Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Obliteration of the Chicken/Disco Graveyard Two Shorts by Izzy Lee

The Obliteration of the Chicken/Disco Graveyard Two Shorts by Izzy Lee.

Izzy Lee is a filmmaker whose work I've gotten to know over the years and, its been a rare treat to see her mature in her craft. The short films she writes and directs always have a sense of dark fun but also injects her own biting social satire. She is able to tackle thought provoking subject matter without ever coming off shallow or, worst yet preachy. I was lucky enough to get to watch and review her latest film Disco Graveyard (2020) but also re-watch and review The Obliteration of the Chicken (2019). In a directors statement Lee said "Disco Graveyard is a spiritual sequel to The Obliteration of the Chicken, and the most positive film I've ever made."   Lets take a deep weird and wonderful dive into two short films from this exciting filmmaker.

The Obliteration of the Chicken (2019)
"The abyss is stupid"

Written, Directed By: Izzy Lee

Narrated By: Bracken MacLeod

Used with one-hundred percent stock footage this mockumentary details the meaningless struggle of an uncaring universe.  Chicken is brilliantly narrated by author Bracken MacLeod (Stranded, Mountain Home) in his best Herzog impression, which sets the tone for this short. From the voice-over impression,

     Lee is doing a wonderfully hilarious send up of a Herzog documentary and I'm living for it. The stock footage is used with a lot of skill and edited to perfection by Michael Epstein. Even if you are not familiar with Herzog's documentaries (which you really should) its still a fun, nihilistic spiral and exposes the truth of why chickens are gross horrible creatures but also that the universal doesnt give two shits about us. Feel good stuff!   Once again Lee is able to get away with dark subject matter because she does it in a uproariously funny matter. This one had me laughing out loud.

Well done and blisteringly clever. Fuck chickens.

Disco Graveyard (2020)
"Don't be dead. The dead are dumb. Be weird"

Directed, Written and Narrated by: Izzy Lee

Wow, what a tell. Disco Graveyard tells us why the dead are dumb and we should live and be our authentic weird-selves.  Disco is a clever deconstruction of cheesy infomercials, but with a  decidedly surreal tone.

    In her statement Izzy says this is her most positive film to date and, yeah, its dark but has a really cool uplifting message. Times are touch and in a strange pandemic 'new-normal' I think we need a message like, be true to yourself and fly that freak flag high. Just like Chicken, Lee seamlessly uses stock-footage which is a cool way to explore the medium. It also works as it fits the construct of a late night ad, but this time instead of selling you shitty creams, Lee is selling you some delightfully morbid yet at the same time uplifting message. What I love about Lee is she can be funny and serious, without going over board on either. Its a difficult balancing act to pull off she sticks the landing. Put on that horse mask and get weird with this funky and fun film.

Izzy Lee(director, producer, co-writer)Named by the A.V. Club as one of ten female directors Blumhouse should hire, Izzy Lee is a writer and twice-Rondo Award-nominated filmmaker. She has written for Birth.Movies.Death., Rue Morgue, Fangoria, and Diabolique, and is an editor for ScreenAnarchy

You can find her stories "The Dark Lights" in "Dark Moon Digest;" "Demons of 1994"in "Tales From the Crust;" “I Did it for the Art” in “Fright Into Flight;” “Famous Last Words” in “Lost Films;” “Tilberian Holiday” in “Wicked Witches;” and“The Lake Children” in both “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” and “Hydrophobia,” with more to come. She’s currently at work on several short stories and scripts.

Friday, May 22, 2020

My Samurai (1992) MVD Rewind Collection

My Samurai (1992) MVD Rewind Collection

Directed By:Fred Dresch

Starring: Julian Lee, Lynne Hart, John Kallo,Terry O'Quinn, Christopher Clark

     So, confession time. Though horror is my favorite genre I just love cinema in general, especially of the cheesy-variety. And, give me a good hokey action flick and that makes for a fun, sometimes brain melting evening. My Samurai from 1992 is sadly not as fun as it seems like it would be. A boy named Peter (John Kallo) witnesses a gang murder. Now, a group of generic thugs will stop at nothing to hunt him down. Aided by his martial arts teacher Young Park (Julian Lee) and Deborah (Lynne Hart) they try and save Peter and themselves. Oh boy, My Samurai is really something. The set-up is familiar simple, yet the film lacks focus and falls way back on action troupes not to mention a host of plot holes. It tries to give Peter a story arch but it just comes off weak and shallow. It also has a very weird pacing with random things happening that doesnt further the story. For example, about forty minutes into the film the trio fight a street gang of big haired Mad Max rejects who chew every bit of scenery they can.  Why? Because they need to pad out the film and maybe thought the film could use an extra action scene.

    Bad? Yes but I think the worst sin this film commits is its main stars Julian Lee and John Kallo lack personality. Lee gives a deadpan turn as Young Park and it seems like he is sleep walking throughout. Kallo doesn't fair much better. It almost seems like the kid is reading off cue cards, his whole performance comes off robotic. Director Fred Dresch doesnt seem to understand that, what makes cheesy action films work is that actors like Bruce Willis, Stallone and Schwarzenegger have charisma. And, as hammy as some of the movies they are in, they can carry it along because they ooze charm and likability. This is something that is sorely lacking from all the actors involved. All expect for the great Terry O'Quinn who is sadly not in the film very much. I will say I did like how the film has some silly moments that make it almost bearable. Depending on how much you enjoy bad movies you might enjoy Samurai but its just so bland and Meh. Honestly its not very memorable and again, the pacing and story issues weigh it way down like a stone. I doesnt have the fun high energy that you want in an action film and it feels like everyone from the director to the actions are just going through the motions.

Overall the picture is good the skin tones look natural and any scratches or artifacts have been cleaned up for the most part. There are some noticeable film wear in the latter portion of the film.
I did notice some grain and noise but I dont think it was bad enough to detract from the film entirely. I cannot say the same sadly, about the sound. The Sound is actually not very good. Allow me to explain. Typically when I review a film during the day I have headphones on and Samurai had some much hissing and background noise that its wildly distracting. I wasnt sure if this was just me, so I looked at a review from and the reviewer mentioned the same issue. Its rare when I watch a film and it has this kind of issue, and also very odd since other MVD titles have had solid audio. Its a shame because it makes for a unpleasant viewing experience. I ended up turning on the subtitles.  Like most MVD Rewind titles this has a host of new-bonus features. This includes a slew of new interviews with the actors of the film. I will say these are fairly lengthy for featurettes and MVD does not phone it in when it comes to extras. Rounding out the extras are two photo galleries a trailer and a fold out poster. Package wise is very much on point with a retro VHS box design which is a lot of fun.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Retro Rewind: Out of the Past (1947) Warner Archives

Retro Rewind: Out of the Past (1947) Originally released: Aug 2014

Directed By: Jacques Tourneur

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Webb, Virginia Huston

   So, when anybody asks me what are the two essential Film Noir's are, that's easy, Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944) and Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past (1947). Both not only perfectly embody the brooding-film style but amazing storytelling as well. The latter has been released by Warner Archives in stunning HD.  Based on the novel of the same name by Daniel Mainwaring, Out of the Past tells the story of Jeff (Robert Mitchum) is a seemingly normal guy that runs a gas station in a tiny town. He has a girlfriend named Ann (Virginia Huston) and things seem to be going quite well for him. That is until a mysterious stranger blows into town threatening his cozy life. Jacques Tourneur is probably best remembered for the psycho-sexual black and white horror master piece Cat People (1942) and of course this stark Noir. Tourneur along with screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring weaves a compelling plot, great characters along with a few solid twists that keep it wildly engaging. The film is filled to the brim with troupes like the hard boiled detective, the femme fatale and of course a lot of double crossing. If you think these elements are cliched, its worth noting that at the time, they were not.

   You cannot talk about a film like Out of the Past and not mention just how visually stunning it is. Stark black and white photography steeped in the German expressionist style of the silent's, Past is a beautifully shot film. Cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca gives the film a haunting and brooding presents that would be duplicated but never copied. Of course the film is anchored by its amazing cast. Mitchum for me is the archetypal hard-living, smooth talking man with a checkered past. Robert gives what I think is his best performance and gives a enthralling and heartbreaking turn as the hapless detective. You truly root for his character and we as the audience want to see him have a quiet life, but alas we know that is not in the cards. Supporting actor Kirk Douglas gives a fun and I think understated turn as the vile thug Whit. Douglas relishes the bad guy role but never quite crosses the line into hammy over-acting.  And, of course what is a Noir without its women characters. Greer nearly burns down the set with her fiery presents and smoldering good looks. But, she is also incredible talented and gives bad-girl Kathie sub-text not found on the page. Yes, shes the worst, but Greer brings some much needed pathos to the role. In my mind she is one of the best femme fatales captured on celluloid. Virginia Huston makes the best Ann, though admittedly its a dull role. Out of the Past also features possibly the most underrated score by Roy Webb (Notorious, Bringing Up Baby).  If you are new to the film-noir style this is certainly a good jumping off point as it is filled to the brim with all the troupes that the genre is known for. Out of the Past is sleek, stylish engaging with some stunning performances.

Warner Archives transfer is stunning and truly brings back to life the the haunting visual style that makes this a stand out. The contrast is on point and small details in the production design really stands out. Artifacts and dirt have been removed and what we are left with is a clean clear picture. Sound wise is also great with a nice healthy mono track. Dialogue comes through clear and features no background hiss. The extras include a running length audio commentary track by film historian James Ursini.

A Must Own!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Zombies and Maniacs! Two Need UHD Releases from Blue Underground! Review

Blue Underground has been a major part of my film education and the label continues to grow with the times. Through the years they have went from DVD to Blu Ray, then 2k and now 4k transfers. Now, with the advent of UHD, they have given its most popular titles, Lucio Fulci's Zombie (1979) and Maniac (1980) the ultra-4k treatment.

Maniac (1980) Blue Underground May 26th 2020

Directed By: William Lustig

Starring: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro,

    When I think of down and dirty, gritty New York based  films twisted gems like Driller Killer (1979), Basket Case (1982), New York Ripper (1982) and of course Maniac from 1980 come to mind. Follow the life, loves and deaths of Frank (Joe Spinell) a brutal serial killer that has an obsession with killing and scalping his victims. He happens to meet a beautiful fashion photographer named Anna (Caroline Munro) who, despite lots of red flags starts to date Frank. Will the love of a good woman change this brutal killer or will his demons catch up with him? On the surface Maniac is lacking in a fully developed script yet, it has a whole host of nasty charms on full display. I think that the real magic of the film stems from how Spinell and Lustig carefully crafted and based Frank on several real life killers that were in the media at the time. Thus there is something incredibly unnerving and real about Frank operates from day-to-day. After the titular maniac kills a victim he gets emotional, screaming, crying and even throwing up at one point. This is a vast departure of the mindless, soulless machine-like killer's you typically see in a slasher film. And the other amazing thing about this movie is of course Frank, played to the grimy hilt by the legendary Joe Spinell. Spinell sweats and oozes his way through a performance for the ages. Lustig and Spinell were truly a match made in Grindhouse heaven. The character actor who has been in everything from Rocky (1976), The Godfather (1972) and Taxi Driver (1976) and in Maniac injects both a vile creature, yet at the same time a strange kind of pathos, making it one of the more interesting serial killer portrayals this side of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986).  Playing his love interest is Caroline Munro. The actress is probably best known for her Hammer films as well as being a Bond girl is as always a dazzling performer. She is the beauty to Spinell's beast. Maniac also boasts a harsh vibe with its documentary style but also has some nice touches of the surreal. And, least we forget it features some amazing special effect work by Tom Savini, who even makes a mind-blowing cameo. Its easy to dismiss the film as exploitation trash, yet Lustig's skilled direction and Spinell's creepy presents, literally appearing out of the dark New York streets, is amazing, haunting and with a wonderfully over-the-top finale. Lustig has made a real demented classic for the ages.

Zombie (1979) Blue Underground May 26th 2020

Directed By: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Al Cliver, Richard Johnson

The maggot encrusted living dead film that, for many fans encapsulates the entire Italian splatter. Lucio Fulci's infamous Zombie (1979) or Zombi 2 in Italy, is a cult classic that is still devoured by rabid genre fans. A motley crew go to an island to look for a missing woman's missing father. But, sadly its not tropical fun-in-the-sun as the living dead are being brought back to life, hungry for flesh.

    I love how the film starts out with a nice mystery, but also wastes zero time in getting right to the zombies and some nice gore effects. Fulci never lets the plot get in the way of his magnum-opus of carnage and despite a so-so plot the film saves it self on two fronts: Fulci clearly made this with one bloody-tongue in his cheek and the film has some great dark humor. I mean, the zombie versus shark is not only iconic but such a hoot to watch. Secondly, the film of course has some incredibly done practical effects featuring crunchy zombie make-up's of different variety and plenty of blood, guts. And, damn, we cannot get the infamous eye ball impalement scene scrubbed from our warped-brains. Longtime Fulci composer Fabio Frizzi delivers a pulse pounding score that really gives this film an edge. I love Zombie because its not a deep film and it doesnt aim to be. Its just what you`d want, a nicely paced gore-soaked bit of late '70's horror made by a director in his prime. While this isn't my favorite of Fulci's, (that would be The New York Ripper or The Beyond) Zombie is a fast-paced, well photographed and nasty film that every bit deserves its cult status.

In 1968 Romero offered a fright-filled allegory with Night of the Living Dead and in 1979 Fulci would just get gory- and we wouldn't have it any other way!

Picture: Holy-Freakin-Crap! I didnt think that anything could top the 4k Blu ray transfer which was included in the 2018 3-Disc Collectors-Edition but they did! On both releases the UHD picture is mind blowing in its depth in colors, sharp contrast which showcase all the mayhem, blood, guts and scalping included in both films. Small production details like Frank's apartment from Maniac or the locales from Zombie really pop-out with this new transfer. Night scenes really benefit from this upgrade. And, for those splatter and gross-out fan's this new edition really showcases all the blood, gore, maggots, decay, limbs etc that these films have to offer. The sound is also amazing and Frizzi mesmerizing score for Zombie and Maniac's frantic score by Jay Cattaway (Star Trek: Next Generation) are wonderfully showcased.

Final Thoughts: I enjoy both films on different levels. While both may have flaws in their writing they are engaging, nasty and enjoyable in a fun trashy way. Some fan's were upset that its been less than two-years since the last release of both titles however if you already own both of these-and again, if you are able to view UHD titles its worth upgrading. The picture and sound are incredible and of course, all previous features are ported over on a second disc. I own both releases for both of these films with no regrets. Its amazing to hear that two new UHD titles, New York Ripper (1982) and House by the Cemetery (1981) are in the works. What a time to be alive when we can get some amazing horror titles in such an staggeringly beautiful presentation.

 Blue Underground has given horror fans a real twisted treat here!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Hard Hunted (1993) Mill Creek Entertainment Blu Ray Review

Hard Hunted (1993) Mill Creek Entertainment March 17th 2020

Directed By: Andy Sidaris

Starring:Dora Speir, Tony Peck, Roberta Vasquez, Geoffrey Moore, Al Leong

    I smell...tanning lotion and gun powder in the air, which means only one thing, I'm trapped in another Andy Sidaris fantasy of action and pretty people in various stages of undress. A ruthless band of international arms dealers will do whatever it takes to get back a nuclear relay cleverly hidden in a jade Buddha statue. Now its up to the ladies of LETHAL to keep the world safe. Meanwhile team member Donna (Dora Speir) loses her memory and doesn't realize the danger she is in. Will she re-gain her memory and can the ladies stop the relay from getting into the wrong hands? Andy's films are very much the same plot just re-worked slightly but the road map usually goes: arms dealer steals some weapon, LETHAL is called in to fight the bad guy and his henchmen, probably some double crossing and of course mild violence, explosions, sex and nudity, always in a tropical setting. But, you know I dont mind this, because these are fun movies to turn off your brain and just enjoy. I always see these movies like live action adult-geared cartoons, because of just how whacky and often unrealistic at times.

     Indeed Sidaris must view these as such, for example a pair of bad guys are carrying around guns marked with ACME a fictional company used in various Warner Brother cartoon shorts. Hard Hunted is paced incredible well and the plot, of what there is, moves along nicely. Typical narrative holes abound as does silly and clunky dialogue and shall we say questionable acting. There are some really cool elements worked in this film like Donna losing her memory and the wonderfully cheesy coded messages delivered via a radio show. It also includes some great action set pieces and its always fun to see the legendary Al Leong kicking some serious ass. I say this a lot in my reviews for Sidaris but films are I think an acquired taste and seems to be best enjoyed if you like low-budget, high energy schlock. They are basically junk-food cinema filled with tropical locales, beautiful people and loads of action. And, as I said Andy doesn't take these films seriously, he knew they were mindless films and it feels like he`s in on the joke.

Mill Creek has been doing a great job with their HD transfers and Hard Hunted looks great! The outdoor scenes look crisp and clear and vibrant. Facial features look natural and thankfully nothing has that washed out look. The sound is great as well with a healthy mono track. There are a lot of music and sound effects and booms that sound great through a speaker system. Dialogue such as it is, also comes through nicely.  Like the other Andy releases this includes a director intro and running commentary track. The features also include trailers and a behind the scenes featurette.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Times of Bill Cunningham (2018) Greenwich Entertainment/Kino

The Times of Bill Cunningham (2018) Greenwich Entertainment/Kino  May 12th 2020

Directed By: Mark Bozek  (1994)

Starring: Bill Cunningham, Sarah Jessica Parker

    Fashion photography is a subject that I am afraid I know very little about. However, I always I love to learn things that are out of my wheelhouse. This is why, I thought it would be interesting to take a break from my typical films I review on here. As always, I love all genres which makes one, I think a very well rounded cinema lover and person. Narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker and using a vintage interview, the film tells the story of legendary photographer and journalist Bill Cunningham. From getting his start designing hats for people like Joan Crawford to his fashion column and documenting historical fashion icons like Diana Vreeland and his important photographs documenting the history of the Gay Pride Parades in New York and so fourth.

      Bill Cunningham is such a character and so, a documentary about him seems incredibly fitting. Cunningham himself is just a happy and electrifying personality and his interview with Mark Bozek is absolutely spellbinding. Bozek doesn't interview anybody else and I think that is incredible smart. It allows you to feel like your taking this journey with Cunningham with a narrative flow by Parker. The documentary is laid out in such a way as its easy for novice like myself to get invested in its subject but it also rewards those who know fashion and fashion photography. And, for me thats the mark of a brilliant documentary, one that doesn't alienate its subject but also doesn't dumb it down for people in the know. If I would mention one complaint it would be that I thought some of the pictures could have used more context, like dates locations etc. Very minor though. There is another Cunningham documentary entitled Bill Cunningham: New York which I hope to check out soon. If you are not a fashion fan, you will no doubt love this documentary and if you are not I still think you might find this interesting. The film is a brisk hour and fifteen minutes long and its so engrossing it flies by.

The film is available on DVD and is worth checking out!

Inside Daisy Clover (1965) Warner Archives Blu Ray Review

Inside Daisy Clover (1965) Warner Archives May 12th 2020

Directed By: Robert Mulligan

Starring: Natalie Wood, Christopher Plumber, Robert Redford, Ruth Gordon, Roddy McDowell

    Natalie Wood was a star that burned bright but sadly went out before her time. She was one of those rare child actors that was not only able to make it as an adult but, she thrived and only got better with age. Last year Warner Archive re-released her the screwball farce Penelope (1966) and this year we get Inside Daisy Clover (1965). Daisy (Natalie Wood) is a fifteen-year old kid growing up in '30's California with dreams of being a big star. But will the Hollywood machine chew her up and spit her out? Mulligan is one of those directors that I feel like doesnt get the credit he deserves when we talk about great cinema in post-Golden Age Hollywood. He could work in big powerhouse films like To Kill a Mockingbird as well screwball fun fare like The Rat Race but also do well in small moody pieces like the woefully under-loved horror film The Other and the hybrid western thriller The Stalking Moon (also released by Warner Archives).

    Inside Daisy Clover was a flop with both critics and at the box office yet, has thankfully found a loyal cult following. The film is a bright-colored film about Dream Land and the fast paced first act, as Daisy is swept up into stardom almost plays out like a actual 30s-40s film and then Mulligan quickly pulls the rug from under us, and, underneath is a harrowing look at mental health, addiction, and the true price of stardom. The film is serious but thankfully is covered in a thick coating of wonderful '60's eta camp with some of its over-the-top dramatic performances, its coded queer subplot and a who's-who of cult icons. Speaking of which, Wood plays a fifteen-year old but in reality was almost thirty when she played Ms. Clover. And, while, if I'm being honest it is a bit jarring at first, its a testament to her range that you buy it. She gives a painfully honest turn and one cant help but wonder if she channeled some of  her real life angst of child stardom and a tough stage mother. Not only is it an Oscar worthy performance but I think its may be my favorite of hers. Redford also does a fine job at Wade, a bisexual actor struggling with his own demons. Daisy also has a dream supporting cast including Ruth Gordon as Daisy's kooky mother who creates magic within her limited screen time. Its hard to believe that to studio didnt want Gordon and indeed it was Wood who fought for her. She would later win an Oscar for her role as the nosy neighbor Minnie in Rosemary's Baby (1968).

The cast also includes Roddy McDowell and of course a very young Christopher Plumber in a icy and calculated role. This really has one of these special group of actors that few films manage to assemble. Not one actor tries to steal the scene and everyone seems to feed off of each other quite well. The film is ground breaking for exploring homosexuality, or bisexuality (which was changed from the book at Redfords request). Its only after the disbanding of the Hays Code that even this small reference to Wades sexuality could be explored. Its also ironic since you have the openly gay Roddy McDowell in a supporting role and gay icon (though not gay) Ruth Gordon. Its at least shows that Hollywood was willing to take a risk on the "taboo" subject matter.  Though it failed to connect with audiences of its day, I think the story is timeless and showcases so many talented people in front of and behind the camera. One of which was Oscar winning DP Charles Lang who is one of the best Golden Age camera man who could have acted as a technical advisor as he was very much around during the period the film is set.

The new HD transfer looks great and the colors really pop as well as showcases Charles Lang's amazing cinematography as well as its rich production design. Skin tones look natural and any scratches or artifacts have been removed. The sound is also great with crisp clear dialogue and since this film is very musical, it highlights the soundtrack very well. The features include a short cartoon War and Pieces and a trailer.

If you love big dramatic Hollywood movies about show business with one of the brightest stars of her generation, Inside Daisy Clover is a must buy!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) Warner Archives Blu Ray

Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967) Warner Archives April 21st 2020

Directed By: John Huston

Starring: Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Julie Harris, Brian Keith

Please note: I will be reviewing the golden hued version, which is Huston's preferred version.  

      The sixties had seen the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood and also the end of the Production Code which was replaced by the MPAA in '68. For the most part gone were big budget historical epics in favor for grounded youth/counter-culture films. It would usher in an exciting and rebellious time for films leading into the '70's with the likes of Lucas, DePalma, Scorsese and Coppola.  Reflections is a film that feels like it has one foot in old traditional Hollywood melodrama and another in a modern era. The story follows Major Penderton (Marlon Brando) a tightly wound man and his free-spirited adulterous wife Leonora (Elizabeth Taylor).

   Reflections in a Golden Eye is a truly strange film, especially one made by a major studio. Its an oft-kilter little slice of  South Gothic melodrama that has enough pent up sexuality to make even the great Tenseness Williams himself blush. Every character is either insane, sleazy, deeply repressed or a combination of all three.  I mentioned that at this point in time the Production Code was all but disbanded which allows Huston to broach some for the time taboo themes, such as. reversed gender roles, homosexuality, BDSM and adultery to name a few. Though I was say that some of these topics arent explored in any detail, but rather is strongly suggested in hints and subtext. It wouldnt be another decade until Hollywood could really explore these themes in depth. Legendary director John Huston delivers a fantastically directed film and even though things get weird, he somehow manages to keep everything from going completely off the rails. Also I think Huston was one of the few directors able to handle its heavy hitting, yet notoriously difficult male lead. And speaking of which....Brando gives a very shall we say uneven performance. We get glimpses of brilliance from his glory days but its overall hammy and comes off like a sort of self-parody of other better performances. Taylor does a serviceable if not also a bit hamming herself. She is basically doing the same shtick as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof or any other Southern drama shes been in. Its not to suggest they are bad in their respective roles, just we've seen this characterization in other films. Its worth mentioning that Robert Forster makes his film debut in Reflection. Besides its odd-ball tone and acting, Reflection is striking from a visual stand point as it was shot entirely with a golden hue. This gives everything a hot almost oppressive feeling. Its worth noting that the studio hated this and forced a colored print to be swapped out only a week into its theatrical run. Huston had always preferred this version of the film and I can understand why, as it really does add to the palpable mood. The film isnt exactly a master-piece as the story arches never feel like they reach anything satisfying and I think the story could have been better developed. Yet, its so endearing as its a campy slice of Gothic Southern Americana that revels in its perversions and is anchored by some fun yet questionable performances but its leads.   This is one of those gems that never really gets talked about like it should. I only hope that this new release will boost the films cult status. Its truly a oddity of a studio film made at a time when a film of this ilk could not only be made but feature a high profile cast, a legendary director and a decent sized budget.

Warner Archives has set their bar incredible high when it comes to HD picture transfers and WOW Reflections looks stunning. The images are crisp and details come through with amazing clarity. Both the Golden Hue and Regular Color version are included on two separate disc's. Its great to have the option though I cant imagine wanted to watch it any other way than what the director envisioned. Sound is also great with a healthy 2.0 Mono track. Dialogue is clear and the score also comes through nicely. Bonus features include a vintage featurette.

If you love campy, over rot, sexually perverse South-Gothic odd-ball cinema Reflections in a Golden Eye is a Must-Own!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Dolly Dearest (1991) Vinegar Syndrome Blu Ray

Dolly Dearest (1991) Vinegar Syndrome  May 26 2020

Directed By: Marie Lease

Starring: Denise Crosby, Sam Bottoms, Rip Torn, Candace Hutson

    I first discovered Dolly Dearest on cable television and even back then, with my limited film knowledge I thought this was kind of a dud. But I always wondered how it would hold up through my now jaded mindset. Would it be a so-bad-its enjoyable bit of schlock or is it just terrible? Well I was excited and nervous to find out thanks to Vinegar Syndrome re-releasing this early '90's Child's Play knock off on HD. Elliot (Sam Bottoms) an American doll maker moves himself and his family to Mexico to start making a new line of dolls called Dolly Dearest. But wouldn't you know it the factory is next to a ancient graveyard and an evil spirit finds its way into a dolls. Jessica (Candance Hutson) is gifted one such doll and of course horror and death ensues. I was all set for a miserable time as this film is pretty notoriously bad, but you know what, its fun. The plot feels like a patchwork of other better films stitched together, not only Childs Play but since it deals with possession we gets nods to The Omen (there is a car freak out scene with Jessica that mirrors Damien as he nears a church), with some Bad Seed  and The Exorcist thrown in for good measure. I actually love rip-off movies so this didn't bother me in fact it made it more endearing. I say nods but if im being honest its a wonder they didn't get sued.

   What also struck me is that Marie directs the film with no winks to the audience and everything is played serious yet it also feels like she is having a great deal of fun with the horror troupes. I was also surprised that the film has a very interesting surreal, nightmarish vibe to it which is way more than you might expected from a killer doll outing. The entire scene with the housekeeper and her demise is extremely well crafted. Having her death take place in a creepy cobwebbed doll factory is cliched but effective none the less. I said the film takes itself serious but it does have some nice moments of dark humor, which makes this feel like a long lost episode of Tales from the Crypt (minus the brilliant writing of course). Obviously the film has a whole host of issues ranging from its fairly predictable script, whacky dialogue not to mention the way it stereotypes Mexican culture and its people. Speaking of which, Rip Torn gives no doubt his worst performance as a Mexican man, with an accent that comes and goes at any given time. I think at the end he just gives up entirely. Its truly a sight to behold.  Denise Crosby best known to horror fans as Rachel Creed or Sci-Fi fans as Lt Tasha Yar gives a good but wildly uneven role but Crosby has a warm presents that helps carry it along despite the fact. And honestly all the actors are doing the best with some of the cringe-worthy lines they have to utter. Bad? No doubt. Its laughably corny, cliched with some performances that are The Room level. And yet, damned if I didn't find the entire thing decently paced and enjoyable in a so-bad-its sublime. Its the kind of fun rotten movie that you can put on and totally shut your brain off.

    The film looks great having been sourced from the original 35mm interpositives. This new 2k scan really helps showcase the better-than-expected visual style. Night scenes really help highlight the boost in clarity and the details in the production design as well as scenes shot in Mexico. The sound is also well done with a crisp clear Mono track. Dialogue such as it is, comes in crystal clear as well as the underrated score by Mark Snow (The X-Files, Smallville). As always we get some fun extras. This includes two interviews, one with Denise Crosby and Ed Gale.  I was delighted to see Denise Crosby was interviewed for this. She speaks very warmly of the making of the film and the fact that she embraces it makes me love her even more. Also interviewed is Ed Gale the actor who played the doll in scenes. Horror fans also know he was Chucky in scenes for Childs Play and its great to get a rare interview with him. Vinegar Syndrome has been releasing more '90's era horror films and that makes me happy as its a decade that hasnt gotten a lot of love as far as releases goes unlike the '80's. Seeing how I was a '90's child movies like Dolly Dearest brings back a lot of memories. Worth owning!

Monday, May 4, 2020

Mystery of the Wax Museum Warner Archive Blu Ray Review

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) Warner Archives May 12th 2020

Directed By: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Fay Wray, Lionel Atwill, Glenda Farell

    In terms of neglected horror sub genres, the bodies in wax is my favorite. Also, I think there is something extra creepy about lifeless wax faces with their dead eyes. So, if you want some good old fashioned nightmare fuel Warner Archives has the release for you! A plucky reporter named Florence (Glenda Farell) investigates murders and body disappearances which leads her to a strange wax museum. I was actually more familiar with the remake, re-titled House of Wax from 1953 which was the breakout horror film for Vincent Price. But unlike that film, Mystery was made just before the enforced Production Code. Therefore the film gets away with some naughty dialogue and overt drug references to spice things up. The film also focuses on a reporter full of moxie and her discovering the dreaded secrets of the wax museum. This makes for a better set-up than in House of Wax, as it gives the female lead more agency in the story. I also love the palpable atmosphere the film conjures up and the two strip color drips the film in a strange look and feel. And I dare you not to get creeper out by the melting faces from the beginning of the film. Morbid humor also abounds and overall the film has a bit of a playful tone. Having said that I feel like House manages to stream line the major plot points better and therefore makes for a more engaging film overall. And not that I dont love Atwill, its hard to compete with Vincent Price. Even though I think the Price version is slightly better, Mystery has a lot going for it as well such as, spooky-charm, a great strong female lead, weird set pieces with a dash of sex and drugs, that was sadly erased from its remake counter-part. It also features the lovely and talented Fay Wray and Lionel Atwill in his sinister best. Curtiz along with two-time Oscar winning cinematographer Ray Renanhan gives the film a haunting visual style that surpasses the remake and is clearly influenced by German expressionism. A fun film which always makes it on my October watch list.

Once considered lost, the film surfaced over five decades ago and in 2020 it has been lovely restored by the UCLA Film and Television with funds provided by the George Lucas Foundation. The film has been given a brand new digital scrubbing with the removal of artifacts, dirt and scratches. Its easy to see that countless hours of pain staking work went into making this film look pristine. The sound is great as well with no no background noise distortion and dialogue is strong. Warner also has a host of great features which includes.

Remembering Fay Wray (18mins) Daughter of Wray provides a loving and interesting insight into the iconic scream queen. It also features not one but two feature length commentaries, one by Alan Rode and the second by historian Scott MacQueen. Rounding out the features is a nice before and after restoration featurette.

If you are a horror fan, especially that of the pre-Code variety this is a MUST OWN!