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  • Wolf Lake (1980) Blu-ray Review

    Wolf Lake (1980)

    Director: Burt Kennedy

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

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • American Horror Project Vol. I: Malatesta's Carnival of Blood (1973), The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976) & The Premonition (1976) Blu-ray Review

    American Horror Project Vol. I (1973-1976)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Scouring the bizarre and obscure avenues of America’s horrifically under appreciated efforts, Arrow Video proudly presents American Horror Project Vol. I!  Curating a triple dose of features and scholarly supplemental evaluations, this 3,000 unit limited edition collection welcomes Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood where a family searching for their son finds themselves in the stranglehold of a dilapidated amusement park overrun by a peculiar host and cannibalistic ghouls.  Next up, The Witch Who Came from the Sea centers on a troubled woman with a traumatic past whose violent fantasies find their way into her reality.  Finally, The Premonition threatens the livelihood of a five-year-old girl when she is abducted, leaving her mother riddled with frightening visions that may also lead to her daughter’s rescue.      

    From the dilapidated backroads of Pennsylvania emerges Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood.  Marking the first and only feature from Director Christopher Speeth, this psychedelic blend of horror and high-art maintains the production quality of many independent efforts of the era while, constructing an identity of its own under the guise of carnie insanity.  Short on narrative structure yet, maximizing its visual splendor, Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood finds the central Norris family joining the sideshow business in order to conceal their true agenda of locating their missing son.  However earnest their quest seems, all plans are abruptly abandoned when their own survival is threatened.  Headed by the ominous Malatesta (Daniel Dietrich, Fleshpot on 42nd Street), the vampiric Mr. Blood (Jerome Dempsey, Network), devilish dwarf Bobo (Hervé Villechaize, Fantasy Island) and a colony of cannibalistic underground dwellers, the Norris family and other unlucky attendees fall victim to a grizzly rollercoaster beheading, stabbings and of course, feasts upon their flesh.  Guiding viewers through a funhouse of trashcan constructed production design where its grey-faced people eaters rally in front of silent film loops, Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood is viscerally unnerving with the trappings of its peculiar soundtrack and music cues heightening one’s fear of the offbeat attraction scattered across rural America.

    Teetering on the fringes of exploitation and psychologically frightening, Director Matt Cimber’s (Gemini Affair, Lady Cocoa) The Witch Who Came from the Sea is an unsung effort that explores the darkness of child sex abuse and the lifelong repercussions of the violated.  Starring Millie Perkins (The Diary of Anne Frank) as barmaid Molly whose violent daydreams including, the tying of two macho football players before straight-razoring their genitals proves wildly similar to recently reported events.  Adhering to a strict diet of alcohol and pill-popping, Molly’s romanticized memories, retold to her adoring nephews, about her late father is juxtaposed with uncomfortable imagery of her younger self faced with the overbearing seaman.  Robbed of her innocence while insistent on her late father’s perfection, Molly’s peculiar interest in the glamour of television and all its pretty faces compels the delusional woman to act out her fatal aggression on them.  The realms between Molly’s surrealistic episodes and reality come to a head when detectives (played by Richard Kennedy of Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS and George “Buck” Flower, best known for his roles as hobos in Back to the Future and John Carpenter’s They Live) begin connecting the dots back to Molly.  Hardly considered a horror film in the traditional sense with the exception of several razor slashing sequences, The Witch Who Came from the Sea is an uncomfortable yet, polarizing picture that strikes fear into the viewer with its touchy portrayal of incest and the physical and mental damage afflicted on its victims.  Complimented with early cinematography by Dean Cundey (Halloween, Jurassic Park) and a rather dreamlike aura, The Witch Who Came from the Sea stands as an exhaustive terror ride into the depravity of human beings.

    Long enchanted by the paranormal and the nature of interconnectivity, Director Robert Allen Schnitzer’s (No Place to Hide) metaphysical frightmare melds his respected interests with a tale detailing a mother’s worst nightmare.  Filmed in the tax-incentive region of Jackson, Mississippi, The Premonition introduces the mentally unstable Andrea (Ellen Barber, Blood Bride), assisted by the lovesick carnie Jude (Richard Lynch, Bad Dreams), as she attempts to steal back her young daughter from her adoptive parents.  In the film’s most hauntingly scarring scene, protective mother Sheri Bennett (Sharon Farrell, The Stunt Man) looks in on her sleeping child only to discover the eerie Andrea rocking the innocent girl to sleep before viciously attacking Sheri.  Although safe from capture, Sheri begins experiencing unexplainable visions that warn her of impending doom while, her scientific-minded husband Miles (Edward Bell, Helter Skelter) can’t wrap his brain around her condition.  After a freakish accident occurs, five-year-old Janie (Danielle Brisebois, Big Bad Mama II) is taken, increasing Sheri’s terrifying sightings of Andrea leading the Bennett’s to rely on spiritual forces beyond their understanding.  Although an investigation is put forth, The Premonition resists becoming a police procedural and wisely focuses on the film’s family dynamic, its gray-shaded characters and the emotional whiplash of a missing child to stay uniquely grounded.  While its horrific set pieces may not come in the form of a masked mute with a butcher knife, The Premonition presses on to deliver a film that is both respectfully challenging and psychologically engaging, leaving viewers with an added appreciation for its sophistication and artistic flair.  Enriched by an otherworldly score by classical composer Henry Mollicone, The Premonition is the standout opus of the collection that will stay with viewers long after the credits have concluded.

    Working from the best available materials for the collection’s obscure offerings, Arrow Video has restored each director-approved feature in 2K resolution with 1080p transfers, sporting their respective 1.85:1 (Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood and The Premonition) and 2.35:1 (The Witch Who Came from the Sea) aspect ratios.  Although excessive dirt removal was applied, each film still maintains their fair share of scuffs and scratches with varying degrees of vertical lines and cigarette burns on display.  Given the dire state of such rarely preserved films, their imperfections never deter from the viewing experience and, in the rare instance, actually add charm to their grindhouse roots.  Boasting respectable skin tones, fairly boosted color schemes, understandably speckled black levels and otherwise naturally filmic representations, The Witch Who Came from the Sea appears in the roughest shape with The Premonition unquestionably looking the best.  Joined by LPCM 1.0 mixes, each feature arrives with audible dialogue levels yet, imperfections are present.  Cracks and pops are common at reel changes and other various moments while, prolonged static is most noticeable throughout The Witch Who Came from the Sea.  Much like their visual counterparts, audio quality is not pristine but, easily does what is required for a pleasurable watching experience.  

    Unsurprisingly, supplements are plentiful with Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood arriving with an Introduction by Author and Co-Curator Stephen Thrower (3:41), an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith and The Secrets of Malatesta (14:06) featuring an insightful new interview with Director Christopher Speeth.  In addition, Crimson Speak (11:49) sits down with Screenwriter Werner Liepolt, Malatesta’s Underground (10:10) highlights Art Directors Richard Stange and Alan Johnson’s invaluable contributions to the film while, Outtakes (2:59), a Still Gallery (38 in total), the Draft Script (BD/DVD-ROM content) and a Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster is also included.  Meanwhile, The Witch Who Came from the Sea features an Introduction by Author and Co-Curator Stephen Thrower (4:52), an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Matt Cimber, Actress Millie Perkins and Director of Photography Dean Cundey plus, the brand-new retrospective documentary Tides & Nightmares (23:28) featuring interviews with the cast and crew.  Furthermore, the vintage supplement of A Maiden’s Voyage: Remembering the Witch Who Came from the Sea (36:14) is included alongside, Lost at Sea (3:55), a new reflection of the film by Director Matt Cimber and a Reversible Cover Art also showcasing the original 1-sheet design.  Finally, The Premonition hosts an Introduction by Author and Co-Curator Stephen Thrower (3:16), an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Robert Allen Schnitzer, the Isolated Score and Pictures from a Premonition (21:19) featuring new interviews with key talent behind the camera.  In addition, a vintage Robert Allen Schnitzer Interview (5:51), a vintage Richard Lynch Interview (16:06), Schnitzer’s Short Films including, Terminal Point (40:45), Vernal Equinox (30:08) and A Rumbling in the Land (11:05) are included alongside, Peace Spots (3:38), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:23), TV Spots (3:27) and a Reversible Cover Art incorporating the original 1-sheet imagery.  Lastly, DVD editions of each film are also included with an impressive 60-page booklet housing some of Arrow’s finest liner notes to date with insights on the films from Stephen Thrower, Kim Newman, Kier-La Janisse and Brian Albright.

    Exceptionally curated, Arrow Video’s American Horror Project Vol. I dusts the cobwebs off some of the genre’s oddest and under appreciated efforts to emerge from the independent mavericks of the era.  While personal favorites are subjective to each viewer, there’s no denying this triple threat of terror and madness is an invaluable crash course on three diamonds in the rough of low-budget American exploitation.  Although securing film materials was no easy task with all showing their share of mileage, each film’s director-approved transfers look better than ever with Arrow’s phenomenal supplemental package offering viewers top-rated scholarly insight into these forgotten features.  With immediate hope for future installments to grace their collection, Arrow Video’s American Horror Project Vol. I is the horror enthusiasts ideal roadmap to the weird and alternative.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, American Horror Project Vol. I can be purchase via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Morituris (2011) Blu-ray Review

    Morituris (2011)

    Director: Raffaele Picchio

    Starring: Valentina D’Andrea, Andrea De Bruyn, Désirée Giorgetti, Francesco Malcom, Giuseppe Nitti & Simone Ripanti

    Released by: Synapse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Morituris centers on two Romanian girls as they embark on an impromptu trip to a midnight rave with three Italian men.  Proceeding on foot to their mystery destination, a decrepit cemetery is discovered as the girls are assaulted by their newfound friends.  With an evening of debauchery turned into a nightmare, several undead Roman gladiators return from the grave to hunt down the group with no mercy.  

    Banned in its native country of Italy, Morituris finds its core cast of two Romanian females and a trio of Italian men en route to a rumored backwoods rave.  Subjecting viewers to tediously dull and overlong conversation ranging from musical tastes and an ice-breaking fart, the quintet continue their journey on foot for an evening of hard partying.  Complimented for their normalcy among other encountered Italians, the Romanian beauties are blindsided as their hosts turn into sexual deviants, savagely raping and assaulting them.  Disturbingly unpleasant, the female friends, violated and bracing for death, briefly escape the wrath of their assailants.  Intruding on a mysterious graveyard, a series of undead Roman gladiators return to deliver medieval punishment to their unwelcome visitors.  Hailed by Fangoria’s Chris Alexander as “Gladiator with graphic gore and ghouls”, Morituris is not nearly as epic as described with uninteresting characters and its inclusion of brutality, unnecessarily incorporated for shock value, weighing down its potential.  While the gladiators' frighteningly imposing builds make for worthwhile eye candy, their delayed appearances in the film are cause for disappointment.  Reminiscent of Italian gore pictures of yesteryear, Special Makeup Effects Supervisor Sergio Stivaletti (Demons, Opera) luckily excels with bloody decapitations and several graphic crucifixions.  Shocking for shock’s sake, Morituris intends but never fully recaptures the impact of its influences while, gorehounds should be moderately pleased with its level of bloodshed.

    Synapse Films presents Morituris with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Skin tones appear generally natural with occasional instances of murkiness spotted in dimly lit sequences.  Cloaked in overwhelming darkness, black levels in the film’s many forest scenes appear inky with no disruptive crushing on display.  While the onset lighting or lack thereof makes visibility difficult at times, the transfer is not at fault.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Italian mix and optional newly translated English subtitles, dialogue is clear and free of any problematic hiss.  In addition, high-pitched sound effects of screams, clattering medieval weaponry and eerie gladiator growls are strongly relayed and properly prioritized.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also provided for your listening pleasure.  Although minimal, special features include, the Original Theatrical Trailer (1:45) and Reversible Cover Art.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available September 8th from Synapse Films, Morituris can be purchased via Synapse-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • TV Terrors: The Initiation of Sarah (1978) / Are You in the House Alone?! (1978) DVD Review



    The Initiation of Sarah (1978) / Are You in the House Alone?! (1978)
    Director(s): Robert Day / Walter Grauman
    Starring: Kay Lenz, Morgan Brittany & Morgan Fairchild / Kathleen Beller, Blythe Danner & Dennis Quaid
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Embarking on uncharted territory, Scream Factory has jumped into your living room with a double dose of television frights from the 1970s.  Two flicks, both from 1978, center on a college freshmen with psychic powers while the other focuses on a high schooler who becomes the target of a stalker, make up this collection from a time when Dallas and Taxi ruled the airwaves.  In today’s reality TV obsessed culture, how do these bygone made-for-television efforts holds up?  Grab your microwavable dinner, turn out the lights and let’s find out…

    The Initiation of Sarah stars Kay Lenz (House) as Sarah Goodwin, a shy college freshman who joins a sorority as a way to fit in.  Unfortunately, the sorority’s housemother played by Shelley Winters, is a witch who knows Sarah has the gift of psychic abilities.  The twisted old woman encourages Sarah to use her powers for revenge.  The supporting cast includes Morgan Brittany (Dallas) and an exceptionally bitchy Morgan Fairchild (The Seduction).  Next up, Are You in the House Alone?! finds a beautiful high school student (Kathleen Beller of The Sword and the Sorcerer) the target of a sadistic stalker who has been leaving obscene messages in her locker and watching her every move.  The stalker is only getting closer and time is running out!  An all-star cast comprised of a young Dennis Quaid (The Rookie), Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents), Tony Bill (Shampoo) and Scott Colomby (Porky’s) all make appearances.

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

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/TV_Terrors__Initiation_of_Sara/tv_terrors__initiation_of_sara.html

  • 4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon Volume Two DVD Review


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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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