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  • They're Playing with Fire (1984) Blu-ray Review

    They’re Playing with Fire (1984)

    Director: Howard Avedis

    Starring: Sybil Danning, Eric Brown, Andrew Prine & Paul Clemens

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Combining skin and thrills, They’re Playing with Fire stars Sybil Danning (Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf) as a sultry college professor who seduces a horny student (Eric Brown, Private Lessons), entangling him in a dangerous plot to obtain her in-laws wealthy inheritance.  Andrew Prine (Amityville II: The Possession) and Paul Clemens (The Beast Within) costar.

    Shrouded as a wild sex-romp in tune with most young men’s desires, They’re Playing with Fire, albeit being very tantalizing, pulls the carpet under its audience in one of the oddest genre switch ups of the decade.  Incessantly drooling over his foxy professor, Mrs. Diane Stevens, and performing odd jobs aboard her luxurious yacht, college student Jay Richard’s lusting pays off when seduced by the blonde bombshell.  Unknowingly plotting a scheme with her husband Michael (Prine) to inherit his family riches from her in-laws, a virtually harmless crack at prowling to scare off the elderly Stevens’ backfires on Jay when a masked assailant ruthlessly knocks off Michael’s mother and grandmother instead.  Trapping him in a seductive love triangle with life or death stakes, Jay’s hormonal jackpot grows grayer by the day.  Regarded as exploitation royalty, Sybil Danning makes mouths water with her fiercely flirtatious performance and sizzling nude sequences that, much to the delight of teenage boys during the video boom, are plentiful.  In a deliriously unexpected spin for viewers assuming the plot from its provocative poster art, They’re Playing with Fire morphs into an erotically-charged thriller with slasher elements that pollinate the film with bloody bursts of violence catching first time watchers off guard.  Helmed by Howard Avedis (Scorchy, Mortuary), They’re Playing with Fire, rightly earning Danning one of her finest performances in a career of countlessly sexy and sleazy roles, is a wild effort right down to its even kookier reveal of the true murderer that is as unusually different as it is libido driving.

    Newly remastered, KL Studio Classics upgrades They’re Playing with Fire with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Revealing satisfying layers of detail in facial features, skin tones are sound with Danning certainly showing off her fair share during the film’s many moments of passion.  Meanwhile, costumes, background pieces and bolder colored vehicles pop quite decently with the film’s source material arriving in tiptop shape and generally free of any unsavory scratches.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles character exchanges, both in intimate, hushed tones and louder barroom environments, nicely while, music cues are well orchestrated and ear-pleasing.  Special features include, Sun & Seduction with Sybil Danning (18:25) where the still mightily attractive lead reveals she landed the role based on her appearance in Playboy Magazine and her initial concerns that the script was overly convoluted.  Furthermore, Danning recalls many a fan encounters where the film played heavily into their puberty and instances of teens stealing the videotape from their fathers!  The genre titan, although finding him cute, reveals costar Eric Brown made the shoot difficult due to his unwillingness to be nude in the film.  Lastly, Trailers for They’re Playing with Fire (1:25), The Bitch (2:38) and The Stud (2:52) conclude the disc’s supplements.

    Beloved by Mr. Skin himself and most young men who experienced the film’s sumptuous offerings during its heyday, They’re Playing with Fire offers plenty of bare-breasted Sybil Danning and a chameleon-like plot that supplies an alarmingly fun touch of slasher elements for fans of the decade’s body count pictures.  A career high for the buxom B-movie queen, carnal delights never tasted this sweet or deadly before her voluptuous college professor wraps her legs around such impressionable hound dogs.  KL Studio Classics’ high-def handling of the sexy sizzler is a solid boost in quality with Danning’s newly recorded chatty sit-down a fine inclusion.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, They’re Playing with Fire can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Malibu High (1978) Blu-ray Review

    Malibu High (1978)

    Director: Irvin Berwick

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • 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.

  • Witchtrap (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Witchtrap (1989)

    Director: Kevin Tenney

    Starring: Linnea Quigley, James Quinn, Kathleen Bailey, Judy Tatum, Hal Havins & Rob Zapple

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Bearing its alternate The Presence title card, Witchtrap, aggressively marketed as not a sequel to 1987’s Witchboard, scares up the screen as Director Kevin Tenney’s most overlooked spooktacular showcase from the wild and waning late 80s.  Afflicted with a reputation for being haunted and further confirmed following an unexplainable death on its grounds, the Lauder House, failing to sell to potential buyers attempts to reinvent itself as a bed and breakfast.  Hired by the property’s inheritor (Tenney in a brief role), a team of paranormal experts, aided by a trio of security operatives, use their tools and know-how to cleanse the home of its sinister evil but find themselves meeting fatal demises the longer they stay.  Boasting charmingly clunky acting and genuinely funny dialogue, Witchtrap delivers a black mass of gory special effects mayhem including, automobile impalements, exploding noggins, a bullet (sans gunfire) through the skull and the always dependable axe to the head.  In addition, scream queen Linnea Quigley reteams with her Night of the Demons helmer for a minor but, wildly memorable role that finds her baring her full assets and landing the film’s highlight death scene with a shower head driven through her neck.  Another low-budget marvel in Tenney’s rolodex of features overrun with possessed partygoers and eerie Ouija boards, Witchtrap keeps the fun rolling well into its final act where smart-assed lone survivor Tony Vincente (James Quinn, Witchboard) goes head to head with the black magic-worshipping entity of Avery Lauder (J.P. Luebsen, also of Witchboard fame) in a ghost busting brawl for the ghoul’s heart.

    Newly scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm interpositive, Vinegar Syndrome presents Witchtrap fully uncut with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Cleansed to perfection while maintaining its filmic integrity, skin tones are highly detailed and warmly accurate while, colors found in the bedrooms of the Lauder House and its surrounding greenery burst with vibrancy.  In addition, the film’s gorier moments are further enhanced by the image’s crispness revealing all the technical team’s efforts.  Lastly, black levels are deeply inky and universally sound, chalking up another flawless restoration for the consistent indie label.  Joined by a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, the film’s dubbed dialogue is handled effectively while its overall usage is occasionally jarring in motion.  Furthermore, the eerie atmospherics and musical underscores are appropriately balanced for a less forceful but nonetheless efficiently pleasing listening experience.

    Packed to the brim with content, special features include, a chatty Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Kevin Tenney, Producer Dan Duncan, Cinematographer Tom Jewett & Actor Hal Havins, several newly recorded interview featurettes including, Making Witchtrap with Kevin Tenney (23:36) who discusses his film school days before exiting once landing the opportunity to helm Witchboard and his other successive features and the hardships of making smaller budgeted films, Acting Witchtrap with Linnea Quigley (13:40) who recounts her chance encounter falling into acting and her creative relationship with Tenney, Shooting Witchtrap: An Interview with Tom Jewett (15:90) plus, Special Effects with Tassilo Baur (17:11).  Additionally, Audio Interviews with Special Makeup Artist Judy Yonemoto (8:18) and Music Composer Dennis Michael Tenney (13:13) are provided along with the Witchtrap Video Trailer (2:55), Book of Joe Short Film directed by Kevin Tenney (23:23) and an Alternate Ending for Book of Joe (3:44).  Lastly, a Production/Promotional Still Gallery (12 in total), DVD Edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original and favored VHS poster close out the robust spread of supplements.  A supernaturally splendid hodgepodge from the last breathes of the 1980s featuring a haunted house and buckets of blood, Witchtrap sits proudly next to Tenney’s other cult favorites from the era while earnestly deserving more praise than time has provided for its tightly budgeted and highly entertaining execution in satanic shrieks.  Treating viewers to the missing link in Tenney’s early trifecta of terror, Vinegar Syndrome outdoes themselves with the film’s definitive release.  Perfect in quality and presentation in all its uncut glory, the included bonus features are a staggering sight to behold and a pleasure to be possessed by.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • The Lair of the White Worm (1988) Blu-ray Review

    The Lair of the White Worm (1988)

    Director: Ken Russell

    Starring: Amanda Donohoe, Hugh Grant, Catherine Oxenberg, Peter Capaldi, Sammi Davis & Stratford Johns

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From noted auteur Ken Russell (The Devils), The Lair of the White Worm finds Lord James D’Ampton (Hugh Grant, Love Actually) returning to his English castle where the legendary folklore of his ancestor slaying a monstrous white worm with a taste for virgin flesh is literally dug up.  Discovering the skeletal remains of a large reptilian beast and other questionable finds, archaeology student Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi, Doctor Who) seeks to convince the Lord of the tale’s legitimacy when James’s girlfriend vanishes, leading the daring duo to uncover the worm’s lair and rid its evil.  

    Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s final novel, The Lair of the White Worm blends the gothically sinister with Russell’s innate taste for the erotic and darkly humorous ensuring a most unusually psychotronic trip of sexy serpents, religious blasphemy and acquired campiness.  Following the excavation of an abnormally huge snake-like skull, archaeology student Angus Flint believes his find roots directly to the local legend of John D’Ampton who bravely slain the dreaded White Worm in years past.  Solely occupying the family estate, James D’Ampton begins to find merit in his ancestor’s fantastical history when his girlfriend Eve Trent (Catherine Oxenberg, Dynasty) disappears shortly after searching for her own missing parents with sister Mary (Sammi Davis, The Rainbow).  Suspicious of nearby neighbor, the gorgeous Oscar Wilde quoting Lady Sylvia (Amanda Donohoe, Liar Liar) and incognito priestess to a pagan snake god, who uses her alluring lingerie and thigh-high leather boots to seductively slither victims into her grasp, Angus and James combine their efforts to locate the worm’s cavernous lair and save the Trent sisters.  A deranged assemblage part arthouse, part B-movie monsterpalooza, juxtaposed with bursts of extreme music video energy, The Lair of the White Worm is an uneasily definable genre mash that equally defies and baffles most viewer expectations.  Doused with tedious touches of complicated exposition in accordance with Stoker’s own work, The Lair of the White Worm works best as a visual opiate that shocks viewers senses with religious imagery depicting a crucified Christ and virgin nuns being raped at his feet.  In addition, Donohoe commandeers the picture with her magnetic charm and ssssinister handling of weak-minded men in hot tubs who are left squealing shy of one body part.  A cult curioso certain to divide audiences, The Lair of the White Worm will surely entrance those swayed by its peculiar blend of oddness while, the film, for better or worse, places style above substance.

    (images are not representative of actual Blu-ray quality)

    Digitally restored, Lionsgate presents The Lair of the White Worm with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  True to the gray overcast of the film’s setting, colors are sparse while skin tones remain natural-looking and nicely detailed.  In addition, black levels are respectable with only mild softness detected.  Furthermore, scratches or other age-related follies are washed away ensuring the film the most proper of HD debuts.  Equipped with a satisfactory DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles the heavy accents of its performers adequately, the sexy saxophone injections by Composer Stanislas Syrewicz (The Fantasist) provides the liveliest mentions on the otherwise unvaried mix.  Continuing the tradition of its fellow Vestron Video Collector’s Series titles, substantial supplements include, an Audio Commentary with Director Ken Russell and a second Audio Commentary with Lisi Russell, in conversation with Film Historian Matthew Melia.  Meanwhile, Red Shirt Pictures offers enthralling new featurettes with Worm Food: The Effects of The Lair of the White Worm (27:08) where Special Make-Up & Creature Effects Designer Geoff Portas, Special Make-Up & Creature Effects Modeler Neil Gorton and Special Make-Up & Creature Effects Technician Paul Jones share their unique experiences working with the eccentric Russell and their artistic approaches to the project.  Furthermore, Cutting for Ken with Editor Peter Davies (9:32) discusses his rather easy hiring on the job while, Trailers from Hell featuring the late Dan Ireland (2:45), Mary, Mary with Sammi Davis (15:42), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:11) and a Still Gallery (2:59) round out the bonus feature offerings.

    (images are not representative of actual Blu-ray quality)

    One of Vestron Pictures’ own original productions, The Lair of the White Worm remains an immensely split feature with a deliriously off-kilter tone befitting of Russell’s weird style.  Head-scratchingly bizarre and monstrously campy, the unique adaptation of Stoker’s panned final work is certainly not for all but, one worth digging up for its undefinable place in genre circles.  Making its Blu-ray debut as the sixth installment of the fan-favorite Collector’s Series, Lionsgate gives Russell’s phantasmagoric oddity a most respectable remastering and a generous touch of supplements viewers have quickly come to expect.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available January 31st from Lionsgate, The Lair of the White Worm can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Stryker (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Stryker (1983)

    Director: Cirio H. Santiago

    Starring: Steve Sandor, Andria Savio, William Ostrander, Michael Lane, Julie Gray & Monique St. Pierre

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the aftermath of nuclear holocaust, Stryker finds a world devastated and water its most valued treasure.  As several bands of survivors battle each other over short supplies, a secret water source has been exposed leading a lone woman with knowledge of its whereabouts to depend on renowned warrior Stryker (Steve Sandor, Fire and Ice) to protect its safety against the evil Kardis (Michael Lane, The Harder They Fall) and his army.

    Piggybacking on the craze of post-apocalyptic mayhem set forth by Mad Max, Stryker burns rubber taking unapologetic cues from George Miller’s game-changing effort where muscular brutes, wasteland women and high-octane vehicles run amok in pursuit of dominance in a new ravaged world.  As the survivors of worldwide nuclear destruction struggle to locate viable water sources, Delha (Andria Savio, Death Screams), harboring knowledge of a shrouded spring and pursed by the death squads of Kardis for its location, is saved by the fearless Stryker and his companion.  Before long, the lone female finds herself captured and tortured by the vile Kardis until a successful daring rescue mission by Stryker puts her in pursuit of Trun, Stryker’s brother, for manpower to combat Kardis’s overwhelming forces.  Determined to seek vengeance against the wicked leader for the death of his own lover, Stryker joins the cause to protect the coveted spring and liberate those in peril.  Loaded with battered vehicle chases, scantly-clad women armed with crossbows and high-pitched Filipino midget warriors, Stryker delivers a respectable drive-in effort with action-packed bloodshed done cheaply although, its saccharine celebration of a conclusion at the height of battle shortchanges its outcome.  Marking the first of many post-nuke helmed efforts for Filipino native and dependable Corman colleague Cirio H. Santiago (Firecracker, Wheels of Fire), Stryker remains a mid-level Road Warrior ripoff that generally satisfies where it counts while, Santiago’s later experiments in the genre would greatly improve with each passing attempt.

    KL Studio Classics presents Stryker with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  No stranger to speckling and occasional scratches, this expectedly soft-looking effort looks as good as can be expected given its tight budget and dry, desolate locations.  Skin tones look decently with instances of blood popping well and costume choices relaying mediocre detail.  Furthermore, black levels, evidenced in Kardis’s torture dungeon and the cave harboring the desired water spring, look rather drab and harder to make out.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that translates the obviously dubbed dialogue with ease, soundtrack cues and action-oriented moments of explosions and firepower offer slightly more oomph to the proceedings.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Filmmaker Jim Wynorski, moderated by Bill Olsen & Damon Packard.  B-movie legend and fellow Corman protégé, Wynorski, although having nothing creatively to do with the film outside of knowing Santiago rather well and taking over directorial duties on its remake after the Filipino filmmaker fell ill, provides chatty conversation and an obvious love for the genre making the track an unexpected treat.  In addition, a Trailer Gallery featuring Stryker (2:03), Wheels of Fire (2:04), Equalizer 2000 (1:39), The Sisterhood (1:26) and Dune Warriors (1:12) is also included.

    From what seems like a bottomless pit of post-apocalyptic knockoffs, Stryker neither burns out nor exceeds what’s expected of it.  Living up to its colorfully exploitative poster art, blood, babes and savagery reign in this New World Pictures produced feature that stands as a mere stepping stone for Santiago’s more refined wasteland followups.  Never a pretty looking picture since its inception, KL Studio Classics ensures the film a most welcome upgrade for the HD generation.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • The Undertaker (1988) Blu-ray Review

    The Undertaker (1988)

    Director: Franco De Stefanino

    Starring: Joe Spinnell, Rebecca Yaron, Patrick Askin, Susan Bachli & William Kennedy

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In one of his final film roles, Joe Spinnell (Maniac) stars in The Undertaker as a crazed mortician who takes pleasure in making the local population apart of his personal body collection.  As more people go missing, his nephew Nick (Patrick Askin) grows suspicious of Uncle Roscoe’s devious activities pitting him and those closest in harm’s way.

    Helmed by no shortage of four directors under a phony foreign pseudonym and virtually lost to time for the better part of 30 years, The Undertaker adheres to the bloody tropes of slasher cinema with cult heavyweight Joe Spinnell delivering a most stupefyingly peculiar performance.  Mumbling through much of his role as a high-strung funeral director with a fetish for corpses, Spinnell’s deranged demeanor can hardly be contained as he sobs uncontrollably before savagely ripping his victims apart making the unpredictability of his range the film’s main vocal point.  After being lectured on the subject of necrophilia at his local university, Roscoe’s nephew Nick quickly grows weary of his uncle’s funeral parlor exploits, opening a can of worms he wished he never did.  Muddled by several promising but, nonetheless wasteful subplots involving the local police investigating a series of missing persons and a movie theater security guard who’s certain of Roscoe’s dirty deeds, The Undertaker keeps the “bigger is better” hairstyles of the era, ample helpings of T&A and top-notch deaths including, a switchbladed eyeball, scorched face via frying pan and a beheading in healthy supply.  Methodically tracking his victims, leading to a climatic assault on Nick’s teacher Ms. Hayes (Rebecca Yaron) with machete in hand and an abrupt final frame from beyond the grave, The Undertaker may not be a bonafide diamond in the rough but, its excavation remains of utmost importance for exploitation hounds that will treasure Spinnell’s maddening performance put to celluloid only a year before his untimely death.  

    Scanned in 2K from the 35mm camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome ushers The Undertaker to high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  At the mercy of incorporating six minutes of VHS workprint footage to ensure an uncut presentation, the overwhelming majority of the film looks splendid with rich colors, natural skin tones and sharp detail observing Spinnell’s facial scars all looking tip-top.  Understandably, the VHS-culled sequences are in rather drab shape although, footage from a satanic feature Roscoe watches looks more effective in its ratty condition.  The final showdown in Ms. Hayes’s apartment and Roscoe’s dimly-lit basement dwelling can also be harder to make out but these brief moments of unavoidable haziness are a minor setback to an otherwise sound presentation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix that encounters strides of sharp sibilance, dialogue is sufficiently projected with soundtrack cues occasionally overwhelming exchanges.  Furthermore, cracks and pops are far and few between.  

    Special features include, a Director’s Intro (0:15) by William Kennedy, Audio Commentary with Actor/Writer/Director William Kennedy and Making The Undertaker with Actor/Writer/Director William Kennedy (20:45) that provides curious viewers with answers to everything and more regarding the troubled production as well as Kennedy’s praise for what he believes is one of Spinnell’s finest performances.  In addition, Rough Cut Outtakes (9:54), an Archival Promotional Video (5:07), a Production Still Gallery (17 in total) and a 6-page booklet featuring an exemplary essay by Michael Gingold is also included.  A DVD edition of the release is also on hand.

    Following vastly murky bootlegs and a previously released censored version, The Undertaker makes its Blu-ray debut in style with a rewarding transfer that can only be praised for its restored bliss and completeness.  Coupled with intriguing supplements and a blood splattered, coffin shaped O-card, Vinegar Syndrome, much like Roscoe’s penchant for bodies, makes The Undertaker one victim of a release Spinnell fans won’t want to miss in their collection.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome and limited to 3,000 units, The Undertaker can be purchased exclusively via VinegarSyndrome.com.

  • Blood Diner (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Blood Diner (1987)

    Director: Jackie Kong

    Starring: Rick Burks, Carl Crew, LaNette La France, Roger Dauer, Max Morris & Drew Godderis

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving up a goofy helping of gore, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series welcomes Blood Diner to the menu!  When brainwashed brothers Michael (Rich Burks, The Under Achievers) and George (Carl Crew, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer) Tutman are ordered by their deceased uncle to resurrect the goddess Sheetar, the duo use their successful restaurant to lure scandalous women for their body parts and to sacrifice a pure virgin to complete their black magic ritual.

    Originally intended to be a sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast, the Jackie Kong (Night Patrol) helmed cannibalistic comedy throws everything but an ounce of seriousness into its buffet of blood and over the top absurdity.  20 years after witnessing the death of their serial killing uncle, brothers Michael and George Tutman loyally dig up his remains and have the eyes and brain of Uncle Anwar guide them on their mission to resurrect the powerful Egyptian goddess Sheetar.  Serving the local community with their restaurant’s popular healthy food options containing secret ingredients sure to make the masses barf, Michael and George are ordered to collect multiple body parts from promiscuous female prospects and most importantly, locate a virgin to be presented to the mighty Sheetar during the aptly named blood buffet ceremony.  As butchered bodies begin turning up all over the city, Detectives Mark Shepard (Roger Dauer, My Lovely Monster) and Sheba Jackson (LaNette La France in her only film credit) seek to bring the criminal minds to justice.  

    Boasting unbelievably silly performances, ridiculous dialogue and cartoonish levels of blood splattering violence, Blood Diner had routinely earned the reputation as a “bad movie” and remarkably found itself banned in several countries for its extreme content.  While its low-budget limitations and amateurish nature is evident, Blood Diner remains buckets of gooey fun that commits to its comedic sensibilities and never lets up.  Tonally bizarre with a bevy of personalities ranging from punkers and rockabilly boppers to greasers and Hitler lookalikes, the VHS cult favorite keeps viewers head-scratchingly rocking along to its uniquely selected soundtrack of 50s doo-wop tunes incorporating an added dimension of oddness.  Mixing independent wrestling, nude aerobics and a rock club finale that turns patrons into green, poorly face-painted flesh eaters to the already insane festivities, the highly unusual blend of wackiness and trashiness make Blood Diner an entertaining, freaky feature like few others.

    Newly remastered from the film’s original vault materials, Lionsgate presents Blood Diner fully uncut with a 1080p transfer, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably cleaned up with no troublesome signs of dirt or scratches, the cheaply made feature casts a softer appearance that maintains skin tones nicely while, enriching the bright red, bloody offerings rampant throughout the film.  Furthermore, no digital scrubbing is apparent ensuring a naturally filmic presentation that honors appreciative black levels during the film’s final club sequence and strong details observed in makeup choices and Sheetar’s razor-toothed design work.  Much like the debut installment of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Blood Diner appears light years ahead of its grainy tape sourced predecessors.  Although moderately restrained in its projection, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix supports audible levels of dialogue and caters to its doo-wop and rockabilly centered track selections nicely.  While the mix may not be wildly dynamic, sound quality is more than efficient.

    Loaded with a smorgasbord of bonus features including, an Audio Commentary with Director Jackie Kong and the top-notch retrospective Killer Cuisine: The Making of Blood Diner (1:04:31).  Produced by Red Shirt Pictures, this impressive five-part featurette hosts interviews with the rarely public Jackie Kong, Screenwriter Michael Sonye, Producer Jimmy Maslon, Creative Consultant Bill Osco and countless cast members covering the film’s origin, its lengthy writing process, the tragic passing of Star Rick Burks and the film’s ongoing appreciation by cult lovers.  In a career of crafting deeply researched retrospectives on B-movie favorites, Killer Cuisine ranks as one of Red Shirt Pictures’ best efforts.  Also included, an Archival Interview with Project Consultant Eric Caidin (8:01) recorded in 2009, Theatrical Trailers (4:49), TV Spots (1:34) and a Still Gallery (5:34).

    In only their sophomore outing, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series keeps its high-caliber quality in tune for the unbelievable domestic high-def debut of Blood Diner.  As ridiculously loony and uproariously funny as remembered, Director Jackie Kong’s goofy gore show looks splendid and arrives with another wildly impressive serving of delectable extras to chomp into.  Available for a limited time, Blood Diner is one of the best, fully-loaded genre treats to land in dedicated fan’s collections this Halloween season or any other for that matter!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 27th from Lionsgate, Blood Diner can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Chopping Mall (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Chopping Mall (1986)

    Director: Jim Wynorski

    Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Russell Todd, Kattie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Nick Segal, John Terlesky & Suzee Slater

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kicking off their anticipated Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Lionsgate proudly presents Chopping Mall.  Set in the Park Plaza Mall, Director Jim Wynorski’s (Deathstalker II, Not of This Earth) cult classic finds revolutionary security robots short circuiting and transforming into malfunctioning murderers with sights set on a group of trapped teenagers.  Fresh-faced talent and memorable cult stars including, Paul Bartel (Hollywood Boulevard), Mary Woronov (Rock ’n’ Roll High School), Dick Miller (Gremlins) and Gerrit Graham (Child’s Play 2) appear.

    Also known as Killbots, Chopping Mall turns a sex-filled evening of fun for eight teenagers into a hellish run-in with deadly droids where survival is tougher than a fair deal at the mall.  Shortly after being introduced as the Park Plaza Mall’s newest line of late night security, several bolts of lightning rattles the computer systems of the high-tech robotic protectors turning them into ruthless killers with polite manners.  Simultaneously, four horny couples plan to throw their own after hours party within a furniture storefront where booze and plenty of beds are on hand.  Exterminating several mall employees, the trio of metallic stalkers turn their attention to the scantily clad teens, leaving blood and destruction in their wake.  With escape impossible, the resourceful survivors must combat their enemies with makeshift traps and found weapons in order to see the next business day.  Centering its futuristic madness at the epicenter of every teen’s former recreational haven, Valley Girl meets Westworld in this Roger Corman produced cheapie that celebrates the bubbly blondes and yuppie horndogs of yesteryear whose trespassing earns them laser blast attacks and exploding heads.  Headlined by a youthful cast of thespians including, Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet), Tony O’Dell (Head of the Class), Russell Todd (Friday the 13th Part 2), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) and others, Chopping Mall remains snappily brisk and endlessly fun keeping blood, breasts and bots in steady supply.  

    Self-promoting his own works with visible posters for Sorceress and The Lost Empire on display, Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski also honors mentor and producer Roger Corman with several nods including, a Little Shop of Pets storefront and Attack of the Crab Monsters promptly televised for the film’s necking couples.  Predominately shot on location at the Sherman Oaks Galleria in California’s San Fernando Valley, Chopping Mall keeps its action well-paced as the technological terrors utilize tasers and death grips against the dwindling youngsters with Maroney confidently defending herself with a crack shot and crafty ingenuity within a paint shop.  Released the same year as other offbeat, eventual cult favorites including, Night of the Creeps and TerrorVision, Chopping Mall endures as one of the era’s most gleefully silly and finely-tuned sci-fi sideshows that warmly ranks as one, if not, Wynorski’s finest directorial effort in a spectacularly diverse career spanning well over 100 features.

    Newly restored from the original negative materials, Lionsgate’s limited edition release of Chopping Mall arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of marginal debris and inherent vertical lines during its opening title sequence, the quality of the B-movie favorite is a revelation.  Boasting exceptionally healthy skin tones and crisp detail within background posters and the metallic intricacies of its killers, colors found in the vibrant wardrobe choices of the era pop wonderfully while, the purplish hues of robotic laser blasts satisfy equally.  Miles ahead of ratty-looking bootlegs and fullscreen video sourced editions, Chopping Mall preserves its filmic integrity to look better than ever before!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible with bustling mall ambiance nicely balanced.  In addition, Chuck Cirino’s (The Return of Swamp Thing) synth/bass heavy score greatly impresses and effectively underscores the onscreen chaos while, the killbots’ fast-turning gears, gasoline explosions and shattering glass make appropriately sharp stakes on the track.  

    Bursting with supplements, an Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski, Actress Kelli Maroney & Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell is joined by a second Audio Commentary with Historians/Authors Nathaniel Thompson of Mondo Digital & Ryan Turek of Shock Till You Drop.  Furthermore, a third Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski & Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell, recorded in 2004, is also included.  With an Isolated Score Track by Chuck Cirino, Newly-crafted featurettes include, Back to the Mall: Interviews with the Victims and Makers (26:29) that explores the entire genesis of the film and its impact with interviews from Wynorski, Mitchell, Maroney, Todd, Crampton and countless others who look back on the experience with fond memories and deep appreciation to the fans who have kept it alive.  Chopping Chopping Mall: A Conversation with Editor Leslie Rosenthal (8:19), Talkin’ About… The Killbots with Robot Creator Robert Short (12:11), Scoring Chopping Mall: A Conversation with Composer Chuck Cirino (11:04) and The Robot Speaks!: Ten Questions with the Killbot (2:12) are also included that bring great insight to the many different behind-the-scenes contributions to the film.  Also included, The Lost Scene (3:01) finds Wynorski and Mitchell prefacing an additional scene with Bartel and Wornov that was never shot before sharing its script pages while, An Army of One: A Visit with Chopping Mall’s Biggest Fan: Carl Sampieri (6:01) who fortunately owns the only surviving bot from the film is also on hand.  Finally, a vintage Chopping Mall: Creating the Killbots (15:41) featurette is carried over with the film’s Trailer (0:50).

    Rooftop pleas by diehard fans have finally been answered with Lionsgate’s newfound commitment to honoring B-movie treasures.  Arguably their most requested title, Chopping Mall makes its far too long awaited Blu-ray debut with jaw-dropping clarity and sonically splendid sound.  Proudly living up to its Collector’s Series banner, hours of newly made bonus features will find killbot enthusiasts enjoyably spending overtime in the mall.  With fans more than eager to offer arms and legs to see Wynroski’s beloved cult classic enter the HD realm for years, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video line has made a laser-blasting debut essential to all genre lovers.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available September 27th from Lionsgate, Chopping Mall can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Hardcore (1979) Blu-ray Review

    Hardcore (1979)

    Director: Paul Schrader

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

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Road House (1989) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Road House (1989)

    Director: Rowdy Herrington

    Starring: Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliot, Ben Gazzara, Marshall R. Teague & Julie Michaels

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the brawling bar business, Road House stars Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing) as cool-headed and physically fit bouncer Dalton.  When the chaotically run Double Deuce hires him to clean up their image, the widely respected and increasingly disliked pub protector finds himself at odds with corrupt business tycoon Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara, The Thomas Crown Affair).  Kelly Lynch (Curly Sue), Sam Elliot (Grandma), Marshall R. Teague (The Rock) and Julie Michaels (Witchboard 2 ) co-star.

    Teetering on the cusp of ridiculousness and unabashed entertainment, Road House serves up viewers with a tidal wave of bottle breaking, beat ’em up insanity in a dead end Missouri town with hunkish ladies man Patrick Swayze kicking ass and taking names politely.  Highly regarded for his uniquely qualified skills, one-of-a-kind cooler Dalton is persuaded to restore balance to the dangerous Double Deuce bar when the price proves right.  Quietly observing the reckless environment and the temperamentally unfit and dishonest employee roster, Dalton’s take charge persona quickly earns him enemies.  As his junker of a vehicle is consistently trashed and new lethal threats find their way to the Double Deuce, Dalton meets town baddie Brad Wesley who pawns off small businesses and strikes fear into the local community.  After teaching several of Wesley’s henchmen a lesson in barroom manners, a knife wound and emergency room visit introduces the muscled drifter to the supremely sexy Dr. Elizabeth “Doc” Clay (Lynch) with romance and bed-sharing hobbies percolating soon after.  With business and security thriving at the newly renovated bar, Wesley’s distaste for Dalton increases following a business refusal, prompting the corrupt mogul to derail the Double Deuce from succeeding further.  Seeking assistance from his grizzled mentor Wade Garrett (Elliot), Dalton’s liberation of the locals causes neighboring businesses to be set aflame and those closest to the bouncer to be put in harm’s way.  Outnumbered and overpowered, Dalton’s feud with the powerful Wesley will be the deadliest last call of his life with only one man left standing.

    A redecorated western trading hats for mullets and horses for monster trucks, Road House makes no apologies for its absurd premise and over the top personalities yet, wins viewers over with its commitment to the material and colorful conflict between unconventional heroes and money-driven baddies.  Eliciting hilariously quotable dialogue and featuring generous doses of gratuitous nudity including, but not limited to, a skintastically revealing Kelly Lynch and the bare backside of Swayze, Road House stands tall with the blazing tunes of blind, blues virtuoso Jeff Healey who appears as the featured house band in the film.  Boasting commendable stunt work and fight choreography overwhelmingly achieved by the actors themselves, Director Rowdy Herrington’s (Jack’s Back) bar battering feature is throat-rippingly rockin’, exceeding common misconceptions of being “so bad, it’s good”, Road House is flat-out fun from its first drink served to its last punch thrown.

    Featuring a new 2K scan of the interpositive, supervised and approved by Director of Photography Dean Cundey (Back to the Future, Jurassic Park), Shout Select presents Road House with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  A welcome and preferable upgrade over MGM’s previous HD release, skin tones are effectively natural-looking with pleasing detail.  In addition, overall picture quality is noticeably brighter than its more brooding predecessor with pastel colors in costumes and neon lighting seen in bar sequences casting effective shades.  While slight softness rears its head occasionally during outdoor scenes, Shout Select’s notably cleaned-up and eye-pleasingly filmic transfer looks in top form.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue, while not troubled by hiss or distortion, is decently relayed while, bar brawls, revving car motors and Jeff Healey’s guitar-dominating music make much stronger notices on the track.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix has also been included.  Spanning two Blu-ray’s, special features on disc 1 include, the ported over Audio Commentary with Director Rowdy Herrington and the fan-favorite Audio Commentary with Road House Fans Kevin Smith & Scott Mosier.

    Kicking off disc 2’s Collector’s Edition release is several newly-crafted supplements including, the impressive I Thought You’d Be Bigger: The Making of Road House (1:03:14) featuring new interviews with Herrington, cast members Kelly Lynch, John Doe, Julie Michaels, Director of Photography Dean Cundey, Lisa Niemi Swayze and many others in this definitive look back on the cult classic.  Next up, A Conversation with Director Rowdy Herrington (29:38), Pain Don’t Hurt: The Stunts of Road House (22:29), Pretty Good for a Blind White Boy: The Music of Road House (9:22) and Remembering Patrick Swayze (15:06) with beautiful insight and shared memories of the late actor from his lovely widow and cast members.  In addition, vintage supplements On the Road House (17:23) and What Would Dalton Do? (12:26) are joined by the Theatrical Trailer (1:57), On the Set (3:44) featurette, a Patrick Swayze Profile (2:41), Selected Soundbites (11:00) and a Photo Gallery (3:20) marking the last word in bonus content for the late 80s favorite.

    A bar bouncing good time with enough action, foxy ladies and hard-rockin’ tunes to make it last all night, Road House plays to the crowd with its hammed up plot and contagiously fun characters rightly earning its stripes in the pantheons of cult cinema awesomeness.  Reintroducing viewers to the tirelessly rented and cable darling hit, Shout Select’s Collector’s Edition release will make fans graciously tipsy with their Cundey approved 2K transfer and keg-sized offering of bonus features, making the Double Deuce the only roundhouse kicking dive you’ll want to be in.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Shout Select, Road House can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Nice Guys (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Nice Guys (2016)

    Director: Shane Black

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

    Released by: Warner Bros.

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

    Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Jill Marie Jones & Lucy Lawless

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    30 years after saving humanity from demonic takeover, Ash vs Evil Dead finds aging stock boy Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell, The Evil Dead) revving up the chainsaw once more after foolishly unleashing the Deadites back into the world.  Teaming up with two directionless co-workers, the trio head out on the open road to put the definitive stake into hell’s minions.  Ray Santiago (Sex Ed), Dana DeLorenzo (The Mad Ones), Jill Marie Jones (Girlfriends) and Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) co-star.

    Following the medieval madness of 1992’s Army of Darkness, Evil Dead heads have yearned for the endlessly hinted at fourth adventure of everyone’s favorite monster-hunting stock boy.  Reigniting the franchise torch with a financially successful and fan divided 2013 remake, the likelihood of continuing the continuity of yesteryear appeared dead and buried until the groovy world of television extended itself to all its blood splattering campiness.  Acting as co-executive producer and pilot director, original series helmer Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Drag Me to Hell) and Star Bruce Campbell return to their stomping grounds, ensuring Ash vs Evil Dead to be the madcap followup viewers have been waiting for.  Living a trailer park life and holding down a dead end position at ValueShop, Ash Williams uses his nincompoop charm and wooden hand to swoon bar floozies into bathroom quickies.  Regressing the horrific events of his past while keeping the demon calling Necronomicon book of the dead locked up, Ash’s own idiocy and a night of high times with a blonde finds the flunky reading from the dreaded tome and unleashing evil yet again.  In true irresponsible fashion, Ash aims to skip town to avoid his problems, inadvertently wrapping up fellow hombre Pablo (Santiago) and his crush Kelly (DeLorenzo) in the mix.  With white-eyed demons on the prowl, Ash’s attempts to undo the damage fail forcing him back into the role as the world’s most unlikely yet, nonetheless badass defender.  Embarking on a hellacious road trip for answers to stop the Deadites, the authorities and a mysterious figure with questionable intentions pursue Ash and his sidekicks through 10 episodes of gloriously over the top gory carnage.

    As cheeky and horrific as its cinematic predecessors, Ash vs Evil Dead captures the tone of Raimi’s backwoods frightfests with absolute precision while, Campbell’s equally cool and corny personality sells the onscreen exploits with his acknowledged age and out of touchness with today’s times making the character funnier than ever.  Always the lone wolf, Ash is served well by his cronies in demon disposing who enhance the show’s humor with their characters gelling solidly with the inherently funny Campbell.  While Ash’s graying hair and belly girdle are the butt of many jokes, Ash vs Evil Dead has a hoot laughing in the face of today’s politically correct mindset taking lighthearted racial and sexist jabs at the expense of his teammates.  Matched with phenomenal makeup designs for its many monsters and geysering with bloodshed albeit, overly reliant on unflattering computer-generated gore, each episode paints the screen red, laughing wildly to its end credits.  Smartly forging new roads from its onset with the establishment of new characters including, the bizarre Ruby (Lawless) who holds Ash solely responsible for the evil’s outbreak and harbors her own desires to own the Necronomicon, Ash vs Evil Dead comes full circle welcoming viewers back to a familiar setting for a horrifically action-packed finale.  A hilariously macabre delight, Ash vs Evil Dead plays all the right notes and fits like a chainsaw, standing proudly as a hail-worthy small screen sequel to Raimi’s three theatrical favorites.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents all 10 episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  Shot digitally on Arri Alexa cameras, each episode is blemish free with top-notch detail observed in facial features, costumes and Ash’s messy trailer while, skin tones are exceptionally natural with colors radiating off the screen from Ruby’s red hot vehicle to more subdued shades found in Ash’s navy blue shirts.  In addition, black levels are deep and appealing with only faint noise spotted throughout darkly lit basement sequences in the season finale.  Equipped with Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixes, sound quality is exquisite with dialogue clear as crystal, screams and chainsaws sharply relayed and the show’s phenomenal soundtrack selections from Deep Purple, The Stooges, Whitesnake, Alice Cooper and AC/DC making thoroughly rockin’ statements.  With the pilot episode, “El Jefe”, arriving with an optional Audio Commentary with Creator/Executive Producer Sam Raimi, Co-Executive Producer Ivan Raimi, Executive Producer Rob Tapert & Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell, each subsequent episode contain commentary tracks from a variety of interchanging guests including, Executive Producer Rob Tapert and Actors Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, Jill Marie Jones and Lucy Lawless.  Additional special features include, Inside the World of Ash vs Evil Dead (15:59).  Attached to the end’s of each episode during their original airings, the creators and cast sit-down for brief interviews about their makings.  Furthermore, the self explanatory How to Kill a Deadite (2:31) and the sizzle reel Best of Ash (1:27) round out the bonus offerings.

    Reopening the Book of the Dead after nearly 25 years, fans have much to hail for with Ash vs Evil Dead.  Seamlessly appearing as an extended overdue sequel, Campbell and company have loaded this boomstick debut season with enough humor, horror and buckets of red stuff to have made the wait well worth it.  Deservedly renewed for another season of undead mayhem and snappy one-liners, Anchor Bay Entertainment presents the program with exceptional high-def merits and a generous spread of supplements including, informatively funny commentary tracks on each episode.  Groovy doesn’t even begin to describe Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season but, it’s one hell of a start!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available August 23rd from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Microwave Massacre (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Microwave Massacre (1983)

    Director: Wayne Berwick

    Starring: Jackie Vernon, Claire Ginsberg, Loren Schein, Al Troupe & Lou Ann Webber

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fed up with his nagging wife and her subpar homemade meals, Microwave Massacre finds disgruntled construction worker Donald (Jackie Vernon, Frosty the Snowman) offing his significant other and nuking her remains in their oversized microwave.  Developing a sweet tooth for the taste of human flesh in the process, Donald’s rabid hunger can only be pacified through the collection of more bodies.

    Following a buxom pair of bare breasts getting caught in a peep hole much to the enjoyment of drooling construction workers, Microwave Massacre goes from weird to weirder.  Contrary to its horrific sounding title, this exploitative cannibal chuckler is played entirely for laughs, albeit pitch black ones with funnyman Jackie Vernon leading the festivities with hilarious deadpan delivery and fourth wall breaking asides.  Worn down by his blue-collar profession and his wife’s insistence on preparing exotic meals than simple dishes, Donald loses his cool during a drunken rage and bludgeons her death with a salt grinder.  Using their washer-dryer sized microwave to ditch her painfully phony limbs, Donald’s tastebuds go wild for human flesh forcing the new bachelor to scour the local prostitute population for more of the same.  As ridiculous as one might expect, Microwave Massacre finds Donald uncontrollably slicing and dicing his way through street hustling morsels and cannibalistic shish kebabs while, acknowledging his wrongdoings by seeking psychiatric help only to have his therapist nap through his confessions.  Impressing his libido driving co-workers with his meaty lunches and the need for more “ingredients” always at a premium, too much of a tasty thing proves fatal to pacemaker possessor Donald.  Barely creeping its way onto video during the VHS era with gore-geous cover art, Microwave Massacre’s cult appeal is inherit in its bonkers concept and highly unserious tone that makes it difficult not to enjoy much like buttery microwavable popcorn.

    Arrow Video presents Microwave Massacre with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Scanning the original 35mm camera negative in 2K, this low-budget schlocker dazzles in high-definition with robust colors in costumes and its bright red main titles, accurate flesh tones and excellent contrast.  While minor speckling is spotted and occasional traces of digital noise observed during nighttime sequences, Microwave Massacre looks exceptional to devour.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is always easily relayed with only slight cases of cracks and pops, mostly during reel changes, picked up but never of any serious concern.  Supplemental offerings include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Craig Muckler, moderated by Mike Tristano, My Microwave Massacre Memories (21:07) features newly captured interviews with Director Wayne Berwick, Writer/Producer Craig Muckler and Actor Loren Schein who recall the project’s early beginnings, Berwick’s father’s showbiz career serving as a launch pad and their working relationship with the late Jackie Vernon.  In addition, an Image Gallery (18 in total), Trailer (1:25), the Original Treatment and 8-page Synopsis (BD/DVD-Rom content) and a 27-page booklet featuring stills and an updated essay from Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents Author Stephen Thrower are also included.  Finally, a DVD counterpart and Reversible Cover Art featuring the film’s memorable VHS design conclude the bonus features.

    While it may not be cooked to perfection, Microwave Massacre’s loose canon approach to flesh-eating ridiculousness is just goofy enough to make itself worthy of consumption for bad taste sticklers.  Boasting amateurish acting, generous helpings of nudity and a tone so laughably self-aware of its absurdity, Microwave Massacre is one daffy detour off the highway of exploitation weirdness.  Exceeding expectations, Arrow Video has treated cultphiles with a crowd pleasing restoration and a tasty selection of bonus features that explore the offbeat pictures making and niche appeal.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available August 16th from Arrow Video, Microwave Massacre can be purchased via MVDShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

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

    Director: Matt Cimber

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Hellhole (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Hellhole (1985)

    Director: Pierre De Moro

    Starring: Ray Sharkey, Judy Landers, Marjoe Gortner, Edy Williams, Terry Moore & Mary Woronov 

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After witnessing the brutal death of her mother and harboring incriminating evidence against her attacker, Hellhole finds amnesiac teen Susan (Judy Lander, Dr. Alien) recovering in Ashland Sanitarium where her assailant continues to stalk her.  Making matters worse, sanitarium head Dr. Fletcher (Mary Woronov, Rock ’n’ Roll High School) carries out shocking lobotomy experimentations in a dingy lab with Susan targeted as her next subject.  Ray Sharkey (The Idolmaker), Marjoe Gortner (Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw), Edy Williams (Bad Girls from Mars) and Terry Moore (Mighty Joe Young) co-star.

    Cut from the same cloth as other incarcerated women pictures, Hellhole devises a slightly unique setup to compliment its dependably sleazy tropes.  Surviving an attack that left her mother dead, blonde beauty Susan wakes up with no memory in a sanitarium for mentally troubled females.  Disguised as an orderly, Silk (Sharkey), the leather-clad murderer with a penchant for nursery rhymes, monitors the teen in hopes of finishing what he started before Susan can regain her memory.  Assisted by caring hospital staffer Ron (Richard Cox, Cruising) who believes the sanitarium is harboring its own secrets, Susan finds herself caught in the web of the deranged Dr. Fletcher whose sexual desires and ungodly experimentations on the inmates spell certain doom for those who cross her path.  Struggling to survive and expose the hellish torture chambers on property, Susan and Ron must combat the depraved and homicidal abusers before they become permanent guinea pigs of the nightmarish institution.  

    Appropriately supplied with seedy characters, shower brawls, lesbian fueled mud baths and titillating levels of nudity, Hellhole makes good on its marketed ingredients while, the cat and mouse pursuit of a murderer and its big-haired starlet provide a suspenseful twist to the tantalizing T&A festivities.  Led by a cult curated roster of talent including, Ray Sharkey as the leather-daddy thug and Mary Woronov as the film’s prototypical wicked warden figure who administers syringes into the heads of her victims, fellow genre stars Robert Z’Dar (Maniac Cop), Cliff Emmich (Halloween II) and Dyanne Thorne (Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS) as a delusional inmate also make welcome appearances.  Approved by drive-in cinema connoisseur Joe Bob Briggs, Hellhole melds scantly clad women, psychotic experimentations and a murder plot to deliver an admirable and just unique enough installment into the women behind bars subgenre, well worth spending time in solitary confinement with.

    Scream Factory presents Hellhole with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Alerting viewers that the utilized interpositive was missing scenes, a 35mm print of the film was incorporated to present the feature in its complete form.  Boasting pleasing skin tones that only occasionally favor pinkish hues, black levels are strongly supported with a generally inky appearance and minimal instances of muddiness.  Matching the look of the higher quality interpositive to the best of their abilities, the change in elements is minimal with only fleeting notices of vertical lines spotted.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is adequately handled with only minor pops heard during reel changes.  Meanwhile special features include, a newly recored Interview with Mary Woronov (4:54).  Although brief, Woronov is spirited throughout her sit-down and recalls having a ball on the set of a film she thought no one would ever remember.  In addition, the Theatrical Trailer (1:54) and a DVD edition of the release is also included.

    After countless delays and two years of searching for sufficient elements, Hellhole makes its long-awaited HD debut much to the glee of cult cinema addicts.  With over the top performances peppered throughout and remaining true to its sleazy tropes while, injecting a welcome murderous subplot more in tune with traditional horror fare, Hellhole deserves honorable mention in the pantheons of chicks in chains cinema.  Refusing to throw in the towel during their endless pursuit, Scream Factory rightly deserves praise for ensuring this forgotten trashfest saw the light of day once more.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Hellhole can be purchased via ShoutFactory.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.

  • The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) Blu-ray Review

    The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)

    Director: Jack Hill

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

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • The Return of the Living Dead (1985) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

    Director: Dan O’Bannon

    Starring: Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, Thom Mathews, Beverly Randolph, John Philbin, Jewel Shepard, Miguel Núñez, Brian Peck, Linnea Quigley & Mark Venturini

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When an employee’s rookie mistake at a medical supply warehouse releases a toxic gas, The Return of the Living Dead finds corpses reanimating from a nearby cemetery with an undying hunger for human brains.  While a hard-partying pack of punks rage the night away, the ravenously deceased intend to make the tough-looking teens their main course.  Featuring a diverse cast from Clu Gulager (The Last Picture Show) and James Karen (Wall Street) to Thom Mathews (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives) and scream queen Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons), this beloved horror-comedy proudly declares it’s party time!

    Cheekily proclaiming itself to be based on true events, The Return of the Living Dead is a brain-chomping romp that seamlessly blends the frightening takeover of zombies with the comedic knee-jerk reactions of those caught within its grasp.  Shortly after warehouse foreman Frank (Karen) introduces new employee Freddy (Mathews) to a decrepit military tank containing a reanimated corpse, faulty craftsmanship unloads a toxic gas into the air jumpstarting their Fourth of July weekend for the worse.  Uncontrollably hacking from the fumes and panicking over the disappearance of the bottled body, the two nervous nellies call warehouse superior Burt (Gulager) after a previously frozen cadaver grows energetically impatient in the meat locker.  While the trio attempt to hack and slash their problems to pieces, Freddy’s girlfriend Tina and his gang of leather-clad punker pals kill time in the graffiti-laden cemetery near the medical supply warehouse.  After several failed attempts to return the cadaver to its quieter state, the blue-collar workers swing by the local mortuary hoping to coax undertaker Ernie (Calfa) to incinerate the chopped up limbs, unknowingly unleashing the fumes into the rainy exterior to bring life to the cemeteries longterm residents who return with an appetite for brains.  Surrounded by hundreds of flesh-eating zombies, the middle-aged adults and punks find themselves combining their efforts to keep the undead far from their noggins.   

    From a story co-conceived by John Russo (Night of the Living Dead), Dan O’Bannon’s directorial debut aptly separates itself from George A. Romero’s groundbreaking, if not grimmer, series of zombie features with a refreshing take that keeps its tongue steadfast to its cheek.  Featuring two universally different groups of characters that work hard for the money while, partying and zero responsibility define the younger rebels, The Return of the Living Dead, exemplified by its teased hairstyles and punktastic soundtrack featuring such acts as 45 Grave, The Cramps and The Flesh Eaters affirms itself as the definitive zombie feature for the 80s.  Showered with knee-slapping one liners, topnotch makeup effects and a career making striptease atop a tombstone from the vivacious Linnea Quigley who remains in her birthday suit for the duration of the film, The Return of the Living Dead has endured and entertainingly corrupted more brains than imagined proving this genre-blending cocktail is more than a statement, it’s a bloody fun lifestyle!

    Boasting a new 2K scan from the inter-positive, Scream Factory presents The Return of the Living Dead with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Supporting a noticeable boost in contrast with skin tones appearing more natural than ever before, colors found in the punks’ loud ensembles and the gooey zombie designs are of particular mention, easily trumping previous releases more subdued appearances.  Meanwhile, black levels are strongly handled crowning Scream Factory’s presentation as the definitive go-to transfer for the cult feature.  Equipped with the film’s Original DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, fans will be pleased to hear the zombies original dialogue on the track while, The Damned’s “Dead Beat Dance” remains MIA but not for the lack of trying on Scream Factory’s behalf.  Joined by a sizably impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that relays dialogue with ease and ups the ante on the film’s punk soundtrack, an additional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Easily Scream Factory’s most packed Collector’s Edition release to date, the multitude of bonus content spans two discs with Disc 1 featuring a new Audio Commentary with Author Gary Smart and Chris Griffiths, along with a second newly-produced Audio Commentary with Actors Thom Mathews, John Philbin & Make-Up Effects Artist Tony Gardner.  Furthermore, two vintage Audio Commentaries featuring Director Dan O’Bannon and Production Designer William Stout along with a Cast and Crew edition hosting Production Designer William Stout and Actors Don Calfa, Linnea Quigley, Brian Peck, Beverly Randolph & Allan Trautman are also included.  Ported over from the previous MGM release, The Decade of Darkness (23:23) is a thoroughly impressive featurette on ‘80s horror cinema with such talking heads as Joe Dante (The Howling), Stuart Gordon (Dolls), Elvira, John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and others featured plus, Theatrical Trailers (8:31), TV Spots (5:22), a Still Gallery (86 in total) showcasing Posters, Lobby Cards, Movie Stills and other Behind-the-Scenes materials whereas a second Still Gallery (23 in total) displays photos from Special Make-Up Effects Artist Kenny Myers’ personal collection.  Finally, Zombie Subtitles for the film and In Their Own Words - The Zombies Speak where onscreen descriptions for what the brain eaters are thinking round out the disc’s supplements.

    Continuing the onslaught of special features, Disc 2 hosts the phenomenal More Brains: A Return to the Living Dead (1:59:43) documentary from 2011, The FX of the Living Dead (32:49) where Production Designer William Stout, Special Effects Make-Up Artists William Munns, Tony Gardner, Actor Brian Peck and others discuss the development and designs of the film’s undead characters while, Party Time!: The Music of Return of the Living Dead (29:31) catches up with Music Consultants Budd Carr, Steve Pross, Dinah Cancer of 45 Grave, Chris D of The Flesh Eaters, Greg Hetson of The Circle Jerks and many more on how the building of the soundtrack on a limited budget was achieved.  Next up, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (10:15) finds host Sean Clark as he revisits many of the film’s shooting locations today, A Conversation with Dan O’Bannon: The Final Interview (28:32) is a candid and at times tearjerking sit-down with the film’s writer/director as he discusses the many challenges and rewards that came with making the film while, The Origins of Return of the Living Dead (15:12) interviews John A. Russo.  In addition, The Dead Have Risen (20:34) interviews the cast of the film in this vintage yet, highly entertaining featurette, Designing the Dead (13:39) hosts Writer/Director Dan O’Bannon and Production Designer William Stout as they chart their early beginnings in the industry and their eventual collaboration.  Lastly, although appearing in rough shape and SD sourced, the Workprint Version of The Return of the Living Dead (1:48:05) offers fans an early, 20 extra minute cut of the film for preservations sake.  Advertised with Graham Humphreys exceptional new cover design, the Reversible Cover Art features the film’s original 1-sheet poster imagery as well.

    Darkly hilarious and carnivorously campy, The Return of the Living Dead remains one of the zombie genres greatest efforts with its party-like atmosphere and punk rock attitude loudly making itself known as the most fun you’ll have evading the undead.  A cult classic in the truest sense, Scream Factory has stepped up to the plate to salute the brain-eating feature with a glorious new 2K transfer, several audio options and their most impressive output of bonus features yet amounting to over 12 whopping hours of content.  As definitive as can be, more brains won’t be necessary as Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition of The Return of the Living Dead will surely quench the appetites for both the living and the reanimated.  It’s party time!!!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available July 19th from Scream Factory, The Return of the Living Dead can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Bad Moon (1996) Blu-ray Review

    Bad Moon (1996)

    Director: Eric Red

    Starring: Mariel Hemingway, Michael Paré & Mason Gamble

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shortly after suffering an attack during an exotic expedition, Bad Moon finds Ted Harrison (Michael Paré, Streets of Fire) attempting to conceal his curse of transforming into a savage werewolf from his older sister Janet (Mariel Hemingway, Manhattan) and young nephew Brett (Mason Gamble, Dennis the Menace).  As local bodies being turning up around their isolated community, Ted strives to pass the blame onto his sister’s loyal German Shepherd who is acutely aware of the true monster at work.

    Adapted from Wayne Smith’s novel Thor, Writer/Director Eric Red’s (Cohen and Tate) lycanthropic feature casts a full moon of shocks and bloodshed against a family driven tale centered around a boy and his dog.  Opening in Nepal, photojournalist Ted Harrison is disrupted from a passionate lovemaking session in his tent when a towering, fanged wolf tears his lay to shreds, leaving him gashed and barely alive.  Shortly after returning home, Ted is harboring a dark ailment he believes can only be cured by the company of his loved ones.  Crashing with his older sister Janet and blonde-haired, blue-eyed nephew Brett proves hazardous as local hikers and drifters are found brutally murdered, reportedly believed to be the work of a wild animal.  While his owners are startled yet never second guess the events, Janet and Brett’s protective German Shepherd Thor picks up a suspicious scent from Uncle Ted that can’t be shaken.  Consumed by his curse and selfishly attempting to pawn his bloodthirsty deeds off on the K9, Thor is hauled off by Animal Control leaving his distraught owners to fend for themselves against the true terror waiting in their own wilderness.  

    With the exception of the fangtastic werewolf design courtesy of special effects wiz Steve Johnson (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Warriors) and a generous helping of throat-ripping and face-slashing gore, Bad Moon is fairly straightforward during its tightly-constructed 79 minute runtime while its performances never fully resonate.  Signing off on a strong note with a suspenseful showdown between wolf and mutt plus, a last-minute jump scare for good measure, Bad Moon, although not overwhelmingly memorable, is a commendable inclusion into the beastly subgenre that was all but banished to hibernation by the time of its release.

    Scream Factory presents Bad Moon with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Capturing strong skin tones that only occasionally favor a redder pigment, well-balanced black levels and a presentation free of discouraging scuffs or scratches, Bad Moon makes a striking debut on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible while the shrieking howls of the wolf, gunshots and Thor’s bark make for a most effectively trembling listen.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  In addition to presenting Eric Red’s approved Director’s Cut (1:19:25) that merely exorcises the rather dated CG werewolf transformation and the Original Theatrical Cut (1:19:51), special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Eric Red on his preferred cut plus, an additional Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Eric Red & Actor Michael Paré on the latter version.  Furthermore, the first-rate Nature of the Beast: Making Bad Moon (35:17) looks back on the development and impact of the film with new interviews from Writer/Director Eric Red, Actors Michael Paré and Mason Gamble plus, Special Effects Make-Up Artist Steve Johnson among others.  Also included, the VHS sourced Unrated Opening Scene from the Director’s First Cut (6:07), the Original Theatrical Trailer (1:06) and Transformation Sequence Storyboards (6:30), Thor/Werewolf Fight Storyboards (9:40) and Thor Stares Down Uncle Ted Storyboards (4:15) wraps up the surprisingly loaded sum of supplements.

    Hardly as memorable as its werewolf brethren from a decade earlier, Bad Moon supplies ample entertainment in the splatter department while Steve Johnson’s more grayed design work of the monster is call for applause.  Arriving technically sharp-looking and fluid sounding, Scream Factory celebrates this mid-‘90s howlfest in style that although not credited under their illustrious Collector’s Edition banner, acts the part in the quality and quantity of its bonus features.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available July 19th from Scream Factory, Bad Moon can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Sorceress (1995) Blu-ray Review

    Sorceress (1995)

    Director: Jim Wynorski

    Starring: Larry Poindexter, Rochelle Swanson, Julie Strain, Linda Blair, Edward Albert, Michael Parks & William Marshall

    Released by: Synapse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented in its uncensored director approved form, Sorceress centers on ambitious attorney Larry Barnes (Larry Poindexter, American Ninja 2: The Confrontation) as he zeroes in on a partnership at a respected law firm.  In an effort to ensure Larry’s success, his witch dabbling wife Erica (Julie Strain, Heavy Metal 2000) works her dark magic to tragically weed out his competition, Howard Reynolds (Edward Albert, Galaxy of Terror).  Understandably incensed, Howard’s wife Amelia (Linda Blair, The Exorcist) plots her own revenge using similar powers.

    Billed under its original Temptress title card, Sorceress is an erotically charged, cheaply budgeted effort starring a bevy of buxom babes who make clothes a chore to keep on.  Produced in a whopping 12 days, exploitation maverick Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall, Deathstalker II) brings his appetite for attractive actresses and glorified nudity to the forefront while the film’s witchcraft focused narrative takes a backseat to the oil-lathered bodies on display.  After his black magic worshipping wife meets a tragic end, Larry Barnes attempts to move on with his life by focusing on his career and reuniting with former flame Carol (Rochelle Swanson, Secret Games 3).  Haunted by Erica’s sexually restless spirit, Larry notices dramatic changes in Carol’s behavior while, Amelia, wife to Larry’s crippled former competition, puppet masters a seductively deadly revenge plot against the handsome hunk.  With the exception of a forgettable subplot involving a subdued Michael Parks (Red State), Sorceress keeps viewers hot and bothered with sexy sequences allowing star Larry Poindexter to sleep with virtually every pretty face in the cast.  Featuring more steamy footage and extra nudity than ever before, Wynorski’s bonafide Skinemax-style sizzler showcases Penthouse Pet of the Year Julie Strain baring all with toe-sucking lesbian love sessions also included for good measure.  While plot is surely secondary to its visual proceedings, Sorceress remains a nostalgic reminder of late night encounters with scandalous content.  Promising healthy doses of T&A and soft-core fornication, Jim Wynorski’s coven of kinkiness is sure to bewitch genre aficionados.

    Boasting a new 2K scan from uncut vault materials, Synapse Films presents Sorceress with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Decidedly lush with excellent detail found on body sweat and natural skin tones to match, Wynorski’s nudie witch flick impresses with solid black levels during its many dimly lit sequences with no noticeable age-related damage to report.  Joined by a respectable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Jim Wynorski and a second Audio Commentary with Director Jim Wynorski and Special Guest, SPFX Make-Up Artist/Actor/Director Tom Savini.  Recorded during the Cinema Wasteland convention, Wynorski and Savini have a hoot drunkenly commentate over the film with Savini’s childlike glee for T&A serving as a hilarious highlight.

    Ushered direct-to-video upon its initial release and popping up during the wee hours on television, Sorceress is a red-hot opus starring even hotter players that cast wicked spells and suffer from insatiable appetites for lovemaking.  Featuring the sexiness of horror goddesses and Penthouse Pets, Wynorski’s low-budget skin flick will greatly appeal to all exploitation horndogs with a penchant for the B-moviemakers efforts.  Preserving the film’s never-before-seen uncut version, Synapse Films treats viewers with a typically solid HD presentation and two enjoyable commentary tracks that are nearly as attention grabbing as the film’s rampant nudity.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available June 14th from Synapse Films, Sorceress can be purchased via Synapse-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Hired to Kill (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Hired to Kill (1990)

    Director(s): Nico Mastorakis & Peter Rader

    Starring: Brian Thompson, Oliver Reed, George Kennedy & José Ferrer

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Bursting with explosive action, Hired to Kill stars Brian Thompson (Cobra) as mercenary Frank Ryan whose latest assignment sends him into a crumbling country to locate a rebel leader.  Undercover as a flamboyant fashion designer, Thompson is aided by seven seductively dangerous female soldiers to overpower the totalitarian regime controlled by the corrupt Michael Bartos (Oliver Reed, Spasms).  George Kennedy (The Delta Force) and José Ferrer (Dune) co-star in this gun-toting spectacle co-directed by Nico Mastorakis (The Zero Boys).

    Reimagining The Magnificent Seven with women, Hired to Kill stars the poor man’s Arnold Schwarzenegger Brian Thompson as skillfully trained mercenary Frank Ryan whose weakness for money presented in leather briefcases leads him to the fictional country of Cypra where an imprisoned leader requires busting out to restore balance to his corruptly tainted homeland.  In order to operate safely, Ryan trades in his macho card for an undercover identity as a fashion designer.  Making clear of his disdain working with women, Ryan is sent into the field with seven  deadly bombshells, acting as his supermodels and his only team of soldiers.  Rubbing elbows on their mission with Cypra’s criminal mastermind Michael Bartos, Oliver Reed’s eccentric and occasionally tipsy performance as the film’s baddie, adorned by a no-nonsense handlebar mustache is pure entertainment that reaches its apex when testing Ryan’s suggested homosexuality by grabbing a handful of crotch inviting a smooch from the muscular American.  Interspersed with training montages of Ryan’s female squad, comprised of such notable names as Barbara Lee Alexander (Psycho Cop Returns), Michelle Moffett (Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans) and Jordana Capra (After Midnight), as they perfect their runway skills while sharpening their aim, Hired to Kill throws political double-crosses and fallen heroes into the mix to expectedly up the ante for its final act.  Slightly overlong with its machine gun fueled sequences growing redundant, Hired to Kill is an enjoyable toast to over the top action cinema that entertains more than its direct-to-video reputation would suggest.

    Newly restored in 4K, Arrow Video presents Hired to Kill with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Looking sharper than ever, detail greatly impresses in facial closeups while, skin tones are always natural and clear.  In addition, the grassy locale of the fictional country (shot on location in Greece) offers strong contrast as the film’s presentation appears free of any scuffs or scratches.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is excellently handled with zero issues in audibility.  Furthermore, sequences of heavy firepower, helicopters and explosions appropriately rattle the speakers to good measure.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix has also been included.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Editor Barry Zeitlin, Hired to… Direct: Behind the Camera with Nico Mastorakis (27:26) where the film’s co-director and producer sits down for a lengthy discussion detailing the film’s beginnings, casting, Reed’s turbulent onset behavior and the unfortunate tragedy that resulted in the death of Stuntman Clint Carpenter.  Also included, Undercover Mercenary (17:33) features a new interview with Star Brian Thompson where the action hero recalls his early memories catching the acting bug, juggling college and securing film work and memories from the Hired to Kill shoot including an instance where Reed dropped his pants and urinated during a take.  Finally, the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:50), a Stills Gallery (7:18), the Original Screenplay (BD/DVD-Rom content), a 23-page booklet featuring stills and a new essay by James Oliver plus, a DVD edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster conclude the extra feature offerings.

    Plastered with babes, bullets and a deliciously silly performance from Oliver Reed, Hired to Kill is precisely what one comes to expect from the ultra machismo days of action cinema.  Delivering an impressive scale of explosive anarchy for its stature, Brian Thompson brings the proper equipment to this gun show with unexpected, yet nonetheless humorous touches through his eccentric undercover identity.  Meanwhile, Arrow Video delivers a remarkable presentation for this cult loved DTV effort with an enjoyably candid spread of new bonus features that viewers will be thrilled with.  

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Dolemite (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Dolemite (1975)

    Director: D’Urville Martin

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

    Release by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Destroyer (1988) / Edge of Sanity (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Destroyer (1988) / Edge of Sanity (1989)

    Director(s): Robert Kirk / Gérard Kikoïne

    Starring: Deborah Foreman, Clayton Rohner, Lyle Alzado & Anthony Perkins / Anthony Perkins, Glynis Barber, Sarah Maur Thorp & David Lodge

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Uniquely paired, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, presents a double helping of frights starring everyone’s favorite psycho.  After muscular madman Ivan Moser (football legend Lyle Alzado, Ernest Goes to Camp) is sentenced to the electric chair, Destroyer finds a film crew setting up shop in the same prison where Moser unexplainably disappeared eighteen months earlier.  Before long, the crew find themselves trapped inside the abandoned penitentiary with the thought to be dead murderer making his own casting cuts.  Familiar 80s faces Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl), Clayton Rohner (Just One of the Guys) and of course, Anthony Perkins (Psycho II) star.  Next up, presented in its uncut form, Edge of Sanity stars Anthony Perkins as the respected Dr. Henry Jekyll who after a lab experiment gone wrong undergoes a horrific transformation into the murderous Jack Hyde.  Unleashing a wave of mutilated prostitutes in his wake, Jekyll’s battle for his sanity is severely tested with no certainty if it will be reclaimed.   

    Bearing its original Shadow of Death title, Destroyer wastes little time establishing its hulkish antagonist, serial killer Ivan Moser (Alzado), before failing to electrically execute the inmate.  Suffering a jolting shock before a power outage causes a prison riot, Moser, suspected dead, disappears without a trace as the prison shuts its doors permanently shortly after.  Attempting to capitalize on its production value, an exploitation film crew, headed by its director (Perkins), descend on the abandoned location while, spiky haired screenwriter David Harris (Rohner) is hellbent on learning more behind the riot that occurred.  Haunted by disturbing nightmares set in the prison, David’s stuntwoman girlfriend Susan Malone (Foreman) attempts to keep it cool until the “half-alive” Moser begins his killing spree once again.  Outside of painting a pointless link to Moser’s father and helping hand on his path of destruction, Destroyer has fun within its simplistic borders of behind the bars mayhem.  While Perkins has little to do outside of being comically frustrated with his B-movie lead actress, Foreman and Rohner give appreciable performances with Alzado’s over the top energy taking the cake.  Mindlessly entertaining, bloody high points include, a corrupt warden being torched, a fellow officer being introduced to a jackhammer and Perkins’ director being eye-poppingly electrocuted.  Scant on exposition, Destroyer lives for cheeky absurdity and generally succeeds when piling on the body count.

    Beautifully photographed with lavish production design displayed, Edge of Sanity combines the tall tale of Jekyll & Hyde with the infamous murder spree of Jack the Ripper for a uniquely styled shocker.  Appearing in one of his final film roles, Anthony Perkins fits naturally into his character’s dual personality with a keen balance of derangement and normalcy.  Following a lab accident amongst chemicals, Dr. Henry Jekyll’s personality alters into the depraved Jack Hyde.  Stalking the London streets for women of the night, Hyde lures the promiscuous beauties into the shadows where his sexual urges are overpowered by homicidal rage.  Erotically charged, Hyde’s interest in local whore Susannah (Sarah Maur Thorp, River of Death), who bears a striking resemblance to a prostitute Jekyll encountered as a child, becomes his obsession as he indulges her with his addictive substance in order to carry out his murderous deeds.  A British production, Edge of Sanity maintains an air of class amongst its more brutal set pieces with its performances and surrealistic touches raising its quality over many of the decade’s attempts at atmospheric horror.  Criminally underrated and one of Perkins’ more undervalued roles, Edge of Sanity is an effective opus with one foot in timeless literature and the other seeped in the mystery of real world terror.    

    Both films arrive with 1080p transfers, screened in their respective 1.78:1 (Destroyer) and 1.85:1 (Edge of Sanity) aspect ratios.  Newly mastered from the only surviving elements, Destroyer appears noticeably soft at times with skin tones reading infrequently oversaturated.  Meanwhile, colors found in Foreman’s bright attire and Alzado’s burnt make-up effects are nicely balanced while, black levels are generally pleasing with only mild speckling on display.  Furthermore, Edge of Sanity excels as a sharper transfer all around with little to no anomalies, excellent detail and an overall filmic appearance.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, Destroyer hosts occasional cracks and pops with dialogue never compromised although, range can be moderately subdued.  In addition, Edge of Sanity offers solid audio levels with strong dialogue delivery and Composer Frédéric Talgorn’s (Buried Alive) score authoritatively delivered.  Lastly, the sole supplements included are a Destroyer Trailer (1:03) and an Edge of Insanity Trailer (1:08). 

    Eccentrically billed, Destroyer / Edge of Sanity make for an unusual combination of features, both headlined by the remarkably talented Anthony Perkins.  While Destroyer is a harmlessly fun romp that boasts an eccentric killer and even wilder death sequences, Edge of Sanity is unquestionably the better made feature with frightening surrealism and an underrated performance from Perkins.  Inviting more appreciation to these overlooked efforts, Scream Factory’s latest double feature may be a bit mad but, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available April 12th from Scream Factory, Destroyer / Edge of Sanity can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Felicity (1978) Blu-ray Review

    Felicity (1978)

    Director: John D. Lamond

    Starring: Glory Annen, Christopher Milne, Joni Flynn, Jody Hanson, Marilyn Rodgers, John Michael Howson & Gordon Charles

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented in its unrated director’s cut, Felicity stars Glory Annen (Spaced Out) as sheltered teen Felicity Robinson who finds herself experiencing a series of changes and sexual curiosities.  Whisked away from her uptight English all-girl school for a holiday in Hong Kong, Felicity engages in the many pleasures the bustling city has to offer in order to quench her voracious appetite for the erotic.  Christopher Milne (Thirst), Penthouse model Joni Flynn, Jody Hanson (The Call of the Wild), Marilyn Rodgers (Patrick), John Michael Howson (Nightmares) and Gordon Charles co-star.

    Erotically charged yet, tantalizingly classy, Felicity centers on the sexual awakening of a shy Catholic schoolgirl whose rapid libido can hardly keep up with her curiously wandering thoughts.  From innocently staring at the evolving bods of her classmates in the showers, Felicity (Annen) is treated when her father arranges her to stay with associates of his in Hong Kong for holiday.  Reading from the not-so-subtle Emmanuelle, the teen finds herself turned on while spying on fellow passengers who have chosen to join the mile high club in their seats.  Arriving in the exotic eastern city to stay with a hip, wealthy couple, Felicity’s desires increase as she peaks on her hosts having intimate sex while pleasuring herself to the sight of their thrusting bodies.  Beautiful and bubbly, Glory Annen, aged 26 at the time, convincingly plays the precocious schoolgirl with ease while her appetizing figure is proudly put on display for much of the film’s runtime.  Following an empowering shopping spree for sexy lingerie, Felicity wines and dines with an older crowd before uncomfortably losing her virginity on the hood of a sports car.  Relishing the Pandora’s box that’s been opened, sexually adventurous Me Ling (Flynn) takes Felicity under her wing where steamy lesbian action takes place before the young woman falls for handsome photographer Miles (Milne) who rescues the damsel from Chinese hoodlums.  Unquestionably exploiting its markedly “barely legal" starlet, Felicity’s intent feels far more sincere than most similarly themed films and presents its hotter sequences with obvious taste and appreciative lightheartedness.  Crowned with genuinely romantic notions, Felicity remains an erotic wonder that made target audiences quiver with lust, continuing to keep its reputation instated today.

    Restored in high-definition for the first time, Severin Films presents Felicity with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing softly with white levels overblown at times, the dreamlike aura of its photography appears to be intentional yet, compromises a more detailed image.  Meanwhile, skin tones are moderately pleasing while, black levels show slight traces of murkiness with only scant instances of dirt and debris spotted throughout its runtime.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is surprisingly crisp while, the film’s catchy song numbers make stronger impacts.  Nicely packed, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director John D. Lamond & Star Glory Annen.  In addition, previously available on DVD via Severin’s Intervision sub label, two of Lamond’s other features, 1978’s The ABCs of Love and Sex (1:22:58) and 1975’s Australia After Dark (1:28:08) are included both with optional audio commentaries with Producer/Director John D. Lamond & Not Quite Hollywood Director Mark Hartley.  Finally, Not Quite Hollywood Out-Takes with Actress Glory Annen, Director John D. Lamond and Cinematographer Garry Wapshott (59:03) are joined by a John D. Lamond Trailer Reel (18:24) featuring Nightmares, The ABCs of Love and Sex, Felicity, Pacific Banana, Breakfast in Paris and Sky Pirates.

    Deflowered on high-definition courtesy of Severin Films, Felicity continues to make fans of the erotic sensation shake in glee from its sexually charged exploration of a young woman’s titillating discoveries.  Exceedingly stuffed with two extra features from Lamond’s career and extended interviews from Hartley’s insightful Ozploitation documentary, Felicity’s Blu-ray debut is a treasure trove of sexy Aussie cinema!

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Felicity can be purchase via SeverinFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

    Black Mama, White Mama (1973)

    Director: Eddie Romero

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

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

                         

  • Class (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Class (1983)

    Director: Lewis John Carlino

    Starring: Rob Lowe, Jacqueline Bisset, Andrew McCarthy & Cliff Robertson

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shortly after arriving at his new prestigious prep-school, lonesome Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy, Mannequin) is motivated by his outgoing roommate Skip (Rob Lowe, The Grinder) to explore uncharted dating zones.  Catching the attention of a sexy and sophisticated woman, Jonathan’s affair turns out to be more than he imagined after learning it’s with Skip’s mother.  Jacqueline Bisset (Bullitt), John Cusack (Say Anything…), Alan Ruck (Ferris Buller’s Day Off) and Cliff Robertson (Spider-Man) co-star.

    Keeping in tradition with other teenage hormonal features of its era, Class balances the scandalous love affair between a high school senior and his roommates mother with obvious humor and surprisingly well-handled, if not unexpected, dramatics.  After being encouraged by best friend Skip (Lowe) to hitch a ride to Chicago for a steamy one-night stand, Jonathan (McCarthy) finds himself captivated by the mature and breathtaking Ellen (Bisset) leading to a sexual rendezvous in an elevator before relocating to a hotel room.  Riding high on his conquest, Jonathan and Ellen’s affair develops over the weeks with the prep-schooler falling madly in love with his new flame.  Shortly after Jonathan’s true identity is revealed, their blossoming relationship is unsurprisingly damaged, sending the heartbroken teen on a downward spiral of depression.  In order to lift his best friend’s spirits, Skip invites Jonathan over to his house for the holidays realizing his recent bombshell is in fact Skip’s own mother.  Awkward encounters and mounting lies steer Class into a more dramatic territory that separates itself from similar pictures without ever sacrificing quality.  Furthermore, fellow brat packers Lowe and McCarthy gel excellently together, making practical jokes and playfully insulting one another to create one of the great bromances of the decade.  As the damaging news of his mother’s affair hits Skip in the final act while, a school investigation to sniff out cheaters potentially threatens Jonathan’s livelihood, the two best friends prove after beating the bejesus out of one another that bros still apparently come before hoes, including your own alcoholic mother.  While its setup would normally lend itself to countless skintastic scenarios, Class is relatively tame with the major exception being Virginia Madsen (Dune), in her first role, having her blouse torn off in a most comical sequence.  Accompanied by a romantically elegant score by Elmer Bernstein (Ghostbusters), Class may not be the most sexually exploitative teen flick of the 80s but, still manages to be particularly funny and a pinch more sophisticated than expected.

    Olive Films presents Class with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing filmic and free of any dirt or other aging artifacts, Class relays accurate skin readings while, the film’s color scheme of browns and other earth tones satisfy with Skip’s red hot sports car popping most impressively.  In addition, black levels spotted in shadowy rooms and jet-black prep school coats are inky and defined.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is prominently prioritized with no difficulties in audibility present.  Cracks and pops are nonexistent with Bernstein’s score and the film’s few soundtrack bits also relayed appropriately.  Typically scant, the sole special feature is the film’s Trailer (2:30).

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • The Mutilator (1985) Blu-ray Review

    The Mutilator (1985)

    Director: Buddy Cooper

    Starring: Matt Mitler, Ruth Martinez, Bill Hitchcock, Connie Rogers, Frances Raines, Morey Lampley, Jack Chatham & Ben Moore

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Years after accidentally misfiring at his mother, The Mutilator centers on Ed (Matt Mitler, Deadtime Stories) who’s asked by his father to lock up his condo for the winter season.  With nothing to do on their fall break, Ed and his friends retreat to the beachside getaway for a few days of rest and relaxation.  Unfortunately, a shadowy figure awaits their arrival, prepared to make their vacation a nightmare.  

    Bearing its original Fall Break title card, The Mutilator, while a late inclusion for the already waining slasher genre, remains a standout effort of blood splattering, special effects wizardry.  Shot on location in North Carolina, Buddy Cooper’s sole directorial feature follows the tried and true trope of young adults in search of excitement only to find themselves at the mercy of an unhinged murderer.  With little to do on their break, Ed’s (Mitler) instructions to lock up his father’s condo turns into a weekend retreat for his tight knit group of friends.  Journeying there to the sounds of one of the most upbeat songs in slasher history, the gang loads up on booze as Ed shares stories about his peculiar father amongst his personal collection of taxidermy animals.  Meandering through household duties, Monopoly and eventually skinny-dipping, a mysterious stalker makes his presence known, introducing the unsuspecting horndogs to his sharp weaponry.  Oddly enough, The Mutilator hosts a drug free cast of victims while, nudity and fornication are virtually nonexistent making each character’s fate slightly less predictable.  Like its tagline suggests, the ruthless killer terminates his victims with a fine assortment of tools including, an axe, fishhook, pitchfork and even a boating motor.  While the cast is likable enough with their shenanigans rather tame, The Mutilator’s true claim to fame is its execution of gory effects work, expertly achieved by a young Mark Shostrom (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Evil Dead II).  Building a menagerie of victims in the condo’s dingy garage for its antagonist, decapitations, plywood through a cheek and a gnarly severing in its final act seal the slasher’s grisly reputation.

    Graced with one of the most memorable poster designs of the genre, The Mutilator’s reputation although secondary to other prominent slashers including, Friday the 13th and The Burning, has persisted as overwhelming darkness made watchability less than ideal since its original release.  A bonafide cult classic for stalk-and-slash aficionados, Cooper’s cheaply produced body count picture may not have the most wildly exciting characters or location but, stands equally with its contemporaries for its “let’s make a picture” tenacity and exceptionally bloody effects that still hold up.

    Arrow Video presents The Mutilator with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Recovering an uncut 35mm print and scanning it in 2K, mild softness exists during early daytime sequences while, skin tones are nicely saturated with clothing choices popping nicely.  Instances of dirt and debris are present but hardly of any serious bother in this suitably filmic presentation.  In addition, although possessing slight murkiness and occasional intrusions of red tint creeping into the sides of its frame, black levels are a true revelation, allowing viewers to finally witness all the film’s bloody sequences with ease.  With a lack of suitable materials preventing a release for countless years and fans losing all hope of an official release, Arrow Video’s restoration may arguably be the greatest magic trick of 2016.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is audibly handled while, Michael Minard’s Fall Break opening song leaves a surprisingly authoritative stamp on the track.  In addition, suspenseful music cues are effective with hiss and pops non detectable.  Appropriately packed, special features include, an Introduction to the film with Writer/Director Buddy Cooper and Assistant Special Make-Up Effects Artist/Assistant Editor Edmund Ferrell (1:08), an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Buddy Cooper, Assistant Special Make-Up Effects Artist/Assistant Editor Edmund Ferrell, Co-Director John Douglass and Star Matt Mitler and a second Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Buddy Cooper and Star Ruth Martinez Tutterow.  In addition, Fall Breakers: The Making of The Mutilator (1:15:01) is an exceptional feature-length retrospective with new interviews from the cast and crew discussing the film’s production and long-lasting popularity amongst slasher fans.  Mutilator Memories with Mark Shostrom (15:57) sits down with the talented effects artist as he reminisces on the 30-year-old effort while, Tunes for the Dunes (8:13) catches up with Composer Michael Minard and his building of the film’s effective score and upbeat title track.  A Behind-the-Scenes Reel (16:31), Screen Tests (13:03) and Opening Scene Storyboards (4:27) are also included alongside Trailers and TV Spots for: Fall Break Trailer (1:42), Fall Break TV Spot (0:32), The Mutilator Trailer (1:57), The Mutilator TV Spot Version A (0:32), The Mutilator TV Spot Version B (0:32) and Radio Spots (0:57).  Furthermore, Alternate Opening Titles (4:32), Music featuring Fall Break (3:30) and its instrumental take (3:30), a Still Gallery (8:49), the Original Fall Break Screenplay (featured on BD/DVD-ROM) and a 26-page booklet featuring photos and essays by Ewan Cant and Tim Ferrante are also featured.  Finally, a Reversible Cover Art utilizing alternate artwork under the original Fall Break title and a DVD edition of the release round out the exhaustively excellent supplements.

    Serving as a bloody good slice of slashertainment during the genre’s downward spiral, The Mutilator lives up to its garishly gory artwork with polished special effects that enriches the film’s low-budget identity.  Like Houdini achieving the impossible, Arrow Video has painstakingly restored this holy grail of horror to a state that viewers can appreciatively witness after decades of overly dark presentations.  In addition to its nearly unfathomable high-definition upgrade, special features including, audio commentaries, a top-notch feature length look back, liner notes and tons more easily nominate The Mutilator as one of 2016’s most impressive releases.

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

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

    The Vincent Price Collection III (1961-1970)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Bolero (1984) / Ghosts Can't Do It (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Bolero (1984) / Ghosts Can’t Do It (1990)

    Director: John Derek

    Starring: Bo Derek, George Kennedy, Andrea Occhipinti, Ana Obregon & Olivia d’Abo / Bo Derek, Anthony Quinn, Don Murray & Julie Newmar 

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring striking beauty Bo Derek (10), Shout! Factory proudly presents a double feature of the sex symbol’s steamiest features!  In Bolero, Derek stars as a curious graduate who intends to discover her womanhood during a journey to the world’s most exotic locations.  George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Andrea Occhipinti (The New York Ripper), Ana Obregon (The Gamble) and Olivia d’Abo (The Wonder Years) co-star.  Next up, Ghosts Can’t Do It centers on happily married couple Katie (Derek) and Scott (Anthony Quinn, Lust for Life) who despite their age difference, lead a fulfilling life.  After coming to terms with her husband’s death, Katie reconnects with Scott’s impatient ghost as she scours the globe for a suitable body for him to be reincarnated in.  Don Murray (Bus Stop) and Julie Newmar (Batman) co-star.  

    Helmed by her late husband John Derek (Tarzan, the Ape Man), Bolero finds virginal graduate Mac MacGillvary (Derek) determined to find her ideal sexual suitor.  Following a celebratory striptease and receiving a lucrative inheritance, Mac, along with best friend Catalina (Obregon) and her faithful chauffeur Cotton (Kennedy), travel to Arabian locales to sow her wild oats only to be underwhelmed by a sleepy shiek mid-seduction.  Hightailing to Spain, Mac becomes enamored with attractive bullfighter Angel (Occhipinti) who successfully deflowers the head over heels American.  Tragedy strikes when her lover is gored, prompting Mac to oversee his full recovery in hopes of spending the rest of their lives together.  A product of the wild Cannon Films, Executive Producer Menahem Golan demanded the film’s many sex sequences be amplified much to the dismay of both Derek’s.  Hardly uncommon for the independent producing mavericks, Bolero, although technically a period piece boasting beautifully scenic locations, is quickly reduced to an exploitative sizzle reel of Derek’s fabulous nude figure.  While its erotic sequences are relatively tame by today’s standards with the uncomfortable exception of 14 year-old Olivia d’Abo appearing fully exposed in several scenes, Golan’s refusal to cut the film to meet proper ratings approval resulted in then distributor MGM to drop the feature.  Released independently, the uninspired effort spotlights Derek having honey suckled off her breasts, nude horseback riding and easily the decade’s cheesiest, fog-entrenched sex scene captured in slow-motion with a hilariously neon lit “extasy” sign in the background.  Dragged through the mud by the Razzie Awards, Bolero would unsurprisingly be nominated for Worst Picture of the Decade (only to lose to 1981’s Mommie Dearest).  Outside of its generous footage of Derek and her female co-stars in their birthday suits, Bolero lacks any true merit, only to be appreciated as a retro train wreck.

    After suffering one of the most talkative heart attacks captured on film, the elderly Scott (Quinn) recovers only to end his own life with a gunshot.  Leaving his gorgeous and much younger wife Katie (Derek) to grieve, Ghosts Can’t Do It finds Scott’s spirit returning to comfort and guide her on a quest for a young body to be reborn into.  Living off the luxuries of Scott’s $2 billion wealth, Katie travels to tropical locales for some fun in the sun while, juggling the responsibilities of Scott’s valued company with assistance from the recently deceased.  In what would be their final creative collaboration between the Derek’s, Ghosts Can’t Do It is a painfully dreadful romcom with a fantasy flair that fails on all levels.  Never shy to shed some skin, Bo Derek’s looks do little to save this turkey from would ultimately be crowned Worst Picture of 1990 by the Golden Raspberry Awards.  With an eye-rolling cameo from The Apprentice star and presidential candidate Donald Trump, Ghosts Can’t Do It never achieves a laugh and dawdles for much of its runtime in a longwinded search for Scott’s ideal body.  Signaling the last headlining appearance by the blue-eyed beauty, Ghosts Can’t Do It is a horrendous effort deserving to rest in peace for all eternity.         

    Shout! Factory presents both films in 1080p, with 1.85:1 (Bolero) and 1.78:1 (Ghosts Can’t Do It) aspect ratios respectively.  Possessing moderate levels of flakes and speckles, Bolero’s skin tones waver from warmly detailed to taking on softer appearances.  Meanwhile, exterior footage of the Moroccan environment, textures in wardrobe and the film’s many horses appears lush while, black levels are so-so.  In its spirited co-feature, picture quality is superior with no intrusive anomalies on display and more consistently accurate skin tones present.  In addition, colors of Derek’s bright ensembles pop magnificently under the film’s sunny climates.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue in both films are well-handled with nothing lost in translation while, scoring moments are adequately stacked.  Special features include, a Bolero Trailer (2:36) and a Ghosts Can’t Do It Trailer (2:48).

    The magnetic allure of Bo Derek can hardly be overstated with her two starring efforts in this collection prioritizing her outstanding figure.  Although both films are a barrel of disappointment, Bolero can be mildly appreciated for the exploitative influence of Cannon Films while, Ghosts Can’t Do It is an abysmally unfunny feature best forgotten.  Arriving with only their trailers attached, Shout! Factory gives both films commendable high-definition upgrades, ensuring that one fan’s trash can be another’s treasure.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available now from Shout! Factory, Bolero / Ghosts Can’t Do It can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

    Pretty Peaches Trilogy (1978-1989)

    Director: Alex de Renzy

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

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

    The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

    Director: Marielle Heller

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

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #9

    Count Dracula (1970)

    Director: Jess Franco

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Zombie High (1987)

    Director: Rob Link

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

    Axe (1975) / Kidnapped Coed (1976)

    Director: Frederick R. Friedel

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Women’s Prison Massacre (1983)

    Director: Bruno Mattei

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

    Corruption (1983)

    Director: Roger Watkins

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

    The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

    Director: Joseph Green

    Starring: Herb Evers, Virginia Leith & Leslie Daniel

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Assault on New Releases #7: Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight Collector's Edition (1995), Pay the Ghost (2015) & Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood Collector's Edition (1996) Blu-ray Reviews

     

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #7

    Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight (1995)

    Director: Ernest Dickerson

    Starring: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett, Brenda Bakke, CCH Pounder, Thomas Haden Church & Dick Miller

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From small screen frights to Hollywood haunts, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight finds mysterious drifter Brayker (William Sadler, The Green Mile) protecting the last of seven biblical keys containing the power to abolish all evil.  Intent on reclaiming the sacred relic, the demonic Collector (Billy Zane, Titanic), along with his vile minions, track Brayker to an unsightly motel where the key’s protector and a motley crew of misfits must defend themselves against the forces of darkness.  Starring an eclectic mix of up and comers (Jada Pinkett, Madagascar), future Academy Award nominees (Thomas Haden Church, Sideways) and B-movie legends (Dick Miller, Gremlins), Demon Knight maintains the entertainingly dark humor and suspenseful scares best known to its popular HBO series.  Introduced by its ghoulish host The Crypt Keeper (infamously voiced by John Kassir) on set of his own directorial effort, Demon Knight provides ample fun as its cast of unlikely heroes do battle against several ghoulish creatures during an endless night of terror and fully stocked ammunition.  Complimented by impressive visual effects and an effectively 90s soundtrack including hits from Filter, Pantera and Megadeth, Demon Knight douses viewers in neon green gore and countless possessions while, crafting a big-screen romp that proudly carries on the shocks established by EC Comics’ forefathers.

    Scream Factory, the horror offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents Demon Knight with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Following a rather grainy introduction well known to its television audience, colors, although sparse, pop nicely while skin tones are rich and natural under the film’s dim lighting.  Meanwhile, detail is quite sharp in facial features with black levels greatly impressing with no discernible instances of crushing.  In addition to maintaining a pleasing filmic appearance, the use of neon green in the demons blood and their electric responses to harm offer an effective contrast to the film’s dark ambience.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Demon Knight makes a most satisfyingly spooky splash in high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, dialogue is robust with intense moments of demonic anarchy and explosive carnage giving the mix a thrilling rumble.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Joining the ranks of Scream Factory’s respected Collector’s Editions, special features for Demon Knight include, an Audio Commentary with Director Ernest Dickerson and an Audio Commentary with Special Effects Creator Todd Masters, Visual Effects Supervisor John Van Vilet, Special Effects Coordinator Thomas Bellissimo and Demon Performer Walter Phelan.  In addition, an Egyptian Theater Q&A Session (9:46), Under Siege: The Making of Demon Knight (39:12) marking another first-class retrospective from Red Shirt Pictures featuring new interviews with many of the cast and crew, a Still Gallery (66 in total), Theatrical Trailer (2:01) and Reversible Cover Art round out the disc’s scary supplements.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Pay the Ghost (2015)

    Director: Uli Edel

    Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Veronica Ferres, Lyriq Bent & Jack Fulton

    Released by: RLJ Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage (Matchstick Men) headlines Pay the Ghost as college professor Mike Lawford who finds himself childless following the disappearance of his son on Halloween night.  One tragic year later and estranged from his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies, The Walking Dead), Mike is haunted by unexplainable events that lead him to a startling link between the city’s missing children and the occult.  Based on the novella by Tim Lebbon and realized by Director Uli Edel (Christiane F.), Pay the Ghost weaves a unique yarn of supernatural occurrences and a parent’s worst fears for an intriguing mystery thriller.  After his young son vanishes at a Halloween carnival, Mike Lawford (Cage) desperately searches for answers when an ancient Celtic myth and a ghostly being are found responsible for the abduction.  As Mike’s investigation deepens, haunting imagery of his son and the possession of his wife occur, further proving the supernatural abilities of the entity.  While Cage musters up a halfway decent performance as a grieving father hellbent on retrieving his only child, the film’s lackluster visual effects and attempts at suspense largely fall flat.  Boasting a refreshingly original premise, Pay the Ghost never quite reaches above mediocrity even with its full-blown descent into the supernatural realm during its final act.  With a tightened script and an increased budget, Nicolas Cage’s latest indie effort may have achieved greater results but as is, Pay the Ghost is not an entirely wasted investment.

    RLJ Entertainment presents Pay the Ghost with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Lacking a broad color scheme, city streets and interior locations appear rather drab while, skin tones read decently given the soft lighting choices of the film.  Meanwhile, nighttime sequences, most appreciatively during the Halloween carnival, offer admirable black levels although the blemish free transfer tends to highlight the film’s rather unimpressive CG effects.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue projects on the lower end requiring an ample increase in volume.  With minimal music and few instances of potent sound effects, the mix does little to overly impress.  In addition, no special features have been included.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available November 10th from RLJ Entertainment, Pay the Ghost can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood (1996)

    Director: Gilbert Adler

    Starring: Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon & Corey Feldman

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Culled from a story by Back to the Future’s Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood centers on sarcastic private eye Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller, Joe Dirt) after being hired by the attractive Catherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak, Baywatch) to locate her missing delinquent brother.  As the investigation leads to a seductive brothel headed by Madam Lilith (Angie Everhart, Jade), Rafe uncovers their vampiric alter egos and must do battle with the seductive bloodsuckers.  Debuting shortly after the cancellation of the HBO series, Bordello of Blood lacks the overall excitement of its predecessor but, substitutes its shortcomings with eye-popping gore effects and healthy doses of female flesh.  With Miller’s hilariously dry humor coursing through the film, Chris Sarandon (Child’s Play) makes a welcome appearance as an over the top, electric guitar wielding preacher while, 80s icon Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys) gives fans his last prominent role for several years as nose-pierced horndog Caleb Verdoux.  With a familiar relic making an appearance, Bordello of Blood hits its stride when Guttman and Reverend Current invade the bloodthirsty brothel equipped with holy water contained Super Soakers, laying to rest the scantily clad vampiresses.  Although critically dismissed, Bordello of Blood has earned itself a cult reputation by fans who revel in its blatant outrageousness.  Lacking the bite of its first cinematic outing, Bordello of Blood is still worthy of a one night fling that luckily never takes itself seriously.

    Scream Factory presents Bordello of Blood with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With occasional softness and mild speckling on display, skin tones are consistent and well-detailed while, the colors of supermodel Angie Everhart’s red hair and even bolder gore sequences pop nicely.  Meanwhile, black levels are generally pleasing with no alarming imperfections on display.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is always audible and prioritized while, the film’s rocking soundtrack including hits like Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” give effective boosts when applied.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Also joining the Collector’s Edition ranks, special features for Bordello of Blood include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter/Co-Producer A.L. Katz, Tainted Blood: The Making of Bordello of Blood (36:08) has Red Shirt Pictures once again delivering another worthy retrospective as the majority of the cast and crew hail the film as an embarrassment.  Furthermore, a Video Promo (3:12), Still Gallery (65 in total), Theatrical Trailer (1:42) and Reversible Cover Art wrap up the disc’s bonus content.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Prisoner of Paradise (1980) DVD Review

    Prisoner of Paradise (1980)

    Director(s): Bob Chinn & Gail Palmer

    Starring: John Holmes, Seka, Sue Carol, Jade Wong & Elmo Lavino

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning to exotic locales and set against the backdrop of World War II, Director Bob Chinn (Tropic of Desire), along with Harry Mohney (using girlfriend Gail Palmer as a pseudonym), captures John Holmes infiltrating sexually deviant Nazis.  Scanned in 2K from the 35mm negative, the kings of kink, Vinegar Syndrome, proudly present Prisoner of Paradise, where bizarre sex rites reign supreme on an island of sin!

    Prisoner of Paradise stars John Holmes (Johnny Wadd) as American G.I. Joe Murray, marooned on a tropical island following the bombing of his ship.  Discovering a small Nazi outpost and kidnapped American women, Murray is determined to save the day.  Seka (Sunny Days), Sue Carol (The Goodbye Girls), Jade Wong (Oriental Hawaii), Nikki Anderson (The Erotic World of Seka), Brenda Vargo (’11’) and Elmo Lavino (Matinee Idol) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    A blending of Nazisploitation and war epic, Prisoner of Paradise breathes an air of quality above most adult fare.  While, retaining its XXX foundation, Director Bob Chinn chooses to push story and character development ahead of skin.  Re-teaming with his Johnny Wadd leading man, John Holmes stars as G.I. Joe Murray, a WWII soldier grieving over the loss of his girlfriend (Mai Lin, credited as Miko Moto).  After his ship is bombed, Murray is marooned to a tropical island where he survives on coconuts and bathes under waterfalls.  Upon discovering a small Nazi outpost withholding American women, Murray rushes to rescue the damsels from the Furhuer’s clutches.  Holmes is in top form, mustering decent emotion over the loss of his sexy Asian lover while, trying to survive his situation.  Ilsa (Seka) and Greta (Sue Carol) appear as sadistic lesbian Nazis who get their rocks off forcing oral pleasure and sex upon their prisoners.  Overseen by commanding officer Hans (Lavino) and Suke (Wong), a mute Japanese soldier, the American women have little hope for escape after Murray is also taken prisoner.  Impressed with the size of his “gun”, the seductive Nazis force the American scum into salacious activities.  As Greta pleasures herself with a pistol grip, Ilsa, wearing only knee-high leather boots, forces Murray into sex while, threatening him with a luger to not climax in her.  Growing increasingly intoxicated, Hans become voyeur as he then forces a female prisoner to go down on Murray, before eventually copulating.  Cruel whippings and more forced sex follow, diminishing the prisoners hope of survival.  Luckily, Suke develops an uncontrollable attraction to Murray and puts the moves on him.  Reminded of his deceased lover, Murray willingly goes along with the sexual advances, using her trust to his advantage.  Following an intimate session, Murray and his fellow prisoners manage to torch the outpost and escape with their lives.

    Bursting with attractive players and convincing use of wartime stock footage, Prisoner of Paradise takes full advantage of its island location to convey a satisfying story of Nazi imprisonment.  Serving up a scandalous spread of hardcore sequences, Bob Chinn’s big-budget opus places priority on story and production value.  Surprisingly well-acted and genres competently blended, Prisoner of Paradise is a crowning achievement for Chinn that could have easily been reworked as a decent exploitation offering.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Newly restored in 2K from the 35mm negative and sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Prisoner of Paradise arrives with light scratches and vertical lines early on.  Skin tones are conveyed accurately with detail nicely picking up Holmes’ essential stache and long fingernails.  Black levels vary, with slightly fuzzy moments during dimly lit, oriental alley sequences and impressing with the Nazis stark black uniforms.  Colors read well with only Lin’s red attire looking a little too striking.  Flakes and specks occur sporadically, with the lush island setting reading well.  Understandably, the included stock footage is far more scratch-ridden than the rest of the film, but far from unwatchable.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mix, Prisoner of Paradise sounds satisfactory with dialogue coming across well, if not a bit hushed at times.  The film’s soundtrack impresses most with the added boost in volume coming across appropriately.  Explosions and machine gun fire also send a decent bump to the otherwise controlled soundscape.  Minor instances of hiss and pops occur, mostly during reel changes, but nothing worth worrying over.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Theatrical Trailer (3:50)

    • Caribbean Films Promos (6:32): Includes California Gigolo, Hot Legs and Prisoner of Paradise.

    RATING: 1.5/5

    OVERALL:

    While, Nazisploitation films may have been on their last legs by 1980, Director Bob Chinn blends the exploitative genre harmoniously as an X-rated war epic.  Adult movie legend, John Holmes delivers a surprising turn as a WWII G.I. with more depth than most would expect.  With a strong visual identity and an early appearance from the uber-sexy, Seka, Prisoner of Paradise entertains as much as it tantalizes.  Continuing the good deed of excavating Chinn’s game changing offerings, Vinegar Syndrome have provided porn enthusiasts with one of his best.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available September 9th, Prisoner of Paradise can be purchased via Vinegar Syndrome and Amazon.com

  • Graduation Day (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Graduation Day (1981)

    Director: Herb Freed

    Starring: Patch Mackenzie, Christopher George, Michael Pataki & E.J. Peaker

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After prom night and before summer camp begins, graduation day awaits!  From the director of Beyond Evil and Tomboy, the class of ’81 are disappearing and seemingly everyone is suspected.  In association with Troma Entertainment, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents the quintessential high school slasher, Graduation Day, newly restored in 4K and on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

    Following the tragic death of a high school track star, Graduation Day centers on a masked killer targeting student athletes and fellow teachers.  With graduation mere days away, the class of ’81 are dropping like flies.  As the mystery unfolds and bodies continue to emerge, a strict coach, the victim’s grieving sister (Mackenzie) and boyfriend are all suspected of the bloody crimes.  Christopher George (Pieces), Michael Pataki (Rocky IV), E. Danny Murphy (Final Mission), E.J. Peaker (Hello, Dolly!), Carmen Argenziano (Stand and Deliver) and Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Capturing the overly intense devotion to high school athletics, Graduation Day is yet another slasher re-telling of an anticipated moment in teenage lives, painted red.  Chaotically edited, this 80s effort moves at a swift place while, adhering to the rhythmic beats that fuel genre films.  After a blood clot tragically kills a graduating track star, a mysterious killer, adorned in a fencing mask and black leather gloves, begins targeting fellow athletes and faculty members.  Grieving the loss of her younger sister, naval officer, Anne (Mackenzie), arrives in town to better understand the circumstances of her death.  Amongst a sea of would-be killers including, a demanding track coach (George) and strict stepfather, Anne joins the ranks as a potential murderer to the suspecting audience.  While, the core cast of teens are rather underwhelming, “Scream Queen” in the making, Linnea Quigley (Savage Streets, The Return of the Living Dead) appears as a scandalous student who shows off her assets and gets cuddly with a teacher to ensure a passing grade.  In addition, Christopher George’s niece and future Wheel of Fortune letter-turner, Vanna White, makes a brief appearance as a fellow student.  

    Filled with locker room stalkings and backwoods prowling, Graduation Day takes full advantage of its sports obsessed tone with clever sword slayings and high jump horrors.  While, the film detours by setting up several suspenseful sequences that lead nowhere and one too many red herrings, Graduation Day still entertains with a cast of seasoned vets like George and Pataki that ham it up nicely.  Finally, as the climax nears, an over the top performance emerges from the revealed killer with an effective jump ending, sending the film off on a satisfying note.  Honoring the slasher ethics of moviemaking, Graduation Day is not immune to missteps but, succeeds overall as an entertaining 90-minute romp with a killer who likes making good time with his dirty deeds.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Newly restored in 4K, Vinegar Syndrome presents Graduation Day in a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the first time on home video.  Retaining a natural grain appearance, this indie slasher maintains its 80s-esque softness with bold colors, most prominently in the red graduation gowns and other pastel colored wardrobe, popping nicely.  Scratches and flakes are present in varying amounts, but never overly intrusive.  Skin tones are warmly relayed while, black levels, although mostly visible, still encounter their fair share of speckling.  Based on previous video sourced releases, Vinegar Syndrome have worked wonders with this latest presentation.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono mix, Graduation Day is projected nicely with effective musical cues during suspenseful moments.  Dialogue is mostly audible with locker room scenes, understandably echoing while, others involving multiple chatter at once, overwhelms the mix at times.  In addition, the roller rink sequence with new wave band Felony, kicks relatively high punches but a little too much sharpness.  Overall, the audio succeeds during crucial moments of talk and terror.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Producer David Baughn

    • Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Lives

    • Acting Out in School - An Interview with Patch Mackenzie (8:48): Lead actress Mackenzie discusses her strict British upbringing, opinion clashes with Director Herb Freed on the film and her guest appearances on countless television shows such as The Waltons and Taxi.

    • Surviving the Class of ’81 - An Interview with Herb Freed (12:22): Previously serving as a rabbi for three years, Freed credits his late wife and Co-Screenwriter Anne Marisse for supporting his passion for film.  The director also reminisces on his casting choices and the joy in hearing actors bring his lines to life.

    • Graduation Day Blues - An Interview with David Baughn (11:34): Lifelong film fan, Producer Baughn discusses his early beginnings with MGM, booking Russ Meyer films and forming a friendship with the man.  Baughn also discusses the films ad campaign and his memorable working relationship with Freed.

    • Cutting Class - An Interview with Martin Jay Sadoff (7:20): Hailing from NYU, Sadoff explains how his love for music influenced the fast-cutting editing approach to Graduation Day.

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:04)

    • DVD Edition

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    In a climate of holiday-themed slashers, Graduation Day corrupted another seminal day in the lives of teenagers with entertaining results.  Scattered with up and coming scream queens and future television personalities, this high school bloodbath spins a twisting tale of sports related murders.  The teenage cast fail to leave a lasting impression but, the film’s tone and atmosphere are rightly in place.  Vinegar Syndrome’s impressive 4K restoration washes away dreadful memories of previous releases along, with a satisfying spread of bonus content to jump into.  Over 30 years later and long overdue, the class of ’81 can once again be celebrated in this memorable retro slasher.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 9th, Graduation Day can be purchased via Vinegar Syndrome or Amazon.com

  • Jersey Shore Massacre (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Jersey Shore Massacre (2014)

    Director: Paul Tarnopol

    Starring: Danielle Dallacco, Angelica Boccella, Giovanni Roselli & Ron Jeremy

    Released by: Attack Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the vein of other summertime slashers, this modern take frames its story around fist-pumping buffoons in the Garden State.  Intertwined with local Jersey Devil folklore and appearances from adult entertainment legend Ron Jeremy and YouTube sensation Shawn C. Phillips, this horror-comedy aims to entertain with laughs and gore.  Executive produced by Jersey Shore alumni, Jenni “Jwoww” Farley, Attack Entertainment presents Jersey Shore Massacre, the only stop to get tanned blood red!

    Jersey Shore Massacre finds a group of girlfriends scurrying for a place to stay after losing their Seaside Heights beach rental.  After meeting a group of buff guidos and retreating to the desolate New Jersey Pine Barrens, a mentally deranged killer begins slaughtering the ignorant bunch one by one.  

    MOVIE:

    Starring a group of up and comers, Jersey Shore Massacre plants its tongue firmly in cheek and refuses to budge.  Much to the delight of the audience, the film succeeds in casting an absurdly, over the top slasher that involves hacking up Jersey’s tannest.  With the exception of 2012’s Jersey Shore Shark Attack, horror parodies of the once popular MTV reality series have been virtually untapped.  Visually ripe and full of potential, it’s a mystery why the popular seaside resort was never take advantage of during the slasher boom of the 1980s.  Jersey Shore Massacre looks to rectify that by offering a ridiculously cheesy response to the body count pictures of yesteryear.  Cliched as they come, Jersey Shore Massacre still adheres to the finer aspects of the genre that slasher enthusiasts yearn for.  A cast of females never shy to expose T&A and a terrific series of death sequences, all predominately accomplished by practical effects.  Notable kills include burning by tanning bed, tattoo removals via electric sander and a spear through sexually engaged bodies ala Friday the 13th Part 2.  While, the acting is far from award winning with several awful accents to mention, the cast still manage to sell a group of obnoxiously gaudy guidos that are believable by Jersey Shore standards.

    Further adhering to slasher tropes, Jersey Shore Massacre finds the only non-promiscuous guidette, who also lacks a Jersey accent of any kind, as the lone wolf tasked to do battle with the elusive killer.  With an underwhelming reveal of the killer’s identity, Jersey Shore Massacre’s final act drags by running in circles before finally reaching a finale we all knew was coming.  Stupidly funny and surprisingly crafty in the special effects department, Jersey Shore Massacre never asserts to be anymore than junk food entertainment, not intended to be taken seriously.  Accepted at face value, Jersey Shore Massacre is a decent offering that makes light of the Jersey Shore phenomenon a few years too late.  

    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:

    Jersey Shore Massacre is presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Nicely represented, colors are lush and accurate with the guidettes‘ bright clothing popping especially well.  Before the DNR police are called, the waxy-looking skin tones are attributed to the cast’s tanning sprees and over usage of make-up and not digital tinkering.  Meanwhile, black levels look decent, if not inconsistent.  Night sequences range from deep and inky to fuzzy and unclear, but all reasonably visible.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix, Jersey Shore Massacre has no issues to speak of with dialogue always coming in clear and bass pumping club music offering a nice punch to the mix.  A bit more emphasis during the more thematic murder sequences would have benefitted but as is, the mix is satisfactory.  In addition, a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is also included.  

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Jersey Shore Massacre: Behind the Scenes (24:00): This surprisingly lengthy look behind the magic captures on-set footage and interviews with key talent from the cast and various crew members.  A nice companion piece to this low-budget horror-comedy.  

    • Fat Camp Massacre Part 1 (10:16): YouTube sensation Shawn C. Phillips (“Coolduder”) stars in this Heavyweights meets Sleepaway Camp short. Briefly appearing in Jersey Shore Massacre as a film that the fist-pumpers pop on, this hilarious concoction deserves its own full length feature!

    • Bigfoot Unmedicated (5:21): A series of 12 voicemails that Mark E. Shaw (aka “Bigfoot”), who appeared as Edgar in the film, left for Director Paul Tarnopol.  Hilarious and delusional, Shaw urges Tarnopol to return his calls regarding a “national emergency” involving the frustration he has suffered from shooting the film.  

    • Coming Soon (1:35): Trailer for Girls Gone Dead.

    • “Melt” by Italian Ice Music Video (5:40)

    • “Outta My Head” by King Nyne Music Video (4:32)

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Jersey Shore Massacre succeeds in being an absurd take on the slasher formula, funneled through the sandy shores of the Garden State.  While, not offering anything revolutionary to the genre with the exception of poking fun at the mobs of guidos and guidettes, Jersey Shore Massacre still supplies enough T&A and practical gore effects to pacify most.  Attack Entertainment’s video and audio treatment are mostly rewarding with a special features package that isn’t too shabby either.  A few years late to the game, Jersey Shore Massacre still accomplishes its goal of seeing gel-abusing meatheads and high-heeled Snooki’s reach a bitter end, all in good fun.  

    RATING: 4/5

  • 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 DVD Review

    42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4

    Director(s): Unknown

    Starring: Erica Boyer, Linda Shaw, Sharon Kane, Dorothy LeMay & Annie Sprinkle

    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the filthy theater rows of the Deuce comes another salacious marathon of adult loops for your viewing pleasure.  42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 once again invites pornographers to create their own personal booths in the comfort of their living room with this vintage stash of stag.  Re-mastered from original film prints, Impulse Pictures is your guide on this journey of underground sex flicks, captured in up-close intimacy.  

    42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 features 15 8mm adult loops from the 1970s and 1980s.  Totaling nearly two hours worth of content, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 includes hardcore highlight reels featuring Erica Boyer, Linda Shaw, Sharon Kane, Dorothy LeMay & Annie Sprinkle.

    MOVIE(s):

    Saddling up where we left off, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 presents another wide variety of hardcore loops with intriguing titles and even more intriguing on-screen action.  Featuring 15 different loops, Vol. #4 highlights include Tammy and the Doctor, a subtitled entry that focuses on an ill woman who summons the good doctor for a house call.  Following a physical examination, Doc inserts an IV into Tammy’s backside, exciting the under the weather patient.  Turned on, Tammy puts the moves on her treater and the two engage in oral play, doggy style and Doc climaxing in Tammy‘s mouth.  Exactly what the good doctor ordered!  Another untitled entry finds a ponytail sporting bookworm interrupted by a mask wearing horndog, visibly in support of President Carter.  A fast-paced blow job, more doggy style maneuvering and some spanking follow for the two lovebirds.  Dorothy LeMay (Nightdreams) stars in Wheelchair Mary as a horny redhead confined to a wheelchair.  After Mary is short on cash for her dirty magazines, she produces a ferocious blow job for her trench coat wearing delivery boy.  Full-blown sex ensues with LeMay’s “O-face” appearing catatonic.  In the not so subtle, Fuck My Huge Tits, Annie Sprinkle appears in an interracial session as her hung companion succumbs quickly to the big-breasted Sprinkle’s oral skills.  Plenty more blow jobs follow along with the promise of the loop’s title leaving Sprinkle dosed in man juice.  After the Game, another subtitled entry, follows two sexy females infatuated with a star quarterback.  The girls surprise him with a game of two on one resulting in a plethora of playbook positions.  In this volume’s most bizarre entry, fans of pregnancy porn will rejoice with One in the Oven.  Sharon Mitchell gets frisky with a noticeably showing female, exchanging passionate licks and sensual rubdowns.  Finally, 2 From Column A finds Erica Boyer and Asian star, Mai Lin, pile driving and motorboating each others no-no zones.  

    On par with previous installments, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 continues to provide a nice variety of hardcore loops with a heavy emphasis on lesbianism.  From interracial fornication and leather clad strip downs in Leather Lust to the eyebrow-raising pregnancy fetish of One in the Oven, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 is destined to be another welcome entry in any passionate pornographers collection.

    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:

    Remastered in high-definition from original film prints, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 is presented full frame sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  As expected, the reels are lined with massive scratches and dirt with colors occasionally dropping out.  Offered with a “play all” option or an individual loop select feature, this collection of hardcore stag flicks are badly worn but still watchable and shouldn’t deter dedicated porn enthusiasts from viewing.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 only presents a projector sound effect.

    RATING: -/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Liner notes from Cinema Sewer Publisher, Robin Bougie: Once again, Bougie provides his always insightful knowledge with his latest offering, No One Rides for Free.  Bougie waxes intellectual on the earliest known American stag film from 1915, believed to be filmed in New Jersey (offering a new dimension to the term “Dirty Jerz”) and how stag films‘ intent have not changed much.  In addition, Bougie points out career highlights of some of the more notable faces found in Vol. #4 and their unfortunate fates.  Informative, humorous and far too short, Bougie’s words never disappoint.

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:                                     

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 continues to pull back the curtain on forgotten stag films of yesterday.  Presented rough and tough as remembered, Impulse Pictures’ latest entry in their popular line carries a strong emphasis with safer lesbian scenarios and the occasional threesome with well hung lads.  With One in the Oven being the standout loop for its offbeat fetish, 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #4 packs a prominent amount of adult starlets, sure to please peep show purists.  Fans of previous installments should take kindly to this latest volume of Times Square smut.

    RATING: 3/5 

  • Varsity Blood (2013) DVD Review

    Varsity Blood (2014)

    Director: Jake Helgren

    Starring: Lexi Giovagnoli, Wesley Scott, Natalie Peyton, Elyse Bigler & Debbie Rochon

    Released by: Image Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the tropes of body count flicks of the 1980s, this high school set tale finds football players and cheerleaders rooting for their own survival following the exploits of a masked murderer.  Harboring a small town secret, this modern day slasher unleashes beautiful females and the use of practical effects, much to the delight of genre fans.  Presented by Image Entertainment, Varsity Blood invites viewers to take to the field and do their best to survive this bloody experience.

    Varsity Blood centers on the cheerleaders and football players of Hogeye High, a sleepy town harboring a dark secret.  Following the big Halloween game, the group of friends host a wild party where an uninvited guest is waiting.  Disguised as their high school mascot with bow and arrow in stock, this masked murderer will stop at nothing until Hogeye High’s finest take permanent half-times.  

    MOVIE:

    Marking the directorial debut of Jake Helgren, Varsity Blood begins promisingly with scantly clad cheerleaders changing until one beauty is left alone.  Stalked by a masked maniac, the cheerleading captain is forced to run for her life bearing only her bra and panties.  Unfortunately, her fate is grim establishing a classic slasher introduction.  New girl, Hannah Wallace (Lexi Giovagnoli), has recently moved to town and has befriended the popular crowd while, being welcomed into the cheerleading squad.  Hannah, along with her controlling mother (Debbie Rochon, Tromeo and Juliet), suffer the pain of losing her father and is strictly against consuming alcohol.  Surrounded by sexy fellow cheerleaders and handsome jocks, Hannah is unaware of the tragic passing of Principal Graves‘ teenage daughter just a year previously.  Following their Halloween football game, the group descend on an abandoned farmhouse for a victory party, unaware that a killer dressed as their high school mascot awaits.  In true slasher fashion, sex, drugs and death quickly follow for the teens of Hogeye High.

    Possessing all the ingredients to deliver a decent slasher sendup, Varsity Blood stumbles early on and never truly recovers.  The small town secret that plants the town’s brutal killings is simple enough, but is unfortunately over compromised by several characters’ own dark pasts.  Overly complicated, the “character development” offers nothing more than throwing the viewer off course more than necessary.  In addition, Varsity Blood is plagued with horrendously tacky dialogue and paint by numbers exposition that takes the audience for fools.  Surprisingly, this underwhelming slasher does offer an incredibly beautiful spread of up and coming talent who aren’t shy to shed skin.  Plus, impressive practical effects in the form of arrow impalements and decapitations will please the most casual gorehound.  Concluding with a left field reveal and a nauseating Scooby-Doo-esque explanation, Varsity Blood had potential to be more but ultimately suffers from a weak story and poor dialogue.  The underused usage of the impressive practical effects are the film’s major highlight, but are hardly enough to remove the film’s bad taste.

    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:

    Varsity Blood is presented in a widescreen transfer sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  The film relays skin tones nicely while, colors, most noticeably in the cheerleaders‘ uniforms, pop decently.  Unfortunately, instances of pixelation arise occasionally against whiter backgrounds and black levels, especially when the gang arrive at the farmhouse, are dreary and largely unimpressive making it difficult to see portions of action.  Overall, a rather mediocre effort for such a recent offering.

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Varsity Blood is an audible yet largely unimpressive track.  Dialogue is relayed with no issues but, moments of horrific action and suspense lack a much needed oomph.  Similar to its video presentation, Varsity Blood sounds fine but could have afforded to be more.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:

    A modern day approach to the slasher subgenre, Varsity Blood had the potential to be an enjoyable 90-minute excuse in terror.  Unfortunately, a dull screenplay and an unrestrained tendency to over explain, derails the film immensely.  Attractive actresses and a fine usage of practical effects offer some assistance but ultimately, Varsity Blood is a missed opportunity for slasher enthusiasts.  While, special features are nonexistent, Image Entertainment’s video and audio treatment never reach beyond mediocrity which is more than can be said for the film’s quality.

    RATING: 2.5/5

  • 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

  • Purely Physical (1982) / Cathouse Fever (1984) DVD Review

    Purely Physical (1982) / Cathouse Fever (1984)

    Director: Chris Warfield

    Starring: Laura Lanzare, Michael Morrison & Juliet Anderson / Becky Savage, Rhonda Jo Petty & Rick Cassidy

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Injecting a much needed dose of 1980s pornography, Vinegar Syndrome welcomes a Chris Warfield double feature into their popular Peekarama banner.  Working under the pseudonym Billy Thornberg, Warfield weaves tantalizing tales of hotel room romps in Purely Physical and whore house exploits in Cathouse Fever.  Restored in 2K from their original camera negatives, the kings of kink take you back to a decade where more than just Olivia Newton-John was getting physical.

    Purely Physical stars Laura Lanzare (Pleasure Zone) as a journalism major who takes a job as a motel clerk.  Guests check in for a wild time while Lazare develops her own sexual daydreams.  Cathouse Fever centers on Becky (Becky Savage), a lonely secretary desperately in need of a lifestyle change.  Shy and withdrawn, Becky heads to Las Vegas to join up with a popular whorehouse.  Rhonda Jo Petty (Little Orphan Dusty), John Colt (Fever), Rick Cassidy (Swinging Ski Girls) and Chica Moreno (Debbie Does Las Vegas) co-star.

    MOVIE(s):

    Brunette bombshell, Laura Lazare, who held a modest porn career before calling it quits mid-decade headlines Purely Physical in an early role as journalism major, Kathy Harrington.  After landing a job as a motel clerk, Kathy accommodates horny patrons obsessed with one thing on their mind.  Guest highlights include a teenage couple, who falsely check-in as “Mr. & Mrs. A. Lincoln”, embarking on their first sexual encounter.  Slow and cautious, a premature orgasm influences the couple to try again leading to hand jobs and doggy-style romps.  In addition, Charlie (Michael Morrison, Meatballs Part II), a fact touting movie nerd sporting a tacky striped jacket hits the jackpot with a sultry woman.  After some mutual oral play, Charlie is wiped out allowing his lucky lady to make off with his cash.  Meanwhile, Kathy uses her new position to work on her writing, imagining what sexual pleasures her guests are getting themselves into.  High-strung businesswoman, Claudia Sinclair (Juliet Anderson, Aunt Peg), attempts to unsuccessfully put the moves on Kathy prompting her to instead admire her own reflection while pleasuring herself.  An exhausted man frustrated with life is surprised to have two attractive lesbian lovers (one of whom looks eerily similar to Sarah Silverman) pay him a visit.  The trio engage in a sexually-charged threesome including several position changes.  Talk about room service!  Finally, after completing her shift, Kathy submits to her sexual urges and gets wild with a frequent guest.  Purely Physical is a fun early 80s sex fest that continuously feels fresh with each hotel guest hornier than the last.  Laura Lazare is a stunner while, Michael Morrison‘s movie obsessed character is a hoot to watch.  Hosting a cast of attractive players, Purely Physical is rarely boring and almost always engaging.

    RATING: 4/5

    Contrary to what the film’s synopsis indicates, Cathouse Fever has nothing to do with college coeds seeking desperate measures to pay for their tuition.  Instead, Becky Savage (Sex Games) stars as a lonely secretary longing for a change of pace in life.  Gap-toothed and bearing a slight lazy eye, Becky spends much of her time living in her head, fantasizing about herself in sexual scenarios.  Eventually, Becky follows her desires and moves to Las Vegas to work for a popular brothel.  Cathouse Fever captures splendid early 80s footage of Sin City’s iconic strip in all its neon lit glory.  Becky knows she has great legs and is finally ready to soil her oats.  Endlessly moaning and groaning, Becky fornicates with a leather boot wearing cowboy while sporting an Indian headdress.  The performers of Cathouse Fever never shy away from talking dirty and exaggerating their moans, increasing the film’s tantalizing context.  In addition, the cathouse runs rampant with leather clad, chain wearing whores experimenting with dildos on one another.  The staff tirelessly attempt to get a gagged client off resulting in several humorous inserts.  As the newbie, Becky is a vocal vixen when it comes to pleasure and dishes it out as hard as she takes it.  Fearing an addiction to the lifestyles’ fever, Becky longs for meaningful love and fantasizes about the perfect sex session with a well-groomed man under neon lights and sensual music.  Cathouse Fever concludes with Becky returning back to her regular lifestyle but looking back on her wild times with fondness.  Cathouse Fever serves as another refreshing slice of 80s adult entertainment packed with incredibly vocal performers going the distance, all to bodacious tunes that could only emerge from that radical decade.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Restored in 2K from their respective 35mm camera negatives, both films bear 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Both films look very respectable with only minor flakes and speckles cropping up occasionally.  Purely Physical experiences brief frame jumps but are hardly significant.  Colors pop decently with bolder ones such as the hot red hotel sheets reading well.  Skin tones are very accurate with detail quite crisp, capturing close-up action and near transparent bodily fluid clearly.  Unsurprisingly, these 1980s efforts look as squeaky clean as possible thanks to Vinegar Syndrome’s usual TLC.  

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with Dolby Digital 1.0 mixes, each film is audible with relaying their dialogue but issues still exist.  Purely Physical is plagued with an undercurrent of static throughout its runtime.  Similar to a skipping record on a turntable, the noise is most noticeable in quieter scenes but is always apparent which can become tiresome.  Hiccups aside, each film’s hip synth music comes across just dandy.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Purely Physical Trailer

    - Cathouse Fever Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

    Vinegar Syndrome has successfully filled a void of 80s pornography from Chris Warfield’s late directorial career.  Purely Physical’s motel setting keeps things fun and light allowing each hotel guest to act as a short vignette.  Laura Lazare is a sight to be seen and does well as the journalism student who eventually walks on the wild side.  While, Cathouse Fever’s description is far from accurate, the actual film has much to enjoy for porn enthusiasts with a lonely girl spreading her wings at one of Las Vegas’s popular whorehouses.  Becky Savage is a loud, energetic sexual force that is complimented by an equally dirty talking supporting cast.  Vinegar Syndrome’s treatment of these forbidden pleasures is another satisfactory effort that should sit handsomely with fans of the beloved, big-haired decade.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

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

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #15: Under the Skin, Last Man Standing, NYPD Blue & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #15 includes:

    - Last Man Standing Season 1 & 2 (0:36)
    Street Date: May 13, 2014
    20th Century Fox: http://www.amazon.com/Last-Man-Standing-Season-1/dp/B00K8HAKSW/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1404850275&sr=8-3&keywords=last+man+standing

    - NYPD Blue Season 6 (7:30)
    Street Date: June 24, 2014
    Shout! Factory: https://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Scavenger Killers (2013) (11:13)
    Street Date: July 1, 2014
    Midnight Releasing: http://midnightreleasing.com/

    - Under the Skin (2013) (17:39)
    Street Date: July 15, 2014
    Lionsgate: http://www.lionsgate.com/

    - Invasion of the Scream Queens (1992) (25:19)
    Street Date: June 17, 2014
    Wild Eye Releasing: http://wildeyereleasing.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (30:25)

  • Bloody Birthday (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Bloody Birthday (1981)
    Director: Ed Hunt
    Starring: Lori Lethin, K.C. Martel, Julie Brown, Elizabeth Hoy, Billy Jayne & Andrew Freeman
    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A bonafide cult classic of the killer kids subgenre, where three suburban tikes wage a full-scale murdering spree on their quiet community.  Still shocking and controversial, Director Ed Hunt (Starship Invasions) weaves a slasher-esque tale of carnage with the most unlikely murderers at the helm.  Boasting a new HD transfer from the original vault materials, Severin Films proudly presents Bloody Birthday on Blu-ray for the first time in America.

    Bloody Birthday kicks off in Meadowvale, California circa 1970 where three babies are born at the height of a solar eclipse.  10 years later, Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy, X-Ray), Curtis (Billy Jayne, Just One of the Guys) and Steven (Andrew Freeman, Beyond Witch Mountain) begin a sadistic murder spree on the adults in their town.  When fellow classmate Timmy (K.C. Martel, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and older sister Joyce (Lori Lethin, The Prey) learn who’s responsible, the killer trio are determined to keep them quite permanently.  Susan Strasberg (Sweet 16), José Ferrer (Dune) and MTV hottie Julie Brown (Earth Girls Are Easy) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    By 1981, cinemagoers were well aware of the hulking, silent slashers of the Friday the 13th and Halloween franchises.  In addition, the sudden popularity in the genre birthed countless imitators whose devious antagonists were generally, insane men hiding behind the disguise of a mask.  Director Ed Hunt’s killer kiddie flick, Bloody Birthday, instead chose to humanize its horror and shock audiences by turning innocence into fear.  Sweet-looking but bearing devilish grins, the deadly children have no remorse for their heinous crimes, similar to a young Michael Myers.  Following traditional slasher tropes, the trios‘ targets are horny teenagers and any authority figure that stands in their way.  Being birthed during a solar eclipse and a hokey astrological explanation serves as exposition for the kids‘ fatal behavior.  While, bordering on the cheesy side, the film earnestly sticks to its guns, ensuring a fun time for all.

    The trio waste little time doing away with Debbie’s father (who also serves as the town sheriff) by pelting him repeatedly with a baseball bat.  With daddy dearest out of the way, our pint-sized serial killers are in possession of his firearm.  Unusual by slasher standards, the kids incorporating a gun into their assaults makes sense given the unfair advantage of their size.  Retrospectively, viewing the film in a post-Columbine age, the effect is even more frightening.  The tiny terrors unleash more death in the form of jump rope strangulations, beatings and most notably, a bow is used to launch an arrow into a victims eye.  Bloody Birthday also supplies a suitable amount of nudity that includes Julie Brown undressing while, Curtis and Steven snoop through a peep hole, confirming that sex is still high on the minds of 10-year-old homicidal children.  Secondly, a sex-craved couple get hot and heavy in a graveyard while, another bare all in the back of a van before Curtis installs bullets through their heads.  After fellow classmate Timmy (Martel) and older sister Joyce (Lethin) learn the truth, the deviants make them their prime targets.  An exciting third act involves siblings dodging bullets and Timmy exchanging blows with Curtis, before the jig gets pulled on the little monsters.  The film concludes open-endedly, leaving room for a potential sequel that sadly, would never come.

    Shot cheaply and quickly, Bloody Birthday is a sadistically fun time, ranking high as one of the best killer kiddie flicks to invade the horror genre.  Reminiscent of Village of the Damned with an 80s slasher twist, Bloody Birthday is an underrated gem ripe for rediscovery.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Severin Films presents Bloody Birthday with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Understandably, Bloody Birthday has never looked phenomenal on home video.  Severin Films upgrades their original DVD release to the Blu-ray format which bolsters decent, albeit slightly washed out colors.  Contrast and detail aren’t meticulously sharp but can still be appreciated most in facial close-ups.  Black levels, while admittedly underlit, can be quite murky, mostly noticed in the opening graveyard sequence.  Fortunately, Bloody Birthday possesses a relatively clean presentation with little to no intruding scratch factors.  A marginal upgrade from its previous DVD release, but unquestionably, the finest the film has ever looked.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 Mono mix, Bloody Birthday sounds rather flat, but audible.  Dialogue comes across fine although, a slight hiss and the occasional pops can be heard on the mix.  A brief audio dropout occurs near the final act but luckily, no dialogue is lost in the moment.  Slightly underwhelming, the mix is still sufficient.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:
    Severin Films has kindly ported over all the features from their original DVD release:

    - Audio Interview with Director Ed Hunt: Nearing over 50 minutes, Hunt sits down and discusses his original interest in filmmaking, attending film school at UCLA and his professional film efforts leading up to Bloody Birthday and beyond.  The interview is  very extensive and informative leaving no stone unturned.

    - Don’t Eat That Cake - An Interview with Lori Lethin: Lethin sits down to discuss her work on the picture, the lack of child safety on the set and her current occupation as a drug and alcohol counselor.

    - A Brief History of Slasher Films Featurette: Adam Rockoff, author of Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986, provides a general history lesson on the popular genre, incorporating clips and poster artwork for some of the most memorable titles.  

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Teaser Trailer: Provided as an Easter egg on the disc.

    - Severin Films Trailers: Includes Bloody Moon, Horror Express, Nightmares and The Baby.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Continuing the cycle of other slashers, Bloody Birthday dares to be unique by placing sweet children as the ruthless killers.  Still controversial, Director Ed Hunt’s killer kiddie flick works low-budget wonders with a fun cast to watch and some brutal murder sequences that are enhanced by the merciless young maniacs.  Severin Films rightly deserves praise for promoting this underrated goodie to HD in its finest edition to date.  The strength and entertainment factor of the film alone deserves a high recommendation to fans in need of more homicidal children in their cult collections.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Erotic Adventures of Candy (1978) / Candy Goes to Hollywood (1979) DVD Review

    Erotic Adventures of Candy (1978) / Candy Goes to Hollywood (1979)
    Director: Gail Palmer
    Starring: Carol Connors, John Holmes, Pat Rhea, John Leslie & Turk Lyon
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following her turn in 1972’s iconic Deep Throat, porn princess, Carol Connors, would arguably headline her most memorable role in 1978.  Presented under their popular Peekarama banner, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents the hilarious adventures of a shy virgin, curious about sex.  Restored in 2K, Erotic Adventures of Candy, joined by its sequel, co-stars a myriad of familiar adult entertainment faces including John Holmes (Tell Them Johnny Wadd Is Here), Pat Rhea (Chopstix), John Leslie (Confessions) and Turk Lyon (Pro-Ball Cheerleaders).  Plus, special appearances from Wendy O. Williams (Reform School Girls), Huster-Centerfold, Desiree Cousteau and Miss Nude America, Shadow Neva round out these flicks.

    Erotic Adventures of Candy centers on shy, virginal Candy (Carol Connors), a beautiful girl curious about sex.  Destined to learn from experience, Candy sets out on a steamy adventure of exploration with hilarious results.  Next up, Candy Goes to Hollywood finds our sexy blonde protagonist arriving in Hollywood in search of fame.  After hooking up with a scamming talent agent, Johnny Dooropener (John Leslie), Candy learns the ropes of how to make it in the big city.

    MOVIE(s):
    Naive and airheaded, Candy is a gorgeous college student anxious to lose her virginity.  Repeatedly daydreaming about fornicating with her Hispanic gardener, Candy acts on her impulses with the reality being less romantic than she imagined.  Hilariously, Candy’s father charges into the room to disrupt and a brawl ensues.  Shortly after, with her father in the hospital, Candy sets out on a journey that leads her to chance encounters with strangers, each ending with all parties in their birthday suits.  The charm and jovial spirit of Erotic Adventures of Candy is its similar tone to the teen-sex comedies of the era, only intertwined with moments of hardcore sex.  Notable moments include Candy’s encounter with Sean (John Holmes), a man who guilt trips her into feeling sympathy for his uncircumsized man-part.  Luckily, Sean hits the jackpot, engaging in a variety of different sex acts with the blonde buxom.  Pat Rhea (Lipps & McCain) makes a hysterical turn as Candy’s increasingly horny Aunt Em, who finds herself in quite a few sexual scenarios of her own and enjoying them immeasurably.  In addition, Candy’s first visit to the gynecologist is unforgettable as her doctor does more than just an examination.  Oral pleasure and such follow with Candy happy to accommodate the good doctor.  The wacky humor helps the picture sustain its watchability beyond its hardcore material of which there is plenty.  The film’s climax finds Candy persuaded to enter a spiritual sanctuary where several orgies are taking place in order to reach a “higher spiritual level”.  Blow jobs, salad tossing, lesbianism and even male on male oral play is highlighted.  Predictably, Candy goes with the flow and makes it with her spiritual advisor, before going down on a hooded monk whose identity is a shock.  Packed with enough climaxes and hardcore material to surely suffice, Erotic Adventures of Candy benefits immensely from its ability to not take itself too seriously and have some fun.
    RATING: 3/5

    Opening with a parody of the MGM logo, Candy Goes to Hollywood finds our blonde bombshell in the movie capital of the world in search of fame.  Befriending a talent agent/hypnotist/used car salesman/scam artist, Johnny Dooropener (John Leslie), Candy is thrust into the sharky waters of Tinseltown.  Arriving in Hollywood, wonderful shots of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre plus, Marilyn Monroe and Johnny Carson’s stars are captured.  A Bee Gees rip-off song plays as Candy makes her way down Hollywood Boulevard with peep show theaters, which are conveniently playing Erotic Adventures of Candy and Gail Palmer’s Hot Summer in the City, showcased in the background.  Once again, Candy finds herself in a variety of comical yet scandalous situations including a car ride from a female stranger that escalates to a few drinks and a strap-on being used on Candy.  Plus, Candy lands an appearance on The Dong Show with a woman who launches golfballs from her vagina.  The Unknown Comic makes a brief cameo on stage while, the host of the show gets friendly with Candy behind the curtain.  Clearly a hit, Candy lands a guest spot on the Johnny Farson Show but not before the late night star introduces her to his dressing room.  More parodies ensue when Candy auditions for Samuel Goldicker’s (Turk Lyon) latest film.  Simply reading your lines and sleeping with the director gets the job done for our clueless protagonist.  Recycling actors from the previous film in different roles, Candy Goes to Hollywood leads to a familiar finale with an orgy-centered party.  More oral play, extreme close-ups of penetration and even more shots of climaxes round out this sexually charged sequence.  Johnny Dooropener’s scheme catches up to him when Candy and other girls realize they’ve all been promised the same role, resulting in Dooropener’s cherry being popped.  The zany humor and excellent footage of Hollywood circa 1979 make Candy Goes to Hollywood the superior effort.  In addition, skin fans should be pleased to note that the ante is definitely raised in this installment with Connors looking even more gorgeous.

    Interestingly enough, years following her directorial efforts, Gail Palmer admitted to never contributing to the films and her involvement was a mere front for her then boyfriend, porn distributor Harry Mohney.  Palmer would sue her former flame in 1984 for excluding her from the profits of their films.  Appearing in Playboy in 1977 as a Michigan State girl, Palmer was an active face for the films‘ promotion being used as a spokesperson in the trailers.  Nonetheless, Candy Goes to Hollywood is a fun example of adult film fare that understands the power of a sense of humor while, still delivering all the X-rated goods desired by porn enthusiasts.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Restored in 2K from their 35mm camera negatives and Interpositive respectively, both films sport a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Incredibly sharp and bolstering an array of bold colors, most noticeably in skin tones and Candy’s bright clothing, Candy’s exploits shine.  Occasional scratches and pops arise but hardly take away from the overall clean presentation of these films, a true testament to the care of the original elements.  Admittedly, Candy Goes to Hollywood squeaks by as being the superior transfer due to its nearly scratch-free appearance.  Another remarkable effort from the heavyweights of adult home entertainment.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mixes, both films come across clearly with dialogue picked up just fine.  Erotic Adventures of Candy does have some minor moments of hiss and pops early on in the film, but smooth sailing beyond.  Satisfactory sound mixes that don’t necessarily offer a ton of range, but still get the job done nicely.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Erotic Adventures of Candy Original Theatrical Trailer

    - Candy Goes to Hollywood Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:
    After several more films and a directorial effort, Carol Connors retired from the adult industry to start a family (her daughter, Thora Birch, would catch the acting bug and appear in such Hollywood fare as American Beauty and Ghost World).  Vinegar Syndrome has done another sound job preserving two of Connors‘ best remembered works.  Erotic Adventures of Candy and Candy Goes to Hollywood make for a fun double bill of 70s erotica that delivers on skin and casts a charm with its sense of humor, greatly attributed to Connors‘ bimbo-like personality.  A wonderful time capsule of late 70s Hollywood, this latest Peekarama offering should most definitely soothe your sweet tooth.  
    RATING: 3/5  

  • Sugar Cookies (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Sugar Cookies (1973)
    Director: Theodore Gershuny
    Starring: Lynn Lowry, Mary Woronov & George Shannon
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome continues their excavation of the Troma vaults with, according to writer/producer Lloyd Kaufman, “the only adult film to lose money”.  An erotic thriller that is far more artsy than one might expect, Sugar Cookies stars such queens of cult cinema as Lynn Lowry (The Crazies) and Mary Woronov (Death Race 2000).  Restored in 4K, this underrated gem arrives on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

    Sugar Cookies opens with the mysterious death of adult film star Alta (Lynn Lowry) while in the company of her wealthy producer Max (George Shannon).  With the assistance of Alta’s manager, Camilla (Mary Woronov), the two begin hunting for a suitable replacement.  Young and naive actress, Julie (Lowry appearing in a dual role), is discovered and slowly groomed into Max and Camilla’s sadistic world until Julie begins fearing for her own life.

    MOVIE:
    Advertised as a sexy lesbian flick, Sugar Cookies attests to be far more than Times Square peep show entertainment.  Interestingly enough, Sugar Cookies feels ahead of its time and shares more in common with the erotic thrillers of the 1980s, popularized by Brian De Palma (Body Double) and Adrian Lyne (9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction).  No doubt taking a very Hitchcockian approach to its material, Sugar Cookies still remains very rooted in its adult-underground environment.  Director Theodore Gershuny (Silent Night, Bloody Night), with the assistance of director of photography Hasse Wallin (in his sole credit as cinematographer), commands the camera with a watchful eye and captures beautiful footage warranting the film its “artsy” label.  Lynn Lowry, in her first starring role, handles the portrayal of two very different characters effortlessly.  The shy, reserved nature of Lowry’s sympathetic Julie makes her downward spiral into the caretakers‘ eccentric world all the more impactful.  The beautiful and commanding presence of Mary Woronov is the real highlight of the film as her seduction of Julie showcases the sweet and wickedly dangerous sides of her sinister character.

    Wonderfully shot and nicely acted, Sugar Cookies delivers its fair share of skin from Lowry and Woronov who obviously impress.  The nudity and sexually-charged scenes never feel forced but instead compliment the story which is refreshing.  Unfortunately, Sugar Cookies slightly derails as time is spent on Gus, nephew of sleazy, sex-producer Max.  Admittedly, some moments with Gus inject genuine humor but his overall appearance, along with his sister, amounts to a wasted subplot that never really goes anywhere.  In addition, while the final act mimics the tense opening scene of a sexual game involving a firearm with shocking results, the film ultimately ends on an abrupt note leaving the viewer with a few questions.  Imperfections aside, Sugar Cookies still manages to deliver one of the most intriguing and artistically sound productions from Lloyd Kaufman who became well renowned for Troma’s more outrageous and goofy output.  A financial flop during its original release, Sugar Cookies seemed ahead of the curve by blending the erotic and thriller genres with mostly successful results.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Newly restored in 4K from the original camera negative, Sugar Cookies sports a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Colors are very lush and skin tones, which are best appreciated in close-ups and nude scenes, are relayed quite naturally.  The bright red furniture seen in Camilla’s house also pops exceptionally well.  Minor inherent print damage, in the form of light scratches and flakes, arise but are brief and never intrusive.  Vinegar Syndrome has proved successful yet again with another top-notch transfer.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, Sugar Cookies slightly underwhelms.  Music comes across rather loud with little hiss, unfortunately, dialogue tends to be more problematic.  Mostly attributed to the shooting locations, certain scenes find dialogue constantly echoing off walls while, moments of hushed tones certainly require an increase in volume.  That said, the majority of dialogue is still picked up clear and crisp with the pros outweighing the cons.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Making Sugar Cookies with Lynn Lowry: Lowry sits down for nearly 14 minutes discussing her original hesitation to join the film based on the amount of nudity required.  Lowry fondly recalls her working relationship with Woronov as a pleasant one and still finds the film quite an accomplishment.

    - Lloyd Kaufman Remembers Sugar Cookies: Available only on the DVD, Kaufman sits down for a lengthy 35-minute interview and delves into a range of topics including growing up and befriending Oliver Stone, who would be credited as a producer on the film.  In addition, Kaufman discusses the financial hardships for the film, casting and much more.  Kaufman’s interview is incredibly informative and is the supplemental highlight of the release.

    - Mary Woronov Interview: Also only found on the DVD is this brief interview with Woronov ported over from Troma’s original DVD release.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Alternate Theatrical Trailer: Only on DVD.

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Sugar Cookies stands as a sexually-charged blending of genres that is both dangerous and tantalizing.  Arguably, ahead of its time, Sugar Cookies is far more rewarding than your average X-rated film and possesses genuine style matched with fine tuned performances.  The story makes a few missteps but never diminishes what is considered one of Kaufman’s most artistic looking efforts.  Vinegar Syndrome has done a superb job restoring this often forgotten gem with a near perfect video presentation, an adequate audio mix and a delicious set of supplements.  If you’re hungry for a truly scandalous thriller with a twist of erotica, then take a bite out of Sugar Cookies.
    RATING: 4/5   

  • The Chambermaids (1974) DVD Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

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

  • Jungle Blue (1978) DVD Review

    Jungle Blue (1978)
    Director: Carlos Tobalina
    Starring: Nina Fause, Bill Cable, Carol Bombard, Jose Ferraro, Annette Haven & Chico
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The saviors of the sultry and odd, Vinegar Syndrome, welcome another offering from Director Carlos Tobalina (Marilyn and the Senator).  Strange as can be and endlessly erotic, this jungle bound tale reaches new heights of wild entertainment.  Unforgivingly X rated and never before released on video in the US, Jungle Blue has been restored and presented in all its uncut glory for the first time!  Be prepared to go bananas as you head into this hot jungle of pleasure...

    Jungle Blue tells the story of a group of explorers hunting for hidden fortunes in the wild jungles of South America.  Beyond strange and borrowing from various exploitative sub-genres, the sinister group meet a wild man who lives amongst the animals, his horny gorilla companion and a slew of half nude locals in this supremely scandalous piece of adult cinema.

    MOVIE:
    From its colorful poster art of nude women surrounded by a jungle setting and a fondling  gorilla, Jungle Blue makes promises it actually keeps.  Filmed on location in Colombia and Peru, this X rated exploration of the jungle makes the most of its surroundings and captures beautiful jungles and exotic animals.  While, visually gorgeous, Jungle Blue spares no expense in showcasing the more erotic sides of its story.  Following a sinister group of explorers determined to find precious treasure, the attractive team find themselves meeting a Tarzan-esque fellow who is never shy when sexually exploring women.  As Jungle Blue attempts to weave its story line, Tobalina generously cuts to a random, drug-addled group of tourists engaging in an endless orgy for no particular reason other than to tantalize the audience.  Lesbianism, oral pleasure, doggy style and countless moments of climax are all on full display as one hilariously lonely man can only daydream about what he’s witnessing firsthand.  Jungle Blue also offers a gorilla who has no problem obtaining sexual pleasure as easy as bananas.  One can never have enough man in a rubber monkey suit.

    While, Tobalina’s dreadfully overlong Marilyn and the Senator did little to entertain, Jungle Blue packs an incredible amount of sexual fun while also capturing the beautiful exotic locations and local tribes.  Sexy faces combined with a breezy runtime, Jungle Blue is one hot, oddball excursion into the wild you won’t regret visiting.  Any disappointment can be rooted to the lack of more gorilla suit action.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Jungle Blue is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  In short, the film looks remarkably clean and vibrant.  The exotic locations of Peru are captured beautifully while, skin tones and detail look most impressive during close-ups.  The occasional scratches and speckles creep up but nothing that could possibly take away from the overall richness of this absurdly odd piece of X rated madness.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mix, Jungle Blue sounds quite nice for a film of its caliber.  Dialogue is relayed decently but increasing the volume at times wouldn’t hurt.  In addition, interior scenes are sometimes intruded by loud outdoor noises that can be bothersome at times.  Overall, the film sounds decently and will surely get the job done.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:
    Another round with Director Carlos Tobalina sounded unappealing but interestingly enough, Jungle Blue was a certifiably strange, erotically charged and at times hilarious piece of X rated exploitation.  Tobalina not only knows how to cast attractive performers but managed to film in such beautiful locations that truly enhanced the films quality.  Vinegar Syndrome proves their impressive skills yet again with an uncut presentation of the film that looks lovely.  Special features may be scant, but the absurdity and endless assault of erotica is bound to please fans of the genre and those craving a cocktail of jungle bound exploitation.  
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Lust for Freedom (1987) DVD Review

    Lust for Freedom (1987)
    Director: Eric Louzil
    Starring: Melanie Coll, William J. Kulzer, Judi Trevor, Howard Knight & Elizabeth Carroll
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Independent distributors, Vinegar Syndrome, take a breather from their highly successful adult entertainment output to excavate treasures from the Troma Entertainment vaults.  A feministic action tale told behind the bars of a women’s prison sets the course for this 80s cult hit produced by Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger) and directed by Eric Louzil (Class of Nuke’ Em High Part II: Subhumanoid Meltdown, Class of Nuke’ Em High Part III: The Good, the Bad and the Subhumanoid).  Newly restored from the original negative, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents Lust for Freedom, where girls take the law into their own hands!

    Lust for Freedom stars Melanie Coll, in her only film role to date, as Gillian Kaites, a special undercover agent who experiences the brutal murder of her boyfriend in a sting operation gone wrong.  Looking to move on after the tragedy, Kaites finds herself in a world of trouble as she is subdued and whisked away to a women’s prison.  Corruption and perversion run rampant as Kaites plots a bloody revenge against those responsible for her unjust imprisonment.  

    MOVIE:
    While, intended to be a parody with comedic shades, Lust for Freedom comes across far more earnest than most Troma productions.  Kicking off with a play by play narration by Coll (that continues throughout the film) of an undercover operation, shootouts run amok with some wildly hilarious gunshot reactions and hokey fight choreography that sets the stage for a film of performers trying their best.  Coll’s partner and boyfriend ends up dead resulting in her need to escape the life and surroundings she has come to know.  Driving aimlessly with no true destination in mind, Coll picks up a frantic female hitchhiker in the desert before being stopped by the local sheriff.  It doesn’t take long before the friendly sheriff cons Coll back to the station to drug and relocate her in the local women’s prison.  A dangerous institution where the prisoners are held under false charges and for the wicked amusement of the warden and his cronies, Coll has entered a living nightmare.  Judi Trevor (Leather Jackets) makes a memorable appearance as the despicable head of the prison who makes life horrifying for the inmates.  Lust for Freedom proudly embellishes the popular traits of women in prison flicks with first time lesbian encounters, shower-filled T&A sequences, rape, brutal whippings plus, inmate wrestling matches to the death.  All the ingredients are present and accounted for, albeit, slightly underused especially for a Troma production.  Luckily, the array of actresses‘, with their nicely styled 80s hairdos and fully applied made-up faces, are quite attractive making risque scenes all the more rewarding.  

    The more time Coll spends in this house of horrors, the better she understands the corruption at work and plots revenge.  Teaming up with fellow inmates, Coll relies on her undercover skills and way with firearms to turn the tables on the establishment.  More shootouts, explosions and a wild inferno, all to the blaring songs of Grim Reaper, bring the heinous prison down.  Lust for Freedom works on nearly every level for fans of the women in prison subgenre, although, the more scandalous material could have benefitted from being exploited more.  In addition, Coll’s endless narration to the obvious grows tiresome but never takes away from the fun of the film.  Shot cheaply, the laughable action sequences and the “high speed” car chases that barely crack school zone limits add an air of charm worth reveling in.  Far from perfect, Lust for Freedom separates itself from other Troma productions by winking at the audience instead of cementing the tongue to their cheek, paving the way for an arrestingly good time.
    RATING: 4/5          

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome presents Lust for Freedom in an 1.85:1 aspect ratio, scanned in 2K from a 35mm blow-up negative.  Originally filmed in 16mm, Lust for Freedom experiences instances of vertical lines and flakes early on but, improves as the run time progresses.  A slight speckling appears throughout the film which looks more inherent in the film stock than the restoration process.  The plain and sterile scheme of the prison casts a rather dull appearance especially with the inmates all wearing white.  The few colors present, most notably in Coll’s red shirt before her imprisonment, as well as skin tones pop as nicely as could be expected especially in close-ups.  Vinegar Syndrome’s restoration is a welcome one for a film that would have more than likely received lesser treatment from others.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mix, Lust for Freedom slightly suffers from just being a little too low.  Cranking the volume up will become necessary to pick up all dialogue especially in the prison where voices tend to echo constantly.  Luckily, moments of intense gunfire and the rockin’ tunes from Grim Reaper serve up a nice and welcome oomph to the mix.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Eric Louzil: Louzil discusses the similar artistic sensibilities between himself and Kaufman that drew the two together.  Louzil remains chatty the duration of the film but often spends too much time narrating the onscreen action.  That said, Louzil still serves up an informative listen that is worthy to fans of the film.

    - Interview with Producer and Distributor Lloyd Kaufman: Kaufman sits down for a 10 minute interview discussing how the project came to be, his direct involvement, Louzil’s many talents and more.

    - Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Far from a diehard Troma fan, Lust for Freedom had all the right ingredients to make its way into this women in prison fans’ heart.  Packed with a line-up of beautiful ladies showcasing T&A and choked full of shootouts, bloodshed and a radical heavy metal soundtrack, Lust for Freedom is a winner for viewers looking to spend 90 minutes in the slammer.  Vinegar Syndrome has done yet another fine service to cult fans by dusting off a goody like this and restoring it from the Troma library.  Coupled with a nice and informative assortment of special features, Lust for Freedom is a cult prison flick that fans should sentence themselves to for life.  With access to the vast Troma vaults, one can only hope that Vinegar Syndrome continues to serve up more entertaining odds and ends like Lust for Freedom.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #7: Monsters, Odd Thomas, The Slumber Party Massacre, Buck Wild & MORE!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #7 includes:

    - Monsters: The Complete Series (0:43)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    eOne Entertainment: http://entertainmentone.com/home

    - The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) (7:03)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Return to Nuke'Em High Volume 1 (2013) (12:23)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Anchor Bay Entertainment: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Odd Thomas (2013) (18:12)
    Street Date: March 25, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Tom Holland's Twisted Tales (2013) (24:34)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Buck Wild (2013) (30:30)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Millennium Entertainment: http://www.millenniumentertainment.me/

    - The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) (35:09)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Frightmare (1974) (41:08)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (48:23)

  • Sex Hunter: 1980 (1980) DVD Review

     

    Sex Hunter: 1980 (1980)
    Director: Toshiharu Ikeda
    Starring: Erina Miyai, Ayako Ooota, Teruo Matsuyama & Seru Random
    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Considered one of the most controversial installments in the Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection, Sex Hunter: 1980 is a visual delight that captures disturbing imagery, leaving the viewer in a state of shock and awe.  Possessing shades of Suspiria, Dario Argento’s 1977 horror opus, Sex Hunter: 1980 is a darker erotic tale that dares to frighten rather than tantalize.  Presented with newly translated English subtitles, Impulse Pictures welcomes the 20th edition of their Nikkatsu Collection as a work determined to leave you spellbound.  From the director of Evil Dead Trap, Sex Hunter: 1980 intends to enslave you with its sinister tone, let’s find out if you can handle it...

    Sex Hunter: 1980 centers on Miki (Ayako Oota), a talented and beautiful ballet dancer, who has been accepted into a very private and prestigious ballet academy run by the mysterious Kaibara Akiko (Erina Miyai).  Determined to enhance her craft and reunite with her loving boyfriend, Miki quickly learns the dark motives of the academy.  Subjected to vicious sexual acts and violent torture, Miki is faced with the terrifying reality that she may never escape.

    MOVIE:
    While, Director Toshiharu Ikeda insisted he never watched horror films, including his own, due to his discomfort of being scared, Ikeda successfully captures a frightening tone in Sex Hunter: 1980.  The ballet company setting and ulterior motives from its owner share an undeniable similarity to Dario Argento’s Suspiria.  Substituting a coven of witches for a pair of sex-crazed torture junkies lifts the film to a unique form of disturbing cinema.  Miki (Oota), the innocent ballerina, is welcomed into the prestigious academy, unknowingly subjecting herself to a living nightmare.  The equally beautiful academy owner, Kaibara Akiko (Miyai), quickly seduces Miki and pleasures her until she has firm control over the young dancer.  Akiko subjects Miki to witness a salacious lesbian orgy of fellow students that takes place behind the mirrored glass of a practice room, cementing the seedy, slave-like world Miki now resides in.  Interestingly enough, Akiko’s brother is Miki’s boyfriend, now wheelchair bound and kept under a watchful eye from his sister.  Akiko never hesitates to seduce her brother who is defenseless against her intense sexual hunger.  In the meantime, Miki’s torture increases as Akiko’s male assistant rapes her repeatedly, stripping her of her virginity.  The aggressive nature of these acts are despicable but Ikeda stages these sequences masterfully, crafting images of allure and repulsion.  Miki, struggling to survive, endures more punishment as her male assailant forces bottles of Coca-Cola down her rear in one of the most horrifying moments of the film.  Shortly after, Miki is rigged above the practice room by ropes in hopes of forcing the beverages out of her in another sadistic act of dominance.  Eventually, Miki reaches her breaking point and chooses to embraces her torture instead of fearing it.  Miki urinates on herself as a form of rebirth which tantalizes her abuser and forces him to obey her.  The climax of the film finds Miki’s captors succumbing to her own devious wishes as the abused becomes the abuser.  Sex Hunter: 1980 is a shocking piece of erotic cinema that never titillates but thoroughly disturbs on a psychological level.  

    Sex Hunter: 1980 is a far cry from past Nikkatsu efforts but its frightening, erotically cruel tone that invokes shades of Argento’s Suspiria and Radley Metzger’s The Image is a remarkably well shot piece of sexually-fueled horror.  Sex Hunter: 1980 casts a spell of perversion and terror that the viewer will not soon forget.  
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Impulse Pictures presents Sex Hunter: 1980 in an anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer that dazzles!  Black levels are surprisingly deep, most notably in an early scene where Akiko witnesses Miki’s ballet performance from a darkened theater.  Colors pop nicely with the red ropes that bound Miki looking bold while perspiration can be seen clearly on actors’ bodies.  Impulse Pictures continues to surprise with the overall cleanliness of these Nikkatsu offerings.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Sex Hunter: 1980 comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese Mono mix.  Sound quality is more than sufficient with dialogue never missing a beat and the howls and screams of Miki pushing the audio appropriately.  While, not groundbreaking, Sex Hunter: 1980 sounds as well as one could hope.  In addition, newly translated removable English subtitles are provided.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Liner Notes from Japanese Film Scholar Jasper Sharp: Sharp injects interesting anecdotes about Director Toshihara Ikeda’s career as well as the cruel nature of Sex Hunter: 1980 that encouraged studio heads to insist Ikeda tone things down for his next film.  Another informative and well-researched set of liner notes from Sharp.

    - Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Sex Hunter: 1980 is a cruel, disturbing entry in the Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection that is not for the lighthearted.  Running the gamut of rape, incest, lesbianism and torture, Sex Hunter: 1980 pits nightmarish imagery against the backdrop of an unsuspecting ballet company.  Sex Hunter: 1980 achieves its hellish vision of erotic pleasure and stuns the audience with all its sadistic power.  Impulse Pictures succeeds in delivering a fine video and audio presentation, complimented by another scholarly selection of liner notes by Jasper Sharp.  Sex Hunter: 1980 is certainly not for everyone, but its execution in “nightmarotica” is one to be seen to be believed.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers (1985) DVD Review

    Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers (1985)

    Director: Yoshihiro Kawasaki
    Starring: Jun Izumi, Chiaki Kitahara, Yukari Takeshita & Shu Minagawa
    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Impulse Pictures is back at it, serving up fans of Japanese erotic cinema their 19th helping from the popular Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection.  When a group of horny young nurses all converge at St. Elizabeth Hospital, plenty of naughty habits are bound to arise.  Over the top comedy mixed with tantalizing sex scenes, rewards viewers with a dormitory filled with nurses that exceeds your wildest expectations.  Presented with newly translated English subtitles, Impulse Pictures invites curious patients to an environment where the staff will treat you just right.  If the patient is suffering from Nikkatsu withdrawal, then a serving of Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers might be the remedy you’re seeking.  Let’s find out...

    Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers centers on a group of horny young nurses all looking for love at St. Elizabeth Hospital.  With the arrival and helpful hand of the mysterious Yuki (Jun Izumi), the other nurses sneak their boyfriends into the dorm for nightly sex.  Although, the nurses are kept under the watchful eye of a strict dorm supervisor, Yuki’s influence on them increases as more sexual fun ensues!  Yuki’s past is revealed when Tadao (Shû Minagawa), her former beau, arrives attempting to rekindle their love.  Unfortunately, for Tadao, Yuki has other plans that all converge on a night that involves mistaken identity, absurd disguises, S&M and plenty more!

    MOVIE:
    Nikkatsu pulls no punches when opening their film with a close-up of a young nurse caressing her nipples.  Moaning in enjoyment, the young nurse grabs a vacuum hose in order to pleasure those hard to reach places.  As the viewer is submerged in erotic bliss, the nurse’s dorm supervisor barges in questioning her actions, leaving the audience giggling.  Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers quickly sets the stage with several nurses working at St. Elizabeth Hospital who are at wits end with their horniness.  The arrival of a mysterious new nurse, Yuki (Jun Izumi), encourages the girls to act out on their impulses below the radar of their strict dorm supervisor.  With Yuki’s help, nurses are sneaking their boyfriends into the dorm for hot, nightly sex that translate to a tantalizing experience for the viewer.  Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers manages to convey an erotic tale with steamy scenes in tact, but masquerades it as a humorous sex comedy.  When Yuki’s past is revealed and her ex-lover, Tadao, plans to win her back, Yuki has other ideas.  A night of mistaken identities at the dorm climaxes when horny individuals are entering the wrong rooms and taking up sex with the wrong partners.  In true sex comedy fashion, one of the boyfriend’s is cornered by the strict supervisor only to learn she’s not who she seems.  The young man is swept into her quarters and chained up as a leather-clad S&M session ensues.  Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers lives up to its unique subtitle as a respected doctor gets rather handsy with a fellow nurse and “ throughly examines” her rear.  The film reaches a uproarious high point when Tadao, who has mistaken Yuki with another nurse, is sexually engaged when an unsuspecting vaginal cramp traps Tadao mid thrust.  Hilariously, the entire dormitory rushes to the room, where Yuki, using her nursely expertise, administers her finger into Tadao’s backside to free him.  Who would have guessed?

    Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers accomplished plenty in the erotic department with lesbianism, solo pleasure sessions, group showers and S&M.  But, the hilarious sex comedy energy gave this flick a boost that made it an absolute riot to view.  With a breezy runtime and a groovy soundtrack, Impulse Pictures have served up another fine helping of Nikkatsu erotica blended with madcap hijinks, that goes down as one the most entertaining installments to date.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Impulse Pictures presents Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers in an anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer that impresses.  Colors are bold with skin tones appearing clear and accurate.  Surprisingly, a film of this ilk, has no scratches or debris intruding which make for a remarkably clean presentation.  Color me caught off guard, Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers looks terrific!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese Mono mix.  Dialogue comes through with no interruptions and the music, which packs a nice horn section, delivers a decent bass sound.  This mix definitely gets the job done.  In addition, newly translated removable English subtitles are included.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Liner Notes from Japanese Film Scholar Jasper Sharp: Sharp waxes intellectual on the distinctions between pinks films and the Roman Porno releases that Nikkatsu handled.  Sharp educates and informs in these impressive liner notes.

    - Original Theatrical Trailer

    - Reversible cover: While, the film is packaged bearing its censored Nurse Girl Dorm: Sticky Fingers cover, the reverse utilizes its more risque Assy Fingers subtitle.

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers surprised me with its ability to juggle the erotic and tantalizing needs of an adult film while, injecting a hilarious sex comedy spirit of hijinks.  The horny young nurses of St. Elizabeth Hospital have a wild time in the film that will surely please devoted Nikkatsu fans. Impulse Pictures‘ presentation exceeded my expectations with a remarkably clean and colorful transfer, a proper audio mix complimented with nicely prepared English subtitles.  In addition, Impulse Pictures’ inclusion of educated liner notes from Jasper Sharp and a removable cover was a nice touch to an already pleasing package.  Nurse Girl Dorm: Assy Fingers entertains and titillates in all the right ways.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Dracula 3D (2012) Blu-ray Review


    Dracula 3D (2012)
    Director: Dario Argento
    Starring: Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini, Asia Argento, Unax Ugalde & Rutger Hauer
    Released by: MPI Media Group

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The king of Italian horror, Dario Argento, has returned with his unique vision of Bram Stoker’s original classic.  Adapted countless times in various forms, the gothic tale of Dracula is indeed eternal and thirsty for yet another retelling.  Argento’s interpretation also marks his first foray in the 3D realm, inviting viewers that much closer to the prince of darkness‘ deadly bite.  Soaked in mystic atmosphere and eroticism, Argento’s Dracula 3D wishes to suck your blood.  Does Dracula’s latest attempt in three dimensions have what it takes to cast a spell on its audience?  Let’s not dawdle any longer and find out...

    Dracula 3D finds famed Italian horror master, Dario Argento (Suspiria, Tenebrae), conducting his own unique vision of the iconic Bram Stoker novel.  400 years have passed since the passing of Count Dracula’s (Thomas Kretschmann) wife, leaving him eternally lonely.  Upon discovering that newlywed Mina Harker (Marta Gastini) bears a striking similarity to his wife, Dracula is obsessed with making her his.  Utilizing Mina’s husband, Jonathan (Unax Ugalde) and best friend, Lucy (Asia Argento) as pawns, Dracula slowly embarks on uniting with his newfound love.  Fortunately, noted vampire expert, Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer), arrives in order to put an end to Dracula’s unholy ways before it’s too late.

    MOVIE:
    As many famed auteurs age, the quality of their output is generally criticized for not being on par with past accomplishments.  In recent years, no horror director has been critiqued more so than Dario Argento.  Many would argue that after the 1980s, Argento’s genius seemingly stopped with the majority of his later work failing to capture audiences.  After completing his Three Mothers trilogy with 2007’s Mother of Tears and the tumultuous road to releasing 2009’s Giallo, Argento seemed overdue for a comeback of sorts.  Dracula 3D is Argento’s unique vision of the Bram Stoker novel without being a direct adaptation.  In addition, Argento assigned this film to be his first experiment with the 3D format.  As hopeful as Argento adapting Stoker sounds, Dracula 3D is yet another devastating disappointment from the man that delivered such classics as Deep Red and Opera.  The worst offense Dracula 3D is guilty of is the abysmal screenplay.  Oddly enough, this “unique vision” of an already established novel took four writers, including Argento, to bring the painfully wooden dialogue to screen.  The bland writing contaminates the film like a plague resulting in hollow performances from the entire cast.  Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted) invokes sex appeal but lacks any charisma as Dracula, resulting in one of the most boring performances of the character.  The remainder of the cast suffers the same fate as the poor writing hinders them from a serviceable performance.  Luckily, Argento has not lost his touch when hiring beautiful actresses, including his daughter Asia Argento (Land of the Dead) and Maria Cristina Heller (Angels & Demons), who are never shy when bearing their assets.  In addition, cult icon, Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, The Hitcher), appears as the vampire avenging Van Helsing.  Unfortunately, Hauer’s appearance comes fairly late in the film and does little to invigorate the film’s energy.

    Dracula 3D, while tame compared to Argento’s previous efforts, still manages to deliver decent gore in the form of slashed necks, axes to the head and of course, good old fashioned vampire bites.  Unfortunately, decent gore is trumped by horrendous CG effects including a laughable wolf to human transformation as well as an odd gigantic insect murder that will leave you dumbfounded.  Luckily, the set design and costumes do a fine job establishing the intended gothic atmosphere with more than decent results.  Interestingly enough, Argento’s first forary into 3D is a wildly effective one.  A nice sense of depth is coupled with gimmicky “in-your-face” effects that include swords, tree branches and animals charging the screen.  Sadly, Argento’s Dracula 3D disappoints on nearly every level.  The bland screenplay works as a domino effect resulting in wooden performances from the cast and an overall boring cinematic experience.  The gimmick of 3D is the only effective piece of the film that acts more as an odd curiosity.  As hopeful as one was, Dracula 3D lacks any of the spirit and originality Argento once possessed.  Argento completists will have difficulty finding any merit in this film that deserves to be staked through the heart.
    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:
    MPI Media Group presents Dracula 3D in a 1080p anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer.  The film is nicely detailed with excellent handling on black levels for which there are many.  Night scenes and the darker clothing of some of the actors show no signs of crushing whatsoever.  A tint of softness is present, but welcome, at times to capture the dreary gothic atmosphere.  Skin tones are also well preserved making this transfer more than ample.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    3D VIDEO:
    Having both 2D and 3D versions available on one disc, the 3D version of Dracula 3D is surprisingly stunning.  The opening title sequence sways through the village of the film creating a wonderful sense of depth.  Continued instances of depth are furthered in backwoods scenes where the branches of trees invade your eye-line.  Gimmicky, yet wildly effective, uses of 3D are seen in swords through actors‘ bodies, animals charging the camera and actors‘ fingers that practically reach out and touch the viewer.  A handful of blurring moments occurred throughout the film which were noticeably inferior to the otherwise stellar majority.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Dracula 3D comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.  For the most part, the mix is sufficient with frightening moments capturing a loud push and Claudio Simonetti’s score, which invokes shades of the 1960s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows,   beautifully projected.  Unfortunately, dialogue seems to be more of a mixed bag.  At times, speech is loud and robust while others, most noticeably whenever Dracula speaks, the mix is a struggle to hear causing a wrestling match with your volume button.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Behind the Scenes: This surprisingly lengthy making of featurette captures fly on the wall shots during production as well as incredibly informative interviews from nearly every member on the show including actors, screenwriters, art designers, 3D effects artists and more.

    - "Kiss Me Dracula" Music Video: Performed by Simonetti Project.  Presented in 2D and 3D.

    - Trailer

    - Red Band Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D is another poor addition to Argento’s recent canon.  The horrendous screenplay all but doomed this production as its cluelessness gravely affected the performances of the cast.  The passion and creativity that oozed from Argento’s earlier works is all but lost here as Dracula 3D plays as a boring attempt at gothic horror.  Thankfully, MPI Media Group’s presentation is a delight with a superior video presentation and effective 3D treatment.  In addition, the few supplements provided, namely the behind the scenes featurette, is far more interesting than the film itself.  The real tragedy of Dracula 3D is what it could have been had the right components and passion been in place.  Sadly, Dracula 3D is another Argento effort best forgotten.
    RATING: 2.5/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #1: Nightmare City, Die, Monster, Die!, Vinegar Syndrome & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #1 includes:

    - Nightmare City (1980)
    Street Date: December 31, 2013
    Raro Video: http://www.rarovideousa.com/

    - Die, Monster, Die! (1965)
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Cat People (1982) Collector's Edition
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Judy (1969) / The Night Hustlers (1968)
    Street Date: January 7, 2014
    Vinegar Syndrome: http://vinegarsyndrome.com/launch/

    - The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956) / The Neanderthal Man (1953)
    Street Date: January 28, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

  • Tenebrae (1982) Blu-ray Review (UK)


    Tenebrae (1982)
    Director: Dario Argento
    Starring: Anthony Franciosa, Veronica Lario, Daria Nicolodi & John Saxon
    Released by: Arrow Video (available exclusively via www.Zaavi.com)

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The master of the giallo, Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera), has thrilled and terrified audiences for nearly 50 years.  From his early beginnings with 1970’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Argento has earned himself the label of a true artist with a clear and precise vision in all of his haunted works.  During, what would arguably be considered his peak years, Argento crafted a frightening tale with autobiographical roots that harked back to the genre he helped create.  Newly remastered, Arrow Films, proudly presents Tenebrae in a limited edition SteelBook release.  Let’s take a look and see how this once labeled “video nasty” and beloved Argento classic has aged...

    Tenebrae stars Anthony Franciosa (Julie Darling) as Peter Neal, an American horror writer, in Rome promoting his latest best-seller.  A serial killer is stalking his every move while others associated with his work start popping up dead.  The film co-stars Christian Borromeo (House on the Edge of the Park), Veronica Lario (Sotto... sotto), Carola Stagnaro (Opera), Daria Nicolodi (Inferno) and John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street).

    MOVIE:
    Dario Argento’s films have always mystified as much as they have terrified.  Sandwiched between two other classic works (Inferno and Phenomena), Argento helmed this semi-autobiographical terrorfest about a horror writer harassed by a razor-wielding madman.  Argento admits that while in Los Angeles, he was called constantly by a stranger who admired the Italian director’s work.  Eventually, the calls grew more aggressive and the caller blamed Argento’s films for ruining his life and wished to kill him.  While being understandably frightened, Argento returned back to his homeland with the seed for a new story.  Tenebrae finds the director of The Cat o’ Nine Tails returning to his roots to tell a more realistic tale of horror.  The film does a fine job with a core cast that fit into their roles like a black leather glove.  Franciosa headlines as the handsome and modest author of horror literature that is slowly being stalked while his fellow associates are dropping like flies.  Franciosa is a natural which allows him to slide into the character of Peter Neal without the audience remembering they are watching an actor on the job. In addition, other cast highlights include Argento regular Daria Nicolodi who co-stars as Neal’s assistant, Anne.  Nicolodi complements Franciosa’s performance as a loyal and trusted friend with a hint of an attraction for her employer.  Genre star, John Saxon (Enter the Dragon), also appears as Neal’s literary agent which benefits the film thanks to the actor’s undeniable charm.

    Tenebrae is a successful example of style and substance meeting perfectly together.  Argento, along with Director of Photography Luciano Tovoli (Suspiria), work wonders with their camerawork while weaving a tale of genuine mystery and terror.  Moments of murder are shocking in their brutality but also a visual delight akin to a painter executing a masterpiece with his brush.  Tenebrae is an arresting film with terrific performances and a plot that keeps the viewer guessing while constantly jumping in their seats.  Already a master of Italian horror by Tenebrae, Argento directs the film with pure artistry while collaborator Claudio Simonetti (Dawn of the Dead, Demons) serves up yet another hypnotic and haunting score that acts as a character itself.  Tenebrae is a masterful entry in Argento’s impressive body of work that succeeds in nearly every way a solid giallo should.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Arrow Video presents Tenebrae in a newly remastered 1080p High-Definition (1.85:1) transfer.  The opening shots of Tenebrae being read don’t appear particularly noteworthy but immediately following, a revelation occurs.  Simply put, the film becomes nothing short of breathtaking!   Detail is remarkable in facial features while black levels stun with no crushing seen anywhere.  While, not an overly vibrant film, colors pop beautifully in actors‘ clothing while death scenes dazzle the eyes with the boldness of the blood’s color.  Tenebrae looks incredible and exceeded my expectations by a mile!
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Tenebrae comes equipped with an uncompressed PCM Mono 2.0 Audio mix.  Dialogue comes off clearly with no issues in the pops or hiss department while sound effects like a crashing window or a razor slash are crisp as can be.  Simonetti’s addicting score is the real prizewinner of the mix as it commands your speakers with a boom!  The catchy synth sounds are as loud as can be and might even encourage you to tone your volume down...  Then again.  Tenebrae succeeds in serving up a robust mix that compliments the perfect video presentation.  In addition, optional original English and Italian Mono Audio tracks are provided along with optional English subtitles.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:
    (NOTE: The collector’s booklet listed below was not provided for the purposes of this review, therefor the rating of this section cannot take it into consideration)

    - Introduction by Star Daria Nicolodi

    - Audio Commentary with Kim Newman and Alan Jones

    - Audio Commentary with Argento expert Thomas Rostock

    - The Unsane World of Tenebrae: An Interview with Director Dario Argento: Argento waxes intellectual about the origins of the film and critics’ opinions of him and his work.

    - Screaming Queen!  Daria Nicolodi Remember Tenebrae

    - A Composition for Carnage: Composer Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae

    - Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches: One of the supplemental highlights as Goblin rocks out in this 16 minute segment from Friday, February 25, 2011.

    - Out of the Shadows: A Discussion with Maitland McDonagh: Another highlight of the disc is this scholarly interview with McDonagh, author of Broken Mirrors / Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Collector’s booklet: Featuring writing on the film by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento, an interview with Cinematographer Lucian Tovoli and an appreciation of the film by Director Peter Strickland.

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    Tenebrae is yet another masterpiece from arguably Argento’s finest years.  The film grabs hold with its unique camerawork and engaging performances wrapped in a story that successfully achieves mystery and murder.  Arrow Videos‘ presentation of the film is breathtaking and bolsters a strong audio mix that is sure to please fans of the film and its popular soundtrack.  In addition, the supplemental features are vast and informative leaving you with a deeper appreciation and love for the film.  Tenebrae ranks highly as one of Argento’s best while Arrow Videos‘ treatment accomplishes being one of the best  releases of any Argento film to date!
    RATING: 5/5

  • Toad Road (2012) DVD Review


    Toad Road (2012)
    Director: Jason Banker
    Starring: James Davidson, Sara Anne Jones, Jim Driscoll, Scott Rader & Jamie Siebold
    Released by: Artsploitation Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Cementing their status as one of the leading forces of unique and independent cinema, Artsploitation Films teams up with Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision to invite viewers down a hallucinatory path.  Toad Road is Artsploitation Films’ first American acquisition, shot on a shoestring budget that feels akin to 1999’s The Blair Witch Project in its execution.  Honest and disturbing, Toad Road sends chills down your spine in unexpected ways that make you wish for the terror to end.  The barriers of reality and nightmares become blurred as the characters struggle to navigate in this mixture of urban myth lore and documentary.  In order to find out what truly lies on Toad Road, let’s trip out…


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

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/Toad_Road__Artsploitation_/toad_road__artsploitation_.html

  • Abduction of an American Playgirl (1975) / Winter Heat (1976) DVD Review


    Abduction of an American Playgirl (1975) / Winter Heat (1976)
    Director(s): Unknown / Claude Goddard
    Starring: Darby Lloyd Rains / Sue Rowan, Helen Madigan, Lisa Young & Jamie Gillis
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome, the saviors of smut, kick off 2014 with a bang.  Literally!  The first entry in the label’s new “Peekarama” line pairs two scandalous features together that are sure to set fire to your senses.  What are a pair of kidnappers to do when their gorgeous victim gives them more of a sexual run than they anticipated?  Plus, winters can get mighty cold especially when a ruthless pack of delinquents barge into your cabin to light their own sexual fire.  Line up for the big show and witness the sultry excitement right before your eyes...

    Abduction of an American Playgirl finds two lonely men who decide that kidnapping a beautiful woman and subjecting her to their sexual pleasures will cure their anxiousness.  Oddly enough, the would-be victim turns the tables and reveals herself to be a supreme nymphomaniac leaving the men helpless to her demands.  Next up, Winter Heat finds a group of ex-cons intruding on and terrorizing a trio of helpless women in their snowbound cabin.

    MOVIE(s):
    Just when you thought you’ve seen it all from Vinegar Syndrome, the indie distributor is ready to surprise you again.  Abduction of an American Playgirl had sleaze written all over it but I was genuinely surprised to find so much humor in the film.  The bumbling kidnappers, one sporting a choice 70s-stache, are hilarious as a a pair of horny bums that are looking to fix their dilemma fast.  Much to their luck, they spot a gorgeous female and hatch a scheme to whisk her away back to their pad and have a wild night of carnal delights.  In addition, the two decide to extort $5,000 (because why get greedy) from the victim’s father in exchange for her safe return.  As the men finally decide to get down to business, the victim shows surprising interest in their “manlier” areas and the party becomes a mutual one.  Sexual positions a plenty invade the next few scenes with everything from oral pleasure to everything in between administered.  Once our kidnappers have had their fill, the victim is far from through.  The duration of the film takes hysterical turns as the men can barely get a moment of sleep let alone finish a cup of coffee before they are forced back into the bedroom.  To make matters worse, the victim’s father laughs off the men’s extortion attempts leaving them in an odyssey of sexual pleasure that they can no longer handle.  Other drifters make their way through the pad getting a taste of the nymphomaniacal victim before throwing in the towel and making their great escape.  Eventually, the father bites on the extortion scheme (for the bargain price of $500) and orders his other daughter to meet the exhausted culprits for the exchange.  Yet again, our victim and her resourceful sister, pull the sheet from under the men and make off with the money and their car!  The energetic sisters crash at a local motel for some incest-filled lovemaking before welcoming an African-American bellboy in for a little threesome action.  Penetrating excitement and a final climax shot wraps the film up with the ladies possibly biting off more than they can even chew.  Abduction of an American Playgirl surprised me with how humorous the actors and their exchanges with one another managed to be.  The film has no shortage of sexually-charged scenes that are sure to please the most devoted adult cinema lover.  
    RATING: 3/5

    There’s no question that Winter Heat was inspired by Wes Craven’s 1972 shocker The Last House on the Left, but how does it differentiate itself?  By turning up the sleaze notch, of course!  This unforgiving roughie, pits a group of ex-cons (three sleazeballs and one chick for good measure) who terrorize and abuse a group of unsuspecting women in a snowbound cabin.  Similar to Abduction of an American Playgirl, Winter Heat opens on a humorous note with the criminals discussing a variety of topics including how one of the men was raped in the rear while serving time plus his near bout with pneumonia.  Of course, conversation can bore some which leads our female henchmen to go down on one of her cronies because why not?  Eventually, the deadbeats make their way to a cabin of women where they force themselves inside for a night of abuse.  Winter Heat is unquestionably one of the sleazier flicks I’ve seen in sometime.  The ex-cons savagely insult and humiliate the women by making them strip, shove mashed potatoes down their throats and force them to perform oral sex.  Oral sex quickly turns into full-fledged rape as climax shots are popping off as early as 10 minutes into the film.  The abuse continues to mount as the rapists trade off girls and the female baddie has her own way with one of the victims.  While, the film doesn’t find the antagonists murdering anyone, they certainly push the sexual angle far more than The Last House on the Left did.  As time goes on, the victims seem to mutually go with the flow and begin to enjoy the company of their new housemates.  While, the sexual nature and shots of penetration are a tad more present here than Abduction of an American Playgirl, Winter Heat is easily the sleazier feature of this collection and will challenge you to take a shower after its viewing.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Abduction of an American Playgirl has been scanned in 2K from the 35mm negative and presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Yet again, Vinegar Syndrome surprises with how well films of this ilk can clean up.  Scratches and debris are present at times but overall colors are quite nice with the film’s imperfections never intruding.  This certainly gets the job done!
    RATING: 3.5/5

    Winter Heat has also been scanned in 2K from a 35mm archival print and presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio with slightly rougher results.  The opening titles have plenty of scratches before stabilizing to better conditions.  Dirt and pops in the frame appear occasionally but not bad enough that you miss out on any action.  Considering the subject matter, the dirty grindhouse projection is nicely fitting for such a feature.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Abduction of an American Playgirl is equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that is serviceable with dialogue coming across clear, albeit low at certain moments.  The dips in audio levels occur late in the film and will only require a few raises to your volume button to catch everything.  Overall, this’ll do.
    RATING: 3/5

    Winter Heat also comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that is on par with the former.  Dialogue is heard clearly with a light hiss appearing at times.  Listening to this film a little louder than normal will benefit the viewing experience.  
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Abduction of an American Plowgirl Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 0.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Vinegar Syndrome’s latest “Peekarama” offering is a unique bundling of edgier adult entertainment.  Abduction of an American Playgirl plays for laughs while still packing plenty of sexual enjoyment in the form of orgies, oral play and more!  Winter Heat is crowned sleaze king of this collection with its despicable portrayal of brutal ex-cons who have their way with innocent women.  The slimeballs definitely give David Hess and company a run for their money without even murdering any of their victims.  The film makes you feel dirty and succeeds in setting a genuine seedy tone.  Vinegar Syndrome continues to prove their fearlessness with the rare titles they release and their “Peekarama” installment may be one of their most risque to date.  Keep’em coming!
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Crawlspace (1986) Blu-ray Review


    Crawlspace (1986)
    Director: David Schmoeller
    Starring: Klaus Kinski, Talia Balsam, Barbara Whinnery & Sally Brown
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The Criterion of Cult, Scream Factory, is back yet again to deliver fans with a much needed injection of some Empire Pictures goodness!  The maestro of creepiness, Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu the Vampyre), takes center stage as a murderous landlord with an obsession of peeping on his female tenants.  This supremely scary flick was helmed by David Schmoeller, responsible for other cult gems such as Tourist Trap and Puppetmaster.  Curious minds want to know how well this Kinski creepfest holds up so let’s not dawdle any longer...

    Crawlspace focuses on Karl Gunther (Klaus Kinski), a quiet landlord who happens to be the son of a Nazi.  Gunther has an obsession with sneaking through the crawlspaces of his apartment building in order to spy on his female tenants.  Gunther can barely contain his need to kill and with every new tenant comes a new object to fixate on.  Will the arrival of a new female tenant put a stop to Gunther’s heinous acts or is the fun just getting started?  

    MOVIE:
    With such an abundance of films released, Empire Pictures was a well-oiled machine that knew how to keep horror fans occupied.  Due to the scarcity of the film, I feel ashamed to admit that Crawlspace evaded me for so many years.  Crawlspace is a criminally forgotten flick that hits all the right notes in sending chills down your spine.  Klaus Kinski’s terrifying performance is what makes this film so appealing with his ice cold eyes and devilish grin.  The decision to make Kinski the son of a Nazi adds a depth to his character unlike most madmen found in films of its ilk at the time.  He has been fueled with a believable motivation that drives him mad to the point that only murdering can calm him.  In order to settle the score with his conscience, Gunther constantly plays Russian roulette to give faith a chance to punish him for his sins.  Another dimension to this maniacal character that made watching this film such a treat.  When he’s not spying on his next set of victims, Gunther is devising weapons of torture amongst his pet rats and a female prisoner locked away in a cage.  In addition, as the film reaches its finale, Gunther applies makeup that resembles Robert Smith of The Cure for an added level of weirdness.  

    As a product of its time, Crawlspace does right by the audience for including beautiful female actresses and some nice T&A moments for a tantalizing effect.  Talia Balsam (The Kindred) and Tané (Death Spa) both make appearances in the film.  Making great use of budget, Empire Pictures shot the entire film on an apartment complex set which works well and adds a nice claustrophobic layer.  Pino Donaggio (Carrie, Blow Out) serves up an incredibly spooky score that sets a disturbing tone with its echoing chorus chants.  Director David Schmoeller orchestrates the tight 80 minute runtime with suspense and precision that paved the way for more collaborations with Empire Pictures such as Catacombs and Puppetmaster Crawlspace is a disturbing and creepy diamond in the rough that is driven home by Kinski’s frightening performance.  The film’s breezy runtime leaves no room for shenanigans and keeps you firmly on the edge of your seat.  To say that I enjoyed Crawlspace would be an understatement, this is a wildly entertaining flick that is without a doubt, one of Empire Pictures’ greatest accomplishments.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents Crawlspace in a 1080p HD widescreen (1.85:1) transfer that looks remarkable.  It surprises me just how good a film from Empire Pictures‘ canon translates to HD and in the case of Crawlspace, it truly shines.  Colors, most noticeably in the red carpet in the apartment complex’s halls, comes across bold while nice detail is showcased in facial features with skin tones looking very natural.  Instances of flakes and speckles are barely existent on this transfer that boasts clear black levels and a great filmic layer of grain.  Another fine job by Scream Factory!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Crawlspace comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix that is very satisfying.  Dialogue comes across clearly even at times with Kinski’s soft-spoken lines.  Pino Donaggio’s haunting score really shines with intense scenes pushing the levels of the mix nicely.  A rewarding audio presentation for such an effectively moody flick!
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director David Schmoeller: Schmoeller touches upon the atmosphere and unique process of how Empire Pictures‘ films were created.  In addition, Schmoeller doesn’t get shy when discussing the tense nature of dealing with Kinski who could be ruthlessly uncooperative at times.  Originally, Kinski’s character was meant to be a Vietnam POW but Charles Band questioned whether audiences were ready for a film dealing with the war.  The decision was then made to make him the son of Nazi which, to this reviewer, was far more effective.  There are some dry spots to this commentary, but overall Schmoeller offers plenty of insight into the making of the film.

    - Tales from the Crawlspace: An Interview with John Vulich: Makeup-Effects Artist, Vulich, sits down for an interview where he discusses his early career highlights traveling the world and working on Empire Pictures films.  Vulich also touches upon his encounters with Kinski and hails them as an unforgettable experience.

    - Please Kill Mr. Kinski: Director David Schmoeller’s short documentary film that details the unpredictable and intense temper of Kinski which resulted in several on-set physical altercations.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - TV Spots

    - Reversible cover

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Crawlspace is a disturbingly intense and creepy flick thanks to the unforgettable performance of Klaus Kinski.  There’s no denying that this film is one of the best offerings from Empire Pictures and one that has gone far too unnoticed throughout the years.  The depth and insane motivations driven by Kinski’s character make this a film that will leave you questioning the late actor’s sanity.  Scream Factory has accomplished another victory by resurrecting this frightening flick with a wonderful video and audio presentation as well as a satisfying assortment of supplements.  For what it’s worth, winding down on a wildly successful year for the horror label, Crawlspace walks away as one of my most revered non-Collector’s Edition releases from Scream Factory to date!
    RATING: 4.5/5

  • Wakefield Poole's Bible! (1973) DVD Review


    Wakefield Poole’s Bible! (1973)
    Director: Wakefield Poole
    Starring: Georgina Spelvin, Gloria Grant, Bo White & Caprice Couselle
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The Bible seems like unusual and risque subject matter to utilize for a softcore effort.  Nonetheless, Director Wakefield Poole (Bijou) did just that when he unveiled his own erotic interpretation of collected stories from the good book in 1973.  Starring Georgina Spelvin (The Devil in Miss Jones), Gloria Grant, Bo White (Blue Summer) and Caprice Couselle, this is definitely not The Bible you remember reading in Sunday school.  Restored from the original negative, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents Wakefield Poole’s Bible! for the first time on home video.  After 40 years, let’s see how this scandalous biblical tale holds up...

    Wakefield Poole’s Bible! is an erotic avant-garde retelling of stories from the holy book including Adam & Eve, Bath Sheba and Samson & Delilah.  Sexual twists are made to all the tales along with a stunning array of visuals and a soundtrack of classical music.

    MOVIE:
    Having never been a religious man, my interest was peaked at the idea of someone taking a source material so worshipped and injecting a sexually charged edge to it.  Director Wakefield Poole introduces the film and cites homages to Walt Disney’s Fantasia, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, which led me to believe that I was in store for a much more sophisticated softcore effort.  Interestingly enough, I was right.  As the film opens, the viewer is treated to beautiful cinematography where Adam is being birthed on a gorgeous beach setting.  Shortly thereafter, he encounters Eve and the two experience the touch and sexual pleasure of another human being for the first time.  The sequence is visually arresting and presented in a very classy manner.  The bite of the infamous apple segways into the next tale.  Bath Sheba (Georgina Spelvin)  grows jealous of her husband’s attraction towards a scantily clad servant and spends the rest of the story attempting to be more sexy.  Spelvin stuns as she bares all and ends up attracting the interest of a peeping tom.  The tale definitely injects the most humor of the lot as the two chase each other around until finally succumbing to their desires.  Finally, Gloria Grant stars as Delilah in perhaps the oddest story of the three.  Midgets covered in body paint along with a muscle man who Delilah goes down on before he’s killed will definitely raise a few eyebrows.  Grant, always proud of her body, shows off everything and is one of the highlights of the entire film alongside Spelvin.

    Wakefield Poole’s Bible! takes a silent film approach and is told with no dialogue (minus a few lines delivered by Eve).  The interactions between the characters and the classical music accompaniment bring the film to life in a similar fashion to Walt Disney’s Fantasia.  The film has plenty of beautiful sequences along with Spelvin and Grant on full display but even at a 75 minute runtime, the film tends to drag its feet.  I would cautiously recommend the film as a tasteful, albeit odd, and elegant execution in softcore, but be advised it may be appreciated for being more “artsy-fartsy” than it is tantalizing.  
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome has restored Wakefield Poole’s Bible! from the original negative in 2K and presents it in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  The film stumbles early on as footage (assumingly stock) of the big bang is loaded with scratches and debris but stabilizes soon after.  Colors are decent enough with milder scratches and pops apparent throughout the runtime without imposing on the viewing experience.  A serviceable presentation for a film that could, and probably should, look a lot worse.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Wakefield Poole’s Bible! comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that does what it needs to.  With barely any dialogue spoken, the mix does a fine job relaying the classical music soundtrack as well as subtle background noises like chirping birds and wave crashes.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Introduction by Director Wakefield Poole

    - Audio Commentary with Director Wakefield Poole: Poole explains how his original intent was to make this a hardcore film but seeing as how this was during the Nixon administration, he opted for softcore.  Poole remains quiet for many portions of the film choosing to set up a scene and and allowing it to play out.  Poole occasionally offers some thoughtful injections on his artistic choices for the film but they are far and few between.

    - Women of Bible - Interviews with Georgina Spelvin & Gloria Grant: Spelvin enthusiastically discusses her early work in hardcore films which eventually lead to her role as Bath Sheba in Bible!.  Spelvin touches on the lightning speed pace of the film shoot and her admiration for Poole.  Meanwhile, Gloria Grant explains how working in a restaurant lead to her being cast in the film.  Grant goes on to explain that she hailed from a family of ministers who were unaware of her appearance in the film.  Grant also discusses her shift to becoming a make-up artist which earned her an Emmy for her work on As the World Turns.

    - Emerald City Interview: Director Wakefield Poole discusses Bible! on a public access network circa 1977.

    - Bible! Screen Tests

    - Stills Gallery

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Wakefield Poole’s Bible! is an odd but often unique softcore retelling of biblical tales.  The cinematography and classical music add a layer of beauty to a film that already accomplishes a lot visually.  While, the appearances of Spelvin and Grant are the highlights of the film, it does tend to get a little too artsy for my own taste and causes the runtime to stretch itself thin.  For those expecting a sexually graphic interpretation of Adam & Eve going at it, think again because this is far more tasteful than that.  Vinegar Syndrome does a great service by providing a wealth of interesting special features and insight into a film that evaded home video for 40 years.  Wakefield Poole’s Bible! is a unique beast that is sure to have a divided audience but for fans of adult cinema, this is a rare softcore experiment that should be experienced at least once.
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Saturn 3 (1980) Blu-ray Review


    Saturn 3 (1980)
    Director: Stanley Donen
    Starring: Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas & Harvey Keitel
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Deep in the trenches of Saturn’s third moon, a sexy TV actress, Ned Land and a pony-tail sporting New Yorker that oddly sounds English are hard at work developing new food for a suffering Earth.  Director Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain, Lucky Lady) orchestrates this lower-budgeted, character driven sci-fi tale about what happens to humanity when a robot threatens your existence.  In the wake of Star Wars' success, endless attempts were made to cash in on the new allure of science fiction cinema.  From Flash Gordon to Galaxy of Terror, every studio couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a stab at a world amongst the stars.  Saturn 3 is one of 1980s answers to the demand for more sci-fi goodness.  After nearly 25 years since its original release, something is watching, waiting and wanting on Saturn 3, and we’re about to find out if it’s any good...

    Saturn 3 centers on Adam (Kirk Douglas) and Alex (Farrah Fawcett), two scientists stationed beneath the surface of Saturn’s third moon, Titan.  The couple are tasked with the duty of seeking new forms of food for an exhausted planet Earth.  When progress decreases, Benson (Harvey Keitel), along with his robot Hector, arrive to assist as an eclipse on Saturn cuts off communication with the rest of the solar system.  Unfortunately, Benson slowly turns sinister as Hector morphs into an uncontrollable killing machine with death in mind for “Adam” and Alex.

    MOVIE:
    Saturn 3 plays as a slow-burn of sorts that chooses to focus on the interactions between the small cast as opposed to a violent robot.  A bold move that can quickly turn viewers away that were expecting The Terminator in space.  Personally, the relationship between Douglas and Fawcett as well as their “purple elephant” age difference made Saturn 3 quite a unique watch.  At the ripe age of 64, Douglas hit the jackpot with this role that earned him nude scenes with the painfully gorgeous Fawcett who was still starring in the popular Charlie’s Angels television series.  The love between the two is sincere as they reside in their own private sector until Keitel’s Benson crashes the party.  The couple’s less than stellar results to replenish Earth’s food supply has Benson coming to improve progress.  Keitel, who was dubbed by Roy Dotrice (Amadeus), plays the role of a pill-