Friday, August 1, 2014

In Search Of Bigfoot / Cry Wilderness (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

USA/1975, 1986
Directed By: Lawrence Crowley/William Miller, Jay Cohen
Written By: , Jay Cohen, Phillip Yordan
Starring: Robert Morgan, Phil Tonken, Eric Foster, Maurice Grandmaison
Color/167 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: August 5, 2014

The Films
The first film on this double feature DVD is a documentary from 1975 entitled IN SEARCH OF BIGFOOT, a title that perfectly sums up what the film is about. A man who deeply believes in the existence of the infamous beast and claims to have an experience with one twenty years prior assembles a team to explore the Pacific Northwest hunting for clues and proof of Bigfoot. Overall IN SEARCH OF BIGFOOT is endearing in its honesty and heartfelt nature on wanting to uncover the truth behind the myth and find the beast. There's no sarcastic cool guy making jokes or anyone trying to hoax the existence and trick the world. It's a group that has a passion to uncover the beast and protect his home. Unfortunately it's a rather boring documentary. The 76 minutes are spent walking through the woods or talking to locals in and around the area who have sightings of beasts that may or may not have been a Sasquatch and little of any actual consequence happens.

In the second film on the set, CRY WILDERNESS, a young boy who befriended Bigfoot the year earlier is visited by the beast and warned that his father is in grave danger. The boy leaves his boarding school and hitchhikes his way into the mountains where his father works as a forest ranger. The ranger and his Native American friend are on the hunt for a tiger that escaped from the circus to capture it alive while locals are on the hunt to make money. All the while a big game hunter is on the look for Bigfoot and will spill blood to find and kill him.

CRY WILDERNESS is ridiculous in that it is a big mashup of nature run amok, Bigfoot and children's adventure flick. There's some instances of horror but just as often there's adorable scenes of cute raccoons terrorizing a kitchen and making a mess and Bigfoot and the boy reuniting with a big hug and spinning around like they're in a musical. Oh and did I mention Bigfoot loves to drink Coke and listen to rock music? Yeah, he's pretty much the hippest Bigfoot around.

I don't know if I liked CRY WILDERNESS or not. It certainly was an interesting and sometimes entertaining movie but that has as much to do with how random the whole thing was. I think an opportunity for a more violent horror driven film was missed. Seeing this Bigfoot, with a cheesy yet fairly decent looking costume tear apart asshole locals who are destroying his home and other animal friends would have been great. We get nothing close to that though and CRY WILDERNESS exists in some sort of weird plane where Bigfoot finds it easier to visit a little kid at his school instead of just saving the kid's dad himself.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome's transfer of BIGFOOT is solid. The documentary filmed on 16mm has pretty good clarity. The print is in pretty good condition with the occasional bit of dirt/debris or the stray hair remaining. For a low budget documentary shot on 16mm it looks about as good as you'd hope for. The audio is better than I expected given the nature of the production. Audio is clear with good mixing and steady levels. There's never a moment of struggling to understand dialogue and there's very little if any annoying popping or crackling.

CRY WILDERNESS looks pretty good on this DVD. There's a bit of speckling but the print is mostly clean and has decent sharpness and clarity. It does look better than the other film on the disc as it was filmed in 35mm and quality is naturally higher. The audio track sounds good with good mixing and clarity. There's no background noise and levels are steady so you won't need to reach the remote for fluctuating volume.

The Extras
Bare bones.

The Bottom Line
This DVD from the Drive-In Collection by Vinegar Syndrome is an interesting pairing of similarly themed yet totally different Sasquatch flicks. If you're a fan of the big beast and films about it there's no reason not to check this disc out. 


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Swedish Nympho Slaves (Blu-ray Review) - Ascot Elite

Directed By: Jess Franco
Written By: Erwin C. Dietrich
Starring: Lina Romay, Martine Stedil, Vitor Mendes
Color/77 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date:

The Film
A father and his right hand man pay the five million dollar ransom for the return of his kidnapped daughter. When his daughter isn't returned he has the owner of a whore house kidnapped as they believe she knows the whereabouts of his daughter who may have been brainwashed.

A simple plot leads to a movie filled with tons of beautiful women, sex and violence. Also known as Die Sklavinnen (The Slaves), SWEDISH NYMPHO SLAVES is a fine example of Franco's ability to create entertaining Euro-trash. Lina Romay is great in the lead as the whorehouse owner and she looks as fine as ever. The sets and cinematography are among the best of the time for Franco and I'd go far enough to call this one of his best films of the mid to late 1970s.

The Audio & Video
Ascot Elite lives up to their name with another elite Blu-ray presentation of Jess Franco's films. SWEDISH NYMPHO SLAVES has great detail, natrual skin tones and excellent color representation. The picture is sharp and clean. The DTS-HD 5.1 German audio track is crisp and clear with no background noise. The mix is spot on and the English subs are perfect.

The Extras
-Audio interview with Jess Franco
-Still gallery

The Bottom Line
Sexploitation fans will enjoy this one as Franco brings a solid story, and plenty of the juicy stuff to the table and makes a fun piece of sleaze!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Protector 2 (Blu-ray Review) - Magnet Releasing

Directed By: Prachya Pinkaew
Written By: Eakasit Thairatana
Starring: Tony Jaa, Rza
Color/105 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: July 29, 2014

The Film
Kham (Tony Jaa) is the number one suspect for murdering the head of an Elephant camp. Kham is on the run from the police, the nieces of the murdered man and a crime boss (Rza) who has plans of his own for Kham's beloved elephant which could destroy the peace talks going on in the region.

THE PROTECTOR 2 is another vehicle to showcase Tony Jaa's immense skills in various forms of martial arts. The story is present and coherent but isn't the important part. We're on an action packed ride of fight scenes, car chases and pure adrenaline. Wu-Tang Clan member and Kung-fu film afficianado Rza gets a nice role in the film and shows he has some acting ability. Hell, he even has some good action scenes as well. I'll give the movie a break on the writing as I know what Tony Jaa films are made for (it isn't to showcase the writing) but THE PROTECTOR 2 faces some serious setbacks with some incredibly hokey and poorly rendered CGI sequences that look like they belong in some sort of spoof film. They don't come close to ruining the experience but the director could have made better decisions than to fall victim to such gimmicky 3D use.

The Audio & Video
Magnet Releasing gives us an attractive Blu-ray with a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The picture is crisp and clean with good detail levels and natural skin tones. The English 5.1 DTS-HDMA audio track sounds good and full with a solid mix of levels.

The Extras
 -Behind-The-Scenes Featurettes: Cast & Characters, Speaking With The Director, Action & Stunts, Working in 3D

The Bottom Line
If you liked the original Protector film you'll like THE PROTECTOR 2. If you're a big fan of martial arts films then THE PROTECTOR 2 is also worth checking out.

THE PROTECTOR 2 is available HERE

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ong Bak Trilogy (Blu-ray Review) - Magnet

Directed By: Prachya Pinkaew, Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai
Written By:  Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai, Suphachai Sittiaumponpan, Tony Jaa
Starring: Tony Jaa, Dan Chupong, Petchtai Wongkamlao
Color/302 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: July 29, 2014

The Films
The first ONG BAK movie is little more than a showcase for Tony Jaa. Jaa is a talented fighter from a small village and has been sent to the city to recover the stolen head from a sacred Buddha statue. This turns into one fight scene after another with the odd chase thrown in for good measure. The fights are well choreographed and certainly make for an entertaining time. There's even a bit of family heartache and drama thrown in for good measure. ONG BAK just doesn't have enough substance to be considered great. Yes it is filled with action but many of the early fight scenes are so similar in tone and content that they become a bit of a bore. Luckily some fresh air blows over the film and the best fights are in the second half of the film which make ONG BAK worth a single viewing for martial arts enthusiasts.

ONG BAK 2 is a prequel of sorts, in name only. Tony Jaa again stars in this jungle action adventure period flick set centuries ago. Jaa is a young warrior, on his way to becoming leader after learning all there is to learn of the martial arts including both the "dancing" and "weapon" arts. This film is far more entertaining and prettier to look at than the original film. And while it certainly isn't a great screenplay, it does have better writing than the first which was essentially a string of fights inconsequential to the story. ONG BAK 2 is an improvement over the first but I still don't see how this series has earned cult classic status.

The final chapter in the ONG BAK trilogy picks up right where part two leaves off and adds a healthy dose of fantasy to the mix. There's much more of the same in the way of awesome fight scenes which are bloody and brutal and rather colorful and eye catching sets and costumes. The ONG BAK sequels are definitely attractive looking features. This entry features a "son of..." type story but pretty much treads the same waters that part 2 did. 

Audio & Video
ONG BAK looks fairly rough on its Blu-ray from Magnet Releasing. The film has a naturally bland color palette and the original photography on the film seems quite soft which doesn't help things. The picture is overly grainy and detail level could be much better. The Thai audio track is a 5.1 DTS-HDMA track but fails to take advantage of its capabilities. Levels are good but the mix sounds thin. English subtitles were fine.

Part two looks far superior thankfully. Detail level is strong in textures and skin tones which are healthy and natural. The picture is sharp and has a nice clarity to it which allows the much better looking photography and more vivid colors to shine.  I chose the English dub track for this film and while the dubbing sounded a corny at times the audio quality itself was quite good. Again the tracks are 5.1 DTS-HDMA and this time the track sounds much fuller. The mix is excellent and levels are steady. This is a big step up over the first disc in the set.

And as part 3 and part 2 were similar in story they're nearly identical in technical presentation. The specs are the same and the A/V qualities are equally successful. Colors are vivid and pop just enough when needed and texture and detail is strong. The sequels in this franchise almost look like comic books in motion in the best way. The English dub track again sounds excellent and is handled brilliantly. No reason to complain.

Disc 1:
-The Movements Of Muay Thai
-Behind-The-Scenes stunt footage
-Live Tony Jaa and stuntmen performance
-French rap music video with Tony Jaa
-Promo video featuring The RZA
-Making-of music video

Disc 2:
-Alternate cut of the film
-3 Making Of featurettes
-3 Behind-The-Scenes featurettes
-Interviews with cast and crew
-HDNet: A Look at ONG BAK 2
-Exclusive footage of ONG BAK 3

Disc 3:
-HDNet: A Look at ONG BAK 3
-The Making Of A Legend
-Behind-The-Scenes: Uncovering The Action
-Interviews w/ cast and crew
-Behind-The-Scenes footage

The Bottom Line
The ONG BAK trilogy has been heralded for Tony Jaa's incredible martial arts prowess and the brutal fight scenes. These are the only reasons to check out these films as the stories are largely lacking and in the case of the first film, nearly non-existant. That said, the fight scenes are certainly reason enough to give these films a chance. The ONG BAK trilogy isn't amazing by any stretch of the imagination but damn those fight scenes are fun.

ONG BAK Trilogy is available HERE

Monday, July 28, 2014

Trancers (Blu-ray Review) - Full Moon

Directed By: Charles Band
Written By: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo
Starring: Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt, Michael Stefani
Color/76 Minutes/PG-13
Region A
Release Date: July 16, 2014

The Film
Agent Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) live in Angel City in the year 2247. He is currently wiping out all of the Trancers in the city left over by a major criminal known as The Whistler. Trancers are people that have been psychically manipulated in to evil henchmen. Deth finds out that Whistler isn't dead, he is alive in the year 1985. Deth has to travel back in time to inhabit the body of one of his ancestors to track down Whistler and stop his evil tyranny once and for all.

 TRANCERS is a great mix of sci-fi, action and film noir with Charles Band's B-movie flair. The acting is surprisingly great from the grizzly and tough Jack Deth to the young, care free sidekick performance from Helen Hunt who is immensely likable in her role. Also supporting roles from Art LeFleur as Jack Deth's superior and Biff Manard as a down on his luck ex-baseball player who adds some comedy to the film. TRANCERS may very well be the best Full Moon production of the mid to late 80s and certainly looks better than its B-movie origins would suggest.

The Audio & Video
Full Moon gives TRANCERS its high definition debut with pretty good success. The image quality is quite a bit sharper than its DVD counterpart giving way to increased detail levels especially in skin tones and textures. There is still a bit of softness to the film but it seems to have more to do with the original photography of the film than with the transfer of this Blu-ray. TRANCERS is also finally given the anamorphic widescreen treatment. The 5.1 surround sound audio track sounds very good with a lively and full sounding track. There's no background noise to speak of and the mix between dialogue and the great score/soundtrack is spot on.

The Extras
Special features include:
-Audio Commentary track with director Charles Band and star Tim Thomerson
-Daniel Griffith's TRANCERS featurette - A 15 minute "making-of".
-Rare interviews with Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt and Megan Ward
-Still gallery
-TRANCERS:  CITY OF LOST ANGELS - The TRANCERS segment from "Pulsepounders" that was once thought lost. This is definitely the coolest feature on the disc. Think of it as "Trancers 1.5" or a bonus adventure of Jack Deth.

The Bottom Line
TRANCERS is one of Full Moon's longest running series and with six full length chapters, plus the short from the Pulsepounders production there's no reason not to check out this much improved Blu-ray to get started on the series. I sincerely hope they release the rest of the series on Blu-ray sooner or later.

TRANCERS is available HERE

Friday, July 25, 2014

Girls In The Night Traffic (Blu-ray Review) - Ascot Elite

Directed By: Erwin C. Dietrich, Jess Franco
Written By: Erwin C. Dietrich
Starring: Kali Hansa, Pilar Coll, Diotta Fatou
Color/72 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: April 15, 2014

The Film
This is the Jess Franco I try to stay away from. GIRLS IN THE NIGHT TRAFFIC is the story of three high class hookers who sleep together and through a series of flashbacks recount their evening with their clients the night before including putting on a sex show and role playing as a corpse. One of them is kidnapped by a pimp posing as a photographer and she ends up in a weird prison. Her friends end up in the same prison to help her get revenge.

Blah. I'll put it plainly so you can skip to the next section if you wish... this film fucking sucks. It's nothing more than a reason to show naked women on screen and while that is fun and everything it becomes like work when that is all a movie has going for it. There is another cut of the film but that is merely the X-rated hardcore cut which adds on 20 minutes of hardcore sex cut from other movies. I don't know how responsible Franco is for this as he is uncredited as a director but it has all the markings of his other shitty films so he'll shoulder half the blame and Dietrich will to. Thanks for nothing.

The Audio & Videos
We can't blame Ascot Elite for the lame film but we can tell them "job well done" on a very nice Blu-ray presentation. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is very pretty with good sharpness and clarity and vivid and natural colors. The 2.0 German audio track is mixed fine and sounds good. The English subtitles are a little goofy but they seem to be timed well enough and translated fine. 

The Extras
-Jess Franco audio interview
-Still gallery
-+ More

The Bottom
I have a hard time recommending this title for anybody at all but I suppose there are Jess Franco completeists that will want this and they'll be thankful that a dreadful film got such a competent Blu-ray release. 


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Curtains (Blu-ray Review) - Synapse Films

Directed By: Richard Ciupka
Written By: Robert Guza Jr.
Starring: John Vernon, Samantha Eggar, Linda Thorson
Color/90 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: July 29, 2014

The Film
Director Johnathan Stryker (John Vernon) wants to make a film called "Audra" and he and his leading lady Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar) concoct a plan to have her put in a mental asylum for a short stay as a patient to prepare for the role. Stryker seemingly moves on from Sherwood who has to break out of the asylum on her own. Stryker hosts a group of actresses, including Sherwood at his home to audition for the part in "Audra". Shortly after the actresses start missing and getting killed by a psycho wearing a disturbing mask.

CURTAINS had a very troubled production. From director Richard Ciupka hoping to get fired off the project (his debut as a director) to extensive re-shoots happening almost two years after principal photography was completed that ended up replacing about a third of Ciupka's film. The producer wanted a cheap and easy slasher film and Ciupka had ideas about a psychological thriller/horror film. The final product is a weird mishmash of both ideas that somehow comes together and works for an entertaining film even if some of it just simply doesn't make sense.

While CURTAINS is messy because of the production troubles there are a couple of really great scenes including the ice skating scene and the final sequence taking up about the last 15 minutes of the film. They're filmed beautifully and make CURTAINS worth checking out on their merit alone. CURTAINS has long been an oddity that you've only been able to see on poor quality VHS and bootlegs on the convention circuit, not anymore. This release is what the actresses involved feared! We're going to see it and hopefully you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

The Audio & Video
There's good reason when Synapse Films delays a release even for only a few weeks. They're making sure the film looks and sounds as good as it can. There's a reason they could be crowned kings of the cult home video market. They just plain get it. And their new Special Edition Blu-ray of CURTAINS proves it again. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer got a new 2K scan from the original vault materials and it shines. Colors are vibrant and pop just a bit. Skin tones show look fleshy and natural. The picture quality is very sharp and has a light layer of grain that keeps the feel of the film photography. There a newly mixed 5.1 DTS-HDMA track and the original 2.0 Mono mix for HD and overall sound quality is excellent. Its a crisp track with no background noise and an excellent mix. I love the ice skating scene where score gets bumped to the forefront but we can still hear the skate scraping against the ice as the girl moves along. This is just a fantastic job.

The Extras
The Blu-ray features quite a few quality special features including:
-"The Ultimate Nightmare: The Making of CURTAINS" - An all new 2014 retrospective that runs over 35 minutes and documents the film's conception to theatrical release and subsequent status as a cult favorite
-"Ciupka - A Filmmaker In Transition" (Blu-ray Exclusive) - A vintage behind-the-scenes documentary on Richard Ciupka that was filmed during the production of CURTAINS
-Audio commentary track with stars Lesleh Donaldson and Lynne Griffin
-Alternate audio track with vintage audio interviews with producer Peter R. Simpson and star Samantha Eggar
-Theatrical trailer

The Bottom Line
The back cover of this release has a quote that calls CURTAINS a "Must see for slasher completists". I'll go a step farther and say that if you're even the slightest fan of slasher films you'll want to see CURTAINS it is weird, a bit disturbing and totally endearing. If Synapse Films had rushed the release and given us a bare bones release with just a passable transfer it would still be a revelation for this film and I'm sure fans would be satisfied with it but the fact that they went the extra mile and gave CURTAINS a very nice selection of special features and a brilliant A/V presentation is just awesome. The wait for CURTAINS is over and it was worth it.

CURTAINS is available HERE