Blu-Ray Review: Blood Feast/Scum of the Earth

Blood Feast_AV107So, officially (to me, at least) Blood Feast isn’t a “Halloween” movie at all – it’s more of a big, plump Thanksgiving Day turkey surprise. Under-cooked enough to give you a terrible gut-ache, but stuffed with tasty treats for those willing to push on and make it to that pumpkin pie and ice scream. And yeah, you’ll scream maybe a few times too many if the late H.G. Lewis’ classic 1963 gore-fest isn’t up your alley, but it’s the film’s campy pull wrapped in that grue brew that makes this one entertaining.

Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) just so happens to be the caterer chosen by wealthy suburban mom Dorothy Fremont (Lyn Bolton) to cater a party for her pretty young daughter, Suzette (Connie Mason). Little does Mrs. Fremont know she’s hired a somewhat criminally insane man with a bit of a strong desire to chop up a bunch of nubile young ladies and use their body parts as sacrifices in order to resurrect the Egyptian goddess, Ishtar. Mua-ha-ha-haaa! I’m telling you, though – those damned eyebrows Ranses has would make me NOT want to hire him because they look like chalk-outlined squished caterpillars on his face. Now, go drink some recently cooled molten iron to coat your stomach while I spill out some more gory details on this gem.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Random Film of the Week: Topkapi

Topkapi_DVDHaving had items stolen from me in the past, I’m not at all a fan of thievery as a *proper* lifestyle choice (grrr!). That said, it’s hard to pass up a good (fake) crime caper and Jules Dassin’s  wonderful, amusing 1964 film Topkapi has been a favorite of mine for decades ever since I saw it as a kid. There’s just something magical about Dassin’s work here. It was his first color film and boy, does he blow the doors out right from the near seizure-inducing start (you’ll probably wince/squint a few times with all those color filters and such coming at you full tilt), and it’s also a film that gets you grinning from start to finish.

It’s more or less the flip the switch to comic tone version of Dassin’s bleak but brilliant 1955 film Rififi with a more varied cast and an even better lengthy heist scene. It’s also a film that’s since inspired a few directors to steal liberally from it (to varied effects), but that’s another discussion for another day. Here, you get Melina Mercouri, smoky voice and all as the lovely Elizabeth Lipp, who has the grand idea to steal a jeweled dagger from Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. She seeks out an ex-lover (Maximilian Schell) who just so happens to be a thief of some renown and the pair plan out their caper with the intent to use nothing but amateurs unknown to any authorities who come sniffing around after the crime has been committed.

Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: George A. Romero: Between Night And Dawn

GARBNADWhat do you do after making one of the most influential horror films ever? Given that George Romero really didn’t have much of a clue that his first film, Night of the Living Dead would become such an essential genre masterpiece, the director went on to make a few different films between 1971 and 1975 that were either interesting failed experiments or more polished but flawed films all worth a look. Arrow Video has restored and collected three of Romero’s post-NOTLD works in George A. Romero: Between Night And Dawn and yes, it’s a set worth adding to your library.

The three films include the somewhat disappointing romantic comedy There’s Always Vanilla, the surprising, mature drama Season of the Witch and a return to horror of a different yet similar kind in The Crazies. While the grim, brilliantly disturbing horror flick Martin is missing in action here (the set’s sole flaw), with these three films you can see a director learning and growing into an even more confident artist. Interestingly enough, in interviews included on the special features, Romero states his total dislike for There’s Always Vanilla on a few fronts and yes indeed, the film is his weakest effort.

Continue reading

The New Mutants Trailer: Freaks & Geeks, The Remix

As I’m ancient enough have been around during the Chris Claremont/Bill Sienkiewicz run on The New Mutants (issues 18-31, 35-38), the upcoming film having a horror vibe (well, as seen in this trailer and you know how trailers are [if you know what’s good for you]) doesn’t surprise me at all. Bill’s groundbreaking artwork was at its best when things got seriously twisty and psychological and I do recall there was a definite like/hate thing going on among some comics fans of the period who wanted a more traditional art style. Me, I was all in from the first collaboration and stayed until a few issues after he left just to wrap up a few story points.

As usual, no big fat over-speculation here about the trailer other than to say (despite the rubbery membrane wall effect) it’s eye-catching (ow!) and has me intrigued enough to run it and yes, the casting looks quite like the characters I recall from way back when. Also as usual, the wait begins to see if the actual film is actually decent enough to drop ticket money on when it’s finally released or snapping up the inevitable Blu-Ray when that drops a few months later. We shall see, but signs are somewhat hopeful I’d say.

-GW

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Trailer – Rey of Hope? Maybe Nope?

SW_TLJ_MP

Yep, as Yoda would say, pretty good, it looks… but I won’t do any big speculation at all on this nifty trailer because it’s useless (at least as far as I see it). Trailers are made to missile guide viewers into overthinking stuff and too many fall into that trap and end up theorizing themselves into corners up until a movie lands in theaters. PROTIP: for a big, honkin’ tent pole film such as this, the less you flop around on the floor like Shemp about stuff you see (that very likely won’t be in the same order in the final cut or hell, not in the film at all) the more you’ll actually enjoy it.

Well, that’s MY personal train of thought about these trailers and it’s yet to fail me.

I guess I’ll confess (once again) that I’m not a “superfan” to the point that I’ll gargle out copious pages of notes based upon watching every second of a trailer every day for a week and end up being disappointed that my 1600 theories have all been proven wrong. On the other hand, I’m a “superfan” who wants to go in totally cold and get my fill based on NOT knowing or wanting to know any more than what I was teased with in that possibly not quite all true trailer. That poster is nice as well, but it’s kind of hard to mess up a Star Wars poster (much).

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: Don’t Torture A Duckling

DTAD_AV099Toss the name Lucio Fulci into a decent horror film conversation and it’s quite possible it may turn into some sort of cranky debate about a few of his more outrageous films that feature copious amounts of gore and violence (often against female characters). There’s an excellent video essay by Kat Ellinger called Hell Is Already In Us included on the fantastic Arrow Video restoration of Fulci’s Don’t Torture A Duckling that drives home the point that the director was merely holding up a mirror to some of society’s madness and letting his camera do the dirty work. While not as relentless as his later work, what’s here is a pretty effective blend of thriller and pointed social commentary that’s still got a mean bite all these years later.

Considered by the director to be one of his personal favorites, Duckling’s blend of Italian countryside setting, shocking (off-screen) child murders and handful of suspects where everyone has either a direct motive or abnormal/amoral proclivities that can be seen as motives makes for a pretty unsettling experience. Adding to the film’s grim tone, Fulci also skewers his faith but good here with some knife-twisting fierceness and a killer finale that’s either going to make you cringe or crack up laughing (or preferably, both). This is a film that’s tough to watch, but extremely well made and even thought provoking in its own manner.

Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: Erik The Conqueror

Erik_AV102Mario Bava, again. Watching his films or more precisely, rediscovering them after a few decades is turning into a revelation on how insanely creative he was as an all-round filmmaker. Writing/co-writing, directing, designing and a special effects whiz working on limited funds and more. While not all of his work is great, there’s a lot of greatness to see in how well a lot of it came together.

1961’s Erik The Conqueror might in spots be a too-close for its own good reworking of Richard Fleischer’s 1958 hit The Vikings. But Bava makes it well worth watching thanks to great use of color, a more fantastical tone and yep, that Bava touch that gets one smiling because the illusions created onscreen do a fantastic job in transporting one into the past (albeit a past that never took place as shown here). Arrow Video’s recently released 2K remastered Blu-Ray/DVD combo is a great way to check out this colorful near-epic, although it’s light on special features.

Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: Django Prepare A Coffin

DPAC_AV085Some years ago I made the big mistake once of looking up how many Django films were made after Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 original and I think I had a headache for the better part of half a week from sifting through all those titles and trying to figure out if there was an actual sequel made or if any were worth tracking down for the bucket list. Eh, I survived that project by tapping out and concentrating on stuff that was less mentally taxing.

The same can’t be said for most of the folks who violently buy the farm in Ferdinando Baldi’s 1968 film, Django Prepare A Coffin (aka Preparati la bara!), a pretty good kinda-sorta sequel/prequel that’s nowhere as brutal or unsettling as the first film, but certainly has its interesting and amusing moments. Arrow Video has a fine and dandy restored version that’s been out for a bit, but I’m finally getting to some of the deep backlog stuff in my library, so here you go.

Filling in for Franco Nero is the great Terence Hill (aka Mario Girotti) and he does a pretty darn good job playing Franco Nero being Django. The script he’s saddled with (pun intended) is a bit of a mess, though. Then again, you’re very likely not watching this for the importance of the script, right? Right. That out of the way, the film still works well as a good way to kill 92 minutes and leave you with what should resemble a wry grin or its equivalent.

Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: The Climber

The Climber_AV089Don’t feel a bit sorry for poor Aldo (Joe Dallesandro) in The Climber (L’ambizioso), writer/director Pasquale Squitieri’s slick, sleazy 1975 crime action flick. The guy is so damn stubborn right from the get-go that all his big plans keep exploding in his handsome face thanks to his bull-headed determination to out gangster all the Italian gangsters who’ve ever gangstered. He scores some hefty wins in the material world, but it’s all a façade as the clock is ticking down on him as the bodies pile up.

It’s a great role for Dallesandro although he’s saddled with a derivative script that has him be a complete block-headed goon and most of his opposition be just as dumb or dumber. That said, if you love violent crime dramas with great soul-jazz-rock soundtracks and can flick off your story-starved brain for a spell of mindless violence, this is a pretty solid little movie when all is said and done.

After skimming profits from a Don Enrico’s (Raymond Pellegrin) illegal cigarette take, New York-transplanted Aldo is badly beaten and tossed onto a roadside (ouch). He gets lucky after he’s picked up by a gorgeous redhead named Luciana (Stefania Casini) who takes him to her apartment where he gets lucky a second time when she decides to sleep with him. The next day, he’s off to get revenge against the Don by looking up a guy he used to be partners in crime with in order to plan a heist (that goes wrong, of course). Our non-hero gets away with his ill-gotten gains, but he’s swiped off the street not long afterward and taken to the Don for punishment. “Is this the end of Rico Aldo?”

Well, not quite.

Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: The Ghoul

The Ghoul_AV103Psychological thrillers can sometimes be an unintentional mixed bag, (no) thanks in part to a certain segment of the moviegoer audience who want everything explained to them in easy to digest (and too easy to debate after the fact) format. If this core doesn’t “get” a film’s intentions, they’ll pounce and trounce it online despite some fine efforts by the filmmakers and solid work by its cast.

On the other hand, those who love these “pay attention” films will very likely have a grand time with Gareth Tunley’s The Ghoul and its troubled lead excellently played by Tom Meeten (Sightseers). For a super-low budget film, there’s a lot of impact in the visuals as well as a compelling power to the plot and acting that add that extra kick to things. It’s also a film where you’ll find a few similarities to other memorable psychological thrillers from the past while appreciating the twists and turns Tunley and company bring to the table in the present. It’s also one of those films where telling too much of the plot kind of ruins the experience, so a bit of vagueness is in order here.

Continue reading