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Currently showing posts tagged Roger Corman

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

                         

  • 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.

  • X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) Blu-ray Review

    X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)

    Director: Roger Corman

    Starring: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt & Don Rickles

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Director Roger Corman (Tales of Terror, The Haunted Palace) sets his shocking sights on X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, starring Academy Award winner Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend) as Dr. Xavier.  In an attempt to improve human eyesight, the daring doctor concocts a formula for X-ray vision.  Impressed with his achievement but ignored by his peers, Xavier successfully tests the experimental drug on himself before aftereffects of terror emerge.  Diana Van der Vlis (The Swimmer), Harold J. Stone (The Wrong Man), John Hoyt (Gimme a Break!) and Don Rickles (Toy Story) co-star.

    In arguably one of Corman’s most profound efforts of the 1960s, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes was unsurprisingly produced quickly and cheaply while supporting impressive, if not dated, visual effects.  Following their collaboration on 1962‘s The Premature Burial, Ray Milland headlines as the curious Dr. Xavier, determined to see beyond normal human standards.  Discovering a formula for X-ray vision and finding little support from his fellow professionals, Xavier chooses to experiment on himself.  After witnessing humorous situations of party guests booging in their birthday suits, Xavier’s abilities begin to waver forcing the doctor to unwisely increase his dosage.  After a moment of pressure costs a colleagues life, Xavier evades law enforcement by joining the ranks as a sideshow performer.  Comedy legend Don Rickles co-stars as a seedy carnival barker who realizes Xavier’s true powers and greedily uses them to his advantage.  In addition, Corman camp regular Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors) makes a brief appearance as an obnoxious audience member convinced Xavier’s powers are a ruse until proven wrong.  With his vision and sanity on the brink, Xavier’s loyal and beautiful assistant, Dr. Diane Fairfax (Diana Van der Vlis), attempts to ease his situation to no avail.  Offering little hope, Xavier sees into a future of dark despair before leading to a startlingly grim finale with staying power.

    Scripted by Robert Dillion (The Old Dark House) and Ray Russell (Zotz!) respectively, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes was originally released as a supporting feature with American International Pictures’ Dementia 13.  Ray Milland commands the picture with his performance of a rebellious doctor overtaken by his own experiment.  In addition, Don Rickles shines in one of his better roles as the villainous carnival barker while, Diana Van der Vlis is competent, if not forgettable, as Xavier’s assistant and suggested love interest.  Delivering a noted sci-fi shocker for its time, Director Roger Corman’s tightly paced story and visual guidance allows X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes to stand the test of time with a terrifying ending of despair.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Supporting healthy, natural grain levels, mild instances of flakes and speckles are on display while skin tones are nicely detailed and colors, most noticeably in wardrobe and Xavier’s POV sequences, pop accordingly.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is satisfactory with no intruding signs of distortion and Composer Les Baxter’s score relayed effectively.  Special features are a plenty with an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Roger Corman, Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, Terror Vision!: Joe Dante on X (6:07) finds Corman protégé Dante offering his first encounter with the X-ray thriller and his encyclopedic film knowledge on the film’s lasting impact.  In addition, a Rare Prologue (4:59), Trailers from Hell with Mick Garris (2:34) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:19) round out the disc’s impressive supplemental package.

    Suspenseful and still shocking, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes offers a glimpse into a doctor consumed by his own nightmarish creation.  Ray Milland steers the picture wonderfully with a strong supporting cast, highlighted by Rickles‘ delightfully unsavory performance.  Meanwhile, Kino Lorber Studio Classics treats this Corman gem like gold with a vastly improved video transfer and appreciable special features that shine a well-deserved light on this quality sci-fi effort.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available May 12th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Tales of Terror (1962) Blu-ray Review

    Tales of Terror (1962)

    Director: Roger Corman

    Starring: Vincent Price, Peter Loree, Basil Rathbone, Debra Paget & Joyce Jameson

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing his cycle of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, Producer/Director Roger Corman (X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes) would combine three short stories from the master of gothic horror in Tales of Terror.  All starring the great Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill) with appearances from screen legends Peter Loree (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and Basil Rathbone (The Adventures of Robin Hood), this triple threat of frights delivers shriek-inducing scares and hilariously dark comedy in one fiendishly entertaining feature.

    Once again re-teaming with Screenwriter Richard Matheson (House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum), Producer/Director Roger Corman would rummage through the noted works of Edgar Allan Poe to continue his long-running series of successful adaptations.  Choosing shorter subjects, some of which mere pages in length, Corman and Matheson were concerned with not repeating themselves, opting to deliver an anthology of sorts and introducing humor to the gothic festivities.  In Morella, Lenora Locke (Maggie Pierce, My Mother the Car), estranged from her father (Price), returns home to make amends in her ailing state.  A depressed drunk, the elder Locke is insistent she’s responsible for the death of his wife Morella (Leona Gage, Scream of the Butterfly) as he houses her decomposing corpse in his mansion.  Feeling sympathy after learning of his daughter’s short lifeline, Locke allows Lenora to stay as Morella’s spirit rises again to extract revenge on her child.  Recycling sets and footage from House of Usher for a climatic inferno sequence, Morella breathes the tried and true gothic atmosphere from previous Poe adaptations with an intriguing story but, rushes itself to a fast-paced conclusion for a scare.  Although, the opening tale could have benefitted from extended suspense, Price and company are in top form setting the stage for a most enjoyable anthology.

    In the film’s finest short, The Black Cat finds hopeless drunk Montresor Herringbone (Peter Loree) as he challenges noted wine tester Fortunato Luchresi (Price) to a tasting competition.  Pushing a noticeably more comedic tone, The Black Cat offers a memorable sequence as Price and Loree go drink for drink, utilizing their own unique tasting techniques leaving viewers in stitches.  Before long, Fortunato meets Montresor’s unappreciated wife Annabelle (Joyce Jameson, The Comedy of Terrors) and the two engage in a secret love affair, eventually discovered by Montresor.  Filled with jealously and consistently drinking, Montresor begins hallucinating venomous snakes and tarantulas as he hatches a devious plan to get rid of the happy couple.  Hilarious and haunting, The Black Cat benefits from its use of comedy with the chemistry between Price, Loree and Jameson selling it beautifully.  Corman’s satisfaction with the intentional tongue in cheek tone directly influenced repeating the formula with Price and Loree in The Raven.

    Finally, The Case of M. Valdemar once again stars Price as M. Valdemar.  Slowly dying from a dreadful disease, Valdemar enlists the help of hypnotist Mr. Carmichael (Basil Rathbone) to ease his suffering.  Agreeing to be hypnotized in his final waking moments, Carmichael places Valdemar’s subconscious in between the worlds of life and death as his body passes on.  Fully in control, Carmichael attempts to force Valdemar’s widow Helene (Debra Paget, The Haunted Palace) into marriage until, unexpectedly Valdemar emerges from his deathly state.  Incorporating dreamlike imagery and an icky decomposing sequence, The Case of M. Valdemar greatly entertains with old friends Price and the elderly Rathbone playing off each to much delight.  In addition, David Frankham (Return of the Fly) makes a welcome appearance as the young hero that stands tall next to the likes of his fellow legendary co-stars.  

    Shot over the course of three quick weeks, Tales of Terror is an excellent addition in the memorable Corman/Poe series that dared to be different with its anthology storytelling and inclusion of comedy.  Unsurprisingly, Price, surrounded by respected thespians Loree and Rathbone, charm the viewer and chew up the scenery while, Cinematographer Floyd Crosby (Hand of Death, Premature Burial) captures the film’s gloriously gothic atmosphere.  With only minor grievances regarding Morella, Tales of Terror pushes its episodes of murder, resurrection and mind control with endless entertainment and wicked humor sure to cast a spell on its viewer.  

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Tales of Terror with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying naturally pleasing skin tones with sharp detail in facial features and its gothic backgrounds, Corman’s anthology stuns.  Mild but expected instances of flakes are on display but, are outweighed by crisp black levels and popping colors during the trance sequences in The Case of M. Valdemar.  Preserving its exceptional atmosphere with a vibrant filmic appearance, Tales of Terror has never looked better!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, Tales of Terror registers respectable dialogue levels with nothing lost in delivery.  Composer Les Baxter’s (Black Sabbath) impressive score and haunting sounds of ambiance serve the mix nicely and highlight more climatic moments appropriately.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, Audio Commentary with Film Historian David Del Valle & Actor David Frankham and an Interview with Producer/Director Roger Corman (10:43) with Corman sharing fond memories of the shoot, his love for the comedic elements in The Black Cat and his enjoyable experience working with Rathbone whom he would also cast in The Comedy of Terrors with Price and Loree.  In addition, Trailers From Hell with Roger Corman (2:32), the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:22) and a reversible cover art round out the generous and informative spread of supplements.

    Serving as the fourth installment in Corman’s much beloved Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, Tales of Terror would be the only anthology of the series but, one that successfully attempted to stray from its formula at the risk of becoming too stale for its audiences.  Beautifully shot with leading man Price sharing the screen with Loree and Rathbone, Tales of Terror’s experiment paid off with three vastly entertaining episodes that play in Poe’s gothic realm while delivering well achieved laughs and scares alike.  Looking and sounding better than ever, Kino Lorber Studio Classics treats this Corman classic with the utmost respect, delivering a definitive presentation for dedicated fans.  Accompanied with enlightening special features, Tales of Terror is an essential slice of 60s gothic horror that delivers three times the frights.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 14th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Tales of Terror can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Vincent Price Collection II Blu-ray Review

    The Vincent Price Collection II

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Returning from the grave once again, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents seven more terrifying tales from the master of horror in one spine-tingling collection.  Rewarding viewers with chills and comedy like no other, Vincent Price guides fans on more gothic excursions into the unknown, complimented by a healthy assortment of bonus content just in time for the Halloween season.

    Spanning seven films across four Blu-rays, The Vincent Price Collection II continues to unearth more of Price’s esteemed classics, supplying viewers with essential content across three of the thespians most impressive decades.  Included are The Raven (1963), The Comedy of Terrors (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), The Last Man on Earth (1964), Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972), Return of the Fly (1959) and the William Castle classic, House on Haunted Hill (1959).

    MOVIE(s):

    • The Raven (1963): Deviating heavily from the source material, The Raven reunites Price with Producer/Director Roger Corman in yet another entry in their popular Edgar Allan Poe adaptations.  Joined by renowned performers, Peter Loree (Casablanca) and Boris Karloff (Frankenstein), The Raven takes a comedic turn as the three performers appear as competitive magicians in the 14th-century.  Price may be seen as the leading man but, it is Loree who steals the show with his endless improvisational skills and nonstop humor.  Even in his later years, Karloff shines here as the film’s antagonist, battling Price and Loree in his impressively gothic castle.  In addition, a young Jack Nicholson (As Good As It Gets) and horror icon Hazel Court (The Curse of Frankenstein) make appearances in this unusual yet, always entertaining tale of betrayal and magical dueling.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    • The Comedy of Terrors (1963): Upping the comedic ante, Screenwriter Richard Matheson’s (The Pit and the Pendulum) story reunites Tales of Terror alumni Vincent Price, Peter Loree and Basil Rathbone in this fiendishly funny offering of a financially strapped funeral director (Price) who turns to homicide in order to generate business.  This time around, Price and Loree, serving as his lowly assistant, are on equal ground as their comedic chemistry and timing is impeccable.  Boris Karloff joins his The Raven co-stars as Price’s decrepit father-in-law supplying comic one liners.  In addition, Joyce Jameson (Death Race 2000) stuns as Price’s neglected wife who shatters household objects due to her shrieking singing voice.  While, the narrative tends to grow slightly redundant, it is Price and Loree’s efforts that keep the fun brewing.  Under the watchful eye of Director Jacques Tourneur (Cat People), The Comedy of Terrors substitutes genuine horror for hilarity in this underrated effort that allows Price to fully stretch his comedic bones.

    RATING: 4/5

    • The Tomb of Ligeia (1964): Marking the end of his long-running Poe adaptations, Producer/Director Roger Corman would ditch his tried and true gothic sets for real English countryside locations.  Although, The Tomb of Ligeia ultimately underperformed the most out of all the previous Poe films, Corman insists it is one of the best.  Re-teaming once again with Vincent Price, The Tomb of Ligeia centers on a mournful widower, Verden Fell (Price), haunted by the spirit of his former wife, Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd, Damien: Omen II).  As Fell finds the will to love another (also Shepherd), nightmarish visions and a sinister cat controlled by Ligeia threatens their very existence.  Filled with rich atmosphere and surreal imagery, The Tomb of Ligeia injects many abstract notions sometimes at the sake of coherent storytelling.  While, the narrative may be more complicated than necessary, The Tomb of Ligeia stands proudly as a fitting finale to Corman’s Poe films thanks to Price’s always reliable skills and Corman’s constantly moving camera, making the film a visually arresting watch.

    RATING: 4/5  

    • The Last Man on Earth (1964): Based on Richard Matheson’s classic tale, I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth centers on Dr. Robert Morgan (Price), the lone survivor of a worldwide plague that has infected the population, morphing them into undead vampires.  Filmed on location in Rome with black and white photography, The Last Man on Earth is a simple story that rises to great heights courtesy of Price’s emotionally convincing performance.  Appearing in the rare role of the heroic protagonist, Price conjures up wonderful pathos as a man who has lost everything but, still yearns to live.  Acknowledged as one of Price’s finest performances and influential to countless filmmakers, The Last Man on Earth has spawned countless reinterpretations but, all have failed to achieve the original’s execution and unsettlingly dark mood.

    RATING: 5/5       

    • Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972): Awakening after three years, the dreadful Dr. Phibes (Price) lives once again for the sole purpose of resurrecting his late wife, Victoria (Caroline Munro).  Accompanied by his loyal aide, Vulnavia (the beautiful Valli Kemp replaces the equally gorgeous Virginia North), Phibes must recover his stolen papyrus scrolls needed to locate the River of Life.  As Phibes tracks the immortality obsessed thief, Biederbeck (Robert Quarry, Count Yorga, Vampire), to Egypt, the good doctor’s ingenious methods of murder follow.  Peter Jeffrey and John Cater reprise their roles as the Scotland Yard Inspectors tracking Phibes while, Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein) cameos as a ship captain.  Falling only slightly behind the original film’s uniqueness, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! manages to retain the iconic art deco appearance of its predecessor while, taking risks with its narrative.  This sequel, released only a year after the original, finds Phibes less vengeful and more determined to complete his mission of breathing life into his late wife.  Of course, Phibes has no issue ridding those who stand in his way with clever demises that incorporate scorpions and snakes.  Unsurprisingly, Price is delightful in the role as the eccentric doctor with a knack for organ playing while, Jeffrey and Cater’s dry humor inject several chuckles throughout the film.  Meanwhile, Robert Quarry makes a pleasing advisory for Phibes amidst onset hostility between the two thespians.    Ambitious and enjoyably outlandish, Dr. Phibes Rises Again! may not top the original but, throughly entertains in ways most sequels fail to.  

    RATING: 4/5

    • Return of the Fly (1959): Determined to revive his late father’s work, Phillipe Delambre (Brett Halsey), begins experimenting against the wishes of his uncle Francois (Vincent Price).  Recruiting the help of a friend and utilizing his own finances, Phillipe is successful in restoring his father’s transporter device.  When betrayal and greed arise, the past is doomed to repeat itself.  Although Price is top-billed, he is again regulated to the supporting role as the only returning cast member from the original film.  Literally lacking the color and originality of the 1958 classic, Edward L. Bernds’ (Queens of Outer Space) direction is fairly paint by numbers and does little to separate itself from its originator.  Price still charms in the capacity he’s given but, ultimately where Dr. Phibes Rises Again! succeeds in its risk-taking, Return of the Fly plummets in playing it too safe.  

    RATING: 2.5/5

    • House on Haunted Hill (1959): Considered by many to be the B-movie equivalent of Alfred Hitchcock, Producer/Director William Castle became a household name with his ingenious marketing campaigns and immersive gimmicks to draw audiences to his pictures.  Luckily, Castle not only succeeded in being a master salesman but also a competent storyteller who knew how to work a crowd.  A career milestone for Castle, 1959’s House on Haunted Hill centers on the eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price), who along with his wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart, Spider Baby) invite five selected people to a haunted house where $10,000 will be awarded to who can survive the night of supernatural occurrences.  Littered with genuinely ghastly ghouls and nonstop jumpscares, the breezy 74-minute runtime ensures a fun time for all.  Written by longtime Castle collaborator, Robb White (Macabre, The Tingler), House on Haunted Hill presents a strong group of characters with mysterious backgrounds, keeping the audience uneasy about the guests as much as the ghosts.  An absolute riot from beginning to end, House on Haunted Hill transports viewers back to a more innocent time in moviemaking where spookhouse shenanigans were hosted by charismatic spirits such as Vincent Price.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    All the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II arrive with 1080p transfers, sporting 2.35:1 aspect ratios with the exception of Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1.85:1) and House on Haunted Hill (1.78:1).  Appearing with natural grain intact, all of the films relay nicely to varying degrees.  Skin tones look healthy with fine detail observed in facial features and the gothic, period wardrobe.  Colors, most appreciatively, pop best in Dr. Phibes Rises Again! with the art deco design and interesting color palette found in its costumes and during Phibes’ organ playing sequences.  For as old as the films are, instances of flakes and speckles are on sight, most noticeably in The Comedy of Terrors but, thankfully none ever overwhelm or deter the viewing experience.  Black levels are decent with respectable visibility and occasional haziness, most likely attributed to the films‘ low-budgets and underlit lighting.  Meanwhile, the black and white photography found in The Last Man on Earth, Return of the Fly and House on Haunted Hill are most impressive with inky black levels and crisp, nearly blemish-free, appearances.  Over half a century old, the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II look marvelous for their age and are unlikely to look better than this.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, the films found in The Vincent Price Collection II always project audible dialogue but, aren’t meant to necessarily challenge the varying channels of your audio setup.  Simple in their execution, moments of suspense and screaming terror benefit from the added oomph in each mix while, the various scores and musical cues occasionally register too sharply but, generally please.  Each film sounds as rich as possible with no major hiccups to speak of.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    In addition to a comprehensive 32-page collector’s booklet that includes gorgeous production photos from each film and a must read essay by Film Historian David Del Valle,  the bonus features found in The Vincent Price Collection II are as follows:

    The Raven (1963):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman: newly recorded.
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Raven (6:37)            
    • Corman’s Comedy of Poe (8:13)
    • Promotional Record (5:41)
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:26)
    • Still Gallery: 67 in total.

    The Comedy of Terrors (1963):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Comedy of Terrors (9:35) 
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:32)
    • Still Gallery: 38 in total.

    The Tomb of Ligeia (1964):

    • Introduction and parting words by Vincent Price
    • Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Roger Corman
    • Audio Commentary with Actress Elizabeth Shepard, moderated by Roy Frumkes: newly recorded.
    • Audio Commentary with Film Historian Constantine Nasr: newly recorded.
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:28)
    • Still Gallery: 28 in total.

    The Last Man on Earth (1964):

    • Audio Commentary with Film Historian David Del Valle and Author Derek Botelho: newly recorded.
    • Richard Matheson Storyteller: The Last Man on Earth (6:24)
    • Still Gallery: 66 in total.

    Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972):

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:08)
    • Still Gallery: 75 in total.

    Return of the Fly (1959):

    • Audio Commentary with Actor Brett Halsey & Film Historian David Del Valle: newly recorded.
    • Theatrical Trailer (2:39)
    • TV Spot (2:39)
    • Still Gallery: 18 in total.

    House on Haunted Hill (1959):

    • Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steven Haberman: newly recorded.
    • Vincent Price: Renaissance Man (27:20)
    • The Art of Fear (12:13)
    • Working with Vincent Price (15:26)
    • Introductory Price (13:16)
    • Theatrical Trailer (1:40)
    • Still Gallery: 23 in total.
    • Vincent Price Trailer Collection (19:27): Includes House of Wax, The Conqueror Worm, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, House of Usher, Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tingler and The Fly.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Continuing to carve out the illustrious legacy of Vincent Price’s body of work, Scream Factory has once again served fans with one of the best releases of the year.  The Vincent Price Collection II welcomes seven more of Price’s memorable films in gorgeous looking transfers, joined with a hefty amount of bonus content for fans to enjoy.  Undeniably, Vincent Price is one of horror’s most iconic talents and this remarkable collection is essential viewing, perfectly suited for the spookiest time of the year.

    RATING: 5/5

    The Vincent Price Collection II is available now can be purchased through Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.