On Der Backlog: More Movies Than You Can Stick A Shake At

mo_movies_mo_reviewsGah. More stuff to review, but not review in a few cases where that homework was already done. I did a few of these already based off of TCM showing them during the wee hours, so I’ll only need to do five of eight. Five of these are from Severin Films’ big sale last month after their publishing rights expired for Horror Express, The Baby, Bloody Birthday, The House of Seven Corpses, and Psychomania. I actually thought I’d reviewed HotSC already, but can’t locate the review, so I guess it’s one I dreamed I wrote or something. No big deal, as I’ve seen this enough to tap out impressions in my sleep.

Vamp is yet another Arrow Video screener I need to get to, Just Desserts I’ve seen already and need to write up (it’s brilliant), and MVD Visual sent over this lovely Unearthed Francesca set that includes a Blu-Ray/DVD and soundtrack from this recent retro giallo that, based on the trailer I just watched, REALLY looks as it was made in the 70’s.  Anyway back in a bit with a review of something NOT here I think you’ll like.

-GW

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October’s Arrows Draw PLENTY of Blood

Only three releases next month, but one is a SUPER biggie. That said, getting that that particular Arrow Video October release will be tough as hell for some budget-minded collectors unless they score a great online deal. Anyway, here’s what’s coming up soon:

vamp_av067Vamp [Blu-ray] (October 4th, $29.95 MSRP)

THE FIRST KISS COULD BE YOUR LAST!

Two fraternity pledges head to a seedy part of town to find some entertainment for their college friends but are faced with bloodthirsty vampires! Keith (Chris Makepeace, Meatballs) and AJ (Robert Rusler, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge) want to make the right impression at college and so they devise a plan to get them into the best frathouse on campus. They head to the After Dark Club where they want to find a stripper for a party their friends won’t forget, instead they find themselves among vampires led by Kinky Katrina (Grace Jones, A View to a Kill)!

Almost certainly an influence on From Dusk til Dawn, Vamp is superbly designed by many of Grace Jones’ own award-winning collaborators and features stunning effects by four-time Oscar winner Greg Cannom (The Lost Boys, Bram Stoker’s Dracula). Delivering laughs and scares in equal measure, with the added bonus of vampy sex appeal, Vamp is a comedy horror romp with real bite!

Bonus Materials
– High Definition digital transfer
– Original mono audio
– Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
– One of those Nights: The Making of Vamp – a brand new documentary featuring interviews with director Richard Wenk, stars Robert Rusler, Dedee Pfeiffer, Gedde Watanabe
– Behind-the-scenes rehearsals
– Blooper Reel
– Image gallery
– Dracula Bites the Big Apple (1979) – Richard Wenk’s celebrated short film
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
– First pressing only: Booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Cullen Gallagher

More below the jump (MUCH more!)… Continue reading

George Crumb: Voice of the Whale – Soul Music of A Different Sort

And now, ladies and germs… it’s time for a little dose of culture for today:

MVD7499D crumb 

“I feel intuitively that music must have been the first cell from which language, science, and religion originated.” – George Crumb

George Crumb: Voice Of The Whale
coming to DVD on June 24th (MSRP: $19.99)

 

Robert Mugge’s 1976 portrait of renowned composer George Crumb featuring a performance of his composition “Vox Balaenae”

In 1976, “music filmmaker” Robert Mugge created his first music-related film. Titled GEORGE CRUMB: VOICE OF THE WHALE, it was a strikingly original, 54-minute portrait of Pulitzer Prize-winning and Grammy-winning composer George Crumb.

To celebrate the film’s 40th anniversary (it was first broadcast over PBS on June 6, 1978), MVD Visual is making available a newly remastered version on DVD, transferred to HD from the original 16mm film and lovingly restored. Now that you’re curious, go click this link to see a tiny bit of the film and if you like what you see, go order away at your leisure. Or faster than that if you prefer.

Blu-Ray Review: Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood


AmericanHP_AV043Having seen my share of horror oddities on TV, in theaters an via assorted video formats since the 1970’s (okay, late 60’s if you count those Chiller Theater and Creature Feature reruns), I have to say Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood is way up there as one of the more bizarrely unfocused storytelling-wise but visually striking genre films I can recall. Thanks to Arrow Video, the film has been lovingly restored and presented as one of the three films in its must-own American Horror Project Volume 1.

Director Christoper Speeth‘s unusual flick is a loosely (VERY loosely) plotted tale of a family who’s invested in a run-down carnival that has some pretty grim secrets underneath its dilapidated thrill rides. Some viewers may note slight similarities to Carnival of Souls, Night of the Living Dead and certain silent films the movie itself spotlights at certain moments. While the film does suffer from a number of continuity issues no editor could fix thanks to many shots being done in a single take, the production design and overall tone here makes this one well worth watching. Trust me, if the bizarre found object set design doesn’t hook you in, it’ll be the general weirdness and downbeat tone you can feel from the outset that work their magic on your eyes and brain. Did I mention you also get to see singing ghouls and cannibalism by said ghouls here? Nope? Well, yes indeed you do.
Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: The Premonition (1976)


 

AmericanHP_AV043As with The Witch Who Came From the Sea, the second film in Arrow Video’s mostly great American Horror Project Volume 1 collection isn’t really a traditional genre flick at all. Robert Allen Schnitzer‘s 1976 film, The Premonition is more of a visually intense psychological thriller with a supernatural theme running through it.

Don’t go into this one expecting gallons of blood and guts all over the walls and floors, folks. The film is a more deliberately paced thriller with a somewhat complex “child in danger” plot that seems to have been rewritten over another idea for a competent family drama of the week TV movie. Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: The Witch Who Came from the Sea

AmericanHP_AV043Arrow Video and MVD Visual are giving horror genre fans a true trio of rarely seen treat with its new American Horror Project series. Volume 1 (limited to only 3000 copies) contains three films from the 1970’s restored as best as possible and packed with loads of must-see bonuses that make this collection well worth the cost. Each of the films here is such a revelation of both great, bizarre and bad elements that I’ll be covering them in separate reviews starting with (in my opinion) is the best of the trio.

Matt Cimber‘s 1976 film The Witch Who Came From the Sea is both amazing and disturbing on a few levels. A startling performance by Millie Perkins (best known to classic film fans for The Diary of Anne Frank) and lovely cinematography by Dean Cundey make this one of those films that creeps up under your skin and stays there for a while. Molly (Perkins) watches her young nephews during the day, filling their heads with tales of their seaman grandfather’s heroic deeds and pumping them up with admiration for sports stars they see on TV. At night she works as a barmaid in a dockside dive, sometimes sleeping with her boisterous boss, Long John (Lonny Chapman). That’s not her biggest secret, however. She was a severely abused child who descended into a quiet madness during her years of torture who’s now a serial killer with specific men as her targets. Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: Blood Rage

Blood Rage AV018Just in thyme for your Thanksgiving film feast, Arrow Video via MVD Visual strikes again with the perfectly themed (and definitely NOT for the whole family!) horror flick, 1983’s Blood Rage. If you’re a horror film fan who’s scratching your head raw and thinking out loud “Hey, I never heard of this one before!”, well… you’re not incorrect there, pal. Actually, director John Grissmer’s film wasn’t released in that year or even with that particular title. It came in on the tail end of the slasher flick craze and seemed to be deemed too violent for a genre that had gotten “tamer” over the course of the early 80’s.

The film finally hit theaters in 1987 as a heavily edited but still “R” rated version with the more generic title NIGHTMARE AT SHADOW WOODS, which is thankfully included in this special edition package along with a third cut of the film that combines footage from both versions into a big, bloody meal. And if it’s special features you want, Arrow’s got you well covered with a slew of features including interviews with cast members (Louise Lasser, Mark Soper), visual effects artist Ed French, and producer/actress Marianne Kanter on how this one came together and how she ended up in the film as a victim of one of the more outrageously icky cinematic murders of that era. A high body count, an overall offbeat tone, plenty of cheesy synth tunes tickling your eardrums and some solid and yucky gore effects from Ed French make this one a real treat.
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Blu-Ray Review: Stray Cat Rock: The Collection

Stray Cat Rock_AV008As a slice of Japanese cinema of the early 1970’s, the five films that make up Arrow Video’s Stray Cat Rock Collection make for quite a quintuplet of quickly made flicks influenced by American biker films of the previous decade. Directed by Yasuharu Hasebe and Toshiya Fujita, the films feature the same cast members but are actually mostly unrelated other than in their thematic elements.

“Youth gone wild!” and “Crime Doesn’t Pay!” seem to be the orders of the day here as the series was created by Nikkatsu to compete with rival Toei’s popular Delinquent Boss films. So there’s male and female gangs, exploitative violence, not as much sex or nudity as you’d think (but it’s certainly there), a bit of slapstick, a random concert and more. While there’s plenty of seedy and salacious content, some of the trailers included advertise the films partially as comedies, which is amusing in and of itself. In other words, some viewers will need to approach this set with a wide open mind because what constitutes “comedy” here might seem a bit humorless or just plain strange outside of its home country. This is a good thing at the end of the day as expanding one’s cinematic horizons is a core reason to watch films you’ve never seen previously.

The overall tone of the films will probably seem scattershot to some viewers used to movies that stick to a certain predictable style from start to finish. For all the raging delinquency, drug use, wild dancing, sex and violence on display there’s also a lot of karmic retribution and negative actions leading to more and worse reactions for some characters. This makes the collection a really intriguing set of films that, warts and all make for some pretty cool “B” movie bliss. As usual, some excellent transfers and nice bonus material round out this Arrow Video release and make it a must for collectors. Continue reading

Blu-Ray/DVD Review: Contamination

Contamination MVD7368BRUp until a few years back, I’d never considered Luigi Cozzi’s sci-fi and fantasy films anything more than hilariously terrible pastiches of far better films. But getting older and mellower has made me take a fresh look and appreciate them a lot more, warts and all. I’m finding that while somewhat hampered by budgetary constraints and packed with some truly laugh-worthy visual effects, there’s an earnestness and respectable amount of passion in them that makes up for most of the inadequacies.

Yes, Star Crash still makes me cringe and the two Hercules films are more overly colorful comic book reworkings gone haywire of classic mythology. But you can clearly feel the director’s intent on making movies from the heart even as they bust your gut from unintentional and intentional laughter.

Contamination, Cozzi’s 1980 gorier “homage” to Ridley Scott’s classic Alien has gotten an excellent Blu-Ray restoration thanks to Arrow Video. Not only do you get a lovely AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer in 1.85.1 widescreen, there’s a great set of old and new interviews with the director and Maurizio Guarini of Goblin (who did the film’s score) as well as a fun look at other Italian genre flicks that swiped ideas from blockbusters. As for the film itself, as I hadn’t seen it for over 30 years, it was certainly a fun and bloody trip down memory lane as well as something of a love letter to New York City where some of the establishing shots were films.
Continue reading

Some More Arrows To Make Me Quiver

New Arrows 002 (Custom) 

Well, now. Here’s how to make an icky Monday a far better one without doing much at all. My mailbox was stuffed with some nice upcoming release screeners from Arrow Video and MVD so I’ll be socked away checking out some stuff I’ve not seen before as well as revisiting some old friends. Spider Baby actually came earlier than the others, but it’s here just to even out the photo. Anyway, back to the screening room for me. So much for being anything resembling “productive” today.