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Currently showing posts tagged Ovidio G. Assonitis

  • Madhouse (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Madhouse (1981)

    Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis

    Starring: Trish Everly, Michael Macrae, Dennis Robertson, Morgan Hart, Allison Biggers, Edith Ivey, Richard Baker & Jerry Fujikawa

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Infamously inducted as one of Britain’s prized “video nasties”, Madhouse centers on Julia Sullivan (Trish Everly in her only film role) who continues to try and block out the anguish her cruel twin sister Mary caused her growing up.  Suffering from a disfiguring illness and still harboring disdain for her other half, Mary escapes from the hospital, hellbent on delivering Julia a bloody birthday she’ll never forget.

    A peculiar blending of Italian hyper violence and America’s burgeoning slasher craze with a dash of gothic ambiance, Madhouse thrives on its uneasy tone that attempts to drown out its more questionable plot devices.  Educator to young deaf students, Julia still maintains a fear of her hospitalized twin sister Mary who suffers from a deforming disease and responsible for wrecking havoc on Julia throughout childhood.  Maintaining a close relationship with her loving uncle, Father James (Dennis Robertson, Dark Night of the Scarecrow), Julia seeks to make peace with her dying sister only to be met with frightening hostility.  Exploding into full-blown terror when Mary escapes from her hospital confines, Julia’s approaching 25th birthday seems less likely to be met as supernatural suspicions, a bloodthirsty Rottweiler and a body count start to take shape.  Shot in the suitably atmospheric region of Savannah, Georgia, Madhouse punctuates its proceedings with voyeuristic photography and a certifiably strange soundscape conducted by Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park) to further its descent into darkness.  

    Charismatic and beautiful, Trish Everly holds the picture together with genuine fear and concern for her life reading clearly in her face and actions while, the supporting cast hams it up with generally over-the-top performances.  A noble debut for Everly that would ultimately prove to be her last onscreen, the young actress seemed destined for a career as a future scream queen that was unfortunately not meant to be.  Pulling no punches with its violence and never discriminating against adults or young deaf children as its prey, Madhouse’s Rottweiler attacks on the like surely and appreciatively earned its place in “video nasties” history with ravaged jugulars and torn hands on full display.  While the film’s final showdown between Julia and her doctor boyfriend against the murderous culprits leave far more questions than answers concerning their motivations, Director Ovidio G. Assonitis (Beyond the Door) perhaps smartly bookends the horror-oddity with a quote to properly chase audiences head-scratching motions.

    Scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Arrow Video proudly presents Madhouse with a 1080p transfer, sporting its 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  A wonderfully filmic-looking offering, grain is healthy and overwhelmingly satisfying to the eye while, skin tones remain natural and clean.  Furthermore, the film’s gorier moments paint the screen red with eye popping boldness with black levels also appearing appreciatively deep.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that registers dialogue crisply, the track also makes excellent use of Composer Riz Ortolani’s evocatively creepy score and usage of lullabies with no hiccups to speak of.  An optional LPCM 2.0 mix has also been provided for your listening pleasure.  

    Bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues, Running the Madhouse with Edith Ivey (12:40) finds the actress recalling her early days in radio and the transition all actors made moving onto television.  Furthermore, Ivey also shares words about her appearance on The Howdy Doody Show, commentating for the Miss USA show for years before landing her role in Madhouse where the director wanted over-the-top performances from his cast.  Framing Fear (19:32) catches up with Director of Photography Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli in this subtitled interview that traces everything from his first paid job on Arturo’s Island to his many works with Assonitis.  Next up, Ovidio Nasty (7:44) chats with the film’s producer/director where he reveals the film’s direct influences to be The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Shining.  Assonitis also discusses the film’s alternate titles but prefers There Was a Little Girl and praises Savannah, Georgia as being the ideal gothic shooting location.  Finally, Alternative Opening Titles (3:01), the Original Trailer (3:04), a 23-page booklet featuring liner notes by John Martin (available only in the release’s first printing), Reversible Cover Art and a DVD edition conclude the supplemental package.  

    An overlooked effort that samples different styles and subgenres, Madhouse is certifiably odd to the bone with a violent bite from Rottweilers and deformed nutcases alike.  Although not one to provide all the answers by its conclusion, Director Ovidio G. Assonitis’ deranged sibling-slasher hybrid makes for a unique late night excursion through horror’s less traveled roads.  In their expected fashion, Arrow Video brings the “video nasty” to high-definition with a striking 2K restoration and a modest spread of extras to further educate and enlighten the minds of horror enthusiasts.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Tentacles (1977) / Reptilicus (1962) Blu-ray Review

    Tentacles (1977) / Reptilicus (1962)

    Director(s): Ovidio G. Assonitis / Sidney Pink

    Starring: John Huston, Shelley Winters, Bo Hopkins & Henry Fonda / Asbjørn Andersen, Carl Ottosen, Ann Smyrner & Mimi Heinrich

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, submerges viewers into a terrifying creature double feature of sea monsters and prehistoric catastrophe.  Starring an ensemble cast including John Huston (The African Queen), Shelley Winters (The Night of the Hunter), Bo Hopkins (Midnight Express) and Henry Fonda (12 Angry Men), Tentacles takes place on a small beach town where a giant killer octopus has wrapped its deadly grip.  Next up, Reptilicus focuses on a team of copper miners who uncover the tail of a prehistoric creature.  When scientists are brought in to research the specimen, the creature regenerates back to life to wreck havoc on Denmark.   

    Riding the coattails of Director Steven Spielberg’s seaside shocker, this Italian production, shot on the sunny California shores makes great strides in delivering a suspenseful B-movie counterpart.  Set on the tourist resort of Ocean Beach, Tentacles finds the sleepy community in danger when an enormous octopus begins claiming victims and sucking their skin dry.  With his suspicions raised, veteran reporter Ned Turner (Huston) suspects the construction of the Trojan company’s underwater tunnel to blame, much to the dismay of owner Mr. Whitehead (Fonda).  Combining efforts, Turner and Marine Biologist Will Gleason (Hopkins) discover irregular levels of radio signals as the cause for the octopus‘ deadly behavior.  Under the direction of Ovidio G. Assonitis (using the pseudonym Oliver Hellman), Tentacles surprises with its ability to weave a tense tale while, restraining its monster’s screen time to great effect.  Headlined by an all-star cast, this blatant foreign ripoff is a well-acted affair providing likable characters the audiences grow to care for.  With a tense yacht race pitting children in peril and a final standoff between Gleason and his trained killer whales against the mammoth octopus, Tentacles  makes a splash as one of the best Jaws imitators of its time.

    Infamously known as Denmark’s first and only monster film, Reptilicus was concocted as a Danish-American production that U.S. distributor American International Pictures found unreleasable at the time of its completion.  Resulting in a lawsuit with U.S. Director Sidney Pink (Journey to the Seventh Planet) that was later dropped, Reptilicus stands as a forgettable slice of drive-in junk food.  After the remains of a lizard-like tail are sent to Copenhagen for scientific research, the tail begins to rapidly regenerate forming a full-sized reptilian dinosaur.  As chaos ensues across the country, scientists and the military band together to destroy the colossal creature.  Following the simple yet, entertaining formula of giant monster flicks, Reptilicus suffers from a painfully wooden cast and a hilariously awful looking monster.  Cheaply produced and displaying dreadful optical effects including, a farmer being swallowed by the enormous monster, Reptilicus has few redeeming qualities outside of its campy production values and genius plan to lay the beast to rest with a powerful sedative.        

    Scream Factory presents Tentacles with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of scant scratches, the film shines in high-definition with prominent colors resulting in lush scenery and warm, natural skin tones.  Detail is also admirable with underwater sequences greatly impressing with their clarity.  Meanwhile, Reptilicus arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Struck from a new HD master, the schlocky monster flick has never looked better.  With the exception of increased scratches during optical effects sequences, Reptilicus awards viewers with bolder colors and appreciated detail lacking in previous home video releases.  Both films come equipped with LPCM 2.0 mixes that project dialogue clearly while music and moments of military gunfire and oceanside screams offer added boosts in quality.  In the special features department, Tentacles arrives with its Theatrical Trailer (1:01), a Photo Gallery (2:01) and Radio Spot (0:58) while, Reptilicus is also joined with its own Theatrical Trailer (1:58), Photo Gallery (2:41) and Radio Spot (1:00).

    Inviting viewers to spine-tingling avenues where multi-legged and prehistoric monsters reside, Scream Factory provides likeminded fans with a complimentary coupling of creature features.  While Tentacles reigns supreme as one of the better Jaws cash-grabs, Reptilicus suffers from an unexciting cast and abysmal effects that simultaneously lend the film its only charm.  Arriving with minimal features, both films have made highly beneficial leaps to HD looking better than ever.  Craving to capture Saturday night B-movie thrills, Scream Factory’s latest double feature is just the solution.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available June 16th from Scream Factory, Tentacles / Reptilicus can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.