Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jack The Ripper (Blu-ray Review) - Ascot Elite

Germany, Switzerland/1976
Directed By: Jess Franco
Written By: Jess Franco
Starring: Klaus Kinski, Lina Romay, Herbert Fux
Color/92 Minutes/Rated 18 (Germany)
Region FREE
Release Date: September 24, 2013

The Film
Klaus Kinski stars as the beloved town doctor who always puts his sick and often poor patients needs ahead of his own. The only problem with the Dr. is that by night he turns into a killer. You see, his mother was a prostitute and that did something to warp his fragile mind. He felt filthy when she touched him and he felt betrayed by her and her profession. So now, the Dr. has become the killer known as Jack The Ripper the man that stalks and slashes prostitutes across London. When the local inspectors and Scotland Yard fail to catch him one of the inspector's girlfriends goes undercover on the streets to catch him.

JACK THE RIPPER is a moody and atmospheric horror film from Jess Franco. Surprisingly and somewhat disappointingly it isn't overflowing with sleaze. I think if Franco went all out and let Kinski turn into the madman we all know he could be then JACK THE RIPPER could easily be an infamous piece of Euro-trash. Instead Franco shows some restraint, as does Kinski which works for the scenes of Kinski as the doctor but it left me wanting so much more in the way of excess. As it stands, JACK THE RIPPER is an entertaining film, that is held back by some of Franco's less favorable characteristics in his direction, such as lingering and wandering shots and poor framing, but also features some of his better sides with his restraint. 

The Audio & Video
Ascot Elite has done an awesome job on this Blu-ray. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has very strong detail. Just take a look at hair, building exteriors and a close-up of Kinski's leather gloves. Colors are vibrant and the overall clarity is very nice. Skin tones are very natural and black levels are deep. The audio side of things features English and German 5.1 DTS-HD options or a 2.0 French track. Various subtitle options are available. I listened to the English track and was quite pleased with the quality. There is very little background noise and the mix was nicely done.

The Extras
There's a plentiful variety of extras on the disc including but not limited to:
-Audio Commentary
-Alternate Scenes

The Bottom Line
Jess Franco takes on JACK THE RIPPER and while it is historically inaccurate look at the infamous killer, it is an entertaining movie that fans of Franco, Kinski or Euro-horror will enjoy and the Blu-ray from Ascot Elite is the only way to go!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Poseidon Rex (2014)

If you've been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you may have missed the resurgence in monster movie and creature features. These movies have been produced fast and cheap staying true to their roots. From theatrical releases to made-for-TV and straight to video they stretch the gamut from so bad they're good to so bad they're awful. The best take their modest budgets and know what to do with them, turning the script in to a campy cheese fest while the worst take themselves too damn seriously and fail miserably at pulling it off.

POSEIDON REX, just let that title sit with you for a minute. A water-dwelling version of the most famous dinosaur. Breathe that in for a second... not if you're underwater though. So what could the plot of a film with a title that piques your curiosity such as this be? Well it's a simple one really. A team of divers off the coast of Belize are searching for sunken treasure in an area known as The Blue Hole for a nasty crime boss. After detonating explosives within The Blue Hole they unwittingly awaken and free a prehistoric beast, and he's hungry... and pissed. The giant dinosaur begins gobbling up the divers and just about anything else in his path. A local scientist doing some studies in The Blue Hole gets involved with the surviving diver, along with some others on vacation and try to survive the attacks from POSEIDON REX, who proves he is very much a reptile and can do even more damage on land and attempt to reach an abandoned military base to send the ancient beast to hell.

Boys and girls, call your friends, get a case of beer, and some popcorn, POSEIDON REX has awoken and is ready for you to create a drinking game and have a blast. This movie is ridiculous in the best way. Hokey, cheesy and campy.  Director Mark L. Lester has done it all in movie making, from directing a blockbuster action film in Commando, to the cult classic Class Of 1984, to working with comic legend John Candy on the vastly underrated Armed & Dangerous, he's no stranger to working with big names. He also isn't a stranger to the new breed of monster movies as he directed 2005's Pterodactyl, which is worth seeing for Coolio's performance alone. Lester has been making entertaining movies for 5 decades, and while not all of these movies will go down in history as art, even his highest quality work like Class Of 1984 has high entertainment value on top of being an important movie. POSEIDON REX isn't going to inform you of important social issues, and doesn't feature Oscar worthy performances. Instead it, it stays true to itself and doesn't want to be something it's not.

And that dear reader is a fun movie about a goddamn POSEIDON REX.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Camp Dread (DVD Review) - Image Entertainment

Directed By: Harrison Smith
Written By: Harrison Smith
Starring: Eric Roberts, Danielle Harris, Kyle Patrick Brennan
Color/94 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: April 15, 2014

The Film
Eric Roberts stars as Julian Barrett, the director of the successful slasher trilogy Summer Camp in the 1980s. Trying to reboot his series and success with a reality TV show based on his films in which the last remaining camper gets $1,000,000. The campers invited are all troubled young adults, from drug addicts to murderers. They are outfitted with cameras to wear on their shirts and the camp has cameras around the grounds. They do all sorts of typical reality show challenges to earn immunity from the killer, but most of the time they just bitch at each other or at the group therapist, who also happens to be the star of the original films (Felissa Rose).

The movie progresses quickly, too quickly for my liking as the characters drop like flies often in very unceremoneous ways. There is a bit of gore, but for a film trying to mimick the golden years of the slasher there is a distinct lack of tits. Many of the characters are douchebags and unlikeable as they prance around camp, and the town full of miserable folks trying to get out you'll find yourself rooting for the killer, or Barnett to get rich off these kids.

CAMP DREAD isn't terrible, not when compared to many other contemporary slasher films but it fails where the better slashers succeed. It isn't scary like Halloween, it doesn't have a cool killer like Friday The 13th and it doesn't have any character to really root for like A Nightmare On Elm Street. The kills, aside from 1 aren't creative and the whole thing feels like it is desperately trying to be a modern version of Sleepaway Camp 3. CAMP DREAD is an okay slasher though, just not one of the better ones.

The Audio & Video
Image Entertainment's transfer of CAMP DREAD features a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track. The video side of things looks quite good. The picture is clean and crisp while handling dark levels and colors nicely. The audio is solid, never really pushing the limits but it is mixed properly and is clear.

The Extras
Bare bones.

The Bottom Line
The modern day slasher genre has had very mixed results and CAMP DREAD certainly won't reach classic status but a bunch of snot nosed college kids running around a summer camp getting killed? There's enough to like about that to warrant giving it a watch.

CAMP DREAD is available HERE

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Jekyll & Hyde Portfolio / A Clockwork Blue Drive-In Collection Double Feature (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

USA/1971, 1972
Directed By: Eric Jeffrey Haims
Written By: Eric Jeffrey Haims, Donn Greer, Bonnie Jean
Starring: Sebastian Brook, Mady Maguire,
Color/167 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: April 8, 2014

The Films
What a serious pair of oddball films! First in THE JEKYLL & HYDE PORTFOLIO the nurses at the Florence Nightingale Institute are among the best, and sexiest around. Unfortunately they have to deal with a strange and perverted doctor. Oh, and a killer on the loose who is leaving his victims marred with 3 star shaped wounds on their abdomen. From the perverted doctor who only wants to see the girls in their uniforms, with no underwear of course, to the weird hunchback and another doctor who just loves dissecting frogs, the Florence Nightingale Institute seems like the perfect place for a crazy to be running around killing the girls. This is a horror film but it is equally a sex film, not hardcore though, and just a silly fucking movie. THE JEKYLL & HYDE PORTFOLIO is surely going to leave an impression on you and probably have you wondering just what in the blue hell is going to happen next.

And if JEKYLL & HYDE was off the wall... well then came A CLOCKWORK BLUE. You certainly read Homer's Odyssey in high school. Well here, Homer goes on a different odyssey. As he's an assistant researcher and goes time traveling through the ages sleeping his way around history while trying not to get caught. From colonial America to the Trojan horses of Rome and places in between, Homer gets to see the and experience the sexier side of history... sometimes. He's usually being chased off or attacked. There's also a very jive God-like character, watching Homer's comedic mishaps through a watermelon TV. Plenty of lovely T&A and laughs to be had here.

The Audio & Video
JEKYLL & HYDE features an okay 16x9 transfer. The condition of the source material shows the film's age and it is obvious that it wasn't kept in great condition. It has scratches, dirt and debris. It is a bit soft and washed out at times as well. That said, it is absolutely a watchable transfer and for a title such as this I'm satisfied with how it turned out. The audio on it has some crackling and such but not much. It is in better shape than the picture.

A CLOCKWORK BLUE looks quite good here. Colors are vibrant and lively from the greens and reds to the whites which don't get too hot and blacks which are pretty deep. Skin tones look fleshy and natural and the source material has obviously been kept in nice condition. The mono audio track is very clear and free of background noise. A very nice presentation that only looks and sounds better with the limited edition Blu-ray. Overall a passable to very good double feature from Vinegar Syndrome.

The Extras
Bare bones.

The Bottom Line
I think any fan of horror, cult, sexploitation, adult or just fucking weird movies owes it to themselves to see these 2 films. The 70s were a wonderful time where just about everything went and this double feature proves it. 

JEKYLL & HYDE PORTFOLIO/A CLOCKWORK BLUE Drive-In Collection Double Feature is available HERE

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lust For Freedom (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Eric Louzil
Written By: Craig Kusaba, Duke Howard, Eric Louzil
Starring: Melanie Coll, William J. Kulzer, Judy Trevor
Color/91 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: April 8, 2014

The Film
Gillian Kaites is a special agent who is engaged to her partner but with just days before their wedding her fiancee is gunned down during an undercover operation gone bad. Gillian takes some time away to clear her head and ends up in Georgia County California, a town ran by a corrupt judge and police force. Gillian is framed for a drug crime she didn't commit and denied any rights. Gillian is beaten, stripped naked, and just like the rest of the girls miserable. The judge of the town participates in sex trafficking, drug dealing and general debauchery until Gillian rallies the girls to take back their rights and their lives!

LUST FOR FREEDOM is a Troma production, directed by Eric Louzil who would go on to direct Class Of Nuke 'Em High 2 and 3. This women in prison movie has all of the classic tropes of the genre from the torture and beatings to the lesbian sex scenes but also features a hefty dose of humor. It is a lighter take on the genre (if that is possible with as much T&A and violence as this movie features) than many other WIP films. The soundtrack plays a big role in the film, as it helps keep the mood light with it's purely 80s hair metal sound. The theme song is catchy as hell and will make you want to drive a tank as fast as you can into the walls of this prison and give the girls their freedom! LUST FOR FREEDOM isn't going to blow you away with it's high production values or originality but it will give you a good time along with a bit of exploitation fun. 

The Audio & Video
The anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1 transfer from Vinegar Syndrome is decent considering the low budget nature of the film. The image quality is a bit soft but it seems to be more of the film itself and not anything having to do with the transfer. The source material seems clean for the most part with very few scratches or instances of debris. The audio side of things is a mono track, free of any background noise. It isn't special, but it handles the dialogue and soundtrack as well as it probably ever has. Overall a more than serviceable job from Vinegar Syndrome.

The Extras
-Newly recorded audio commentary with director Eric Louzil
-Video interview with Lloyd Kaufman
-Original theatrical trailer

The Bottom Line
I recommend fans of Troma and women in prison films to check this one out and add it to their collections.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

L'Immortelle (Blu-ray Review) - Kino Redemption

Directed By: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Written By: Alain Robbe-Grillet
Starring: Francoise Brion, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Guido Celano
Black & White/101 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: April 1, 2014

The Film
Alain Robbe-Grillet's debut film is a strange one. The entire thing is shrouded with mystery and it pushes the viewer to extract what you will from it. A man who has recently moved to Turkey to be a professor at a local school meets a beautiful but secretive woman who he spends several days with seeing the sights around the city and the local people. Suddenly she vanishes without a trace and nobody around the city recalls or is willing to recall her being with him. Just as suddenly as she vanished, they meet again, but before she is able to explain her disappearance she is killed in a car crash with the man. The rest of the movie is spent with the man going over the events again trying to determine if he caused the crash or not and psycho-analyzing every little detail of their brief relationship.

L'IMMORTELLE is a stunning film to look at. The gorgeous black and white photography, often shot at severe angles give the Turkish ruins, waterways and tunnels a very stark look. On a deeper level the film is incredibly interesting to look at and break down. From the main man and woman to an art shop keeper, to the stranger and fisherman. Every character symbolizes something and eventually the man finds himself facing a criminal underworld that he isn't prepared to deal with.

This was my first viewing of L'IMMORTELLE and I really like this film. I know my love for it will grow deeper with subsequent viewings as I gather and notice new things. Robbe-Grillet showed instantly that he can create incredible visuals and art with this film and it is something I've learned quickly that he would do again and again.

The Audio & Video
Kino Redemption gives L'IMMORTELLE a stunning HD transfer. The 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation seems to be taken from a very clean print as there are only a few instances of dirt or scratches. Detail level is strong while the black levels are handled brilliantly and are deep and inky. The 2.0 French language track (with optional English subtitles) is solid, but not perfect. Extremes in the high end mix are a bit of trouble for the mix but it is a rare occurrence.

The Extras
Along with a trio of trailers for other Robbe-Grillet releases and a 2014 promo short, this release features an interview with the writer/director that clocks in at over half an hour.

The Bottom Line
The debut film from the French director is a mysterious, strange and engrossing one. It appeals to many of the senses and this release does it absolute justice. L'IMMORTELLE is certainly worth your time.

L'IMMORTELLE is available HERE

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Holliston: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Adam Gree, Sean Becker
Written By: Sean Becker
Starring: Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Corri English
Region A
Release Date: April 8, 2014

The Show
If you aren't familiar with HOLLISTON here is a brief rundown - The horror themed sitcom was created by Adam Green (director of Hatchet, Frozen)  and stars Green as "Adam" and Joe Lynch as "Joe", roommates who work together at a public access TV station and dream of being successful horror filmmakers. The other main characters of the show are Dee Snyder as "Lance Rockett" who is the public access station manager and moonlights as an 80s metal cover band singer. Corrie English is "Corri" Adam's ex-girlfriend and Laura Ortiz is "Larua", Joe's girlfriend. The principal cast is rounded out with Dave Brockie (R.I.P.) as his GWAR persona "Oderus Urungus" who is Adam's imaginary best friend that lives in his closet and gives him advice.

Season 2 really ramped up the guest stars that horror fans will be sure to recognize. From Kane Hodder playing a depressed version of himself because of his exclusion from Freddy vs. Jason, in what is my favorite episode of the series, to Danielle Harris and Sid Haig among many others. The season revolves around Adam and Joe trying to get their slasher film "Shinpads" released and dealing with the various obstacles in their way from The Blob attacking the town, to zombies and maniacal pre-teens. HOLLISTON is a tongue-in-cheek love letter to horror movies, constantly breaking the fourth wall and giving the viewers something to smile about or laugh at.

The 10 episode season (11 if you count the Christmas special from in between seasons 1 and 2) is geared for horror fans, but sitcom fans in general will find that the nature of the show which also lovingly pokes fun at the sitcom format makes for an entertaining show. The show has been described as "Evil Dead 2 mixed with The Big Bang Theory". That is a comparison I can support if only The Big Bang Theory had any clue on the pop culture jokes they were using. Adam Green lives and makes horror movies so his jokes and references are spot on.

The Audio & Video
Image Entertainment gives HOLLISTON season 2 the Blu-ray treatment with a damn fine looking and sounding release. The digital photography looks great with the anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 transfer. Colors are vibrant, skin tones natural and detail levels are incredibly strong. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track sounds awesome as well. The mix is full and robust, with the soundtrack and dialogue mixing very nicely. 

The Extras
A pretty full lineup of special features is included on the season 2 Blu-ray including:
-Cast commentary tracks
-Deleted Scenes
-Behind The Scenes featurette
-Blooper reel
-Table Read w/ the cast
-Music video selection

The Bottom Line
HOLLISTON may not see a season 3 with the recent and untimely death of Dave Brockie but if it closes with just the 2 seasons it will be a sad, yet almost fitting way to end our time with the characters. This Blu-ray release is a damn fine showcase of the series and could prove to be the definitive release of the young series. 

HOLLISTON Season 2 is available HERE