Tuesday, July 16, 2019



Saturday, June 8, 2019

THE GRAND DUEL - Arrow Video Blu-ray Review

Directed By: Giancarlo Santi
Written By: Ernesto Gastaldi
Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Alberto Dentice, Jess Hahn
Color/94 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: May 7, 2019

The Film
After previously working as Assistant Director to the incomparable Sergio Leone on the best films the genre has to offer Giancarlo Santi would get a chance to make his own western with a screenplay by the great Ernesto Gastaldi featuring Lee Van Cleef in a starring role as a sheriff named Clayton who is tailing an outlaw named Philip Wermeer (Alberto Dentice) who is on the run from a gang of bounty hunters after the $3,000 bounty on his head for the murder of the leader of Saxon City, a crime he may or may not have committed.

Giancarlo Santi wisely chose Lee Van Cleef to anchor his cast as he not only worked with him previously on the film's where he was the AD but Van Cleef is one of the absolute giants of the spaghetti western genre. He's a familiar face that could offer talent and marketability. As expected, Lee Van Cleef is rock solid in his stoic and calculated performance, providing a paternal role to Alberto (credited as Peter O'Brien) Dentice"s frantic performance that is reminiscent of a troubled teen on the run. The relationship and dynamic between these two characters is the foundation THE GRAND DUEL is based upon and a big part of the reason why the film works so well.

There's no shortage of action with exciting shootouts and gunplay and some cat and mouse games to boot all of which are accented by Luis Enriquez Bacalov's score. Bacalov may not have the name recognition of Ennio Morricone but he's no slouch, having won an Academy Award for his original score on Il Postino in 1996 and putting his musical flourishes on spaghetti western giants such as Django and A Bullet For The General. Bacalov's main theme for THE GRAND DUEL would later be used by Quentin Tarantino in 2003's Kill Bill. Santi adds his own flourishes with a series of flashback scenes shot in black and white that have a dreamlike quality to them. The rest of the film has a good look to it as Santi obviously picked up some tips and tricks from his years spent with Leone and while he may not be up to par with Leone he proved that he could make a really good western on his own.

THE GRAND DUEL has themes and ideas that can be traced back to many previous westerns, but by 1972 what spaghetti western couldn't? I'm not going to knock it for borrowing ideas and themes when it uses them productively and wisely to make a finished product that is engaging, exciting and just plain good. THE GRAND DUEL isn't a definitive entry into the genre but it almost acts as a melting pot of ingredients taken from those hallmark titles and talents involved to create something entirely worth seeking out.

The Audio & Video
Arrow Video has given THE GRAND DUEL a new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative which has given way to a fantastic presentation that easily trumps the film's previous Blu-ray release which featured a passable HD transfer. This new 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer boasts a properly hot and sweaty looking picture quality with strong colors and deep black levels. Detail is strong from the wood building construction to the dusty exteriors there's no missing finer details. There are a handful of flashback scenes filmed in black and white and they fare very well with a stark look and those deep black levels getting to show off properly. A few scenes are in a bit rougher shape and lead to a softer look and a shift in color tone. Thankfully these moments are minimal and don't take away from the otherwise beautiful presentation too much. This release offers uncompressed mono LPCM tracks in both English and Italian with newly translated subtitles. I went with the English track on my viewing through the film and I was very happy with how this disc sounded. The mix is stellar with a proper balance between the score and dialogue. The sound is crisp, extremely pleasing to the ear and free of any distortions or imperfections.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary by Stephen Prince
-"An Unconventional Western" - Interview with director Giancarlo Santi
-"The Last Of The Great Westerns" - Interview with writer Ernesto Gastaldi
-"Cowboy By Chance" - Interview with actor Alberto Dentice
-"Out Of The Box" - Interview with producer Ettore Rosbach
-"The Day Of The Big Showdown" - Interview with assistant director Harald Buggenig
-"Saxon City Showdown" - Featurette appreciating the film by Austin Fisher
-"Two Different Duels" - Comparison between the original version and an extended German cut
-"Marc Mazza: Who Was The Rider On The Rain" - A video essay about the actor by Mike Malloy
-Original Italian Trailer
-Original International Trailer
-Image Gallery

The Bottom Line
THE GRAND DUEL is a wildly exciting entry in to the spaghetti western genre and is appropriately represented with this outstanding release from Arrow Video. This release is packed, stacked and jacked and you should saddle up and add this to your collection ASAP.

THE GRAND DUEL is available HERE

Monday, May 27, 2019

MA Party Pack Contest Giveaway

Everybody’s welcome at Ma’s. But good luck getting home safe. 
Oscar® winner Octavia Spencer stars as Sue Ann, a loner who keeps to herself in her quiet Ohio town. One day, she is asked by Maggie, a new teenager in town (Diana Silvers, Glass), to buy some booze for her and her friends, and Sue Ann sees the chance to make some unsuspecting, if younger, friends of her own. 
She offers the kids the chance to avoid drinking and driving by hanging out in the basement of her home. But there are some house rules: One of the kids has to stay sober. Don’t curse. Never go upstairs. And call her “Ma.” 
But as Ma’s hospitality starts to curdle into obsession, what began as a teenage dream turns into a terrorizing nightmare, and Ma’s place goes from the best place in town to the worst place on earth. 
Ma also stars Juliette Lewis (August: Osage County) as Maggie’s mom, Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast) as a local dad, Missi Pyle (Gone Girl) as his girlfriend, and McKaley Miller (TV’s Hart of Dixie), Corey Fogelmanis (TV’s Girl Meets World), Gianni Paolo (TV’s Power) and Dante Brown (Lethal Weapon TV series) as Maggie’s friends. 
From Tate Taylor, the acclaimed director of The Help and Get On Up, and blockbuster producer Jason Blum (Get Out, Halloween, The Purge series) comes a thriller anchored by a daring and unexpected performance from Spencer, one of the most powerful actors of her generation. 

Ma is written by Scotty Landes (Comedy Central’s Workaholics), is produced by Blum for his Blumhouse Productions, by Taylor, and by John Norris (executive producer, Get On Up), and is executive produced by Spencer, Couper Samuelson, Jeanette Volturno, and Robin Fisichella. 
Find MA on Twitter @MAmovie

To Enter: Follow Celluloid Terror on Instagram (@celluloidterror) and find the MA party pack picture (same as the first image of this post) and comment with what drink you'd share with Ma or what party game you'd play with her. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

DARKROOM (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Terence O'Hara
Written By: Robert W. Fisher, Brian Herskowitz, Rick Pamplin
Starring: Aarin Teich, Jill Pierce, Jeff Arbaugh
Color/85 Minutes/Not Rated
Region Free
Release Date: April 30, 2019

The Film
It's no secret that by 1989 the slasher genre was dying and the well of ideas was dried up. It seemed that anything coming out at this point was a tired and uninspired retread of movies from years prior so whenever I watch one of these end-of-the-line slashers I always hope there's something that will set it apart. When I saw that DARKROOM was produced by Nico Mastorakis I became a bit more intrigued. I haven't always loved Mastorakis' work but I tend to at least find it interesting. Then the opening credits hit and I saw the creativity and care they put in to the credits that maybe I was stumbling on to something different.

Nope. What a fake out those opening credits were. As soon as the stylish credits designed to look like photos being developed in a darkroom (see what they did there?) end we're introduced to Janet who is returning home to her family's farmhouse from college but the reunion is interrupted by a mystery killer who takes pictures of his victims before killing them. Family secrets are revealed as the bodies pile up and the reveal of the killer's identity takes some twists and turns before all is said and done.

DARKROOM's biggest asset is that it is a sharp looking film that looks like a class above most slasher films of this period and has some decent special effect and kill moments. Unfortunately the story is all too familiar territory. The attempts at red herrings to throw the audience off the trail of the killer are uninspired and comes off as convoluted. Performances are passable and the movie is entertaining enough to fill up its 85 runtime but there's simply nothing to set it apart from dozens of other body count films from the same year and I bet that in a couple of weeks everything about this movie will be a blur of slasher tropes that I won't be able to separate from the other movies it failed to set itself apart from. This is lazy rainy afternoon entertainment and nothing more unfortunately.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome has brilliantly restored DARKROOM with a new 4K scan from the original 35mm camera negative and this disc really looks exceptional. Colors are bright and vivid and skin tones are healthy with a natural fleshy look. Finer detail including surface textures and fabrics shine while black levels are deep and free of any issues with blocking or compression. A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix gives the audio a strong and well balanced mix across all channels. The sound is crisp and clear and free of any distortions or background noise.

The Extras
-"Developing Fear" - Interview with actor Aaron Teich
-"Exposing The Truth" - Interview with actor Jeff Arbaugh
-Original Trailer
-Still Gallery

The Bottom Line
DARKROOM is a mixed bag that is a product of the end of the slasher genre that had mostly dried up by the time it was made. Slasher maniacs take note but don't expect a long lost classic of the genre.

DARKROOM is available HERE