Review: Nightmare at Noon (1988)

Home, James

So, if good guys wear black, I guess, uh…

NAN.BR.Cover.72dpiWhile it’s absolutely packed to the hilt with stunts, thrills, and explosions galore (and how!), Nico Mastorakis’ 1988 flick Nightmare at Noon isn’t exactly the brain food of action movies. In fact, if you go in expecting even a decent plot to speak of, your brain may beat you somewhat senseless about two minutes in and turn itself off so it can enjoy the wild ride without you gargling on about what small amount of plot there is. Basically, if you miss the opening credits, there goes the story, and there’s not much there to begin with (and even less if you’re looking).

All you need to know is a secret scientific agency (or not so secret, as they roll around in two black custom vans with their agency’s name on them!) has chosen a small US town to experiment with some nefarious goings-on and it’s up to a handful of gun-totin’ tourists and local heroes to make things right.  So you get Wings Hauser, Bo Hopkins, and Kimberly Beck starring with George Kennedy and Kimberly Ross versus that town full of newly green-blooded raging townspeople and a bunch of well-armed bad guys. A strangely silent Brion James kicks the flick off as the mysterious Albino, but despite all his evil machinations, his total lack of dialog actually hurts the film despite the nearly non-stop action that follows. I gather he was paid enough for bleaching his hair and wearing some contact lenses to make him look albino and decided to charge by the word for dialog or something?

(Thanks, ScreamFactoryTV!)

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Arrow Video: Only Two In January, But What A Pair

While there are only two releases from Arrow Video this month, both are films I’ve not seen, so this is a good thing. Actually, every month is a good thing for film releases from Arrow, as their restorations are pretty stellar and in most cases, you get a wealth of special features that give some films a bit of commentary and perspective.

edge of the axe

First up is 1988’s Edge of the Axe ($39.95, 1/28/2020),  a film that I didn’t see back then, but it’s popped up in a few recommendations over the decades, so it’s now on the list of stuff to see. I’ll no doubt be diving under a blanket, if that cover art is any indication.

From cult Spanish filmmaker José Ramón Larraz (Vampyres, Symptoms) comes this long-neglected late 80s slasher classic, finally unleashed on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

The rural community of Paddock County is being rocked by the crazed exploits of an axe-wielding psychopath, who stalks the night in a black trenchcoat and mask. As the victims pile up, the authorities attempt to keep a lid on the situation, whilst computer whizz-kid Gerald and girlfriend Lillian seek to unmask the killer before the town population reaches zero. Nominally set in Northern California but shot primarily in Madrid, giving the film an off-kilter, American/European atmosphere akin to the likes of Pieces, Edge of the Axe is a late entry hack-and-slash masterpiece from one of the titans of Spanish terror.

  • Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
  • English and Spanish language versions of the feature
  • Original uncompressed mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Spanish soundtrack
  • Brand new audio commentary with actor Barton Faulks
  • Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
  • Newly-filmed interview with actor Barton Faulks
  • The Pain in Spain – a newly-filmed interview with special effects and make-up artist Colin Arthur
  • Image Gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Amanda Reyes

black angelNext up is Black Angel ($39.95, 1/28/2020) from 1946. This film noir is one I’ve wanted to see for a while, but haven’t gotten around to yet (what else is new, right?). I read a while back the person who wrote the book hated the film version, so that alone had me curious, as the cast made up of a few really solid actors and the director was pretty ace as well.

Elegantly directed by Hollywood veteran Roy William Neill (best known for his 11 Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone), Black Angel is an underappreciated film noir treasure, adapted from a novel by the acclaimed crime writer Cornell Woolrich (Phantom Lady).

When the beautiful singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling) is slain in her chic apartment, the men in her life become suspects. There is Martin Blair (Dan Duryea, Scarlet Street), her alcoholic musician ex-husband, nursing a broken heart; there is the shady nightclub owner Marko (Peter Lorre, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon) who has been sneaking around her place, and there is Kirk Bennett (John Phillips), the adulterer who found his mistress’s dead body and fled the scene. When Bennett is convicted and sentenced to death, his long-suffering wife Catherine (June Vincent) joins forces with the heartbroken pianist Martin Blair to uncover the truth… Black Angel is a consummate 1940s crime thriller which boats a suspenseful narrative, strong performances and atmospheric, meticulously lit cinematography.

Roy William Neill’s film is presented here in a sumptuous restoration, with several illuminating new extras.

  • Brand new restoration from original film elements by Arrow Films
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • New audio commentary by the writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode
  • A Fitting End, a new video appreciation by the film historian Neil Sinyard
  • Original trailer
  • Gallery of original stills and promotional materials
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp

With both set for release on the same day, I smell a double feature here. At least that’s my plan for these two.

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Killer Klowns BRIf ever there was a film where the title tells you everything you need to know while also telling you it’s a film you kind of need to see out of sheer curiosity, it’s Killer Klowns From Outer Space. yeah, yeah, I know a lot of you hate clowns in real life and nope, this film probably won’t be the one to endear you to the red nose and greasepaint cause. That said, if you love great practical effects, practical jokes, bits of stop motion creativity, 80’s gore FX and one damn catchy main theme song, this one has all those and more.

Arrow Video has once again pulled out all the stops with this restoration, adding a ton of special features that add to the big top thrills and chills. If you’ve never seen this one before, it’s worth checking out because it’s great for a few laughs and still works as one of those films that didn’t need a sequel (although there have been a few rumblings about one over the years).

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Blu-Ray Review: Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso_AA001Movies that make you want to see lots of other movies are a very good thing, especially if those movies you end up seeing are plenty you’re going into cold knowing you’re going to like them thanks to that one film that introduces you. Speaking of cold, guess who’s laid up with a bad one and is banging out his work from a partially prone position? Anyway (*cough!*), Cinema Paradiso is one of the all-time greats for such a cinematic education because it’s such an excellently crafted film that it’s worth watching a few times because of all the note taking you’ll very likely end up doing. I’ll save you a tiny bit of time and point you to this IMDB listing which should open up quite the rabbit hole to disappear into for a bit.

Arrow Academy’s solid restoration of the original 124-minute Cannes cut and the extended 174-minute Director’s Cut will fit nicely into your collection and as you can probably tell, is absolutely worth a purchase. Writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore’s film is one where every shot is effortlessly composed and there are moments where you’ll find yourself mildly to moderately in awe at the perfect camera placement that fits in flawlessly with the music (by Ennio and Andrea Morricone). The film is mostly told in flashback as a famous director Salvatore Di Vita (Jacques Perrin) returns to his childhood home after 30 years away upon hearing an elderly friend has passed away. We learn that Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) was a projectionist at the titular theater as well as a mentor to the younger Salvatore (or Toto, as he’s called) from the age of six (Salvatore Cascio) to his teens (Marco Leonardi).

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Random Films of the Week: A Little New Year’s Cleaning

Yeah, Happy New Year and all that stuff. I figure I’ll post more than I did last year even though I got sick and was out of action for a month or so which led to a bigger backlog that I’m still wading through. My plans to write up and pre-load posts went south thanks to that, but I think with my health getting better (albeit temporarily) I’ll try and tackle stuff slightly differently on occasion. Or: Eh, I’ve been watching a ton of movies in no particular order, so you get to pore over a few quickie capsule recommends.

Stormy Monday_AV093Stormy Monday – Mike Figgis’ first film was this stylized bit of 1988 brilliance that featured Sean Bean, Melanie Griffith, Tommy Lee Jones and Sting, plus a pretty darn neat jazz score by the director. The neon-soaked Newcastle setting features some of Roger Deakins’ lovely cinematography that makes this a total treat to watch. It’s more or less a noir gangster flick with some solid performances and an overall sense that something bad is going to happen what with all the tense glowering and some romantic notions that make for a bit of conflict as things progress.

I actually hadn’t heard of this film other than seeing a trailer way back before it was initially released in theaters. I didn’t think it was for me back then, but thanks to Arrow Video, I’ve been proven quite incorrect. Expect a fine director’s commentary from Figgis along with a few cool bonus features on this BD/DVD combo that make this a nice surprise to discover if you’ve never seen or heard of it until now. Amusingly enough, this pairs well with Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire thanks to both films mixing reality and fantasy elements (although Figgis gets the edge and the edgier performances overall).

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Blu-Ray Review: Slugs

SlugsAV066Speaking of stuff that creeps around gardens you can accidentally squash, let’s talk about Slugs for a spell, shall we? The late Juan Piquer Simón’s hilariously awful, intensely gory horror flick is one you’ll love or hate intensely in part thanks to some pretty wretched acting that actually clashes with the rather awesome icky practical effects work by Carlo De Marchis.

Just like the director’s notoriously nasty Pieces, you’re getting a film that’s not going to let you out of its grip even though the absurdities pile up to the point where your brain starts spinning inside your skull. Then again, Pieces was (and is) totally nuts for a few more reasons I’ll leave the braver of you out there to discover at your leisure. But yes, let’s talk about Slugs for a spell, shall we?

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Random Films: Robo Vampire Makes My Monday More Tolerable…

(thanks, andybluefox!) 

Well, the plasterer is at lunch for an hour (yes, he left before noon!), so there’s a pause in today’s nightmare. In the meantime, after taking some more pinup photos of the wreckage in the kitchen, to keep my sanity level somewhere close to normal I’ve been catching up on some bad movies. Godfrey Ho’s 1988 howler Robo Vampire made my morning thanks to it being even worse (and much funnier) than its title suggests. Swiping badly from Paul Verhoeven’s stellar Robocop is bad enough to dismiss this without even watching it. But toss in hopping ghosts (wait, how does a cyborg fight ghosts outside of some seven-year old kid’s notebook scribbles?), mercenaries, long water torture scenes and slow, dull “chases” and editing that makes the film seem like three or four movies spliced together and you get an instant classic. Well, “classic” in that “How the hell did this ever get made?” manner. Seriously. I’ve seen student films with better quality EVERYTHING than this clunker.

Ah well. Everything exists for a reason, I suppose. This crazy flick just kept me laughing through the continuing (and seemingly never ending) mess that is my apartment. I suppose I should thank Mill Creek Entertainment somewhere in all this because I’m too lazy and busy to seek out and download all those public domain flicks I paid ten bucks for and still consider that a steal because that’s time and bandwidth money I didn’t need to waste. Back in a bit…

Mr. Hoskins Checks Out…

(thanks, FilmsActuTrailers!) 

I’ll do a proper RFToW for Who Framed Roger Rabbit? this coming weekend, but here’s a clip to remind me (and you, and you and you and you!) of how the late Bob Hoskins nailed it but good in playing his cheap detective so well against all those ping pong balls on sticks and other stuff on set, probably wondering what the hell he was doing while hoping the animators and tech folks could make the movie work. They did and it’s a classic for the ages.

 
I’d also recommend Hoskins in Mona Lisa, The Long Good Friday, and Hook for starters. Anyway, I think I’ll have a drink later as a toast to one more great actor lost to time…

READS: One Of My Favorite Books Is BACK Where It Belongs…

Palm of the Hand StoriesI’ve had three copies of Yasunari Kawabata‘s wonderful Palm of the Hand Stories since 1988 and all three (one hardcover, two paperback) have vanished. Well, I gave two away and the third one vanished during a move and I never got around to replacing it. So when I saw this hardcover copy for under two dollars last week on eBay it was go time. No, not “Go” time – I’ve never learned to play that classic strategy game… oh, you know what I mean. Anyway, I’m happy it’s back in my possession and nope, you can’t borrow it. Pick up your own somewhere and dive in. Kawabata’s short stories are lovely little slices of life’s moments and at 238 pages, it’s a pretty quick read you’ll go back to time and again. And before you ask why it’s called “Palm of the Hand Stories”, get your mind out of that gutter and consider that they’re all only a few pages long, silly. Anyway, that’s my recommend for the week. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some catching up with a few old friends to do…

Random Film of the Week: PRISON

Prison_MPLet me tell you, kids… Scared Straight has NOTHING on Renny Harlin’s PRISON. Hell, If they showed this released in 1988 flick on TV and in schools, instead of some hard-timing losers screaming at kids about staying out of trouble, I’d bet you a hot nickel that the rate of incarceration in America would be at an all-time low. Seriously, this film is SO messed up and mean and shot in an actual closed prison with actual inmates from another joint so there’s a solid sense of verisimilitude here that’s amplified into the haunted realm by the ghost of an executed killer out for some bloody reeeee-venge.

This film is also important for a few reasons horror and fantasy fans should appreciate. For one, it got Harlin the job directing Nightmare on Elm Street 4 which was his “big” American genre film break and led to others over the years both good and bad. It’s also Viggo Mortensen’s first movie appearance in a leading role and we all know where his career went as the years went by. As for this nugget of methodical madness, it’s a pretty effective blend of genre jail flick and atmospheric horror featuring some nicely gory moments plus one of the funniest random deaths I’ve ever seen in any film… Continue reading