Wednesday, November 21, 2012

They Call Him Cemetery (1971)

I love watching spaghetti westerns when the weather gets chilly out. I guess it may be because of their warm setting and how hazy it looks that it helps warm me up, but even those set in snow covered landscapes are better in the winter for me so it has been a perfect time to catch up on  genre I love.

THEY CALL HIM CEMETERY (aka They Call Him Graveyard, A Bullet For The Stranger) is a film from Giuliano Carnimeo who is perhaps best known within the genre for creating the Sartana character. He teams up with Sartana himself, Gianni Garko, again in this film in which he's referred to as Ace Of Hearts just as, if not more often than Cemetery. The McIntyre boys return home as young adults for the first time in many years to find their father's small town being extorted by a group with an unknown leader. John and George McIntyre are attractive blond haired boys from "back east" that don't quite understand the law of the land where gun play is the way to settle things and babies suck on bullets to calm down. They try to settle the issue with their father's land with civility until one too many times their life is nearly ended had it not been for Ace saving them. Along with their friends and helpers, Chico and Pedro they enlist the help of Ace to teach them how to shoot to protect themselves.

With a new found set of skills and a new friend shadowing them the McIntyre boys set out to discover the identity of the gang's leader and settle the score. Along the way Ace comes in contact with a man from his past named Duke who we find out gets hired by the gang for added protection. The film boils down with local politicians and peacekeepers in on the corruption until the final showdown and duel.

By the time this film was released in 1971 the parody/comedy cycle was going strong. While some of the dirtier and grittier films that made the genre famous were still being produced most of them had heavy doses of self parody. THEY CALL HIM CEMETERY certainly doesn't escape this, but it uses it in light doses and it never becomes overbearing. The two barroom fight scenes are a bit hokey and overstay their welcome but they're probably the worst offenders in the film as far as the parody goes. The film itself isn't anything super original, a basic story plays out but our cast is pretty solid. Garko is more often than not great in his roles and he shows it here. The way Ace and Duke (William Berger) play off of each other is simply fantastic. They have an obvious respect for each other but go about it in different however complimenting ways. The McIntyre boys also do a good job of trying to do the right thing but being totally out of their element. The photography from Stelvio Massi is gorgeous, even with the underwhelming print I watched from the 44 film set that I'm sure most SW fans own. Add in a really solid score by the legendary Bruno Nicolai that is driven by whistles and Carnimeo (as Anthony Ascott) puts together a really solid flick that would probably be held in higher regard if it didn't fall into the comedy pitfalls (no matter how well they were handled).


Wednesday, November 14, 2012


United States/1985
Directed By: Roy Frumkes
Written By: Roy Frumkes
Starring: George A. Romero, Richard Rubenstein, Tom Savini
Color/102 Minutes/Not Rated
The Film
In 1985 a documentary from Roy Frumkes was released called DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD which chronicled his time spent with director George Romero on the set of his 1978 classic Dawn Of The Dead. The documentary featured interviews with key cast and crew and looked at Romero's films to that point and his work in the commercial field. The film was originally used as a learning tool for budding filmmakers.

It has been over a quarter decade since the film was originally released and Romero has made several more films and become more of a household name than ever before. Frumkes has visited the set of some of these films and along with compiling other footage from the set, conventions, and various other meetings with the people involved in Romero's films, has made a new cut for THE DEFINITIVE DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD. This cut clocks in at well over 20 minutes longer than any other cut of the film and features footage from Romero's early commercial work up through his latest film Survival of the Dead. His techniques in directing, writing and editing are all mentioned along with how he handles each stage of the filmmaking process. Along with extensive footage with Romero himself, other names interviewed include Tom Savini, Judith O'Dea, Dario Argento, Greg Nicotero, and members of the classic Dead trilogy.

This documentary is an interesting and informative look in to the process of one of horror's greatest directors. Apart from that it is a genuinely entertaining movie. There are quite a few laughs to be had and some cool moments of actors from various movies realizing who each other is after almost 30 years. Some looks into special effects setups and stunt work make it all the more fun.

The Video
Synapse Films delivers this documentary in a very nice looking print with varying aspect ratios. The majority of the film is presented in a natural full frame 1.33:1 ratio but with several cameras used it does change from time to time. The footage from the original film is still in nice shape and while not particularly sharp, it features a very clean transfer. The newer footage naturally looks better and sharper. The new cut of the film wasn't mastered in HD by Frumkes so there is no Blu-ray (only of the original  film) which is a bummer. This DVD does have a very solid video presentation however.

The Audio
A Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is the lone audio choice and it is perfectly serviceable. Aside from the opening claymation sequence being a good bit louder than the rest of the film the sound is quite good and mixed pretty well. There are moments throughout where the setting of the filming is obviously going to be louder (a crowded hotel room) than a sit down interview but they are mixed well enough to not create a distraction. Overall the audio is in nice shape and is of very good quality

The Extras
 Roy Frumkes provides further insight into his time spent developing this documentary over 25 years in a brand new commentary track. This is like a 2nd film's worth of information. 

The Bottom Line 
THE DEFINITIVE DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD will appeal to any fans of Romero, horror or filmmaking in general. While a much longer cut could dig deeper into various aspects covered, Frumkes' point wasn't to make an exhaustive How-To. This is as fun as it is educational.


Friday, November 9, 2012


United States/1991
Directed By: Frank Henenlotter
Written By: Frank Henenlotter, Robert Martin
Starring: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Gil Roper, Denise Coop, Annie Ross
Color/90 Minutes/Rated R

The Film
Director Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Brain Damage) returns for the 3rd and final chapter in his twisted series with BASKET CASE 3: THE PROGENY, picking up just where part 2 left off. After a brief recap of the climax of the previous film Duayne has lost his mind and decides the only way he'll be happy is if he and his freak of a twin brother are once again conjoined at the hip. A ball of yarn and a crochet needle make this happen in very bloody fashion. We move forward a few months and Duayne is now in a straight jacket inside a padded room where Granny Ruth (Annie Ross) has been taking care of him, along with her house full of deformed freaks. We learn that Belial's girlfriend is now pregnant so the whole group has to take a bus trip to the only doctor Granny Ruth trusts with her loved ones and what bus trip is complete without a sing along of the "you've got personality" song?

Once at the doctor's house the most bizarre, violent, and just insane birthing sequence ever put to film is captured. Octomom has nothing on Belial's new family. The wild birth sequence is followed up by a ridiculous dream sequence in which the word "trapezoid" is used as a sexual turn on for possibly the first and only time in film history. After the fun of the birth Granny Ruth realizes that Duane is missing as he has landed in police custody and they find out about the doctor and Belial, who is a fugitive. The cops sneak in to the house and shoot Belial's lover Eve, thinking it was him. The pair of bumbling cops are chased from the house by the rest of the freaks, leaving Belial furious. 

Belial arrives at the police station in his trusty basket and exacts his bloody gruesome revenge. Including ripping an officer's head off by biting his lip, having a young girl be shot, twisting a head around and more. Belial and Duane are finally reunited and flee the police station but not before Belial is injured when his basket is shot. Helping Belial heal and have an easier time in the future, Duane and the doctor's son construct a robot suit (think a crude version of Kraang from TMNT) that Belial uses to continue his revenge on the people responsible for killing his love while Granny Ruth proposes a deal to trade Belial for the babies the police still have. Of course it's a setup and there is a showdown between the sheriff and "Robo-Belial" resulting in a terrible death for the sheriff. 

BASKET CASE 3 is a fun romp of crazy creatures, violence and dark humor. This is the type of film that director Frank Henenlotter was put on Earth to make- A nasty, comedic look at human deformities. The makeup effects are simply amazing and without a doubt the best part of both sequels in the series. The film plays out in a simple fashion with your heart going out to the freaks, especially Belial and you certainly feel for him and are applauding his revenge. The biggest downfall that this film (and part 2) has is that the Times Square, NYC location of the first film was simply perfect. It was a seedy place where the "normal" people were just as crazy and freakish as Belial and the story was far more original than this rather by-the-numbers piece of revenge. No matter, if you're looking for a fun time that you can sit down with a few beers and some popcorn and watch some ridiculousness, BASKET CASE 3 is a solid choice.


The Video
Synapse Films brings BASKET CASE 3 to us in an anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 transfer that is very nice looking. There is a healthy natural grain level but is clean and free of dirt and debris. Flesh tones, both human and prosthetic look natural and lively. The quality of the print allows us to see the special effects makeup in all its glory and the bloody reds look great. I don't have the old MGM disc to compare but this new release probably looks as good as the DVD format will allow. A fantastic job.

The Audio
A Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track provides a crisp and clear presentation and is perfectly suitable for the disc. Dialogue and the soundtrack are mixed nicely and never have to compete with one another. Levels remain stable throughout so you won't have to reach for the remote every few minutes to adjust the volume.

The Extras
The lone extra on the disc is a theatrical trailer.


The Bottom Line
Synapse Films brings BASKET CASE 3 back in print for the first time in almost a decade in the United States with a really solid DVD presentation of a film that will certainly find its niche once again. Some more extras would have been nice, but just getting to complete the trilogy is the true prize here. Recommended for anyone that is a fan of weird horror comedies or any fan of Henenlotter's other work.

BASKET CASE 3 is available on DVD HERE

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October Horror Challenge 2012 - Day 31 & The Wrap Up

After posting yesterday's viewing I eventually realized that I overlooked a movie I had watched... doh! So here it is-

A WHISPER IN THE DARK is a gothic styled Italian film from 1976 with a very deliberate pace. It involved a family seemingly being tormented by the young son's imaginary friend. The pacing could be a turn off for many people as it is intensely slow, but interesting throughout. There is some really nice photography around the Italian villa and I'm glad I checked it out for something different.

Now onto the 31st and final day...

What better way to start off the viewing than with HALLOWEEN? I tried to watch this right as the clock struck midnight but the thorn in my side that is my Blu-ray player decided not to play it even though it has played it countless times before. So after going to bed and waking up at 5am for no apparent reason I give it another chance and of course it works. I've never watched this film at 5am on Halloween morning but it was a blast. This is one of my 2 favorite films and in my opinion perfect from the opening 1-shot scene that is breathtaking to the music cues and all of the classic shots and lines in the film. Just an incredible film that is a must-watch each and every October 31st.

I followed that up with a viewing of THE SHINING. This is another Blu that the player wouldn't play the night before that it apparently kissed and made up with by morning. I've never seen this film in HD before and it looked great compared to the countless times I've seen it on VHS, DVD or broadcast TV. Nicholson is insane, Kubrick creates a sense of foreboding dread and claustrophobia. In the entire massive hotel we only see a handful of locations it has to offer. I don't care what Stephen King thinks of it, I think it is phenomenal.

After a disappointing turn out of kids trick or treating in my neighborhood I threw on THE ENTITY. I haven't seen this film in a lot of years and had forgotten most of it. It drags a bit for me but it remains an effectively creepy ghost story and Barbara Hershey is solid in the lead role. The sound effect that plays whenever the ghost is around isn't as annoying as I feared it would be visiting this one again after such a long time.


The month long challenge that at times tried my patience, melted my brain, picked me up out of a bad mood, gave me some good laughs with friends and was altogether 31 days of fun ends with a film I find truly beautiful- THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN.

Today's Rundown
A Whisper In The Dark - 6/10
Halloween - 10/10
The Shining - 10/10
The Entity - 7/10
The Bride Of Frankenstein - 9/10

Another year, another 100+ films down. The burn out I was feeling about halfway through the month luckily subsided and it became fun again quickly. Next year I need to plan for a lot less crappy movies to see for the first time, if at all possible. 2013 will be my 5th year doing this challenge along with DVD Talk and will probably be my last trying to watch 100 films in the month. While I have no intentions on stopping an October horror marathon of some sort after that, 100 in a month is draining at times, especially when it is garbage film after garbage film. We will see though, only the future can tell. Thanks to everyone that read the blog, followed on Facebook and commented on either. Hopefully I was able to give you recommendations on some films (good or bad), make you laugh or get you through the work day a little easier.

Now here are some numbers...

Total Films Watched - 120
Total TV Episodes Watched - 6 (3 each of The Walking Dead and American Horror Story: Asylum)
Total Entries on the DVD Talk list - 123 (Previous high 108)
First Time Film Viewings - 92 (76%)
Average Film Score - 6.18/10
Blu-Rays That My POS LG Player Refused To Play - The Beyond, Phantom Of The Opera, Re-Animator
Best First Time Viewings - Kuroneko, The Burning Moon, Cold Fish, The Perfume OF The Lady In Black, Horrors Of Malformed Men, Whip And The Body
Worst First Time Viewings - The Last Slumber Party, The Drive-In Massacre, Home Movie, Terror At Tenkiller, Frankenstein's Castle Of Freaks, Death Bed, Nightmares Come At Night
Biggest Surprise - Horrors Of Malformed Men (Didn't expect to love it this much)
Biggest Disappointment - Piranha 3DD (After loving Aja's Piranha 3D the premise to this sounded like gold... it wasn't.)

Thoughts To Sum It Up - Anthology movies need to make a bigger comeback, Kevin Smith still sucks, Scream Factory is awesome, Horror desperately needs some talented actors like they had in the 60s and 70s, Bring on something other than shitty shot on video slashers... please!