2019, Fairuza Balk, film, genre, gore, Home Invasion, Horror, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, IFC MIDNIGHT FILMS, independent, independent film, Mystery, now playing, Now Playing Theatrical, review, SCARLETTHEFILMMAGAZINE.WORDPRESS.COM, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, Unrated

TRESSPASSERS -now playing theatrically , IFC MIDNIGHT FILMS

 

TRESSPASSERSIFC Midnight-Now Playing Theatrically. Color -87 Minutes Unrated.

Watch the trailer :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RawgS69nvR8&list=PLzbzLEBDQ5MqDFjyhpI4gGPsOlQRNP7ti

When a film opens with a bunch of guys donning cloth masks that give them the suggestion of skulls and walk towards a house wielding machete, you know there is going to be trouble.

That is the opening of TRESSPASSERS, a new nail biter from Director Orson Oblowitz (director of the crime drama THE QUEEN OF HOLLYWOOD BLVD, Dark Star ,2017; as well as having a small role in the darkly comic yet violent Bobcat Goldthwait film GOD BLESS AMERICA, Magnet, 2011).

 

After the murder of an unnamed man and woman , the film changes mood and switches to a couple, Sarah (Angela Trimbur, THE FINAL GIRLS, Sony ,2015) and Joseph (Zack Avery, CURVATURE, Screen Media 2017. CURVATURE was produced by The Hallivis Brothers, producers of TRESSPASSERS)., who are dealing with some relationship issues and they have gone to this isolated house out in the California desert to have some alone time. At least, that is, until two friends that Sarah has invited show up, Estelle (Janel Parrish, from the television series PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, ABC ,2010-17) and her boyfriend (Jonathan Howard), much to Joseph’s annoyance.

 

Shortly thereafter, another unexpected visitor arrives. A quirky bespectacled woman who doesn’t identify herself (Fairuza Balk, AMERICAN HISTORY X, New Line ,1998) says that her car broke down and there is no cell phone signal in the area.

She wonders if she might use their phone to check in on her babysitter with her son, as well as possibly get a tow truck. The thing is, as the night goes on, the visitor doesn’t seem to want to leave, as strange things happen, like a sudden power outage. The visitor says that  such outages are common in the area, which is why they have backup generators, but Jonathan, who is, shall we say, a major dick, feels that there is something wrong with the woman and wants her gone.

 

Things quickly escalate until a horrible accident occurs (which made this reviewer jump). The events do not start going any better, when first the police stop by, and then the masked trio from earlier returns.

 

I am trying to keep from giving away too many too many of the delicious surprises and thrills that this film has ,hoping you go and enjoy this thrill ride .

 

The film has a few flaws (none of the four leads are particularly likeable, but that is more to how they are written ,and not the fault of the performers) , but it makes for an enjoyable thriller along the lines of THE STRANGERS (Universal, 2008) and THE STRANGERS PREY AT NIGHT (Aviron ,2018).

 

Composer Jonathan Snipes (SNAKES ON A PLANE, New Line,2006) at times evokes the Giallo thrillers of old, such as using a harpsicord accompanying a female vocalist for the opening and the end credits, at other times a kind of techno sound score. The cinematography by Noah Rosenthal (the horror comedy DETENTION OF THE DEAD,Anchor Bay ,2013) is sharp and crisp , at times giving the house a cold sterile look, against which the horrors play, while at other times, colored filters are used, which also recalls early Dario Argento.

 

A good creepy thriller that if you are at all paranoid, this will do nothing to reassure you.

-Kevin G Shinnick

Personal Thanks to IFC Midnight.

 

 

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TRESSPASSERS original title

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THE NEW YORK RIPPER (Blue Underground Blu-Ray ,June 2019 release)

      THE NEW YORK RIPPER (Blue Underground) June ,2019

                                 original Theatrical release: 1982, Vidmark.

                                        Color. 93 mins. Unrated REGION FREE

         NEW YORK RIPPER, THE

(3-Disc Ltd Ed/4K REM)
1-BD + 1-DVD + 1-CD $49.95

http://www.blue-underground.com/product.php?product=294

 

When a film exists to shock, and succeeds beyond expectations, is it a good film ?

Surely there are many controversial films that do this –CALIGULA (Penthouse,1979) for one. THE NEW YORK RIPPER takes the Giallo archetype and extends it to a point where the misogyny of so many in that genre is multiplied and multiplied again. However, if that is what the killer’s mind set is and the film captures it, is it not then delivering upon its subject matter?

 


Lucio Fulci (1927-1996) was a director who seemed to invite controversy. Though he began as a writer director of documentary shorts in 1948 ,he got into full length features in 1959, working in all genres, from comedy (I LANDRI, ICM,1959) ,musicals RAGAZZI DEL JUKE-BOX (ERA,1959), and westerns (THE BRUTE & THE BEAST ,Mega,1968) with little notice.

 

In 1969, he made his first Giallo, Una sull’altra (ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER, Empire ,1969) shooting some of the film in California), and he had found his niche in the mystery /horror genre. These films proved successful and with each successful one he increased the gore and often the sexual content. His Gates of Hell horror trilogy (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, Dania ,1980; his masterpiece, THE BEYOND Fulvia,1981 and HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, Fulvia,1981) put him on the horror /thriller map as a director to watch.

For good or bad, he became known as a Master of Splatter, and he delivered by the gooey bucketful. Shooting parts of his films within different regions of the U.S. probably set his films apart from a lot of other Italian productions of the time, and I am sure were used to sell the films as American movies to certain markets.

 


THE NEW YORK RIPPER (Lo squartatore di New York, Fulvia, 1982) continued his streak of lensing his films, at least good portions of them in the United States, here, of course, the title city. New York City thrillers were popular with the success of films like DEATH WISH (Paramount, 1974) due to the urban decay that the metropolis had declined into and remained in throughout the 70s,80s, and early 90s.

The world viewed the place as a petri dish where unimaginable crimes could happen almost anywhere, a belief that was solidified by events like the Son Of Sam shootings in 1976-7.

MANIAC (Analysis,1980) (also available in a beautiful Blu Ray Edition from BLUE UNDERGROUND http://www.blue-underground.com/product.php?product=291 ) amped up the ultra-violence (and yes, the objectification of women as victims ) in a powerful thriller .

THE NEW YORK RIPPER cranks it up to 11 with the sex and violence combo .

 


A dog out for a walk with its master finds a rotting human hand, later identified as having come from a local hooker. The lead Detective, Lt Fred Williams (British actor Jack Hadley, who had to take his stage name since there already was a famous Jack Hawkins, starred in the BBC series COLDITZ ,1972-4) begins interviewing people who may have known the unfortunate woman. In his search, he finds out that she had gotten a call from a person who spoke with an odd quacking sound and high-pitched voice.

Another young woman is murdered upon the Staten island Ferry by a knife welding unseen stranger, using the bizarre voice. The police suspect that there is a pattern to the crimes, tying into another murder that had happened previously. They realize that they are dealing with a serial murderer.

The Chief of Police (Lucio Fulci himself!) tells Williams to stop having press conferences that might panic the public (as indeed happened during the Son of Sam spree). Right after, Williams finds out that someone: sounding like a duck” called wanting to talk to him, like the taunts that Jack the Ripper gave the Police and Press.


Another victim is a live sex show performer, brutally murdered by a broken bottle into her genitals. That same night, another prostitute, Kitty (Daniela Doria, who was one of the victims Fulci’s THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY) receives a call from the quacking killer.

Several more vicious killings occur by the mad person dubbed “The New York Ripper”, often involving seedy locations or sexual situations. The film has a rather grim as well as downbeat ending which is one more kick to the gut that the film delivers before the titles roll.

 

Fulci had felt the film was a tribute to Hitchcock, though it owes a great deal more to Dario Argento with its graphic gore.

 

The combination of sex and violence got the film banned in the U.K. until 2002, while in the U.S. it was barely released, getting most of it’s following from its 1987 Vidmark VHS release in an edited version.

BLUE UNDERGROUND had released THE NEW YORK RIPPER uncut since 2008 on DVD (out of print) as well as Blu Ray since 2009.

 

This new (June 25th,2019) Limited Edition is a must have for fans of the film. For one, this print is a 4K scan from an ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE. The image sharpness is amazing, and probably looks better than any version prior, including its limited theatrical run. The film makes good use of color ,thanks to cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller (FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN , BLOOD OF DRACULA (Bryanston 1973,1974; Dario Argento’s DEEP RED, Mahler ,1976 ) that show off the makeup effects of Germano Natali (DEEP RED; SUSPIRIA ,International Classics,1977) in all their gory glory .

 

The audio is available in English 7.1 and Mono DTS-HD, as well as French, Italian and Spanish. I sampled the other tracks, and all seem fine, probably closer to the original theatrical sound but the 7.0 is the way to go. The background city sounds give the film a richer bigger budget feel, with dialogue usually clear and hiss free. I had to turn down the speakers a few times with the screams, that seem to get a bit loud, but let’s face it, that is to be expected in this sort of film.

There are also optional subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.

 

 

The film is given an incredible number of extras (which we have come to expect and treasure in these marvelous Blue Underground special 4K releases like MANIAC.)

 


A running Audio Commentary by Troy Howarth. Really one would be hard pressed to find a better commentator than Troy, who began writing for Fangoria, and is an expert on Italian Horror, having published at least three books that deal with the subject, including one on Fulci. That knowledge flows effortlessly in a conversational relaxed manner as he drops an amazing amount of info about the film’s production ,cast & crew  as well as the various censorship and release problems that it encountered .


NYC LOCATIONS THEN & NOW – a personal favorite, as I am a life-long denizen of the city, the too short featurette examines how the city looked then and now (well ,2009). With all the chain stores and Starbucks as well as aimless tourists nowadays, I am unsure which is preferable.

 

PAINT ME BLOOD RED– an interview with Poster Artist Enzo Sciotti, who has painted over 3,000 Italian film posters, including this film. To see some of his work: https://www.cvltnation.com/demons-death-color-art-enzo-sciotti/

 

THE ART OF KILLING -An interview with Co-Writer Dardano Sacchetti (in Italian, subtitled), who worked with Fulci on several of his films, including HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY and MANHATTAN BABY (Fulvia ,1982) and has worked with Mario Bava and Dario Argento.

 

THREE FINGERS OF VIOLENCE– Interview with actor Howard Ross.


– ‘THE BROKEN BOTTLE MURDER– Interview with actress Zora Kerova, who was on the receiving end of one of the most controversial “murders” in the film.

– ‘I’M AN ACTRESS!” – A 2009 interview with the Hungarian born Zora Kerova.

THE BEAUTY KILLERStephen Thrower, author of BEYOND TERROR: THE FILMS OF LUCIO FULCI, give a little more background on the director and the film. Between Thrower and Howarth’s comments, I feel I need to revisit Fulci’s films to better appreciate them.

The Original Theatrical Trailer – bizarre and violent.

Poster & Still Gallery

-A DVD version of THE NEW YORK RIPPER (should you find yourself wanting to watch on your laptop sans a Blu Ray Player).

 

-One of the biggest extras is the OST CD for THE NEW YORK RIPPER by Francesco De Masi. An eclectic mix, the score has lots of electronic guitar, some jazz horn, a bit of disco funk sound, lots of tambourine (what no cow bell? )- yet the score works well with the film that it accompanied. The limited-edition vinyl soundtrack that was available was going for about $25 in some areas, so this Bonus CD is a great addition to this release.

 

– Finally , A twenty-page booklet with essay by Travis Crawford from Indiewire with more information about the flick.

THE NEW YORK RIPPER admittedly is not for everyone’s tastes. However, for fans of
Lucio Fulci,

Italian horror/slasher films,

New York City set sleaze,

gore,

this BLUE UNDERGROUND belongs within your collection.

-KEVIN G SHINNICK

Also from BLUE UNDERGROUND mentioned in the article

MANIAC (ltd edition Blu Ray) https://www.amazon.com/Maniac-Blu-ray-Joe-Spinell/dp/B07FQ3RPND/

 

HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY https://www.amazon.com/House-Cemetery-Special-Catriona-MacColl/dp/B0057O6IMS/

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD https://www.amazon.com/City-Living-Special-Christopher-George/dp/B0036R92US/

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THE BELIEVERS (Olive Films Blu Ray and DVD releases)

THE BELIEVERS (Orion 1987) (0live Films,2019) R- Color. Region A. 114 minutes. 1:85:1 aspect ratio https://olivefilms.com/product/the-believers/ Available on Blu Ray $29.95 and DVD $24.95

THE BELIEVERS is a fascinating though at times frustrating film. The movie itself deals with religious beliefs and the supernatural beliefs in a modern, more secular world while the production tries to be a Val Lewtonesque film dealing with the subject but with flashes of modern grue effects to keep the punters paying attention.

The film’s pedigree made this a higher than normal profile project for the genre. Directed by John Schlesinger, C.B.E. (Oscar winning director of MIDNIGHT COWBOY, 1969, U.A.) with a screenplay by television writer Mark Frost (who two years later would change that media as co-creator, with David Lynch, with their groundbreaking TWIN PEAKS, Lynch/Frost Productions, 1990-91). The film was based upon the 1982 novel THE RELIGION (Dutton, written by Nicolas Conde. Conde is a pseudonym for the writing team of Robert Rosenblum and Robert Nathan).

 

The critical response, however, was less than kind. Roger Ebert gave the film one and a half stars, writing :

“I’m getting tired of the dingy tenements in Spanish Harlem with the blood-soaked chicken feathers on the floor, and the scenes where the shrink realizes he needs a witch doctor to save his child.”-June 10,1987.

How many films did he see that had such scenes? The only movie that even remotely comes to mind is the overlooked THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY (Paramount ,1972).

 

THE BELIEVERS also generated controversy by making some of its more sinister events tie in with Santería (a Spanish word meaning “follower of saints”), a religion in NYC that is a mixture of Christianity and Afro-Cuban religious ideals.

When Lisa Jamison (Janet-Laine Green) is electrocuted in a home accident before her horrified son’s eyes, her husband Carl (Martin Sheen, THE DEAD ZONE, Paramount, 1983) moves himself and the young boy Chris (Harley Cross, MRS SOFFEL, MGM,1984) to New York City.

Cal is a police psychologist (an anthropologist in the novel), so he doesn’t have much time to grieve, for soon after he arrives in the city, he is drawn into a savage murder mystery.

Undercover Police Officer Tom Lopez (Jimmy Smits, RUNNING SCARED, MGM,1986) is acting very irrationally after he finds the body of a young boy murdered by a religious cult. The cult knows who the officer is, and he is terrified. It turns out he is also a member of the group.

 

As Jessica Halliday (Helen Shaver, THE COLOR OF MONEY, Touchstone, 1986), the Jamison landlord, becomes more romantically involved, strange items start to appear in the apartment, left by the maid Carmen (Carla Pinza, who also acted as the film’s cultural advisor).

 

About the same time, Carl & Chris come across an animal sacrifice in Central Park. While Carl is distracted, Chris picks up an item left at the scene.

 

Things get more complex when a Haitian named Palo (Malick Bowens, OUT OF AFRICA, Universal,1985) arrives in the city with mysterious powers.

Meanwhile, Tom Lopez is in terrible pain, and goes to a Santeria shop, where he grabs a knife and stabs himself repeatedly in the stomach.

Police Lt McTaggert (the always reliable Robert Loggia, PRIZZI’S HONOR, Fox, 1985) along with Cal attend the autopsy, and are shocked and horrified to find that Tom Lopez’ stomach is full of squirming live snakes.

 

The mystery goes deeper ,with the religion being connected with local politics (out of towners saying, “Yeah well it is New York” ) , and the further they get involved , the more it endangers the lives of Cal ,his son and Jessica (who gets a very disturbing “pimple” ).

New York is a good setting for a mysterious religious cult. One of the most modern cities in the world, it still holds 6000 churches (2,000, with at least 4,000 unofficial places of worship), It is so busy, that a hidden cult can easily thrive in the impersonal activities of Manhattan and its boroughs.

“Wait. This Isn’t THE OMEN?”

 

THE SEVENTH VICTIM (RKO,1943), ROSEMARY’S BABY (Paramount ,1968), the already mentioned THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY -all make good use of this. THE BELIEVERS also does, but, like THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY, there is also the clash of cultures added within the mix.

OLIVE FILMS has given the film a sharp new 1080p release. Comparing it to my old MGM DVD, the colors are much sharper and the flatness of the image has been replaced with a much more vibrant one (note ,my review is based upon Olive Films Blu Ray ).

The sound also has been cleaned up as a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The dialogue and sound mix are clean with no noticeable pops or hiss.

There are also optional English Subtitles.

THE BELIEVERS, Martin Sheen, Lee Richardson, Harley Cross, Harris Yulin, 1987, (c) Orion

RECOMMENDED for Horror fans, Martin Sheen fans, fans of voo-doo thrillers, NYC based thrillers.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

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THE BIG FIX (Twilight Time Blu Ray)

      THE BIG FIX ( Twilight Time Blu-Ray) 1978. Color. 108 min .PG . Region Free. $29.95 Limited to a print run of 3,000 only.

 


https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/big-fix-the-blu-ray/

 

Richard Dreyfuss was at the height of his popularity in 1978. He had been a major force behind such mega successes as JAWS (Universal,1975) and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Columbia,1975), and had just won the Academy Award for Best Actor for THE GOODBYE GIRL (MGM,1977).

There was therefore great anticipation for his next film , which was THE BIG FIX. The television commercials seemed to promise us another whacky comedy, following his popular turn in THE GOODBYE GIRL. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-O0zOa41kos

 

The film got positive reviews , but it never seemed to click as expected with audiences   (though it was profitable ), and so the film came and went quickly.

 

It was released on VHS and on cable, but never seemed to find an audience it deserved .

 

The problem is that the marketing sold it as a comedy, which is wrong as it is a clever updating of the detective drama (there was a 1947 crime drama with the same name ,which was the final film from Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) ) ,with a quirky title character.

 

The screenplay was adapted by Roger L. Simon , based upon his own 1973 novel. His character of Moses Wine appeared in 3 further novels, and has been nominated for an Edgar Award .

 

Jeremy Paul Kagan was a successful television director, who had helmed an episode of the successful COLUMBO (Universal,1971-2003) as well as the marvelous telefilm mystery JUDGE DEE AND THE MONASTERY MURDERS  (ABC CIRCLE FILMS ,1974).

 

THE BIG FIX was his second theatrical feature (the first being HEROES , Universal,1977).

Private Investigator Moses Wine (Richard Dreyfuss) is a former radical now struggling within the system , struggling on catching up on late child support and losing on sports betting . His right hand is in a cast, and  one wonders if it was a warning from a bookie, from a case, or simply clumsiness. He doesn’t make it clearer ,when he himself gives various reasons for his injury (Dreyfuss supposedly actually injured himself ,and so they worked it into the film).

Moses is contacted by Lila (Susan Anspach,BLUME IN LOVE, WB 1973) to see if he can help Milles Hawthorne (John Cunningham ). Cunningham is running for Governor of California, but there is a smear campaign against him .Fliers are being distributed that have doctored photos that show Hawthorne with radical Howard Eppis (F Murray Abraham , 6 years before his international fame as Salieri in AMADEUS , Orion ,1984 ),who is also supposedly also endorsing him. This could be the kiss of death to Hawthorne’s campaign ,and Lila wants Moses to find out who is doing it.

 

The problem for Moses is that he has contempt for Hawthorne’s policies and intelligence ,but for Lila (with him Moses was involved with back in HIS radical younger days) , he takes the case , even though he has to deal with Hawthorne’s buttoned down campaign manager,Sam Sebastian (John Lithgow , the same year appearing in Bob Fosse’s ALL THAT JAZZ (Fox,1979)).

 

They start checking with old radical sources and friends (some of whom are in prison due to their activities with Eppis )to try and uncover the truth of the smear campaign , which results in death along the way. Moses needs to find Eppis and finds many of his old associates now regard Eppis with hatred and contempt .

The FBI becomes involved and question Moses about Eppis . Moses also encounters wealthy Industrialist Oscar Procari (Dennis Weaver, so memorable in many classic TWILIGHT ZONE episodes) who feels Eppis radicalized his son and got him involved with the California Four (sort of a variant to the Weather Underground).

Along the way, Moses comes in contact with many of those who were involved with the turbulent sixties, and he questions when did things start to change for him and the rest ?

My favorite scene in the film is where Moses watches old news footage of the California Four and their passion that they could bring about change, bringing tears to Moses’ eyes.

 

Other wonderful supporting actors in the film include Bonnie Bedelia (before she played Holly McClane in DIE HARD I & II (Fox ,88,90) as Suzanne ,Moses’ ex-wife, Ron Rifkin ( L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, WB,1991) as her sleazy current boyfriend , as well as a watch or you’ll miss him Mandy Patinkin (YENTL ,UA, 1983) bit as a stoner pool man.

The score is by Bill Conti (ROCKY,UA,1976) ,and the cinematography is by Frank Stanley ( Blake Edwards ‘10”,WB ,1979) . Bill Conti’s score is available to listen to on an isolated music & sound effects track as the disc’s only extra , besides an original theatrical trailer.

The film has been given a 1080p High Definition upgrade (1.85:1 screen ratio) and is a big step up from the Universal DVD-On Demand that was available prior.

Here the image and colors are sharper and not as flat as that transfer and the framing seems less cramped.

The sound is only in English (1.0 DTS- HD MA) but again the original film was mono sound and TWILIGHT TIME has cleaned up the track as much as possible, It is hiss and pop free ,with dialogue and soundtrack both easy to enjoy .

A good updating of the detective thriller, with a superb cast in a clever film looking at the failings and ideals of the counter culture movement, as well as what people are willing to “sell out “ for on both sides of the political spectrum .

Recommended for RICHARD DREYFUSS fans, detective fans, political junkies, and those who like counter culture movies (this being almost a counter-counter-culture film!).

Kevin G Shinnick

 

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Island Monsters from Planet Films

 

 

Planet Films UK produced about 5 films between 1951 to 1967 , the first two being gang/crime films(THE SIX MEN,1951 ;  THE MARKED ONE,1963)  while their last three were horror films   (DEVILS OF DARKNESS,1964, being the  first  of   their terror tales .).

The final two were  both directed by Terence Fisher ( Why they didn’t hire Fisher for there vampire film is a mystery , both had Peter Cushing ,were set upon an isolated island ,and featured short squat monsters. However that is where the similarity ends.

The monster/creatures in ISLAND OF TERROR ( 1966. Other titles considered earlier being The Night the Silicates Came and The Night the Creatures Came ) were terrifying , being giant cancer cells that drained the bones from victims, leaving an empty flesh husk by way of a tentacle which also sucked the essence from one in a very noisy fashion.

 

They even divide like cells,(producing what looks like commissary chicken soup goop ),  increasing their number.

ISLAND OF TERROR got a release from Universal often co -billed with another Universal British pick up ,THE PROJECTED MAN.

 

The 1967 film NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT was based upon a 1959 novel that had been adapted in 1960 for ITV television).

ITC play of the week NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT

 

Even though N.O.T.B.H. had Fisher and Cushing ,as well as Christopher Lee ,Patrick Allen , Sarah Lawson ,and Jane Merrow ,the final result was for the most part a rather tamer affair in comparison with it’s predecessor . The threat here was a form of early global warming, with the creatures raising temperatures upon the island. It had a strong story and a good cast, but investors pulled out as the film began production ,which resulted in creatures which were kept hidden for most of the film . It needed a little more blood and thunder ,such as ISLAND OF TERROR possessed.

It was retitled for US release by a small distribution company ,Maron Films, as ISLAND OF THE BURNING DAMNED, and paired as the bottom half of a co- bill with GODZILLA’S REVENGE (Toho).

Later for television, it was retitled once again as ISLAND OF THE BURNING DOOMED, so as not to offend sensitive souls.

In March ,1967, another science fiction blob creature appeared on tv for Desilu/Paramount‘s STAR TREK.

Called “The Horta“. the creature appeared in the episode” The Devil In The Dark“. That creature had a corrosive acid it exuded , and dwelt among silicon nodules.

One wonders if it was the interplanetary futuristic off spring of the two creatures from the Planet Films !

 

ISLAND OF TERROR is currently available on Blu Ray from SHOUT FACTORY,region A only . Odeon Entertainment has released the UK Blu Ray.

NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT is available from Odeon Entertainment in an All Region Blu Ray .

 

Kevin G Shinnick

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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)

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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.

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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.

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The four titles in the collection are

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(Disc One)

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

TORTURE ZONE (edited version of FEAR CHAMBER)

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(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.

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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 .

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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  .

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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.

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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.

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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 !

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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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