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Currently showing posts tagged Torture

  • Chamber of Horrors (1940) Blu-ray Review

    Chamber of Horrors (1940)

    Director: Norman Lee

    Starring: Leslie Banks, Lilli Palmer, Gina Malo & Conny Van Dyke

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Imported by Poverty Row distributor Monogram Pictures shortly after a British band on horror fare was lifted, the adaptation of Edgar Wallace’s The Door with Seven Locks, retitled to the more attention-grabbing Chamber of Horrors for American shores is a convoluted labyrinth of intrigue that thrives on its solid atmosphere.  Following the passing of a wealthy lord who’s entombed with a treasure of jewels requiring seven keys to undo its locks, the unlikely heiress to his fortune, June Lansdowne (Lilli Palmer, The House That Screamed), finds herself and those closest to her entangled in a tortuous web of murder and deceit.  Hamming it up nicely as the suspected Dr. Manetta (Leslie Banks, The Most Dangerous Game) whose affection for collecting historical torture devices is far from subtle, Chamber of Horrors plays more directly as a murder mystery than its more garish title suggests although, a prominent chamber where artifacts of death are on display serves as host to some of the film’s more memorable and revealing sequences.  Jaw-droppingly beautiful and injecting a fearless sense of adventure into her role, Lilli Palmer does admirably in her headlining performance contrary to early criticisms at the time of the film’s release.  Occasionally heavy-handed and bewildering in its explanations for the criminal parties seeking to make the riches their own, Chamber of Horrors may not be all that’s expected of it and instead better appreciated as a complex whodunit with effective shades of ghastly set pieces.

    KL Studio Classics presents Chamber of Horrors newly remastered with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Commonly sporting sporadic instances of scratches and vertical lines, overblown white levels, presumably from overexposed film elements or harsher onset lighting, casts many moments in a bright wash that takes away from the atmospheric setting and corresponding details.  Otherwise, black levels spotted in costumed attire are as deep as one might expect while, facial closeups of the thespians capture respectable intricacies.  Surely the elements are far from pristine but, the upgraded high-definition picture is the best a feature of this ilk will ever look.  Matched with a rather problematic DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 that relays inconsistent dialogue levels that range from clear to muffled and echoey, static is also present requiring essential volume increases and a sharp ear to collect all the track has to offer.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Film Historian David Del Valle and Filmmaker Kenneth J. Hall that finds genre enthusiast Del Valle right at home dishing one intriguing anecdote after another with Hall complimenting the conversation nicely.  A horror aficionado like no other, Del Valle’s infectious love for the genre and his well-prepared words are always a treat to listen to for likeminded viewers.  Finally, Trailers for White Zombie (2:46), The Black Sleep (1:36), The Undying Monster (1:04) and Donovan’s Brain (2:02) are also included alongside Reversible Cover Art.  An acceptable investigative thriller that only trips up due to its own narrative complexities, Chamber of Horrors comes cautiously recommend for those knowing more or less what’s in store while, the expert commentary track provided is worth the price alone.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, Chamber of Horrors can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Lesson (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Lesson (2015)

    Director: Ruth Platt

    Starring: Robert Hands, Evan Bendall, Michaela Prchalová, Dolya Gavanski, Tom Cox & Rory Coltart

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Imported from England, The Lesson offers a promisingly taut setup of reprimanded disobedience from first time filmmaker Ruth Platt before shades of familiarity untether its agenda.  When disrespectful students Fin (Evan Bendall and Joel (Rory Coltart) push the limits of their rowdy classroom behavior too far, their English teacher Mr. Gale (Robert Hands, Charlotte Gray) vows to educate them at terrifying costs.  Kidnapped and bound to a table, Mr. Gales’ unorthodox teaching methods subjects the conscious Fin to a rapid-fire scurry of definition searches met with nails impaled through his bloodied hands should time run out.  Waxing intellectual on a variety of topics from Charles Dickens to totalitarianism, Fin’s hallucinations of his deceased mother and a blood splattered Joel assisting his captor clouds his thinking that will be essential to his survival.  Developing commendable character development of the troubled youths including Fin’s broken home situation and lust for his older brother’s girlfriend Mia (Michaela Prchalová), The Lesson’s true tour de force belongs to Robert Hands whose motives may be simplistic and monologues occasionally longwinded, demands the viewers strictest attention like a whip-wielding dictator.  Achieving moments of genuine suspense, The Lesson ultimately feels all too familiar to the tired torture-horror antics popularized in America over a decade ago with only the witty nuttiness of its antagonist truly separating itself from the pack.

    Scream Factory presents The Lesson with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Shot digitally, skin tones are immaculately handled while, tight shots exposing sweat beads, dripping blood and Mr. Gale’s fogged eyeglasses are all sharply detailed.  Although flashbacks presented in black and white are relayed with an expected deepness, instances of digital artifacts creep their way into several sequences that while not deal-breaking, surely make their presence known.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that prioritizes dialogue (with the optional English subtitles coming in handy for some of the actors’ thicker accents), the agonizing screams of the film’s victims to the quieter ambiance at Fin’s home and surrounding neighborhood streets demonstrate the effective ranges of the track.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also included.  Virtually nonexistent, the film’s Trailer (1:38) serves as the sole on-disc special feature while, a Reversible Cover Art is also provided.  Not quite the arthouse shocker it’s hailed as, The Lesson demonstrates the encouraging chops of its maker while, its delivery of imprisoned hooligans subjected to torturous enlightenment grows faint quickly and stands as a reminder of a recycled genre already beaten to death.  Worthy of commendation for Hands’ performance and well-handled development of its youthful characters, The Lesson doesn’t teach anything new but, makes a strong case for respecting educators who are dying to inspire young minds.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Stryker (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Stryker (1983)

    Director: Cirio H. Santiago

    Starring: Steve Sandor, Andria Savio, William Ostrander, Michael Lane, Julie Gray & Monique St. Pierre

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the aftermath of nuclear holocaust, Stryker finds a world devastated and water its most valued treasure.  As several bands of survivors battle each other over short supplies, a secret water source has been exposed leading a lone woman with knowledge of its whereabouts to depend on renowned warrior Stryker (Steve Sandor, Fire and Ice) to protect its safety against the evil Kardis (Michael Lane, The Harder They Fall) and his army.

    Piggybacking on the craze of post-apocalyptic mayhem set forth by Mad Max, Stryker burns rubber taking unapologetic cues from George Miller’s game-changing effort where muscular brutes, wasteland women and high-octane vehicles run amok in pursuit of dominance in a new ravaged world.  As the survivors of worldwide nuclear destruction struggle to locate viable water sources, Delha (Andria Savio, Death Screams), harboring knowledge of a shrouded spring and pursed by the death squads of Kardis for its location, is saved by the fearless Stryker and his companion.  Before long, the lone female finds herself captured and tortured by the vile Kardis until a successful daring rescue mission by Stryker puts her in pursuit of Trun, Stryker’s brother, for manpower to combat Kardis’s overwhelming forces.  Determined to seek vengeance against the wicked leader for the death of his own lover, Stryker joins the cause to protect the coveted spring and liberate those in peril.  Loaded with battered vehicle chases, scantly-clad women armed with crossbows and high-pitched Filipino midget warriors, Stryker delivers a respectable drive-in effort with action-packed bloodshed done cheaply although, its saccharine celebration of a conclusion at the height of battle shortchanges its outcome.  Marking the first of many post-nuke helmed efforts for Filipino native and dependable Corman colleague Cirio H. Santiago (Firecracker, Wheels of Fire), Stryker remains a mid-level Road Warrior ripoff that generally satisfies where it counts while, Santiago’s later experiments in the genre would greatly improve with each passing attempt.

    KL Studio Classics presents Stryker with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  No stranger to speckling and occasional scratches, this expectedly soft-looking effort looks as good as can be expected given its tight budget and dry, desolate locations.  Skin tones look decently with instances of blood popping well and costume choices relaying mediocre detail.  Furthermore, black levels, evidenced in Kardis’s torture dungeon and the cave harboring the desired water spring, look rather drab and harder to make out.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that translates the obviously dubbed dialogue with ease, soundtrack cues and action-oriented moments of explosions and firepower offer slightly more oomph to the proceedings.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Filmmaker Jim Wynorski, moderated by Bill Olsen & Damon Packard.  B-movie legend and fellow Corman protégé, Wynorski, although having nothing creatively to do with the film outside of knowing Santiago rather well and taking over directorial duties on its remake after the Filipino filmmaker fell ill, provides chatty conversation and an obvious love for the genre making the track an unexpected treat.  In addition, a Trailer Gallery featuring Stryker (2:03), Wheels of Fire (2:04), Equalizer 2000 (1:39), The Sisterhood (1:26) and Dune Warriors (1:12) is also included.

    From what seems like a bottomless pit of post-apocalyptic knockoffs, Stryker neither burns out nor exceeds what’s expected of it.  Living up to its colorfully exploitative poster art, blood, babes and savagery reign in this New World Pictures produced feature that stands as a mere stepping stone for Santiago’s more refined wasteland followups.  Never a pretty looking picture since its inception, KL Studio Classics ensures the film a most welcome upgrade for the HD generation.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • 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.

  • Morituris (2011) Blu-ray Review

    Morituris (2011)

    Director: Raffaele Picchio

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

    Released by: Synapse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 2.5/5

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

  • The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962) Blu-ray Review

    The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus (1962)

    Director: Jess Franco

    Starring: Howard Vernon, Hugo Blanco & Gogo Robins

    Released by: Redemption 

    Reviewed by David Steigman

    When one thinks of Euro-sleaze, most die-hard fans of this genre will immediately think of the one and only Jess (Jesus) Franco.  He was the master filmmaker for Euro-Sleaze movies, which were often eclectic with many ladies often appearing nude in his films. During the early 1960s, when Franco had started to direct some period black and white, Gothic films including The Awful Dr. Orlof, there was always a little touch of his groundbreaking style including some nudity and sadism.  The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, Franco’s second horror film, was another step closer to the type of films most Franco aficionados are familiar with.

    The story of The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus concerns women who are being stabbed to death in a European village by an unseen killer.  Many of the residents there strongly believe it’s the ghost of Baron Von Klaus, a sadist (hence the title Sadistic) from the 17th Century who brutalized women.  They feel his spirit lives on within his modern day relatives.  The film turns into a creepy mystery as the villagers try to discover who has the spirit of Baron Von Klaus within him.  Appearing sinister and strongly resembling the baron based on a picture on the wall in the Von Klaus castle, Max Von Klaus (Howard Vernon) becomes the main red herring of the film.  Ludwig, played by Hugo Blanco, also has a key role in the movie as a pianist and the son of Baron Von Klaus.  The film does have one really powerful scene for its time which eventually became a Jess Franco trademark where a woman, Margaret, played by Gogo Robins gets stripped, molested, whipped and chained up by the killer.  This one scene alone really makes the picture; otherwise, it is an at times tedious film with some musical numbers.  The crisp black and white cinematography also helps the viewing experience as it captures the atmosphere found in many international films from the period.  Ultimately, Franco achieves a very creepy, artistic and yet, slow paced movie.

    Redemption has released The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus in a beautiful 1080p AVC encoded letterboxed transfer.  Outstanding and sharply detailed, black levels are strong as are whites while, film grain is present throughout.  The audio is a robust LPCM 2.0 in its original French language.  What really stands out in the audio are all the musical numbers with the piano.  Since the movie was never dubbed into English, there are very easy to read English subtitles on this release.  No extras are included on this release.

    Fans of Jess Franco should not pass up this film in their collection.  It’s a chance to see his early work which is atmospheric, stylish and with a small touch of the Franco sleaze that he would become renowned for. 

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 9 from Redemption, The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus can be purchased from KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Going Under (2004) Blu-ray Review

    Going Under (2004)

    Director: Eric Werthman

    Starring: Roger Rees, Geno Lechner & Miho Nikaido

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Bloodsucking Freaks (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)

    Director: Joel M. Reed

    Starring: Seamus O’Brien, Luis De Jesus, Viju Krem, Niles McMaster & Alan Dellay

    Released by: Troma Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Nearly 40 years after its original release, Director Joel M. Reed’s satirical shocker breathes new life in the HD generation.  A bizarre odyssey through New York’s dangerous Soho district, centered on a band of eccentric sadists makes this indie effort an unsettling time capsule of cinema.  Newly transferred from original vault materials and including a never before seen title sequence bearing the Sardu, Master of the Screaming Virgins moniker, Troma Entertainment proudly presents the enduring Bloodsucking Freaks on Blu-ray!

    Bloodsucking Freaks centers on the unusual off-broadway Theatre of the Macabre, hosted by the infamous Sardu (Seamus O’Brien).  Shocking forms of torture, dismemberment and more are all fictionally staged for audiences every night but, when countless people begin disappearing around New York City, the truth is revealed about Sardu’s temple of terror.  Luis De Jesus (Let My Puppets Come), Viju Krem (Fourplay), Niles McMaster (Alice Sweet Alice) and Alan Dellay (Trading Places) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    A blatant satirization of the theatre world, Bloodsucking Freaks also expands on the gory 1960s exploits of Director H.G. Lewis (Blood Feast, Color Me Blood Red).  Sardu’s Theatre of the Macabre is New York’s seedy Soho response to the Grand Guignol where torture and dismemberment are for the entertainment of audience members.  Sardu, brilliantly portrayed by the late Seamous O’Brien, is the perverted, deviant equivalent to Vincent Price.  Aided by his loyal dwarf assistant, Ralphus (Luis De Jesus), Sardu is obsessed by the macabre and has a weakness for whippings at the hands of his female dominatrixes.  When snobbish reviewer, Creasy Silo (Alan Dellay), insults Sardu’s performance, the unhinged entertainer kidnaps and forces him into an imprisonment of torture.  In addition, Sardu has big plans for his grim theatre as he also abducts ballet star, Natasha Di Natalie (Viju Krem) and threatens her into his grandiose vision for a new show of pain and decadence.  Soaked in black humor, Bloodsucking Freaks highlights shock value moments of Ralphus electrically shocking a woman’s nipples and sawing another’s hand off.  In addition, Sardu takes great pleasure in his domineering role by substituting a nude woman as a dinner table and operating a white slave trafficking ring below his theatre.  A demented dentist is also welcomed into Sardu’s sanctuary to perform an unorthodox surgery on a female prisoner, before he is torn apart by mentally insane slaves.  Teaming up with a corrupt detective, Natasha’s football player boyfriend, Tom Maverick (Niles McMaster) is determined to find his love and tracks her to the twisted theatre.  Brainwashed, Natasha performs a sadistic ballet as she repeatedly kicks the imprisoned critic to death onstage.  

    Thin on plot, Bloodsucking Freaks is an exploitation affair that is best appreciated for its grizzly and over the top moments of bloody carnage.  In addition, the quirky cast of characters are beyond memorable with Sardu and Ralphus‘ peculiar submissive/domineering relationship the oddity that keeps eyes glued to the screen.  Bloodsucking Freaks is also noteworthy for its timeless footage of a seedy New York City before its squeaky clean overhaul.  The sleazy, Soho district captured in the film makes one wonder if Sardu’s torture chamber is really half bad in comparison.  Still shocking and unusual as ever, Bloodsucking Freaks is a freak show of torture, sadomasochism and nude, helpless prisoners bound with no escape in sight.  Repulsively rewarding, Bloodsucking Freaks is essential viewing for all trash cinema aficionados.  

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Bloodsucking Freaks is presented in a 1080p transfer sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Transferred from the original materials, this shock classic hasn’t aged considerably well.  Riddled with scratches and speckles, black levels appear mostly fuzzy and tough to make out.  Meanwhile, colors are mostly dull with exceptions being Ralphus’s brightly colored sweaters and the overly red blood which pops nicely.  Detail varies from hazy to decent with closeups most impressively picking up the dirt found underneath Ralphus’s fingernails.  Bloodsucking Freaks has never looked breathtaking on any format and it can be easily argued that its grindhouse imperfections benefit the viewing experience.  Troma Entertainment’s transfer is arguably the best the film has looked but that doesn’t necessarily make it pretty.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, Bloodsucking Freaks certainly sounds a pinch better than it appears.  Dialogue is picked up nicely with only minor instances of static and pops throughout.  In addition, shrieking sounds of screams and Michael Sahl’s carny-infused music sound nicely.  Not a wide-ranging track, Bloodsucking Freaks is an audible one that is more than sufficient.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    • New Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman

    • New Uncut Version (1:29:54): Running 43 seconds longer than the original cut and incorporating the Sardu, Master of the Screaming Virgins title card, a deleted scene has been reinstated spotlighting Sardu submitting to Ralphus.

    • Audio Commentary with Blood and Guts Expert Eli Roth: Ported over from the original Troma DVD release.

    • Eli Roth Interviews Cast & Crew (3:48): Also ported over from the DVD, Roth sits down with Arlana Blue who appeared as one of the ravenous nude prisoners, the demented dentist Ernie Rysher and Co-Editor Victor Kanefsky.

    • Interview with Eli Roth (20:07): The Cabin Fever director sits down for this newly shot interview recounting his contributions to the original DVD release during the early internet days.  Roth expresses genuine love for the low-budget schlock fest and his appreciation for the sleazy pre-Giuliani New York setting.  Plus, Roth discusses his own films including his upcoming The Green Inferno.

    • Interview with WWE Superstar Chris Jericho (14:32): Longtime fan, Chris Jericho discusses his earliest introduction to the film on VHS.  Jericho’s fascination with the film lead him to introduce an assistant/henchmen named Ralphus during his WCW days.  The former WWE champion also waxes intellectual on some of his favorite horror films including Amityville II: The Possession and Cabin Fever.

    • Theatrical Trailer

    • Tromatic Extras: Includes Radiation March, Tromaloha! and Sell Your Own Damn Spider!

    • Troma Trailers: Return to Nuke’Em High Vol. I, The Toxic Avenger, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead and The Taint.

    • DVD Copy

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Hilariously shocking and supremely weird, Bloodsucking Freaks has rightfully earned its status in cult history with a tale of endless torture and eccentric performances like no other.  A minimal plot hardly matters when a perverted dwarf, dismemberments, corrupt cops, a sleazy New York setting and pitch black humor substitute.  While, the original elements’ condition plague the technical side, Troma Entertainment’s Blu-ray treatment  is a rewarding package with a wealth of vintage and newly composed special features for fans to cut into.  Gruesomely fun, Bloodsucking Freaks deserves to be with fans harboring an appreciation for the sick and twisted.

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

  • Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977) DVD Review

    Gestapo’s Last Orgy (1977)
    Director: Cesare Canevari
    Starring: Daniela Levy & Marc Loud
    Released by: Intervision Picture Corp.

    Reviewed by Mike Keeny

    Appearing on the renowned “video nasties” list of the 1980s and still currently banned in the UK, Intervision unleashes one of the most notorious Nazisploitation epics of all time.  Depraved and sadistic, this Italian production exploits the nightmarish treatment of prisoners at the hands of the Third Reich.  Infamously sleazy, Gestapo’s Last Orgy, also known as Last Orgy of the Third Reich and Caligula Reincarnated as Hitler, is not for the faint of heart!

    Gestapo’s Last Orgy stars Daniela Levy as a beautiful concentration camp prisoner forced to endure unthinkable torture and sexual degradation at the hands of Hitler’s minions.  When a Nazi Commandant’s abuse increases, the desperate prisoner is forced to unleash her revenge.

    MOVIE:
    Released during the peak years where Nazisploitation thrived in grindhouse theaters, Gestapo’s Last Orgy is unquestionably more twisted than 1975’s more commonly discussed, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS.  Switching from past to present, Lise (Levy), returns to the abandoned scene of her imprisonment with her primary abuser as she recalls the terror she experienced.  Shocking moments included a nude troop of Nazi soldiers having their way with the female prisoners, a female warden tossing a menstruating prisoner to a pack of ferocious Dobermanns and a sickening dinner sequence that is the primary cause for the film’s banishment in the United Kingdom.  Nazi generals and other high-ranking officials feast on the meat of deceased prisoners before stripping down another.  The wicked dinner guests use her naked body as a food platter before igniting her in flames.  Gestapo’s Last Orgy is a sickening slice of trash cinema whose sole purpose is to shock with each scene.  Successful in its execution, this notorious nasty is tasteless and pushes the envelope of extreme brutality.  Lise’s resistance to show fear to the Commandant creates an obsession for the Nazi.  Torturing her with rats and acid pale in comparison to the murder of his own newborn with Lise based on the child’s “half-breed”.

    Revolting and gruesome, Gestapo’s Last Orgy strays closely to the Nazisploitation tropes of past efforts but does little more than shock.  Appropriately praised for its harsh nature, Gestapo’s Last Orgy was not quite my cup of tea and deserves a shower after viewing.  Perhaps, that’s the intent.
    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Intervision Picture Corp. presents Gestapo’s Last Orgy in an anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.78:1).  Reasonably soft looking, the film showcases signs of scratches and flakes throughout its runtime.  Colors pop decently with black levels on the murkier side.  Overall, the presentation is a decent upgrade from past releases and gets the job done fine.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, the audio is represented well, if not a tad flat while sporting a low hiss throughout.  Dialogue is audible with composer Alberto Baldan Bembo’s score coming in with static during sharper notes.  A mediocre mix that has its share of hiccups.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - A Brief History of Sadiconazista - Interview with Film Historian Dr. Marcus Stiglegger: Dr. Stiglegger of the University of Mainz, Germany sits down for an informative 36-minute interview.  A noted authority and author of several book on the subgenre, Stiglegger provides a scholarly background of Nazisploitation’s roots dating back to anti-Nazi propaganda of the 1940s, the grindhouse era films of the 60s and 70s plus, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.  The interview is engaging and a true crash course on the subject.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Gestapo’s Last Orgy remains an ultra sleazy and cruel piece of Nazisploitation.  Shocking and vile, this schlocky piece of grindhouse cinema does little to entertain and is tough to stomach.  The film still deserves the notoriety it receives within the genre for pushing the limits of despair.  Intervision Picture Corp. has done a fine job welcoming this uncut, unforgettable “video nasty” into their diverse library with an interview from Dr. Marcus Stiglegger that is worth the purchase alone.  While, not very impressive, fans of the niche genre will certainly appreciate.
    RATING: 2.5/5 

  • Big Bad Wolves (2013) Blu-ray Review

    Big Bad Wolves (2013)
    Director(s): Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
    Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad & Doval’e Glickman
    Released by: Magnolia Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Hailed by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained) as the “best film of the year”, this captivating feature comes from the directing duo of Israel’s first produced horror film, 2010’s Kalevet.  Shocking and suspenseful, Big Bad Wolves weaves a disturbing tale of brutal crimes and the lives of those affected.  Soaked with an aura of black comedy, this grizzly depiction of revenge sends the viewer squeezing the armrest of their seat.  Proudly presented by Magnolia Pictures, Big Bad Wolves arrives in the US prepared to send the viewer on a dark, twisted journey that will leave you breathless...

    Big Bad Wolves centers on a series of brutal child murders that collides the lives of three different men.  The father of the latest victim (Tzahi Grad) hellbent on revenge, a vigilante detective (Lior Ashkenazi) operating outside the law and the suspected murderer (Rotem Keinan), a religious studies teacher arrested and eventually set free due to a police blunder.  

    MOVIE:
    Evoking a fairy tale tone reminiscent of The Brothers Grimm, Big Bad Wolves opens with an innocent group of children playing in an abandoned building.  Shortly after, a team of detectives escort a bookish-looking schoolteacher, whom they believe to be responsible for a series of grizzly child murders, to the location in order to retrieve a confession in an unorthodox manner.  Without an admission, the men have no choice but to let the balding teacher go while, in the shadows, a young boy has captured their unpleasant treatment of the man on his phone.  Micki (Lior Ashkenazi) is removed from the case following the video footage going viral, opting him to pursue the suspect outside the confines of the law.  Meanwhile, Dror (Rotem Keinan), the religious studies teacher, is ordered to step down from his position as rumors begin to swirl about his involvement in the murders.  Gidi (Tzahi Grad), the father of the latest victim, finds his daughter bound to a chair, sexually assaulted and beheaded in a backwoods area.  The investigation continues with no clear idea of who may be responsible while, Micki and eventually Gidi are convinced the schoolteacher is to blame.  Fueled by anger and revenge, Gidi abducts Dror and banishes him to the damp basement of his newly purchased home.  Simultaneously hunting Dror, Micki is inadvertently brought to Gidi’s basement with a front row seat to the justice awaiting the supposed murderer.  Alliances are made and broken as Gidi and Micki subject the accused to enormous amounts of torture.  As time progresses, the men, as well as the audience, slowly begin questioning the schoolteacher’s guilt.

    Possessing shades of Peter Jackson’s 2009 opus, The Lovely Bones, Big Bad Wolves delivers a mesmerizing story about tragedy and the individuals it brings together.  The grim nature of young girls being sexually abused and beheaded leaves little sympathy room for the culprit.  Ashkenazi’s Micki is convinced that Dror, a local schoolteacher, is guilty of the crimes and has no issue resorting to less than legal actions to bring him to justice.  Ashkenazi plays the role with a fierce and believable determination that has the audience rooting for him all the way.  In addition, Ashkenazi injects some much needed comic relief with his sarcastic remarks paving way for an even more likable character.  Rotem Keinan delivers a standout performance as Dror, the religious studies teacher accused of the disturbing crimes.  Visually, Keinan possesses many elements that make him appear a lonely outcast and unquestionably guilty.  Keinan showcases incredible range as he endures unspeakable pain while being tortured and still insisting on his innocence.  Tzahi Grad’s Gidi is fueled with revenge after the murder of his daughter and is hellbent on seeing Dror suffer.  Grad’s monotone speech and deadpan stare perfectly relay a man who has nothing left to lose.  Gidi bounds Dror to a chair and violently hammers his hands and clips his toenails completely off.  More black humor is infused when Gidi is constantly interrupted by phone calls from his nagging mother and an unexpected visit from his father (Doval’e Glickman).  When Gidi’s father is made aware of the nightmare in the basement, a reestablished sense of control seems imminent.  In an unexpected turn of events, Gidi’s father partakes in extracting information from Dror using a blowtorch.

    Big Bad Wolves tugs at the most tender of nerves and draws you into a horrifying story that is equally dark and riveting.  The ensemble cast work true magic with performances that make you laugh as much as they frighten.  The Israeli-lensed production casts a hypnotic spell as it keeps you guessing until a twisted ending that will leave you truly spooked.  Overwhelming positive buzz and the compliment of a lifetime from Quentin Tarantino promises that Big Bad Wolves is a film that lives up to its bark with a fiendishly, bloody bite.
    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:
    Magnolia Pictures presents Big Bad Wolves with a 1080p high definition transfer in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  The film looks marvelous with skin tones nicely intact and detail coming through well in clothing and perspiration from Dror’s face during his torture scenes.  In addition, black levels are handled beautifully especially in Gidi’s dim, cobweb infested basement.  Moments of imperfection are nonexistent on this splendid video transfer.
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix in Hebrew, Big Bad Wolves sounds just as remarkable as its video transfer looks.  Dialogue comes across loud and clear with subtle sound effects working effectively.  Frank Hayim Ilfman’s eerie score is robust with a well rounded bass sending chills down your spine as it invades your speakers while, Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” never sounded crisper.  A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio English dub mix is also included along with optional English subtitles.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Making Big Bad Wolves: This nearly 17 minute featurette is quite informative with Directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado discussing the fairy tale approach to the material while, the cast discuss their roles and their working relationship together.  In addition, the usage of practical effects over CGI and the importance of a powerful soundtrack are also touched upon.

    - AXS TV: A Look at Big Bad Wolves: A much shorter piece that merely borrows shortened interviews from the superior featurette.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Also from Magnolia Entertainment: Trailers for The Last Day on Mars, Beyond Outrage, Here Comes the Devil, Journey to the West and an advertisement for AXS TV.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Big Bad Wolves is a phenomenal effort from a highly talented duo of filmmakers from the unexpected region of Israel.  Disturbing, shocking and surprisingly hilarious, Big Bad Wolves accomplished telling an adult fairy tale set against the backdrop of our all too grim real world.  Packed with delicious performances from a small, intimate cast and a powerful score from the talented Frank Hayim Ilfman, Big Bad Wolves is a disturbingly, entertaining film that makes you question your own thoughts.  Magnolia Pictures has presented the film with a pitch perfect audio and video package which only makes the viewing experience all the better.  Big Bad Wolves will send you on a mesmerizing journey with a finale that will leave you in absolute disarray.
    RATING: 4.5/5

  • Sex Hunter: 1980 (1980) DVD Review

     

    Sex Hunter: 1980 (1980)
    Director: Toshiharu Ikeda
    Starring: Erina Miyai, Ayako Ooota, Teruo Matsuyama & Seru Random
    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Considered one of the most controversial installments in the Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection, Sex Hunter: 1980 is a visual delight that captures disturbing imagery, leaving the viewer in a state of shock and awe.  Possessing shades of Suspiria, Dario Argento’s 1977 horror opus, Sex Hunter: 1980 is a darker erotic tale that dares to frighten rather than tantalize.  Presented with newly translated English subtitles, Impulse Pictures welcomes the 20th edition of their Nikkatsu Collection as a work determined to leave you spellbound.  From the director of Evil Dead Trap, Sex Hunter: 1980 intends to enslave you with its sinister tone, let’s find out if you can handle it...

    Sex Hunter: 1980 centers on Miki (Ayako Oota), a talented and beautiful ballet dancer, who has been accepted into a very private and prestigious ballet academy run by the mysterious Kaibara Akiko (Erina Miyai).  Determined to enhance her craft and reunite with her loving boyfriend, Miki quickly learns the dark motives of the academy.  Subjected to vicious sexual acts and violent torture, Miki is faced with the terrifying reality that she may never escape.

    MOVIE:
    While, Director Toshiharu Ikeda insisted he never watched horror films, including his own, due to his discomfort of being scared, Ikeda successfully captures a frightening tone in Sex Hunter: 1980.  The ballet company setting and ulterior motives from its owner share an undeniable similarity to Dario Argento’s Suspiria.  Substituting a coven of witches for a pair of sex-crazed torture junkies lifts the film to a unique form of disturbing cinema.  Miki (Oota), the innocent ballerina, is welcomed into the prestigious academy, unknowingly subjecting herself to a living nightmare.  The equally beautiful academy owner, Kaibara Akiko (Miyai), quickly seduces Miki and pleasures her until she has firm control over the young dancer.  Akiko subjects Miki to witness a salacious lesbian orgy of fellow students that takes place behind the mirrored glass of a practice room, cementing the seedy, slave-like world Miki now resides in.  Interestingly enough, Akiko’s brother is Miki’s boyfriend, now wheelchair bound and kept under a watchful eye from his sister.  Akiko never hesitates to seduce her brother who is defenseless against her intense sexual hunger.  In the meantime, Miki’s torture increases as Akiko’s male assistant rapes her repeatedly, stripping her of her virginity.  The aggressive nature of these acts are despicable but Ikeda stages these sequences masterfully, crafting images of allure and repulsion.  Miki, struggling to survive, endures more punishment as her male assailant forces bottles of Coca-Cola down her rear in one of the most horrifying moments of the film.  Shortly after, Miki is rigged above the practice room by ropes in hopes of forcing the beverages out of her in another sadistic act of dominance.  Eventually, Miki reaches her breaking point and chooses to embraces her torture instead of fearing it.  Miki urinates on herself as a form of rebirth which tantalizes her abuser and forces him to obey her.  The climax of the film finds Miki’s captors succumbing to her own devious wishes as the abused becomes the abuser.  Sex Hunter: 1980 is a shocking piece of erotic cinema that never titillates but thoroughly disturbs on a psychological level.  

    Sex Hunter: 1980 is a far cry from past Nikkatsu efforts but its frightening, erotically cruel tone that invokes shades of Argento’s Suspiria and Radley Metzger’s The Image is a remarkably well shot piece of sexually-fueled horror.  Sex Hunter: 1980 casts a spell of perversion and terror that the viewer will not soon forget.  
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Impulse Pictures presents Sex Hunter: 1980 in an anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer that dazzles!  Black levels are surprisingly deep, most notably in an early scene where Akiko witnesses Miki’s ballet performance from a darkened theater.  Colors pop nicely with the red ropes that bound Miki looking bold while perspiration can be seen clearly on actors’ bodies.  Impulse Pictures continues to surprise with the overall cleanliness of these Nikkatsu offerings.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Sex Hunter: 1980 comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese Mono mix.  Sound quality is more than sufficient with dialogue never missing a beat and the howls and screams of Miki pushing the audio appropriately.  While, not groundbreaking, Sex Hunter: 1980 sounds as well as one could hope.  In addition, newly translated removable English subtitles are provided.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Liner Notes from Japanese Film Scholar Jasper Sharp: Sharp injects interesting anecdotes about Director Toshihara Ikeda’s career as well as the cruel nature of Sex Hunter: 1980 that encouraged studio heads to insist Ikeda tone things down for his next film.  Another informative and well-researched set of liner notes from Sharp.

    - Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Sex Hunter: 1980 is a cruel, disturbing entry in the Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection that is not for the lighthearted.  Running the gamut of rape, incest, lesbianism and torture, Sex Hunter: 1980 pits nightmarish imagery against the backdrop of an unsuspecting ballet company.  Sex Hunter: 1980 achieves its hellish vision of erotic pleasure and stuns the audience with all its sadistic power.  Impulse Pictures succeeds in delivering a fine video and audio presentation, complimented by another scholarly selection of liner notes by Jasper Sharp.  Sex Hunter: 1980 is certainly not for everyone, but its execution in “nightmarotica” is one to be seen to be believed.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Crawlspace (1986) Blu-ray Review


    Crawlspace (1986)
    Director: David Schmoeller
    Starring: Klaus Kinski, Talia Balsam, Barbara Whinnery & Sally Brown
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The Criterion of Cult, Scream Factory, is back yet again to deliver fans with a much needed injection of some Empire Pictures goodness!  The maestro of creepiness, Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu the Vampyre), takes center stage as a murderous landlord with an obsession of peeping on his female tenants.  This supremely scary flick was helmed by David Schmoeller, responsible for other cult gems such as Tourist Trap and Puppetmaster.  Curious minds want to know how well this Kinski creepfest holds up so let’s not dawdle any longer...

    Crawlspace focuses on Karl Gunther (Klaus Kinski), a quiet landlord who happens to be the son of a Nazi.  Gunther has an obsession with sneaking through the crawlspaces of his apartment building in order to spy on his female tenants.  Gunther can barely contain his need to kill and with every new tenant comes a new object to fixate on.  Will the arrival of a new female tenant put a stop to Gunther’s heinous acts or is the fun just getting started?  

    MOVIE:
    With such an abundance of films released, Empire Pictures was a well-oiled machine that knew how to keep horror fans occupied.  Due to the scarcity of the film, I feel ashamed to admit that Crawlspace evaded me for so many years.  Crawlspace is a criminally forgotten flick that hits all the right notes in sending chills down your spine.  Klaus Kinski’s terrifying performance is what makes this film so appealing with his ice cold eyes and devilish grin.  The decision to make Kinski the son of a Nazi adds a depth to his character unlike most madmen found in films of its ilk at the time.  He has been fueled with a believable motivation that drives him mad to the point that only murdering can calm him.  In order to settle the score with his conscience, Gunther constantly plays Russian roulette to give faith a chance to punish him for his sins.  Another dimension to this maniacal character that made watching this film such a treat.  When he’s not spying on his next set of victims, Gunther is devising weapons of torture amongst his pet rats and a female prisoner locked away in a cage.  In addition, as the film reaches its finale, Gunther applies makeup that resembles Robert Smith of The Cure for an added level of weirdness.  

    As a product of its time, Crawlspace does right by the audience for including beautiful female actresses and some nice T&A moments for a tantalizing effect.  Talia Balsam (The Kindred) and Tané (Death Spa) both make appearances in the film.  Making great use of budget, Empire Pictures shot the entire film on an apartment complex set which works well and adds a nice claustrophobic layer.  Pino Donaggio (Carrie, Blow Out) serves up an incredibly spooky score that sets a disturbing tone with its echoing chorus chants.  Director David Schmoeller orchestrates the tight 80 minute runtime with suspense and precision that paved the way for more collaborations with Empire Pictures such as Catacombs and Puppetmaster Crawlspace is a disturbing and creepy diamond in the rough that is driven home by Kinski’s frightening performance.  The film’s breezy runtime leaves no room for shenanigans and keeps you firmly on the edge of your seat.  To say that I enjoyed Crawlspace would be an understatement, this is a wildly entertaining flick that is without a doubt, one of Empire Pictures’ greatest accomplishments.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents Crawlspace in a 1080p HD widescreen (1.85:1) transfer that looks remarkable.  It surprises me just how good a film from Empire Pictures‘ canon translates to HD and in the case of Crawlspace, it truly shines.  Colors, most noticeably in the red carpet in the apartment complex’s halls, comes across bold while nice detail is showcased in facial features with skin tones looking very natural.  Instances of flakes and speckles are barely existent on this transfer that boasts clear black levels and a great filmic layer of grain.  Another fine job by Scream Factory!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Crawlspace comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix that is very satisfying.  Dialogue comes across clearly even at times with Kinski’s soft-spoken lines.  Pino Donaggio’s haunting score really shines with intense scenes pushing the levels of the mix nicely.  A rewarding audio presentation for such an effectively moody flick!
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director David Schmoeller: Schmoeller touches upon the atmosphere and unique process of how Empire Pictures‘ films were created.  In addition, Schmoeller doesn’t get shy when discussing the tense nature of dealing with Kinski who could be ruthlessly uncooperative at times.  Originally, Kinski’s character was meant to be a Vietnam POW but Charles Band questioned whether audiences were ready for a film dealing with the war.  The decision was then made to make him the son of Nazi which, to this reviewer, was far more effective.  There are some dry spots to this commentary, but overall Schmoeller offers plenty of insight into the making of the film.

    - Tales from the Crawlspace: An Interview with John Vulich: Makeup-Effects Artist, Vulich, sits down for an interview where he discusses his early career highlights traveling the world and working on Empire Pictures films.  Vulich also touches upon his encounters with Kinski and hails them as an unforgettable experience.

    - Please Kill Mr. Kinski: Director David Schmoeller’s short documentary film that details the unpredictable and intense temper of Kinski which resulted in several on-set physical altercations.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - TV Spots

    - Reversible cover

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Crawlspace is a disturbingly intense and creepy flick thanks to the unforgettable performance of Klaus Kinski.  There’s no denying that this film is one of the best offerings from Empire Pictures and one that has gone far too unnoticed throughout the years.  The depth and insane motivations driven by Kinski’s character make this a film that will leave you questioning the late actor’s sanity.  Scream Factory has accomplished another victory by resurrecting this frightening flick with a wonderful video and audio presentation as well as a satisfying assortment of supplements.  For what it’s worth, winding down on a wildly successful year for the horror label, Crawlspace walks away as one of my most revered non-Collector’s Edition releases from Scream Factory to date!
    RATING: 4.5/5

  • In Hell (1976) DVD Review


    In Hell (1976)
    Director: Nikos Papatakis
    Starring: Olga Karlatos, Roland Bertin & Philippe Adrien
    Released by: One 7 Movies

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Cult Greek director, Nikos Papatakis, possess’ a fairly modest body of work having only directed five movies in his lifetime.  Interestingly enough, having fled to New York in 1957 for political reasons, he befriended John Cassavetes and became co-producer on Shadows.  Being raised in a politically charged time, Papatakis embarked to tell a truly grueling and reflective story of the Algeria anticolonial liberation struggle.  In what has been claimed as one of the most radical films to emerge from the decade, Papatakis debuted In Hell in 1976.  Is this film truly as radical as it it claims to be?  Pump yourself up for plenty of subtitle reading and let’s find out...

    In Hell, released as Tortura in Italy, tells the story of Hamdias, a producer who’s set to break new boundaries by developing a film on torture.  Hamdias believes that the clash of people is what substantiates human nature as well as love and politics.  Unfortunately, our chipper director unexpectedly dies halting the project.  His leading lady and mother of his child, Gaila, sets out to complete the controversial project with nightmarish results.

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

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/In_Hell__One_7_Movies__DVD_/in_hell__one_7_movies__dvd_.html