Wednesday, November 30

Tuesday, November 29

So Two Evil Dead 2s walk into a bar...

After casually checking several different sold out Wal Marts since its release, I finally found a (single) copy of Lionsgate's 25th Anniversary Evil Dead 2 Blu-ray and I'm pleased to report the six year long curse has been lifted. Yes, Anchor Bay's ruination of this sequel by way of godawful picture manipulation is as dead as decapitated Henrietta.

It all started with The Book of the Dead edition in 2005 when the video distributor saw fit to released its third EDII disc in a limited edition replica of the Necronomicon designed by Tom Sullivan. Despite this ambitious packaging and new featurette, something insidious was lurking on the disc. Chiefly an enormous amount of digital noise reduction that made a smeary mess of the film. In their stupidity, Anchor Bay apparently listened to fans who complained about the signs of grain on their prior, and still excellent, THX DVD. Not only was the picture wiped of any trace of standard def fine detail; but color, brightness, and contrast were thrown grossly off. Instead of the more neutral blue and deep blacks of the THX, the BoGD's yellow-leaning colors are best described as "pastel" with overly bright, gray black levels. This pig was only dressed up when Anchor Bay hastily released a Blu-ray in the early days of the format using the same trashed master.

I realized this immediately and refused to buy both discs out of principle (the Blu-ray ended up a gift). I can also vividly remember chatting with other fans with the process akin to talking to a brickwall whenever I voiced my correct opinion of the crap treatment Evil Dead 2 received. Thankfully, all that is old news, Lionsgate has nearly righted the ship with their new Blu-ray transfer supposedly taken from the original negative fot the first time ever. Interestingly, while Anchor Bay trashed the sequel, their recent Blu-ray of The Evil Dead is par excellence. We're talking in league as one of the top five transfers on the entire format worldwide. Needless to say such perfection has set the bar sky high for the rest of the series.

Does the new Blu-ray reached this superlative level? Not quite, about 95% there. The picture has been subjected to a little noise reduction, but not enough to produce smearing or destroy too much fine detail. The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer frequently has that expected dimensional pop, even in darker sequences, completely lacking in the previous Blu-ray. Color, brightness, and contrast has also been placed back to the proper levels we enjoyed before the Book of the Dead debacle. Eerie blue/gray hues and inky blacks dominate the transfer. It's not quite end-all reference Blu-ray quality; however, I'm not complaining since I along with most everyone figured we'd be stuck until Anchor Bay cleaned up their own trainwreck with another Blu-ray...maybe. The cheap asking price and excellent, format-exclusive 98 minute documentary from Red Shirt Pictures are only icing on the cake. I know this is already getting old for this series, but this one is definitely worth the upgrade considering the last two releases were unquestionably a step back. Evil Dead 2 is back, baby.

Sunday, November 27

To THE DEVIL...a dollar...

cut, crushed, and crinkled...beautiful.
Grabbed more tapes from the same yard sale detailed in last weekend's video with this beat-to-shit big box the crown jewel. This is the 1986 big box of The Devil (Xie mo) (1981) from Video City Productions played cool-as-a-cucumber when found for one dollar. One of the rarest and most desired big boxes released in North America probably because of its irresistibly crazy artwork. Unlike the widescreen Japanese VHS (experience the past drama here and here), this tape has been cropped to full screen, but shares the same English dub.

Check out the quick video below, this release appears to be uncut just like the Japanese tape upon first glance. Although I'm unsure whether or not the Japanese release is in its full 2.35:1 widescreen ratio when comparing it to this stateside tape. There doesn't seem to be the usual amount of heavy cropping from scope to full screen going on between the two. Or maybe the film's original aspect ratio wasn't that wide to begin with like the IMDB claims? Video City's tape looks to be from a different print as well, the Japanese release has none of the wild scratch damage seen in the opening scene below (the train shots are also much bluer).      

Saturday, November 26

Well, this simple LaserDisc player fix worked...again!

Back in September I discovered this easy fix for my LaserDisc player's sluggish performance originally provided by LD aficionado Kurtis Bahr (thanks again!). After the repair my CLD-D503 was holding up but upon chance I found its "step-up", the CLD-D703, on eBay complete with original box, remote, and manual for just $120 two weeks ago.

I was antsy about the purchase, especially after a giant eBay screwjob on a severely damaged Betamax player several years ago, but it arrived last Tuesday packaged quite well and in excellent shape. Still the eternal pessimist, I figured it got heaved about so much during shipping that the tray or laser was knocked out of alignment. Amazingly, the unit spun up and played fine.

Although there were signs of the same problem. Upon "spinning up" the LD to play, a loud screech was heard and even after trying three different ways, the player simply refused to perform a "gamma turn" and flip the laser assembly over to play Side B. Instead of flipping, the disc would stop and the front panel would proclaim "End". At first I got miffed since the seller claimed the unit was 100% fully functional, but then I remembered the old fix.

This time the motor's rubber ring looked even worse than the 503 with something resembling caked white chalk filling in the textured surface before scrubbing. Breaking out the alcohol and Q-tips and performing the same operation much to my surprise resulted in success. The player didn't screech and didn't hesitant one bit to play Side B and then return to Side A when finished. It seems funny such a simple thing would hurt the player's functions so much.

The CLD-D703 is regarded as the second to best player Pioneer ever made outside of their ELITE series (it beats a good chunk of those though) and several esoteric Japanese players. It's only second to the CLD-704 which only additionally features a jack for Dolby Digital 5.1 audio through an external demodulator. I don't really care too much about that feature, LD Dolby wasn't very widespread being limited to the last several years of the format's existence. And you'd be lucky to find a demodulator for less than a hundred bucks.

I'm really after the stereo digital PCM tracks many LDs feature. The more basic 503 unit can play them, but only via stereo analog jacks, which means the digital audio is processed by the player and not my much more modern A/V receiver. The 703 has Optical Out and Coaxial jacks which send the raw PCM signal to a receiver for processing. The audio difference in terms of clarity and impact are very clear and I can finally understand why many old school LD owners say the format sounds better than DVD (True Lies sounds incredible!). Also LDs with uncompressed DTS audio can be sent through Optical to any DTS-decoding receiver just like DVD (don't have any DTS LDs yet).

Picture quality is also much improved over the 503 on all grounds. The image is sharper and cleaner, even when using the Zoom functions on my DLP. The video signal-to-noise ratio of the 703 is 51db and with each bump the picture quality increase is noticeable (the "best" best players reached 54db). I'd estimate the 503's ratio is around 48/49db (way fuzzier).

There's also "standard" and customizable "variable" DNR levels for both the luminance and chroma parts of the image. Noise reduction isn't such a bad thing with analog video like VHS or LD but I turned it off anyway. Regarding the construction of the 703, the mechanical end of the tray, laser assembly, gamma turn flip "cartridge", and entire outer case itself are identical to the 503. So if you have trouble in this respect it may pay off grabbing a cheap 503 off eBay and stripping it for parts. However the power, video, and audio boards are indeed different in comparison. Anyway, cool stuff!

Thursday, November 24

HD DVD Player/Recorder Technical Spec Information

HD DVD Player/Recorder Technical Spec Information
(click for player specs)

Several years ago while the HD format war was waging, I compiled a comprehensive specification sheet on a forum detailing every HD DVD player and recorder made before Toshiba called it quits. Unfortunately that forum has long since closed, but I had this entry saved ever since. It's not 100% complete; however, I took great pains to make sure the information presented is correct. Missing information would be greatly appreciated (just comment on that post itself). I'm figuring it's a good idea to post this publicly since many of these little details have already or will eventually be forgotten with time. By clicking on the picture above, you'll be transported back to 2008, on the day Toshiba officially announced HD DVD's demise.

Wednesday, November 23

In lieu of actual content...

Just ran across this great looking print of Nello Rossati's 1988 weird action/sci-fi/horror hybrid, Topline, starring Franco Nero and George Kennedy. This video looks way better than any version I've ever seen...

Tuesday, November 22

Some quick thoughts on The Boneyard (1991)

A detective reaches out to medium with the ability to envision fragments of the another's past experiences from articles of clothing or belongings to help solve a unsolved case of three dead children. The only lead is a Chinese suspect babbling about his family harboring and guarding aganist a centuries old evil due to indiscretions of his ancestors. The medium, beleaguered by the emotional toll of her powers, begrudgingly accepts and an after hours visit to the morgue is made to help spur her visions from a lock of one of the victim's hair. After telepathically witnessing a ritualistic sacrifice, she soon comes to the realization the children aren't dead and are awakening. The three ghouls begin slaughtering the night staff and now those still alive have to find a way out.

Like other reviews of James Cummins' The Boneyard have pointed out, it's a film that doesn't quite know what it wants to be. The aspects you figure playing larger roles later on, the telepathy and Chinese mysticism angles, end up completely forgotten once the creatures begin reigning terror upon the living stuck in the facility's basement labs (dubbed "the boneyard"). That's fine since the programmer-grade screenplay and acting aren't up to snuff to make these interesting. For some reason, a crotchety Phyllis Diller (sans wig) and Three's Company's Norman Fell show up appearing game with Diller eventually gagging and barfing in a bathroom sink after force-fed a slimy chunk of zombie flesh. The IMDB states Alice Cooper and Clu Gulager were first sought for key roles and it's a safe bet an immediate improvement would have occurred if they would have signed on.

What saves this mish-mash from lingering boredom are the creatures. The three kid ghouls look fantastic being reminiscent of the thin beef jerky-skinned demons of Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight (1995). They're a genuinely terrifying bunch that seem impossible to shoot at a bad angle. Plus Diller transforms into a towering, bug-eyed monster version of herself with her poodle following suit. So if you find yourself struggling through a needless monologue about suicide or telepathy just wait five minutes until the next tango with the freak beasts.

The Boneyard's identity crisis was actually reflected on the VHS cover above. There was a rental sticker now removed in the corner that denoted "DRAMA" until someone crossed that out and wrote in "HORROR". The VHS was also available in two covers, the black "horror" version pictured and a yellow "comedy" variant with the zombified poodle (as seen on the DVD's cover). It's interesting to note Diller as she appears on the horror cover isn't seen as such in the movie.

Monday, November 21

Here comes fuckin' INTRUDER, walking down miles ahead of its release date...

Synapse Films appears to be shipping their upcoming Blu-ray/DVD combo of Scott Spiegel's Intruder well ahead of its official December 13th release for those who pre-order via their site.

I ordered mine last Monday and received it today (even had to sign for the package). According to Don May over on Facebook there are still copies left that include a VHS-sourced DVD-R of the workprint, that's some eight minutes longer, and until sold out the pre-order's denotation of "+BONUS DISC" will reflect that. Kentai's Films also received their pre-order early and posted screenshots from the Blu-ray which look great. Wizard's prior DVD definitely can't compete.   

From some old thoughts: "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."

Sunday, November 20

Video: This Weekend's Swap Meet Haul...


Saturday, November 19

The Incredible Melting Man (1977) - 1985 RCA/Columbia International Video Japan VHS

It's funny how our tastes evolve and how sometimes mood and setting is vital to how one "takes in" trash such as this. For the longest time, even after repeated sit downs with Melting Man, I fucking flat out hated it. Oddly in hindsight I can't explained why; however, I've come to see its charms after becoming acclimated with similar crap. It's a little cult film that self-proclaimed cult flicks of today painfully style themselves after to achieve a new-found lattice of contemporary grindhouse (i.e. - sell more DVDs with crazy ad campaigns!).

For such a gratuitous premise of an gamma-struck astronaut returning to Earth only to actively body melt and murderously freak out, there's an innocuous sensibility to the film. This might be from the bittersweet perspective of the melting man who can't control his actions and increasingly becomes alienated (frankensteined?) from society. The Saturn sunburned freak roams the countryside after rampaging out of a hospital to attack bystanders, reflect on shattered memories, and look in a such a bad way that the toxic waste punk from Robocop would give pause.

Still, despite the wondrously multi-colored gore from Rick Baker, The Incredible Melting Man smacks of something you could actually watch with little ones of a certain age. There's little here that's played for genuine shock value, which sounds crazy considering there's a guy literally liquifying before our eyes. To put the movie into kid terms, it's akin to a playing with Gak slime or Trash Bag Bunch toys. It's stupid icky fun that could have only been made in an era long time past. This VHS's extremely amount of dirt, scratches, splice marks, and reel change blobs only help the experience. Love the cover art as well!

Wednesday, November 16

Strangeland (Net Killer) (1998) - "Taiwanese Import" DVD

As you probably already know, one of my utterly life-wasting pastimes is perpetually rooting around for flat-out weird releases of particular horror movies I've adopted as "pets". I figure years from now these oddball discs and tapes will be at least interesting curiosities for fans like myself. Dee Snider's mostly forgotten and somewhat groundbreaking Strangeland is one of the muses that I try to keep tabs on.

Back in the infancy of BoGD, I wrote this about the flick: "Snider's inaugural foray into silver screen horror both as star and writer is a commendable trainwreck. The rocker's heart seems in the right place as he constructs an individualized killer around himself....before the likes of Feardotcom and Cry Wolf, Snider seems to beat everyone at including naive teens facing grave consequences with the perils of the Internet in a straight horror film. Howdy uses an instant messaging program similar to AIM under a stolen account prowling "Teen Chat" for prey to invite to a party/dungeon basement with torturous hook and spike."

I still find merit in Snider's contribution to the genre, so finding this DVD last week for four bucks on eBay was a pleasant surprise. It's more-or-less pure bootleg masked as being from Hong Kong or as the seller thought Taiwan. This one typifies how disc bootleggers seemed to try harder in the past with factory pressed media and full color professional sleeves. Most "theater fresh" dupes I run across at swap meets nowadays are on shitty DVD-Rs with wonky cover cut-outs from a crap printer running out of ink.

The picture quality is what you'd expect; horrible, and has burnt Chinese subtitles over the bottom (don't think it's from a VCD though). The film appears to be the same 85 minute version found on Artisan's DVD aside from the title card replaced with "NET KILLER". The black front cover contrasts well with the white case the disc arrived in. BUTTMUNCH alone made it worth the price...

Sunday, November 13

Silent Madness (1984) - 1987 Avatar/CIC Video Japan VHS

Going back to some old thoughts: "A homicidal nutter is mistakenly released from an institution and a resident psychiatrist (Belinda Montgomery) seems to the only one with any concern. The maniac travels north to his old "stomping" ground to resume the young girl flesh terror. On one of her hunches, the psychiatrist poses as an ex-sorority sister in the hopes the missing patient will re-surface around a college he marked forever decades past. When he inevitably does, the good doctor finds that he isn't the only thing she has to worry about.

A great slasher in need of rediscovery. Montgomery is a strong female lead and the rest of the cast holds their end up well. Inventive kills including axings, impalements, and head crushing are all done by a believable mute psycho. There are a few dull moments, but I must say that I liked this more than My Bloody Valentine (1981) in last night's double featuire. Seek this one out before they remake it...?

A few notes about the VHS. It's terribly cropped. You can tell Nuchtern really used the entire 2.35:1 frame, as there are many instances of half faces and actors speaking to unseen others off screen. Simply awful, but the film is solid enough to endure this, especially if you're a slasher fanatic. Also the film was theatrically exhibited in 3-D and even though the VHS is "normalized" in 2-D, some shots still exhibit slight bluish hues around edges of things on-screen."

Revisting Silent Madness last night, this cheap yet brutal little slasher definitely held up, but there's some unfortunate news regarding this particular video release. Avatar/CIC Video released the film in the United Kingdom, featuring the same key art, and the BBFC saw fit to censor the film's killings (see official entry here). And sure enough, the presentation on this Japanese release is the same version with obvious omissions to the serial psycho's deeds. What makes it worse is that I should have trusted my initial instinct which said this might be the case.

The one little saving grace is that CIC's video trailer for the Bruno Mattei/Reb Brown supreme combo platter of crap action, Strike Commando (1987), plays before the feature. Everything above about the picture quality also holds true for this tape. It's painfully cropped to full screen and has scenes of strange color aberrations that essentially match the North American MEDIA VHS...only edited. Damn shame! This isn't the first case of "BBFC contamination" I've run across, the Japanese DVD of Death Warmed Up is similarly cursed.

Friday, November 11

Tom Holland's Fright Night Blu-ray Available for Pre-Order in Three Days...

As a follow-up to this initial entry about this limited edition Blu-ray, Screen Archives Entertainment have announced the ability to pre-order through their website will go live on November 14th for release on December 13th. I'm still cold on this release, a film of the cult magnitude of the original Fright Night shouldn't be given a trumped up run of only 3,000 copies either through some soundtrack company or a major studio.

Also in all honesty, $30 is already too rich an asking price for a "old movie" Blu-ray nowadays with prices sinking like stones due to widespread sagging sales figures of catalog titles on the format. Sony, take note of Lionsgate's stacked Anniversary Edition Blu-ray of Evil Dead 2 coming this Tuesday for the kingly asking price of...about ten bucks. That's what Fright Night deserves, remake box office performance be damned...

For those still interested, I'm fairly certain it'll pop up as the first listing above Mysterious Island on this page on the pre-order date. It seems that because of the deal struck with Sony, this release can't have any new supplements beside an isolated score track (and trailers). Otherwise, SAE have announced a 1080p transfer with lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English subtitles. Yep, exactly what longtime fans have been waiting for...

Thursday, November 10

The importance of collecting what you like...

As teased at yesterday, Madera Cinevideo's incredibly awesome Alucarda clamshell arrived yesterday and it illustrates one of my core principles of VHS collecting (or when collecting anything, really). Simply that is to collect what you like. You see, many newcomers to tape collecting are too often wooed by the crazy prices too often seen on eBay or Amazon.

Many times, the truly rare are often stumbled upon purely by chance, knowledge helps in spotting them, and many professed "rare" tapes aren't that hard-to-find. From this, novices get sucked into either paying too much or waging nutty bidding wars over tapes that'll eventually re-appear, perhaps cheaper and in better condition. And it's also always good to remember that the vast majority of tapes are only worth what someone is willing to pay.

These admissions are going to sound insane, but for one I'm not particularly crazy over big boxes. I'm well aware that they're the bee's knees to many collectors; however, they just don't hold that special "something" to me. Even with my first memories of VHS as a child being stumbling over to Thriller Video's "Elvira Presents..." boxes in the video store. I haven't bought or even bid on a big box on eBay...ever. I never throw them on my Watch List because it's a near forgone conclusion they'll go way over the price that I'm willing to pay. Of course, this doesn't mean I'm going to pass up cheap BBs in the wild or online. They just aren't a priority, so if you become engaged in a sweeping auction battle over one, I'm likely not your competitor.

Same goes for horror and cult tapes from Mexico which have seemed to see a huge uptick in interest lately. I just don't get the allure chiefly because distributors had a way of making what's actually a tepid thriller or police procedural into looking like the craziest and goriest movie of all time if judged by the cover art. Many titles are also so obscure that's tough to do research in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.

So I don't have any, until now. This tape isn't necessarily from Mexico, Madera Cinevideo is based in California, but is geared towards Spanish speaking viewers. It's dubbed in Spanish with no subtitles. I couldn't care less though; this tape along with the film is fucking awesome. This wild brew of blood, boobs, bloody boobs, and slashed up nuns on fire also marks an important step in my history of collecting as Mondo Macabro's original British DVD was the first disc I ever imported. So while I've passed up a bunch of valuable big boxes and "Mexploitation" through the years, it's finding tapes like this Alucarda that make me not really care about perceived value and just bask purely in the thrill of collecting.   

Wednesday, November 9

No substantive update today...

...still in shock from the blinding epicness that lay in the mailbox today!

Tuesday, November 8

Plaga zombie (1997) - 1999 Argentinian Edición mega super ultra especial Farsa Home Video VHS (Second Release)

You run across the strangest things from the most unexpected places on eBay. While throwing random horror titles into the search box last week, this very rare tape popped up and surprisingly I ended up being the only bidder at ten bucks. Some time ago I won the third (and last) VHS release of Plaga zombie in Argentina from a seller in Brazil for way more (seen here).

This second special edition tape was in some punk/alternative vinyl shop in New York City. No idea how an obscure PAL format VHS from South America was ended up in the Lower East Side, but I'm not complaining!

Information on this release from FARSA's official site:
"This was the second edition of Plaga zombie. It included a booklet on the making of the film, the original trailer, three short films from Farsa Productions and an autographed picture of one of the characters. The print run was much larger than the original 1997 VHS. This edition had a single problem because when converting film to video standard used in Argentina (PAL), it lost a bit of image quality and the sound was slightly out-of-sync with the image."

The autographed character photo included ended up being John West played by writer/producer Berta Muñiz. The b/w booklet is in Spanish but filled with production stills, sketches, and behind the scenes photos. There's also five slips that look like free passes or tickets of some sort. You read my wordy review of both Plaga zombie and its awesome sequel here and watch both movies subbed in English via FARSA's YouTube Channel. Latest word on the third sequel, Revolución Tóxica, is that it is complete and will be coming to DVD from Farsa in February 2012!

Sunday, November 6

Cannibal Apocalypse (Apocalypse domani) (1980) - 1987 Mount Light / Pack-in-Video VHS

Always thought this Antonio Margheriti cannibalistic horror/actioner seemed underrated and just a little ahead of its time. Director/writer Margheriti and writer Dardano Sacchetti craft a premise that tries to capitalize on the trending popularity of the cannibal and zombie subgenres by basically melding both into a flesh-eating infection cocktail. This combination is then dropped into a gritter urban setting that often times really feels like an Italian horror flick invading an American setting (being shot in suburban and downtown Atlanta). As always John Saxon holds his head high, it's great to see Giovanni Lombardo Radice given such a "meaty" role (going apeshit with a shotgun in an in-door flea market), and you can't help but respect how the story tries hard to wrap on an almost Shakespearean note for an Italo cheapie.

Mount Light's Japanese VHS isn't too rare being one of the more popular import tapes before the coming of digital disc and was the best option before Studio Canal remastered the film for several global DVD releases. The barely widescreen picture quality is solid despite flecks of prominent damage and some scenes "burning" with an overwhelming blue tint. The film is fully uncut outside of brief optical fogging in the "vagina bite" scene.

Saturday, November 5

The Back of Lionsgate's upcoming Evil Dead 2 Blu-ray and word on the transfer...

As a follow-up to this August entry, from Michael Felsher on Facebook, producer of the supplemental material for this 25th Anniversary Blu-ray coming November 15th: "I'll admit its hard for me to be objective in some ways, but having just viewed the new transfer of EVIL DEAD II for the first time, I have to say this lays to waste any version of the film you've ever seen before. Lionsgate really stepped up to the plate for this one. Deep rich colors, natural healthy film grain, sparing use of noise reduction, and practically blemish free. This is the first time the original negative was used to create a home video transfer for this title, and it shows!" Fingers crossed...

Thursday, November 3

Candyman clawhands his way to Blu-ray abroad...

Universal has just released Bernard Rose's classic Candyman, based on a short story by Clive Barker, to Blu-ray in the United Kingdom. The 1080p, VC-1 encoded transfer is in the film's correct 1.85:1 widescreen ratio with the original stereo mix in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio. Unfortunately, unlike the stateside Special Edition DVD, there are zero extras. Early word has it that the disc is region free (or at least A/B), so there should be no problems with playback in North American players.

The picture quality is said to be like many Universal catalog titles on the format; dated but passable and an improvement over the standard definition incarnations. Tri-Star falls under Sony's domain in North America, so the studio will most likely handle the inevitable U.S. BD. Because of this, I'm personally holding off, Sony's track record with older films in regards to image quality is vastly superior to that of Universal. Not to mention their SE DVD, despite featuring an ancient transfer from 1998, having a Rose commentary and several featurettes. If you're still interested, now has Universal's Blu-ray for just under $20 shipped to America.

Wednesday, November 2

Mountaintop Motel (1983) - 1985 Media/Tohokushinsha Home Video Japan VHS

After the accidental killing and subsequent cover up of her daughter, a formerly institutionalized elderly innkeeper steadily slides into psycho over the course of the following night. With patrons filling up the four dilapidated shacks of her secluded motel during a hellish thunderstorm (a fell tree blocks the only exit), the innkeeper begins cavorting about underfoot in an underground tunnel and entering their rooms armed with a sickle to appease the voices in her head.

Jim McCullough's Mountaintop Motel has several uncontrollable factors working to its detriment. First, this sleeper was woefully out-of-date by the trends of the very year of its inception. Michael had already stalked Haddonfield, Jason had been revealed as a sac-headed momma's boy, Canada's greatest export next to hockey was the slasher, and Freddy was preparing to exact revenge upon Elm Street's children. No wonder the film sat until New World Pictures picked it up for video distribution in 1986. These three years only widened the gap to the already extremely outmoded Mountaintop. Then New World affixed the word "Massacre" to the title which only alienated viewers expecting more slasher fare.

In truth, McCullough orchestrates a spooky yarn with a constant lingering score and catastrophic cinematography more at home with the hokum of the early '70s than its native hack n' slash decade. The acting varies and special attention must be paid to the first-and-only time performance of Major Brock. Brock plays Crewshaw, an old grizzled black handyman stopping in for the night. His character is immediately likeable and genuine to the point that when he describes what he does for a living, you have no choice but to believe his word as the honest truth. If one wanted to, Crewshaw could be described as a magical negro, but that seems crude. He has the most common sense and foresight of anyone in the situation; however, he's the only one you root for the survival of. The white protagonist, a slimeball posing as a record company exec trying to get into an aspiring female duet's pants, is attempted (and failed) to be made into the hero of the picture. Brock's also given all the funny quips, "Stay here and get my ass killed by some crazy old white woman?!"

I'm not going to say Mountaintop Motel is for everyone as it took two viewing attempts aborted by sleep to finally get through it. You need to be in the right mindset, but I'm unsure what mindset that would be. Certainly not the one I imagine many that cast the film off to the trash heap watched it under. If this one happens to end up in your VCR one night, you could do much worse (try pairing it up with Bob Clark's Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things) ...

Tuesday, November 1

Some quick thoughts on Legend of the Werewolf (1975)

Electric Video's rare 1981 VHS
A feral boy raised by wolves, Etoile (David Rintoul), is taken in by a Paris carnie family and exploited in their traveling sideshow. Eventually, he discovers his transformative abilities as a young man and flees ending up in a small town working as an assistant to a zookeeper (Ron Moody). In between menial work and bonding with caged wolves, a young woman enters his life and he's soon smitten unknowing of her work at a local brothel. Upon discovering this, Etoile becomes enraged and cannot resist dispatching Johns that frequent the whorehouse in hairy and clawed form. As bodies begin stacking up, an inquisitive mortician (Peter Cushing) starts tracking the lycanthrope...

Despite having a host of Hammer Studios mainstays and regulars both on-screen and behind the scenes, Tyburn Entertainment's Legend of the Werewolf is one of the death knells of the storied era of British horror spearheaded by Hammer and its imitators. The above synopsis is much more reasoned than this painfully cheap and devoid of atmosphere Freddie Francis-directed feature. The core problem is how this horror film desperately feels not wanting to belong to the genre. As such we're subjected far too many scenes of Etoile's toil at the zoo and lady troubles which couldn't be less interesting until the film obligates itself to insert drips and drabs of what we came for (besides Cushing, of course).

Japanese Tohokushinsha Home Video VHS
When the clumsy werewolf action finally kicks up, the events are unconvincingly compressed into the last reel. For example; Etoile murders his first John, his body is wheeled into Cushing's morgue, a second maiming occurs, and then we see Cushing arriving at the theory of a wild animal with powerful jaws and menacing teeth being the culprit. That sounds like logical plot progression, but not when in sequential order in under five minutes. The attacks are especially weak being comprised of quick point-of-view shots of the victims leering and the werewolf snarling with bright bloody teeth.

Afterward the boredom returns with even Cushing's reliable auto-pilot rolled-up sleeve embalmer-turned-detective hardly warranting venturing any further. Confused werewolf mythology also runs rampant. The full moon can cause Etoile's uncontrollable bloodlust, yet apparently so can anger, along with standard ammunition inflicting mortal wounds upon the beast. While not worth sitting through to arrive at, the conclusion featuring a sympathetic portrait of Etoile preemptively echoes An American Werewolf in London. Just be glad Legend of the Werewolf wasn't the first or last word in wolfman terror... 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.