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

    They’re Playing with Fire (1984)

    Director: Howard Avedis

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

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Malibu High (1978) Blu-ray Review

    Malibu High (1978)

    Director: Irvin Berwick

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • We Are the Flesh (2016) Blu-ray Review

    We Are the Flesh (2016)

    Director: Emiliano Rocha Minter

    Starring: Noé Hernández, María Evoli & Diego Gamaliel

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in an impoverished underworld of solitude, We Are the Flesh finds wandering brother and sister Fauna (María Evoli, Extraño pero verdadero) and Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) taking refuge in the peculiar dwelling of off kilter hermit Mariano (Noé Hernández, La Hermandad) where carnal desires and nightmares reign free.  A disorientating and visually grim experience that thrives on shocking and sexually perverse imagery, We Are the Flesh offers little insight into its intentions other than to rattle the senses of audiences who reside in a world of rules and morales, to which it unfailingly succeeds.  Unfortunately, Emiliano Rocha Minter’s experimental directorial debut, befit with a psychedelic presence and a certifiably Manson-like performance from the magnetic Noé Hernández, feels too dense in its delivery to appear as anything more than a flashy exploitation of scandalous imagery for shock’s sake.  

    Tasked with building a cavernous interior made of cardboard in exchange for shelter, Fauna and Lucio quickly find themselves at the mercy and under the spell of Mariano’s depraved fantasies, igniting an incestuous love affair between the two virgin siblings.  Performing vivid acts of fellatio on her brother and seductively dripping menstrual blood into his mouth, Mariano meets his untimely fate after climaxing to the sight of the teenagers fornicating in a dizzying display of abstractness meant to represent the dark underbelly of Mexico.  Returning to existence following a slimy rebirth from the cave’s womb-like crevices, Mariano’s resurrection calls for a cannibalistic feast where the throat-slitting of a captured soldier and an orgy of consumption and penetration takes place.  Concluding with an unexpected revelation of what we believe is a post-apocalyptic world, We Are the Flesh, unquestionably showcasing the artistic individuality of its maker, is a scarring and equally confounding experience unlikely to lure many to its cave of madness for long.

    Arrow Video presents We Are the Flesh with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  An intentionally bleak-looking picture, the cool grays and overall washed out appearance of the setting maintain strong detail while, the dirty complexions of the actors and their bare bodies spattered with sweat and blood are competently presented.  Furthermore, black levels are overwhelmingly healthy with only scant appearances of crushing on display.  Meanwhile, the few bursts of red and blue lighting cues along with infrared photography during an intimate sequence between the siblings offer the transfer’s boldest shades that nicely contrast the film’s otherwise somber color scheme.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the minimal Spanish dialogue (accompanied by optional English subtitles) is effectively handled while, the few areas of dreary ambiance serve the track and the effectiveness on the visuals admirably.  An optional LPCM 2.0 has also been included for your listening pleasure.  

    Bonus features include, Minter’s two earlier short films for Dentro (12:39) and Videohome (10:55), the expertly enlightening Virginie Salévy on We Are the Flesh (36:21) video essay, Interviews with Emiliano Rocha Minter (18:20), Noé Hernández (20:20), María Evoli (13:09) and Diego Gamaliel (13:30) plus, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:29).  Additionally, a Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery (30 in total), a 22-page booklet accompanied with an insightful essay by Anton Bitel that better explores the film’s themes and intentions with Reversible Cover Art concluding the disc’s supplementary inclusions.  As bizarrely perverse as they come, We Are the Flesh will attract the curiously daring with only few destined to take more away from its proceedings than its seedy visuals have to offer.  Graced with a respectable home video treatment north of its border, Arrow Video maintains its expected high quality of care with scholarly supplements that although unlikely to alter the opinions of many, appreciatively reveals more of the film’s kooky inner workings.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, We Are the Flesh can be purchased via ArrowVideo.com,

    Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Band of the Hand (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Band of the Hand (1986)

    Director: Paul Michael Glaser

    Starring: Stephen Lang, James Remar, Michael Carmine, Leon Robinson, John Cameron Mitchell, Danny Quinn, Al Shannon, Lauren Holly & Larry Fishburne 

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Executive produced by Michael Mann (Thief, Heat), Band of the Hand finds five incarcerated youths released to an intense rehab program that teaches them survival and value for one another.  Returning to the gang-infested streets of Miami, the one time criminals wage their own war against the drug kingpins destroying it.  

    Retaining the dangerously seductive allure of Mann’s hit television series Miami Vice with the backwoods survival instincts of Lord of the Flies, Band of the Hand makes crime and violence essential to the scenery that both corrupts and cures the film’s pack of anti-heroes.  Serving time for a multitude of offenses, five juvenile felons including, drug trafficker Carlos Aragon (Danny Quinn, Stradivari), punk turned murderer J.L. McEwen (John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), car thief and attempted prison escapee Dorcey Bridger (Al Shannon, Casualties of War) and rival gang leaders Ruben Pancecho (Michael Carmine, Leviathan) and Moss Roosevelt (Leon Robinson, Cool Runnings) find themselves facing lengthy sentences until fate intervenes.  Unknowingly transported to the swampy Everglades and under the watchful eye of Native American Vietnam veteran Joe Tegra (Stephen Lang, Avatar), the hot blooded teens must learn to work together and survive the cruel conditions of nature in an intensely experimental rehabilitation program.  Sharpening their skills and developing a trusting foundation, the group return to the mean streets of Miami where after revitalizing an abandoned house, seek to do the same for the crime-ridden community.  Igniting a war against feared pimp Cream (Larry Fishburne, Boyz n the Hood) and black magic worshipping drug lord Nestor (James Remar, The Warriors) who claimed Carlos’s girlfriend Nikki (Lauren Holly, Dumb & Dumber) for his own, the band of vigilantes have their work cut out for them.

    Helmed with style and a rebelliously youthful attitude by Paul Michael Glaser (The Running Man), Band of the Hand takes cues once again from Crockett and Tubbs with a pop-rock soundtrack of hits from Bob Dylan (who supplies the film’s title track with assistance from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), Prince and Mr. Mister that brings aggressive synergy to the onscreen action.  Following an explosive shootout between the band and Miami’s worst leaving one of their own dead, a go for broke retaliation on Nestor’s drug facility leaves the screen littered with enough bullet holes and bodies to quench the thirst of action hounds.  While the film may be less refined than Mann’s weekly crime series set in the same city, Band of the Hand funnels similar ingredients of fast cars, drug pushers, sexy women and ghettos through the delinquent eyes of teenage thugs turned saviors, making it a worthy and largely overlooked crime thriller drenched in 80s decadence and pastel hues.

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents Band of the Hand with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While the film bears its fair share of speckling, rearing its head most noticeably in black levels during countless nighttime sequences, skin tones are generally satisfying with colors found in the vibrant costume choices prevalent during the 80s Miami scene popping as appreciatively as one might hope.  Natural grain is notably retained while, screen jitter is observed but mostly held to the film’s opening sequences.  A mixed bag of quality that thankfully never gravely disappoints where it counts, Band of the Hand makes a respectable first leap to high-definition.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that treats dialogue with prioritization while, the film’s selection of songs celebrates a healthier emphasis of authority, much like sequences of explosive inferno and machine gun fire, the track is a middle of the road affair that suffices.  Although no on-disc special features are included, a Reversible Cover Art revealing slightly modified poster imagery is provided.

    The heat is on as teenage badasses return to their former stomping ground to clean up the filth and mayhem controlling the streets.  Taking on the likes of pimps and pushers, Band of the Hand mimics the style and energy of Miami Vice with enhanced violence and an imperfect yet, still entertaining execution.  Well casted and vibrantly photographed, Glaser’s directorial feature film debut is a promising urban action opus unfortunately missed by many during its initial release.  Arriving on Blu-ray for the first time ever, Mill Creek Entertainment offers the film a decent debut that admires the colorful sights of its 80s fashion choices and Miami hotspots with appreciable quality.  Void of bonus content, the inclusion of reversible cover art is a rare and welcome treat from the budget label.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Band of the Hand can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

    The Lair of the White Worm (1988)

    Director: Ken Russell

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

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • 31 (2016) Blu-ray Review

    31 (2016)

    Director: Rob Zombie

    Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs, Meg Foster, Kevin Jackson, Richard Brake, Lew Temple, Jane Carr, Judy Geeson & Malcom McDowell

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When a group of carnival workers are abducted on Halloween night, 31 finds them imprisoned in a deranged compound and forced to partake in a sadistic game.  Tasked to stay alive for 12 hours against crazed clowns and other homicidal deviants, the unfortunate players must band together in hopes of seeing dawn.

    Impressively funded by a successful fan backed campaign, 31 returns horror maestro Rob Zombie to the 70s-style foundation of his earliest films with a morbid depravity and artistic freedom not seen since 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects.  Following the rapid abduction of five traveling carnival workers, 31 finds the unsuspecting quintet at the mercy of three aristocratic lunatics.  Forced to take part in their annual game at the labyrinth-esque compound known as Murderworld, the frightened friends must survive 12 grueling hours, relying only on their resourcefulness and willingness to live, to defend themselves against crazed Nazi midgets, chainsaw-wielding madmen and terrifying clowns determined to annihilate them before time’s up.  Headed by Sheri Moon Zombie in her most tenacious role since Baby Firefly, the tightly-budgeted bloodbath welcomes newcomers Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs (Welcome Back, Kotter), Kevin Jackson (Rosewood) and Jane Carr (Dear John) to Zombie’s latest carnival of madness while, other such former collaborators including, Jeff Daniel Phillips (The Lords of Salem), Meg Foster (They Live), Malcolm McDowell (Halloween) among others beef out the impressive company of victims and slayers.  While 31 arguably boasts Zombie’s goriest and most deranged set pieces to date, its screenplay, admittedly secondary to its onscreen carnage, suffers from unavoidably trashy stereotypes common to varying degrees in previous Zombie efforts.  In addition, although the vast majority of 31’s characters fail to leave lasting impressions, the House of 1,000 Corpses helmer does succeed in bringing to life another worthy antagonist in Doom-Head whose performance by Richard Brake (Batman Begins), performed with perversion, eloquence and blood splattered clown makeup, single handily steals the show.  Serving as horror’s unrestrained answer to The Running Man with a finale that excellently demonstrates Zombie’s melding of music selections to his imagery, 31 falls somewhere in between the best and more problematic of the fright maker’s modest filmography, valued best for its buckets of blood and live or die obstacles.

    Lionsgate presents 31 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of its sun-bleached daytime openings and closings, Zombie’s latest shrouds itself in overwhelming darkness and dimly lit sets in the various sections of Murderworld where black levels rank strongly.  While occasionally murky levels and scant digital noise obstruct detail in skin tones, quality is overwhelmingly positive with the film’s few bolder colors seen in bright red blood, Sheri Moon Zombie’s yellow-blonde hair and Doom-Head’s smudged face paint noticeably standing out for the better.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that projects dialogue clearly at all times, the track captures the echoey ambiance of Murderworld’s quieter nooks with swift precision while, screams, chainsaw clatter and suspenseful guitar riffs provide excellent oomph to the festivities.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rob Zombie and In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn: The Making of 31 (2:11:27), a five-part and rewardingly in-depth documentary common to most of Zombie’s other features that explores the film’s journey from pre-production through its speedy 20 day film shoot.  In addition, an Also from Lionsgate (9:27) section boasting trailers for Blair Witch, The Devil’s Rejects, Cell, Knock Knock and Cooties are included alongside a Digital HD Code.  While supplemental volume may seem scant, the comprehensiveness of the offerings are made up for in their top-tier quality.

    One strictly for the gorehounds, 31 does little to stretch the creative wings of Zombie but succeeds greatly in delivering a kill or be killed horror showdown, uncompromised by thoughtless executives or meddling studio brass.  Simplistically plotted and brutally carried out, Zombie’s newest feature may not rank amongst his finest but has earned slightly more appreciation through additional viewings.  Meanwhile, Lionsgate’s high-definition presentation is overwhelmingly solid while, the disc’s bonus offerings are exceptional crash courses in filmmaking with Zombie’s valued insight and fly on the wall footage of the film’s intense making guiding the way.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Lionsgate, 31 can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Trouble Man (1972) Blu-ray Review

    Trouble Man (1972)

    Director: Ivan Dixon

    Starring: Robert Hooks, Paul Winfield, Ralph Waite, William Smithers, Paula Kelly & Julius Harris

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When full-time hustler and licensed private eye Mr. T (Robert Hooks, N.Y.P.D.) is hired by two thugs to investigate their compromised gambling operation, Trouble Man finds the smooth talking enforcer engaged in a web of gang wars and murder in order to clear his slandered name.  Paul Winfield (The Terminator), Ralph Waite (The Waltons), William Smithers (Scorpio), Paula Kelly (Soylent Green) and Julius Harris (Super Fly) costar.

    A step above the average blaxploitation feature, Trouble Man highlights the bustling lifestyle of South Central’s own Mr. T whose expert pool skills, fashionable style and ladies man swagger compliment his no-nonsense street smarts and sharp business savvy as the ghetto’s personal problem solver.  Approached by local thugs Chalky (Winfield) and Pete (Waite) to uncover the masked thieves responsible for disrupting their gambling circuit, Mr. T finds himself entangled in a gang war when rival crime lord Big (Harris) is gunned down, laying the blame on the very capable hands of the inner city private detective.  Pursued by vengeful gangsters and local law enforcement, Mr. T unbuttons his expensive jacket and leads a one man army to bring his foolish framers down.  Charismatically charged, Robert Hooks headlines as the smooth soul brother whose martial arts expertise and whip-cracking demeanor ignites the film’s contagiously cool aura while, Motown legend Marvin Gaye’s choice musical accompaniments can’t be overstated.  Tightly edited by Michael Kahn before his career spanning collaborations with Director Steven Spielberg, Trouble Man is wickedly fun with memorable performances and action-packed gang warfare justifying itself as one bad motha worth investigating.

    With the exception of speckling observed during dimly lit sequences, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ 1080p (1.85:1) transfer is overwhelmingly clean with no overt levels of damage while, the film’s inherent softness, as a product of its time, remains intact without compromising detail.  Meanwhile, flesh tones are eye-pleasing with more flamboyantly colorful attire and vibrant 70s decor popping nicely.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that occasionally requires volume increases, dialogue is largely audible with few softer spoken exchanges registering not as strongly.  Thankfully, Marvin Gaye’s main title theme and other melodic queues are projected sharply with gunfire effects throughout the film’s final act making appropriate statements.  Relatively scant, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historians Nathanial Thompson & Howard S. Berger with a Trailer Gallery featuring Trouble Man (2:30), Truck Turner (5:13), Across 110th Street (2:58), Cotton Comes to Harlem (2:11) and Report to the Commissioner (2:21) concluding the extras.

    Absurdly included amongst the fifty worst films of all time in Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss’ 1978 paperback, Trouble Man is far better and more entertaining than its reputation suggests.  Battling to clear his name while always ensuring time for beautiful girls, Robert Hooks leads the way with an entertaining turn loaded with attitude and leaving his enemies calling for mercy.  Boasting a soulful score from Marvin Gaye and a film appreciators audio commentary, Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ HD treatment of this underrated blaxploitation picture is as cool as the original Mr. T.

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Assault on New Releases #11 - Halloween Edition: Count Dracula's Great Love (1973), Child's Play (1988) Collector's Edition, Burial Ground (1980), Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991) & Lady in White (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973)

    Director: Javier Aguirre

    Starring: Paul Naschy, Rosanna Yanni, Haydée Politoff, Mirta Miller, Ingrid Garbo, Álvaro de Luna de Luma & José Manuel Martin

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring Spain’s premiere horror star Paul Naschy (Night of the Werewolf), Count Dracula’s Great Love finds a carriage of travelers derailed and kindly taken in by the handsome Dr. Marlow (Naschy).  Secretly harboring his true identity as the Prince of Darkness, Marlow stalks and seduces his way to the necks of his gorgeous guests, transforming them into bloodthirsty slaves while, shy virginal Karen (Haydée Politoff, Queens of Evil) becomes the apple of his eye and essential to his much grander plan.  Boasting gothic ambiance, full moons and eroticism, Javier Aguirre (Hunchback of the Morgue) directs with elegance in this atmospheric tale that presents a memorable interpretation of Dracula who is quick to whip and axe his victims as commonly as sink his fangs into them.  Weaving a narrative of originality and rich complexity, Count Dracula’s Great Love remains effective for Naschy’s understated performance and the film’s blood ritual used to resurrect Dracula’s deceased daughter, concluding in lovesick tragedy.

    Beautifully scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm internegative, Vinegar Syndrome presents Count Dracula’s Great Love with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  While minor intrusions from scratches and cigarette burns are evident, the Spanish feature has never looked better.  Bringing vibrant life to skin tones and the colorful costume choices of its actresses, detail is crisp preserving the fog-entranced tone while, black levels seen in Count Dracula’s cape, casket and dark dwellings are exceptionally inky.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the film’s English dub track may register t’s and s sounds too sharply but, overwhelmingly exudes clean and audible dialogue levels while, cracks and pop are minimal and of little to no notice.  Presenting both its uncut U.S. edition and its original Spanish language version, viewers are informed that the latter, lacking proper elements from its licensor (and missing shots due to content that are only found in its English counterpart), is presented from lesser quality video sources and a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix in order to appreciatively appease fans yearning for both cuts.  Meanwhile, special features include, a never before released Audio Commentary with Director Javier Aguirre & Actor Paul Naschy featuring optional subtitles in both English and Spanish plus, a newly captured Video Interview with Actress Mirta Miller (8:22) with optional English subtitles.  Furthermore, the U.S. Theatrical Trailer (3:04), a Still Gallery (2:16) and a 6-page booklet featuring an informative essay from Mirek Lipinski are also included alongside a DVD edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art.  Fans of horror’s more gothic and erotic outings will take pleasure sinking their fangs into this significant Spanish offering, splendidly brought to high-definition by Vinegar Syndrome for the first time ever!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Count Dracula’s Great Love can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Child’s Play (1988)

    Director: Tom Holland

    Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent & Brad Dourif

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Instilling a new titan for modern horror and ushering in a frightening franchise of sequels each varying in quality, the original Child’s Play still reigns as the most effective and chilling of Chucky’s many chapters.  When innocent six-year-old Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent, Wait Until Spring, Bandini) is presented with a Good Guy doll on his birthday, strange occurrences and the death of his babysitter raise questions of responsibility in their wake.  Unsuccessfully convincing his single mother and a homicide detective that his doll is alive and behind the recent string of murders, Andy finds himself pursued by the tiny terror in order to take over his soul.  Before the bodycount pictures its later entries would become with the foul-mouthed killer serving as their marketing mascot, Child’s Play’s less is more approach keeps viewers questioning the validity of Andy’s claims more so than blindly assuming his doll is truly possessed.  Wrapped in mystery and edge of your seat suspense with an oftentimes forgotten voodoo subplot, Child’s Play holds up strongly with a believable blend of special effects wizardry, an urban Chicago setting and top-notch performances with Dourif’s shrieking voice as the crazed Chucky leaving an indelible mark on the nightmares of viewers for years to come.

    Newly scanned in 2K from the interpositive, Scream Factory presents Child’s Play with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Casting a darker yet, more natural appearance during nighttime sequences, skin tones are accurate and nicely detailed while, colors found in Chucky’s red-striped and denim attire along with the neon-lit signage of the toy store in the film’s opening pop well.  Scuffs and other blemishes appear to be absent while, softness during daytime exteriors and inside the Barclay’s apartment look similar to its previous release.  Admittedly modest in its improvements, Scream Factory’s latest stab at Child’s Play unquestionably ranks as its best looking.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that projects solid dialogue and booming displays of authority during thunderstorms and Joe Renzetti’s (Poltergeist III) creepy score, sound quality is superior.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Impressively packed with new and old offerings, Disc 1 features a new Audio Commentary with Director Tom Holland plus, a repurposed Audio Commentary with Actors Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks & “Chucky” Designer Kevin Yagher.  Furthermore, another vintage Audio Commentary with Producer David Kirschner & Screenwriter Don Mancini along with hilarious Chucky Commentaries on select scenes are also included.

    Kicking off Disc 2, Behind-the-Scenes Special Effects Footage (1:00:08), Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ‘Till the End (40:53) and Life Behind the Mask: Being Chucky with Ed Gale (40:02) comprise the release’s newest and highly fascinating featurettes while, Evil Comes in Small Packages (24:49), Chucky: Building a Nightmare (10:05), A Monster Convention (5:26), Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play (6:15) and a Vintage Featurette (4:54) from MGM’s previous release are ported over.  In addition, a TV Spot (0:17), Theatrical Trailer (2:02), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (37 in total), a Posters & Lobby Cards Photo Gallery (20 in total) and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster conclude the all encompassing slate of extras.  A frightening sophomore followup from Director Tom Holland (Fright Night), Child’s Play maintains its reputation as one of the better supernatural slashers of the 80s while, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition, sprawling with bounds of extras, is nothing short of a gift from the mighty Damballa himself.

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

    Burial Ground (1980)

    Director: Andrea Bianchi

    Starring: Mariangela Giordano, Karin Well, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Peter Bark & Roberto Caporali

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented under its alternate The Nights of Terror title, Burial Ground hosts a smorgasbord of guts and bloody depravity when a country getaway for several couples quickly turns into a fight for their lives against reanimated corpses.  Preoccupied with their own sexual appetite when a scientist’s tinkering with evil forces unleashes hell’s hungriest zombies, the couples struggle to defend themselves while keeping the rotting forces from gaining entry into the mansion.  A wall-to-wall bonkers example of Italian exploitation at its finest, Burial Ground’s plot may be paper thin but, graciously overcompensates with gallons of gore and some of the genre’s most memorable zombie designs befit with gaping facial holes, horrific skeletal features and squirming maggots oozing from their pores.  Weaponizing themselves with pickaxes, scythes and other garden tools, the ravenous undead decapitate the help and repeatedly feast on the torn out organs of their prey.  Perhaps even more memorable than the zombie’s persistent attacks, Burial Ground’s bizarro meter soars when Michael (Peter Bark, Arrivano i gatti), the peculiar-looking son of Karen, grows oddly attracted to his mother and makes an incestuous pass at her in the heat of zombiepalooza.  With options running low and escape unlikely, nothing can prepare viewers for Burial Ground’s absurd mouthful of a finale that draws its line in the sand as one of the great “what the…” moments of splatter cinema.

    Gorgeously restored in 2K from pristine elements, Severin Films presents Burial Ground with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  True to its description, this newly struck scan is leaps and bounds superior to past releases with a blemish-free appearance, strong facial tones and impressive detail bringing out the intricacies of the many zombie makeup designs and their intendedly heinous features.  Furthermore, the film’s plethora of blood pops loudly while, black levels, even during the film’s more dimly lit sequences, are effectively inky, allowing viewers to fully appreciate all that is occurring.  Definitive as can be, Severin Films deserves the utmost praise for their esteemed handling of this Italian gorefest.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible throughout without any static or pops detected.  In addition, a separate Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian mix is included with optional English subtitles.  Bonus offerings include, Villa Parisi - Legacy of Terror (15:47) where Movie Historian Fabio Melelli revisits the filming locations that date back to the 17th century and have been utilized by Italian film productions beginning in the 1960s through the present.  Meanwhile, Peter Still Lives: Festival Q&A with Actor Peter Bark (7:35), Just for the Money: Interview with Actor Simone Mattioli (8:57) and The Smell of Death: Interviews with Producer Gabriele Crisanti & Actress Mariangela Giordano (9:20) are joined by Deleted/Extended Scenes/Shots (10:24), the Theatrical Trailer (3:31) and Reversible Cover Art.  Lastly, limited to the first 3,000 units, an exclusive slipcover featuring new artwork by Wes Benscoter is also included.  Riding high on a profoundly successful 2016, Severin Films continues to spoil exploitation enthusiasts with their treatment of Burial Ground, so definitive that the opening of hell’s gates can be the only justification for quality of this caliber.

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991)

    Director: Anthony Hickox

    Starring: Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, Michelle Johnson, Dana Ashbrook, Michah Grant, Eric Brown, Clare Carey, Patrick Macnee & David Warner / Zach Galligan, Monkia Schnarre, Alexander Godunov, Martin Kemp & Bruce Campbell 

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Melding the humorously wacky with the horrific, Waxwork finds a group of collegiate friends who stumble upon a mysterious wax museum displaying the most vile monsters, madmen and psychos albeit without victims.  Before long, their innocent tour lures them into its dark magic to become permanent members of the establishments morbid offerings.  Starring Zach Galligan (Gremlins) and Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl) with appearances from distinguished Englishmen and talented thespians Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) and David Warner (Tron) as the villainous museum owner, Waxwork’s greatest strength lies in its animated displays that honor the classic monsters of yesteryear and submerging would-be victims into their appropriately themed worlds.  Transforming into mini films within a film, the high maintenance China (Michelle Johnson, Death Becomes Her) finds herself immersed within Count Dracula’s gothic castle and forced to duel against his bloodthirsty brides while, the chain-smoking Tony (Dana Ashbrook, Twin Peaks) stumbles into the full moon lit backwoods where the beastly Wolfman (John-Rhys Davies, Raiders of the Lost Ark) hunts.  While the rather busy narrative throws touches of black magic, evil trinkets, freakish butlers and interdimensional realms to the forefront that occasionally scatterbrains the proceedings, Waxwork’s free-for-all conclusion pitting the likes of Marquis de Sade and zombies against the privileged Mark (Galligan) and his wheelchair-bound godfather right the ship in this clever sendup of classic chills under the guise of 80s video age eye-candy.

    Surviving the fiery events of the original film, Mark and Sarah (replaced by Monkia Schnarre, The Peacekeeper) return in Waxwork II: Lost in Time when a resilient zombie hand from the wax museum murders Sarah’s stepfather, pinning the blame on her.  Determined to prove her innocence, the two recover a magical compass enabling them to time travel through dimensions in order to gather the proper evidence to clear Sarah’s name.  Far more fantasy based than its predecessor with the characters winding up in medieval times to combat a black magic wielding sorcerer, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, using Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking-Glass as a loose template, makes greater use of hilariously parodying genre films than properly traveling through historical events.  Making stops at Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory and the streets of London during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, Alien, The Haunting and Godzilla among other films all find their way cheekily homaged in this more refined sequel.  Graced with brief roles from B-movie legends Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) and David Carradine (Death Race 2000), Waxwork II: Lost in Time widens its universe even more so, delivering a followup with more comedic oomph that surprisingly exceeds its originator by a narrow margin.

    Digitally restored, Lionsgate, under their Vestron Video Collector’s Series imprint, presents both Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Bearing generally clean appearances with scant scratches and slight speckling during darker sequences, colors pop effectively with skin tones reading nicely although, softness is not wholly uncommon or overly unpleasant.  Furthermore, its sequel noticeably improves during its extended black and white sequences mocking The Haunting that shine more sharply than the first film.  Respectable upgrades on both features will leave the overwhelming majority of fans more than pleased with the results.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is admirably conveyed while occasional moments during the first film find character lines at odds with other dominating sound factors.  Otherwise making solid use of their respective musical scores, both tracks strongly live up to expectations.  

    Providing each film on their own Blu-ray disc, special features on Waxwork’s Disc 1 include, an Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan and an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Roger Bellon.  Additionally, The Waxwork Chronicles (1:22:17), another first-rate Red Shirt Pictures production divided into six parts, explores the development and making of both films with newly captured interviews from Writer/Director Anthony Hickox, Editor Christopher Cibelli, Producer Staffon Ahrenberg, Special Make-Up Effects Supervisor Bob Keen, Actors Zach Galligan, Monika Schnarre and many others covering everything Waxwork related fans would ever want to know.  Also included, a vintage The Making of Waxwork (24:06) featurette, the Theatrical Trailer (2:02) and a Still Gallery (7:55) conclude the disc’s helpings.  Next up, Waxwork II: Lost in Time’s Disc 2 opens with another Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan, an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Steve Schiff, a Music Video (3:50), Theatrical Trailer (3:03), Still Gallery (7:17) and a Reversible Cover Art capping off the double feature’s supplemental package.  Nostalgia will surely ring loudly for viewers raised on both Waxwork features during the heyday of video rental.  A clever and unique injection of horror and comedy during the slasher prominent decade, both films, with its 1991 sequel having a slight advantage, are enjoyable excursions into silliness that have been passionately peppered with ample bonus features to continue making the legacy of Vestron Pictures proud.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Lionsgate, Waxwork / Waxwork II: Lost in Time can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Lady in White (1988)

    Director: Frank LaLoggia

    Starring: Lukas Haas, Len Cariou, Alex Rocco & Katherine Helmond

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the wholesome suburb of Willowpoint Falls circa 1962, Lady in White centers on monster kid Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas, Mars Attacks!) who narrowly escapes death at the hands of a mysterious child murderer.  Aided by the first victim’s ghost, Frankie vows to bring the elusive killer to justice who may be closer than he knows.  Capturing the virtually lost magic of small-town Americana and shot on location in the picturesque region of Upstate New York, Lady in White weaves its atmospheric tale of local legends, ghosts and cold-blooded murder with expert direction and grounded performances that shine with pure naturalism.  Following Frankie’s supernatural encounter, the neighborhood myth of the lady in white searching for her fallen child ties into the picture’s larger story with the very real threat of her assailant still at large injecting a genuine undercurrent of thrills.  Reminiscent of Stephen King’s best coming of age fables, Lady in White’s acute capturing of simpler times while, injecting deeply rooted themes of family, facing fears and discrimination come from a creative voice of passion and experience that Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Fear No Evil) conveys in earnest.  An underrated masterwork with an innate connection to the heart and mystery of childhood, Lady in White remains as riveting as ever, eclipsing its reputation as one of the finest ghost stories of its kind.

    Debuting on high-definition with 2 Discs featuring the Director’s Cut (1:57:49, Disc 1), Theatrical Version (1:53:34, Disc 2) and the preferred Extended Director’s Cut (2:06:52, Disc 2), Scream Factory presents Lady in White with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Utilizing the film’s interpositive and an archived film print to assemble the never-before-released lengthier director’s cut, the inherently soft photography is perfectly maintained while, fall leaves and seasonally appropriate greenery are lively looking.  Seamlessly blending its two elements for a first-rate restoration, the director’s intended cut looks excellent whereas the film’s alternate versions are of equal merit.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that forewarns hiss and pops that are hardly noticeable on its extended version, dialogue is never inaudible with the subtle ambiance of howling winds and crashing waves complimenting the proceedings nicely while, the film’s beautiful music selections, handled also by its Writer/Director, perform most effectively.  In addition an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  However unfortunate that no new supplements were produced for the release, vintage bonus features found entirely on Disc 1 include, an Introduction with Frank LaLoggia (0:46), an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Director’s Cut only), Behind-the-Scenes Footage with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (16:21) and optional commentary from its creator.  Furthermore, Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (36:13) and optional commentary, a Promotional Short Film (7:18), the Theatrical Trailer (1:57), Alternate Trailers (7:10), TV Spots (1:34), Radio Spots (2:21), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Montage (28 in total) and an Extended Photo Gallery (21 in total) wrap up the on-disc extras while, a Reversible Cover Art is also included.  An evocative coming of age chiller ripe for rediscovery and annual viewing, Lady in White is a prime ghostly offering for the Halloween season that stands out for its relatable themes and haunting narrative worthy of the deepest respect.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Lady in White can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

     

  • Dead-End Drive-In (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Dead-End Drive-In (1986)

    Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith

    Starring: Ned Manning, Natalie McCurry, Peter Whitford, Dave Gibson, Sandie Lillingston, Ollie Hall & Wilbur Wilde

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Aussie exploitation maverick Brian Trenchard-Smith (Stunt Rock, BMX Bandits), Dead-End Drive-In takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where the economy has crumbled and crime runs rampant.  When the government orders local drive-ins to become concentration camps for society’s wild youth, lone rebel “Crabs” (Ned Manning, Looking for Alibrandi) plots his escape from the imprisoning wasteland.  

    An unquestionable by product of George Miller’s motor-charged Mad Max game changers, Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Dead-End Drive-In takes unexpected sharp turns to deliver a unique, neon lit offering of nuclear punkery.  Home to a ravaged world of polluted red skies, gang warfare and food shortage, cars and their associated parts are the leading commodities in a devastatingly unemployed and substance addicted society.  After sneaking off with his older brother’s prized 56 Chevy, physically fit Jimmy, better known as “Crabs”, whisks his foxy, leather-wearing girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry, Cassandra) to the Star Drive-In for a night of exploitation movies and backseat intimacy.  After the local police force steal Crabs’ wheels leaving the couple stranded, the government implements a strict lockdown for all patrons of the drive-in.  Populated by face painted punks, new wavers and skinheads, the outdoor movie house keeps its rowdy guests pacified with B-grade pictures, junk food and endless drugs to occupy their extended stay.  While Carmen forms friendships with the local crowd, Crabs’ cabin fever and growing suspicion that all is not what it seems generates friction amongst other rebel rousers.  When countless refugees are transported to the already overpopulated space, racism and hate dominates the self-medicating punkers from realizing their true status as prisoners.  Going for broke, Crabs forms a getaway plan pitting himself against the gun-carrying police and the Star Drive-In’s corrupt owner (Peter Whitford, Running from the Guns).  

    Although a much different beast than expected, Dead-End Drive-In paves its own path that raises intriguing political commentary on the stranglehold of materialistic addictiveness and  racism.  Impressively art directed with graffiti tattered vehicles and brickwork shepherded by Muralist Vladimir Chevepanoff, Dead-End Drive-In stylistically soars with its trashcan burning, drive-in warzone and vibrantly vile supporting players making the film one of the visually richest of the endless wave of post-nuke imitators.  Disappointingly lighter on action until the film’s climactic escape where Crabs literally leaps away from his oppressive environment in a thrilling car stunt, Dead-End Drive-In still makes good with its new wave heavy soundtrack, oddball characters and effective sense of dystopian depravity that solidly leaves Trenchard-Smith’s anarchic Ozzie mark.

    Newly restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents Dead-End Drive-In with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Shining brightly through the film’s vast neon-signage, colorful makeup designs on its many punk performers and Crabs’ bright red Chevy, skin tones are naturally pleasing while, black levels waver from solidly inky to areas of speckling that are apparent yet, never overly distracting.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is clearly projected with the film’s excellent new wave cuts booming loudly.  Mildly restrained, quality is generally efficient while, slightly more authority during action sequences would have been preferred.  Special features include, a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Brian Trenchard-Smith, The Stuntmen (48:46), Trenchard-Smith’s 1973 documentary on Aussie stuntmen Bob Woodham, Grant Page and others plus, Hospitals Don’t Burn Down! (24:10), an Aussie pubic service film shot by Trenchard-Smith circa 1978 detailing the dangers of in-patient smoking.  Furthermore, a Vladimir Cherepanoff Gallery (19 slides in total), the Theatrical Trailer (1:36) and a 27-page booklet featuring stills and musings on Dead-End Drive-In and Trenchard-Smith’s other accompanying on disc films from Cullen Gallagher and Neil Mitchell are included.  Finally, a Reversible Sleeve boasting newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon and the film’s original poster design conclude the supplemental offerings.

    Not quite the punk free for all it’s advertised to be, Dead-End Drive-In follows similar post-nuke guidelines such as a dependency on vehicles while, its greater focus rests on the imprisonment of disillusioned youth and their subsequent brainwashing of complacency.  Fantastically designed and boasting few but, still wildly impressive stunts, Trenchard-Smith’s Ozploitation odyssey of a destructive future may not always live up to all expectations but, succeeds in carving out its own identity.  Arrow Video continues their liberation of the New World Pictures catalog with another praiseworthy transfer and a pleasing spread of supplements that will be of particular interest to Trenchard-Smith completists.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Dead-End Drive-In can be purchased via 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.

  • Cat People (1942) Blu-ray Review

    Cat People (1942)

    Director: Jacques Tourneur

    Starring: Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph & Jack Holt

    Released by: The Criterion Collection

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Produced by famed auteur Val Lewton (I Walked with a Zombie), Cat People centers on Serbian immigrant Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon, Johnny Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) whose marriage to American architect Oliver Reed (Kent Smith, The Spiral Staircase) is put in peril when her homeland fears of transforming into a savage feline during intimacy are suggested.  Tom Conway (101 Dalmatians), Jane Randolph (Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein) and Jack Holt (They Were Expendable) co-star.

    Stylish and mysteriously evocative, Producer Val Lewton’s debut effort and his first for RKO Pictures accentuates what haunts viewers in the shadows and rises above its genre label to deliver a gem of psychological madness and tragic love.  Gorgeously shot by Nicholas Musuraca (Out of the Past) and under the refined direction of Jacques Tourneur (Curse of the Demon), Cat People, unlike the prominently displayed Universal Monsters from the same era, uses calculated suspense and an increasingly dreadful tone to suggest more onscreen horror than what is showcased.  After a chance encounter at the city zoo prompts a love at first sight romance, gorgeous Serbian artist Irena is overwhelmed with her feelings for the handsome Oliver only to have childhood myths cloud her happiness.  Terrified that a mere kiss from her new husband will transform her into a cat-like person with wicked intentions, Irena’s mental state comes into question, forcing Oliver to second-guess his own feelings for the foreign beauty.  Coupled with a scandalous love triangle that surges Irena’s jealously while maintaining the very real possibility that her darkest fears of an ancient curse are true, Cat People, realized on a shoestring budget and utilizing recycled sets, delivers a frightening tale of marital woes and forbidden sexual desires under the subtext of witchcraft that strikingly stands out from other horror-billed efforts of the 1940s.  Strongly performed and leaving audiences to imaginatively paint their own dark pictures where the fog resides, Cat People purrs with consummate atmosphere, leaving an indelible impact on those looking into its poetic cage of horror.

    The Criterion Collection presents Cat People with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.37:1 aspect ratio.  Exceptionally restored in 2K, the monochrome photography arrives with gorgeous detail and a remarkable emphasis on black levels giving the film’s shadowy presence new dimensionality.  In addition, age-related scratches and scuffs are all but vanished making the viewing experience all the greater.  Bearing black bars on either sides of the frame to preserve its intended format, Cat People has never looked more splendid.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is strongly carried with even Simon’s thick accent never falling on strained ears while, Composer Roy Webb’s (Notorious) classy score is effectively laid.  Special features include, a 2005 recorded Audio Commentary with Film Historian Gregory Mank, Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (1:16:40), the accomplished 2008 documentary by Kent Jones (Hitchcock/Truffaut) that delves into Lewton’s short-lived yet, revered career with narration from Director Martin Scorsese.  Furthermore, Ciné Regards (26:37) presents a vintage 1977 interview with Director Jacques Tourneur on his career, the newly-crafted John Bailey (16:36) catches up with the director of photography of 1982’s Cat People and As Good As It Gets to discuss Musuraca’s mesmerizing approaches to the original feature while, the film’s Trailer (1:04) and an Essay entitled Darkness Betrayed by Critic Geoffrey O’Brien featuring a reversible poster rounds out the impressive supplemental offerings that could have only been made perfect by the inclusion of the 1944 sequel The Curse of the Cat People.

    Far more restrained than most genre efforts of the decade but arguably more effective, Cat People uses subtlety and psychological intrigue to lure audiences into its shadowy realm of a troubled marriage and catastrophic curses.  Just in time for the Halloween season, The Criterion Collection celebrates one of Lewton’s finest efforts and a towering achievement of elegant frights with its definitive presentation and a wonderful assortment of extras to claw into.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available September 20th from The Criterion Collection, Cat People can be purchased via Criterion.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Hardcore (1979) Blu-ray Review

    Hardcore (1979)

    Director: Paul Schrader

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

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    Road House (1989)

    Director: Rowdy Herrington

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

    Released by: Shout Select

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • The Nice Guys (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Nice Guys (2016)

    Director: Shane Black

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

    Released by: Warner Bros.

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season

    Director(s): Various

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

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

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

    Director: Matt Cimber

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Hellhole (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Hellhole (1985)

    Director: Pierre De Moro

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) Blu-ray Review

    The Swinging Cheerleaders (1974)

    Director: Jack Hill

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

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Bad Moon (1996) Blu-ray Review

    Bad Moon (1996)

    Director: Eric Red

    Starring: Mariel Hemingway, Michael Paré & Mason Gamble

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

    Director: Richard Linklater

    Starring: Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Glen Powell, J. Quinton Johnson, Ryan Guzman & Zoey Deutch

    Released by: Paramount Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Hailed as the spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! centers on college freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner, Glee) as he navigates through his first rambunctious weekend with his new teammates during the summer of 1980.  Featuring an ensemble cast of rising stars, Academy Award nominated director Richard Linklater’s (Boyhood) latest coming of age tale celebrates the girls, wild parties and baseball that bring the competitively hilarious players together.  

    Returning back to the stomping grounds of Texas for his collegiate odyssey of hard partying 80s jocks, Director Richard Linklater’s long weekend of baseball and bromance told through the eyes of arriving freshman Jake revisits the stoner-induced good times of his tonally reminiscent 70s era feature, refashioned for a new decade.  Trading up tie-dye threads for bats and booze, Everybody Wants Some!! introduces viewers to the eccentric players that share Jake’s new off campus dwelling and their various personality quirks.  Shortly after his house tour, the Southeast Texas Cherokees saddle Jake up for a joyride of the campus where a flirtatious encounter with fellow student Beverly (Zoey Deutch, Vampire Academy) sets the speed for the libido surging weekend ahead of classes.  Privy to the rowdy players’ party-filled tour of local hotspots including, the dance-centric disco Sound Station, a “Cotton-Eyed Joe” blasting country bar and a punk rock show, the horny athletes dance the night away with Texas’ most beautiful Southern belles, get involved in a bar fight and are witness to a female mud-wrestling showdown.  With testosterone surging in the house, the teammates never shy away from competing with one another as their short-tempers are demonstrated following lost bets, ping pong defeats and scoring hits off each other’s fast balls.  Further hilarity ensues when pot-smoking and an attempt at telepathy proves mostly unsuccessful while, the drug of choice opens the film up to physiological conversations and one’s place in the bigger picture of life that Linklater excels at.

    Boasting a soundtrack of perfect hits from The Knack, Sugarhill Gang, Van Halen, Cheap Trick, Devo and many others, Everybody Wants Some!! worries little about traditional character development instead, allowing viewers to grow with the characters by being an unofficial member of the squad and witness to their ball-busting shenanigans and deep-rooted camaraderie shared only by teammates.  In addition, although a strongly suggested romance between Jake and performing-arts major Beverly appears imminent, Everybody Wants Some!! wisely takes the highroad leaving audiences to wonder while, the period piece comedy keeps it focus on the seminal snapshot of college life experiences and the joy those memories continue to bring.  Smart and unforgettably funny, Everybody Wants Some!! captures the nostalgia of the 80s with the onscreen chemistry of its young cast perfectly demonstrating the wild and crazy energy of youth.

    Paramount Pictures presents Everybody Wants Some!! with a 1080p transfer, boasting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  From its yellow-bolded opening titles to the end credits, colors and clarity are flawless with skin tones appearing exceptionally detailed.  The 80s wardrobes and discotheque interiors of the film are also relayed with well-defined textures that spotlight the tiniest of background features.  Free of any discernible hiccups, Everybody Wants Some!! looks rockin’.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is unimpaired and prioritized while, the chart-topping hits of its soundtrack explode from the speakers with head-bopping force.  Special features include, Everybody Wants Some!! More Stuff That’s Not in the Movie (25:24) featuring hilarious outtakes and other onset goofs, Rickipedia (3:57) finds the young cast praising Linklater’s exhaustive knowledge of proper fads and terminology of the 1980s that helped give the film its authenticity while, Baseball Players Can Dance (6:42) documents the intensive dance and baseball training the cast went through to embody their characters.  In addition, Skill Videos (5:17) and History 101: Stylin’ the 80s (4:20) providing an inside look at how the cast were transformed into 80s-era twenty somethings are also included.  Lastly, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD code round out the supplemental package.

    Cut from the same cloth as Linklater’s 1993 stoner comedy, Everybody Wants Some!! takes its coming of age formula and delivers a new tale of friendship and partying that excels in every area.  Produced with an uncanny design of its intended decade, Linklater’s sports chuckler keeps the good times rolling for anyone whose ever been young, dumb and looking for fun.  Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures’ high-definition treatment is technically pristine with a spread of bonus features that compliment the film’s fun atmosphere.  Critically hailed, Everybody Wants Some!! ranks as one of the year’s best offerings that will leave you consumed by its spot-on recreation of a familiar time and place and the nonstop entertainment only jocks like these could produce.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available July 12th from Paramount Pictures, Everybody Wants Some!! can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Slasher: Season One Blu-ray Review

    Slasher: Season One 

    Director: Craig David Wallace

    Starring: Katie McGrath, Brandon Jay McLaren, Steve Byers, Dean McDermott & Wendy Crewson

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    30 years after her parents were brutally slain, Slasher finds Sarah Bennett (Katie McGrath, Jurassic World) and her husband Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil) returning to her hometown of Waterbury when a series of copycat murders begin occurring.  With each victim’s death centered around one of the seven deadly sins, the identity of The Executioner comes into question as the original killer remains behind bars.  With the sleepy community’s body count rising, dark secrets of those closest to Sarah are brought to light making everyone a potential suspect.

    Descending from the northern region that bred such classics as My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night, Slasher rewards fans of body count pictures with a contemporary model that adheres to the beloved tropes of its influences while taking advantage of its episodic narrative to concoct a mysteriously geared plot and multi-layered characters.  Headlined by rising newcomer Katie McGrath whose Irish accent sneaks its way into many a episodes, Sarah Bennett’s return to her hometown of Waterbury is met with promise before slowly unraveling when a new series of murders takes place modeled after the seven deadly sins.  Racially and sexually diverse, Sarah’s friends and fellow townspeople including gay couple Justin (Mark Ghanimé, Helix) and Robin (Christopher Jacot, Rogue), her husband’s boss and publisher of the Waterbury Bulletin Alison Sutherland (Mayko Nguyen, Cracked) and the incarcerated Tom Winston (Patrick Garrow, Poltergeist) responsible for the murder of Sarah’s parents all become targets of the blade-wielding Executioner.  Shortly after surviving her own brush with the masked murderer, Sarah’s investigation into her past reveals unsavory secrets and deeply buried skeletons in the closet that paint a disturbing picture of the parents she never knew.  Determined to learn the truth regarding her parents and insight into who may be responsible for the new killings, Sarah relies on visits with Tom Winston to pave the way to answers.  Meanwhile, Sarah’s husband Dylan, serving as editor-in-chief of the local paper is conflicted when his own journalistic drive for a career making story unveils a series of lies pertaining to his relationship with his wife.  

    Notably influenced by John Carpenter’s Halloween and modern cult favorite It Follows, Slasher boasts a sometimes overabundant cast of characters, each with their own dark secrets that luckily all pay off with unexpected plot twists, intensely graphic demises or both.  Starring a cast of predominant Canucks, Dean McDermott (Power Play), impressively bouncing back from reality television hogwash, appears as Waterbury’s corrupt police chief and delivers the standout performance of the series showcasing the Toronto native’s diverse chops.  Creatively overseen by Creator/Writer Aaron Martin (The Best Years) and Director Craig David Wallace (Todd and the Book of Pure Evil), Slasher’s quality standards are evident in its plotting and suspense-driven jolts that never shy from cutting limbs off victims or showcasing a particularly unsettling drug overdose to make their violent points yet, gore never remains the primary focus for this tightly crafted whodunit.  Marking the Chiller Network’s first original program, Slasher may be horror’s closest answer to HBO’s True Detective with its small-town murder spree revived decades later where characters, many of whom corrupted by various factors, are hardly what they appear to be.  A fine melding of mystery, scandal and murder, Slasher may have minor setbacks namely its killer’s motivations but, its pros strongly outweigh its cons.

    Scream Factory presents Slasher with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  Presenting its eight episode debut season across two discs, black levels appear soundly inky with detail sharply evident in The Executioner’s leather hood while, skin tones look lush and natural.  Meanwhile, colors found in wardrobe choices and the show’s many blood splattering moments pop exceptionally well allowing for a respectably solid high-definition presentation for a modern series of its ilk.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes, dialogue never suffers and is consummately projected with the series’ more climactic areas involving stalking sequences, frightened screams, gunshots and police sirens making effective statements.  In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes are also provided on each episode.  Although brief, the sole Behind the Scenes (14:59) featurette provides a decent general overview of the series’ making with the majority of the headlining cast on hand for interviews plus, Creator Aaron Martin and Series Director Craig David Wallace discuss the show’s influences ranging from John Carpenter and Brian De Palma to Dario Argento.

    Hitting a home run with their first slice of original content, Chiller Network’s Slasher takes obvious cues from its 70s and 80s influences while spearheading a modern mystery brought to life by a diverse pool of onscreen talent and ripe with some of television’s most grisly gore.  Basking in an era of top-quality, small screen frights, Slasher may be the new killer on the block but cuts to the point with its terrifying and scandalous turns leaving viewers glued.  In only their second television series acquisition to date, Scream Factory has made a razor-sharp call adding this acclaimed newcomer to their ever-growing catalog, one that horror hounds will surely find much to chomp into.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 12th from Scream Factory, Slasher: Season One can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Sorceress (1995) Blu-ray Review

    Sorceress (1995)

    Director: Jim Wynorski

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

    Released by: Synapse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Dolemite (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Dolemite (1975)

    Director: D’Urville Martin

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

    Release by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Death Becomes Her (1992) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Death Becomes Her (1992)

    Director: Robert Zemeckis

    Starring: Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis & Meryl Streep

    Release by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When two bitter rivals obsessed with their appearances discover a potion to keep them forever young, Death Becomes Her finds the cutthroat divas’ rivalry hilariously intensifying to heights beyond human law.  Academy Award winners Meryl Streep (Doubt), Goldie Hawn (Shampoo) and Golden Globe winner Bruce Willis (Unbreakable) star.

    Hanging up his saddle from the wild west of Hill Valley in exchange for a mad scientist’s lab coat, Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) concocts a darkly comical creation centered on fading good looks and madcap hijinks.  After selfishly marrying her bookish best friend’s fiancé, Hollywood star Madeline Ashton (Streep) takes great pleasure in her lavish lifestyle and fawned over looks until the years reveal themselves in her appearance.  Incensed by the sight of her old pal Helen Sharp’s (Hawn) youthful beauty, Madeline discovers a mysterious potion promising the return of her former self.  Further angered by Helen’s advances on her bumbling husband Dr. Ernest Menville (Willis), Madeline ingests the pink substance, returning the fading actresses beauty and increasing her desire to get even with her best friend and worst enemy.  Bowled over by Helen’s newfound interest in him, Dr. Menville and his former flame devise a way to knock off Madeline only to discover that both ladies have been sipping from the same vial, leading to a series of wickedly funny confrontations that demonstrate the immortal effects of their curious youth juice.

    Dazzling viewers with their hypnotic beauty, Streep and Hawn, in one of her last headlining roles, craft hilarious chemistry with one another while, Willis playing against type, surprises in his role as the nerdy, alcoholic surgeon who barely keeps his cool as the loves of his life roam his mansion with their necks twisted and chests blasted by a shotgun.  True to Zemeckis’ desire to experiment with technical advancements, Death Becomes Her memorably shines due to the film’s impressive computer generated effects that bring life to its many head turning and limb twisting touches to its lead actresses.  Although a commercial success, Death Becomes Her slightly dawdles in its final act, nearly exhausting the film’s snappily crafted schtick of Beverly Hills beauties battling for immortal sexiness.  Handsomely winning an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, Death Becomes Her may be flawed and often overlooked yet, stands as one Zemeckis’ more underrated efforts and certainly his quirkiest.

    Scream Factory presents Death Becomes Her with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Sporting healthy skin tones with occasional softness, prominent colors found in Helen’s red ensembles and the potion’s pink glow impress.  Background detail in Madeline and Dr. Menville’s mansion are pleasing while, natural grain is present throughout.  Culled from what appears to be a dated master, Death Becomes Her is not always strikingly sharp but unquestionably is a vast improvement from its standard definition presentation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is consistently clear while, Composer Alan Silvestri’s (The Walk) score accentuates the film’s over the top tone.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Although not as vast as other Collector’s Edition releases, special features include, The Making of Death Becomes Her (25:03) featuring new interviews with Director Robert Zemeckis, Production Designer Rick Carter, Co-Screenwriter David Koepp, Producer Steve Starkey, Cinematographer Dean Cundey and others.  In addition, a Vintage Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (8:58), a Photo Gallery (46 in total), the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:05) and a Reversible Cover Art featuring the film’s original 1-sheet poster design wraps up the satisfying lineup of supplements.

    An unsung oddity in the vast array of Zemeckis classics, Death Becomes Her showcases the kookier sides of its three leads engaged in a premise doused in black comedy and masterful visual effects.  Co-scripted by David Koepp (Jurassic Park, The Shadow), this often neglected slice of outrageousness outweighs its flaws with its many creative charms.  Accompanied with a respectable high-definition upgrade, supplements may not be as vast as other Collector’s Editions yet makes up for it in quality.  Injecting more laughs into their series of nightmares, Scream Factory’s addition of the underrated Death Becomes Her is essential for Zemeckis devotees.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Death Becomes Her can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Pigs (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Pigs (1973)

    Director: Marc Lawrence

    Starring: Marc Lawrence, Toni Lawrence & Jesse Vint

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented in its original director’s cut for the first time on home video, Pigs centers on beautiful drifter Lynn Webster (Toni Lawrence, Beyond Reason) who descends on a sleepy California town while harboring a dark secret.  Gaining employment at a local cafe, her boss and former circus performer Zambrini (Marc Lawrence, The Man with the Golden Gun) cares for a pen of 12 hungry pigs with a penchant for human flesh.  Turning to the local population for his personal pig chow, Sheriff Dan Cole (Jesse Vint, Forbidden World) grows suspicious of the recent activity as he nears closer to the frightening truth.

    Billed under one of its many titles as The 13th Pig, Actor/Director Marc Lawrence’s indie budgeted opus paints itself as exploitation fodder that would weigh in its favor playing the drive-in circuit although, its artistic aspirations, however ambiguous, exceed its chase for the almighty dollar.  Starring his own daughter Toni as a woman with a skeleton in her closet, the out of town and relatively quiet Lynn starts anew as a waitress at the local looney Zambrini’s (elder Lawrence) cafe.  As elderly nosy bodies inform the local sheriff that Zambrini’s pen of pigs run freely in the evening and shockingly devour people, a previously ridiculous notion grows more believable in time.  A sight for sore eyes in a male dominated town, Lynn finds herself picked up by a fellow horndog whose passes ignite a razor-sharp reflex of Lynn’s located only in nightmares.  When a mutual understanding between the two outsiders form, the true state of Lynn’s mental health and Zambrini’s dedication to fatten up his piggies grows while risking further suspicion from Sheriff Dan whose own attraction to Lynn becomes harder to conceal.  Although containing horrific moments of murder, Pigs would be hard pressed to be strictly labeled horror with a stronger emphasis placed on the psychological construction of its peculiar leads and their unhinged yet, sympathetic allegiance to one another.  Containing freakish imagery of squealing pigs fighting over limbs and Zambrini in ghoulish clown make-up with the dark cloud of Lynn’s broken childhood revealed near its conclusion, Pigs establishes a peculiar atmosphere where a mental breakdown, loneliness and homicidal tendencies all converge during a most unusual odyssey, leaving viewers equally perplexed and captivated.

    Scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm interpositive, Vinegar Syndrome presents Pigs with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With select footage sourced from lesser quality theatrical prints, presentation is understandably uneven at times with less handsome footage showcasing murkier black levels and red hues in its photography.  Although ideal elements have long since been destroyed for said moments, the assembled final product looks overwhelmingly strong with properly lit sequences giving way to detailed facial features and bold colors seen in the blood spewed during Lynn’s razor assault popping most effectively.  While occasional scuffs and scratches are also on hand, Vinegar Syndrome’s painstaking dedication, with assistance from several other parties, to provide viewers with the film’s definitive version sinks any of its imperfections.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, dialogue is cleanly captured with high-pitched pig squeals making sharp strides on the track while, Composer Charles Bernstein’s (A Nightmare on Elm Street) hauntingly harmonious score makes a most effective mark.  Well stocked, bonus features include, Toni Lawrence: Back on the Menu (14:15) where the film’s lead actress sits down to discuss her father’s career and her own development as an actor.  In addition, Somewhere Down the Road with Charles Bernstein (13:35) interviews the famed composer on one of his earliest compositions and his unique payment for his services, an Audio Interview with Cinematographer Glenn Roland (1:20:42) and a Promotional Artwork Gallery (4:29) can also be found.  Finally, an Alternate Exorcism Opening (3:17), an Alternate Daddy’s Girl Opening (5:49), an Alternate Daddy’s Girl Ending (5:15), the Pigs Theatrical Trailer (1:41), the Love Exorcist Trailer (2:13) plus, a DVD edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art featuring work by Chris Garofalo rounds out the supplemental package.

    A truly unusual slice of indie cinema expression, Pigs remains a bizzaro examination of two lost souls whose unbalanced personalities connect over their shared killer instincts.  With the markings and promotional pull of a horrific exploitation opus, character actor Marc Lawrence’s final directorial effort is outside the perimeters of normalcy which makes it such an intriguing watch.  In their latest acquisition from the Troma vaults, Vinegar Syndrome have gone above and beyond to deliver Lawrence’s feature the way it was intended with fabulous results.  Further underscored by an insightful spread of bonus features, Pigs makes a strong case for rolling around in the mud of such weirdness.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

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

    Destroyer (1988) / Edge of Sanity (1989)

    Director(s): Robert Kirk / Gérard Kikoïne

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Cherry Falls (2000) Blu-ray Review

    Cherry Falls (2000)

    Director: Geoffrey Wright

    Starring: Brittany Murphy, Michael Biehn, Gabriel Mann & Jay Mohr

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in a peaceful Virginia suburb, Cherry Falls finds its community turned upside down when its virginal high school population is targeted by a crazed serial killer.  Plotting a wild sexual night of partying to better protect themselves, Jodi (Brittany Murphy, Clueless), the town sheriff’s only daughter, takes matters into her own hands to track the mysterious murderer.  Michael Biehn (The Terminator), Gabriel Mann (Revenge) and Jay Mohr (Jerry Maguire) co-star.

    Injecting a simple yet, unique twist in the revived teen slasher genre, Cherry Falls looks not to punish the promiscuous sluts of high school royalty but, instead target the pure and innocent virgins of its sleepy town.  When local teenagers turn up savagely murdered and displayed in a disturbing fashion, local authorities conclude their culprit is targeting virgins after discovering the word carved into each victims skin.  Combatting her own relationship dilemmas and pressure to sleep with her longtime boyfriend, Jody Marken (Murphy) finds herself lucky to be alive after evading certain death from the long-haired, knife-wielding killer.  While Sheriff Marken (Biehn), Jody’s father, harbors a deep-rooted secret regarding the suspected killer, hypocrisy amongst her parents forces Jody to failingly seduce her boyfriend before seeking comfort from her English teacher Mr. Marliston (Mohr).  As more victims are claimed and fear amongst the town increased, the student body hilariously plans a “Pop Your Cherry Ball” for a night of fornication to better their chances at survival.  As authorities are preoccupied with the biggest rager of the year, Jody and her father find themselves captured by the unhinged killer in a tense, bloody showdown that takes them from the madman’s basement dwelling to the massive teenage orgy happening nearby.

    Falling almost immediately behind schedule during its making, Cherry Falls continued to fight uphill battles when censorship issues halted theatrical distribution resulting in a less than ideal television premiere on the USA Network.  Garnering a small yet, loyal following, the Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper) helmed production amply delivers in its bloodier moments regardless of its TV movie constraints while, unsurprisingly lacking levels of skin for a feature peddling a prominent teen orgy.  Headlined by a cast delivering rather air headed performances, Cherry Falls excels in its satirical agenda as its killer with a Psycho complex offers undeniable hilarity that can hardly be taken seriously.  Admittedly imperfect, Cherry Falls may not possess the cleverness of Scream but, offers decent levels of suspense and humor where one would least expect.

    Scream Factory presents Cherry Falls with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Presented in its original telecast version due to obstacles obtaining its uncut edition, skin tones read naturally while, colors and background detail are nicely displayed with no anomalies spotted.  In addition, black levels found in the film’s many nighttime sequences are approvingly inky with a filmic layer of grain present throughout its runtime.  Following the film’s longtime unavailability, its anticipated high-definition upgrade looks excellent.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is clearly represented while, Composer Walter Werzowa's (Mortal Kombat) score, eerily reminiscent to Scream’s haunting choral arrangements, are effectively delivered.  Decent, if not slightly underwhelming, the film’s mix is quite sufficient.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Geoffrey Wright, Lose It or Die: The Untold Story of Cherry Falls (24:30) featuring interviews with Writer/Co-Executive Producer Ken Selden and Producer Marshall Persinger.  Sharing their unique experiences from crafting the script, the film’s tense shooting schedule and more, Selden and Persinger offer valued insight into the production although, appear a bit scatterbrained at times.  Also included, Cherry Falls Deputy: Amanda Anka (7:40) captures a new interview with the actress who played the heroic Deputy Mina plus, Vintage Interviews with Brittany Murphy, Michael Biehn, Jay Mohr and Director Geoffrey Wright (6:26), Behind the Scenes Footage (4:32), the Original Script (BD-ROM) and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:47) round out the assorted supplements.

    Arriving at the tail end of the 90s slasher cycle, Cherry Falls strives to alter the formula with mostly successful results.  Headlined by the late Brittany Murphy, this attack on virgins feature enjoys its fair share of bloodshed and even more laughably entertaining moments courtesy of its high-heeled antagonist.  Making its Blu-ray debut, Scream Factory welcomes this millennial offering into their growing library with pleasing A/V grades, revealing supplements and a newly commissioned cover art by the talented Joel Robinson.  In search of waterfalls that run blood red?  Then, Cherry Falls just might be what you’re looking for.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Felicity (1978) Blu-ray Review

    Felicity (1978)

    Director: John D. Lamond

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • My Boyfriend's Back (1993) Blu-ray Review

    My Boyfriend’s Back (1993)

    Director: Bob Balaban

    Starring: Andrew Lowery, Traci Lind, Matthew Fox, Edward Herrmann & Mary Beth Hurt

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Producer Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th), My Boyfriend’s Back centers on high school senior Johnny Dingle (Andrew Lowery, School Ties) as he builds up the courage to ask class hottie Missy McCloud (Traci Lind, Fright Night Part 2) to the prom.  Unfortunately, a fatal setback claims Johnny’s life resulting in his comical return from the grave to his keep his dream date on schedule.  Helmed by noted actor and director Bob Balaban (Parents), this offbeat horror/comedy is an entertainingly cheesy romp that adheres to the basic tropes of teen films while, its cast juggles its silly plot of prom queens and zombie infatuation with big, goofy smiles.  Incapable of taking itself seriously, My Boyfriend’s Back juxtaposes its narrative with comic-like panel transitions as Johnny’s undead existence in suburbia is met with equal parts acceptance by his loving parents (Edward Herrmann, The Lost Boys and Mary Beth Hurt, Young Adult) while, Missy’s ex-boyfriend Buck (Matthew Fox in his film debut) is less than enthusiastic.  Decaying by the day as limbs fall off his body and his hunger for human flesh grows, Johnny and Missy’s romance is tested when gun-toting townspeople want their local zombie buried for good.  Combatting a greedy doctor that seeks Johnny for his own experimentations and swaying the approval of Missy’s sheriff father (Jay O. Sanders, JFK), the living and the undead make the most of their magical evening in their fog-entrenched school gymnasium.  Released in 1993 yet, containing the colorful gaudiness of 80s productions, My Boyfriend’s Back notably introduces the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) in an early role as one of Johnny’s unfortunate meals and Matthew McConaughey (True Detective) in a blink-and-you-miss him appearance.  While the genre-blending black comedy may have arrived a few years behind the curve, My Boyfriend’s Back remains an unsophisticatedly screwy good time ripe for digging up.

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents My Boyfriend’s Back with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  With mild speckling on display, skin tones are surprisingly well-handled with only occasional hints of oversaturation.  Otherwise nicely detailed and relaying rather strong doses of color in blood spread across Johnny’s mouth, interiors of the high school’s locker-filled halls and the EC Comic-like transitions, My Boyfriend’s Back may have occasional hiccups but, remains a generally satisfying watch.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, dialogue is decently, if not unimpressively, relayed while, the film’s musical selections and intendedly dynamic sound effects are largely flat and disappointing.  No special features have been included on this release.

    Fun and welcomingly out there, My Boyfriend’s Back takes a zombified teenager’s desire for his crush to hilarious heights where undead prejudice and a hunger for limbs are their biggest threats.  Littered with a surprisingly well known cast in early roles, Mill Creek Entertainment ushers this Disney owned skeleton from their Touchstone Pictures banner with a well-handled, filmic transfer while, its audio mix leaves much to be desired.  Admittedly looking better than ever, My Boyfriend’s Back returns from the grave (again) in a manner that should leave fans quite pleased.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, My Boyfriend’s Back can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Class (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Class (1983)

    Director: Lewis John Carlino

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

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Sisters (2015) Unrated Blu-ray Review

    Sisters (2015)

    Director: Jason Moore

    Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, John Leguizamo & John Cena

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Saturday Night Live’s Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reunite in the sibling comedy Sisters.  After their parents choose to sell their home, sisters Kate (Fey) and Maura (Poehler) Ellis return to clean out their childhood bedrooms but, plan to go out with a bang.  Inviting former classmates to recapture some old fashioned debauchery, the Ellis sisters engage in an unforgettable night of partying while, working out their own adult issues.  Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids), Ike Barinholtz (Neighbors), John Leguizamo (Chef) and John Cena (Trainwreck) co-star.

    Reteaming for their third cinematic outing, Sisters combines the comedic talent of Tina Fey (30 Rock) and Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) for their most hilarious effort yet.  After recently divorced nurse Maura (Poehler) is given the unfortunate task of informing her older and constantly unemployed sister Kate (Fey) of the sale of their childhood home, the Ellis sisters must travel to Orlando to empty their bedrooms.  While Maura struggles with meeting someone new, Kate’s irresponsible lifestyle has created a rift between her and her daughter Hayley (Madison Davenport, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), prompting the sisters to salvage the glory of their younger days.  Before their house is officially taken over by its new owners, Maura and Kate splurge to throw one last party with their fellow classmates who are equally in dire need of letting loose.  Flirtatiously inviting local handyman James (Barinholtz) to the gathering, Maura’s opportunity to party wildly while the normally rambunctious Kate wears the hat of responsibility leads to cataclysmic hilarity.  With a wide variety of drugs provided by Dave (Leguizamo) and his buff dealer Pazuzu (Cena), the Ellis sisters take great delight aggressively making fun of high school foe Brinda (Rudolph).  Dance offs, drunken chimney climbing and 80s references funneled through the fast-paced improvisational cracks of Fey and Poehler make Sisters the funniest high school reunion you ever snuck into.

    Boldly facing off against a seismic blockbuster from a galaxy far, far away, Sisters held steady in bringing audiences to the vulgar festivities hosted by the undeniable chemistry of Fey and Poehler.  Buffered with knee-slapping supporting turns from James Brolin (Catch Me If You Can), Dianne Wiest (Parenthood), Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live) and Samantha Bee (Full Frontal with Samantha Bee), Sisters turns back the clock for a hard-partying rager that offers nonstop laughs and expected life lessons along the way.  

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Sisters with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting pristine clarity, skin tones are exceptionally lifelike and well detailed while, clothing choices pop nicely against the illuminated interior of the Ellis sisters’ home.  With solid black levels and lush greenery permeating the Florida setting, Sisters makes a rockin’ statement on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly supported with no hitches while, the track offers sizable pushes to its bass during party sequences where loud music and record spinning rule.  In addition to both its Unrated (2:02:24) and Theatrical (1:57:46) version, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Jason Moore, Writer Paula Pell, Star/Producer Tina Fey and Star/Executive Producer Amy Poehler, Deleted Scenes (18:03), Extended Scenes (16:54), Gag Reel (3:17) and The Improvorama (3:17).  Furthermore exclusive Blu-ray content includes, How to Throw a Party (1:36), Grown-Up Parties Suck (5:18), The Alex Chronicles (2:51), The Kate and Pazuzu Chronicles (2:05), A Teen Movie… For Adults (10:26), The Original Sister (6:40) where the cast take turns reading from Screenwriter Paula Pell’s actual teenage diary entries and a showcase of the film’s Pool Collapse VFX (0:50).  Finally, a DVD edition and a Digital HD Code round the supplemental offerings.

    From keg stands and adult irresponsibility to sibling rivalry and beyond, Sisters brings the teenage spirit of John Hughes outside to smoke a joint with the crudeness of Seth Rogen.  With all-around funny performances from its players and the infectious chemistry of Fey and Poehler, the latest comedy reunion from the gals of Saturday Night Live makes it way to the top of the class.  Meanwhile, Universal Studios Home Entertainment offers an immaculate high-definition experience and a plethora of bonus features including, alternate cuts of the film, a worthwhile commentary, hilarious making-of featurettes and gag reels.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 15th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Sisters can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • No Way Out (1987) Blu-ray Review

    No Way Out (1987)

    Director: Roger Donaldson

    Starring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Sean Young, Will Patton & Howard Duff

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel “The Big Clock” by Kenneth Fearing, No Way Out finds Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman, The French Connection) murdering his mistress Susan Atwell (Sean Young, Blade Runner) in a fit of jealousy.  Determined to protect his superior, loyal aide Scott Pritchard (Will Patton, Remember the Titans) invents a cover-up scheme thrusting blame onto an unknown Russian spy.  Enlisting Naval Commander and friend Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves) to hunt down the killer, all roads lead back to Farrell and his own enticing connection to the victim.

    Weaving a tale of suspense and scandal, No Way Out is a tightly paced thriller where the political underbelly of Washington sets the stage for a whodunit marking its protagonist as public enemy number one.  After a chance encounter at a political ball leads to limo lovemaking, Naval Commander Tom Farrell (Costner) falls deeply for the attractive Susan Atwell (Young).  Admitting to engaging with Farrell’s new boss Secretary of Defense David Brice (Hackman), Susan agrees to call off the affair only to fatally fall victim to Brice’s jealous rage.  In true closed door political fashion, a cover-up is established pointing fingers to a suspected Russian spy within the confines of the Pentagon, instructing Farrell to uncover the man responsible.  With other selected assassins ordered to eradicate anyone with knowledge of Brice’s involvement, Farrell finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place as each new development implements him in Susan’s death.  Trapped within the walls of the Pentagon as 80s computer technology and prowling eyewitnesses threaten Farrell’s safety, No Way Out rarely lets viewers catch a breath while, an exciting chase sequence beginning behind the wheel before shifting to rooftops and subways keeps the thrills coming.  Featuring the handsome Costner in a role that propelled him to leading man heights and Sean Young at the peak of her sexiness plus, a brief appearance by the beautiful Iman (Surrender, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) as Susan’s trusted friend, Director Roger Donaldson’s (Species) well-received feature keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with a twisty conclusion not seen coming.

    Shout! Factory presents No Way Out with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of fleeting flakes and speckles during the opening moments, the film conveys a pleasingly filmic appearance with facial tones reading appropriately.  Although not wildly colorful, textures in Hackman’s suit, Costner’s pressed Naval uniform and other costume choices are well saturated while, black levels during Costner and Young’s backseat romp are quite clear and free of any abusive crush.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, quality is satisfactory with dialogue levels delivered clearly as scoring cues and the film’s intense wave crashing ship scene offer nice balance to the otherwise tame mix.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Roger Donaldson and the film’s Trailer (1:30).

    Perfect viewing for the political season, No Way Out combines sex, scandal and murder for a gripping narrative set in our nation’s capital.  A solid cast and stylish direction compliment the film’s pace that allows itself to sharply pull the rug out from under the audience during its fleeting moments.  Meanwhile, Shout! Factory upgrades this Costner starring thrill ride with an admirable high-definition transfer and a pleasing commentary track from its helmer.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Shout! Factory, No Way Out can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Serial (1980) Blu-ray Review

    Serial (1980)

    Director: Bill Persky

    Starring: Martin Mull, Tuesday Weld, Sally Hellerman, Christopher Lee, Bill Macy, Peter Bonerz & Tom Smothers

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Cyra McFadden, Serial takes a satirical look at the lives of California couples during the late 1970s.  Uptight and increasingly annoyed Harvey Holroyd (Martin Mull, Roseanne) becomes overwhelmed by his wife Kate’s (Tuesday Weld, Thief) new age personality while, their friends’ liberal behavior and stances on feminism, free love and other trendy traits creates a hilarious melting pot of absurdity for the simple-minded Harvey.  Sally Hellerman (Back to School), Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Bill Macy (Maude), Peter Bonerz (The Bob Newhart Show) and Tom Smothers (My Brother the Angel) co-star.

    Boasting a respectable ensemble cast and marking the feature film debut of television veteran Bill Persky (Who’s the Boss?, Kate & Allie), Serial is a comical sendup of the progressive culture sweeping the nation during the late 70s.  Undersexed and overwhelmed by his liberal-minded wife and equally ridiculous neighborhood friends, Harvey Holroyd (Mull) seeks a better paying position while, his marriage takes a plummeting turn resulting in both parties shacking up with other partners.  Attempting to fall in with the crowd, Harvey agrees to attending an orgy with his newly appointed secretary and awkwardly ends up in the sexual graces of 19-year-old cashier Marlene (Stacey Nelkin, Halloween III: Season of the Witch).  In addition to losing their daughter to a carnation selling cult, Harvey fails to relate to his new freedom while, Kate’s own flirtatious attraction ends up in disaster after realizing her pet-grooming stud is bisexual.  Poking fun at societies dependence on therapy and quaaludes plus, the gossip-obsessed nosy-bodies of every community, Serial makes pit stops for Harvey to hilariously bemoan Kate’s eco-friendly insistence on denying him to drive a car.  Congregating at a wedding while the groom accepts his role as an asshole, Harvey notably comments “these are exciting times, aren’t they?  Gas is over a dollar a gallon and it’s okay to be an asshole”, summing up the film’s sarcastic stance perfectly.  Aided by a leather-clad gang of gay bikers led by the mysterious Skull (Lee), Harvey and Kate rescue their daughter from the cooky-minded cult and set aside their differences to start anew without organic foods and therapeutic jargon getting in the way.  Although, modern audiences may find little to relate to in this comic time capsule, Mull’s sensibilities and utter distaste for those surrounding him make for the film’s funniest moments while, the narrative has fun taking jabs at the occasionally outdated examples of liberals before the rise of Reganomics.

    Olive Films presents Serial with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Possessing only fleeting instances of speckles, damage is practically nonexistent with the transfer supporting a pleasing filmic appearance.  Skin tones are natural while, colors are generally strong with only occasional moments of softness rearing its head.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is reasonably delivered with no hiss or pops detected.  Although audible, some moments appear hollow-sounding, capturing a slight echoey pitch.  With music relegated to its opening/closing credits and the use of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” during the climax, their appearances are not wildly impactful.  Meanwhile, no special features have been included.

    RATING: 3/5

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

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

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

    Director: John Derek

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

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

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

    Pretty Peaches Trilogy (1978-1989)

    Director: Alex de Renzy

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

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

    The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)

    Director: Marielle Heller

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

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #9

    Count Dracula (1970)

    Director: Jess Franco

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Zombie High (1987)

    Director: Rob Link

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

    Axe (1975) / Kidnapped Coed (1976)

    Director: Frederick R. Friedel

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Women’s Prison Massacre (1983)

    Director: Bruno Mattei

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

    Corruption (1983)

    Director: Roger Watkins

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

    The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

    Director: Joseph Green

    Starring: Herb Evers, Virginia Leith & Leslie Daniel

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

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

     

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #7

    Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight (1995)

    Director: Ernest Dickerson

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Pay the Ghost (2015)

    Director: Uli Edel

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

    Released by: RLJ Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

    Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood (1996)

    Director: Gilbert Adler

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Assault on New Releases #6: Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Spaced Invaders (1990) & Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Blu-ray Reviews

         

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #6

    Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

    Director: Leigh Whannell

    Starring: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell & Lin Shaye

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of Leigh Whannell (Saw, Dead Silence), Insidious: Chapter 3 travels back in time to the early origins of spiritualist Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye, Ouija) as grieving teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott, A.N.T. Farm) seeks her assistance to contact her late mother.  Living a fragile existence, Elise has sworn off her psychic practices until Quinn finds herself the victim of a supernatural entity.  With assistance from amateur ghost chasers Tucker (Angus Sampson, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Specks (Whannell), Elise must venture once more into The Further to save Quinn’s life.  Following its financially successful predecessor that tended to over-explain and tarnish the mystique of its supernatural antagonists, Insidious: Chapter 3 moves backward for a prequel based tale that packs several effective jump scares while lacking the originality of its franchise starter.  Shining a welcome spotlight on spiritual expert Elise and to an unfortunately lesser extent, the fan-favorite duo of Tucker and Specks, the paranormal happenings of the film are far too generic to stand out.  Donning multiple creative roles in front and behind the camera, Whannell’s first directorial outing is hardly a wasted affair with an admirable performance from Shaye and unique make-up designs of the film’s ghostly apparitions.  While its competently constructed and occasionally succeeds at building tension, Insidious: Chapter 3 never rises above mediocrity.  

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Insidious: Chapter 3 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a crystal clear picture, skin tones are always natural-looking while, detail in costumes and set decoration are splendid.  From excellently saturated colors to the dark explorations of The Further, black levels are astoundingly inky and free of any digital noise.  With no anomalies on display, Insidious: Chapter 3 appears hauntingly perfect.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is exceptionally crisp while music cues and startling jump scares offer a shrieking depth that greatly impresses the entire runtime.  Special features include, Origin Story: Making Chapter 3 (19:04), Stunts: The Car Crash (9:35), Macabre Creations (8:58), Cherry Glazerr: Tiptoe Through the Tulips (5:16), Being Haunted: A Psychic Medium Speaks (11:34) and Deleted Scenes (5:16).  Additionally, Previews for The Final Girls (2:48), Air (2:12), Risen (1:31), Extinction (1:59), Lake Placid VS. Anaconda (1:37) and Broken Horses (2:35) are included along with a Digital HD Code.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Insidious: Chapter 3 can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Spaced Invaders (1990)

    Director: Patrick Read Johnson

    Starring: Douglas Barr, Royal Dano, Gregg Berger & Ariana Richards

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Co-produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures label and Smart Egg Pictures (Critters), Spaced Invaders finds a quiet midwestern community uprooted on Halloween night by a crew of misguided martians mistaking Orson Welles’ infamous The War of the Worlds radio broadcast as a call for hostile takeover of the human infested planet.  Hip yet wet behind the ears, the mini martians find themselves on a series of unexpected misadventures as they attempt to return to their home planet safely.  Marking the inaugural feature of Director Patrick Read Johnson (Baby’s Day Out, Angus), Spaced Invaders takes the zaniness of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and sci-fi shenanigans of Howard the Duck to deliver an over the top space comedy for preteens.  While attempting to invade Earth, the five dimwitted martians quickly realize their nonthreatening, Halloween costume appearances doesn’t bode well for them as new kid in town Kathy (Ariana Richards, Jurassic Park), dressed in full Alien garb, befriends the green visitors.  As Kathy’s sheriff father (Douglas Barr, Deadly Blessing) and the elderly Mr. Wrenchmuller (Royal Dano, The Dark Half) eventually suspect invaders from Mars are in town, the young girl seeks to help her new friends return home much to the dismay of their ship’s Enforcer Drone committed to seeing Earth in ruins and the martians pay for their failures.  Silly although rarely humorous, Spaced Invaders makes attempts to appear hip to its then audience but, stumbles at every turn.  While its animatronic effects are generally pleasing and reminds viewers of a more charming time for movie magic, Spaced Invaders tends to overstay its welcome by its final act, dragging its feet to see the martians make their expected getaway back to Mars. 

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents Spaced Invaders with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably dated, flakes, speckles and occasional vertical lines are on display while skin tones are decently relayed with mediocre detail.  Bolder colors such as bright reds pop reasonably well although others appear rather drab.  Meanwhile, black levels possess their share of speckling and fail to bolster more pleasing, inkier results.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, sound is largely dull and unimpressive while dialogue is at least audible and free of any severely intruding factors.  Expectedly, no special features are included.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Spaced Invaders can be purchased via MillCreekDirect.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

    Director: Francis Ford Coppola

    Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins & Keanu Reeves

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blending the narrative of Bram Stoker’s iconic tale and the factual history of Vlad the Impaler, Bram Stoker’s Dracula centers on the tragic Transylvanian prince (Gary Oldman, Sid and Nancy) as he travels to 19th-century London in search of love.  After an encounter with the radiant Mina (Winona Ryder, Edward Scissorhands) who bears a striking resemblance to his late wife, Count Dracula’s overwhelming passion brings darkness and horror to those who care for Mina.  Drenched in gothic atmosphere with an acute sense of detail, Director Francis Ford Coppola’s (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) exceptional adaptation successfully paints its antagonist less as a bloodsucking monster but more a tragic Shakespearean figure audiences empathize with.  Brilliantly performed by Gary Oldman, Count Dracula’s unique costume designs and deliciously offbeat makeup brings to life a one of a kind interpretation of the grim character.  In addition, the supporting thespians including, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins as an eccentric Van Helsing and Tom Waits as the deranged Renfield deliver excellent performances while Keanu Reeves’ Jonathan Harker serves as the sole casting miscalculation.  Although considered cliché today, Reeves poor English accent and flat performance consistently removes audiences from the otherwise mesmerizing film.  Insistent on utilizing practical effects from luscious matte paintings to various in-camera techniques, Director Francis Ford Coppola achieves an array of visual splendor that captivates audiences.  Deservedly earning itself three Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Best Sound Effects Editing, Coppola’s erotically charged and frighteningly surreal adaptation has aged considerably well, living on as one of the more ambitious retellings of the Count’s fateful saga.

    Following its previously subpar release, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Newly mastered in 4K, the results are night are day with impressive textures, excellently inky black levels and naturally fitting skin tones.  While a minor framing adjustment is present on the release, it’s hardly deal breaking to excuse the overwhelmingly positive attributes to the transfer.  Further complimented by sharper detail and beautifully relayed colors to better highlight the various costume designs and ever-changing lighting effects, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has never looked better.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, audio is pitch perfect with flawless dialogue levels and Composer Wojciech Kilar’s (The Ninth Gate) empowering score enthralling listeners.  In addition, hushed tones, thunderous sound effects and eerie ambiance all excel with proper balance and effectiveness.  The bountiful special features include, an Introduction by Director Francis Ford Coppola (3:55), a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola, Visual Effects Director Roman Coppola & Makeup Supervisor Greg Cannom as well as a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola.  Additionally, newly included featurettes Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (29:11) and Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son (20:07) are joined by previously available supplements The Blood is the Life: The Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (27:48), The Costumes are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka (14:02), In Camera: Naïve Visual Effects (18:46), Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula (12:06), Deleted & Extended Scenes (28:14) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:36).  Lastly, a Digital HD Code closes out the release’s gratifying supplemental package.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Bram Stoker’s Dracula can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Student Bodies (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Student Bodies (1981)

    Director: Mickey Rose

    Starring: Kristen Riter, Matt Goldsby, Joe Flood, Joe Talarowski & Jerry Belson

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Making light of the popular slasher genre, Student Bodies takes place at Lamab High School where a dimwitted serial killer, nicknamed The Breather, makes the more promiscuous teens his prey.  When good girl Toby (Kristen Riter) begins to unravel the mystery, everyone is considered a suspect in this horror parody.  

    As Paramount Pictures reaped the box-office benefits of Friday the 13th, the studio quickly shifted to mock the popular body count pictures only a year later.  Kicking off on Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis’ birthday, a bizarre serial killer with severe breathing trouble stakes his claim on the sexually-partaking students of Lamab High School.  With an array of deadly devices at his disposal, The Breather instead makes paperclips, trash bags and eggplant his weapons of choice to tidy up the horny student body.  Best known for its gag of keeping track of its death toll including the swatting of a fly counting as half a kill, Student Bodies leaves no character free of eccentricities with teachers, parents and the uniquely double-jointed janitor Malvert all suspected as the killer.  Following slasher movie tropes, the virginal final girl Toby (Riter) takes matters into her own hands to discover the identity of The Breather while simultaneously being accused as the culprit.  

    Effected by an industry strike during its making, Mickey Rose (Co-Writer of Woody Allen’s Bananas) was credited as sole writer and director although, Michael Richie (The Bad News Bears, Fletch) was in fact its lead director.  Silly yet, lacking any sizable laughs, Student Bodies is a parody with its head cut off, intent on making fun of slasher cinema but too reliant on arbitrary gags that never fully pay off.  A box-office bust at the time of its release, Student Bodies would find a second life for insomniacs on late night television.  With a bloodless body count yet hilariously earning itself an R-rating for the silliest of reasons, Student Bodies concludes with a fever dream of delusion that makes the bulk of its runtime nearly void.  Predating the popular parodical Scary Movie series, Student Bodies, haphazardly attempts to craft a horror-comedy hybrid that, much like its moronic killer, never quite catches it breath.

    Olive Films presents Student Bodies with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably possessing specks and flakes throughout its runtime, colors appear occasionally washed out but, not nearly deal-breaking.  With natural grain intact, Student Bodies is far from pristine looking but satisfies.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is serviceable with audibility never a problem.  Meanwhile, sound effects of loud ringing phones, high school band instruments and shattering glass offer a slight burst in impact that is fitting.  No special features are included on this release.

    RATING: 2.5/5

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

  • The Last American Virgin (1982) Blu-ray Review

    The Last American Virgin (1982)

    Director: Boaz Davidson

    Starring: Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin, Steve Antin, Joe Rubbo & Louisa Moritz

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the brightly colored 1980s of Los Angeles, The Last American Virgin centers on three best friends, lovestruck virgin Gary (Lawrence Monoson, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter), chick magnet Rick (Steve Antin, The Goonies) and jokester David (Joe Rubbo, Hot Chili) as they navigate the emotional waters of high school in pursuit of love, parties and sex.  Diane Franklin (Better Off Dead…), Kimmy Robertson (Twin Peaks), Brian Peck (The Return of the Living Dead) and Louisa Moritz (Death Race 2000) co-star.

    Based upon Israel’s popular Lemon Popsicle franchise, The Last American Virgin kicks off as a series of sex comedy clichés finding our three horny teenage leads in search of equally promiscuous females.  From awkwardly hilarious attempts to woo ladies with mock cocaine to joyriding in a pink station wagon and contracting crabs from a lady of the night, the hijinks of teenage hormones is never scarce.  After falling head over heels for the beautiful Karen (Franklin), Gary’s (Monoson) admiration from afar is crushed following best friend Rick’s (Antin) swift moves on her.  Emotionally conflicted, Gary is caught between his genuine feelings for Karen and jealousy towards Rick who views his new girlfriend as merely a source of sexual pleasure.  In a dramatic third act change of gears, The Last American Virgin finds Karen in a fragile predicament with Gary as her only source of support.  Fully devoted to Karen in her desperate time of need, suggested sparks of romance blossom between them.

    Boasting arguably one of the most memorable soundtracks of the decade with top-charting talent including, Blondie, Oingo Boingo, Journey, The Police and REO Speedwagon, The Last American Virgin packs sufficient skin and laughs while remarkably emerging as an honest and heartbreaking account of those tender teenage years.  In one of the more striking tonal shifts in 80s coming-of-age cinema, The Last American Virgin continues to endure for its acute ability to capture the delight and suffering of youth and why it’s all so hard to give up in the end.

    Olive Films presents The Last American Virgin with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of muddier appearances in dim lighting, skin tones appear generally warm and eye-pleasing.  Brightly colored costume choices pop nicely as does the neon lighting found in the film’s diner sequences.  With natural grain evident, occasional instances of flakes, speckles and mild softness are on display yet never overly distracting.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue tends to be overshadowed at times by the film’s popular soundtrack.  Similar to past home video releases, the inclusion of Human League’s “Love Action (I Believe in Love)” has once again been substituted by Devo’s “Whip It” while the remainder of songs are intact and pleasantly robust.  Most glaring in comparison to recently stacked overseas editions, no special features are included on this domestic release much to the disappointment of viewers.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Olive Films, The Last American Virgin can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.  

  • Foxy Brown (1974) Blu-ray Review

    Foxy Brown (1974)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Peter Brown, Terry Carter, Kathryn Loder & Sid Haig

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blaxploitation bombshell Pam Grier (Coffy) reteams with Director Jack Hill in Foxy Brown.  High on revenge following the murder of her government agent boyfriend, Foxy goes deep undercover into the seedy world of sex trafficking to make those responsible pay with their lives.  Antonio Fargas (Car Wash), Peter Brown (Teenage Tease), Terry Carter (The Phil Silvers Show), Kathryn Loder (Night of the Witches) and Sid Haig (House of 1,000 Corpses) co-star.

    Following the success of Coffy, American International Pictures hoped to recapture the excitement with a sequel before ditching the idea for an original concept.  With Director Jack Hill and star Pam Grier back in the fold, Foxy Brown may not feel wholly original from their previous collaboration but, most certainly excels in every way.  After her delinquent brother offers up her government agent boyfriend as debt clearance, Foxy Brown is determined to take her revenge.  While her occupation is never revealed, Foxy is a whole lot of woman that is capable of handling herself and anyone who steps in her way.  Adorned with flashy outfits and an even more empowering attitude, Pam Grier once again bears her assets to tantalize her way into a sex trafficking ring linked with high-level drug kingpins.  Grier appears more confident in her role as an independent soul that not only thoroughly entertains but, liberated female audiences during the turbulent decade.  With its theme of revenge carried over from Hill’s previous effort, Foxy Brown is noticeably more extreme with Foxy submitted to forced heroin injections and suggested rape only to respond accordingly by lighting her attackers on fire.  In addition, teaming up with a gang of neighborhood avengers, Foxy castrates a criminal in order to deliver his manparts to his prostitute ring leading girlfriend.  Effective and even more savage much to the delight of exploitation enthusiasts, Foxy Brown has little time for jive, delivering viewers one of blaxploitation’s finest and arguably, Grier’s most entertaining performance.

    Olive Films presents Foxy Brown with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Accompanied with fleeting instances of flakes and speckles, the flashy colors found in wardrobe pop nicely with skin tones and detail in facial features benefitting from its hi-def upgrade.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is pleasing while sequences taking place in a crowded bar suffer slightly from too many components overwhelming the track.  Unfortunately, once again surrendering to overseas releases overflowing with supplements, Olive Films provides no special features on this release.

    The creative combination of Director Jack Hill and leading lady Pam Grier has been cemented in the history of cinema as grindhouse gold.  Slicker, sexier and more violent, Foxy Brown stands as one of blaxploitation’s towering achievements and a standout role for Grier that made her an eternal pillar for 42nd Street.  Making its U.S. debut on Blu-ray, Olive Films delivers a transfer well worth celebrating while, the lack of bonus content disappoints.  The strength and essentialness of the film itself warrants Foxy Brown into every blaxploitation fans‘ collection.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 9th from Olive Films, Foxy Brown can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Coffy (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Coffy (1973)

    Director: Jack Hill

    Starring: Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw, Robert DoQui, William Elliott & Sid Haig

    Released by: Olive Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From grindhouse directing icon Jack Hill (Spider Baby, The Big Bird Cage), Coffy stars Pam Grier as Nurse “Coffy” Coffin.  Determined to extract revenge on the drug pushers that hooked her young sister, Coffy uses her undeniable body language and arsenal of heavy firepower to take back the night from society’s scum.  Booker Bradshaw (The Strawberry Statement), Robert DoQui (Robocop), William Elliott (Night of the Lepus), Allan Arbus (Greaser’s Palace) and Sid Haig (The Devil’s Rejects) co-star.

    Following appearances in several women in prison pictures, Pam Grier would graduate to become one of the fiercest and most beloved icons of blaxploitation cinema.  Shot in a remarkable 18 days and centering on a liberated nurse disgusted with the seedy criminals poisoning society, Nurse “Coffy” Coffin (Grier) takes matters into her own hands to avenge the corruption of her young sister to junkies and their organization.  Demanding your attention from its earliest moments, Grier is a magnetic force of beauty that never shies from using her sexuality to con pimps and dealers before putting a bullet in them.  Simple in its execution with revenge her top priority, the stakes are elevated when thugs land Coffy’s longtime copper friend Carter (Elliott) in the hospital.  Displeased with ridding the city of only street level hustlers, Coffy decides to infiltrate drug kingpins with ties to corrupt city officials.  Engulfed in a world of prostitutes and narcotics, Coffy delivers a glorious highlight reel of exploitation from seedy characters and scantly clad women to a barrage of shootouts and an empowered protagonist that talks the talk and walks the walk.  Ever resourceful with razors stashed in her afro and bursting with nonstop attitude, Coffy is a landmark blaxploitation effort that catapulted Grier’s career to new heights and remains one of her most entertaining and enduring works.

    Olive Films presents Coffy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Exhibiting instances of flakes and speckles, Director Jack Hill’s low-budget effort retains a nice layer of grain while relaying natural skin tones and warm colors.  Black levels are respectable with flakes only slightly more apparent but far from discouraging.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is free of any troubling distortion but occasionally sounds restrained.  Unfortunately, unlike overseas counterparts bursting with bonus content, Olive Films‘ release arrives with no special features.

    Applauded for its tough female lead and exceptional exploitative highlights, Coffy set star Pam Grier on a road to stardom that is still revered today.  Serving as one of the finest examples from blaxploitation’s heyday, Coffy’s vigilante tale of revenge dished out by the baddest chick on the block packs the punches to deserve its rightful praise amongst grindhouse aficionados.  Making its long-awaited domestic HD debut, Olive Films delivers the film with appreciable looks and sounds but, drops the ball with zero special features for such a landmark picture of the 70s.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available June 9th from Olive Films, Coffy can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Supersoul Brother (1978) DVD Review

    Supersoul Brother (1978)

    Director: Rene Martinez

    Starring: Wildman Steve, Joycelyn Norris, Benny Latimore, Lee Cross & Peter Conrad

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In this sci-fi urban oddity, Supersoul Brother focuses on a duo of criminals investing in a dwarf-sized scientist to concoct a serum that grants superhuman abilities.  Easily convincing homeless wino Steve (Wildman Steve) to take the serum in order to assist in a jewel heist, Steve grows savvy to the deadly aftereffects of his injection and attempts to outsmart the thieves while creating an antidote to save his life.  

    Presented under its controversial title, The Six Thousand Dollar Nigger, Director Rene Martinez’s (The Guy from Harlem) low-budget bizarro effort melds the worlds of science fiction and comedy to deliver a most unusual caper film.  Rambunctious Wildman Steve (Ain’t That Just Like a Honkey!) stars as a desperate drunk who hits the jackpot when Ben (Benny Latimore) and Jim (Lee Cross) sway him to be their guinea pig in a $6,000 investment.  Developing a revolutionary formula that grants immeasurable strength, cigar chomping midget Dr. Dippy (Peter Conrad, The Funhouse) has been tasked by his criminal investors to inject the serum into Steve in order to pull off a lucrative jewel heist.  Also credited as dialogue supervisor, Wildman Steve lives up to his name and is a hilarious force of uncontrollable energy that lets his libido and profane dialect do the talking.  Overwhelmed with his new luxurious accommodations and taking a noticeable liking to Dr. Dippy’s assistant Peggy (Joycelyn Norris), Steve agrees to take part in the heist only to discover his accomplices’ ulterior plans.  Concerned for both his and Peggy’s well-being, this is one super brother that won’t go down easily.

    Filmed in Miami, Supersoul Brother’s plot is as basic as it gets but, handsomely delivers in its many eccentricities and hilarious dialogue.  Silly and soulful, Wildman Steve keeps the humor in steady supply with his clear desires for barbecued grub and persistent charm that successfully pops Peggy’s cherry.  Straying near the farther skirts of traditional blaxploitation, Supersoul Brother adheres to its promotional campaign of a sexy stud transformed into a black Superman that will keep viewers weirdly invested thanks to Wildman’s zany personality.

    Scanned and restored in 2K, Vinegar Syndrome, in conjunction with The American Genre Film Archive, presents Supersoul Brother in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio utilizing AGFA’s 35mm theatrical print.  Showing its mileage, Supersoul Brother is littered with excessive scratches, tears and cigarette burns.  Grindhouse quality damage aside, the film manages to demonstrate instances of solid detail in closeups with colors varying from strong to washed out, most noticeably in exterior sequences.  A far cry from the majority of Vinegar Syndrome’s impressive transfers, Supersoul Brother’s weathered appearance does lend a charm to its viewing experience for such an obscure effort.  Accompanied with a Dolby Digital 1.0 mix, static is heavily present making a vast increase in volume a necessity.  Brief audio dropouts and occasional muffled moments are also prevalent making dialogue at times difficult but, never impossible.  In addition, no special features are included on this release.

    Marking its first authorized DVD release, Supersoul Brother is a peculiar exploitation offering that will provoke as much laughter as it will raise eyebrows with Wildman Steve’s off the wall humor and unstoppable mouth making the film as racy and enjoyable as it is.  A match made in exploitation heaven, Vinegar Syndrome and The American Genre Film Archive’s collaboration to deliver this oddball effort is one that likeminded viewers will revel in.  While the technical end of the release is a notch below what some may expect, its beat to hell presentation adds an air of nostalgia back to a time where ratty film prints thrived and 42nd Street was dangerous.  Super weird and super outrageous, Super Soulbrother deserves a spot in cult lovers collections.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available April 14th from Vinegar Syndrome, Supersoul Brother can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Gone with the Pope (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Gone with the Pope (1976)

    Director: Duke Mitchell

    Starring: Duke Mitchell, Peter Milo, Jim LoBianco, Giorgio Tavolieri, John Murgia & Lorenzo Darado

    Released by: Grindhouse Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Lost for over 30 years, nightclub performer Duke Mitchell would once again don several hats in his directorial followup, Gone with the Pope.  Mitchell stars as Paul, a paroled gangster with a near impossible scheme to kidnap the Pope and charge every Catholic for his safe return.  Unfinished at the time of Mitchell’s death in 1981, Gone with the Pope lives once again as its creators exploitation swan song.

    Highlighting the exploits of criminals serving decades behind bars, Gone with the Pope finds Writer/Producer/Director Duke Mitchell starring as Paul, a recently paroled man with no choice but to revert back to his former lifestyle.  Loyal to his friends still serving time and attempting to ensure their survival on the outside, Paul accepts a $50,000 job to wipe out several casino owners in Los Angeles while, his brother Giorgio (Giorgio Tavolieri) takes out the others in Las Vegas.  Simultaneously rekindling a romance with wealthy widow Jean (Jeanne Hibbard), Paul, with his hard-earned money in tow, borrows his lover’s yacht to sail his recently released cellmates to Rome for a ransom like no other.  Determined to abduct the Pope from the Vatican in order to demand one dollar from every Catholic in the world, Paul finds himself on an existential journey that questions his choices and sins while attempting to better his life and those closest to him.  Sliding comfortably back into the fictional realm of gangsters, Duke Mitchell’s final effort ensures more bullet blasting bloodshed and the comical side of former prisoners sowing their wild oats including, a hilarious sexual encounter with an overweight female and Mitchell’s oh so offensive yet, highly engaging dialogue with a sexy black prostitute.

    Ambitiously shot in California, Las Vegas, Rome and appearing far more flashy than its budget would suggest, Gone with the Pope continues to finesse the emerging cinematic voice of Duke Mitchell who was sadly combatting lung cancer during production.  Comprised of nonprofessional, most of whom never acted again, the thespians deliver a naturalism fitting to the film’s eccentric atmosphere and positively cool leading man.  For all its noticeably charming drive-in qualities, Duke Mitchell proves his way with words in the aforementioned encounter with a prostitute and his heated distaste for the Catholic Church vented to his Eminence.  As Paul and his brothers in crime succeed with their kidnapping, the Pope’s presence effects the group in various ways leading Paul to restore balance in his own life through means of unapologetic violence.  Concluding rather abstractly with Paul unable to fully escape his sins, Gone with the Pope is a holy grail discovery for cult enthusiasts that was discovered in a garage in its unfinished state.  Adored with love and spending nearly a life sentence restoring it back to existence, Gone with the Pope beautifully compliments Duke Mitchell’s Massacre Mafia Style like spaghetti and meatballs with all the exploitation and swagger Mitchell is now rightfully being praised for.

    Restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Grindhouse Releasing debuts Gone with the Pope in its long-awaited Blu-ray release with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Having sat in a garage for years, the elements astound with rich skin tones and popping colors from the lights of the Las Vegas strip to the bright blue sea water as Paul and his cellmates sail to Rome.  While inherent unfocused moments occur with minor speckling during a brief strip club sequence, black levels appear inky and visible.  Bearing an absolutely filmic quality and striking detail, Gone with the Pope’s transfer is dynamite!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Gone with the Pope generally satisfies with efficient dialogue levels that only encounter brief instances of muffled quality.  Delighting with a mix of orchestrated horns and rocking guitars, its score is a more solid example of the track’s finest aspects.  In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes have also been included.  Grindhouse Releasing once again rolls out the red carpet for another splendid array of special features including, Gone with the Pope: The Players (66:52), Shooting Gone with the Pope (23:18), Restoring Gone with the Pope (3:14), seven Deleted Scenes (17:18), Out-Takes (12:41), Inserts (6:11) prefaced by Cinematographer Peter Santoro, Frankie Carr & The Nove-Eltes Live in Vegas (8:15), Hollywood World Premiere (20:48) from March 12, 2010 with a cast and crew hosted Q&A.  In addition, a Theatrical Trailer (2:00), two Still Galleries consisting of 69 images in total, a Duke Mitchell Filmography, Grindhouse Releasing Prevues, an Easter Egg Interview (2:25) hidden in the Set Up section of the disc joined by Linear Notes by John Skipp with a reversible poster and DVD edition of the release wrap up the supplemental offerings.

    For what seems like an eternity of anticipation, Grindhouse Releasing’s exceptional care and preservation of Duke Mitchell’s final curtain call has been well worth the wait.  Wonderfully restored and boasting a variety of audio options, the expansive special features only enlighten and increase the appreciation of its source material.  Unlike most other exploitation offerings, Gone with the Pope combines crime elements and friendship with religion and faith to deliver a one of a kind gem only a Duke could produce.  If there’s one cult discovery well worth praying to, it’s Gone with the Pope.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Grindhouse Releasing, Gone with the Pope can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Going Under (2004) Blu-ray Review

    Going Under (2004)

    Director: Eric Werthman

    Starring: Roger Rees, Geno Lechner & Miho Nikaido

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the underground world of S&M dungeons, Going Under centers on Peter (Roger Rees, The Prestige), a married psychotherapist, and Suzanne (Geno Lechner, Schindler’s List), a professional dominatrix.  Engaged in a rule abiding affair of carnal pleasure and sexual dominance, the two tortured souls decide to see each other in the outside world.  As the line between fantasy and reality blurs, Peter’s rampant obsession matched with the revelation of Suzanne’s own skeletons sends the pair on a dark journey of self-exploration.  

    Erotic and revealing, Going Under investigates the dark realms of fetishized fantasies for those daring to explore their sexuality.  Set in the city that never sleeps, Roger Rees stars as withdrawn psychotherapist Peter, in search of sexual fulfillment and unabashed dominance.  Journeying into the world of S&M dungeons, Peter encounters the hauntingly beautiful Suzanne (Lechner), a leather-donning dominatrix, prepared to fulfill Peter’s fantasies by any means necessary.  Utilizing real New York City fetish dungeons, Going Under plays far more psychologically showcasing the emotional strain and obsession Peter experiences after Suzanne agrees to finally meet him on the outside world.  Genuinely fixated with Suzanne while, combating the desires he had fulfilled in the dungeons, Peter’s determination to be with Suzanne is often met with resistance.  A struggling artist with a worrisome girlfriend, Suzanne harbors her own dark past involving the bond shared with her late father and broken relationship with her mother.  Although, Suzanne is as willing to engage with Peter on the outside, her scattered feelings and constant change of heart only fuels Peter’s obsession to be with her more.  Married with a child, Peter’s wife is aware of his ulterior lifestyle but, does little to dissuade him from engaging in it.  What began as a professional interest has slowly crossed into a very personal part of Peter’s life without causing any discernible harm to those closest to him.  While, Rees and Lechner convey bold performances, Going Under miscalculates by not fleshing out Peter’s background to allow insight into his growing desires with S&M fetishes.  In addition, Peter’s home life and acknowledged but, noticeably absent daughter is a missed opportunity that could have benefitted substantial drama to the picture had they been explored more heavily.

    Shining a heavy light on the taboo culture, Going Under explores the leather-bound spankings and piercing pleasures that thrive in these underground circles.  Rees bravely bears all while partaking in his unordinary turn-ons as the submissive with Lechner dominating said scenes with sexual authority.  Eye-opening to many, Going Under is not nearly as smutty as one would think, taking its sexual risks only so far.  Shot by first time director Eric Werthman, Going Under takes the dark and often misconceived world of S&M culture and unravels a tale of tortured individuals longing for desire.  Unfortunately, Going Under makes several missteps including, underdeveloped backstories for its characters and an unsatisfying conclusion, that could have propelled the film to a higher stature.  Although, the film pales in comparison to Radley Metzger’s explicit submissive/dominate masterpiece The Image, Going Under still maintains its authenticity by shooting in real bondage locations and rewarding the viewer with earnest performances from Rees and Lechner.

    Blue Underground presents Going Under with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Shot on 35mm, Going Under looks natural with healthy skin tones and moderate detail.  Transferred from a somewhat dated master, the film’s black levels slightly suffer with minor noise appearing in several dimly lit scenes.  Otherwise blemish free, Going Under makes a suitable leap to high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue levels are clear and free of any hiss or dropouts with New York City ambiance relayed nicely yet, never overbearing.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track has also been provided.  Ported over from Blue Underground’s previous 2007 DVD release, special features include an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Eric Werthman & Star Roger Rees, Pushing the Boundaries capturing interviews with Stars Roger Rees and Geno Lechner (16:37), NYC Black & Blue Ball gives viewers a fly on the wall perspective of New York’s annual fetish celebration (5:55) plus, a Theatrical Trailer (3:14) and Teaser Trailer (1:27) round out the supplemental package.

    Unquestionably capitalizing on the phenomena of Fifty Shades of Grey and its upcoming Hollywood interpretation, 2004’s Going Under weaves a decent tale of erotic obsession and explicit fetishes with notable performances from Roger Rees and Geno Lechner.  Lacking a strong handle on character development, Director Eric Werthman’s sole effort shortchanges itself from becoming something truly special.  Meanwhile, Blue Underground’s high-definition release contains a satisfying transfer, well-balanced sound mix and all the previous DVD supplements carried over.  Mildly engaging amongst its narrative issues, Going Under still manages to be a decent footnote in cinema’s exploration of S&M culture.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now, Going Under can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Prisoner of Paradise (1980) DVD Review

    Prisoner of Paradise (1980)

    Director(s): Bob Chinn & Gail Palmer

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE:

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Theatrical Trailer (3:50)

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

    RATING: 1.5/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Grindhouse Trailer Classics (2014) DVD Review

    Grindhouse Trailer Classics (2014)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Intervision Picture Corp.

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The memories and output of grindhouse cinemas have managed to stay afloat, many years after the Deuce’s demise and family friendly rebirth.  For every cannibal classic or sleazy stinker that was discovered on 42nd Street’s dingy theaters, a trailer planted the tiny seed of growing interest in cinemagoers’ subconscious.  Often advertised with empty promises, the trailers for grindhouse entertainment promised viewers the world and than some with varying results.  Intervision Picture Corp. proudly presents Grindhouse Trailer Classics, a compilation of the sleaziest and thoroughly entertaining trailers to emerge from the 1960s and 1970s Times Square scene.  

    Before your feature presentation, there was always trailers.  Grindhouse Trailer Classics compiles 55 of the most violent, sexy, gory and action-packed trailers that were projected during the Deuce’s most thriving years of the 1960s and 1970s.  Over two hours of mind-bending, celluloid entertainment awaits lovers of the seediest days of trash cinema in this wild collection.

    MOVIE:

    With the advent of the internet and YouTube, locating the latest or most obscure movie trailers is only a click away.  Preservers of grindhouse cinema have much to appreciate in this high-octane compilation of some of the best trailers to emerge from the Deuce’s heyday.  Nicely collected and presented as one giant loop, Grindhouse Trailer Classics serves not only as a terrific resource for these films‘ original marketing campaign but, as the perfect ambience for any get-together amongst friends or an annual Halloween bash.  Drawn in by dramatic narration and the imagery of scantly clad women, ferocious monsters or kung-fu fighting martial artists, Grindhouse Trailer Classics is sure appeal to any serious fan of offbeat cinema and introduce others to a wealth of unforgettable B-movie flicks.  Grindhouse Trailer Classics comes equipped with a whopping 55 trailers to rip your guts out, including:

    • I Drink Your Blood / I Eat Your Skin
    • Blood Splattered Bride / I Dismember Mama
    • Switchblade Sisters
    • Caged Heat
    • Eyeball
    • Deranged
    • The Big Doll House
    • Bury Me An Angel
    • The Last House on the Left
    • The Street Fighter
    • Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS
    • Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde
    • Don’t Open the Window
    • The Human Tornado
    • Caged Virgins
    • Ebony, Ivory and Jade
    • Deadly Weapons
    • Torso
    • They Call Her One Eye
    • Deathship
    • Master of the Flying Guillotine
    • They Came from Within
    • The Thing with Two Heads
    • I Spit on Your Grave
    • Sweet Sugar
    • Girls for Rent
    • The Toolbox Murders
    • The Executioner
    • House of Whipcord
    • Truck Turner
    • God Told Me To
    • Doctor Butcher M.D.
    • Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things
    • Night of the Bloody Apes
    • Bloodsucking Freaks
    • Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Shieks
    • The Single Girls
    • The Corpse Grinders
    • Zombie
    • Coffy
    • The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak
    • The Legend of the Wolf Woman
    • Satan’s Sadists
    • Disco Godfather
    • Let Me Die a Woman
    • The Doll Squad
    • Secrets of Sweet Sixteen
    • Cannonball
    • Autopsy
    • Fight For Your Life
    • Love Me Deadly
    • Wham!  Bam!  Thank You, Spaceman!
    • Shogun Assassin
    • Three on a Meathook
    • Journey into the Beyond

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Grindhouse Trailer Classics is presented with an anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Varying in quality, each trailer is riddled with scratches and lines, some worse than others, but never deterring from the viewing experience.  Understandably, the anomalies in grindhouse features and their trailers are as beloved as their content, making this compilation exactly as you hoped it would look.

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, the trailers compliment their rough visual appearance with some encountering minor hiss and pops in their audio.  Never deal-breaking, these trailers sound as good as one could expect.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Bump ‘N Grind - Emily Booth Explores the World of Grindhouse (18:30): Cult presenter, Emily Booth, is your guide in this nutshell journey through grindhouse cinema history.  Breezy and informative, Booth works from a script provided by Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents.

    • Grindhouse Poster Gallery: 29 slides showcasing all the glorious one-sheet artwork for the films found in this compilation.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:

    While, repeat viewings may not occur as frequently, Grindhouse Trailer Classics is an enormously fun journey through 55 of the kookiest genre films to emerge from the sleazy paradise of 42nd Street and such.  Appearing in gloriously vintage shape and paired with an educational crash course in Deuce cinema from Emily Booth, Grindhouse Trailer Classics serves as a terrific historical resource and a superb conversation starter during Halloween parties. From dusk ‘till dawn, Grindhouse Trailer Classics is worthy of admission into your cult library.

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

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

    Director(s): Unknown

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

    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE(s):

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 2.5/5

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

    RATING: -/5

    EXTRAS:

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

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:                                     

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

    RATING: 3/5 

  • Varsity Blood (2013) DVD Review

    Varsity Blood (2014)

    Director: Jake Helgren

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

    Released by: Image Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE:

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

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

    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 2.5/5

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

    Purely Physical (1982) / Cathouse Fever (1984)

    Director: Chris Warfield

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE(s):

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Purely Physical Trailer

    - Cathouse Fever Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Tropic of Desire (1979) / Fantasy World (1979) DVD Review

    Tropic of Desire (1979) / Fantasy World (1979)

    Director(s): Bob Chinn / Bob Chinn & Jeffrey Neal

    Starring: Georgina Spelvin, Jesie St. James & Kitty Shayne / Laurien Dominique, Sharon Cain & Jon Martin

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Packing a double dose of Bob Chinn skin flicks, the purveyors of pornography, Vinegar Syndrome, invite you to their latest Peekarama offering.  A World War II period piece set in the exotic locale of Hawaii joined by a trippy sexual romp more exotic than Fantasy Island await curious minds.  Restored in 2K from their original camera negatives, Vinegar Syndrome will whisk you away with Tropic of Desire and Fantasy World

    Starring Georgina Spelvin (Erotic Adventures of Candy) as the house mom, Tropic of Desire centers on an island-based brothel serving WWII soldiers the very finest in sexual pleasure.  Fantasy World focuses on two groups of friends as their curiosity leads them to a mysterious club in San Francisco where their sexual fantasies become realities.  Lauren Dominique (Hot Legs), Jesie St. James (Talk Dirty to Me) and Sharon Cain (When She Was Bad) star.

    MOVIE(s):

    Set in Director Bob Chinn’s home turf of Hawaii, Tropic of Desire takes place in 1945 during the height of World War II.  Frances‘ is the hottest brothel in town for passing sailors serving their country in search of pleasurable relief.  Stocked with attractive ladies, a group of Navy sailors return to the comfort of the brothel after a long stint at sea.  Jack (Jon Martin) couldn’t be happier to see Donna (Jesie St. James) and get down to business while, Gus (Ken Cotton) wallows in despair at the sudden departure of his favorite whore and lone virgin, Phil (David Blair), loses his nerves.  Tropic of Desire remains relatively light on dialogue opting to focus on the more provocative.  House mother, Frances (Georgina Spelvin), enjoys pleasuring herself by humping a pillow before breaking in Rita’s replacement with oral pleasure.  Meanwhile, the sailors have a gay, old time as Jack reaps the fruits of Donna’s blow job before fornicating and Phil gains an extreme sexual stamina after shedding his virginal wings.  Befriending a fellow soldier, Gus gets over his depression and the two military men sit back with two of Frances‘ finest to witness some highly unusual stag films.  The two get lucky in a variety of ways but surprisingly, the stag film that finds a man losing his watch in a woman after deeply fisting her is what keeps the viewers eyes glued in awe.  Nicely shot with a captivating array of ladies on display, Tropic of Desire is very paint by numbers as far as sexual scenarios are concerned.  A mediocre effort, the film does conclude with a hilarious, poorly staged brawl between a group of Marines and the sailors.

    RATING: 3/5

    Utilizing some of the same sets and actors, Fantasy World yet again finds a trio of Navy sailors hatching the best way to get their rocks off for the evening.  Meanwhile, three beautiful girls touring San Francisco seek some live sexual entertainment for the night as well.  Both groups find themselves at the mysterious Fantasy World nightclub where your most bizarre fantasies become reality.  Hosted by an eccentric MC wearing a white suit and matching face paint, the audience is witness to live reenactments of Adam and Eve that includes Eve getting extra friendly with a real snake before consummating with Adam.  Eventually, members of the two parties are invited on stage to experience their deepest desires.  One sailor longs for the sexual companionship of two women while, one women’s extreme horniness finds her happily administering oral pleasure to several mystery men each with climactic results.  The more prudish and resilient female of the group finds herself in a dominatrix fantasy with the lone sailor as she whips him repeatedly before engaging in endless oral play and doggy style positioning.  The surreal and odd tone of the club makes for a slightly more engaging viewing experience.  The unusual, vaudeville-esque host of the club and the even weirder live sex performances of the evening at the very least make Fantasy World memorable.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Restored in 2K from their 35mm camera negatives, both films bear 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Each film looks most impressive sporting an overall clean appearance with minimal cases of scratches or debris.  Skin tones are near perfect with natural looking appearances and colors, most noticeable in actresses’ lipstick and nail polish, pop exceptionally well.  Black levels are slightly rougher in Fantasy World where the dark lightning of the club make flakes and speckles all the more noticeable but hardly deterring.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with Dolby Digital 1.0 mixes, this latest Peekarama effort maintains a light, static hiss throughout both films with only a few noticeable pops.  Dialogue is otherwise clear and audible with nothing left to interpretation.  In addition, more tantalizing sequences, relaying the swashing of tongues or other body parts is surprisingly crisper than anticipated.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Tropic of Desire Trailer

    - Fantasy World Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

    Another mature mash-up of erotic features from Vinegar Syndrome’s Peekarama line should get the job done for fans of Bob Chinn’s output.  While, nicely shot and invoking the exotic climate of Hawaii, Tropic of Desire is a slightly underwhelming effort with its greatest attributes being the attractive employees at Frances‘ and the humorous brawl at the film’s finale.  Meanwhile, Fantasy World makes good on its promise of being more erotic than the Ricardo Montalbán starring television show.  The Corman-like recycling of sets and actors matched with the peculiar host of the sexually charged nightclub make this effort a uniquely oddball piece of pornography.  The inspiration for Burt Reynolds’ Boogie Nights character, Vinegar Syndrome has done another fine service preserving more of iconic pornographer Bob Chinn’s output.

    RATING: 3/5

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

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

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

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

  • The Baby (1973) Blu-ray Review

    The Baby (1973)
    Director: Ted Post
    Starring: Anjanette Comer, Ruth Roman, Marianne Hill, Suzanne Zenor & David Manzy
    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The brainchild of Screenwriter Abe Polsky (Brute Corps) comes one of the most bizarre films to emerge from the 1970s.  Directed by Ted Post (Beneath the Planet of the Apes), this shocking suburban set tale will leave you hypnotized at what unfolds on screen.  Fully restored from the original negative, Severin Films proudly presents The Baby on Blu-ray for the first time ever!  

    The Baby stars Anjanette Comer (Lepke) as Ann Gentry, an L.A. county social worker assigned to the case of Mrs. Wadsworth (Ruth Roman).  Living with her two attractive daughters and mentally-handicapped adult son, known as “Baby”, who lives and acts like an infant, Ann realizes something is astray with this family and their treatment of Baby.  Unnatural attachments and sexual abuse are only the beginning for what Ann uncovers in this slice of 70s shock cinema.  Marianne Hill (Messiah of Evil), Suzanne Zenor (Lucky Lady) and David Manzy (Herbie Rides Again) as Baby co-star.

    MOVIE:
    Wildly unusual, The Baby weaves a unique tale of abuse with a social worker determined to save the abusee.  Ann Gentry (Comer) is tasked with the eccentric Mrs. Wadsworth and her severely retarded son, developmentally stunted to acting like a baby.  Genuinely intrigued, Ann believes she can help against the unwillingness of Mrs. Wadsworth and her two daughters.  The family has made a living abusing Baby at the hands of an electric prod, enforcing negative behavior on him to ensure his low intellect.  In addition, incestuous behavior is hinted at as sister, Germaine (Hill), disrobes and enters Baby’s crib.  Another strange sequence occurs when Baby’s babysitter consoles him by unexpectedly breast-feeding before Mrs. Wadsworth and her daughters emerge to brutally whip her.  Ruth Roman is perfectly cast as the raspy-voiced Mrs. Wadsworth.  Reminiscent of Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Roman captures an unstable mother with a devious stare in her eyes.  Rarely without a cigarette in hand, Roman steals the show as an emotional time-bomb ready to abuse anyone who crosses her path.  Marianne Hill and Suzanne Zenor compliment Roman as her two seductive yet, equally disturbed daughters.

    Tensions increase as Mrs. Wadsworth and company become incessantly irritated with Ann’s frequent visits.  Repressing a dark past of her own, Ann is committed to forging a new life for Baby.  Removing him from the demented clutches of his family, The Baby leads to a final act that feels more akin to a traditional horror film.  Mrs. Wadsworth and her daughters track Ann’s whereabouts to retrieve what’s rightfully theirs before a deadly final confrontation ensues.  The Baby is an unsettling picture that concludes on an equally twisted ending, never seen coming.  Stellar performances and sound writing make this abnormal film unlike anything you’ve seen before.  
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    The Baby is presented in a 1080p transfer with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of minor scratches, the film looks rather clean and sports a healthy grain layer.  The Baby is never overly colorful, instead opting for a more monotone color scheme which is relayed rather accurately.  Detail is nice in close-ups with black levels slightly soft yet, visible.  Restored from the same negative used for Severin Films‘ original DVD release, The Baby makes a marginal leap to the Blu-ray format with satisfactory results.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 Mono mix, The Baby relays dialogue clearly with only sporadic instances of static.  Composer Gerald Fried’s (I Bury the Living, Gilligan’s Island) classical sounding strings offer nice emphasis on more dramatic sequences and are nicely projected.  A decent mix that will surely suffice an obscure oddity like The Baby.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:
    All features found on Severin Films‘ past DVD release have been kindly ported over.

    - Tales from the Crib - Audio Interview with Director Ted Post: Post provides a chatty and informative 20-minute interview explaining Screenwriter Abe Polsky’s year-long pursuit of him to direct the project.  Post goes on to explain his original hesitation with taking on such a dim project before eventually signing on.  Casting and the sexual nature of the film are also discussed.

    - Baby Talk - Audio Interview with Star David Mooney: Mooney, credited as David Manzy, provides a 15-minute interview charting his earlier experiences on the Disney project, Herbie Rides Again, before landing his unique role in The Baby.  Mooney spent time observing mentally-handicapped children to prepare for his role.  In addition, chemistry amongst the cast and the occasional friction between Comer and Roman is also discussed.  

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Morbid and shocking, The Baby casts a deeply engaging spell of peculiarity that John Waters would be proud of.  Starring an all-star cast, with Ruth Roman stealing the show, The Baby draws you into its weird world of perversity, not letting go until its jaw-dropping finale.  While, not a drastic improvement, Severin Films has surprised fans with an HD boost to this highly recommended, unsettling flick that deserves to be cradled by offbeat cinema enthusiasts.
    RATING: 4.5/5

  • Bloody Birthday (1981) Blu-ray Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    - Theatrical Trailer

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

    - Erotic Adventures of Candy Original Theatrical Trailer

    - Candy Goes to Hollywood Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

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

  • Sugar Cookies (1973) Blu-ray Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

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

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

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

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Alternate Theatrical Trailer: Only on DVD.

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • The Chambermaids (1974) DVD Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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