Monday, September 30, 2013

The Sack Of Rome (DVD Review) - One 7

Italy, Russia/1992
Directed By: Fabio Bonzi
Written By: Fabio Bonzi
Starring: Franco Nero, Vittorio Belvedere
Color/96 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE

The Film
Franco Nero stars as Gabriele da Poppi, a 16th century Roman painter who lives with a pair of questionably young assistants. Gabriele is informed by a friend that the Germans have arrived in Rome and are ransacking the place and he would be wise to get out while he can. Gabriele is a bit delusional and high on himself calling himself more sacred than the pope and that nobody would touch him because of his art. Of course he is wrong and he and his assistants fall victim to the raping and pillaging that has fallen upon the city. His beautiful young assistant and model Gesuina is raped and he is forced to begin working on a giant portrait of the mercenary who has taken over his home.

THE SACK OF ROME, originally known as GOLD is a really odd picture for me. For something I was not at all familiar with I was half expecting this to be pretty bad, or at least just going through the motions. I don't know why. I was pleasantly surprised though, that Nero is pretty much on point in the lead role, his model/lover Vittoria Belvedere is gorgeous and graces us with her naked body and the violence and sleaze factor of the whole thing really ups the entertainment level.

The original title GOLD is one that references why the mercenaries are in Rome to begin with, there's a giant horde of gold and they want it. THE SACK OF ROME, which to the best of my knowledge is a newly created title for this DVD, isn't great, it relies on cheap entertainment but it is entertaining nevertheless. It is cool to have this obscurity on disc.

The Audio & Video
THE SACK OF ROME is delivered on DVD courtesy of One 7 Movies in so-so condition. The 1.33:1 full frame presentation seems to be cropped from a wider original presentation and seems to be sourced from a VHS copy of the film. Video quality is soft and dull with several video that are likely due to the source material. While it is far from a great transfer it is certainly watchable. The audio side of the disc is decent with the film's original Italian mono track in place with optional English subtitles. There's nothing amazing about this audio track but there's nothing to complain about without nitpicking. 

The Extras
The lone extra on the disc is a still gallery.

The Bottom Line 
This sort of oddball historical drama could have been better and could have been presented better but I can't hold that back from recommending it. It is a curiosity that I've never heard talked about starring Franco Nero and featuring quite a bit of sleaze and violence. Yeah, that is enough to at least rescue it from the depths of film hell and give it a serviceable release on DVD and it is enough that you should give it a watch.

THE SACK OF ROME is available HERE

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Night Tide (Blu-ray Review) - Kino

Directed By: Curtis Harrington
Written By: Curtis Harrington
Starring: Dennis Hopper, Linda Lawson, Gavin Muir
Black & White/85 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1

The Film
Johnny Drake is a US Navy sailor on shore leave played by a baby faced Dennis Hopper, the innocent and slightly naive young man wanders around the boardwalk attractions of Venice Beach until he meets a young woman named Mora in a bar. Their encounter is brief but Johnny invites himself to walk Mora home. Mora invites Johnny over for breakfast the next morning where the pair hit it off and begin to see each other a bit more often. Mora shows Johnny where she works as a sideshow attraction at the boardwalk as a mermaid who only charges 25 cents admission to get a glimpse of a siren of the sea. 

As Johnny and Mora get closer the people surrounding the pair begin to warn Johnny that his relationship with Mora may be putting him in danger. Johnny learns that she has had several boyfriends turn up dead recently and a fortune teller informs Johnny that his future is clouded with danger. Paranoia begins to set in with Johnny that perhaps Mora is an actual mermaid, or dangerous siren. Johnny's relationship with Mora quickly takes a turn for the worst during a Scuba diving adventure where violence and paranoia reach a boiling point. 

NIGHT TIDE was directed by Curtis Harrington and features some beautiful images throughout. There is a great image of Hopper jumping up on a high railing and doing a balance act on it after he walks Mora home the night they met that is beautiful. The film is a slow burn, featuring more drama than horror but it allows the hints and clues to build paranoia, not only within our star but the audience as well. The strongest point of NIGHT TIDE is Harrington's direction and the photography. It is a rather simple but nice looking film. It is interesting to see such a young Dennis Hopper long before he was Mad Dog Morgan or shouting about Pabst Blue Ribbon in what might be his first starring role. 

NIGHT TIDE is a solid film, a bit short on the thrills but is reminiscent of other early 60s films like Carnival Of Souls and would make a pretty neat double feature with that film. While not overly horrific, NIGHT TIDE is worth seeking out and will hopefully begin getting some more notoriety that it certainly deserves.

The Audio & Video
NIGHT TIDE makes its debut on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber and it looks gorgeous. The 1.66:1 widescreen transfer in full 1080p HD is sharp and clean, with just a bit of white speckling throughout. Detail levels are strong with the texture of fabrics and on some of the carnival attractions being exceptional. Black levels are deep and there are no signs of any DNR or edge enhancement. This is a great example of how older films can look great on Blu-ray. The 2.0 mono track is crisp and clear with no background noise. It is a simple track but sometimes that is all that needs to be done as it is pretty much a perfect audio track for the film. 

The Extras
-Audio commentary featuring director Curtis Harrington and Dennis Hopper - this track is several years old, having been recorded before both men passed away. They recount their time filming and some production details. Harrington recalls most of the details with Hopper chiming in just enough.
-Two part interview with Curtis Harrington clocking in at 55 minutes
-Original theatrical trailer

The Bottom Line
It is great to get films like NIGHT TIDE out on Blu-ray and even better when the release has great A/V quality and some cool features. If you're a fan of older offbeat horror films then I would suggest you check out this disc.

NIGHT TIDE is available HERE

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hidden In The Woods (DVD Review) - Artsploitation Films

Directed By: Patricio Valladares
Written By: Patricio Valladares, Andrea Cavaletto
Starring: Siboney Lo, Serge Francois, Carolina Escobar
Color/98 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1

The Film
Ana and Anny live in the countryside of Chile, held captive by their disgustingly abusive father. The man has not qualms about beating them, tying them up and raping them. Eventually his sexual abuse leads to an inbred baby, who is deformed. Named Manuel, this baby is kept in a shed and fed a diet of only raw meat. For years the trio of kids puts up with this, living in fear of their father who works as a drug holder for a kingpin, until a pair of cops show up to find out about the father which ends in a bloody mess and the now grown children fleeing into the woods. 

Ana, Anny and Manuel take solace miles away in an old cabin their father owned resorting to prostitution for money for food. Eventually the kingpin's henchmen hunt them down looking for the drugs which results in another violent encounter until the girls find the kingpin, and their father and years of torture and abuse come to a head.

If you took this film and traveled back to the mid-1970s and screened it at a seedy 42nd Street theater in Manhattan it would not be out of place. HIDDEN IN THE WOODS is very much a piece of modern exploitation without any of the cuteness that many of the Neo-Grindhouse movement films of the last several years have. This film pushes the limits of taste, and it becomes and a test of endurance with how much you can stomach. 

That isn't to say HIDDEN IN THE WOODS is all style and no substance. Not at all. Director Patricio Valladares makes sure that while our lead females endure seemingly endless hardships and live in a world of pure shit, these girls are far from punching bags and pin cushions for our perverse enjoyment. Ana, Anny, and Manuel are the only character who gain our sympathy in the entire film. Every other character is either entirely despicable or, in the case of the police, too much of a fuck up to be worth it. 

HIDDEN IN THE WOODS will divide audiences (and has done just that at various film festivals) and it will certainly be talked about because of its violence and willingness to take everything to the extreme. It would be a shame if that is all it is remembered for, however. While the film isn't perfect, there are a couple hamfisted attempts at comedy, and some of the supporting performances could have been better, it is an extremely beautiful  example of loyalty, strength and love set inside an awesomely violent and nasty exploitation film.

  The Audio & Video
Artsploitation Films delivers HIDDEN IN THE WOODS on DVD with a great looking 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Not surprisingly the film looks great as it wasn't shot more than a couple of years ago but the transfer really lets the different tones in the color come to life. This disc looks as beautiful and the film is ugly. The audio tracks, either a 5.1 surround or 2.0 stereo track both in Spanish with English subtitles, sound great and full of life. The almost endless screaming and many gunshots come through with booming force. The quality of this disc stands up with the biggest and best releasing companies out there. 

The Extras
-Interview with the director Patricio Valladares
-Behind The Scenes Featurette
-8 page booklet featuring an essay on the film and a short interview with the director

The Bottom Line
HIDDEN IN THE WOODS caught me totally off guard with how much of a throwback it is without being at all tongue-in-cheek. It is a nasty piece of exploitation and horror that rivals the most vile films of the 1970s. I highly recommend this to anyone that appreciates what a film as nasty as this has to offer. 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Devil Bat (Blu-ray Review) - Kino

Directed By: Jean Yarbrough
Written By: John T. Neville, George Bricker
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Dave O' Brien
Color/68 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A

The Film
Bela Lugosi stars as Paul Carruthers, a mad scientist of sort who has vowed revenge on his fellow businessmen as he feels they've denied him an equal share in their success and riches. Carruthers plans his revenge by using a giving a special fragrance to his potential victims that will attract his mutant killer bat. 

A simple plot leads to an entertaining film with Lugosi carrying the film and nailing his role. This wasn't a Universal production like Dracula and it is evident that the same production budget wasn't there but that doesn't mean this movie looks cheap. The sets are very well dressed, including a mini Frankenstein lab. THE DEVIL BAT includes a heavy dose of humor and ends up being a very underrated black comedy horror film that deserves better than the budget bin, public domain releases it has suffered through for decades. It finally has the release it deserves. All classic horror fans should check this one out. 

The Audio & Video
Kino Lorber presents THE DEVIL BAT in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame with a transfer that is pretty damn impressive for a low budget horror film that is 70+ years old. The overall quality of the materials used were in great condition with just a bit of white speckling throughout. The image is strong with deep black levels and much improved details over the public domain releases fans of the film have become accustomed to. On the audio side of things, the 2.0 Mono mix is just as strong as the video, with dialogue coming through loud and clear. Background noise is at a minimum and the soundtrack level is mixed beauituflly as to not compete with dialogue. A superb job by Kino.

The Extras
The main feature on this disc is an audio commentary track from film historian and Video Watchdog contributor Richard Harland Smith who gives a lively and loving commentary to a film that he's been interested in since he was 10 years old. There is plenty of interesting information here and is a highly enjoyable listen. Other features are a still gallery and a trailer for Lugosi's earlier film White Zombie.

The Bottom Line
While a bit light on the extras, this classic horror film gets a transfer that rivals the Universal horror films (something that can't be said about the production budget!). This disc is without a doubt the best the film has looked in at least one generation and likely the best it'll ever look until someone invents a time machine to go back to 1940. A great release that will get the approval of classic horror fans.

THE DEVIL BAT is available HERE

Monday, September 16, 2013

Blood Thirst / The Thirsty Dead (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Philippines/1971, 1974
Directed By: Newt Arnold, Terry Becker
Written By: N.I.P. Dennis, Terry Becker/Charles Dennis/Lou Whitehill
Starring: Robert Winston, Katherine Henryk, Jennifer Billingsley, John Considine
B&W/Color/162 Minutes Not Rated
Region FREE

The Films
BLOOD THIRST is a horror mystery, centering around a series of bizarre murders where women have been drained of their blood through a cut on their arm. Detective Rourke is on the case and finds a lot of weird characters within the nightclub that the case seems to revolve around. Eventually he discovers a blood cult is behind the whole thing.

THE THIRSTY DEAD is similar to BLOOD THIRST in the way that it is also a blood cult type film. This time a group of pretty women have been abducted and taken deep into the jungle where they fall prey to an ancient cult using the blood of women in their prime to stay young. When the leader falls for the woman chosen to be the cult's new leader they all try to escape the dungeons and the dead.

Both BLOOD THIRST AND THE THIRSTY DEAD are b-movies that likely pulled up the rear on any double or triple feature they were a part of. Neither is overly horrific, though both have their moments of creepiness. It's a shame those moments weren't a bit better and more frequent. Neither of these films are particularly good but both are quick, easy flicks that don't need the viewer to invest much at all. They're perfect for a lazy night of horror movies where the beer has taken a strong hold around 1 AM.

The Audio & Video
Both films suffer from lots of scratches and marks throughout the print but Vinegar Syndrome has both films looking better than they do on any of the budget mega packs that they've seen releases on previously. The black and white photography on BLOOD THIRST looks pretty good under the scratchy print as do the colors on THE THIRSTY DEAD where the picture even looks strikingly vibrant at times given the cheap production and not so great elements. The audio is much of the same, perfectly listenable but plenty of pops, crackling and other background noise is present. Far from a perfect transfer on these films but probably the best they've ever looked and sounded on home video.

The Extras

The Bottom Line
This release is far from perfect and the films are far from classic but Vinegar Syndrome pairs up a couple cheesy horror flicks that would each be a fun way to end a night or weekend horror marathon full of friends and drinks. I like horror marathons, friends, and drinks so for that reason this is a useful release. Recommended.

 BLOOD THIRST/THE THIRSTY DEAD Drive-In Collection Double Feature is available HERE

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Horny Diver: Tight Shellfish (DVD Review) - Impulse Pictures

Directed By: Atsushi Fujiura
Written By: Shouichi Ikeda
Starring: Megumi Kiyosato, Asami Okawa, Kumiko Itou
Color/70 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1

The Film
A small Japanese fishing village is the target of a wealthy real estate developer who wants to turn the area into a tourist destination and resort area but the locals love their land and the ladies have their diving jobs to think about. Enter Junpei, a man hired to sleep with the woman to get them to sign over the deeds to their land. The real estate developer's plan falls apart when the locals find out and a whirlwind of nudity and sex is the real outcome.

HORNY DIVER: TIGHT SHELLFISH is another sexy romp from Nikkatsu, this time set on the Japanese coastline. What else do we need out of this other than nude women, sex, and scheming business men? Nothing I say! This is a fun flick and another satisfying entry into the series that will definitely give viewers a good time.

The Audio & Video
Impulse Pictures has now released 18 DVDs in this Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection and they've all been privy to really solid A/V quality. TIGHT SHELLFISH is no different. The main draw for the films is the skin they show and they show lots of it. Lucky for the viewer the skin tones look healthy and natural, and the image is a pretty widescreen presentation with no bugs to speak of. The audio is also good and you can hear the moans and groans with supreme clarity. The Japanese 2.0 track is stable, clear and just an all around solid track. It won't blow you away but it absolutely gets the job done nicely. 

The Extras
Liner Notes from Jasper Sharp are the big extra yet again. Also included is a theatrical trailer for the film.

The Bottom Line
More sexy Japanese goodness from the Nikkatsu studio with the 18th entry into the collection from Impulse Pictures. This is yet another necessary disc if you want to have the best Nikkatsu Porno collection in town.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Story Of White Coat: Indecent Acts (DVD Review) - Impulse Pictures

Directed By: Hidehiro Ito
Written By: Hiroshi Takeyama
Starring: Mina Asami, Kazuyo Ezaki, Nami Misaki
Color/56 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1

The Film
STORY OF WHITE COAT: INDECENT ACTS is a movie about the sexual goings-on inside a Japanese hospital where virgin Shinobu is a pretty little nurse who has caught the eye of Junior, a patient suffering from alcohol poisoning. Junior is also the son of a major shareholder and financial backer of the hospital so he has a bit of freedom with getting his way with the nurses. He has his sights set on Shinobu and manages to go quite a bit further one way or another. 

This movie features some of the funnier (and grosser) moments in the Nikkatsu Erotic Collection and just as much perverted sex as any other film in the collection. There's nothing setting it apart but when you're looking for a quick little Japanese skin flick that isn't necessarily a bad thing. STORY OF WHITE COAT: INDECENT ACTS passes the test.  

The Audio & Video
As expected, Impulse Pictures gives us a ncie looking standard definition quality presentation in a 16:9 (1.78:1) widescreen ratio. The print is clean and source material was obviously kept in nice condition. This stands up with any other release from their Nikkatsu Collection. The native Japanese 2.0 audio track also fares just as well with no background noises or crackling. The optional English subs have been newly translated and are perfectly timed and easy to read. 

The Extras
-Original theatrical trailer
-Liner notes from Jasper Sharp 

The Bottom Line
Fans of the Nikkatsu Erotic Collection will find plenty to enjoy in STORY OF WHITE COAT: INDECENT ACTS from its quick pace and laughs to gratuitous sex and skin that we've become accustomed to this is another must have for the collection.


Monday, September 9, 2013

An American Hippie In Israel (Blu-ray Review) - Grindhouse Releasing

Directed By: Amos Sefer
Written By: Amos Sefer
Starring: Asher Tzarfati, Shmuel Wolf, Lily Avidan
Color/93 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE

The Film
Mike is a hippie from America seeking a peaceful world of solitude, love and simplicity outside the violence and hate found within the constraints of society. Quickly upon arriving in Israel he meets a beautiful young redhead while hitchhiking and they return to her parent's house for a quickie. It is the time of love after all. They head to town where they meet other like minded hippies, young people feeling lost in the world, and they join up for a marathon of singalongs, weed smoking, wine drinking and love making. Mike lets his plan be known for the group to find a place where they can be at peace with the world and live their life free of modern day ugliness. The group is in love with Mike and his idea and the celebration continues until a pair of machine gun wielding mimes crash the party and kill everybody except for Mike, his girlfriend and another pair of hippies. This is far from Mike's first encounter with these mimes who have seemingly been following him all over the planet but this is the first time they've been deadly.

The group is down to four, but they still carry on with their mission of finding peace, perhaps now stronger than before. After adopting a pet goat from a market, and what seems like endless driving looking for their oasis they see an island a few miles off the coast that would be perfect. After a short boat ride they've reached their paradise and proceed to have a wonderful night of lovemaking. All is well until one morning their boat has vanished, likely swept away by the high tide and they realize that the water is heavily infested by sharks so swimming back to shore to their car to get to town for another boat or any supplies is virtually impossible. The quick shift from carefree youths to savage beasts is jarring. It quickly becomes a two-sided war, with the line literally drawn in the sand.

When I first heard the premise for AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL I thought I was in for a weird for the sake of being weird movie that you show your friends as a simple oddity to the world of film. Something that you'd preface a viewing with "you won't believe this shit" or something along those lines, something I've said many times before enjoying a film. No, that is not this film. Not entirely anyways. When I heard of hippies, and mimes with guns, savagery and sex I didn't think I'd get the poignant commentary that is offered up here by director Amos Sefer (in what IMDB has listed as his only credit). While this can be viewed quite easily and enjoyably on the surface for being a form of so bad its good, and out there as all hell, it offers up something a bit more than that if you're willing to look a bit deeper. The mimes could be an obvious stand-in for society as a whole bringing down much of the group of hippies but in a bloodless manner as to say to the viewer that they've brought them back into the corporate, capitalist world we live in. And the not so subtle sacrificial lamb. And there's more.

AN AMERICAN HIPPIE IN ISRAEL is an immensely entertaining piece of 1970s film that will likely never be re-created again. This was a film of its time and place and came together with a young group making a fun film that has spirit and somehow despite all of its shortcomings, merit. I could go on much further about this film, and perhaps one day I will but as this is a review for the Blu-ray Disc I won't spoil anymore.

The Audio & Video 
Grindhouse Releasing is new to the Blu-ray game with this release but they don't show rookie mistakes. Their first Blu-ray is a fan-fucking-tastic presentation. AAHII has a gorgeous film-like look with natural grain in tact. Vibrant colors, including reds that pop just enough and deep blacks combined with strong detail level and skin tones that you want to reach out and touch make this a top notch looking release. The audio fares well also with an English track that has been kept in good condition with a clean sound and little to no distracting noises this is an all around fantastic AV job.

 Please note: Screenshots taken from DVD copy of film

The Extras 
An absolutely stacked release with features that include:

-A DVD Copy of the film 
-An additional DVD with an alternate cut of the film under the title THE HITCHHIKER
-6 Deleted scenes
-Video interview with stars Asher Tzarfati and Shmuel Wolf which clocks in at a whopping 56 minutes
-The Beverly Cinema Experience - an audio track that makes you feel like you're in the audience of the Beverly Theater during a screening of the film
-16mm Screen Tests
-Amos Sefer Biography
-Asher Tzarfati filmography
-Additional featurettes
-Still galleries
-Liner notes and reversible poster

The Bottom Line
Grindhouse Releasing enters the Blu-ray game with all guns blazing. Their first home video release in a few years is a grand slam that would surely make the late Sage Stallone proud. This limited edition 3 disc set of just 2000 pieces is sure to go quickly so I urge you to not only add this great package to your collection but support a superior label in the process because we all want to see more Blu-rays from their catalog.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Bay Of Blood (Blu-ray Review) - Kino

Directed By: Mario Bava
Written By: Mario Bava, Filippo Ottoni, Giuseppe Zaccariello
Starring: Claudine Auger, Luigi Pistilli, Claudio Volonte
Color/84 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A

The Film
There are three films that generally get the credit for starting the slasher film craze of the 1980s. These films are Psycho (1960), Black Christmas (1974) and Halloween (1978). While Psycho may very well be the first slasher, it is typically Black Christmas that is referred to as the first modern slasher film and Halloween that gets the credit for blowing the door wide open for the violent, body count films. In 1971 Mario Bava's A BAY OF BLOOD was released and it is every bit as much a slasher film of the 1980s that Black Christmas is. It is a bit of an injustice to not include A BAY OF BLOOD in the discussion of the archetype of the slasher film. Hell, a murder sequence from Bava's film was lifted almost shot for shot in the original Friday The 13th.

This isn't the best Bava film, but it does have some great moments, and is full blown nasty horror. I'd rand this among the 2nd tier Mario Bava films and that is nothing to sneeze at as the man has made multiple masterpieces. Slasher film fans will of course find a lot to enjoy with the blood and gore factor being ramped up considerably from earlier films from the acclaimed Italian director. And the twist ending is sure to leave you stunned.

The Audio & Video
From an A/V standpoint A BAY OF BLOOD is a top tier release from Kino. The picture features strong detail and nice color timing along with natural skin tones and deep black levels. The audio side of things is a clean and stable English track with very minimal background noise. Another great job by Kino on their Mario Bava Collection.

The Extras 
-Audio commentary with Tim Lucas, author of "Mario Bava: All The Colors Of The Dark"
-Alternate Italian cut of the film with Italian audio track
-Theatrical Trailer
-Additional Mario Bava trailers
The Bottom Line
If you're a Mario Bava fan or a slasher fan you'll want to add this disc to your collection as it is a significant upgrade to previous disc releases.

A BAY OF BLOOD is available HERE