Tuesday, July 30

Absolutely Crazy Promotional Piece for Braindead (Dead Alive) (1992) from Japan

Big thanks to Japanese master cult collector nezumitsuo (check out his blog here) for providing these images and information on this extremely rare promo item made for Shochiku Home Video's VHS release of Peter Jackson's Braindead (Dead Alive). This vinyl blow-up doll, depicting the rotting lovechild of Father McGruder and Nurse McTavish, is a popular type of doll in Japan known as a Dakkochan with stiff oval arms meant to embrace and a small bell inside. The film's Japanese title, ブレインデッド (Braindead), can seen on its back. He was lucky enough to win this doll in a magazine sweepstakes some time ago. I want one too, dammit!

Saturday, July 27

A Dawn of the Dead '78 That You Probably Never Knew Existed...

And the Japanese do it again, or at least on one evening in 1980. It was then, on October 16th, that Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) featured Romero's Dawn of the Dead, retitled Zombie: Earth SOS Dead Rising, on their weekly "Thursday Night Movie" program with movie critic Tetsuya Fukazawa hosting and providing some insight about the film. As customary with films on Japanese television (yet not on home video), the movie was dubbed into the country's native language.

The one hundred and fifteen minute Argento version was utilized as the base with cuts reducing the runtime to about ninety-two minutes for the sake of violence and the program's timeslot. Some of the content cuts include SWAT member Wooley being shot after going "apeshit", the woman attacked after hugging an undead relative, the airport zombie decapitation, and most heinously the trademark "When there's no more room in hell..." line along with the rest of Foree's monologue being entirely jettisoned. A line was even added early on spoiling Francine's pregnancy urging that the group need suitable lodging for a child. Yet these extensive changes are the least of it.

In presenting the movie for TV, the distributor, Herald Films, felt that an explanation was needed for the rise of the dead. A short introduction was attached stating gamma rays from a massive explosion far off in space two weeks prior caused the outbreak (in both English and Japanese text). This is the most well known change; however, Herald went further and not only performed a language dub but actually redubbed everything with sound effects replaced and even the soundtrack altered. This is where things get really interesting with the birth of what's known as the "Suspiria Cut".

Goblin's famous soundtrack, especially prominent in the Argento version, was cast aside in favor of other Goblin soundtracks and artists. Goblin's score for La via della droga (The Heroin Busters) (1977) was used along with many tracks from Jean Michel Jarre's Equinoxe (1978). The opening theme of the movie was replaced with a piece of Yes's The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn) from their 1973 album, Tales from Topographic Oceans. In an odd twist, Goblin's main theme for Suspiria isn't used and only four tracks from Dario Argento's 1977 masterpiece are heard.  

In 2010, distributor Happinet Pictures released what was essentially Japan's release of Anchor Bay's Ultimate Edition DVD box set. On the full Argento cut disc (Amazon.jp listing), this TBS television version is included as a Japanese dub track with newly created dubbing (featuring some of the original voice actors) for the scissored scenes. Before this set, the "Suspiria Cut" was never aired again, but across Japan VCRs were recording and bootlegs circulated for years among diehard fans. As for the rest of the country, a few short years later saw complete, official VHS releases in English. No explanation has ever surfaced as to why Herald felt the need to so thoroughly change the film. Below are three clips from the Suspiria Cut and several samples of the soundtrack substitutions.

*UPDATE: I was chatting with a Japanese friend who happens to be a Dawn acifionado and he claims the reason Herald redubbed the entire film is because they weren't provided high quality sound material and dubbing just the language would have resulted in very uneven quality. So the decision was made to also replace the foley and music tracks. I'm assuming they didn't have time to track down and sync the original Goblin score, hence the new soundtrack.     

Friday, July 26

Limited "Possessed" Blu-ray Set of Evil Dead (2013) Announced for Japan

Sony has unveiled plans for a limited BD/DVD digi-pak set and double feature Blu-ray featuring both The Evil Dead (1981) and its remake for October 9th in Japan. The limited set will run about $50USD, looks to have the same content as the stateside Best Buy exclusive set, and has a listed runtime of 91 minutes (presumably the U.S. theatrical cut). Complete details, albeit in Japanese, are available at Sony Pictures Japan.

Sunday, July 21

Evil Dead '13 and The Plague of Fanboyism (Or did you even watch the original, bro?)

Okay, The Evil Dead (1981) is a foundational modern horror film with ripples of influence still felt throughout the genre. And yeah, it's the masterclass in independent filmmaking that kindled many a horror fanatic's obsession from its Deadite wick and provoked a generation of budding filmmakers to pursuit their own gory visions on celluloid (and digital video). I remember, along with you if you're of a certain age, my prepubescent self being blown away by how thrilling, frightening, and gory Raimi's cornerstone was upon seeing it for the first time (on VHS!).

So I get why many horror fans treat the original as their baby as I did as well for years. Although at a certain point it's important to develop objectivity even toward such an "untouchable" stalwart of horror. It's certainly a classic, but the off-base claims many have making in the wake of Fede Alvarez's remake are headache inducing. Originally, I was going to do a more straight "thoughts/review" entry. However; after viewing Fede Alvarez's remake last night and surfing around for opinions afterward, it's tough to not address the abundance of thirteen-year-old kid elitism and minute nitpicking. To be blunt, it's wise to not sound like an ill-informed idiot especially when trying to critique why you intensely dislike something.

The original Evil Dead was never intended to be campy or funny nor it is either of those even when viewed today. The characters and script delivered by extremely green actors aren't as amazing as you remember. Ashley J. Williams definitely wasn't the badass, idiot savant "Ash" seen in the sequels (nor did he cut his hand off or have a chainsaw-equipped arm in '81, dumbasses). What the original does have is virtuoso Sam Raimi making intense love to everything with his lens while toying with audience expectations by purposely staging moments where you know a character is making an obvious mistake in judgment (i.e. - Cheryl leaving to return raped, Scotty leaving to return fucked up, Ash being a total pussy). Seeing these same truths and more concerning Raimi's classic repeatedly thrown at Evil Dead '13 only as severely butthurt complaints seriously makes one wonder how many "fans" of the original have actually seen the original. The sheer amount of asinine hate thrown this remake's way is astonishing.

What might be the most ridiculous (again, repeated) charge from the whiners is that the remake is "too gory and the gore has no purpose." Excuse me, but since when did horror fans become born castrated and when did gore necessarily require purpose? Oh, that's right; that convoluted, seven film long series where a dying cancer patient puts individuals through brutal tests of self mutilation to avoid awful deaths so that they find inner strength if they survive had a purpose behind all the screaming, right...? We can play this dumb game all day folks.

And listen, I'm sorry that the Deadites weren't instead wood fairies that guided the young people to their enchanted land of Hadeselia to see little chubby imps muse poetic about stealing left socks and souring milk before its expiration date. Yes, it's a shame Campbell couldn't have made a cameo and evoked his Old Spice Guy character as the treacherous king of Hadeselia, Cullen Laurent Meyers. I'm also sorry it wasn't a somber dissertation on the perils of heroin addiction in the twenty-something American population narrated by Maya Angelou with the Deadites as metaphor for the potential beast in those besieged by its grip. All that sound stupid? Well, it sounds about as stupid as claiming something with the title EVIL (fucking) DEAD has too much nonsensical gore. If anything, it needed more since just like in '81, it's simply demons rippin' youngins asunder and thankfully not for tween girls or offensively high-minded in its aspirations.

As a remake respectful to the source material, Evil Dead '13 checks off all the right points. It maintains the nastiness of the original while mixing in story elements of Evil Dead 2 (1987). The new extensions, mostly involving one of the characters suffering narcotics withdraw, are built around the familiar and literally seem like logical, alternate paths Raimi could have taken but just didn't think of them at the time. Instead of Sam's directorial style being aped yet again, Alvarez almost entirely avoids trick shots and one gets the sense Raimi gave the young director a wide creative berth behind the camera. The fantastic score by Roque Banos strongly recalls Joseph LoDuca's work with all its contemplative piano taps and punctuated trumpeting. Despite Tapert, Raimi, and Campbell producing; every technical aspect stands on its own while also paying quiet homage. The summation is a remake that feels very much part of the Evil Dead fabric without any lingering sense of being a modernized cash-in. Now if only the naysayers would get off their horses made of premium grade bullshit and realize that if it had to be done, the surrounding circumstances are quite possibly the best a "re-imagining" has ever been granted.

That's not to say I'm calling out all that gripe as wrong, but just please explain why like you have some sense and knowledge about the original trilogy. I even have quibbles, mostly over a few dumb lines at key moments, but I refuse to throw a tantrum over what's otherwise a quality, well-directed horror film (remake or not). The deluge of quick "worst movie ever" criticism smacks of prissy fanboys blindly grabbing at whatever nitpicks, even if they don't exist, in ultimately meaningless outrage.

There's even some going so far as to complain about the possessed posing as human again to deceive the living. Of course, let's conveniently forget this occurs multiple times in each of the original trilogy. Yes, you're so cool fervidly defending the "honor" of a series that (gasp!) still remains on Earth even with this remake's existence. Honest, you can set all four movies all nice n' stuff together on a shelf and your fifteen different editions of the first three won't spontaneously combust, I promise. Lastly, if Army of Darkness 2 ever becomes a reality, get out your prettiest lipstick and kneepads not for Sam and Bruce, but for Fede and all those who worked on Evil Dead. Here's to the new series shoving it up the troll's asses.

Thursday, July 18

Psycho III (1986) - 1987 Universal/CIC Video Japan VHS

Upon mentioning this Anthony Perkins-directed sequel on BoGD's Facebook page, the head of Video Hate Squad commented that "[Psycho III] feels very much like it's throwing Norman into a genre he very much influenced." I couldn't have said it any better. While the previous sequel (mostly) successfully falls in tone with Hitchcock's 1960 masterpiece, this one looks and functions like a general slasher-thriller of the '80s. Perkins lets Bates loose in full, nasty bloom and it's safe to say the character is solidified as a horror icon here. Pretentious critics and historians love to hijack Bates as iconic for all of film, and while that's valid, it stings of disdain toward the genre Hitchcock greatly influenced (Jaws often also suffers this backhandedness). There's nothing too special about this Japanese tape other than being rare in such fully unfaded condition. The picture quality is quite nice being noticeably brighter and more colorful than Universal's DVD.  

Thursday, July 11

Check out this amazing Return of the Living Dead Tarman Resin Model Kit from Japan!

Found over on a Japanese toy blog, オトナのオモチャ ("Adult Toy"), comes this incredible painted Tarman kit! 

(click to enlarge, last row is the kit before this paint job)

Wednesday, July 10

Funeral Home (Cries in the Night) (1980) - SHOWA Occult Series Japan VHS

Checked out this surprising, well-directed slowburn last night that seems largely forgotten and was probably lost in the slasher landslide occurring at the time. Some hack n' slash tendencies are present but the consistent level of pacing and atmosphere here is usually unseen in the wave that came after Carpenter's Halloween. Definitely recommended however; don't come in expecting to see a body count or an emergence of an unheralded slasher icon. Just a good little potboiler that manages to avoid that distinct feeling of early '80s stuffiness.

This Japanese VHS is fairly rare especially in this uncut condition (complete with top and bottom flaps). Slipboxes weren't as commonplace in Japan as elsewhere, like North America, and tended to always be scissored up by video stores to be uniform with the plastic clamshells on their shelves. Six "Occult Series" titles were released by SHOWA including The Witching (1972), Boardinghouse (1982) and Scalps (1983). Pardon my brain but I can't recall the remaining two right now!

Monday, July 8

Cliffhanger (1993) - 1994 Carolco/Pioneer LDC MUSE Hi-Vision Japan LaserDisc

Okay, this certainly isn't the norm for this blog, but it is an interesting curiosity on the grounds of home video history. In the early '90s several Japanese electronics manufacturers saw the potential in the then very early in-home HDTV market and devised a revised, Japan-only LaserDisc standard based on the "Hi-Vision" HD broadcast system in the country. The new standard greatly improved the video quality of "vanilla" 430i LaserDisc bumping up the resolution to around 1035i analog (versus today's 1080i digital HD broadcasts) along with anamorphic widescreen enhancement. The audio was also different, and this is where things got sticky, since one needed an HDTV, MUSE Hi-Vision LD player, and MUSE decoder box to decode both the picture and sound.

In other words; if standard LD was generally considered a rich man's video format, Hi-Vision LD was the top 1%'s format. All three equipment requirements were über-expensive at the time and the actual software wasn't exactly a bargain. The retail on this Cliffhanger LD is ¥20,000 or about $200USD in 1994 money. Ultimately; the overall cost, some lingering technical kinks (strange picture artifacts), and wavering quality between releases killed this variation of the format. Although Hi-Vision LD preceded Blu-ray, HD DVD, and even D-VHS as a format capable of delivering physical high definition media at home. The players, decoders, and titles (like Jurassic Park, T2, A River Runs Through It, and Lawrence of Arabia) still command a premium among collectors. Expect to still sink thousands and much patience into the venture just to get started.

Surprisingly, I managed to get this disc for essentially next to nothing (like, cheaper than the Blu-ray!). Aside from a bumped top right corner (argh), it's completely mint. The outer cardboard slipcover slides off to reveal a hardbound "book-style" digi-pak. The inset has a note from Renny Harlin and a gatefold insert with cast/crew information is included. The LD is even protected from the reverse side by a sheet of tissue paper. Certainly a very handsome package even though I can't even play it due to no player or decoder. Still I feel lucky and privileged to even own this piece and maybe some day I'll be able to actually watch it. Apparently this is one of the more easily found but better looking Hi-Vision releases.


Friday, July 5

The New York Ripper (Lo squartatore di New York) (1982) - Daiei Video Japan VHS (Re-issue)

Here's scans of my two Daiei New York Rippers as a follow-up to yesterday's entry. I've only seen one other collector with a copy of this re-issue and his was much more faded in comparison. As usual, click to enlarge!

Thursday, July 4

Some goodies from Japanese buddies on Twitter!

Upon posting the write-up of Cyclops (1987) on BoGD's Twitter this past Tuesday I received a few more cool scans from 2ST1 Splatter, Slasher, Thriller Club contributors (@LucioFulci74 and @yu131). Many thanks! I love seeing this stuff and hope you guys do as well!

To the right is Daiei Video's video sales flyer for the VHS/Beta of Lucio Fulci's New York Ripper (Japanese title: ザ・リッパー / The Ripper) (1982) depicting the art collage that graces the video release. This cover is interesting because we never see this level of butchery in Kitty's mutilation in the film even in the uncut version. This shot appears to depict a scene of continued torture after her right eye is brutally razored in two. The sequence ends there and your guess is as good as mine as to why this shot exists (just a promo still or perhaps more was shot and removed...?).

This flyer is rarer than the first pressing video it advertises which pops up with regularity on eBay. Daiei later re-released this on VHS at a "budget" price with slight changes to the cover and smaller case size. Surprisingly, the second release is actually much more scarce than the first.

Below are two more spreads from the pages of the Japanese horror magazine VZONE of Biotherapy (バイオセラピー) (1986) and GUZOO: Servants of a Forsaken God (GUZOO 神に見捨てられしもの) (1986). Like Cyclops, both are bite-sized gore features made for the Japanese video market. I have Nikkatsu's Biotherapy VHS (and the bootleg DVD that floated around years ago), but the slipbox VHS of GUZOO from ROCO is extremely rare and I've had no luck tracking it down...yet.

Tuesday, July 2

Gory Japanese Direct-to-VHS Weirdness, Joji Iida's CYCLOPS (キクロプス) (1987)

Synopsis from the IMDB: "A bizarre medical exam of a nude woman by several doctors and scientists reveal that their latest subject has committed suicide before giving birth to one of the mutant creatures they had placed within her body. So, an investigative crew of scientists (along with a large human mutant cyclops creature) head out to the city streets to obtain a new donor/victim in the form of a young girl."

Much like the burgeoning popularity of shot-for-video horror stateside, Joji (George) Iida's Cyclops is one in a line of short horror features for the Japanese video market in the '80s. It's essentially an effects showcase strung together by, as far as I can tell, a very thin plot. I don't know a lick of Japanese so I'm at a loss to explain everything thoroughly.

Most of the fifty-two minute runtime is spent with the pursuit of a pregnant woman by a mysterious tall man with "grandpa-style" sunglasses concealing a large one-eyed gash across his face. Some pissed off agents and scientists accompany him and through a shady deal in a parking garage, the girl is tracked to a hospital where finally the wild splatter effects arrive at the climax. The cycloptic man faces off in an elevator with another man with transformative abilities. Each shapeshift sprouting extra appendages as they both meld into a big gutpile heap that heaves itself out dead upon the elevator arriving at the maturity ward. Meanwhile, the pregnant girl gives birth to a slimy worm-like blob that bolts out of the delivery room and then gels to another girl's melting face making her the new carrier.

Unlike others of its ilk, like Biotherapy (1986) or Conton (1987), Cyclops has more of a (slight) Cronenberg-esqe sci-fi lean to the proceedings so it's best not to expect an all-out gore explosion. However, the effects are impressive if a little undermined by quick editing. If you're a fan of Japanese cinema a few of the actors might be familiar (Kai Ato, Yoshimasa Kondo, and prolific pink film director/actor Kazuhiro Sano). And there's the usual quirky touches, like random English popping up and a scene of a meeting in a Japanese Denny's. Nikkatsu Video's rare VHS has great picture quality and of course no English subs!

(picture from 2S1T/Splatter,Slasher,Thriller Club, assuming scanned from a VZONE magazine)
...do you dare tread upon the staircase?

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