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Currently showing posts tagged Vinegar Syndrome

  • 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.

  • Witchtrap (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Witchtrap (1989)

    Director: Kevin Tenney

    Starring: Linnea Quigley, James Quinn, Kathleen Bailey, Judy Tatum, Hal Havins & Rob Zapple

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Bearing its alternate The Presence title card, Witchtrap, aggressively marketed as not a sequel to 1987’s Witchboard, scares up the screen as Director Kevin Tenney’s most overlooked spooktacular showcase from the wild and waning late 80s.  Afflicted with a reputation for being haunted and further confirmed following an unexplainable death on its grounds, the Lauder House, failing to sell to potential buyers attempts to reinvent itself as a bed and breakfast.  Hired by the property’s inheritor (Tenney in a brief role), a team of paranormal experts, aided by a trio of security operatives, use their tools and know-how to cleanse the home of its sinister evil but find themselves meeting fatal demises the longer they stay.  Boasting charmingly clunky acting and genuinely funny dialogue, Witchtrap delivers a black mass of gory special effects mayhem including, automobile impalements, exploding noggins, a bullet (sans gunfire) through the skull and the always dependable axe to the head.  In addition, scream queen Linnea Quigley reteams with her Night of the Demons helmer for a minor but, wildly memorable role that finds her baring her full assets and landing the film’s highlight death scene with a shower head driven through her neck.  Another low-budget marvel in Tenney’s rolodex of features overrun with possessed partygoers and eerie Ouija boards, Witchtrap keeps the fun rolling well into its final act where smart-assed lone survivor Tony Vincente (James Quinn, Witchboard) goes head to head with the black magic-worshipping entity of Avery Lauder (J.P. Luebsen, also of Witchboard fame) in a ghost busting brawl for the ghoul’s heart.

    Newly scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm interpositive, Vinegar Syndrome presents Witchtrap fully uncut with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Cleansed to perfection while maintaining its filmic integrity, skin tones are highly detailed and warmly accurate while, colors found in the bedrooms of the Lauder House and its surrounding greenery burst with vibrancy.  In addition, the film’s gorier moments are further enhanced by the image’s crispness revealing all the technical team’s efforts.  Lastly, black levels are deeply inky and universally sound, chalking up another flawless restoration for the consistent indie label.  Joined by a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, the film’s dubbed dialogue is handled effectively while its overall usage is occasionally jarring in motion.  Furthermore, the eerie atmospherics and musical underscores are appropriately balanced for a less forceful but nonetheless efficiently pleasing listening experience.

    Packed to the brim with content, special features include, a chatty Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Kevin Tenney, Producer Dan Duncan, Cinematographer Tom Jewett & Actor Hal Havins, several newly recorded interview featurettes including, Making Witchtrap with Kevin Tenney (23:36) who discusses his film school days before exiting once landing the opportunity to helm Witchboard and his other successive features and the hardships of making smaller budgeted films, Acting Witchtrap with Linnea Quigley (13:40) who recounts her chance encounter falling into acting and her creative relationship with Tenney, Shooting Witchtrap: An Interview with Tom Jewett (15:90) plus, Special Effects with Tassilo Baur (17:11).  Additionally, Audio Interviews with Special Makeup Artist Judy Yonemoto (8:18) and Music Composer Dennis Michael Tenney (13:13) are provided along with the Witchtrap Video Trailer (2:55), Book of Joe Short Film directed by Kevin Tenney (23:23) and an Alternate Ending for Book of Joe (3:44).  Lastly, a Production/Promotional Still Gallery (12 in total), DVD Edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original and favored VHS poster close out the robust spread of supplements.  A supernaturally splendid hodgepodge from the last breathes of the 1980s featuring a haunted house and buckets of blood, Witchtrap sits proudly next to Tenney’s other cult favorites from the era while earnestly deserving more praise than time has provided for its tightly budgeted and highly entertaining execution in satanic shrieks.  Treating viewers to the missing link in Tenney’s early trifecta of terror, Vinegar Syndrome outdoes themselves with the film’s definitive release.  Perfect in quality and presentation in all its uncut glory, the included bonus features are a staggering sight to behold and a pleasure to be possessed by.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • Slaughterhouse (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Slaughterhouse (1987)

    Director: Rich Roessler

    Starring: Sherry Bendor Leigh, Joe B. Barton, Don Barrett, Bill Brinsfield, Jane Higginson & William Houck 

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Hog wild horror ensues in Slaughterhouse when financially ruined butcher Lester Bacon (Don Barrett, Hobgoblins) finds his business rival, with an informed lawyer and town sheriff in his back pocket, itching to buy his decrepit property.  Convinced a conspiracy is at hand, the eccentric old-timer orders his cleaver-wielding, pig sound-making son Buddy (Joe B. Barton, Blood Diner) to take care of the offenders.  An above average slasher offering from the glory days of video rentals, Slaughterhouse delivers a simplistically sound plot that takes pride in its story better than most of its indie competitors where body count was always priority.  Following a dare to remain in the foreclosed kill kennel the longest, four teenagers, befit with big hair and hammy dialogue, find themselves at the mercy of the overall-wearing madman where the film truly lives up to it name.  Graced with hilariously oddball performances from Barrett and Barton, Slaughterhouse draws blood with a variety of kills including, limb chopping, skull crushing and taking advantage of the tools at their disposal, corpse grinding.  Climaxing with an expected yet, surprisingly well-orchestrated showdown between the hulkish killer and the film’s final girl surrounded by a shrine of meathooked victims, the inexpensively shot Slaughterhouse may not reinvent the cycle yet, stands as a solid entry next to other southern comfort slashers where its buckets of blood will make likeminded viewers squeal like piggies.

    Exceptionally restored in 2K from the original 35MM interpositive, Vinegary Syndrome proudly presents Slaughterhouse with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Shattering preemptive expectations based on the scratchy American Artists logo at the film’s onset, the low-budget slasher dazzles like never before.  Boasting stable skin tones, bold color grades throughout costume choices and the film’s bloodier moments to deep black levels offering a clear presentation of the onscreen occurrences, Slaughterhouse shines with filmic grace and a virtually spotless cleanup that definitively puts to bed shoddier standard definition and overseas releases alike.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that honors the film’s original Ultra-Stereo track for the first time on home video, dialogue is clear and robust while musical selections are handled with fine authority, making the feature a delightful listen.  Additionally, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 is also included.  

    Packed with both new and vintage supplements, bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rich Roessler, Producer Jerry Encoe & Production Designer Michael Scaglione, Reminiscene: Interview with Sherry Bendorf Leigh (10:40) catches up with the film’s leading lady as she reflects on the wild time making the film, Making a Low Budget Indie with Writer/Director Rick Roessler (28:16) sits down with the filmmaker as he recounts the development process of the slasher and his goal to push plot while, The Art of Producing a Low Budget Feature with Executive Producer Jerry Encoe (5:37) echoes many of Roessler’s sentiments including, their boredom making military training films that encouraged them to make Slaughterhouse and the difficulty of financing the project.  In addition, an Archival Interview with Rick Roessler from 1999 (15:16), an Archival Interview with Jerry Encoe from 1999 (10:45), Epilogue: 30 Years After the Slaughter (1:13), a Radio Interview Featurette from 1987 (4:50), Local News Coverage of Slaughterhouse Premiere (3:59) and a Shooting the Scenes: Behind the Scenes Featurette (20:48) is also included.  Lastly, Outtakes (3:08), a “No Smoking” - Slaughterhouse Theatrical Snipe (0:28), Theatrical Trailers (2:04), TV Spots (4:26), Radio Spots (0:45), the Slaughterhouse Shooting Script, a DVD Edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art conclude the mammoth spread of supplements.  Celebrating its 30th anniversary in true style, Vinegar Syndrome continues to prove their status as one of cult cinema’s leading distributors with its sparkling 2K restoration of this pigsploitation slasher, tailor-made for fans hogtied by its bloodtastically promising cover art.      

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973)

    Director: Javier Aguirre

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Child’s Play (1988)

    Director: Tom Holland

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

    Burial Ground (1980)

    Director: Andrea Bianchi

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    Director: Anthony Hickox

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

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

    Lady in White (1988)

    Director: Frank LaLoggia

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

     

  • 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.

  • Dolemite (1975) Blu-ray Review

    Dolemite (1975)

    Director: D’Urville Martin

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

    Release by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Pigs (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Pigs (1973)

    Director: Marc Lawrence

    Starring: Marc Lawrence, Toni Lawrence & Jesse Vint

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Erotic Adventures of Candy (1978) / Candy Goes to Hollywood (1979) Blu-ray Review

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

    Director: Gail Palmer

    Starring: Carol Connors, John Holmes, Pat Rhea, John Leslie & Turk Lyon / Carol Connors, Wendy Williams, John Leslie, Desiree Cousteau, Shadow Neva, Rhona Jo Petty & Sharon Kane

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following her turn in 1972’s iconic Deep Throat, porn princess Carol Connors would headline arguably her most memorable role in 1978.  Presented under their popular Peekarama banner in an all-new Blu-ray edition, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents the hilarious adventures of a shy virgin, curious about sex.  Restored in 2K, Erotic Adventures of Candy centers on shy, virginal Candy (Carol Connors), a beautiful girl curious about sex.  Destined to learn from experience, Candy sets out on a steamy adventure of exploration with hilarious results.  Next up, Candy Goes to Hollywood finds our sexy blonde protagonist arriving in Hollywood in search of fame.  After hooking up with a scamming talent agent, Johnny Dooropener (John Leslie), Candy learns the ropes of how to make it in the big city.

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

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

    The zany humor and excellent footage of Hollywood circa 1979 make Candy Goes to Hollywood the superior effort.  In addition, skin fans should be pleased to note that the ante is definitely raised in this installment with Connors looking even more gorgeous.  Interestingly enough, years following her directorial efforts, Gail Palmer admitted to never contributing to the films and her involvement was a mere front for her then boyfriend, porn distributor Harry Mohney.  Palmer would eventually sue her former flame in 1984 for excluding her from the profits of their films.  Appearing in Playboy in 1977 as a Michigan State girl, Palmer was an active face for the films‘ promotion being used as a spokesperson in the trailers.  Nonetheless, Candy Goes to Hollywood is a fun example of adult film fare that understands the power of a sense of humor while, still delivering all the X-rated goods desired by porn enthusiasts.

    Restored in 2K from their original 35mm camera negatives (Candy Goes to Hollywood being newly restored in 2016), both films sport 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Improving over their previously sound DVD release, colors are noticeably sharper in Candy’s red sweater and other bright attire with skin tones revealing even more detail.  Faint scratches arise in darker sequences but hardly deter from the obvious enhancements seen in their hi-def presentations.  Both films greatly impress with their latest restorations boasting additional cleanup and solid grain levels.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mixes, both films are once again relayed with clear dialogue levels with only mild cracks and pops arising without sacrificing listenability.  Akin to its DVD release, special features include, the Erotic Adventures of Candy Original Theatrical Trailer (4:44) and the Candy Goes to Hollywood Original Theatrical Trailer (2:02).

    After several more films and a directorial effort, Carol Connors retired from the adult industry to start a family (her daughter Thora Birch would ultimately catch the acting bug and appear in such Hollywood fare as American Beauty and Ghost World).  Vinegar Syndrome has done another sound job upgrading two of Connors‘ best remembered works to high-definition.  Erotic Adventures of Candy and Candy Goes to Hollywood make for a fun double bill of 70s erotica that delivers on skin and casts a charm with its sense of humor, greatly attributed to Connors‘ bimbo-like personality.  A wonderful time capsule of late 70s Hollywood, Vinegar Syndrome’s most popular Peekarama release continues to sweeten the tooth’s of adult film fans.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Erotic Adventures of Candy / Candy Goes to Hollywood can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Luther the Geek (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Luther the Geek (1990)

    Director: Carlton J. Albright

    Starring: Edward Terry, Joan Roth, Stacy Haiduk, Tom Mills & J. Jerome Clarke

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Excavated from the Troma vaults, Luther the Geek centers on paroled murderer Luther Watts (Edward Terry, The Children) who takes comfort in biting the heads off live chickens for their blood.  Returning to his hometown with a razor sharp set of teeth, Luther stakes his claim at a family’s desolate farm house where his bloody rampage continues.  Joan Roth (in her only feature role), Stacy Haiduk (Superboy), Tom Mills (Bean) and J. Jerome Clarke (Behind the Candelabra) co-star.

    Set in rural Illinois, Luther the Geek is a harrowing horror film bursting with bloodshed and deranged depravity.  Lacking the date night quality of slasher films, Carlton J. Albright’s sole directorial feature packs an effectively grizzly punch sparring no apologies.  Melding the psychological ambiguity of Leatherface with the carnivorous killer instinct of a vampire, Luther, after serving 20 years in prison, is released without batting an eyelash before returning to his violent ways.  Chomping into the neck of an elderly old lady with his sharply shimmering teeth, the madman stows away in the back of a woman’s vehicle to evade capture from local law enforcement.  Shortly after arriving home, single mother Hilary (Roth) is confronted by her unexpected passenger only to be bound and gagged while, daughter Beth (Haiduk) and boyfriend Rob (Mills) get frisky in the shower.  When Luther’s less than stellar riding abilities are proven while attempting to steal Rob’s motorcycle, the bald lunatic decides to make the young lovers his latest prey.  Overpowered and held captive on their quiet farmland, the trio are no match for Luther even when a lone officer attempts to do battle with him in a dimly lit chicken coop.  In the longest evening of their lives, dawn hardly means the nightmare is over for the simple farm folk.

    Clucking at his victims with an animalistic stare in his eyes, Edward Terry’s performance as the circus freak influenced killer is firmly unsettling and fully embodies the mindset of an unhinged individual.  Savagely gnawing at his victims necks, Luther’s forceful beating of the teenage Beth is notably ruthless and oftentimes difficult to view while, special effects highlights, achieved by the uncredited William Purcell (RoboCop) and Mike Tristano (Things), include the goretastic moment of Rob’s torn open chest exposing his still beating heart.  Intendedly harsh and dreary, this memorable home invasion bloodbath unquestionably separates itself from the pack.  

    Scanned and restored in 2K from the original camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents Luther the Geek with a 1080p transfer in its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  While mild compression traces can be spotted in darker sequences such as the chicken coop climax, visibility is hardly an issue.  Otherwise boasting a remarkably clean appearance, footage is filmic while skin tones are notably accurate with colors found in Beth’s hot pink tank top and Luther’s stroll through food market aisles making bold strides.  In addition, detail is most striking during closeups of Luther’s neck-tearing acts showcasing all their brutal severity.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, a pop or two is heard only during the film’s opening credits while, dialogue is strongly delivered with no complaints to be had.  Newly created special features include, a colorful Introduction by Director Carlton J. Albright (0:38), Audio Commentary with Director Carlton J. Albright, Fowl Play: An Interview with Jerry Clarke (10:17), credited as J. Jerome Clarke, the actor/artist/singer shares his experiences in the business while reminiscing on his role as a state trooper.  Also included, A Conversation with Carlton (6:36) and the Theatrical Trailer (2:26).  Ported over from Troma’s past DVD release, supplements comprise an Interview with Carlton Albright (5:12), Interview with Will Albright (2:40), Carlton on the shower scene (7:30), Carlton on the old lady bite scene (2:38), Carlton on the fight scene (8:50) and Carlton on the final scene (1:12).  Accompanied by The Children Trailer (0:55), a Reversible Cover Art bearing the original poster and a DVD edition of the release conclude the supplemental package.

    Effectively brutal and chilling, Luther the Geek pits psychotic tendencies with Ozzy Osbourne head-biting qualities for a peculiar feature that carries buckets of blood to the show.  In their latest recovery from Troma’s vast library, Vinegar Syndrome restores the sadistic shocker to life in glorious quality, squashing all previous releases.  Matched with a suitable spread of supplements and a generous reversible cover art, Vinegar Syndrome’s latest cult release is worthy of clucking over.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar SyndromeLuther the Geek can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.comAmazon.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. 

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

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #9

    Count Dracula (1970)

    Director: Jess Franco

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Zombie High (1987)

    Director: Rob Link

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

    Axe (1975) / Kidnapped Coed (1976)

    Director: Frederick R. Friedel

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Women’s Prison Massacre (1983)

    Director: Bruno Mattei

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

    Corruption (1983)

    Director: Roger Watkins

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

    The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

    Director: Joseph Green

    Starring: Herb Evers, Virginia Leith & Leslie Daniel

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Assault on New Releases #5: Nightmare Weekend (1985), Gravy (2015) & Eaten Alive (1976) Blu-ray Reviews

         

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #5

    Nightmare Weekend (1985)

    Director: Henri Sala

    Starring: Debbie Laster, Dale Midkiff, Debra Hunter, Lori Lewis, Andrea Thompson & Robert Burke

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Filmed on location in Florida by a crew of French filmmakers, Nightmare Weekend is a bizarre blending of horror and softcore sex plagued by a blatant communication breakdown during its making.  When a brilliant scientist with the ability to alter personalities allows a fellow specialist to test the experiment on a group of hard-partying females, chaos erupts when they are turned into bloodthirsty savages.  Comprised of a young and inexperienced cast, including Dale Midkiff (Pet Sematary) and Robert Burke (Robocop 3), Nightmare Weekend is a nonsensical head spinner that continues to live up to its moniker as one of the odder offerings of the 1980s.  Loaded with surprisingly impressive make-up effects by Dean Gates (Maximum Overdrive, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), an eye-raising hand puppet named George, a quintessentially 80s aerobics sequence, sex atop a pinball machine and hilariously dubbed dialogue, Nightmare Weekend baffles the senses while charming the appetites of oddball cinema enthusiasts.

    Vinegar Syndrome presents Nightmare Weekend with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Presented uncut for the first time ever, colors appear refreshingly vivid with skin tones relayed naturally and nicely detailed.  A filmic layer of grain is apparent with occasional instances of scratches and vertical lines sneaking their way into the otherwise impressive transfer.  Meanwhile, black levels are satisfactory while the warm Floridian setting looks lively.  Licensed from Troma Entertainment following less than desirable releases of the film, Vinegar Syndrome restores Nightmare Weekend to top-notch quality.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, the dubbed dialogue is fairly clear with only a hint of hiss detected.  Music and other potent sound effects offer moderate enhancements that compliment the mix nicely.  Special features include, Thanks God It’s Monday: Surviving Nightmare Weekend with Dean Gates (22:54) has Make-Up Effects Artists Gates sitting down for a detailed and lengthy interview as he recalls the shooting of the film, the occasional difficulties working with a mostly non-English speaking crew and the constraints of creating on a low-budget.  In addition, Killer Weekend: An Interview with Marc Gottlieb (12:50), Alternate “R Rated” Edits (7:47), the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:26), Reversible Cover Art and a DVD edition round out the supplemental package.

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Gravy (2015)

    Director: James Roday

    Starring: Michael Weston, Jimmi Simpson, Sutton Foster, Gabourey Sidibe & Sarah Silverman

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Complimenting their steady diet of cult favorites, Scream Factory, the horror offshoot of Shout! Factory, craves a little Gravy.  Set on Halloween night, a motley crew of bar workers are caught off guard when a trio of costumed cannibals invade their Mexican cantina and add them to their personal menu.  Starring a diverse cast including Michael Weston (Cherry Falls), Jimmi Simpson (Zodiac), Academy Award nominee Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) and Sarah Silverman (Wreck-It Ralph), Gravy crafts a hilarious concoction of home invasion terrors meets cannibalism with its tongue never leaving its cheek.  As the witty yet deranged trio with a craving for flesh hold an entire bar staff captive, a fatal game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon ensues while the bar’s accomplished chef is forced to turn his friends into ravishing meals.  For all its suggestive gory scenarios expertly realized by legends Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead) and Howard Berger (Drag Me to Hell), Gravy keeps its sense of humor prominently prioritized allowing viewers to be more tickled pink than repulsed.  Accompanied by choice soundtrack cuts from Cutting Crew, Katrina and the Wave and Los Lobos, Gravy nicely balances the frightening and funnier aspects of its narrative with amusing performances from the entire cast.  Marking the film debut of Director James Roday (Psych), Gravy is a horrific hoot that unexpectedly stands as one of Scream Factory’s most refreshing contemporary offerings.  

    Scream Factory presents Gravy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Shot digitally, colors are bright and nicely saturated in costumes and bloodspraying moments while skin tones read naturally.  The dimly lit, windowless bar setting is wonderfully presented with detail never losing consistency.  In addition, black levels are always inky and free of any anomalies allowing for a most pleasing picture.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is clearly presented with occasional moments being overwhelmed only by loud bursts of music.  Sound effects of shattering bottles, bar brawls and shrieks of terror come across effectively with memorable songs such as “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” gracing the mix with an authoritative presence.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Finally, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director James Roday and Actors Sutton Foster & Jimmi Simpson, a humorous What is Gravy? (5:56) featurette, an EPK (6:23), Trailer (2:16) and Reversible Cover Art.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available October 6th from Scream Factory, Gravy can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Eaten Alive (1976)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Marilyn Burns, William Finley, Kyle Richards & Robert Englund

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the breakout success of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Director Tobe Hooper would look to the humid south once again to stage his next effort in terror.  Shot completely on Hollywood soundstages, Eaten Alive takes place in the Louisiana wetlands at the dreary Starlight Hotel, ran solely by the peculiar Judd (Neville Brand, The Police Connection).  Originally seen as odd yet harmless, Judd’s over the top temper and sheer insanity is revealed when a former prostitute rents a room prompting the elder owner to make his guest food for his enormous alligator.  As more patrons including, a family with a young daughter and a desperate man in search of his runaway daughter rent rooms at the Starlight Hotel, Judd’s homicidal behavior increases making a scythe his weapon of choice.  While murdering the handicapped in his shocking directorial debut kept viewers on the edge of their seats, all bets are off in Hooper’s followup as an adorable puppy falls prey to the film’s reptilian monster and a heart-pounding game of cat and mouse between Judd and effective child actor Kyle Richards takes place under the hotel.  In addition, Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street) makes a most seedy appearance as scene stealing scumbag Buck, nicely complimenting another bizarro performance from co-star William Finley (Phantom of the Paradise).  Admirably capturing an uneasy atmosphere courtesy of the film’s claustrophobic production design, Neville Brand’s deranged performance is the glorified stamp on the film making Eaten Alive one of Hooper’s best and often underrated gems.

    Restored in 2K from the film’s original camera negative, Arrow Video presents Eaten Alive with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing the approval of Director Tobe Hooper, colors are bold and defined with skin tones looking warm and natural.  While a softer appearance is occasionally spotted during Buck’s first encounter with runaway prostitute Clara, dirt, debris or other such blemishes are virtually nonexistent in this impressively cleaned up transfer.  In addition, detail is strikingly sharp with the Starlight Hotel’s dim lighting being of no issue as wallpaper stains and other intentional imperfections are spotted clearly.  Continuing to make great strides in the U.S. market, Arrow Video have treated viewers with the definitive presentation of this exploitation favorite.  Accompanied with an LPCM 1.0 mix, dialogue is strongly relayed while the screams of child actor Kyle Richards and the film’s unique score are excellently balanced.  Overflowing with content, special features include, an Introduction with Director Tobe Hooper (0:20), an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Producer Mardi Rustam, Actors Roberta Collins, William Finley & Kyle Richards and Make-Up Artist Craig Reardon.  In addition, newly recorded interviews featuring Blood on the Bayou: An Interview with Tobe Hooper (14:03), Gator Bait: An Interview with Janus Blythe (11:38) and Monsters and Metaphors: An Interview with Craig Reardon (11:25) are also included.  Furthermore, The Gator Creator with Tobe Hooper (19:38), My Name is Buck: A Look Back at Eaten Alive (15:05) and 5ive Minutes with Marilyn (5:18) have been ported over from Dark Sky Films’ previous home video release.  Additionally, The Butcher of Elmendorf: The Legend of Joe Ball (23:05), Theatrical Trailers (13:35), TV and Radio Spots (2:52), Alternate Credits (1:05), a Behind the Scenes Slideshow (8:09), Stills and Promo Material Gallery (1:02) and Comment Cards Gallery (0:33) are provided while, a 22-page booklet featuring an essay from Brad Stevens, Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s original 1-sheet poster and a DVD Edition of the release conclude the film’s first-rate supplemental package.

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • Some Call It Loving (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Some Call It Loving (1973)

    Director: James B. Harris

    Starring: Zalman King, Carol White, Tisa Farrow, Veronica Anderson & Richard Pryor

    Released by: Etiquette Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the debut release of Etiquette Pictures, the offbeat subdivision of Vinegar Syndrome, Director James B. Harris’ Some Call It Loving is a modernization of the timeless fairy tale Sleeping Beauty.  After obtaining a most peculiar carnival act from a local barker, lonely jazz musician Robert (Zalman King, Blue Sunshine) brings Jennifer (Tisa Farrow, Zombie), a young girl reawakened after many years of sleep, home to his lavish mansion.  Welcoming his newfound love to his unique world, their relationship is tested when Jennifer desires more than Robert can provide.  Carol White (The Man Who Had Power Over Women), Veronica Anderson (The Horror at 37,000 Feet) and Richard Pryor (Stir Crazy) co-star.

    Based on John Collier’s short story, Some Call It Loving is a surrealistic tale of blind love and self-exploration set in a utopia of sexual fantasy.  Sharing a marvelous castle estate with the beautiful Scarlett (White) and their housemaid Angelica (Anderson), Robert (King) moonlights as a jazz musician while yearning for more in life.  Wandering the trashy threshold of a carnival, Robert discovers a bizarre Sleeping Beauty attraction where for one dollar, men can kiss an attractive girl asleep for many years, in hopes of awakening her.  Equally disgusted and tantalized, Robert purchases Jennifer (Farrow) for a hefty sum and whisks her away to his mansion.  Emerging from her long slumber, the young Jennifer, bursting with jovial curiosity, is a product of a more innocent era that Robert recognizes as his escape from his hapless existence.  Introduced to their peculiar role-playing games, the lines of dreams and reality become heavily blurred for Jennifer as she witnesses tap dancing nuns and crash courses in strict etiquette.  Envious of his carefree, drug-addicted friend Jeff (Pryor) and conflicted by the trappings of his own personal utopia, Robert and Jennifer’s hopeful relationship grows complicated.

    Overwhelmingly dismissed by domestic critics yet, revered in France before being revitalized years later by the now defunct Z Channel, Some Call It Loving is an uncompromised vision of unconventional sexploitation matched with arthouse class, making way for a most unusual effort.  More sexually suggestive than it is revealing, Director James B. Harris (Fast-Walking) weaves his camera like a painter’s brush capturing a dreamlike state that refuses to pass judgement on his relatable yet, flawed characters.  While its core cast including, the shy and reserved King to the charmingly green Farrow all make an impression, Richard Pryor’s scene-stealing turn as the drug addled Jeff will leave viewers aching with sympathy from his junkie ramblings and genuine sadness.  Akin to falling down a rabbit hole of strangeness, Mario Tosi’s (Carrie, The Stunt Man) evocative cinematography and Richard Hazard’s (Nickelodeon) raw score cast a dizzying spell of euphoria.  While its passionate imagery of a hollow utopia pleasantly stupefies, its abstract narrative and complex characters may leave viewers unsure of the film’s intentions.  Unflinching in its execution, Some Call It Loving will most assuredly continue to leave audiences split while, simultaneously invoking a gamut of emotions by its completion.

    Scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Etiquette Pictures presents Some Call It Loving with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Glazed in a fog-entranced lighting, colors pop admirably with skin tones projecting naturally pleasing levels.  Natural grain is present, if not slightly overwhelming in several sequences, while black levels contain their fair share of speckling during dimly lit sequences in Robert and Scarlett’s mansion and the smoky jazz club.  Regardless of its occasional anomalies, Some Call It Loving rises above its previous home video releases with its finest presentation to date.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, a mild hiss stakes its claim on the track while dialogue is handled decently.  Amid several instances of cracks and pops, Richard Hazard’s score and most impressively, the jazz club sequences make an impressionable statement.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director James B. Harris moderated by Sam Prime, Some Call It History: Looking Back with James B. Harris (6:52) finds Harris recounting his early years producing his friend Stanley Kubrick’s early efforts before turning to directing.  In addition, A Dream So Real: Mario Tosi in Conversation (8:27), Outtake Footage (15:55) with commentary from Harris and Prime, a 6-page booklet with notable linear notes by Kevin John Bozelka, Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s original French artwork and a DVD edition of the release round out the supplemental package.

    Phantasmagorical and emotional, Director James B. Harris’ Some Call It Loving is a unique love story that leaves the viewer and its characters in an inescapable realm between dreams and reality.  From a surreal state of ecstasy to the lowest depths of emptiness, this arthouse fairy tale will leave viewers spinning by its narrative but entranced by its visuals.  In their debut effort, Etiquette Pictures resurrects this largely forgotten opus with a stunning restoration and revealing special features, raising appreciation for the film’s place in independent cinema.  Like so many abstract auteurist efforts, Some Call It Loving will leave audiences divided while, providing an unusually unique viewing experience for all.  With a commitment to preserve experimental independent features, Etiquette Pictures have made a bold first step with increased anticipation for their future endeavors.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Etiquette Pictures, Some Call It Loving can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Night of the Strangler (1972) DVD Review

    Night of the Strangler (1972)

    Director: Joy N. Houck, Jr.

    Starring: Chuck Patterson, Micky Dolenz, Michael Anthony & Jim Ralston

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the muggy region of Louisiana, Night of the Strangler centers on the scandalous relationship between a caucasian woman and her black lover.  Amidst family controversy and escalating racial tension, a string of mysterious murders follows in its path.  Chuck Patterson (Hair), Micky Dolenz (The Monkees), Michael Anthony (Keep Off My Grass!) and Jim Ralston (Thunder Run) star.

    Bearing an intriguing yet, wildly misleading title, Night of the Strangler crafts a whodunit murder mystery amongst the segregated south of New Orleans.  Returning home from college to inform her brothers of life changing news, Denise (Susan McCullough in her only film appearance) nervously admits to being impregnated by her African-American lover whom she plans to wed.  Bigoted big brother Dan (Ralston) doesn’t take kindly to the news of his baby sister shacking up with a colored man and intends to fix the situation.  Meanwhile, Denise’s middle brother Vance (Dolenz), equally unhappy with Dan following his own girlfriend being taken for himself, sympathizes with her.  With Denise madly in love and excited for her future, Dan’s wealth and power ensures their lives being cut short in order to not tarnish his own reputation.  Distraught over his sister’s alleged suicide, Vance seeks refuge in close family friend Father Jessie (Patterson), a black priest.  As tension builds between brothers, more murders conducted by a mysterious individual begin.  Lacking any kind of strangulation sequences, Night of the Strangler introduces viewers to hate spewing antagonist Dan as a character everyone lives to hate.  In addition, as victims linked to the brothers are targeted, intriguing murder attempts including a venomous snake hidden in flowers unfold.  While each brother is vehemently convinced the other is responsible for the homicides, viewers are left certain they know until a surprising finale proves everyone wrong.  Washing away the squeaky-clean image of his television stardom, Micky Dolenz makes an unexpected appearance in this mildly sleazy film, far from the tracks of Clarksville.  While overt violence and nudity are minimal, Night of the Strangler is an intriguing mystery centered on a racially-charged family triangle and the brotherly priest stuck in its crosshairs.

    Scanned and restored in 2K from the American Genre Film Archive’s 35mm print, Vinegar Syndrome presents Night of the Strangler in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the first time ever.  Diluted of more vibrant color, the film’s wear is evident with its soft focus and moderate scratches.  In addition, dimly lit sequences demonstrate doses of flakes and speckles while the occasional cigarette burn can be spotted.  Aging artifacts aside, the less than stellar qualities never make the viewing experience unwatchable.  Instead, the film’s grindhouse battle wounds add a level of charm for those with managed expectations.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 1.0 mix, dialogue is relayed as decently as can be while, instances of soft distortion can be heard in quieter sequences.  Spared of any overwhelming pops or cracks, sound quality is serviceable but, can be benefitted by increased volume.  Finally, no special features are included on this release.

    Continuing their fitting collaboration with the American Genre Film Archive, Vinegar Syndrome delivers another peculiar picture filled with racist richies and interracial love affairs.  Far from an exploitation free for all, Night of the Strangler boasts a decent murder mystery with a reveal audiences won’t see coming.  Starring a formerly well-trained Monkee, Director Joy N. Houck, Jr.’s (Creature from Black Lake) non-strangulating effort makes for a decent stay in the disgustingly sweaty south.  While it may not always look pretty, Vinegar Syndrome’s 2K restoration saves the film from permanent extinction and appreciatively presents it in its original aspect ratio for the first time ever.  Seeking confession for the lack of racially-charged mysteries starring Micky Dolenz?  Night of the Strangler is your only penance!

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Night of the Strangler can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Supersoul Brother (1978) DVD Review

    Supersoul Brother (1978)

    Director: Rene Martinez

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Don't Go in the Woods (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)

    Director: James Bryan

    Starring: Jack McClelland, Mary Gail Artz, James P. Hayden, Angie Brown & Tom Drury

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director James Bryan (Boogievision, The Executioner, Part II), Don’t Go in the Woods centers on a group of wandering campers who venture into the wilderness for a weekend getaway.  Unbeknownst to them, a savage maniac is stalking their every move, killing at every chance he gets.  Starring many first time actors, Don’t Go in the Woods remains a slasher classic due to its campy production values and low-budget gore effects.

    Released at the peak of the slasher boom, Don’t Go in the Woods maintains a paper-thin plot of a quartet of campers wandering the wilderness only to evade the wrath of a deadly killer.  Littered with countless other tourists used as mere cattle, this Utah-shot production bolsters a body count that trumps most Friday the 13th installments but, lacks in any real suspense.  With horrendous yet, hilariously entertaining performances, Don’t Go in the Woods packs plenty of gore while, backfiring with many a false jump scares.  Relatively slow-paced, Director James Bryan’s indie effort makes decent use of its wilderness dwelling killer who lives off the land and makes grunting his first language.  With the core group of campers dwindling, the remaining survivors look to avenge their friends deaths by tracking the peculiar killer with weapons off the land, leading to a most bloody finale.  

    Drawing its line in the sand, Don’t Go in the Woods has split slasher enthusiasts for decades with many brushing it off as amateurish dreck while, others find appreciation in its over the top kills and not so serious tone.  While, it can hardly be categorized as a competent slasher with genuine scares, Don’t Go in the Woods possesses a low-budget charm of sticktoitiveness that bleeds in every frame.  Filmed over a two year period, Don’t Go in the Woods takes great pleasure in presenting a simplistic story while, never shying from its slasher genre staples with kills that will most assuredly leave viewers in chuckles rather than fear.  Cheesy but, undeniably appealing, Don’t Go in the Woods is an essential regional slasher for viewers who take delight in its quirkier traits.  

    Newly restored in 2K from the 35mm Interpositive, Vinegar Syndrome presents Don’t Go in the Woods with a 1080p transfer, sporting its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Plagued with aging artifacts including, scratches and hazy photography, the pros far outweigh the cons.  Colors pop nicely in the film’s lush greenery, pastel colored wardrobe and scenes of blood-soaked carnage.  In addition, skin tones appear natural and inviting while, black levels are handled as well as can be with decent visibility amongst instances of flakes and speckles.  Vinegar Syndrome works wonders with this, at times, rough looking slasher, easily making this its definitive release.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono mix, dialogue is relayed decently with several occurrences of lower volume levels and mild hiss, all of which are never inaudible.  Scenes of slashing mayhem register sharply with Composer H. Kingsley Thurber’s music pushing the most authority in this otherwise contained yet, satisfying sounding mix.  Loaded with extras, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director James Bryan, Audio Commentary with Director James Bryan, Actress Mary Gail Artz and Superfans Deron Miller & Dave Mosca and a third Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues.  Plus, a Cast & Crew Featurette (56:43), TV Promos Compilation (14:14), Autograph Signing Party (29:27), Theatrical Trailer (1:07), Production Stills Gallery (64 in total), Press Artwork Gallery (44 in total), Script Gallery (32 in total) and a DVD edition of the release round out the supplemental offerings. 

    While, its cult classic status has been debated by likeminded viewers, Don’t Go in the Woods holds a special appeal for those who revel in its cheeky charm and hilariously over the top gore effects.  Previously released by Code Red DVD as their inaugural title, Vinegar Syndrome’s newly restored Blu-ray release is a revelation of color and natural grain that trumps its imperfections while, preserving its OAR.  Packed with endless bonus content, Vinegar Syndrome delivers this low-budget slasher affair with all the bells and whistles one could hope to expect.  Whether it’s loved or hated, Don’t Go in the Woods has lasted the test of time and can now be better appreciated and debated with this definitive release.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 10th from Vinegar Syndrome, Don’t Go in the Woods 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

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

    Purely Physical (1982) / Cathouse Fever (1984)

    Director: Chris Warfield

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE(s):

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Purely Physical Trailer

    - Cathouse Fever Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

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

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

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE(s):

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Tropic of Desire Trailer

    - Fantasy World Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 3/5

  • In Search of Bigfoot (1975) / Cry Wilderness (1986) DVD Review

    In Search of Bigfoot (1975) / Cry Wilderness (1986)

    Director(s): Lawrence Crowley & William Miller / Jay Cohen

    Starring: Robert W. Morgan / Eric Foster, Maurice Grandmaison & John Tallman

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Experts in exploitation, Vinegar Syndrome, have revived their Drive-In Collection banner to present two wildly different features about one of the world’s most elusive myths.  A genuine documentary capturing a team of Bigfoot trackers and the Sasquatch equivalent to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial from the director of Night Train to Terror make for a suitable serving of wild life excitement.  Scanned in 2K from their respective camera negatives, Vinegar Syndrome invites you on the expedition of a lifetime to uncover the formidable beast known as Bigfoot.  

    In Search of Bigfoot follows a team of Bigfoot enthusiasts headed by dedicated tracker Robert W. Morgan.  Exploring the forests of Washington State, the team is determined to locate the mysterious creature in this sincere documentary.  From Director Jay Cohen  (Night Train to Terror), Cry Wilderness centers on a young boy (Eric Foster) who has befriended the creature known as Bigfoot.  With his father facing looming danger, Bigfoot instructs the boy to venture into the wilderness to save him.

    MOVIE(s):

    Earnestly told, In Search of Bigfoot follows passionate Bigfoot tracker, Robert W. Morgan, as he leads a team of researchers and scientists into the wilderness of Washington State to retrieve evidence of Bigfoot’s existence.  Morgan’s lack of interest in making friends and determination to get the job done solidifies his belief that this mystifying creatures exists.  Surrounded by a team of noted experts who appear more like average hippies, the documentary follows the team as they collect evidence such as footprints and interviews from local eyewitnesses who claim to have spotted the mammoth beast.  Narrated by Phil Tonken, In Search of Bigfoot carries the clout of respectful journalism by not poking fun at the teams eccentric interest.  Since his first sighting of Bigfoot 20 years previously, Morgan is convinced he is closer than ever to locating the 8-foot-tall creature.  Understandably, after pinning down a general location, a series of forest fires ruin the groups expedition, derailing their high chances of spotting Bigfoot.  Morgan, who only two years later would direct 1978’s Blood Stalkers, is certainly convincing when overwhelmed with emotions after having Bigfoot slip from his grasp yet again.  While, a bit slow at times and never successfully locating the folklore critter, In Search of Bigfoot  does capture beautiful wildlife footage and serves as a unique time capsule for the believers who dedicated much of their lives chasing this phantom beast.

    RATING: 3/5

    Following the theme of a youngster befriending an otherworldly creature, Cry Wilderness is a departure from Director Jay Cohen’s previous surrealistic-horror odyssey, Night Train to Terror.  After being summoned by his friend Bigfoot, Paul Cooper (Eric Foster) ditches his boarding school and hitchhikes back to the wilderness to save his forest ranger father (Maurice Grandmaison, Cataclysm) from danger.  Grandmaison along with Native American friend Jim (John Tallman, Lust for Freedom) deliver painfully dry performances and long spells of awkward laughter.  Oddly enough, Eric Foster serves up the best performance as an otherwise natural surrounded by a swarm of over the top or severely underwhelming adult talent.  Beautifully shot, evoking high quality nature footage, Cry Wilderness finds the actors face to face with a variety of animals including raccoons, bears, cougars and even a tiger.  While, Bigfoot looks cool enough, his appearance is far too brief, leaving the viewer slightly duped.  Instead, Cry Wilderness spends its time on a villainous hunter forced to team up with Paul’s father and Jim to capture an escaped circus tiger who has become destructive in his new environment.  After believing Paul’s stories about Bigfoot, the hunter will stop at nothing to capture the creature, even if it means leading the others into danger.  Cry Wilderness is far from a bad movie but can easily underwhelm due to its lack of Bigfoot.  The hilariously awkward performances from the adult actors matched with the breathtaking wildlife cinematography still offers enough to suffice for a decent 90-minute runtime.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Scanned in 2K from the original 16mm camera negative, In Search of Bigfoot is presented full frame sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Generally speaking, this documentary looks fairly decent with minor blemishes of flakes and speckles cropping into frame.  Occasionally, lines and burn marks will cross into footage but their appearances are brief.  Colors vary in appearance from otherwise natural looking to slightly diluted.  Incredibly difficult to document in the confines of nature on 16mm film stock, In Search of Bigfoot still looks satisfactory for such an effort.  

    RATING: 3/5

    Also scanned in 2K but obtained from the 35mm camera negative, Cry Wilderness is presented widescreen sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  As the more professionally controlled film, Cry Wilderness looks quite nice with the vast wildlife landscapes looking particularly lush and striking.  Skin tones are relayed as naturally as can be with colors popping well, most noticeably in Paul’s red and blue jacket.  While, most of the animal footage was shot specifically for the film, some stock footage arises that appears to be video sourced creating an obvious drop in quality.  Overall, Cry Wilderness is certainly the stronger looking transfer on this double feature.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mixes, both films are presented with varying differences.  In Search of Bigfoot can encounter issues of muffling even during the more controlled, seated interview segments.  In addition, certain eyewitnesses that are interviewed possess thick accents that can make hearing even more difficult.  Luckily, Tonken’s narration is relayed clearly with little to no issues while, background music from banjos and harmonicas can intrude on the subjects‘ dialogue.  Cry Wilderness is a far more rewarding listening experience with dialogue coming across just fine and Fritz Heede’s score relayed nicely.  An understandably mixed bag of quality but neither of which are severely detrimental to the viewing experience.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:

    After a brief hiatus, the return of Vinegar Syndrome’s Drive-In Collection line is a welcome one.  A double feature highlighting the legendary Bigfoot is a wildly different change of pace for the indie label, better known for their adult entertainment output.  Robert W. Morgan and his team of trackers’ candid insight from In Search of Bigfoot make the documentary an intriguing watch even if they come up empty-handed.  In addition, Cry Wilderness, while disappointing with Bigfoot’s screen time, nearly makes up for itself with the hilariously awful acting and surprisingly stunning nature footage.  This offbeat pairing of Sasquatch stories nicely reminds cult enthusiasts that there’s more to Vinegar Syndrome than just skin.  

    RATING: 3/5

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

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

    - Erotic Adventures of Candy Original Theatrical Trailer

    - Candy Goes to Hollywood Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

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

  • Runaway Nightmare (1982) Blu-ray Review

    Runaway Nightmare (1982)
    Director: Mike Cartel
    Starring: Mike Cartel, Al Valletta, Sijtske Vandenberg & Cindy Donlan
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Filmed over the course of several years, Runaway Nightmare serves as an excellent example of renegade filmmaking in the late 70s and early 80s.  Abstract and bizarre, Director Mike Cartel’s sole effort, incorporating elements of horror, black comedy and action, can hardly be labeled under one genre.  Welcomed into Vinegar Syndrome’s limited edition Blu-ray series of 1,000 units, Runaway Nightmare has been scanned and restored in glorious 4K.  Destined to leave you scratching your head in wonderment, this is one nightmare you won’t soon be forgetting!

    Runaway Nightmare focuses on Ralph (Mike Cartel) and Jason (Al Valletta), two worm farmers stationed in Death Valley.  After discovering a woman buried alive, Ralph and Mike find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Shortly after, a sexy all-female cult of gun runners kidnap the men, force them to become their sex slaves and enlist them to help steal a suitcase of platinum from the mafia.  Strange and unusual, Runaway Nightmare co-stars Sijtske Vandenberg (Bitter Pleasure), Cindy Donlan (Schizoid) and Jody Lee Olhava (Three-Way Weekend).  

    MOVIE:
    For better or worse, Director Mike Cartel’s magnum opus is the work of a low-budget auteur.  Beginning in 1978, with principal photography lasting until 1982, Runaway Nightmare manages to not only corral some of the finest looking ladies in Death Valley but also assemble a production team of up and comers, Rowdy Harrington (director of Road House) and Daryn Okada (cinematographer on Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later), who continued to move up the Hollywood ladder.  Runaway Nightmare begins with two local worm farmers, Ralph (Cartel) and Jason (Valletta, director of Alley Cat), bored with their occupation and longing for adventure.  Unwanted excitement comes in the form of a female cult who abducts and keeps them under their watchful eye.  Runaway Nightmare rapidly switches gears, scene to scene as the viewer questions what’s unfolding before their eyes.  Imprisoned by beautiful women has its perks as the ladies never shy from seducing their prisoners.  But, after several tantalizing teases and the array of beautiful women on display, Runaway Nightmare never makes good on any skin.  That said, All Seasons Entertainment’s VHS release did insert several moments of glorious nudity without Cartel’s knowledge.  Moving forward, as the runtime increases, Runaway Nightmare only continues to grow weirder.  A bizarre dinner sequence takes place, feeling Lynchian in tone, where the female gang make statements, making little to no sense, as if there mid-conversation.  In addition, the only heavyset woman of the gang can’t resist randomly shouting “worm farmers” before exploding into uncontrollable laughter.  Fearing for their life and confronted with torture, Ralph and Jason can’t help making off-handed, hilarious comments that would normally feel out of place but, instead are appropriately at home in Runaway Nightmare.  The pitch black comedy mixed with their captors‘ odd sensibilities creates a surrealistic vibe few films can capture.  The climax of the film includes the men being tasked with retrieving a briefcase from the mafia filled with platinum.  Double and even triple-crossings take place that sends the viewer for a head spin keeping up with the overly complicated plot points.

    Actors stumbling over lines and even being replaced midway through shooting cements the indescribable charm of Runaway Nightmare.  Finding sense in Director Mike Cartel’s directorial debut is self-defeating and is best appreciated as a trippy cinematic experience that will leave you spaced out.  Whether Runaway Nightmare is a valiant effort or utter trash is in the eye of the beholder.  Most certainly, an acquired taste that lends itself to repeat viewings, Runaway Nightmare is a unique effort you won’t forget no matter how much you sleep it off.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Scanned in 4K from the original 35mm camera negatives, Runaway Nightmare is presented in 1080p, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Needles to say, the film looks gorgeous.  The scratch-free appearance matched with the near perfect clarity makes one appreciate the bright blue skies and dry environment of Death Valley.  Skin tones look remarkable with minor details such as aging wrinkles and graying hairs leaping off the screen.  Black levels are decent, albeit, some darker sequences contain more flakes and dust than desired.  In addition, a scene involving a gun dual between two of the cult members, drops significantly in quality, most likely attributed to a different film stock being used.  Overall, Vinegar Syndrome’s outstanding presentation is a dream come true for enthusiasts of this surreal indie effort.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, Runaway Nightmare captures all dialogue magnificently.  Captured in post-production, the dialogue comes across louder than one might expect, ensuring you don’t miss a beat.  In addition, the electric, space-age sounding score comes across crisp and effective.  No noticeable signs of distortion or hiss were noticed making this one fulfilling sound mix.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Mike Cartel: Joined by his wife, Mari Cartel, who wore numerous hats on the production and moderated by Joel Rudin and film historian Howard S. Berger, Cartel provides a lively commentary touching on various topics.  The formulation of the project, guerilla filmmaking techniques that included stealing shots without proper permits.  Plus, the songs and the surreal quality of the film are discussed at length making this an ideal commentary to tune into for fans of the film.

    - Alternate Video Scenes: Presented in poor, yet visible VHS quality, the much requested, nudity scenes found in the All Seasons Entertainment VHS release are compiled for all to see.  While, inserted without Cartel’s knowledge, the scenes add a nice air of sex appeal for a film that shied away from skin.

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Vinegar Syndrome’s latest limited edition Blu-ray release is an experience that is difficult to convey and is best left witnessing firsthand.  Unusual and dreamlike, Runaway Nightmare does not conform to a typical narrative but instead, transcends into the oddest journey through Death Valley you’re bound to take.  Also available in a standard DVD edition from retail outlets, Vinegar Syndrome has answered the call of the weird and accomplished another noble feat with this latest offering.  A beyond satisfactory video presentation, a strong audio mix and a nice selection of special features, including the highly-requested video sequences, make Runaway Nightmare deserving of a spot in your cult library.  
    RATING: 4/5 

  • Sugar Cookies (1973) Blu-ray Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

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

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

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

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Alternate Theatrical Trailer: Only on DVD.

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Jungle Blue (1978) DVD Review

    Jungle Blue (1978)
    Director: Carlos Tobalina
    Starring: Nina Fause, Bill Cable, Carol Bombard, Jose Ferraro, Annette Haven & Chico
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The saviors of the sultry and odd, Vinegar Syndrome, welcome another offering from Director Carlos Tobalina (Marilyn and the Senator).  Strange as can be and endlessly erotic, this jungle bound tale reaches new heights of wild entertainment.  Unforgivingly X rated and never before released on video in the US, Jungle Blue has been restored and presented in all its uncut glory for the first time!  Be prepared to go bananas as you head into this hot jungle of pleasure...

    Jungle Blue tells the story of a group of explorers hunting for hidden fortunes in the wild jungles of South America.  Beyond strange and borrowing from various exploitative sub-genres, the sinister group meet a wild man who lives amongst the animals, his horny gorilla companion and a slew of half nude locals in this supremely scandalous piece of adult cinema.

    MOVIE:
    From its colorful poster art of nude women surrounded by a jungle setting and a fondling  gorilla, Jungle Blue makes promises it actually keeps.  Filmed on location in Colombia and Peru, this X rated exploration of the jungle makes the most of its surroundings and captures beautiful jungles and exotic animals.  While, visually gorgeous, Jungle Blue spares no expense in showcasing the more erotic sides of its story.  Following a sinister group of explorers determined to find precious treasure, the attractive team find themselves meeting a Tarzan-esque fellow who is never shy when sexually exploring women.  As Jungle Blue attempts to weave its story line, Tobalina generously cuts to a random, drug-addled group of tourists engaging in an endless orgy for no particular reason other than to tantalize the audience.  Lesbianism, oral pleasure, doggy style and countless moments of climax are all on full display as one hilariously lonely man can only daydream about what he’s witnessing firsthand.  Jungle Blue also offers a gorilla who has no problem obtaining sexual pleasure as easy as bananas.  One can never have enough man in a rubber monkey suit.

    While, Tobalina’s dreadfully overlong Marilyn and the Senator did little to entertain, Jungle Blue packs an incredible amount of sexual fun while also capturing the beautiful exotic locations and local tribes.  Sexy faces combined with a breezy runtime, Jungle Blue is one hot, oddball excursion into the wild you won’t regret visiting.  Any disappointment can be rooted to the lack of more gorilla suit action.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Jungle Blue is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  In short, the film looks remarkably clean and vibrant.  The exotic locations of Peru are captured beautifully while, skin tones and detail look most impressive during close-ups.  The occasional scratches and speckles creep up but nothing that could possibly take away from the overall richness of this absurdly odd piece of X rated madness.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono mix, Jungle Blue sounds quite nice for a film of its caliber.  Dialogue is relayed decently but increasing the volume at times wouldn’t hurt.  In addition, interior scenes are sometimes intruded by loud outdoor noises that can be bothersome at times.  Overall, the film sounds decently and will surely get the job done.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:
    Another round with Director Carlos Tobalina sounded unappealing but interestingly enough, Jungle Blue was a certifiably strange, erotically charged and at times hilarious piece of X rated exploitation.  Tobalina not only knows how to cast attractive performers but managed to film in such beautiful locations that truly enhanced the films quality.  Vinegar Syndrome proves their impressive skills yet again with an uncut presentation of the film that looks lovely.  Special features may be scant, but the absurdity and endless assault of erotica is bound to please fans of the genre and those craving a cocktail of jungle bound exploitation.  
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #10: Newhart, Escape from Tomorrow, The Demons, Vinegar Syndrome & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #10 includes:

    - The Jekyll and Hyde Portfolio (1971) / A Clockwork Blue (1972) (0:39)
    Street Date: March 28, 2014
    Vinegar Syndrome: http://vinegarsyndrome.com/

    - Newhart The Complete Third Season (9:25)
    Street Date: April 22, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Godzilla: The Complete Animated Series (14:06)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com/

    - Escape from Tomorrow (2013) (20:37)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Cinedigm: http://www.cinedigm.com/

    - The Demons (1973) (29:25)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (34:20)

  • Marilyn and the Senator (1975) DVD Review

    Marilyn and the Senator (1975)
    Director: Carlos Tobalina
    Starring: William Margold, Nina Fause, Serena, Sharon Thorpe & Dominique St. Clair
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A prolific career consisting of over 50 feature films, Director Carlos Tobalina accomplished all this and also found time to own two Los Angeles movie palaces.  Tobalina would craft one of his most eccentric efforts in 1975 with his mistress, Nina Fause (Sexual Insanity, Jungle Blue), co-starring.  Skin, political scandals and more skin, Vinegar Syndrome is proud to present Marilyn and the Senator in its full length director’s cut, available for the first time on home video.  Bizarre and humorous, let’s find out just how far this flick swings...

    Marilyn and the Senator stars William Margold as The Senator, a married man who has happily agreed to impregnate a gorgeous CIA agent (Nina Fause).  As the senator lacks the ability to perform, his snoopy wife and colleagues become suspicious of his under the radar engagements resulting in hilarious plot twists and plenty of skin to bear.  The film co-stars Serena, Sharon Thorpe, Dominique St. Clair and John Waters star Liz Renay.

    MOVIE:
    Presented under the title Swinging Senators, Director Carlos Tobalina’s opus kicks off with a series of insightful and humorous quotes from the likes of John F. Kennedy and Tobalina himself.  William Margold (Hollywood She-Wolves) appears as a respected senator in Washington, D.C.  Shortly after arriving in his office, adorned with drug store equivalent portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Margold unloads his morning glory (complimented with humorous fart sounds) as a beautiful woman awaits to see him.  CIA agent Marilyn Right (Nina Fause), expresses her admiration for Margold’s character and her desire to become pregnant.  Right has carefully selected Margold to impregnate her in exchange for $10,000 which being a senator, Margold gladly accepts.  As beautiful as Fause is, her inability to remember lines and lack of energy plagues her performance for the duration of the film. The senator and Agent Right make scheduled rendezvous‘ at the Watergate Hotel as per their agreement.  Beautiful and blonde, Fause is a true knockout that bares her goods on full display.  Hilariously, Margold has a difficult time “going to bat” insisting that Right pleasure him with oral sex which she rejects.  This first instance of skintastic footage takes nearly 30 minutes to occur with less than satisfying results.  Thankfully, no stranger to infidelity, the senator has his regular call girl, Nancy (Sharon Thorpe), make orally pleasing visits and then some.  While, the plot and the majority of the performances are humorous enough, Tobalina’s overambitious 128 minute runtime sacrifices the quality of the film.  

    Margold and Fause tread through the same circles of the senator failing to perform causing the routine to run stale quickly.  The senator’s wife, Mildred (Heather Leigh), grows suspicious of her husband’s lack of affection and witnesses secret footage of his recent conquests.  Oddly enough, Mildred blames herself for her husband’s actions and vows to please him the way he deserves.  Scoring tips from his own call girl, Mildred subjects the senator to an orgy with several other women as well whipping him repeatedly before she’s treated to oral pleasure.  For such a lengthy runtime, the film doesn’t have nearly as much sexual situations as one would imagine.  That said, oral sex, lesbianism and plenty of penetrating close-ups do their best to work some erotic magic.

    Marilyn and the Senator fell short of my expectations due in part to Tobalina’s overlong runtime that drowns the film in endless circles.  Luckily, the players are quite attractive with Fause the shining star of the movie.  Humor is present throughout but runs out of steam as Tobalina recycles far too much material.  Marilyn and the Senator would have benefitted from a much tighter runtime enabling the hijinks and story to play out more smoothly.  
    RATING: 2.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome presents Marilyn and the Senator in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the film looks remarkable.  Minor instances of faint lines come into frame occasionally but overall, the film looks as clean as can be with colors presented bright and bold.  Detail is nicely relayed in close-ups especially during more erotic scenes.  Another fine job by the sultans of smut!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, Marilyn and the Senator is surprisingly quite clear with little to no hiss or pops present.  At times when characters are speaking in hushed tones, audio is still nicely picked up without ever missing a line of dialogue.  The mix does little to blow your speakers but for what’s needed, this is more than sufficient.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Star & Co-Writer William Margold: Moderated by several folks including Distribpix, Margold provides a very informative and humorous commentary that rivals the actual film itself.  Margold insists that Tobalina was far from a great filmmaker and his loathing for America birthed the idea for Marilyn and the Senator.  The track never bores and provides plenty of great insight.  

    - Original Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    While, Marilyn and the Senator disappointed due to Tobalina’s much longer and exhausting cut, it’s still a treat to see that Vinegar Syndrome have preserved his original vision for the first time on home video. The film looks and sounds as pleasing as one would expect with a generous amount of special features for fans of the film.  There’s no denying that Marilyn and the Senator would most likely play stronger with a shorter runtime, but witnessing Tobalina’s original vision should make plenty of adult entertainment fans happy.
    RATING: 3/5  

  • 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

  • Deep Roots (1978) / Starlet Nights (1978) DVD Review

    Deep Roots (1978) / Starlet Nights (1978)
    Director: Lisa Barr
    Starring: Jesse Chacan, Anita Sands & Liz Renay / Leslie Bovee & Candy Nichols
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome, the sultans of smut, have officially ushered in 2014 with another double bill of adult pleasuretainment under their new Peekarama banner.  Both films, directed by Joseph Bardo (under the pseudonym of Lisa Barr), involve unique tales of a Native American relocating to Hollywood to sow his oats while, a sexy retelling of Snow White keeps you seated for more scandalous fun.  Scanned in 2K from 35mm archival prints, Vinegar Syndrome continues to raid the vaults treating fans with more bygone executions in adult entertainment.  Let’s find out what awaits in this latest batch of X-rated goodies...

    Deep Roots finds Native American, Billy (Jesse Chacan), leaving his reservation behind to explore the lust capital of Hollywood where he finds himself surrounded by erotic temptation and beautiful women.  In addition, Andy Warhol superstar, Liz Renay (Desperate Living), makes an appearance.  Meanwhile, Starlet Nights performs a sexy retelling of Snow White with evil stepmother, Joyce (Leslie Bovee), attempting to corrupt her beautiful stepdaughter, Snow (Candy Nichols), with the more scandalous side of the Hollywood film industry.

    MOVIE(s):
    Kicking off with our Native American protagonist leaving his reservation in the dust, Billy (Chacan) hightails it to Hollywood on his flashy motorcycle.  It doesn’t take long before Billy befriends big breasted beauty, Joan (Anita Saunds), and the two head to Billy’s pad to get better acquainted.  Learning of Billy’s love for painting, Joan suggests Billy literally paint her nude body.  The two engage in a flirtatious game of foreplay before our uncircumcised Indian dives into steamy sex, covering every position in the book.  A brief scene hinting at Joan’s pending engagement to another man is showcased but never fully explored.  Billy continues his sexual odyssey with another female who begins going down on him before developing virginal nerves.  Billy is understandably frustrated when he exits the apartment and decides to walk a fellow female neighbor home.  Billy humorously speaks his mind and goes on a tangent citing the girl as a “cocktease”.  Luckily, Billy’s cries are heard as the young female neighbor seduces him for yet another successful round of fornication.  Deep Roots is not particularly well acted, leading to many humorous moments and awkward delivery of lines.  Lacking in talent, Deep Roots attempts to make up for in graphic visuals.  Joan, Billy’s first conquest, agitated with her engagement, visits her friend, Liz (Liz Renay), for moral support.  Liz throws on some tunes and urges Joan to join her in a scantily clad burlesque-like dance off.  While, the two never engage each other sexually, the sequence has an air of charm to it.  The climax of the film takes place at a crowded costume party, where “fifty beautiful people” are credited.  Dressed in revealing outfits and a moronic Groucho Marx ratting off jokes to the camera, an energetic orgy takes place amongst the party guests.  Joan wins a raffle prize making her the party’s sexual guinea pig as groups of guests take turns with her.  Plenty of partners are swapped and salads are tossed as this costume ball orgy marks the erotic highlight of the film.  The film concludes with Billy’s only failure, summoning him back to her apartment to finally go all the way.  Once Billy has had enough, he travels back to his reservation where his roots are firmly planted.  Deep Roots makes decent use of its Hollywood setting by capturing footage of the Hollywood sign and Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  Although, more vintage footage of this ilk would have been appreciated.  The film is poorly edited and injects badly dubbed dialogue during sex scenes, creating unintended humor.  Deep Roots lacks a decent story and wooden performances from its cast, but if all you desire is highly sexualized scenes of pleasure than Deep Roots may suffice.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    Next up, in the tradition of sexy fairy tale retellings, Starlet Nights conducts its own erotic spin with Snow White.  Leslie Bovee (Lustful Feelings) stars as Joyce, wicked stepmother to Snow (Candy Nichols).  Frustrated with her husband’s fawning over his daughter, Joyce intends on ruining Snow’s virginal reputation.  The film begins with Joyce admiring herself in the mirror as she conducts a solo pleasure session on herself.  Summoning her magic mirror’s human entity and a genie, the trio engage in a wild threesome.  Joyce devises a scheme for Snow to meet her agent about acting, where she will be given a poisonous apple to consume.  Joyce never shies away from thanking those helping with the plan such as her agent’s secretary.  The two ladies decide to have a steamy fling on the boss’s desk because, why not?  While, Snow is being pampered and never eats the apple, Joyce organizes a costume party to take place as a way for her to smooze with prestigious producers.  It may be considered laziness or genuine appreciation but, Director Joseph Bardo (who also executive-produced the bitchin Vicious Lips), seemed to really love capturing groups of people fornicating in ridiculous costumes.  Consisting of familiar faces from Deep Roots, the party quickly turns into yet another sexual romp where Joyce engages in more triple action fun, a man is caught having chains clipped to his junk and Snow debuts herself with a kinky striptease.  Taking a cue from Deep Roots again, Snow quickly becomes the highlight of the party and patrons are taking turns with her.  The producer for the television series Charlie’s Devils (clever, right?) gets it on with Snow and casts her in the role Joyce was gunning for.  As Snow gets her big break and begins filming, she finally eats the apple and presumably dies although, it’s never really made clear.  Joyce catches her own break as the same producer wants her for the lead in Francis Ford Cappuccino’s The Godmother trilogy (notice a pattern here?).  Happily agreeing to the role, Joyce repays the favor by engaging in a sex-fueled romp session with said producer but not before inviting the housekeeper to join in.  Starlet Nights offers some of its own vintage Hollywood footage with shots of a Warner Bros. building and billboards for Roots and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  The film is far more fun and tongue in cheek than its predecessor and possesses more professionalism with a pro like Bovee in the lead.  While, other X-rated fairy tales like Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella offer more entertainment, Starlet Nights packs a decent story with plenty of erotica to make it the superior flick of this package.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome have scanned both films in 2K from 35mm archival prints and presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Deep Roots kicks off in relatively rough shape with scratches and lines apparent and an odd pixelation in each shot.  While, the pixelation appears to be inherent in the transfer and not a technical glitch, the less than pleasing effect is distracting.  Colors are presented decently with detail looking most effective in extreme close ups of penetration and oral pleasure.  The second half of the film improves but imperfections are still prevalent throughout.  Starlet Nights is in much better shape with scratches and hiccups in lesser quantities and colors appearing much bolder.  Vinegar Syndrome’s latest Peekarama installment is a mixed bag with generally decent results.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Both films come equipped with Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes, with varying results.  Deep Roots is plagued with a constant hiss in its track making dialogue a struggle to make out at times.  In addition, audio nearly drops out making a few dialogue moments severely muffled.  These appear to be source related incidents and lack of proper audio handling during filming.  Luckily, Starlet Nights fares much better with a static hiss practically nonexistent and dialogue sounding more robust.  A brief audio drop occurs during a later sex scene which stabilizes quickly.  Certainly, another mixed offering, with Deep Roots borderline disappointing but Starlet Nights more than making up for it.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    Nothing to see here, folks!

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:
    Vinegar Syndrome’s second edition under their Peekarama banner goes down as a mixed offering of erotic selections.  Deep Roots sounded more appealing than it actually was with stiff acting crippling the flick, leaving the steamy sex scenes its only selling point.  Starlet Nights, the scandalous retelling of Snow White, fared much better with a funnier story and comical approaches to the characters.  Leslie Bovee steers the ship like an adult star pro making her the film’s highlight.  Orgy romps, oral pleasure and lesbianism pack all the necessary adult fun to make Starlet Nights the champ of this double bill.  Vinegar Syndrome accomplished the best results they could given the elements they were working from.  While, not stellar treatment, the films have been preserved in much better shape than originally found which is rewarding for all adult film fans. 
    RATING: 3/5 

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #1: Nightmare City, Die, Monster, Die!, Vinegar Syndrome & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #1 includes:

    - Nightmare City (1980)
    Street Date: December 31, 2013
    Raro Video: http://www.rarovideousa.com/

    - Die, Monster, Die! (1965)
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Cat People (1982) Collector's Edition
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Judy (1969) / The Night Hustlers (1968)
    Street Date: January 7, 2014
    Vinegar Syndrome: http://vinegarsyndrome.com/launch/

    - The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956) / The Neanderthal Man (1953)
    Street Date: January 28, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

  • Abduction of an American Playgirl (1975) / Winter Heat (1976) DVD Review


    Abduction of an American Playgirl (1975) / Winter Heat (1976)
    Director(s): Unknown / Claude Goddard
    Starring: Darby Lloyd Rains / Sue Rowan, Helen Madigan, Lisa Young & Jamie Gillis
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome, the saviors of smut, kick off 2014 with a bang.  Literally!  The first entry in the label’s new “Peekarama” line pairs two scandalous features together that are sure to set fire to your senses.  What are a pair of kidnappers to do when their gorgeous victim gives them more of a sexual run than they anticipated?  Plus, winters can get mighty cold especially when a ruthless pack of delinquents barge into your cabin to light their own sexual fire.  Line up for the big show and witness the sultry excitement right before your eyes...

    Abduction of an American Playgirl finds two lonely men who decide that kidnapping a beautiful woman and subjecting her to their sexual pleasures will cure their anxiousness.  Oddly enough, the would-be victim turns the tables and reveals herself to be a supreme nymphomaniac leaving the men helpless to her demands.  Next up, Winter Heat finds a group of ex-cons intruding on and terrorizing a trio of helpless women in their snowbound cabin.

    MOVIE(s):
    Just when you thought you’ve seen it all from Vinegar Syndrome, the indie distributor is ready to surprise you again.  Abduction of an American Playgirl had sleaze written all over it but I was genuinely surprised to find so much humor in the film.  The bumbling kidnappers, one sporting a choice 70s-stache, are hilarious as a a pair of horny bums that are looking to fix their dilemma fast.  Much to their luck, they spot a gorgeous female and hatch a scheme to whisk her away back to their pad and have a wild night of carnal delights.  In addition, the two decide to extort $5,000 (because why get greedy) from the victim’s father in exchange for her safe return.  As the men finally decide to get down to business, the victim shows surprising interest in their “manlier” areas and the party becomes a mutual one.  Sexual positions a plenty invade the next few scenes with everything from oral pleasure to everything in between administered.  Once our kidnappers have had their fill, the victim is far from through.  The duration of the film takes hysterical turns as the men can barely get a moment of sleep let alone finish a cup of coffee before they are forced back into the bedroom.  To make matters worse, the victim’s father laughs off the men’s extortion attempts leaving them in an odyssey of sexual pleasure that they can no longer handle.  Other drifters make their way through the pad getting a taste of the nymphomaniacal victim before throwing in the towel and making their great escape.  Eventually, the father bites on the extortion scheme (for the bargain price of $500) and orders his other daughter to meet the exhausted culprits for the exchange.  Yet again, our victim and her resourceful sister, pull the sheet from under the men and make off with the money and their car!  The energetic sisters crash at a local motel for some incest-filled lovemaking before welcoming an African-American bellboy in for a little threesome action.  Penetrating excitement and a final climax shot wraps the film up with the ladies possibly biting off more than they can even chew.  Abduction of an American Playgirl surprised me with how humorous the actors and their exchanges with one another managed to be.  The film has no shortage of sexually-charged scenes that are sure to please the most devoted adult cinema lover.  
    RATING: 3/5

    There’s no question that Winter Heat was inspired by Wes Craven’s 1972 shocker The Last House on the Left, but how does it differentiate itself?  By turning up the sleaze notch, of course!  This unforgiving roughie, pits a group of ex-cons (three sleazeballs and one chick for good measure) who terrorize and abuse a group of unsuspecting women in a snowbound cabin.  Similar to Abduction of an American Playgirl, Winter Heat opens on a humorous note with the criminals discussing a variety of topics including how one of the men was raped in the rear while serving time plus his near bout with pneumonia.  Of course, conversation can bore some which leads our female henchmen to go down on one of her cronies because why not?  Eventually, the deadbeats make their way to a cabin of women where they force themselves inside for a night of abuse.  Winter Heat is unquestionably one of the sleazier flicks I’ve seen in sometime.  The ex-cons savagely insult and humiliate the women by making them strip, shove mashed potatoes down their throats and force them to perform oral sex.  Oral sex quickly turns into full-fledged rape as climax shots are popping off as early as 10 minutes into the film.  The abuse continues to mount as the rapists trade off girls and the female baddie has her own way with one of the victims.  While, the film doesn’t find the antagonists murdering anyone, they certainly push the sexual angle far more than The Last House on the Left did.  As time goes on, the victims seem to mutually go with the flow and begin to enjoy the company of their new housemates.  While, the sexual nature and shots of penetration are a tad more present here than Abduction of an American Playgirl, Winter Heat is easily the sleazier feature of this collection and will challenge you to take a shower after its viewing.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Abduction of an American Playgirl has been scanned in 2K from the 35mm negative and presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  Yet again, Vinegar Syndrome surprises with how well films of this ilk can clean up.  Scratches and debris are present at times but overall colors are quite nice with the film’s imperfections never intruding.  This certainly gets the job done!
    RATING: 3.5/5

    Winter Heat has also been scanned in 2K from a 35mm archival print and presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio with slightly rougher results.  The opening titles have plenty of scratches before stabilizing to better conditions.  Dirt and pops in the frame appear occasionally but not bad enough that you miss out on any action.  Considering the subject matter, the dirty grindhouse projection is nicely fitting for such a feature.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Abduction of an American Playgirl is equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that is serviceable with dialogue coming across clear, albeit low at certain moments.  The dips in audio levels occur late in the film and will only require a few raises to your volume button to catch everything.  Overall, this’ll do.
    RATING: 3/5

    Winter Heat also comes with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that is on par with the former.  Dialogue is heard clearly with a light hiss appearing at times.  Listening to this film a little louder than normal will benefit the viewing experience.  
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Abduction of an American Plowgirl Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 0.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Vinegar Syndrome’s latest “Peekarama” offering is a unique bundling of edgier adult entertainment.  Abduction of an American Playgirl plays for laughs while still packing plenty of sexual enjoyment in the form of orgies, oral play and more!  Winter Heat is crowned sleaze king of this collection with its despicable portrayal of brutal ex-cons who have their way with innocent women.  The slimeballs definitely give David Hess and company a run for their money without even murdering any of their victims.  The film makes you feel dirty and succeeds in setting a genuine seedy tone.  Vinegar Syndrome continues to prove their fearlessness with the rare titles they release and their “Peekarama” installment may be one of their most risque to date.  Keep’em coming!
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Wakefield Poole's Bible! (1973) DVD Review


    Wakefield Poole’s Bible! (1973)
    Director: Wakefield Poole
    Starring: Georgina Spelvin, Gloria Grant, Bo White & Caprice Couselle
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The Bible seems like unusual and risque subject matter to utilize for a softcore effort.  Nonetheless, Director Wakefield Poole (Bijou) did just that when he unveiled his own erotic interpretation of collected stories from the good book in 1973.  Starring Georgina Spelvin (The Devil in Miss Jones), Gloria Grant, Bo White (Blue Summer) and Caprice Couselle, this is definitely not The Bible you remember reading in Sunday school.  Restored from the original negative, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents Wakefield Poole’s Bible! for the first time on home video.  After 40 years, let’s see how this scandalous biblical tale holds up...

    Wakefield Poole’s Bible! is an erotic avant-garde retelling of stories from the holy book including Adam & Eve, Bath Sheba and Samson & Delilah.  Sexual twists are made to all the tales along with a stunning array of visuals and a soundtrack of classical music.

    MOVIE:
    Having never been a religious man, my interest was peaked at the idea of someone taking a source material so worshipped and injecting a sexually charged edge to it.  Director Wakefield Poole introduces the film and cites homages to Walt Disney’s Fantasia, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, which led me to believe that I was in store for a much more sophisticated softcore effort.  Interestingly enough, I was right.  As the film opens, the viewer is treated to beautiful cinematography where Adam is being birthed on a gorgeous beach setting.  Shortly thereafter, he encounters Eve and the two experience the touch and sexual pleasure of another human being for the first time.  The sequence is visually arresting and presented in a very classy manner.  The bite of the infamous apple segways into the next tale.  Bath Sheba (Georgina Spelvin)  grows jealous of her husband’s attraction towards a scantily clad servant and spends the rest of the story attempting to be more sexy.  Spelvin stuns as she bares all and ends up attracting the interest of a peeping tom.  The tale definitely injects the most humor of the lot as the two chase each other around until finally succumbing to their desires.  Finally, Gloria Grant stars as Delilah in perhaps the oddest story of the three.  Midgets covered in body paint along with a muscle man who Delilah goes down on before he’s killed will definitely raise a few eyebrows.  Grant, always proud of her body, shows off everything and is one of the highlights of the entire film alongside Spelvin.

    Wakefield Poole’s Bible! takes a silent film approach and is told with no dialogue (minus a few lines delivered by Eve).  The interactions between the characters and the classical music accompaniment bring the film to life in a similar fashion to Walt Disney’s Fantasia.  The film has plenty of beautiful sequences along with Spelvin and Grant on full display but even at a 75 minute runtime, the film tends to drag its feet.  I would cautiously recommend the film as a tasteful, albeit odd, and elegant execution in softcore, but be advised it may be appreciated for being more “artsy-fartsy” than it is tantalizing.  
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome has restored Wakefield Poole’s Bible! from the original negative in 2K and presents it in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  The film stumbles early on as footage (assumingly stock) of the big bang is loaded with scratches and debris but stabilizes soon after.  Colors are decent enough with milder scratches and pops apparent throughout the runtime without imposing on the viewing experience.  A serviceable presentation for a film that could, and probably should, look a lot worse.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Wakefield Poole’s Bible! comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that does what it needs to.  With barely any dialogue spoken, the mix does a fine job relaying the classical music soundtrack as well as subtle background noises like chirping birds and wave crashes.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Introduction by Director Wakefield Poole

    - Audio Commentary with Director Wakefield Poole: Poole explains how his original intent was to make this a hardcore film but seeing as how this was during the Nixon administration, he opted for softcore.  Poole remains quiet for many portions of the film choosing to set up a scene and and allowing it to play out.  Poole occasionally offers some thoughtful injections on his artistic choices for the film but they are far and few between.

    - Women of Bible - Interviews with Georgina Spelvin & Gloria Grant: Spelvin enthusiastically discusses her early work in hardcore films which eventually lead to her role as Bath Sheba in Bible!.  Spelvin touches on the lightning speed pace of the film shoot and her admiration for Poole.  Meanwhile, Gloria Grant explains how working in a restaurant lead to her being cast in the film.  Grant goes on to explain that she hailed from a family of ministers who were unaware of her appearance in the film.  Grant also discusses her shift to becoming a make-up artist which earned her an Emmy for her work on As the World Turns.

    - Emerald City Interview: Director Wakefield Poole discusses Bible! on a public access network circa 1977.

    - Bible! Screen Tests

    - Stills Gallery

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Wakefield Poole’s Bible! is an odd but often unique softcore retelling of biblical tales.  The cinematography and classical music add a layer of beauty to a film that already accomplishes a lot visually.  While, the appearances of Spelvin and Grant are the highlights of the film, it does tend to get a little too artsy for my own taste and causes the runtime to stretch itself thin.  For those expecting a sexually graphic interpretation of Adam & Eve going at it, think again because this is far more tasteful than that.  Vinegar Syndrome does a great service by providing a wealth of interesting special features and insight into a film that evaded home video for 40 years.  Wakefield Poole’s Bible! is a unique beast that is sure to have a divided audience but for fans of adult cinema, this is a rare softcore experiment that should be experienced at least once.
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Fanny Hill (1964) w/ The Phantom Gunslinger (1967) Blu-ray Review


    Fanny Hill (1964) w/ The Phantom Gunslinger (1967)
    Director(s): Russ Meyer / Albert Zugsmith
    Starring: Letícia Román, Miriam Hopkins & Ulli Lommel / Troy Donahue, Sabrina & Germán Robles
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome continues their mission of saving and preserving lost film oddities with this latest Blu-ray release of two strange and unlikely executions in exploitation.  Director Russ Meyer, (Faster, Pussycat!  Kill!  Kill!) and Producer Albert Zugsmith (Touch of Evil, The Incredible Shrinking Man) team up for a hilarious interpretation of the erotic literary classic Fanny Hill.  Beautiful women and black & white photography make for a truly unusual experience in this blending of low-brow laughs pitted against high-brow settings.  Next up, Zugsmith takes up directing duties on The Phantom Gunslinger, an ever odder film of slapstick comedy set in the Wild West.  Restored and presented uncut for the first time, will this unique pairing of films produced by two cult icons earn a spot on your shelf?  Let’s dive right in, shall we...

    Set in pre-Victorian London, Fanny Hill tells the story of a young girl who finds herself taken in by a madame at one of the city’s most popular brothels.  Surrounded by a household of buxom beauties, the young girl’s innocence and sheer ignorance blind her from realizing where she actually resides resulting in hilarious hijinks.  Italian bombshell Letícia Román stars as Fanny Hill with Miriam Hopkins (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and Ulli Lommel (Blank Generation) co-starring.  In addition, Albert Zugsmith takes over directing duties on The Phantom Gunslinger which stars Troy Donohue (The Godfather: Part II) as Phil P. Phillips, fresh out of divinity school and living in the city of Yucca Flats.  Trouble strikes as a ruthless gang of seven criminals take the town hostage with Phil as their only hope.  

    MOVIE(s):
    When the name Russ Meyer is spoken, images of big-breasted women immediately take shape in your mind.  Meyer helped catapult the “nudie-cutie” subgenre into a profitable business where females made great use of some of their more “notable” assets.  Teaming up with Producer Albert Zugsmith, Meyer headed to Germany to helm a sexy re-telling of the iconic Fanny Hill tale.  The lavish costume designs and upscale set decoration make the film feel extremely classy and authentic to its time period.   Letícia Román shines as the gorgeous albeit ignorant Fanny Hill, her inability to understand she has been taken in by a whorehouse gives the film all the hilarity it needs. Román is surrounded by no shortage of beautiful actress’ which should come as no surprise for a Meyer film.  The women are all strikingly beautiful and manage to only tease the viewer without revealing any true skin.  Apparently, Meyer and Zugsmith butted heads immensely during production as Meyer demanded the film to be more sexy while Zugsmith insisted on more comedy.  The friction between the two men could explain for Fanny Hill being more tame compared to Meyer’s other film efforts.  That said, Fanny Hill makes great use of comedic situations that involve a man pretending to sleepwalk in order to seduce Fanny while a hilarious chase ensues around the bedroom.  In addition, a communication breakdown occurs when a would-be john walks into a female hat shop inquiring with Fanny about her “products”.  One might assume that Fanny’s ignorance might run its course prematurely and sour the remainder of the film but interestingly enough, it does not.  Román’s lovely performance makes the film a breeze to view and the comedic situations she finds herself in are quite effective.  While some may not find this film as tantalizing as Meyer’s other efforts, I found Fanny Hill to be a very tasteful and humorous period-piece.  The cinematography as well as the costume designs make the film far more high-class than one would imagine a film bearing Meyer’s or Zugsmith’s name on it would be.  The film could have afforded to shave a good 10 minutes or so from its runtime but nonetheless Fanny Hill is a fun retelling of a classic story that manages to be just as sexy as it is funny.
    RATING: 4/5

    Next up, Albert Zugsmith takes over directing duties on The Phantom Gunslinger, an odd blend of slapstick comedy and self-aware parody of westerns.  Troy Donohue stars as a would be preacher fresh out of divinity school who arrives in the frontier town of Yucca Flats.  It doesn’t take long before a gang of seven criminals arrive and take the town hostage with the bumbling Donohue as the residents’ only hope.  When viewing the film, one can only assume that Zugsmith wished he could have been directing Charlie Chaplin or The Three Stooges.  Over the top slapstick gags are found at every turn and while initially the humor is fun, it runs its course far too quickly.  Gags and dialogue are recycled in hopes that what worked earlier in the film will pack another punch.  Unfortunately, a rolling of the eyes and a look at your watch is all that will come of this.  On a positive note, the colorful costumes are quite a sight to see as well as the usage of the small but effective sets the film was shot on.  Donohue does what’s expected of him but after his character is shot in the head (for the first but far from the last time) and whisked away to heaven, the film really starts to grow tiresome.  It’s hard to understand exactly what Zugsmith was trying to achieve with The Phantom Gunslinger but it was pleasing to see a director so tickled by slapstick humor.  The characters are far from interesting but all manage to get in on the physical hijinks which involve pies to the face and even broom fights.  If the film was a little more polished and focused, The Phantom Gunslinger could have achieved to be a little better than decent.  Unfortunately, only so many pies to the face and turkey legs used as handguns can go so far, The Phantom Gunslinger is not a terrible film but not necessarily a great one either.  At best, the film is a curious novelty from a director who was still trying to get his rocks off with slapstick so late in the 1960s.
    RATING: 2.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome has restored Fanny Hill in 2K from original 35mm camera negatives and presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio with the results looking gorgeous!  The black and white photography shines with detail looking nice especially in the many close-ups found in the film.  A modest, practically insignificant, amount of scratches are found early on in the film before dropping off, never to appear again.  Exterior shots appear slightly softer, while natural looking, they seem to be attributed to a lack of controlled lighting than anything else.  A healthy layer of grain is intact the entire runtime and looks just marvelous.  This has to be one of Vinegar Syndrome’s cleanest and most well presented films to date!  Bravo!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    The Phantom Gunslinger has also been restored in 2K from original 35mm camera negatives and presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio with results shining as well.  The opening title sequence sees a light case of scratches and flakes but once the actual film begins, the print stabilizes to a wonderful clean appearance.  Colors pop beautifully especially in the costume designs with skin tones looking natural and clean.  Donohue’s blonde hair and blue eyes practically jump off the screen.  For a nearly lost film, the original elements were kept in terrific shape and Vinegar Syndrome’s restoration is top quality.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Fanny Hill comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix that is clean as can be.  One noticeable drop in audio was caught in the film’s final act but only lasted for a second.  The rest of the film’s dialogue comes across clearly with no hissing or pops heard on the track.  A terrific audio mix that goes along nicely with a superb video presentation.
    RATING: 4/5

    The Phantom Gunslinger is also presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix that presents its dialogue clearly with no distortion and a score that is loud and robust that makes great use of a round bass sound.  No distracting pops were caught on the film’s track which makes for an even better listening experience.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    Vinegar Syndrome presents this combo pack with a Blu-ray that holds both films as well as two DVDs.  The first DVD presents Fanny Hill while the second holds The Phantom Gunslinger and all the bonus feature content.

    - The Zugsmith Connection with Ulli Lomell: This 10-minute featurette interviews Fanny Hill co-star Ulli Lomell discussing his work with Russ Meyer and Albert Zugsmith as well as how he landed the role in the film.  The interview comes equipped with hilarious inserts of Lomell exercising in a park.

    - Interview with Film Historian Eric Schaefer: This impressive 20-minute interview with Film Historian Eric Schaefer is incredibly informative as Schaefer discusses the evolution of the “nudie-cutie” genre, Russ Meyer’s career, Meyer and Zugsmith’s headbutts on the set of Fanny Hill and more.  Pixelation plagues Schaefer’s face throughout the entire interview but regardless, this is a fantastic featurette that contributes a very scholarly approach to the subject material.

    - Reversible cover

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Vinegar Syndrome’s latest release of Fanny Hill with The Phantom Gunslinger is a strange pairing of two films that were close to being virtually lost.  Fanny Hill is a fun experiment in taking a risque literary classic and making it a sexy and hilarious cinematic effort.  While, Meyer and Zugsmith both practically disowned the film in later years, it’s still interesting to see what brought two acclaimed talents like them together for such an unusual project.  The Phantom Gunslinger played to the slapstick crowd in an obvious parody of the Wild West with minimal results.  The recycling of gags and physical humor wore out their welcome and the less than focused direction made this one a struggle to get through by its finale.  Fortunately, Vinegar Syndrome has presented both these films in quite possibly the best presentation they are sure to see matched with terrific audio mixes and a small but incredibly rewarding selection of special features in the form of Film Historian Eric Schafer’s interview.  For those that can’t get enough of discovering lost cinema, look no further than Vinegar Syndrome’s release of Fanny Hill with The Phantom Gunslinger.
    RATING: 4/5 

  • The Candidate (1964) w/ Johnny Gunman (1957) DVD Review


    The Candidate (1964) w/ Johnny Gunman (1957)
    Director(s): Robert Angus / Art Ford
    Starring: Mamie Van Doren, June Wilkinson & Ted Knight / Martin E. Brooks, Ana Donaldson & Johnny Seven
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented for the first time on home video, Vinegar Syndrome pairs two very different films together that hail from opposite ends of the track.  A salacious political satire and a late period noir, both filmed in beautiful black and white, come together for one unlikely package.  Will women with looks that kill and some knife wielding mobsters earn a spot on your shelf?  Let’s find out...

    The Candidate stars Mamie Van Doren (Untamed Youth) and June Wilkinson (Career Girl) in a political satire involving the sexcapades of an up and coming politician, played by Ted Knight (Caddyshack).  Eric Mason (Kiss of the Tarantula) co-stars in his film debut.  Next up, Johnny Gunman, takes place over the course of a single night in New York where a tense battle is brewing between two mob boss hopefuls.  Martin E. Brooks (The Six Million Dollar Man) stars in his film debut alongside Ana Donaldson (Kraft Theatre), Woodrow Parfrey (Planet of the Apes) and Johnny Seven (The Apartment).

    MOVIE(s):
    The sexcapades of an up and coming politician sounds almost more appealing as a documentary for today’s audiences but alas this is the basis of our first feature.  The plot sounds ripe for humorous hijinks and maybe some 1960s skin, but sadly that’s not the case.  The trouble with The Candidate is that it never quite knows what it wants to be.  We start off with a campaign manager (Eric Mason) wooing a politician’s secretary (Mamie Van Doren) in hopes to make his way into the candidate’s good graces.  At this point, I was convinced the story would involve Mason and Van Doren hatching a scheme to catch the candidate in embarrassing sexual situations in order for Mason to take control as the next would be senator himself.  Much to my disappointment, the story went another direction.  The film switches back and forth to past events and then jumping forward where the film becomes a courtroom drama.  Knight’s character isn’t even doing anything “wrong” until he begins seeing the gorgeous June Wilkinson, which Mason believes is a bad political move.  Somewhere along the way, Mason knocks up a random broad which results in her aborting the pregnancy and having a disturbing mental breakdown.  Yikes!  The film concludes in the courtroom where see evidence presented in the form of a stag film starring Knight’s latest squeeze, Wilkinson.  The film in turn finds Knight an unfit selection to assume the role of state senator.  But, don’t worry, as if finding out his old lady starred in a sex flick wasn’t enough, Knight becomes overwhelmed by the film and drops dead because of it!  Needless to say, the film ends on a very unexpected, somber note which fell far from my original expectations.  The Candidate told a story without knowing exactly what it wanted to be or achieve.  Luckily, the one shining light of the film is Van Doren and Wilkinson who are so jaw-droppingly beautiful that you’ll nearly forget about the film and focus entirely on them.  The lack of skin was disappointing but expected for such an early execution in sexploitation.  Nothing more than aggressive kissing and a quick peak at Van Doren’s crack is all you get here.  The Candidate was a snoozefest that baffled me at its inability for consistence.  The film is nothing special and only serves as an odd curiosity of early sexploitation mixed with political satire.
    RATING: 2/5

    Teamed up with The Candidate is the late period noir, Johnny Gunman from 1957.  Set over the course of one night in New York, a tense battle ensues between two mob boss hopefuls that can only end with one of them falling.  This lost flick was Written and Directed by Art Ford which would mark his first and only picture behind the camera.  The premise of the film sounded promising enough but the deeper you get in, the more the appeal wears off.  Johnny Gunman fails from stale performances from its cast, mostly from Ana Donaldson who plays Coffee, a woman with dreams of becoming a writer but plans to ditch the city after that doesn’t pan out.  She enters a cafe on her final night in the Big Apple and decides to spend her final hours with three men, one of whom is a mob boss hoping to gain control of the city.  Donaldson has no range whatsoever and has trouble speaking above a whisper.  Her last stab at trying to find something memorable to write about in these three men comes across as uninteresting due to her lack of enthusiasm.  It’s no surprise Johnny Gunman was her first and only film appearance.  At 67 minutes, the film plays at a snail’s speed with not much in the way of excitement happening.  Eventually, it becomes clear that the only way to decide who will reign the city is to meet on a lonely street and have it out like men.  In what concludes as quite possibly the most anti-climatic fight in film history, Johnny Gunman is a failed attempt at capturing the vibe of a quality noir.  The only appealing moments come in the form of exterior shots of Greenwich Village during a street festival that look marvelous.  In addition, one of the final shots of the film finds our hopeful mob boss driving past a gorgeous movie theatre that was playing The Wizard of Oz at the time.  As you can see, Johnny Gunman is far from a masterpiece and fails to entertain anymore than its co-feature.
    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:
    The Candidate has been restored in 2K from 35mm elements and presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The black and white photography looks clean for the most part with only faint cases of lines and scratches present.  Detail comes across nicely, most noticeably in close-ups.  Overall, I walked away pleased with the presentation.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    Like The Candidate, Johnny Gunman was restored in 2K from 35mm film elements.  The film is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio and has its fair share of hiccups.  Scratches and debris are present in the print with exterior shots looking dark and difficult to view.  While close-ups of the cast are nicely detailed, pops in the print occur every so often.  Suffice to say, this is the best Johnny Gunman will ever look and it’s not too shabby, warts and all.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    The Candidate is accompanied with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix which is slightly problematic.  Moments of hissing and an occasional echo of cracks and pops are heard but fortunately don’t intrude on dialogue.  The echo does become tedious as it practically serves as an unintentional piece of background music.  The audio track is serviceable even with these weak spots.
    RATING: 3/5

    Johnny Gunman is equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that is also problematic.  A slight hiss is heard throughout the entire runtime.  Dialogue can be heard well enough but the hissing does get tedious.  One quick audio drop was noticed in the final reel but only for a moment.  The audio mix will get you to the finish line but there’s definitely hurdles on the way there.
    RATING: 2/5

    EXTRAS:

    No special features are included in this collection but a reversible cover is provided which gives Johnny Gunman top billing.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:
    The Candidate was a convoluted mess that strayed far from what its premise described.  The only worthy mention of the film is the appearances of Mamie Van Doren and June Wilkinson who are both drop dead gorgeous.  Unfortunately, Johnny Gunman fared no better as a failed attempt to capture the spirit of the noir genre they were aiming for.  A stale cast, anti-climatic ending and the lack of an effective score doomed this film from becoming entertaining if handled better.  Vinegar Syndrome should still be praised for rescuing two lost films that would have been permanently extinct without them.  The video and audio presentations on both films are as decent as one could expect from the material.  Sadly, the quality and entertainment value of the productions hurt this release considerably.
    RATING: 2/5

  • Virgin and the Lover (1973) / Lustful Feelings (1978) DVD Review


    Virgin and the Lover (1973) / Lustful Feelings (1978)
    Director: Kemal Horulu
    Starring: Eric Edwards, Leah Marlon & Jennifer Welles / Leslie Bovee & Jamie Gillis
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome welcomes another double dose of passion and perversion in their popular Drive-In Collection!  The indie label continues to preserve and release some of the most obscure and erotic films in recent history with this latest release being no exception.  Two bonafide skin flicks from Director Kemal Horulu (The Sexualist) are paired up that’s sure to send your senses for a loop with featured talent from Jennifer Welles, Leslie Bovee and Jamie Gillis.  Let’s take a look at these erupting features…

    Virgin and the Lover centers on a filmmaker (Eric Edwards) who lives in a sensual dream world where he is torn between his love for a beautiful woman and his odd desires for a female mannequin.  In Lustful Feelings, a young woman (Leslie Bovee) is forced to earn an income in order to pay off the drug debt her lover (Jamie Gillis) owes.  Unknowingly to her significant other, she takes up prostitution and develops a knack for it.


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

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/Virgin_and_the_Lover_Lustful_F/virgin_and_the_lover_lustful_f.html

  • Night Train to Terror (1985) Blu-ray Review



    Night Train to Terror (1985)
    Director: Jay Schlossberg-Cohen
    Starring: Cameron Mitchell, John Phillip Law & Byron Yordan
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    By the sight of the 1-sheet poster, most would assumed that Night Train to Terror is another chip off the slasher block from the bitchin’ 1980s.  As fitting as it may seem, this is an entirely different beast.  When the topic of horror anthologies is brought up, there is a steady list of favorites to choose from such as Creepshow, Trick ‘r Treat and Tales from the Crypt.  But, somewhere in the cobwebs lies Night Train to Terror.  Presented for the first time on home video and it its original aspect ratio, Vinegar Syndrome bring this horror oddity to your growing collection in a Blu-ray / DVD combo pack.  How odd is this flick, you ask?  Well, get ready to throw logic out the window and let’s find out...

    Night Train to Terror kicks off with God and Satan aboard a train headed to the friary underworld as they decide the fates of three unfortunate souls.  In Harry, a killer keeps body parts of his victims in a twisted torture chamber.  While, in Gretta, a young woman obsessed with death takes part in a risky game of Russian roulette.  Finally, Claire finds a young woman and a Holocaust survivor terrorized by the son of Satan!

    MOVIE:
    There’s much to admire in a film that kicks off with an 80s-centric band playing to the camera while on board a train to Hell.  The catchy tune and the lead singer, who looks like a mix of Loverboy and Flashdance, sets the tone for the odd film you are about to witness.  The wrap-around segments of God and Satan deciding the fates of each of the  victims was a welcome touch that opened the stage for some humorous moments.  The film itself is an insane collage of horror presented without too much narrative in mind and a tongue firmly planted in cheek.  Demons, dismemberment, nudity and nazis all make entertaining appearances that are provided by a halfway decent cast and a synth-happy score.  Night Train to Terror takes lightning speed shifts telling its story while pushing moments of blood and horror leaving you with a “what the hell is going on?” attitude more than once.  In addition, the film deserves great praise for their usage of stop-motion effects that are less Harryhausen and more Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure but just as charming and fun.  Overall, the film succeeds in throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the viewer in terms of horrific elements while weaving a very “unique” kind of anthology tale.  There’s nothing quite like Night Train to Terror and by my calculations, that’s a fantastic thing!
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome presents Night Train to Terror for the first time on home video restored in 2K from 35mm elements and in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio.  The film certainly has its fair share of inconsistencies with debris and scratches with colors popping nicely when they can.  Skin tones appear natural and detail is quite sharp in close-ups.  Grain levels look terrific while blacks can be a hit or miss.  It sounds mediocre, but in truth, this film has never looked better and probably never will.  Vinegar Syndrome’s treatment is the definitive one for a film that has only seen ratty bootlegs before its release.  Consider me satisfied!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Night Train to Terror hurls into your living room courtesy of a 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix.  Scenes of dialogue are clear and hissing is hardly present while moments of horror and carnage are loud and robust.  The score and catchy opening tune impressed my ear drums as they were loud even at a relatively lower volume.  Well done!
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    Vinegar Syndrome presents a healthy dose of supplements that are spread across both the Blu-ray and DVD on this release.

    On Blu-ray:
    - Interview with Director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen (offered as an audio track over the film)

    - The Hysteria Continues Commentary: The bloggers offer plenty of laughs and interesting anecdotes about the film and the players involved.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    On DVD:
    - Gretta: The full-version of The Case of Gretta Conners, a unique and welcome extra as one can see and appreciate the differences from its shorter counterpart found in Night Train to Terror.

    - Interview with Assistant Editor Wayne Schmidt (presented as an audio track)

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Night Train to Terror is quite unlike any horror anthology you’ve ever seen.  The chaotic pace and horrific imagery at every turn will certainly send you for a loop which makes it never boring.  Vinegar Syndrome have preserved and presented the film in the best possible manner with a welcome dose of extras that offer as much behind-the-scenes information as possible on this horror oddity.  Night Train to Terror is an absurd execution in horror anthologies with enough blood, demons and stop-motion to peak most genre fans’ interest.  Looking for logic?  We’re all out on Night Train to Terror but that’s exactly where most of the charm comes from.
    RATING: 4/5

  • The Oral Generation (1970) DVD Review


    The Oral Generation (1970)
    Director: ?
    Starring: ?
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The exploitation hounds that make up Vinegar Syndrome are back at it again with some more scandalous cinemania from Times Square circa 1970! If you’re yearning for a crash course in the scientific study of how to please your significant other in the oral department, then you’ve come to the right place. The Oral Generation will provide with you all the necessary answers you desire in explicit detail but not before you are treated to four sexy shorts in the flesh. Feelin’ lucky tonight? Then, shut that mouth and prepare to enter The Oral Generation

    In true theatrical viewing experience, the sultry cinema begins as soon as you insert the disc in your player.  We are treated to a trailer for the main attraction, The Oral Generation, which showcases some true money shots that are awaiting the viewer towards the second hour. Next, the sexual odyssey continues in four skintastic shorts that, much like the main feature, are marking their home video debuts. Clinical Sex focuses on Alice, a patient seeking the help of her physician in regards to her inability to be sexually aroused while making love to her husband. Fear not because some “close bonding” with the doc will be sure to clear that right up. Meanwhile, Nurse Ella, the doctor’s faithful companion, tends to another female patient ensuring she is “well taken care of”. Unfortunately, we learn that once Alice’s husband catches wind of the doctor’s “break through” with his wife, he takes legal action and successfully closes down his practice… and things were going so well too.

    Any Way You Like It deals again with a concerned female patient seeking the guidance of her doctor after being disturbed by her brother stimulating a slew of maids with some contraption. The doctor decides the only way to break her mental block with vibrators is by using it on her. For what the check-up fee is, our patient isn’t pleased and insists on the “real thing” while the nurse becomes friendly with the contraption herself. The true oddball of the bunch is Naked Sexes which pits four topless women and three g-string wearing muscle men (who all look like they’d be very fitting in William Friedkin’s Cruising) literally giggling at each other for 15 minutes. There’s no sexual interaction between the opposite sexes just a weird face-off of laughing bursts as the men flex everything from their butt cheeks to their pecs. The short comes off quite hilarious at times but quickly runs out of gas as the constant laughing will drive you insane.

    The Different Sex, the final short, deals with sex education student Sandra, who while writing a paper on the human orgasm finds the best way to learn about the subject is experiencing it firsthand with her two male classmates who amazingly can have sex while wearing their shorts! As Sandra completes her “research” her female roommate and neighbor, Karen, both feel that Sandra could use some “extended notes”. It’s no mystery that Sandra could write her paper with such ease and knowledge on the subject after such intensive studies. Before the main feature begins, we are treated to an outtake from the film where a couple are having an arousingly fun time sucking each others fingers among other things all on a hideous plaid couch.

    Finally, after 52 minutes of shorts to prep you, The Oral Generation takes center stage. The film kicks off with some truly remarkable footage of Times Square 1970 and all the operating grindhouse and peepshow theaters of the time all in their blinking light glory. The Oral Generation certainly attempts to take a very educational standpoint on the oral satisfaction between lovers. The popular sex books at this time in history are discussed as well as the religions stances on certain areas of sex and love making. But, don’t be fooled thinking this is a health class video because before you know it, you are thrown into some truly explicit scenes. A wife narrates as she explains how she relaxes her husband in the shower after a long workday. In addition, a husband, during sex, fantasizes about his wife being a provocative secretary. The scene continues to cut back and forth from the couple going at it to the wife in sexy lingerie having some fun with herself for the camera. As the film progresses, an interracial couple are having an orally good time as the woman imagines her husband as some sort of karate master with sai in hand. Finally, the film climaxes literally with a couple inviting a female friend to join in on their sexual fun.

    MOVIE:
    Without sounding like a prood, I find it difficult to evaluate films of this caliber since they aren’t a major area of interest for me. I appreciate that they have such a dedicated fan base and the content, specifically of the 1970s, made up such a large part of what made that New York City scene so gritty and fascinating. The Oral Generation is certainly a genuine slice of programming from the Times Square theaters during the early 70s and that itself is intriguing. The explicit nature and rawness of the content on this release is something that I’m not even sure exists anymore so to see it saved and so well preserved is quite a sight. The shorts have more comedic moments than anything found in the main feature which was welcoming for someone who doesn’t view much of this content. Other than that, I suppose you get what you’re looking for when it comes to adult flicks of this time. Naked Sexes remains such an oddity to me that I don’t think I’ll be forgetting it anytime soon especially the one g-string wearing gent that sported a Groucho Marxesque mustache. The Oral Generation, the feature presentation, started off appealing to me simply due to the remarkable shots of Times Square early on in the film and other New York landmarks like the New York Public Library that would be so awesomely utilized over a decade later in Ghostbusters. Before long, the educational viewpoints that are presented earlier all take a backseat for the sexual and oral goodness people are coming to expect. Scenes of men and women going down on each other drag for 15 minutes at a time which quickly becomes boring. If you’re jonesing for money shots of penetration that are teased in the trailer then you’ll have to wait until the final moments of the film. I can’t say that I personally hated the film, it’s just not really my cup of tea. There’s no denying that there is a demand for vintage content of this kind and if you’re a lover of the material then The Oral Generation will fit in well with your adult cinema collection. It just wasn’t for me.
    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:
    If you asked me how circa 1970 pornography would look in this day and age, I would have naively said “it’ll look like shit”. But, I’d be wrong. Dead wrong! Vinegar Syndrome presents this release in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negatives. These flicks are quite the sight. Colors look remarkably bright while skin tones are as natural as can be. Detail is terrific picking up the sweat droplets on faces and every minor blemish one could possibly notice on a body. Minor moments of scratches are seen but they are so quick and insignificant that it barely makes a difference whatsoever. It’s hard to believe these films look as wonderful as they do but take my word for it, these are some top quality looking skin-flicks!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    The English Mono track does what it needs to do. No distracting hiss or anything to disrupt the film can be found here. Dialogue and groans of ecstasy come off nice and clear.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    Depending on how you look at it, everything that was discussed above, with the exception of the main feature, can be considered as an extra. That said, since the film automatically plays through everything together gives it the impression that it’s all one seamless program. But, for the sake of debating, I’ll re-list the extras in this section as well.

    - The Oral Generation Theatrical Trailer

    - Shorts restored in 2K from 35mm original camera negatives: Clinical Sex, Any Way You Like It, Naked Sexes & The Different Sex

    - 10 minute outtake scene from The Oral Generation

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    The Oral Generation is an explicit, sexually charged journey from yesteryear. A time when pornography was on the rise and really finding its footing in society. While I wasn’t particularly blown away by the material, there’s no denying the demand for content from this era and Vinegar Syndrome has done a remarkable job saving it from oblivion. The video quality is breathtaking when considering the kind of material this is and the extras are a nice assortment of adult goodness that makes this package a great bang for your buck. The Oral Generation is a film that was destined to live and die along with the Times Square scene of the 70s but thankfully Vinegar Syndrome came to the rescue and gave it superior treatment. Regardless of my overall opinion of the content, preserving any film, especially in this case, before they become extinct gets a praise from me. Well done, Vinegar Syndrome!
    RATING: 3/5

  • Blood Thirst (1971) / The Thirsty Dead (1974) DVD Review



    Blood Thirst (1971) / The Thirsty Dead (1974)
    Director(s): Newt Arnold / Terry Becker
    Starring: Robert Winston, Vic Diaz & Katherine Henryk / Jennifer Billingsley & John Cosidine
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Vinegar Syndrome aims to please with yet another double dose from their Drive-In Collection series.  This time, we have two films that both promise to bring blood and death to the viewer.  Please note that the makers of these films are not responsible for your nightmares so be warned.  The eye-grabbing poster art and plots for both of these drive-in flicks certainly have their hearts in the right place but the question remains, will Blood Thirst and The Thirsty Dead be the flicks that will quench the cult lovers taste in you?  Let’s dive in and find out…

    Blood Thirst stars Robert Winston, in his final film performance, as an American investigator who probes the violent goings on at nightclub where beautiful women start turning up dead.  The horrifying secret he stumbles upon may be worse though.  1974’s The Thirsty Dead tags along on this double bill about a sinister cult who kidnaps beautiful women to use in their ghastly blood rites.  Interestingly enough, Filipino exploitation legend, Vic Diaz, makes appearances in both films.

    MOVIE(s):
    Blood Thirst was a film that caught me by surprise the second it started.  I was immediately impressed by the nicely staged opening shots as well as the effective lighting which cast a very noir-ish atmosphere.  The film wastes no time establishing the reason for our American investigator’s stay by knocking off a beautiful woman in no time.  The killer, cast in shadows but noticeably deformed in the face, begins what the viewer anticipates will be the next 65 minutes of the film.  Interestingly enough, Blood Thirst threw me for a loop because the film actually plays more like a detective story more than a killer monster on the loose flick.  I appreciated the unexpected change of pace Blood Thirst packed and found myself throughly entertained by the principal cast.  While, the finale of the film brings its focus back to the deformed killer, the reasoning behind the murders is slightly outlandish but still good fun.  The black and white cinematography looked terrific and set the atmosphere for the entire film.  Director Newt Arnold would go on to direct one more film, 1988’s Bloodsport with Jean-Claude Van Damme while primarily assistant directing other Hollywood gems such as The Godfather: Part II, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Blade Runner, Sixteen Candles, The Goonies and The AbyssBlood Thirst was a film that wasn’t exactly what I was expecting but still managed to thoroughly entertain me with its talented cast, beautiful cinematography and fun plot.
    RATING: 4/5

    If you’re still thirsty for more death than the next feature might be for you!  Unfortunately, The Thirsty Dead didn’t tickle my fancy as much as Blood Thirst.  The film kicks off intriguing enough with a gorgeous woman dancing in a cage for a slew of bar sailors.  Before you know it, she’s abducted, along with other women, by men in hooded robes.  The women’s future does not look bright as they are whisked away to a remote jungle locale where a cult wants their blood for ritual purposes.  The problems begin when the girls arrive at their new “home” and don’t really seem as phased about their situation as one would be.  By the half hour mark, even the viewer will have a hard time seeing what’s wrong with the situation since the “prisoners” seem content for the most part and the cult leaders are quite nice.  The film drags its feet by not pitting the girls in any true danger or sensing any real threats until the leader of the girls (played by Jennifer Billingsley) decides they need to escape.  Odd because I thought that would have been priority number one the second you were abducted.  Billingsley’s character is fawned over by the cult leader and is selected to enjoy the riches of youth forever at the expense of her friends.  Not being able to have her cronies along for the ride changes the whole scenario so escape from these dreaded cult worshippers is shifted into high gear.  Interestingly enough, Billingsley manages to show the cult leader the error of his ways prompting him to help the girls escape.  This doesn’t sit well with his followers who all band together to take their former leader down along with the women.  The lack of blood and horrific imagery is severely lacking plus the rather boring first hour of the film crowns The Thirsty Dead the stinker of this double bill.
    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:
    Blood Thirst has been scanned in 2K from 35mm archival film elements (1.85:1) and looks really gorgeous.  The black levels look strong with grain remaining intact.  There are minor cases of scratches in the film but just the right amount to make you feel at the drive-in without taking away from the viewing experience.  This is exactly how I love seeing films of this caliber.
    RATING: 4/5

    The Thirsty Dead was also scanned in 2K from 35mm archival film elements (1.85:1) but is slightly more problematic.  Scratches and pops are way more apparent in the transfer but it still manages to bolster nice colors and natural grain.  More scratches aren’t necessarily the worst thing in the world depending on which cult fan you ask but this one, while still serviceable, doesn’t look quite as hot as Blood Thirst.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Blood Thirst sounded just as terrific as its video transfer.  No noticeable hissing or muffling to be found.  Dialogue comes out nice and loudly.
    RATING: 4/5

    Much like its video transfer, The Thirsty Dead is slightly problematic.  Hissing and pops can be heard at various moments in the film but luckily it didn’t hinder any dialogue scenes.  Not horrible but it’ll do.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    No special features to be found on this Drive-In Collection.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:
    Vinegar Syndrome’s latest Drive-In Collection of Blood Thirst and The Thirsty Dead was a mixed bag.  Blood Thirst was hands down the crowning jewel with its fun detective story mixed with a deformed monster as well its gorgeous black and white cinematography.  Unfortunately, The Thirsty Dead is the anchor on this double bill since it fails to captivate the viewer with a fun or even remotely horrific tale.  The lack of any blood or true danger for the principal cast really sent the eyes rolling after the first 30 minutes.  But, like any experience at the drive-in, you win some and lose some.  Vinegar Syndrome always manages to take chances with the films on these double bills which is appreciated but some just manage to ring louder than others.  The strength of Blood Thirst alone and the low price point on this collection definitely calls for a strong recommendation.
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • The Doll Squad (1973) w/ Mission: Killfast (1980s) Blu-ray Review



    The Doll Squad (1973) w/ Mission: Killfast (1980s)
    Director: Ted V. Mikels
    Starring: Francine York, Tura Santana & Lisa Todd / Cheng-Wu Yang & Sharon Hughes
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Exploitation label, Vinegar Syndrome, is back at it again with another dose of Blu-ray goodness for cult lovers everywhere.  In true grindhouse fashion, this releases comes with not one, but two feature films from the Ted V. Mikels Collection.  The man responsible for so many cult gems like The Black Klansman, The Astro-Zombies and The Corpse Grinders.  Vinegar Syndrome have presented both films on Blu-ray for the first time in this release which is also chocked full of special features and a groovy reversible cover art option.  Will a group of sexy female agents destined to bring down a criminal mastermind soothe the cult enthusiasts’ itch or will it be a master martial artist named Tiger, who goes toe to toe with weapons dealers resulting in shoot-outs and explosions be worth your time?  Think quickly because in five seconds this paragraph will self-destruct so let’s take a gander at The Doll Squad and Mission: Killfast

    The Doll Squad tells the story of a gorgeous group of female agents who are assigned to a top mission where an evil mastermind plans on unleashing the bubonic plauge on the world.  Interestingly enough, this film is said to have inspired the classic Charlie’s Angels television show.  The film stars a terrific group of cult actors such as Francine York (It Takes a Thief), Michael Ansara (Batman: The Animated Series), Lisa Todd (The Devil’s Rain) and Tura Santana (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!).  Mission: Killfast focuses on marital arts master, Cheng-Wu Yang (credited as Tiger Yang), who is called upon by his government to face off against an evil group of weapons dealers.  Violence, explosions and bikini clad women take care of the rest.

    MOVIE(s):
    The Doll Squad quickly sucked me in thanks to its very colorful and very 70s title sequence which highlights the beauty of our core cast.  As the leader of The Doll Squad, Francine York takes command of the film and has a hypnotizing beauty that truly shines.  She’s joined by several other team members, most famously Tura Santana  who also showcases her burlesque talents in the film.  While, a film about gorgeous secret agents should be a sure thing, The Doll Squad tends to lose its focus at some point.  The major drawbacks are the actual size of the team, there simply are just too many of them for us to really learn and appreciate their personalities.  With the exception of York and Santana (who clearly has cult cred), the other girls just feel like blank canvas‘ who are just following orders and shooting wildly at evildoers.  In addition, the plot of taking down a criminal hellbent on unleashing the bubonic plauge seems simple enough, but again that’s where another drawback is found.  The film tends to get wrapped up in its own dialogue which congests the story and makes it a slight bore to watch at times.  Thankfully, the redeeming qualities of this film come in the unexpected form of violence.  Make no mistake about it, The Doll Squad is a very classy exploitation film for its time.  If you’re looking for gratuitous nudity or raunchy sex scenes, look elsewhere because they’re not found in here.  That said, when the guns come out, lots of blood goes flying.  Bullet shots to the head and machine gun shootouts galore were a welcome surprise for what originally seemed like a very tame film.  The handling of explosions and electrocutions in The Doll Squad are quite hilarious, it made me feel like I was watching an episode of the 1960s Batman.  In addition, while most of the women are forgettable, there’s no denying how lovely they all look.  Director Ted V. Mikels certainly knows how to cast a sexy group of agents and there beauty is one of the driving contributers of the picture.  While The Doll Squad certainly beat Charlie’s Angels to the punch by a whopping three years, the television show perfected the concept of female secret agents.  The Doll Squad presents a simplistic story that gets a little too wrapped up in itself causing a slightly bumpy viewing experience.  Luckily, the film’s action and violence mixed with the lovely sight of the core cast makes the film a serviceable watch.  There’s no way this film is a terrible one, it’s just not particularly amazing either.  But, being from the Ted V. Mikels cannon, there’s no way any cult lover can’t have this in their collection.  Recommended.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    Next up, Mission: Killfast pits martial arts master, Tiger Yang, against a group of ruthless arms dealers.  Shoot-outs, blood and sexy women are all on board for this flick as well.  Mission: Killfast is a film that had a tremendously hard time being completed, starting in 1980 and principal photography not wrapping until 1989 with an actual release not occurring until sometime in 1991.  The trouble with this film is similar to what plagued The Doll Squad but on a larger scale.  The story is simple and easy enough to follow but as the film takes off, it just gets derailed with too many random plot points.  We get introduced to many characters and learn the criminals want to get their hands on nuclear detonators but never understand exactly why they want them.  The film just tends to drag itself to the finish line and even action-orientated moments aren’t enough to save it.  Unfortunately, even having a real martial artist like Tiger Yang onscreen doesn’t bring anything exciting to the table.  Yang’s talents are grossly underused in the film and fighting sequences come off laughable as a result.  While The Doll Squad kept itself classy with no nudity, Mission: Killfast sheds some skin on many of the ladies in the film.  By the time the final act comes around, it just seemed like a carbon copy of The Doll Squad with the good guys storming the bad guys‘ base, fighting ensues, inevitable victory for the good guys, etc.  It’s tough to be so critical of a film that probably lost sight of itself after many years in production.  Mission: Killfast clearly had a very long road from start to finish and unfortunately it just doesn’t make for a terrific viewing experience.
    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:
    The Doll Squad has been restored in 2K from 35mm original camera negatives and is presented in 1.85:1.  Simply put, the film looks stunning!  Colors are bright while flesh tones are natural and crisp.  Grain levels are near perfect and detail is beautifully apparent in close-ups.  The film has minor moments of softness and scratches that are so minimal, it wouldn’t take away from this fantastic transfer.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    Mission: Killfast has also been restored in 2K from 35mm original camera negatives and is presented in 1.85:1.  Softness and scratches are a little more apparent here but the film still looks quite nice with flesh tones looking good and colors popping where needed.  The transfer received the same great treatment that The Doll Squad was given but the added softness and scratches slightly took away from it.  Overall, still a terrific job!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    The Doll Squad sports a DTS-HD Master Audio mix which sounds stellar.  Dialogue and action are clear as bell with no noticeable hissing anywhere.  Anyone wanting to see how audio on a cult release should be handled, look no farther than The Doll Squad.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    Mission: Killfast was given the same DTS-HD Master Audio mix and sounds fine although there were moments during dialogue scenes where the audio sounded muffled.  Dialogue could still be heard but it just wasn’t as clean as The Doll Squad.  Still, nice work and arguably the best sound treatment this film will ever get.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:
    Vinegar Syndrome went above and beyond with special features utilizing the helping hand of American Grindhouse Director Elijah Drenner.

    - The Doll Squad Commentary with Director Ted V. Mikels: American Grindhouse Director Elijah Drenner moderates this chatty commentary with Director Ted V. Mikels.  Mikels has nothing but fond memories of the film and the two touch on a variety of topics including Mikels’ love for machines and his enjoyment incorporating them into his films.  In addition, the expensive title sequence is explained as Mikels expresses his dislike for boring black background title sequences.  Drenner does a terrific job conversing with Mikels as he injects his own interesting anecdotes about cult cinema.

    - Interview with Director Ted V. Mikels: This interview is composed of outtakes from Drenner’s American Grindhouse documentary that were shot between 2006-2008.  Mikels discusses his early beginnings performing magic shows with Leon Mandrake which morphed into his desire for filmmaking.  Mikels’ perseverance to never quit at his age is an inspiring one.

    - Mustache Commandos!: The Making of Mission: Killfast: Mikels is interviewed about the long road to making and completing Mission: Killfast.  Investments falling through, reels being stolen and only having three cast members return to finish the film after nine years makes this interview quite a watch.

    - Interview with Francine York: The leader of The Doll Squad sits down to reminisce about filming the movie.  York discusses the enjoyment she had working with Tura Satana and the admiration she holds for Mikels.  York still looks beautiful at her age and has nothing but fond memories of the film.

    - English Subtitles

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    The Doll Squad is a classy piece of early 70s cult cinema, the core cast of Dolls are just gorgeous and the violence found in the film was unexpected but certainly welcome.  The film tends to get wrapped up in itself which makes for some boring moments but as a whole, it still walks away being a fun watch.  Unfortunately, Mission: Killfast was a tougher pill to swallow as it suffers from the same missteps as The Doll Squad but manages to be more boring and not as satisfying.  Luckily, Vinegar Syndrome has given both these films top quality treatment with spectacular video transfers, more than adequate audio mixes, as many special features as one could expect from films of this caliber and groovy reversible cover artwork.  While, The Doll Squad ends up being the fan favorite for me, this package of films is a stellar release from Vinegar Syndrome and one all cult fans should add into their collections!
    RATING: 4/5