Friday, July 31

Embodiment of Evil (2008)

A.K.A. Encarnação do Demônio
Directed by José Mojica Marins
93 Minutes / Anchor Bay Blu-ray (United Kingdom) / 1080p 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Josefel Zanatas (Coffin Joe) is released after forty years of imprisonment from the events in 1967's This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse to once again try to continue his eternal bloodline through the birth of a son. Though Zé do Caixão must contend with corrupt authorities, blind mystics, a young monk vowing vengeance, and his own haunting visions of past victims to reach his life's goal.

Honestly, this is one of the most impressive third features in a horror trilogy I've ever seen, especially with a four decade separation from the first two. Marins' triumphant return never once feels like a cash-in to capitalize on the creeping international discovery of his signature character. Marins simply is Zé do Caixão and offers a realization of his Brazilian icon that's just as assured as his debut in At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul. Even if one doesn't care for the film, it's simply wrong to condemn the commitment Marins doles out with every frame. As Coffin Joe says at one point while looking into a mirror, "true men never give up.", whilst casting off those who believed he'd never return.

That said, this isn't my mind trying to compensate for disappointment after all the hype, Embodiment of Evil fucking delivers and not just for Joe of the Coffin fans. A newcomer need not see the first two as any mysterious characters, like the past victims cast in scratchy black and white, are explained with flashbacks from Midnight and This Night. Special note goes to Raymond Castile for a great splitting image and performance as a young Coffin Joe during the newly shot (and seamlessly integrated) connective footage between This Night and this film. Of course, watching or at least being familiar with his two '60s classics helps. One character in particular, Joe's facially deformed hunchback sidekick Bruno from This Night, is the first to greet his master at the prison gate despite now being an old man himself. It's small details like this that really bring out a cool sense of series continuity. Marins directs the project with such fresh style I had to check to make sure he was at the helm.

Coffin Joe never really left; as Marins has kept the character alive in other films, television, comics, and public appearances all these years. Joe's confrontational existential diatribes are in-toe and kick off immediately as a gaggle of antsy guards prepare to release him from his cell. The feeling of the character being an uneasy patriarch of the community is there just like in the other two films. Joe saves a child from back alley execution and somberly attends a funeral...before shouting at the mourners minutes later for "negotiating with their God" and commanding everyone to leave at once.

There's also a wild experimental piece where Joe winds up in the "center of everything" and is guided to a barren land where men are cannibalistic savages and women eat the genitalia off their screaming male victims. On top of all this, the film manages to pack in interesting fleeting "moments" like Joe shaking his head in sorrow as he passes by two young boys huffing out of plastic bags on a city street at night. This coming from a man who killed thirty men in prison!

The violence, general weirdness, and full-figured woman nudity is amped up from Embodiment's predecessors. Gore isn't too abundant; but knivings, eating of flesh chunks, cockroach terror, and S&M performance artists doubling as the innocent in agony abound. You also get naked chicks held prisoner, threatened by vicious dogs, branded by hot pokers, drenched in blood, receiving rat vagina munching, and screaming like banshees at fiery witchcraft rituals.

In short, Zé do Caixão's grand conclusion is fucking awesome and any naysayers be damned. See and own all three in this spectacular trilogy.

Anchor Bay U.K.'s region-free Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic. The 1080p 1.78:1 MPEG-4 AVC transfer doesn't appear to be digitally filtered and features an appropriately rich texture. The two lossless audio tracks, PCM stereo and TrueHD 5.1, are crystal clear. It's a shame there couldn't be more supplemental material, but the short making-of featurette is well worth a look. Despite all the problems with the studio's Coffin Joe DVDs, this high def presentation is a must own.

BD Picture: 9/10
BD Sound: 8.5/10

Thursday, July 30

Anchor Bay UK Disappoints Zé do Caixão

BoGD follower and Film Talk friend KFelon e-mailed me with some distressing firsthand forum observations concerning Anchor Bay UK's fresh Coffin Joe Collection. Unfortunately, it appears the studio (that's not affiliated with Starz/Anchor Bay) fumbled this giant-sized opportunity.

Also the 3 Fantoma discs are definitely more shaper/clearer than their AB counterparts. Watched Strange World of Coffin Joe and the End of Man last night. Both displayed the motion blur (a couple of times a minute, on an average) for the entirety of the films (upon closer inspection, when paused on an instance of this it resembles a double image in a 3-D comic book viewed without the glasses {not colored-wise, just image-wise}, if that makes sense). I never thought I'd say this, but I had a Coffin Joe Marathon last night and it sucked. "Finis what?" Finis ABUK's credibility.”

Essentially, the set presents all nine films in full frame with burnt-in (argh!) English subtitles. No supplements to speak of, but the general rarity of the majority of the films included softens that strike. The most distressing aspect is the motion blur being reported by multiple owners. This DVD review of Embodiment indicates the studio might have even fucked Marin's latest on the standard def format.

This blur is probably from improper NTSC-to-PAL conversion. The source Anchor Bay UK got from the license holder was in the NTSC video standard and instead of taking the effort to do it right; the studio accomplished the conversion to the European video format in quick n' dirty fashion. Taking the burned subs into account, the studio should have refused to take them in the first place, as Synapse Films have done on occasion when given screwed up elements when better exist. Of course, ABUK only compounded the problems with the most troubling aspect being unless the studio goes back and fixes it, there's no way for the end consumer to get around this problem. No DVD player in the world can erase the flickering
apparently seen on all nine (ten?) films. Ridiculous, but this isn't the first time this particular studio has screwed up standards conversions on their releases.

Thankfully, the
Embodiment Blu-ray shouldn't exhibit this cockup as the format avoids this NTSC/PAL crap for the most part. The unspoken worldwide BD standard is 1080p/24 for film content which is compatible with every BD player globally so long as the format's stupid regioning scheme doesn't interfere with playback. has shipped my copy, so I'll definitely be watching for such issues and will report here good-or-bad. A damn shame all this, but the big question is who will step to the plate in America for the next round and hopefully straighten out this shit as Fantoma's discs have been out-of-print for awhile?

Wednesday, July 29

Some quick thoughts on Intruder (1989)

There's something quite zen about this low-budget, late era slasher from many of those responsible for The Evil Dead. Maybe it's the night shoot or the quiet grocery store locale. Whatever it is, even as the killings begin, the proceedings have a pleasant calming effect. It's like hack n' slash yogurt; sweet, to the point, and easily digestible for even the most ardent of non-slasher fans.

Longtime Raimi compañero Scott Spiegel apes (or pays tribute?) his friend's directional style with a heavy-hand. The film is brimming with "impossible" shots like the camera in a trash pail, at the bottom of a shopping cart, or resting under the dial of a rotary phone while looking up at the caller. This put me off a bit upon my first viewing, though I assume this got Raimi's blessing and it acts like the slasher he never directed.

The cast, including Sam and Ted Raimi, are all great, but the standouts are Elizabeth Cox and Danny Hicks. Cox brings a strong final girl presence and she falls into that odd group of actors that went on to do essentially nothing despite their impressive turns. Hicks is fantastic, nailing the portrayal of a rolled up sleeved, workaday everyman we've all known at one time or another during our working lives. This makes the character's psycho snap come with even more impact.

The then newly-formed K.N.B. Effects deliver the gory goods with bloody slashings, meathook hangings, and a bevy of extreme cranial violence. Every effects piece is impressive and gives a grisly look at might be with all those '80s slashers still suffering with cuts. Wizard/Full Moon presents the film in it's full 88 minute uncut version. Paramount's original VHS is heavily cut, sometimes to the point of the feature's editing breaking down into nonsense. Wizard's DVD isn't that great otherwise, but the print quality is 100% consistent, bright, and free of heavy damage. This one certainly deserves to sit next to your multiple copies of Evil Dead and Army of Darkness. And no, Bruce Campbell is barely in this, so it's not worth mentioning.

Tuesday, July 28

Gordon Ramsay, Randy Savage, Francis Bacon, and Sadako in Clive Barker's Apartment


I actually had a quasi-nightmare last night. Usually I dream of the dumbest shit imaginable, like being at work doing what I normally do and will do in a few hours. So having something approaching a nightmare is quite a feat. I can't remember too much, but it was so vivid I thought I'd relay the weirdness.

It began like a television show. I was on a sous chef on The F Word and Gordon Ramsay was just finishing instructing me on how to take boiling chicken out of a large pot. After taking a few out, I noticed the last two seemed very much alive and trying to swim out of their oily inferno despite being crispy fried. I yelled for Ramsay to come back as the picture faded to black for a commercial.

The commercial was for Mentos and it started like every one of their eternally happy, all-white people mid-'90s ads. As their usual theme played, we see a beautiful '80s blond inline rollerblading on a twilight boardwalk and just before the theme ends; she brakes, smiles, and holds up a roll of the mints. Suddenly Randy Savage in prime Macho Man regalia cracks the girl in the face with a devastating left slightly off frame. The angle changes and we see Savage picking up the Mentos next to the girl's quivering torso. He then proceeds to hold up the mints for the camera and scream "MENTOS...canyadigit? OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO YEEEAAAA!!!" while doing that weird twinkly motion he does with his free hand. Then the picture freezes and the trademark Mentos guy voice says "Mentos. The Freshmaker!"

The next thing I remember was pouring water on the moving fried chickens. Only this time, they're in a dirty kitchen sink/tub and barely shaking. I realize I'm in Clive Barker's apartment, I have no idea how, but for some reason I'm scared shitless. I seem to know he's left for the morning. I walk by a square inset in a grayish wall featuring an old '50s-style suitcase sitting atop frozen waves of black tar. I'm mortified to even get near it. I then unlock a door and enter a nearly jet black room, can sense the space between the walls, and only hear crickets. There's two skylights, but the light doesn't cast on the floor. The feeling of Francis Bacon's ghost (the painter) floating towards the door frightens me so much I get out of the room and lock the door.

I'm then walking out of the front door, but something grips my pant leg. It's Sadako from the Ringu series writhing at the bottom of the door's threshold, but not crossing over. As her she moves her face blurs in-and-out of focus and she says "Are you sleeping tonight?"

I then kinda wake up and roll over.

Night of the Creeps to Thrill Blu-ray!


Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the horror film Night of the Creeps to Blu-ray on October 20th, day-and-date with the DVD release and just in time for Halloween. Video will be presented in 1080p AVC accompanied by a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack.
  • Audio Commentary with Members of the Cast
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Fred Dekker
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Ending – Theatrical Version
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Trivia Track
  • 6 Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes:
    • Birth of the Creeps - Writer/Director Fred Dekker discusses his influences and early filmmaking experiences and how NIGHT OF THE CREEPS evolved into his debut feature film.
    • Cast of the Creeps - Actors Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall, and Actress Jill Whitlow talk about their experiences on the film, and how they have dealt with the film's enduring cult success over the past 25 years.
    • Creating the Creeps - Make-Up FX Creators David B. Miller, Robert Kurtzman and others discuss the extensive make-up creations in the film, and how they brought the slithering sluglike "creeps" to life.
    • Escape of the Creeps - A detailed look into the film's post-production and why the film was barely released to theatres with Writer/Director Fred Dekker, Composer Barry DeVorzon, and Producer Charles Gordon.
    • Legend of the Creeps - Final words from the cast & crew on the film's enduring cult popularity plus interviews with the film's biggest fans.
    • Tom Atkins: Man of Action – A detailed look at the career of Tom Atkins with testimonials from filmmakers he's worked with over the past thirty years.
  • Footage from the June 2009 cast reunion screening at The Original Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
  • BD-Live Access Exclusive content and downloads!

Monday, July 27

Coffin Joe setting a scourge upon Union Jack

Anchor Bay will be (finally) debuting the Embodiment of Evil on DVD and Blu-ray and the Coffin Joe Collection on DVD in the United Kingdom today!

The five-disc collection includes At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1963), This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse (1966), The Strange World of Coffin Joe (1968), Awakening of the Beast (1970), The End of Man (1971), Strange Hostel of Naked Pleasures (1976), Hellish Flesh (1977), Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind (1978), and the recent 2001 documentary The Strange World of José Mojica Marins. All nine features were passed uncut from the BBFC. I'm assuming all these will be presented in widescreen and Portuguese, but these details have been notoriously sketchy even now.

Embodiment of Evil has also passed uncut and is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen with Portuguese Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 tracks. Supplements include a subtitled half hour making-of and trailer. The Blu-ray mirrors the DVD release, but features a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer with Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and PCM 2.0 lossless tracks. According to this DVD Times review, the Blu-ray appears to also be region free, so it should play in U.S. BD players with no problem.

These have been a long time coming. I've already placed an order with for the Embodiment Blu-ray, but I'm holding off on confirmation on the box set's specs before I inevitably grab it as well. Also to get all techie, U.S. Blu-rayers who use their Playstation 3 as a player should take note. Firmware version 2.76 (and on) seems to fail to detect the 50hz start-up screens on certain European BDs resulting in a complete failure to play. I'm unsure if this particular Blu-ray has this problem, but if you're on the newest PS3 FW keep this in mind. I'm personally on 2.70, so I should be fine. Watch this space for a review in the coming weeks!

Sunday, July 26

Swap Meet Finds: King of Sexual Awareness Week

More this weekend! Picked up another copy of The Tomb, Driller Killer, and Raw Force. Les Aventuriers de Bali is a French tape from the "Avant-Premiere Video" label of La vergine di Bali (1972). Knee Dancing seemed so odd I grabbed it just because of that title. My Pleasure is My Business is another Electric Video Inc. release to add to my EVI collection. Nekromantik is a bootleg that someone went overboard and recorded on a super high grade S-VHS blank. The tape next to it is William Fruet's Blue Monkey. Rebel is Stallone's first film (well, after Kitty and Studs) also called No Place to Hide. The first tape in the third pic is Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula and the coverless tape beside it is Scream Bloody Murder. I grabbed Meatballs merely because it's a childhood favorite.

Goo Gone is the VHS Collector's Friend

Often times I'm baffled at tapeheads not cleaning their cassettes of dirt, muck, stickers, and tape residue. Even some scans of tapes in the newest issue of Lunchmeat exhibited these scars of their rental years. It also goes with eBay listings when I see sellers trying to pass off tapes that look dragged through the mud for bloated asking prices. Of course, some tapes are either too damaged or the given flick just sucks too much to care about cleaning, but I would think collectors would wish to restore their cooler finds.

The key to using Goo Gone is not to use too much. Just a little with a few wipes will eradicate general crud. A more focused application is usually required for stickers as some are astonishingly tough to remove. While some due to age might simply fall off. Scotch tape, especially old scotch tape, demands elbow grease and nubile fingertips, but after removed a spray of this solution will make removal of sticky residue much easier.

Another reason to not use much is Goo Gone's tendency to lightly "cloud" certain types of plastics, like the dull Amaray clamshells from Trans World Entertainment releases. Glossier plastics like the clamshell pictured below are usually more resistant to this phenomena from heavier spray coats. I've found toilet paper to be the best rag for wiping not only your ass, but also the solution off tapes. Either spray the solution directly on the case gingerly or on the TP.

Of course, be extremely careful if using Goo Gone on the actual tape to clean or remove those annoying stickers. I can't imagine what it would do to magnetic tape, though I'd bet something bad. Also it's not a good idea to wantonly spray on actual paper covers, as it tends to soak into the paper. This can be done, some rental places were fucking stupid enough to sticker up the paper(?!), but be careful. Just spray some on a rag and lightly "tap" the sticker for the solution to soak into it. Wait a few minutes before attempting to peel it away. If the Goo Gone does soak into the cover paper, just let it sit out until it drys up. This rule goes along with common cardboard slip or big boxes.

Here's a ultra gunk encrusted tape I just cleaned up, Columbia Pictures Home Entertainment's 1983 VHS of The New Centurions. The cover paper is actually sealed within the clamshell so it's rare to find them in "restoreable" condition or not cut all up.

before (duh)

after (Billy Mays would be proud)

Saturday, July 25

Vintage(?) Elm Street 4: Dream Master T-Shirt

I found this today at a yard sale. I'm unsure whether it's "vintage" or not, but I'm inclined to believe so. It's a Men's Small with just washing instructions on the collar tag. The copyright along the bottom front reads "MCMLXXXIV THE FOURTH NEWLINE-HERON VENTURE." Odd that the year (1984) dates the first Elm Street, not Dream Master, which was produced in 1988.

A Classic on the Cutting Edge: Dawn of the Dead (1978)

is it right to run?

Directed by George A. Romero
127 Minutes (Director-preferred Theatrical Version) / Anchor Bay Blu-ray / 1080p 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

That time came around for me again. You know, the time you feel compelled to watch Romero's masterwork for the untoldth time as any self-respecting horror fan feels every so often. This time I viewed the film via Anchor Bay's Blu-ray edition and even though this classic is still bulletproof--the HD presentation leaves something to be desired.

This was the first horror film to make me realize I was going to be a lifelong fan of the genre. My friend and I would raid the local video store on Friday nights consuming what were generally considered the "greats" of horror. I can't remember quite when, but after some prodding from my parents (it was one of their date movies!?), we rented Dawn of the Dead. We rewound the chopper/zombie forehead removal bit six times. I can still hear my friend's exclamation of "HOLY SHIT!" and how we couldn't get over how awesome a sight that was. By the credits, we both were in agreement, Dawn was definitely the best horror flick had seen to that point and for years after we'd ponder the possibilities of being in a mall surrounded by the undead...usually while in class.

I still haven't seen another horror film to top what Romero achieved during several chilly months in-and-around Pittsburgh on a humble budget. Dawn has a unique epic nature that is all too alien in the genre, not just in zombie flicks, to the immediacy of the spiraling opening to how intimate we get with the characters and their isolated world. Though Romero doesn't show the audience the literal scope of the epidemic--he doesn't have to. One can pick-and-choose characteristics of Peter, Stephen, Roger, and Francine they identify with each perfectly embodying a variety of common assets and failings. In this way, their reactions to the dire crisis show the viewer all they need to understand the broad stakes brought upon humanity. The often chatted up social commentary spiced throughout is really just icing on this cake and are so well measured they usually pop up easily from mere circumstance.

Romero also slyly crafts his overarching Dead series point in microcosm within Dawn. The characters find a semblance of their former pre-calamity balance within the comfy walls of the shopper's paradise. Though soon an unexpected destructive force arrives and Peter, Roger, and Fran can't agree on the way to approach the situation--just like the last battling talking heads from the fading signal on their television. The horror of the climatic biker invasion is even more potent than the living dead threat to our emotional investment in the film's characters.

At this 1080p HD resolution, Savini's effects work looks as shoddy as ever (sorry), but it has an endearing "do-it-yourself" character and gets the point across with blueish-gray cake make-up, creative use of breakfast cereal, and that incredibly thick 'n bright 3M-manufactured faux blood. The famed make-up artist needn't worry since the film has proven itself strong enough to withstand any criticisms on those terms. Of course, everything I'm saying here is nothing new to devotees.

This Blu-ray came out in the initial slate of Anchor Bay next gen releases. The transfer is the same created for studio's 2004 Divimax DVD--only in HD. That said, it's as bright and colorful as the film has ever looked since its theatrical premiere. The color here is especially very lush and stable. The one admittedly big issue is the amount of digital noise reduction applied to the image. You'd be hard pressed to detect the most fleeting of print flecks, but the inherent grain is erased away, capping off much of the higher level of detail expected with Blu-ray. The presentation winds up being a more colorful representation of the Divimax DVD with just a lite touch of added detail. If this noise reduction wasn't there, it's a fairly good bet this could have rolled with the best Blu-ray transfers of '70s material to date.

I watched the film in its original mono track, but standard DTS 5.1 and lossless PCM 5.1 tracks are included. The extras mirror the Divimax DVD with an addition of "pop up" trivia boxes that appear through the film. Overall, certainly not the reason to buy a Blu-ray player like I did for Anchor Bay's Dawn Anniversary DVD back in '98.

BD Picture: 6/10
BD Sound: 8/10

Thursday, July 23

Some thoughts on Feast (2005)

You know, this is just some leaky barrel, radiation, toxic dump waste, enviro-crap, freak-beast accident that crawled out of the sewer, man. That's all this is.

I like many of you thought this would be a trainwreck while watching Project Greenlight 3. John Gulager was/is a big whiny prima donna, the show made it at least appear a grueling shoot, and financial clouds constantly seemed to loom. I was generally surprised by the end product the first go around, but revisiting it yesterday I found myself a little less enthused with this "feast."

There's a lot of clever fun here and this is all familiar stuff done well. Gulager turns little conventions on their heads like destroying the expectations of ol' character archetypes; heroes don't survive, badasses are torn asunder, and Henry Rollins ends up in pink tights. The monsters have their own unspoken mythos that remains as mysterious to the viewer as the terrified bar patrons. From the creature's dead animal adornments, the rearing of their beastly offspring, to the spitting of slime that appears to have a patented rot action. Speaking of which, Judah Friedlander certainly gets the shit end of the stick on this deal. Much of the runtime the man's perpetually slimed with a wellspring of maggoty hair and gory wounds to boot. Though the character's final seconds of screen time are hilarious. Gulager does self indulge with the casting of his wife, but who can't forgive with her winding up a face-raped explosive device?

If I had to gripe (you know I always do), the climax quickly becomes far too chaotic. By my count, there's two adult feasties and one "baby." I know one eats about fifteen shotgun butt sandwiches, but I can only assume the other gets a bear trap headache? It's sadly jumbled and the last demon child simply vanishes. Though judging by Project Greenlight, the rush was on during these later sequences. Feast is a textbook splattery crowd-pleaser, it's comfort food for genreheads, speeding by with a briskness that sheens over its faults in darkened theaters. If only it had gotten a wide release...

Do I need to see the sequels one day, anyone?

Wednesday, July 22

Drac and Frank, for ages 3 to 7

Picked up these neato Universal Studios Monsters Golden Frame Tray puzzles from 1991 a few weekends back. Thought I'd share before they get packed up for safekeeping. Unsure if they created ones for the other Uni horror icons.

Tuesday, July 21

Unappealing Title of the Dead

CHUD is reporting Romero's next and hopefully better than Diary... "secondary" undead series installment finally has an official title. Instead of the curiously interesting "...of the Dead"; we now have the arcade game console ready title "Survival of the Dead." Groan I say, it's always great to hear Romero project news and simply see the man still kickin', but is anyone else a bit disappointed with such a stock title choice?

I'm Ready...

Monday, July 20

Bitches Leave, Sony's Unreleased ROBOCOP Blu-ray

.French Canadian cover

Back in the infancy of Blu-ray (2006), Sony held MGM's catalog under its umbrella and slated Robocop for a Hi-Def release. They had already debuted such lion's roar studio titles as The Terminator and Species; so this release seemed natural and was slated for August 26th 2006. That is until MGM's video division was brought into 20th Century Fox's fold. Ultimately, Sony's Robocop BD was canceled within days of its release. So close to its date some retailers already had stock waiting to be thrown onto shelves and a few DVD/HD review websites were sent copies to critique.

Sony recalled the remaining and did who knows what with the stockpile, but a scant few escaped termination. I have one of them so I figured I'd bring some detail on the situation. Review sites like DVDTalk (see here) and High Def Digest (see here) published harsh comments regarding the picture quality, but I've always been suspect of these two reviews. Both sites have praised digitally filtered transfers and cast off fantastic ones with middling assessments before-and-since.

Fox/MGM went on to release their own Blu-ray pictured above with an MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer with lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio over a year later with the unrated cut yet no extra features. The Sony release is the R-rated cut encoded with MPEG-2 with lossless 5.1 PCM; but features the audio commentary, Flesh & Steel featurette, and deleted scenes found on the 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD.

The Sony's picture quality isn't great, though nowhere near DVDTalk's "U-G-L-Y" remark, and does manage to hold advantages over the Fox BD. The grain structure appears intact as opposed to the Fox which went through some noise reduction giving the image a more smoothed bland appearance. The Sony's contrast ratios seem off with super blown out white levels. Any light source with illuminated signs, window light, and even the sky burn with white hot intensity. That's the most problematic issue with Sony's transfer being so bad at times pure white overpowers what's immediately in front of the light:

vanishing window grate / white hot street sign

Besides that, the Sony picture can seem a bit dark, but at the same time the Fox picture has obviously been brightened. Also the Sony's ancient MPEG-2 encoding method does the presence of grain no favors. It's a tough call, but the grain does make the Sony "pop" with dimensionality much more than the vanilla Fox presentation despite the obvious issues. Sadly, a definitive Robocop HD disc remains elusive.

Sony Blu-ray photos taken with a PowerShot A570IS in Aperture Priority from a PS3 on a Samsung HLP-5085W 720p DLP in 1:1 Pixel Mapping Mode.

main menu w/ ED-209 animation

scene selections

Sunday, July 19

Sudden Death (1977)

"You wanna know how to beat this guy? Spit in the face and kick him in the balls..."
"Wow, look at these Salvation Army faggots."
"Hit 'em hard enough and they say nothing, they just fall."
"If you decide not to I might have to talk about your mother"

Directed by Eddie Romero
84 Minutes / Media Entertainment / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen

After the carbombing of a man who survived the shotgun murder of his entire family months earlier, brothers-in-badass Duke Smith (Robert Conrad) and Wyatt Spain (Felton Perry) take on the task of tracking down those responsible since the cops can't do fuck all. The audience learns the ownership board of a powerful Filipino shipping corporation (with Balboa shotgiver Thayer David as their head) are behind it all and our buddy protagonists also come to know through beating the piss out of a host of little brown people on the tropical island. As the ass kickers get closer to the rich assholes, Dominic Digaldo (Don Stroud) is brought in to make it a "family matter", but Smith and Spain are always one step ahead.

No, this isn't JCVD running atop The Igloo, but an excuse for Conrad to improve upon his tan/5th-degree burn and chew the Philippine scenery while spitting out gritty one-liners. The story doesn't mean anything since as noted above our heroes seem to be pushed towards those who deserve bullets and shattered teeth simply by the ticking runtime. The fight sequences are straight forward with Perry breaking out the kung-fu and Conrad defaulting to the killing hardware. The snappiest and funniest quips come right before big brawls erupt with bloody Peckinpah slo-mo thrown in for taste. Yep, it's a speedy slice of hard action throughly drenched in '70s fashion and the Philippines no less.

VHS Picture: 3/10
VHS Sound: 4/10

CED Magic Arrives to BoGD!

(images except mine from the uber-interesting, CED Magic)

Opting to go to my regular swap meet haunts instead of traveling out-of-state this morning was a great idea. The very first place I go my little eye spied a CED player resting on a table within minutes of being there, doey eyed as it watched everyone pass it by. It's an RCA SFT-100W, the first CED player produced back in 1981, with a $20 price was taped to the top. After some haggling I got it down to $10. The woman said she was tired of moving it and just wanted to get rid of it. I had the sense of mind to pop the service port off on the top of the unit and check to see if the stylus was there. Intact and the internals that I could see were clean. Still, I bought it figuring it probably wouldn't work, but the rarity of finding one "in-the-flesh" was worth the chance alone. It got rather heavy carrying it back to the car being a hefty twenty pounds.

Arriving home I carefully plugged it in and moved the lever on the right side down to LOAD/UNLOAD. After the simple LED display flashed "88"; the letter "L" began flashing which I can only assume stands for "load". The player only has basic Antenna IN/OUT jacks with a Channel 3/4 switcher on the back. I cleaned the player and hooked it all up. I was so freakin' scared to load a disc not knowing what to expect. I pulled out a so-so disc, Embassy's The Shout, and the player sucked out the vinyl plate and left me with an empty plastic case.

The top plate was off and I could see the disc actually spin up to speed and the display starting counting minutes, but no picture. Stupidly, I forgot to tune to Channel 3 after a long period of checking connections and fumbling in the TV's set-up menus. Finally I got picture and sound! The viewing experience is best described as something like watching a VHS on Laserdisc. It's soft and fuzzy like VHS but little fleeting line drop-outs like the ones seen on LD are present. Of course, I have no idea how much abuse the stylus took in its prior life and disc itself looked smudgy in spots.

I'm unsure how much I'm going to play with it though. I do come across discs from time-to-time (usually in lots) and maybe one day I'll do a "Classic in Obscure Retro" of Wizard's fabled Texas Chainsaw Massacre CED. Yet who knows, all I have to do is run across a buttload of Horror CEDs...hehehe....

"fuck you VHS!!!"

1981 meets DLP.

barely there jack pack

stylus control box and steel platter, you can remove the stylus from the latched top.

Saturday, July 18

Severin Smashes Enzo's Inglorious Bastards Out of the Park on BD

say goodbye to this garbage

Judging from the screen captures from DVDBeaver's just posted Inglorious Bastards Blu-ray review, Severin have totally redeemed themselves. Despite being slathered with platitudes by seemingly every "professional" reviewer, the transfer for their DVD released last year looked like trash. Riddled with digital artifacts, doubled lines, and just a big fucking mess (the pic above is direct from the DVD). Those Blu-ray captures look like a complete reversal even if a bit on the soft side, like the studio went back and re-transferred the film in HD when compared to the SD disc. Or maybe we're seeing the original HD scan that Severin destroyed with bad conversion and filtering for their DVD treatment. Either way, big time thank you to Severin!

Captain Kronos: Living Dead Hunter

Found this picture of the Pakistani poster for Captain Kronos - Vampire Hunter while pecking around at a place called Kitley's Krypt. I love how almost the entirety of the artwork is from Fulci's City of the Living Dead, save for Horst Janson as Kronos and the Busty McBootylicious* Caroline Munro. Actually, if these two greats were mated into one the resulting whoop-ass would surely shake the pillars of horror heaven.

* sorry for introducing "Busty McBootylicious" into the blogger vernacular.

ROLD is on AMC right now

Looking like crap as per AMC-HD's shit standards. It's not a full screen standard def image stretched to fill the screen like they sometimes do, but it still looks quite drained of color and soft compared to the DVD. It's also chopped to hell, even "damns" seem to hiccup and the entire audio drops out on the "fucks". Goes without saying Linnea's smoking hot graveyard strip sequence is missing. The commercial breaks seem wantonly thrown in at random times. It also features O'Bannon's audio "adjustments" like the altered Tar Man voice. Blah. Still the best thing the channel has aired in months.

So I Just Saw This Ad...



Friday, July 17

The Rejuvenator (1988)

A.K.A. Rejuvenatrix
Directed by Brian Thomas Jones
86 Minutes / Pack-In-Video VHS (Japan) / Cropped from 1.85:1 to full screen (w/ small white Japanese subtitles)

Funded by a vain aging actress (Jessica Dublin/Vivian Lanko), a doctor (John MacKay) develops a serum to reverse natural aging by altering a unique DNA chain that controls the process. The only problem is the serum needs to be constantly administered and it's derived from grey brain matter. The actress hastily demands the operation and it's a success, but building tolerance resulting in increasing dosage places extra strain on that pesky brain-gathering issue. Elated, the now youthful looking actress starts catting around with strange men despite horrific relapses of growing severity that demand huge serum doses. With the good doctor becoming ever-beleaguered trying to develop a synthetic serum and the mutant actress resorting to killing for brains, how will this grotesque cycle end?

This film is said to be a riff on Corman's Wasp Woman, and despite not seeing that particular film, by the looks of it I'd say that rings very true. The Rejuvenator is a bit Stuart Gordon and Frank Henenlotter with a lite dash of Peter Jackson. Though the creative aplomb that enlivens the gooier works of those directors is all but missing here. There's little laughs, either intended or not, despite the goofy premise. Jones and cast quickly settle into the motions and the story's resolution is pretty much telegraphed long before its arrival. Gore is quick being mostly relegated to bloody slashes and a few head-shattering decaps by the altered actress's crustacean-like hands. Disappointingly, we never get to see her transformation on-screen, just some pulsing bladders blooming on her face. Also we're treated to what's basically a music-video-in-movie from the all-girl hair metal band Poison Dollys. Why? You got me on that one. Watchable, but certainly not essential.

gonna rock it till it strikes thee owwwRRR

VHS Picture: 5/10
VHS Sound: 4/10

Thursday, July 16

Fat Guy from Ace Ventura 2 of the Dead

Yesterday as I stared upon a mountain of unwatched tapes and discs, what did my hand reach for, you ask? You guessed it, Day of the Dead '08, to watch a second time. I'm still unsure why I do this, maybe I'm just not as big of a horror fan as I think. I should want to bury this flick's negative in a steaming pile of horseshit as any other self-respecting genre fan would. Why in the hell would I revisit this? Get ready to question the already shaky credibility of this horror blogist.

I don't think Steve Miner's much maligned remake is all that bad. At least not nearly as abhorrent as these IMDB commenters make it. Sure, it's almost immediately forgettable and packed with been-there-done-that, but I can't force myself to entirely condemn the effort. The most glaring issue is the title and ties to Romero's reluctant '85 classic. The film barely has any connection to the original and the ones there are more cheeky nods or ideas that may have been of Romero origin, but have synthesized through the years so much they're nothing new to zombiedom. I'd bet if the film initially shed (or totally avoided) the name and Romero credit; the horror community by-in-large wouldn't be as vitriol towards the end product.

That doesn't mean this outing of gutmunching is devoid of problems. Mena Suvari comes off more a girl playing dress-up with army fatigues than a badass soldier lead. One wants to kick Nick Cannon in the face seconds into his first appearance on-screen for turning in a smug stereotypical performance that does much disservice to the prior nuanced work of Duane Jones, Ken Foree, Terry Alexander, and Tony Todd. Some have complained about Ving Rhames showing up for the craft services table as a different character than in Snyder's Dawn, but chalk that up to some people's ability to bitch about anything. All is redeemed when he rises decayed and barks like a Yorkshire Terrier while attacking. Perhaps he was just reenacting the mauling that occurred at his home a few years back? Michael Welch is like Shia LaBeouf's non-existent brother, so naturally based on that alone he deserves a brutal kneecapping with a spiked bat by Brock Lesnar.

Miner and co. seemed to have assessed Dawn '04 and figured that if fast zombies worked, faster zombies must be the ticket. I don't mind fast zombies, but these damn things move so quickly that their ability is far beyond human capacity. Not to mention they can seemingly stick to walls and ceilings and do slick spin moves as they descend upon their prey. Though I'm unsure why I'm even referring to them as zombos. It's made quite clear they're infected living altered by a bacterium into raving decomposing lunatics, despite the film setting forth the standard headshot killing procedure. Maybe Miner should have shot for a Nightmare City remake? The special effects make-up crew should be commended, whatever they are, they look awesomely rotted and ghoulishly detailed when not blazing across the camera.

Besides the zombie/bloody maniac make-up, it's hard to find much else to recommend. There are the usual eternally annoying CG bullet impacts (and some awful zombie inferno shots), but some of these effects are incorporated rather seamlessly, like the decaps and slashings of Cannon's impromptu hospital sickle. Lastly, Miner keeps the pace very brisk and just as everything starts to wane the conclusion isn't far off.

It's still difficult to explain why I don't mind Day of the Dead '08. The whole thing is like a Frankenstein comprised of zombie DTV shit, ambling along with enough stupidity and momentum to not feel too offensive. Just don't use Romero's work as the litmus test while watching.

Wednesday, July 15

Some nostalgic thoughts on The Gate (1987)

ya got demons...

This one was among my misty childhood movie memories that I futilely tried to remember the title of for years. What I did take from it was odd. Obvious things like the scruffy dog, the hole in the backyard, or even those little goblins didn't stick in my head. When I finally tracked this down a few years ago all those things were totally new to me. No, the aspects I remembered as a kid were the cul-de-sac suburbia setting and Terry's metal poster-plastered bedroom. For some reason, I loved and was probably a bit envious of these things which I didn't have growing up.

Watching it now, I might have been mentally blocking trauma. The Gate might be the purest example of a "straight" horror flick aimed at preteens. Freddy or "insert slasher baddie here" is bad enough, but director Takács and writer Michael Nankin squarely hit on all the little things that tend to give this dynamic the willies. There's no centralized threat, instead "the gate" has paranormal influence around its vicinity, creating an all-consuming distortion of reality as it cracks open ever further. I'm no child psychiatrist, but I imagine this total loss of normalcy being far headier to a young viewer than a mere madman. The scene in which Glen's (Stephen Dorff) parents turn out to be illusions and try to straggle the boy also falls into the childhood fear of a sudden radical change in a parent.

The film has the balls to throw in story details concerning the death of a parent (Terry's mother) and family pet. Both potential and extremely traumatic events in childhood. Not to mention the under-the-bed monster that attempts to pull the kids under, bitey goblins, and a cool throwback non-flesheating zombie servant of the damned. One could bring up The Monster Squad or The Goonies as great kid horror, and they are, but both soften their edges with adventure and comedy.

The Gate
never really dulls its horrors, and when Glen looks out of his bedroom window during the climax and sees a huge vortex streaming from the hole consuming the sky, one gets the genuine feeling he may not succeed in closing the portal. Even though relatively well-known, Takács' film still seems under appreciated, a great mix of frights and outstanding effects work grounded with a simple but solid yarn.

The now defunct Platinum Disc Corporation's out-of-print DVD is pretty bog standard. The picture quality is okay, but noticeably cramped to full screen with the ends credits in the film's original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio. No extras to speak of. There is a German disc with an anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 English track, but shipping is crazy. you dare tread upon the staircase?

Basement of Ghoulish Decadence, Basement of Ghoulish Archive, and all original material Copyright © 2009-present by Jayson Kennedy. All rights reserved.