Sunday, October 31

Halloween II (1981) - 1982 MCA Videocassette Inc. VHS

.
Pardon the lack of a more appropriate All Hallows' Eve holiday entry, but I've been busy this weekend. Anyway, I hope this scan of another rare Halloween series tape can be some compensation. This is the stereo version of MCA's first stateside video release of this sequel from '82.

Have a Happy & Safe Halloween!

Saturday, October 30

Friday, October 29

Some quick thoughts on Uncommon Valor (1983)

.
Gene Hackman stars as a father with a missing-in-action son from the Vietnam War who decides to mount a rogue rescue. Assembling the POW's old squad years later, he and the group train for weeks in a scale replica of the camp funded by a wealthy entrepreneur (Robert Stack). Of course, things don't go exactly as planned once they launch into the real mission.

Being perfectly blunt, the intellectual depth I prefer from this type of movie can be likened a neanderthal picking a thorn out of his big toe. Not an enormous Marlon Brando synthesizing Vietnam, Private Pyle go out strange, or the realization that Sam Mendes and Jake Gyllenhaal just wasted two hours of my life. I want macho bullshit so thick you could take a butter knife to the screen and slather the scrapings onto a hunk of Texas toast. A festering stockpile of Vietnamese soldiers with boyish facial hair and a multitude of fresh holes blown through their chest cavities. Lastly, straw hut destruction of an escalating enormity amidst jungle eradication that would make environmentalists shit themselves with rage.

Given the presence of Gene Hackman and Uncommon Valor being based on a true story, I've always pegged this Ted Kotcheff film as a "serious war picture" sight unseen. Maybe this one seemed more timely when first released, but after watching this last night, it's your average POW green inferno actioner. Even with Hackman flexing his acting dexterity at certain points, there's no deeper message or emotional impact with regards to the Vietnam War's missing. Stallone's reprisal as Rambo two years later actually does a superior job of implanting the POW theme into an explosive guy flick.

That doesn't mean Kotcheff's film, probably made solely from the success of his prior First Blood (1982), can't be a fun time. The rather far-fetched proceedings are bolstered by a supporting gaggle of familiar faces. Fred Ward (Tremors), Randall 'Tex' Cobb (Raising Arizona), Tim Thomerson (Trancers), Harold Sylvester (Griff from Married with Children), Robert Stack, and a young Patrick Swayze all make for an easy recommendation. We even get to hear Stack tersely say "fuck you"; a treat for those who grew up with his trademark voice on Unsolved Mysteries.

Then we have Mr. Roll Fizzlebeef himself, Reb Brown, star of such essentials as Space Mutiny, Yor, the Hunter from the Future, and Strike Commando. Brown's character, Blaster, is an easygoing explosives expert turned BMX pro after the time serving his country. It's otherworldly seeing Brown share the screen with Hackman, relay two meaty monologues, and see the focus shift like he's the star during his final minutes on-screen. The dirty secret is that Brown's performance is actually good and acts as proof that he could stand with his fellow character actors. And yes, Reb does bust out one of his patented "blargh!" wails, but you gotta wait for it.

Uncommon Valor isn't what I expected in a pleasant way. It's not a great dumb action flick, the action quota is mostly saved for the satisfying climax, but the one-dimensional characters are made inoffensive by the actors in their skin. What would seem like important aspects are either gleened over, rushed through, or somewhat forgotten about. It's evident this film was the basic formula many low-budget Italian rip-offs strived toward instead of working with the previous, unreachable Apocalypse Now template. One will also probably want to dig around to learn the real story. CIC's Japanese VHS, re-titled Hell's Seven, offers no advantage over the domestic versions with a full screen version. 
.

Thursday, October 28

Carrie (1976) - 1981 Magnetic Video Corporation Betamax (MAG1 Cassette)

.
Snagged this one from eBay, mint condition! 


Wednesday, October 27

Some quick thoughts on Warlock: The Armageddon (1993)

.
In a quest to unleash his father upon Earth, Satan's son (Julian Sands) returns in search of seven scattered runestones. A reign of terror is left in the Warlock's wake as he acquires the rocks from their hapless, present day owners. The final stone rests in the hands of the Druid descendants of the original keepers. The family's warriors, a teenage couple, are the only ones that stand between the Warlock and a Hades reality with their newly discovered ethereal abilities.

Steve Miner's Warlock (1989) was a genuine surprise. A fluid genre picture with a welcomingly heavy reliance on its creative fantasy aspects that never once becomes boring. Unfortunately, Anthony Hickox's retread strips much of the quaint mythology in favor of a straightforward "horror" follow-up to its own detriment. That doesn't sound too bad, but it's obvious the increase in blood was an easy-way-out response to a budget several million less than the first. In fact, the first scene featuring the Warlock, in which he's forcefully reborn from a woman who possesses the "birth stone", features way more gooey grue than in all of the first film. Warlock's inventive use of ancient lore is also handicapped here and usually acts another excuse for some blood.

Julian Sands is back in the titular role, again turning on the cold menace, just to lesser impact given the more show than tell of his evil deeds. The reliable father of Crispin, Bruce Glover, shows up in another priest role helping the young Druids in their combat. Everyone else is the usual muddling talking wallpaper for such a production; although George "Buck" Flower and Zach Galligan of Hickox's Waxwork have one line walk-ons.

Though the actors don't worsen the bloody ho-hum; the painful lack of funds often distracts. The town that the protagonist Druids inhabit, an obvious "western town" studio backlot with a wide main street and large wooden buildings, is appropriately redressed to look modern. There's even a bit of gun standoff with the Warlock at the climax as a wink to the set's real purpose. The scant optical effects are solid like in the prior film, but the introduction of some clunky early '90s CG is an eyesore. Ulitmately, Armageddon is merely a passable time waster despite lacking that fun spark that made the Miner/Twohy film perpetually entertaining.

As stated before, Trimark's Warlock DVD features a poor unmatted full frame transfer. The now Lionsgate merged distributor boosts the specs of Armageddon with an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen presentation. Problem is the image is so relentlessly soft and drab that objects kinda "clump" together. A great example of a weak 16x9 transfer from the DVD format's early days. The film's trailer and "hidden" trailer for Vincenzo Natali's Cube (where's the Blu-ray?) are the only extras. Don't expect a new edition of Armageddon, the sealed copy I viewed was in one of those recent and annoying reduced plastic, eco-bullshit cases.
.

Tuesday, October 26

Monday, October 25

Making It Official: $1.00 is too damn high for a VHS, folks...

.
If you've been reading BoGD for even a week, you're probably well aware of my love of video tapes. So naturally I'm a seasoned swap meet vulture; prying cassettes from uncaring hands before their inevitable trip to the great dumpster in the sky. Before I took up seeking out VHS (and Beta), I primarily collected DVD and have seen the trends in price with regards to movie discs at flea markets and yard sales. I can remember when used DVDs hovered around $8, then $5, and settling in for quite a long time for $3 a pop. Nowadays, sealed discs average six bucks while recently the used rate has began dropping further to just two bucks. I don't believe this is from people becoming wiser and opting to Netflix, Redbox, or Blu-ray. It's more the realization that the resale potential of their collection consisting of Corky Romano and The Lord of the Rings is tantamount to a flaming bag of dog shit.     

Yet oddly enough, the space-consuming, antiquated, and generally unwanted VHS format still commands a dollar a piece and has for years. No matter the condition or age, a buck seems to be the unwritten suggested price, despite the much newer predominant disc-based format now being a mere one hundred cents more. All this really hit hard yesterday at one of my swap meet haunts. The first guy I spotted with tapes had a few of the Elm Street series. I picked up a beat-all-to-hell copy of Media Entertainment's 1989 Dream Child VHS. A dirty, dog-earred ex-rental complete with a small bottom rip from someone who couldn't grasp the concept of taking a cassette out of a slipbox. The thing was I needed this unrated copy for comparison purposes as an overseas tape is currently flying across the Pacific en route to my mailbox.

While I'm standing there examining a heavily abused, twenty-one-year-old tape I hear, "Yeah, the tapes are a dollar and DVDs are two." For shits and giggles, I pick up a nearby disc of Casino Royale (full screen, of course). The cover, disc, and case are in perfect condition. For one dollar more. Possessing haggle skills passed down by my father and honed for years in the weekend trenches, I work the tape down to fifty cents. This is the nice price for tapes and should be mandated as the revised normal rate for swap meets and yard sales. A dollar is understandable if one obviously babied their collection with kit gloves, but the vast majority of tapes look tossed around in a dryer and left to rust in storage. There's no justification for trying to pass off VHS (and especially Beta) for a George Washington in '10. Instead, let those quarter pieces satisfyingly jingle in your pocket after a day of selling...                                                        
.   

Sunday, October 24

R.I.P. Don Leifert (1950-2010)

.
The zombified, carotid-sapping star of Don Dohler's Fiend (1980), Don Leifert, passed away yesterday. Leifert also starred in the regional Baltimore filmmaker's debut The Alien Factor (1978), Nightbeast (1982), and Galaxy Intruder (1985) as well as being a longtime theatre teacher at Towson High School in Maryland. I never had the opportunity to met the actor or Dohler, despite being smack-dab in their base of operations, but fondly remember a conversation with a friend back in high school. He actually had Leifert as his teacher and knowing my interest in horror asked if I'd ever seen any of the features his teach had been in. At the time, I was only vaguely aware of Dohler's films and had no idea of Leifert or his career in education. Although now I'm quite aware of the shoestring sci-fi/horror wonders created not fifty miles away back when I was either first arriving into existence or a toddler. Dohler's films might be goofy, but their desire to entertain is certainly infectious and Don Leifert's presence only added to the delirium, R.I.P.

(Deadly Neighbor (Fiend) (1980) / 1992 Video Communications Inc. VHS)

Saturday, October 23

Freddy in Space's Scared Shitless Meme: The Attic Incident

.
I've been graciously singled out by Johnny over at the epic Freddy in Space to participate in his first blogger meme ever, The Scared Shitless Meme. Before starting into my mad tale of the noise in the attic, let me preface this by stating I've been involved in some pretty scary shit. Car accidents, bad falls, occurrences with knives, enormous MMA clashes with Randy Couture. Okay, perhaps that last one was an exaggeration, but you get my point. Though all of those can be likened to an episode of Barney & Friends one chance night home alone about a decade ago.

I must confess; I'm a bit of a pussy. Acting like I'm all hard, I can watch nearly any damn thing, never even getting the slightest hint of a hurl. Pasta with meat sauce during Flowers of Flesh and Blood? Laughing joyfully during Olaf Ittenbach's Black Past? Knitting in the middle of Slaughtered Vomit Dolls? No fucking problem. In fact, call up your friends and we'll party sometime. But, and I hate to admit this, I still get the willies like a little prissy girl whenever I suddenly realize I'm "in the dark" or hear the slightest unidentified "shift" in the night. Listening to Coast to Coast AM in the wee hours of the morning can prove a jarring experience as I always seem to envision something lurking from behind. Fuck you, shadow person. So yes, I'm a giant wuss when it comes to freaking myself out over crap that's simply not there.

So imagine my abject fear late one weekend night years ago. My parents were out and I was left to my own devices. I can't remember what I was doing, probably neglecting school work for Argento, but my thrilling night was winding down. As I was shutting down the ol' PC, what sounded like distinct footsteps tapped above my head across the ceiling. Okay, nothing to be frightened by, right? A few minutes later there's a rustling coming from the corner of the house in the attic. Now the house wasn't built a hundred ago or anything that would indicate a place prone to paranormal activity. That didn't stop the thoughts that began swirling in my head. The Ju-on remake wasn't out yet, but I had seen the original and the images of howling cat children and dead, contorting Japanese women cackling couldn't be shaken as I looked toward the ceiling. After I hear a box of junk slam the boards above, I become resolute and grab an aluminum little league bat I've had since forever. I cautiously make my way up the pull-down ladder with one tiny bulb illuminating the entire space. Ambling along a narrow strip of loose 2x4s down the center the attic, I freeze cold upon hearing...

"EEEEEEEEeerreeerrrrrrrrrraaaaawwwwrrrrrrr!!!"

Before I could shit myself, tense up, or even blink; a furry blur comes running toward my bare feet. Somehow I manage to awkwardly swing the bat and hit...something, but in the process stumble back and fall backward hard onto the ceiling beams and insulation. Hours later in the morning, I open my eyes to the sound of my mother screaming bloody murder as if someone died. No, she just found me, knocked out from the fall with a mild concussion and small stain of blood evident through ceiling below. By some still unexplained method, a terrified possum had ended up in the attic, mulling around and apparently munching on cardboard boxes. I'm not one for violence against animals, but it was me or him that night. The unforgivable sheer terror I experienced for that millisecond was the poor creature's best revenge.
.

Friday, October 22

Perhaps The Greatest Video Ever...

.

Thursday, October 21

Kill Squad (1982) - 1988 Air Video/Ariel International Releasing VHS

.
Another rare AIR Video release like their BOG big box, only this time in a regular slipcover. Check out this flick's tremendous trailer here.

Tuesday, October 19

Some quick thoughts on Tiger Joe (Fuga dall'archipelago maledetto) (1982)

.
Antonio Margheriti's Tiger Joe (1982) was a means of stretching leftovers from the director's previous 'Nam war entry, The Last Hunter (L'ultimo cacciatore) (1980). Unfortunately, the hodgepodge result feels like exactly that. Ninety-six minutes of the titular character and humanitarian love interest (Annie Belle) moving through the green inferno, engaging in sporadic mediocre gunfights, and meeting up with native rebels.

Unlike the near poignant excitement of Margheriti's Deer Hunter answer, this action potboiler doesn't have a grander point despite trying to at least maintain modest momentum. Even the strident and supremely self-assured David Warbeck, who possibly pissed Old Spice, can't quite make this exercise totally worthwhile. A boisterous Tony King, alumnus of Cannibal Apocalypse and Last Hunter, is on hand to practically steal the show from the star who takes a bit of a backseat in the last reel.

Tiger Joe is also strangely grim, but not in the traditional, over-the-top Italian exploitative sense. The tone of the entire feature is simply downtrodden. This nagging sense confirmed when Tiger Joe's dying mechanic, after injured in a munitions explosion, is carried by a desperate Midnight (King) across a stretch of jungle before committing suicide in the arms of his broken friend. At a certain point, you realize there's no central baddie, just opposing forces facing off against protagonists who aren't fighting for a purpose let alone much for their lives.

Carlo Savina's dreary score doesn't help matters. I kept envisioning a scowling Vincent Price with candelabra stalking a cobwebbed hallway to the late composer's music; not Warbeck breaking Charlie face with blazing M-16 as napalm deforestation occurs from behind. I have a nostalgic affinity for Tiger Joe, as it was my first experience with an Italian hut exploder (after first seeing Fulci's masterpiece, The Beyond), but I'd suggest seeking out the far superior The Last Hunter before cautiously venturing into this next day warmed over turkey.

The VHS scan to the right is the U.S. Lightning Video release from 1986. Despite having nice color, the original 2.35:1 framing has been painfully cramped to full screen. Lots of half-faces, awkward composition, and unnaturally quick pans to catch important action that would be seen otherwise. It's like watching the film with tunnel vision. Although this tape does have a quick video trailer for another (superior) Margheriti war romp, Tornado (1983), at its conclusion. Thankfully (well, a godsend), the Japanese Mount Light/Pack-In-Video VHS below presents Tiger Joe (marketed as Tornado 2) in widescreen so one can finally appreciate the director's underrated scope eye. Definitely the one to seek out between the two...

Monday, October 18

Straw Dogs (1971) - 1980 Magnetic Video VHS

.
Here's the first stateside home video of Peckinpah's masterpiece released thirty years ago or three years after the VHS format initially debuted. Magnetic Video was the first video distributor in North America, so most of their releases were "first ever" for the given titles. This copy looks to have gone to hell and back, but its battered condition nicely compliments the film.

Sunday, October 17

Candyman (1992) - 2002 Tri-Star/Sony Pictures VHS

.
This VHS cover for Bernard Rose's superb Candyman is completely new to me. Sony seems to have been tinkering with the artwork of their late era tapes. Like the 2002 VHS of 976-EVIL, the Candyman art below is different from Tri-Star's 1998 DVD counterpart (seen here). Maybe this was to differentiate the tape from the relatively new (and gaining marketplace traction) DVD format. Can't say I like this cover at all, but it is interesting since I was thoroughly unconcerned with watching or buying anything on VHS by 2002. Candyman is in desperate need of a fresh transfer for Blu-ray; both DVD editions feature an identical, nearly fifteen-year-old transfer.

Saturday, October 16

Halloween (Television Edit) (1978) - 1989 MEDIA Home Entertainment VHS (09/06/1989)

.
Found this rare edition today which I've never seen before, but have heard about. MEDIA are known for debuting Carpenter's Halloween on home video in 1979 under their original "MEDA" name. MEDIA subsequently re-released the film on VHS and Beta in 1982 (see the Beta here) while keeping the box in-print for several years. All of these were the theatrical cut. Some copies of this 1989 tape, the distributor's final Halloween release, were the unadvertised and first ever presentation of the television version on home video. This tape is confirmed to be the TV edit from the cassette's date and by actually watching it.

Here's some more info on this tape found here: 1987 Media Home Entertainment Version - In 1989 there was an accidentally released TV version. This version was also released by Video Treasures in 1990, just after Media went out of business. The box covers for the 1987 and 1989 Media version and the VERY rare 1990 Video Treasures TV version are very similar. They are basically the same on the front. But, on the the back, the Video treasures box has the Video Treasures symbol on the back, the Media version does not. This version is out of print and is like trying to find a needle in a haystack to find. It has been discovered that not all of the 1989 Media releases actually are the TV version. Confirmed with several e-mails, it has been determined that the regular version was released in 1989, but it wasn't until August of 1989 that the TV version was released. The only way to verify that a 1989 version of the Media release is the TV cut is to check the date stamped on the front end to see when the tape was duplicated.

Friday, October 15

Undeserving of its Nifty Cover - Metamorphosis (1990)

.
After some science that would give an expert an aneurysm from laughter, a scientist/professor (young Christopher Reeve lookalike Gene LeBrock) discovers a "cromozone" procedure that might defeat the aging process. Upon reaching the brink, the university overseeing the project decides to defund any further progress. In a last ditch effort to prove the results are real, the researcher decides to become his own first human test subject. Things don't quite go as planned as he begins to notice his body changing as the screenplay calls David Cronenberg, but the famed Canadian director tells it to go fuck off...

Metamorphosis is a great example of the worst type of bad movie. Despite obviously being bad, things are bearable for just long enough that when you finally realize it's been an utter waste of time--you're almost at the conclusion anyway. Another "bad" bad movie characteristic is how the narrative lumbers along trying to repeatedly hammer away at what's already safely assumed by the viewer. Even with being a blatant shitty rip-off of 1986's The Fly with a hint of Re-Animator, every by-the-number "twist" can be seen from a mile away. This kind of story should be effortless; not a chore to watch as you ponder what else could be done with your time.

Instead of going wild in the streets with low rent gore and a fuck all attitude, we're treated to wooden actors delivering stilted dialogue wrapped in a festering tortilla of terrible filmmaking. A point-and-shoot aesthetic, motorized zooms, bad lighting, boom mic shadows everywhere, reverbing on-location dialogue, and scenes of either boring people doing things or boring things happening at a snail's pace. There's quite literally nothing interesting here, besides the scientist finally transforming into a midget paper mache dinosaur in the last five minutes. Well, even that's uneventful after you realize that aspect was badly inserted for God knows what reason and the mutant was simply the incredible melting man...

The most interesting aspect about Metamorphosis is who's actually behind its putrid stench. George Eastman wrote and directed this production. Yes, the frequent towering apeman cohort of Joe D'Amato and the Antropophagus himself. Not to disparage Eastman, but it's fairly obvious the actor/writer was brought on as director-for-hire with this feature being his only substantive credit. Given the desperately "serious" tone of Metamorphosis, one can only imagine this was one of Filmirage's last grasps at something resembling legitimacy; the Italian production behind such late pastaland cheesefests as Troll 2, Door to Silence, and a slew of '90s D'Amato erotic romps. Think of this one as a slap in the face of real Italian horror films as it seems to actively reject all charms of even the weaker amongst the country's genre heyday. This is what happens when the Italians try to be an American horror film; instead of almost parodying riffs from popular American horror in their own unique way. 

The still gorgeous Laura Gemser (Laurette Gemser in the credits) also appears on-screen in a bit part as prostitute thrashing around on a bed while topless in a thong. Don't get too excited because the lighting is horrible and sequence lasts all but a few seconds. Her presence here is like being amidst a nightmare and seeing a close friend who's unresponsive to your pleas for help. Just like Troll 2, the Emanuelle in America actress acts as wardrobe designer, probably the best thing about Metamorphosis. Unless you find Imperial's 3D-cover VHS in great shape with working light-up eyes, it's best to avoid this complete waste of ninety-three minutes. Even if you do find one in that condition, for fuck's sake don't dare watch this mess. Any of the other films mentioned are so much more worthy of a look in comparison.
.

Thursday, October 14

Operation Paratrooper (Private War) (1988) - HRS Funai Japan VHS

.
I must apologize for my daytripping in Japan this week. You see, I've caught an especially bad case of Far East tape fever as of late while trolling around eBay. So it's safe to expect more scans of new arrivals popping up in the near future. Frank de Palma's Operation Paratrooper starring Joe Dallesandro of Paul Morrissey Trilogy fame was chosen today due to Jack over at When the Vietnam War raged... in the Philippines mentioning BoGD in his latest entry about Phantom Raiders (1988). Just playing the nice gesture forward by featuring another combat quickie in the spirit of his great Filipino war blog. There's little on the 'net about Operation Paratrooper, besides this IMDB listing, but the cover features all of the patented traits. Barbed wire, huge fiery explosion, chopper, pensive looking hero with a gun, Apocalypse Now-like black and white photo of better times, and action stills of actors in bulky camo. It called out to me through the screen...

Here's the seller's detailed description: This is a little seen Yugoslavian/U.S. produced war actioner. The plot concerns this deranged 'Nam vet sergeant Vince Rayner (ANDY WARHOL cult actor JOE DALLESANDRO) who is torturing his own troops because of his own guilt. After he kills a person, he chops off their finger; second victim - 2 fingers, third victim - 3 fingers. And so on. Grim stuff. Well, one of his comrades in arms is out to stop the madness... and is out to get the Sarge. There's also a subplot about high-ranking weapon deals between the U.S. military and organized crime. Directed by FRANK DE PALMA (FUTURE TENSE, TV shows TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, LAND OF THE LOST, MONSTERS, EARTH 2, CHICAGO HOPE). Starring JOE DALLESANDRO, MARTIN HEWITT, KIMBERLY BECK, REGGIE JOHNSON, GEORGE SHANNON, SAM HENNINGS, B.J. TURNER, ROBERT J. BENNETT, CURT LOWENS, and FRANK ANDRADE.

Wednesday, October 13

Alien 2: On Earth (Alien 2 sulla Terra) (1980) - Daiei Video Japan VHS...plus word of an upcoming Blu-ray release (!?!)

.
Gotta thank Mr. Z over at TOMB IT MAY CONCERN again for this heads up. An "upstart" studio, Midnight Legacy (rare cult supplier Midnight Video), has just announced Ciro Ippolito's Alien 2: On Earth for an upcoming restored BD release. The tentative specs are certainly impressive, especially the 2k telecine of the original 35mm negative with footage never before seen (Japanese VHS runs 80 minutes). It also appears they've already finished the high definition MPEG-4 AVC encode. If not ruined by noise reduction or authoring issues, these particulars bode well for picture quality that at least approximates the appearance of the negative--good or bad. Although thirty-thousand units is a huge quantity for a "limited edition" considering this title and "soft niche" status of the format, so I doubt this release will sell out quickly once unleashed. We'll see...

Tuesday, October 12

Strike Commando (1987) - 1987 Cinema International Corporation Video Japan VHS

6.
 An absolute trash action classic from Bruno Mattei starring the immortal Reb Brown that deserves to be held in the same light as Troll 2.
This is CIC's "budget" $40 release, visit Japanese VHS Hell for a scan of the $180 rental release.

Monday, October 11

Some quick thoughts on Warlock (1989)

.
Moments before execution, a 17th century warlock (Julian Sands) teleports to present day (well, 1989) in search of pieces of the witch's bible, The Grand Grimoire, scattered across America. Just before the portal closes, a witch hunter by the name of Redferne (Richard Grant) follows the Warlock to halt his evil quest. Soon the two become entangled with 20-year-old Kassandra (Lori Singer) with Redferne joining forces with the cursed woman who ages twenty years with each passing day to break the spell and stop the Warlock from destroying the world with the discovery of the true name of God.

Where have you been all my life, Warlock? This has been one of those films I've been aware of for years but simply never bothered to actually see. My neglect has been a mistake since this Roger Corman-produced work helmed by Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part 2/3, House) and written by David Twohy (Pitch Black, The Arrival) was well worth the time. Given Twohy's heavy sci-fi background, Warlock only dips its toes into the horror genre while primarily focusing on the more fantastic aspects of sorcery and mythology surrounding its battling characters from long ago. Anal fantasy fans may get their Dungeons & Dragons decks in a bunch over the film's swift pace, but this is the true beauty of what could be called Miner's best feature.

Instead of bogging down in the more detailed questions raised by the spells casted and ethereal abilities gained, Twohy wisely places faith in the intelligence of the viewer to understand these elements of increasing implausibility as simply part of the film's vernacular. Once eased into how the Warlock and his pursuer face off using the black arts, every twist feels like a bloom of creativity instead of posturing hyperbole or plot convenience. Aspects like the Warlock's methods of acquiring new abilities, Redferne's familiarity in a modern day Mennonite, and exactly where the pages of the The Grand Grimoire end up exhibit awesome imagination. All these little touches act as great propellant to keep watching and the lack of grisly violence is more than made up for by Julian Sands's ruthlessly menacing performance. The optical effects, like the Warlock's plasma-like fire, are also quite good and nearly seamlessly executed for the budget and era. Warlock was far more I expected going in and easily outclasses similar films like Necronomicon: Book of Dead (1993) or even Wishmaster (1997). Definitely one to either revisit or see for the first time like myself.

Although the old Trimark/Lionsgate DVD kinda sucks. Instead of the decent anamorphic transfers the studio afforded to Dead Alive (Braindead) (1992) and The Ugly (1997), Warlock is presented in unmatted full frame taken from an ancient video master. Overbearing blacks, dot crawl around edges, rainbows of chroma noise, and combing plague the image. Watchable, but if one already owns the LaserDisc or VHS, there's little reason to upgrade. One funny thing about the filmographies is Miner's 1998 credit for Halloween H20 being listed as "Halloween: The Revenge of Laurie Strode".
.

Sunday, October 10

Don't Answer the Phone! (1980) - 1982 MEDIA Home Entertainment VHS

.
I've always loved this cover. Taken at face value, it could be a strange instructional video detailing spousal abuse.  
Don't Answer the Phone!: Do I Have to Slap a Bitch?

Saturday, October 9

VHS Face-Off: Grotesque (1988) - U.S. MEDIA Entertainment vs. Japanese AV NEC Avenue

.
A group of punks break into the Aspen home of a too-old-for-the-character Linda Blair in search of money only to brutally murder her parents and college friend. Blair escapes and retreats, in bare feet and silk nightdress, into the mountainous snow-laden forest surroundings. Upon finding a secret room behind a book shelf, one of the punks (Robert Z'Dar) unwittingly lets loose a frightened, deformed young man who animalistically dispatches any of the invaders he crosses. Eventually, Blair "leaves the picture" as screen vet Tab Hunter arrives with the police playing the brother of Blair's slain father and then proceeds to run rings around the acting ability of everyone else. The cops blast doughboy's face off as Hunter cries out in anguish (foreshadowing!). The surviving punks come up with a bullshit story about the freak killing everyone and appear to be getting away with their carnage, but Hunter has other "grotesque" plans...

Schizophrenic, much? We basically have bland horror, exploitation, police procedural filler, and revenge thriller elements collapsing in like an unwatched cake made by someone baking for the first time in their life. I've heard the cavalcade of mediocrity heaped upon this aborted Linda Blair vehicle for quite sometime. While this malcontent is justified, Grotesque would make one hell of a study tool for beginning film editors. A good portion of the match cutting between different shots is timed so horribly that flow feels nothing short of awkward. It's like slivers of footage was trimmed off basic dialogue exchanges, not to mention jumpy violence, that only acts to constantly throw the viewer off. An outstanding example of the importance of film editing; so bad that even any Syfy Channel feature handily schools this excuse.

There's no nudity to help this one go down smoother, including Blair who was smokin' in Savage Streets, probably due to her role as one of the film's associate producers. No real gore either with the only exhibition being an aftermath shot of a shotgunned face (seen on the Japanese cover). Grotesque indeed sucks, but if you're in one of the those extremely rare moods, it might somehow hit the spot. If only for how patchwork stupid the entire thing is. A film that barely qualifies as belonging to the horror genre that should have been radically reaccessed during production to instead shoot a hardboiled revenge/action picture starring Tab Hunter blowing the piss outta punks. The actor seriously makes the last reel watchable and makes one wish the last misspent hour hadn't occurred.

Thanks to David Z. over at TOMB IT MAY CONCERN, I grabbed the Japanese VHS above last week. David said it was uncut but he had only seen that tape. I was eager to check out this edition upon seeing the cassette listed a 93 minute runtime; or thirteen minutes longer than the 1987 U.S. MEDIA release. After near-gruelingly checking out both, the version presented on both is identical. All the dumb editing, jumpy violence, no nudity, and reel change burns. Except for the Japanese tape featuring an extended ending.

On the stateside 81 minute MEDIA, the final shot freezes, shrinks towards the middle of the screen (like an old school music video), and the credits roll. On the 84 minute Japanese, the final shot flutters and then burns away. On the white screen we then see producers standing and arguing while Frankenstein (Mike Lane of The Monster Squad TV series & Frankenstein 1970) and the Wolfman argue in the projection booth about the film's depiction of monsters. The two decide to go down and scare the audience comprised of Grotesque's cast and crew. After the crowd runs screaming they both hug, agree they're still the scariest, and then the credits roll. Uncertainly not what this film needed to be better, but there it is. If anything that extension only adds to Grotesque's wildly herky-jerky nature. Unfortunately, the edited American VHS actually has better picture quality and considering the film's quality--your choice depends on preference. That's if you care enough anyway...
.

Thursday, October 7

Look Through Your Recent Newspapers & Periodicals Before They're Tossed!

.
...to save those Hatchet II and I Spit on Your Grave print ads!

Speaking of Clownhouse (1989)

.
Here's a cover scan of MGM's canceled DVD. As stated before, the studio pulled this from release in late 2003 at the very last minute due to complaints of the family of star Nathan Forrest Winters. The first copies leaked went for hundreds at auction, but eventually certain sellers on Amazon and eBay had decent amounts saved from recycling (or maybe MGM just didn't care) going for what this disc originally retailed for anyway. That's where I picked up this still sealed copy. Currently this release seems to have gone back up in value...  

Wednesday, October 6

Tuesday, October 5

What you've heard already, Hatchet 2 pulled from theaters...

.
Son of a bitch. Unfortunately I couldn't get to Adam Green's Hatchet II over the weekend, despite being a mere twenty miles from an AMC theater with showtimes. After showers granted me the day off yesterday, I checked the AMC website, like I did early Sunday morning, only to discover the film's listing completely missing. Late yesterday Green tweeted about his latest pulled from the theater chain, thus explaining this premature disappearance.

Unless this whole thing is merely a publicity stunt for the home video release (UNRATED! RIPPED FROM THEATERS!), it's a damn shame AMC decided to pull Hatchet II, especially if the reason stemmed from any thumped-up controversy stirred by the chain running an unrated feature. Big damn deal. It's hilarious some still get uptight over the possibility of "unrated" films playing at their local multiplexes when anyone can walk into any of the thousands of Wal Marts nationwide and purchase a bevy of unrated movies from various genres from every studio imaginable.

Only the under-rock ignorant would climb upon their self-righteous high horses over the prospects of a bit more fake blood and tits in a goofy slasher flick playing on the same screens as whatever hollow CG cartoon horseshit they consume. I still applaud AMC and Dark Sky for enabling the complete director's vision on mainstream screens, but AMC needs to grow a pair. It'll be very interesting to see how AMC's weekend openings (theater list here) of I Spit on Your Grave: Unrated will play out. While Hatchet is mindless fun, I imagine I Spit... will be more of a true uncut endurance test and hopefully have some real objectionable fodder for those who wish to fake outrage...

Via Entertainment Weekly: Just a couple of days after the release of Hatchet II, the AMC theater chain has pulled the unrated slasher sequel from all of the cinemas that were showing the movie. “We woke up this morning and the movie was gone,” says director Adam Green. “I’m bewildered and confused.”

Green had earlier told EW that AMC volunteered to exhibit an unrated version of Hatchet II after the MPAA declined to give the movie an R rating. “It turns out the people who make the decisions at AMC were big fans of the original Hatchet and loved the sequel,” the director said at the time. “I think the quote was that they thought it was the best slasher sequel they’d ever seen.”

The decision by AMC to exhibit an unrated film attracted a lot of attention in the media—as did Green’s attacks on the MPAA, which included his assertion that it was an “evil” organization. Green now speculates this may have been the reason why the chain pulled his movie, which stars Kane Hodder as a swamp-dwelling homicidal maniac named Victor Crowley. “I assume it probably had something to do with the controversy online about an unrated movie playing in theaters,” says the director. “To me, the whole thing is unfortunate because this is not a movie that deserves to be unrated. It’s a very funny, silly slasher movie about a swamp ghost that’s killing people in ridiculous ways. And now it’s become, you know, ‘Banned from cinemas.’ I’ve lost 11 pounds in the last week from stress.”

A spokesperson for AMC confirmed Hatchet II had been pulled from all of the company’s screens, and issued the following written statement: “At AMC theaters, we review all films in all of our theatres every week and then make our business decisions based on their performance.”

Green says that he is not disappointed with the performance of his film, which during its limited, truncated release grossed less than $70,000. “It’s an unrated cult movie that didn’t have commercials and all those other things,” he says. “I don’t see them pulling a movie on Sunday because it doesn’t look like the box office is going to blow people away.”

Green insists that while he has now given up hope of Hatchet II being granted any subsequent substantial life on the big screen, he remains sure that his film will still prove popular with horror fans. “The good thing is that the biggest audience for this movie—because it was for the first one—is going to with on demand and DVD,” he says. “I know that [Hatchet 2 distribution company] Dark Skies, in light of it being pulled prematurely, is going to do everything they can to get it to the fans as fast as they can. And that’s exciting. I don’t really make hardcore movies. I’m doing a kids movie next! Hopefully, this is the last time I’m ever even going to deal with something like this.”
.

Monday, October 4

Some quick thoughts on Jeepers Creepers (2001)

.
These thoughts were inevitable since this damn movie seems to keep finding me online through seemingly unrelated searches. Random occurrences of pictures of The Creeper popping up in Google Image Search for some unknown reason. So I guess some distant cosmic flare is calling upon me for a revisit. To be honest, while one should always divorce the art from the artist in criticism, it's hard not to think of writer/director Victor Salva as a deplorable excuse for a human being.

One could make the Polanski excuse and say Salva had a hard childhood, but that's absolutely no excuse for harming a child regardless of life's circumstances. The filmmaker has served the time that the state deemed fit, paroled early from a three-year sentence, although that does not absolve his abhorrent actions whatsoever. And not to defend Mel Gibson, but it's funny how the media ballyhoos a loudmouthed anti-semitic racist in Hollywood as something akin to a crime against humanity. Yet a convicted pedophile like Salva is allowed to continue and achieve his greatest career success with this feature without much incident. Hell, the only thing I can recall is MGM canceling their DVD edition of Clownhouse (1989), the film in which Salva molested the 12-year-old lead, in the twilight hour (hence the abundance of sealed copies floating around) due to complaints from the victim's family.  

All this said, Jeepers Creepers is one hell of an offering given its year of release. Horror was in a transitional period at the dawn of the most recent millennium. Craven's Scream in 1996 spurred a rather pretty boy cycle of postmodern slashers. After four years, the box office luster had worn thin as these derivatives gradually shifted from horror to more glossy melodramatic hot young talent showcase. The vastly underrated Idle Hands tanked, the Blair Witch phenomenon quickly hit oversaturation, the absolute classic Session 9 totally ignored, and Scary Movie lampooned the hurting state of the genre. To add insult to this floundering, the Far East horror invasion was in full effect and handing America its own ass. The stateside mainstream needed a hero and Salva's The Creeper ended up being the strongest new horror icon before the Asian remakes and torture porn cycle plowed over the franchise.

There's simply much to love about Jeepers Creepers despite some contrived bumps. Salva constructs a palpable sibling relationship between leads Justin Long and Gina Philips. The somewhat predictable resolution to The Creeper's quest has a great deal of genuine impact from how strongly these two anchor the film. Disregarding the goofy truck (some love it); the mythos behind The Creeper, Jonathan Breck's performance, and Brian Penikas's creature make-up are all fantastic. There's something inherently "frankensteinish" about an "assemblage monster", but Salva adds an additional kick in his creation's need to self-acquire these parts through smell and its ability to continually "replace" damaged pieces. It's simply an excellent, well-devised concept deserving of further exploration and celebration. The only needless aspect is Jezelle, the African American psychic/quack that essentially serves as a prototypical "magical negro" with her insight into the futures of the white protagonist bro and sis. Should have just omitted her and saved all that for later...

I've never seen the sequel, but Salva's third entry appears to tie back to the first feature with Gina Philips reprising her role and teaming up with Ray Wise's character from the sequel. It'll be interesting to see if the franchise can prove successful, if granted a big wide theatrical release, in today's climate. Then again, the whole Saw thing is dying on the vine and Paranormal Activity has rekindled the spark of The Blair Witch Project. Perhaps The Creeper's boomeranged comeback could do the same. As an aside, MGM's SE DVD of Jeepers Creepers is a rare bird being one of the only mass-produced triple-layer DVDs. The single-layer "top" houses the special features while the dual-layer "bottom" features the full screen and widescreen versions of the film. No word of a U.S. Blu-ray release as of yet.
.

Sunday, October 3

Deal Alert: Fox's Omen Blu-ray Collection currently only $23.99 @ Amazon

.
This was too sweet not to give a heads up and thanks to HorrorTalk for bringing this to my attention. Amazon currently has a price of $23.99 on Fox's The Omen Collection featuring The Omen (1976), Damien: Omen II (1978), The Final Conflict (1981), and The Omen (2006). The quasi-fourth entry, The Awakening, was shot on standard definition video being made-for-television so it remains DVD-only. The four film entries in this BD set sport great, film-like high def transfers and that price is great considering Amazon has the standalone original and remake Blu-rays at $10.99 each. Grab it like I before the deal suddenly disappears by clicking the non-affiliate linked ominous message below! 

Omen Collection

Saturday, October 2

Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (死霊のはらわた2) (1987) - Renaissance Pictures Japanese LaserDisc

.
LaserDisc doesn't get enough love on BoGD, but the truth is, I've never really felt a ravenous desire towards collecting them. I'll certainly look through a stack if presented with the chance; however, I'm not usually inclined to go out of my way in search of them online. The strange thing being that I tend to find CEDs more often digging around local junk than DVD's large-plattered precursor. Maybe it's a geographical thing? Anyway, this LD of Evil Dead 2 hailing from Japan was purchased from a long bygone trader friend at a swap meet. I can't remember the price, but it was way back when Elite first released their Collector's Edition LaserDisc. The guy was bummed with the cottage cult bootleg industry dying off to the rising tide of domestic studios releasing once rare films on LD and DVD starting the late '90s. Later on, Bruce's autograph was sneakingly obtained after a If Chins Could Kill-only signing session at the first Horrorfind Weekend.

click for huge as usual, unsure why Dario decided to show up on the back...

Friday, October 1

Some quick thoughts on Backwoods (1987)

.
A couple go camping in an area unadvised by a ranger and befriend a creepy old timer upon saving his young daughter's life. After an uneasy evening of dinner conversation with Karl Childers's father, they're rudely introduced to the man's savage vagabond son during the young woman's skinny dip the next morning. The unkept "geek" with a talent for biting the heads off chickens becomes infatuated with the woman's hair that reminds him of his deceased mother--that he killed. Things turn maniacal when the couple inadvertently kill the old man and his son takes out his rage upon the pair.

Dean Crow's Backwoods is a 60/40. One of those "gray area" flicks that's content with being somewhere around 60% suspense thriller and 40% cheap horror movie. The poison of choice here is the slasher that was rapidly dwindling in popularity by the late '80s. Many staple ingredients are in place including a generic maniac, a heroine suddenly turning from nervous wreck to MacGyver, plenty of boneheaded decisions, full frontal, and a scuzzy hicksploitation feel that's right at home with Joe Giannone's Madman or Jeff Liberman's Just Before Dawn years earlier. The problem is, while embracing many old conventions of slasherdom, writer/director Crow's commitment comes off halfhearted and somewhat ashamed of relying on them.

Given the low budget, credit must be given to Crow for delivering the creeps. A nice atmosphere of tension settles in as we listen to every ambiguous, vaguely threatening word of the elder hillbilly's slow cadence. Scenes in which you come to question the true motivation of the old man compared to his wild son who remains locked in a shed near the ramshackle house. This is pretty much the lone reason to see Backwoods since, as one can probably tell, the kill count is unsatisfying low with a pool of only two or three potential victims. In fact, only one clear off-screen murder occurs aside from the "geek" spoiled on the back cover above.

That's another issue, the vagrant maniac is referred to as a "geek", or a carnie working freakshows ripping chicken heads off. I'm unsure if today's newer definition was used much back in '87, but I immediately think of a pencil neck computer nerd upon hearing it. So its use here almost appears as if Crow shoehorned in the old meaning to make the picture seem smarter than it actually is. In reality, the simple use of "geek", even in the climatic kill-or-be-killed showdown, makes any believability awkward and hard-to-swallow. Then we get an even stupider surprise twist and a text definition of "geek" before the end credits. Not to say this half-and-half effort is bad per se, but why drink an O'Douls like Backwoods on an occasion were one could easily partake in the real deal?
.
...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
Basement of Ghoulish Decadence, Basement of Ghoulish Archive, and all original material Copyright © 2009-present by Jayson Kennedy. All rights reserved.