Friday, May 31, 2013

Universal Pictures Presents THE PURGE - A Contest!

I'm all for hooking you guys up with free stuff and Universal Pictures is having a big giveaway promotion for the upcoming release of their thriller THE PURGE, in theaters June 7.

The Prize: A T-Shirt and mask from THE PURGE.

How To Win:
- Take the Survive The Night Quiz and post your outcome in the comment section (Click HERE to take the quiz)
- Tweet me @celluloidterror using the #SurviveTheNight hashtag 
- Share this post on Facebook from the Celluloid Terror page.

The Rules
- Open To US residents only
- Winner have their address in to me by June 21st, 2013
- No PO Box addresses allowed
- Contest ends on June 10th at noon. I'll pick a winner and contact them at that time. 

Everybody will get an entry for each of these methods they do and I'll randomly pick a winner of the prize pack

If, on one night every year, you could commit any crime without facing consequences, what would you do?

In an America wracked with crime and overcrowded prisons, the government has sanctioned an annual 12-hour period in which any and all criminal activity--including murder--becomes legal. The police can't be called. Hospitals suspend help. It's twelve hours when the citizenry regulates itself without thought of punishment. On this particular night in 2022, plagued by violence and an epidemic of crime, one family wrestles with the decision of who they will become when a stranger comes knocking.

When an intruder breaks into James Sandin’s (Ethan Hawke) gated community during the yearly lockdown, he begins a sequence of events that threatens to tear his family apart. Now, it is up to James, his wife, Mary (Lena Headey), and their kids to make it through the night without turning into the monsters from whom they hide.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

We Are What We Are (2010)

With the release of an American remake imminent, I decided to watch the original Spanish production of WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (Somos Lo Que Hay).

After the sudden death of their father, Alfredo, Julian and their sister Sabina must rise above their negative, gloom and doom mother to keep the family, and its traditions together. Alfredo is the oldest and smart, but shy and naive and is next in line to be the man of the house. It doesn't take long for the family to reveal that they are cannibals. However the fact that they live in a busy city is a bit different from the normal backwoods, or jungle cannibal family.

Most of the potential for thrilling, scary or exciting situations based on the setting and plot are wasted as the film revolves around the families incredibly grating Lifetime Channel drama. I wanted nothing more than the mother to get slapped across the face for being an obnoxious piece of shit throughout the entire film. For a starving family of cannibals she sure is a picky bitch when it comes down to what type of person she'll eat. There is also a half assed police investigation subplot that never comes together to make the screen time it uses worth it. The brother Alfredo and his sister Sabina are the bright spot of the film, as he deals with who he is in the face of trying to provide for his family in this insane scenario and she is the brains of the family trying to play puppet master to everyone to make it work.

WE ARE WHAT WE ARE is directed by Jorge Michel Grau in his feature debut. He is perhaps best known now for his entry into The ABCs Of Death with the entry for the letter I, which apparently didn't stick with me for better or worse as it doesn't ring a bell to me at all. This movie is capably directed but again, it is a wasted opportunity. While not terrible, it does leave the door open for the American remake to surpass it. I'll be interested in checking that out when it is released.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Labor Of Love (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Robert Flaxman, Daniel Goldman
Written By: N/A
Starring:  Henri Charbakshi
Color/67 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
In the early 70s  Henri Charbakshi set out to make a film that was a "combination of Fellini, Truffaut, and Bergman" about a couple that couldn't have a baby due to the man's inability so they go to a brothel. Different from the traditional sense, this brothel is all men prostitutes and the woman is to choose her man to have their baby. This film is known as The Last Affair.

A LABOR OF LOVE is the very real documentation of the production of The Last Affair, a film that the producers, that is the money behind the film, felt needed to be filled, with up to 60 percent real sex in order to make money. This documentary is over an hour of the humanization of a group of actors, many first timers and young, dealing with all of the issues and emotions being in such an uncomfortable situation can bring along with a director trying to make a film as close to his vision as he can while dealing with the pressures of his financial backers and his cast and crew's emotions throughout the shoot.

This film is rather amusing as far as the encounters between the cast and crew are concerned and a bit eye-opening as the youthful group hopes, and expects to break their careers open after giving in to pressures from the producers to essentially star in a porno.

A LABOR OF LOVE closes stating that the producers rescripted the film, shot new material, and released the film with no explicit sex scenes.

The Video 
Vinegar Syndrome presents this documentary in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that looks good for what it is. This was never meant to be a beautifully filmed, feature film, instead it is the documentation of filming a feature film. The film is grainy and sometimes soft but colors look fine and the image is stable and seems to have been maintained well. 

The Audio
While dealing with small amounts of its own background noise and noisy cameras and other equipment on set,  A LABOR OF LOVE actually sounds pretty good. The dialogue and interviews with cast and crew is what drives the sound of this disc and it is always crisp and clear. 

The Extras 
The main extra is a taped interview with director Robert Flaxman from a recent screening of the film in which he goes in to great detail about how the project came to be and memories from making the documentary. Also included is the original theatrical trailer.

The Bottom Line
Anybody interested in the film making process, whether in front of the lens or behind, owes it to themselves to take the 67 minutes and watch this documentary. While being entertaining it is also a candid look into how difficult making a low budget independent film can be when you have investors who interfere in the artistic process in order to try and guarantee a profit.
A LABOR OF LOVE is available HERE

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Massage Parlor Murders (Blu-ray Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Chester Fox, Alex Stevens
Written By:
Starring: Beverly Bonner, George Dzundza, Anne Gaybis
Color/80 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
A madman is on the loose in New York City and his targets are the girls working at massage parlors around town who offer more than just muscle rubs. Two policemen are assigned the case of discovering who the maniac is and why he's killing these women. After questioning the first victim's roommate one of the cops begins to date the girl who is also a working masseuse, however she doesn't go beyond a massage. As the bodies pile up in gruesome killings including stabbings, acid burns and strangulation by a girls bra, the cops begin to get closer to the killer but will they find out before it affects their own lives?

Having never heard of this film before this release was announced I could only go off of my assumptions from the title and time period as to what to expect, and they weren't too far off. MASSAGE PARLOR MURDERS, or as it was originally titled MASSAGE PARLOR HOOKERS isn't as sleazy as you'd probably think but it is still successful in what it is, purely an exploitation film. From the film showing that just about any woman giving you a massage will just as easily spread her legs for you for a $20 bill, to the copious nude women, including a swimming pool full, to the violent killing of these women this film is a mean one. Filled with several (rather poor) red herrings, a car chase scene where a food stand gets demolished, and exterior shots of seedy NYC streets, MASSAGE PARLOR MURDERS doesn't push the limit as much as it could have but it will still satisfy your hunger for good old fashioned 70s genre fare.  

The Video 
MASSAGE PARLOR MURDERS looks pretty damn good on Blu-ray thanks to Vinegar Syndrome. A film that probably wouldn't have seen a release from any other company ends up with a nice HD presentation. The detail level is high with a natural grain structure. Colors have a bit of pop to them in the more artfully lit scenes and the large amounts of skin you see has a nice healthy look to it. Some scenes feature a grainier look than other but look no farther than the exterior shots to see how beautiful this film looks. The DVD/BD combo is region free on both discs.

Please Note: Screen grabs are taken from DVD copy of the film.  

The Audio
The audio fares well also, with the sometimes odd soundtrack shining, sometimes a bit too much over dialogue but overall it is a very decent mono audio track. There isn't too much that needs to challenge your sound system anyways so this track does the job just fine with just a bit of background noise throughout.

The Extras
The disc features a pair of trailers, outtakes and some radio spots. Also included is a nice booklet with some history and analysis of the film and a replica film reel card. A very nice package overall for this film. 

The Bottom Line
This combo pack release needs to be in every genre fan's library, and for the price there is no excuse that it isn't.


Monday, May 20, 2013

She Cat (DVD Review) - Impulse Pictures

Directed By: Shingo Yamashiro
Written By: Chiho Katsura, Makoto Naito
Starring: Ai Saotome, Koichi Iwaki, Yoshie Otsuka
Color/87 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
It has become apparent over the last year of viewing these Nikkatsu Roman Porno films that as long as a particular film satisfied the studio's requirements for nudity and sex that it doesn't really matter what kind of movie the screenwriter and director have come up. SHE CAT takes a turn for the ambitious, with a run time considerably longer than the average Nikkatsu title (many coming in at under 70 minutes) this mix of criminal underworld, plot twists, violence, car chases and sex certainly stands apart from the rest of the collection so far released in the US. While not all of the elements work, and the movie's flow is a little bit off at times it certainly is an entertaining film with high production values. The direction is stylish, with a noticeable similarity to Argento's Tenebre (which Jasper Sharp points out in the liner notes) and the camera work matches. 

SHE CAT is a fun flick that has a bit more to offer than the average Nikkatsu production and it is successful at being entertaining even if the film itself is a bit messy at times. It is interesting to note that in the liner notes Jasper Sharp makes mention of how many people involved in this flick had a fleeting relationship with the studio which perhaps explains why SHE CAT goes beyond the typical and attempts to be something more. 

The Video 
Impulse Pictures gives us another very nice looking transfer with this 16:9 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The clean looking print has a very nice natural film look to it with colors being reproduced beautifully. This is just a very nice looking DVD presentation. 

The Audio
A well mixed 2.0 mono soundtrack takes care of the sound side of things, with the film being in it's native Japanese. Dialogue is crisp and clear with the soundtrack being lively in the background but never becoming overbearing. Optional English subtitles are available and necessary unless you speak Japanese. The subs are translated nicely and timed perfectly. 

The Extras
Along with the liner notes that are adding up to an encyclopedia at this point, is the original theatrical trailer.

The Bottom Line 
SHE CAT is a very cool example of how different the Nikkatsu Roman Porno production line was during its day and remains a movie certainly worthy of your time if you're a fan of the series. From the film itself to the very nice presentation from Impulse Pictures, I have to call SHE CAT a winner overall. 

SHE CAT is available HERE 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Female Teacher Hunting (DVD Review) - Impulse Pictures

Directed By: Junichi Suzuki
Written By: Hiroshi Saito
Starring: Yuki Kazamatsuri, Yoko Azusa, Kyoko Ito
Color/66 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
When a moonlit affair in a pool leads to boy being accused of raping his girlfriend he storms out of school on the last day, declaring his intentions to drop out. After a nasty encounter, that doesn't go as far as you expect it to while watching, the student head's to a coastal town to spend his summer days roaming the beach and enjoying all that it brings. Soon after the student is brought in by a local bar owner and his sex-starved wife who throws the boy into a whirlwind of sex and violence. Meanwhile, the teacher he encountered before leaving school has rented a small place in the same beach town to have a summer affair with her married lover, setting up an encounter between the student and teacher and possibly changing the student forever. 

From the start FEMALE TEACHER HUNTER doesn't quite seem set in the same reality we live in. The nasty rapes that occur don't have the gut churning effect that they do in such films as Irreversible, or I Spit On Your Grave. No, these rapes, to the viewer at least, come across as sort of a fantasy world where we can safely view these characters experiencing one of the most deplorable things life has to throw at us. It is certainly thanks to the excellent direction and as the synopsis on the back of the DVD case says "moody" cinematography. This film is possibly the finest crafted film to be released in the Nikkatsu collection so far. The content is rough but the delivery is polished and dramatic. This is much more than common sleaze. 

The Video 
Impulse Pictures delivers a nice looking 16:9 anamorphic widescreen transfer that has strong colors and natural looking flesh tones. The print is very clean with no dirt or debris.

The Audio
A 2.0 mono Japanese track with newly translated English subtitles provides the only audio option and it is a good one. It is well mixed with dialogue coming through clear and subtitles are well timed and easy to read. there is no distracting hiss or distortions.

The Extras
The original theatrical trailer is included alongside the ongoing series of liner notes from the resident expert on these films, Jasper Sharp. 


The Bottom Line
Despite the incredibly rough side to much of this film, FEMALE TEACHER HUNTING has a level of beauty that transcends the rape and violence and caters to the odder side of the psyche. With spine number 13 in the series this is certainly among my favorite so far.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Dungeon Of Harrow / Death By Invitation (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

USA/1962, 1971
Directed By: Pat Boyette / Ken Friedman
Written By: Pat Boyette, Henry Garcia / Ken Friedman
Starring: Russ Harvey, Helen Hogan / Shelby Leverington, Arron Phillips
Color/168 Minutes/Not Rated 

THE DUNGEON OF HARROW is the story of a pair of men who shipwreck on an island during a storm. After hearing the howls of wild dogs and the screams of a woman they trek further into the island territory when they are encountered by a large man and assaulted. They are brought to the castle of the island in varying condition, the captain exceptionally banged up. Soon they meet the Count of the castle who is quickly losing himself to delusions of an even madder version of himself who is able to summon creatures including giant spiders. While his captain is left laying in bed to rest, Fallon, the owner of the boat, is the guest of the house and quickly becomes exposed to the horrors within.

It doesn't take long to see how much this film resembles the gothic horror films from Roger Corman that are simply much better. This is a basement priced production and would be the 3rd feature on a drive-in bill that would feature The Pit And The Pendulum as the star attraction. While THE DUNGEON OF HARROW isn't a technically successful movie it is an ambitious one with set pieces within the castle looking better than they should. There is no star power here, or anything resembling a great horror film, there is even a rather stupid twist reveal toward the end but I can't help but admire the spirit behind this film that does manage a surprise or two during its duration.

In DEATH BY INVITATION Lise is a woman who has befriended the conservative Vroot family with the intentions of avenging her ancestor (who bears a striking resemblance to Lise) who was executed for being a witch by the Vroot family's ancestors. Lise is much more a free spirit and has little trouble luring the Vroot children of varying ages to spend time with her when she is able to enact her revenge. She tells a story of a an old tribe of women that end up eating the men after their attempted uprising and lets the blood spill. As the family mourns Lise gets in closer, providing her support for the grieving family until the father's suspicions come true.

Originally titled The Witch Story, DEATH BY INVITATION flashes images of the witch hunt throughout the film to remind us of Lise's intentions and furthering the madness on screen. Lise drives the film's sexuality without there being much skin shown at all, Shelby Leverington thrives in the role. While on the slow side the film has a bit of comic relief from a detective who thinks one of the kids of the family who went missing will simply turn up as a dope fiend in the city. There are some attempts at bringing a psychedelic vibe to the film at times but it never comes across. The film is nothing special but isn't a bad viewing experience.

Dungeon Of Harrow is presented in an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio and looks like it comes from a source that has aged quite a bit. The image is soft with washed out colors and has some scratches, dirt and debris along with some natural grain. While not a particularly striking transfer it is certainly watchable.

INVITATION's transfer is rather clean, only marred by a light speckling of marks and black lines that don't distract. There are a few flashes of white marks in the upper corners at times but again those aren't distracting. The 16:9 anamorphic print is probably the best this film has looked since it was originally shot. 

The audio track on HARROW is another passable job but just barely, most likely due to the original nature of the recording. The track is free of any cracking, hissing or pops but the dialogue is very muddy and buried beneath the soundtrack. Luckily once you've boosted the volume loud enough to understand the dialogue you can leave the remote alone as there are no major unnecessary spikes in volume.

DEATH BY INVITATION has a much better 2.0 Dolby Digital mix. Dialogue is always clear despite some minor background hiss and crackling. The soundtrack is a bit on the flat side but it sounds like it is true to the original mix. 

There is a commentary track for DEATH BY INVITATION from the podcast group The Hysteria Continues where they discuss the sparse background information on the movie and some of the cast and crew's history. It isn't super informative but it is a lively enough track to warrant a listen and is a nice addition. 

The Bottom Line
 While I wouldn't call either of these movies winners on their own, they somehow work as a double feature and would work even better in the middle of a horror marathon. These are two flicks from the drive-in era that have had shoddy lives on public domain discs and it is nice that they get a decent representation here from Vinegar Syndrome at a price any collector will love.

THE DUNGEON OF HARROW / DEATH BY INVITATION Drive-In Collection Double Feature is available HERE

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Telephone Book (Blu-ray Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Nelson Lyon
Written By: Nelson Lyon
Starring: Sarah Kennedy, Norman Rose

The Film
Have you ever seen a woman have sex with a skyscraper? You will in this film. 

Alice is a sweet 18 year old hippie type, sexually free yet strangely innocent. She receives a phone call one day while laying around in bed from a stranger who is perhaps the greatest dirty phone caller of all time. He says all the right things to Alice and gets her juices flowing so much that she can't contain herself and decides to track down this mysterious voice. Her adventure takes her across New York City where she encounters everything from a weird porno film actor who claims to be the voice, to a lesbian with a baby cart. Alice runs into the ludest and crudest, and even gives them a little of their own medicine. She eventually comes face to face with the voice that brought her to the brink of sexual ecstasy where the voice continues to talk to her about his story, eventually giving Alice the time of her life. 

THE TELEPHONE BOOK is a very unique little film. Part stag film but without any hardcore penetration scenes, part comedy, and part hippie culture, director Nelson Lyon melds all the aspects of this picture like some sort of bastard child of Waters and Meyer with a dash of Kubrick thrown in for good measure. It is sleazy, yet at the same time funny and artistic in its editing and composition. Actress Sarah Kennedy is great as a young, doe eyed teen quickly experiencing everything sexual she can while still somehow seeming like she could fit in just fine with the Brady Bunch kids. Among our main narrative are these interview like segments with other obscene callers who discuss why they began to make these phone calls and what exactly they do while calling. This just adds to the overall raunchyness of the film. 

From the film's use of black and white photography until the climax where we are greeted an purely surreal piece of 1970s animation that will strangely remind you of School House Rock, to Nelson Lyon's direction in his only time helming a motion picture (he's best known as a Saturday Night Live writer) THE TELEPHONE BOOK is a dirty, sexy and funny piece of 1970s cinema that deserves to be redisovered with this new release. 

The Video
Vinegar Syndrome presents THE TELEPHONE BOOK in a full HD 1080p transfer, with an anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio that looks like it came straight from a midnight showing in NYC. The transfer has some dirt and scratches and a layer of grain but beneath it lies a pretty good transfer that shows decent facial and textural detail in close ups. The black and white photography is deep in the blacks and looks good with no smearing or blaring contrast problems in the whites. This won't become your favorite new toy because of how shiny it is but you will appreciate that it probably looks pretty damn close to what it would have had you saw it in a sticky seat 40 years ago. The BD/DVD combo pack is region free. 

*Please note that screen grabs were taken from the DVD copy of the film. 

The Audio
I didn't notice any major hissing or cracking in the 2.0 Mono audio track. Dialogue stays comfortably clear and above the soundtrack. The audio and video are very similar in that they both feel true to the film and not overly tinkered with.

The Extras
The star of the extra features is a lively and informative commentary track with the film's producer Merv Bloch in which he discusses various trivia about the film and its history and some Andy Warhol love. We also get a couple of theatrical trailers and radio spots and a still gallery.  

The Bottom Line
THE TELEPHONE BOOK is a hell of a weird movie that deserves an audience discover it and fall in love with all over again. 40 years later this movie is still a dirty little piece of strange film making that you can have fun watching. Vinegar Syndrome did one hell of a job on this release. 


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Anatomy Of A Psycho / The Lonely Sex (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

USA/1960, 1959
Directed By: Boris Petroff, Richard Hillard
Written By: Jane Mann, Don Devlin / Richard Hillard, Stephen Ripley
Starring: Ronnie Burns, Pamela Lincoln / Mary Gonzalez, Karl Light
Black & White/137 Minutes/Not Rated

The Films 
As Duke Marco is sentenced to death for a murder, his younger siblings who were raised by him must deal with his death. Chet, the youngest, believes that Duke confided to him and only him that he was innocent, and sets out on a path of vengeance against those responsible for putting his brother to death. Despite his sister's pleas to stop, and see Duke for the hoodlum he really was Chet attacks the DA's son and the judge's son, even letting his own friend die after a fight to set up the DA's son with a murder charge himself. 

ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO is a decent little thriller that would probably have been better suited for production 10 or 15 years later when it would have been full of excess that makes these types of revenge films entertaining. As it sits, it is a fine film, that isn't really bad at all, just tame. Tameness is it's biggest flaw. The fight scenes are almost comical at times (especially the one leading up to a large fire) in how over acted they are, but that is more a sign of the times than a flaw of the film. ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO is best summed up in one word, decent.  

THE LONELY SEX begins with a newspaper heading "Sex slaying in memorial park" and cuts to a man walking down the street, peering into a window to spy on a woman undressing from her black lingerie and fishnets. The man is ever vigilant to make sure he isn't caught, but he never once glances away. The man is Mr. Wiler, a tenant at a boardinghouse run by Annabelle and her father, a doctor. Mr. Wiler has an attraction to Annabelle and doesn't keep it a secret. We are soon introduced to another man, a loner that spends his time in a shack where he lives or spying on beautiful women in the park. When he offers one of those women, Annabelle, a flower and she laughs in his face his weak mind responds with brutal violence and he begins choking and striking her repeatedly. After letting her go, he stalks her again, this time capturing her and locking her in his shed. The deranged man goes to Annabelle's father seeking help for his own damaged mind when he reveals that he has kidnapped her. Wiler and the doctor go to rescue Annabelle and Wiler decides to go one step father.

THE LONELY SEX is a rather bland psycho sexual thriller. There was some potential early on but it quickly becomes nothing more than a sit-and-wait affair for the girl to be rescued, while the deranged man escapes to the confines of a church with his life until the police come. The short film movies at a brisk pace to prevent the movie from dragging but a boredom still manages to creep in by the end of the film.

Aside from a few short moments of damage ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO has a very nice looking print. The black and white transfer is sharp and features a healthy dose of natural grain. Vinegar Syndrome did a really nice job here. 

THE LONELY SEX looks nice for the most part. The black and white 1.37:1 transfer is clean and sharp, with some scratches and dirt present but nothing distracting. There are some moments towards the end of the film where the source material was damaged and you can notice skips in the frames. Nothing major, and Vinegar Syndrome did a nice job.

ANATOMY has a clean and clear audio track. Dialogue and music are nicely mixed and provide an all around enjoyable listen. 

 As with the video on TLS the audio isn't bad either. There is some hissing and crackling in the background but dialogue comes through loud and clear.


The Bottomline 
While this pair of thrillers probably won't keep you on the edge of your seat, they will give you a bit of insight into exploitation films a good decade before they exploded into what we picture them as today. And on top of that neither is particularly bad, just nothing exceptional. Recommended, even if only to see how exploitation films have evolved.

ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO / THE LONELY SEX Drive-In Collection Double Feature is available HERE 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Gut (2012)

Tom is tired of his go-nowhere suit job, and is letting it affect his life at home with his wife Lily and daughter Katie. They've begun the process of looking for a new home away from the city, much to the chagrin of Tom's childhood best friend and co-worker Dan. Tom and Dan's friendship was based largely on their mutual love of horror films, something that Tom has grown out of with time and his growing family. Dan has recently received a disc that has him very excited to show his friend, one of a woman being lustfully sliced open in a surgical fashion and it all feels much too real. These discs keep coming, and viewing them starts to mess with both friend's psyche. Tom has nightmares of the images, and Dan's new girlfriend ends up murdered. Their relationship is falling apart from these possible snuff films and their lives are at stake when Tom takes a short trip to continue the search for a new home and job and returns to find his worst nightmares have come true.

GUT was directed by Elias, and is a low budget psychological horror film, that has a few moments of really well done effects. The acting from men carry the weight of the film with no trouble. It is a surprisingly strong performance from the whole cast really, except perhaps the bitchy diner waitress who is overdoing it. The soundtrack is subdued, as it should be, adding to the mood but never becoming something you notice. GUT is a solid effort. The main problem is that it goes exactly where you expect it to go, without any twists or turns along the way. It sets a goal and head's straight for it, and in some cases that is fine and works for that particular film. With what GUT is trying to accomplish it keeps the film from excelling and being "next-level".

GUT is a promising film, that just lacks a couple of punches to the viewer to really make things interesting. It is a shame that it ends up being a mono tone affair because it didn't have to be and it holds the film back from better things. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Suckers / The Love Garden (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

USA/1971, 1972
Directed By: Stu Segall, Mark Haggar d
Written By: Harold Lime ,Mark Haggard
Starring: Sandy Dempsey, Norman Fields, Linda York, Jason Yukon
Color/150 Minutes/Not Rated

The Films

A very wealthy big-game hunter has grown tired of killing animals. The passion has left him as there is no challenge left. He still holds hunts on his ranch and has invited the owners of a modeling agency and some of the talent to be his guests for a weekend and take some photos and the like. There is very little said about the hunt for the first part of the visti, instead the first 50 minutes of the film are filled with all sorts of sex. When the hunt finally happens it is revealed that there are no animals on this hunt, instead the guests are fighting for their lives against a madman and his sicko guards.

THE SUCKERS knows what it is and that is an excuse for sex and rape to be shown on screen. It isn't necessarily a bad thing but it could have been a top notch piece of exploitation. While the first 2/3 of the movie are eaten up with plenty of sex, some a bit more hardcore in nature than the rest, the ending hunt scene is rather lazy with a chase and capture scenario happening with each captive victim and no real set up or payoff. There is a lack of tension and dread despite the scenario. There is a rape scene including one of the models and a guard that is a nasty affair, perhaps the best part of the film. Stu Segall (as Arthur Byrd) directs this and seems to cheap out on it, making just enough of a movie to pass but not be anything great. 

THE LOVE GARDEN features magazine article writer Mike falling for his new neighbor Claire the first time he sees her at the pool. Claire lives with Inez and passes on Mike's invitations for dinner and a movie. Mike is a persistent man, and quickly learns the truth of Inez and Claire's relationship which makes him want her even more. Eventually Claire accepts an invitation and Mike professes his love to her.

A quick moving, 70 minute drama revolving around a pair of sex scenes, THE LOVE GARDEN is more interesting than it sounds on paper. The three characters are the entire cast of the film but they each have different layers and emotions that they go through which really keeps things interesting. The simple storytelling and voice overs from Mike really work to make this a pretty good little film.

The Video
THE SUCKERS is presented in a 1.85: widescreen transfer that is in rough shape. From start to finish the picture is littered with green and blue scratches and marks. Underneath, the transfer seems to be pretty decent however with colors having a nice natural look to them. The age and condition of the source material certainly show with a few wobbles but it definitely adds to the vibe for this Drive-In Collection release from Vinegar Syndrome.

The transfer for THE LOVE GARDEN is a nicer affair. The condition of the print is in nicer shape with a fairly sharp look and a print that has damage marks and some dirt and debris but it isn't nearly to the point of the first feature and is all around an enjoyable view. The film is presented in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio. (I couldn't get a screen shot from TLG because VLC Media Player wouldn't play that feature, just kept crashing. Not sure why)

The Audio
Similar to the video, THE SUCKERS is filled with hissing, pops and cracks throughout but it never interferes with the dialogue. Not a pretty sounding track but it matches the video quality and is serviceable. This is more about the experience than perfect quality. THE LOVE GARDEN has a solid and stable audio track from start to finish, it is never really pushed to any sort of extreme but it handles its duty nicely.  

The Extras

The Bottomline
While neither of these films will ever be called "classic" or "must-have" they are both entertaining in their own right and deserve a place on any exploitation film fan's shelf along with the rest of the Drive-In Collection from VinSyn (reviews coming soon!)

THE SUCKERS / THE LOVE GARDEN Drive-In Collection Double Feature is available HERE