Blu-Ray Review: Deep Red

Deep Red ArrowI clearly wasn’t ready for Dario Argento’s Deep Red way back when I saw it on a somewhat beat-up rented VHS tape back around 1990 or ’91. While the 1975 film had some primo scares (such as that freaky clockwork dummy scene and the genuinely gory brilliance in its stylized murders), the story seemed to be a bit chopped up to the point of distracting me a wee bit too much. Hey, I often tend to pay attention to the plot more than the violence in most horror films, so sue me. Flash forward to Arrow’s 2016 UK restoration (finally getting a North American release) which adds back in scenes that were cut and makes one of Argento’s best early films even better. Granted, it’s not going to be for everyone (yes, it’s quite violent), but as with many gialli, you more or less know what you’re getting and you’re going to get it but good (and in both eyes, at that).

David Hemmings plays Marcus Daly, a British jazz pianist who ends up being the target of a killer after he sees said killer killing the hell out of some hapless victim. During the initial police investigation, Daly’s photo is snapped by snippy, snoopy reporter Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi), who inadvertently puts Marcus in grave danger after posting his handsome mug in the newspaper. As in his earlier The Bird With The Crystal Plumage and The Cat O’ Nine Tails, you get leading men who get in well over their heads once they try to do a bit of extracurricular detective work and yes indeed, Daly gets put through the wringer but good. This is also another Argento film where a woman saves the lead from certain death, with Nicolodi’s Brezzi making a strong impression as a gal who’s no screaming wallflower at all.

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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: Scalpel

Scalpel BRJohn Grissmer’s 1977 film Scalpel is a pretty neat psychological thriller that also works as an entry level ‘light’ horror flick for those skittish types not quite ready for gore galore, but who won’t mind a tiny bit of depravity in the plot.  Arrow Video has not only put out a stellar restoration, they also got respected cinematographer Edward Lachman to supervise am equally gorgeous second transfer that’s been color corrected back to his original theatrical version.

While there are some flaws in the storytelling, it’s a solid enough film to recommend thanks to the no-nonsense performances and relatively brief 95-minute running time.  Having the choice to see both versions on a single disc along with some very nice bonus features makes this yet another Arrow you’ll want to add to your quiver.

When plastic surgeon Dr. Phillip Reynolds (Richard Lansing) encounters a badly beaten stripper with a completely ruined face, he comes up with a plan to reconstruct her to look exactly like his missing daughter (Judith Chapman) in order to claim the $5,000,000 inheritance denied him, but given to her by her grandfather.  He’s also got more disgusting designs on his mind, but you’ll have to see how that plays out.  After the young woman is out of surgery and healing up, Reynolds takes her out of the hospital and to his home, eventually telling her his plan and offering to split half the money with her.  After some weeks of coaching, the girl is ready for her close up with Reynolds’ extended family.  While their ploy succeeds to some extent, things get a wee bit complicated when Reynolds real daughter (also played by Chapman) shows up shortly thereafter. Oops, and yep, the plot thickens.

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Blu-Ray Review: BASKET CASE

Basket Case_LE_AV119“What’s in the basket? Easter eggs?”

Absolutely, lady, absolutely. Wow. Sometimes you get hit in the head by a fly ball you didn’t see coming and it’s actually a good thing. I didn’t know Frank Henenlotter’s still hilarious and unnerving 1982 feature BASKET CASE had gotten a superb MoMA restoration last year until I overheard two guys talking about it and I just had to walk up and ask if it was true. It indeed was and now thanks to Arrow Video, you can get yourself a copy of this cult horror hit and see what the fuss is all about. Or just see it again as a fully restored masterpiece of low-budget movie making madness.

If memory serves me correctly, I actually saw the film for the first time way back during its initial 1982 run at the Waverly theater, but I think it was the disappointing edited version that came off as a bit crueler and cruder. I say “think” because it was a midnight showing and I recall falling asleep at one point and missed about 10 or so minutes. Oops. A few years later, upon renting the unrated version on VHS (I think it was from one of the legendary Kim’s Video locations in NYC), I was shocked to see footage I hadn’t recalled and the film was actually much funnier than I’d remembered.

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Blu-Ray Review: Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno

Inferno_AA023Sometimes, life can be a mystery… and sometimes, you kind of know what you’re getting into but still step into that trap door straight to hell.

In 1964, stoked after the huge box office success of Dr.Strangelove, Columbia Pictures was poking around the film world looking for something guaranteed to be the next big movie and had the wild idea to extend unlimited funding to a new project directed by the great Henri-Georges Clouzot (The Wages of Fear, Diabolique). Based on some striking test footage, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno was, for all intents and purposes, going to be an innovative and mature film that had the potential to make millions for the company while making an even bigger star out of Sissi trilogy star Romy Schneider. Three weeks into production and 185 cans (about 14 hours) of film later, one of the main cast members quit, three production separate teams of 150 people were out of work, and Clouzot had a heart attack that ended up shutting production down for good.

Those cans of film were sitting somewhere in France for decades thanks to the insurance company that ended up with them, but thanks to the obsessive persistence of Serge Bromberg and a meeting with Clouzot’s second wife in an elevator, we have this somewhat spectacular documentary (co-directed by Ruxandra Medrea) that sheds a bit of light on the destined to fail project. While the documentary is quite amazing, you’re in no way getting anything close to a completed version of Inferno despite all that footage that was shot. Most of it was camera tests of actors, loads of exterior tests, and visual effects shots galore in assorted states of completion. All of it was silent, although parts of a separate soundtrack were found and added into the documentary along with parts of the script read/reenacted by Bérénice Bejo and Jacques Gamblin. That said, there’s a lot to absorb here, but the overall takeaway seems to be “Here’s what happens when you throw money at a problem and it doesn’t solve itself, folks.”

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Blu-Ray Review: The Apartment

The Apartment BRI’d forgotten Billy Wilder’s forever brilliant The Apartment was a perfect seasonal movie for those of us isolated types looking for a lift as well as anyone else who has cold and loathsomely lonely winters. Granted, the first time I saw it (I think I was maybe 10 or 11), I was too young to understand much of what was going on. During these darker days as I age none too gracefully, Jack Lemmon is sort of my spirit animal, so this five Academy Award-winning film has become a personal favorite.

Poor C.C. Baxter (or “Bud” to some) toils away at his data collection job at a huge New York City insurance firm, often keeping late hours with no overtime thanks to his nearby apartment being used as a hot spot for a trio of philandering company executives, Mr. Dobsich (Ray Walston), Mr. Eichelberger (David White), and Mr. Vanderhoff (Willard Waterman). Baxter is hoping to climb the corporate ladder a bit faster by doing this (yes, he even has a calendar to keep track of who gets his place and when). But he’s also so accommodating that he even cleans up afterwards and takes suggestions from his cheating superiors such as restocking his liquor supply and buying cheese crackers without asking for a dime in return. Things get even more complicated after the big boss Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) gets wind of Baxter’s bachelor pad and dangles a big promotion over his head if he can get access to the place for his own affair. Baxter agrees to the trade, but finds out that Sheldrake is romancing Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), the cute elevator girl he’s been chatting up.

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Blu-Ray Review: BAT PUSSY

batpussyBDSo, let’s talk (or at the very least, read) about porn for a hot minute. It exists and has existed for centuries (cue up appropriately humorous yet historically inaccurate clip), so like it or else, you’re bound to stumble across it in some form or another.  Some sort of cosmic and karmic justice was certainly in play after I saw the disappointing Justice League, as when I arrived home there was a copy of BAT PUSSY fresh from AGFA sitting in my mailbox, purring away like a brand new Mother Box. Ping, ping, ping….

There was also a Blu-Ray screener of PULP in that padded cell envelope, but that’s not porn and it’s a more fun to watch film I’ll get to in its own review (it’s another winner from Arrow Video, if you really need to know in advance). As I wasn’t expecting this (I’m on the list to get a few screeners, but didn’t get a press release for this one), I was definitely surprised. That said, I didn’t watch it right away thanks to being mentally worn out from that silly comic book film and its too funky flaws.

Something like a dozen hours later (and way too early in the morning for this sort of thing), I finally sat down to watch it with my thinking cap off and an open mind. Which lead to me ending up wearing a second pair of pants, a tinfoil cap, and needing to pop my eyeballs out with a plastic spoon and soak them in peroxide afterwards. Let’s just say this film won’t excite anyone unless they’re really weird, you won’t go blind from watching this (although you may wish you had) and you’ll probably avoid sex for a few weeks just out of sheer horror from the 55 minutes of this slice of restored to 2K cinematic history. Paradoxically, you’ll somehow very likely fall off something from laughing and cringing simultaneously while calling up a friend or two with a cryptic “Oh, you HAVE to see this!” blurting from your lips. Yes, this film has that kind of effect.

NSFW trailer below the jump (but it’s language, not nudid-ity that’s going to tingle your ears, folks!)

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Liquid Sky: Vinegar Syndrome’s Big Blu Surprise

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Yes (and it’s about time). Throw out those blurry DVD and VHS rips, people. It’s high time for an upgrade after all these years as cult classic Liquid Sky is finally coming to Blu-Ray in remastered form. All you need to know is straight from the press release Vinegar Syndrome sent my way:

The flash preorder is scheduled for THIS THURSDAY September 28th at VinegarSyndrome.com. It will run for 24 hours, starting at 12:00 AM EST ’till 11:59 PM EST. There will be three different purchase options:
• LIQUID SKY
• LIQUID SKY + (2) Secret Black Friday Blu-rays
• Just the (2) Secret Blu-rays

We can’t reveal what the secret Blus are, but we can say that both are highly-requested direct-to-video horror films that were shot and finished on film and have never been available in film sourced editions. One is making its DVD and Blu debut and the other is making its Blu-ray debut, but no past editions of either have been film sourced.

LIQUID SKY comes to Blu-ray in a special limited edition package this Black Friday at VinegarSyndrome.com!

Slava Tsukerman’s new wave, sci-fi masterpiece, LIQUID SKY will be making its worldwide Blu-ray debut during our Black Friday sale (November 24th-27th), EXCLUSIVELY on VinegarSyndrome.com in a special limited edition package!

The release will feature an all new, director and cinematographer approved, 4k restoration from the original camera negative, along side loads of extra features, among them interviews with director Tsukerman, star Anne Carlisle, cinematographer Yuri Neyman, production designer Marina Levikova, among others. Plus never before seen outtakes and production stills, and more!

Womderful. I fully expect this to sell out and fast and I’m betting Vinegar Syndrome does as well. We shall see, of course.

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: The Zodiac Killer

Zodiac Killer BR Ha. Way back in 1970 or so, someone should have told newbie director and pizza shop maven Tom Hanson that the Zodiac Killer has a far better chance to be caught alive during a screening of Dirty Harry than dead asleep at Hanson’s eyeball-rolling (yet pretty potent on occasion) The Zodiac Killer. While the film has some genuinely scary moments in replicating some of the more infamous murders, it’s also loaded with chuckle-worthy performances and a couple of hilarious made-up deaths that might have you choking on your popcorn.

Make no mistake, ladies and gents. This isn’t a “great” film by any means. But thanks to AGFA and Something Weird Video, we have a nice 4K restoration that still retains a certain grainy, grimy charm. Well, about as “charming” as you can get in a film explicitly meant to taunt and catch a notorious serial killer.

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Blu-Ray Reviews: A Handful of Arrows for the Holidays

Ho, and Ho-Ho. It’s been quite a year here, but that’s not why I’m here babbling on my keyboard. You need some more movies to watch, I’m sitting on a stack of them that needed to get written up and this post is my way of attempting to get you to spend some of that disposable income you’re trying to hoard in that mattress. Anyway, I see your quiver is half empty there, Robin Hood. Here are six Arrow Video Blu-Rays of note to nab either direct from MVD Entertainment or your favorite video selling emporium. Lock up the kids for most of these because it’s the birds and the bees plus some bloody good and badness going on below.

Requiescant_AV022Requiescant (MSRP: $39.95): Carlo Lizzani’s 1967 spaghetti western (also known as Kill & Pray) gets a ton of mileage from its religiously-raised orphan turned dead-shot gunfighter (Lou Castel), but it’s also working a political agenda that’s somewhat fitting in this current climate of careless Trumpeting. Kicking off with a massacre of border-bound Mexicans (one of whom survives to become Castel’s priest/gunman), the movie switches gears to a rescue mission that doesn’t go exactly as planned before it drops back into weightier territory.

While mostly bloodless and only slightly comical, the film lets Castel carry the picture despite the presence of director Pier Paolo Pasolini in what’s an extended cameo as a revolutionary leader of sorts. He’s got a memorably manly visage, but Castel’s more innocent good looks and his ways with a firearm are going to keep your eyes on him throughout the film. You can choose from Italian or English versions of the film (both impeccable 2K restorations) with two interviews and a trailer rounding out the special features. Like Arrows other westerns released in the US in the past, this one’s a cult classic that comes highly recommended. Continue reading