1980s, Blu Ray, CAROLINE MUNRO, cult, exploitation, film, genre, gore, Horror, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, independent film, JOE SPINELL, review, reviews, SCARLETTHEFILMMAGAZINE.WORDPRESS.COM, thriller, TOM SAVINI, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, WILLIAM LUSTIG

MANIAC -Blue Underground 3 disc Ltd Edition Blu ray

                                                

 

                                                                MANIAC     

                                                     3 Disc Ltd Edition BLU RAY
-Blue Underground December 11,2018.

1980, originally released by Analysis Film Releasing Corp.87 min. Color .

Available as a 3-disc Limited Edition /4 K remaster (2BD plus 1 CD) $39.95 REGION FREE.

http://www.blue-underground.com/product.php?product=291

Back in the early 1980s, horror films were massive money makers. For relatively low costs, filmmakers of various skills could get a camera, an effects person, and maybe some women willing to shed their clothes, and even the feeblest efforts could get a theatrical release.

Then there were films that were done with the same miniscule budgets but with a bit more skill, darker tone perhaps, better actors, direction, and technical skills

MANIAC falls into that latter category. The film was inspired by the infamous Son of Sam. David Berkowitz began his wave of terror that terrorized the city of New York on Christmas Eve ,1975 with what was at first were considered random stabbings.

His first murder (and first use of his weapon of choice, a .44 calibre, thus his being dubbed at first the .44 Calibre Killer) was on July 29,1976. He finally was arrested on August 7,1977 after avoiding the biggest manhunt in NYC history, sending taunting letters to both the police and the press, having killed six people and wounded seven others by July 1977. When apprehended, he confessed but adding he was being ordered to telepathically by his neighbor Sam’s dog Harvey (thus, the ”son” of Sam.). Later ,he admitted he made up the dog story, but the legend continues.

When people found out that publishers were offering huge sums of money for his story, the Son of Sam Law, which was designed to keep criminals from further profiting from their crimes.

This did not stop newspapers, book publishers, television shows ,and even movies from cranking out their own money making attempts to exploit the story , one of the earliest is the nearly unwatchable ANOTHER SON OF SAM (1977, which began in 1975 as a cheapie called HOSTAGES ).

 

Filmmaker William Lustig had grown up enjoying the exploitation smorgasbord offered up in the 1950s,60s and 70s that played in the grindhouses of 42nd Street. After taking some film classes, he found work on both mainstream film (as a P.A. on DEATH WISH,Paramount,1974) before moving into the profitable adult film market, where he worked as editor, producer, and director (and probably a lot of other jobs too) .

 

He saw the money that films like FRIDAY THE 13th (Paramount ,1980) were making ,and thus, taking his share of his latest adult title , he decided to make his own horror movie.

 

He was wise enough to get the wizard who created the effects that had made FRIDAY THE 13TH so memorable, namely Tom Savini . Lustig also cast actor Joe Spinell, who also co-produced ad co wrote the script. Spinell was a hard- working character actor who had worked in supporting roles in major films but this would be his first starring role. Finally, they hired actress Caroline Munro (after their first choice had dropped out), who had starred in several horror and fantasy films throughout the 1970s, as well as being featured in major films like THE SPY WHO LOVED ME ,U.A.,1977).

 

The film is a gritty time capsule of New York City. Tourists were afraid to come to the city, never mind walk the streets at night. Hookers, pimps and drug dealers stood aside sleazy motels and grind house movie theatres, trying to lure in the unwary to sample their wares – or simply rob them.

 

Cinematographer Robert Lindsay, who had worked with Lustig on his previous adult movies, perfectly captures that sense of dread and moral decay.

     (Warning – plot spoilers)

Frank Zito (a completely believable full on psycho performance by Joe Spinell) wanders the city and kills young women who he is aroused by, then scalping them and then taking his bloody souvenir home and attaching it to one of the many mannikins he has littering his apartment. It seems that he was abused as a child by his hooker mom and so he finds that beauty is punishable by death.

One couple is killed in their car when Frank jumps upon the hood of the vehicle and point- blank fires a double- barreled shotgun blast into the passenger (Tom Savini, who not only played the victim, but used his own sculpted head to blow apart. Savini also doubled for Frank and used an actual shotgun to blow up the sculpture, having the odd honor of shooting himself on camera! Since they did not have permits, Savini then tossed the gun into a waiting truck and was driven away in case of police investigating the reports of gunfire) before killing the young woman also in the vehicle.

Frank talks to his mannequins and sobs and wails when he sees the coverage of his latest murders upon his television. He is truly Norman Bates on speed in this film. Still, Spinell, while creepy and often veering dangerously close to overacting, never loses a sense of reality in his portrayal.)

Somehow, he meets a beautiful photographer, Anna (Caroline Munro), after she takes his photo. They oddly become friendly while Frank continues his killing spree, killing a nurse as well as one of Anna’s models, adding their scalps to his growing collection. Frank is starting to lose the small grip that he has on reality, for when he kills the mode, he first begins talking to her as his deceased mother.

 

Still, Anna goes out with Frank, stopping off at the graveyard where his mother was buried. Frank finally attacks Anna, but she bashes him with a shovel and escape. He tries to pursue her but suddenly imagines that his mother is rising from her grave. Terrified, he flees home. His apartment proves no safe sanctuary , however , as the mannequins come alive and throw him onto his bed, where they tear his head from his body!

The film has been a constant for collectors ever since VHS was the market staple.

This new BLU RAY is the must have version for collectors.

MEDIA VHS release

 

The movie is in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with a magnificent 4k 1080p transfer. For a low budget film, the film has some superb cinematography, and this release does justice to its color photography. What is more amazing is when you realize the film was shot in 16mm and then blown up to 35mm. For decades, the original 16mm negatives were missing but now, they have been found. Prior prints were from a 35mm dupe, with all the inherit flaws that involves. The original camera negative used here seems less grainy (save for the usual grain of the format) and increases the sharpness of the images.

 

Comparing it to an old DVD release, the sharper clarity is so easy to see.

The original film was one of the first indies to use Dolby Stereo, but this release makes full use of the process. I heard no pops or hiss on the soundtrack, and the music, dialogue and sound effects are clear and make good use of the separate speakers on my system. I only listened to the 2.0 DTS-HD track, but you are offered the choice also of Dolby Digital 2.0 (which perhaps would reflect the original release sound) as well as 7.1 DTS-HD.

 

You can also experience the film in Dolby Digital 2.0 French, Italian, German, and Spanish audio, as well as Optional subtitles in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese,
Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Korean, Swedish, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Thai (phew!).

There are six standard audio tracks on this Blu-ray release: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French: Dolby Digital 2.0, Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0, German: Dolby Digital 2.0, and Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0. Optional English SDH, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Korean, Russian, Swedish, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Cantonese, and Thai yellow subtitles are provided for the main feature.

That would be more than enough for most major studio releases, but BLUE UNDERGROUND has piled on the extras to truly make this a special collectible 3- Disc Edition.

 

On the first disc, along with the film, we get a running audio commentary with Lustig and Producer Andrew W. Garroni. This is a newly recorded commentary full of little insights as well as the how well the film holds up 38 years (!) later.

 

Also on the first disc is a second commentary track lifted from the previous 2007 DVD release from Blue Underground. On this track are Lustig, Tom Savini , film editor Lorenzo Marinelli and Joe Spinell’s assistant Luke Walter (Spinell sadly dying way too early in 1989 ,at age 52). There are a lot of fond memories and humor as well as technical details on the making of the film.

 

This first disc also has the original Theatrical trailer, as well as tv and radio spots. One wonders if trailers such as this which show such graphic violence could be shown nowadays https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya7lVHk-qD8 .

Where else would you hear CALIGULA (Penthouse /1979) and MANIAC in the same sentence? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCCsMzpBQqA

 

Disc Two
There are several more extras that fill this second disc. The first two are newly made especially for this release. The others are ported over from the MANIAC 30th Anniversary of 2010 or previous DVD releases.

OUTTAKES- rough footage and alternate takes give a glimpse of the behind the scenes making of MANIAC. The outtakes are not restored nor cleaned up and thus seem a bit more grainy but are a treat nonetheless.

 

RETURNING TO THE SCENE OF THE CRIME- on camera interview with William Lustig.
He talks about the making of the film with an obvious pride and enthusiasm.

ANNA & THE KILLER- Caroline Munro talks about her career and working on this flick as well as other films with Spinell .

THE DEATH DEALER- Tom Savini (who else?) Always fun to see and hear Tom talk about his magic.

 

DARK NOTES- Composer Jay Chattaway talks about this Jazz Musician came about getting his first film score and how he tried to get into the head of a psychopath to create his score.

MANIAC MEN -Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkosky discuss the song that the film inspired and later popularized in the Paramount film FLASHDANCE (1983).

THE JOE SPINNELL STORY- this is ,for me ,the highlight of the extras as this nearly an hour long documentary covers the actor’s life with personal memories , home movies and appearances on ‘The Joe Franklin Show”. Success seemed to have hurt Spinnell and been somewhat responsible for his early demise. (Copyright-2001).

 

 

MR ROBBIE: MANIAC 2 PROMO REEL– Buddy (COMBAT SHOCK, Troma ,1986) Giovinazzo had planned a warped sequel of sorts, with Spinell as a children’s show host with a disturbing secret. Imagine Spinell as Krusty The Clown and you can imagine how warped that it is. They never were able to raise the funds.

PUBLICITY – featurette. Interviews with the cast and crew.

MANIAC CONTROVERSY – Like SNUFF (Monarch,1975) before it, the filmmakers used the complaints and horrific reactions to the film to get the curious into the cinemas and see what all the fuss was about. Unlike SNUFF, they got a powerful that wasn’t just hype.

Third Disc- MANIAC original Motion Picture Soundtrack cd. This is a big bonus, as the soundtrack by itself sells for about $20 at least at horror conventions.

Bonus Booklet by Michael Gingold (Fangoria, Rue Morgue)- a short essay about the production .

The film is to this day very hard to watch for many, due to its gritty atmosphere which captures the sense of NYC at the time , as well as it’s still powerful effects .It also does have a strong sense of misogyny that is hard to ignore but it does also capture the mind set of the character. Joe Spinell’s daring performance both repels us while he fascinates us, lifting the feature above the other stalk and slash films of the era.

 

JUMP TO 2018 –

Before Alek Minassian killed 10 people, the majority of them women, by driving his van into pedestrians on a Toronto street Monday, he posted on Facebook praising mass murderer Elliot Rodger and called for an “Incel Rebellion,” an uprising of men who are angry women won’t have sex with them.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/04/26/incel-rebellion-alek-minassian-sexual-entitlement-mens-rights-elliot-rodger/550635002/

Perhaps MANIAC was predicting a movement, a hidden dark secret, that we back then could not even imagine??

RECOMMENDED for fans of 80’s horror, JOE SPINELL, CAROLINE MUNRO, TOM SAVINI, WILLIAM LUSTIG, stunning effects.

Kudos to BLUE UNDERGROUND for this super -deluxe must have 3-disc collector’s edition.

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

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BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION (VCI)

3D-Boris-Karloff-Collection-500x500

 

BORIS KARLOFF COLLECTION (VCI,2 discs, DVD) Released September 2018. Color.  $14.99

https://www.vcientertainment.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1104

Many years ago, when the late great Boris Karloff passed away in February 2,1969, Jim Warren’s and Forrest J Ackerman’s FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND provided two fitting tributes.

One, was issue #56 of FMOF with a beautiful  Basil Gogos cover of Karloff as his most famous role.

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The other was a paperback by FJA called THE FRANKENSCIENCE MONSTER (Ace,1969, a cover not by Gogos but paperback cover artist Verne Tossey.). At the time,before the ability to google, this was the source for any monster news. Many of us though that Karloff’s final film was a classic of modern cinema, Peter Bogdanovich’s   TARGETS  (August 1968,Paramount).

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However, thanks to Uncle Forry , we found out that 80 plus year old Karloff had signed with producer Luis Enrique Vergara and Azteca Films of Mexico (who in turn had a distribution agreement with Columbia Pictures) for a four-picture deal at a salary of $400,000. The actor could have said no to the projects and easily retired, having a comfortable sum saved up over the years. No one could have blamed him, either, as his lungs were barely functional (due to years of smoking as well as damage from pneumonia he contracted in Italy filming BLACK SABBATH,1963,AIP , leaving him dependent on oxygen tanks to aid his breathing) as well as crippling arthritis that made walking difficult.

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Still, as he often said, he wanted to die with his boots on, doing the job he loved if audiences wanted to see him. An example was when he filmed an episode of THE RED SKELTON SHOW (“He Who Steals My Robot Steals Trash” aired September 24,1968, CBS), rather than do the show before the live audience in a wheel chair as rehearsed, he willed himself to walk with the aid of a cane rather than have the people see him so confined.

Thus, the quartet of Mexican horror films were jobs that he readily accepted, feeling fortunate that audiences still wished to see him.

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Difficulties for the productions arose when it was discovered that Karloff’s health would not permit him to film in Mexico, and his sequences were shot in a small studio in Santa Monica, California in April/May 1968, while the rest of the films were completed in Mexico, often with a double for the star.

karloff_tort02_dvd

The four films were to be made over a 5-week period, so this extra expense of two crews, duplicating sets, and flying up some of the Mexican cast to work with Karloff must have frayed the already low budgets.  Juan Ibáñez directed the Mexican main unit, while cult director Jack Hill (SPIDER BABY,1967, American General) handled the American Karloff unit, as well as contributing to the screenplays.

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Hill it seems was hampered because the producer wanted to use an early form of video playback by tying a primitive video camera to the top of the 35mm Mitchells used to film the movie. Jerry Lewis had pioneered the idea and it is now the common practice, but Hill felt that it slowed down his process.

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With all these problems somehow the four films were filmed and completed. Karloff did not live to see the release of these films, which seemed to have been held back until 1971 for their limited distributions (Cannon also got around to distribute Karloff’s 1967 Spanish lensed CAULDRON OF BLOOD the same year, which got a wider release in the U.S. than the four Mexican thrillers).

 

Over the years, the films have been released on various video labels, including MPI and United American budget label, as well as several of the titles getting a DVD release by Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia label.

 

VCI has now for the first time put all four films together in an affordable (less than the cost of some single DVD releases) two-disc collection.

karloff_cult_05_dvd

The four titles in the collection are

menu_boris_karloff_m01_blu-ray.

(Disc One)

DANCE OF DEATH (aka HOUSE OF EVIL, SERENADA MACABRA)

TORTURE ZONE (edited version of FEAR CHAMBER)

menu_boris_karloff_m02_blu-ray.

(Disc Two)

ALIEN TERROR (filmed as THE INCREDIBLE INVASION, Invasión siniestra)

CULT OF THE DEAD (edited version of ISLE OF THE SNAKE PEOPLE, La muerte vivente)

 

The discs seem to be sourced from the old MPI videos, with the same video generated titles (©1987 by the Parasol Group). The prints of the four movies are a bit dark and sometimes the color is a bit off.  The copy  of TORTURE ZONE seemed in the worst condition, with several visible splices.

fear_chamber_1968___5a53f0e99d7d4.mp4

 

It is a shame that they did not seek out the Retromedia or Elite release of FEAR CHAMBER, as both of those are in the original aspect ratio with sharp picture and color quality, as well as extras such as an audio commentary by Jack Hill and a deleted scene.MPI’s TORTURE ZONE is an edited version of this film ,so all of the nudity Is eliminated .

Fear Chamber 14

Only TORTURE ZONE was set in present day, with the rest set at around the turn of the 20th Century. ALIEN TERROR was supposedly the last one filmed, and the only one NOT starring Julissa, giving actress German actress Christa Linder a chance.

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The 2.0 Dolby Digital sound for the films is clear with no noticeable loss in quality of dialogue or the sound effects.

There are no extras to the discs, but again, to get these four films together at such a low price, one should not expect any special edition treatment.

While we would all like to get the best possible and most complete versions, certain films have limited audiences and the profitability is to say the least, narrow.

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One wonders, for example, if VCI had gone out of their way to get new prints, cleaned up and loaded with extras, would fans shell out $29.95 for each of these films?

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DANCE OF DEATH -this film is perhaps the most traditional horror film, with obvious influences of the Roger Corman Poe films. The film even claims to be based upon a Poe story, though none that I am familiar with.hoise of evil                                                  original Spanish language credit

 

Wealthy toymaker Matthais Morteval (Karloff) summons his family to his mansion to discuss how his estate will be divided. Recent murders in the nearby hills has a macabre touch, wherein the victims have had their eyes removed makes Matthais suspect that a member of his family is the killer.

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Karloff has an ancestral portrait that looks exactly like him (these old families have strong genes), and Karloff gets to play huge pipe organ. Matthais supposedly suffers a fatal heart attack half way into the film, and shortly thereafter, one by one his greedy relations die. Keeping with the Corman Poe- like feel, the film ends with a huge fire, as Matthais, obviously not dead, plays his final concerto as the walls burn around him. It is quite amazing that the octogenarian actor is working so close to such huge plumes of flames, controlled or not  .

firebug

 

Karloff perhaps passed away before being able to loop dialogue, or the final lines were an afterthought , but they are not his voice.

People who dismiss the Karloff Mexican quartet of films have obviously not seen them, as DANCE OF DEATH was quite entertaining.

FEAR CHAMBER POSTER

TORTURE ZONE – (which in the original titles also claimed to be Poe inspired, though I would say more Lovecraft, like Karloff’s own DIE, MONSTER DIE! 1965 ,A.I.P. ). This one is a bit of a mess, no two ways about it. Psychedelic zooms & colors, and jump cut edits do not make this film any more interesting, and indeed, show how little sense the plot has.  A living rock is discovered within the depths of the earth. Scientist Karl Mantell (Karloff), who spends much of this film either sitting behind his office desk or behind a lab computer table, discovers that the creature feeds on the blood of young women, particularly those who are frightened. Naturally, our loveable scientist and his staff create a fear chamber to terrorize young women who come seeking employment. The rock (no, no that one) starts to grow tentacles, and only then does Mantell seek to stop it.

fearchamber1

Mantell is supposed to be a kindly scientist, but his actions here are in opposition to that appearance. Still, at least, Karloff gets to survive to the end credits. The topless scenes that are edited out of this print were probably shot later, added to try and keep audience attention. Probably one of Karloff’s worst movies, though, as always, he is worth watching.                                                                              .firrreee

Karloff tries to blow up all prints of FEAR CHAMBER .

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ALIEN TERROR– Another period piece, this one is another science fiction/horror hybrid. In an 1890s European country, Professor John Mayer (Karloff) is working on a new power source, when a lab accident sends a pulse off into space, attracting the attention of an alien spaceship passing by. The alien comes across a Jack the Ripper style killer and takes over his body. More killings continue as the alien tries to get to the professor’s invention and destroy it. Mayer uses his invention to defeat the killer, and later, when the alien hops into his niece, he uses the machine again to drive it from her. Mayer lets the machine destroy itself and, in the process, burns down his home.c3f80e4ebb33139abba0d67198ef960c

 

The final shot of the surviving cast members watching the house burn has an obvious Karloff stand in facing away from the camera with hair that looks like it was streaked with shoe polish.

A confusing picture, as if two different scripts were dropped into a blender, yet it held one’s interest and it tried to be original. As mentioned, this was Karloff’s last work in a motion picture.karloff_at_03_dvd

An alien Spaceship, lit and designed to look like a Dario Argento sequence !

snakepeopel mexi

CULT OF THE DEAD – On the island of Korbai, Carl Van Molder (Karloff) is a major plantation owner. A police captain comes to Korbai to try and bring order when it is discovered that voodoo is rampant. This is a much more entertaining film than Karloff’s earlier film VOODOO ISLAND (1957, U.A.), which was one of the only roles I felt the great actor seemed to walk through.

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In this film, Karloff seems fully invested in the part and brings his great screen presence to each scene.  The voodoo scenes are well staged, though once again at the end of the film, a voice not Karloff’s is used for the line: “I’m dying! “followed by some sputtering coughs. The picture ends with a big explosion as the hero and heroine escape with their lives. This too was an entertaining piece of cinema fluff and does not deserve all the scorn heaped upon it.

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To sum up, two of the films (DANCE OF DEATH and CULT OF THE DEAD) I would say are quite entertaining, a third (ALIEN TERROR) is just odd enough to hold your interest with a feeling of “WTF?” throughout and only one (TORTURE ZONE) is close to a complete disaster. Karloff is always giving his all in each work, and for that alone these are well worth seeing.

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Are the prints the best? No.  However, unless some deep pocket cinema collector seeks out original negatives, gives them a 2 K scan and restores them, and licenses the Elite and Retromedia commentaries, this VCI set will be the best way of getting affordable copies of these final films by the Master of Horror, Boris Karloff.

 

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Recommended for – Karloff completists. Fans of Mexican Horror. Cult films lovers.

 

-Kevin G Shinnick

 

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BOSS (Kit Parker Blu Ray/DVD combo)

BOSS (Kit Parker Blu Ray/DVD combo)
Dimension ,1975 color. Rated PG .87 mins. Region A/1. Release August 28,2018. Also known as BOSS NIGGER; THE BLACK BOUNTY HUNTER

https://www.amazon.com/Blu-ray-Williamson-DUrville-William-Armstrong/dp/B07C5K53N4/ref=tmm_blu_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=.

If you ever wondered what BLAZING SADDLES(1973,W.B.) might have looked like done as a straightforward film, BOSS should give you an idea.

Fred “The Hammer ” Williamson, the former football star’s initial forays into acting were in such films as M*A*S*H (1970, Fox) as well as Diane Carroll’s boyfriend on T.V.’s JULIA (1968-71, Fox/NBC). The Larry Cohen actioner BLACK CAESAR (1973, AIP) featured him as a man who climbs his way up in the underworld, and THREE THE HARD WAY (1974, A.A.) solidified his status as an action star.

 

 

Williamson decided the first film he would co-produce himself would be based upon 20-page treatment he showed to director Jack Arnold (they had worked together on the Warner Brother actioner BLACK EYE,1974). Dimension Pictures decided to release the film and so production began on a town set left over from the big budget Gene Kelly film THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB (1970, National General) in Santa Fe New Mexico.

 

 THE CHEYENNE’S SOCIAL CLUB set used for BOSS

Boss (Williamson) and his sidekick Amos (D’Urville Martin, who directed DOLEMITE, Dimension,1975) a former slave, are two bounty hunters who decide to become the law in a small town when they save a woman named Clara Mae (Carmen Hayworth) from a pack of outlaws. On one of the men they killed while saving her they find a letter from the mayor of the town of San Miguel that invites the possessor of the letter to become the new sheriff. The bounty hunters also find out that a man they are tracking, Jed Clayton (cult baddie William Smith, best known for playing Falconetti on the miniseries RICH MAN POOR MAN ,1976, Universal TV, as well as the vampire hunting son in GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE ,1972, Millenium), also spends time in the town and so they decide to escort Clara Mae there.

Boss gives the letter to the mayor (western great R.G. Armstrong) who is forced to accept them as the new law. They set upon their task with zeal as they confront members of Clayton’s gang, killing and wounding several of them.

 

 

The new laws that the bounty hunters post does not make them popular with the racists town folk, resulting in a few well-dressed town folk (including the bank President) having to pay a fine or a stay in the cell in the sheriff’s office. The “N” word is tossed about as readily as at a trump rally, but the two bounty hunters put their bigoted butts behind bars or make them pay for their words. Not everyone is a racist in town, exemplified by local school marm Miss Pruitt (Barbara Leigh, who later co-starred with William Smith in SEVEN,1979,AIP).

 

Things escalate as they always do with a final showdown between boss and Clayton.

Black westerns were nothing new (going back as least as far as Norman Film Manufacturing Co’s CRIMSON SKULL ,1922), but in the 1960s and 1970s, they went from black only cinemas to mainstream theatres. Films like SGT. RUTLEDGE (1960, WB) began to finally acknowledge that people of color made up a lot of the history of the American West. Indeed, the character of The Lone Ranger may have been inspired by the exploits of the first black Marshall Bass Reeves.

The 1970s though allowed black stars to shine and take the lead in a variety of films, including westerns.

No longer the sidekick, black performers were front and center of the action.

Williamson was born to play the action hero, with his good looks and natural athleticism, one could readily accept him facing down the bad guys. He was wise enough to surround himself with familiar western faces like R.G. Armstrong (PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID, 1973.MGM, as well as numerous Sam Peckinpah films) and Don “Red” Barry (star of many Republic Westerns, here playing a bad guy).

The direction by Jack Arnold is effective , using creativity to make his film look as exciting as possible. One example was clever editing when a horse was to run over a small child.

 

BOSS was released previously by VCI /Sprocket Vault /Kit Parker in 2008. This Kit Parker BLU RAY has been given a 1080p resolution release, with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film has been cleaned up, but there are still some color shifts due no doubt from the negative fading. A full restoration for this film probably would have been prohibitively expensive, and the print is quite watchable, and I am sure in much better condition than the worn-out prints shown in many grindhouse and drive in theatres of the period.

The audio is an English 2.0 mono track. It is clear, and the dialogue is easy to understand, along with all the sound effects and music. For the hard of hearing, there is an optional white lettering subtitle in English.

The extras on this Kit Parker BLU RAY release are all ported over from the VCI release.

A CONVERSATION WITH FRED “THE HAMMER” WILLIAMSON with Joel Blumberg. Shot ten years ago, it is amazing that Williamson appears to have hardly aged in the 33 years since he shot the film. He brags that a film he did for Universal ,THAT MAN BOLT (1973), was the first major studio film to have a black action star, forgetting MGM produced SHAFT in 1971. Still, he was among the first, and indeed with his own production company (PO BOY) was able to call the shots that he was the hero and got the girl.

 

A BOSS MEMORY (8 min) with producer/ director & UCLA film prof Myrl A. Schreibman ( he was the associate producer on BOSS).Schreibman got into film working with Jack Arnold .After Arnold had directed BLACK EYE, Arnold brought Schreibman aboard for this film .He talks about their filming the big fight scene between Smith (who as cast because he looked like he would be an equal match in a fight) & Williamson while a dust devil storm raged outside with ho

wling winds.

JACK ARNOLD TRIBUTE by producer Myrl Schreibman– For any fan of 1950s science fiction, Jack Arnold was the go -to guy in the 1950s (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON,1954, Universal )before he transitioned to TV on such shows as GILLIGAN’S ISLAND ( 1964-1967,CBS).Schreibman lets us know that Arnold began as actor, but when in the Army ,trained in their film division under famed filmmaker Robert Flaherty(NANOOK OF THE NORTH, 1922,Pathe) .Returning to civilian life, he did a documentary called WITH THESE HANDS (1950 ,ILGWU ) about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. The featurette was Oscar nominated, which led to his career at Universalhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=1OKcJcJ4TfA

 

The disc also has the original theatrical trailer :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWDTw7IjeiI

 

The BLU RAY also has a reversible cover, using the more politically safe version, or the or original poster and art.

This is a fun action adventure and a good addition to any fans of
Westerns
-Blaxploitation
-Fred Williamson.

Kevin G Shinnick

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BOUND (Olive Signature Blu Ray)

 

BOUND (Olive Signature Blu Ray) 1996, Gramercy, color. 108 min Theatrical & 109 min unrated. 1:85:1 aspect ratio. 1080p Resolution. DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo .1-disc $39.95 Limited edition 3500 pressing only. Region A. August 28,2018 release.

https://olivefilms.com/product/bound-olive-signature-blu-ray/

 

Back in 1996, a new and exciting film noir thriller opened to nearly universal raves. It reminded one of the excitement from 12 years earlier, when BLOOD SIMPLE (1984, Circle Films) won the praise of critics due to its clever plot and style.

 

Like BLOOD SIMPLE, this film was also the work of a dynamic brother writer/ director duo.

BLOOD SIMPLE was our introduction to the dazzling Coen Brothers Joel & Ethan while BOUND was the brainchild of Andrew (now Lilly) and Laurence (now Lana) Wachowski.

While BOUND was a critical darling, it failed to make back it’s $4,500,000 estimated production budget. However, when it was released to video by Republic video, the film was a major seller and was discovered on cable by an even larger audience.

 

The video remained popular, being released by Republic in 2001 on DVD. This release was the uncut version that had trailers, a behind the scene featurette, a commentary with the brothers, Tilly, Gershon, Pantoliano, film editor Zach Staenberg and tech advisor Susie Bright. However, the print was not the best, with a rather flat look that did not do the movie justice.

 

Paramount bought the Republic library and they licensed OLIVE FILMS to release a DVD and Blu Ray of the title in 2012. Unlike the previous releases, the Olive Film version was released in an anamorphic print that showed off the superb cinematography of Bill Pope (who would dazzle people with his work on the MATRIX trilogy for the Wachowskis for Warner Brothers) along with an improved picture along with the choice of viewing either the theatrical or unrated cuts (really, only 14 seconds difference). The extras were dropped in favor of offering the two versions. There were complaints at the time by some tech fans that the Olive Films release was only Dolby Digital 2.0, while oversea versions had an DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.

 

These people will be disappointed,then, as this release is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. However, I found nothing to complain about with the sound, as it was clear and clean, and a wide range (so much so that I had to turn the sound down during one of the more violent sequences). Indeed, I had no complaints with the audio or indeed anything about this presentation.

 

Both versions of the film are presented in a beautiful 1080p transfer in the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with optional easy to read white English SDH subtitles.

BOUND tells the story of Corky (a superbly confident performance by Gina Gershon), an “out” lesbian (whom we first see IN a closet!)  an ex-con now doing repair work in a mob owned apartment building. When she meets Violet (Jennifer Tilly, an often-underrated actresses), the girlfriend of mobster Caesar (the always marvelous Joe Pantoliano), they begin a torrid affair. Violet wants out of her 5-year-old relationship with Caesar, who launders money for the mob.

Shelly (Barry Kivel) is caught and tortured for stealing money from the mob, and then killed by Johnnie (Christopher Meloni), son of Mob Boss Gino (Richard C Sarafian). Caesar returns to the apartment with a bag full of bloody bills and will now have to literally launder the money!

Violet hatches a plan to steal the $2 million and leave Caesar to face the wrath of the mob, but of course, like all good noir stories, things spin out of control, with a lot of people being brutalized and murdered.

The film was praised (as well as condemned by conservatives) for its lesbian romance, wherein the characters enjoyed their relationship (indeed sex consultant Susie Bright loved the characters. And had high praise for the main sex scene that was shot in a single take).

This plot point made it difficult for studios to back the film (all wanted it if they changed Corky to a man), but the Wachowskis stuck to their guns, being saved when Dino DeLaurentiis backed the project. The 38-day shoot was carefully planned, even though their original cinematographer quit feeling he could not do the film in the time allotted. Bill Pope stepped in and indeed helped plan some of the films visual look.

The film is a superb example of style serving the story. The colors often reminded me of a Dario Argento film, and often the camera often takes a god like view looking down on the action.

 

The original leads were Linda Hamilton as Violet and Tilly as Corky, but when Hamilton had to step out, Tilly switched roles and Gina Gershon was cast as Corky. Gershon then recommended Joe Pantoliano. The rest of the cast is top notch with Christopher Meloni as the not too bright but violent Johnnie stealing every scene he is in. No easy feat, when you consider marvelous performers as John P. Ryan (as mobster Mickey Malnato) are also in the cast.

As noted earlier, the previous OLIVE FILMS release had no extras. This Limited Edition goes out of its way to correct that.

 

Besides the Hi-Def digital restoration the original Republic audio commentary has been restored. One of my favorite things is hearing how the creatives behind a project feel about their finished work and the enthusiasm runs throughout this commentary.

Ported over from the 2014 Arrow U.K. Blu Ray /DVD release by Red Shirt Pictures in conjunction with Arrow :

• “Here’s Johnny!” – with Christopher Meloni– “My character had poor impulse control” is the first thing Meloni says about his character, which must be a major understatement in this new video interview with the actor and how he gives major credit to Joe Pantoliano for his career and how he infused humor into his character.

• “Femme Fatales” – with Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly -new interviews with the two leads on how they got cast and their work process. 

• “Modern Noir: The Sights & Sounds of Bound” – with cinematographer Bill Pope, editor Zach Staenberg, and composer Don Davis) the crew speak with great pride of their involvement with the project, and how they became attached to it. . Pope, for example, got hired due to his work on ARMY OF DARKNESS (Universal,1992) and he worked cheap!

New for this release:
• “Part and Parcel” – with titles designer Patti Podesta – a (2017) video interview with the  designer on how she created the noirish titles in the era before CGI took over.



• “The Difference Between You and Me” – with B. Ruby Rich (Prof of Film/Digital Media U, C, Santa Cruz) and Jen Moorman (Prof of Film Studies & Gender Studies, Loyola Marymount U., L.A.) discuss BOUND and its importance in Neo -Noir ,as well as an examination of Film Noir.


• Theatrical Trailer-the original Gramercy Theatrical trailer which makes it look like a RESERVOIR DOGS (Live,1992) rip-off.


• Essay by Guinevere Turner -an interesting 4 page read as to why this film is so important to LGBTQ cinema, and especially for its portrayal of lesbians.

 

 

 

 

This is a MUST HAVE for anyone who loves classic thrillers, well-made cinema done with style and dark humor, superbly acted and directed in an engrossing story.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!

-Kevin G Shinnick

Like & follow us here https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/
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scarletthefilmmag@yahoo.com

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THE SONG OF SOLOMON (2018) MVD Blu Ray

             THE SONG OF SOLOMON (Released August 14,2018). MVD BLU RAY $24.95

https://www.amazon.com/Song-Solomon-Blu-ray-Gene-Palubicki/dp/B07CSLNHXM

(also available separately on DVD ($21.95) a Limited Edition (Blu-Ray/DVD of the film, and a CD soundtrack,3 discs) $39.98.)

Region A/1 NTSC. English. 1 disc .NR. 86 mins. Color. Unearthed Films. Dolby Digital 2.0. 1.85:1/16:9
The disc reviewed was the single Blu Ray disc.

When a film’s cover blurb has a quote: ‘In this critic’s opinion better than THE EXORCIST” (Spencer Evatt, House of Tortured Souls), you set expectations for something spectacular. Sadly, the film falls far short of the 1973 W.B. masterpiece. On its own, however, it is not a movie to be lightly dismissed.


T.S.O.S. is considered part of the American Guinea Pig series (begun in 2014 by Unearthed Films). The American Guinea Pig films are basically just gore effects and not much more. Wisely, they chose not to put the American Guinea Pig imprimatur on the cover, as it would perhaps limit its audience.

That said, gore fans will have a field day with a series of superior practical effects (no cgi snapping bones here, its on set splatter).


Indeed, the film is technically one of the better indie horror films that I have seen, with super sharp photography and cinematography, music and as mentioned in makeup trickery.

Where the film fails, and it is a problem that haunts a lot of indie films, is in the acting and pacing. Most of the cast either say their lines with an indifference that means they could as well just be going over their grocery list rather than a possession leading to many mutilations and murders, or with a stilted seriousness of trying too hard.

 

Writer/producer /director Stephen Biro is the founder / President of Unearthed Films. Besides his own work, unearthed has released several obscure Asian films, as well as an upcoming October 2018 release of the sadly neglected H.P. Lovecraft THE UNNAMEABLE (1988). Biro is also an author, who written several books about God and The Devil, as well screenplays for others.

 

T.S.O.S. opens with Mary’s father (one of the film’s make-up artists) having a screaming fit at his daughter, ending with him taking a knife, slitting his own throat, and then, reaching into the wound and pulling out his own tongue (sometimes referred to as a “Columbian necktie”, due to it being an act of mutilation done by drug cartels).

 

 

Mary (very busy actress /director Jessica Cameron; TRUTH OR DARE, Small Town Girl Productions,2013) is possessed by a demon and the Church sends in several exorcists to try and drive the Demon from the young woman.

The priests and their associates suffer several terrifying deaths (tearing out one’s own eyes, another pulls out his own tongue- this film doesn’t like tongues!) as the demon grows stronger with each attempt at driving it out.

However, we also begin to wonder is the Church trying to drive the Demon out, or bring about the return of the Anti-Christ?

There are a lot of interesting ideas in the film, but the performers, as I mentioned, for the most part, let the film down. A stronger cast would have made this a much more powerful film.


T.S.O.S. was produced in part due to a very successful Indiegogo campaign (over $52,000 raised, or 1497% of original goal), so there are a lot of fans who wish to see more of Biro’s work.

Those fans will be pleased at the 100 % all practical effects within the film, as well as appearances by people like Jim Van Bebber (THE MANSON FAMILY, Dark Sky,2005) as Father Blake getting a gory comeuppance.

The rituals of exorcism seem to try for a level of authenticity not seen in most films that deal with the subject, so kudos to the people going the extra mile.

The Blu Ray is superb transfer of the HD 4K cinematography by Chris Hilleke (ABC’s OF DEATH, Magnet Releasing 2012). The sharpness and color put many a larger budget film to shame. The Dolby 2.0 sound is good, with a nice mix of dialogue and music. Some of the sound effects needed a bit more punch to them, and some of the dialogue seems a bit echoey, due to shooting in real locales, but that is no fault of the transfer.

The music, by the way, includes some by Gene Palubicki from the group Angel Corpse, who portrayed Father Corbin in movie. The score works well with the picture, and one can see why they added a CD soundtrack to the limited special edition.

Extras on the disc include:

-A commentary track by director Biro and star Jessica Cameron. Their passion and pride for the final product comes through on the running commentary, as well as a mutual admiration for each other.

-A second commentary track has director Biro this time with effects whizzes Marcus Koch and Jerami Cruise.

-On camera Interview with actress Jessica Cameron
-Interview with writer/director Stephen Biro
-Interview with SPFX artist Marcus Koch
-Interview with DOP Chris Hilleke
-Interview with actor Gene Palluvicki
-Interview with actor David McMahon

-A behind the scenes documentary on how the practical effects were done. This goes from the planning stages, planning where the real person will bend and where the fake limbs for breaking bones will be added, the molding and life masks of the lead actress, on set touch ups, as well as the construction of the special bed used in the movie. One nearly gags watching the poor performers forcing fake intestines and things into their mouths to pull them out as the cameras roll. Who says show business is all glamor?

-An Outtake reel- scenes with clap boards and prepping of sequences as well as bloopers.

-Photo Gallery.

Overall, one of the more interesting variants on the exorcism horror genre, let down by the performances.

Still, for fans of grue, you will not be disappointed.

-Kevin G Shinnick

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NEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE (Fox,1976,111 min.color) Blu-Ray Twilight Time $29.95

                                                                                NEXT STOP, GREENWICH VILLAGE

(Fox,1976,111 min.color) Blu-Ray Twilight Time $29.95 https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/next-stop-greenwich-village-blu-ray/ released May 22,2018 limited to 3,000 copies only.

 

While not as well known or as financially successful as AN UNMARRIED WOMAN (Fox,1978) or BOB &CAROL & TED & ALICE (Columbia ,1969), to me NEXT STOP GREENWICH VILLAGE is writer/producer/actor/director Paul Mazursky’s masterpiece that can be revisited again and again.

A semi-autobiographical work, N.S.G.V. perfectly captures the mood of a vibrant bohemian culture that defined the Village scene until the early 2000s, when the area grew too expensive and the quirky and energetic art, individualism, and yes, just plain fun crazy inhabitants were driven out, and the cozy brownstones and shops turned into expensive high-rises and expensive pretentious stores that lack any personality.

 

Much of the credit must go to the casting geniuses of Juliet Taylor and Sylvia Fay (background). Ms. Taylor and the late Ms. Fay (if you ever saw tv’s  FRIENDS(W.B.,1994-2004), actress June Gable obviously based her character of the chain-smoking Estelle on the late Sylvia Fay) were the unsung heroes of NY casting.

Unlike many casting directors today, they would attend Off -Off Broadway shows, seeking out new interesting faces and talent.

That is how Ms. Taylor came across actor Lenny Baker. The actor was busy working in Off Broadway shows, when she brought him to the attention of director Mazursky very close to the start of actual filming. The role fit the actor to a “t”, and he went on to win a Tony Award in 1977 for his role in the musical I LOVE MY WIFE. It is a major shame that illness took him from audiences too soon, dying from AIDS in 1982 at age 37.

   Ilene Graff as Cleo and Lenny Baker as Alvin in I Love My Wife

 

The film is also filled with a lot of New York stage actors who were still unknown at the time, including leading lady Ellen Greene (later most famous for her star turn both on stage and off as a blonde tressed Audrey in the musical LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS) and a blink and you’ll miss him Bill Murray. This film and many New York lensed films of the 1970s truly did live up to the maxim, ‘They had faces then”.

 

Surrounding the talented newcomers were seasoned stars and supporting actors like Shelley Winters, Lou Jacobi, and Mike Kellin (whose last film role was as Mel in SLEEPAWAY CAMP, American Eagle, 1983).

 

• The Lapinskis are a nice if eccentric working class Jewish family living in Brooklyn ,1953 when son Lenny Lapinski (Baker) decides it’s time for him to move to Manhattan and pursue his dream of becoming an actor, much as the idea brings agita to his mother Fay (Winters) and his somewhat henpecked dad Ben (Kallin).

• Finding a flat in a Village brownstone, he is soon surrounded by loving bohemian friends who are artistically hungry, assured self-centered intellectuals, or creating lives and backgrounds for themselves that help them survive the real world. Among this idiosyncratic crew are Anita (Lois Smith), a high-strung friend who contemplates suicide, Robert (Christopher Walken) as the smug poet Robert, and Bernstein a black gay man who is full of fanciful stories of his life (Antonio Vargas, whom if you only know him as Huggy Bear from tv’s STARSKY & HUTCH, Spelling-Goldberg,1975-79, you will be astonished by his brilliant and touching turn here), hanger on Connie (Dori Bremmer).

The cast and director Mazursky

 

Lenny also a girlfriend, free spirit Sarah Roth (Greene). Their relationship is very sexual, in contrast to the normal conformity of the era. She enjoys their relationship but doesn’t want to be merely someone’s girlfriend. The problem is she isn’t sure exactly where she fits in the world.

 

That is not an issue with Lenny, who goes to acting classes, hoping like so many to be the next Brando, while working in an health food shop run by Herb (Lou Jacobi) and his wife (Helen Hanft, a fixture in Off -Off and Off-Broadway productions).

 

Along the way, we have many funny and tragic events happen along the way to Lenny’s journey to achieve stardom. Moments perfectly capture what feel honest and true of the period, including rent parties (a $1 a head, when a flat could be had for $50 a month!).

 

Among the names mentioned above, keep an eye out for Jeff Goldblum as a self-centered actor who studied at “The Studio” whose big mouth costs him from even being able to audition, Joe Spinnell as a cop who watches Lenny performing on a subway platform, and Rutanya Alda as an uncredited party guest.

 

The film was lensed by Arthur J. Ornitz (son of one of the Hollywood Ten ,Samuel Ornitz),who had been behind the camera for such films as THE BOYS IN THE BAND (National General,1970),SERPICO (Paramount,1973) and DEATH WISH (Paramount,1974) ,which all used a similar grainy look and brown palette in color, but he was also the cinematographer on HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (MGM,1970), so he was not limited in his color use or cinematic style .

 

Bill Conti was the composer, the same year that he wrote his score for ROCKY (U.A.,1976). For N.S.G.V., his score is a bluesy jazzy score that perfect evokes the era, often using pieces from the Dave Brubeck Quartet (the 1953 set film has Brubeck’s 1959 composition ‘Blue Rondo a la Turk”) or Charlie Parker.

 

 Don’t you hate when your parents walk in during sex?                                                                    

 

 

The film was mostly shot on location in NYC, though you would be hard pressed to find many of the locations nowadays. A shot looking toward the city from the subway platform clearly shows on the far-left buildings that were not there in the 1950s, but this, like the Brubeck note, are so nitpicky, that if you notice them while seeing the film then you aren’t paying attention to the brilliance of the storytelling.

 

You can still recognize the location on 7th Avenue South and Christopher Street (Village Cigar is still there) and you can still a nice meal at Café Reggio on 119 MacDougal Street, as well as Julius’s Bar at 159 W 10th Street, which is NYC’s oldest Gay Bar (it was also used in a scene for the film of THE BOYS IN THE BAND).

The commentary track by Mazursky (more on in a bit) mentions that Alan Ladd Jr, then head of 20th Century Fox, gave the director a lot of input on the film, up to and including the poster design by graphic designer Milton Glaser. Mazursky leaves it at that, but I was curious as to why he felt that was important to reference.

 

 

Though his imagery is well known even when his name is not (the original Broadway production of ANGELS IN AMERICA, for Bob Dylan, and the I LOVE NY logo, this is one of the illustrators few movie posters.

 

The more Norman Rockwell-ish design is by artist Birney Lettick, whose artwork graced movie posters for many a major American film across the genres..

 

The Blu Ray from Twilight Time is another winner from this company. An upgrade in picture quality from the previous DVD release from Fox, this is a 1080p High definition transfer in 1:85:1 ratio. The original grain and dark colors perfectly capture the look of the film when it played theatrically in 1976, to critical praise but small audiences in the U.S. It found a more appreciative audience for its European screenings, but slowly and surely it has been discovered by new audiences with each release. This stands as the one that fans will want to own.

The sound is available to listen to in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo as well as the original mono sound. I really didn’t notice any major difference, but since this is a dialogue driven score, it really doesn’t affect the overall enjoyment.

 

There are optional English SDH subtitles.

 

Other extras include

A very warm and informative commentary track recorded for the 2005 DVD release by director Mazursky and Ellen Greene. Though recorded separately, they are very nicely edited together for a commentary track that you may wish to listen to more often than other more technical but cold commentaries heard on bigger budgeted new releases. The joy that each have on recalling the film, and how it affected each one, is engrossing.

 

Another audio track allows you to hear the music track isolated in DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo. This is a fun score to listen to while you are doing things, like perhaps writing a film review.

The Original Theatrical Trailer- this will give you an idea of how much the film elements have been cleaned, as well as idea of how the studio sold films at the time.

 

 

There is a reversible case sleeve as well as a nice booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo, ending with some more personal commentary than usual that shows the power of this film.

This is a must have addition to anyone who

-Loves Great Independent Style filmmaking (ironically, it was greenlit by Alan Ladd Jr, then head of 20th Century Fox)
-seeing famous actors in their early works
-Nostalgia
-Superlative Storytelling.

 

 

Heck, I think I am going to watch it again right now.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!
Get it now- remember -only 3,000 pressing.

-Kevin G Shinnick-

If you enjoyed this film, may I also recommend MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/moscow-on-the-hudson-blu-ray/
And
BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE
https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/bob-carol-ted-alice-blu-ray/
, also directed by Paul Mazursky.

Remember to like and follow us here: https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/

Also like and follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SCARLETreviews/

 

 

 

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THE BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY (Arrow Blu Ray) THE VAMPIRE DOLL; LAKE OF DRACULA; EVIL OF DRACULA

BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY (THE VAMPIRE DOLL; LAKE OF DRACULA; and EVIL OF DRACULA; Toho, 1970-4)

Arrow Blu Ray set release .2 disc set. Color. Japanese with subtitles.

U.S. Release $49.99 s.r.p. https://www.amazon.com/Bloodthirsty-Trilogy-Vampire-Dracula-Special/dp/B07B12HN97

U.K. Release £ 29.99 s.r.p. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bloodthirsty-Trilogy-Blu-ray-Kayo-Matsuo/dp/B079VCZJC3/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1525722582&sr=1-1&keywords=bloodthirsty+trilogy

In the 1960s and early 1970s, vampire films were quite popular, Thanks to Hammer Films, Dracula and his many off-shoots invaded movie theatres and television sets internationally. Many countries made their own variations and even rip offs of the British horror studio’s output.

One country where fantasy films and horror were enjoyed by a wide audience was Japan.
Japanese theatre had a long history of popular ghost stories. Oddly, Japan seems to lack any legends of vampire folklore, the closest being the Yōkai, a malevolent spirit.

Yotsuya Kaidan (四谷怪談 Ghost Story of Yotsuya), written in 1825, was a kabuki ghost story revenge play. So far it has  been adapted for films at least 30 times.

One year after the cinema camera was introduced in the country, local filmmakers made Bake Jizo (Jizo the Spook / 化け地蔵) and Shinin no sosei (Resurrection of a Corpse),1898 ,both films currently presumed lost.

The first film adaptation of Yotsuya Kaidan was made in 1912, and it was filmed some 18 times between 1913 and 1937. All but the 1936 and 1937 films were silent adaptations.

In 1933, a three-reel silent comedy Wasei Kingu Kongu (和製キング・コング, literally  Japanese King Kong) was made, also now sadly missing for modern viewers. Japan made silent films well into the mid-1930s. In 1938, Kong returned for another silent Japanese film, this time released in two parts, King Kong Appears in Edo (江戸に現れたキングコング Edo ni Arawareta Kingu Kongu) .This film ,like so many Japanese films made before the 1950s, is also lost.

From the early to mid-1940s, most of Japanese cinema was turned to the propaganda for the war effort. Still, future great artists like Akira Kurasawa began their careers during this period.

In the 1950s, Japanese films began to get a wider release worldwide. Kurasawa’s brilliant RASHOMON (Toho,1950) won international praise and awards. Ugetsu, Tales of Ugetsu or Ugetsu Monogatari (雨月物語) was a 1953 ghost story from Daiei Studios that won great acclaim.

1954 ,The same year that people were introduced to Seven Samurai (七人の侍 Shichinin no Samurai,Toho), the same studio released a film that would spawn sequels, remakes ,rip-offs ,and introduced the world to Kaiju (giant monster )cinema, Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira). Both films nearly bankrupted the studio but luckily the international box office rewarded the daring producers . Another supernatural film, The Invisible Avenger (透明人間 Tōmei ningen, literally Invisible Man), loosely based upon the H.G. Wells classic, was released by Toho that same year, but never was given international release.

Between all the monsters stomping all of Tokyo, supernatural tales continued to be popular. Nobuo Nakagawa directed a series of horror films, including The Ghosts of Kasane Swamp (Shintoho Films. 1957), The Mansion of the Ghost Cat (亡霊怪猫屋敷Bōrei kaibyō yashiki, Shintoho, 1958) and The Ghost of Yotsuya (Tokaido Yotsuya kaidan (東海道四谷怪談), another telling of the famous ghost story, Shintoho 1959), and Jigoku (Jigoku (地獄, “Hell”, Shintoho ,1960).

The 1960s continued to have more supernatural tales ,alternating between the giant monsters, and supernatural thrillers, including an interesting hybrid ,GOKE BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (吸血鬼ゴケミドロ Kyuketsuki Gokemidoro ,which translates to Vampire Gokemidoro, Shochiku,1968).This hybrid vampire /ufo film has an alien invasion using bloodsuckers ,and has a rather bleak ending.

Finally, Toho, one of the oldest of the big four Japanese Film companies, saw the profits Hammer was making on their relatively modest budget horror films, and decided to take a chance on their own three vampire films.

All these films were directed by Michio Yamamoto ( 1933- 2004 ) . Yamamoto began as an assistant director to the great Kurasawa on THRONE OF BLOOD (Kumonosu-jô), the director’s take on the tragedy of Macbeth. He continued as an A.D. until 1969, when Toho let him direct Yaju no fukkatsu , a gangster crime drama.

He was given directorial control on the Hammer influenced but modern setting vampire films that the studio produced between 1970-4. Between films, he directed for Nippon tv some dramas, ending his career in 1976 directing episodes of a tv action drama.

First was The Vampire Doll (幽霊屋敷の恐怖 血を吸う人形 Chi o suu ningyo, Toho,1970, color ,71minutes). THE VAMPIRE DOLL was released in a subtitled form in NY and LA as THE NIGHT OF THE VAMPIRE. THE VAMPIRE DOLL as also been known as BLOODSUCKING DOLL, THE GHOST MANSION’S HORROR: A BLOODSUCKING DOLL, FEAR OF THE GHOST HOUSE: BLOODSUCKING DOLL, and when released on VHS by Paramount, THE LEGACY OF DRACULA.

The film shows that the director and writer Hiroshi Nagano (who doesn’t seem to have any other fantasy credits and worked mostly on television) and Ei Ogawa (who wrote all three vampire films, as well as SPACE AMOEBA (Gezora, Ganime, Kamēba: Kessen! Nankai no Daikaijū  (ゲゾラ・ガニメ・カメーバ 決戦! 南海の大怪獣ba: , , translated as “Gezora, Ganimes, and Kamoebas: Decisive Battle! Giant Monsters of the South Seas ”, Toho, 1970) seemed have studied THE OLD DARK HOUSE (Universal,1932), PSYCHO (Paramount ,1960), and CITY OF THE DEAD(Vulcan,1960), as well as Hammer’s vampire films.

Kazuhiko goes to an isolated house during a rainstorm to reunite with his fiancé, Yuko. Interestingly, the house and cab are depicted via model work.

Upon arriving, the young man is greeted by Genzo, the silent servant, as well as Yuko’s mother, Shido. Kazuhiko is told by Yuko’s mother that the young woman died during a landslide just a few weeks prior. Due to the storm, he must spend the evening, wherein he is awakened by the cry of a woman. It does not end well for him.

We cut to Kazuhiko’s sister Keiko and her boyfriend Hiroshi ,who are concerned that he hasn’t returned or even contacted
them to let them know how he is. They go to the same remote home and are greeted by Shido and Genzo. What they uncover leads to more deaths as the family curse is uncovered.

The film is a mix of Gothic horror (old dark house, stormy night) and Japanese Ghost Story. While the killer is called a vampire, they never spout fangs, instead using a very deadly blade to dispatch their victims. Still, the film is full of atmosphere, and at a brisk 71 minutes, it really moves.

Composer Ricchiro Manabe wrote the scores for all three Toho vampire films. Besides composing for the vampire trilogy, Manabe also wrote the scores for GODZILLA VS HEDORAH (ゴジラ対ヘドラ Gojira tai Hedora, Toho,1971) better known as GODZILLA VS THE SMOG MONSTER; and GODZILLA VS MEGALON ( ゴジラ対メガロ Gojira tai Megaro, Toho,1973).

His scores for this first film is harpsicord, piano, and organ, mixed in with discordant sounds to create a feeling of unease. It also includes some traditional Kokiriko (basically a pair of sticks struck together rhythmically) electric keyboard and flute. At one point it goes a little muzak, but overall, it is quite spare but effective. At times, it reminded me of some of the music from tv’s DARK SHADOWS (ABC TV 1966-1971) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5Kh9z-mExk .

The cinematography by Kazutami Hara is effective, with nicely composed shots that help the mood of the piece. He would skip the next film in the series, only to return for the final entry.

The film must have done well, as the studio made another vampire film the following year with the same director, screenwriter (Ei Ogawa) and composer.

Lake of Dracula (呪いの館 血を吸う眼 Noroi no yakata-Chi o su me, Toho, 1971, also known as also known as Japula, Dracula’s Lust for Blood, The Bloodthirsty Eyes and Lake of Death). After it’s Japanese release, it was given a limited subtitled release in the U.S., followed up by a television dubbed version from UPA under the title LAKE OF DRACULA.

A young girl, Akiko, looking for her lost dog, wanders into a house, where she finds a dead woman and a vampire. We jump ahead years later, where Akiko is now a young woman. She thinks what happened to her was only a dream, until the vampire turns up again, and her dog once again goes missing, only now her sister Natsuko also disappears.

She is attacked by a friend who has been vampirized and brought to the original vampire. Just before he can bite her, two men interrupt the monsters, and they run away.

More near fatal events happen, wherein they discover that the original vampire chasing them is a descendent of Dracula himself!

This film is a more traditional vampire film, with an ancestor of the King of all Vampires playing heavily into the story. The vampire here has a ghastly pale complexion and yellow eyes. The final staking is effective (I understand that this was cut from some tv prints, making a very frustrating viewing for late night tv addicts). Certain points in the film made me think of BRIDES OF DRACULA (Hammer/Universal,1960).


The Hammer influence is strong in the design of the vampire’s mansion , which has a very European look, or at least strong Bernard Robinson construction (kudos to production designer Shigekazu Ikuno, who had worked on the horror film MATANGO, Toho ,1963). The film overall has a feel of a larger budget than its predecessor.

The camerawork by Rokurô Nishigaki is quite good, and it is a shame he didn’t do more genre work.

Three years later, the final film of the series was EVIL OF DRACULA ( 血を吸う薔薇 , literally The Bloodthirsty Rose, Toho,1974). The original cameraman returned to join the other original director, writer and composer.

 

Once again, BRIDES OF DRACULA seem to have had some influence on the plot, along with LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (Hammer, 1971).

Shiraki, a new teacher at the Seimei School for Girls, finds out that he is to become the new Director. The principal has just suffered the death of his wife. That night, Shiraki, who is staying in the principal’s home, is attacked. He wakes up in his own bed, and at first assumes it was all a dream.

However, he goes down into the cellar and finds that the ghastly woman who attacked him the night prior is the occupant of a coffin, namely the principal’s late wife.


Later, one of the female students is attacked and left with two bite marks upon one of her breasts. The school Doctor Shimimura, who also collects local legends, feels that the violence and strange things going on are the result of a vampire.

The origin of this Dracula is quite original, to say the least. If you have seen Martin Scorsese’s SILENCE(Paramount,2016), you will be aware of the 17th Century attempt at bringing Christianity from Europe to Japan. Well, here, Dracula comes into being as a pious man who renounces his faith due to the tortures of the missionaries, and thus is cursed with vampirism! 

This film is a bit more violent and some semi nudity to spice up the proceedings. Once again, the team has done a great job of mixing Western culture with a Japanese spin.

These films were released sparsely in the U.S. in subtitled prints in limited release, as well as dubbed versions, somewhat edited for television by UPA.

Paramount Home Video released the films in the edited dubbed versions on VHS, but they have long been out of print. The prints were rather flat and the copies suffered from pan and scan .

Finally, ARROW FILMS has once again graced us with an amazing presentation of an unjustly obscure film, or in this case, three.  

First off, they have gone to the original film elements for a   1080p High Definition Blu Ray release. The color and image quality are amazingly sharp and clear, with no noticeable speckling or blemishes. Though supposedly low budget, the artisans and artists at Toho bring a professionalism and pride to their work.

The Mono sound is now in a clean uncompressed 1.0 PCM Audio.  The previous VHS release was on certain videos released in the LP (long play) speed, rather than the SP (Standard Play). This softened the picture image as well as flattened the sound.

Though not mixed in any fake stereo, the music and sound effects mix are clear.

The prints used are in the original Japanese, so you can hear the performances of the actors, with very easy to read new English language subtitles.

 

Kim Newman (film historian, as well as author of the delightful ANNO DRACULA book series) provides a nice little video appraisal of the trilogy on disc one.

• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin (which also graces the discs), while on the flip side are some of the original Japanese theatrical posters.

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp (Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema; Scarecrow Press ,2011), illustrated with some beautiful photos from the movies.

Disc One consists THE VAMPIRE DOLL and Kim Newman’s video comments.
Disc Two consists of LAKE OF DRACULA and EVIL OF DRACULA.

The only thing that I could have suggested was perhaps adding alternate audio track of the English dubs from UPA , but perhaps they were too prohibitively expensive to license .

Once again, Arrow Films has given us another must have Blu Ray Collection.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Kevin G Shinnick

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