Monday, November 30

Another Obscene "Look What I Got" Entry: The Italian Edition

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I found zip at the swap meet this past weekend, but this is a nice consolation prize. The Japanese JVD DVD of Fulci's Zombie and Pioneer DVD of Michele Soavi's The Sect (La Setta / The Devil's Daughter / "Demons 4") arrived today in like new condition for a grand total of $19. It certainly pays to dig around Amazon's Marketplace every once in a while. Both presentations are non-anamorphic letterboxed but uncut and in English. I'm unsure about The Sect's disc release status, but I know JVD's Zombie has been out-of-print for quite some time. I have a bunch of other DVD editions of Fulci's tribal undead island excursion and the Italian disc of The Sect, so I'll eventually do image quality comparisons between them.

Sunday, November 29

The Last Broadcast...Or How to Fuck Up a Cup of "Found Footage" Coffee

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major spoilers ahoy beginning at the fourth paragraph!

This ultra-low budget SOV feature frames itself like an A&E television documentary concerning the mysteries surrounding the murder of a group of public access hosts while taping an episode in Jersey's Pine Barrens in search of the Jersey Devil. A supposed psychic, Jim Suerd (Jim Seward), whom the hosts enlisted to guide them in the area was charged with their slayings and ends up mysteriously killed in prison. This mock after-the-fact case file attempts to clear up just what really happened out among the pines after the last tape ended and help shed light upon Jim's guilt or perhaps innocence.

Few films manage to actually piss me off. The Last Broadcast got under my skin in the wrong fashion to such a degree I couldn't sleep well last night. It's the kind of film that will have you seething with extreme annoyance as the credits begin. Why? You guessed it, a twist ending sours the entire feature. Now, I'm not one of these guys who gets pissy over climaxes that challenge a story's narrative to its core. The latter half revelations in films like Alexandre Aja's High Tension and Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City don't do much harm due to the respective quality and dumb fun that came before you exclaiming "what the hell?!?" during the final frames. Though in this particular instance, Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler's critic-dubbed precursor to Blair Witch only throws the baby out with bloody afterbirth in its final minutes.

Despite striking this nerve, considering what it is and its amazingly meager $900 budget, The Last Broadcast is quite an achievement. The film looks and feels ten years older than its production year but its documentary-style housing defeats viewer boredom even if details get repetitive. Expect to hear the name "Jim Suerd" three hundred times in eighty-six minutes. The actors do a great job casting their inexperience upon the on-camera inexperience of their characters and the acting is never too stilted. One can't help but praise what cast and crew managed to accomplish--only if it wasn't for the goddamn ending.

Here's your major spoilers. The man behind the documentary hires a video restorer to recover a heavily damaged tape that mysteriously lands at his doorstep of the final minutes of the group's fate. Right when the frame with the killer's true identity is revealed, the documentary jarringly "ends" and we witness the filmmaker suffocate and the wrap the restorer in plastic sheets as he is the killer revealed from the video haze. The last few minutes are of the man still "taping" his documentary since his mind finally shit the bed in the Pine Barrens with the ziplocked body. The execution of this conclusion occurs so quickly and abruptly any impact collapses to a feeling of being cheated by a gigantic cop out that negates everything that came before (much like The Zombie Diaries).

Instead of the killings being the work of a horrifying cryptozoological winged horse, it's yet another intelligent psychopath and at that exact moment The Last Broadcast's failings immediately bolster what The Blair Witch Project did so right. If one is still interested, DVDs of this demand substantial coin, but I'd advise tracking this down on cheap VHS (like I) first before experiencing a sinking stomach over paying a crazy sum for this title.
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Saturday, November 28

Robert Rodriguez's Forays into Horror (excluding The Faculty)

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What I'm about to say may spur some troubling stares and even I'm a little shocked by my conclusion. After catching From Dusk till Dawn again recently and watching Planet Terror last night; Robert Rodriguez's walks into the horror genre are nothing more than little hollow one-offs with multi-million dollar budgets. I haven't seen The Faculty in years so I'm conveniently pushing it aside for the sake of my argument. Though I don't believe it's too hard to accept that slick teen horror/sci-fi concoction as one of his minors and like the Spy Kids trilogy on its own island from the norms of his filmography.

Strange thing is these two films were in good standing with yours truly before last night. Somewhere amidst watching Rose McGowan blast slings of Spaghetti-Os forth from Nightmare City-like ghouls I had this epiphany and the realization I really don't care for either Dusk or Planet anymore. With both features housed within the Grindhouse, this isn't a new criticism with others pointing out Rodriguez contribution feeling overproduced while Tarantino's Death Proof almost being too accurate with its plodding and talky roll out. The point can also be made that Rodriguez hasn't made anything of genuine substantive quality since his debut with El mariachi (along with chunks of Sin City), but I don't want to climb upon a high horse. Rodriguez is unquestionably talented and his work generally entertaining, but in the broad scope Dusk and Planet are condescendingly detached from the horror genre.

From Dusk till Dawn is a product of the goodwill incurred from the success of Desperado and Tarantino's even (vastly) more successful Pulp Fiction. The same deal with Grindhouse being a near last ditch appeal by The Weinstein Company to their two most prominent directorial badboys to create a box office spectacular. Neither of the films were exactly money-makers and the assertions above aren't new, but that doesn't pardon them from feeling like self-congratulatory fuck-arounds by a director just a having a good time with friends and soon-to-be-wives.

At this point, you could say I'm being a hypocrite. Why how dare I shout the virtues of all the crap cinema I find qualities in, yet lambaste these two mindless endeavors. The difference is each lack the "true grit" of a director(s) working with obviously limited funds digging deep to find it in himself and everyone around him to get something in the can. Sure, both are featherweight fun and exploding with shades of horror fandom, but now I see validity in similar arguments to this one levied against Rodriguez. Dusk and Planet are devoid of any purpose acting more as time capsules and Rolodex-expanders for those involved enveloped in bloody husks for the off-chance the masses decide to grant a horror flick blockbuster revenue. So where's the beefy, gore-laded heart behind the Titty Twister's emaciated vamps and Project Terror's incredible melting men? I'd contend there isn't one.
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Friday, November 27

Video: VHS "Hard" Clamshell Collection, Pt. 1

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Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving and even happier black eye-free Black Friday! Here's another video of some of my collection! Sorry, I know I called Lustig's Vigilante "Vengeance"...twice! Hahahaha...


Thursday, November 26

Some quick thoughts on Phenomena (1985)

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This is my favorite of Argento's films outside of his gialli. Take the base of Suspiria and run it headlong into a girl with psychic connectivity with insects, Swiss Alp wind, chimps with razors, deformed children, motherly vendettas, soupy dead body pits, a crippled Donald Pleasence, and Motörhead tuneage. Sound a bit of a trainwreck? No need to worry; master Dario is behind the enormous camera jib and dolly. Shades of Argento's wishy-washy future poke through Phenomena's veneer and on paper this honestly doesn't scream something of any quality on celluloid. Yet, Argento clearly still had his rich stylistic touch at such full power that this hodgepodge is tamed and ultimately conquered.

This beautifully photographed Italian horror film featuring Jennifer Connelly's first leading role might also be the first time director Argento expands the troubled waters of Inferno's and Suspiria's conclusions across an entire feature. I can't see how anyone wouldn't be disappointed by these two otherwise fantastic films' goofy Halloween mask witch blowouts after their measured deliveries. With Phenomena, Argento spreads this brand of overt lunacy with a broad butter knife evenly over the runtime. This gives all of the zesty spice in this pot of bloody mashed potatoes a sweet note instead of a bitter aftertaste. You can probably tell from already hungry for Thanksgiving dinner today!

The film starts benign enough but gradually breaks loose into a cavalcade of crimson splashes and maggoty gross-outs the way only Argento can (or perhaps sadly could) film. Misogynistic slow motion of feminine cranial violence, wind swept pans of lush locales, long shots of doomed damsels stumble-running whist screaming to their long bladed deaths, shadows always perfectly set in the deepest recesses of the frame, and loving close-ups of all the pertinent grue. Connelly shows amiable skill, but it's best to let Phenomena awash over your eyes while not commanding your brain to focus too much on the nutty inlets the story flows into. This is the closet Argento ever came to a work resembling the welcoming excessive "horror" norms of his Italian genre "prime era" brethren but naturally he still manages to succeed like no other.

If I had a complaint, the heavy metal from the aforementioned Motörhead, Iron Maiden, and others is blatantly shoehorned in to appeal to the youth of the day. With such fantastic orchestral work by Bill Wyman, Goblin (well, sorta), and Simon Boswell; the generic metal tracks placed over inappropriate sequences are a sore misjudgment. Especially Motörhead, who breaks free with their warty crunch as an important just dead supporting character is being wheeled out for the meat truck. I'm not against this practice, das metal in Demons gives it additional rip-roaring charm, but here it's like someone turning on the stereo in the room you're watching this in.
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Seriously, Twilight Fans...?

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Wednesday, November 25

Swap Meet Finds: The Late Midweek Pre-Thankgiving Edition

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I know, I'm late. BoGD's fabled "Swap Meet Finds" feature is usually a weekend affair but I decided to spend most of my Sunday watching both the Ravens and even the Steelers bottom out at their handegg games.

The first are the clamshells with a cut big box of Terror on Tape and uncut The Swiss Conspiracy. I've been searching for a copy of Terror on Tape; a '83 horror scene compilation from the big box catalog of Continental Video hosted by a hit-rock-bottom Cameron Mitchell. This great review over at Bleeding Skull first turned me onto it and like noted there this probably will never received an official DVD release due to all the copyright shifts since then. The Swiss Conspiracy was purchased merely because it's a United Home Video uncut clamshell in great shape. The yellow "waves" in the plastic aren't stains on the cover.

Next up are Trans World Entertainment "hard" clamshell of Thunder Warrior II (Thunder II) and the United Home Video clamshell of Chamber of Horrors (The Door with Seven Locks). I've looking for a copy of the Thunder Warrior sequel since I have three or four copies of TWE's VHS of the first. I have the Francesco De Masi CD soundtrack to these films...somewhere. 1940's Chamber of Horrors isn't exactly something I'd rush to watch but United later released the film with the exact same art in a standard cardboard slipcase which is just boring.

Here's the smaller, mostly cut up, hard cases I dug up. Andrzej Zulawski's Possession is a film I fell into watching every day a while ago while exercising for weeks. It's utterly hypnotic. This Anchor Bay out-of-print VHS and their DVD sell for a pretty penny, but hopefully Mondo Vision schedule their DVD release soon. It should blow away Anchor Bay's presentation if their other Zulawski discs are any indication. Massacre at Central High is a "back-up" copy of Electric Video's release as I have an uncut cover copy already. Terror in Toyland (You Better Watch Out / Christmas Evil) is the butchered big box from Academy Video. Finally snagged a VHS (instead of Beta) of Ted Nicolaou's Terrorvision. The hilariously MST3K-lampooned Mitchell is probably the first home video release of the film being from its home studio, the long defunct Allied Artists. Xtro is Thorn EMI's release and might be still factory sealed. Forty thousand copies of Terror in the Aisles must have been printed because I find this Universal Studios horror compilation hosted by an embarrassed Nancy Allen and Donald Pleasance everywhere.

1984's The Wild Life still remains absent from DVD by Universal. Still haven't watched it, despite also having the Laserdisc, but with Chris Penn, Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson, and written by Cameron Crowe it'll land on the short stack. Strange Shadows in an Empty Room (Blazing Magnums) isn't a gialli (thoughts here). Slavegirls from Beyond Infinity is the original Urban Classics release. Forum Home Video's unrated Scarecrows (1988) was very valuable before MGM had to go and spoil the fun with their DVD release. You usually always find them on tape only after their digital debut. The Stay Awake was released on DVD by Image Entertainment, but it's long out-of-print and expensive.

This last one deserves special attention; All American Video's Beta and VHS of School of Death (El colegio de la muerte) (1975). I actually bought the Beta on eBay a while back with the mint cover and case for a song from a seller just beginning to sell (always the best time for deals) his massive Betamax collection. The VHS was in a grotty box under rusty tools and papers with just the edge sticking out. The cassette was dirty and splattered with crud but it cleaned up like new. I have it in a blank case now but the Beta's case is actually a universal tape Amaray case that's designed to hold with VHS, Beta, or Video2000 tapes. So it doesn't really matter the VHS didn't have its proper case.
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Video: VHS Clamshell Collection, Pt.1

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BoGD jumps into the YouTube age! Much thanks to Starmummy over at B Movies and Beyond for the inspiration!


Tuesday, November 24

Contraband has finally been confiscated...

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...from the malicious clutches of attic tar! Here's Mogul Communications' clamshell VHS of Lucio Fulci's Contraband (Luca il contrabbandiere) (1980) released in 1987. I dug to the back of my clammers and pulled this one to perform a long neglected cleaning. I thought it was a lost cause as whoever had it before me obviously stored it in a dirty attic. Specks of melted roofing tar were all over the outside of the case and somehow had fallen in between the inner case plastic and cover. After an extremely tedious clean-up, the cover and case are now in excellent shape.

I started writing up a belated swap meet finds entry that I didn't get to this past weekend but this took that time away. I figured I'd share the results and I'll post what's new on the tape finds front tomorrow. Sorry about the lack of an actual cover scan, it took about fifteen minutes to get the cover completely back inside the case since it perfectly fits.

Cabin Fever: Director's Cut Announced for Blu-ray

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Blu-ray.com is reporting today Eli Roth's 2002 Cabin Fever will be arriving on February 16th, 2010 on Blu-ray. They don't mention any specs, but DVDEmpire's listing now features the following cover with "Unrated Director's Cut" above the title. The DVD/BD e-tailer lists a 93 minute theatrical version runtime but I'm assuming this is just temporary information until the studio releases full details. The IMDB has details on a longer festival cut on bootleg here.

No word on a DVD re-release of this cut yet that I can find. I liked this flick last time I caught it, aside from the overly stupid humor (PANCAKES!) that pops up from time to time. I remember digging through information on foreign DVDs a few years back trying to determine if this version was ever officially released. Apparently, Lions Gate had final cut and the current theatrical version reflects that so it's good to see Roth's cut arriving no matter one's opinion of the film.

Monday, November 23

Some quick thoughts on Let The Right One In (2008)

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viewed with the correct English subtitles / spoilers

Judging by the trailer, Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) was a low priority on my radar even with the deluge of global acclaim. Frankly, I'm leery of most modern universally praised foreign films. Once getting around to them, I usually find them either fluffed-up pretentiousness or loaded down with almost purposeful ambiguity that's so far above my head that I doubt even the filmmakers knew just what they themselves were trying to convey. Big splashes of bold imagery and themes that ultimately don't test well with time as their once impressive sheen wears hollow.

Though once in a while there's a Spoorloos, Audition, Ringu, or El espinazo del diablo. Features far outside the Tinseltown gristmill that effortlessly bring fresh perspectives without feeling like desperation-soaked calling cards for Hollywood kingmakers to "hopefully" notice abroad.

Let The Right One In much to my relief feels like it's destined to slip into this latter group. Director Tomas Alfredson, author/writer John Ajvide Lindqvist, and truly "beyond their years" performances from newcomers Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson construct a "realistically whimsical" fanged yarn that never betrays the horror genre for the sake of mainstream popularity while making formalities out of what other films find essential to explain.

Reading other assessments now, that last plot bit seems to stick in the crawl of naysayers. The film doesn't delve into gaps concerning the police's involvement in the murders (no easy DNA testing in 1982 regardless), the portrayal of Oskar's school life, and even the roles of Oskar's separated parents. And yes, I can see the basis of these complaints since it is strange there aren't detectives snooping about, no severe punishment from school policy over Oskar's stick confrontation with Conny, or how Oskar's mother is as distant as a stranger to her son.

Though as stated, the film is akin to a fairy tale and doesn't necessarily need to conform to common expectations. That and what Oskar and Eli give us is far more valuable than being spoon-fed every detail of laborious, boring realism. Their fledgling relationship is innocent yet has an underlying danger that first draws the disillusioned Oskar in. Eli falls as well after some internal deliberation and it's interesting to ponder if this is the first time she's ever felt a connection to a human as one herself and as what she's been for centuries other than a food source or blood-collecting servant. It also must be applauded that the presentation of their bond is never sexualised aside from natural curiosity that leads to the revelation of Eli's gender.

On the theory of Oskar being a replacement for Håkan's murderous duties for Eli, this notion never once entered my mind while watching. The question is left open, but if true, this would beguile and cheapen the audience's connection with its young central characters. Oskar's love is clear in his hug in the aftermath of not properly letting Eli in, Eli's cold caress of the hand of a sleeping Oskar, and sealed in their bloody kiss after all is revealed. To the uninitiated that might sound corny and sappy, but it's not.

A true vampiric chiller for the new century that's wonderfully acted, paced, and photographed. I can't say this is the "best vampire movie, ever" but Let the Right One In deserves to stand proud in the pantheon of vampire screen greats. Speaking on the impeding inevitably Americanized "Let Me In" remake, don't worry those who throw venom this Swede's way, I'm sure the neutered redo will fix this film's lingering mysteries right quick and probably throw in some sculpted teen adonis investigating the happenings to appeal to hollow-headed Stephenie Meyer fanatics. Let the Right One In is the mature, revitalized direction bloodsuckers need to follow instead of burning alive in a sparkling purgatory of quaffed emo hair and disposable Hot Topic merchandise.
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Sunday, November 22

Near Dark on Blu-ray Follow-Up: Choose Anchor Bay's 2-DVD SE Instead

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Back in August, I complained about Blu-ray.com being dumbasses and Near Dark looking like garbage on the high def format in reference to Optimum's British Blu-ray. Well, things frustratingly haven't changed with Lionsgate's U.S. Blu-ray. These reviews/screenshots over at DVDBeaver and Blu-ray.com screamingly show the domestic BD exhibits the same color drawn and muddy image plagued with detail destroying digital noise reduction performed by Studio Canal that presumably provided the transfer to both studios on each continent.

I saw this very Blu-ray (w/ that awful cover) on the shelf at Wal Mart this morning for a straight $10. Although tempting, if one doesn't already have Anchor Bay's extra-stacked 2-DVD set, I'd suggest seeking it out instead. It has a few more supplements and any picture quality jump that usually comes with Blu-ray simply isn't there due to shoddy authoring. Cheap copies on Amazon's Marketplace are plentiful as the set is now OOP.

Even with the Twilight-influenced cover, I would have definitely snagged this BD if the film was treated right. One thing I did notice and will praise Lionsgate for is including the film's original stereo track in lossless PCM along with a lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio remix. That's always nice to see with so many high def discs no matter the original mix either not including it or merely porting over the DVD's weak and lossy Dolby 2.0 track with a 5.1 lossless remix.
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Saturday, November 21

Some quick thoughts on Land of Death (2003)

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A group of commandos and an indigenous peoples expert are sent into the jungle to recover a general's daughter that went missing on expedition along with her accompanying group. The commandos and their guide soon run into problems as the tribes inhabiting the area are cannibalistic.

Bruno Mattei strikes again with ninety-three minutes of trash that unabashedly lifts direct elements (and footage) from several vastly superior films. After 2003's Snuff Trap, this return to the Italian cannibal subgenre as known as Nella terra dei cannibali heralded the start of director Mattei's swan song before his passing in 2007. In short, this giant rip-off patchwork is Predator (1987) jumbled up in order with the Predator replaced with cannibals with a liberal dash of Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Martino's Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978).

Land of Death begins with the commando squad's helicopter intro with each member slowly stepping out in shades and snazzy civilian duds just like the opener of Predator. Then we get the 'copter ride over the jungle and rope drop-off in the bush with the help of footage stolen from the McTiernan/Arnold classic. Classy. After a short trek into the depths of a supposed "jungle", we get our first Cannibal Holocaust riff with the guide tripping into a pop-up corpse on the ground.

This theft from Deodato's masterpiece really kicks up when the tribe appears with stone female genitalia maiming/murder, warring tribes, and a trust issue between the tribe and outsiders. There's loads more and critics of Cannibal Holocaust who condemn it as amateurish will have no ammunition after witnessing Mattei do the same thing cheaply with zero impact.

The Predator ripped scenes, footage, and even the way certain shots are framed then return with force. Seemingly every memorable sequence and nifty touch is re-processed here without any of the finesse and might of McTiernan and cast. If one thought Mattei's own Robowar (review here) was a major insult to rumblin' junglin' Arnie just wait until you see LoD. Finally, Mountain of the Cannibal God is molested as the kidnapped daughter turns out to be the painted-up sex goddess worshiped by the tribe a la Andress.

Aside from all the you've already seen this, commando lieutenant Wilson, played by Lou Randall, is a spitting image of a shaven head Phil Anselmo of Pantera lead fame. You wouldn't believe how hilarious I found this. Every time he'd appear which was often I half expected him to bust into 5 Minutes Alone despite his dubbing not sounding anything like the singer. The gore quota is lacking for a cannibal outing. The savages seem to only grab a cereal bowl amount of bloody body filler at a time. Surprisingly, a few bits of animal cruelty involving the killing of a pig, snake, and spider is tossed into the 21st century. Also you'll probably recognize the guide's dubbed voice as Italian genre English dub vet Ted Rusoff's young Wilford Brimley-esqe voice.

I didn't really care for this trip with Bruno nearly as much as his other later efforts Island of the Living Dead and Zombies: The Beginning. Even with several Yuengling on the liver, the even-heavy-for-Mattei litany of wholesale movie hijacks seemed too much. Other features in his catalog are just much funnier and aren't nearly as offense in their stupidity or thieving ways as Land of Death.

Edit (11/22): Here's the Japanese trailer that's much better than the actual flick, also forgot to mention how surprising it was to see "real" gunfire, I guess even that level of DIY CG was too expensive! If only the entire flick's editing was this snappy.



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Hey Soccer Moms, You Know Those "From TV" Flick Records in Storage?

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The air seems rarefied as you awake with merely two hours of slumber from a horror all-nighter. You hurriedly stumble forward as you throw on whatever and get into your car to accelerate fifteen miles per hour over the limit to the nearest swap meet. Feet are pounding gravel and voices busily chattering as the usual Wal Mart-attired masses huddle over cheap tables with equally cheap items with hopes of finding cheap prices. The normal stuff abounds; dollar store Bob Hope DVDs, knock-off urban wear where size "Large" equates to a king-sized blanket, way overpriced Star Wars prequel toys, plastic-looking pizza slices at the concession, and that one smelly guy with well past expiration date meat in watery Igloo tubs with people amazingly willing to purchase such certain death.

Then you spot a cardboard box. It's about twenty paces down across the aisle nearly out-of-sight under a table. You barely see what could be VHS boxes overflowing out from on top. Your eyes zero in as you make your unassuming beeline. An old lady veers into your path and your leg nearly catches her rusty metal cart with wheels yet still your eyes remain locked. Finally you're upon the box in question, but your heart sinks as you begin rifling through the few visible on top. They all appear to be home-recorded blanks in SLP mode with four incredibly common flicks crammed onto each. Worse yet, they all look dirty and busted up to the point you feel the need to Purell right afterward or face Hepatitis. You walk away pondering why in the hell they lugged this garbage up to the swap meet in the first place.

Well, this still very much alive epidemic isn't just regulated to soccer moms, but it must stop. Nobody wants to buy (or even take for free) your tapes with shitty movies poorly recorded off television that sat in your boiling hot attic in a cat piss soaked box for untold years. Okay? Either chuck 'em in a landfill or try and save the planet by recycling them. Don't even try hauling them out to sell no matter how cheap. It's embarrassing and the only person that will buy one with be a eighty-three-year-old man who mistakes Spread Eagles IV as "that one" John Wayne war epic. So yes, that porn you forgot you hid at the very bottom could potentially kill the elderly upon watching. Think about that.

Don't get me wrong, some records can have value. Well recorded and labeled television shows, series, or specials are most likely worth something to someone. One in particular I'd love to find is Sci-fi Channel's Zombie Week hosted by Rob Zombie in the mid-'90s which marked the first-ever (and probably only) airing of The Evil Dead completely uncut on cable. Also pictured to the right are worthy bootlegs of more cultish items someone a bit different like myself would happily pick up. Besides these exceptions (and "real" VHS releases), you're merely looking at space-consuming hulks of plastic that will be passed over. It's sorta amazing I still see this even today. You'd think these would be the first to vanish into history with the dominating prevalence of DVD. Just to note, the blank tape degraded for the purpose of this entry above was already damaged and only contained a guide to haircutting. No awesome tapes were destroyed in the creation of this entry.
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Friday, November 20

That's All I Have To Say About That: Jason Goes to Hell: The (Not Really) Final Friday (1993)

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This photo is an exact approximation of the level of menace the actual Jason projects in Jason Goes To Hell:


That's All I Have To Say About That...

Children/Dead Things Follow-Up: The VCI "Revision A" Exhumed Edition

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First off, what a friggin' great looking DVD cover all around. Just received this one cheap used from Amazon's Marketplace and I figured I'd report primarily on the picture quality. Flashback to September 2007, VCI was about to re-release Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things as a special edition DVD. I'm unsure if the disc actually officially met its release date (some sites received screeners), but VCI issued a complete recall citing an error in a cut version with wonky colors being pressed instead of the finalized uncut version prepped and as advertised.

Marred copies that managed to escape the studio return soared in price on eBay despite VCI stating they'd re-press and release uncut discs. The copy I received is the corrected version with "Revision A" on the back cover and on the disc's face. On the left scan, look on the back right next to the orange splat above the word "AUDIO" for this (tiny) denotation. Both this VCI edition and their 1999 edition run roughly 1:26:35.

As for the transfers, both suffer from some rather annoying issues. The 1999 disc is murky, drab, and in non-anamorphic widescreen. There's a problem with intermittent Laserdisc days dotcrawl that lays over edges (i.e. - the credits) and almost seems to subliminally "flash" every few frames giving the impression of fake film grain.

The 2007 SE is anamorphic with slices of new picture information along the top and bottom of the frame. Colors are much improved, but I can't help but believe they're too pumped up. Alan's shirt seems to shift between bright yellow/orange and facial tones tend to take on whatever the dominant color is on-screen (bright red shirt = reddish skin / bright green shift = grayish skin). Another example of too much color pump in a "remaster" is MGM's Gruesome Edition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Both CSPwDT transfers are interlaced which especially hurts the SE's potential detail. There's also a layer of odd noise that doesn't quite look like natural grain but more like "artificial" noise introduced to give the false impression of more fine detail. Here's some unresized comparisons between the discs. The SE isn't bad with the extras (aside from the terrible music videos) making up for the transfer's weak points though it could look better. The SE's disc name is "CHILDREN_DEAD_DISC". Hahahaha...

1999 VCI DVD TOP / 2007 VCI SE DVD BOTTOM

Thursday, November 19

The 500th Post: Much Thanks and a Few Odds & Ends

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Wow, didn't think I'd be to this point already. The rest will be a self-absorbed diatribe. Looking back, I created this blog out of sheer boredom. Things at work had slowed down so much I found myself well...bored and in need of a creative outlet. Even though I'm not terribly good at it; I love to write. When thinking about all the wholesome life-affirming garbage reflected off my eyeballs, my mind spits out pearls in the form of sentences spontaneously. I often find myself scrambling for a pencil to jot down these brainfarts. The results are interned here for all to read and I hope this fun is apparent in my writings here.

Saying this, the big admission is I still don't have a college degree of any sort much to the wonder of everyone who knows me personally. I have some courses under my belt as an English major, but the reality of a work-a-day life (and the economy) has quelled my hopes a bit...whatever they might be. I'm still unsure of what I really want to "do" since I've never found anything as fulfilling as writing. Funny because I'm awful at even basic Arithmetic and not nearly as articulate in person. It's just hard imagining myself doing anything as an actual career and a Liberal Arts degree isn't exactly a moneymaker unless one has truly unique talent. Just needed to get this off my chest as it feels like I'm somehow tricking those who read this blog into thinking I actually have credentials if I don't make this known. I'm aware of how mighty big-headed that sounds and I'm feeling more than a touch strange tonight. Okay, that's enough of my wallow in self-loathing and pander for sympathy, back to the 500th post.

"Basement of Ghoulish Decadence", you ask? I honestly no idea where I plucked that from. I think I figured that name would be memorable enough for visitors to remember if they happened upon this blog at a computer that wasn't theirs. Of course, this is why we have e-mail, but I'm slow. I've always admired those that have carved out their place in cyberspace. I've already given credit to the great The Horror Section as the real catalyst for getting my ass into the blogosphere, but also The Pulsing Cinema as the strongest "vague" blog inspiration. Before John Hard went all podcast (no use for 'puter speakers or iPods), The Pulsing Cinema was a fantastic place to dig through for useful minutia concerning horror/cult selections and their various releases. The owner would often throw up obscure editions and detail them to the joy of obsessive personalities like the operator of BoGD. While other places usually glossed over my questions, Pulsing Cinema would answer them without me asking first.

This was and is my goal with Basement of Ghoulish Decadence. Days, months, or years from now, a fellow horror fan might actually be helped by the information I provide. I like that feeling as a way of giving back to all those that have helped aid and cultivate my hobby of collecting/watching the genre. Plus BoGD provides a reason to watch more flicks and keeps my key-punched meanderings sharp which is never a bad thing. Again, I hope this fun is apparent in my contributions here.

Anyway, thank you all very much for the continued visits, adds, and supportive (and informative) e-mails. The hits will keep coming and who knows where this might lead. Here's to 500 more entries and finds I really no clue where to put from an ever-deceasing amount of space. The picture of Mr. Cooper to the right is there merely because the man is still a badass after all these years and more of my posts should have unrelated shots of Vincent.

As for other jumbled odds and ends, check out this bank-bustin' eBay auction of the British Intervision VHS edition of 1972's The Black Decameron (Il decamerone nero) that closed at $1,459.84 with 23 bids. Certainly the most bidding action and highest price I've ever seen on a VHS. I still haven't discovered why but "surfgenie" is probably nothing but happy. Moving on, why does it seem like every box of Imperial's The Dead Pit shows up heavily damaged like they've sat in a dank basement in a puddle for fifteen years? I've yet to find a copy in even halfway decent shape. Here's the newer Japanese Cannibal Holocaust VHS from Spike released in the '90s just to compare to my just received '86 release. Also additional thanks for Trick 'r Treat composer Douglas Pipes for including a link to my thoughts on the film on his official website's Press section. Certainly a big and pleasant surprise!
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Wednesday, November 18

Who Thought The Anthropophagic Green Inferno Actually Resided in West Virginia?

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It has arrived. Somehow, I found the Japanese CBS/FOX, Shochiku Home Video VHS of Cannibal Holocaust as a Buy It Now for $45 on eBay a week ago from a seller in West Virginia of all places. That might seem like a bit much, but when you consider Japanese pre-records often average at least $25, this was a no-brainer. Especially with this title being so highly coveted, this tape would have sky-rocketed well past that if it was a week long bidder auction. Hope the seller isn't reading this...hehehe...

Sadly, the tape is an ex-rental with stickers and some serious spine fading, but I don't really care. The stickers (all these) came off successfully and right now I'm in the middle of a geekgasm just looking at it. It's one of those tapes you never sell merely on principle.

Haven't watched any of it yet, but this VHS is said to be uncut with a listed runtime of 95 minutes (at the bottom of the red text on the back). The tape label states "© 1982 TRANSAMERICA FILM DISTRIBUTORS, N.V. INC. AND UNITED FILM INC. All Rights Reserved. © 1986 CBS/FOX Company. All Rights Reserved. CBS™ is a trademark of CBS Inc. used under license. FOX™ is a trademark of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation used under license." At twenty-three, this is the oldest Japanese pre-record I own.


(Japanese VHS, bootleg of Dutch Cult Epics VHS (bought way before any DVD release), two U.S. Grindhouse Releasing Editions, Dutch EC Entertainment Standard Edition, Dutch EC Entertainment Ultrabit Edition, Italian Alan Young Pictures Edition)

Tuesday, November 17

Return of the Living Dead: The DVD Comparison Nobody Asked For

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Ever totally forget you ordered something until it arrives? This is Videoville Showtime's box set of Return of the Living Dead Necropolis and Rave to the Grave hailing from Canada. It also came all the way from the country and took weeks to get to my mailbox. Why is Canadian Post always so damn slow?

I decided to investigate this VVS Films set since there's a number of odd things about it. First, it just seems strange a studio would care enough to create a limited edition box set of two rather uneventful releases and dub it a "collection" of a director that's nowhere near a household name to anyone. A curious "unrated" is slapped on the front and Rave to the Grave's cover with Lionsgate's stateside discs being R-rated. There also appears to be no specs or details of this set available anywhere. So I had no idea if these had exclusive extras or what...dammit.

When Amazon.ca had this set, it was tagged with the insane price of $42 US shipped. Finally sealed copies are currently popping up from iNetVideo on Amazon's Marketplace and eBay for $15 shipped, but the shipping time as stated is a bitch like that third step.

Surprisingly, both films in this set are longer than Lionsgate's U.S. discs. Necropolis runs one minute, six seconds longer while Rave to the Grave runs exactly three minutes longer than the R-rated cut. This extra time is calculated at main track start and every disc has identical opening and closing credit sequences. I haven't seen Necropolis recently enough to tell (aside from the first kill), but it appears nearly every bloodier/gorier portion involving zombie attacks in Rave is lengthened by a few frames on this Canadian DVD. You gotta wonder why Lionsgate went through the trouble of submitting to the MPAA's scissors when the only people watching these would want to see the maximum amount of undead carnage contained within. The addition bits aren't going to change minds but it's annoying knowing the versions from a studio known for releasing horror uncut are truncated.

For the the video quality of the presentations; the hat tips to Lionsgate with both of their DVDs featuring progessive, anamorphic widescreen transfers. VVS's transfers are interlaced with terrible combing artifacts and for some unknown reason Necropolis is non-anamorphic (despite the box stating it is) yet Rave is anamorphic. Liongate's discs only feature Dolby stereo tracks while both of VVS's discs sport Dolby 5.1 tracks. Extras are slim with VVS having each film's "Coming to a Theater Near You" (hahaha) trailers and Lionsgate crapping out with only trailers for other films on each.

I know this won't mean much to most, but this entry is for those like me with DVD version control OCD and uncut diehards who demand only the longest cuts of the films they watch...but who wouldn't? If you haven't seen these and want to; this set looks nice with a nice price (see here) next to your other ROLD series DVDs. No reason to fiddle with the edited versions, right?
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Monday, November 16

Some quick thoughts on Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things! (1973)

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There's something individual about Children... that's tough to put into words. Maybe it's the secluded forested island by night locale, but the film feels nearly completely disembodied from time. This lesser film shot back-to-back by director Clark with the potent Deathdream (1974) could have been lensed last year and purposely degraded as an homage to schlocky '70s cheese. Even the gaudy, bright fashions of the "living" cast settle into an stereotypical "hyperreality" of the decade Children... was made. The premise of the pissed-off dead rising from ruffling Beelzebub's feathers also fits well with the period's fascination with Satanism and in an alternate universe could be a logical starting point for the modern "zombie" if Romero hadn't pioneered the rotted flesheater in '68. Not that I'm complaining...

Bob Clark's zombies are obviously influenced by George's milestone, but are extremely impressive in their confidence. Just five short years after Night of the Living Dead, the vernacular of the American meat desiring zombie is cemented right here. It's all here; dirty burial wear, shambolic ambling, flaky green skin, blackened orbits, moaning, and a hunger for warm human while bathed in eerie fog. One could throw them in an indie undead flick of today and they'd fit right in. These zombies aren't just seeking dinner, but they're aiming for revenge. When they arise, it's more than a bit unsettling how quickly characters fall and no one is spared despite not actually witnessing any "feeding" off victims. This is where the wait plays off and Children... succeeds with chunky globs of atmosphere after its long, talky build-up.

I was a victim of the first hour upon my initial viewing years back until I perked up with the attacking zombies. Don't expect a constant threat as the majority of the film is spent with false starts, tiny hints of impeding doom, and general hijinks with the little shit director and his irritated company. Though Clark and Ormsby's script is pretty snappy if you're in the right mood. Alan Ormsby's performance as a bullshit intellectual director is a supremely arrogant grade school prank-pulling prick but he does have the best lines. I think I'm going to keep his quote, "Man is a machine that manufactures manure.", for a rainy day. The upside of this sometimes endurance test portion is that just before the dead dig from their dirt; the proceedings with the living feel like the sticky "end-of-the-night" after a party has worn out its welcome. Everyone is fed up with everyone, tired, listless, and ready to leave. Of course, the difference being zombies are awaiting instead of a buzzed drive home at 4 a.m.

Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things! is like an after-dinner mint nestled upon a brain-splattered pillow. A pleasant little chaser to partake in every once in a while after gorging yourself on larger undead epics. Clark's heart is obviously all over its kitschy spookhouse mentality and it deserves to be reserved for those nights when you just want something comfy in a zombie subgenre offering.
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Sunday, November 15

Swap Meet Finds: Stoney Crusty Dude with the Buff Spikes

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Sorry, Encino Man was on last night. Anyway, one of my mysterious yet ever-so-kind contacts dropped about six crates slathered in horror vhs goodness today. While fighting off the hordes amassing to eradicate my chance at magnetic tape conquest, I ended up snagging a crate's worth and could hear my VCR groan as I got home. Some of the following are from yesterday, but most are from this morning.

This first group is great. The Hereafter is from MOGUL and the first time I had ever seen one of their releases in a slipcover instead of a big clamshell. I can't find any information on the film or crew besides the cover stating a copyright of 1987. The Toxic Avenger is from Lightning Video R-Rated edition in great shape. Night Life is also in much better shape than the faded copy I already have. Night of the Zombies (Mattei's Hell of the Living Dead) is the Vestron original. This is one the seller or I couldn't peg with the Goblin score that's actually stolen from their soundtrack for Dawn of the Dead and Alien Contamination. Squirm has fantastic art and Dead Kids is actually 1981's Strange Behavior. Horror of the Zombies belongs to the Blind Dead series being The Ghost Galleon.

The second group has some good'ins. I finally have a playable copy of Humanoids from the Deep. My other copy is the ancient Warner Home Video "book" box (seen here) that I've always been leery of playing. Never heard of Night Creature before. Horror Planet is actually 1981's Inseminiod. I finally snagged a copy (in great shape!) of Paragon's uncut Just Before Dawn. The Carrier and Nightmare on the 13th Floor are rarities that I've been looking for for quite sometime. I had no idea Embassy released Humongous in a slipcover since my Beta copy is a clamshell. Lee Philips' The Spell is quite rare but the Goodtimes VHS isn't the really valuable edition with Worldvision's big clamshell taking in insane sums on eBay.

The third lot are several nifty bootlegs. Versus needs no intro. I can finally see Without Warning sourced from the Japanese pre-record. Halloween 6 is the Producer's Cut with the tape having a label simply stating HALLOWEEN 666 MASTER. Army of Darkness (in paper wrapping!?) is sourced from the Japanese TOWA Video Laserdisc with subtitles and the "Captain Supermarket" title splash screen before the film. The version is the director's cut with the theatrical ending. The DC apocalyptic ending is presented after the film. The Beyond is from the Japanese pre-record. Unsure why I bought most of these but I have a sickness for bootlegs of even the easily obtainable; they're like a bit of history of how things were before the DVD format revolutionized the way us horror/cult maniacs watch our crap.

The fourth assortment are some cut boxes. Twisted Brain (Horror High) was supposed to arrive on DVD, but this now seems up-in-the-air unfortunately. Tourist Trap is Media's scare 1978 VHS. The black cased X-Rated flick is 1973's High Priestess of Sexual Witchcraft directed by Beau Buchanan and featuring Georgina Spelvin. From the IMDB: A young runaway escapes from abusive men and finds a happy home with a cult of devil-worshiping lesbians. Indeed. Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things is the cool VCI Video clamshell. I really need to see this one again, so perhaps this will be tonight's selection!

The final bunch is mostly smut. Little French Maid is in an uncut Unicorn Video-style "slim" clamshell in excellent condition which is rare in itself. The front, spine, and back cover is sealed in the plastic covering and usually if they aren't sliced up by rental joints the plastic is marked up in some way. That's probably my fourth copy of the Thunder Warrior clamshell and I still have yet to find either of the two sequels. Prisoner of Paradise is apparently the 1980 porn remake of Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS according to The Spinning Image.

The DVD-R on the bottom is three hours footage from the Pittsburgh Comic Con 2003 celebration of Dawn of the Dead from the folks over at DOTD.de. The disc is actually authored on PAL and features a walk through of the interiors and exteriors (incl. the boiler room basement) of the Monroeville Mall with Foree, Lies, and Emge. Also visits to Dawn's airport and Night's Evans City Cemetery. The last hour is a Q & A panel with the aforementioned, minor members of the cast, and Greg Nicotero. Just great stuff, I really should make the trip myself sometime since I'm not that far away. It'd be cool just buy a copy of Dawn at the mall though I imagine everyone does that. Shit, now I gotta find more room...hehehe...
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Saturday, November 14

Details on CONTON (1987)

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Specs from Z-Grade: Jujin Densetsu / Con Ton Directed by Takuro Fukuda / 45 Minutes / Starring Tasashi Kato, Kyoko Katayama, Kazuhisa Kawahara, Manta Yamamoto, Fumihude Kimura, Ryoto Koike.

This short isn't subtitled in English so what follows is a complete (so expect spoilers) plot crunch based on my viewing of a DVD-R copy of the original Japanese Zeus/Roco Ltd. VHS. This title seems very rare. I have no idea who made this DVD-R and the only other copy I've been able to locate is the original VHS through Z-Grade for $150.

A young Japanese TV lighting technician, Goshun, who sculpts vinyl Kaiju figures as a hobby begins having nightmares about hulking samurai monsters invading his dreams punching down walls and throwing objects in his direction to a rip-off take on Goblin's Sleepwalking from Phenomena. Goshun is also having problems with his girlfriend Amy while being hassled by three petty street thugs demanding money after a small fender bender with the young man.

During one of his dreams, Goshun vomits up dark green bile in his bathroom sink and from the bubbling ooze a face emerges with a Alien-esqe teethed snake (lower half of the cover to the left) that shrieks and suddenly jumps towards his face causing him to wake up screaming. In another dream, Goshun walks into a darkened room and lifts a helmet up off the floor revealing an old hag's head. The hag's eyes open and clawed hands rip from floor grabbing Goshun as he gorily tears off the face of the hag. The bloody skull with dangling eyes and tongue spits intestines at Goshun that proceed to strangle him.

Goshun keeps trying to duck run-ins with the thugs but is eventually cornered in the TV studio after hours by them. Amy is thrown forth gagged as the men begin threatening with guns and beating the young man. As Goshun rages at his seemingly hopeless situation his body begins to transform a la An American Werewolf in London into a huge slimy beast with corded hair running from the top of its head down its back. The creature decapitates the thug leader, tears the face of another totally asunder, and stomps on the last with Amy looking on. Still in this otherworldly state, Goshun approaches Amy who shoots him pleading to stop. Amy gets up out of the darkness and ends up being one of the monsters from Goshun's nightmares as she takes her helmet off. Then the camera pulls out revealing the same scene in one of Goshun's vinyl figure projects on his desk in his apartment. THE END.

This short isn't bad, but it's not tremendously graphic with most of the effects being a bit cartoonish. Certainly not worth $150, though it is one of those obscure Japanese curiosities that makes you wonder why was it made in the first place like the Guinea Pig series. So hopefully this will quench the wonder from those wanting to find a copy.
...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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