Wednesday, June 30

Violent Shit (1987) & Zombie '90: Extreme Pestilence (1991) - Reel Gore Productions VHS

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Last I heard, Synapse Films has the Violent Shit series and Zombie '90 for a 4-flick DVD box set in the future, but these two tapes have a certain tiny history about them. These were released over a decade ago by the production company, Reel Gore, before Brain Damage Films later released the trilogy retitled "Violent Sh*t" on their own cardboard slipbox VHS editions.

These seem very hard-to-find, no idea where these were available for purchase years ago, and I've only seen the VS tape in a $250 lot of horror VHS on eBay. The boring Brain Damage tapes often garner highish prices. The thing is I'm unsure whether the Violent Shit tape is legit. The large clamshell matches Zombie '90, just solid white, and the tape has what looks like a legit label. The cover looks printed on a sheet of standard copy paper, but the quality of the ink is rich and well-defined. A shitty PC printer wouldn't have given the cover the same pop and made the paper very wrinkly from the saturation. Still, I'm unsure. Zombie '90 has the usual "heavy" cover stock and a better quality tape label.




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Tuesday, June 29

The Greatest Cannibal Film Never Made?

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Found this DVD cover while digging around for The Blood Sprayer's Italian Horror Week of an unidentified film entitled "Cannibal" at some all-Chinese hole in the wall e-tailer. It appears to be Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, Apocalypto, The Descent, The Screaming Dead, and some Naomi Watts flick with Apocalypto's tagline mixed together. Or most likely some very misleading use of stills!

Monday, June 28

My Thorn EMI Mini-Clamshell Betamax Collection Spawned Another!

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With the addition of The Evil Dead! It makes you wonder how Betamax failed; even the boxes kicked ass. Everything they can do, Sony can do Beta...

Sunday, June 27

Death Warmed Up (1984) - 1986 Japanese Daiei Co. Ltd. VHS

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As my fourth entry about this film and a follow-up to the latest previous entry, Daiei's VHS from Japan is uncut as far as matching the North American Vestron VHS. The image quality is noticeably superior to the three other editions I've talk about. Colors are not just richer, but the entire color cast of the feature is improved over the harsh, desaturated look of the others. An example being the appearance of a truck on a ferry boat being a dirty peachy orange on the US tape, UK DVD, and Japanese DVD. On this tape, the truck is a neutral taxi cab yellow. Fleshtones look much more natural as well. The tape came in a clear, thick plastic cassette form-fitting case. The cover fits right against the cassette itself which I believe is the original packaging. Really like this one more-and-more with every watch. Nothing revolutionary, but it's pleasingly solid and ends up commendably bleak. Notice the super happy brain below... :)


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Saturday, June 26

Go to your local Hispanic Swap Meet, there's Horror there!

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Nothing against the people; I just didn't expect to find this bounty of goodies there on my first trip. I was hoping to perhaps find some horror or trashy action on Mexican VHS. Sadly nothing of the sort, but the sheer amount of DVDs both legal and "not" bordered on amazing. Many swap meets, both in-door and outdoor, have rules as to how many of their sellers can carry DVDs. I guess they assume that there are too many disc peddlers that could clog their limited space. This particular place wasn't one of them. Nearly every fifteen feet or so there sat another stuffed DVD vendor or "normal" seller with a few.

Needless to say I went hogfuckingwild until I got a headache from the eye strain of scoping tiny spines. I will caution that while there was a'plenty, many were bootlegs. I managed to find a guy with a bevy of terribly faded DVDs with the only unfaded being a bunch of factory sealed Shock-O-Rama/e.i. Independent titles. I grabbed one of each including Freak (1999), Suburban Nightmare (2004), Satan's Black Wedding (1975)/Criminally Insane (1975), Slime City (1989), Premutos (Premutos - Der gefallene Engel) (1997), Lust for Frankenstein (1998)/Tender Flesh (1998), Cremains (2001), Screaming Dead (2001), and Demon Sex (2005). Nothing really standout, except for Slime City (Cremains isn't too bad as well), but hell, all nine for $20 is a steal.

I then found a sealed copy of Shriek Show's FleshEater (1988) for 50¢ and the Jing's Production HK DVD of Erotic Nightmare (Ang wan nyn mung) (1999) starring Anthony Wong for a buck. As for the tape finds, I nearly struck out until the very end when a talkative guy in a van had a few cardboard boxes. I snagged the Weintraub editions of The Evil Dead and The Return of the Living Dead which are the last gasp of Thorn EMI's home video output. Vestron's Evil Dead 2, Lorimar's ROLD Part II (w/ the original score), Anchor Bay's Evil Dead 2 clamshell, Embassy's The Stepfather, Media's The Curse, HBO/Cannon's clam of Back to School (excellent condition for such a white cover), Anchor Bay's Demons 1 & 2 (have like 4 copies of each now), MCA's Halloween III: Season of the Witch, and Urban Classics's Assault of the Killer Bimbos. All for $10. Insanity. I'll have to make this swap meet a usual suspect, despite the "Enter At Your Own Risk" sign out front (not kidding).
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Friday, June 25

Happy Birthday, Freddy in Space!

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Freddy in Space

Just wanted to give a happy birthday shout out to Freddy in Space which turns a ripe old age of two today. Long time Basement visitors are probably aware of the banner above as it has sat in my "Haunts" to the left for awhile now. While Final Girl helped bring me to blogging, FiS encouraged me to stay with it, even though Johnny's blog isn't too much older. Johnny was the first horror blogger I actually had correspondence with via email and he does contemporary horror blogging right. He's like the Bruce Lee of the horror blogosphere in that his content has no form. Honest, lively, and diverse enough that you find yourself dropping daily. I get bummed out if he disappears for too long.

Yeah, sounds like I'm kissing his ass but Johnny is truly one of the nicest of all of the nice bloggers I've met since starting BoGD. Always very personable in my contacts and kind enough to periodically throw up a mention of this place over at Freddy. Plus I got my cherished Sam from Johnny back in April. Happy Birthday!
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Thursday, June 24

Fear in the City (Il cappotto di legno) (1981) - 1987 MOGUL Communications VHS

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Even if the movie sucked, Mogul certainly understood the art of the sale in regards to kick ass cover art.


Wednesday, June 23

The Demon Lover (1977) - (198?) Unicorn Video Clamshell VHS

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I saw this one was selling for a maddening amount on eBay so I poked around and scored a mint copy of the clamshell version for ninety-seven bucks less because I'm the Nightrider, baby! The cover is doubled on the back and there is no year of the tape's release on the back or cassette.

Tuesday, June 22

Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987) - 1987 Vestron Video VHS

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I found a few tapes (and a buttload of DVDs) over the weekend, which I will post about soon, but here's one of the more interesting. Perhaps due to the popularity of the Video Treasures and later (several) Anchor Bay VHS releases, this initial Vestron Video edition seems rarer than it should be nowadays. We are the things that were and shall be again!

Monday, June 21

Some quick thoughts on Hauntedween (1991)

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A lunatic momma's boy creatively dispatches some local frat members after the ill-fated students hold a fund-raising haunted house in an abandoned homestead tucked back in the woods of Kentucky.

I'm unsure if the concept of "regional" horror cinema actually exists. Regionalism in literature is utilizing and letting what makes specific (generally southern) areas of the United States unique speak through the words--like the dialects of the characters and comments on slavery in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckberry Finn. Though when it comes to horror flicks, "regionalism" seems something totally vague.

Region-specific horror tends to be obscure, no budget curiosities hailing from the South and Midwest. Stuff like The Abomination (1986) and Ozone: Attack of the Redneck Mutants (1986). If an example becomes too popular, like being distributed to video stores outside the cluster surrounding its native state, the denotation is stripped away. Kinda like the highbrow status of The Blair Witch Project that simply wouldn't have been without 82% of the U.S. population seeing it. It's essentially the type of independent one-off horror that is either forgotten or referred to with a chuckle within the small communities that spawned them.

This extremely hard-to-find 1991 Kentuckian number mostly made by students of WKU and residents of Bowling Green is surprisingly okay. The slasher subgenre had long been dead by the dawn of the '90s, but Hauntedween adheres its tried-and-true language well enough. A masked killer with an opening flashback of a horrible incident that directly ties to the maniac's motivation. A hillbilly-accented minor character solely in place for comic relief. A few sets of boobs (some not terribly appealing), some blood, and sex in the woods equaling immediate death. All pulled off with enough competence to often times feel like it "deserves" to be called a slasher despite its year of conception. That distinct "pulled-off-the-street" vibe usually in these fuck arounds never once creeps into any of the performances or execution.

The aspect that really hurts is one that is also shared by many muddling hack 'em ups. We spend far too much time with the going-ons of the young adults as they set up the event and the attractive male lead's trouble with his main squeeze. The killer is nearly entirely absent for well over a half an hour. Everything is saved for the climax which, while inventive, doesn't quite live up to its promise. I can't be too hard on Hauntedween, there are much more well known slasher cheapies that aren't as decent when considering its origins. The whole outing could have easily been unwatchable, but everyone involved manage to keep the train on the tracks and check off enough clichés. One thing is for sure, I'd rather watch this again than Crinoline Head ever again...

My copy is an $8 DVD-R from a guy currently selling them on eBay since the film was only released once on a very rare VHS. The picture quality is fine with a number of dropouts and rolls. The disc is correctly authored as a single layer DVD-5 with a high bitrate that nearly fills the disc at just under four gigs. Sound is Dolby stereo and eighteen chapter stops are included.
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Sunday, June 20

The Demons (Les démons) (1972) - 1984 Unicorn Video VHS

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This is one tape I don't own, but this Unicorn release just went at auction for a sum several steps beyond madness of $305(!!?!) on eBay (see listing here) with 43 bids. The seller's scans are good and large enough to preserve here for future reference. Needless to say this is the hottest Unicorn Video release out there, and no, I didn't even bid...

Friday, June 18

Some quick thoughts on The Lost Boys (1987) on Blu-ray

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Along with Tom Holland's Fright Night two years prior, The Lost Boys might be the best contemporary horror film of the '80s. With its high profile team of producers and major studio backing, it's obvious this film was knowingly designed by director Joel Schumacher to appeal to a broad spectrum of movie-goers; not just the then-emerging trend of ever younger audiences gravitating towards mainstream horror or older teens looking to neck during generic slashers. The comic book-slathered vampire killin' antics of Corey Haim's Sam and the Frog brothers, Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander, speak to the fledgling popularity left in The Goonies (1985) wake. While the exotic, sexually-charged danger Jason Patric's Michael faces and gaggle of renegade vamps led by Kiefer Sutherland taps into the late John Hughes's incredible run of heartfelt teen comedies in the mid-'80s.

The Lost Boys is simply a fantastic marriage between varying degrees of horror, comedy, and studio-manufactured trend appeal. The broad nature might hurt the potential if played straighter in a horror vein, but everything manages to effortlessly glide while somehow dating well to today like many classics of the Regan years. Special note to Gerard McMann's theme, Cry Little Sister, for still being chillingly effective and strangely incestuous. And of course, the Twilight marketing gristmill isn't going to have nearly the same longevity in twenty years time.

Warner's usual 1080p/VC-1 encoded treatment actually looks better in the first two or so reels before mysteriously becoming less detailed. This flatter appearance begins with the scene in which Sam's mother (Dianne West) is nearly mauled by Max's "hound from hell". Before that, detail is solid with a layer of fine grain. Some posterization is present in the lighthouse motorcycle death race, but that might be caused by my aging display. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio is probably taken from the original Dolby 6-Track as it sounds surprisingly crisp and vibrant for a soundtrack of this vintage. All of the supplements of Warner's 2-DVD set are present. This BD is only $10 at Wal Mart, so yeah, pick up this steal soon if you already haven't.
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Thursday, June 17

THE EVIL DEAD Blu-ray Specs (hopefully)

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DiabolikDVD just threw up unconfirmed specifications for Starz/Anchor Bay's upcoming Blu-ray of The Evil Dead slated for August 31st. This answers the question as to whether the original, proper full frame version of the film will be included (hopefully also in high definition, or they'll be hell to pay). The extras appear to be taken from the previous Ultimate Edition 3-DVD set...or at least some of them. Also it seems Elite's separate Raimi/Tapert and Campbell commentaries have been ditched for an "all new" track featuring the trio. Another reason to hang on to those DVD editions. Apparently the extras DVD is a limited time bonus disc; what kind of bullshit is that?

Blu-ray (Disc 1):
  • Original 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio Version
  • Enhanced 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio Version
  • All New Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Sam Raimi, Producer Robert Tapert and Actor Bruce Campbell
DVD (Disc 2):
  • One By One We Will Take You: The Untold Saga Of THE EVIL DEAD
  • THE EVIL DEAD: Treasures From The Cutting Room Floor
  • Discovering THE EVIL DEAD
  • Unconventional
  • At The Drive-In
  • Reunion Panel
  • Make-Up Test
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots

Wednesday, June 16

The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972) - 1982 Midnight Video/Select-a-Tape VHS

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I snagged this one because I've always loved the title and the art is great. It's in a clamshell, which is odd for Midnight Video who were known for their big boxes. Unfortunately, the bottom area of spine has a few spots where moisture has torn patches off the cover and they're sticking to the case's plastic. It's in great shape otherwise--my first Midnight Video!

Tuesday, June 15

Academy Entertainment Double - Satan's Supper (1980) and Dressed for Death (1972)

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Just got Dressed for Death (Straight on Till Morning) today, so I figured I'd dig out Academy's Satan's Supper (Cataclysm/The Nightmare Never Ends) as well...



Sunday, June 13

My parents are awesome, sometimes you get damn lucky, and some would sell their children for a tape like this...

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My parents are well aware of my love of horror and collecting it on home video. They're also swap meet mavens like myself, especially my father, who's been religiously trekking out pretty much every weekend for decades. They look out for things I might like on their trips and sometimes strike gold. Given the sheer amount of people selling DVDs, they find themselves at a loss knowing what I don't have or what's rare. Tapes are a bit different. Less people have them, they're easier to scan through quickly, clamshells and big boxes stick out, and sellers usually only want a buck or two a piece anyway. So when I got a call announcing that they found a few that probably weren't anything special, I still went over to check them out.

They dug up exactly that. The Cult Video tapes of Creepozoids (1987), End of the World (1977), and The Day Time Ended (1980). Warner's 1990 slipcase of The Road Warrior (1981). Vidmark's Prototype X29A (1992). Nothing all that great, but they're in like new condition. Then my mom, in one of her best "pleasant" bait-and-switches ever, says "So was it worth buying these five for that one over there?" I look over and see "it" behind the glass of one of their showcases. Certainly the best tape they've ever found.

(!!!)

Unicorn Video released a bevy of films from a variety of genres in the mid '80s on VHS and Betamax. The studio's releases are like crack to tape hoarders, especially their '70s Horror and Exploitation titles. Keep My Grave Open (1976), Grave of the Vampire (1974), The Demon Lover (1977), The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976), A Bell from Hell (1973), Werewolves on Wheels (1971), The Night of the Sorcerers (1973), Die Screaming Marianne (1971), and Disciple of Death (1972) are all Unicorn tapes that are very rare, sought after, and command large sums on eBay.

Then there's Raúl Artigot's The Witches Mountain (El Monte de las brujas) from 1972. It's not a particularly hard-to-find film being released on grey market DVDs, cheap multi-flick packs, and available through a host of rare horror DVD-R/VHS e-tailers. Though along with Unicorn's uncut Warlock Moon (1975), Witches Mountain is one of the distributor's most obscure releases only rarely popping up online for sale/huge bidder war. The bitchin' cover that compliments Warlock Moon's art (see here) might have something to do with its rarity.

Despite this copy having a little tear on the top edge of the front--it's like new with Unicorn's 1986 factory seal intact. There isn't even any dust on the clamshell case. The seller who had this also had the other tapes above. This tape was actually sorta buried under a stack of crap according to my mother; who almost walked off before just spotting it. It was a "freebie" since she bought the other five for five bucks. Wow, just wow. I guess this proves that there are still insane finds floating around outside the combative confines of the Interwebs!
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Saturday, June 12

Book of Clusterfucks, or Five Ways to make Blair Witch 2 better...

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Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) is the literal reverse of everything that made The Blair Witch Project a success as both a horror film and an enormous box office sensation. The beauty of the original's simplicity is buried under of a mountain of Hollywood pander towards teen crowds looking for a convoluted mindfuck. Instead of snowballing tension that climatically collapses like in the 1999 film, Joe Berlinger's rushed sequel simply falls in on itself. All this despite competent acting (Burn Notice's Jeffrey Donovan as the lead) and an effective score from Cohen brothers-regular Carter Burwell.

I must personally say that my affinity for The Blair Witch Project has grow by bounds over the past couple years and that's coloring my position on its "sequel". The whole Blair Witch universe provokes vocal positive and (usually) negative reaction, but even the biggest hater has to at least have a tiny bit more respect for the original after experiencing this laborious grind. Although this mess may not totally be at Berlinger's feet. Apparently Artisan disliked the director's more ambiguous take on the feature, shot "traditional" horror exposition, and inserted the sequences into their own final cut without Berlinger's involvement. To be honest, I'm unsure what's Artisan and what's Berlinger. Book of Shadows seems fundamentally broken either way.

The most memorable thing about this outing is Artisan's DVD having the great concept of an Audio CD side with tracks from the dated soundtrack and Burwell's complete score. I guess it's a shame the bottom rotted away from the "franchise" after this, there are worse things spawned into a series, like sparkling vampires and the sexually frustrated girlies that love them. Still, it's fun to ponder what could have been (substantially) changed to result in a better Blair Witch sequel, especially when the ingredients are already in there somewhere. Some of these will work better if you've seen the flick semi-recently:
  1. Have Jeffrey (Jeffrey Donovan) really be a serial killer fresh off a stunt institutionalized ready to take a group off into the Black Hills for some bloody playtime with his own delusions. Ground this sequel in cold reality; not some dumb Hollywood hocus-pocus. This is hinted at as a possibility in the beginning, but is quickly cast off as another unimportant twist.

  2. Dump the completely idiotic hick sheriff character that keeps badgering the group pulled straight from an early '80s C-grade slasher. Maybe this was Artisan's contribution?

  3. OR make the old sheriff transform into an equally old codger taking the group out into the woods for a BW tour. That way, there could be a potentially more compelling back story with the guy. Make the guy be a fallout of the Manson Family kicked out for being to extreme back in the late sixties. Imagine the possibilities. Just get a better older actor or Bruce Campbell--might as well go all in.

  4. Replace Kim Director's Kim with a dog. If you can somehow make Ms. Director ugly while sporting goth make-up--you've performed a grave misstep.

  5. If you have the decency to convince Erica Leerhsen to expose her petite boobies, at least utilize full high definition cameras--preferably the Red Epic--in flood lighting.
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Friday, June 11

I Spit on Your Grave (Day of the Woman) (1978) - 1989 VidAmerica, Inc. VHS

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I've seen the Wizard Video and Anchor Bay tapes, but this one is totally new to me. Found this interesting connection between VidAmerica and the upcoming remake:

"Gary Needle - Career Highlights: At Allied Artists, Needle was extensively involved in its successful launch into the new home video business in 1978...Needle was Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President and a member of the Board of Directors of VidAmerica...Current activities include: Executive Producer of re-make of classic genre film, "I Spit On Your Grave" (produced by CineTel to be released theatrically by Anchor Bay Fall 2010)"

Wednesday, June 9

Night of the Living Dead (1968) - 1982 MEDIA Home Entertainment VHS

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I believe this is the second home video of George A. Romero's watershed genre moment released in North America. The first probably being also from MEDIA, but under their initial "MEDA" name. Two years later, K-TEL released this great double feature VHS set, a year after that Congress Home Video issued another quality tape, and then I imagine NOLD languished in cheapie EP-speed hell before Elite Entertainment came to the rescue with their restored Laserdisc.

Monday, June 7

Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason (Fucking) Lives (1986) - Paramount's 1986 & 1988 VHS

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This isn't a particularly rare tape, but I found it interesting that there are layout differences between the 1986 (Left/Top) and 1988 (Right/Bottom) cassettes. This box has a $79.95 sticker on its spine. Hehehe...


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Sunday, June 6

Swap Meet Finds: You opened the box, we came...

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This morning yielded a great haul. So much so I'm going to do a bulleted rundown with details on what I discovered. Many of the tapes are from a familiar dealer, notice the price stickers, who disappeared a few weeks ago. No idea what happened, but a guy that buys everything in bulk from other sellers that can't move their stuff had the tapes for nothing. All the tapes were either a buck or 50¢ and the books were $2(!) a piece.
  • Penitentiary (Xenon)
  • Midnight (1989, notice the cover is ripped from Barbeau in Creepshow)
  • Friday the 13th, Part 6: Jason Lives / Halloween II
  • The Concrete Jungle (1982, RCA/Columbia Home Video, quite rare)
  • Severed Ties (1992)
  • Dawn of the Dead (Thorm EMI) / Raiders of the Lost Ark (factory sealed)
  • Angels Hard as They Come (1971, Embassy Video)
  • Not of this Earth (1988)
  • Scream (1981, Vestron / destroyed box but the tape looks good)
  • Phantom of the Opera (Robert Englund)
  • Jacob's Ladder / Fright Night
  • Fun in Acapulco (1963, extremely old Magnetic Video edition)
  • Manhunter / The Reptile (Anchor Bay clamshells)
  • DVDs: The Wicker Man (theatrical) / Zombie Pack w/ Zombi 3 / After Death / Killing Birds
  • MGM Greatest Moments (51 minute video sampler hosted by Roddy McDowall)
  • Drunken Master II / Fist of Legend (Tai Seng uncut editions)
  • The Concrete Jungle (1982, the real British M.I.A. Video VHS, not a bootleg, unsure how I found this one in the States!)
  • Johnny Guitar (1954, NTA Home Video)
  • Point of Terror (1971, Neon Video clamshell)
  • Horror and Fantasy in the Movies by Tom Hutchinson (1974)
  • Horrors from Screen to Scream by Ed Naha (1975)
  • The Best, Worst, and Most Usual Horror Films (1983)
  • Cult Horror Films by Welch Everman (1993)
  • The Movie Treasury: Horror Movies by Alan G. Frank (1974)
  • The Movie Treasury: Gangster Movies by Harry Hossent (1974)
  • An Album of Modern Horror Films by Frank Manchel (1983)

Saturday, June 5

Death Warmed Up...Again...

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Just as a follow-up to this previous entry detailing the Japanese DVD of Death Warmed Up, the British Arrow Films DVD is also EDITED with a PAL runtime of 77 minutes, 55 seconds. The 4x3, interlaced transfer and cuts are identical to the JVD disc. It seems crazy the BBFC would cut this, even back when the film was last submitted in 1999. The brutal, coldblooded murder of a couple by their son using a Franchi SPAS-12 shotgun in slo-mo is fully intact, but the "much less" bits of graphic violence are sliced. I imagine if re-submitted today, the censors would wave all cuts, that is if the distributor still had usable footage of the missing pieces. I have another version coming in the mail, but it looks like the good 'ol North American Vestron Video tape is still the champion.


Forgot to mention this, but there's a sly visual/thematic reference to Hauer's Roy Batty in
Blade Runner in the way the lead character ends up .

Total Recall (1990) - 1990 Carolco/Live Home Video Video8 Cassette

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Now here's an obscure analog home video format! Video8 was introduced by Sony in the mid-80s as an 8mm cassette cartridge for their video camcorders. Once several standalone Video8 VCR decks became available; studios like Paramount, MGM/UA, and Warner began releasing pre-recorded movies on Video8 to capture those that also wanted to watch their personally recorded tapes. While the format thrived as a camcorder format until the dawn of digital, by the early '90s, it completely died as a viable home video format to video distributors much like the recent UMD. The cassettes first came in their own "mini-VHS" cardboard slipcases, but later arrived in the exact same plastic cases of traditional audio cassettes just without the two reel spindles.

VHS and Betamax cassettes included to show scale.

Friday, June 4

Once Upon a Time in the West (C'era una volta il West) (1968) - Italian CVC/UniVideo DVD

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I know, not the usual fare for BoGD, but it's a western I adore. You could argue that it's not "pure" being an epic amalgamation of nods to classic American westerns Leone loved, but this is one hell of a film regardless of its influences or genre. In terms of performances and scale, this is Leone's greatest western. I prefer the grittiness of his Dollars trilogy, but Once Upon a Time... feels vastly more "realistic" and sweeping. I love the notion of Bronson's Harmonica being an archangel sent to protect Jill. The character can't die, wears the colors of a savior, always appears to be in the right place at the right time, and simply disappears off into the West. They certainly don't make 'em like this anymore. Even when James Cameron pours a decade of work and hundreds of millions into a green screen...

It's a film that played for months on end in France, sparked a duster fashion trend in that country, and made Charles Bronson an icon in Japan. Of course, the original American theatrical release was truncated and failed to find success at the box office. Also check out 1973's My Name is Nobody (Il mio nome è Nessuno); a great sister film to Leone's masterpiece also about the death of the West only set in a later period. This Italian DVD runs about seven minutes longer than Paramount's DVDs (see this write-up on the differences I wrote for DVDBeaver). Although anamorphic, the only audio option is an Italian dub. Certain sequences, like the McBain family massacre, are interlaced. Detail is weaker than the Paramount disc, but the color is more appropriately "dusty" by comparison.

Wednesday, June 2

Some quick thoughts on City of the Living Dead on Blu-ray

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I've already expressed my love for this Fulci classic during Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies's Italian Horror Blog-a-thon with my thoughts. Nothing has changed and The Gates of Hell (my preferred alternate title) simply gets better every time. I almost said this in that review, but this film feels like what Fulci was constantly trying to re-capture in the twilight years of his career. Unfortunately, the wonderful creative team behind him just wasn't there in his later period like il maestro's late '70s/early '80s gore-caked heyday. That and both Christopher George and Catriona MacColl not merely showing up for a check and exuding quite an approachable likability. Paura nella città dei morti viventi is nonsensical, wafer thin claptrap but has tremendously foreboding atmosphere that sticks to your ribs long after its conclusion and some of the most memorable gore effects in modern horror. This mood lends itself well to a perfect late night drive-in feel, be it Italian-made or not, making for an excellent starter course for a late night horror marathon. Well, whatever comes afterward probably won't compare--unless you indulge in more prime Fulci.

Blue Underground's new Blu-ray minted from the original negative is the source of a bit of controversy on some audio/video forums along with the studio's BD of Corbucci's classic spag western Django (1966). The incessantly grainy image is up for debate about being truly natural or some strange layer of digital manipulation created to mask restoration work. I haven't seen Django firsthand yet, but CotLD seems to be a case of finding detail where you find it. Many shots seem slightly blurry from the camera work (especially with Fulci's love of focus), but immediately after the next shot will be striking in detail and so forth. There's also a very enhanced sense of three dimensional space in certain scenes within the 1080p transfer. Grain appears more "integrated" into the film stock than BU's previous The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The New York Ripper; so I'm at a loss as to whether it's more video noise than grain or a side effect of the cheaper 2-perf 35mm stock used.

Colors are significantly more saturated than the Anchor Bay/Blue Underground DVDs. I actually prefer the desaturated look of the standard def discs; as it adds to the film's impeding gloom. The Blu-ray might actually be too colorful since fleshtones look almost pastel-like. Overall, the good outweighs the "perhaps" bad and the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track sounds extremely clean. To those who've seen The Gates of Hell countless times the sound quality might be more profound than the image. You could hear a pin drop in the quiet passages with zero distortion. Fabio Frizzi's fantastic soundtrack literally sounds "replaced" with an entirely remastered from the ground up master of Frizzi's work. I haven't checked out the new extras yet, but I might order Arrow Video's even more supplement-packed Blu-ray from the U.K. and and a big evening of special feature watchin' between both editions.
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Tuesday, June 1

Remember when...

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You can almost hear the population of Burkittsville getting pissed...

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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