Friday, December 27, 2019

Bathing Beauty Jane Russell in Underwater! (1955) Warner Archives Blu Ray Review

Underwater! (1955) Warner Archives Release Jan 28th 2020 

Directed By: John Sturges

Starring: Jane Russell, Gilbert Roland, Lori Nelson, Richard Egan, Robert Keith, Joseph Calleia

     The poster for Underwater from 1955 is sex-sells 101 using the lovely and talented Jane Russell to sell this sea-adventure, with her not so sunken chest on full display. But is this movie just an excuse to see Ms. Russell in all her bathing glory? Two deep sea divers accidentally discover treasure while on a routine dive. Now joined by Father Cannon (Robert Keith),Theresa (Jane Russell) and Gloria (Lori Nelson) they must fight off scavengers and other dangers in order to retrieve their big pay day.  Underwater is one of the last of its kind, a big ‘splashy’ adventure film which even in ’55 seemed like a fish out of water to more grounded counter culture films like Rebel Without a Cause and Blackboard Jungle or serious drama’s like East of Eden all released that same year. But that is a big part of the films charm. It doesn’t challenge its viewers like Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) but rather plays out like a Disney era adventure film but made by RKO instead and of course makes sure to show off its female leads. The pacing is a little uneven with the first act clipping away yet towards the second act things slow down a bit. Sturges feels he must inject some romance into the film which really doesn’t add anything in my opinion the story. In fact its these scenes that make the film free more dated, like something from the ‘40’s. Thankfully things pick up in the third act.

  The cast itself is great with Gilbert Roland giving the film the male version of Russell. Roland brings sex appeal, machismo and swagger, bare chested and ready for action. Playing the second diver is Richard Egan who does a fine job acting wise but feels like he gets lost among his peers. But of course its Jane Russell with her looks and her curves that packed most people in the seats and Sturges makes the most of her talent. Not to be out done is Lori Nelson. Nelson no stranger to underwater adventures, best known for role in Revenge of the Creature also released in 1955.  The under-water scenes themselves are nicely done and really pop in Technicolor.  Going into this film I thought maybe it was a movie based around Ms. Russell in a bathing suit however while that’s not untrue the film does have some fun with its premise and I did find it at times engaging. What ‘sinks’ this film is uneven second act and some side plots that stop the film in its watery tracks. And that’s the thing, a movie like this should be anything but boring. Overall its Not bad mostly forgettable especially when you look at all the other classic films released the same year. Warner Archives starts the New Year off right with its release of Underwater with an eye-popping 4K restoration that takes full advantage of its colorful sets. Everything looks crisp and clean and any artifacts have been scrubbed leaving a nice print. The darker under-water scenes really benefit from this new transfer as I imagine older prints would have been hard to see in places. The audio is great as well and what we get is clear sounding audio and showcases the lovely score by legendary composer of films like Out of the Past, Hathcock’s Notorious just to name a few. No special features included.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Insane Joys of :The Peanut Butter Solution (1985) Severin Kids Blu Ray Review

The Peanut Butter Solution (1985) Severin Kids Dec 31st 2019

Directed By: Michael Rubbo

Starring:Mathew Mackay, Michel Maillot, Harry Hill, Griffith Brewer

Michael (Mathew Mackay) is just a normal kid with a sister and a crazy painter dad until he wakes up one morning completely bald. The doctor says that something scared the lad so bad it made his hair fall out. He is no a total outcast at school and to make matters worse he starts be visited by the ghosts of two homeless people that buried to death in a horrible fire. They tell him that since he showed them kindness in the past that they would help cure his baldness. But it seems to work a little too well. What makes this so perfect is the fact that Peanut is so blissfully unaware of just how weird it is, especially considering it was aimed at children. It treats everything as totally normal even as we the audience go further down this rabbit hole. And this movie really is bonkers. Some of the weirdness includes but not : a creepy art teacher whose is sacked for being and doing shady stuff, two (and is possibly insane)  ghosts of a pair of homeless people who died in a horrible fire and of course the titular character going bald. Whew! Whats even more interesting is that Rubbo films some scenes like a straight up horror movie, especially when dealing with the supernatural element. The story itself isn't that incredible but, much like a car wreck its hard to take your eyes off of it. Just when you think that it couldnt get any stranger it just keeps ramping up the insanity. Without spoiling anything the finale is really something to behold. Lets just say stuff gets dark.

This is the first in the Severins Kids line. This is pretty great because a lot of us sleazy people have kids or in my case have nieces I want to scar for life someday. This is the perfect film to launch this new branch. The film itself looks great with a crisp clean 2k restoration. I've never seen this before but its hard to believe this film has ever looked better in its over thirty year life. Night and darkly lit scenes really benefit greatly. The sound is also great with a well balanced Mono 2.0 track. The Extras are above and beyond amazing! For starters this includes two cuts of (The Us Extended Cut) which is a nice addition. Then we get a directors commentary with Rubbo giving some interesting insights into this wonderfully weird movie. We also are treated to three interview featurettes with producer Rock Demers, Siluck Saysanasy (Conrad in the film) and Paul Corupe. Rounding out the features is a US and Canadian trailer. Bottom line: this is a fun weird and wonderful film and an amazing start to Severin Kids. I`d even put this on the short list as the best release of 2019 and thats saying something, because its been a great year for releases.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The Amazing Russian Horror film Viy (1967) Gets an Equally Amazing Blu Ray release from Severin

Viy (1967)
Directed by: Konstantin Ershov, Georgiy Kropachyov

Starring: Leonid Kuravlyov, Nikolay Kutuzov, Vadim Zakharchenko

       Are you a horror fan who wants to take a deep dive into what other countries have to offer in the realm of horror? Well, you’re in luck, because Severin Films has been killing it lately in that department and I am about to tell you about their latest offering.You may not have heard of it but 1967's Viy is an important film, as it was the first horror movie made in Soviet Russia. The good folks at Severin Films have re-released this watershed film for the first time in glorious HD.A young monk named Khoma (Leonid Kuravlyov) is tasked with overseeing the wake of a witch in a tiny and incredibly superstitious village. As expected, he isn’t thrilled about this job. His faith is put to the ultimate test, as demonic spirits taunt and terrorise him, all spurned on by the vengeful witch. Now it’s a battle for Khoma’s very soul in this highly creative and visually interesting '60s film.I will say up front that your standard horror film fan might have a hard time getting into Viy. It’s not gory, it’s not terribly fast paced and its narrative is not traditional in the least. That being said, if you are open to a more artsy, surreal film, this is a treasure of the horror genre.

     The film opens with a voice-over: "Viy is a colossal creation of the imagination of simple folk. The tale itself is a purely popular legend. And I tell it without change, in all its simplicity, exactly as I heard it told to me." Thus setting up what I love the most about Viy, which is that it is very much a dark fairy tale that is steeped in rich and Russian folklore.The art department did an amazing job, especially the scenes in which our hero must battle evil forces in an old rundown church. The practical visual effects, while somewhat dated, are still highly entertaining and add a certain broken down charm. I also enjoyed that they used a lot of actual locations to somewhat root the film in reality.While I won’t spoil it for you, I will say the film races towards a wonderfully weird finale filled with spooky treats like walking skeletons, monsters, creepy disembodied hands etc. While maybe not for everyone, this is still a great film and really should be seen by every true cinephile.

Extras include 'Viy the Vampire: An interview with Richard Stanley'. It’s always a treat to hear Stanley (a legendary filmmaker in his own right) talk about any subject, as he is extremely knowledgeable and engaging. Another featurette entitled 'From the Woods to the Cosomos' traces the history of Soviet horror and Sci-fi. Also included is a collection of silent films and an original trailer. If you are someone who doesn’t like subtitles the film is nicely dubbed in English but also has Russian audio. Overall an impressive collection of extras that help inform you about the background of the film and its place in world cinema.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Indian Jones this is Not: Jake Speed (1986) Arrow Films Review

Jake Speed (1986) Arrow Video Dec 3rd 2019

Directed By: Andrew Lane

Starring: Wayne Crawford, Karen Kopins, John Hurt, Dennis Christopher

       In an alternative Universe pulp fiction characters are actually real. One such person is Jake Speed. When a woman is kidnapped his services are obtained. This movie is a giant mess, so lets just dive right in. Things in this movie never add up. Like the fact that pulp characters are all based on real people sounds interesting on paper yet that idea but is never fully explored or really explained. Despite this Lane REALLY doubles down on its one-meta joke. Seriously, its so over used it becomes grating. I think what disappoints me the most is Jake Speed never subverts troupes yet, as you might expect gives us a bone-head over-macho ‘adventurer’ that plays more like a cheap dime store copy of Indiana Jones which it not so subtly referenced. Thus, the film struggles to find its own voice. Then you have the stuff that has aged horrible. For example, gender politics are as cringe inducing as you might expect not to mention it really leans in on its damsel in distress motif for all its worth. But wait, the director gives us a helping over overt homophobia for good measure. In one scene Karen hurls some rather ugly hate speech in order to call into question our manly heroes’ sexuality. It’s so utterly needless and further smacks of lazy writing.  Instead of giving us a cliched Jones type it would have awesome if Speed was played by someone nerdy like Dennis Christopher. Or hell, even have a woman as Jake Speed with the in-world explanation that she was written to be a man. Not only would this have been a clever twist but some commentary on sexism. 

But Andrew Lane isn’t interested in anything outside of the box and this film is as by-the-numbers as it gets. Also, the film also weirdly takes its sweet time in unfolding the plot. It spends far too much take on set up and less about pacing or fixing its plot holes. Wayne Crawford plays the titular Jake Speed but this too is a problem. Crawford isn’t terrible as an actor but he really lacks the kind of big screen adventurer charisma needed to pull the role off. Hell, even Brent Huff from Gwendoline (1984) would have been a better choice. The one highlight is Dennis Christopher who is a favorite character actor of mine and I feel sorry he had to play second banana given his talent. And least we not forget John Hurt who gives a deliciously great performance, far better than this film deserves. New World clearly wanted to cash in on the Indiana Jones films and what we are left with feels like a poor knock-off rather than a fun standalone adventure film. Overly simplistic and not at all fun.

Arrow Films provides a nice clean 2k restoration for those you of that find this movie entertaining. The sound is also well done with a clear 2.0 Mono track that provides good depth in sound. Extras include a new interview with director Andrew Lane as well as producer William Fay. Also features a essay by Mark Cunliffe who seems to paint this movie in a much more positive light. Overall a great release of a dud of a movie. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Teen Titans: The Complete Series! Warner Archives

Teen Titan: The Complete Series (Five Seasons/Movie) Warner Archives Dec 3rd 2019

Starring: Scott Menville, Tara Strong, Greg Cipes, Ron Pearlman, Khary Payton, Lauren Tom, Hynden Walch

Not to be confused with Teen Titan's Go -Teen Titans had a lot to prove as Batman: The Animated Series cast a very long neo-noir shadow. Despite T.T not being as gritty as BTAS it was able to stand out on its own as a landmark series within the D.C extended universe. The series explorers five young super heroes as they juggle fighting crime whilst also dealing with typical teen problems. Warner Archives has released all seasons both individually or, as we are going to look at, the complete series.  The real strength of of Titans is the razor sharp writing. The fun is how the writers talk this very fine line between drama, humor and of course action. Its also pretty impressive that the story arches for the most part are all really solid especially for a show geared at a younger viewers. The show never talks down to its audience, instead it delivers on great action with some surprising depth mixed in. I want to be a vague because I dont want to spoil it for any new comers to this series. If you are new this i a perfect time to dive in as Warners has released the entire series on Blu Ray.

Much like their movies, Warner's really does a great job with the restoration. Visually the cartoon is bright whereas Batman: The Animated Series was a darker tone. In 1080p the show pops in its HD presentation.The sound is also great with a healthy DTS-HD Master 2.0 audio track. Dialogue is clear as is the assortment of sound effects. Bonus features include a fun featurette with the voice actors, a featurette on how the series was translated from the comic to television screen, a "lost episode" along with some other fun surprises. All 66 episodes are included as well as the feature length film Trouble in Tokyo (2006) which came a year after the soon was cancelled. The movie isn't amazing but for me it had a lot of great moments and nice visuals. Overall a fun show that is visually pleasing and well written and also includes some great extras as well as the film. A great holiday gift.

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Limit of Control (2009) Arrow Academy

The Limit of Control (2009) Dec 10th 2019 Arrow Academy

Directed By: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Isaach De Bankole, Alex Descas, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Paz de la Huerta

       Jim Jarmusch is very polarizing figure in film making. Either you think he's one of the most interesting voices to emerge from the NY film scene in the early '80's or you think hes pretentious. I find myself in the former category but I know that his films can be an acquired taste. To celebrate its ten year anniversary Arrow Academy has re-released The Limits of Control on Blu Ray. We follow a mysterious unnamed man (Isaach De Bankole) on a strange odyssey as he conducts a criminal job in Spain. Jarmusch doesn't mind taking his time and sets up a dreamy, at times surreal film and while there is a criminal plot in here its pretty secondary to the journey and the characters our main character is involved with. Reinforcing this dream like quality is the repeated questions each new character asks the Lone Man.  For example each character always confirms that he doesn't speak Spanish, then later in conversation asks if he is interested in..something, like film, music, science etc. Some of this I think is meant to be funny and Jarmusch is certainly known for his dry and sardonic sense of humor.

    Like Tarantino, there is something just this really hip and cool vibe that doesn't feel like it tries too hard. It just comes with this ease which other film makers just seem to struggle with.
This was also the case with his vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive which ached with vivaciousness. It also goes without saying that his style is really top notch and what the movie lacks in plot it makes up for in visual perfection. I will say that you enjoying this movie all depends on your mileage with a slow burn of a film. Limits of Control is so slow at times its almost as if Jarmusch is testing its audiences patients while also indulging in his own excesses. For me I knew what I was getting so I didnt mind the pace because there was always something interesting either visually or sub textually or the parade of interesting characters that are weave in and out of this film to keep me glued. As I said your mileage for this will vary but for my money I found it almost hypnotizing at times. Dreamy, slow paced and feels like a neo-noir that never quite commits to the crime aspects, Limits of Control is not for everybody and I can see why some would be put off by the paper thin plot and slow pacing. However I found the movie to be more of a journey and not about the story per say which sounds like a cop out, I know. If you like artsy kind of intellectual films with a cool breeze running through its veins this movie is for you. Arrow Academy does a great job in providing a amazing transfer that shows off the captivating and evocative cinematographer of Christopher Doyles (In the Mood for Love). Images are crisp and clear and thankfully never feel washed out or grainy. We also get a nice Mono 2.0 and 5.1 track. Features include A video essay by author Geoff Andrew, The Rituals of Control a new video essay on the film by author and critic Amy Simmons and two vintage featurettes  exploring the film and its locations.The release also features a booklet with a new essay by Geoff Andrews.  This is a great release and should be considered a must buy for film lovers.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Emanuelle in America (1977) Mondo Macabro

Emanuelle in America (1977) Mondo Macabro Nov 12th 2019

Directed By: Joe D' Amato

Starring: Laura Gemser, Gabriele Tinti, Roger Browne, Paola Senatore

     Emanuelle was a landmark sexually charged film directed by Just Jaeckin released in France in 1974 in response to films like Last Tango in Paris (1972).  It was a hit and was spawned a other films as well as a new series the 'Black Emanuelle films'. Sleaze king Joe D' Amato  directed the first in this hugely popular series starring Laurua Gemser as the titular character. So I must admit I am totally new to any of the Emanuelle films despite them having a notoriety among the Grindhouse circle. Emanuelle (Laura Gemser) is a photographer always looking for an interesting story. She goes on a series of erotic adventures on her quest including a harem and a brothel made up of male studs servicing rich women. The Emanuelle movies and others like it kind of exist as a weird relic in a way. Watching the hardcore scenes intermixed within the films flimsy (at best) plot, I had to keep reminding myself that, in a pre Internet age seeing this kind of steamy action was bold and maybe even a little shocking. I guess as a someone who grew up in an age where this sort of stuff was so easily available its not very shocking though some might consider it pretty erotic. So, having said that the fans of EIA and other films like it are more interested in its sleaze and camp value, and 42nd street nostalgia. I mean I dont think anybody going into this movie would suggest it has an amazing story, though frankly its not terrible either.Plot wise it seems like a trio of vignettes rather than one over arching narrative and thankfully D'Amato has a certain tongue in cheek approach which helps keep it fun.  EIA also carries with it a reputation for pushing boundaries which is evident during a brief scene, that involves ill just say a woman and a horse. Though while this scene is never topped in terms of shock value (besides maybe the 'snuff film within a film, more on that later)the film is of course over flowing with wildly sex and hardcore acts. Again maybe I'm jaded but its just alright. For me it never really pushes its taboo subject matter far enough to be truly edgy or entertaining . Having said that I will say the phony 'snuff film' within the film was interesting, harrowing and seemed to hearken back to '70's cannibal films or doc-u-films like the Mondo series. Its actually manages to be unnerving especially as the effects are well done (helped a lot but the grainy scratchy film quality of film within the film). Emanuelle in America is certainly a film that is a product of its time and therefore its not going to appeal to a lot of younger viewers like myself. After all the Internet generation could and can see all this kind of action and more 24/7 on demand. It also has some half hearted social messages dating the film even more. Probably best enjoyed for its sleaze and kitsch value. A total of five films were made in the Black Emanuelle series and this is the one that kicked it off.

     Mondo Macabro rolls out the royal treatment for such a groundbreaking film. The print is an eye popping visually pleasing 4k restoration. A lot of love and care was clearly put into making this print look as best it ever has. No grain and skin tones have a nice natural balanced look. The sound is also well done with a nice 2.0 mono which is crisp and clear with the dialogue (such as it is). Mondo also provides not one but two audio commentaries. The first is director Joe D'Amato who has some great insights into his notorious opus. The second is from filmmaker and film scholar Bruce Holecheck and Nathaniel Thompson. Both provide a very enlightening and entertaining commentary. Mondo may not do big showy 'event titles' but damned if they dont release some bold and daring films from virtually every part of the globe. Its this reason they remain my favorite and its always exciting to see what they are putting out. Emanuelle in America is a must own if you are a fan of grimy D'Amato and softcore romps.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Hard Workin' Blue Collar Drives onto Blu Ray From Kino Classics

Blue Collar (1978) Kino Classics Dec 10th 2019
Directed By: Paul Schrader
Starring: Richard Pryor, Yaphet Kotto, Harvey Keitel, Ed Begley Jr, Harry Bellaver, Lane Smith, George Memmoli

         In the ’70’s and ‘80’s Paul Schrader was at the height of his creative powers. His screenwriting credits including classics like Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). In 1978 he directed his first feature film Blue Collar (1978). Three hard-working blue-collar union stiffs named Zeke (Richard Pryor), Jerry (Harvey Keitel) and Smokey (Yaphet Kotto) find themselves needing money after they suffer hardships at home. During one Saturday night coke fueled party the idea is floated around to rob the union vault to help ease their money woes. What started simply talk while high turns into an actual plan to steal the money. However, what’s inside the vault will lead to a domino effect of paranoia, corruption and murder. Schrader pulls zero punches in dropping us into the sweaty grimy world of factory town labor and union jobs but also manages to weaves a compelling story that kept me glued from start to finish. Initially you are led to believe that the union heist is the main drive but, in a move that Hitchcock himself would have been proud of, it turns out this is simply a macguffin (or misdirection) to the real plot.

      This is incredibly clever and something that is wholly unexpected. Blue Collar also examines social issues like race and American-class system which doesn’t over power the organic flow of the plot but rather plays expertly in the background. Its also very understated which is good, but one complaint some of the plot lines could have been punched up. Having said that Schrader’s film handles everything with no kid gloves in sight. His dialogue is as rough and ready as the sets which look well-worn ,lived in and grimy. You can really grasp the desperation and claustrophobia of living in this world. The cast is fantastic with Richard Pryor Yaphet Kotto and Harvey Keitel all at the peaks of their profession and talent. The three big personalities somehow find a way to share the screen but also play off of each other in brilliant ways. Despite tensions on set it never feels like each other is trying to upstage one another. Its hard to say one of them stands out more, because each actor brings something wholly different and exciting. It was also interesting to read that this film was legendary troublesome and drove its young filmmaker to a nervous breakdown. It’s said that Pryor pulled a gun in a heated moment not to mention verb and at one-point physical altercations within its lead trio. It’s a small miracle this movie finished at all, let alone a minor classic. This film seems to have fallen by the wayside and doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. 

Thankfully Kino Classics is set to change all that with their brand-new Blu Ray. The print looks clean with very little to no artifacts and grain is kept to a minimum. A entertaining director commentary is included which was not included on the previous 2017 bare bones DVD. For someone who loves commentaries this is a real treat. Rounding out the features is a trailer. The 2018 Incinerator Blu Ray may have slightly more features, this is still a great release and the price is right. Blue Collar was a treat to discover and features the sharp wit and expert plotting that made Schrader a legend in his field. This is very much worth taking a chance on if you have not seen it. A great movie that deserves to be discussed more.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Ultra Sleaze Dog Day (1984) Kino Classic Review

Dog Day (1984) Kino Classics Dec 3rd 2019

Directed B;y Yves Boisset

Starring: Lee Marvin, Miou-Miou, Jean Carmet, Victor Lanoux, David Bennent, Tina Louise

     Jimmy Cob (Lee Marvin) is a fugitive on the run after scoring a huge bag of money. He sacks it away in the French countryside. As he hides out a remote farm he soon learns he is being hunted not only the police but a former colleague and a demented family that dwell on the land.  So, um yeah Dog Day is something. This film is a mess. Its a crime/man-on-the-run movie that at times veers wildly into a carnival of taboo and sexual depravity and even randomly turns into a slasher film over an hour into its disjointed run time. The plot and story is all over the place. Its very much like smashing two different films and trying to make them work. As I said above the film is highly sexual almost to the point of being a live action cartoon. All of this is so jarring not to mention everything feels wholly unfocused and frankly sloppy.

We the audience spend over ninety minutes with unwashed raving perverts which normally is not a bad thing but it feels so out of place here. Boisset is clearly out of his element with this film and he seems to have lost the reigns on what should have been a tense crime thriller. There are things in the screenplay that very nearly could have been clever or interesting but Yves never explores anything in depth. Dog Day is also very bleak at times. For example one of the very few  sympathetic character, an elderly woman, ends up hanging herself after making numerous suicide threats.  Maybe more disturbing is the casual way in which the director handles repeated sexual assaults.

     Dog Day feels like if The Hills Have Eyes had been spliced with Prime Cut mixed with some over-sex John Waters movie (minus Waters trademark wit and satire).  I wanted to like this movie as it seemed like a high energy crime film with a favorite actor, Lee Marvin. What I got was a mis-mash of genres, nearly foaming out of the mouth country folk stereotypes which smacks of lazy writing. One thing I will say is, this film is never dull and has a quality of watching a train wreck.

Kino Classics for better or worse has released or rather unleashed this '80's oddity. The film itself looks great with a crisp clean picture with very little digital artifacts. Skin tones are nature looking and colors arent over blown or muddied.  The sound is also great and include both the English and French audio. The extras include a Trailer and Audio commentary by film Historian Howard S Berger and Steve Mitchell.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The World, The Flesh and the Devil (1959) Warner Archives

Ranald MacDougall is probably best remembered for writing the screenplay for films like Mildred Pierce (1945) and Cleopatra (1963) as well as an uncredited work on Alfred Hitchcocks Stage Fright (1950) but he also directed notable films like Queen Bee (1955) and the strange little film we are talking about today, The World, The Flesh and the Devil (1959).

The World, The Flesh, and the Devil (1959) Nov 12th 2019
Ralph (Harry Belafonte)
Directed By: Ranald MacDougall

Starring: Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens, Mel Ferrer

           This one is a mixed bag. While I love a good character study World feels like a movie better suited as an episode of The Twilight Zone rather than a full feature film. At first the time is intriguing as it slowly builds and Belafonte carries the film for a solid thirty-ish minutes until we are introduced to the second of three characters in this film. Personally I dont mind a  slow build provided that it actually goes somewhere interesting and it feels like this film never gets there. Frankly I was more bored as the plot (of what there is) slowly unfolded at a glacier pace. End of the world films like this can explore a lot of subject matter and this seems to be the case-well almost. We are introduced nearly a half way in to Sarah (Inger Stevens) who it turns out also somehow survived. She is white and its suggested very upper class a juxtaposition to Ralph an African American working class guy. MacDougall plays with subjects like race and class but ditches this almost right away. Gloves have never been more kid friendly. Instead of challenging and interesting social commentary we get a sappy turned dark (seemingly out of nowhere) love triangle between Ralph, Sarah and another man named Benson (Mel Ferrer). And indeed this is, in a nut shell a romantic drama set in a post-apocalyptic future. Which is such a waste of the sub-genre which is merely used to put the characters in a more dramatic situation than doing something interesting. It also has this weird tonal problem, drama intermixed with some lighthearted moments. I assume this was to keep the film from being too bleak.

As hinted at above the plot turns much darker almost out of nowhere and isn't built up enough to feel earned. This is especially baffling given MacDougall other screen credits. The film actually starts going somewhere in the last ten minutes but its a case of too-little-too late for me. It baffles me how such a talented writer like MacDougall turn in a bland screenplay. Its a shame because there are good elements in here. Chiefly its lead. Harry Belafonte gives a great performance as the seemingly sole survivor. A scene that sticks out is when his character Ralph is listening to the last transmissions, describing Earths fate. The camera stays on a medium shot of his face and his emoting as he learns the life as he knew it, any probably everybody he loves is long gone. Its an harrowing moment. Belafonte is wasted on this material though. I had some high expectations for this film seeing how the writer/director has a pretty good track record, but wow this was pretty underwhelming. Besides a great performance by its lead and a good score by Oscar winner Mikolos Rozsa , The World, The Flesh and the Devil is a largely forgettable relic of a film from the Cold War era and would have been suited as a television episode rather than a full length film. It comes close to examining bold social issues but opts out entirely.

Warner Archives doesn't disappoint when providing a nice crisp clean restoration which looks great given its age. The disc feature any bonus material.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Fetish Gear and Butterflies- Gwendoline (1984) Severin Blu Ray Review

One of the first releases from Severin was Gwendoline aka The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak (1984) so it seems fitting that, as the label hits its stride it re-releases the one that started it all.

Gwendoline aka The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak  (US Release Title)

Directed By: Just Jaeckin 

Starring: Tawny Kitaen, Brent Huff, Zabou Breitman

I know Gwendoline has a firm cult following among cult fans and hardcore 80's lovers no doubt highly regard this as well. I on the other hand thought it was....alright. Gwendoline (Tawney Kitaen) is on the search for her missing father, who it seems was after a rare specice of butterfly. This search leads her to meet a rough rogue named Willard (Brent Huff) and a trip into the Yik-Yak. Leather and fighting ensues in this adult adventure flick.

        The film wastes zero time in grabbing ones attention and after a great introduction of our main character Gwendoline (played by 80's sex pot Tawney Kitaen) in a shipping crate, things seem to be off to a great start. But then starts to dip in energy feeling more like a so-so Indiana Jones re-hash injected with some nudity for good measure. And that's the thing about this movie its kind of Meh for the first hour. It mostly feels like typical adventure troupes geared towards a mature audience and is woefully predictable. The gruff hero falling for the girl is so played out even by '84 and I just wish the could have played with troupes and actively subverted them. The filmmakers dont ever push anything far enough to be memorable. I also cant help but think this movie tries to coast a lot on the star power of Brent Huff and more specifically Tawney Kitaen. Its not to say they are bad by any means -in fact both actors are fun to watch together, just that the first half of the movie are spent with their characters and they arent exactly the most likable.

            That is until an hour into the run time. That is when we get a full blown surrealist film that feels very much like Terry Gilliam.  For me this is when the film truly shines but is also kind of jarring as it feels so different from what came before it. I just wish the film didnt take so long in getting to the more fun and memorable aspects. I really think that maybe if I had seen this movie a lot younger I would have at least some nostalgia goggles, thus forgiving some of the less than stellar plot, that really lacks a lot of world building. Say what you will about Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988) but at least its consistent in its hyper surreal world. If Romancing the Stone (1984) was Indiana Jones for the Rom-Com set, Gwendoline is Jones for the horny crowd.

        As I said above this is a special title for Severin as its one of the very first to be released by the label. But that was DVD and now we have STUNNING 4K Blu Ray so it seems fitting that this film finally gets a re-release. The picture is an improvement and looks sharp, clean and looks great for a movie over thirty years old. The old commentary with the director is ported over (as well as the other extras) and includes a fun new commentary that re-units Brent Huff and Tawney Kitaen. For fans this is a great addition. A new interview conducted in 2019 with director Just Jaceckin as well as the one he did in 2006. The extras are a wealth of interviews that tackle different aspects of this cult film. In fact, after viewing them it gave me a new perspective on what the filmmakers were trying to achieve.  The release also includes a SECOND cut of the film, which is the shorter US release of the film. This cuts 16 minutes off the films original runtime. Its nice to have that included as well just for those die hard fans out there. Overall this is of case of an AMAZING release for a film that was just alright. It has a big following so what do I know?

Friday, November 29, 2019

Konga (1961) Roars Onto Blu Ray Kino Classics

        The early '60 was an interesting time for Hollywood, as it was slowly phasing out films aimed to older people and moving into counter culture teen-aged fare. It was also a time when studios started tackling more taboo subject matter as the Production Code was slowly easing up on its grip. Like the ape itself, Konga (1961) is a film very much of another age. Its more of a creature-feature you`d expect from the '40's or '50's and not the same year as films like West Side Story, Judgement at Nuremberg etc.

Konga (1961) Dec 3rd 2019

Directed By: John Lemont

Starring: Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Jess Conrad, Austin Trevor, George Pastell

Dr Charles Decker (Michael Gough) presumed lost in Africa but returns alive and well with chimp in head and an amazing discovery. He has found a way to grow plants to huge sizes and, as you might have already guessed his monkey sidekick is going to get the same Bert I Gordon treatment. However the Doctor uses his new giant monkey friend to get revenge on those who he feels has wronged him in the past.

       Its easy to pick apart whats bad about Konga, from its plot holes, its bad dialogue and the special effects that are laughably bad even for this type of film.  And lets not even get started on how much of a King Kong ripoff the film is. But I might be able to forgive all this if it wasnt for, this being a giant ape movie that skimps on the ape. The film spends a lot of time in lengthy dialogue and exposition and not enough on actual big monkey terror filled hi-jinks. This is kind of disappointing as the audience has to wait nearly an hour to we get full on ape-action.  The pace is also not helped when over half way in we switch to some teen-aged subplot in the form of a field trip Deckers students take. Not only a jarring late addition but adds zero to the overall story, besides maybe giving Konga a victim. Its smacks of producers tacking it on to appeal to the "teen-market" which was flourishing in the '60's.In fact a working title for this film is I Was a Teen-Aged Gorilla  The one bright spot is Michael Gough who really makes this movie. He plays the sinister mad doctor with his signature charm and swagger, delivering his lines with the pur that is a mix of malevolent yet soothing. Outside of Price, Gough had such an amazing voice, especially for villains. Truly Michael laps up this role with vigor and its such fun watching him in action.

       I was hoping for a cheesy monster movie with one of my favorite British actors Michael Gough but the film never fully commits to its, lets face it silly plot. What we get is a slog to a fun third act. But its too little-too late. It feels like John Lemont could have taken things less seriously and played up the inherit b-movie charms. If only the rest of the film had the fun energy of the final fifteen minutes this could have been a really enjoyable cult classic. Kino Classics restores this film in 2k and WOW does this film really POP with color. Obviously the producers wanted to show off that they had the budget for color and everything is so vivid in its palate. For the most part the picture is artifact free and has a crisp clean look. Extras include a vintage Radio Spot, Image Galley and Trailer.

Great release with an awesome looking picture for a sadly Meh movie.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Beyond the Door III Vinegar Syndrome Review

First off, to make things clear, Beyond the Door III  has nothing to do with Beyond the Door (1974) and Shock aka Beyond the Door II (1977). BTD was tagged on after the fact.

Director Jeff Kwitny has only one other director credit, the slasher outing Iced (1988) so I wasn't expecting much. But shocking it is a lot of fun and is one of weird, whacked out gems that seemed to languish in obscurity that is  until now thanks to the good folks at Vinegar Syndrome.

Beyond the Door III Aka Amok Train (1989) Oct 29th 2019

Directed: Jeff Kwitny

Starring: Mary Kohnert, Bo Svenson, Savina Gersak

      Beverly (Mary Kohnert) is a mousy and seemingly misfit among her classmates and generally gets made fun of. Her and her peers, as part of a class are venturing out into Europe for a field trip. But it seems that Beverly is special after all, being singled out by the same cult the kids are studying. Whilst the kids are asleep in their room a mysterious fire breaks out and after fleeing from cult members they board a train to seek safety. But of course they are anything but, when the evil is still among them.

   I kept the plot vague because there are a lot of weird twists and turns and one bat shit crazy finale. BTD has its host of problems like, bad acting, all over the place plot and characters that feel underdeveloped. Having said that, the film is expertly paced and wastes little time in ramping up the acid fueled story. Thats the thing I loved about this movie, for as messy as the plot is , it was never boring. You always had something going on from surreal visuals, cheesy dialogue and of course a lot of blood and gore. This brings me to another brilliant thing about this movie, which is its amazing practical splatter effects. Even as jaded as I have become, the gore is really something to behold and as dated as some of the effects look they still are pretty grisly. Highlights are a double kill (edited between the two) of a man being burnt alive and another poor guy slowly being beheaded.  Adolfo Bartoli did the cinematography and it is incredible. Bartoli a longtime Full Moon/Empire DP really gives this film dreamlike quality. It is dripping with atmosphere and utilizes the bleak countryside to its upmost creepiness. Clearly the look of the film is partly inspired by Bava and Argento. BTD does struggle with its story and the very end feels underwhelmed however I was entertained by the films style and over-the-top grand guignol type blood shed. It a film that is campy, yet its drug laced moments give it a waking nightmare kind of feel.  Overall a fun film that you should check out especially if you are a fan of strange cinema.

      Vinegar Syndrome goes full steam ahead with this release. We get a stunning 4k print using 35mm material. The new restoration shows of Bartoli's incredible visual flare and poorly lit scenes are now thankfully visible. It also sounds great with a nice 2.0 digital HD mix. And of course as you`d expect the disc is choked full of great features that fans have come to expect from the company. This includes a director interview, interview with cult actor Bo Svenson (Kill Bill Vol 2) and cinematographer Adolfo Bartoli. This gives you a great cross section of perspectives and the interviews are wildly entertaining. As I mentioned above I loved the look of the film so having someone like Bartoli get an interview is amazing. Despite its flaws this is a wonderfully bat-crap-crazy film and VS has provided some great supplements to go with it. Consider is a Must Own!

Monday, November 25, 2019

A Faithful Man (2018) Kino Lorber Blu Ray Review

A Faithful Man (2018) Kino Lorber Nov 19th 2019

Directed By: Louise Garrel

Starring: Louise Garrel, Laetitia Casta, Lily-Rose Depp, Joseph Engel

Abel (Louise Garrel) seems to have a good life living with his girlfriend Marianne (Laetitia Casta). His life comes crashing down when she reveals she is pregnant with his best friend Pauls baby. She asks him to leave and he simply walks out of her life without protest. Years pass and Paul suddenly dies and its shortly after the funeral where Abel trys and rekinkle his love. Enter Paul's sister Eve (Lily-Rose Depp) who has been in love with Abel since she was a young girl. Now Eve and Marianne fight over Abel whilst also dealing with other dramas that come with it.

       I think the biggest flaw with this film is that, Abel (Louise Garrel) is kind of a dud of a character so its hard to imagine how two women would be fighting over him.  As Depp's character says "Its war" referring to the two going to battle over him. This smacks of some narcissism on Garrels part who not only directs the film but cast himself as the lead and co-wrote the screenplay. Deep describes Garrel's character as the most beautiful man alive...Um. No. Like seriously who writes that bout themselves? Both of these women are so clearly out of this guys league. I`d maybe buy it if Abel has a lot of charm and swagger or something interesting about him, but he doesn't. So, its hard to accept why this love triangle is happening in the first place. This is a big problem as its the foundation for the entire plot. Story wise its a bit all over the place, you have the love triangle, you have issues with Marianne's kid Joseph who may or may not be Abels. Then its sort of suggested that foul play was involved in Pauls sudden death, which is sort of explored but then weirdly dropped. Characters motivations are also kind of hard to swallow. For example Marianne tells Abel she literally flipped a coin to decide whose child she was going to say it was. In any normal situation you`d be furious or at the very least totally mistrusting of this person. Its also not the first strange thing she does/says in the film. But thats the thing, characters act so abnormally its hard to really understand anyone's true motives. It takes one out of the film which never feels like it finds its footing and sets up story lines and never resolves them. Depp and Casta give fine performances but they get lost in their strange sycophantic feelings towards Abel.   A Faithful Man seems hollow and a bit of a cinematic vanity project of Louise Garrel. Its plot is underwhelming and feels like its there only serve to showcase Garrel as a brooding ladies man instead of a honest and deep story about love and obsession.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Boys Next Door (1985) Severin Blu Ray Review ! Winning Sheen Style!

Penelope Spheeris is a filmmaker that is incredibly interesting to me. She started out making films like Decline of Western Civilization Trilogy an invaluable documentary about the punk scene as well as the cult punk classic Suburbia (1983) and The Boys Next Door (1985). She went onto make big budget Hollywood family films. Then she just kind of stopped and hasnt directed a feature since 2012. I was really excited when Severin announced they were releasing this '80's movie that doesn't get talked about nearly enough.

The Boys Next Door (1985) Release Date Nov 19th 2019

Directed By: Penelope Spheeris

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Maxwell Caulfield, Christopher McDonald, Hank Garret, Patti D' Arbanville, Moon Unit Zappa

       The film opens with a unnerving credit sequence about real life serial killers, and while its a bit heavy handed its effective none the less. It sets the tone for a bleak, cold and grim film. Spheeris pulls zero punches in terms of showing real life monsters and doesn't glamorize or glorify them. The film wisely builds up the first murder at an exhaustive pace and it when it comes it hits you like a sledge hammer.

Its really disturbing and it got to me I think even more being a gay man. The film is a dark character study so it hangs on its performance. Thankfully they are spot on. Maxwell Caulfield gives a down right terrifying performance as Bo. When he flies into a rage it feels like the actor is truly unhinged and out of control. Sheen is also great and helps balance out Maxwell's character. Charlie at this point was not quite a break out star, only doing one notable film at this point Red Dawn (1984). As much as I love Sheen its almost distracting seeing him in a gritty movie like this. Its funny to think he plays the less crazy character out of the pair. The legendary Christopher McDonald also has a small role. Boys Next Door is styled in a very punk rock way, both in its amazing soundtrack and also bright green and purple hues for certain scenes. This is such a well crafted haunting little film and its had to believe its directed by the same person as The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) or The Little Rascals (1994). Imagine renting this movie in the '90's thinking you`get something similar.

  Severin REALLY outdid themselves with this release and its features. The film is restored in 2k and looks great. You can really notice this new print in night scenes. Penlopes punk flare with its neon hues really pops here. The bonus features are great as well. First off I was really delighted that a commentary by director Penelope Spheeris and star Maxwell Caulfield is included. She and Maxwell are entertaining as hell. This disc also features some great interviews including author Stephen Thrower,, Penelope Spheeris, Maxwell Caulfield, Christopher McDonald and they even tracked down the street band performers from the film. Its these little attentions to details that makes Severin such an exciting label. Rounding out the features is an alternative Opening Title sequence and extended scenes, and an original trailer.

A Must Own!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Unmasked Part 25 (1989) The original Meta Slasher Vinegar Syndrome Blu Ray Review

By the end of the '80's the slasher genre was well past its expiration date and was more about parodying these films rather than taking them in a new interesting direction. You saw this with films like Doom Asylum (1988) and the film we are going to talk about today, Unmasked Part 25 (1989).

Unmasked Part 25 (1989)

Directed By: Anders Palm

Starring:Gregory Cox, Fiona Evans, Edward Brayshaw

Clearly Unmasked pays not so subtle homage to Friday the 13th (1980) and its later entries, it obviously not only uses Jason's iconic hockey mask (that didnt come into play until the third film)
it also features the killer, named Jackson having a similar tragic backstory ala the first Friday film. But its not just slashers that it 'borrows' from. It also nods to Bride of Frankenstein (1935) even paraphrasing a famous speech given by the blind hermit to the Monster. I also cant help but feel like the love story between a disfigured misunderstood man and a blind woman seems a lot like The Toxic Avenger (1984). Unmasked draws inspiration from a lot of films but never feels like it finds its own voice. Its a slasher send up with a strange love story that is fairly earnest in its execution but we never know exactly what is meant to be serious and what is meant to be taken as stabbing satire. The meta humor and fourth wall breaking jokes come off more awkward and jerky than as clever as the screenwriter maybe thought they were. Its a movie about a killer with a midlife crisis but they never really explore this as much as they could.

         One on the plus side the effects are OUTSTANDING! The gore and splatter effects feel equal parts over-the-top cartoonish and grisly realistic striking a perfect balance. Even the chewed up face of Jackson (Gregory Cox) shown in full daylight is decent. The film has a visual flare that I wasn't expecting in a good way. Neon reds an greens light certain set pieces which felt very much like a a tip of the hat to Bava/Argento. Some of the jokes are really quite brilliant-but some feel like they fall flat.

Unmasked is a really interesting beast as its clearly taking the piss out of the genre but strives for some actual emotional weight, does it mix well? Sort of. While the plot has some holes and could have used some tightening up, its clear that the filmmakers love the genre and modern slashers they reference but also try and make Jackson almost like some classic literary figure like  The Frankensteins Monster and Erik from The Phantom of the Opera which is pretty interesting in the context of the story. Its fun and gory enough to 'mask' over some of its less than stellar qualities. Its bad but its earnest nature and eye popping visual flare and great effects makes it hard to out right hate. A film worth watching especially for hardcore slasher fans.

Vinegar Syndrome really does a EXCELLENT job with this release. First off we get a beautiful looking print. Taken from the original 35mm negatives the team really make this late '80's film shine. As I said i loved the visual flares that filmmakers provided and this new print really POPS!  As always the extras are fun and we are treated to some great stuff. We get not one but two a lively commentaries. One  with writer/producer Mark Cutforth moderated by Justin Dectoux of Laser Blast Society. The commentary is with director Anders Palms moderated by film journalist David Flint.

As much shit as I give this film it wasn't terrible and Vinegar Syndrome really put a lot of hard work into this release. Well done!

Great Day in the Morning (1956) Warner Archives Nov 26th 2019

Great Day in the Morning (1956) Warner Archives Nov 26th 2019

Directed By: Jacques Tourneur

Starring: Virginia Mayo, Robert Stack, Ruth Roman, Alex Nicol, Raymond Burr

Director Jacques Tourneur sadly was never recognized for an Academy Award despite making some of the greatest films of the ‘40’s including the Noir classic Out of the Past (1942) and the haunting psycho-sexual horror-thriller Cat People (1942). He also has delighted horror fans with such gems as I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and Comedy of Terrors (1963). Tourneur worked in many different genres and Great Day in the Morning was his drama epic. A smooth talking stranger traveling through wins a bar in a card game. Things are far from great for the young man as a host of town folks arent too keen on having him around including two women and a band of Union Sympathizers. 

      Great Day is a film very much a product of its time, one of those big splashy color action films that died out after much gritter smaller budget counter culture films like Easy Rider (1969) roared into theaters, upsetting the old Hollywood guard. What we get here is a eye popping colored costume drama that has an emotional core but all the trappings of a bygone era of cinema. The film is beautifully shot and is, as most bigger budget films populated by great actors and in smaller roles wonderful character actors. Robert Stack has a leading man charm that carries the film and the always great Raymond Burr gives a terrific performance. Having said that its really the women that truly shine in this one. Ruth Roman, probably best known for Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951) is such a treat to watch. Her beauty, talent and the way she carries herself is all on point and she really knows how to command attention. Not to be outdone is Virginia Mayo (Best Years of Our Lives) is equally good as one of two women attracted to our Stack's character. The writers give her more depth than you'd expect for this time period and while she sadly isnt allowed to have much agency within the story she is still given some great emotional weighty scenes to show off her talents. Despite its great cast and well done technical merits the film tends to be dull in places and doesnt focus on its core emotional centerpiece. I do like that the impending Civil War is used as a backdrop for the plot and its themes. Still, it is a sweeping and well made period drama and even though I am not a huge War film fan I enjoyed it. It has a charm only a late '50s bright colored costume drama from Hollywood.

Warners Blu Ray looks great! This film was done in old school Technicolor and WOW does the colors really pop with this new restoration. Images have depth and detail which you frankly do not get with older releases.The disc includes four short films directed by  Jacques Tourneur.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Sobering 'Day of Wine and Roses' Warner Archives Blu Ray Review

Days of Wine and Roses (1963) Warner Archives Oct 29th 2019

Directed By: Blake Edwards

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Jack Klugman, Charles Bickford, Alan Hewitt

Blake Edwards has directed such classics as Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and the classic screwball comedy's like  The Great Race (1965) and The Pink Panther (1963) . And while he mastered the art of laugh out loud comedy he also could do emotionally wrenching movies like Days of Wine and Roses (1962).  Joe Clark (Jack Lemmon) is a high spirited PR executive who meets a lovely secretary Kristen (Lee Remick). At first the pair seem opposites but with Clark's charm he wins her over and the two quickly develop a romance -but the problem is Joe is already in love with booze. Now straight edged Kristen starts Joe's pension for drinking and the two spiral within their now toxic relationship. Often considered the most haunting and devastating honest film about alcoholism ever put to screen Days of Wine and Roses is really a great film.  At nearly two hours the time is paced incredible well and Edwards takes us on a roller coaster of highs and lows and a descent into rock bottom. Blake wisely never judges his characters but rather presenting an honest look into a problem many people struggle with daily. The real tragedy of the story is how addiction can leak onto those we love and its heartbreaking to see good girl Kristen going down a dark path. 

Of course the film hangs onto its stellar performances. Lemmon admitted in the '90's that like his character Joe, he he himself really did struggle with alcoholism. Lemmon must have used those demons to portray the lovable but damaged alcoholic.   Jack brings a nuance to the role that is startling and true. Equally great is Lee Remick. Arguably Remick has the more challenging part, as she must transform from a good girl secretary to a mirror image of Joe Clark's battered addiction. Both Lemmon and Remick were nominated for Oscars for their performances but sadly neither one. In fact this film was not even nominated for the Best Picture Oscar which in hindsight is a huge snub. Heartbreaking, truthful and filled with unforgettable moments and performances Days of Wine and Roses is a masterpiece and considered the best film about its subject matter. 

Warner Archives really does a great job with this 2k scan of this classic film. Details are sharp and the new print really shows off Philip Lathrop (The Pink Panther, Earthquake) outstanding cinematographer. Warner has really been doing a fantastic job with how much care they put into restoring their back catalog . The sound is great as well and sound cases Four time Oscar winner Henry Mancini's excellent score. Warner was able to port over Edward Blake's auto commentary and considering Blake passed away in 2010 so it makes this artifact invaluable. It also includes a vintage interview with Jack Lemmon which like the commentary is such a great feature to have. Rounding out the features is an original trailer. I am a huge fan of this movie and as always Warners has taken special care in making this film look and sound great and port over some great extras. A must own!  

Friday, November 15, 2019

Future-Cyber Punk Masterpeice Robo Cop (1987) Given the Deluxe Treatment by Arrow Video

Robo Cop (1987) is a film I came to later in life (in my 20s) and instantly fell in love with. Arrow Video has really put their heart and soul into this release which quite honestly is the best us fans are likely to ever get.

Robo Cop (1987) Arrow Video Nov 26th  2019

Directed By: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith, Ray Wise, Miguel Ferrer

Robo Cop works on a lot of levels. On the surface you have a gritty yet darkly funny fast paced action film that delivers on great over-the-top performances, action and some ‘80’s style ultra-gore that boarders on the cartoonish. Speaking of, the villains are equally over-the-top and its always fun to see Kurtwood Smith from That 70s Show as the ring leader Clarence. However, if you scratch just below the surface the film is brimming with a biting social satire and even a Christ-allegory (comfirmed by Verhoeven himself) . So, if you enjoy it for its surface level fun or also take in its sardonic message about ‘80’s consumerism and greed intermixed with a  violence in a future punk version of Detroit, it’s a damn great movie. Robo Cop is to me cinematic comfort food and is the kind of film you can put on any time and enjoy it. Arrow has CRUSHED it with their new release of the film. 

I cant believe my mail box didn't explode with all the amazing awesomeness that was delivered with Arrow's Robo Cop 2 Disc Edition. The label has really went above and beyond and even further with this release. The picture is scanned in 4K from original camera negatives from MGM and approved by Paul Verhoeven himself. The picture looks incredible and is crisp, clear and lots of details really pop with this restoration. Disc One Includes the Directors Cut. This disc has the bulk of the extras: They include: archival commentary by Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison and Ed Neumeier . This was recorded for the theatrical cut and re-edited in 2014 for the directors cut. Two new commentaries are included one by Film historian Paul M Sammon and another by fans Christopher Griffith, Gary Smart and Eastwood Allen. The Boardroom: Storyboard with commentary by Phil Tippett, Four deleted scenes, Composing Robo Cop: New tribute to Robo Cop composer Basil Poledouris, Robo Props: A look at original props from the film, 2012 Q&A with the filmmaker and cast/crew, Robo Cop Creating a Legend three archival featurettes, Robo Talk a new conversation with co writer Ed Neumeier and filmmaker David Birke and Nick McCarthy (director of Orion Pictures), Truth of Character a new interview with Nancy Allen, Casting Old Detroit a new interview with casting director Julie Selzer, Connecting the Shots a new interview with second unit director Mark Goldblatt. WHEW! Seriously this level of extras is staggering. The features also include an Easter egg hidden feature and theatrical trailers.

Disc Two Theatrical Cut: Features the original cut of the film with an archival commentary by Paul Verhoeven, Jon Davison and Ed Neumeier, Two Isolated Score tracks (the Original and Final Theatrical Mix). One of the real treats is a Third cut of the film, the edited for television version, which includes alternate dubs and edits of several scenes, A Split screen comparisons between the Directors cut and the Theatrical Cut and the edited for TV version. This is a really great feature which not enough labels do. Rounding out the goodies in this set is a booklet 79 page booklet written by Omar Ahmed, Eric Niderost, Christopher Griffths and Henry Blyth. They all do a very fine job telling the story behind the film. A great fold out poster is included with newly commissioned art as well as the original poster on the reserve side. You also get some six collectible postcards.

Overall: For just under thirty bucks on Amazon, Arrow has jammed PACKED this release and in my opinion is worth very penny. You will pay more than a dollar for this set but its worth every penny.

 Arrow is such an interesting label as it can do small gems like The Prey and  bigger cult films like Robo Cop with the same kind of love and attention. Without a doubt on my list for best release of 2019. So if you are on the fence about this release -pull the trigger on it, you wont be disappointed.

An Early Christmas Present from Kino: Christmas in July (1940) Kino Classics

Christmas in July (1940) Kino Classics Release Date: Nov 26th 2019

Directed By: Preston Sturges

Starring: Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Raymond Walburn, William Demarest, Rod Cameron

Based on the play “A Cup of Coffee” (also written by Preston in ’31) Christmas in July (1940) centers around a young down on their luck couple Jimmy (Dick Powell) and Betty (Ellen Drew). A big coffee slogan contest held by Maxford House Coffee (a not so subtle nod to Maxwell House) is under way with the grand prize of twenty-five thousand dollars. Jimmy has pinned all his hopes on winning the contest. His co-workers play a nasty prank and makes him believe that he has won the contest with a fake telegram, which he then presents to the clueless coffee president. He as many of us would starts spending the check, not on himself but on gifts his mother, girlfriend and his friends in his neighborhood. Of course, hijinks ensue when its discovered the telegram was fake. 

Prestson Sturges never really became a household name and is really only known by hardcore fans of classic Hollywood. Christmas in July comes just a year before Preston would make some of his best loved films like The Lady Eve (1941) Sullivan’s Travels (1941) and The Palm Beach Story (1942). Sadly, while this is a fun enough movie it never really raises to the heights of those later films. 

Let me first say what’s good about the film. Sturges comedic and sometimes wry wit is on full display and his trademark lively back and fourths as well as natural sounding dialogue despite some very fantastical situations. His cast shines with Dick Powell playing a lovable every man, whom the audience can very much relate. Powell showcases his charms that made him a hit in films like Murder, My Sweet (1944) and The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). Ellen Drew a B-picture actor does a fine job as Jimmy’s girlfriend Betty. If, like me you never heard of Ellen Drew you are not alone. Sadly she never reached the same level of stardom as her male co-star and it’s a real shame as she is very good in this film. At a brisk hour and seven minutes this is a breezy and enjoyable film. The problem was I had seen this film after his better works and I couldn’t help be a bit disappointed. While yes its funny and it has a certain charm it never reaches the comedic heights as say, The Lady Eve (1941) nor the kind of emotional levels as say an Ernest Lubitsch or Frank Capra film. And while yes, it is a screwball comedy however that doesn’t mean the story can’t be elevated by a strong emotional core.  July kind of has this but frankly the writing isn’t polished enough to hit on anything that deep or profound. 

At the end of the day July is a big ball of '40's screwball fluff that, while never gets that deep, is still a lot of fun. Its the kind of movie you can watch on a lazy day and switch off your brain. Kino Classics has released this film in a nice new restoration which looks and sounds fantastic. A running commentary with film historian Samm Deighan. Rounding out the features is an original trailer. If you are a fan of TCM and classic and very light comedies from the ‘40’s you should defiantly put this on your Christmas wish list.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Woman Chasing The Butterfly of Death Flaps its Way to Blu Ray thanks to Mondo Macabro

Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death (1978) Mondo Macabro Oct 22nd 2019

Directed By: Ki-young Kim

For the adventurous cinema lover, branching out into world cinema is a great way to discover the interesting, thought-provoking and in the case with the film I’m going to be talking about, the downright insane. Released by Mondo Macabro the leading label for international genre fare comes Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death by Korean director Ki-young Kim.

 On a trip with some friends, a young student meets a mysterious woman with a butterfly necklace. She offers the student a drink and after he consumes it the woman tells him she poisoned them both, not wanting to die alone. Thankfully he survives but the woman does not. Now stricken with depression the man decides to kill himself. Before doing so he is interrupted by a crazy book salesman who tries to convince him that the secret to cheating death is through sheer willpower. To make matters more bizarre the student comes in contact with the skeleton of a two-thousand-year-old woman which, naturally comes to life and demands a human liver. Things only get more bizarre as the young man goes down a rabbit hole of madness and death in this South Korean horror/fantasy.

The Butterfly that Chases Death might be a challenging view for most people if they are not familiar with films from this region. The notion of straight-forward logic and common sense that we take for granted as a Western audience is bound to be warped given our different cultural perspective. Plot wise the film follows its own set of rules and as cliché as it sounds, the experience really does feels like a bizarre nightmare intertwined with a modern folk tale. Like any good folk tale, it tackles deeply rooted themes but in an otherworldly and fantastical way and of course, with a profound message at its core. As the film’s title suggests the over-arching theme and message of the film is death, those who fear it, those who embrace it, and others who try and overcome or outrun it. The filmmakers tie these elements into its extremely loose plot which feels more like a series of vignettes than a tight cohesive story. Despite this lack of traditional structure, Butterfly is engaging, even if only to see what insane set-piece is coming around the bend. For those who can handle a loose and at times downright baffling plot Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death is quite a rewarding film that tackles a very human subject like our own mortality but in a strange and at times beauty way.  Due to Kim’s lack of budget the film can be at times hooky but I find it only adds to its overall charm.

Butterfly has been restored in gorgeous 2k using original film negatives. Considering this film is over forty years old and the elements were probably not treated the best, it’s a small miracle we are getting a print that looks this good. Colors are rich and vivid which is most evident in night scenes or scenes that were poorly lit. This high def print also means you can see the wires on some skeletons but I don’t think anyone was under the illusion they were really moving about on their own anyways. I’m always incredibly impressed when Mondo Macabro can not only rescue a film from almost total obscurity but managed to track down and interview people from the production. In this case we get three interviews which includes actress Lee Hwa-si, producer Jung-Jin-woo and cinematographer Koo Koong-mo and Korean cinema expert Darcy Paquet. Paquet gives a highly interesting overview of Kim’s work and the themes and motifs he used throughout his career. Not only are these rare interviews engaging but they also help put the film into a cultural perspective that, frankly, helped me like the film more on repeat viewings. As a film fan it’s a rare treat to have this kind of insight from the actual people who made it. The disc also includes a feature length commentary by Kenneth Brorsson and Paul Quinn of the Whats Korean Cinema podcast, which, like Paquet’s interview, manages to be both entertaining and informative while also providing much needed cultural context.

We live in a great time when, not only do we get to see a little-known film like Woman Chasing the Butterfly of Death in stunning 2k but we also get an array of bonus features that go in-depth into the making of the film and its place in cinema. Mondo Macabro has released this as a limited edition of a thousand units and is currently sold out. Not to freight though, a standard edition is now out and available on their website!