Monday, April 29

Texas Chainsaw 3D Finally Hits Japanese Theaters...in a few months...

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While most territories have already seen John Luessenhop's poorly received Texas Chainsaw 3D, Japan appears to be the last to receive a limited theatrical run starting July 13th. Here's the official Japanese website, Twitter, and Facebook. Below is the one-sheet, love the design, and two 1920x1080 overlays from the website that could make nice wallpapers. Also I'm firmly in the "fucking bullshit" camp over the announcement that the unrated version will only be available via digital download. Irrespective of the movie's quality, this is a spectacularly dickheaded move on the part of Lionsgate. Personally, I can wait as long as it takes for the unrated cut to reach physical media to see this in any form.


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Saturday, April 27

Exposé (The House on Straw Hill) (1976) - 1987 Pack-In Video Japan VHS

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Udo Kier stars as an acclaimed author who hires a typist (Linda Hayden) to assist recording his free flowing creative process, but eventually deadly ulterior motives driving the help's dedication become apparent. Despite feeling very European with lots of (dubbed) Kier, flesh from Hayden and Brit sexbomb Fiona Richmond, and bright blood splatterings; it's all too askew to make much impact. The characters and their disembodied reality almost feels like a close proximity to the way real individuals would react in the same scenario. It's a tough sensation to describe but it's hard to believe every character could possess such awkward decision making.

The worst aspect being the climatic twist, making you more pissed than surprised, that betrays a payoff that could have put a satisfying cap on this little revenge flick. Ultimately, Exposé is popcorn fluff with a reputation that's nastier than anything contained within. Aside from some optical fogging of genitalia, this Japanese VHS is fully uncut and looks better than other tape presentations (if the drab clips on YouTube are any indication). I'm glad I saw this sexploitation roughie in a tape trade rather than actually buying Severin's upcoming Blu-ray/DVD combo. Disappointment would have ensued.

Friday, April 26

Speaking of stupidly rare Japanese VHS...

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SHOWA's insanely scarce Lemora (1973) just entered my collection!

Wednesday, April 24

Shout Factory's Elvira's Movie Macabre: The Devil's Wedding Night (1973) DVD

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Somewhere between the mastery of Mario Bava's The Mask of Satan (1960) and the silly stuffiness of Pierre Chevalier's Dr. Orloff's Invisible Monster (1970), Luigi Batzella's The Devil's Wedding Night (Il plenilunio delle vergini) concerns twin identical brothers (dual-roled by Mark Damon) travelling to a foreboding Transylvanian castle in search of a powerful ring.

Upon arriving a ravishing countess (Rosalba Neri) and her exotic, slightly dead maid (Esmeralda Barros) are found attracting an increasing amount of virgin girlies to their creepy abode. It becomes clear the countess is the bearer of the evil band and is attempting to seduce one of the brothers into becoming her next groom, or the new Count Dracula, but she first needs virgin blood. Armed only with his wits and an ancient amulet, can the other brother stop her dastardly plan?

This bit of Italian horror fluff with some astounding gothic flourishes   deserves much better than its current fate. I was first attracted to check out this excuse for soft erotica masquerading as baroque horror when a friend acquired the ultra scarce Japanese VHS on the Sony Exciting label. It's the only release to contain the fully uncut English language version with all other English tapes and discs worldwide missing bits here-and-there. The Italian Cinekult DVD is fully uncut too, but only features the Italian dub. I don't, haven't, and will probably never own the Japanese tape (only four copies are known to exist, let's not even mention prices), but after getting some details about it wanted to check this Shout Factory DVD to see how it fares.

...Not too well. The first red flag is right on the case showcasing Elvira heaving assets. Don't get me wrong, I like Elvira's shtick, but it's obvious Shout wasn't particularly serious about putting their best foot forward. Shout actually retrofitted old Elvira Movie Macabre segments in a "new" presentation of this film from a 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical print (the correct ratio, IMDB is wrong). This is easily spotted as cropped, colorless, and just butt ugly video-sourced movie footage is seen in some of Elvira's interruptions.

This frankensteining between old and new material brings forth one of the most problematic issues with this DVD. It's nice that you have the option of just watching Devil's Wedding Night without Elvira, but in a stupid move about every ten minutes there's a distracting video fade out/in effect (think commercial breaks) where those segments were. This is bullshit especially since each version is given its own file on the disc so why didn't Shout make the encode for the "film-only" version before they shoehorned the Movie Macabre pieces into it? This would have made this version at least more "proper" in a traditional sense of presenting just a movie on home video.

reel change horror
The theatrical print used here is amazingly beat up; like a truck ran over it as it lay unspooled along a stretch of asphalt. Green scratches are constant while flecks and blobs run wild on your screen. The reel changes are a real treat as the damage kicks into overdrive as it nears the splice. Then the next damaged reel abruptly begins about five to ten seconds into the next scene.

This is really troublesome in the first reel as one of the brothers leaves the amulet at an inn. After his departure, a maid girl is seen making a bed and the jump into Reel #2 occurs right before she finds the amulet under a pillow. So as viewers we're kinda lost as to why she suddenly appears later at the castle to give it back. Some slivers of dialogue are also muffled or missing due to the persistent damage. And a shot of a lightning bolt replaces one of a blood spurting severed arm in the climax. However; aside from these big issues, the non-anamorphic picture quality under all the wear actually looks decent. The color is sometimes wonky but facial detail is surprisingly strong and blacks are deep without looking too murky. As stated before, The Devil's Wedding Night (Il plenilunio delle vergini) deserves better. It's no overlooked masterpiece of gothic horror; with its fits of pure silliness, but Damon doesn't look down at the material, Neri is gorgeous (especially nude), and Joe D'Amato's atmospheric cinematography is often stunning.

some screencaps with the matting cropped away, click to enlarge

Monday, April 22

Interesting Stuff about Japanese VHS #1: Catalog Numbers Matter Again

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Even if you've been a semi-regular visitor to the BoGD for awhile, you've probably noticed my increasing focus away from stateside VHS. I do love tapes of all stripes, but I feel like I've been destined to gravitate toward tapes from Japan. That's not to say I don't fondly remember looking over the rows-and-rows of my local video store's horror section.

The thing is I was just a kid at the time and my parents forbade most of my suggestions from those particular shelves. I got into horror later on and have great memories of watching bootlegs sourced from Japanese tapes before DVD exploded (importing originals was cost prohibitive). They were one of the best sources for many uncut versions we take for granted today. So I wanted to start a series of articles covering some of the more curious things I've learned since beginning to seriously collect them.

With the boom of the modern Internet coinciding with the DVD format, the importance of those little sets of numbers mixed with letters known as catalog numbers have taken a backseat. You're a mere click away from all the information you'll need to see if a movie has been released on disc and it's just as easy to buy a copy. All that's usually required is throwing the movie's title into Google. There's no need to slog through paper catalogs to compile handwritten lists of wanted releases with their catalog numbers being a vital aspect in your search. Nowadays, they're most useful to the most anally retentive among us to keep their collection in order-of-release on their shelves.

So it's definitely a futile pursuit inputting most any catalog number from a U.S. VHS into a search engine and expecting desired results. Bookkeeping in Japan must be meticulous because there's a curious carryover that still exists on the Internet. Japanese VHS catalog numbers have proven a means of determining both the title, especially useful for those who don't know the language, and exact date of release (stretching back into the '80s). However; it's not always quick, requires a bit of online sleuthing, and sometimes you'll find zilch. Google's Advanced Search option is indeed your friend in this process. Inputting catalog numbers into Google's standard search tends to yield nothing, but choosing to search only Japanese pages delivers the goods.

Japanese VHS are usually good at having an English title somewhere on the cover. Although sometimes either there isn't one, the material never had one, or it's hard to see from a bad/small scan yet you have or can still make out a catalog number. An example of this is this VHS with zero indication of an English title. I originally bought it listed as Horrible High Heels (1996). Already knowing that movie and having doubts, I dug around to see what it actually was.

I already knew it was indeed a Hong Kong roughie like Heels and looked in the same vein as The Untold Story (1993). Searching its catalog number (SS-0519, bottom spine above prices) found this listing at AllCinema.net. The 99 minute runtime matches and I now have a 1993 release year. Using Google Translate, the first actor's name is "Wai Tinchi" and popping that into Google points to this actor listing at the Hong Kong Movie Database. But wait, this VHS also has a Japan Article Number (4988105009691, left bottom corner), similar to a UPC barcode. Searching that number lands me at this Rakuten listing with a picture so now I'm sure I'm in the right ballpark.

Getting back to the HKMDB, searching each 1993 title in that actor's filmography ends up at this review of The Unpublicizable File. So finally, after some virtual gymnastics, this Japanese tape is Ma Siu-Wai's The Unpublicizable File (1993). Maybe I should just learn Japanese after all that, but this is just a case of how to find a title without the aid of any English. Two more tips, when searching the cat. number or JAN, it's helpful to affix "vhs" to it (i.e. - "SS-0519" vhs). Also feeling around for the film's title on Japanese pages and then googling it can gain even more results to sift through (like these).

Who really knows what compelled Japanese online retailers and movie databases to preserve this information. Consumer adoption to DVD away from analog media occurred much more quickly in Japan than North America, so it's strange anyone cared to log detailed information about these old tapes. Hopefully in this age of dying physical media this resource will remain available to collectors. It's truly invaluable.
by the way, I fucking love the name of this video series!

Thursday, April 18

Anchor Bay's Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), I was mistaken...

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Back on April 5th in this entry detailing a problem with Millennium Films' recent Hammer Horror triple feature DVD, I went off on a little tangent and said this about Anchor Bay's out-of-print Frankenstein Created Woman, "Anchor Bay's DVD release from back in 2000 is perhaps the most infamous botch in their history....due to a widespread faulty pressing at the disc replicator, virtually every copy that shipped out was completely unplayable...only their quickly recalled and corrected THX disc of Dario Argento's Opera (1987) the following year rivals the scope of the problem with their never fixed dud Hammer."

I was mistaken in my remark about the initial screwed up release being never fixed. I forgot about the 2003 series of double features Anchor Bay issued before they let go of the licenses to many titles, including their The Hammer Collection. I picked up this double feature last weekend at a swap meet and the Frankenstein disc is indeed a 100% working repressing with different replicator mint marks than the standalone's dead disc.

As for the film itself, I have mixed feelings after finally seeing it. Being the fourth Frankenstein-themed horror produced by Hammer, it appears they felt a gimmick was needed to attract audiences. They found that in casting August '66 Playmate Susan Denberg as the monster. The model, wearing facial scar makeup, commits suicide over the wrongful execution of her lover who happened to be Frankenstein's errand boy. The film drags as nearly the whole first hour is spent dealing with the events leading up to his persecution and her tragic decision. So there's not much horror and only sporadic Cushing during this time. Then, when she's reanimated and made beautiful again by the hands of Frankenstein, she looks so different as she's exacting vengeance that it's hard to accept there's any connection to her prior living self (or her boyfriend).

However, as always, the screen lights up whenever Peter Cushing appears. Just a shame the dearly missed actor couldn't have had more screen time. He's the kind of presence one could be enthralled with simply watching him read the evening paper while eating a slice of toast. And after he'd slap you sideways for being so rude, you'd profusely thank him for such a culturally enriching experience.

a few screenshots, soft, but acceptable and 1.66:1 anamorphic

Monday, April 15

The head of the great Troma, the even greater Lloyd Kaufman, just tagged me in a tweet...

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In response to yesterday's Curse of the Confederate Cannibals entry which I tweeted to Lloyd Kaufman, the legend himself retweeted me and then shot over this YouTube detailing the Japan portion of shooting The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989). I feel like I'm not worthy of even that much effort, haha, but the least I can do is post that video here on this lowly blog and instruct you to support Reel Independence!

Also FYI, much like the first film's Japanese cut (which recently had its DVD debut), its sequel also had a unique Japanese version, only this time with scenes shot on-location in the country. This 102 minute version is only available in North America in the out-of-print Tox Box DVD set and on Japanese VHS and DVD (both in English). The separate U.S. "Director's Cut" discs and tapes are the shorter edit.  

I've always respected what Kaufman has done ever since my first exposure to Troma-related content with The Toxic Crusaders as a kid. Well, maybe not quite that early on, but after getting old enough to watch and read up on all that Troma has managed to accomplish since its inception and still be kicking on so little, it's pretty damn awe-inspiring. Not to mention, through all the self-deprecation and shameless promotion, Kaufmann seems like a genuinely nice, hardworking guy. It also helps the Troma distributed Redneck Zombies (1987) is one of my favorite movies in existence and I thank them every night for bringing it to the masses (okay, perhaps not every night).

Sunday, April 14

Curse of the Cannibal Confederates (Curse of the Screaming Dead) (1982) - TCC Japan VHS

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In a word, horrendous. Tony Malanowski's Curse of the Cannibal Confederates might be the worst zombie movie I've ever seen. Yes, even worse than John Russo's attempt to piss on George Romero's Dead legacy with his offensive Children of the Living Dead (2001). There's amazingly not one aspect worth mentioning here. Every terribly edited scene drags like an old mule with a bump leg while bland characters inaudibly blather in piss poor lighting. A few laughably dressed zombies bathed in flour rise in near pitch blackness and meekly attack while you ponder the benefits of doing laundry instead.

If I had to compare this junk to another zombie movie, it actually reminds me somehow of Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1973). However, that would be a great disservice to the late Bob Clark's earnest picture that's always great fun while possessing real atmosphere (more fleshed out thoughts here). So don't take that as a recommendation even if I love ol' dead Orville and his soon-to-be-dead-too living friends. You'll just end up coming back here to send hate mail. The best Cannibal Confederates can muster is to remind you that no-budgeters with no redeeming qualities existed back when it was harder to pull off such a feat without the aid of today's cheap digital camcorders and pirated editing software. I'm so easy on zombie flicks that to fuck up one this badly is like fucking up a cup of coffee. It's that bad.

At least the movie's distribution history is a little more interesting. Malanowski pulled a Raimi and initially made the similarly themed Night of Horror in 1981. Then the filmmaker immediately quasi-remade that effort into Curse of the Screaming Dead which made its home video debut from Mogul Communications. Later in 1987, Troma picked it up, changed the title to Cannibal Confederates, and placed a scene of the zombies rising from their graves from the middle of the movie before new opening credits (and the scene later repeats in its proper place). Toxie's home appears have this one in their permanent catalog as they've released it to DVD a few years ago in a triple feature.

This is who Tokuma Communications Japan got the clearance to release their 1990 VHS release below (title translation, "Food of the Dead") . It's one of the rarer of TCC's titles, especially in this condition, presented in English with small Japanese subtitles. Check out Bruce Holecheck's Cinema Arcana VHS Archives entry detailing the Mogul VHS and more. Also I'm going to contact Bruce so he can swap out that poor, faded image of this VHS that's on his post with this nice scan.
    

Friday, April 12

Life goes on, VHS Collectors vs. Wizard Video, or how it just doesn't matter...

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Today, I was originally going to do a video detailing my thoughts on this whole Wizard Video big box re-release debacle that happened this week. I gave up after recording a rambling ten minute video where I essentially kept saying the same thing over-and-over. So I'll resign myself to sitting in front of this blinking cursor.

I'm still in lockstep with VHSCollector.com's assertions that the new Wizard Video big boxes are 100% fake. While I honestly like much of what Charles Band has done in his career, making such a big falsehood a key selling point to a niche market is bullshit. You knew the VHS market was hot right now and you've exploited it in the worst possible way. In doing so you've abused your position and inadvertently tarnished Wizard Video's legacy in the home video industry in the eyes of many that actually still give a fuck.

It's also a bigger deal than just a pile of worthless reproductions. It's flat out wrong especially since it's all been designed to fool people at their wallets to the tune of at least fifty bucks a pop. Everything Paul has pointed out makes a great case for fraud and it would have been wiser for Band to just speak the truth about these straight off the bat. Myself along with the majority wouldn't have cared, brand them "anniversary editions" or some shit and see the cash come in without the scumbag afterglow. And then I hear "buy them, don't buy them, blah excuses" Shhhhhh, what's that being carried by the gentle winds...aww yes, again soft whispers of bullshit...

Got these in this week; real, cool, and awesome... 
Despite underhanded remarks or attempts to downplay this situation made by some, including Fangoria editor Chris Alexander, we aren't naive or stupid just because we enjoy a dead format found in heaps at flea markets. DVD? Blu-ray? Streaming? No shit Sherlock, here's your blue ribbon.

Collecting relics of the past doesn't denote ignorance especially when said relics were an integral part of the huge popularity the genre enjoys today. If it weren't for people like us, bulldozers would have gladly take it all away before anyone realized what was lost. I get the feeling quite a few of these asshats insulting analog videophiles are either too young or simply indulging in thick-headed herd mentality because; you know, it's easier to be cattle.

Many of the horror tapeheads I know have been doing it for decades and aren't just knowledgeable at VHS, but with the genre itself. Immensely so with passion. I'd wager they're vastly more informed than many that have suckled at that teat of DVD all their lives as horror fans. This whole happening has proven to me that more often than not horror fans are elitist pricks to each another. Who dare not stand up for what's right just to maintain being goody goody with their beloved personalities. Either personally or in their own damned heads. And now I hear you saying that I'm a hypocrite for just disparaging disc enthusiasts. Quid pro quo.

Still, this all won't matter in time. Either they'll sell out, which I seriously doubt, or they'll eventually be discounted long after this drama has blown over (or maybe just disappear). One of the already most common "rare" vintage VHS distributors of the video boom will just get more common and the bottom will most likely fall out of the collector's market under the weight of all the counterfeits. While tape collectors will continue to pine for rarities on their want lists at yards sales or eBay and those that think they're idiots will go back to sucking Bruce Campbell's cock and lusting after box office horseshit. Do I sound a bit bitter? Well, maybe it's because of people like Charles Band.
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Thursday, April 11

Updated: Emily from Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981) Figure Coming in September...in Japan

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New Line Corporation are set to debut a new 1:6 scale polystone figure in their Horror Maniacs line of the mysterious, blind Emily from Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981). Entitled "Emily with Dickey", the piece was sculpted by Maya Yamaoka, stands about 30cm (11.8") tall, and will retail for ¥17,800 ($185USD). Pre-orders began this past Tuesday and --it appears Rakuten Global Market accepts overseas orders! (thanks to Ryohei over at Japanese VHS Hell!)


 

My SAW III Prop: Angus Macfadyen's Beretta Magazine

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A few days ago, Freddy in Space posted about buying a chunk of fake flesh used in the final outing of the Saw series, so I thought I might as well share this Saw III prop from my collection. This piece is the magazine Jeff (Angus Macfadyen) finds loaded with a single round along with a Beretta at the start of his "trap run" near the beginning of the movie (see it over that the IMFDB). Ultimately, Jeff uses this one shot to mortally wound Amanda (Shawnee Smith) during the climax after finding his way to Jigsaw and discovering his wife just shot by her. He then tries to shoot Jigsaw with the empty pistol.

Unfortunately that bullet wasn't included, but I'm quite fond of Saw III. I feel the series reached its peak with this, as originally intended, trilogy-ending series wrap-up. Although after the box office was tallied Lionsgate gave us four more truly lackluster entries. I still can't understand whenever I spot it on "best to worst" lists as being the worst (Saw IV easily). So I wanted to grab something actually from the film if the right opportunity ever presented itself. The small details and wear markings on this steel magazine match on-screen, especially evident on the Blu-ray.

Saw props from Raybin Management have actually come under fire from collectors in the past. They've pointed out examples of where Raybin described pieces as being used on-screen only for the prop marked that way to obviously differ from the one used in the movie upon direct comparison. A few months ago I almost bought what was supposedly the burned up VHS discovered by detectives after Troy fails to escape the chains dug into his skin all over his body also from Saw III. I did some research and found two other Troy tapes both with Raybin certificates of authenticity online. I promptly pulled out of the deal. They all could have been real, but there's a big value and just plain desirability factor to verified props handled by actors in the finished movie. Raybin is an authorized props dealer, but still be careful with their descriptions...
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Wednesday, April 10

VHSCollector.com's Rebuttal to Charles Band, the Wizard Video VHS saga continues...

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I'm officially busting out the popcorn! Personally, I'm not convinced about Band's claim yesterday that the logo/layout variations between the old and "new/found" big boxes are due to print runs from different places spanning several years; if that was the case, these differences would have already been established long ago by diehard collectors who've owned piles of copies through the years. Band's other claim about the difficulty of getting big boxes printed today also seems fishy.

As a collective, VHS hobbyists are just as obsessive about even the smallest of details, especially variants which might indicate rarity, as other collectors. The close-up of the new Headless Eyes big box in Paul's first video exhibiting a rectangle of "scanned" ex-rental sticker residue embedded on the artwork is especially damning to Band's insistence that these are legitimate old, "found" boxes. We're not that stupid and more explanation is definitely needed.

Some quick thoughts on Eaters (Eaters: Rise of the Dead) (2011)

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A plague has devastated the world's female population dropping the birth rate to zero and turning them into literal manhunters. Now, tiny bands of unbitten men struggle as one small group headed up by a scientist looks for an antidote. A slowly zombifying female captive might hold the answer, but more live dead specimens are required. Alen (Guglielmo Favilla) and Igor (Alex Lucchesi), are sent far into an area thick with dead. But while they're out hunting, much like our old friend Dr. Logan of Romero's Day, the good doctor has other, slightly psychotic plans...

Presented by Uwe Boll, you say? DO NOT WANT. Hold your horses, we'll get to that in a minute. Eaters is the long gestating debut of Italian filmmakers Marco Ristori and Luca Boni. Over the course of ten screenplay drafts and a few teaser trailers spanning several years, the pair finally gathered enough money to shoot their first feature. The infamous Boll entered at ground level with a promise to distribute the film if ever completed. His word was kept and here we are with Boll World Sales handling the film worldwide.

Shot using a Canon EOS 7D for just 100k, you'll probably find that you'll have to adjust to some realities. That means despite a world-crippling pandemic, Eaters mostly sticks local with its two leads engaging in small skirmishes in the countryside with a few CG overlays of burning cities in the distance. This might disappoint those expecting a barrage of zombie action and I was initially let down when stretches of dialogue heavy sequences began to creep in. Accepting this early on helps in finding plenty to like in this bread and butter effort.

Ristori and Boni have done an excellent job hashing out Alen and Igor with so much time spent with the two bantering back-and-forth. Alen is more level-headed and contemplative, feeling the urgency of finding a cure since their captive is actually his dying wife. Igor is gung-ho and brash, also looking for answers, but quick to provide his own from his sidearm. Favilla and Lucchesi play off each other well, making their characters likable all the while kicking zombie ass, delivering body parts to an esoteric painter for food, and using beer as barter with a cabal of Neo-Nazis scum.  

As stated, the doughy-skinned zombies are sparse, attacking suddenly in-between chats as Alen and Igor run afoul of living foes and mysterious transmissions from "The Plague Spreader". The cheap gore is a mix of practical and even cheaper CG. And this is where the most nagging aspect of the movie becomes apparent and it's surprisingly not the CG.

The post digital color correction is what quickly becomes the eyesore here. The color is so desaturated that it might as well have been shot in either gray or brown monochrome. This sounds like a nitpick, but it genuinely makes Eaters look even cheaper and darkens much of the gore to a black raspberry hue. Yes, it's a bleak apocalyptic scenario but the very nature of the premise should convey that. There's no need to tarnish natural color and make the movie ugly to spell out that shit's like, real bad, man...

However, for such a low budget debut Marco Ristori and Luca Boni display a fervent love for the subgenre and you'll want to follow the surviving characters by the conclusion. Not to mention it's an Italian zombie movie and who would have ever thought we'd see another? Maybe there's hope in a continued Italian horror revival?

Entertainment One's DVD features a half hour making-of with lengthy discussion from the filmmakers and cast that only bolsters the notion that the pair have the passion to go places with higher budgets (their new Zombie Massacre has a one million budget, trailer here). They also address the hatred many throw toward Uwe Boll saying it's unjustified and he came through on his word at a time when everyone else was disinterested in their aspirations for Eaters. And without Boll, I probably wouldn't have been able to buy this DVD at Wal Mart, the largest retailer in the world. So that arrogant director of shit from Germany must be doing something right.

As for the other aspects of the DVD, the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks solid in all its dull-colored glory. There's a throaty unadvertised Italian DTS 5.1 track included along with Italian and English dub Dolby 5.1. The large white subtitles are wordy and judging by HorrorTalk's review, share the same English translation found on the UK DVD (every "ass" is instead "arse").

Tuesday, April 9

Wizard Video Re-release Video Update, Charles Band responds to the accusations!

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This video just popped up of Band addressing Paul's new video and it's even hit Fangoria.com!

VHSCollector.com weighs in, Wizard Video VHS Re-releases: NOT ORIGINAL

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Longtime Wizard Video collector and big box expert Paul Z over at VHSCollector.com just debuted this fantastic video detailing what I assumed all along with Band single-handedly destroys Wizard Video, Meir Zarchi "spits" on the idea, First Video Review, and New Wizard Update: Fuck the NumbersThis video does a great job of laying out the whole saga from the beginning and states a strong case that, as I always figured, Band is doing some real shady stuff with these (truly) new Wizards. If it seems too good to be true...



Monday, April 8

Some quick thoughts on H.P. Lovecraft's The Evil Clergyman (1987/2012)

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Barbara Crampton stars as mournful woman whose secret lover, a priest (Jeffrey Combs), reappears one night after presumed dead. After making sweet monkey love in the bedroom of a gothic castle, the spectre of another priest (David Warner) and a giant human-faced rat (David Gale), awaken the woman to warn her that he's no longer who she thinks he is...

This half hour long short was originally part of a famously lost 1988 anthology film, Pulse Pounders, from Charles Band's then crumbling Empire Pictures. The other two segments of the film were a Trancers and Dungeonmaster sequel. To hear Band tell it, the original negative was lost at the film lab while being processed, but there's a lingering vibe that perhaps legal wranglings could have instead been the cause of its sudden disappearance (the back cover vaguely puts it as "circumstances"). That is until recently when a workprint was discovered on VHS and Band and a team of "digital experts" went to restoring it for a year prior to its debut to the world.

Well, it's damn short, I'll tell you that! That's about the only thing I can say about The Evil Clergyman. It's nice to see Crampton carry this segment with Combs and Warner essentially acting as wallpaper while Gale needlessly appears in a handful of shots in heavy make-up hurling a few expletives. At give-or-take twenty-six minutes, it's a little hard to gauge since this was always meant to be "bite-sized" and feels like your usual, unexceptionally solid Band production of the period. Richard Band's newly-recorded score might be the most impressive aspect, again sounding atypical of the composer's work for his brother. Not bad, not great, good...too damn short.

And that's my biggest gripe about this release. Why didn't Band get the restoration of the whole seventy-eight minute film completed and then debut an extensive Pulse Pounders special edition on DVD? I've had issues with Charles Band's business practices, but here's great example of a cash grab of fans of the cast and those aware of the lore surrounding this long lost film. This disc even makes sure you're aware that the Trancers sequel segment, dubbed "Trancers 1.5", will have its sound/score completed and arrive on its very own DVD come October 2013.

Aside from that, I was ready to tear into the restoration work before seeing it. Remastering from a VHS is very dicey and sometimes the temptation for overzealous digital manipulation is too great. Yet Band should be commended, it looks quite good. Usually the picture quality resembles what a good LaserDisc looks like when fed through a better-than-average LaserDisc player.

There's some odd instances of pieces of the image "shifting", almost like the clean-up software was at times lagging as it actively tried to improve portions of the picture while in-motion. Also some black lines and flecks appear consistent with a workprint and sometimes the clean sounding score obscures the lo-fi dialogue. The back states the widescreen transfer is anamorphic; however, it's not and if it was the quality would drop further (16x9 just makes poor material worse off). The six minute featurette is a wash with Combs, Crampton, and Band not providing much of anything interesting about the production.
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Saturday, April 6

Japanese One-Sheet and Chirashi Flyer for EVIL DEAD (2013)

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Pretty nifty that the poster mentions Raimi's original, Japan has been great to the series over the years...

Friday, April 5

7 Golden Vampires Suffers in Millenium's New Hammer Horror Triple Feature DVD

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Well, the old adage goes you get what you pay for, and Millennium Entertainment fumbled their new, cheaply priced, and entirely extra-less Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (1966), The Legend Of 7 Golden Vampires (1974), and Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) triple feature.

Several firsthand reports are indicating that 7 Golden Vampires, although sporting an anamorphic widescreen transfer, is marred by speed-up resembling the 3% increase in framerate that comes with the 25 frames-per-second PAL video standard versus the 24fps NTSC standard of this presentation.

If this is the case, it actually isn't a problem that's uncommon, but it still deserves to be rectified. This DVD still plays fine in U.S. players; it's just the source of the transfer was PAL and sloppily converted into NTSC standard leaving the faster motion and probably a higher pitch to the sound. Although it should be said that with bad PAL-to-NTSC transfers also usually comes strange, lagging "ghosting" digital artifacts.

To be honest, and I know some will strongly disagree, I've found that unless you've seen a particular film a decent amount of times in NTSC, the slightly faster motion and audio of viewing something in PAL is rather difficult to notice. I say this owning many PAL discs and an HDTV and DVD player that can display them without any conversions. However, if an improper video conversion isn't the issue here, I'm unsure what it could be.

If Millennium doesn't announce a fix pronto (doubt they will at all myself), I might eventually pick up a copy for Terence Fisher's Frankenstein Created Woman. For those that don't know, Anchor Bay's Hammer Collection DVD release from back in 2000 is perhaps their most infamous botch in their history as a video distributor. Due to a widespread faulty pressing at the disc replicator, virtually every copy that shipped out was completely unplayable. Instead of the dual layer disc being a golden color, it's a reddish bronze, leading to the term "bronzed" on forum posts upset about the problem at the time. Only their quickly recalled and corrected THX disc of Dario Argento's Opera (1987) the following year rivals the scope of the problem with their never fixed dud Hammer.
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...do you dare tread upon the staircase?
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