Monday, August 30

Some quick thoughts on Mausoleum (1983)

I don't have too much to say about my first watch of Michael Dugan's Mausoleum over the weekend; other than count me in with the chorus who enjoy this slice of cheeseball fun. As others have pointed out, the feature is packed with barely concealed racism as a means of queasy comedy. If you ascribed to the ideology Dugan sets forth, Aunt Jemima-like African American maids who spit out trite "black" cliché in affluent white households would be perfectly normal. Also Hispanic men would be fine with menial day labor and are inherently abusive womanizers towards their attractive white female employers. The completely baffling final frame might even indicate that Hispanics are the root of all evil. Or something. Although I can't be too much of an arbiter of race considering the slew of offense, exploitative, yet beloved schlock that sits on my shelves. Add Mausoleum to that list as perfect late night popcorn fodder.  

The general sense of delirium foretells the recklessly campy trend of demonic possession in late '80s horror as the sea change of Friday the 13th (1980) and The Evil Dead (1981) settled in. Mausoleum has the stuffy look and feel of an early '80s horror outing while resisting any indication of influence from the booming slasher craze, Raimi's classic, or even the "serious" knock-offs of the satanic horror cycle of the '70s. Besides the gorgeous nude physique of Bobbie Bresee, this unique quality is what kept me from the boredom that can set in with the backwash of generic horror from this period.

The inept plotting and bloody revelry of John Carl Buechler's effects rock out on the same crap planet as Tim Ritter's Killing Spree and Luigi Cozzi's Demon 6: De Profundis--only with the tone of an entirely different time in the genre. Despite the crude undercurrent of race, Mausoleum deserves recognition for this most likely inadvertent foresight. Not to mention Bresee's decent performance in what's essentially an ex-Playmate vehicle/showcase, some surprisingly creepy moments (i.e. waking up to your spouse quickly rocking in rocking chair in the dead of night), and plentiful laughs.  

I'm unsure about the version status of BCI's DVD (double featured with 1982's Blood Song), but this Embassy Home Entertainment tape is cut in at least one scene involving an exploding cranium. On this edition, the scene cuts away to a static shot with the audio of the "pop" and then cuts back to the victim falling dead. The uncut scene can be watched here on YouTube. Also the IMDB notes this unfortunateness concerning the stateside DVD: "When BCI Eclipse obtained the rights to release Mausoleum on DVD, they could not find any original elements to transfer. This means the original elements either no longer exist or are temporarily lost. BCI was forced to use a damaged print instead for the DVD release. Because of the damage, BCI decided to release it as a double feature instead of a single release as they first planned."

Sunday, August 29

Castle of Frankenstein #22, Nov. 1974: Slaymate of the Month: Ingrid Pitt

As a way of making up for my lack of actual babbling in text form, I've decided to debut the first ever substantive appearance of nudity on Basement of Decadence! And who better than Hammer icon Ingrid Pitt (apparently only twenty six-years-old) in vintage yellowed newspaper. This is from the classic horror magazine, Castle of Frankenstein, volume six, number two (or just #22). A large scan of the cover can be seen here over at The Blood Sprayer about the Exorcist's Blu-ray release. That's my bagged copy, but this morning I found another much more beat up copy for only a buck.

Exorcist fans should duly note, this issue goes welcomingly overboard with "fresh" coverage of the just released film. Besides the gaudy and awesome cover, there's multiple articles from various writers with facts and observations about the 1973 classic including a young Joe Dante of...well, a bunch of great horror features. An article on the production's follies or "curse". A long article detailing William Friedkin's take on his film as he presided over a University of Georgia film class. Also a short one-on-one interview with Friedkin that evidently only Castle of Frankenstein could get the reclusive director to agree to.

That may not sound like much, but the magazine's typeset is so small and packed that I can't imagine this magazine being geared toward kids during its heyday. Unless kids are just vastly stupider nowadays and the comparatively slim pages of Fangoria have reflected that. One could literally reformat the text on the Exorcist from these pages, throw in some stills, and have a nice little film guide. Not to mention all the great stuff you don't see anymore in horror mags--like Pitt's glorious frontage.

It might also interest someone like it did myself to know that Maryland-native and frequent Don Dohler personality George Stover also contributed to this magazine as a scribe.  

Saturday, August 28

Swap Meet Finds: The Video!


Thursday, August 26

Roger Avary's "lost" liner notes for Dawn of the Dead (1978)

This isn't exactly "lost", but here's liner notes for Romero's Dawn of the Dead by filmmaker Roger Avary. These appear on the reverse cover of Anchor Bay's 1999 Theatrical Cut VHS. The front and back cover match the studio's DVD seen here. This never made it to that release and Avary went on to provide a "fan" commentary for the Divimax release of Day of the Dead.

Wednesday, August 25

The $130 VHS of Zombi 3...

An auction for this Mexican tape of the Bruno Mattei/Claudio Fragasso/Lucio Fulci-directed Zombi 3 (1988) ended on eBay this past weekend for a recession fuck you winning bid of $133.50. The seller, despite mostly selling women's clothing, left the semi-knowledgeable description below. I figured I'd throw both the text and cover pictures up here for future reference after the listing is eventually taken down. My measly maximum bid of one fifty dollar bill was easily surpassed...ya win some, ya lose some...
"VIDEOMAX was Mexico's number two videocassette distributors, they were responsible for the most obscure horror titles, like the rare Evil Dead 2 version never seen in the US (actually this is Evil Dead, see here). They release most of their titles with Clamshell boxes and they distinguish themselves by changing the traditional rectangular label for a square colorful label with the cover art printed on top. EL ZOMBI was one of their last VHS titles."

Tuesday, August 24

Monday, August 23

Congratulations Piranha 3D!...errmm...wait a minute...

Last evening, before the box office tallies rolled in, I was expecting to do up a little congratulatory entry here over Alexandre Aja's Piranha 3D either topping the charts or at least breaking into the top three. Sadly, this wasn't to be, and the French director's latest tanked with a 6th position at ten million. Horror, especially silly self-referential horror like this, usually doesn't produce sleepers that gain strength at the domestic box office. What can I say, the average movie-goer simply doesn't get that the genre can be knowingly fun, entertaining, and terrifying at the same time. So I wouldn't be surprised to see a complete slide off the U.S. top ten next week, but ya never know. It also appears some idiots are astonished the film is receiving such high praise. And I say fuck 'em if they don't get it. They never will. Although this failure doesn't bode well for Resident Evil: Afterlife and Saw 3D's chances. It might even kill one or both of the franchises; regardless of being shot in 3D or post-3Ded.

Naturally, I didn't help Piranha 3D by staying home and parking my ass in front of the tube (well, digital light projector) for other fare. Isn't it funny how the features that set the online horror community abuzz almost always collapse? To be honest, I'm not too keen on 3D's higher ticket price and effect with my migraine tendencies. If anything, 3D projection should be limited for only the effect scenes with markers for the audience to throw on their glasses with the rest in normal, high resolution 2D. I couldn't imagine sitting through an hour and a half of what probably amounts to over 90% of 2D material anyway. It doesn't help that I'm hearing most if not all equipped theaters are only showing this particular example in 3D-only. I'll wait for the Blu-ray and hope for the inclusion of a standard "flat" version. Can I please appreciate Kelly Brook's ass in glorious, non-color aberrated 1080p, Dimension?

In other tidbits, I figured I'd quickly cover a few flicks I've seen recently but haven't covered here. The first being Slumber Party Massacre II (1987). I enjoyed this fractured slasher quite a bit, and this analysis over at The House of Glib is tremendous. I'm unsure if writer/director Deborah Brock really intended her sequel to be that psychologically deep. If so, then she's some sorta criminally unheralded genius. Regardless, its a fun read after seeing what could be an amazingly accomplishment, happy accident, or (most likely) pleasing '80s hacker ineptness.

Moving up to this year, I watched Breck Eisner's The Crazies on BD a few weeks ago. It was okay, but really just another slam bang mainstream horror outing under the guise of being sold as intelligent. You know, some quiet, an action setpiece, more quiet, another sudden scare, and so forth. Apparently, none of the hard cultural bite of Romero's 1973 precursor to his Dawn of the Dead exists in 2010. I inexplicably hate Radha Mitchell's face as well and didn't care for the subtle inference of hunters being one infection from hunting humans. Or something.

Lastly, I popped in VCI Entertainment's VHS of Gargoyles (1972) last night. '70s television movies were unusually great and this sci-fi/horror potboiler is no exception. Great make-up for the period by Stan Winston with some effective desert atmosphere. A young Scott Glenn appears as a dirt biker wrongfully accused of attacks perpetrated by roaming cave gargoyles intent on destroying mankind. Goofy, tame, with a fizzling conclusion, yet definitely entertaining. VCI's DVD/VHS releases are out-of-print and selling for ridiculous prices. Certainly not worth those rates and poking around has yielded the film being released on tape no less than three times in the '90s. So it can't be that difficult to find; the two VCI tapes uncovered in my travels were under a buck each.

On a final note, a few long days are impending at work, so at best updates might be regulated to cover scans this week. I'm working on a little piece for The Blood Sprayer on Darren Ward's latest, A Day of Violence, so stay tuned for that.   

Sunday, August 22

The Video Dead (1987) - British 1987 Medusa Home Video VHS

This was from eBay and I was surprised to be the only bidder given the collector's market popularity of the U.S. tape. The Video Dead has really grown on me over the past few viewings. If there ever was a strangely "quaint" example of a zombie feature (besides the totally crap Return of the Living Dead: Part 2), this little made-for-video feature is it. Some of my thoughts and details on the campaign to get MGM to unlock the film from its analog video bounds can be found here.

In regards to this PAL VHS from Medusa Home Video (BBFC listing here), I'm unsure if this was common for the studio, but the cover is double-sided. I had no idea until some Goo Gone got in between the large clamshell case and plastic cover while cleaning. I could see Medusa's logo through the wet spot (this solution doesn't stain once dried) and sure enough the "red" cover below was hiding on the reverse. Pretty cool surprise I must say!

Saturday, August 21

Nightmare (1981) - U.S. 21st Century Film Corporation Theatrical Trailer

I tend poke around YouTube periodically looking for new videos concerning Romano Scavolini's ultra nasty Nightmare (Nightmares in a Damaged in Brain) (1981) and here's a somewhat recent upload from user russ6406 that I missed. This appears to be the original North American trailer with the corrected title, design, and even mention of Tom Savini. The modern effects legend may or may not have worked on the film, but upon discovering (or merely being ashamed of) his affiliation, he had his name taken off the film with legal threats. Echoes of Savini's mixed feelings over his participation in Lustig's sadistic Maniac (1980). This trailer, which I've never seen before, looks great for a YouTube video aside from being a bit dark. Definitely a scummy slice of heyday exploitation that deserves more recognition even with Scavolini being rather full of myself.   

Code Red's long awaited authorized DVD debut is thankfully still on track and you can read the latest update of Nightmare's hard road on their blog here. I know I'm buying more than one copy! Judging by the remarks, it's now more important than ever to support Code Red with your cash. They do a great job and have recovered some excellent titles even Blue Underground and Media Blasters (Anchor Bay is dead as a horror/cult catalog distributor) haven't seemed interested in. Not to mention the advisory that some of their titles possibly going out of print soon with only one pressing.                     

Thursday, August 19

Black Devil Doll from Hell and Tales from the Quadead Zone Coming to DVD!

Frequent BoGD readers know that I don't often publish press releases, but this one is definitely one of the coolest news bits (and quite appropriate for this blog) I've recently been asked to post. That and Louis Justin, head of the freshly launched Massacre Video, is a big time tape collecting maven and all-around nice guy from my exchanges on Facebook. Justin was able to procure these extremely rare features, along with Wally Koz's 555 (1988), for release onto DVD. Original VHS copies of Black Devil Doll from Hell (not to be confused with 2008's Black Devil Doll) have been known to easily trip over the hundred buck mark at auction and Tales from the Quadead Zone is virtually impossible to find. I've never seen these, but have always wanted to and it looks like my chance is coming! 

Rotten Cotton and Massacre Video along with Box Office Spectaculars are proud to bring you, for the first time on DVD, the epic Black Devil Doll from Hell (1984), written and directed by the mysterious Chester N. Turner. It would not feel right to just release Black Devil Doll from Hell alone, so we added Turner’s rare second film, Tales from the Quadead Zone (1987). Helen Black is a deeply religious woman who purchases a ventriloquist dummy from a local antique shop. This is not your typical dummy. This dummy is a possessed sexual deviant that rapes and kills! Be sure to pick up this film for one of the oddest viewing experiences you will ever encounter.
  • Collector's Edition Lenticular 3D Cover for the First 1000 Sold
  • Audio commentary by Art Ettinger (Ultra Violent Magazine) and Louis Justin (Massacre Video) 
  • Liner notes by Greg Goodsell
  • Trailers
Pre-orders begin on September 6th here with this disc arriving on October 26th.

Wednesday, August 18

Some quick thoughts on The Laughing Dead (1989)

A priest (Tim Sullivan) of quivering faith heads up a group trip to Oaxaca, Mexico to visit an Aztec archeological dig during Día de los Muertos. Tagging along for the ride is his old forbidden flame, who was once a nun, with their son born out of wedlock. Needless to say, their relationship is queasy, but fate seems to have brought the pair together on the bus with both experiencing nightmarish premonitions.

Shortly after arrival, a frantic peasant pleads for the priest to exorcise her possessed daughter to which he reluctantly agrees (Cliff Notes: The Exorcist). During the meeting, the girl rips out her beating heart and switches out the shocked man of the cloth's blood pumper with her own. This exorcism angle was all a ploy for the diabolical Dr. Um-tzec (played by writer/director Somtow Sucharitkul). A mad practitioner of mysticism actively charting out an ancient prophecy with the possessed priest acting as a means of capturing the ultimate sacrifice, his own illegitimate son, so that Um-tzec may transform into the Aztec god of death.

Putting out the word yesterday that my copy of Somtow Sucharitkul's The Laughing Dead arrived via Facebook received a general consensus of the flick being quite silly yet watchable and nearly universally hated. After watching this obscurity last night and poking around for opinions I can confirm all three of these counts. Yet the negative waves seem misplaced, as appreciating S.P. Somtow's debut cinematic misfire almost requires a broader horror palette than your usual axe maniacs and shambling dead.

As The Laughing Dead progressed and its zany underbelly began to reveal itself, I couldn't help but think of the wild, unencumbered horror cinema of Southeast Asia. Chiefly Indonesian classics like The Queen of Black Magic (1979) and Mystics in Bali (1981). Somtow evokes shades of that multi-colored, foggy mirth that makes those far east terrors so endearing while you wait to see the next limb ripped off, glandular meltdown, or head sprout wings. It would be great to know whether Somtow, who's ridiculously accomplished, intentionally designed his film with these influences in mind or the end product merely flowed naturally from his perception and Thai heritage.

This quality doesn't necessarily give The Laughing Dead a pass. It's the kind of film that has a ton of needless exposition in the first reel or so. One can see and hear actors spouting words, but it all comes off as immediately forgettable drivel. Once the church group drives into town, you'll understand the score, and thankfully the surprisingly gory bits pick up in earnest straight on until the credits. Somtow is the author of several horror novels and once-president of The Horror Writer's Association, so it's strange how badly his dialogue and characterizations translate in screenplay form. The borderline non-acting doesn't help matters and Somtow as Dr. Um-tzec comes out best with twitchy "mad doctor" mannerisms and tongue firmly in cheek. So despite its thoroughly panned reputation, I liked The Laughing Dead enough to give a recommendation to adventurous watchers accustomed to the psychotronic wonders of the East. If it were made in a different time and country, it's not hard to imagine crusty bootlegs circulating for years until an eventual digital disc rediscovery. Although Somtow's existing film is sorta in the same situation already--at least in North America with no official release of any kind.  

The VHS above was billed as a Thai release from "Vee Video" given all the Thai writing. Instead, the actual tape (with a label in the same weird font as the front cover's English title) ended up being a dup of the Japanese Pack-In Video VHS with Japanese subtitles. Even though this certainly isn't an authorized release, it's the kind of mysterious surprise that makes tape collecting so fun. I mean, why would anyone go through that much trouble to create a professional glossy slipcover box for what's ultimately a simple bootleg of such a little known horror offering?

Tuesday, August 17

Cannibal (Ultimo mondo cannibale / Jungle Holocaust) (1977) - 1988 Saturn Productions VHS

Imagine a bottom of a barrel. Then imagine the bottom of the deepest hairline crack at said bottom of barrel--there resides Saturn Productions Inc. In the great pantheon of cheapie distributors to gradually flood the market at the tail end of VHS's reign, Saturn's suckage is equal to the circumference of their planetary namesake. Obscure Kung-fu programmers were their primary output, but they did trade in some mostly not-too-difficult-to-find horror and cult offerings. This tape of Ruggero Deodato's grandfather of cannibal flicks, Jungle Holocaust, is one of their rarest (or at least most desirable/valued) of their catalog. In reality, it's not really all that and can be found easily in spite of some eBay sellers portraying it otherwise.

Saturn did something sneaky here. Instead of designing their own usual tacky $1.50 worth of artwork, the cover and transfer is completely ripped from the British pre-cert tape from Derann AV. Unfortunately, "Cannibal" (BBFC listing here) was released on video by the company with the edited "X" cinema rating even being released before the U.K. required BBFC ratings by law in 1984. This NTSC tape retains those cuts (and BBFC rating screen), so it's certainly not worth tracking down as a means of viewing the feature. Not to mention the piss poor EP-speed playback quality that seems perpetually half-a-millimeter away from slipping off the VCR drum to create a magnetic tape rat's nest in your deck. Spend the extra time and cash to track down Video City Productions's clamshell. Now that's one badass release.

(notice the name butchering)

Monday, August 16

Machete Maidens Unleashed! Trailer

Have to give props to Danger Cinema for bringing this to my attention. Looks like a solid contender for must-see trash documentary of '10!  
Dig the press release over at Cinesploitation and the official site here. EDIT: Damn YouTube!

Sunday, August 15

Alien Contamination (Contamination) (1980) - 1982 Paragon Video Productions VHS

Paragon Video has a posse. If there's another North American vintage video studio that primarily released product in "slipcover" boxes that's more desired by collectors--I'm unaware of it. Paragon was one the earliest companies specializing in horror, cult, and exploitation videos to enjoy on your sixty pound, remote-less VCR back at the dawn of the '80s. Nowadays, virtually everything in good condition that pops up on eBay from this long gone supplier is quickly snapped up. Like big box collectors, Paragon has its own slavish devotees who search for certain releases and want to build their collection with near mint/mint copies.

That said, this copy of Luigi Cozzi's Contamination (1980) from the outfit is in very rough shape. Although it is in better condition than I've seen other now twenty-eight-year-old copies in. While not always the case with Paragon, this release is scorn of eleven minutes of footage restored decades later in Blue Underground's fully uncut DVD. This one isn't much for watching given that, but it's cool regardless. As you can see some idiot stuck stickers on the cover. It's important to note that with cardboard-boxed tapes this ancient; any attempt to free these annoyances from the cover will result in irreversible tearing or "chipping" of the fragile paper. Best to leave it alone; even with the aid of Goo Gone or similar sticker-loosening liquid. The cassette itself, a Japanese-made FUJI T-105, feels like a brick in hand and still plays well despite being several years older than its expected lifespan.

Saturday, August 14

The Return of the Smelling Foot...?

Gotta stop digging around the Japanese vids on YouTube!!?!

Friday, August 13

The Bloody Dead (Creature with the Blue Hand) (1967) - 1997 Very Strange Video VHS

Even with this release being extremely late to the party in terms of VHS's usefulness as a home format, I can't help but admire the colorful gusto Very Strange Video put into this art. It's the kind of lurid, eye-catching cover you'd see back in the day. Not from the same year DVD debuted and VHS was rapidly sputtering.

Thursday, August 12

BREAKING: Troll 2 is coming to Blu-ray!

Amazon just posted this Blu-ray pre-order for Claudio Fragasso's gigantically epic mess, Troll 2 (1990), from MGM for $19.99 (presumably in a Blu-ray/DVD set) on October 5th!

Deep Rising (ザ・グリード) (1998) - Japanese TOWA Video VHS

As far as Japanese tapes go, this one appears common, yet Stephen Sommers's Deep Rising is my favorite oceanic monster-run-amok piece 'o crap to "emerge" from the '90s. What's not to love? A "tough" Treat Williams woefully miscast with endless Jack Burton-esqe one-liners, Famke Janssen being all tremendously hot, ridiculous looking gatling machine guns never in need of a reload, Wes Studi, and a giant cryptozoological creature crashing a cruise ship that liquefies its victims. Oh, and piles of said liquefied, gooey skeletal corpses that the monster literally shits out after drinking. Awesome. Perfect rainy day viewing when you don't want to subject yourself to something important like The Abyss.

This tape from TOWA Video is interesting for its lime green clamshell case and lack of any note of the film's English title on the cover. Also notice the D-2 Composite Digital marking on the back. I'm guessing the source for this release was a D-2 tape which I'm guessing again was a big enough deal to note to Japanese consumers at that time. Nowadays, many high definition transfers, especially from smaller DVD-centric studios, are captured on the newer D-5 standard. So yep, analog magnetic tape is still utilized today.   

Wednesday, August 11

Some quick thoughts on P2 (2007) and its fabled "last ever" HD DVD release

Angela (Rachel Nichols), a high rise office worker finishing up for the evening to meet with family on Christmas Eve, finds that her car has died in the building's underground parking garage. The lone night security guard, Thomas (Wes Bentley), tries to help but the engine just won't turn over. A cab is called, yet the front doors are oddly locked, and Angela is forced to go back down into the garage to see if the only person left in the complex has keys. Suddenly, the power fails and after a struggle the woman awakens in Thomas's office on level P2...handcuffed to a chair. The young guard has been watching Angela from afar through the monochromatic glow of his camera array and won't let her leave peacefully...

Franck Khalfoun's P2 (Parking Level 2) is a great example of a stylish thriller that's intelligent enough to pull no punches with learned viewers who'd otherwise roll their eyes at its very formulaic package. This hard edge is imparted by the presence of the Coens of grisly horror Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur; who serve as writers (story and screenplay), producers, and presumably looming supervisors for first time director Khalfoun. One might recognize Khalfoun has Jimmy, the gas station clerk, who unfortunately receives an axe to the chest while retrieving a bottle of JB for Philippe Nahon in Aja/Levasseur's Haute tension (2003). Aja's go-to cinematographer (pre-Piranha 3D) Maxime Alexandre and Hill Have Eyes composer tomandandy tag along with what amounts to an exercise in superfluousness.

So P2 ends up being like Steven Spielber...I mean Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist. It's nigh impossible to discern where Khalfoun's talents land in this potent personality stew. Not a big deal really, and once the talk of the first reel subsides, you'll stay glued if for no other reason than to see how Angela gets out of the implausibly inescapable levels of concrete and oil stains. Khalfoun (or Aja or Levasseur) spices up some of this exposition with one of Angela's male co-workers duct taped to a chair as Thomas commands his obsession to exact revenge for the man's drunken indiscretion upon her. Of course, she refuses, and soon afterward the fate of the beaten man crushes the outer edge of the film's R rating.

Leads Nichols and Bentley are serviceable in a contrived "horrorish/thrillerish" way. Angela has more wits than usual for this fare despite her non-machine washable tight white dress. I guess one could surmise, given the total lack of sex or exposed naughty bits, the breast hugging attire has chosen as compensation and a way to express the strong character's delicate femininity. Or something. Bentley never quite comes off as a truly terrifying foe for anyone as his loon lashes out over his menial life position hardship and cries over Angela's vicious refusal to share in his love for her. Haute tension's supremely archetypal Le tueur would fold this prick into a pretzel and break out the cut-off machine. It's hard to read too much into P2. It's mild enough that it's surprising a bigger impact wasn't made at the box office, but still brutally diverting for seasoned horror aficionados to enjoy as nothing new done well. Watch it with someone who doesn't care for horror--they'll be pleasantly surprised.

Summit Entertainment (the studio behind the Twilight "saga") found themselves in a pickle with P2's home video debut. The DVD arrived without a hitch, but just as Toshiba's HD DVD conceded to Blu-ray in late March '08, the studio found themselves with a high def release with a rapidly dying market. While studios quickly canceled future titles on the format, Summit had this release already factory pressed. So P2 ended up being the last "official" title to be released on HD DVD. This disc wasn't even formally released. Copies just ended up floating around on auction sites and landing in discount bins months after the fact. At one point, this HD DVD was extremely rare, but now can be found relatively easily and cheaply online. If you still have a player or the 360 add-on drive, P2 is worth picking up. The DVD has a strong transfer, but this film deserves high definition. Despite no relation to Universal Studios, Summit opted to use a similar front silver "swoosh" and the "look and sound of perfect" tagline on this HD DVD. Also note the Region 1 in the back specs; HD DVD didn't have region locks like Blu-ray.

Tuesday, August 10

VHS Déjà vu: Troll II (1990) - Columbia Tri-Star Home Video Promotional Screener VHS

Recently finding this Troll 2 tape didn't deter Nilbog from persuading the VHS Gods to grant me the opportunity to grab this screener over the weekend. It's hard to imagine Columbia Tri-Star sending this hilarious crap out to video stores in the hopes of getting the establishments to buy rental copies.  

Monday, August 9

Jungle Heat (Last Breath) (1985) - Greek Joconda Video VHS

I've been going through a bit of VHS withdraw as of late. The swap meets and yard sales have been rather dry (temps have been especially scorching). I have a few tapes coming from Japan that appear be dead set on transversing the globe several times before maybe arriving. Even eBay hasn't yielded greatness...until now. This is the Greek tape of Jobic Wong's Jungle Heat (1985). Over-the-top war exploitation originally shot as "Last Breath" in Taiwan. An international version, entitled Jungle Heat, was prepared at the same time with footage of actors Sam J. Jones and Christoper Doyle intercut into the original film. Here's more information, including a clip of the acid brain infusion torture sequence, over at Jack J's great war exploiter blog, When the Vietnam War the Philippines. I'm unsure if it's merely because I haven't snagged a good tape lately, but I'm unusually giddy over this one! And like Frank's oft-worn phrase on American Pickers--had to have it. 

Here's the seller's description: "Vintage prior rental Greek made PAL format VHS on the "Joconda Video" label showing Hong Kong director Jobic Wong's nauseating, sadistic, nasty, mean-spirited 1985 Indochina warfare trash epic JUNGLE HEAT (or LAST BREATH and Al calor de la Jungla to our Italian speaking eBay friends) with Sam J. Jones as Captain (Flash) Gordon for about 20 minutes, leading a team of cut-throats recruited as truck drivers in some obscure mission to mess with Mr. Victor Charlie. Ultra-violent and despicable, the scene where they light the rats on fire was a bit too much for me after seeing FANTASTIC PLANET, though the legendary brain drilling acid torture "Header" scene got a chuckle out of the peanut gallery after a case of beer, but what wouldn't. With Christopher Doyle, Bobby Ming, Craig Scott Galper, Lila Nguyen and Lawrence Fang. Musical score by Anders Nelsson. Fullscreen English language presentation with Greek subtitles running about 87 minutes PAL 25fps and believed to be uncut. Not my cup of tea to say the least, has been part of my collection since 2006 and high time we found it a new home with another collector of the bizarre who has a stronger stomach that myself. Yikes." 

Sunday, August 8

Another Snappy Award, More on the impeding ROLD Blu-ray, and Escape from New York on Blu

Thanks to Professor Brian O'Blivion of The Cathode Ray Mission for another blogger award meme nod! It's much appreciated as a nice gesture and way of periodic cross-blog name-dropping! The Professor has been on BoGD's blogroll forever and for good reason! I'll plan out my own little award ceremony later this year.

Concerning the Blu-ray/DVD set of Dan O'Bannon's essential The Return of the Living Dead coming on September 14th, MGM/Fox has seen it fit to provide the combo in both a standard Blu-ray case or DVD case. Not unprecedented, The Usual Suspects HD/SD set arrived in a DVD case, but odd considering none of the other duo-format releases announced with Return having the option (including 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers). No specs announced yet, but given both denoting "Collector's Edition", one of the discs (most likely the DVD) might have the supplements of the existing CE. I'd expect the usual 1080p transfer and lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 treatment. It'll be interesting to see if O'Bannon's requested audio changes are evident on the lossless track or only affected the old Dolby DVD tracks. Also if anyone pre-ordered this one using the non-affiliate link I posted a few days back, that link became the DVD case release, with the BD case release for pre-order listed here.

Speaking of Blu-ray/DVD sets, I checked out Escape from New York last night for what seems like the nineteenth time. MGM/Fox's Blu-ray transfer has been the topic of hot debate on many A/V forums since its release last Tuesday. The 1080p/50GB picture quality is extremely dark and drab putting some viewers off and resulting in charges of the transfer being poor. Although this classic lean post-apocalyptic roughie's high def treatment certainly isn't weak. Fine detail and rich color shine throughout the runtime, but yes, the film is borderline ridiculously dark. Yet no murkiness in the shadows is evident. The darkness will be a torture test for display types given to posterization (see here).

There are many examples of inherent blur around the edges of the 2.35:1 frame. When EFNY was shot, Carpenter's beloved Panavision was notorious for being tough to keep in perfect focus, especially with alterations during live shooting. So no, this Blu-ray never is quite tact sharp, but you can chuck the overly soft DVDs in the trash in comparison. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is nice; though I'm used to the clarity of the soundtrack CD. The score on this BD sounds rather muddy like always on home video. Finally, to the horror of supplement-hounds, this Blu-ray has zero special features (unlike the 2004 SE), and the DVD is the extra-less widescreen/full screen flipper from a decade ago. Still, the real HD image quality blows away the laughable upscaled DVD transfer seen on the British Blu-ray. Pick this one up before Fox re-releases it with a bunch of extras, but destroys the picture with fifty pounds of pasty noise reduction like their recent Predator abomination.

Saturday, August 7

Rob Zombie's Halloween II (2009) ...dammit, I still like it...

Maybe there's something wrong with my perception of quality horror movies. Perhaps I ought to forget about even pursuing my passion anymore at all. You know, rent a longbed semi or two and freight all my terrifying possessions to the nearest horror convention, come to a stop in the parking lot, and slap a "free" sign on the back. Stand back and watch the riots and multiple stabbbings ensue. Forget about Argento, Rollin, Marins, and Craven. Cast off Betamax, Goo Gone, and freaking out by the mailbox when certain packages I've been anticipating finally arrive. Shun the theatrical experience except for Tyler Perry's efforts and sit up all night bathing in the glow of either a television or computer screen writing about Beaches and Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Maybe even grow out my beard and roam the countryside eating dogs and compressing wayward travelers that give me a hassle into nice little folded human flesh suitcases. Yeah, that sounds like just the ticket. Add in the opportunity to bash the heroin-chiced face of a nude stripper whore into a body mirror a dozen times and I'll start the process tomorrow!

Why you ask would I even contemplate becoming a modern day Jeremiah Manson? Well, every time I watch Rob Zombie's Halloween 2, hard to admit this, the more I actually like this maligned sequel. I know, what the hell, right? Moustapha Akkad just did one full revolution in his grave, John Carpenter stubbed a toe on his bong, and Jamie Lee discovered four thousand bucks in her purse she didn't know she had from those elderly yogurt commercials. Longtime readers of BoGD might remember my epiphany upon first seeing this one back in January. Then after another viewing a few days later, these thoughts came hurling up. All that after I first condemned this sequel sight unseen. For some reason an impulse arose last night to watch the film that sent furious Myers fanboys up the wall again...again. This will still sound like blasphemy, but this "new" Halloween 2 holds up quite well with the many bumps of my prior experiences not seeming so hard this go-around.

That's not to say that I believe it's a great horror film; despite my weird infatuation with it. Zombie's panache for heavy-handedness strips away most of the potential nuance this wildly different 'Ween narrative (from the "old" series norms) held. The blunt force trauma being felt mostly on Laurie's side; with her increasing psychosis type that could be defined as "Fuckophrenia". Like Rob scribing "yeah" a minimum of a dozen times in every White Zombie song, screenwriter Zombie dumps the ultimate expletive onto the page like some asshole who loosened the cap on a salt shaker. Laurie's mental descent after discovering her sibling relation with Michael is dominated with screaming the word ad nauseum. If there was ever a time the audience needed a breather with Laurie and her psychiatrist it would have been after this revelation. Or a confrontation scene between Laurie and Brackett after this twist. Instead, Laurie drowns her sorrow with friends at a Halloween bash to her eventual demise. This was the biggest gripe I struggled with last night. A few notches back on the throttle would have yielded more understandable direction of the story and potentially more Brad Dourif. Always a good thing.

Everything else I was initially lukewarm toward months ago didn't seem as bad last night. Laurie's Hot Topic™ -infused rebellion was and is annoying, but Annie vindicated this obviousness somewhat in her screaming match with Laurie when she says that the whole "new Laurie" thing was bullshit. Zombie's Charles Manson fetish can't be denied, hence the out-of-place young Manson mugshot with "In Charley We Trust" sprawled above Laurie's bed. Also the way the bloody, dying Annie is sprawled out in the bathroom after Michael's violent attack is reminiscent of the state Shannon Tate was found after Helter Skelter. I honestly never minded the radically different take on the Myers character (at least in this sequel), but his death in Zombie's first seemed too final for such sudden resurrection here. I find Michael's garbage mask changes as the original series ran its course more annoying. Though the director/writer wasn't initially intending to make H2 anyway and I assume knowingly decided not to get too hung up on this sticky particular. The monolithic killer will always find a way regardless. As I stated in January, I still respect Zombie's ability to lay his characters to rest instead of harping up climatic hopes for another sequel.

No, Rob Zombie's contributions aren't going to topple Halloween '78. This one can't even touch John Carpenter's milestone with the edge of a fingernail, but it is vastly more interesting than the "real" sequels have been in years. There will always be those that hate Zombie's duo. Others love Rob's Halloween while hating his sequel. So I guess I'm in the smallest minority. I hated the 2007 remake, but I just can't bring myself to feel any of that towards this "unintended" sequel. It's Zombie's best film so far by a good margin (yes, the others had geektastic casting) and now that we've seen the second coming of Elm Street, these two are definitely the most drastic revisions of the old guard slasher stalwarts. I admire that, their gusto, and Zombie's boldness even with flaws as obvious as the keyboard in front of me--especially the solidly "good" Halloween II. I might venture back into the first film to re-verify my feelings someday.

Thursday, August 5

Some Random Thoughts on the MPAA and Horror Films

One of the coolest things about flipping through old issues of Fangoria is running across the "what might have beens?" The news tidbits and interviews excerpts that place actors and/or directors with projects that either fell through or transformed into something else. Like Shocker continually being pimped as Wes Craven's "big comeback" prior to its release. Or ill-fated remakes of Roger Corman's Vincent Price pictures. Or Jeff Burr's initial idea of having three costume phases for Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw 3. Although I'm already starting off beside my point.

What you really don't see anymore in horror mags is the perpetual battle with the MPAA cutting a swathe through (primarily) '80s horrordom. To the point that the ratings board almost seemed to harbor a vendetta against the genre or merely feeling the pressure of the "morally upright" Regan era. Of course, virtually everything about the MPAA's impact on horror has substantially diminished since Fango's print heyday, but lasting damage is still felt in spurts. Since the MPAA "set the bar" for public versions of horror films, there's still an ongoing search for alternate/deleted footage sliced away at the behest of the board for re-insertion into new digital special editions.

Uncaring studios are partially to blame as well, especially Paramount, who seem aloof about requests to dig around in their vaults for the original piles of excised Friday the 13th series footage. The studio still treats Mr. Voorhees like a redheaded, albeit extremely profitable, stepchild. The original My Bloody Valentine is another Paramount tragedy. Despite the recent disc restoring three minutes, reportedly the MPAA initially ravaged the Canuck slasher of around eight minutes total. There are miraculous success stories like lost snippets of Stuart Gordon's From Beyond randomly found in a film can by sheer chance. Or, on a vastly more historic scale, the whole Metropolis janitor closet saga.

The biggest modern carryover from the MPAA's wraith is the propensity for genre outings to shoot for a comfortable R-rating. This can be evidenced in the Saw franchise's unrated cuts only running just seconds longer on gore grounds with more padding from added exposition (like Jigsaw eating soup in Saw 2!?!). In some ways, it's like horror filmmakers and FX artists used to purposely overshoot the gore quotas of their work for the express purpose of pissing off overzealous censors. Not so much anymore. Still, it's a blessing that the explosion in popularity of "unrated" home video that arrived with DVD has defanged the board's stranglehold on what essentially amounts to version control. Blu-ray's capability to provide outstanding presentations at home also has an importance. Not only can we enjoy uncut features, but view all the vicious mayhem in exacting, realistic detail. Not in fuzzy, analog video back when the scissors felt the right to alleviate your eyes of murky sights depicting Jason cleaving horny teens.           

It's also interesting to note how the paradigm has changed since the '80s. The "torture porn" trend (no insult intended) is perhaps the ultimate way of showing the board for how ludicrous it really is. The MPAA tied itself in knots, or at least caused hair loss amongst filmmakers, over the "tone" or "feeling" of violence on-screen. The rated cuts of films like Saw and Hostel show that the censors don't feel the need to go apeshit ballistic over inferred or outright violence towards and suffering of victims. But show that same violence from the point of view of the killer? No way in the eyes of the MPAA. Well, unless Anthony Hopkins is the one perpetrating it, that is. Although what's more disturbing? A sudden, on-camera disembowelment or seeing the slow torment of the girl pictured to the left from Hostel 2? I can still remember the absolute unease I felt watching that scene, but most of the straight up gore effects work I see fall to the wayside (and really, the most memorable seem to also be the most fake-looking).

You know most of this already, but it's nice to vent. The MPAA have always been bullshit. At least North American horror fans never had it as bad as Germany or the United Kingdom. Actually, looking back, it's funny to think when the MPAA were at their most tyrannical, horror flicks on television were a constant. Nowadays, horror on TV has all but vanished, and the MPAA mostly just pisses off Steven Spielberg and let's the torture commence in the multiplexes mostly unabated...

Wednesday, August 4

Sundown Follow-up: Fangoria #88 Nov. 1989 Article - The Town that Dreaded SUNDOWN by Larry Barsky

Given the near total lack of information about Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (aside from the DVD), I thought scanning this old Fangoria article chronicling aspects of the production might both educate and entice. This Fango has Halloween 5 as its cover story. Click the pics for full readable sizes!

Tuesday, August 3

Some quick thoughts on Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (shot in 1988/released in 1990)

In a small desert town reside a populous comprised of ex-bloodsuckers trying to live in relative peace with humans while repressing their true nature. Wearing 100 SPF sunblock and drinking synthetic blood (sound familiar?), the residents resist temptation by directing most mortals away at a tiny gas station (ran by M. Emmet Walsh) along the only road into their sanctuary. But, as always, tensions are escalating within between elder vamps Jefferson (John Ireland) and Count Mardulak (David Carradine). Jefferson is fed up with denying instinct and is secretly assembling a thirsty legion of fresh fangs for a coup d'état against all opposition with "specialized" bullets. The situation boils over when the bookwormish great-grandson of Van Helsing (Bruce Campbell) arrives in an attempt to seal the fate of the entire town.

Anthony Hickox's Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat is quite the non-cult classic anomaly. Not given a theatrical release, the film was picked up by once-home video giant Vestron Video for a tape debut and then virtually vanished. Sundown never even had a niche cult following championing for a DVD release; even with the presence of B-flick icons Carradine and Campbell. I figured this horror/comedy/western had to be terrible or something given this lackluster obscurity, so I pegged scoping out the tape as a low priority. In spite of all this, probably spurred by the success of their long awaited re-issue of The Monster Squad, Lionsgate rolled out a special edition disc approaching two years ago. I popped this in last evening just to spot-check and ended up watching the whole damn thing. Sundown has problems, but it's nearly invisible status among horror fans for almost two decades is unjustified.

It's funny how the cover and back synopsis barely make light of the main character, David Harrison, played by a robotic Jim Metzler. Harrison, unaware of its actual use, developed the fake blood and is invited into town to assist in getting the manufacturing facility running to full capacity to met demand. Inevitably, his wife and two young daughters tag along coming into peril as the story unfolds. It's the same family man in otherworldly circumstances crap we've seen over and over. While watching one rapidly gets the sense that with a few tweaks, the entire Harrison character and his who cares? plight could have been totally jettisoned in favor of Bruce Campbell as the lead. As it stands, Harrison's family seems impervious to harm and they're waved off into the sunrise by infinitely more interesting supporting characters. Maybe their car got hit by a bus on the way home?

Otherwise, we get a good dollop of Campbell fresh off Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987). His nerdy, limp-spined character never approaches the badassness depicted on the above cover, but his spastic screams ala Ash show up and are still humorous. The dependable regardless David Carradine was thoroughly in the drunken nadir of his career as the "Count". Deborah Foreman is cute as a pale vixen smitten with Campbell, Maxwell Caulfield looks like the lovechild of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, and it's always a joy seeing M. Emmet Walsh and George 'Buck' Flower work.

Sundown came after Hickox's debut feature, Waxwork (1988), and is a bold 2.35:1 scope widescreen follow-up in hard-to-market concept. It's what initially damned the film and the modern day gangbusters western motif hurts the inventive underpinnings of wooden bullets and when becoming a vampire isn't always the worst fate. Late composer Richard Stone's full-on orchestral romanticized western score is also so tremendously great that it usually overshadows the modesty on-screen. Gorehounds will be disappointed as well with Hickox delivering a yarn pretty much suitable for young ones with no sexual content, a rubbery severed head, shootouts, and mildly lasagna-faced vampires at the climax. Unimportant quibbles though. Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat is worth your time and its neglected state for so long is a real shame. Lionsgate's anamorphic widescreen DVD has a commentary by Hickox and the film's DP, great interviews with Campbell, Carradine, and Walsh (all think warmly of the project), and photo gallery.

Sunday, August 1

This Island Earth Metaluna Handmade Wall Hanger(?)

Just got back from another expedition in Pennsylvania. Scored some tapes, discs, and more horror mags, but this is by far the best find. This is the iconic Metaluna mutant brain alien from This Island Earth (1955). The seller's tag at an antique mall stated it was an "Alien Head Wall Hanger/Artist Made". It's indeed "artist made" weighing in at four pounds of hand painted/molded plaster. There are no artist markings whatsoever on the piece, but whoever made it did one helluva job on the sculpt and paint. The back is painted black with brush marks and slight lumps in the plaster. Two little rings are "baked" into the back for hanging (no way I'm going to risk hanging it). Needless to say, this thing is completely bad ass, and appears be to unique. At least I can't find it through my searches online. Fifteen bucks well spent!       you dare tread upon the staircase?

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