Thursday, April 30, 2020

Forbidden Fruit Vol 5: Tomorrow's Children/Child Bride Kino Classics/Something Weird Video Blu R Review

Forbidden Fruit Vol: 5 Tomorrow's Children/ Child Bride Kino Classic/Something Weird Video May 5th 2020

Tomorrow's Children (1934)

Directed By: Crane Wilbur

Starring: Donald Douglas, Sterling Holloway, John Preston, Diane Sinclair

Vol 5 of Forbidden Fruit curates two family based/ hicksexploitation films from the '30's.  Tomorrow's Children from 1934 is a panic film about sterilization. A young woman wants to marry her boyfriend but sadly due to her families "rotten genes" she is threatened with sterilization.  Now its a race against the clock to stop this operation before its too late! Wow, this film is certainly not for the easily offended as there is so very frank '30's style talk about mental illness and developmental disabilities and people with disabilities in general. But like all these films though, the topic is presented in such a over-the-top way that its more funny than actually shocking. Tomorrow's Children showcases the poor as dishonest and vile and therefore it could be seen as an early film in the hicksexploitation genre, which exploited the back woods, hillbillies as evil, inbred which would morph with the horror genre to produce films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and later films like Wrong Turn (2006).  While this is far from a horror film it does shine a light on how ugly country life could be which has its DNA in these later films. Of course the film has some incredibly hilarious performances especially the redneck family. The one kid playing with whiskey bottles is  a memorable. As amusing as the film is the pacing is rocky and I found the film to be a bit of slog in parts. Its interesting to see a film all about a strange topic like mandatory sterilization in such a frank and up front way. A odd-ball movie that needs to be seen to be believed. 

Extras: Commentary by Eric Schaefer author of Bold! Daring! Shocking! True! A History of Exploitation Films.

Child Bride (1938)

Directed By: Harry Revier

Starring:Shirley Miles Angelo Rossitto, George Morrell, Warner Richmond

Child Bride is infamous for being the only film Mystery Science Theater 3,000 flat out refused to rift-on.In an interview  Michael J Nelson called it "disturbing" Tomorrow's Children flirted with the hicksexploitation genre yet Child Bride seems to be it fully realized. An educated schoolteacher rocks the boat in her small mountain community when she advocates to stop older men marrying under-aged girls. This makes her the target from the men in the town, as she is a threat to their way of life. Meanwhile a vile man is after young  Jennie (Shirley Miles) and will stop at nothing to get her all of himself. Can a law get passed in time? Nelson was certainly on to something when he called this movie disturbing, as the topic itself is unsettling. And this being a moral panic film they do not shy away cringe worthy scenes and though sex is never actually discussed its of course heavily implied. One uncomfortable scene is Mills skinny-dipping (keep in mind she was twelve at the time) though I believe a double was used. It still pretty skin-crawling. What keeps the film from getting too dark is the typical bad acting, hilarious dialogue and hillbilly caricatures.  I actually think between the two movies though, Child Bride is the better paced and seemed to have more going on. The action scenes keep the film clipping away and its always great to see Freaks actor Angelo Rossitto. Both creepy and funny this is a film that is a rite of passage for Grindhouse lovers.

Extras: Commentary by historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and trailer gallery.

Kino Classics/Something Weird once again proved both films looking the best they have in a long time. Clearly a lot of time, hard work and resources have gone into preserving and upgrading these films. The commentaries are a great touch and provide an entertaining and historical context for each film.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life and Ghastly Death of Al Adamson/The Female Bunch Severin Blu Ray Review

Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life and Ghastly Death of Al Adamson (2019) Severin April 23rd 2020

Directed By: David Gregory

Starring:Samuel Sherman Stevee Ashlock, Robert Dix, John Cardos, John Bloom, Gary Kent, Greydon Clark, Russ Tamblyn, Vilmos Zsigmond

      Sometimes nose-in-the-air critics like to throw around the phrase "They’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel here," but being film fiends, we enjoy getting dirty. This means bravely diving bleeding head first into the toxic barrel of bad cinema. Down there, languishing in its own radio-active goodness, you`ll find the gender bending nightmare land of Ed Wood Jr or the dime store gross-out epics of Andy Milligan. Of course, you`ll also discover the wild, savage often naked and surreal films of one Al Adamson. Don’t know A damson's works yet? Well, thanks to Severin Films, it was just announced that a career spanning box set entitled 'The Al Adamson Masterpiece Collection' will feature his grimy work in all its HD glory. Included in the set is this original feature length documentary directed by David GregoryThe film tells the story of Adamson, his crazy adventures in Holly-weird and how he turned his celluloid trash into treasure. Helping tell this story are new interviews with friends and colleagues Russ Tamblyn, Gary Kent and Greydon Clark, as well as archived interviews with actor John Bloom and cinematographer Gary Graver. Probably one of the most amazing interview coups is Oscar winning cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who shot three films for Adamson early in his career. Of course, we get to hear from the man himself as Blood & Flesh uses the last interview Adamson ever gave. I must admit this gives the film an eerie quality since going in, we know things aren’t going to end well for the cult director. 

     Gregory has a lot of experience making documentaries (both short and feature length) and he applies his wealth of experience to craft an unforgettable ride filled with lively interviews that are both well paced and placed. The end result is a focused and fascinating story of Adamson’s prolific career and untimely death. It didn’t take long before I was totally invested in the story that Gregory lays out.Not only is it a well thought out documentary but it's visually interesting as well. Gregory employs visual effects tricks to keep things stylish and brings flat images to life along with great transitions. We also get a fun and very fitting score by Mark Raskin, who has worked on Gregorys other documentaries including Masters of Dark Shadows (2019), Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014) and his segment in the woefully under-loved Theater Bizarre (2011). It's touches like this that makes Gregory one of the best documentary filmmakers within the horror and exploitation genre. I was curious regarding how the film would treat the subject of Adamson’s grisly death. Wisely, the film handles it with a lot of tact, and in a bitter irony (unlike Adamson’s films), it isn’t used for exploitation's sake. 

It’s a hell of a documentary that makes me feel something as well as educating me, and damned if I didn’t find myself choked up at the end. After all, we spend over one hundred minutes getting to know Adamson, hearing from those who loved him, and the man himself.

Extras include Outtakes, The Cowboy Life of Denver Dixon, Russ Tamblyns Melted TV, Manson & Screaming Angels, The Prophentic Screenplay Makes Gary Kent Testify, Beyond this Earth Promo reel and trailer.

The Female Bunch (1971)

Directed By: Al Adamson

Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Jennifer Bishop, Leslie McRay, Russ Tamblyn, Nesa Renet

Sex, dope, bar fights and wild west action, all of this and more in Adamsons sexploitation western The Female Bunch (1971). Sandy (Nesa Renet) is saved from an attempted suicide by a friend and is talked into joining an all woman gang into shady deals and carnal lust. Counter culture westerns were all the rage as the traditional ones made by Hollywood were all but died out. Like all Adamson films the film is low on plot but high on sex, violence and mayhem. This film reminded me a lot of H.G Lewis's sorely under loved She Devils on Wheels. It takes the western genre and flips it on its ass with a heaping help of cheeky romps through in for good measure. Story wise is nothing you havent seen in other movies yet, like all Adamson films, its more about the weird, wild journey not necessarily the plot. Female Bunch was partly filmed on  the infamous Spahn movie ranch. This was the hang out for Charles Manson and his "family". The cast is great with genre legends like Leslie McRay (Girl with the Gold Boots), Russ Tamblyn (The Haunting, Twin Peaks) and of course Lon Chaney. And this is where things get bitter sweet as this would be the final outing for Lon Chaney Jr, best known for his hairy raising turn as the titular Wolf Man in 1941 which ushered in the Silver Age of Universal Monsters. He is in pretty bad shape at this point and his gruff and raspy voice was the result of treating his throat cancer. It was extremely sweet of Adamson to give him top-billing for what would  turn out to be his last feature. Al had a way of making a terrible movie fun and entertaining and Female Bunch is a sex-upped Western that plays to the far-out midnight crowd.

Extras: The Bunch Speaks Out featurette and trailers.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Forbidden Fruit Vol 4: Marihuana/Narcotic Kino Classics/Something Weird Video Blu Ray Review

Forbidden Fruit Volume 4  Marihuana/Narcotic Kino Classics, Something Weird Video March 5th 2020

Kino Classics in conjunction with Something Weird Video has unleashed the fourth volume in their Forbidden Fruit series. We have a double feature of Drug-Panic movies from the '30's! Strap in Folks its gonna be a wild one!

Marihuana (1936)

Directed By:Dwain Esper

Starring: Harley Wood, Hugh McArthur, Paul Ellis

Graphically depicting the dreaded devils lettuce like never before! These anti-drug movies from the '30's are a laugh riot. The most famous of course is Reefer Madness (1936) (included in Vol 2). Released the same year, Marihuana tells the story of Burma (Harley Woods) has it hard being upper class, white and pretty and to make matters worse she is jealous of her sister who gets most of the attention from their parents. Due to a series of events involving drugs she loses her boyfriend and turns to a life of drug paddling and later kidnapping, all thanks to Satan's whacky WEED!! While not nearly as over-the-top or infamous as Reefer Madness this film certainly is hilarious for all the wrong (or right) reasons. Much like you would expect from these anti-drug movies from the period the productions  budgets are incredible low and the writing and plot should be taken with not a grain of salt but a fistful. These movies were more about shocking kids 'straight' then actually presenting an honest look at drugs. And bad-movie fans such as myself wouldn't have it any other way. Heavy handedness a bounds and of course every one that does drugs meets a a grisly fate. The early scenes in the bar hall have a fun kind of high-energy (no pun intended) that makes these movies a fascinating  and bizarre time capsule. Esper treats us to enough sleaze and hammy situations and terrible acting to make this worth while. I was also very surprised that taboo topics like having a child out of wedlock (a big no-no with the Hollywood censors) as well as full female nudity to further titillate the audience. This also blends in pre-WWII gangster films which were very popular following films like Little Caesar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931) and so on. These films were in a way mortality plays so it makes sense this aspect would fall head first into a drug panic movie. Honestly not my favorite of this ilk, it is still a lot of fun to watch.

Narcotic (1933)

Directed By: Dwain Esper

Starring: Harry Cording, Jean Lacy, Joan Dix

An early directing effort for Dwain Esper, tells the story of a doctor named William Davis (Harry Cording) who starts getting high at on opium to escape his stressful life. This of course begins to have a take a toll both his professional and personal life. After an auto-accident he gets hooked on more drugs and thus spirals deeper into depravity, soon becoming a shady snake-oil salesman in a traveling circus. Can the love of his wife save him from wreck and ruin or is it already too late? Now we switch from pot to opium and middle to upper white teens to a respected doctor. But like Marihuana the good doctors down fall is steep. Tone wise Narcotic is defiantly the darker of the two films with some pretty unsettling scenes of violence on women and the Chinese American stereotype is cringey for sure. The film is of course so-bad-its enjoyable and I love how once the good doctor turns evil he literally looks like the devil, complete with top hat, cane and sinister pointed beard. It is here where we get some great '30's era circus/freak show footage. One of the films more amusing moments is the drug party. Esper makes a point of providing a title card proclaiming "Very few people, other than professional investigators, have ever really witnessed a "dope" party.  

While I was expecting something a little more wild, the scene is still pretty funny and features some great pre-Code drug talk as well as depicting people shooting up, something probably very shocking for the time. I will say the film touches on the plight of opioids being used as a pain reliever, which is eerily topical even today. Unlike a lot of these films Harry Cording was actually in a lot of A-pictures including The Black Cat (1934) and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Narcotic isnt as off-the-wall as you might expect but it is a fascinating car wreck thats worth rubber necking at.

Picture wise the film looks great, having been restored with the aid of the Library of Congress and the UCLA film and television archive. Both films look great and while not perfect looks incredible clear for films that are almost one-hundred years old. Sound wise is also good with clear dialogue and minimal distortion.

Being Kino Classics and Something Weird Video we get a wonderful array of bonus features. Marihuana features a brand new commentary by Bret Wood co-author of the book Forbidden Fruit: The Golden Age of Exploitation Film. It also features a great vintage commentary by David F. Friedman and Something Weird founder Mike Vraney recorded in 2000. I love that both commentaries are included. Narcotic also features a commentary by Bret Wood. Probably one of the coolest feature is scenes from trailer from the now lost Esper's film The Seventh Commandment from 1932.  Rounding out the features is two short films produced by Esper, How to Undress (In Front of Your Husband) and How to take a Bath. The former of which includes two different versions (long and short) and trailers.

Kino and Something Weird Video has given us fiends another sinfully enjoyable exploitation double feature and an array of amazing bonus features! Must Own.

Eddie Macons Run (1983) Mill Creek Entertainment Blu Ray Review

Eddie Macons Run (1983) Mill Creek Entertainment April 7th 2020

Directed By: Jeff Kanew

Starring: Kirk Douglas, John Schneider, Lee Purcell, Tom Noonan, John Goodman

    Arguably one of the great actors of the 20th century was Kirk Douglas. His career spanned decades and his films are as iconic as they come. Sadly after the Golden age of Hollywood ended Douglas started getting fewer great roles, though he could make anything great by just appearing in it. Such is the case with this '80's dud. Eddie (John Schneider) is arrested on trumped up charges and escapes from prison and is caught by police officer Carl Marzack (Kirk Douglas). He plans on escaping a second time which, as state law will land him in jail for a very long time. Eddie goes through with it anyways and now Marzack is hot on his trail. Oh brother, where do I start with this film? Eddie Macons is an odd film as it feels very much like a wrong-man type of film, a troupe Hitchcock was famous for. But the thing is  Eddie is sent to jail for you know assaulting his boss and driving drunk and later assaulting an officer. Our hero ladies and gentlemen. Instead of just serving his time of five years Eddie himself only adds to his jail time and is willing to gamble more on escaping a second time. There is a cheap and cheesy, 'my son is sick' side plot which is meant to make Eddie relate able and tries to mask his frankly shitty behavior. I for one found that hard to buy. I might have been able to go with it, but Jeff Kanew weirdly takes the film in a very serious direction and the film has tonal issues in general. I have no doubt this film could have worked had this been more of a comedy or at least injected humor into the action/drama. However its  brutal violence as well as sexual assault towards women (the director gives us not one but two scenes of violence/rape)whats for an uneasy watch. I think whats most disturbing though is how casually this subject is treated. For example Eddie stops the rape of a woman named Jilly (Lee Purcell) and then ends up taking her hostage and of course the pair end up romantically involved. At one point he even verbally abuses her not long after this double traumatic event.Not sure what kind of message that is suppose to send.

     Dukes of Hazard actor John Schneider tries his best to carry the film but he comes off more like a sleepwalker rather than an actor. As I said above its Kirk Douglas who truly makes this film even bearable to watch. Douglas who was in his sixties at the time really gives a performance that is not nearly worthy of this b-film. Another highlight is Tom Noonan chewing the scenery as a psycho-hillbilly who gets extremely excited to hang our hapless hero. This film is also John Goodmans feature debut (hes in it for one scene). Joyless, baffling in its plot which is filled with holes,  (not to mention  WAY under cutting the excellent cat and mouse game with its final "twist") and cliched with a predictable ending. This movie has gained a minor cult following which boggles my mind. Maybe its the '80's nostalgia or the fact that Douglas gives it his best but for me this but its truly dreadful and woefully dated. It has a boys will be boys kind of attitude tries to make the main characters shitty behavior alright when frankly hes a walking sociopath.Normally I try to find some forgiving aspects for a film but I find set a huge disconnect with almost all of the characters, especially the so-called "good-guy". Not worth seeing even for Douglas fans.

The picture looks good but sadly an old transfer seems to be used for this edition. Colors look decent enough though. Skin tones look natural and not faded or over saturated. The sound is also fine with a strong Mono track. Dialogue such as it is comes in clear. No bonus features are included. Overall the value is right depending on if you enjoy this kind of all-over-the-place film.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Carnival Magic (1983) /Lost (1989) Al Adamson Double Feature Severin Kids Blu Ray Review

Carnival Magic (1983)  Severin/Severin Kids April 21st 2020

Directed By: Al Adamson

Starring: Don Stewart, Regina Carroll, Jennifer Houlton

Al Adamson's second to last film and first foray into children's entertainment was the known infamous Carnival Magic from 1983. The film had actually been considered lost for years until it was found and re-released. It gained a cult following after being featured on the revived Mystery Science Theater 3,000 in 2017. A magician and a sparky talking ape help transform a run down circus into a huge hit. Hi jinks and monkey antics ensue as an evil doctor wants to experiment on the ape to find out how he can talk. Carnival Magic is every bit as weird and baffling as you've no doubt heard. The films fun is kind of weighed down by soap-opera level drama. Also the Carnival Magic explores darker themes like alcohol abuse, animal abuse and um..just regular abuse. Its this weird tag-of-war between taking animal kids film and strange adult potboiler. Adamson features a lion attack that isnt graphic but certainly harkens back to his gore-hound days. The two very different tonal shifts and genre mashing coupled with a slower pace would be no doubt unbearable for its target audience/children.  Luckily though the film offers enough cheesy dialogue, bad acting and baffling side-plots and plot holes that its hard not to love its so-bad-its-entertaining aspects. This is no doubt why it was a perfect fit for rifting on MST3K. Say what you will about Adamson but he had a passion for films and even though its pretty bad its so earnest in its execution. For film lovers who want to belly up to a buffet of apes, hillbilly police chases, uncomfortable inter-species flirting and of course magic look no further than this odd-ball programmer.

Bonus features include a whooping twenty-minutes of outtakes. A Boon to Science: A Critical Appreciation  by Zack Carlson and Lars Nilsen (11 mins), a feature length commentary by producer Elvin Feltner. This is a great array of features for this ultra-weird kids film produced by the legendary Al Adamson.

Lost (1989)

Directed By: Al Adamson

Starring: Sandra Dee, Don Stewart, Shelia Newhouse, Ken Curtis, Jack Elam, Gary Kent

   Al Adamson known for shocking horror and bare breast epics closed out his film career by making, of all things a kid's film entitled Lost. Penny (Sandra Dee) and her daughter Buddy (Shelia Newhoue) move to Utah with Step Father Jeff (Don Stewart). But Buddy hates living out in the middle of Utah (who could blame her). Out of boredom she wanders off and soon finds herself getting lost in the unforgiving wilderness. The parents I might add have a cup of coffee when learning their daughter is missing instead of, i dunno trying to find her. She battles the elements, mountain cats and meets a creepy mountain man who is the very definition of stranger danger. Lost is a baffling film as, it is clearly intended for a kid based audience but I find it very hard to believe a kid would find this movie entertaining. Say what you will about Carnival Magic at least had a high-camp value to make it entertaining in a so-bad-its-fun that makes it passable. Lost gets well lost in woefully underdeveloped melodrama instead of high-spirited adventure. Its a slog to wade through even for myself, an adult let alone a kid with a low attention span. Adamson also piles on the sappy feels and the whole thing plays out like a overly long After School Special, which is certainly a hellscape more terrifying than any previous Adamson outing.  This might not have been too-bad but the film is ninety minutes when a solid hour would have been plenty. Some scenes feel incredibly out of place like at some point a barn burns down which isn't referenced again. We also are treated horrifying scene of Buddy chasing after later pulling a piglet by its legs wheelbarrow-both screaming to high heaven. Why? Because padding thats why.

     Besides being Adamsons last film this is also notable for being '50's and '60's icon Sandra Dee's last feature before retiring from show business. It also features wonderful old character actors like Ken Curtis and Jack Elam and legendary stuntman and Adamson collaborator Gary Kent has a role as Jack Stokes.  I will say the film really uses its natural locations to its upmost beauty. Adamson really did knew how to use real locations to give his low budget films a bigger scale. Overall the film lacks adventure and tight pacing to make a good kids movie.

Bonus Features Rushes for an unproduced kids film called The Happy Hobo, which is just as odd as it sounds. Its little touches like this that truly make Severin a label that leads the pack in sublimely weird and rare offerings.

If you ever wanted to see what a warped mind like Al Adamson would do with a kids film, Carnival Magic is a sure fire hit with Grindhouse fans. A must own!

Friday, April 24, 2020

Retro Rewind: Gun Crazy (1950) Warner Archives

Retro Rewind: Gun Crazy (1950) Warner Archives Released May 2018

Directed By: Joseph Lewis

Starring: John Dall, Peggy Cummins, Anabel Shaw, Russ Tamblyn

Retro Rewind is a segment in which I highlight older releases that deserve a spotlight! This week we look at a Noir classic Gun Crazy from 1950.

   Co-written by legendary black listed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, Gun Crazy tells the story of Bart (John Dall) a sharpshooter who gets mixed up with a trick shot femme fatale named Annie (Peggy Cummins) after seeing her perform one night at the carnival. Flash forward Bart gets a job with the circus and despite warnings ends up running away with her. But, like any good Noir Annie leads the young man down a crime riddled path of robbing and later worse. When most casual film fans think of Film-Noir they typically conjure up images of the hard-boiled detective ala Philip Marlowe, though the post War movement is much more than just whodunits. Make no mistake this is classic crime thrillers and it has the polish of great screenwriting and stellar direction. What I think sets this film apart from the others is Trumbo and Kantor take the time to give good guy Bart a backstory which pays off nicely in the films white-knuckle finale. And while I do love a good mysterious character, especially in these kinds of films I love how Dall's character is given some depth. Its very much like watching a sinking ship as Bart gets deeper and deeper into this life of crime. Director Joseph Lewis really crafts some great scenes of pure tension as well as some truly engaging action that you cannot help but get caught up in. And to its credit Gun Crazy clips away at a feverish pace at times and even its down-moments are anything but boring since its a character study.

    Cinematographer Russell Harlan gives this film a wonderful moody and rich look that screams Noir. Harlan is probably best remembered for his fantastic job on To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957). Anchoring out the film is wonderful performances by the lovely and very talented Peggy Cummins (Night of the Demon) and John Dall which film fans will recall in Hitchcocks Rope (1948). Dall plays up his sweet naive nature while Cummins explodes with devilish sex appeal with the face of an angel.  Gun Crazy is a film I feel doesn't get nearly get the attention it deserves. Its a fast paced, character driven and moody crime thriller anchored by stellar performances.

Warner Archive had commissioned a new print utilizing original film elements. It really looks incredible with all the dirt and artifacts scrubbed out. What we are left with is a crisp, clear film that showcases its blistering mood by photographer Russell Harlan. The sound is great as well with a 2.0 mono track. The features include a new commentary by historian Glenn Erickson which is lively and engrossing. A worth while listen for fans of this film. The crown jewel of this disc has got to be the feature length documentary Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light (2006). Its a great documentary and perfect for those film buffs looking to explore Noir in more depth. It has great new interviews and archived interviews with scholars, actors and other notables. Its a very engaging watch.

Should be considered a must-own for Noir lovers.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

When the Wind Blows (1986) Severin Blu Ray Review

When the Wind Blows (1986) Severin April 21st 2020

Directed By: Jimmy T. Murakami

Starring: John Mills, Peggy Ashcroft

    When the Wind Blows (1986)  is a movie that I had never seen but it carried with it a reputation for being a rather disturbing animated movie. To my shock and delight Severin has re-released this film on Blu Ray through their Severin's Kids label.  A ordinary elderly British couple named Jim (John Mills) and Hilda (Peggy Ashcroft) manage to survive a nuclear blast. They emerge from their make shift bunker only to find they survived but have bigger issues to deal with. Jimmy Murakami has had such an interesting career directing everything from Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) to the charming TV film The Snowman (1982) based on the beloved childrens book to the psychedelic epic Heavy Metal (1981) all within the span of a few years. Later in his career he focused on children's entertainment however his 1986 animated film not really meant for the kiddies.  Subtly blending live-action and animation When the Wind Blows came out at the height of Cold-War paranoia in the tradition of similar films like WarGames (1983), Threads (1984, also available from Severn) etc. While all of those movies are unsettling I think WTWB is even more so due to it being wrapped in a cute even charming animated coating. I think it puts ones guard down and then WHAM the carpet is pulled down from under you. We get taken down a hellish spiral as we have to witness the suffering of two sweet characters. I think it goes without saying that there are some truly horrific and disturbing scenes including the initial blast and the devastating fall out. Murakami spares none of the horror as we see rumbled and burnt out streets and houses and of course death and decay.

     Believe it or not there is some dark satirical humor nestled within the film. I cant help but feel that Jimmy is taking a bleak but playful jab at polite stiff-upper-lip British society. Head of the household Jim starts out as a pro-active character but when shit literally hits the fan he waves everything off. Meanwhile Hilda is more concerned about wanting to clean up and laments her dishes being broken etc. The fact that the couple aren't fully grasping the true horror of their situation and go about their lives as normal (or as normal as possible) seems to make it all the more unnerving to watch. Similar to The Snowman and Heavy Metal (never thought i`d mention those two in the same sentence) the animation has an incredible look and style that is very unique. The blending of animation and live action makes for a harrowing yet beautiful experience. Oh and did I mention that none other than David Bowie performs the title track? And Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame provides the music for the bulk of the film. When the Wind Blows is a film that even after thirty plus years still remains as powerful as even, especially doing these troubling times.

Severin has unleashed a tragic and disturbing nuked out kids flick that needs to be seen to be believed.

The film looks incredible on HD and really showcases the talent behind the animation. When the Wind Blows also sports a nice Mono track and dialogue comes in clear and music really pops with this track. Like most Severin releases the extras really are the icing on the cake. This disc features not one but two documentaries, the first about director Jimmy Murakami and the second about the feature film which features rare interviews. The film itself has a running commentary with First Assistant Editor Joe Fordham and film Historian Nick Redman. We also get a lively interview with Raymond Briggs the writer/screenwriter of the film. Again, Briggs is a really exciting addition to disc. Rounding out the features is a vintage PSA on nuclear danger as well as an Isolated Music and Effects track and trailers. This is third entry into the Severins Kids line and there is a fun little surprise insert for the kiddos.

Above and beyond is the only way to describe this Severin release and makes a good double bill with Threads.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Tartuffe (1925) Kino Classic Blu Ray Review

Tartuffe (1925) Kino Classics April 28th 2020

Directed By: F.W Murnau

Starring: Emil Jannings, Andre Mattoni, Lil Dagover, Werner Krauss

     Even casual film fans, especially within the horror genre no doubt know F.W Murnau's 1922 seminal silent masterpiece Nosferatu.  The German director has worked in many genres including light drama which is the case of Tartuffe from 1925. For those of you not familiar, Tartuffe was a very famous play which has been adapted for screen, television and even an opera. In a nutshell the play is about a man who poses as religious leader and is exposed for his hypocrites. Set in present times the film sees an elderly gentlemen who is planning on leaving all of his money to his live-in housekeeper. This means the old man leaves out his grandson who is -gasp-an actor! The actor grandson somehow gets wind of this and comes over and, in disguise shows the housekeeper and grandfather a film of Tartuffe.  Murnau takes a page from Hamlet, using the play within a play to catch the guilty, only this time a film within a film.

     Being a F.W Murnau film, you know its going to have a tight sense of direction and Tartuffe is clearly made by someone who has mastered the medium. Helping give this film an interesting style is legendary photographer Karl Freud whose credits include Dracula (1931), Metropolis (1927) and Key Largo (1948) just to name a few.  Its clear that Freud works including well with Murnau and Tartuffe has some great expressionist visual style as well as interesting camera work that helps liven the entire affair. Complementing Karls cinematography is a well done production design that helps give the film a more expensive and polished look. I cannot stress enough just how gorgeous this film is. There is no doubt this film is incredibly well crafted however some narrative issues do abound. Essentially there is two stories going on here, the framing device of the Grandson and the Housekeeper and of course, that of the film within the film Tartuffe. This kind of parallel/homage to Hamlet is a novel even interesting story device however its a very loose comparison. I cant actually get into specifics due to major plot spoilers but after the film wraps its hard to connect the two stories. Yes at the core the pompous pig Tartuffe and the Housekeeper are both scheming con-artists but, when we learn what the Housekeeper is really up to late into the film, she is decidedly the worst of the two. I think had we had more time building character arches and back story things would have been a bit clearer.

Now, I am not by any means saying a bad film and you cant help but be dazzled by Murnau's mastery behind the camera. The film retains a light and charming tone which makes it easy to gloss over some narrative shortcomings. Its not as epic like say Faust (1926)  but its nonetheless an engrossing and entertaining film that kept me glued. Like most films Tartuffe has a fairy tale like quality especially when we get into the film within a film. I was also surprised how brazen it was for the time with its overt sexual overtones without of course showing any nudity.  With its great acting and  extremely an exciting visual style that German cinema was known for Tartuffe is a richly sourced and charming adaptation. Probably not my favorite of Murnau but I highly recommend this film.

Kino Classics has brought this nearly one-hundred year old movie to life and -wow, its incredible. The title card prior to the menu reads us follows:

Four separate negatives of Her Tartuff were produced for the German and international markets. One of the export versions survives in its entirety, a duplicate copy preserved by Gosfilmofond, Moscow. It contains German inter titles of unknown origin. 

For this digital restoration the image was tinted orange, as usual for export versions. The inserts are tinted yellow, while the inter titles remain black and white. Some insert shots were added from a fragment of the Swiss version, preserved by the Cinematheque Suisse in Lausanne. Additional shots were sourced from a nirate prints of the US version preserved by the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv in Berlin.   

Similar to Kino Classics recent release of The Golem (1920) Tartuffe (1925) looks fantastic with very little dirt or artifacts. The clarity of faces and details in the set design are just awe-inspiring and truly does justice to work of Karl Freud. The film does look rough in places but I cannot stress the level of clarity on display. I very highly doubt that this film will ever look better any time soon. The film features a lovely new score by Robert Israel which truly adds a special touch to the already endearing film. Adding some great historical context is a feature length commentary with author and film historian Troy Howarth. Howarth's commentary is entertaining and is shines light on the making of Tartuffe, its cast and of course its incredible director and cinematographer. Well researched and very fun to listen to. This feature also includes the US version of the film which is shorter in length.

Kino Classic once again provides a incredible piece of cinema for new generations to re-discover. A must-own for any film fan.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Trapped (2002) Mill Creek Entertainment Blu Ray Review

Trapped (2002) Mill Creek Entertainment April 7th 2020

Directed By: Luis Mandoki

Starring: Charlize Theron, Kevin Bacon, Stuart Townsend,Pruitt Taylor Vince, Country Love, Dakota Fanning

       I'm a sucker for both good and bad early '00 thrillers so I was actually excited to Mill Creek's re-release of Trapped (2002). Will (Stuart Townsend) and Karen (Charlize Theron) are a rich couple with a little girl named Abby (Dakota Fanning). However Abby is kidnapped by Hickey (Kevin Bacon) and his henchman Marvin (Pruitt Taylor Vince). Seems that they, including his girlfriend Cheryl (Courtney Love) have a fool proof way of getting ransom from the wealthy parents. The only problem is they messed with the wrong mommy and daddy when its discovered more than just money is motivating the crime. Trapped is a thriller movie that is pretty much light on the thriller aspects. Its as by-the-numbers as you would expect and its honestly nothing that you havent seen before. What makes this a truly stand out film is the lead actors. Charlize Theron and Kevin Bacon turn in performances that are way too good for the material. They certainly dont phone in their roles and treat the material like A-list when its clearly C at best. The doe eyed child full of moxie that was Dakota Fanning in the late '90's-early '00's is also fascinating to watch. A lot of jokes have been made (especially on SNL) about her but she really was and is a great actor. Character actor Pruitt Taylor Vince is as always fun to watch in the role of the bad-guy and or weirdo. The actors are really the only reason to slog through this mish-mash and pretty standard kidnap/ransom movie. It feels like the film doesn't really get going until an hour into the film. Luis is clearly a solid director but the screenplay by Greg Illes doesn't add anything interesting to the genre and only kind of touches on class-division. Plot holes and gaps in logic also make this a frustrating watch. This was Greg's one and only screenwriting credit and thats probably for the best.  I wish I could say Trapped was a so-bad-its enjoyable film that was cheesy and over-the-top but its pretty forgettable expect for its excellent cast.

Mill Creek Entertainment has provided a nice looking Blu Ray. Skin tones are natural looking and even looks good even the films mostly muted color palate. Sound wise is a nice healthy 2.0 Mono track which utilizes the films decent sound design. Dialogue such as it is, comes through clear. No extras are included. For under ten bucks this movie is a good value if its something you feel like you`d want to own.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) Speeds Onto VOD in the UK Paramount Home Entertainment

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) UK VOD April 10th 2020 Paramount Home Entertainment

Available to Download and Keep at all digital stores on April 10 from:Sky Store, Apple, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Rakuten TV, BT TV, Sony Playstation Store and XBOX

LONDON, UK.  – Get ready for epic fun and super-sonic action when everyone’s favourite hedgehog races home in the blockbuster hit SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, debuting for Download and Keep on April 10, 2020 from Paramount Home Entertainment. Bringing Sonic the Hedgehog to life in this fun adaptation, it’s easy to understand why this film is a must-watch, and achieved the highest opening weekend of any video game movie adaptation in film history!

Plot: Powered with incredible speed, Sonic the Hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz), aka The Blue Blur, embraces his new home on Earth. That is, until he accidentally knocks out the power grid and sparks the attention of super-uncool evil genius Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Now it’s super-villain vs. super-sonic in an all-out race across the globe to stop Robotnik from using his unique power for world domination. Sonic teams up with The Donut Lord, aka Sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden), to save the planet in this action-packed hit that’s fun for the whole family.

Review: Confession time: Outside of loving the cartoon as a kid, Sonic was never a big favorite of mine. I was more obsessed with a certain pair of plumbers from the mushroom kingdom. 2020's big budget Sonic The Hedgehog seemed doomed to fail before it even hit theaters. After all it was being directed by a first film feature director Jeff Fowler not to mention the disaster of a first trailer and the hard to look at Sonic design. And lets be real video game movies seem to never translate well onto the big screen. But since 2020 is a bonkers year Sonic deifies all odds and is actually a fun movie. From frame one Fowler flings us into a big bright fantasy world that sets the tone for the entire movie. I was worried that the character of Sonic would be a rude, crude annoying '90's 'in your face' caricature, but thankfully that is not the case. The big blue hedgehog is endearing without coming off too cutesy or trying way to hard to be 'edgy'. James Marsden was a nice choice to play opposite the CG character and outside of his solid acting he brings a lot of charm and likability. He plays off Sonic surprisingly well and their bond is believable. But of course its Carrey who truly steals the show with his portrayal of Doctor Robotnik. The comic turned serious actor is back in rare form with over-the-top antics and I think hes a pure delight to watch. I was worried he would over stay his welcome but that is thankfully not the case. His talent as performer is shines and his expressions, comic timing and body language all work so perfect for the character. Not to mention he has the best lines of the movie. I had braced myself for tons of game nods and time spent setting up or shoe horning in game side characters but yet again i was pleasantly surprised. Refreshingly the references are kept subtle and I didnt feel beat over the head with reminders of its source. Many films that tackle famous IP's like this have a hard time reigning in its fan service to give older audiences the nostalgic fuzzes but Sonic is a rare exception. It lets us enjoy the film on its own merits and sprinkles in nods for the die hard fans to enjoy.  Fowler also provides some really fun set-pieces and action scenes that kept me glued. 

While there is a lot to like about this film it does have its share of issues. The story is a bit predictable and the overall outcome can be seen a mile down the well ran road. Also while the film has a strong emotional core I dont think it quite reaches the level it could have. Some logic gaps and plot holes in the story also abound. 

Video game movies have a rough time at the box office because lets face it, they are almost always terrible cash grabs. Sonic does the impossible by not only doing incredible well raking in over three-hundred million but manages to be a darn good movie.  Sonic the Hedgehog is a fun, mindless bit of entertainment that, while far from perfect is a good time. Worth a watch. 

Available to Download and Keep at all digital stores on April 10 from:
Sky Store, Apple, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Rakuten TV, BT TV, Sony Playstation Store and XBOX

U.K. Rating: PG—Action, some violence, rude humour and brief mild language

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Golem (1920) Kino Classic Blu Ray Review

The Golem (1920) Kino Classics April 14th 2020

Directed By: Carl Boese, Paul Wegener

Starring: Paul Wegener, Albert Steinruck, Greta Schroder

First a little context: A golem refers to a clay figure that is brought to life via magic to do the creators bidding. This is a traditional Jewish folklore that still crops up into pop culture.

    The Golem from 1920 is not the first film on the subject in fact its actually the third to be made on the subject. Sadly the only one to survive completely. Both previous movies starred Paul Wegener as the titular hulking character. Rabi Loew (Albert Steinruck) creates a clay figure to help his Jewish brothers and sisters from persecution in 16th century Prague. Soon however the figure starts to become increasingly violent and harder to control. Being a lover for silent film, especially horror it was down right criminal that, prior to this release I had not seen The Golem. Now that Kino Classics has released a stunning 4k Blu Ray marking the films 100th anniversary, it seems like a very fitting time to delve into it.  Much like The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari Golem is a magical and engrossing film that hooks you from the very first set-piece. Visually this film is amazing and its German expressionist style (which was the template for the Film-Noir movement) and strange set design gives everything a very off-kilter and surreal vibe. The incredible destruction in the final act is so breathtaking in its construction and technical innovation that it boggles the mind that it was made a hundred years ago. Karl Freud was the DP on this and has an incredible resume. His DP work includes everything from Metropolis (1927), Dracula (1931), Key Largo (1948) as well as one-hundred and fifty episodes of the classic sitcom I Love Lucy. He even branched out into directing with impressive titles like The Mummy (1932), Mad Love (1935). His work here cements him as one of the most groundbreaking cinematographers of all time.

    With it being steeped in mysticism and folklore it really gives the film a interesting culture filter that add's layers to an already compelling work of art. There is a real heart break that echoes throughout the film as Jewish oppression is a major theme, which casts haunting shadows of the Holocaust to come some two decades later. It certainly adds an uneasy feeling as you watch. Golem has very clear morals and its this, combined with its over-the-top natural helps gives it this wonderful dark fairy-tale like quality. I had often heard that this film and the myth in general was the blue-print for the Frankenstein's Monster mythos and its not hard to see why. In fact its easy to see how much inspiration gathered for Frankenstein (1931). For example there is a scene where a little child interacts with the Golem and I couldn't help draw a comparison to the scene with little Maria in Frankenstein. Also both creatures are big lumbering brutes but both have an strong emotional core. Whale also must have been greatly influenced by Freud and his German expressionistic style.  Paul Wegener not only co-directs the film but also plays the mythic creation. As stated above the actor was famous for the role and in fact in an earlier lost short film The Golem and the Dancer he plays a version of himself as an actor playing the golem. Talk about meta. Like Karloff, Wegener brings a humanity to the clay figure and it shines through the make-up. Rich in Jewish folklore and with a hypnotizing visual style The Golem is really a stand-out work of pure cinema craftsmanship that all film fans should watch.  If you are on the fence about silent films I think Golem, Nosferatu (1922) and Caligari (1920) are very accessible, wonderfully haunting and strange films that warrant a watch. Every fan seriously interested in the genre should make it a point to not only watch these films but study them.

Golem is presented for the first time in North America in a stunning new 4k transfer from original material. Before the film plays Kino has a title card explaining the version you are about to watch:

No original German copy of The Golem: How He Came Into the World has survived. Two original negatives, filmed from different angles, were assembled from the exposed negative material. The "A" negative, containing the better material, is preserved in the Cinematek (Cinemathque Royale de Belgique).  For the 1921 US. release, negative "A" was shortened considerably. The present version intends to restore the "A" negative as authentically as possible to the lost German version. 

    The print is simply a revelation.  I can say with confident that I dont think this film will ever look clearer. The tints are restored and small details in set designs as well as Freud's well executed and strange cinematography truly shines.  For a film that is now one-hundred years old scenes look alive and clean with no dirt,artifacts or scratches in sight. I can only guess how many hours and resources were put into making Golem come to life for a new generation. Sound is equally good boasting a nice new score as well as three additional scores to choose from. Included is: Stephen Horne, Admir Shkyrtaj, Lukas Poleszak the US version has a score by Cordula Heth. Extras include: A side by side comparison of the US version and the German version runs twenty-two minutes long with commentary by Tim Lucas explaining the difference. This is really great as it shows how the film differs in alternative shots but also the difference in the restoration. Kino Classics always features great touches like this which helps frame the film in its historical context. Also included is a shortened American version running just less than an hour long. Further giving us a deep dive into not only the film but the background of the director cast etc, is a wonderfully done commntary by author and film historian Tim Lucas. Lucas is of course well researched and provides a wealth of information on all aspects of the film and its very entertaining to listen to. This track will no doubt get a Rondo nomination if not win.

The Golem (1920) needs to finally take its place as not only the first monster movie but as the seminal and influential film, that has inspired countless others. Kino Classics have really out done themselves providing the best possible version of the film in a marvelous 4k transfer. Any film buff should consider this a must own in their collection-period.  This makes my short list for best horror Blu Ray of 2020, its that good. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Manon (1949) Arrow Academy Blu Ray Review

Manon (1949) Arrow Academy February 25th 2020

Directed By: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Starring:Michel Auclair, Cecile Aubry, Leon Lescaut

    Fan's of the horror/thriller genre may not be familiar with the name Henri-Georges Clouzot but his seminal suspense/horror film Diabolique (1955) is said to have inspired the tone and atmosphere of Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) as well as prove a low budget black and white film could be effective.
Six years prior to that however he made Manon a equally moody crime drama. Told mostly in flashbacks the story follows Robert (Michel Auclair) a young solider in WII Paris who saves a woman named Manon (Cecile Aubry) from villagers who are about to assault her for allegedly consorting with German troops. Robert takes her away and later in Post WWII the two experience a rocky relationship due to various shady businesses Manon and her brother land him in.

   I like to think I am a very well rounded film buff and even though I am fairly familiar with the work of Clouzot this is one that has escaped me. This is a shame because its an excellent and moving film. Based on the classic French novel of the same name but updated to Post-WWII Manon is a highly interesting film of the period. Visually this is on par with a film-noir a movement of film which uses a German expressionist style. Long shadows and moody lighting by famed cinematographer Armand Thirard. His work is incredible and gives the film a much grander scope. For example Thirard utilizes this amazing sweeping crane shot as Michel's character exits a movie theater in a very dramatic scene. Thirard's work is complemented by great art direction by Max Douy who is probably best known for his work on the Bond film Moonracker. The hollowed and bombed out Paris is harrowing and grotesquely beautiful at the same time. The art direction is at times a character all on its own. There is some debate if this is a film-nor but it certainly has all the trappings, not only visually but also with its typical pulp-crime story. Manon also is pretty interesting as it has one foot in neorealism when it comes to scenes with the villagers. Clouzot keeps the plot going at a fairly brisk pace but also allows the film to have some real heartbreaking and moving moments. One comes to mind is at the beginning of the film when Jewish refugees break out into a sorrowful song. It feels raw and real and I get chills just recalling it. Narrative wise  I liked how they told the film mostly in flashback, as we learn Robert is running away from something awful he did and the mystery of what and how this happened makes it more engaging. French movies were able to be a little more daring and here Clouzot tackles taboo subject matter like prostitution in a way American films never dared to in '49. I will say the last twenty-five minutes might divide fans. Its also tonally different its jarring and almost feels like it belongs in a different movie. I think what saves it though is it has a incredibly bleak and almost Greek tragedy level it that feels fitting. Manon is a rare film that from jump has gripped me and I was engrossed by not only its plot but visuals and production value. I am really happy that Arrow Academy has made this widely available because damn its a great film.

     Arrow has provided a nice new transfer that really showcases the amazing visual style that coats this entire film. The black and white photograph looks crisp and small details come through with incredible clarity. Sound is equally good with both the score and dialogue coming in clear and highlights some well done sound design. The extras are also worthy of this fine movie.  Woman of the Dune is a wonderfully informative twenty-two minute video essay from film Critic Geoff Andrew. Andrew gives us a deep dive into the films of Clouzot and of course Manon. The man clearly knows his stuff and is engaging and informative. Its a wonderful addition to this disc. Another unexpected treat is a vintage interview with Clouzot which further gives you a further understanding of the man behind Manon. Arrow Academy sets out to put out film-school worthy movies and they equally echo this mission statement with great features that helps put these films into their proper context. This is what I adore about this label and its such a treat to see these cool features they unearth. Overall this is a great movie and has an equally wonderful Blu Ray release.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Hidden Gems to Stream NOW! A Film Lovers Guide to Boredom Part 1

I am taking a break from my typical Blu Ray reviews and doing something a little different. Recently I made a list for a couple of friends who were looking for some movies to stream, because well what else do we have going on right now?

So I decided why not make you guys a list as well. Included is: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Shudder and HBO Go. Please note: This of course isnt a complete list of all the goodies streaming, just some of the highlights from both big studios and small indie films. I also am still working through my 'Watch List' so hence why maybe a certain acclaimed title might not be here. E everything is in random order.

Will be breaking this into two parts Part 1: Netflix, Hulu and Shudder

The Invitation
The Evil Dead
The Monster
Rosesmarys Baby
A Serious Man
The Lobster
Swiss Army Man
Blue Ruin
The Gift
Maps to the Stars
The Irishman
Green Room
Murder Party
Tucker and Dale Vs Evil
Scream 2
Scream 3
Velvet Buzzsaw
Horse Girl
The Queen
Paris is Burning
Wicker Man (Original)
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
The Ritual
The Witch

Digging up the Marrow
Killer Joe
The Tenant
Sorry to Bother You
I, Tonya
Elvira Mistress of the Dark
Notes on a Scandal
Rare Exports
The French Connection
The Art of Self Defense
Beyond the Gates
The Cabin in the Woods
The Den
Ghost Stories
Pooka- Into the Dark
Pooka Lives -Into the Dark

The Exorcist
One Cut Dead
The Wailing
Creepshow 2
Creepshow The Series
Cursed -Series
The Old Dark House
Better Watch Out
The Ranger
Tigers are not Afraid
Summer of '84
Street Trash
The Changeling
Joe Bob Briggs -Series
Deep Red
Escape from NY
City of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead
The Beyond
Friday the 13th 1-8
Dog Soliders
A Tale of Two Sisters
Chopping Mall
Bloody Birthday
Tourist Trap

Friday, April 3, 2020

Malabimba (1979) Vinegar Syndrome Blu Ray Review

Malabimba (1979) Vinegar Syndrome March 31st 2020

Directed By: Andrea Bianchi

Starring: Katell Laennec, Enzo Fisichella, Ellsa Mainardi

    There have been a lot of The Exorcist rip-off's, some good like Beyond the Door (1974) but most are pretty awful. Malabimba is another sleazy Euro spin on the classic film but how does it stack against the others? After a medium conducts a seance the spirit of a former relative with a, shall we say trampy past inhabits sixteen year old Bama. Now locked away in a big Gothic castle, Bama starts acting out, and though her Father thinks its just puberty, we know she is possessed and out for revenge. In the meantime the family on hard times try to scheme wealth out of crazy uncle Adolfo.
Whew! So this was a movie I had often heard about but actually never got around to watching until now. If you are familiar with Andrea's other films like Burial Ground (1981) you know you are in for a grimy sleazy sex fest and Malabimba does not disappoint. While not my favorite of his out put I will say the movie delivers in shock value. In the film our main character Bama is suppose to be just sixteen (Dont worry she was actually nineteen) so seeing her do stuff french kiss her father or have sex with a nun or other naughty romps adds an extra icky factor. The sex itself is actually pretty steamy and Bianchi doesn't hold back on the hardcore action. The plot defiantly feels like it only serves to get to the next horny set-piece.  I think the plot or lack-thereof is what feels like the biggest let down. Between the spicy parts the film lumbers between soap-opera level melodrama and just a sprinkling of supernatural hi-jinks but clearly Andrea is not that interested. Fans of this might say this movie is more about the racy sex scenes but I dont think its asking too much to have a good plot to compliment it. Gore hounds expecting the same level of splatter as Andrea Burial Ground (1981) will be sorely disappointed. The film is virtually bloodless and even the one death in the film is pretty Meh. Having said that, Malabimba does have its own low-rent charms. Surprising the film looks like a bigger budget affair by utilizing a sprawling Italian estate and mansion with a nice production design at play. With all the films short comings there is a fun, cheesy so-bad-its-enjoyable element that helps make the film serviceable. It does this by doubling down on the weird, sleazy and perverse and this is where the film truly finds its voice. Andrea may not care about narrative polish but damned if he doesn't find ways to make me want to take a shower after his films. Bravo. As I stated above, this isnt a favorite of mine but I did think the sex is actually pretty hot, the nutso factor is high and every corner of the film is covered in a thick coating of grime which it wears proudly on its sleeve. Vinegar Syndrome presents the film fully uncut with all the hardcore scenes placed back into the feature.

Vinegar has done the best job it possibly could restoring this film and I think it looks great. Some moments in the film are yes, less than desirable but given VS track record I am willing to give them a pass. Clearly they have done amazing restorations in the past and compared to previous releases this looks miles better. Colors are bright and skin tones look natural and balanced. The film also sports a nice Mono track which is clear and easy to understand. Bonus features includes a great new interview with actress Mariangela Giordano and cinematographer Franco Villa. I love that VS goes out of their way to track down people from films like this, as it provides an interesting and invaluable look behind the scenes. Rounding out the features is a wonderful commentary by film historian/authors Samm Deighan, Heather Drain and Kat Ellinger. As regular readers will know I love commentaries and this trio have a lot of fun with this, but also its choked full of information. Clearly all three historians know their stuff but also keep it light/not stuffy. A trailer is provided as well as reversible artwork. 

Overall if you like sleazy, sexy Euro trash Malabimba is worth blind buying or if you are already a fan -well it goes without saying its high time you upgrade.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Woman Times Seven (1967) Kino Classic Blu Ray Review

Woman Times Seven (1967) Kino Classic April 21st 2020

Directed By: Vittorio De Sica

Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Peter Sellers, Alan Arkin,Michael Caine, Rossano Brazzi

    Vittorio De Sica best known for his Italian neorealism masterpieces like Umberto D (1952) and The Bicycle Thieves (1948) comes this screwy sex comedy. From attention seeking wives to widows to a custom dress to kill Woman Time Seven (1967) tells seven non-connected stories all starring Shirley MacLaine as different characters all against the beautiful and lavish Paris backdrop. Like any anthology film some segments work better than others. Some I found so brilliant and funny and others felt like they didnt have the same punch. I was excited to see Sellers in the cast but he is woefully under-used in this. Overall though I think there is more hit than misses and even the less engaging segments still have this wonderful sardonic and sometimes dark sense of humor which I adore.
     Woman also has a great look to it. The gorgeous backdrop gives the film a grand and romantic scope and the legendary French cinematographer Christian Matras brings a polish to the entire affair with his skillful and inventive camera work. Being filmed in the '60's add's a delicious layer of kitsch. If you are new to the work of Vittorio De Sica, Woman makes a nice place to start. The film is not only very accessible but you get to soak up his trademark style. Also its largely American cast might ease some into Sica's world. Speaking of, the big draw for me was the incredible collection of stars. Headlining the film is Shirley MacLaine, and she is tasked to basically not only carry the entire film but also portray seven different characters. With grace, beauty and talent she is more than up to the task. MacLaine simple dazzles in Vittorio's anthology. Certain things she does with looks and body movement help make each character alive and wholly unique.  Of course, she has a lot of great co-stars including Peter Sellers,Michael Caine, Rossano Brazzi and a young Alan Arkin in a incredibly funny and morbid segment. While some of the segments may not land, overall the film finds a tonal harmony that is very tricky with anthologies and its tight direction and writing carries it far.   Cheeky, wry and over-the-top funny, fans of sixties Euro comedies will be delighted by this release!

Kino Classics provides a nicely done new HD restoration which brings this film alive in all its '60's color-filled glory. The image is bright and clear and highlights Matras's photography and the beauty of the locations. Kino never sleeps on the job when it comes to cleaning up and their films and dirt and artifacts have been scrubbed, giving a very vibrate look. Similar we are treated to a great 2.0 Mono which is clear and dialogue comes through very well. The film features an audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger. Ellinger takes us through the film and is clearly not only very entertaining to listen to but, she knows her stuff. I found it very informative and its no wonder she has done so many commentaries in the past. Truly a treat to compliment this film. Rounding out the features is a series of Trailers.