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Currently showing posts tagged Paul Clemens

  • 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.

  • The Beast Within (1982) Blu-ray Review


    The Beast Within (1982)
    Director: Philippe Mora
    Starring: Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, L.Q. Jones & R.G. Armstrong
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From deep within the swampy marshes of Mississippi comes a beast like no other!  Scream Factory proudly presents, for the first time on Blu-ray, The Beast Within.  A diverse cast of seasoned vets all guided under the watchful eye of the director of Mad Dog Morgan come together for this story of man becomes beast.  After flopping at the box-office during its original release, a cult following has emerged over the years for this terrifying flick.  It’s hard to believe that 30 years have passed, but does this beast still have what it takes to gnaw your soul?  Let’s find out...

    The Beast Within centers on Michael MacCleary (Paul Clemens), the offspring of a woman who was savagely raped by a swamp beast.  17 years have passed since the incident and Michael has grown into a fine, young man.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before the inherited evil consumes him and forces his hand to feed amongst unsuspecting victims.  The supporting cast is rounded out by Ronny Cox (Beverly Hills Cop), Bibi Besch (Tremors), L.Q. Jones (Casino) and R.G. Armstrong (Dick Tracy).  Philippe Mora (The Howling II:... Your Sister Is a Werewolf) directs from a screenplay by Tom Holland (director of Fright Night and Child’s Play).

    MOVIE:
    There’s no denying the similarities The Beast Within holds with the monster flicks of the 1950s.  Even down to the title, The Beast Within feels like a 50s concept updated for a modern 1980s audience.  In addition, like much of the golden era of monster pictures, some were entertaining, others missed their mark and some were just downright awful.  The Beast Within falls somewhere in the middle.  The film kicks off intriguing enough, albeit cliché-ridden, with newlyweds making a wrong turn before the wife is savagely assaulted and raped by a monster of some sort, deep within the woods.  Shortly after, we skip ahead 17 years and learn that the teenage son of that couple is experiencing some abnormal changes.  Michael MacCleary (Paul Clemens) has been holed up in hospitals as experts imagine he is on the verge of death.  Nightmarish images haunt Michael before he awakes with a yearning to return to the town of his mother’s assault.  From this point on, the film has trouble staying interesting.  Sure, there are moments of Michael’s abnormal behavior returning resulting in the murders of several townsfolk but just as the going gets good, the film hits the brakes again.  The film has issues staying afloat with a spotty narrative that leaves the viewer unclear as to what’s occurring at times.  

    While it seems harsh, there are plenty of quality merits that come along with The Beast Within.  Les Baxter (The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven) provides an incredibly haunting and satisfying score that sets a wonderful tone for the film.  The supporting cast is littered with genre performers ranging from Ronny Cox (Robocop) to L.Q. Jones (director of A Boy and His Dog) giving it their all.  Michael’s full-fledged transformation scene, which tediously takes the majority of the runtime to reach, pays off in spades.  Special Effects maestro Thomas R. Burman (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, The Goonies) accomplishes a truly nasty and painful looking transformation for our leading actor which showcases Michael’s head blowing up realistically like a ballon.  While, the final result of the swamp cicada-esque beast is quite laughable, it makes for entertaining eye-candy.  Make no mistake about it, The Beast Within is not a bad film, it just never swayed me the way it has other cult enthusiasts.  The film is filled with good intentions but spends far too much time digging itself out of a muddy plot that gets away from its fun concept.  The Beast Within has its moments and perhaps one day I’ll view it as something greater but for the time being, it still falls somewhere in the gray zone.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents The Beast Within in a 1080p High-Definition widescreen (2.35:1) transfer.  The film looks decent with nice detail in facial features but black levels never reach their full potential.  For a film with tremendous night scenes, there always seems to be a little too much speckling in the shots.  Then again, this was a film that wasn’t shot on a tremendous budget which can be marked for most of the blame.  In addition, exterior shots during the day appear to have a softness to them which can also be attributed to the amount of fog in said scenes.  The Beast Within has never been a tremendously colorful film but the few instances such as Michael’s baby-blue varsity jacket pop nicely.  While it seems mediocre, Scream Factory’s treatment is definitely an improvement on previous DVD editions and most likely the best the film will see for the foreseeable future.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    The Beast Within comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo 2.0 mix that is quite sufficient.  Dialogue comes across with no noticeable hitches while Les Baxter’s terrific score is striking and robust at particular key moments.  The Beast Within is not a film with a grand sound design so there aren’t many standout moments that make this mix anything more than serviceable.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Philippe Mora & Actor Paul Clemens: The two get along famously, at times even talking over each other in excitement.  Both men discuss a variety of topics including Les Baxter’s wonderful score, shooting on location in Mississippi, the H.P. Lovecraft references found in the film and the studio’s insistence to tone the film down due to test audiences being too terrified.

    - Audio Commentary with Writer Tom Holland: Moderated by Rob Galluzzo of Icons of Fright, Holland stays talky for the duration of the commentary touching on many different aspects including his unique origins of landing the job.  Apparently, Holland was tasked with adapting the title of a book that was yet to be published.  Oddly enough, the book wasn’t even published until after the film was released.  Holland cites his references and nods to H.P. Lovecraft as well as the uniqueness of the story that he believes still feels fresh.  The original failure and later rebirth of the film as a cult favorite has astonished Holland and he believes the film has aged well.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Radio spots

    - Reversible cover

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    The Beast Within is the story of a man turned beast that originally tanked at the box-office before being re-birthed into a cult hit.  The film consciously stays close to horror clichés and monster movies of the 1950s, but never manages to knock it out of the park in the long run.  The effective score and genre-seasoned actors do a fine job with the task at hand.   The transformation scene is the highlight of the film that is most impressive and unfortunately not as hailed when compared to other films of the time such as An American Werewolf in London and The Thing.  The beauty of a cult flick like The Beast Within is that only a select grouping take the greatest appreciation from it.  I’d like to consider myself an acquaintance of that group, The Beast Within is far from perfect but definitely has its fair share of entertaining moments.  Without question, Scream Factory should be applauded for bringing yet another cult favorite into our HD libraries with sufficient visual and audio specs as well as informative and nostalgic supplements.  Unleash your inner beast and add this into your Scream Factory collection now!
    RATING: 3.5/5