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?