Friday, May 22, 2015

EVIL EYE aka THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (Blu-ray Review) - Kino



Italy/1963
Directed By: Mario Bava
Written By: Mario Bava, Enzo Corbucci, Ennio De Concini, Eliana De Sabata, Mino Guerrini, Franco Prosperi
Starring: Leticia Roman, John Saxon, Valentina Cortese
Black and White/92 Minutes (or 85 minutes)/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: May 19, 2015

The Film
The giallo craze swept Italy in the 1970s with seemingly every genre filmmaker putting together their own murder mystery thrillers, sometimes heavily influenced by the horror genre and often very stylish and explicitly violent and sexual. Directors such as Dario Argento and Sergio Martino became household names by making some of the finest examples of these films but the genre started almost a decade before the roof was blown off and the cycle exploded.

Mario Bava made the prototype giallo in 1963 with THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH in which a young American girl touring Rome witnesses a murder on the famous Spanish Steps in Rome. The traumatic experience leaves her unconcious and when she awakens nobody believes her story. She begins to investigate the crime on her own and uncovers a series of related crimes that may be leading to her being the next target on the killer's list.

The groundwork was laid for the genre and its foundation is rock solid. Bava created a well crafted thriller that is tense and suspenseful from start to finish. The photography is beautiful and the cast is quite good. THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH wouldn't turn out to be the best, or most entertaining and it certainly isn't the most gruesome or sexual but it was the first. It quite aptly summed up what a giallo is and would become when they became all the rage several years later.

The Audio & Video
Home run, Kino! This is a damn near perfect A/V presentation for a film deserving of it. The HD transfer of the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is stunning. The black and white photography is deep and stark with strong emphasis on shadows. Black levels are handled brilliantly with no blocking up or compression issues. Detail levels are exceptional from the healthy skin tones, to textures and fabrics and even grains of dirt that you can almost feel. The Italian audio track is crisp and clear with no damage noticeable. The audio has enough body to it so that it doesn't sound thin against the score. The mix of dialogue and score is very well done. The optional English subtitles are perfectly timed and translated so they read very naturally in English.

The Extras
-Audio commentary with Tim Lucas
-Trailers for both versions of the film

The Bottom Line
While I suggest the viewers watch Mario Bava's original version of the film, it is a welcomed addition to have the American cut of the film in HD as well. The more Mario Bava films and their alternate versions we can get on Blu-ray the better and this release is a great chance to own both versions of one of the maestro's landmark films.

EVIL EYE is available HERE

Friday, May 15, 2015

MAN, PRIDE AND VENGEANCE (Blu-ray Review) - Blue Underground


Italy/1967
Directed By: Luigi Bazzoni
Written By: Luigi Bazzoni, Suso Cecchi D'Amico
Starring: Franco Nero, Tina Aumont, Klaus Kinski
Color/100 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: May 26, 2015

The Film
Don Jose (Franco Nero) is a Spanish soldier who becomes enamored with a gypsy woman named Carmen (Tina Aumont) after she asks for help in getting factory work. Jose quickly becomes obsessed with Carmen and when he finds out that one of his superior officers had an affair with her he gets into a fight with him, accidentally killing him. Jose runs off with the woman and her crew of bands including her husband (Klaus Kinski). Jose agrees to help rob a stagecoach to prove his love to Carmen and will do anything else he deems necessary to win her away from her mysterious life.

Commonly referred to and marketed as a spaghetti western MAN, PRIDE AND VENGEANCE is not a proper western. This film is a period drama but does have some strong western influences and scenes you'd find in a western. These scenes are very well done but it's important to note that they aren't thrown in for the purpose of being able to market this as a western, they're fully in line with the story and definitely advance the narrative in a natural and meaningful way.

The story is instantly engaging as Franco Nero gives on of his best performances of the era as the hopeless lover who has fallen hard for the mysterious, smokey eyed Carmen. Tina Aumont is captivating as Carmen and you wouldn't know this was the first time she was really required to carry the female lead role. She's excellent in her performance and almost mesmerizing visually. Kinski again shows his talents here despite being as unlikeable as ever. He truly was one of the greats.

Luigi Bazzoni and his camera crew including cinematographer Camillo Bazzoni and Vittorio Storaro, who would later become an Oscar winning cinematographer in his own right, created beautiful scenes and images throughout the desert setting. The twilight fist fight scene has such a great look to it and the scope of the shot during the explosion is massive.

In the special features, Franco Nero states that he, Storaro and the Bazzoni brothers were longtime friends and made short films together while working towards their bigger breaks, always intending to make a feature together. MAN, PRIDE AND VENGEANCE is that feature film and the passion of four very talented friends coming together to make a movie they always wanted to make definitely shines through as this film shows the three different areas of the friends' talents to mesh together beautifully.

The Audio & Video
Blue Underground brings MAN, PRIDE AND VENGEANCE to Blu-ray with a stunning 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that has a lovely and natural grain structure giving the film a very filmic look. Colors are warm and vivid without being overly hot or popping too much. Detail level is high in both skin tones which are fleshy with no sign of waxiness and in surfaces/textures. I didn't notice any damage to the print at all.

The disc comes with a pair of audio options, English and Italian. Both tracks are DTS-HD mono tracks and optional English, French and Spanish subtitles are available for the Italian audio track. I chose to listen to the English option as it was the one that played on the disc when I hit play. The track sounds very nice with exceptional clarity in dialogue and a surprisingly robust sounding score given the mono mix. Score and dialogue levels are in appropriate relation to one another and there's no distracting popping, crackling or other annoying damage.

The Extras
-Audio commentary with journalists C. Courtney Joyner and Henry C. Parke
-"Franco, Vittorio & Luigi" - a half hour long featurette of interviews with Franco Nero and Vittorio Storaro about their careers and time spent making the film
-International trailer
-Italian trailer
-Still gallery

The Bottom Line
You'd think the folks at Blue Underground were part of that tight knit group of friends because the of love and respect they've shown this release is immediately evident. I shouldn't be surprised though, this is just another fine example of a label that truly cares about the product they release and always do so with the highest quality.

MAN, PRIDE AND VENGEANCE is available HERE

Thursday, May 14, 2015

MADMAN (Blu-ray Review) - Vinegar Syndrome


USA/1982
Directed By: Joe Giannone
Written By: Joe Giannone, Gary Sales
Starring: Gaylen Ross, Tony Fish, Paul Ehlers
Color/89 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date:

The Film
Beware Madman Marz, a farmer who went nuts and murdered his family with an axe one night. When the townspeople found out what he did they hanged him only to find him and the bodies of his family missing the next morning. The legend now says that if you say his name above a whisper in the woods near his house that he'll kill everyone there. Of course a group of camp counselors have a little too much fun telling this legend in the woods near the legendary house and pay for it, big time.

MADMAN is a prototypical 80s slasher that was shot in the later part of 1980 and released around the beginning of 1982. It does well what any good slasher should- It has a memorable killer in the form of Madman Marz, who looks like a bloated, sasquatch/Neanderthal mishmash in overalls who wields a big axe, brutal killings that are quite bloody and some sort of audible hook. While Friday The 13th has the "kill kill kill ma ma ma", and Halloween has John Carpenter's timeless theme, MADMAN has a fully electronic score that creeps along with the seemingly endless night and is topped off by a wonderfully folky and catchy theme song that warns of Madman Marz. I was still excited as the end credits rolled just listening to the song warning me of the terrors I had just seen unfold.


MADMAN takes place entirely at night and manages to get some really quality cinematography with some well done lighting. The atmosphere is thick throughout the exterior scenes of the film. The true treasure of the film is Marz' home. This kitschy, down home country house is a cross between country bumpkin and a crypt as some of the rooms are down right creepy. And make sure you stay out of that basement!

The weakness in MADMAN is in its characters for me. Aside from Marz and the old man in charge of the camp who disappears for most of the movie, the counselors are all pretty bland. Yes, I'm aware this is a slasher movie we're talking about where the point of the teens is to get high, fuck and die but in almost every good slasher I can think of at least one of the kids is memorable for one reason or another. Unfortunately, while all of the performances are solid, the characters sort of blend in to one another. My other complaint with the film is how many kills happen off screen, or at least the "money shot" happens with a cut. This is a bit more minor of a complaint as the kills by Marz are still nasty in their nature without being as graphic and in your face as they could be.


MADMAN might not be an elite level slasher film for one reason or another, but it does have some of the ingredients that make up those top tier films. It has always surprised me that MADMAN never spawned a sequel in a decade where damn near everything had at least one sequel and many turned into franchises that bled the cow dry. For a movie I don't necessarily love I have found myself wanting to re-watch this disc quite a bit since popping it in a few days ago when I received it. That definitely speaks to how entertaining this early 80s bodycount film can be.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome gives MADMAN its HD debut with a gorgeous 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The film was shot entirely at night and this disc handles those endless black levels with ease. The black levels are deep and inky with no signs of blocking or compression issues which could have single handedly ruined this transfer had less capable hands taken care of it. The picture is very clean with little to no speckling and only a couple instances of scratches in the original negative. Skin tones look healthy and natural while textures and surfaces have very strong detail. This transfer maintains the film's original blue tint that is a big part of the look to the movie but doesn't go overboard with it, making sure that it only adds to the look and feel of the film when it is meant to.

The DTS-HD English audio track sounds crisp and crystal clear. The mix job keeps the dialogue and score in line with each other as they are complimentary and don't overpower each other at any point. There's no crackling, popping or audio drop outs at any point. The audio is pretty much damage and distraction free and ends up being as fantastic as the PQ is.


The Extras
The plentiful bounty of extras include:

-"The Legend Lives: 30 Years Of MADMAN" 90+ minute documentary featuring many cast members and filming locations. - All movies should have at least one special feature that is this damn good!
-MADMAN Alive At 35 featurette - A reunion of producers and actors as they fondly remember their time spent filming the movie
-Audio commentary with cast and crew
-Audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues!
-New interviews with Paul Ehlers, Gary Sales and Jimmy Steele
-Music inspired by MADMAN
-In Memoriam featurette remembering those we've lost since the film was made
-TV Spots
-Theatrical Trailer
-Reversible artwork done by Madman Marz himself, Paul Ehlers!
-DVD Copy of the film


The Bottom Line
Vinegar Syndrome is making a case for the best slasher Blu-ray release of the year with this one.

MADMAN is available HERE

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 2: SUBHUMANOID MELTDOWN (Blu-ray Review) - Troma


USA/1991
Directed By: Eric Louzil, Donald G. Jackson
Written By: Lloyd Kaufman, Carl Morano, Matt Unger, Eric Louzil, Mark F. Rolling, Jeffrey W. Sass
Starring: Brick Bronsky, Lisa Gaye, Leesa Rowland
Color/95 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: April 14, 2015

The Film
The CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH trilogy reaches it's pinnacle with SUBHUMANOID MELTDOWN, where the students of Tromaville have graduated to college and now have to deal with more nuclear waste problems including the Subhumanoid, emotionless beings created to make life easier and better for the rest of us. Unfortunately as the title suggests, these creatures tend to meltdown! One man is determined to keep his loving subhumanoid alive even when he has to battle Tromie the giant nuclear squirrel... WHAT?

This trilogy is some of my favorite Troma work. The series continues in the present day with the Return to Nuke 'Em High films as the first has been released and was excellent and the follow up should be getting its release shortly. These uber cheesy, raunchy and downright gooey and messy films are a freaking blast to watch but they maintain a certain level of social awareness that really makes them something special.

You should know what you're in for with this film (and the rest of the series), spotty acting, intentionally over the top action and comedy and a rather offensive script. This series is fantastic from the effects and ridiculous stories to the awesome soundtracks.

The Audio & Video
Troma seems to be hit or miss with their Blu-rays lately but CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 2 is about as good as it gets. The 1080p HD anamorphic widescreen transfer simply shines. Surfaces and textures show exceptionally high detail levels while skin tones look healthy and fleshy with no sign of waxiness or excessive DNR. Colors are vivid and have a natural realism to them without looking artificially pumped up. The English audio track has a nice crispness to it. The levels are mixed very well so that dialogue and the soundtrack compliment each other without competing for the foreground. The track is high quality and free of any distortions, background noise or other damage.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary
-Music Video Trailer
-Interview with Lisa Gaye
-Premiere of MYSTERY "Return To Nuke 'Em High" music video
-Llyod Kaufman interviews James Gunn on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy
-Troma At The Museum Of Modern Art
-The American Cinematheque honors 40 years of Troma
-Trailers

The Bottom Line
A gorgeous presentation of one of the best Troma movies that has some really cool special features. Go ahead and treat yo'self! Seriously, this release is Grade-A

CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 2: SUBHUMANOID MELTDOWN is available HERE

Monday, May 11, 2015

EBOLA ZOMBIES (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing


Hong Kong/2015
Directed By: Samuel Leong
Written By: Samuel Leong
Starring: Anna Chan, Jack Chan, Cash Lee
Color/89 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: March 24, 2015

The Film
A crime organization breaks into an industrial complex to pull off a jewel heist but stumble upon a hidden lab where illegal and secret Ebola and SARS experiments are being done on stolen cadavers which are quickly transforming into zombies. What started as an attempt at getting rich quick has turned into a fight to escape with their lives.

Originally titled SARS ZOMBIES, I can only guess that the title was changed to cash in on the recent worldwide Ebola scare that has had a strangle hold on media headlines. I won't fault them for that but aside from the first few minutes of the film going overboard with in your face social commentary before anything involving the actual film even starts and then during the end credits a bit as well there's nothing going on within that makes it anymore socially conscious or aware than any other zombie movie. Sure there's a bit of a dialogue that mentions the diseases but it is inconsequential.


Luckily for the viewer the film doesn't fail because of that as there's plenty going on in the way of violent hand to hand combat, shootouts and zombie attacks. I don't know how to describe the style the film has any other way than to say it mimics the hyperactive look and feel that many other Asian genre films in this vein have had over the last decade. However the director gets a bit heavy handed with his use of slow motion during the fight scenes which hurts their momentum and flow at times.

The Audio & Video
Wild Eye Releasing gives the film an anamorphic widescreen transfer that features a sharp and clean picture with good color reproduction. The Cantonese audio track has English subtitles that are timed and translated properly. The quality of the audio is quite good with no damage to speak of and a nice crispness to the overall sound.


The Extras
A "making of" featurette is included along with a selection of trailers from other Wild Eye Releasing films.


The Bottom Line
There's enough action and blood flying in this CAT III piece of genre filmmaking from debuting direcdtor Samuel Leong to satisfy zombie fans and despite its reliance on recent health scares in the title to potentially garner interest in the movie it is better than some other zombie movies I've seen from the last two years.

EBOLA ZOMBIES is available HERE

Friday, May 8, 2015

THE MOTHMAN CURSE (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing


USA/2014
Directed By: Richard Mansfield
Written By: Richard Mansfield
Starring: Rachel Dale, Stephen Glover, Daniel Mansfield
Color and Black & White/80 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: April 21, 2015

The Film
A pair of women work alone in a large museum and have begun noticing a shadowy figure watching them night after night. As the nights go on the figure grows increasingly closer and other strange things begin to happen. Paranoia and fear grows within the women as they begin to investigate what the figure could be.

THE MOTHMAN CURSE is light on straight forward narrative and dialogue, relying largely on an almost experimental approach to carry the film. The largely black and white photography is dark and heavy on grain and noise which adds a bit to the uneasy feeling the movie naturally has. The shadowy figure is creepy and is the best part of the movie.


The film would be better as a short film in my opinion. I liked what it was going for but at 80 minutes long I felt as if I watched the same 15 minutes four or five times without any significant changes. If THE MOTHMAN CURSE was 20 minutes I'd think it was a great short film.

The Audio & Video
Wild Eye Releasing gives this film a home on DVD and it's hard to speak of the quality of their transfer work because the film is so intentionally low quality looking. The DVD from Wild Eye makes the photography of the film presentable which is a note of their overall quality because a hack job release of this would have made the thing unwatchable. The audio is decent but again the movie wasn't produced with great quality audio so don't expect lossless or anything like that.


The Extras
-Deleted Scenes
-"You Suck!" - a short film
-"There's Something At The End Of My Bed" - a short film
-Original teaser
-Original trailer


The Bottom Line
THE MOTHMAN CURSE is an interesting watch even if it would be better served as a short film. I think the best part of this release are the two short films which feature different forms of animation and are quite good in their own right.

THE MOTHMAN CURSE is available HERE

Monday, May 4, 2015

SNUFF: A Documentary About Killing On Camera (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing


USA/2008
Directed By: Paul von Stoetzel
Starring: Larry C. Brubaker, Todd Cobery, Linda Flanders
Color/76 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date:

The Film
The snuff film has long been a part of urban mythology. Does it truly exist or not? Through a series of interviews with FBI agents, film historians and critics and cultural academics the existence and definition of the snuff film is discussed and examined.

I personally found this documentary to be quite engaging even when points or comparisons were brought up that I didn't agree with, such as the comparison to the porn industry. The interviews are given in an open minded manner which allows the audience to at least digest the ideas given and don't make them roll their eyes in disapproval. There's some hard hitting and downright disgusting and despicable people and stories told including one where a film company executive from a well known horror film distributor was propositioned with buying and releasing an actual snuff film.


SNUFF is well done, and could even stand to have a longer runtime as it left me wanting to hear more about certain cases discussed. The subject has engrained itself through true evidence and being a subject of pop culture mediums for decades and this documentary is one of the best I've seen to date on tackling the taboo subject.

The Audio & Video
Wild Eye Releasing's DVD of SNUFF is rock solid. There's not much to be blown away by here but everything within is done in capably in a professional manner. The image is sharp and clear while the audio is crisp. A job well done.


The Extras
-Five year anniversary interview with author Dave Schrader
-"Dinner Date" a short film
-Trailers


The Bottom Line
Anyone that has ever found themselves intrigued, interested or just curious about snuff films should see this documentary.

SNUFF: A Documentary About Killing On Camera is available HERE