Saturday, August 31, 2013

Five Dolls For An August Moon (Blu-ray Review) - Kino

Directed By: Mario Bava
Written By: Mario di Nardo
Starring: William Berger, Ira von Furstenberg, Edwige Fenech
Color/81 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A

The Film
A group of friends vacation to a modernist futuristic island retreat. One of them is a scientist who has developed a revolutionary chemical process and is fending off offers of $1million each for the formula. As the greed boils and builds members of the group start dying and the surviving members have to play the game of survival to find out who is behind the killings.

Mario Bava wasn't fond of FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON, he was hired to shoot the picture and apparently didn't have time to do any rewrites on the script. If that is truly the case then I'd love to see what he could have done given some time because this is a pretty damn good picture as it is. Bava's signature artistic touches and use of lighting and set decoration is truly breathtaking. The design of the house is gorgeous and the film's cinematography is inspired. This film was edited by Mario Bava himself and he shows that he's more than adequate at that job as well. It seems the only job in the filmmaking process that Bava failed to tackle in his career was that of composer or musician. 

This film isn't overly violent, there are about half a dozen murders but most of the violence appears off screen. The true draw of the film is to see a somewhat manic version of Bava making a really solid giallo. Oh, and the chance to oggle Edwige Fenech. That is never a bad thing. 

The Audio & Video
Kino gives FIVE DOLLS the royal treatment as far as picture quality goes. From the strong level of detail and texture to the gorgeous colors and skin tones this is an absolutely stunning transfer. Aside from a couple moments where lines intersect the picture this is damn near perfect and natural looking. The audio also fares well with a present but low level of background noise but it isn't distracting. It would be nice if there were an Italian track but the 2.0 English track is just fine. I wish all classic horror films got this type of A/V treatment.

PLEASE NOTE: The screen grabs in this review do not represent the quality of the Blu-ray disc and are for reference of the film itself only. 

The Extras
Tim Lucas continues to do great work for these Kino releases and who better for a commentary track than the author of the definitive Mario Bava book: Mario Bava: All The Colors Of The Dark. The track is engaging, informative and full of love from Lucas. Otherwise the disc features a handful of Mario Bava trailers for other Kino releases.  


The Bottom Line
Mario Bava is one of the finest filmmaker's the world has ever known and the quality of this disc stands right up there with the man's legacy. This is exactly how Bava should be seen on home video.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Death Force / Vampire Hookers (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Cirio H. Santiago
Written By: Howard R. Cohen, Cirio H. Santiago, Robert E. Waters
Starring: John Carradine, Bruce Fairbairn, James Iglehart, Carmen Argenziano
Color/189 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE

The Films
This DVD features a pair of films from perhaps the most prolific and known Filipino director in film history- Cirio Santiago. Santiago is certainly the most notable Filipino filmmaker in the exploitation field, with dozens upon dozens of credits to his name in a four-decade career before his death in 2008. Santiago was a collaborator of Roger Corman, Joe Dante and many other notable genre names. These films from 1978 are a nice representation of the man and his films. 

A pair of U.S. Navy sailors encounter a small brood of vampires when they're lured to the cemetery by a hooker who happens to be one of the undead creatures. Lead by the head vampire played by genre legend John Carradine, and accompanied by their bumbling idiot caretaker who likes to smell his own farts, these beautiful vampires feast on the blood of horny men.

VAMPIRE HOOKERS is a decently made little vampire film with enough skin from the beautiful women to add to the small bits of vampire horror to make for an enjoyable little B-Movie romp. Carradine is appropriately hammy in his top-billed role as the head vampire and is a pleasure to see on screen decades after he starred in some classic Universal horror films. Pavo the caretaker adds a bit of "what the fuck?" to the film to top it all off. enjoy this one with some drinks (perhaps a BLOODy Mary) as the bottom half of a double feature and you'll have a good time.

DEATH FORCE  is more of a vigilante film where Doug Russell is betrayed and left for dead by a pair of his war buddies who decide to get into the drug pushing game while overseas in Vietnam and think he will be a problem on their return home. Russell washes ashore barely alive when he is taken in and nursed back to health by a pair of Japanese soldiers still hiding out from WWII. They bond and form a friendship with Russell and teach him the ways of the Samurai which Russell uses to exact his revenge when he returns home to Los Angeles. DEATH FORCE drags a little in the middle but more than makes up for it during its third act and very violent finale. 

The Audio & Video
Both films are presented with anamorphic widescreen prints that are in reasonably good condition. Both films have scratches and speckling but without being distracting. These look like they came straight from the drive-in theater and isn't that kind of the point? The audio is just fine, with both films receiving 2.0 tracks from Vinegar Syndrome that are pretty clean of any popping or cracking.

The Extras 
The lone extra is a theatrical trailer for VAMPIRE HOOKERS.

The Bottom Line
This pair of Cirio Santiago films will provide you with a night of entertaining flicks full of violence and boobs. Pair that with the bargain price you can get this disc for and you have yourself a winning combination.

DEATH FORCE/VAMPIRE HOOKERS Drive-In Collection Double Feature is available HERE


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Good Luck Miss Wyckoff (Blu-ray/DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Marvin Chomsky
Written By: Polly Platt
Starring: Anne Heywood, Robert Vaughn, Donald Pleasance
Color/106 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE

The Film
It doesn't take much reading between the lines to see what this film is all about from the opening visual of "MISS WYCKOFF FUCKS NIGGERS" scrawled across the sidewalk to the final scene between our titular teacher character and her principal where the principal's final line in the film is "Good luck Miss Wyckoff". GOOD LUCK MISS WYCKOFF is a film charged with racism, sexism, and moral questioning.

Set in Kansas in 1954, GOOD LUCK MISS WYCKOFF is the story of a teacher in her mid 30s who is deeply depressed and physically and emotionally ill. Her doctor has diagnosed her with the onset of premature menopause. He and her psychologist passively suggest that she should find a man to be with. A missed opportunity with a married bus driver leads to a disastrous relationship that starts off violently and maliciously with a young black student on a football scholarship, that quickly spirals Miss Wyckoff into a physically and emotionally beaten mess. When the secret of the relationship is brought into the open it quickly spreads around town and Miss Wyckoff's life in the small Kansas town is over as she knows it.

There is little in this film to smile about outside of the truly good nature and intentions of Miss Wyckoff who has a love for education and wants all of her students to succeed. The film challenges the sexism prevalent in the 50s that is still running rampant today along with the racial tensions and boundaries that one wouldn't dare cross in 1954. On top of that is a film about a likable woman struggling to find happiness in a lonely existence where she feels old and ugly. No, GOOD LUCK MISS WYCKOFF isn't a fun film but it is a rewarding experience.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome delivers MISS WYCKOFF on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with a pretty nice transfer. The film itself is a bit dull and murky looking at times and the Blu-ray reflects that. However, when it looks good, which is far more often than not, it looks great. With natural skin tones, and strong detail levels this disc is without a doubt the best the film has looked on home video. The audio has a bit of buzzing in the background but overall also performs very well with just a few hiccups.

The Extras
- Re-issue cut of the film entitled THE SIN
- "Thoughts On William Inge" - Interview with Shirley Knight
- CD Soundtrack
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Sports
- Still Gallery

The Bottom Line
Vinegar Syndrome continues to show why they're among the best niche labels currently on the market as their love for film shines through with each release and this 3 disc set is absolute proof of it.


Monday, August 26, 2013

The Sexualist / Wendy's Palace (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

USA/1971, 1973
Directed By: Kemal Horulu
Written By: ?
Starring: Dale T. Fuller, Jon Oppenheim, Jennifer Welles
Color/161 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE

The Films
How many laughs can we get from a hardcore pic? A bunch if THE SEXUALIST is to be any judge. A film with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, this is the story of a director hellbent on making fine art out of his porno films by using astrology to put it all together and the story of those he uses in his films, including transvestites, a politician's daughter and a gay gorilla. If you don't find this entertaining you might not have a sense of humor.

WENDY'S PALACE is a lighthearted trek inside the walls of a brothel, run by former street walker Wendy. After being caught and jailed by a detective, Wendy takes over a well known, upscale whorehouse and finds the job to be right up her alley. Her relationship with the detective that arrested her has highs and lows but the pair eventually realize they need each other. This is a fun naked romp that pushes the boundaries of softcore and will bring a smile to the face of any erotic film fan.

The Video
The transfer on this double feature DVD is phenomenal.Both films look absolutely stunning with rich colors and strong detail levels. Vinegar Syndrome has given this pair of films an intensely classy presentation despite the fact that these were screened in sticky, seedy theaters to probably shady characters. I love both 1.85:1 widescreen transfers.

The Audio
The audio quality is nothing to sneeze at either, with both audio tracks being clean clear with just slight background noise in WENDY'S PALACE. THE SEXUALIST is the better of the two but that isn't to say that either is bad at all.

The Extras
Extra features include theatrical trailers for both films and rare outtakes from THE SEXUALIST.

The Bottom Line
Erotic film fans will find plenty to enjoy here with comedy playing as big a role as the skin factor. 

THE SEXUALIST/WENDY'S PALACE Drive-In Collection Double Feature is available HERE

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Awful Dr. Orlof (Blu-ray Review) - Kino Redemption

Directed By: Jess Franco
Written By: Jess Franco
Starring: Howard Vernon, Diana Lorys, Conrado San Martin
B&W/86 Minutes/Not Rated 
Region A

 The Film
THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF is Spain's first horror film and takes on a classic of a doctor trying to bring life and beauty back to a loved one. In this case it is Orlof's daughter, and he uses his creepy assistant Morpho and beautiful Arne in his surgical operations. As the women disappear it is up to the somewhat inept police force to discover the true identity of the killer or killers that have been seen roaming the streets. 

THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF is a fairly traditional horror film not far from the bloodlines of Eyes Without A Face and bits and pieces of Frankenstein. It is a starkly filmed Gothic horror film with thick atmosphere solid performances throughout. And while this very well may be Franco's most easily accessible film to the average viewer, it is not without some of his signature touches. 

Spain's first horror film was a fine way of breaking into the genre with touches of classic horror and a jumping off point for a director that the country would come to shun.  

The Video
The beautiful black and white photography is represented beautifully on this transfer from Kino Redemption. The 1.66:1 widescreen presentation taken from a 35mm print has strong black levels and lovely detail on textures and skin. There is some speckling of dirt and dust throughout without ever interfering with the film. 

The Audio
Available in both French with English subtitles and an English dub track, the sound portion of the disc is another good one. From the somewhat startling and disorienting opening percussion track to the dialogue between the detectives, the soundtrack is steady and handled perfectly.

The Extras
Tim Lucas' commentary track is again the star of the extras, packed with tidbits of information on the cast and crew, filming locations and various other aspects of the film and Franco. 

The Horror Of Orlof - An interview with Jess Franco

The Young Dr. Orlof Chronicles -  A featurette on the making of the film

Jess What Are You Doing Now? - Friends and collaborators pay homage to Jess Franco

 Theatrical trailers

Photo gallery 

The Bottom Line
Kino Redemption have done a fantastic job on this set of Jess Franco Blu-ray releases and there is no reason that THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF shouldn't be in your collection!

THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF is available HERE 

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Virgin Among The Living Dead (Blu-ray Review) - Kino Redemption

Directed By: Jess Franco
Written By: Jess Franco
Starring: Christina von Blanc, Paul Muller, Howard Vernon
Color/90 Minutes/Not Rated 
Region A

The Film
Christina is a beautiful young woman travels from her boarding school in London, the only home she's ever known, to a remote family mansion in the hills of France to be with her family after receiving and invitation. Having never truly knowing any family she thinks this will be a great opportunity to get to know her bloodline. Upon her arrival she discovers a truly odd group who seems all to desensitized to death. On top of this she has disturbing nightmares and witnesses some incredibly bizarre things inside the house such as women performing a bit of bloodletting and licking, a bit of incestuous behavior, and folks from the surrounding area repeatedly telling her that the house is empty. 

It all gets worse when Christina starts seeing her deceased father with a noose around his neck and he tells her of the evil things going on in the family. Oh and did I mention there are zombies? 

A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD is an oddly mesmerizing piece of Euro trash. And I do mean that in the best way possible. Originally titled CHRISTINA, PRINCESS OF EROTICISM, VIRGIN came to be when Jess Franco's film had several minutes of added zombie footage thrown in. This footage was directed by none other than Jean Rollin. 

Rollin's footage is strange in that it feels forced into the film all the while you never question why it is there, even when it doesn't really make a damn bit of sense. It isn't bad footage, it has a nice dreadful atmosphere where Christina (who has been replaced by a girl who covers her face the entire time as to not show the bait-and-switch that has occurred) can't escape the living dead. The zombies have a nice simple design to them and the setting for that sequence is again simple but effective. It only makes up about 11 minutes in difference but Rollin's added footage turns Franco's entry into bizarre family land, heavy on atmosphere and a disturbing take on eroticism and twists whatever meanings we were to take out of Franco's film and turn it into a sleazy horror romp. I enjoy both cuts of this film and think it is best left to each viewer to decide for themselves which they prefer. 

The Video
Kino Redemption brings Jess Franco's surreal vision to life beautifully with rich colors and strong textures. The anamorphic widescreen print has the scratches and speckling common with these releases but it never reaches a level of distraction and there is no room for complaints with how great the film looks. 

The Audio
Dialogue and Bruno Nicolai's score come through nicely on a track that is stable and clear with only a few moments of pops or crackling. Nicolai is known for being one of Europe's best film composers and this is part of the reason why. 

The Extras
Audio commentary with Tim Lucas - Another insightful track from a true authority on Franco and his films. 
Mysterious Dreams - An 11 minute interview with Jess Franco filmed shortly before his death in which he remembers the history and making of the film.

Alternate erotic footage - As if 2 cuts of the film weren't enough, this is 5 minutes worth of softcore footage that was spliced into the film to get played as an erotic/softcore film.

The Three Faces Of Christina - A featurette on the various versions of the film.

Jess! What Are You Doing Now? - A repeat feature found across this collection of Franco discs. It is an 8 minute homage to the director.

Theatrical trailers

Photo gallery
The Bottom Line
With two cuts of the film, a top notch presentation and a stack of extras this is nothing short of a must own and a contender to be on some "best of" lists at the end of the year. 


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Nightmares Come At Night (Blu-ray Review) - Kino Redemption

Directed By: Jess Franco
Written By: Jess Franco
Starring: Paul Muller, Soledad Miranda, Colette Giacobine
Color/85 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A

The Film
NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT is a slow moving film made up of a couple of stories that seemingly has no point until the very end. It is the first 80 minutes of the film that will make you decide if you're a fan or not. Personally, I'm not. I find it to be a tedious affair, however I have found more of an appreciation for it after listening to the commentary track on this disc. It still remains a bit on the boring side, with the high point being a number of attractive women in the nude for the majority of the film.

Our lead character suffers from delusions of murder (all the while in the nude) and her lesbian lover and doctor friend aren't helping. That's the main plot of the film. There are some artistic touches that stood out a bit more on this viewing than my previous viewing of the film but the film still stands as Jess Franco's lowest budgeted affair and it shows. There aren't many locations, and car interiors are used as a cost saving measure. There are also some scenes that are rather dark thanks to the low budget.

The film isn't all bad and it is an important stepping stone in the evolution of Franco. I may not be a fan of the film but I have a new found appreciation for it.

The Video 
Kino Redemption have done a nice job mastering this title to HD. While they typically don't do much on the restoration side of things, this disc is full of speckling of dirt and debris, the picture still has strong detail and rich color for the most part. I find the speckling to not be a hindrance at all and I can certainly see how some people may even enjoy it as a reminder of theater experiences of days passed. Overall a nice job by the label.

The Audio
Available in both its native French or an English dub the audio part of the disc is a nice one as well. There are few things to complain about so I won't. I suggest watching the film in its native tongue as it certainly adds to the actor's performances.

The Extras
Audio commentary with Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog

20 Minute "Making-of" documentary featuring interview footage with Jess Franco

Jess What Are You Doing Now? - An 8 Minute homage to Franco featuring interviews with his friends and family

A Visual Essay on the creation of the HD Master for the disc

The Bottom Line 
An important film from an important director gets the HD treatment and the entire package is a great one. Any fan of Euro horror or cult film should experience this film and this disc is the perfect way to do so.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Schoolgirl Report #10: Every Girl Starts Sometime (DVD Review) - Impulse Pictures

Directed By: Walter Boos
Written By: Gunther Heller
Starring: Eva Berthold, Alexandra Bogojevic, Astrid Boner
Color/81 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1

The Film
A classroom discussion about moral legislation leads to five stories in SCHOOLGIRL REPORT #10: EVERY GIRL STARTS SOMETIME. You can guess what the plot of the film is from here... If you guessed girls experiencing their first time having sex you would be correct. However that is just the start of the crazy situations these girls find themselves in.

 First off is a student failing English class and her teacher offers to tutor her in English and Latin until he is accused of raping the girl, when the truth finally comes out that the girl threw herself at the teacher and decided to have sex with a fellow student when the teacher declined her advances. And then there's the attractive girl in love with her own body and searching for the perfect sexual experience until she finds herself in a 3-on-1 situation which is just too much for her. The third story involves a couple hanging out at a pool when the girl develops a plot to get her stepmother to cheat on her father with her own boyfriend. The girl goes on a bit of a rampage around her boyfriend's apartment when the plan backfires! The fourth story is one of the most ridiculous things I've ever watched... a young couple put on a charade of The Exorcist, with the girl being possessed and the boyfriend being the religious man to save her. The girl screams all sorts of sexually charged things while jumping around flashing everything and making ridiculous faces and throwing food. And finally the film is wrapped up with the story of a girl and her sugar daddy and how it unravels and becomes something better. 

SCHOOLGIRL REPORT #10 is more romps from the German series. There is nothing to heavy here, but as the series has been it is entertaining and an easy viewing experience. Bring on #11! 


The Video 
Impulse Pictures presents SCHOOLGIRL REPORT #10 in a 1.66:1 widescreen ratio in a solid looking transfer. There is a bit of speckling present but nothing distracting. The elements used in this transfer seem to have been in good shape aside from some dirt and dust. This falls right in line with the PQ of previous SGR releases. 

The Audio
This German production is presented in its native tongue with optional English subtitles in a 2.0 audio track that is clear and steady. There isn't much present in these films to listen to other than dialogue or sex moans so the track is more than enough to do the job.

The Extras
Bare bones. 

The Bottom Line
If this is your first exposure to the series it is as good a place to start as any. There are no continuing plots or story lines aside from young women shedding their clothes. If you're a previous fan of the series you'll continue to find the same enjoyment you've found 9 times before. Definitely recommended. 


Monday, August 5, 2013

The Odd Angry Shot (Blu-ray Review) - Synapse Films

Directed By: Tom Jeffrey
Written By: Tom Jeffrey
Starring: Bryan Brown, John Hargreaves, Graeme Blundell
Color/92 Minutes/Not Rated
Region ABC (Unlocked)

The Film
The war in Vietnam has been well documented in films, with the political and social aspect of the war covered to death. THE ODD ANGRY SHOT is an Australian production, dealing with a troop of soldiers and their time from departing to Vietnam to their return home. The difference here is that instead of focusing on the sociopolitical aspects of the war, or being a straight forward action film this film deals more with the characters and their day to day affairs in the foreign land. Most of the time is spent playing cards for small bets, drinking beer, trying to cure their foot fungus and their encounters with American troops who are all too similar to the boys from the land down under. 

THE ODD ANGRY SHOT is a breath of fresh air for the world of war films. The film is far from perfect, and for a war film there is only a couple of actual scenes with fighting, though these scenes do get rather bloody at times. The focus on the characters and their relationships with each other, and the outside world that is passing them by while they're in the jungles, carries the film and remains fully interesting. There is a bit of humor and some somber moments especially when the soldiers come to the realization that it doesn't matter that they're at war and that the people back home simply don't care. This is a war film, but also a human drama that is worth seeking out. 

The Video
The only flaw I can find with Synapse Films' presentation of THE ODD ANGRY SHOT on Blu-ray is that there are a series of scratches that pop up sporadically in the middle of the frame. This is no doubt something from the original film elements and couldn't be fixed. They are far from distracting and now I can talk about how great the picture looks... The HD 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks fantastic. There is a small amount of natural grain that compliments the rich detail on skin and textures and the lush jungle landscape where the majority of the movie takes place is gorgeous. Colors are bright and vibrant without ever becoming overbearing or hot.

The Audio
The 2.0 Mono English HD track is also rather good. There isn't a whole lot to push the envelope and give the speakers a workout but dialogue is clear and the soundtrack mix is appropriate. No complaints here.

The Extras
Audio Commentary w/ Director/Producer Tom Jeffrey, Producer Sue Milliken and Actor Graeme Blundell
"Stunts Down Under" - A featurette with Buddy Joe Hooker 
Original Theatrical Trailer
Reversible cover artwork 

The Bottom Line
I can't say I'm a giant fan of war films, I have nothing against them I just haven't fallen in love with the genre but THE ODD ANGRY SHOT was a real surprise for me, one that I found to be quite an enjoyable watch. Pile that on top of an excellent package and presentation from Synapse Films and you have yourself a Grade-A Blu-ray.