Sunday, December 30, 2012

ASYLUM (aka I Want To Be A Gangster) (DVD Review)

Directed By: Olivier Chateau
Written By: Olivier Chateau
Starring: Julien Courbey, Jean-Marie Lamour, Jacques Frantz
Color/82 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
ASYLUM opens in a warehouse type room, largely empty where a trio of men play games of Russian Roulette for money. The man running the game is Jack, a small time criminal aspiring to be like the gangsters from the movies he watched as a child. Fixing the games to go in his and his partner's favor and letting the loser walk away with both legs if he's lucky, Jack finds himself in a tough situation after a kingpin's drugs were put up for the stakes of the game and now he wants them back. Jack is given his chance to prove himself and fall in with the man who spared his life but Jack decides to go bigger and be badder.

For an aspiring gangster Jack has proven himself lucky and at least somewhat capable and now has his golden opportunity with the biggest crime ring in the area. Unfortunately for Jack he gets a little too far ahead of himself and the head honcho's nephew is killed in an accident while being watched over by Jack. As he tries to get out of town, Jack is tracked and eventually captured and tormented. Jack will pay for his deeds by being chained to a tree like a dog and left for dead. With only a few chance encounters with passersby Jack quickly begins to lose his grip on reality and his physical condition suffers from hunger and thirst until he can find a way to free himself.

ASYLUM aka I WANT TO BE A GANGSTER is the first feature film from French director Olivier Chateau and is a mixed bag. The film starts out strong as Jack climbs the ranks in the world of crime. The acting is quite strong (surprisingly so at times) throughout. Without a doubt this is the film's strongest point. It is around halfway through the film when Jack is chained to the tree that the film hits a bit of a snag and drags on. Jack has an assault rifle in his hands for a good chunk of the film and never once shoots it at the chains to try and free himself. There is a reason shown for his rationalizing but it really becomes a thin thread holding that plot point together as Jack gets hungrier, thirstier and more delusional. If you have a means to free yourself, even with a half decent chance of it working, after 3 weeks of being captive you're going to take that chance. The movie is a very mixed bag for me. Good acting from the ensemble has to deal with hit and miss writing and crappy digital photography.

The Video
I'm almost positive the minuscule budget, which was less than $10,000, plays a large role in the sub-par look of this film. The digital photography is cheap, muddy and just not pleasing to look at in certain parts of the movie. The film has a sepia-like tone through most of the duration in which objects sometimes become muddled together. Synapse Films doesn't have a whole lot of good things to work with on the picture quality side of this thing but they do bring it to us with an anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) presentation and undoubtedly did the best they could. Again, this is more of an issue with the budget the filmmakers had to work with and not an authoring or transfer problem.

The Audio
The sound quality on the other hand is pretty nice. Free of any distractions or crackling, dialogue comes across clear in the Dolby Digital 5.1 track in the film's native French. English subtitles are available. The levels are mixed very well and the audio side of this disc is a job well done.

The Extras
-"Making Of" Featurette - This is a 20 minute interview with the director and features some footage from the set of the film. Some insight is given into the various aspects of production from writing the script to casting and funding along with some influences that made it into the film.

-"Homer" - A short film from Chateau about a rabbit getting loose from his cage and doing rabbit things.

Also included is the original promotional trailer for the film.

The Bottom Line
ASYLUM probably isn't going to make your top 10 list anytime soon but it is a competent thriller despite its setbacks. Perhaps most importantly it shows solid potential in its director for bigger and better things. If you're into gangster flicks or thrillers set in the woods this one is worth a shot.

ASYLUM is available HERE

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hell Comes To Frogtown (1988)

 If there's a list for best professional wrestlers turned actors Roddy Piper has to be on it. Appearing in a few dozen films since the mid 80s and starring in about half, Piper is no stranger to being in front of the movie camera. His natural charisma that has been showcased for decades in wrestling was perfect for a transition into film. Piper's most notable role is John Carpenter's sci-fi/action cult classic They Live but just a year before that he appeared in a piece of 80s gold.

Ten years after the nuclear war wiped out the majority of the population and leaving most of the survivors either mutated or sterile. The war isn't over, its simply on hold until both sides repopulate, which is difficult with so few fertile women and potent men. Sam Hell (Piper) is an arrogant con who is freed from his jail time only under the condition that he serves the US Army with his extremely high sperm count. Hell agrees and he is forced into the most dangerous and uncomfortable chastity belt device you'll ever come across. The device can only be unlocked by his partners in the mission and if he strays to far from her he suffers a painful electric shock. The mission is to extract a group of fertile women being held captive in the mutant reservation area known as Frogtown. Frogtown as you may have guessed by now is a slum area controlled by mutant frog people and controlled by King Toty.

The mission hits a snag as Hell and his commanding officer, Spangle, are captured by Frog Guards. Spangle is thrown in with the rest of the women and forced to dance to make Toty's "3 snakes" happy. Hell is tortured and abused until his codpiece device is removed by the frogs so they can study the technology. It is at this point that Hell jumps into action hero mode and rescues Spangle and the women and bust them out. They are tracked by Toty and other frog soldiers along with a man from Hell's past hellbent on becoming the biggest warlord in America.

HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN is a piece purely of the 1980s. It is ridiculously cheesy but has a message beneath its leathery, green skinned surface dealing with the dangers of nuclear bombs and the Cold War. Directed by Donald G. Jackson who directed a bunch of low budget genre fare during the 80s and 90s and R. J. Kizer who is probably best known from this film, deliver an extremely entertaining 86 minutes. There isn't an over abundance of style or flare but the duo competently puts together scene after scene of fun. The frog creature designs look good and the makeup is really solid. Hot Rod doesn't quite get as "Rowdy" as he would a year later when he's fighting aliens in special X-Ray glasses but he's still a blast to watch.

Yes, this movie is cheesy. No, the acting isn't great. And no, this isn't a piece of art. It doesn't need to be and it doesn't want to be. This movie is fun. We have Rowdy Roddy Piper running around in an explosive codpiece kicking frog mutant ass and being paid by the US government to get laid a lot. Need I say more? Didn't think so.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

CHILLER The Complete Series (DVD Review)

Directed By: Bob Mahoney, Lawrence Gordon Clark, Rob Walker
Written By: Stephen Gallagher, Anthony Horowitz, Glenn Chandler
Starring: Nigel Havers, Martin Clunes, Sophie Ward
Color/265 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
CHILLER was a short lived horror anthology series in the UK that originally aired in the Spring of 1995. Horror has a grand tradition of horror anthologies both feature length film and syndicated for television. From Tales From The Crypt to Creepshow and more recently Masters Of Horror and American Horror Story this genre loves one-off stories blanketed under a single series title. While CHILLER won't go down in history as being as good or memorable as some of the more popular series it does offer up some solid stories.

The first episode of the series is "Prophecy" which starts with a group of friends doing a bit of partying in their van on the way to an old cafe owned by the family of Frannie, one of the girls in the group. After a round on the Ouija board and getting the message that the spirit they talked to wants to prophecize something a woman is struck by a car and killed outside of the cafe. A few years later Frannie begins a relationship with a single father and begins having a series of bizarre dreams and a plague of tragic accidents befall her friends that were in attendance at the seance and it all seems to tie in with her lover's son until she comes to a startling realization. The next episode is called "Toby" and involves a young woman who is in a car wreck which costs her the life of her unborn son and puts her into a coma. After the woman awakens she moves into a new home with her husband next to a crotchety old woman who seems to only care for her cats. It isn't long before the mourning woman believes she is pregnant and is showing the signs of it despite doctors and specialists saying otherwise. The couple try to overcome her sickness until the problems become all too real and familiar. "Here Comes The Mirror Man" rounds out disc one with a story about Gary, a troubled youth avoiding the social workers that want to bring him back into the real world. Gary seems to be a puppet for a mysterious friend of his who pulls the strings and tells Gary what to do which puts the people desperately trying to help him in grave danger.

Disc two features the final two episodes of the series, the first of which is "The Man Who Didn't Believe In Ghosts". This is a classic haunted house story featuring a man who professionally writes about debunking ghost and paranormal stories and his family who have recently moved into a home with a strange caretaker who has an attachment to the house from his past. As the odd occurrences pile up the man has to question his own professional beliefs. The series comes to a close with "Number Six" which is actually number five. In this story there has been a series of child murders going on with few clues and just a couple of patterns to go off of the police and parents of the town have to work together to stop what may be ritualistic Celtic sacrifices. This episode is chock full of kids doing what they do best- being creepy. Each episode opens with a creepy alien type monster with his mouth wide open in a white hallway. It is a pretty chilling visual that sets us up for the actual story at hand. I'm disappointed this monster never made it into an episode of his own. Each story is a bit on the minimalist side of things, letting the story do the work. There isn't a ton of gore or special effects to speak of but thanks to some pretty decent to above average acting (Here Comes The Mirror Man having the best) the stories don't need too much in the way of excess. All of the stories have a similar tone and feel with dreary England locations being used as a natural atmosphere. The series doesn't have any real stinkers but on the opposite side of that coin it doesn't have any that truly stand out from the pack either. I'd say that the final episode would have to be my favorite but they all have similar results as far as I'm concerned.

The Video
CHILLER is presented in its aspect ratio of 1.33:1 preserving the way it looked on TV back in 1995. The material was film on 16mm film and has a certain graininess to it throughout. The source material seems to be in good shape however with dirt and debris having been kept to a minimum. I doubt this looks much better than it did during its original run but it certainly doesn't look any worse.

The Audio
A Dolby 2.0 Mono track gets the audio across very nicely. The mix is balanced well and there is no distractions from pops or hissing.

The Extras

The Bottom Line

Synapse Films brings CHILLER to American audiences for the first time on DVD with a suitable presentation of the episodes. It would have been nice to see some special features on this disc such as an interview with producers or directors to provide some insight into the series and possibly why it was so short lived. Even a brief introduction to each of the five episodes like they did on the Complete Hammer House Of Horror set would have been nice. That said, horror fans will be pleased to be able to see these mid-90s works on disc, likely for the first time and that is the most important thing.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Great Silence (1968)

Sometimes when you first discover a movie, whether by accident or recommendation, it sticks with you. Everything about it lingers in your memory until you visit it again and again. It takes a special type of film to do that. THE GREAT SILENCE is one of those films for me.

Silence is a mute gunslinger with the fastest draw in the west. He has been left scarred and unable to speak after a violent childhood incident that took the life of his parents. The man is hellbent on righting the wrongs done to innocent and helpless victims. In the snow covered frontier of Utah the nasty Loco (Klaus Kinski) leads a group of bounty hunters to prey on a group of persecuted outlaws who have taken refuge in the hills, coming out only when they need to for food. The outlaws are hiding because their crimes aren't serious enough to condemn them to death despite the bounty on their heads. Silence is the only man that can stop the corruption within the town that effects every single person one way or another.

The town's new sheriff does his best to try and turn this town around to become a more civilized America where all races live in peace and murder isn't a profitable living. The town's Justice Of The Peace is deep into the corruption forcing innocents into a life of crime to get a price on their head for his bounty hunters to kill and split the profits. Silence is hired by such a man's widow to take down Loco who has captured the entire group of mountain refugees and is holding them hostage waiting for Silence in an epic showdown.

The plot of THE GREAT SILENCE doesn't seem too far off from many other westerns of this period or any other. The difference lies within the details. Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is our main protagonist however he is similar in many ways to our lead antagonist Loco. Both men charge for their services despite their principals, and both men refuse to draw their gun on the other man first to avoid jail. Silence tries to bait Loco into drawing first as is his trademark style of picking the fight but not starting it. Loco is as smart as he is ruthless and doesn't fall for it. It really is the meeting of two master minds, two sides of the same coin if you will. Kinski played in quite a few westerns but this is without a doubt his finest role in any of them and an argument can be made that it is his best ever. The sadistic cockiness Loco even when he seems beaten is perfect. Trintignant is just as good without speaking a word. He conveys emotions brilliantly with just facial expressions and his pistol, which despite what the sheriff thinks, is incredibly accurate.

Director Sergio Corbucci (Django, Companeros) is a master of the western, probably the second most famous spaghetti western director behind only the great Sergio Leone, and proves it here. His incredibly skilled and stylish direction coupled with Silvano Ippoliti's gorgeous photography that captures the scope of the blizzard stricken landscape is a match made in heaven. Ennio Morricone's score is one of his finest efforts for any western and fits the incredibly somber tone of the film perfectly.

THE GREAT SILENCE is not a typical western, in fact it has been described as the "anti-western". Everything you know about westerns, Italian or not, is turned on its head. Spoiler Alert The ending which includes every single sympathetic character in the film being mercilessly killed is a day ruiner. There is no heroic triumph of good over evil here folks. This is simply a depiction of how nasty life can be and was in the old west. Our hero is mutilated and then shot dead preceding a bloody massacre. The ending was such a downer that producers made Corbucci film a "happy ending" which is included on the DVD. And while that ending is just fine and dandy it is the downer ending that completes this film as it should be. End Spoiler.

This film is stunning both visually and thematically. It is crying out for a Blu-ray release and a wider audience. While this is widely considered one of the finest spaghetti westerns produced it still needs to be more widely known. This is a masterpiece of filmmaking that stays with me long after each subsequent viewing. For no reason at all I will find myself humming the score or picturing the wide shots of Silence riding his horse through the snow covered hills. THE GREAT SILENCE is in my personal top 3 westerns.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sex Hunter: Wet Target (DVD Review)

Directed By: Yukihiro Sawada
Written By: Atsushi Yamatoya
Starring: Aoyama Miyoko, George Harrison, Isayama Hiroko
Color/69 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
Okamoto learns that his sister Natsuko has been raped and killed by a group of drunken American soldiers while he is stuck in prison with extra time for trying to escape. After his release Okamoto tries to get information from the police but an international security treaty prevents them from giving him any information. Okamoto is harassed by a pimp and his prostitute while walking down the street and decides it is proper payback to rape her and beat him up before getting his sister's old live-in bartending job at a strip bar to try get some clues.

Its at the bar where he meets the man in control of many of the entertainers at the bar, including a girl that was attacked alongside his sister. After confronting the man for information, and a serious fist fight the man agrees to tell him details about his sister's death. The man tells Okamoto how Natsuko was also one of his girls and that he stumbled upon the event and watched as the men beat, raped and urinated on her and then forced a passerby to lick the urine off of her. They then proceded to hang her from the gate of a shrine. Okamaoto sets off to enact his vengeance on the soldiers one by one only to find each has already been ravaged by the horrors of war. The realization hits Okamoto hard and breaks him down until he is pushed too far by high ranking American military men at his bar and snaps in a bloody climax.

SEX HUNTER: WET TARGET is one of the earlier titles from Nikkatsu after they changed production over to adult films and it shows it with the style and artistry within the film and its themes. Okamoto is a mixed race man and feels the heat of it from his own countrymen, and everyone feels the pressures of living with the American military bases surrounding them with the Vietnam War goin on a short distance away. The film is far more revenge thriller than a piece of sexploitation despite the lengthy and numerous nude and sex scenes to pad the runtime. The biggest problem with this film is in the writing. Okamoto is often just as despicable as the people he is trying to make pay for their actions. It doesn't take more than the scene where the pimp and his woman harass him for his racial makeup and he proceeds to force himself upon the girl to show us this. Sure, they deserved some sort of punishment but rape makes him no better than the G.I.s that attacked his sister. It makes it difficult for the viewer to root for Okamoto because of how the writing handles his character.

The film does use its exploitative themes to be largely entertaining despite the flaw in our main antagonist. The nudity and sex we've become accustomed to in these Nikkatsu erotic films are plentiful and the story and violence give it more body than the films that rely solely on tits and ass to gain the viewers attention. The only question I really have is what in the blue hell the title has to do with the film.

The Video
Impulse Pictures presents SEX HUNTER: WET TARGET on DVD with a 16:9 (2.35:1) widescreen presentation. The transfer is clean and the resources used seem to have been in pretty good shape. The picture is on the soft side but I attribute that to the way the film was shot more than the transfer on this disc.

The Audio
The audio track is a clear and steady Japanese 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. As is par for the course with this series of releases the track won't give your surround sound a workout but is a very serviceable track with a nice mix.

The Extras
The original theatrical trailer is included along with liner notes from Jasper Sharp in which he details the history of Nikkatsu and breaksdown this particular film a bit more.

The Bottom Line 
In just one year Impulse Pictures has released 10 titles in the Nikkatsu Erotic Film Collection (not counting the trailer compilation disc released in 2010) and done a very nice job on each. Between the solid presentation of the films, the very informative liner notes and the attractive numbered spines for collectors, this one deserves a spot alongside the other 9 discs.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Contest Giveaway


First off, the boring stuff.... The Rules

1. This contest is open to anyone
2. One entry per person (if all answers are correct- feel free to re-submit a new entry to add in additional answers. Please submit an entire entry form if you're adding answers so I don't have to keep track of multiple emails)
3. To enter send an email to and put "XMAS CONTEST" as the subject. Please include your mailing address in case you win!
4. The winner will be the person who answers the question and all 12 screen shots correctly. If there is more than one person with all 13 answers I will use a randomizer to pick a winner.
5. Winner will be notified via email and name will be posted on the blog's Facebook page. If you don't like that please don't enter.
6. The contest runs from December 10, 2012 until December 17 2012.

The prize is the recently re-released SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 1 & 2 DOUBLE FEATURE DVD from Anchor Bay/Starz (who are in no way affiliated with this contest). I reserve the right to choose an alternate prize for the winner if I so choose.


 1. What film has cult filmmaker John Waters referred to as "the greatest Christmas film ever made"?

The Screenshots

Identify these screenshots (please use a numbered list in your entry submission so I know which answer goes to which screenshot)

Hint: One of them is a television episode













Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Love It From Behind! (DVD Review)

Directed By: Koyu Ohara
Written By: Kazuhiko Ban
Starring: Junko Asahina, Yumi Hayakawa, Mari Kishida
Color/66 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
Mimei is a young woman who just recently moved to Tokyo from the small town of Sopporo and on a mission of completing her collection of 100 penis inkblot prints before her arranged marriage in a month. She collects these prints from men she sleeps with and needs the final 30 before she becomes a married woman. Also living in the same apartment are Rei who is scarred from being sexually assaulted by a co-worker and wants to turn the table on him now that he's returned from a long trip and Masumi, a girl pretty much obsessed with masturbating with any phallic item she can find. As Mimei quickly heads toward completing her goal she finds the man for number 100 but realizes that his stipulation for getting the inkblot print isn't as easy as she is. Along with that she helps her roommates overcome their apparent lesbian urges for each other.

I LIKE IT FROM BEHIND! is one of the lighter sexploitation films I've ever seen, especially from this collection. Clocking in at a brisk 66 minutes the film moves quickly from one sex act to another in a very light hearted nature, even during the nastier scenes. That said, this is pure exploitation. Girls are more often naked than clothed, and having sex, though the title seems to pertain more to the men of the film than the women, and there are plenty of classic exploitation themes on display. Director Koyu Ohara directs the film in such a way that you can't help but smile and almost laugh along with the film instead of being repulsed by the acts being committed on screen, though the film doesn't enter comedy territory luckily. Ohara walks a fine line with the tone of the film and largely succeeds. It doesn't take long for the film to let the viewer know that you're in for an hour of naked women and some debauchery but you don't need to feel bad about it.

Compared to the Women In Prison and rougher sex films of this collection ILIFB comes off as almost the PG entry of the collection, if that is even possible for a film such as this. There are plenty of attractive ladies without their clothes, and the classic Japanese sensor effects (we get the cloud and a pixelation effect in this one) that almost have a bit of charm themselves and a few stand out scenes including the camera being totally covered in jizz. On second thought, maybe that "PG" thought was a little crazy.

The Video
I LIKE IT FROM BEHIND! is presented in an anamorphic widescreen print with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The disc transfer comes from an obviously clean source that has been well preserved. No distracting dirt, debris, cuts or distortions were noticed. Though the bland lighting schemes that are common for these films don't allow for any of these films to be particularly flashy, Impulse Pictures provides a quality transfer.

The Audio
The film is presented with a Japanese 2.0 mono track with optional English subtitles that have been newly translated. The sound is free of any annoying hiss or hum and levels stay even throughout with no drop off. Dialogue never has to compete with the soundtrack or background noise and the subtitles are clear and well synced.

The Extras
The continued series of liner notes from Japanese film historian Jasper Sharp are worthy of being the main extra on each subsequent title in this series. The original theatrical trailer is also included.

The Bottom Line
Impulse Pictures continues the Nikkatsu Erotic Films series with its 9th entry and yet again delivers an entertaining movie and a quality product that any Nikkatsu porno fan will want for their collection.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hate Thy Neighbor (1968)

Bill Dakota arrives in town with his wife and child frantically looking for the sheriff. A notorious gunman named Gary Stevens (George Eastman) is chasing him down and nobody, including the local law enforcement want anything to do with helping him. After Stevens mercilessly kills Bill and his wife for a map to a goldmine Bill's brother Ken sets out for revenge. Stevens is partnered up with a powerful gangster named Malone to split control of the mine (and the map itself) 50/50. It doesn't take long for Malone to double cross Stevens and have him dangling over a pit of snakes being forced to give up his half of the map. Its at this point that Dakota finds the helpless Stevens and makes a deal that he will only make him stand trial instead of killing him if he gives up his half of the map. After being sentenced to death, Stevens narrowly avoids the gallows with the aid of Malone who wants him to retrieve the missing half of the map. After more double crossing Stevens finds himself in a game of life or death at the hands of Malone until Dakota breaks up the party to finally get the revenge he's been seeking.

Directed by Ferdinando Baldi (TEXAS ADIOS, DJANGO PREPARE A COFFIN) in 1968, HATE THY NEIGHBOR is a frustrating film to watch. While it has plenty going for it including really solid performances from the cast, especially Horst Frank as Malone, and a solid score, the film suffers from extremely messy writing. Focusing more on the characters than a bunch of action scenes, the film has potential to set itself apart but two of our three leads are handled poorly to say the least. Ken Dakota is simply a bland protagonist. It takes until the climactic shootout scene for him to really do anything interesting other than be a goody two shoes stand up citizen and after that he goes right back to it. Gary Stevens is supposed to be this well known, notorious baddie but is often outsmarted, and out-muscled. George Eastman does a nice job portraying Stevens but the character is just too weaselly to be taken seriously as a major threat. On the other hand, Malone is handled well as the rich, tough, gangster that is a step ahead more often than not. The action scenes are hit or miss, sometimes being exciting and captivating like the end at Malone's estate and sometimes hokey and filled with forced comedy. The coffin maker character fills up almost all of his screen time with annoying comedy.

The story itself, as you can probably tell, is nothing out of the ordinary but the shift in focus to the three leads playing cat and mouse games could have made this a stand out spaghetti western but the writing leaves a lot to be desired and really drags down what could have been something special.