Sunday, June 30

Robert Englund's Appearance on Japanese TV as Freddy Krueger...

Here's something cute, Robert Englund in full Freddy make-up yucking it up on the Japanese variety show, Kato-chan Ken-chan Gokigen TV (加トちゃんケンちゃんごきげんテレビ). I'm having a hard time nailing down the exact air date, but I believe it's from October 8th, 1987. The action with Englund starts at 8:20. Pardon the quality as it's not my video.

Here's Englund at the Hollywood Collector's Convention in Tokyo just last month

Thursday, June 27

The Smuggler (Contraband) (1980) - Doberman Home Video Japan VHS

This Japanese VHS of Lucio Fulci's '80 entry into the Italian police subgenre starring Fabio Testi arrived a few days ago. Despite being late in the country's screen crime sweepstakes, it's a great film further exhibiting Fulci's ease at adapting to varying styles quickly (although his panache for gore remains!). Yet there is a sour note and it's this release's horrid picture quality.

I know this is a common complaint on BoGD but damn this VHS looks so bad you'd swear it's been microwaved for a few minutes. Color, contrast, and brightness are terribly muddy with the frame looking zoomed-in far more than usual for pan-and-scan. The cassette itself is in excellent shape so it's gotta chalked up to an awful tape transfer. Still, this is one rare VHS (that's also fully uncut), but it mostly just shows Blue Underground's DVD was a godsend.

Tuesday, June 25

Demons '95 (Dellamorte Dellamore / Cemetery Man) (1994) - Columbia Japan VHS

Upgrade from my old faded copy, complete with little sign meant to catch the eyes of video renters!

Saturday, June 22

Demónios negros (Demoni 3/Black Demons) (1991) - Domo Video Portuguese VHS

Most of the grievances with Umberto Lenzi's Black Demons point to its plotting nature and quietly racist undertones. While both counts are true, it just has that late era Italian horror feeling that's hard to resist once the bug bites you. Especially after midnight with a few beers and pretzels handy. Actually; even without that acquired taste and circumstance, the film is miraculously palatable given the dire straits the pastaland industry was in by the early '90s. This one even manages to be shot in English with sound and not dubbed over in post production.

A group of twenty-something reporters and thickly-accented natives come under attack in a dilapidated Brazilian plantation by a few black zombies, driven by a macumba voodoo curse, that where slave labor when formerly above ground. This simplicity helps keep this Lenzi ship afloat while other Italian horrors from this period sunk under their own complexity (1987's Graveyard Disturbance typifies that). Things do get draggy but there's some spooky nighttime atmosphere, the lynched dead carrying hooks and axes look great, and the gore effects are well executed.

However; there's only six zombies, dubbed "The Curse of the Six Negro Slaves", and effects are limited to a few grisly eye gouges. The soft racism running throughout, like the uncomfortable use of the word "negro" repeatedly, might have been Lenzi trying to make a point about still tense race relations but it comes off as vague at best (like all of his supposed stabs at social commentary!). You probably won't be offended by any of this compared to how often it becomes very difficult to make out what the actors are saying due to either broken English or muffled recording quality. Some also begrudge its original Italian title being Demoni 3, purporting itself as a continuation of Lamberto Bava's previous two Demons flicks, but the Google exists now and get over it. Only thirteen-year-olds complain about that shit.

Black Demons also has the prior distinction of being rarely seen before Shriek Show's DVD debuted. The film had no North American VHS release and not many VHS releases worldwide period. The couple that do exist sport Italian language audio expect for the extremely rare Portuguese PAL VHS from Domo Video above with the same English audio as the DVD. It's been a release I've been wanting to find for years now. As an aside, Shriek Show's DVD has one of the distributor's best transfers in their history. Despite a low bitrate and interlaced image (an SS norm), the picture quality is fantastic. Some screenshots from the disc are included below.          

Wednesday, June 19

The Promo Trailer for the unmade 1988 version of Teenage Exorcist

Saw this wasn't on YouTube so here's the curious teaser for what ultimately became Grant Austin Waldman's Teenage Exorcist (1991). Originally this was meant to be developed for AIP and directed by Fred Olen Ray (who made this trailer). Yes, that's really John Carradine, Cameron Mitchell, and Dawn Wildsmith.

Sunday, June 16

Might wanna grab MGM's Prom Night II DVD soon, it's been Echo Bridged...

Oh shit, much like their multiple horrid From Dusk Till Dawn discs, yet another catalog title has been acquired for their cheap 'n crappy repacks. The fun, sequel-in-name-only Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987) has been cut from the MGM stable where it finally received a DVD in 2008 to now reside with Echo Bridge Entertainment. If you're familiar with the quality of their product you already know what's coming...

I was in Wal Mart yesterday when I spied several new horror multi-packs with this one catching my eye. Damn, five flicks for just five bucks! Unfortunately, my low expectations weren't even met and EB has cranked out yet another piss poor multi-pack. Instead of utilizing MGM's nice anamorphic widescreen presentation, Prom Night II now sports an awful full frame transfer from an old video master (ripped straight from the Canadian DVD from Alliance). Much of the movie is also plagued by a distracting "fluttering" effect to the picture, like the tape source was distorted. It's a cheap disc, but c'mon, why in the hell take such a step backward compared to the DVD we enjoyed previously?

With this, Echo Bridge has pulled another Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (read and see that debacle here). Paramount gave that sequel; again, a nice anamorphic widescreen presentation only for EB to release later using a practically unwatchable source (again, from an old Canadian DVD). It's insulting and despite my purchase of this DVD, stay far away. I bit the bullet for you guys with this one (several bullets since I own a few garbage EBs). The other movies in this set have been released over-and-over, and look like trash as well. The only semi-positive thing about this release is how the first Prom Night is presented in anamorphic widescreen and not widescreen squeezed into full screen like EB's early releases (UK disc still buries it). Best grab MGM's Prom Night II disc while it's readily available or track down a VHS copy. Either alternative is far superior.

(click to enlarge, they all look like crap)

Saturday, June 15

Concerning the Hatchet series, has Victor Crowley's make-up gotten progressively worse?


First off, please excuse the lack of updates, it's been a hellish work week. Anyway, the latest Hatchet debuted through several distribution methods yesterday and a picture of the newest variant of Crowley popped into my FB newsfeed. Can't say I'm impressed, but I didn't care for the bloated kidney bean design by Greg Smith in the follow-up. They're obviously honing the design for comfort and ease-of-application (also remember hearing it being an homage to the Friday the 13th series), but there's just something about John Carl Buechler's original take on Crowley that the redesign's sorely lack.

That something might be a sense of hyperreality both Jason and Freddy usually possess in their appearances. They look monstrous yet familiar, like through some insane genetic misfiring and physical disfigurement they could actually exist. The bulky rubbery look of the sequel Crowleys push the monster aspect of the sculpt into absurdity. It doesn't help Hodder played the character as more a pure enraged hate machine in Hatchet II than the big murderous kid throwing a confused tantrum in Green's original. In fact, all of the brownish colored gore effects in the follow-up lack the visceral brutality seen the first film despite there being more of them.    

I have other grievances with the second sequel, but I don't want to nitpick further (*cough* stupid unrated theatrical stunt *cough*). Although Buechler's absence certainly shows and the jury is still out on the latest installment since I'm in no rush to see it. The trailer gives off the impression it's the same ol' deal just with cops instead of hapless teens or hick commandos. Does anyone know why the veteran effects artist/director didn't return as effects coordinator for the second or third sequel?

Here's a excerpt from a Horror interview that kinda makes you wonder why Buechler hasn't returned : "...the starting point for me had to be the VICTOR CROWLEY make-up. If I wasn't inspired by his appearance, I wouldn't be inspired to take the next step forward. Adam Green allowed me to design one of the most satisfying characters that I've ever created. As I looked at my sketches and final sculpture, I realized that I’d created a new icon. And the make-up itself, as innovative and horrifying as the Jason Make-up I’d created for my friend Kane Hodder as Jason some 18 years ago. Having an amazing and intense actor as Kane play him made it work on a level beyond amazing."

Sunday, June 9

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1987) - 2013 Sub Rosa Studios Productions VHS (#33/100)

Finally picked up this recent limited edition VHS of Fred Olen Ray's Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1987) from Sub Rosa secondhand after it quickly sold out a few months ago from their website. Originally my plan was to avoid this release all together but the right opportunity arose to grab it for no more than their initial asking price. If you follow BoGD and the recent VHS revival then you probably sense I'm not much for this new release boom. In this case, my love of Michelle Bauer's bodacious assets compelled me (Sorry Linnea, hope the pic makes up for it)...

Starting with MPI Video resurrecting their Gorgon Video label for a VHS release of Ti West's House of the Devil (2009) and then exploding overnight with the near-immediate sellout of Mondo Video's limited VHS of David Prior's Sledgehammer(1983), homebrew distribution upstarts have seen the benefits of releasing obscure cult product onto tape...sorta. Despite brisk selling, a given producer is lucky to just break even on their investment into the creation and replication of the their VHS releases.

The real money is in the collector's market, where many of these titles pull surprising auction action. So much so it's not common to see decades old rarities sell for substantially less than say, a "limited" tape just released last year. That's one of the big reasons I'm not keen on these, to re-use a previous term, hipster mantle pieces. It's become more a dick measuring contest than something fun. That and the whole ongoing Wizard Video saga that's blatantly designed to exploit the moneymaking factor, truth and honesty be damned...

Though this release is pretty cool and seems to have Ray's approval. This copy belongs to the first run, denoted by the red cassette and autograph, while the second run also of fifty featured a standard black tape. Aside from those two differences both runs feature a fold-out poster, a tiny B/W repro postcard of the lobby card set (useless), and a DVD-R of the twenty-four minute making-of and trailer seen on Retromedia's DVD releases. If I had a nitpick, it's the VHS/DVD combo case that reeks of being designed for instructional programs in the education or medical fields. It's also wider and squatter than any vintage VHS box design, so it's a bit strange looking on the shelf. Definitely a nice release, buuuutttt I'm still not itching to collect the others...

Friday, June 7

So which is worse, a bad looking VHS or a bad looking DVD?

Ugh. Both experiences aren't preferable, but damn, sometimes you encounter such a horrible presentation that it's a real challenge to even finish watching a movie. Over the weekend I came across this DVD of Paul Bartel's Death Race 2000 (1975) and realized shamefully that I had never seen this revered Corman-produced cult classic. A couple red flags indicating the disc being crap went up immediately. It was sealed, only a buck, and found in a box of other obviously budget titles from "one of those guys" that seem squirreled away in the back corner of every flea market. Plus the distributor, "Digital Multimedia Limited", has the most generic name for a DVD producer imaginable.

Awful picture quality seemed inevitable and yes; it's almost sublime how this DVD features nearly every fault the format can possess. The VHS format can look horrible, make no mistake, but for me a bad disc is far more annoying. The prevailing digital video codec of the medium, MPEG-2, seems to be given to many more potential picture quality problems. Forgoing cheap EP/SLP recordings and mechanical issues (dirty heads/stretched tape/tape damage), the biggest issue with a standard VHS presentation is that picture might be too dark, bright, or the colors might be wonky.

However, this Death Race 2000 disc typifies all that can be terrible with DVD. First, the image is interlaced instead of progressive, so there's an enormous amount of line combing during any motion. VHS is inherently interlaced, but you generally don't see this problem given its low resolution combined with most modern displays including advanced comb filters that can "clean-up" such analog with ease. Interlaced DVD is harder to correct and with this DVD even my Oppo 980 and 971 couldn't entirely resolve the severity of the issue.

"Block" artifacts constantly appear since MPEG-2 is a digital video compression method and obviously this presentation was just shat onto the disc with zero care. Oddly, an old issue with VHS's composite signal, known as dot crawl, shows up like crazy here. This problem creates a dancing pincushion-like effect over the entire image (especially evident in scenes featuring primarily solid colors). Again, any decent filter/deinterlacer can correct this in VHS but here it's embedded permanently in the digital video. So there's constant lines with motion, blocking, and dots littering the picture. A real mess that's also bleached out. Although the lack of color is the least of it and wouldn't be crippling if the other negatives seen here were absent.

The weird thing about all this is that you probably wouldn't see much sign of these problems if watching on a traditional CRT tube television. While a bad VHS tends to look worse on an HDTV. There's a myth about VHS always looking like crap on current display technologies. Some modern sets do slack on analog processing ability ("Who buys an HDTV to watch dead formats?"), but usually if you adjust the picture accordingly a "decent" picture can be acquired from old VHS tapes on your brand new 1080p 3D local dimming LED LCD. Just keep those expectations in check. However, I'm inclined to believe DVD having the sad aspect of looking uglier when the format isn't used to its potential than a substandard VHS. It says something when even powerful processing struggles to fix the possible errors of MPEG encoding. I literally couldn't finish watching this DVD despite enjoying the movie (going to get the Blu-ray eventually). An occurrence that rarely happens when popping in a VHS...

(click to enlarge, ugh.)

Tuesday, June 4

Eating Machine (The Deadly Spawn) (1983) - 1991 Daiei Video Japan Glassbox

If you're a fan on BoGD's Facebook, you might be aware that my already half-broken and ancient HP scanner finally fully broke over the weekend. I ordered a Canon CanoScan LiDE110 on Sunday and it arrived with lightening speed, so expect more cover scans!

This Japanese glassbox of The Deadly Spawn (1983) popped into the mailbox yesterday. It's not a terribly scarce VHS, but the unfaded spine and intact "second" spine make this copy more desirable. The reverse advertises their glassbox of Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive (1977). you dare tread upon the staircase?

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