Thursday, June 30

Impressions of Shriek Show's new ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST Blu-ray

.
Instead of reiterating the same thoughts on this lovable piece of shit, here's a recap from this old entry about Paragon's VHS release: "I love how absolutely terrible this Italian schlock outing is, even by the usual Italian schlock standards. Girolami's film plays like a rip-off within a population of trashy trend rip-offs, like vomiting up pasta and then eating it again. Okay, perhaps that's a bad analogy. It's as if Fulci's Zombie had been filtered through cannibal flicks like Holocaust or Ferox with a generous dash of Martino's Mountain of the Cannibal God."

I've been waiting for this Blu-ray for quite some time. With Media Blasters BDs, patience is a virtue. It seems like many months ago now that I initially pre-ordered this one. After several missed dates, Amazon sent me an e-mail to verify if I still wanted to keep the pre-order. I did, but after more missed dates, I cancelled in frustration. Then I guess I must have pre-ordered the disc again because I totally forgot about it until a Monday shipping notice. Was the wait worth it?

Not particularly, but then again Media Blaster's releases (both Tokyo Shock & Shriek Show) on the high-def format have been racked with issues. Charges of standard definition upscales passed off as HD, actual shot-in-SD material passed off as HD (Machine Girl), video/audio glitches, framing quibbles, and most recently even missing opening footage on D'Amato's Beyond the Darkness (Buio Omega) compared to their old DVD.

The 1.85:1 1080p MPEG-4 AVC widescreen transfer is "adequate", but rarely ever looks high definition even by low budget early '80s standards. Colors are stable, objects on-screen appear more "solid", clarity is slightly improved, and impressively there's hardly any film damage. It's just that finer detail expected with the Blu-ray bump simply isn't there. There's some digital noise reduction, introducing some ghosting with fast motion and a sheening away of grain, yet it's not too obtrusive. There's rarely a moment when detail "pops" but even when it's not impressive. It doesn't help Girolami's camera is often out-of-focus, so there's many instances of random shots being downright blurry. The best portion is actually the last half hour, right around the time McCulloch destroys a zombie's face with a boat prop straight through to the credits. Although the difference is still slight.

My theory is that Media Blasters is utilizing the standard definition masters created for their old DVDs for their new Blu-rays. Basically we're seeing the best possible representation of their SD masters without the limitations of the DVD format and their shoddy authoring. Or just a much better version of their existing Zombie Holocaust DVD on the grounds of picture quality. Whether that's worth the upgrade is up to you. I've seen better pictures on regular 'ol DVD, but this is the best Zombie Holocaust "DVD" to date, if that makes sense.

The upside is that this presentation is fully uncut, like their DVD, running 1:24:05 (DVD runs 1:24:02). If you're a bitrate hound, no matter how murky or "kinda" sharp the picture gets, the AVC encode never drops below a surprisingly high 36 megabytes-per-second. This either means their encoder is incredibly inefficient or working double time to ensure the source is faithfully re-created. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo track (locked at 1.6 Mbps) is as good as it's ever going to get.

Aside from the questionable "HD" treatment, the other story are the missing/new supplements. The fifteen minute interview with Roy Frumkes, director of American Doctor Butcher M.D. opening, is gone along with that opening sequence. Despite this, some of Frumke's on-set photos are included in the high-def Still Gallery. (as noted by Bruce in the comments, and checking the disc again, these extras are indeed on the Blu-ray, although Shriek Show's access to them is dumb) The VHS-quality deleted jungle trap scene is the only thing under "Extra Scenes from the US Version". Interestingly, there's Italian-text and textless opening/ending credits in the extras not found on the DVD. The Italian Zombi Holocaust trailer is in HD while the German and U.S. trailers are in SD. The included DVD is the same as the existing one, so you still get all the absent extras in this BD/DVD package (although the standalone DVD had a reversible Doctor Butcher M.D. cover and fold-out insert with notes from Chris Poggiali and filmographies).

Oh, and there's this one little mysterious binocular shot change...?!


Wednesday, June 29

How to remove a VHS from those damn "Squeeze & Shake" cases without damage...

.
Akin to the three-sided security sticker on DVDs, the "Squeeze & Shake" case used by rental joints to "protect" slipbox VHS is a bane to tape collectors. They do a reasonable job of keeping a box in decent condition from grubby renter fingers, but as they age they often become yellowed, scuffed, and scratched. Either for the sake of ridding their VHS of such ugliness or uniformity on the shelf, most want to free these tapes from their plastic prisons. But for those that have tried, you're probably well aware of how deceivingly hellish it can be to remove fragile slipboxes without irreversible cardboard damage.

It's not too difficult, but the surgery does requires scissors, a little muscle, and most importantly patience. Being hasty could result in a forever damaged box. The most harmful area is the open bottom where you're supposed to squeeze the sides of the case to let the cassette slide out while keeping the box within the plastic. The box is held by a (usually) sharp ridged edge. The most often cause of damage is this edge tearing at the cardboard 90° angles when sliding the entire box out. Expensive tapes have been ruined this way.

First, look at the bottom "open end" of the case. See that little indent at the center? Carefully start a vertical cut with the scissors right out the middle. With some gentle muscle, hold both sides and peel them up toward the top, stopping when you've reach the top. The key is to pull the two sides apart slowly and avoid the temptation of overusing the scissors. Carefully repeat on the other side.


The hard part is over and both the front and back of the Squeeze & Shake sliced down the middle. Now there's two ways you can remove the box. The bottom end should be open wide enough to slide the whole thing out with scraping any edges (1.). If not, you can bend one of the sides around (2.) like a can of soup and remove the box that way. Remember to still be careful here, these damn things are like friggin' barbed bear traps. Preferably, it's advised to promptly burn the Squeeze & Shake once finished.

Tuesday, June 28

Terror at the Opera (Opera) (1987) - 1991 Unrated Southgate Entertainment VHS

.
As a little unannounced companion scan to the great Japanese VHS Hell's latest cover, here's Southgate's unrated VHS of Dario Argento's Opera. Southgate also released a severely truncated R-rated version. Naturally, the Japanese cover beats the snot out of this design, but it's tough to find this "almost" still sealed.

Monday, June 27

Camp Motion Pictures Re-Enters the (Big Box!) VHS Realm with The Basement!

.
Finally a press release lands in my e-mail that actually fits BoGD's content beautifully! I can only hope that this release is Approved by Bob Dobbs, figurehead of the Church of the SubGenius, like Camp Motion's vintage VHS titles and not artificially ultra-limited like Mondo's Sledgehammer debacle...

Camp Motion Pictures, the home entertainment company, specializing in 80’s and 80’s-style DIY cinema, unleashes a terrifyingly cool micro-budget cinema collection of five feature films in an exclusive VHS Collector’s Package that Joe Ziemba of BleedingSkull.com calls “A brain-baking vortex of DIY gore, suburban angst, and trash-gore exuberance!”

Eye-catching authentically ‘80s VHS poster illustration by noted graphic artist Vince Evans and “Big Box” design contains the never-before-released 1989 feature, The Basement, on VHS and DVD along with SOV cult cinema favorites Video Violence 1&2, Captives, and Cannibal Campout on DVD.

About The Basement
The Basement is the lost 1989 Super 8 anthology feature film directed by Timothy O’Rawe (Ghoul School). Restored by director of photography Michael Raso in 2010, The Basement is a shining example of 80’s DIY cinema inspired by Amicus Films’ Tales from the Crypt and features elaborate special make-up and creature effects by Scott Hart.

The Basement Synopsis: Four strangers are summoned to the basement of an abandoned house by a mysterious entity known only as The Sentinel. One after another, they are forced to witness heinous deeds they have yet to commit – and which will damn them for all eternity.

Swimming Pool– An unfaithful woman disposes of the evidence with a little help from a demonic water spirit.
Trick or Treat – Classic monsters exact revenge on a bitter man who refuses to honor Halloween.
Zombie Movie – Cocaine, hookers and reanimated corpses wreak havoc on the set of an independent film.
Home Sweet Home – A young man questions his sanity after purchasing a house where torture and mass murder were committed 6 years before.

About Captives: Referred to as “the most accomplished SOV horror film from this era,” Captives, the sophomore effort of director Gary Cohen (Video Violence 1&2), is now available for the first time in this director-approved version.

Captives Synopsis: Taken hostage by three violently deranged criminals, a woman fights back to save her baby and mother-in-law’s lives in this gritty and suspenseful crime drama from Gary Cohen (Video Violence 1&2)

Video Violence Synopsis: In this gore-soaked cult classic, a young couple opens a video store in a small town populated by violence-addicted amateur filmmakers, lead by the demented Howard and Eli.

Video Violence 2 Synopsis: The sequel to Video Violence finds Howard and Eli pirating a cable TV channel for the purpose of furthering their brand of homegrown depravity, madness and murder.

Cannibal Campout Synopsis: Deranged orphans torture, mutilate and murder innocent campers in this DIY classic from Jon McBride.

Frighteningly Enjoyable Bonus Features: The Basement Camp Retro ‘80s “Big Box” VHS / DVD Collection is loaded with new commentaries and spine-chilling extras including:

- The Basement Commentary
- Captives Commentary
- Video Violence Commentary
- Video Violence 2 Commentary
- Cannibal Campout Commentary
- The Basement Outtakes
- The Basement New Segment
- Short film: Vengeance
- Short film: Say No To Drugs
- Meadowlands Showcase Segment: Halloween Take Over
- Meadowlands Showcase Segment: The Long Road to Karaoke
- Meadowlands Showcase Segment: Long is the Night
- Interview with director Gary Cohen
.

Sunday, June 26

Speaking of rare but mangled-to-hell big box VHS...

.
This was wrenched from a moldy suitcase this morning. The synopsis on the back spoils 95% of the film!

Saturday, June 25

Doctor Butcher M.D. (Zombie Holocaust) (1980) - 1986 Thriller Video Big Box

.
My love for the "big box" (or porn box) is conflicted. On one hand, they're an important piece of horror history when the rental monopoly meant box art absolutely had to be as lurid and sometimes misleading as possible to be instantly eye-catching.

There was no Internet to spread the word on otherwise good flicks cursed with boring artwork. A perfect illustration of the extent distributors went is seen in the U.K.'s Video Nasty overreaction in the early '80s; when the media went to town pushing parliamentary prosecution over artist renderings on video boxes.

Yet big boxes are also a total pain-in-the-ass to find in good condition and not destroyed by time. That's part of the fun of collecting them, but a collector's normal instinct is a desire to find items in nearest to mint as possible. Clamshells have the advantage of being pretty hardy. It's not impossible locating clams in all sorts of fucked-up shape to only pull a perfect looking paper cover out from a plastic case that looked dumped in sewage. Still, beggars can't be choosers with this example, so I'll have to swallow my discontent over the creases, dents, and slices this big box has endure. It's all part of its character, being "mom and pop"-aged, with the damage complementing the wild art. The cassette is in excellent shape, Zombie Holocaust is like a greatest hits compilation of the prime Italian horror/exploitation era, and it was only fifty cents anyway...

Friday, June 24

Hey! I've seen that artwork before!

.
It's always cool when two interests unexpectedly intersect. Like at one time with tapes, I don't particularly "dig" for vinyl at swap meets. I'll look if something out-in-the-open happens to catch my eye but rarely do I ever hunker down and flip through a box of LPs. This was the case last weekend, when this beauty was the first one in a carton stuffed with metal albums.

I had never heard of this group or album before, so what made me pause from across the aisle? The art on the cover was also used by Prism Entertainment for their Visions of Evil (So Sad About Gloria) (1973) VHS/Beta clamshell seen here. I haven't seen the film nor do I own Prism's tape (yet), but this was rather nifty to come across. I actually thought it was a LaserDisc at first...

Thursday, June 23

Follow-up: Elm Street 2 & 3 Double Feature Blu-ray this September!

.
As a follow-up to this entry, Warner/New Line has revealed the back cover for their September 27th Blu-ray drop of A Nightmare on Elm Street Parts 2 & 3. I was mistaken about both being on one 50GB disc which is good considering separate encodes allows for more bitrate breathing room. Featurettes found in the Nightmare Collection Encyclopedia are retained and it's good to see the original mono tracks ported along with lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 remixes. I wouldn't be surprised if the other sequels follow suit for an eventual box set. Hopefully by that point Paramount will have gotten off their asses with the rest of the Friday the 13th series on the format...

Wednesday, June 22

I'm officially an elitist snob audiophile and/or damned hipster...

.
...with the purchase of my first-ever phonograph two days ago.

Alan Parker's Angel Heart OST Back Cover Notes

.

Since Angel Heart's soundtrack is rare, here's Alan Parker's notes about the film's music from the back of the LP. Also check out Record Fiend's entry about the soundtrack for more and an MP3 album rip.

"I was first introduced to William Hjortsberg's novel "Fallen Angel" soon after publication in 1978. Like a lot of hot proprieties, it was quickly gobbled up the Hollywood movie machinery and optioned by the gentlemen with the big cheque books. It proved, however to be a tough nut to crack as a movie and it came my way again in 1985.

The attraction for me was simple. The fusion of two genres a fantastic Faustian tale told as a classic Raymond Chandler detective story. I started writing the script in the summer of '85 and by January of '86 we were in pre-production in New York and New Orleans with a new title: Angel Heart.

From the outset I had tried to write the film's musical identity into the script. Music had always been important in my films but with each it seems to have come by a different route. With some it was a starting point, as with "Fame" where Michael Gore wrote his music as I wrote scenes for the film. With "Pink Floyd The Wall" Roger Water's music and lyrics were the entire narrative for the piece. In some of my other films, music came later with Giorgio Moroder's score for "Midnight Express" or Peter Gabriel's music for "Birdy" which was largely created by plundering the used (and often unused) 24 track masters of Peter's old albums.

I asked Trevor Jones to do the music for Angel Heart because I'd like his score for Konchalovsky's "Runaway Train" and had in fact already pinched a couple of tracks to use on my rough mix whilst editing the film. Trevor and I met in Paris and I explained that I'd admired the full orchestral score he's done for Konchalovsky. Trevor, with his consumate good manners, puffed at his roll-up and revealed sheepishly that the body of the score was synthesized on his synclavier.

Much for our source music had been done during filming. I'd cast the great old blues singer Brownie McGhee to play the character "Toots" and we re-recorded his "Rainy Days" in New Orleans.

In the script I had made Johnny Favorite's 30's hit pivotal to our story and I wanted it to haunt the movie as it had haunted Harry. From a mountain of 78's I chose "Girl of my Dreams" which was nostalgically familiar but not too connected with any one artist. Trevor cleverly wove the old theme into his new atmospheric score and had the the brain-wave of using the brilliant young Courtney Pine for the sax solo's. Courtney played along to the picture like a silent movie accompanyist and wound have continued from front to end credits if we'd let him.

To mix the music tracks Trevor had appropriately chosen the Angel Recording Studios, built in a disused church in Isington, North London. This was deja-vu for me as the mixing-room was once the room I'd spent every Sunday, as a kid, in the Boys Brigade. Trevor had layed down the separate tracks in what we called our "tool-kit" method allowing the greatest freedom when doing the final film mix at Warner Hollywood Studios. We've also included some of the film's dialogue and effects on this record mix to hopefully conjure up a little of the atmosphere of the movie.

HARRY
Do you know where I could find this Johnny Favorite?
BO
Only in the cemetery. You wanna hear one of tunes

Alan Parker, London '87.
.

Tuesday, June 21

The Greatest VHS listing on all of Amazon...

.
Dammit. Someone just had to notice it before me and snag this sweetass tape!

Monday, June 20

2000 Maniacs (Two Thousand Maniacs!) (1964) - Canadian VSC VHS

.
H.G. Lewis's seminal gorebombs are perpetually on fire in the world of tape collecting so it was a nice surprise finding this one yesterday. Video Service Corporation is a small Canadian outfit known to horror fans for being the first to distribute Bob Clark's Black Christmas on DVD with Critical Mass's 25th Anniversary Edition. This VHS is fairly recent, at least post-2000/pre-2004, but that doesn't necessarily make it a breeze to find. Such niche titles released when DVD was red hot in the marketplace seem nearly as hard to find as tapes from the early '80s.

Sunday, June 19

Nothing that cool for today...

.
I seldomly do "personal" entries on BoGD since I find myself rather boring (most of my daily meanderings occur on The Facebook). It seems throwing up a random cover scan garners more interest anyway. Though my parent's big ass Samsung LCD blew up so I'm now tasked replacing two small "muffin-topped" capacitors on the power board. The faulty Hansol-made boards seem to a widespread issue with the brand's LCDs which I was unaware of when recommending Samsung to them.

My "old" '04 Sammy DLP is still humming along rock steady, fingers crossed, so I used that as my basis for helping them. Kinda puts a damper on things, despite being an easy solder fix, with this huge black panel leaning in a corner pleading to get well. I guess it beats hauling the thing to The Geek Squad for them to do the same fix for some batshit crazy sum. Still tracking down the right ones @ 1000uF 10V, Radio Shack was a no-go. Higher voltage could work; however, I've fried an Onkyo receiver in the past so I'm gun shy to go testing in the realm of "should work".

This weekend's swap meets were fruitful. I've already shared the best finds, the AIR big boxes, but of course other tapes, discs of varying circumferences, and even some vinyl were horded which I'll be sharing throughout the course of week.

Last night's flick was Toshiharu Ikeda's Evil Dead Trap (1988) via Synapse Films' DVD. J-Horror evokes a certain perception of slow-burning atmosphere, but this example has been called a straight slasher and that's an excellent term to throw it under. Characters make stupid decisions, debauchery is had, logic is loose, the shocking kills elaborate, and the raincoat-adorned murderer echoes the dispatcher in The Prowler.

The whole thing runs long-in-the-tooth at 102 minutes. You begin realizing segments could have been trimmed away to better effect. Although the strong-hued visual style reminiscent of Dario Argento helps things along. It's also interesting that something so bloody, occasionally sleazy, and aspiring was in Japanese theaters while American's slasher giants filed their biggest homogenized disappointments. Synpase's disc is decent for one of their early releases. Non-anamorphic widescreen with good definition and color...with yellow (argh!) subtitles.

Saturday, June 18

Go into the wilds of Pennsylvania...breathe some fresh AIR (Video)...

.
Traveled way out today and ran across an old guy in a van with these five big boxes in a USPS Priority Mail box with "VHS" scrawled on one of the flaps. After activating "I will kill anyone who tries to touch these as I'm looking at them" mode and quietly shitting an angular brick in my shorts, I gave the guy the handsome sum of five crispy Washingtons and walked away like a boss.

I've seen the AIR Video big box of León Klimovsky's Blood Moon (Werewolf's Shadow, 1971) pop up on eBay before, but have never seen their Carnation Killer (Thriller series episode, The Colour of Blood, 1973) prior to today. The first two chopsockies, Kickmaster 44 and Hong Kong Hitman (Stoner, 1974), are also from AIR. Little Mad Guy (1982) is on a label I've never heard of before called "Cobra Video". The box says they're a division of Premiere Entertainment. If it's the same Premiere that I'm aware of, it might be of Canadian origin. Anyway, I'm all still giddy and freaking out...


Friday, June 17

The Thing (1982) - 1988 Universal/CIC Video South Korean VHS

.
The Thing is arguably John Carpenter's best work. If not, it's at least the best expression of apocalyptic paranoia within isolated groups running rapid throughout his filmography. It literally has everything, except estrogen, and that's probably for the better. Even the perceived strongest and most intelligent alpha males are utterly defenseless against such a horrifyingly plausible beast. The "thing" might be the greatest enemy creation in all of Horror. Something that never has a true self and can almost immediately alter its host to meet the demands of quickly changing threats. Just like a natural virus and an unintended analogy of the AIDS epidemic first coming into widespread public consciousness by 1982. Fucking scary monster flick stuff, especially down in the frozen asshole of the world...

Rob Bottin's effects are brilliant and watching The Thing in this era of CG-reliance makes you wonder if the same wholly practical approach could even be done today. Could the same amount of effects budget and time (Bottin nearly killed myself from exhaustion) produce the same quality today? Conversely, how much money and time would it take for computer wizardry to "approximate" such realism that stills holds strong thirty years on?

Thursday, June 16

Why Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet is everything wrong with modern slashers...

.
So Blood Night took awhile to get distribution in the States...I think I can peg why...











Wednesday, June 15

Retribution (1987) - 1989 Virgin Vision Standard Cover VHS (Correct Scan)

.
Here's a full scan of the common cover for Virgin Vision's Retribution to accompany this "alternate" cover posted a few weeks ago. It's nearly identical text-wise, but notice the longer runtime (109 vs. 107 minutes). Both tapes are the edited R-rated version, so your guess is as good as mine on why there's a difference and the cover change.

Tuesday, June 14

This made me cover my monitor in Fruit Loop bits...

.
...and almost makes me wanna watch TCM 4...almost...

Monday, June 13

Humongous (1981) - 1982 Embassy Home Entertainment Clamshell Betamax

.
All you need to know about Paul Lynch's Humongous is that the plot concerns a group of twenty-somethings stranded on an island with a pissed off hillbilly boy running amok with the director serving the proceedings up with little style or enthusiasm. Sorta like Friday the 13th Part 2 bonded with Hatchet if Adam Green's homage to early '80s slashers was actually an early '80s slasher and a dash of The Hills Have Eyes...only totally without the factor of how great that mixture sounds.

Those who troll flea markets regularly might already know where I'm going with the following. It's a mint Blockbuster ex-rental. Despite the mirth surrounding obscure slashers still landlocked on analog, there's nothing differentiating this example from the modern day stream of formulaic DTV slashers. The kind of no-namers easily found at swap meets as rental overstock barely touched either at the video store or in its new life as a $2 disc. A letdown considering how foundational and serviceable Lynch's earlier Prom Night is to the subgenre.

1986 slipbox / 1982 clamshell
That doesn't mean Humongous wasn't given an initial fuckin' badass home video release from Embassy Home Entertainment. To my knowledge, Embassy granted the flick three video releases. The first in 1982, one of the company's very first video releases, in a clamshell case and two others in 1983 and in 1986 (w/ a Nelson Entertainment cassette sticker) both their usual packaging choice of cardboard slipbox. The '82 clamshell is the one to seek being the rarest of the three by far and most, as stated, supremely badass. There's just something about clamshells versus slipboxes in which the small boxes most commonly associated with VHS and Betamax simply cannot win. The clamshell is also interesting for the very brief synopsis on the back as opposed to the drawn out outlines of the slipboxes that ruin the reveal of Victor Crowley's father inhabiting the island. The captions that accompany the stills is also a strange touch; almost as if the studio was still ironing out exactly how to entice potential renters. Videos of such vintage often didn't even have content descriptions. 

The caveat about all three releases is how dark the film-to-tape transfer is. I know longtime readers probably just rolled their eyes knowing how much of a picture quality stickler I can be, but seriously this is one of the darkest tapes I've ever seen. Adjusting the brightness and contrast doesn't help the abundance of jet black scenes with vague clumps of disembodied clothing and mouthless dialogue. Some of the problem may be Lynch's shit lighting but I'm inclined to believe someone fell asleep at the monitor while mastering this film for video. Hopefully Scorpion Releasing's eventual DVD sports a new transfer that cuts through the murkiness. The trailer below is revelatory in comparison.

Sunday, June 12

Something nifty regarding The X-Files on VHS...

.

Never realized until last night that each cassette in The X-Files "Carter Selected" VHS boxsets includes an enlarged trading card designed after an episode. Cool stuff. These three-tape sets seem plentiful now that the series has long been available on DVD. Even if you don't buy tapes, this might be incentive enough to grab the sets on-the-cheap and just give away or chuck the tapes in order to collect the cards...

What Wikipedia says about the VHS sets: "The original VHS release of The X-Files in North America consisted of selected episodes from each of the first four seasons, which were released on a staggered basis beginning in 1996. Each "wave" was three VHS tapes, each containing two episodes, for a total of six episodes per wave and two waves per season (for example, the home video release of Wave 1 drew from the first half of the first season: "Pilot"/"Deep Throat", "Conduit"/"Ice" and "Fallen Angel"/"Eve"). Each wave was also available in a boxed set.

Ultimately 12 episodes (approximately half the total number aired) were selected by Chris Carter to represent each season, including nearly all "mythology arc" episodes and selected standalone episodes. Carter would briefly introduce each episode on the tape with an explanation of why it was chosen and anecdotes from the set. These same clips were later included on The X-Files full season DVDs. Wave 8 covering the last part of the fourth season was the last to be released. VHS "wave" tapes were not released for the fifth and later seasons, so there are no Carter "interviews" for selected episodes included on those DVDs. The last wave (wave 8 of the VHS series) did not have collectible cards (one per video tape) as had been included in each of the previous 7 waves /releases."

.

Saturday, June 11

The Gamble Pays Off...to the tune of Alice Cooper...

.
Buying from Amazon's Marketplace is always a gamble. This especially rings true when venturing into the removed then recently re-instated used VHS section. Sellers tend to have wildly varying perceptions of a tape's condition. Sometimes "Very Good" shape indicates exactly that; while other times the tape arrives and its something you wouldn't even pay a buck for. This experience with VCI's Toolbox Murders clamshell highlights this irritating situation. Don't even get me started on the sellers that try and justify pawning off near-garbage by responding with "I judge condition based on the cassette, not the box." WTF?

On the other hand, I've gotten "Acceptable" tapes, Amazon's lowest term denoting condition, that look fantastic. A couple years ago I scored Western World's Attack of the Beast Creatures clamshell listed as such for just $7. I just wanted to see what looked like a hilarious flick (incomprehensible video here). Ripping open the package revealed an immaculate copy with a tiny rip on the top edge of the front. This was the case last week, when finally, a relatively cheap copy of Warner's Alice Cooper - The Nightmare clamshell released way back in 1983 appeared for $25. Usually this one hovers north of $50 or more in excellent condition.

I've loved Alice Cooper for years and still do, in spite of his critics now deriding him for his conservative views or dying his hair. I'd model assigned projects in middle school after his music or the unsavory characters he created, like a mock presidential campaign poster featuring Alice running with Marilyn Manson slotted as VP. I discovered my Social Studies teacher was a big fan back in the '70s and he was equally amazed someone of my age knew of his classic work. Or the time I won a signed poster as runner-up in a contest to be Alice's caddie during a round of golf. My reasoning was that my mom worked at a club and could get him an "in" for a free round or two. Of course, I couldn't actually win the grand prize since I was only 11 at the time.

This tape of an hour long TV special showcasing Welcome to My Nightmare aired on ABC (seriously!) in 1975 has long been on my want list. Due to copyright wranglings The Nightmare is still the only Alice video from that era not to make it onto DVD. As a horror fan, the video has the added allure of featuring Vincent Price in several segments, so I had to track down a copy. The opportunity came and the description of the tape only read "Listed as Acceptable because the video has a bad line for the first several minutes but then clears up. Case is in otherwise good shape." I should learn to request a picture beforehand, but in my experience, many Marketplace sellers never respond to such inquires. So I took a blind plunge, placed the order, checked USPS tracking daily, and the tape arrived today...in mint condition with no tracking lines to speak of!

Friday, June 10

Commando Squad (1987) - 1987 Trans World Entertainment Screener VHS

.
Notice how Trans World defaced the retail cover for screener purposes. Street Date: August 13th, 1987.

Thursday, June 9

Don't Look in the Basement (1973) - U.S. Gorgon Video & Canadian Cineplex Odeon VHS

.
Although it looks unlikely, the Cineplex Odeon cover is indeed authentic. For some reason, the distributor simply scanned a Gorgon/MPI slipbox released after that company's clamshell below. The cover is the same stiff, super-glossy stock as CO's other tapes and the cassette has their usual red label. The bad ceases were actually on the cover they originally scanned. Weird. A shame about Brownrigg's debut, like Scum of the Earth (Poor White Trash Part II), I found this yarn on the perils of a too-liberal policied sanitarium too tedious to hold interest. Doesn't stop me from appreciating its home video releases!    

Wednesday, June 8

Something is Out There (Day of the Animals) (1977) - 1986 Applause Productions VHS

.
To borrow a quote from Earl McGraw, "Well, it's been one long goddamn hot miserable shit-ass fuckin' day every inch of the way." So here's simply a scan of a rare big box tape of William Girdler's Day of the Animals from whoever API, Inc. once were...

The film was shot at 2.35:1 and it shows in this mega-cropped, badly damaged, and vertically stretched presentation. Colors are also off to the point the film looks colorized from black-and-white. The print carries the odd Something is Out There title "naturally", so it had to be released somewhere theatrically under this alternate titling. Those that have seen this one know well the sole reason to watch...


Tuesday, June 7

Don't Look in the Attic (1982) - 1987 MOGUL Communications VHS

.
Speak of the devil. On Sunday, Cinema Arcana launched Project: MOGUL, an effort to catalog the long gone VHS distributor's output, and today this tape lands in my mailbox. From this artwork, it's easy to why collectors would become addicted to tracking this outfit's rare titles down. MOGUL and its branches were known for fantastic, large clamshell art that both trumped and probably took more time to create than the contents held within. Being one of their horror selections, this is one of their more desirable that I nabbed cheap from Amazon last week.

Monday, June 6

Maximum Overdrive (1986) - 1986 KLV-TV Karl Lorimar Video VHS

.
"I'm going to scare the hell outta you!"

Sunday, June 5

Guess this means I'm famous...?

.
Being a dork, one of my pre-occupations while movie hunting is looking for the suspicious. Tapes and discs of standards and favorites that carry unfamiliar markings or artwork. I'm the guy looking through those out-of-the-way boxes stuffed with DVD bootlegs or home-recorded tapes. You never know what you might find. I spotted this bootleg of Alexandre Aja's slasher convention explosion Haute tension (High Tension) this morning. I originally first experienced the film on an edited but subbed South Korean DVD that marked its video debut.

I was so excited afterward that I contributed this review to the fine folks over at HorrorTalk. Eventually an uncut version yet English dubbed DVD dropped in Thailand even before the French received their edition. This factory-pressed boot is from the Thai release, but notice the English synopsis on the back? Yep, that's the little description I came up with in my old review! I only noticed this when I got home and initially thought "That sounds strangely familar...?" And there it was, kinda feel proud, not like anything can be done about it anyway!                 

Tunnelvision (1976) - 1978 MEDA Home Entertainment VHS

.
This early VHS is in amazing condition for thirty-three years old. Even the cassette looks hardly viewed with perfect labels. Full Moon Pictures honcho Charles Band created MEDA in 1978 in the beginning of the VHS format's eventual domination and later as MEDIA became an extremely prolific distributor until the early '90s bust.

Among MEDA's most desired output are the first home videos of Halloween (1978) and Night of the Living Dead (1968). Haven't tracked those two down, but I have Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula (1979), Horror Express (1972), Slaves of Love (1969), and The House That Vanished (1974) on MEDIA's first incarnation.            

Saturday, June 4

Ridley Scott's LEGEND...in production, 2011.

.
Well, at least that's what it felt like last night watching Universal's new "Ultimate Edition" Blu-ray of the much beleaguered and rediscovered Legend. In spite of being in the kid target audience upon this dark fantasy's '85 theatrical bow, I never saw it until yesterday. Probably for the better.

Perhaps from either being dimwitted or highly functional, as a child I never really cared much for live-action entertainment that was designed for my age group. My parents would rent PG flicks and I'd watch them because that was what was expected...and I was aware of that. The only movie from my childhood that has stuck was, go figure, Ghostbusters and its sequel. Others like Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story are still hard to sit through from memories of disliking the experience. I can't imagine how screwed up I'd be if I was a kid nowadays...

Witnessing Scott's Director's Cut of Legend with totally virgin eyes, it's an enjoyable whimsical fantasy with a few hairline cracks in its otherwise perfect realm veneer. Essentially a dusty leather-bound storybook that cracks from its spine while opening filled with the usual young untested hero, virginal maiden, fairies, ghouls, goblins, and the Lord of Darkness himself. Tom Cruise is thankfully not Tom Cruise, but maybe a bit too much so. The now Church of the Alien God personality battling old age relies too heavily on everything that's so great around him to shape his performance from young boy to regal hero. That never quite happens even when opportunities are so readily laid before him. The Oprah couch surfer is still a clumsy kid with a sword in the final confrontation; not the mean motherfucking servant of God we seek. None of this is Scott's fault since, as Clint Eastwood attests, in the end a director cannot claim dominion over an actor's expression.

An invisible Tim Curry under an enormous amount of Rob Bottin make-up, as well, obviously Satan himself wrings the most out of his diabolical performance. As do Billy Barty and Kiran Shah as two scruffy, pint-sized tag-alongs on the eternal quest to save the fair maiden and triumph over the evil's evil doings. But a cavalcade of astonishing art direction, beautiful cinematography, and Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful score trump all else. Great "pure" fantasy that always feels timeless with just enough dark touches (including some Argento allusions) to help with the sometimes sickeningly sweet melodrama that creeps in here-and-there. It's a perfect film for Blu-ray and thankfully Universal, or more so Scott, take advantage of the format's strengths.

Without mincing words, the Director's Cut looks fucking amazing. I wasn't expecting the amount of truly incredible, naturalistic detail from a picture shot over several early '80s years. I titled this entry "in production, 2011" because Legend literally looks like it was shot yesterday. Universal Studios aren't known for great looking catalog titles on Blu-ray (and HD DVD). They tend to haul out outdated HD masters struck back in the days of DVD that feature noise reduction and edge enhancement; even last week's debut of American Graffiti on Blu-ray looks pretty iffy. That isn't the case here with Scott's preferred version receiving a new telecine, probably supervised by him (known to be very picky), earlier this year. Reference quality. Definitely home theater demo material for friends and a new experience for fans.

The same can't be said for the included theatrical version. After watching Scott's full version, skipping through the bastardized theatrical cut frankly sucked. The entire thing seems disjointed with Tangerine Dream's questionable score horribly dating anything it plays over. Like with the new DC DVD, Universal should have just ditched the theatrical abomination entirely. At least the Blu features both versions in separate encodes and defaults to the real version. Not to mention the shorter edit unsurprisingly being from an old HD master (from 2006) with baked-in smoothing and edge enhancement, destroying the striking appearance of the unmarred Director's Cut transfer. To paraphase Darkness, "I require the solace of the detail and the dark of the grain. Manipulation is my destroyer."
.

Friday, June 3

Daddy can't help you now! Elm Street 2 & 3 Double Feature Blu-ray this September!

.
Via Blu-ray.com: "This fall, Warner Home Entertainment will release three franchise-themed double features on Blu-ray. Available on the September 27th street date will be budget-priced collections of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 & 3: Freddy's Revenge / Dream Warriors, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, and Ocean's Twelve/Thirteen.

Warner has not issued any further details other than the existence of the three double-feature Blu-ray sets; no word yet on whether each film will have its own disc or occupy one side of a flipper Blu-ray, or whether or not the sets will retain the same special features from the previous single-film Blu-ray editions."


Given how effortlessly spectacular New Line's Blu-ray of Craven original Elm Street looks, my expectations are slightly elevated for this release. Like that BD, if New Line simply leaves these sequels alone, we'll be in for a visual treat. I don't see any reason why they'd take any additional "care" to potentially muck up the picture quality considering this is a budget release.

I'm also figuring these will be on a single-sided 50GB Blu-ray @ 1080p, have the studio's usual lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio (perhaps mono as well), and who knows about the extras. New Line's single DVDs only feature trailers so it might be prudent to hold onto to those Nightmare Collection box sets...
.
...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.