Thursday, March 31

Mark your Calendars! Another New Cult VHS Release! David A. Prior's SLEDGEHAMMER...

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Press Release as originally noticed over at Severed Cinema:

SLEDGEHAMMER
Directed by David A. Prior
Stars: Ted Prior, Linda McGill, John Eastman, Janine Scheer, Tim Aquilar, Sandy Brooke, Stephen Wright.

Intervision is proud to present the return of the first shot-on-tape slasher movie for the home video market as well as one of the rarest genre films of all! The plot is familiar: A group of friends comes to party at a backwoods house where a legacy of brutality awaits. But within this minimalist '80s melange of food fights, feathered hair and abusive slow-motion lurks a relentless synth score, bizarre sexual subtexts and a disturbing shape-shifting behemoth killer. The result is 87 minutes of fever-dream depravity, now loaded with brand-new Bonus Features that put it all in skull-shattering perspective. Former Playgirl centerfold Ted Prior (RAW NERVE, DEADLY PREY) stars in this nightmare-logic shocker from writer/ director David A. Prior (KILLER WORKOUT) where the lines between twisted horror and historic gore are pounded to a pulp...by SLEDGEHAMMER.

Bonus Features include:
- Audio Commentary with Director David A. Prior
- Audio Commentary with Bleeding Skull Creators Joseph A. Ziemba and Dan Budnik. 
- Interview With Director David A. Prior- Hammertime: Featurette with DESTROY ALL MOVIES!!! Author Zack Carlson
- SledgehammerLand: Featurette with Cinefamily Programmers Hadrian Belove And Tom Fitzgerald

Also available in a limited edition (100 copies) VHS release available day/date with DVD!

RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2011
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Wednesday, March 30

Video: A Video Enthusiast's Plea...

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Tuesday, March 29

Darkman II: The Return of Durant - Behind the Scenes (1995) - MCA/Universal Promotional VHS

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It's good to keep a lookout for promo tapes that were sent out to video stores to garner interest in ordering rental copies. Most of the time, such behind-the-scenes video EPKs were later ported over as DVD supplemental material. Although sometimes studios left such footage, like this cassette, landlocked on analog tape. Universal has yet to grant Darkman II's digital incarnations with video extras beside the theatrical trailer. Unfortunately in my haste, I failed to notice the included tape was wrong and a blank. D'oh! Still, it's another example of something to keep those eyes peeled for...

Monday, March 28

Surf Nazis Must Die (1987) - 1987 MEDIA Home Entertainment VHS

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One day I'll actually watch this. Every now and again I get the itch but then while digging around for thoughts I become reluctant. The cover's probably the best aspect and Troma's initial videos distributed through MEDIA possessed the best artwork before Troma sucked the fun out of their own later video covers. It's hard to see from the scan, but the front sticker says "ACH TUNG 100% GRADE-A TROMA! Details on Surf Nazi Shirt offer follow movie!" I guess that was a way of providing incentive to stick with the movie to its conclusion. Also the cassette's labels are hot neon orange (see BoGD's official Facebook page for photo!)

Sunday, March 27

Just Before Dawn (1981) - 1983 Paragon Video Productions VHS

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Here's a well known tape to most collectors that I felt should have a proper scan available online. The brouhaha that erupted over Shriek Show's DVD release was palpable amongst this foundational slasher's fans back in 2005 despite its excellent supplements. That long awaited special edition re-release ended up being edited rather extensively unbeknownst to the DVD distributor. Much like their (far more) edited disc of Bill Herbert's Warlock Moon (1975). To complicate matters further, a now out-of-print British DVD from Odeon Entertainment features a version with a healthy amount of footage not seen in both this stateside VHS or DVD release.

From the IMDB, spoilers: "There are exactly 7 differences between the US Shriek Show DVD and the US VHS from Paragon. Unless otherwise noted, the Paragon VHS shows the full uncut version of the film. These are as follows: 1. The Shriek Show disc cuts right into the film with the "Doro Vlado" credit on the screen. The Paragon tape shows a few extra seconds of the woods before this as it slowly pans to the right and then the "Doro" credit appears. 2. Vachel's death scene (machete through crotch) is cut down by roughly 3-4 seconds. The Paragon tape shows this scene fully uncut. 3. When the group reaches the campsite by driving ("that's it folks, end of the line"), the DVD cuts out two seconds at the end of this scene before the next shot of them exiting the camper occurs. 4. The scene where Megan and Jonathan are playing together in the water (by the waterfall) is cut down by 6 seconds on the DVD. 5. When Jonathan is kicked back into the water by the killer (later on in the film) his splash back into the river is cut down by two-three seconds. 6. The first few seconds of Daniel walking in the graveyard is cut down. 7. The scene right after the Ranger picks up Merry Kat on the horse and we see Connie sitting by the fire is cut down. The DVD starts Connie's scene about 1 millisecond before you hear the whistle in the woods. The Paragon tape shows her sitting and staring into the fire for a few seconds first and then you hear the whistle."

Saturday, March 26

Video: This Morning's Swap Meet Finds

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Thursday, March 24

Cyborg (1989) - 1989 Cannon Video LaserDisc

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While rooting around on Amazon I found this LaserDisc of Albert Pyun's Cyborg to accompany my Cannon Video VHS. A few years after this release, MGM/UA released their own LD with the benefit of letterboxing and Dolby Surround (much like their eventual DVD). Still, the picture quality of this unmatted full frame disc is considerably better than Cannon's tape which has a yellowish/orange hue. Also be sure to read about the recent discovery and availability of Pyun's original director's cut over at Twitch and Albert Pyun Movies on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 23

Body Fever (1969) - VEC Canadian VHS

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Monday, March 21

Retro Tech: Zenith Personal Control Center "Multi-Brand" Remote

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For something a little different, here's an ancient universal remote control found at a thrift shop over the weekend. It's a Zenith Model PCC100 in mint condition that controls certain TVs, VCRs, and Cable Converters. I'm unsure when manufactured, but it has to be older than 1988 since it only supports codes for Sony's Betamax and first-gen Video8 machines along with other brand VHS units. Such "codes" were actually input via a 14-pin rocker DIP switch above the 3-AAA battery compartment. You can look up through the compartment and see a bunch of archaic traces so I'm doubting this remote has any kind of microchip brain like modern changers. Unfortunately all of my old VCRs have only wired remotes and I still haven't found codes for this particular model. Still quite rare to find in such condition. Understandably remotes are usually beat all to hell.

Sunday, March 20

Psychomania (1973) - 1984 MEDIA Home Entertainment VHS

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Being a genre cockroach, copies of Don Sharp's Psychomania are bound to survive the apocalypse. Few other horror flicks have been released so many times by so many distributors as this dated kitschy undead biker thing. I've never seen this release by the once-titan MEDIA before today...   

Saturday, March 19

Witchboard 2: The Devil's Doorway (1993) - Hollywood AudioVision Productions/CFD Bootleg DVD

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Kevin Tenney's follow-up to his previous '86 Witchboard could be described as a made-for-Lifetime Network "horror" movie. A pretty, vulnerable woman dealing with a rugged pretty boy ex while courting a younger pretty boy and an ethereal she-bitch. Some peril, work-related tension, and no real teeth to the toedips Tenney gingerly takes into the horror genre. A competently-made piece of boring filmmaking and something you can literally start watching, hit fast-forward, and still know exactly what's going on.

Although this ultra scarce DVD is interesting. It's rare to find such bootleg craftsmanship in covering up the fraudulence of what amounts to a movie few even remember. The cover, with unique artwork not seen on the VHS, is printed on usual high quality glossy stock and the single-layer disc is factory pressed. It has a movie-themed main menu, six chapter stops, Dolby stereo track, and even removable Chinese and accurately translated(!) English subtitles. The crease to the spine is "natural" and something seen randomly with these oddball Chinese boots. 

The full frame transfer is interlaced and in no way striking, but suffers zero tape-related defects. No drop-outs, wavy lines, or rolls. If this transfer was sourced from a VHS tape, it was done so professionally or we might even be seeing a video master of some sort. But then again, the original North American VHS looked strong regardless. You'll also notice on the back the film is made out to be a Tri-Star production. Credit has to be given for a mention of Sony Pictures DVD Center since Columbia Tri-Star is under their distribution umbrella. In reality, the defunct Republic Pictures was behind Witchboard 2 and their catalog is mostly handled by Paramount Pictures currently.            

Friday, March 18

Faces of Death III (1985) - Late '90s Gorgon Video Bootleg VHS

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Upon picking this one up last weekend, I spotted something odd about the cassette. Just below the sticker label are the words "© Disney Enterprises, Inc." printed on the tape's plastic. Carefully peeling back the label revealed the cassette actually being a copy of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). Also notice how the graphics are slightly off center on all sides.

Watching it, the bootleggishness was confirmed as a VCR's "PLAY" indicator appears on the screen at the very start. After the feature the rest is recorded over with dead signal. Strange someone once went through the trouble considering how tame (or faked) this installment seems nowadays with the moving atrocities readily available with a stroll outside the confines of YouTube...

Thursday, March 17

Hard to Die (Sorority House Massacre III) (1990) - 1993 New Horizons Home Video VHS

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Is it a slasher? A Die Hard clone? Nope. Jim Wynorski's Hard to Die is a movie in which boobs squeak like dog chew toys when squeezed. Basically a skin-oriented sequel/remake of Wynorski's previous Sorority House Massacre II of the same year with many of the same actresses and Peter Spellos reprising the killer(?) Orville Ketchum character. When looking at this as something that would play along side Anna Nicole Smith's acting opus Skyscraper (1996) on late night Cinemax, it's a decent bit of voluptuous vixen fluff. Although those looking for a straight-up horror or action flick will probably be disappointed as those claims are trumped up marketing.

According to an interview in John McCarthy's book The Sleaze Merchants, Wynorski was approached by Roger Corman's wife to "secretly" shoot a quickie in Corman's Concorde studios while she and her husband were on vacation. The screenplay was written in three days and an initial version of the film shot in one week without Corman's knowledge. A surprised Corman loved the result so much he requested Wynorski shoot the film again and make it even more outrageous. The original title was Tower of Terror.

New Horizons VHS cover states an R rating while the cassette label states Unrated with an 81 minute runtime. The IMDB says the MPAA granted the film an NC-17 at 77 minutes. New Concorde's DVD splits the difference with an "R" at 81 minutes. Unsure what's correct; there isn't anything that wouldn't fall outside the bounds of a plain 'ol "R" either way. True to the marketing falsehoods, the two middle stills on the back and spine aren't from the film and the official trailer has footage also not in the film (@ 0:39-0:43 and the building explosion/tunnel fire stream).

Wednesday, March 16

Dawn of the Dead (1978) - 1983 Thorn EMI Video Betamax

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Only five years after the theatrical debut and they already deemed Dawn a classic. Damn straight.

Tuesday, March 15

Fear No Evil (1981) - 1983 Embassy Home Video Betamax

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Frank LaLoggia's Fear No Evil is not only the worst kind of horror effort, but cinematic work in general. Reminiscent of The Nightmare Never Ends (Cataclysm) (1980), there's so much squandered potential in the Lady in White writer/director's debut feature that the viewing experience is nothing but frustrating. There's not only glimpses of interest peppered throughout but also brilliance awashed in technically solid execution, excellent optical effects work, and a great score arranged by LaLoggia himself and notable punk/new wave soundtrack. Marry that with the back synopsis on this tape and you'd think you're at least in for something interesting.

And make no mistake, this nonetheless impressive crossbreed between '80s slasher youth aesthetic and "serious" demonic possession/apocalypse concept is interesting, just in all the wrong, irritating ways. LaLoggia structures his narrative by inexplicably giving characters the assumed knowledge of the audience. As viewers, we learn or expect things during the course of the feature and eventually, usually without much or no explaination, characters somehow gain the same insight. Other times, you get the sense characters know things the viewer should know yet we're mostly left in the dark. I'm also betting during the creation of Fear No Evil, everyone involved probably figured it would all make sense when finally put together. As it turns out, LaLoggia might be the only one able to comprehend of his own schizophrenia. If that's hard to digest, just try making heads-or-tails of this mess that's punch-drunk with itself.

It's honestly a crying shame because with a more linear approach Fear No Evil could have been a minor masterpiece. The difference being the real horror masterpieces LaLoggia aspires to be in league with, like The Exorcist or Carrie, possess clear logic with any questions building toward their conclusions. As LaLoggia's maiden voyage stands, it's like random chunks of a larger, potentially classic horror film pieced together in sequential order. Attractive cover though...

Sunday, March 13

Oasis of the Zombies (L'abîme des morts vivants) (1981) - Filmland Canada VHS

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Continuing with the impromptu Franco theme! Filmland's tape isn't particularly hard-to-find, but this clamshell version is.

Saturday, March 12

Manhunter (Sexo caníbal /Jungfrau unter Kannibalen) (1980) - 1986 Trans World Entertainment VHS

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In keeping with yesterday's Jess Franco/Trans World Entertainment motif, here's TWE's clamshell of Franco's truly atrocious cannibal rape/thing exploiter Manhunter (1980). This was one of the few tapes I purchased long before seriously beginning to collect tapes. I remember belaboring the five bucks I had to shell out. Anywho, this lurid cover is best thing about the flick and notice the twin towers in the background which are obscured on Severin's Devil Hunter DVD cover (seen here).

Friday, March 11

Bloody Moon (Die Säge des Todes) (1981) - 1985 Trans World Entertainment VHS

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Absolutely tremendous artwork, one of my favorites in my collection.

Thursday, March 10

Subspecies (1991) - Full Moon/Sirius Publishing, Inc. MovieCD CD-ROM

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Anyone remember MovieCDs? My memory of this failed computer video-based "stopgap" format goes back to when EBGames was known as Electronics Boutique. There was a row of them, nearly untouched, towards the back of the store for what seemed like years. After DVD debuted, it wasn't long before they simply disappeared from shelves everywhere into the scrapheap of history.

Looking back, the format seemed doomed to begin with considering how many system requirements one's PC needed to have. There's even a troubleshooting foldout in the clamshell case that runs down a litany of potential conflicts. Not to mention the film being spread out on two discs, viewing on the computer screen, a whooping video bitrate of 211 kilobytes per second, and a hardly-better-than-VHS 320x236 resolution. Laughable nowadays with the usual 30-50 megabyte per second bitrate of many 1920x1080 Blu-rays. There's a bunch of hoops to jump through to watch MovieCDs on modern operating systems. Blah, just hop on over to YouTube...

Tuesday, March 8

Monday, March 7

Some quick thoughts on Faster (2010)

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After being freed from prison over a branzen bank robbery, "Driver" (Dwayne Johnson) immediately charts out a cold trail of vengeance upon a group of individuals responsible for the brutal execution of his brother. Two men soon take pursuit of the vigilante, "Cop" (Billy Bob Thornton), a gruff detective destined for retirement and "Killer" (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), a professional work-for-hire assassin dealing with inadequacy issues.

If director George Tillman Jr.'s Faster sounds like a walking action flick cliché, that's because The Rock's latest undoubtedly is. In fact, this pseudo-Western in urban outfitting winkingly celebrates its familiar stomping grounds. But it's right kind of old hat, more a homage to traditional themes that have ran through the genre for years rather than a pre-packed cribnote of better pictures like John Cena's unofficial Die Hard sequel, 12 Rounds. Instead of taking the coy family-friendly tone of that WWE-produced dreck, the first five minutes of Faster sees its shady protagonist silently marching into an office building and murdering an employee at point blank range. That in itself is refreshing, especially for a feature starring an ex-sports entertainer. Despite an on-going spat of disposable Disney backwash, Johnson proves a reliable action star with acting chops that surpass the genre's now rusted buff guy stalwarts. By far the best and most likable wrassler-turned-actor ever.   

Although that doesn't save Faster from being rather muddling in a good rental sort of way. If you couldn't tell by their names in the outline, all of the characters are usual archetypes we've all seen. Billy Bob Thornton brings his now standard salty and loose acting persona to an unkempt detective with both crushing heroin and martial problems who's literally "ten days to retirement." Oliver Jackson-Cohen is a slick contract killer who decides to quickly complicate his life with marriage and a vow to quit his occupation after this one last job. Everyone else has names like "Warden" or "Old Guy", so you know what to expect. And of course, exposition is revealed as the brisk ninety-eight minutes moves along that absolves Driver's ruthless means of revenge to the audience. He's not really a bad dude after all and some of the actual bad dudes are additionally horrid, like the man who videotaped the gangland execution being a snuff/underage porn peddler on the brink of harming a child before getting a bullet to the head.

One wishes Tillman didn't rely quite as much on this been-there-done-that. You only groan when you see touches like character names and days displayed on-screen in "action font" intertitles. Yet there's a certain fun nodding sensibility about the entire film. Guido and Maurizio de Angelis's great theme for Enzo G. Castellari's Street Law (Il cittadino si ribella) (1975) is used in pieces over the opening credits. Shades of Richard Sarafian's Vanishing Point (1971) echo as Driver tools around the desert in his Chevelle SS (that sorta becomes its own character) listening to a radio preacher speaking to the pitfalls of dangerous living. Leone's masterpiece The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (1966) is referred to both directly and through Faster's very narrative. Even Bruno Mattei-regular Jim Gaines has a walk-on as a one-eyed inmate in the very beginning.

I'm unsure how much I'll revisit Faster, but it's at least a recommended rental for vigilante fans. It's nothing new with a modern action sheen but far more respectable than Cena's bombs or seeing Seagal fat-chin his way through more direct-to-Wal Mart fare. Let's hope Johnson does more of this and saves that other stuff for when he's over-the-hill. Needless to say, Sony's Blu-ray is of reference quality; especially in video quality, the last reel is some of the very best looking home video I've ever seen.
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Sunday, March 6

Watching the superb House of Wax...

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...I wonder how much influence George Bau's amazing make-up had on Greg Nicotero, at least in this instance.

Saturday, March 5

True Crimes of Passion (1983) - 1983 Caballero Control Corporation Home Video VHS

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Before this "porn box" goes in the vault!

Friday, March 4

Thursday, March 3

The Vindicator (1984) - 1986 Key Video VHS

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The question that haunts Jean-Claude Lord's The Vindicator is what influence, if any, it had on Paul Verhoeven's far more well known RoboCop released a few years later. It shares many similar broad aspects such as a man reborn into machine by conniving creators, this time a NASA-like corporation, with a wife left behind he desperately misses. The whole revenge thing obviously comes in quick after the "rampage" described on the back cover amounts to a few people getting thrown around. Regardless, this chicken-or-egg question doesn't really matter since Lord's film manages to feel like a routine, almost entirely non-phantasmagorical rip-off of the 1987 classic.

In comparison, The Vindicator simply doesn't do much and doesn't build any larger a world than the one its few characters inhabit. An example is when the roboscientist first escapes by garbage truck and ends up in an incinerator. Using his newfound superhuman strength, the towering doors are busted down and fire rages forth from the side of an imposing concrete facade, but there's no one around. He's then wandering around a city street by night, throwing a trashcan through a window display after seeing his reflection, and is approached by three punks on roaring dirt bikes. Again, it's a ghost town. That sounds like a little detail yet it's another indicator this one's in, albeit watchable, B-grade territory. Pam Grier also shows up and is wasted as a bounty hunter assigned to find the "violently" malfunctioning creation. Paul Zaza's score is dated and often doesn't match the tone of the sequences it's married with. Stan Winston's mechanical suit design looks less impressive than the back's stills; at least on this old tape. Honestly, take it or leave it...or watch the ED-209's toe pad rattle once more. It wasn't long before I felt like I could safely hit the Stop button without missing anything interesting.

Key Video's VHS is cropped to full screen. The IMDB notes a 1.85:1 original aspect ratio and if accurate Key decided to zoom in and pan-and-scan the picture instead of taking the matte bars off. Nearly every other shot looks cramped with half faces or bodies and off screen voices. So obvious I wouldn't be surprised if the true widescreen ratio is 2.35:1 scope. Otherwise, the picture and sound quality is fine. I'm guessing 20th Century Fox doesn't have much interest in releasing this on disc.
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Wednesday, March 2

Who says horror icons aren't interested in pressing world affairs?

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Lupine Wolf - Lone Wolf with Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (1972) - 1988 JA Video Productions VHS

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You don't often see words like "calumny", "perfidy", "deft", and "indomitable" on "adventureous" (?!?) video covers!

Tuesday, March 1

Cyborg (1989) - 1989 Cannon Video VHS

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Albert Pyun's sci-fi/fantasy/action mash-ups are strangely enthralling. It's like the director has a tremendously epic vision in his head, but when realized on film, something simply doesn't connect. Cannon's final bomb Cyborg is no different. According to Wikipedia, the original plan was a Pyun-powered Masters of the Universe sequel and live-action Spider-Man feature, but those plans were ditched when the nearly bankrupt Cannon had to cancel licensing deals with Mattel and Marvel. Pyun then wrote the screenplay for Cyborg over one weekend, had nearly no cash to work with, tight scheduling, and re-purposed sets...and it shows.

It's basically Mad Max's plot set in a more Road Warrior-like setting where a plague has destroyed North America. The ever-scowling, baritone Vincent Klyn upstages Van Damme with his Shogun of Harle...Hoboken villain. Crap, yes, but still lots of unintentional laughs and amazingly horrible fight editing. Watch for Ralf Moeller, the big guy in Gladiator, as one of Klyn's warriors. One of the hollowed-out building locations can also be seen in Pierluigi Ciriaci's Italian war actioner Delta Force Commando (1988) starring Fred Williamson, Brett Clark, and Bo Svenson. Love the cover art for this tape; it has that hard-to-explain element that makes you really want to watch the film by merely looking at the box.

...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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