, this schlocky piece of grindhouse cinema does little to entertain and is tough to stomach.  The film still deserves the notoriety it receives within the genre for pushing the limits of despair.  Intervision Picture Corp. has done a fine job welcoming this uncut, unforgettable “video nasty” into their diverse library with an interview from Dr. Marcus Stiglegger that is worth the purchase alone.  While, not very impressive, fans of the niche genre will certainly appreciate.
    RATING: 2.5/5 

  • 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

  • 4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon Volume Two DVD Review


    4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon Volume Two
    Director(s): Steve Carver / Cesar Gallardo / Richard T. Heffron / Howard Avedis
    Starring: Gary Busey / James Iglehart / Jim Mitchum / Connie Stevens
    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shout! Factory returns with another dose of action-powered goodness in this 2-DVD set.  Volume Two presents four more explosive flicks with high-octane star power and enough shootouts and hand to hand combat to enthrall any action aficionado.  With films ranging from 1974 to 1988, this movie marathon is destined to capture the glory days of drive-ins and grindhouses where cult cinema like this ran rampant.  Load those machine guns and wrap those fists as we hit the ground running on this collection…

    Disc 1 pares two exciting gems from 1988 and 1974 respectively.  First up, Gary Busey (The Buddy Holly Story) is Bulletproof.  A Los Angeles cop/ex-CIA agent, Frank "Bulletproof" McBain (Busey) travels south of the border to retrieve a top-secret attack vehicle which has been hijacked by Russian-backed Libyan terrorists.  Darlanne Fluegel (Battle Beyond the Stars, Pet Semetary II) co-stars along with L.Q. Jones (Director of A Boy and His Dog), R.G. Armstrong (Dick Tracy) and the always reliable Henry Silva (Trapped).  Next up, Bamboo Gods & Iron Men stars James Iglehart (Savage!) as champion boxer Black Cal Jefferson.  While on his honeymoon in Hong Kong, an attempt is made by an underworld organization to recover a carved Buddha, which protects a substance powerful enough to control the world.  Cal, along with his wife and mute companion, get caught up in the events and they are the only ones to put a stop to it.

    Disc 2 opens with 1976’s Trackdown where a Montana rancher (Jim Mitchum) comes to Los Angeles searching for his runaway sister (Karen Lamm) who has become entangled in the dangerous world of drugs and prostitution.  Erik Estrada (CHiPS, Light Blast), Anna Archer (Fatal Attraction) and Cathy Lee Crosby (Coach) co-star.  Finally, Connie Stevens (Two on a Guillotine) headlines Scorchy, as a female undercover agent who will stop at nothing to bust a drug-smuggling ring.  Cesare Danova (Animal House) and William Smith (Conan the Barbarian) also star.

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

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/Action_Packed_Movie_Marathon_V/action_packed_movie_marathon_v.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

  • Devil's Express (1976) DVD Review



    Devil’s Express (1976)
    Director: Barry Rosen
    Starring: Warhawk Tanzania, Larry Fleischman, Sam De Fazio & Wilfredo Roldan
    Released by: Code Red DVD

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After many years of searching for suitable materials and hope of a release seeming all but lost, Code Red DVD has finally and unexpectedly released one of their most desirable titles yet!  The 75th spine numbered release from the independent distributor comes nearly five years after being announced in what many fans believed was never going to happen.  While the wait has been excruciating, Code Red DVD not only located the original camera negatives for the film but also restored it in HiDef.  After years of waiting, it’s finally time to experience the 50,000 year old death that stalks the subways!  You’ve bought the ticket, now let’s take the ride upon Devil’s Express.  All aboard…

    Devil’s Express tells the story of New York Martial Artist Luke (played by Warhawk Tanzania who quite possibly has the greatest name in history) as he heads to Hong Kong with his student Rodan (Wilfredo Roldan) in order to earn his next level in the Martial Arts world.  It isn’t long until they stumble upon an ancient burial site where an amulet holding demon creatures is found.  Not knowing this, Rodan steals the amulet and takes it back to his gang infested turf of New York City where all hell breaks loose… literally!  Dead bodies start popping up in the subways while the police believe they are a result of gang wars.  It’s up to Luke to confront the demonic beast underground in order to avenge his student before all hope is lost.

    MOVIE:
    With a film like Devil’s Express that has so much expectation, it’s hard to ensure that a film will deliver all that has been promised on the poster and by word of mouth.  Luckily, Devil’s Express is best described as a “grindhouse pizza”, the film has many slices of different subgenres that were populating the theaters found in Times Square at the time like action, martial-arts, horror and blaxploitation.  Every 20 minutes, the film morphs into something else while still pressing on with a story that entertains on a number of levels for its entire 84 minutes.  Sure, there’s hilarity to be found in the less than stellar fighting sequences and Luke’s jive-speech but that all comes with the charming territory.  It’s so often that films get labeled as “grindhouse” simply because they were released in this decade and even played in theaters of its ilk but Devil’s Express is film that not only deserves it, but wears that label proudly.  The film breathes the New York City of the 70s by showcasing alleyway gang fights and wonderful street shots of defunct grindhouse theaters and peepshows that make you long for those days again.  Tanzania’s performance is the light that guides this film through it’s odd journey and manages to make us laugh as well as kick some demon ass.  During the theatrical release of The Warriors, the distributor of Devil’s Express re-titled it as Gang Wars in order to sell it as a gritty gang movie.  While the title is a cool one, Devil’s Express is more fitting and a far more honest description of what the viewer will be getting.  The film took many moons to make its way into our DVD players, but I can safely say that the wait was worth it and deserves a spot on every cult lovers shelf.  Purchase without hesitation, jive-ass turkeys!
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Code Red DVD presents Devil’s Express in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen HiDef transfer from the original camera negatives.  In short, the film looks beautiful.  Colors pop nicely with healthy levels of grain intact that even the minor instances of dirt and debris won’t ruin.  For as long as the negatives took to find, many would have imagined the worst for their condition but worry not because Devil’s Express truly looks terrific.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    The film is presented in an English Mono track and much like its video counterpart, it sounds great.  The roar of subway trains and fight sequences come across just as well as you could imagine while dialogue comes through without a hitch.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    The disc automatically opens up with a trailer for The King of Kung Fu before heading to the main menu.

    - Devil’s Express Trailer

    - Gang Wars Trailer: An alternate Devil’s Express trailer that utilized the Gang Wars title.

    - Code Red Trailers: A sneak peek at some exciting future flicks like Death Promise, The Black Dragon Revenges the Death of Bruce Lee (which utilizes Spanish title cards), Running Scared, This Is a Hijack! and Shakma.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Devil’s Express is a superb execution in grindhouse greatness where several different subgenres make up a piece of this entertaining pie.  The film is roller-coaster fun and is presented in quite possibly the best presentation it has ever seen.  Code Red DVD’s HiDef transfer blows the socks out of any fuzzy looking bootleg you may have owned previously and while the release is light on extras (although, they were originally planned for but aborted after waiting so many years for cast and crew participation that never came through) the strength of the film alone earns high marks.  Devil’s Express is deliciously awesome and is essential for any and all grindhouse fans!
    RATING: 4.5/5

  • 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