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Currently showing posts tagged Video Nasty

  • Madhouse (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Madhouse (1981)

    Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis

    Starring: Trish Everly, Michael Macrae, Dennis Robertson, Morgan Hart, Allison Biggers, Edith Ivey, Richard Baker & Jerry Fujikawa

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Infamously inducted as one of Britain’s prized “video nasties”, Madhouse centers on Julia Sullivan (Trish Everly in her only film role) who continues to try and block out the anguish her cruel twin sister Mary caused her growing up.  Suffering from a disfiguring illness and still harboring disdain for her other half, Mary escapes from the hospital, hellbent on delivering Julia a bloody birthday she’ll never forget.

    A peculiar blending of Italian hyper violence and America’s burgeoning slasher craze with a dash of gothic ambiance, Madhouse thrives on its uneasy tone that attempts to drown out its more questionable plot devices.  Educator to young deaf students, Julia still maintains a fear of her hospitalized twin sister Mary who suffers from a deforming disease and responsible for wrecking havoc on Julia throughout childhood.  Maintaining a close relationship with her loving uncle, Father James (Dennis Robertson, Dark Night of the Scarecrow), Julia seeks to make peace with her dying sister only to be met with frightening hostility.  Exploding into full-blown terror when Mary escapes from her hospital confines, Julia’s approaching 25th birthday seems less likely to be met as supernatural suspicions, a bloodthirsty Rottweiler and a body count start to take shape.  Shot in the suitably atmospheric region of Savannah, Georgia, Madhouse punctuates its proceedings with voyeuristic photography and a certifiably strange soundscape conducted by Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park) to further its descent into darkness.  

    Charismatic and beautiful, Trish Everly holds the picture together with genuine fear and concern for her life reading clearly in her face and actions while, the supporting cast hams it up with generally over-the-top performances.  A noble debut for Everly that would ultimately prove to be her last onscreen, the young actress seemed destined for a career as a future scream queen that was unfortunately not meant to be.  Pulling no punches with its violence and never discriminating against adults or young deaf children as its prey, Madhouse’s Rottweiler attacks on the like surely and appreciatively earned its place in “video nasties” history with ravaged jugulars and torn hands on full display.  While the film’s final showdown between Julia and her doctor boyfriend against the murderous culprits leave far more questions than answers concerning their motivations, Director Ovidio G. Assonitis (Beyond the Door) perhaps smartly bookends the horror-oddity with a quote to properly chase audiences head-scratching motions.

    Scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Arrow Video proudly presents Madhouse with a 1080p transfer, sporting its 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  A wonderfully filmic-looking offering, grain is healthy and overwhelmingly satisfying to the eye while, skin tones remain natural and clean.  Furthermore, the film’s gorier moments paint the screen red with eye popping boldness with black levels also appearing appreciatively deep.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that registers dialogue crisply, the track also makes excellent use of Composer Riz Ortolani’s evocatively creepy score and usage of lullabies with no hiccups to speak of.  An optional LPCM 2.0 mix has also been provided for your listening pleasure.  

    Bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues, Running the Madhouse with Edith Ivey (12:40) finds the actress recalling her early days in radio and the transition all actors made moving onto television.  Furthermore, Ivey also shares words about her appearance on The Howdy Doody Show, commentating for the Miss USA show for years before landing her role in Madhouse where the director wanted over-the-top performances from his cast.  Framing Fear (19:32) catches up with Director of Photography Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli in this subtitled interview that traces everything from his first paid job on Arturo’s Island to his many works with Assonitis.  Next up, Ovidio Nasty (7:44) chats with the film’s producer/director where he reveals the film’s direct influences to be The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Shining.  Assonitis also discusses the film’s alternate titles but prefers There Was a Little Girl and praises Savannah, Georgia as being the ideal gothic shooting location.  Finally, Alternative Opening Titles (3:01), the Original Trailer (3:04), a 23-page booklet featuring liner notes by John Martin (available only in the release’s first printing), Reversible Cover Art and a DVD edition conclude the supplemental package.  

    An overlooked effort that samples different styles and subgenres, Madhouse is certifiably odd to the bone with a violent bite from Rottweilers and deformed nutcases alike.  Although not one to provide all the answers by its conclusion, Director Ovidio G. Assonitis’ deranged sibling-slasher hybrid makes for a unique late night excursion through horror’s less traveled roads.  In their expected fashion, Arrow Video brings the “video nasty” to high-definition with a striking 2K restoration and a modest spread of extras to further educate and enlighten the minds of horror enthusiasts.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Madhouse can be purchased via DiabolikDVD.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Bloody Moon (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Bloody Moon (1981)
    Director: Jess Franco
    Starring: Olivia Pascal, Nadja Gerganoff, Alexander Waechter & María Rubio
    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Released at the height of the slasher boom, Spanish auteur Jess Franco would craft his closest contribution to the popular subgenre.  Placing attractive schoolgirls in the web of a deadly killer, Franco delivers the graphic violence and buckets of blood we’ve come to expect.  Produced by a German production company and shot on location in Spain, Severin Films proudly presents Bloody Moon, uncut and uncensored, on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

    Unquestionably taking the slasher films of North America into account, Bloody Moon focuses on a group of attractive teenage girls at an international language school.  Years after a fatal tragedy occurs, a mysterious killer is back again claiming new victims.  Deemed a “video nasty”, Bloody Moon was banned in England in the early 80s.

    MOVIE:
    Kicking off in classic slasher form with a rambunctious costume party leading to promiscuity, Bloody Moon wastes no time establishing a murder via scissors.  Bearing a ghastly scar on his face, Miguel (Alexander Waechter), is sentenced to a psych ward for his crime until he is deemed suitable for society.  Years pass and following his release, Miguel and his beautiful sister, Manuela (Nadja Gerganoff), are reunited.  Returning to their elderly aunt’s residence, which also serves as an international language boarding school, the siblings adjust to their new life and positions.  Before long,  Angela (Olivia Pascal) and her sexy friends become targets of a killer stalking the school grounds.  While, Bloody Moon’s plot suits the slasher genre, the film, following the opening murder, wanders into mediocrity with uneventful character development.  Lacking the distinctive style associated with Franco’s previous works, Bloody Moon misses the mark of serving up a high body count and disappoints with a prudish amount of nudity, compared to other slasher efforts.  Instead, Franco relies on cheap scares that are mildly humorous but quickly grow tiresome.  In addition, an incestual relationship between Miguel and Manuela is presented, but never fully explored.  The motivation behind the murders are clichéd while, the twist climax fails to surprise.  

    At the risk of sounding overly negative, Bloody Moon does contain some quality moments in its use of gore.  A graphic sequence involving a grizzly murder by power saw are remarkably well done, sprouting gallons of blood on the screen.  More thrills come when a knife stabs through a breast and a child is ran over by a car, shocking in true Franco fashion.  Bloody Moon mimics the genre it’s playing in with plenty of POV shots from our killer plus, a splash of giallo, as the culprit is seen in one scene sporting black leather gloves and a kitchen knife.  The cast of young ladies, headlined by Olivia Pascal (Vanessa), are all stunning sights and spend their free time swimming topless, albeit briefly, and boogieing down at the campus‘ local roller disco making their boarding school, one of the grooviest around.  While, the English dubbing is quite laughable and the conclusion is rather abrupt, Bloody Moon is still deemed a decent effort thanks to the noteworthy murder sequences.  Franco’s slasher effort is lacking his usual sleaze and style but is far from considered one of his worst.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Bloody Moon is presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing a healthy grain layer, the film looks remarkably clean and bolsters crisp colors.  Skin tones are natural and radiant with black levels as visible as can be.  Uncut footage of murder sequences are inserted back into the film from a lackluster source but, work surprisingly well given their context.  In addition, rare vertical lines are briefly seen in this otherwise phenomenal looking transfer.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with an English PCM Mono mix, Bloody Moon sounds quite pleasing with the English-dubbed dialogue coming in clear and free of distortion.  The odd sounding score also comes in well with a decent bass sound during more suspenseful moments.  
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Franco Moon - An Interview with Director Jess Franco: Ported over from the previous DVD release, Franco sits down for nearly 20 minutes discussing the origins of the film.  Franco explains how a German production company proposed the film to him under false pretenses.  A phenomenal director of photography and Pink Floyd contributing to the score were all promised but never came to fruition.  In addition, Screenwriter Erich Tomek (credited as Rayo Casablanca), who also served as the production manager, denied any changes Franco wanted to impose on the film which can be attributed to the film’s very non-Franco vibe.  

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Following in the wake of body count flicks like Friday the 13th, Bloody Moon comes in a bit weak and struggles to stay interesting.  While, this foreign slasher tried to ride the coattails of more successful films, Franco’s inability to inject much of his own bizarre creativity explains many of the film’s issues.  That said, the cast do a fine job in their roles, most notably Olivia Pascal who conveys the right blend of fear and emotion playing the final girl.  The few murder sequences included are effective and gory, nearly making up for the relatively low body count.  Severin Films has done a tremendous job providing a superb video transfer and audio mix along with an enlightening interview from the late director.  Far from Franco’s finest hour, Bloody Moon still contains enough to be recommended to slasher enthusiasts and Franco-philes alike.
    RATING: 4/5