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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.

  • Drive-In Massacre (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Drive-In Massacre (1976)

    Director: Stu Segall

    Starring: Jake Barnes, Adam Lawrence, Douglas Gudbye & Verkina Flowers

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Although bearing a glorified grindhouse moniker further personified by its gritty photography, Drive-In Massacre falls short of living up to its promise of exploitation excess.  Co-scripted by Back to the Future’s quintessential hobo George “Buck” Flower, a sweltering California drive-in is targeted by a sword-wielding madmen with a penchant for necking couples.  Kicking off with an impactful opening leaving the heads of unsuspecting lovers literally rolling, Drive-In Massacre quickly veers off course as a dull duo of detectives investigate the murders leading them down a rabbit hole of red herrings ranging from public ejaculators and bumbling maintenance men to no avail.  Unsurprisingly shot in less than a week, this smartly marketed indie effort makes little case in the realm of appealing characters and a slim body count that can’t only help but disappoint based on the film’s tagline deeming itself too terrifying for the average moviegoer.  While its classic drive-in and latter carnival filming locations make for nostalgic eye candy, Drive-In Massacre ultimately dawdles for much of its barely hour-long runtime before the coppers zero in on a warehouse where yet another machete-wielding red herring withholds a young woman.  Completely unrelated to their actual unknown suspect, the film’s “killer is still out there” sendoff not only feels cheap but, lacks any sort of punch actual drive-inners may have had shifting their ride into reverse by the end credits.  Notable for preceding the slasher craze and boasting an uncompromisingly eye-catching title, Drive-In Massacre can be appreciated for its humble efforts but, hardly leaves a true developmental mark on the genre.

    Newly restored from the original camera negative, Severin Films presents Drive-In Massacre with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Although sporadic instances of scuffs, scratches and reel change snafus are to be expected, this no-budget crash course in exploitation moviemaking surprises with an overwhelmingly filmic appearance that comes alive best during the film’s sunnier sequences.  Furthermore, colors seen in drive-in manager Mr. Johnson’s flashy attire pop strongly while, the neon-lit carnival rides also spruce up the picture nicely.  Meanwhile, black levels vary in quality from serviceable to overly grainy.  Unfortunately, the film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix suffers from more innate issues of muffling and restraint making dialogue delivery a challenging but, not impossible feat to absorb.  Scoring cues are at least more functional while, traces of static interference also rear their head from time to time.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Stu Segall followed by an Easter Egg accessed by clicking left of its icon revealing the Theatrical Trailer for Segall’s 1972 effort C.B. Hustlers (2:52).  Next up, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:49) and Drive-In Days: A Conversation with Co-Writer/Actor John F. Goff (16:18) who recalls his early love affair with film through his uncle’s movie theater and his eventual affliction with the acting bug is provided.  Additionally, Norm Sheridan Recalls Drive-In Massacre (11:45) shares his own treasured experiences making the film that transpired several years after returning home from the Vietnam War.  Lastly, the vintage Making the Massacre: Interview with Director Stu Segall (6:32) is also included alongside Reversible Cover Art.  Far from an essential exploitation opus, Drive-In Massacre makes for a curious watch for grindhouse completists with its head-lopping introduction just worthy enough of its time.  Unfazed by its unavoidable wear and tear, Severin Films delivers this no-so trashy cheapie in the best shape imaginable for its high-definition domestic debut, befit with a generous helping of on-disc goodies.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Drive-In Massacre can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Undertaker (1988) Blu-ray Review

    The Undertaker (1988)

    Director: Franco De Stefanino

    Starring: Joe Spinnell, Rebecca Yaron, Patrick Askin, Susan Bachli & William Kennedy

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In one of his final film roles, Joe Spinnell (Maniac) stars in The Undertaker as a crazed mortician who takes pleasure in making the local population apart of his personal body collection.  As more people go missing, his nephew Nick (Patrick Askin) grows suspicious of Uncle Roscoe’s devious activities pitting him and those closest in harm’s way.

    Helmed by no shortage of four directors under a phony foreign pseudonym and virtually lost to time for the better part of 30 years, The Undertaker adheres to the bloody tropes of slasher cinema with cult heavyweight Joe Spinnell delivering a most stupefyingly peculiar performance.  Mumbling through much of his role as a high-strung funeral director with a fetish for corpses, Spinnell’s deranged demeanor can hardly be contained as he sobs uncontrollably before savagely ripping his victims apart making the unpredictability of his range the film’s main vocal point.  After being lectured on the subject of necrophilia at his local university, Roscoe’s nephew Nick quickly grows weary of his uncle’s funeral parlor exploits, opening a can of worms he wished he never did.  Muddled by several promising but, nonetheless wasteful subplots involving the local police investigating a series of missing persons and a movie theater security guard who’s certain of Roscoe’s dirty deeds, The Undertaker keeps the “bigger is better” hairstyles of the era, ample helpings of T&A and top-notch deaths including, a switchbladed eyeball, scorched face via frying pan and a beheading in healthy supply.  Methodically tracking his victims, leading to a climatic assault on Nick’s teacher Ms. Hayes (Rebecca Yaron) with machete in hand and an abrupt final frame from beyond the grave, The Undertaker may not be a bonafide diamond in the rough but, its excavation remains of utmost importance for exploitation hounds that will treasure Spinnell’s maddening performance put to celluloid only a year before his untimely death.  

    Scanned in 2K from the 35mm camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome ushers The Undertaker to high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  At the mercy of incorporating six minutes of VHS workprint footage to ensure an uncut presentation, the overwhelming majority of the film looks splendid with rich colors, natural skin tones and sharp detail observing Spinnell’s facial scars all looking tip-top.  Understandably, the VHS-culled sequences are in rather drab shape although, footage from a satanic feature Roscoe watches looks more effective in its ratty condition.  The final showdown in Ms. Hayes’s apartment and Roscoe’s dimly-lit basement dwelling can also be harder to make out but these brief moments of unavoidable haziness are a minor setback to an otherwise sound presentation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix that encounters strides of sharp sibilance, dialogue is sufficiently projected with soundtrack cues occasionally overwhelming exchanges.  Furthermore, cracks and pops are far and few between.  

    Special features include, a Director’s Intro (0:15) by William Kennedy, Audio Commentary with Actor/Writer/Director William Kennedy and Making The Undertaker with Actor/Writer/Director William Kennedy (20:45) that provides curious viewers with answers to everything and more regarding the troubled production as well as Kennedy’s praise for what he believes is one of Spinnell’s finest performances.  In addition, Rough Cut Outtakes (9:54), an Archival Promotional Video (5:07), a Production Still Gallery (17 in total) and a 6-page booklet featuring an exemplary essay by Michael Gingold is also included.  A DVD edition of the release is also on hand.

    Following vastly murky bootlegs and a previously released censored version, The Undertaker makes its Blu-ray debut in style with a rewarding transfer that can only be praised for its restored bliss and completeness.  Coupled with intriguing supplements and a blood splattered, coffin shaped O-card, Vinegar Syndrome, much like Roscoe’s penchant for bodies, makes The Undertaker one victim of a release Spinnell fans won’t want to miss in their collection.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome and limited to 3,000 units, The Undertaker can be purchased exclusively via VinegarSyndrome.com.

  • Blood Diner (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Blood Diner (1987)

    Director: Jackie Kong

    Starring: Rick Burks, Carl Crew, LaNette La France, Roger Dauer, Max Morris & Drew Godderis

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving up a goofy helping of gore, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series welcomes Blood Diner to the menu!  When brainwashed brothers Michael (Rich Burks, The Under Achievers) and George (Carl Crew, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer) Tutman are ordered by their deceased uncle to resurrect the goddess Sheetar, the duo use their successful restaurant to lure scandalous women for their body parts and to sacrifice a pure virgin to complete their black magic ritual.

    Originally intended to be a sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast, the Jackie Kong (Night Patrol) helmed cannibalistic comedy throws everything but an ounce of seriousness into its buffet of blood and over the top absurdity.  20 years after witnessing the death of their serial killing uncle, brothers Michael and George Tutman loyally dig up his remains and have the eyes and brain of Uncle Anwar guide them on their mission to resurrect the powerful Egyptian goddess Sheetar.  Serving the local community with their restaurant’s popular healthy food options containing secret ingredients sure to make the masses barf, Michael and George are ordered to collect multiple body parts from promiscuous female prospects and most importantly, locate a virgin to be presented to the mighty Sheetar during the aptly named blood buffet ceremony.  As butchered bodies begin turning up all over the city, Detectives Mark Shepard (Roger Dauer, My Lovely Monster) and Sheba Jackson (LaNette La France in her only film credit) seek to bring the criminal minds to justice.  

    Boasting unbelievably silly performances, ridiculous dialogue and cartoonish levels of blood splattering violence, Blood Diner had routinely earned the reputation as a “bad movie” and remarkably found itself banned in several countries for its extreme content.  While its low-budget limitations and amateurish nature is evident, Blood Diner remains buckets of gooey fun that commits to its comedic sensibilities and never lets up.  Tonally bizarre with a bevy of personalities ranging from punkers and rockabilly boppers to greasers and Hitler lookalikes, the VHS cult favorite keeps viewers head-scratchingly rocking along to its uniquely selected soundtrack of 50s doo-wop tunes incorporating an added dimension of oddness.  Mixing independent wrestling, nude aerobics and a rock club finale that turns patrons into green, poorly face-painted flesh eaters to the already insane festivities, the highly unusual blend of wackiness and trashiness make Blood Diner an entertaining, freaky feature like few others.

    Newly remastered from the film’s original vault materials, Lionsgate presents Blood Diner fully uncut with a 1080p transfer, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably cleaned up with no troublesome signs of dirt or scratches, the cheaply made feature casts a softer appearance that maintains skin tones nicely while, enriching the bright red, bloody offerings rampant throughout the film.  Furthermore, no digital scrubbing is apparent ensuring a naturally filmic presentation that honors appreciative black levels during the film’s final club sequence and strong details observed in makeup choices and Sheetar’s razor-toothed design work.  Much like the debut installment of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Blood Diner appears light years ahead of its grainy tape sourced predecessors.  Although moderately restrained in its projection, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix supports audible levels of dialogue and caters to its doo-wop and rockabilly centered track selections nicely.  While the mix may not be wildly dynamic, sound quality is more than efficient.

    Loaded with a smorgasbord of bonus features including, an Audio Commentary with Director Jackie Kong and the top-notch retrospective Killer Cuisine: The Making of Blood Diner (1:04:31).  Produced by Red Shirt Pictures, this impressive five-part featurette hosts interviews with the rarely public Jackie Kong, Screenwriter Michael Sonye, Producer Jimmy Maslon, Creative Consultant Bill Osco and countless cast members covering the film’s origin, its lengthy writing process, the tragic passing of Star Rick Burks and the film’s ongoing appreciation by cult lovers.  In a career of crafting deeply researched retrospectives on B-movie favorites, Killer Cuisine ranks as one of Red Shirt Pictures’ best efforts.  Also included, an Archival Interview with Project Consultant Eric Caidin (8:01) recorded in 2009, Theatrical Trailers (4:49), TV Spots (1:34) and a Still Gallery (5:34).

    In only their sophomore outing, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series keeps its high-caliber quality in tune for the unbelievable domestic high-def debut of Blood Diner.  As ridiculously loony and uproariously funny as remembered, Director Jackie Kong’s goofy gore show looks splendid and arrives with another wildly impressive serving of delectable extras to chomp into.  Available for a limited time, Blood Diner is one of the best, fully-loaded genre treats to land in dedicated fan’s collections this Halloween season or any other for that matter!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 27th from Lionsgate, Blood Diner can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Chopping Mall (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Chopping Mall (1986)

    Director: Jim Wynorski

    Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Russell Todd, Kattie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Nick Segal, John Terlesky & Suzee Slater

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kicking off their anticipated Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Lionsgate proudly presents Chopping Mall.  Set in the Park Plaza Mall, Director Jim Wynorski’s (Deathstalker II, Not of This Earth) cult classic finds revolutionary security robots short circuiting and transforming into malfunctioning murderers with sights set on a group of trapped teenagers.  Fresh-faced talent and memorable cult stars including, Paul Bartel (Hollywood Boulevard), Mary Woronov (Rock ’n’ Roll High School), Dick Miller (Gremlins) and Gerrit Graham (Child’s Play 2) appear.

    Also known as Killbots, Chopping Mall turns a sex-filled evening of fun for eight teenagers into a hellish run-in with deadly droids where survival is tougher than a fair deal at the mall.  Shortly after being introduced as the Park Plaza Mall’s newest line of late night security, several bolts of lightning rattles the computer systems of the high-tech robotic protectors turning them into ruthless killers with polite manners.  Simultaneously, four horny couples plan to throw their own after hours party within a furniture storefront where booze and plenty of beds are on hand.  Exterminating several mall employees, the trio of metallic stalkers turn their attention to the scantily clad teens, leaving blood and destruction in their wake.  With escape impossible, the resourceful survivors must combat their enemies with makeshift traps and found weapons in order to see the next business day.  Centering its futuristic madness at the epicenter of every teen’s former recreational haven, Valley Girl meets Westworld in this Roger Corman produced cheapie that celebrates the bubbly blondes and yuppie horndogs of yesteryear whose trespassing earns them laser blast attacks and exploding heads.  Headlined by a youthful cast of thespians including, Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet), Tony O’Dell (Head of the Class), Russell Todd (Friday the 13th Part 2), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) and others, Chopping Mall remains snappily brisk and endlessly fun keeping blood, breasts and bots in steady supply.  

    Self-promoting his own works with visible posters for Sorceress and The Lost Empire on display, Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski also honors mentor and producer Roger Corman with several nods including, a Little Shop of Pets storefront and Attack of the Crab Monsters promptly televised for the film’s necking couples.  Predominately shot on location at the Sherman Oaks Galleria in California’s San Fernando Valley, Chopping Mall keeps its action well-paced as the technological terrors utilize tasers and death grips against the dwindling youngsters with Maroney confidently defending herself with a crack shot and crafty ingenuity within a paint shop.  Released the same year as other offbeat, eventual cult favorites including, Night of the Creeps and TerrorVision, Chopping Mall endures as one of the era’s most gleefully silly and finely-tuned sci-fi sideshows that warmly ranks as one, if not, Wynorski’s finest directorial effort in a spectacularly diverse career spanning well over 100 features.

    Newly restored from the original negative materials, Lionsgate’s limited edition release of Chopping Mall arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of marginal debris and inherent vertical lines during its opening title sequence, the quality of the B-movie favorite is a revelation.  Boasting exceptionally healthy skin tones and crisp detail within background posters and the metallic intricacies of its killers, colors found in the vibrant wardrobe choices of the era pop wonderfully while, the purplish hues of robotic laser blasts satisfy equally.  Miles ahead of ratty-looking bootlegs and fullscreen video sourced editions, Chopping Mall preserves its filmic integrity to look better than ever before!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible with bustling mall ambiance nicely balanced.  In addition, Chuck Cirino’s (The Return of Swamp Thing) synth/bass heavy score greatly impresses and effectively underscores the onscreen chaos while, the killbots’ fast-turning gears, gasoline explosions and shattering glass make appropriately sharp stakes on the track.  

    Bursting with supplements, an Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski, Actress Kelli Maroney & Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell is joined by a second Audio Commentary with Historians/Authors Nathaniel Thompson of Mondo Digital & Ryan Turek of Shock Till You Drop.  Furthermore, a third Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski & Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell, recorded in 2004, is also included.  With an Isolated Score Track by Chuck Cirino, Newly-crafted featurettes include, Back to the Mall: Interviews with the Victims and Makers (26:29) that explores the entire genesis of the film and its impact with interviews from Wynorski, Mitchell, Maroney, Todd, Crampton and countless others who look back on the experience with fond memories and deep appreciation to the fans who have kept it alive.  Chopping Chopping Mall: A Conversation with Editor Leslie Rosenthal (8:19), Talkin’ About… The Killbots with Robot Creator Robert Short (12:11), Scoring Chopping Mall: A Conversation with Composer Chuck Cirino (11:04) and The Robot Speaks!: Ten Questions with the Killbot (2:12) are also included that bring great insight to the many different behind-the-scenes contributions to the film.  Also included, The Lost Scene (3:01) finds Wynorski and Mitchell prefacing an additional scene with Bartel and Wornov that was never shot before sharing its script pages while, An Army of One: A Visit with Chopping Mall’s Biggest Fan: Carl Sampieri (6:01) who fortunately owns the only surviving bot from the film is also on hand.  Finally, a vintage Chopping Mall: Creating the Killbots (15:41) featurette is carried over with the film’s Trailer (0:50).

    Rooftop pleas by diehard fans have finally been answered with Lionsgate’s newfound commitment to honoring B-movie treasures.  Arguably their most requested title, Chopping Mall makes its far too long awaited Blu-ray debut with jaw-dropping clarity and sonically splendid sound.  Proudly living up to its Collector’s Series banner, hours of newly made bonus features will find killbot enthusiasts enjoyably spending overtime in the mall.  With fans more than eager to offer arms and legs to see Wynroski’s beloved cult classic enter the HD realm for years, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video line has made a laser-blasting debut essential to all genre lovers.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available September 27th from Lionsgate, Chopping Mall can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Microwave Massacre (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Microwave Massacre (1983)

    Director: Wayne Berwick

    Starring: Jackie Vernon, Claire Ginsberg, Loren Schein, Al Troupe & Lou Ann Webber

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fed up with his nagging wife and her subpar homemade meals, Microwave Massacre finds disgruntled construction worker Donald (Jackie Vernon, Frosty the Snowman) offing his significant other and nuking her remains in their oversized microwave.  Developing a sweet tooth for the taste of human flesh in the process, Donald’s rabid hunger can only be pacified through the collection of more bodies.

    Following a buxom pair of bare breasts getting caught in a peep hole much to the enjoyment of drooling construction workers, Microwave Massacre goes from weird to weirder.  Contrary to its horrific sounding title, this exploitative cannibal chuckler is played entirely for laughs, albeit pitch black ones with funnyman Jackie Vernon leading the festivities with hilarious deadpan delivery and fourth wall breaking asides.  Worn down by his blue-collar profession and his wife’s insistence on preparing exotic meals than simple dishes, Donald loses his cool during a drunken rage and bludgeons her death with a salt grinder.  Using their washer-dryer sized microwave to ditch her painfully phony limbs, Donald’s tastebuds go wild for human flesh forcing the new bachelor to scour the local prostitute population for more of the same.  As ridiculous as one might expect, Microwave Massacre finds Donald uncontrollably slicing and dicing his way through street hustling morsels and cannibalistic shish kebabs while, acknowledging his wrongdoings by seeking psychiatric help only to have his therapist nap through his confessions.  Impressing his libido driving co-workers with his meaty lunches and the need for more “ingredients” always at a premium, too much of a tasty thing proves fatal to pacemaker possessor Donald.  Barely creeping its way onto video during the VHS era with gore-geous cover art, Microwave Massacre’s cult appeal is inherit in its bonkers concept and highly unserious tone that makes it difficult not to enjoy much like buttery microwavable popcorn.

    Arrow Video presents Microwave Massacre with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Scanning the original 35mm camera negative in 2K, this low-budget schlocker dazzles in high-definition with robust colors in costumes and its bright red main titles, accurate flesh tones and excellent contrast.  While minor speckling is spotted and occasional traces of digital noise observed during nighttime sequences, Microwave Massacre looks exceptional to devour.  Equipped with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is always easily relayed with only slight cases of cracks and pops, mostly during reel changes, picked up but never of any serious concern.  Supplemental offerings include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Craig Muckler, moderated by Mike Tristano, My Microwave Massacre Memories (21:07) features newly captured interviews with Director Wayne Berwick, Writer/Producer Craig Muckler and Actor Loren Schein who recall the project’s early beginnings, Berwick’s father’s showbiz career serving as a launch pad and their working relationship with the late Jackie Vernon.  In addition, an Image Gallery (18 in total), Trailer (1:25), the Original Treatment and 8-page Synopsis (BD/DVD-Rom content) and a 27-page booklet featuring stills and an updated essay from Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents Author Stephen Thrower are also included.  Finally, a DVD counterpart and Reversible Cover Art featuring the film’s memorable VHS design conclude the bonus features.

    While it may not be cooked to perfection, Microwave Massacre’s loose canon approach to flesh-eating ridiculousness is just goofy enough to make itself worthy of consumption for bad taste sticklers.  Boasting amateurish acting, generous helpings of nudity and a tone so laughably self-aware of its absurdity, Microwave Massacre is one daffy detour off the highway of exploitation weirdness.  Exceeding expectations, Arrow Video has treated cultphiles with a crowd pleasing restoration and a tasty selection of bonus features that explore the offbeat pictures making and niche appeal.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available August 16th from Arrow Video, Microwave Massacre can be purchased via MVDShop.com, 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • 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

  • Graduation Day (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Graduation Day (1981)

    Director: Herb Freed

    Starring: Patch Mackenzie, Christopher George, Michael Pataki & E.J. Peaker

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After prom night and before summer camp begins, graduation day awaits!  From the director of Beyond Evil and Tomboy, the class of ’81 are disappearing and seemingly everyone is suspected.  In association with Troma Entertainment, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents the quintessential high school slasher, Graduation Day, newly restored in 4K and on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

    Following the tragic death of a high school track star, Graduation Day centers on a masked killer targeting student athletes and fellow teachers.  With graduation mere days away, the class of ’81 are dropping like flies.  As the mystery unfolds and bodies continue to emerge, a strict coach, the victim’s grieving sister (Mackenzie) and boyfriend are all suspected of the bloody crimes.  Christopher George (Pieces), Michael Pataki (Rocky IV), E. Danny Murphy (Final Mission), E.J. Peaker (Hello, Dolly!), Carmen Argenziano (Stand and Deliver) and Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Capturing the overly intense devotion to high school athletics, Graduation Day is yet another slasher re-telling of an anticipated moment in teenage lives, painted red.  Chaotically edited, this 80s effort moves at a swift place while, adhering to the rhythmic beats that fuel genre films.  After a blood clot tragically kills a graduating track star, a mysterious killer, adorned in a fencing mask and black leather gloves, begins targeting fellow athletes and faculty members.  Grieving the loss of her younger sister, naval officer, Anne (Mackenzie), arrives in town to better understand the circumstances of her death.  Amongst a sea of would-be killers including, a demanding track coach (George) and strict stepfather, Anne joins the ranks as a potential murderer to the suspecting audience.  While, the core cast of teens are rather underwhelming, “Scream Queen” in the making, Linnea Quigley (Savage Streets, The Return of the Living Dead) appears as a scandalous student who shows off her assets and gets cuddly with a teacher to ensure a passing grade.  In addition, Christopher George’s niece and future Wheel of Fortune letter-turner, Vanna White, makes a brief appearance as a fellow student.  

    Filled with locker room stalkings and backwoods prowling, Graduation Day takes full advantage of its sports obsessed tone with clever sword slayings and high jump horrors.  While, the film detours by setting up several suspenseful sequences that lead nowhere and one too many red herrings, Graduation Day still entertains with a cast of seasoned vets like George and Pataki that ham it up nicely.  Finally, as the climax nears, an over the top performance emerges from the revealed killer with an effective jump ending, sending the film off on a satisfying note.  Honoring the slasher ethics of moviemaking, Graduation Day is not immune to missteps but, succeeds overall as an entertaining 90-minute romp with a killer who likes making good time with his dirty deeds.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Newly restored in 4K, Vinegar Syndrome presents Graduation Day in a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the first time on home video.  Retaining a natural grain appearance, this indie slasher maintains its 80s-esque softness with bold colors, most prominently in the red graduation gowns and other pastel colored wardrobe, popping nicely.  Scratches and flakes are present in varying amounts, but never overly intrusive.  Skin tones are warmly relayed while, black levels, although mostly visible, still encounter their fair share of speckling.  Based on previous video sourced releases, Vinegar Syndrome have worked wonders with this latest presentation.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono mix, Graduation Day is projected nicely with effective musical cues during suspenseful moments.  Dialogue is mostly audible with locker room scenes, understandably echoing while, others involving multiple chatter at once, overwhelms the mix at times.  In addition, the roller rink sequence with new wave band Felony, kicks relatively high punches but a little too much sharpness.  Overall, the audio succeeds during crucial moments of talk and terror.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Producer David Baughn

    • Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Lives

    • Acting Out in School - An Interview with Patch Mackenzie (8:48): Lead actress Mackenzie discusses her strict British upbringing, opinion clashes with Director Herb Freed on the film and her guest appearances on countless television shows such as The Waltons and Taxi.

    • Surviving the Class of ’81 - An Interview with Herb Freed (12:22): Previously serving as a rabbi for three years, Freed credits his late wife and Co-Screenwriter Anne Marisse for supporting his passion for film.  The director also reminisces on his casting choices and the joy in hearing actors bring his lines to life.

    • Graduation Day Blues - An Interview with David Baughn (11:34): Lifelong film fan, Producer Baughn discusses his early beginnings with MGM, booking Russ Meyer films and forming a friendship with the man.  Baughn also discusses the films ad campaign and his memorable working relationship with Freed.

    • Cutting Class - An Interview with Martin Jay Sadoff (7:20): Hailing from NYU, Sadoff explains how his love for music influenced the fast-cutting editing approach to Graduation Day.

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:04)

    • DVD Edition

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    In a climate of holiday-themed slashers, Graduation Day corrupted another seminal day in the lives of teenagers with entertaining results.  Scattered with up and coming scream queens and future television personalities, this high school bloodbath spins a twisting tale of sports related murders.  The teenage cast fail to leave a lasting impression but, the film’s tone and atmosphere are rightly in place.  Vinegar Syndrome’s impressive 4K restoration washes away dreadful memories of previous releases along, with a satisfying spread of bonus content to jump into.  Over 30 years later and long overdue, the class of ’81 can once again be celebrated in this memorable retro slasher.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 9th, Graduation Day can be purchased via Vinegar Syndrome or Amazon.com

  • Jersey Shore Massacre (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Jersey Shore Massacre (2014)

    Director: Paul Tarnopol

    Starring: Danielle Dallacco, Angelica Boccella, Giovanni Roselli & Ron Jeremy

    Released by: Attack Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the vein of other summertime slashers, this modern take frames its story around fist-pumping buffoons in the Garden State.  Intertwined with local Jersey Devil folklore and appearances from adult entertainment legend Ron Jeremy and YouTube sensation Shawn C. Phillips, this horror-comedy aims to entertain with laughs and gore.  Executive produced by Jersey Shore alumni, Jenni “Jwoww” Farley, Attack Entertainment presents Jersey Shore Massacre, the only stop to get tanned blood red!

    Jersey Shore Massacre finds a group of girlfriends scurrying for a place to stay after losing their Seaside Heights beach rental.  After meeting a group of buff guidos and retreating to the desolate New Jersey Pine Barrens, a mentally deranged killer begins slaughtering the ignorant bunch one by one.  

    MOVIE:

    Starring a group of up and comers, Jersey Shore Massacre plants its tongue firmly in cheek and refuses to budge.  Much to the delight of the audience, the film succeeds in casting an absurdly, over the top slasher that involves hacking up Jersey’s tannest.  With the exception of 2012’s Jersey Shore Shark Attack, horror parodies of the once popular MTV reality series have been virtually untapped.  Visually ripe and full of potential, it’s a mystery why the popular seaside resort was never take advantage of during the slasher boom of the 1980s.  Jersey Shore Massacre looks to rectify that by offering a ridiculously cheesy response to the body count pictures of yesteryear.  Cliched as they come, Jersey Shore Massacre still adheres to the finer aspects of the genre that slasher enthusiasts yearn for.  A cast of females never shy to expose T&A and a terrific series of death sequences, all predominately accomplished by practical effects.  Notable kills include burning by tanning bed, tattoo removals via electric sander and a spear through sexually engaged bodies ala Friday the 13th Part 2.  While, the acting is far from award winning with several awful accents to mention, the cast still manage to sell a group of obnoxiously gaudy guidos that are believable by Jersey Shore standards.

    Further adhering to slasher tropes, Jersey Shore Massacre finds the only non-promiscuous guidette, who also lacks a Jersey accent of any kind, as the lone wolf tasked to do battle with the elusive killer.  With an underwhelming reveal of the killer’s identity, Jersey Shore Massacre’s final act drags by running in circles before finally reaching a finale we all knew was coming.  Stupidly funny and surprisingly crafty in the special effects department, Jersey Shore Massacre never asserts to be anymore than junk food entertainment, not intended to be taken seriously.  Accepted at face value, Jersey Shore Massacre is a decent offering that makes light of the Jersey Shore phenomenon a few years too late.  

    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:

    Jersey Shore Massacre is presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Nicely represented, colors are lush and accurate with the guidettes‘ bright clothing popping especially well.  Before the DNR police are called, the waxy-looking skin tones are attributed to the cast’s tanning sprees and over usage of make-up and not digital tinkering.  Meanwhile, black levels look decent, if not inconsistent.  Night sequences range from deep and inky to fuzzy and unclear, but all reasonably visible.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix, Jersey Shore Massacre has no issues to speak of with dialogue always coming in clear and bass pumping club music offering a nice punch to the mix.  A bit more emphasis during the more thematic murder sequences would have benefitted but as is, the mix is satisfactory.  In addition, a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is also included.  

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Jersey Shore Massacre: Behind the Scenes (24:00): This surprisingly lengthy look behind the magic captures on-set footage and interviews with key talent from the cast and various crew members.  A nice companion piece to this low-budget horror-comedy.  

    • Fat Camp Massacre Part 1 (10:16): YouTube sensation Shawn C. Phillips (“Coolduder”) stars in this Heavyweights meets Sleepaway Camp short. Briefly appearing in Jersey Shore Massacre as a film that the fist-pumpers pop on, this hilarious concoction deserves its own full length feature!

    • Bigfoot Unmedicated (5:21): A series of 12 voicemails that Mark E. Shaw (aka “Bigfoot”), who appeared as Edgar in the film, left for Director Paul Tarnopol.  Hilarious and delusional, Shaw urges Tarnopol to return his calls regarding a “national emergency” involving the frustration he has suffered from shooting the film.  

    • Coming Soon (1:35): Trailer for Girls Gone Dead.

    • “Melt” by Italian Ice Music Video (5:40)

    • “Outta My Head” by King Nyne Music Video (4:32)

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Jersey Shore Massacre succeeds in being an absurd take on the slasher formula, funneled through the sandy shores of the Garden State.  While, not offering anything revolutionary to the genre with the exception of poking fun at the mobs of guidos and guidettes, Jersey Shore Massacre still supplies enough T&A and practical gore effects to pacify most.  Attack Entertainment’s video and audio treatment are mostly rewarding with a special features package that isn’t too shabby either.  A few years late to the game, Jersey Shore Massacre still accomplishes its goal of seeing gel-abusing meatheads and high-heeled Snooki’s reach a bitter end, all in good fun.  

    RATING: 4/5

  • 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

  • Final Exam (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Final Exam (1981)
    Director: Jimmy Huston
    Starring: Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice, DeAnna Robins, Ralph Brown & John Fallon
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The early 1980s saw the dawn of the slasher genre attacking cinemas on a weekly basis.  Following the massive success of 1980’s Friday the 13th, no holiday or teenage associated location was safe.  Summer camps, graduations, Valentine’s Day and more offered hormonal teenagers a 90 minute escape into terror.  Not surprisingly, exam week seemed ripe for a lone killer to embark on a mass killing spree as well.  Scream Factory, in association with Code Red DVD, proudly presents Final Exam, on Blu-ray for the first time ever!  Study hard or this exam might be your last...

    Final Exam centers on Lanier College as the end of the semester is within reach.  Students are finishing up their exams for the week when a local frat pulls a phony terrorist attack prank.  As the young adults laugh off the joke, a much more serious threat is upon them when a mysterious maniac begins offing students one by one.

    MOVIE:
    The concept of a college set slasher during the genre’s popular boom seemed fitting next to its counterparts.  From the silhouetted poster image to the generic plot, Final Exam makes it clear they’re “borrowing” from Friday the 13th.  Admittedly, most slashers at this time were all trying to capitalize on the runaway success of Sean S. Cunningham’s summer camp nightmare.  Audiences became quickly accustomed to the slasher formula and expected a unique killer, gruesome death sequences and plenty of T&A.  Some succeeded and others failed while, some, like Final Exam, fell into the gray zone of mediocrity.  The film opens promisingly with a college couple necking in a car before falling prey to the mute psychopath.  The story switches gears to Lanier College where the most outlandish prank is executed in order for a frat brother to cheat on his exam.  In a society where college shootings are eerily common, the startling reveal of a van of masked men opening fire on the student body with blank rounds will immediately grab your attention.  As politically incorrect as the prank may be today, the scene is incredibly effective until it is revealed to be a fake stunt.  Unfortunately, Final Exam then takes far too much time to develop its characters and forgets to kill some teens along the way.  This misstep plagues the film from being more exciting and kills any true sense of suspense.  Luckily, we’re treated to the memorable character of Radish (Joel S. Rice) who is obsessed with real murderers and reminds everyone how random their motives can be.  

    Final Exam misfires yet again for being a virtually skinless slasher in a time where other films were showcasing nudity at a rapid rate.  The final act picks up nicely with stabbings and the maniac murdering a frat boy in the college’s weight room, easily the film’s highlight death scene.  Following tradition, Final Exam finds the killer going head to head with Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi), the final girl who spent the duration of the film studying.  As Radish indicated, the killer’s motives were senseless which only adds frustration to the film’s already tedious structure.  Admittedly, with all its issues, Final Exam does have some merit with likable characters and some decent stalk and slash moments in its final act.  Far from perfect, Final Exam is still a golden age slasher that’s worth revisiting every so often, even if it trips over its own feet at times.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Presented with a 1080p transfer in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Final Exam looks impressive only small instances of flakes and speckles.  Scream Factory have carried over Scorpion Releasing’s HD transfer from the original camera negative making detail and colors all the more vibrant.  Black levels are nicely handled with visibility clean and clear.  Colors appear accurate with blood popping off the screen in bold ways.  Final Exam has never looked better!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Final Exam sounds lovely with dialogue never missing a beat and Gary Scott’s (Beverly Hills, 90210) Carpenter-esque score coming across clear and foreboding.  No noticeable hiss or pops were picked up making this an above satisfying sounding mix.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Actors Joel Rice, Cecile Bagdadi & Sherry Willis-Burch

    - Interviews with Actors Joel Rice, Cecile Bagdadi & Sherry Willis-Burch: The actors share their stories on how they landed the gig, how their lives changed following filming and what they’re doing now.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    While, not nearly as impressive as other notable slashers, Final Exam does have enjoyable characters and a halfway decent final act that should have carried over to the rest of the runtime.  Short on suspense and skin, Final Exam still has a charm that gives it a pass as a slasher from the good ol’ days.  Scream Factory treats fans with another top quality video and audio presentation that makes this North Carolina set slasher the best it’s ever looked.  In addition, a small serving of interviews and a cast commentary round out the special features for this recommended helping of college centered mayhem.  
    RATING: 4/5

  • Lust for Freedom (1987) DVD Review

    Lust for Freedom (1987)
    Director: Eric Louzil
    Starring: Melanie Coll, William J. Kulzer, Judi Trevor, Howard Knight & Elizabeth Carroll
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Independent distributors, Vinegar Syndrome, take a breather from their highly successful adult entertainment output to excavate treasures from the Troma Entertainment vaults.  A feministic action tale told behind the bars of a women’s prison sets the course for this 80s cult hit produced by Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger) and directed by Eric Louzil (Class of Nuke’ Em High Part II: Subhumanoid Meltdown, Class of Nuke’ Em High Part III: The Good, the Bad and the Subhumanoid).  Newly restored from the original negative, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents Lust for Freedom, where girls take the law into their own hands!

    Lust for Freedom stars Melanie Coll, in her only film role to date, as Gillian Kaites, a special undercover agent who experiences the brutal murder of her boyfriend in a sting operation gone wrong.  Looking to move on after the tragedy, Kaites finds herself in a world of trouble as she is subdued and whisked away to a women’s prison.  Corruption and perversion run rampant as Kaites plots a bloody revenge against those responsible for her unjust imprisonment.  

    MOVIE:
    While, intended to be a parody with comedic shades, Lust for Freedom comes across far more earnest than most Troma productions.  Kicking off with a play by play narration by Coll (that continues throughout the film) of an undercover operation, shootouts run amok with some wildly hilarious gunshot reactions and hokey fight choreography that sets the stage for a film of performers trying their best.  Coll’s partner and boyfriend ends up dead resulting in her need to escape the life and surroundings she has come to know.  Driving aimlessly with no true destination in mind, Coll picks up a frantic female hitchhiker in the desert before being stopped by the local sheriff.  It doesn’t take long before the friendly sheriff cons Coll back to the station to drug and relocate her in the local women’s prison.  A dangerous institution where the prisoners are held under false charges and for the wicked amusement of the warden and his cronies, Coll has entered a living nightmare.  Judi Trevor (Leather Jackets) makes a memorable appearance as the despicable head of the prison who makes life horrifying for the inmates.  Lust for Freedom proudly embellishes the popular traits of women in prison flicks with first time lesbian encounters, shower-filled T&A sequences, rape, brutal whippings plus, inmate wrestling matches to the death.  All the ingredients are present and accounted for, albeit, slightly underused especially for a Troma production.  Luckily, the array of actresses‘, with their nicely styled 80s hairdos and fully applied made-up faces, are quite attractive making risque scenes all the more rewarding.  

    The more time Coll spends in this house of horrors, the better she understands the corruption at work and plots revenge.  Teaming up with fellow inmates, Coll relies on her undercover skills and way with firearms to turn the tables on the establishment.  More shootouts, explosions and a wild inferno, all to the blaring songs of Grim Reaper, bring the heinous prison down.  Lust for Freedom works on nearly every level for fans of the women in prison subgenre, although, the more scandalous material could have benefitted from being exploited more.  In addition, Coll’s endless narration to the obvious grows tiresome but never takes away from the fun of the film.  Shot cheaply, the laughable action sequences and the “high speed” car chases that barely crack school zone limits add an air of charm worth reveling in.  Far from perfect, Lust for Freedom separates itself from other Troma productions by winking at the audience instead of cementing the tongue to their cheek, paving the way for an arrestingly good time.
    RATING: 4/5          

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome presents Lust for Freedom in an 1.85:1 aspect ratio, scanned in 2K from a 35mm blow-up negative.  Originally filmed in 16mm, Lust for Freedom experiences instances of vertical lines and flakes early on but, improves as the run time progresses.  A slight speckling appears throughout the film which looks more inherent in the film stock than the restoration process.  The plain and sterile scheme of the prison casts a rather dull appearance especially with the inmates all wearing white.  The few colors present, most notably in Coll’s red shirt before her imprisonment, as well as skin tones pop as nicely as could be expected especially in close-ups.  Vinegar Syndrome’s restoration is a welcome one for a film that would have more than likely received lesser treatment from others.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mix, Lust for Freedom slightly suffers from just being a little too low.  Cranking the volume up will become necessary to pick up all dialogue especially in the prison where voices tend to echo constantly.  Luckily, moments of intense gunfire and the rockin’ tunes from Grim Reaper serve up a nice and welcome oomph to the mix.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Eric Louzil: Louzil discusses the similar artistic sensibilities between himself and Kaufman that drew the two together.  Louzil remains chatty the duration of the film but often spends too much time narrating the onscreen action.  That said, Louzil still serves up an informative listen that is worthy to fans of the film.

    - Interview with Producer and Distributor Lloyd Kaufman: Kaufman sits down for a 10 minute interview discussing how the project came to be, his direct involvement, Louzil’s many talents and more.

    - Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Far from a diehard Troma fan, Lust for Freedom had all the right ingredients to make its way into this women in prison fans’ heart.  Packed with a line-up of beautiful ladies showcasing T&A and choked full of shootouts, bloodshed and a radical heavy metal soundtrack, Lust for Freedom is a winner for viewers looking to spend 90 minutes in the slammer.  Vinegar Syndrome has done yet another fine service to cult fans by dusting off a goody like this and restoring it from the Troma library.  Coupled with a nice and informative assortment of special features, Lust for Freedom is a cult prison flick that fans should sentence themselves to for life.  With access to the vast Troma vaults, one can only hope that Vinegar Syndrome continues to serve up more entertaining odds and ends like Lust for Freedom.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #7: Monsters, Odd Thomas, The Slumber Party Massacre, Buck Wild & MORE!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #7 includes:

    - Monsters: The Complete Series (0:43)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    eOne Entertainment: http://entertainmentone.com/home

    - The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) (7:03)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Return to Nuke'Em High Volume 1 (2013) (12:23)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Anchor Bay Entertainment: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Odd Thomas (2013) (18:12)
    Street Date: March 25, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Tom Holland's Twisted Tales (2013) (24:34)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Buck Wild (2013) (30:30)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Millennium Entertainment: http://www.millenniumentertainment.me/

    - The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) (35:09)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Frightmare (1974) (41:08)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (48:23)