Monday, August 31

Mail Call: What a lovely box of death...

All the gory details forthcoming...



We're vampires...that's what we are.

I'm still intrigued by this film, so I resurrected this draft entry from this past Friday I was never going to complete.

I decided to revisit The Last House on Dead End Street earlier tonight. It's now about 4 a.m. and I can't quite sleep. My first viewing back when Barrel first released their stunningly comprehensive 2-DVD set back in 2002. Actually, I found myself nearly bored to tears and the DVD player I was using at the time didn't like the disc and wouldn't play past about a half an hour in.


But now, for some reason, Roger Watkin's reluctant piece de resistance struck me as especially affecting. There's something sinister in every slapdash frame, as if it wasn't produced by human hands, but by some malevolent and seething force intent on creating carnage even more depraved than it's era brethren. Dead End's victims are nearly as ugly as their slayers; a gaggle of immoral, greedy, and self-destructive unwitting enablers of their murderers to carry out their extreme form of sick entertainment. I know it's in another world, but I find this aspect reminiscent of Schumacher's 8MM, except the snuff cycle being (thankfully) confined within itself. Even Last House on the Left and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre had clearly innocent protagonists, at least to start with, and there were survivors and/or vigilante justice was brought upon the evil-doers. Also Dead End, in it's (only existing) truncated 78 minute version, bucks the trend of following characters the audience can identify with, opting to exclusively focus on the exploits of Hawkins and company's eventual turn to brutal sadism.


There's also an almost subliminal current of perversion that rises to the surface and then drops off into the murkiness throughout. The whole not-so-hidden allusions to the hideous Manson murders just a scant time prior to the film's 1973 shooting year with Hawkins' two young female partners-in-murder sticking closely to their backstreet suave leader in a trance-like state. The scene in which Ms. Palmer is putting on blackface, if you listen closely, it sounds as if the gathering is actually a teeming orgy through the muffling of the walls. Immediately afterward, the way her bullwhipping is intercut with the smut director in a nearby room becoming nauseated by the sound. The whispers of a "new form of entertainment" amongst a wall of eerie ambiance as the camera encircles the first murder of a man bound to a steel pillar and stabbed. The agony-enhancing handheld angles and quick zooms during the infamous bloody bed dismemberment and of course the most obvious (and unexplained) faux-marble Roman mask utilized in several of the killings.


There's really something to this nasty exercise and it proves far ahead of its time. I'd say even more so than the aforementioned LHOTL and TCM. This '73 feature nakedly foreshadows the kind of entertainment brought bear upon society by the seedy side of the Internet. The kinds of easily accessible, shocking images and videos that can be witnessed at the comfort of our homes, just without the trauma of being there. On the grounds of the Horror genre, Watkin's more finessed work does what films like August Underground and Slaughtered Vomit Dolls did, only decades prior in an era many point to as the last true revelatory time in the genre. Despite Watkin's own brutal honesty towards his film; it truly lives up to its own longstanding and festering hype.
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Sunday, August 30

Where To Find Last House on Dead End Street Bootlegs?

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This might seem like an odd request, but do any of you guys who tolerate this blog have any idea where I could track down a bootleg of Roger Watkin's Last House on Dead End Street?

See, I already have the Barrel, German, and British DVDs, but I'd love to find a "true" VHS dup of the film before these film-saving discs came to be. With little hope of tracking down the incredibly rare Sun Video VHS or Beta, a "pre-DVD" boot of LHODES might be my only chance to experience the film as many did for years before Barrel's revelation.

I'd go for a dup of the Sun tape, though I'd especially like to find a copy of the Venezuelan broadcast. I don't care about the quality of the print. If anyone can hook me up, please drop me a comment or shoot an email to sehnzeleid@gmail.com. It would be much appreciated!
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Swap Meet Finds: The Devil Commands...Through Vagina

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Ran across another Cal Vista Tombstone, Angel Above - and the Devil Below (1974), the IMDB synopsis is...interesting. "While reading the "Necronomicon" at night, a teenage girl accidentally calls up the Devil. When he tries to have sex with her, she rebuffs him. As punishment, he sees to it that her vagina not only has a mind of its own, but can speak, too." Hahahaha...


Here's the other porny selections of this morning. A Place Beyond Shame is co-directed by Fred Lincoln, better known as Weasel from The Last House on the Left and Seka is almost too attractive for porn. I can't stop looking at the cover for Bound for Slavery. It's perfect in its slimy '80s penthouse hairspray sleaze, hence the addition of a clipping of the Richard Gere look-a-like on the left column under Bauer and her saw.

Here's the other tapes (and discs), of course, since Phantasm 2 has been announced for DVD, I've found another copy. The Delta Force is the Media tape circa 1985, not the crap Video Treasures EP tape. Whiskey Mountain is a (not very good?) Deliverance rip-off with Christopher George. The Rambos are factory sealed and the discs were $2 a pop, Shadow Puppets doesn't look that great, but for $2...?
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Some quick thoughts on Doctor Butcher M.D. (1980)

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Zombie Holocaust. I love how absolutely terrible this Italian schlock outing is, even by the usual Italian schlock standards. Girolami's film plays like a rip-off within a population of trashy trend rip-offs, like vomiting up pasta and then eating it again. Okay, perhaps that's a bad analogy. It's as if Fulci's Zombie had been filtered through cannibal flicks other than Holocaust or Ferox with a generous dash of Martino's Mountain of the Cannibal God. Also, what the hell is Ian McCulloch doing in this? Even though he's the man (well, next to Warbeck, 'natch), he apparently had misgivings about being in Zombie, but I guess he musta really had to eat at that time.

After seeing the fully uncut Shriek Show tape and DVD several times; I decided to pop in the olden Paragon VHS of the American recut, re-titled Doctor Butcher M.D, running at 82 minutes. This version has a number of alterations; including a tacked-on unrelated opening sequence presumably directed by Roy Frumkes (of Document of the Dead fame), a loopy cartoonish score in place of the original, and the short inconsequential "trap" sequence included only as an extra on the Shriek Show editions (video here) included in the feature. The new score is extremely annoying, often being the same five second funky '70s guitar twangs and backbeat played over long stretches. Oddly, at times you can actually hear the original music playing when actors speak with the new music being over top it all.

There's also an audio fix when the black nurse discovers the mutilated cadaver. On the Shriek Shows, her scream is looped twice in quick succession to hilarious effect. On this Paragon tape, she only screams once, but the suicidal male nurse's arm still rockets off upon hitting the concrete. One thing I didn't notice were any obvious cuts to the gore from what I remember in the uncut version; eyes are graphically gouged, throats slit, guts torn out, and zombie heads outboard motored. This is strange since a number of sources say this tape has cuts to such violence. Gore looks so wonderful on 25-year-old tapes!

Here's the Frumkes opening sequence from YouTube, SNUFF MAXIMUS!


Saturday, August 29

When "A Version" Becomes "The Version"

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Workshed.

Anyone who has known me probably knows of my past rants over Anchor Bay's mistreatment of The Evil Dead series on disc, especially Parts 1 and 2, with the release of their Necronomicon-styled "Book of the Dead" DVDs. To make a long story short, the studio made massive, damaging changes to what was already near perfection on DVD. The Evil Dead was cropped to a widescreen aspect ratio that cramped the shooting composition, suffered gross color alterations, and was noticeably darkened compared to their and Elite Entertainment's prior fantastic-looking DVDs. Evil Dead 2 was very digitally noise reduced and brightened, giving an ugly plastic appearance, compared to the (honesty) reference quality transfer on their previous THX-certified DVD.

THX DVD Top / BotD DVD (and Blu-ray) Bottom

^What the hell happened to the shadows and sweat and...detail?!?

Concerning EDII, these two DVDs preceded Anchor Bay's Blu-ray of the second in the series, which proven to be the same poor BotD transfer, only weaker being in 1080p HD. Optimum Releasing then unleashed the film in the U.K. on Blu, and again it looked liked shit from all the digital molestation. Optimum actually released the same Anchor Bay BotD transfer.

This whole mess is symptomatic of a potentially big problem in the continuing transition from DVD to Blu-ray. Anchor Bay's shoddy BotD hackjob has jumped across the Atlantic, essentially becoming the new standard for the film's "look" in High Definition, despite the old THX DVD beating the shit outta it.


This Blu-ray might be the only hope for the film, presumably for some years to come, to be properly presented in HD. It's Studio Canal's French BD set for release on September 22nd. I have the studio's French 2-DVD Édition collector set and it retains the wonderfully film-like THX transfer. So one can only hope their Blu-ray will present the film this way and if so, the picture quality will absolutely embarrass the terrible efforts of Anchor Bay and Optimum. Fingers are firmly crossed.
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Cal Vista's Tombstone Porn Boxes

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These two arrived into my possession as well today. The cases are shaped like tombstones or doorways. Never seen that before.

Holy Shit, it's ANNA OBSESSED, UNCUT.

Found this one this morning. All I can say is holy shit.

From the IMDB: "This is without doubt the scariest porn thriller ever made, even more so because of its moral and psychological implications which only rise to the surface upon successive viewings. No one associated with this film, apart from the small but uniformly excellent star cast, appears to have any additional credits to his name, re-enforcing the credence that it was concocted by mainstream Hollywood talent "slumming it" in the adult industry. Plot and production are way too well-wrought - with special kudos for photography and editing, along with a subtle, disquieting score by "The Avengers" - to be the work of inexperienced first-timers. All these elements that traditionally contribute to the effectiveness of film-making are superbly employed to twist the screws of tension to the brink of tolerability."


From Adult DVD Talk (in reference to this 1982 Arrow Films release): Anna Obsessed, when viewed in the 75 minute version is an endurance test. The violence (both sexual and gore related) is very realistic and is not for the easily offended. However, the film never makes the viewer sympathetic for the perpetrators of the violent deeds and instead shows them for the disgusting acts they are. One major element that adds to the overall success of the film is that it works on multiple levels, one being as a tense psychological thriller and the other as a dramatic showcase for the horrors of rape. Either way, the film channels an emotional response in the audience rarely seen in hardcore films.

Even came with the company's video catalog.

Friday, August 28

One THORN EMI To Rule Them All

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Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985). Possibly my favorite THORN EMI artwork and I see this cassette all of the time in usually good shape.


Thursday, August 27

...And Pain is God.


Reading this entry over at The Horror Effect yesterday disheartened me. You see, I love Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses. It took me awhile to really warm to it, I've always liked it, but my appreciation grows with each revisit. It's exactly what I expected from Zombie considering his music, but not his bland solo career, this era:


Actually that should be 1984ish-1995 but whose counting, right? Anyway, understanding White Zombie the band helps vastly in the understanding Ho1kC, at least to hardened horror junkies. I can't vouch for Zombie's other films, especially Halloween and presumably H2. Lord knows what they are. Though 1000 Corpses is deeply set in the religion of good ol' fashioned WZ.

I didn't buy the hype. You know, that shit about "most shocking ever" and "the film they didn't want you to see." Those lines work in the flick's exploiter marketing tinkerings, but I knew Zombie wasn't going to come barreling out of the film gate to suddenly exhibit the maverick style of a Van Bebber. I honestly believe Zombie approached the project (at least initially) as something to fuck around with. This seems to be big stumbling block for some people (and Universal Studios) expecting a serious "return of true horror" as the marketing billed it. Actually, dare I say it is.

Zombie's movie influences in Corpses, just like WZ's music, are inked in blazing neon onto its tattoo sleeve. At the same time, his manic screen patchwork debut never quite feels like a rip-off of superior genre works of the past. This is what makes Corpses intriguing in that it is a return to true horror, just not the breed of horror most desired to return. The film feels nestled right in with the backwash after the earthquake that was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Not quite in the slasher era, as horror just seemed to lurch around in dubious quickies propped up to turn a buck with lurid campaigns. I can respect that and Corpses could have been stuck right in with an S.F. Brownrigg masterpiece as a midnight double feature at the $1 drive-in at the outer brink of the '70s.

This is where the WZ-influence comes in heavy with Zombie's "eye for horror" both on-screen and metal never focusing on "the greats" despite being enamored with them. Sorta like your seasoned horror fan spending most of their time digging up crap in search of gold that shines like the universally heralded classics. Of course, 98% of the time, we get 90 minutes stolen from us. Corpses and White Zombie in their own faded kid spook mask way celebrates this quirk and everything we love about the kitschy side of Horror fandom, but his film isn't and never set out to be a thoroughbred, but being a lovable mutt can still bring condemnation among some...
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Wednesday, August 26

Photos from the Video Closet: The Betas

I'm betting most of you never realized all this even made it to Betamax.






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Tuesday, August 25

Some quick thoughts on Lady in White (1988)

(spoilers)

Don't you hate when a well-regarded film leaves you cold upon finally seeing it yourself? Enter Frank LaLoggia's Lady in White last night via Virgin Vision's VHS. I had heard its praises for years, but I went in expecting at least a decent ghost story. It delivered, but I'm afraid to say I barely felt any atmosphere and it certainly wasn't anything extraordinary beyond being a well-told ghostly period chiller.

The finesse of its spectral delights are delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. LaLoggia hammers away at important plot points repeatedly (really Frank, it's not a complex story) and his self-penned score overpowers the imagery on-screen with annoying frequency. The subplot involving the racial turmoil of the '60s and the wrongfully accused black janitor just seem there to help explain the philanthropistic tendencies of Frankie's father. This also helps aid the audience understand why he lends his hand to the struggling murderer at the conclusion.

I can't imagine children watching this, and not because it's frightening, but because it's nearly two hours. Actually the most frightening aspect is the assassination of the janitor, everything else is just so damn sugar-coated in wholesome '50s immigrant nuclear family nostalgia that it's tough for me to see how anyone could be spooked. If this scared you, how did you keep your brain from exploding during The Exorcist? From the off-and-on literary narration, it's obvious LaLoggia wanted his film to play like the reading of a grand ol' supernatural tale for the ages, but when it comes to the chills, it all most likely would have played better as just the literal reading of a grand ol' supernatural tale for the ages with your mind's eye providing the moving pictures.

Or maybe I'm jaded in my advanced age...or maybe it's because I watched these two greats prior to popping this tepid spookshow in?

Aye, good times...

As an aside, here's an interesting trailer from YouTube that appears to be some strange promotional reel for investors. All (well, most) of the actors are different, it plays out the entire story short form, and the shots are composed differently than the final feature. Hell, some of this is actually creepier.


Monday, August 24

SP vs. EP VHS: Knowing The Difference Could Save Your Life...

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Okay, it won't save your life, but it might save you money and from a hard-learned lesson when it comes to VHS collecting. This is one of the major banes of the hobby. When the early to mid-'80s glory days of rentals was dying down into "everyday" and VHS and VCRs became cheap enough to own, many small video companies began crumbling, giving rise to the prevalence of even smaller companies gobbling up licenses to a multitude of recognizable horror/cult numbers.

The problem was for these companies to save cash and time; they usually opted to record their tapes in EP and LP. This savings was passed on the customer with attractive pricing as it became en vogue to start home collections instead of renting the once far-too-expensive to own tapes. The real disadvantage was a distinct drop in picture and audio quality from the quickened recording.

Now granted, VHS quality definitely isn't much to write home about no matter the recording type, but EP/LP speeds are an near unwatchable eyesore. Thinking about it, this glut of cheap tapes from around the dawn of the '90s to the dawn of DVD probably did much for the then fresh disc format's massive acceptance. Most people's memories of migraine-inducingly fuzzy, painfully drab tapes are probably from this EP onslaught.

There are ways to decipher which tapes are SP and EP/LP. The most obvious being box type as the days of the puffy clamshell and big box were all but dead. So likely EPers are in the common slim cardboard slipcase. You'll possibly even find them still as shiny as the day they sat new at your local BEST or Caldor stores. Remember 'em? Another way is to look at the tape length, here's two fully rewound examples:

The top is Snowbeast in SP mode while Oasis... is in EP.

EP speed tapes will always have less tape on their reels and therefore feel lighter in your hand than SP speed tapes. Even when the films are at comparable runtimes. You'll sometimes see tapes that look like The Corpse Grinders above, where the reels have large plastic rings supporting barely any tape.

Yet another hint is if the tape advises you to adjust the tracking and ensures quality with phrases like "Guaranteed Superior Recording Quality", but it's all bullshit, tracking won't fix the crap picture.

So be leery of these tapes, most of the time the flicks are available on older, noticeably better looking, and ultimately more valuable tapes. Though I'll admit that Corpse Grinders artwork is pretty nifty...
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Sunday, August 23

Blu-ray.com are Dumbasses and Near Dark on Blu Looks Like Shit

.4/5 Star Picture Quality My Ass.

Sorry to get all pissy, but boy do many of these Blu-ray review sites annoy the shit out of me something mean. I'm not into Blu-ray as much as I used to be; I even championed HD DVD throughout its short lifespan. One thing that's always baffled me are how absolutely blind many of these "professional" review sites are when it comes to assessing the picture quality of these new HD formats. Many seem to have no idea what makes the picture quality achievable on Blu-ray great to begin with and are afraid to call a spade a spade. Maybe it's merely because they presumably get most of their review material free from studios? If so, way to go lying to yourselves and your readers.

Now, this BD of Near Dark is Optimum Releasing's British release (Blu-ray.com review), but I wouldn't be surprised if Lionsgate sadly utilize the same garbage transfer for their upcoming stateside Blu-ray being sourced from Studio Canal.

In short, judging from those direct screen captures, the transfer is a smeary digitally noise reduced mess lacking ANY fine high frequency detail associated with Blu-ray. Yes, even from an '80s production. This was evident 0.2 seconds upon setting my eyes on the images. A snippet from Blu-ray.com's "review":

"I must also note that there are a few scenes where it is easy to see that mild noise reduction has been applied, but, as mentioned earlier, Near Dark still looks incredibly detailed and crisp."

No, it appears the entire fucking film has been subject to more than a "mild" application of noise reduction. Incredibly detailed and crisp? Get your eyes examined or wipe off the shit smeared on your spectacles. Another pearl comprised of bullshit:

"This is a pleasing transfer, quite similar to the one Hardware received."

BULLSHIT.

Even though Hardware (Blu-ray captures here) certainly isn't the best "dark look" '80s transfer I've ever seen, it's miles ahead of Near Dark's treatment in that it maintains the film's original grain structure unlike Near Dark which erased it all away at the sacrifice of any possible fine detail if left "untouched". Studio Canal, Optimum, and Blu-ray.com should be ashamed of themselves to producing and giving a pass to such poor quality that's no fault of the film itself, just the studios and apparently Blu-ray.com not giving one damn.
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More Vintage VHS Smut? No problemo.

Saturday, August 22

Mini Tape Tips Update...

I added two little tidbits about copy protection and TBCs in the Buying a Decent VCR tip sheet.

NOLD '90: Better VHS Artwork


Even though the front spoils a piece of the ending, the DVD art is terrible. I hate the trampling John Russo has done over the years with his various literal revisionist rapes of the 1968 classic, but this remake really is admirable in its intentions with great lead performances and a haunting Paul McCollough score. I'll also make a grim admission here, I saw this before Romero's original on TNT's Monstervision. I know, I know...

Since I popped my Mitsu VCR open just now, here's the cassette "in-machine":

BoGD gets dirty...

Found some more vintage porn today.

RATED XXX FOR SEX NOT VIOLENCE™


Friday, August 21

Spine (1986)


Directed by John Howard / Justin Simmonds
72 Minutes / Substance DVD (grey market) / 1.33:1 Full Frame

An aviator sunglass-wearin' lunatic looking as if pulled straight from 1974 strangles and slices up the backs (get it? "spine") fashionably '80s chicks in the vicinity of a hospital while a couple of detectives that appear more like dried up barflies two years from death by lifelong alcohol abuse try to catch him. The "story" ends up circling around the receptionist of the hospital and her newfound non-sexual live-in girlfriend prowled by the killer...sorta.

crackwhore wake up call / that hippie asshole on the right is your cop, no really

Tom Noonan or Bill Moseley? Neither. / Bloodiest shot right there


That sounds like it has at least a little potential, but in reality holy shit does this suck, despite being extremely rare in VHS form. This shot-on-video feature takes the old notion of "a killer killing while the feds pace around hunting" and literally acts it out as intercut sequences on-screen. Of course, to only increase the tedium amidst overlong dialogue and filler, the killings are shown off-screen and the bloodiest the film gets is about a half a cup of dyed Karo syrup slung about. I'll even kinda spoil the ending for ya in which the most sonofabitchin' frustrating plot device is deployed for your displeasure--the "it was all a dream" cop-out conclusion. I'd feel bad if this trash was included in one of those cheapie 5-Movie sets, let alone if I paid $200+ for the tape. I'm sore over the $15 for this DVD. Please, if you only just trust me this one time, avoid this not even unintentionally funny waste of time at all costs.

If you're somehow still interested, Substance's disc doesn't look bad at all, either sourced from an extremely clean VHS or tape master.


DVD Picture: 5/10
DVD Sound: 4/10
...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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