Thursday, April 30

Slashed Hopes


Son of a hog bitch, it's always the "faux horror" titles that are discovered in mint condition. This past weekend I found Academy Video's Slashed Dreams VHS clamshell in spectacular condition. The only problem is, by all accounts, this isn't a Horror film. It seems Academy was trying to cash-in on the mid-'80s Freddy craze since Robert Englund is somewhere in this drama with a horror-esqe retitling, synopsis, and hack n' slash artwork. I'm not going to watch it, at least not anytime soon. I prefer to bask in the cool art, imagine the film by the synopsis, and think about how yummy granola is. I also like how the trite tagline is placed right by illustrated girl's ass! Academy certainly knew what their target audience would be looking at!

Wednesday, April 29

Martyrs (2008)


Directed by Pascal Laugier
99 minutes / Weinstein Co. DVD / Anamorphic 1.85:1 Widescreen

(spoilers start at paragraph beginning with "Martyrs")

A badly wounded girl is seen frantically running from an abandoned warehouse. Fifteen years later, shotgun blasts sound in a family's home on a Sunday morning.

This is roughly the synopsis I read long ago somewhere online. That short and sweet. I was intrigued, but baffled by production stills featuring a scarred and horribly malnourished woman with a steel contraption over her eyes. Figuring it would arrive on an English-friendly DVD (or Blu-ray), I quickly forgot about the film until this American DVD was announced. I've finally seen it and this little review will delve into spoiler territory. It would be nearly impossible to dig into this piece of work without doing so.

terror

Martyrs is a challenge, both to moviegoers and the horror genre itself. There is no clear sense of morality to be found in any of the characters--even the roles of the leading actresses. Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) is the spurn victim who escaped her captors all those years ago. Inner demons haunt the young woman and push her to commit horrid acts even on the innocent. With the character, the traditional perception of the puritanical, innocent victim is jumbled with dramatic and dangerous trauma. Her lifelong friend, Anna (Morjana Alaoui), will walk to the bloodsoaked ends of the Earth for Lucie, but a nagging sense of mercy still lingers with her. Even the abductors aren't quite painted in an entirely negative light, being presented so mundanely yet faceless that it's chillingly easy to view anyone being secretly as cruel. Everyone trades in varying degrees of treachery against their fellow man and the film seems to spit in the face of arriving at an identifiable protagonist to get behind.

retribution

This film strives to not only surpass shock expectations, but also boldly breaks with storytelling convention. The arcs of Lucie and Anna are mesmerizing in that they oppose each. We initially met Lucie at her most downtrodden and see her exit after realizing effectively her life's goal. Anna is at her strongest at our introduction and is grounded down to a shell by the conclusion. There's no release from the bleakness here and the film confronts the viewer directly with a heady dose in the destruction of its leads. As a little touch I loved how Anna is never in the frame when Lucie is directly interacting with her terrifying trauma-induced construct.

trauma

The theme of torture is used not just for the spectacle of timed "traps" or to childishly infer Northwestern Europe is a fucked up place. As the title of the film alludes to, torture is employed as a means to an end, not as justice, revenge, or for some sicko to get his jollies. In a world filled with an an ever-growing sense of differing, almost occult influenced faith, the thought of a group comprised of the elite attempting to utilize martyrdom as a way of peaking into the after life seems frightening plausible.

punishment

The shift in tone in the latter half featuring a captive Anna is jarring. The intimacy of her enslavement and the crushing routine made of such inhumanity is absolutely painful to watch. The process feels like it'll never end, but when it does, there's a perverse catharsis that settles within the viewer. This is where most of the outrage from critics most likely stems. The wanton violence on display is one thing, but forcing audiences to blankly walk into this utterly unsettling feeling is a potential powder keg.

ecstasy

Time will tell whether this film has the longevity to be deemed a "masterpiece", but to the credit of everyone involved this is an outstanding example of Horror. It's an advanced seminar of the boundless nature of the genre. Refreshing to those long frustrated by cookie-cutter and a lesson to filmmakers hopefully adopted worldwide. It stomps on a raw nerve with cold precision and will stay with you long after memories of Jigsaw and Eli Roth fade. See it as soon as you can and director Laugier--be damn proud of this accomplishment no matter what anyone says.

Film: 9.5/10
DVD Picture: 8/10 (quite good, but this screams for Blu-ray resolution)
DVD Sound: 8.5/10 (French Dolby 5.1 w/ white subtitles)

Monday, April 27

Martyrs on DVD Tomorrow


Haven't seen it yet, but I'm trekking out tomorrow after work to hopefully snag a copy in-store. I rarely ever do this, but the critical reaction is potent on this one. I've tried my best to steer clear of reviews. Of course, friggin' Best Buy probably won't have it on the shelf even if they do have it in the back. They seem to love to do that...I wonder if Wal Mart will have it? Haha, wouldn't that be nuts. No Marilyn Manson albums, but horrifically brutal unrated horror, sure!

We Have Such Sights To Show You...


I don't have the disc yet, but looking at the direct 1920x1080 screen captures (scroll down a bit) from the Blu-ray over at Hundland, Hellraiser has never looked better on home video by far. Appropriately grainy, rich color, zero hint of edge enhancement, and very little if any digital noise reduction. I'm sure Criterion could have done a little better, but this is a substantial leap from Anchor Bay's other lousy genre Blu-ray efforts.

Their Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead Blu-rays look nearly identical to the smoothed over transfers on their Divimax DVD counterparts from excessive noise reduction. Anchor Bay basically ruined Evil Dead 2 with both the Book of the Dead DVD and Blu-ray with massive digital alterations that produce a completely awful image compared to their earlier, beautifully film-like THX DVD. Halloween on Blu-ray looks decent, but it has the non-Cundey approved coloration stigma and barely any extras. The Masters of Horror Blu-rays dropped all of the enormous supplemental materials found on the DVDs.

Though Hellraiser appears to have the transfer, sound, and extras all in check. Thanks Anchor Bay!

Sunday, April 26

White Justice (1972)


A.K.A. Bloody Trail
Directed by Richard Robinson
85 Minutes / Neon Video / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

Since the IMDB listing is so wrong and vague, here's a point-by-point plot breakdown (spoilers):

a) A stranger secretly beds the daughter of a man he requests work from and quickly hops in an empty train car to escape.

b) On the train the stranger is surprised by two criminals who rob and throw him into the desert--leaving him for dead.


c) A mute black woman nurses him back to health, but the two are soon attacked by a pack of tribal ex-slaves sporting war paint and armed with spears (what?!?).


d) The stranger and woman escape after shooting one of the slaves, but they're both shot dead by the father of the girl in the beginning. Credits start rolling.


That's it. Oh, and the stranger keeps having pointless flashbacks consisting of sepia tone photos of the Civil War. What the fuck did I just watch? It's not a Western and I'm honestly unsure what it is. The film simply has no rhyme or reason. There's no grander point, the scant dialogue is drivel, and each segment feels extremely distant from each other. Despite the exploitative look of the cover, there's not much here on those terms, just a rather protracted sex scene and a gooey shoulder wound. I guess the thing can be summed up as a idiotic meditation on racial tension that only the writers and director understood...or maybe it's actually racist? On a final note, there's a five minute sequence that's I assume repeated in error twice during the latter half. And to think, I've actually managed to find two copies of this...

Film: No Clue/10
VHS Picture: 3/10
VHS Sound: 3/10

Wardogs: The Assassination Edit


I picked up the U.S. Vista Home Entertainment VHS of War Dog today just to see if the release is the MPAA R-Rated edit. Yep, it is unfortunately. I haven't watched the entire tape, but there are edits to the gas station massacre in the beginning. Most notably the complete omission of the children getting shot. I wouldn't be too surprised if there's more butchering since the film goes for gory overkill in the action department.

The unauthorized U.K. DVD under the title War Dog: The Killing Machine is also cut (BBFC link). So this leaves the uncut Japanese VHS (review here) and I presume an uncut Dutch or Greek VHS.

Here's the uncut sequence from YouTube:

Warner Advanced Fuck Up Operations


WAMO (WEA Advanced Media Operations) is one of the very first DVD replicators over a decade ago spearheaded by Warner Bros. You probably own at least a couple discs manufactured by them.

They fucked up a good portion of discs early on, including my mint copy of Warner's Nightbreed. I just popped it into my Oppo and enjoyed the menu freezing constantly. Finally getting beyond that, more terrible skips during the film. Dammit.

Check your old Warner discs (usually in cardboard "snapper" cases) from time-to-time, on the inner ring of the data side you'll see "Manufactured by WAMO". They may not work anymore...

Saturday, April 25

Some quick thoughts on The Zombie Diaries (2006)

Holy ugh. It does a better job feeling "real" compared to Romero's much more stagy Diary of the Dead and a few sequences are creepily effective, but that's pretty much all there is. Everything seems so pre-packaged towards the little twist the viewer is confronted with towards the conclusion. I felt cheated as the credits rolled.

The zombies are slow shamblers, and that's great, but they're noticeably more innocuous here for some reason. You also gotta wonder why all the different groups of people kept filming the events. I can see the why a news crew crafting a documentary would, but it doesn't make sense for the others. Glad I snagged it this morning on the cheap. On the back of the DVD there's a quote from Dark Side Magazine calling it "The best zombie film ever." The reviewer must have been enjoying his shrooms while watching. Wait until it's in the bargain bin if you must.

A Classic in Retro: Scanners (1981)


Directed by David Cronenberg
103 Minutes / 20th Century Fox Home Video / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

Cronenberg is a time-tested genius amongst genre filmmakers. This is the director's second film in what I consider his blooming period just after his breakout feature The Brood and just before the incredible Videodrome. The Canadian filmmakers' influence is substantial yet constrained, quietly rippling through decades of cinema. I imagine other filmmakers perhaps being a little envious in their public marvel of his body of work. The man has a way of conceptualizing highbrow and bold science fiction into contemporary horror that's both easy to digest topically and difficult to fully grasp.

With Scanners, Cronenberg builds a story and film out of damn near nothing. Political power over society by a higher state of the human mind and people trembling. It could have been laughable, but Cronenberg masterfully layers simple ideas and logical twists in such a way as to make one frustrated at the display of ease. A certain intimate menace is injected into the concept of mind control, which the general public most likely equates to quack mystics and popcorn sci-fi. In the world of the scanner, it's as familiar as meeting someone with a "certain something", but just a touch beyond reality into an incredibly frightening power.

There's so many memorable aspects in this film. The most obvious is the spectacular cranium explosion in the first half which still might be the best ever committed to film. Though Revok's mind forced suicide of another man, Ruth's murder, the melting telephone, and the realization that a scanner can scan and become as one with computer technology are all little nuggets that manage to stick in your brain long afterward. It's also refreshing to see an effects-laden climax where the splatter and dazzle are fully justified with the context.

I only have two minor gripes, being Lack's performance being a bit stiff at times and Howard Shore's score sounding phoned in for the most part. All else is orbits around fantastic and Scanners can stand proudly within Cronenberg's cannon. Highly recommended.

Film: 8.5/10
VHS Picture: 7/10 (for a 25 year old tape, it's surprisingly crisp)
VHS Sound: 5/10

Yamato class LD player

Pioneer LD-V6000

I found this today at a garage sale for $5. It's quite beat up with dirt inside the case and was covered in dust, but I figured I'd take a chance. It's one of Pioneer's Industrial models that were built to take tens of thousands of hours of playback. Dorks like myself call such video players "battleships", hence the Yamato Class above since this unit was made in Japan. That's me trying to be funny...

I haven't hooked it to a TV yet, but it appears to perform most things right mechanically. The only problem is it has a bit of trouble lifting the top disc clamp and then unlocking the tray. If I gently lift the clamp bracket as it's opening it opens fine. The laser assembly moves and the motor spins with the fury of a jet engine.

I'm going to wait to buy some hobby grease, Dust-Off, and gear lubricant before finally seeing it the player actually plays in a visually and audibly correct matter.

Friday, April 24

The Top 5 Things Video Dealers Can Go Pound Sand Over


I've only been collecting for just a little while. Though I've ran into, in some instances repeatedly, either asshole tape dealers or dealers who do astonishingly asinine things. So here we go, the top five things said tapeheads can suck eggs over:

5) Treating their VHS like Fort Knox gold - Nothing says welcome like a camera array in a three aisle, twenty foot long enclosure of a shop in a on-the-skids strip mall with the seller breathing down your neck like you're a hardened criminal while observing his two customers via CCTV monitors ...over VHS tapes. I've actually experienced this phenomena twice from two different sellers.

4) Using the highest Amazon Marketprice price as the real value - I know of a guy who does this and he never lowers his prices. Last time I checked a few months ago he had copies of Theater of Blood for $45 and Shockwaves for $80. Perhaps his casket could be decorated in black tape?

3) Not lowering the price despite obvious damage - My last occurrence was with a copy of Night Warning that was missing its cover. The cassette was in mint condition and was placed in a plastic case with the title written in marker on paper. After politely pointing this out, the seller literally said "Uhhh...I guess it could be not the original cover..." With that I just walked off.

2) Using any price stickers on the box as an indication of real value - So this dealer I know has a mountain of tapes he gets from all over for $3 each. I picked out three and one of them had a discolored, half torn price sticker of $29.99 that was obviously from some long gone rental establishment. Right upon seeing that he set a price of $20 and wouldn't accept any haggling. This is just sheer stupidity.

1) "I've been doing this for over twenty years..." - This one only happened once and got me amazingly pissed. Years ago I asked a certain seller I had seen on weekends if I could provide him a list of titles to see whether or not he's got them. I was big into Italian crime films at the time so the list of six or so was comprised of selections from the subgenre. Some I had no idea if they were released on VHS in the States, but some were without a shadow of a doubt.

I presented the list the following weekend and after briefly looking he said he didn't have any of them. I let out a disappointed "oh" and before I could simply say "thanks anyway"--this old prick for no reason snapped. Loudly he growled "Look, I've been doing with for over twenty years and if I've never heard of them...they don't exist!" I'm unsure what I said in response, but I did wrench the list back from his fattened fingers and exit in a huff. I never set foot into his place again, obviously I'm not worthy.

Thursday, April 23

For What It's Worth: Halloween (2007)

Presenting films all Horror fans have seen...yet I've totally neglected to until now!



Directed by Rob Zombie
121 Minutes (unrated director's cut) / Weinstein Company DVD / Anamorphic 2.35:1 Widescreen

This film is exactly how I feel about Zombie's body of music, beginning with White Zombie's first work of prominence La Sexorcisto and equating it to House of 1,000 Corpses. Each respectively share a certain goofy, lo-fi charm and I periodically find myself going back and experiencing both. Astro Creep 2000 is much like The Devil's Rejects being substantial leap forward in refinement of style. Though I tend to visit both less since tedium sets in if I watch (or hear) them too much. This brings us to Zombie's solo artist debut with Hellbilly Deluxe and his remake of Halloween. You can already guess what I'm going to say...

Yes, I didn't care much for keeping abreast of the making of this remake. Genre news resources and forums were ablaze with speculation and reaction, but I didn't much care. To be perfectly honest, I've seen the first two in the original series multiple times, pieces of the others, and some never.

I can't imagine even the one with Busta Rhymes being worse than this.

Carpenter's classic is an exercise in voids. We simply don't know Micheal's motivations nor do we get any kind of extensive sense of Loomis' background with Michael. The original is coyly simplistic and that's what makes it so redefining. Setting the horror in such a rural, wholesome, and most importantly "everyday" setting that still strikes an unnerving chord with millions.

Everything is far overdone with this remake and that's without comparing to the classic. It's an atypical modern slasher long on style, wallowing in the glory of graphic violence, and short on brains. I have no idea where to begin. Zombie's film spells the history out as if the viewer is a utter moron that requires his hand held through the entire process. It's also screamingly obvious the young Myers was going to have at least some form of mental trauma from his childhood. The boy's mother is a stripper, his dad an abusive drunk, his sister a whore, and on top of that he likes to torture animals and is bullied by his classmates. No shit Sherlock! It's so surprising he turned into a psycho maniac...the film painted such an idyllic picture!

I personally find Zombie's pandering to your coworkers (you know) offensive to the Horror community. We complain like rabid dogs over the fact so many genre flicks nowadays tell their stories with the finesse of a sucker punch to the gut. You'd think Zombie would take this into consideration and perhaps understand this well before making his first feature. No, we're at the end of a shotgun blast of horseshit hick exposition rammed down our throats at lightening speed. Zombie merely cliff notes what he chooses from the original and shows with amazing clarity he doesn't understand the genre in the slightest. Just make it wantonly horrific and say "fuck" ahelluva lot, right?

McDowell's Loomis can walk off a cliff for all I care. The character here is a bleeding heart therapist, even after Michael has proven himself to be a empty death machine in front of his very eyes. That's right, say "Micheal, STOP!" several times and then shoot with all of the aim of a blind man. Gimmie a break, Pleasance just shoots the bastard square. Zombie also forgets the tension between local authorites and Loomis in the original made the character that much more interesting to the audience. Sure, we get a little of this from Sheriff Chucky in this remake, but soon it's buddy-buddy keystone cops bullshit.

This film's Laurie Strode is just as faceless as the pretty chicks she hangs out with. Who even is the actress? I have no idea and I don't care to find out. Go hide while Michael tears down the house trying to find you. Yeah, that ending rocked! On a final note, I never thought it would be so "uncool" to pick out all the "nod" actors cast in minor roles. It draws devout Horror fans out of the film with stupefying regularity.

Not much hope for "H2" here...

Film: 1.5/10
DVD Picture and Sound not rated

The Strangeness (1985)


Directed by David Michael Hillman
91 Minutes / Trans World Entertainment / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

A group of rather unlikely explorers enter an expansive abandoned mine to survey the prospects of iron ore for a corporation. The shafts were the site of unexplained miner deaths more than a century ago and legends of a great evil lurk within its depths. After their ropes are mysteriously cut and they find a mangled backpack, fear and descent begin creeping between our dwellers. A cavern collapse resulting in death forces the remaining to find a new exit as they climb deeper. Tentacles writhe just beyond their flares as individuals start disappearing...

A fun concoction that's a bit of a mix of Alien, The Thing, with The Descent mixed with a very mid-'70s look and feel. There's some frightening aspects here; like slimy human cocooning, finding shards of mirrors hanging from the rock ceiling, and utilizing a camera's flash as the only indication of surroundings (sound familiar?). Though at its heart this is a grand ol' monster flick, with plenty of obvious stop-motion claymation of the creature and convenient "happy" conclusion.

Strangely
, there's a repeatedly used piece of the music that quotes Escape from New York's score so strongly that you'd easily believe it's an outtake from Carpenter's work. I was surprised by how the film managed to hold my attention, despite the bland acting on hand and monotonous "dark blue paper mache as cave" settings. Check it out, but don't pay too much for a copy (my battered copy pictured above was only $5).

Film: 5.5/10
VHS Picture: 4/10
VHS Sound: 4/10

Tuesday, April 21

What the fuck, Lionsgate?

It appears Lionsgate now has the license for Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark (instead of Anchor Bay) and they're planning a (most likely barebones) DVD release for July. There's just one problem...


For Chrissakes LG, what the hell did you do? This film isn't Twilight, at all. I hate this bullshit, god forbid we have accurate video cover art for films anymore. Sorry, but this always pisses me off when studios tailor artwork of completely unrelated films to whatever current films are all the rage at the time to get one over on the stupid among us. Seems to be a more-and-more common occurrence nowadays. They even ditched the great, distinctive font of the title!

Monday, April 20

Some quick thoughts on Dance of the Dead


After being disappointed by several recent genre efforts, like Trailer Park of Terror and Midnight Movie (don't get me started), this one was a pleasant surprise.

The characters are quite likable and the pacing is uniformly excellent with a lot of mileage covered without feeling as such. The film is brimming with funny quips that usually don't feel forced. Plus the zombies are grotty with a solid amount of grue being thrown about.

Just a fun, bubbly zombie-themed indie to deserves a rent. It's kinda like Night of the Creeps--without the alien throat slugs or Mr. Atkins--for a new generation. Of course, being a non-theatrical release and a horror comedy (which seems like box office poison), I doubt most belonging to the young "new generation" of movie-goers will see this. Well, that's their loss. After seeing it, you might even want to buy it, like myself. I saw it in HD on Fear.net's On-Demand service and plan on eventually picking it up on DVD.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)


Directed by Charles B. Pierce
90 Minutes / Warner Home Video / Cropped from 2.35:1 to full screen

Based on an unsolved true crime, a masked serial killer terrorizes the small town of Texarkana, Arkansas with a mounting body count and authorities led by a crack police captain on his trail.

You know, after all the hype, it's honestly like a docudrama/thriller geared towards the elderly who crave the thrill of one of the more action-packed episodes of Matlock. Oscar winner Ben Johnson gives an uneventful turn as Captain J.D. Morales. The problem is the ol' cap doesn't do much and primarily looks to those under him for insight. It's also annoying that the film casts the man as "the best" and a patron saint to the citizenry--despite doing essentially jackshit and looking like he just took a long, relaxing trip to the john. No, I don't expect David Caruso to come busting the door down with a forensics laboratory, but this guy was the best? Really?

The film features persistent and wooden '50s educational film narration providing a more "factual" sense of the true details. This aspect comes off as more of a storytelling crutch to move the picture along instead of actually acting out the details. One example is when they chase down a thief who admits to being the "phantom" killer and the narrator simply states he was able to convince Morales that he wasn't the killer during the car ride to the station. Huh? I would have loved to actually hear and see how he accomplished that feat.

Though they're small quibbles compared to the entirely unnecessary comic relief sprinkled throughout. We laugh heartily at the antics Patrolman "Sparkplug"; who can't seem to drive properly at all, fumbles for keys that are right in front of him, and is made fun of by his partners when he dresses up as a woman for bait on a stakeout. Of course we don't laugh, but just groan as the film throws away all of its shaky credibility during these scenes.

The stalk and kill sequences involving baghead are staged well and hold tension enough to seem like they're almost inserted from a different film. The killer's disguise is unsettling and would certainly be something I wouldn't want to experience coming out of the darkness on a quiet night. It's a damn shame nearly everything else in the film is so cripplingly pedestrian and hokey. Spend the time with Fincher's Zodiac instead to see how this kind of film should be handled.

Film: 4.5/10
VHS Picture: 2.5/10 (painfully cropped with constant forms of print damage)
VHS Sound: 5/10

Sunday, April 19

Swap Meet Finds


Lady Street Fighter (1985) -- Rare Unicorn Video edition
Seizure (1974)
Alice, Sweet Alice (Communion) (1976) -- sealed, weird art
Raw Force (1982) -- Rare Media edition, this one sounds crazy
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) -- Rare Warner edition, last SP version before falling into EP hell via GoodTimes Video.
Troma's War (1988) -- Uncut Media VHS, on DVD, but never seen it and it was only a buck
Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) -- Got it on DVD, but it was a buck
The Night of a Thousand Cats (La noche de los mil gatos) (1972) -- Sadly cover is heavily damaged, tape is mint, no publisher named anywhere.
The Rue Morgue Massacres (El jorobado de la Morgue) (1973) --Rare All Seasons Entertainment big box
Angel of H.E.A.T. (1983) -- Vestron Video CED, amusingly I found this at a church sale amongst inspirational books and tapes.

Code Red, where's the detail?


Checking out the screenshots from DVDBeaver's review from CR's just released Running Hot; I continue to wonder why Code Red's DVD transfers are so annoyingly hazy? I own nine of their releases and they all have this strange layer of "video gauze" over the picture. Even the titles that state the transfers were made from the original film elements. I don't mean to bust on the studio, they're true independents and one of the last remaining genre-centric DVD studios with much promise. Though I'd just like to know why. Maybe it's just me, but I could point to countless other DVD transfers produced by both big and small studios that exhibit noticeably more detailed and pleasing presentations. I don't want to get into the digital domination Synapse Films is especially throwing out on a regular basis. They're the studio to look to for incredible attention towards DVD presentations.

Let's do an unscientific comparison (click to enlarge, largish pic):

Left Top: Running Hot (Code Red DVD)
Left Bottom: The Dead Pit (Code Red DVD)
Right Top: Re-Animator (Elite Entertainment Millennium Edition DVD)
Right Bottom: My Bloody Valentine (Paramount rated DVD)

Friday, April 17

A Classic on the Cutting Edge: Rambo - First Blood Part II (1985)


Directed by George P. Cosmatos
96 Minutes / Lionsgate Blu-ray / 1080p Anamorphic 2.35:1 Widescreen

Charles Napier shits the bed after realizing he sent a one man foreign military annihilator out to pasture that's fully aware Mr. Napier was the man who attempted to seal his fate. Rambo is back and looking to make a slimy pencil pusher squirm with his own fecal soft-serve...along with finally winning the war he wasn't allowed to win. The once spurn hitchhiker just needs to bury about 70% of the Vietnam People's Army and at least 15% of Russia's armed forces where they stand before he can accomplish his mission. Oh and give a group of American POWs the chance to see the very first Wrestlemania event over at Crenna's private bachelor pad.

The film is an action criterion of macho fuck globalism green inferno explosion and serves as the basis for the many of the trashy, after-the-fact cash-ins reviewed here. Of course, the story lacks the still ripe for great box office numbers idea of the quiet outsider pushed too far from the first film in the series, but like the coke-fueled zeal of the '80s, this sequel is more interested in balls than brains.

Two things always immediately stump me about the core concept upon watching. Why in the hell would the government even consider (let alone choose) an unstable yet highly decorated boilerplate of a warrior that once alone brought both local and federal authorities to their knees in Washington state to hump it into his former medal-gatherin' battleground to merely take a few photos? That's one of the aspects designed to goat the audience into rooting for Rambo, but c'mon now. Also Rambo is given a gunny sack of arms including his trusty bow with explosive-tipped arrowheads...just to take a few photos. Yeah, Rambo loses most of it in a botched parachute drop, but c'mon now. But I guess I shouldn't think and just enjoy John rippin' Southeast Asia a new volcanic crater.

I refer to Napier and Crenna by actual name above since these are career-defining roles for the two actors. Mr. "I Got My Shit Rock By Dr. Lecter" Napier typifies a sweaty bureaucrat jerk off covering his and his superiors asses. Crenna also disappears into the role of weathered colonel who is the only other person alive possessing a glimpse inside the mind of Rambo. Stallone plays a slightly more evenly nuanced version of one of his trademark roles. We get more one-on-one here instead of stoic machine of a broken psyche and emotional outbursts presented in First Blood. The disarmingly attractive Julia Nickson-Soul is the recipient of most of Rambo's gloomy soul-baring. Though she's not just a pretty face to be entranced by as Rambo babbles on; she proves herself to be a valuable asset and at times a device of plot convenience. Martin Kove also shows up and attempts to sweep Rambo's leg only to need extensive orthodontic work by film's end.

The action is plentiful and varies up enough to never be dull. Arguably the best sequence arrives when Rambo decides to do some landscaping with fire and human bodies with chicken blood as bait. Everything else is massive mountainside explosions, squib torso infestations, and proof Russian Puma choppers aren't rocket-retardant. Jerry Goldsmith's cunning and athletic score keeps the huts explodin' like dominoes and compliments Stallone's serpentine physique as he's destroying Vietnamese family heritage whilst ending the Cold War single-handedly. This is an absolute must for every action fan worth their salt.

The Blu-ray is fantastic in terms of presentation, but the film's period and shooting conditions limit things to a degree. The correctly widescreen framed 1080p High Definition transfer is surprisingly bright and lively with the stubble on Rambo's visage never looking so clear. Though director Cosmatos does use soft focus at times, which is obvious at this resolution and caps off the fine detail present when not employed. There also is just a touch of artificial edge enhancement here-and-there. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track isn't terribly active in the surrounds, but should be praised for keeping all of the film's original foley effects intact. Unlike quite a number of other 5.1 remixes that add new, unintended sound effects to replace the original ones, like with Sony's 5.1 remix of The Terminator or Warner's 5.1 remix of Dirty Harry. The supplemental features here are sparse compared to the packed DVD Special Edition, with only a Cosmatos commentary track and twenty minute featurette.

Film: 8.5/10
BD Picture: 8.5/10
BD Sound: 8/10

I've been Splashed!


Recent follower of BoGD, Starmummy of B Movies and Beyond, has just nominated me for a Splash Award. This award is...errr...awarded to blogs that rock, hence the nod to BoGD. I know this blog rocks; I even look forward to visiting it myself despite being the voice behind it. If that makes any sense.

Now, being the rebel I am, I refuse to post a fruity little Mermaid award that probably came from some valley tween's gaudy, seizure-inducing MySpace page. Thus I figured an incredibly distasteful, misogynistic image of a psycho mutilating a woman a fitting replacement.

Though I certainly appreciate the gesture and I'm always happy to receive feedback and comments. I wanted to set up a little blog that addresses the things I like (goes without saying, right?) and even though there's many wonderful blogs about the same stuff out there, I felt I could contribute something just a little different here. At least I hope I am. So thanks again and stay tuned!

As for selecting other blogs to nominate, I'd suggest digging through my followers like I often do. It's good to network and I'm constantly surprised by what others talk about. I should have started blogging myself years ago!

Thursday, April 16

Phantom Raiders (1988)


Directed by Sonny Sanders, Dan Harvey
84 Minutes / DigiView Productions DVD / Unmatted Full Frame

Mike Monty has turned heel against U.S. armed forces and set up a training camp for Vietnamese soldiers. After an "intense" training session, ultra badass Miles O'Keeffe sounding just like Dirty Harry and his band of former GIs go in to stop him. That sounds great, right?

But the problem is that's it. I really never thought I'd dislike a mindless action flick as much as this, but I did hate Kill Crazy...might have to reevaluate that one. I guess it delves well below my crap threshold. The film sets up Monty's evil doings in the beginning, the "good guy" training involving shurikens and live ammo, and a quickly redundant raid on the traitor's compound rounds out the last forty minutes. The action is poorly staged and unimaginative. The dozens of small explosions aren't timed well and the never ending waves of little evil brown men seem to suffer instantaneous death upon just hearing gunfire. The heroes are untouchable and swing their machine guns side-to-side like they're weed-eating. Worst of all, everyone kinda blends into the stupid action and it doesn't matter that O'Keefee stars, especially when much of the time he's seen wearing a "ninja" hood. The funniest aspect is O'Keeffe's team being comprised of three over the hill guys that look much more interested in cracking open a beer (and selling crack) than battling in the jungle again. Ugh, I guess this proves you can't fuck with the Italians when it comes to Rambo rip-offs.

Film : 1.5/10
DVD Picture: 7/10 (besides some darkness, I'm impressed for a Dollar Tree cheapie)
DVD Sound: 5/10

Obscure DVD Showcase: The Marseilles Connection (1973)

Title: La polizia incrimina la legge assolve
Director
: Enzo G. Castellari
Also known as: High Crime
Publisher: 23rd Century
Country: United Kingdom
Runtime: 1:37:43
Region?: ALL
Native Resolution: 768x576 PAL (Non-U.S. compatible)
Widescreen?: No, cropped. 1.33:1
Anamorphic?: No.
Encode?: Interlaced, MPEG-1
Audio: English 2.0 MPEG
Subtitles?: No.
Extras?: None.
Comments: An excellent film gets a god awful release. It's like a seventh generation VHS bootleg at EP speed with the worst DVD encoding on the planet. The transfer is a MPEG-1 encode, so it's basically a web video masquerading as a DVD. Sadly, this is the only English-friendly DVD anywhere. There is an out-of-print Japanese DVD with a correct 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, but it's non-anamorphic with only an unsubbed (besides Japanese) Italian audio track. It's a film that richly deserves a stunning DVD (and Blu-ray) release. I've included a photo of the Nostalgia Merchant VHS released in the U.S. in 1983.


Wednesday, April 15

Cat in the Deutsch

Ran across another DVD version of Fulci's Cat in the Brain I forgot I possessed. It's Astro Records & Filmwerks long out-of-print and of shady legality disc from Germany under the "Nightmare Concert" title. It looks like shit, just compare these screen captures below to those in my previous entry with the new U.S. and U.K. presentations. At least it's in a cool red DVD case.

More Deluxe Fridays in June

Arriving the same day as the Parts 2 & 3 Blu-rays, Paramount is debuting DEs of three more in the series. I expect Blu-ray editions not far behind...I'm a sucker for F13 releases...

From Shock Till You Drop:

Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter


• Audio commentary by director Joseph Zito, screenwriter Barney Cohen and editor Joel Goodman
• Fan commentary by Adam Green and Joe Lynch
• Slashed scenes
• The Lost Ending
• Jason’s Unlucky Day: 25 Years After FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER
• Lost Tales from Camp Blood—Part IV
• The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited—Part I
• Jimmy’s Dead Dance Moves
• Original theatrical trailer

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

• Audio commentary by director/co-screenwriter Danny Steinmann with cast and crew
• New Beginnings: The Making of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING
• Lost Tales from Camp Blood—Part V
• The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited—Part II
• Original theatrical trailer

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

• Audio commentary by writer/director Tom McLoughlin with cast and crew
• Slashed scenes
• Jason Lives: The Making of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES
• Meeting Mr. Voorhees
• Lost Tales from Camp Blood—Part VI
• Crystal Lake Massacre Revisited—Part III
• Original theatrical trailer

Dark Harvest (1992)


Directed by James I. Nicholson
84 Minutes / Artistic License, Inc. / 1.33:1 Full Frame

A group of vacationers planning on horseback riding end up hiking miles into the Arizona desert after their truck breaks down. They come upon a ramshackle house in the middle of nowhere and are confronted by a slightly crazy man who prattles on about people either dying or disappearing mysteriously, wheat fields once habituating the area, and the scarecrows dotting the plains.

Blowing the guy off as a nut, our hikers carry on and eventually decide to set up camp near one of the hay-stuffed men. Two of the female vacationers get fed up and decide to go back. As night settles in, the scarecrow climbs off his cross and joined by a few of his owl-frightening friends, begins to stalk the group throughout the next several days.

Death by character development in this extremely low budget shot-on-video feature. The film gets much more-or-less right, despite the three harsh reviews on the IMDB, but the problems are fatal. The acting is surprisingly fine with the mostly one-off amateur cast never sounding off key. The pace is also even until the latter half when the film loses focus.

The biggest problem is the lack of actual horror and original ideas. We get a lot of development for people we undoubtedly know are doomed cattle by the conclusion. Fighting couples uncertain whether to take the plunge, budding relationships, and a married man experiencing tensions with his mistress. It's all there and it almost seems like a compromise between the director/writer and cast. Even slim on simple blood stains, we get no gore, and honestly the film probably would have been salvageable if the goods delivered on that front. As it stands, it's a huge waste of potential. And no, it's not 2004's Dark Harvest, another film about a killer scarecrow with the same title.

Film: 2/10
VHS Picture: 5/10
VHS Sound: 2/10 (the on-location recording is awful)

Obscure DVD Showcase: Mr. Vampire 1992 (1992)

.
Title: Xin jiang shi xian sheng
Director: Ricky Lau
Also known as: Mr. Vampire 1992 / Chinese Vampire Story / Mr. Vampire 5
Publisher: IS, Thundermedia
Country: Taiwan
Runtime: 1:27:38
Region?: ALL
Native Resolution: 640x480 NTSC (U.S. compatible)
Widescreen?: Yes. 1.85:1 w/ publisher watermarks periodically throughout.
Anamorphic?: No.
Encode?: Interlaced
Audio: Cantonese 2.0
Subtitles?: Yes, white. English (burned-in) / Mandarin (burned-in)
Extras?: None.
Comments: Taiwanese release, basically a VCD on DVD with white subtitles that are hard to read on white backgrounds. On DVD in the U.S. in a Black Belt Theater double feature from Ground Zero.


A New Feature Beckons: Obscure DVD Showcase

If you're like me, you've got a shitpot full of shiny digital discs. You also might have a region-free, multi-standard format DVD player like yours truly. Also if you're really like me you surf all of the Internet digging around for information and especially screen captures from hard-to-find DVDs that peak your interest.

Then if you're really, really like me to a creepy degree you get slightly annoyed by never quite finding much on said DVDs anywhere. Or you get frustrated by completely asinine reviews of the video quality written by those who either have no idea what they're talking about or treat it as an afterthought, like "the transfer is framed well and looks good."

Yea, probably none of you are quite like me (at least I hope not), but I'm going to start introing a new feature here at BoGD in addition to all the other crap I post. Little entries with technical jargon and direct screen captures from obscure DVDs in my collection will start appearing whenever I damn well feel like it. Just so other adventurous collectors can get a better idea of what they're trying to track down to see whether it's worth their time and money. I'll feature DVDs from the entire world over, some unique and some released multiple times on DVD. I'm not planning on actually reviewing the given films, but I might throw a few lines in at times. The first will probably be up shortly.

Tuesday, April 14

Black Lemons (1970)


A.K.A. E venne il giorno dei limoni neri
Directed by Camillo Bazzoni
93 Minutes / Unicorn Video / Cropped from 2.35:1 to full screen

Rosario (Antonio Sabato) is finding it difficult to wash himself of his mafia past after recently being released from prison doing time on a frame job. He just wishes to get back into his family's trucking business, but soon soft intimidation leads to murder of a friend by the hands of his former associates. Rosario finds kinship in a fellow man (Don Backy) also horribly wronged by the mob and both form a partnership to discover who framed Rosario and killed his wife years prior.

Through beating on a prostitute, they obtain information leading to a man in hiding that spills all the beans, but the man is gunned down before Rosario can take him in as a witness for a court case. Rosario finds out a powerful business associate is actually a capo whose responsible for it all. The partners in revenge devise and successfully executed a plan to kidnap the capo's son and hold him until the boss gives a public confession. But can Rosario hold it all together with a hot-headed partner, a detective breathing down his neck, and ever-escalating odds against finding justice?

An "okay while it's on", obscure Italian crime film that's painfully lite on action. Sabato is a decent lead, but entirely lacks the fierce charisma of other Italian crime leads such as Franco Nero or Tomas Milan. Don Backy (one of the scumbags in Bava's Rabid Dogs) tries to take up the slack, but it's all rather bland. The exotically beautiful Florinda Bolkan is throughout the film as Sabato's love interest. The conclusion is a bit of a bust as well. It's a skip, but Euro crime fanatics should track it down since it mostly snaps neatly into the subgenre (or if only for the completely kick ass VHS cover art).

Film: 4.5/10
VHS Picture: 4/10
VHS Sound: 5/10

First PAL VHS: Blind Adventures

Yep, I can't even play it (yet), but my first ever PAL-format VHS arrived from eBay a few days ago. It's Arrow Films' release of Bruno Mattei's 1989 Born to Fight (Nato per combattere) hailing from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.


The case is a large hard clamshell similar to Trans World Entertainment's releases in the States.


On the inside of the case there's two "poster" ads for The Glimmer Man and Fled on the two inner halves. The cassette is secured by eight little tabs on the all four sides. First time I've seen that. A sticker from the video store is on tape. Even though most of the writing is rubbed off, I can see it came from a tiny village named IJzendoorn in the Dutch province of Gelderland:


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Slasher DVD Radar Slippage

This one might have alluded some until now (I forgot about the release date myself!), but Lionsgate is debuting the unrated version of Slaughter High on U.S. DVD today. Pretty much a barebones release, but it's cheaply priced and now here's no reason to pay more for the unrated Vestron VHS.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)


"Sister, I've been shot...almost...five times!"

Directed by Fred Olen Ray
90 Minutes / Camp Motion Video / Unmatted Full Frame

Prostitute "minions" of a chainsaw-worshiping cult (led by Gunnar Hansen) slice-and-dice clients as a brutish, wisecracking detective (Jay Richardson) investigating a missing girl (Linnea Quigley) is quickly entrapped.

I didn't care much for my first viewing for this a mere several months ago (on Retromedia's DVD), but I appreciated it more for what it is this go around. The flow of the threadbare plot is more fleshed out compared to its fun "sister movie" Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama which spiraled out of control somewhere in the middle. The stunning Michelle Bauer steals the show here, proving to be the most attractive and competent actress in the film. The opening attention-grabber featuring the once Penthouse Pet fully nude sawing up an unexpecting john whilst being splashed by copious amount of Kool-Aid should be immortalized in gold for the annals of all-time best cinematic cheese. Ms. Bauer even surpasses the guys, with Jay Richardson's cheesy, noirish detective narration being better than his performance and Hansen's wooden delivery. Also Quigley's ass looks great during the "The Virgin Dance of the Double Chainsaws." That's pretty much it, and I'm sure Fred Olen Ray wasn't shooting for much else.

Film: 6/10
VHS Picture: 5/10 (dark and quite bluish)
VHS Sound: 3/10 (hissy)

Monday, April 13

$1 Million of vulture meat!

Mr. Mailman tossed this my way today, the Mr. Video clamshell VHS of Joe D'Amato's 1978 Tough to Kill (Duri a morire).


More Blu-Jason in June

High Def Digest is reporting both Friday the 13th Part 2 and Part III (2-D version only) will be debuting on Blu-ray in America on June 16th from Paramount. Both in 1080p video with Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio. Where's the original mono?

Quoting from HDD: "Extras on 'Part 2' will mirror the previous DVD, including two featurettes, newly-produced "missing murder scenes" and the original trailer. Unlike the domestic DVD re-issue of 'Part 3'...the Blu-ray will include the bonus materials found on the overseas version, including three featurettes ("Fresh Cuts: 3D Terror ," "Legacy of the Mask," "Slasher Films: Going for the Jugular"), "Lost Tales from Camp Blood, Part 3", short films, and the trailer."

Both films have been on British and Australian Blu-ray for months now, so it's nice to see U.S. bows, but I'm waiting for the inevitable Parts 1-8 box set...again. Also both have been confirmed to have correct widescreen matting on Blu-ray (unlike Part 1), assuming Paramount uses the same sources.

Sunday, April 12

Barker's Bullshit Introduction


Found this interesting, this morning I picked up Media Home Entertainment's VHS (cover above) of Clive Barker's much maligned Nightbreed. At the beginning of the tape there's a short two minute clip serving as an introduction by Barker himself. Surrounded by cool busts of his Nightbreed creatures, Barker serves up scripted, platitude-laden fluff as neon green light and smoke illuminates the "behind the scenes" set. I say "scripted" since you can see his eyes subtlety dart back and forth as he briefly speaks about Midian, the effects creators, and Cronenberg's appearance. This intro doesn't appear on Warner's DVD release.

I'm not blaming Barker for anything, but you can't help but ponder what Barker was thinking through the whole thing considering the studio interference the feature suffered. I can't believe he agreed to even do it as he waxes on about "his vision" during the clip. Hopefully that rumored director's cut DVD will surface soon. Also it's damn near incredible how much Barker has changed in appearance over the years.

Two versions of BoGD

Just wanted to acknowledge that I'm aware of this blog's header not sized to fit 4x3 displays and the pictures accompanying the entries being rather large. I work in WSXGA+ (1680x1050) widescreen resolution. So I style this place to fill out that format best.

1280x1024 (4x3):



1680x1050 (16x9):



So it's like having a cropped and proper CinemaScope widescreen presentation of the blog.

Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell (1987)

A.K.A. Prevues from Hell
Directed by Jim Monaco
83 Minutes / Off The Wall Video / Various aspect ratios, mostly full screen

Puppeteer Nick Pawlow and his zombified, foul-mouthed arm-up-ass friend, Happy, host a multitude of Horror and Exploitation trailers spoiled onto old projection reels by drooling vagabond Mad Ron for an awaiting undead audience.

This is the best trailer compilation I've ever ran across, edging out even Synapse's great 42nd Street Forever releases. The little snippets with Pawlow's hokey jokes interpreted through his rotting puppet and bumbling zombies pouring blood onto popcorn are pure dated cheese, but strangely compliment the excellent array of trailers complied for your viewing pleasure (click the cover above). My personal favorites are Last House on the Left (teaser, seen here), Blood Splattered Bride/I Dismember Mama double feature (seen here), and Three on a Meathook (seen here). See the trailer for Mad Ron's Prevues from Hell here. Exhume a copy for your next Halloween shindig.

Compliation: 9/10
VHS Picture: Varies
VHS Sound: Varies
...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
Basement of Ghoulish Decadence, Basement of Ghoulish Archive, and all original material Copyright © 2009-present by Jayson Kennedy. All rights reserved.