Thursday, April 28, 2016

April Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge 2016- Days 23-27

Time to catch up! I apologize for falling behind on coverage here but I'm here now and ready to catch up!

Day 23 started with ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE a DVD sent to me courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing to view specifically for this challenge. It's a modern exploitation film, filled plenty of things  I like and dislike about modern exploitation films. This demon biker movie is funny without too many "in jokes" or winks and nudges to the audience and has a genuinely sleazy sensibility to it with lots of violence and forced nudity. The special effects are a bit hit and miss but aside from CGI blood splatter I'm okay with them. The acting holds up a decent script so I can get passed the things I don't like such as artificial scratch filters to make it look like an older film ala Grindhouse. It's a trend that annoys the piss out of me but ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE is good enough that it didn't make that big of a difference.

I followed that up with THE CURSE, a 1987 adaptation of HP Lovecraft's The Color Out Of Space. I wasn't aware of the HPL ties until seeing the film so that was a pleasant surprise and the movie ended up being a pretty solid 80s horror style work on the story. It has plenty messy gross out effects work and latex effects makeup. Wil Wheaton stars a young boy who's family is changing into vicious monsters after eating and drinking produce and water that is tainted from a strange alien orb and he's quite good carrying the film.

Day 24 started and ended with THE CURSE 2 which has nothing at all to do with the first film. Subtitled THE BITE, this one follows a young couple, including the gorgeous Jill Schoelen, as they're on a road trip and travel through an old bomb testing site that is overridden with snakes. When the boyfriend gets bitten on his hand he slowly transform into a hyper aggressive and violent version of himself and undergoes bizarre physical changes as well. THE CURSE 2 was good, but had it let the major payoff occur earlier in the film and let the snakeman monster run amuck on the town this could have been a true masterpiece of horror cheese.

An overdue viewing of KING KONG ESCAPES was next - A well known Kaiju film from Toho that I had never seen. It's King Kong vs MechaKong. Need I say more? We have a giant gorilla fighting the robot version of himself in Japan. A solid script that is deeply rooted in the original King Kong allows the movie to have fun with the giant beast and robot while maintaining an air of seriousness that allows the campy film to still be a pretty good movie.

The next night I tossed on ISLAND OF DEATH - A Greek exploitation film from 1976 that found itself on the Video Nasty list a few years later. Director Niko Mastorakis made this film after seeing the financial success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a way to cash in. With no artistic desire to make the film he made it anyways and he certainly made a film filled with deplorable acts and ideas such as rape, goat fucking, murder, racism and homophobia. From an exploitation film standpoint it's entertaining, and competently made for the most part aside from our two main characters essentially being on this Greek island for no other reason than to be bigots and kill people they don't like. ISLAND OF DEATH's biggest problem to me is that any and all likable characters are quickly killed off and the movie is over 100 minutes long which is far too long for a movie with nobody to root for. If this movie was 75-80 minutes long I'd like it more.

EXTRAORDINARY TALES was the follow up - This animated anthology of E.A. Poe tales was an interesting watch. With voice over work from the likes of Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, Roger Corman, Guillermo Del Toro and Julian sands it gave each short, which featured a unique art style, it's own atmosphere. Some segments were better than others, and I don't see myself rushing back to watch the film again as I'd rather sit down and watch the various feature film adaptations of the stories but it was well done and I recommend it for any Poe fans.

This update comes to a close with a movie I've long seen floating around on VHS but it had never crossed my path until recently - THE ANNIHILATORS. This vigilante film is set in Atlanta where a gang has a section of the city under siege, forcing them to pay unfair "protection and insurance" taxes, and raping and murdering those that don't agree including a man running a mini market who was paralyzed in Vietnam. His squadron reunites to help his father, and his neighbors regain control of their neighborhood in a film filled with shootouts, flame throwers, food carts filled with heroin and a school bus filled with kids in the line of fire. THE ANNIHILATORS isn't the best vigilante style film and the cast isn't amazing but it remains an energetic, action packed exploitation romp of a good time.

Today's Rundown
All Hell Breaks Loose - 6/10
The Curse - 7.5/10
The Curse 2 - 6.5/10
King Kong Escapes - 6.5/10
Island Of Death - 6/10
Extraordinary Tales - 6/10
The Annihilators - 6/10

Monday, April 25, 2016

THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU/THE GIRL FROM RIO - Blue Underground (Blu-ray Review)

UK, Germany, Spain/1967, 1969
Directed By: Lindsay Shonteff, Jess Franco
Written By: Kevin Kavanagh, Harry Alan Towers
Starring: Shirley Eaton, Frankie Avalon, Richard Wyler
Color/173 Mintues/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: April 26, 2016

The Films
This double feature of films starring Shirley Eaton as the titular Sumuru who has plans to take over the world with her all femme army are a part of the kitschy, campy and colorful 1960s spy genre that was so heavily influenced by the James Bond films. A bit more for the cult or midnight film crowd than Bond may be, including a show stealing scene in THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU from Klaus Kinski, these are the textbook definition of the films that Mike Myers would go on to parody thirty years later in the Austin Powers trilogy.

I will admit that I'm not a big fan of spy films and that I don't particularly care for James Bond. To put it simply those films and I have never clicked. I've never felt any sort of longing to watch them or dig deeper into the genre and there's never been a kinship between us. When I sat down to watch these two films I did so with an open mind giving them the best shot I could. I thought at least THE GIRL FROM RIO was directed by Jess Franco so that had a fighting chance at being something I'd find enjoyable. I couldn't necessarily say the same about the first film as Frankie Avalon doesn't exactly get my blood pumping but upon sitting down and finishing both films I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying both.

The films are campy, with overacting, scripts full of action and sexy bikini clad villains who can't hit the broad side of a barn with a machine gun. They're imperfect and flawed throughout but they remain charming and simply enjoyable. They're colorful and fun - in a way the Frankie Avalon tie is almost poetic. For movies about taking over the world, with weapons that will turn you into a statue or cause your organs to rot slowly, to maximize the suffering of course, these movies are silly and lighthearted and they work because of it. I won't say I fell in love but I think this is a fun double feature despite the flaws of the films.

The Audio & Video
Blue Underground does a bang up job with the technical side of this release. Both features look very nice with a newly remastered transfer from the original negatives maintaining the original aspect ratios of 2.35:1 and 1.66:1 respectively. Detail levels are high from facial closeups to textures and surfaces such as clothing to walls and doors. Black levels are deep and inky while colors are bright and vivid without being artificially enhanced to "pop" more than they should. Skin tones are mostly very natural and healthy with only an instance or two of a waxy look. On the audio side of things, both films are presented with DTS-HD mono tracks and optional English subtitles. The tracks are crisp and clear with a steady and well done mix. The soundtrack enhances the film but doesn't become overbearing on the dialogue. There's no damage, distortions or background noise.

The Extras
Carried over from the previous DVD of THE GIRL FROM RIO is "Rolling In Rio" a featurette of interviews with director Jess Franco, producer Harry Alan Towers and star of both films Shirley Eaton. There's also trailers and still galleries.

The Bottom Line
These films have given me some hope that the spy genre may in fact hold some gems for me and if they're released in a high quality release such as this SUMURU double feature I'll be much less hesitant to give them a chance. Another job well done by Blue Underground.

The SUMURU Double Feature is available HERE

Saturday, April 23, 2016

April Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge 2016 - Days 20, 21, 22

4/20 DUUUUDEEEEEEE. Smoke weed or something. Also, Hitler was born that day. Not worth celebrating the biggest piece of shit of the 20th century but it is a reason to watch Nazisploitation flicks so I watched one - ELSA FRAULEIN SS - This one wasn't as exploitative, violent or offensive as many of films in the genre but it was also a bit better made with solid performances and a decent story and there's still plenty of sex and violence. I was pleasantly surprised by this one.

Cirio Santiago decided to make another visit, this being the fourth film I've watched from the Filipino  director this month and it is yet another winner. DUNE WARRIORS is trashy post-apocalyptic action starring David Carradine. It's packed with cool cars, flame throwers, sword fights, wimpy leaders and the lamest name for a main villain of all time. It's campy, cheap and incredibly fun.

April 21st had no viewings. It was one of those days where I wasn't in a particularly good mood to begin with and then the passings of Chyna who was a major part of WWE during a time that I was growing up with wrestling and Prince who I need not mention how legendary he is but I will say that I think he's somehow underrated in ways, if that's even possible. Those things combined made it so that I wasn't in the mood to sit down and watch anything.

Day 22 was a strong comeback though. The first of three movies on the day was SCHRAMM. Jorg Buttgereit's fourth feature film is my favorite of his and his most polished in my opinion. It has all of the sick shit that his previous films such as Nekromantik and Der Todesking had and raises the level of his writing and the performances he gets from his cast. This is a great film that just got a Blu-ray release and I have reviewed the brand new boxset of Buttgereit's films so you should check out that video right here.

Next up was a movie I've pretty much fallen in love with immediately. While I don't think it's a perfect film it does what many contemporary Gialli fail at - feeling authentic to their original period. Many newer Gialli try to feel authentic without being able to really capture the true look and feel. FRANCESCA is a 2015 film straight from Italy and while it has it's flaws it has a solid story, interesting murder sequences and stylish direction. All of the Giallo tropes are present without it feeling disingenuous. I highly recommend Giallo fans checking out FRANCESCA.

The night ended with NUKIE - The 1987 E.T. ripoff set largely in Africa. Yeah... I have seen a couple scenes from this and the trailer but sitting down to watch this on VHS was really an experience. It's a terrible movie with some of the most obvious and glaring plot holes I've ever seen. Nukie, the main alien character and his twin brother are fairly creepy looking, nothing a child would want to encounter. To be fair I feel that way about E.T. as well. NUKIE is awful but I think everyone should see it once just to know about it.

Today's Rundown
Elsa Fraulein SS - 6/10
Dune Warriors - 7/10
Schramm - 8.5/10
Francesca - 7/10
Nukie - 3/10

Friday, April 22, 2016

INFRASEXUM - Vinegar Syndrome (DVD Review)

Directed By: Carlos Tobalina
Written By: Claus Muras, Carlos Tobalina
Starring: Eroff Lynn, Carlos Tobalina, Marsha Jordan
Color/87 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: March 26, 2016

The Film
An older man has lost his sexual drive and decides to temporarily leave his business, his wife and the rest of his life behind to find it. His road trip leads him to a simpler life where he finds a great appreciation in painting and meeting new friends. His journey is bumpy as he experiences bits of murder and kidnapped along with more failed sexual venture but he doesn't give up despite how wild his journey gets.

INFRASEXUM is an interesting piece of sexploitation, experimenting in mixing roughie elements with lots of nudie cutie scenes. The more violent and rough scenes come out of nowhere which lend credence that anything can and probably will happen on this trip.

This is director Carlos Tobalina's debut feature film and it feels no less polished than movies he'd make years later as a far more experienced director. There's flourishes of style and he gets rock solid performances from his cast. Tobalina shows that he can direct a sexy fuck scene as well as a nasty murder scene. INFRASEXUM flows well and even if the main story is predictable there's enough turns in this road trip to keep things fresh and be a piece of sexploitation well worth seeking out.

The Audio & Video
The DVD presentation of INFRASEXUM is damn good. Vinegar Syndrome's new 2K scan from the original 35mm camera negative turns into a rather gorgeous 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Detail is quite strong for a standard definition release and colors are vivid and natural. Black levels are solid and there's very little in the way or damage or dirt and debris. The Dolby Digital mono mix is crisp and clear. There's no background noise or damage to speak of.

The Extras
The original theatrical trailer is included

The Bottom Line
INFRASEXUM is an interesting and enjoyable journey and an enjoyable piece of sexploitation.

INFRASEXUM is available HERE

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

April Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge 2016 - Days 17, 18, 19

Day 17 had one lone movie but it was a fun one - ATRAGON - the 1963 Kaiju film from director Ishiro Honda. As a fan of giant monster movies from Japan this is one I've long heard about and it didn't disappoint as the people of Earth are forced to develop and use their new flying submarine warship Atragon to battle the underwater Mu people and their giant laser breathing snake monster Manda. The movie is well made and has a solid story and script but is a bit light in the Manda v Atragon department. A bit more action between the two and I think this would have been bumped up to true classic status.

INFRASEXUM was it for day 18 and the new DVD from Vinegar Syndrome will be getting reviewed later today so be on the look out for it...

And finally day 19 had a pair of films that probably couldn't have been more different. Bill Zebub's 2011 feature ANTFARM DICKHOLE features exactly that... an antfarm dickhole. Just think about that term for a second- antfarm dickhole. Antfarm. Dickhole. Ant. Farm. Dick. Hole. You get it? Yeah, this movie, among many other things like a giant spider fucking a woman and as many "ant" puns as you can handle (and probably couple dozen more) has a man that has a colony of killer African ants living in his dick that kill people whenever he's sexually stimulated. Have you ever wanted to see a giant ant crawl out of a man's peehole? Here's your chance! The movie is funny and raunchy and stupid and you're either going to appreciate it or think it is repulsive trash. Chances are you'll think it's repulsive trash. I enjoyed it.

This recap closes with SECRETS OF A CALL GIRL - a Euro Crime turned drama from director Guiliano Carnimeo and co-written by Ernesto Gastaldi. That duo should have made a far better movie than this is. Luckily Edwige Fenech stars and makes thing visually stimulating at all times. The movie starts out good enough as Fenech plays a girl caught up in the middle of the mob and their prostitution ring who wants a way out after giving birth to her son. The movie's timeline doesn't make a ton of sense towards the end as a lot of time is covered all of a sudden without much mention of it. Once the movie turns into more of a drama it falls flat and feels deflated. It's watchable but I hoped for better. Oh and that artwork I used from Wikipedia is fucking atrocious and doesn't do the film any justice or even represent it accurately.

Today's Rundown
Atragon - 7/10
Infrasexum - 6/10
Antfarm Dickhole - 6/10
Secrets Of A Call Girl - 5/10

Sunday, April 17, 2016

April Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge 2016 - Days 14, 15, 16

BLUE ICE... what a movie. I'm reviewing the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray tomorrow so be on the look out for that for my full thoughts but boy what a movie.

Oh hey, it's another movie I did a full review of for its Blu-ray release. Why don't you check out SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM right HERE!

Oh no... THE MILLION EYES OF SUMURU and THE GIRL FROM RIO are next and they're also getting full reviews because Blue Underground is releasing them on Blu-ray later this month. Watch out for that review later this week.

Sorry guys, a lot of stuff I'm doing in depth reviews of so I don't want to waste all the good thoughts before they get their just due.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM - Kino Lorber (Blu-ray Review)

Canada, Italy/1977
Directed By: Alberto De Martino
Written By: Vincenzo Mannino, Gianfranco Clerici
Starring: Stuart Whitman, John Saxon, Martin Landau
Color/98 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: April 12, 2016

The Film
After his sister is poisoned and killed at a party police officer Tony Saitta (Stuart Whitman) takes it upon himself to identify the killer. With the help of Sgt. Ned Matthews (John Saxon) they embark on a violent investigation full of shoot outs, fights, car chases, jewel thieves and betrayal and revenge. Full of plot twists and red herrings SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM walks the line of Poliziotteschi and Giallo with skill from director Alberto De Martino.

I love finding new gems in genres that I'm already a huge fan of. SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM (which was also released as BLAZING MAGNUM, playing up it's more action driven Euro-crime aspects) is a fast paced crime film that may be Alberto De Martino's best directorial work. He gives his extremely talented cast that includes supporting roles from Academy Award winner Martin Landau, and Tisa Farrow who made a bit of a name for herself in Italian genre fare a lot to work with. Each character is different and plays distinct roles and they do so brilliantly.

The action scenes are handled with grace, including the jaw dropping car chase that immediately became one of my favorite car chase scenes in all of cinema. The driving on display does the talking and De Martino is wise enough to not get too crazy with his direction or editing, just adding in small touches of style to accentuate it.

SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM stumbles in its music as the score is not memorable or impactful to the film. I didn't notice myself actively disliking the music but I was disinterested in it. The giallo aspect of the film comes and goes a bit throughout, becoming the focal point and style when it's around and reverting back to the main poliziotteschi style when it's not. It certainly works for the story but it might not be a perfectly organic fit. I don't mind it however and find SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM to be a great fit in both the poliziotteschi and giallo genres.

The Audio & Video
Kino Lorber delivers SHADOWS IN AN EMPTY ROOM on Blu-ray with a full 1080p high definition transfer taken from a new HD scan and retaining the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality is good overall with strong levels of detail among textures and surfaces such as fabrics, facial closeups and other items such as set pieces and locations. Colors are natural while there's a nice sharpness to the picture that hasn't been overly altered digitally. It also hasn't been heavily cleaned up as there's plenty of instances of scratches and dirt and debris on the negative used. These instances don't take away from the overall high quality of the transfer and add to the grittiness of the film in their own way.

The English audio features a DTS-HD Master Audio mix that is crisp and clear. The mix between the score and dialogue is stable and effective in letting the two audio sources shine through. There's some slight background noise intermittently throughout the picture but it never reaches annoying or distracting levels.

The Extras
The lone extra is the original theatrical trailer.

The Bottom Line
A highly enjoyable example of the Euro-crime genre with an excellent cast. Highly recommended.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

April Exploitation/B-Movie Challenge 2016 - Days 11, 12 and 13

Three days to cover so lets just get down to it - A revisit of the original MAD MAX left me feeling underwhelmed and confused. I apparently remember almost nothing of the original film. Granted, it has been a number of years since I made an effort to actually sit down and watch any of the original trilogy but apparently all of my memories have been formed by The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome. MAD MAX isn't a bad movie but I was expecting to revisit something different, something more in line with its sequels and knockoffs that I have no shame in saying I enjoy quite a bit more on the whole.

BUNNI was next - a 2013 production recently released on DVD by Wild Eye Productions. This is a slasher film geared for the gore hounds as there are a number of bloody and messy kill sequences. MINOR SPOILER: Castration and feeding the severed cock to it's victim has officially become a theme this month SPOILER OVER. The film is short, and lightning paced once things get rolling. The abandoned building that the majority of the film takes place in is inherently creepy and the effects are pretty well done. The acting isn't offensively bad but the direction and photography is shall we say, uncomfortable. I don't mean that the direction is scary or unsettling, it's not that type of uncomfortable. I mean that there's something in how it was filmed that makes everyone look the slightest bit jittery at all times. Movement just looks off, almost if it was shot at an awkward frame rate that doesn't quite look natural. I can't say exactly what it is and it's difficult to describe without seeing it in motion but it's a major distraction throughout. BUNNI ends up being a passable indie horror flick.

Next up was the first of three Jess Franco directed women in prison films - 99 WOMEN. This is almost a paint by numbers WIP film and it would have been perfectly enjoyable had it been but Jess Franco throws his "Francoisms" as I like to call them, all over the place. "Francoisms" refers to his awkward, and downright shitty directorial techniques like panning the camera side to side until whatever action is off screen or random zooms that often go so far as to turn the picture into a total blur. Hey, I'm okay with zooms on bush and butts as much as the next guy but I don't need to feel like a fucking parasite crawling up in there.

Then we get WOMEN BEHIND BARS - this is pretty much the slightly more enjoyable version of 99 WOMEN in that we get less of Franco's nonsense and more Lina Romay. There's a better plot, though it's messy, about stolen diamonds and undercover agents in the prison. And there's Lina Romay. There's also some shoot outs and it's fun enough.

I took a break from Franco for the next film and watched OVER THE EDGE, a 1979 teen rebellion movie dripping with a punk rock attitude. My main thoughts about this movie are how in the blue hell did this movie never get brought to my attention? How have I never heard of it? This is the story of a dream like community that ended up being a hell hole to grow up in with nothing to do but be left to your own devices. Partying, drugs and fights were normal. So was shooting out cops windows on the highway. Parents barely cared and the kids would have their say. I love this movie after a single viewing and know I will frequently revisit it. It's well made top to bottom and gets some great and natural performances out of a group of kids in junior high and high school. It also has a wild finale that isn't to be missed.

We close things out with Franco's best, or at least most interesting women in prison film that I've seen to date and without a doubt his sleaziest. SADOMANIA lives up to its name in a film where a pair of newlyweds drive into an off limits area of a women's prison and they take the wife prisoner while letting the husband go. The husband now fights for his wife's freedom and tries to break her out of this strict facility ran. That paper thin plot provides an excuse to show everything from topless women performing hard labor, lesbian sex, bestiality, homosexuality with Franco himself, murder, fights to the death, human hunting, and human trafficking of these women with the mention of selling girls as young as twelve. Yeah, this one goes the distance. It's not perfect but I had a blast seeing just how far SADOMANIA would go.

Today's Rundown
Mad Max - 6/10
Bunni - 4/10
99 Women - 5/10
Women Behind Bars - 6/10
Over The Edge - 8/10
Sadomania - 7/10

Monday, April 11, 2016

April Exploitation/B-movie Challenge 2016 - Day 10

I was given a Youtube link to DIVINE WATERS, a somewhat rare 1981 documentary on John Waters and the Dreamlanders. The film features interviews with John Waters' sister and parents and clips with Edith Massey, Divine, and others along with Waters himself. I hadn't seen any of this footage before so it was all interesting and entertaining despite clocking in at just over an hour. I think there have been better documentaries, and of course more complete now that DIVINE WATERS is 35 years old, on Waters and Divine but this one is definitely worth a look.

It's time! It's time! It's women in prison time! You can't have a month of exploitation and not dig into some WIP films? Well, maybe you can but I can't. So first up was BARE BEHIND BARS from 1982. This movie starts out as a wonderfully sleazy, skin filled, lesbian prison romp with a couple dozen prisoners getting off whenever they get a chance to visit the infirmary and have fun with the nurse and her dildo (the 7th Wonder of the World.) This movie goes fucking bonkers when a trio of girls plan an escape, but not before seeing the 8th Wonder of the World... a rather giant sized dildo made out of a pineapple. Yes, you read that correctly. A pineapple dildo. Yum. That's nothing compared to when the three girls break out, take a family hostage and murder them but not before castrating the father and tossing his weiner to the dog. Oh and the little boy, who can't be older than 10 (and I'm probably pushing it there), well let's strip him down while 3 grown women rub on him sexually before killing him too. The mother got it easy. That's not all, there's more dick chopping, and this time it isn't the dog that it's fed to and some hard XXX action out of nowhere. BARE BEHIND BARS went fucking nuts in the last 20-25 minutes and I loved every seedy, uncomfortable, mind baffling second of it even more than I loved the first hour.

And we close things out with AMAZON JAIL, from Oswaldo de Oliveira, the same director as BARE BEHIND BARS. This film that came two years later is obviously set in the Amazon and features a lot more action outside of the jail setting itself which kept things fresh. There's plenty of skin and sex along with jungle dangers like venomous snakes. The girls are stuck between white slavers and crazy native priests all looking to keep these girls for themselves but the girls fight back in a three way war of sex and survival. Entertaining, and filled with filth AMAZON JAIL was a lot of fun to watch but never reached the level of BARE BEHIND BARS.

Today's Rundown
Divine Waters - 6/10
Bare Behind Bars - 8/10
Amazon Jail - 7/10

Sunday, April 10, 2016

April Exploitation/b-movie Challenge 2016 - Days 8 and 9

The last 2 days each featured a pair of movies. Day 8 started off with THE SINFUL NUNS OF ST. VALENTINE. I think a bit of Nunsploitation was overdue for this challenge but unfortunately I didn't pick a great one. The film revolves around an unsolved murder and one of the girls at the convent is accused of it. It starts out entertaining enough with a good bit of lesbian and naked nun action but before too long the plot starts to run thin which causes the film to drag. There's bit and pieces sprinkled throughout that I like but in the end it tries too hard to replicate the madness and beauty that Ken Russell's The Devils perfectly captured a few years earlier.

That was followed up by one of my favorite viewings of the month - WILD BEASTS. Franco Prosperi, director of Mondo Cane takes his penchant for staging shocking violence in the world of Mondo films and uses them to create an awesome killer animal flick as a European city is under siege from the animals who have escaped their zoo cages after drinking PCP contaminated water making them highly aggressive. Nobody is safe from the tigers, lions, rats, elephants, cheetahs and bulls. The deaths are bloody and gruesome and the movie is immediately one of my favorite killer animal films of all time.

Day 9 started with a big disappointment. The old west slasher A KNIFE FOR THE LADIES sounded like it had to be entertaining. A Jack The Ripper style slasher set in the old west... It had to be ripe with gory murders, shootouts, and the sweaty, dirty desert, right? Ha. Haha. No. No it wasn't. The murders are all off screen, letting us only see the aftermath, the acting aside from the top two or three characters are laughably bad and it's unfortunately predictable.

BIGFOOT VS ZOMBIES finished day 9. This is a new indie movie released by Wild Eye Releasing. This movie is incredibly low budget, with a cheap Bigfoot suit (somehow not the worst I've ever seen) and really poor zombie makeup. It's actually the simpler zombie makeup effects that look better than the cheap attempts at masks that hang off the actor's face. As you can imagine this movie is intentionally campy and has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Movies such as this can go one of two ways: They can be charming or they can be down right awful. I found BVZ to be charming with a good sense of humor that had some genuinely funny jokes and scenes. The acting was better than expected for the most part and it was fun to see Bigfoot, who seemed to barely crack 6 feet tall, get into it with some undead ghouls. Bring the beers for BIGFOOT VS ZOMBIES and enjoy the silliness.

Today's Rundown 
The Sinful Nuns Of St. Valentine - 5/10
Wild Beasts - 9/10
A Knife For The Ladies - 3/10
Bigfoot vs. Zombies - 5/10

PIGS - Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Marc Lawrence
Written By: Marc Lawrence
Starring: Marc Lawrence, Toni Lawrence, Jesse Vint
Color/81 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: March 29, 2016

The Film
Upon arriving in a secluded California town, Lynn takes a waitressing job with Zambrini, a retired circus performer who now runs a small cafe with a large pig pen out back. A local legend says that his pigs only eat human flesh and that he has been murdering drifters to feed to them. Now the sheriff and the locals have grown suspicious of Zambrini and his pigs along with trying to protect the new girl in town.

PIGS is not at all what I expected it would be and it was for the best. I'm all for a movie about killer pigs running wild on a small town, perhaps in some sort of vengeance for being harvested for their meat. Mmm killer bacon. PIGS is not that movie. PIGS is a fever dream of a horror film, steeped in sweaty, hazy atmosphere. It's highly psychological and mythological. There's also plenty of that supremely weird 1970s vibe that can't be faked. It's sleazy, but not to be self gratifying. It only goes as far as is necessary to make the psychological horror aspect to the film work.

The film succeeds so well because the screenplay is crafted to be suspenseful and hallucinatory and doesn't give in to excess that would only serve to cheapen the overall experience of the film.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome gives PIGS a full makeover and facelift. It's like this Blu-ray came straight from the salon! The 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer is sharp and highly detailed. Colors are natural but keep the film's natural sweaty haze. Dark scenes have a bit more graininess than day time scenes but the black levels are quite deep and have no issues with blocking or compression. A DTS-HD Master Audio mono mix handles the audio and it sounds fantastic. Free of any distortions and background noise, the simple mix gets the job done with sparkling clarity and a natural crispness. Nothing gets lost with the dialogue and score complimenting each other. An overall fantastic HD presentation.

I must note that the new 2K scan has been taken from the 35mm Interpositive with select shots taken from theatrical prints due to missing or severely damaged elements. Vinegar Syndrome makes not of this before the film starts to clarify the shifts in quality - I didn't notice any dramatic shifts in quality and couldn't pick out when the theatrical prints were used. That's just another example of the quality work Vinegar Syndrome does.

The Extras
This release packed, stacked and certainly doesn't lack.

-Featurette with star Toni Lawrence
-Featurette with composer Charles Bernstein
-Audio Interview with cinematographer Glenn Roland
-Alternate "Exorcism" opening sequence
-Alternate "Daddy's Girl" opening sequence
-Alternate "Daddy's Girl" closing sequence
-Original trailers
-Promotional Artwork Gallery
-Reversible artwork

The Bottom Line
This may be the best non-porn release from Vinegar Syndrome to date. They've taken a rather obscure horror title and given it the royal treatment and packed it with extras. As far as I'm concerned this is an essential release.

PIGS is available HERE

Friday, April 8, 2016

AXE / KIDNAPPED COED - Severin Films (Blu-ray Review)

USA/1974, 1976
Directed By: Frederick R. Friedel
Written By: Frederick R. Friedel
Starring: Jack Canon, Leslie Rivers, Leslie Lee
Color/142 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date:

The Films
AXE is the debut film from Frederick R. Friedel and is a classic example of drive-in era exploitation horror. In the film three men are on the run from the law for murdering a man and end up at a secluded farmhouse where a young girl named Lisa lives with her disabled grandfather. The gang decides to stay there where they humiliate the girl and her grandfather until she takes her revenge on the gang.

AXE is a simple idea that is executed quite well. All of Friedel's films were region productions with local actors and locations. The main cast is good enough and Leslie Lee who plays Lisa is unsettling in her role as victim turned killer. Clocking in at under 70 minutes AXE does exacty what it sets out to do without wasting any time or energy. The film has an underlying creepiness to it that our villains play no part in. Lisa and her grandfather are weird enough on their own before we give the girl reason to start offing people. This is highly enjoyable stuff.

With his first feature film under his belt Friedel quickly followed it up with KIDNAPPED COED which feels much bigger in scope and more seasoned. This film which also stars Jack Canon, is a road trip film as a man has kidnapped a wealthy man's college student daughter in an attempt to extort ransom money from him. Their trip is full of perils and pit stops and takes some unexpected turns as the girl falls for her captor as hell falls for her and it isn't the Stockholm Syndrome.

KIDNAPPED COED is great. Not only is it a bigger picture than AXE but it is more polished and more mature. The writing is well rounded with actual character development and a dark sense of humor. It's not a perfect picture as it is still a regional production of an exploitation film in the mid 70s. It's flawed but excels in spite of those flaws and makes its imperfections work for it. I'm a big fan of KIDNAPPED COED.

The Audio & Video
Severin Films have given these two drive-in exploitation classics a loving HD debut. The 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer preserves both films' original aspect ratio and does so with a natural film looking quality. There's a healthy grain structure and little to no digital noise. The picture is sharp and rich with detail. Skin tones are natural and healthy. There's a bit of speckling and debris within the prints as they haven't been totally cleaned up but it keeps the natural 70s drive-in charm while making them shine for the present day. The audio features a 2.0 Dolby Digital mix that is crisp and clear without any major annoyances or background noise. The levels are stable and steady without dropping in or out or spiking in volume. I love what Severin has done with the A/V on this release.

The Extras
-BLOODY BROTHERS - This is the special feature that makes this release special - a 3rd feature film that is a hybrid of both AXE and KIDNAPPED with optional audio commentary by Stephen Thrower
-Audio Commentary on each film with writer/director Frederick R. Friedel, production manager Phil Smoot, and makeup artist Worth Keeter
-"At Last... Total Terror!" - The Amazing True Story of the Making of AXE and KIDNAPPED COED
-"Moose Magic" - The George Newman Shaw and John Willhelm Story
-Stephen Thrower on AXE and KIDNAPPED COED
-TV Spots
-Radio Spots
-CD Soundtrack

The Bottom Line
Severin Films gives us the definitive release of these cult classics along with extensive and heartfelt supplemental material and a soundtrack CD to boot. Highly recommended!