Sunday, September 29, 2019

Go to Hell with Arrow's Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II on Blu-Ray

Hellbound: Hellraiser II  Arrow Video Sept 24th 2019

To simply say the first two Hellraiser movies had a huge impact on me early in my horror education is a severe understatement. They, along with The Evil Dead 1 and 2 were the highlights to a bloody-good Friday night movie rental session at my local mom and pop video store. Later on I bought my own VHS's and just about wore out those tapes. I remember how mind blowing it was to score the uncut Hellbound Hellraiser II with added scenes.  Later on I bought the DVD's and now the Blu-Rays and im sure sometime soon the 4k Blu Rays and so on.

 While viewed today the films have aged alright, while the practical efforts are still very solid its clear there are obvious budget limitations and well, to me it only adds to the films charms. Both films were truly ahead of their time in terms of its dark themes mixed with eroticism and exploring some deeply troubling themes of incest and extreme s&m. I assume you guys at least know the plot of the first two films but I will go over them in a brief recap.  The first two films recall the story of the Cotton family and the twisted secrets that are unlocked when a mysterious puzzle book brings back Uncle Frank from the literal depths of hell. Kristy Cotton (Ashley Laurence) defeats Frank but loses her poor father in the process. The second film sees Kristy in a mental hospital, still reeling from the events of the first film. She is on a quest to save her Father from hell when she see's him in a shocking vision. Hellraiser II does something that is rare, which is makes a damn good sequel that, not only does justice to the first film but expands on its rich mythology. As for Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth,  well its alright. While the third film has developed its own cult following over the years it isn't that good. While I respect their is at least some attempt at keeping the same Gothic poetry of the first film (I mean that church scene is inspired!). However it feels like a film that had sparks of originality that was crushed by a studio wanting to produce a soulless cash grab on the latest boogeyman. We got one more decent sequel Hellraiser: Bloodline (Again a film destroyed by the powers that be) until we got a series of unrelated horror films with the name Hellraiser slapped on and strung together with a vague tie-in to the Hellraiser mythology. I wouldn't say I hate part three but when compared to the first two its a huge disappointment.

Hellraiser: The first Hellraiser includes two seriously entertaining commentaries including a rare standalone commentary Clive Baker (who no longer does audio interviews) and a second with Baker and actress Ashley Laurence. I believe this were ported over from a previous edition. It also includes in depth interviews with actors Doug Bradly and Sean Chapman. The highlight is the feature length documentary Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser pt 1. Rounding out the bonus material is a vintage featurette on the making of the film as well as trailers image galley and a feature called Soundtrack Hell about the original planned soundtrack for the film.

Hellbound Hellraiser II: Much like the first film, this film has two commentaries this time with director Tony Randal, writer Peter Atkins and actress Ashley Laurence and a second one with Randle and Atkins. The second part of the Levitation doc is includes as well as more interviews , trailers etc.

Arrow Video released what they call the Scarlet Box which included the original Hellraiser trilogy (1987-1992) in 2017. The boxset was a limited edition and is currently going for nearly two-hundred dollars. Recently Thankfully Arrow has re-released single editions of part's one and two on Blu-Ray. Both films port over the extra's for each movie, minus the booklet and various bonus like cards and fold out posters. If, like me you cant afford the boxset on a secondary market at the moment, these single releases are a nice affordable option. It would be cool if they also did Hellraiser III as a standalone release, even if for completest sake. The picture, sound and bonus features are great and if you've never owned these before or own a bare bones release you could consider upgrading.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Popeye The Sailor: The 1940's Vol 3 Blu Ray Review Warner Archives

Popeye: The Sailor the 1940’s: Vol 3 Released By Warner Archives September 17th 2019

I, as are a lot of people are, a huge fan of classic cartoon’s especially those produced in the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. If you are too, then you’re in luck Warner Achieves has once again rolled out 17 more classic animated shorts starring everyone’s favorite spinach loving sailor Popeye. Released on high def and featured uncut. This is of course Volume Three and with it a brand-new batch of theatrical shorts which include:  Olive Oyl for President
Wigwam Whoopee
Pre-Hysterical Man
Popeye Meets Hercules
A Wolf in Sheik’s Clothing
Spinach vs Hamburgers
Snow Place Like Home
Robin Hood-Winked
Symphony in Spinach
Popeye’s Premiere
Lumberjack and Jill
Hot Air Aces
A Balmy Swami
Tar with a Star
Silly Hillbilly
Barking Dogs Don’t Fite The Fly’s Last Flight

So lets address the elephant in the room, shall we? Sadly, a lot of cartoons of this period have not always aged well, in the sense that cultural views and sensitives we’re much different. Wigwam Woopee for example is wildly stereotypical view native Americans. I can’t and wont justify it but merely say it shouldn’t spoil your enjoyment of these well produced animation. Take it as a sign of how far we’ve collectively come as a society that thankfully stuff like this is deemed regrettable. Now that we have that out of the way, Warners does a fine job of selecting a good cross section of shorts. Highlights include Silly Hillbilly and Popeye’s Premiere. What’s really cool about this batch is they were produced using a three-strip-color process known as Polacolor, an alternative to the popular Technicolor. The result is is best described as visually striking. As always Warner Archives takes a lot of pride in their restoration in previous releases and this is certainly no exception. Colors are eye-popping and vivid, showing off this rare-three-strip process. No features. Overall if you are an old fan or new to these, this is a fun, affordable time capsule and worth owning.

The Letter 1940 Warner Archives Review

The Letter (1940) Warner Archives Release Date September 24th 2019

Directed By: William Wyler

Starring: Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall, James Stephenson, Frieda Inescort

Three-time Oscar winner William Wyler was among the best directors in Hollywood’s Golden Age with classics such as Roman Holiday (1953), The Best Years of our Lives (1946) and Ben-Hur (1959) just to name a few. The talented director paired up with the equally spellbinding Bette David for three films: Jezebel (1938) (Wylers answer to Gone with the Wind, a part that was rumored to have gone to Davis), the film we are going to talk about today, The Letter (1940) and The Little Foxes (1941).  The two had a falling out but at least we got three amazing films. A series of loud shots and cries break the dead silent of a hot summer night. Leslie (Bette David) the prim-proper wife of a plantain owner is holding the still smoking gun in her hand. Its no mystery, she did it. But she claims it's not cold-blooded murder but rather self-defense. Things are not what they seem when a mysterious letter appears that seems to prove Leslie was having an affair with the slain man. The Letter is an entertaining crime mystery and early film-noir which exploded in popularity five years later in a Post-World War II America. Oscar winning Cinematographer Tony Gaudio (The Adventures of Robin Hood) helps craft a expressionistic moody pot-boiler that sets the tone for other noir films. As standard as the plot seems on face value, Wyler always has a trick up his sleeve and you never quite know where the film is heading. The film is wonderfully acted with Davis giving a subtle yet deep down ruthless portrayal of a spoiled woman, playing everyone including her husband. Her husband is played with equal brilliance by Hebert Mashall, prepares best known for the ‘50’s cult classic The Fly (1958). The Letter doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel but it still manages to be a fun, classic mystery thriller that keeps you guessing. If you are a Davis fan or a fan of classic movies this is a must watch. As ever, Warner takes a lot of care in how they clean-up and restore their films for Blu-Ray. Images are crisp and clean and there is a nice contrast with the stunning black and white photography. The sound is well done as well sporting a nice mono 2.0 soundtrack. Dialogue is clear with very little noise or distortion. The Warner Archives Blu-Ray thankfully ports over the extra’s from the previous DVD edition and includes: A alternate Ending and two radio adaptations one of which stars Bette Davis. I really enjoy this film and was so pleased to see how well it looks and sounds. Defiantly worth picking up.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Who Saw Her Die? 1972 Arrow Blu Ray Review

Who Saw Her Die? Arrow Video Release Date 9/17/2019

I'm back- its been a little while since my last blog post but i've been juggling a book deadline and a pile of review films and of course life also gets in the way. But were back, so put on your best pair of black gloves and vile because we have a review for Aldo Lado's 1972 giallo Who Saw her Die? Re-released by Arrow Video.

I will say up front Who Saw her Die? is not for the sensitive and the film tackles taboo subjects that even the horror genre has, in large avoided. Namely the killing of children. This is, of course nothing new to Italian films like Dont Could Torture a Duckling by Lucio Fulci (and also was released by Arrow).

Right from jump the film depicts a not super graphic but pretty unnerving murder of a child and thus sets the tone for this bleak whodunit. Visually the film is tremendous and takes advantage of its locations like Venice. Cinematographer Franco Di Giacomo (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly) uses his talented to give the film a strange and oppressive tone.Its also a very sleazy film choked full of sex and heavily implied pedophilia. You really get a sense every body in this film is wanted by the police for some kind of sex crime. Who Saw is clearly a nod to the classic film Dont Look Now (1973) and while its not as well constructed its an interesting template for a Giallo. Legendary composer Ennio Morricone crafts a great score that fits this film like a black leather glove. WSHD has a laundry list of suspects and red herrings which helps keep the film engaging but muddled. I liked this film but it did tend to drag in places.

Arrow as always rolls out the blood red carpet for this release. First off, this film looks amazing. When comparing it to the previous release, this new 2k is a revelation. As I stated above this is a visually moody film so its important to make it as gorgeous looking as possible. And it does. We also get a fantastic commentary by author and critic Troy Howarth as well as a new interview with director Aldo Lando, actress Nicoletta Elmi, co-writer Francesco Banilli as well as author and critic Michael Mackenize. Rounding out the release is trailers for both the Italian and American release. Overall: This is a very solid Giallo and an incredible release. Very much worth double dipping if you happen to own it already.