1980s, Al Pacino, Arrow Video, Blu Ray, crime drama, cult, Drama, erotic, Gay, genre, https://www.facebook.com/scarletthefilmmagazine/, JOE SPINELL, Karen Allen, Mystery, New York City, nudity, review, SCARLETTHEFILMMAGAZINE.WORDPRESS.COM, Serial Killer, sex, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, William Friedkin

CRUISING (Arrow Video Blu Ray)

CRUISING (Arrow Video Blu Ray) – released August 20,2019 Color. 102 min.
$39.95 U.S. REGION A/1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aezm39HOBY

Original Theatrical Release February ,1980 Lorimar /U.A. (production cost estimate: $11 million .domestic gross – $19,784,223) Rated R.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Cruising-Special-Blu-ray-Al-Pacino/dp/B07SJHGNVZ/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?crid=2PYFLLZV3FOGR&keywords=cruising+blu+ray&qid=1566827996&s=gateway&sprefix=cruisin%2Caps%2C156&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEyT0JVN1pUNjlJT1g2JmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUExMDQyNDQ5MjhXRlJQTjZXMTNXNiZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwMzMxMzA0MzlGOU1BWUZIUDVUSyZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=

 

Ten years after directing THE BOYS IN THE BAND (National General ,1970), director William Friedkin took on another controversial gay themed subject, CRUISING. In the years since THE BOYS IN THE BAND, Friedkin had established himself as a director of thrilling films, such as THE FRENCH CONNECTION (Fox,1971) and the box office mega-hit THE EXORCIST (WB,1973).

 

At first, when producer Philip D’Antoni (THE FRENCH CONNECTION) broached the idea of a film based upon reporter Gerald Walker’s 1970 novel, CRUISING (Stein & Day, hardback), the director was not interested. D’Antoni then tried to interest an upcoming new director called Stephen Spielberg, but who finally also gave the project a pass.


The novel deals with an undercover cop named John Lynch (renamed Steve Burns in the later movie adaptation). Lynch is asked to go undercover into the leather bar s&m scene of the gay bars in Greenwich Village. We learn that a serial killer who cruises the leather bars has already killed four men. A straight male who is repulsed by the gay lifestyle, he sees the assignment as one that can help him advance in his career quickly, so he accepts.

The Stonewall Riots were less than a year old at the time, and before then, homosexuality had been treated as a perversion, with police regularly rounding up homosexuals . Indeed, it wasn’t until 1980 that the NY Court of Appeals abolished laws against private consenting homosexual conduct between adults (New York v. Onofre). That this was the same year as CRUISING was released probably added to the tension/controversy of the film but more of that later.

Lynch has a relationship with a woman, but while he is undercover, he starts to develop feelings for one of his gay neighbors. Will he be able to solve the murders and prevent further killings, while he deals with his own personal confusion?

As a mystery, CRUISING the novel let’s us know who the killer is early on so it is just a matter of when Lynch will cross the murderer’s path. Also, Lynch seems to be a bit of an Archie Bunker, with a lot of stereotypical comment by our “hero” against Gays (“fags”), Puerto Ricans, blacks, etc. The picture it paints of New York City seems to be the same one that Travis Bickle would cruise in his vehicle years later in TAXI DRIVER (Columbia ,1976).


Indeed, New York had begun a decline that it took several decades to climb slowly back out from. Drugs, murders, homelessness, prostitution, rape, and urban flight caused the city that never sleeps to become what many viewed as Hell On Earth, an image not helped by films like DEATH WISH (Paramount ,1974).

 

The rights next went to agent turned producer Jerry Weintraub (NASHVILLE, Paramount, 1975) who approached Friedkin with the work. This time, the director was more receptive to a cinematic re-imagining of the novel.

In the intervening years, a series of murders of homosexual men had occurred in New York that were chronicled in The Village Voice by reporter Arthur Bell.

Friedkin was acquainted with undercover police detective Randy Jurgenson (who acted as a consultant on THE FRENCH CONNECTION). Jurgenson, a purple heart awarded veteran who had fought in the battle of Pork Chop Hill in 1953, told the director that he had served uncover investigating the gay culture of New York.

Another odd co-incidence was that Paul Bateson, a doctor’s assistant who appears in THE EXORCIST (the hospital exam scene, which many find more frightening than the more supernatural occurrences) was charged in the murder of Variety Reporter Addison Verrill.

Friedkin worked upon the screen adaptation himself in consultation with Jurgenson and Salvatore “Sonny” Grosso (whose exploits with Eddie Egan inspired THE FRENCH CONNECTION, on which they also provided consultation). Both detectives  took small roles in the film . The writer-director, along with several of his team, made several trips to the various notorious hardcore gay clubs ,such as the Mineshaft and the Anvil, both located in the meatpacking district of the city. It was known as that as during the day that is where beef and other meats were delivered, while at night it became an area that most people stayed far away from. The clubs were closed during the height of the AIDS crisis in the Mid- Eighties, and now the district is gentrified and high priced shops, restaurants and hotels.

  The Liberty Inn now occupies the space of the infamous Anvil. 

 

 

Friedkin says all the details was accurate, no matter how far fetched they may have seemed. Friedkin gave camera operator James A. Contner (THE BRINKS JOB) his first chance to be Director of Photography. Contner wanted to shoot the film in black and white but drained the color down in most of the scenes in the clubs while shooting at night nearly accomplished the same effect.

Friedkin also brought on editor Bud S Smith (with whom he worked on SORCERER (Universal/Paramount ,1977 and THE BRINKS JOB (DeLaurentiis /Universal, 1978). An under acknowledged part of filmmaking is casting. Friedkin turned to Louis Di Giaimo who had worked with the director in the past. He presented the director with a short list of actors who he felt would be right for the roles, and Friedkin seemed to agree with the choices of mostly stage trained New York performers for the featured speaking roles. The people who are members of the club scenes are actual people who frequented the clubs, and as Friedkin said, they realized the filmmaker was not being judgmental but merely working almost as a documentarian in those scenes. The sex scenes were to give the MPAA and the filmmakers major headaches when it came to a rating.

The filmmakers had originally wanted Richard Gere for the lead role, probably due to his role in the 1979 Broadway production of BENT, wherein Gere had portrayed a gay man in a concentration camp. Al Pacino expressed interest and finally won the part. This would lead to some problems for the filmmaker, as he felt that Pacino came to set unprepared. It might have been that Pacino wanted to approach each scene like the character, surprised by what he experienced.


Filming was often disrupted by protests. Arthur Bell, whose articles had somewhat shaped the events within the screen play, somehow got a copy of the script and he urged the gay community to protest. To this end , production was disrupted by loud noises, requiring massive ADR work (dubbing). This may have worked to the film’s advantage, as several suspects and characters were dubbed by the same actor, helping to throw off audiences guesses as to who the killer was. Also, the sounds of keys and leather were amplified, both items of importance in this sub section of gay culture.

 

Several times there was need of police protection and escort for the actors to get to and from locations. Luckily, though there were a few arrests, there is no record of any violence or injury to anyone involved.

 

The plot involves several body parts found floating in the Hudson River. Fingerprints from one of the hands found leads them to discover that the killings are of several gay men. The police decide to send an officer deep undercover to see who is killing these men. Officer Steve Burns (Al Pacino) an ambitious officer sees this as a chance for advancement when he is picked for the assignment.

He moves down to the Village, and sets up a false persona, becoming friends with his next door neighbor, Ted (Don Scardino, SQUIRM, AIP ,1976).One of the people that Burns suspects of being a suspect gets brutalized by the police. Burns almost quits, but his captain (Paul Sorvino, THE BRINKS JOB). convinces him to stay and chastises all who harassed the hapless falsely accused man.

What Burns discovers during his investigations starts to play games with his mental well being ,as well as hurting his relationship with his girlfriend ,Nancy (Karen Allen, who would leap to international recognition for her starring role alongside Harrison Ford in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK ,Paramount ,1981).to whom he cannot tell what his assignment is or what it entails.

The film drops a lot of suspects and clues, but many find that the ending is a cop-out, leaving many frustrated as to who indeed is the killer. Revisiting the film again ,I now find that the ending is a perfect finish for this unique production

The cast includes a fine selection of character actors, including Joe Spinell (the same year he would also make New York extra creepy as a psychopath killer in MANIAC (Analysis,1980),appearing here as a cop who abuses the transvestites ; Ed O’Neill (tv’s long running MODERN FAMILY, ABC,2009- still running as of this writing) ,here as a detective, James Remar ( Dexter’s father on the long running tv series DEXTER ,Showtime, 2006-2013), portraying Ted’s abuser lover ; and Powers Booth (SIN CITY, Miramax ,2005) as a store owner who explains the significance of certain handkerchiefs and how they are worn in the gay world. Except for Karen Allen, women hardly exist in this society.

The attacks upon the film didn’t end with the end of production, as the MPAA kept slapping the film with an X, a kiss of death at the box office. Friedkin submitted about 40 minutes of graphic sex that he knew the MPAA would want cut, so he cut keep the majority of what he wanted as a compromise. There are subliminal flashes of gay sex during the murder sequences, with the idea of sex and the knife melded into one (two forms of penetration).

 

The critics also for the most part savaged the film, with few exceptions ,so it is surprising that the film, that cost nearly $11 million to make, nearly doubled its cost, making it, if not a hit, at least not a money loser.

It is also interesting that 1980 was also the year that Brian DePalma mixed sex and violence in his DRESSED TO KILL(Filmways/Orion). While there were protests about the combination in this film, audiences were more willing to be titillated by heterosexual love mixed with slashing, becoming an international hit, making about 5 times it’s budget.

By the way , did anyone ever notice that the 1982 Paramount film PARTNERS , written by Frances Verber, who created the original LA CAGE AUX FOLLES (French ,U,A,,1978) seems to be a buddy picture reworking of the plot of CRUISING?  In PARTNERS ,Ryan O’Neal is a straight cop assigned to go undercover to find a killer targeting homosexual men , only here he is paired with an actual gay officer ,played by John Hurt channeling Kenneth Williams.

 

Over the years, opinions have changed upon how the film is viewed, with many feeling it is among Friedkin’s best works.

It was released to VHS and seen widely at video stores, first released in a large box, and then a small box when it was reissued.

 

It became perhaps viewed when it was released to HBO cable, showing at midnight or later.

Finally, in 2007, it was released on DVD by Warner Brothers (who had acquired Lorimar) in a special edition version with extras like
• Commentary by director William Friedkin
• The History of Cruising
• Exorcising Cruising
• Theatrical trailer

and then later a burn on demand without extras from Warner Archives in 2013.

 

Arrow Video has now given us what may be the definitive version of this film.

First off, this is a Director Approved Special Edition with a 4K Scan H9 Def (1080p) Blu-ray of the original camera negative, supervised and approved by William Friedkin .

 

The sound has also been given a newly remastered 5.1. DTS-HD Master Audio track again supervised by Friedkin.

 

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing. This follows the dialog and indicates sounds quite accurately for those wishing to use this captioning.

A new audio commentary with Friedkin and film critic Mark Kermode. Friedkin is very frank about the film, talking about how the opening title card has been removed for this release, since it was only put on as a sop for those who might have been squeamish or offended by the film. Kermode knows the director’s body of work pretty well, and prompts quietly the conversation, often commenting on actions on screen while diverting effortlessly of the behind the scenes problems and joys of the production.

Friedkin mentions that he felt Pacino would arrive seemingly unprepared for the day’s set ups, while talking about how he tried to keep the actors unbalanced and on their toes. It could be that Pacino, method actor that he was, wanted to go into the scenes with the same wide-eyed innocence that his character would feel walking into the strange new world that has such people in it.

Also original to this release is an enclosed booklet with an excellent overview by film historian F.X. Feeney, who talks about seeing the film on it’s opening day.

Reversible Blu Ray cover

Ported over from the 2007 DVD release are

An archival audio commentary by William Friedkin. It is interesting to compare the two commentaries. The original is fact filled but a bit dry, while the newer one as stated the director seems a lot more engaged and relaxed. Both are definitely worth listening to, so kudos for Arrow for making the extra effort.

The History of CRUISING -interviews with several of the people involved in the film such as Friedkin, Grosso, and many others.

Exorcising CRUISING -examines the controversy and aftermath of the film’s release. Many of the same people from the previous featurette appear, as well as actors like actor Richard Cox.

 

Original Theatrical Trailer- the trailer tries to avoid mentioning the homosexual aspects of the film, which makes the film seem more like a generic police procedural (though with lots of leather!).

CRUISING is not a film for everyone. It is a challenging film on a subject that many people will not wish to explore. The film’s ending is not an easy clear cut one, open to debate as to its meaning .

Those reason though also make the film Highly Recommended to those who appreciate films that challenge you and your perceptions .

In an age of superhero franchises, CRUISING is a film that no major studio would even consider creating, making it all the more unique and worth seeking out.

Another Arrow Video must buy release.

For fans of
AL PACINO
WILLIAM FRIEDKIN
POLICE PROCEEDURALS
NY BASED THRILLERS
ORIGINAL,THOUGHT PROVOKING FILMS

-Kevin G Shinnick

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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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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.

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Andy Milligan Double Feature (Alpha DVD) Body Beneath/Guru

Andy Milligan Double Feature: The Body Beneath (1969)74 min. / Guru, The Mad Monk (1970) 56 min. Color. $7.98 single disc DVD.Region “0”

https://www.oldies.com/product-view/8028D.html

Andy Milligan (Feb 12,1929- June 3,1991) was an interesting eccentric.
An avante garde theatre director. Born in the Midwest, his early life was troubled by an abusive alcoholic mother.

After serving four years in the Navy, he was discharged and move to NYC to run a dress shop. During that period, he became involved in the genesis of the original Off Off Broadway theatre movement at Café Cino and La Mama. He got involved with directing, writing, and even designing and creating the costumes for his productions. Some of them were so quickly put together that the costumes practically fell apart as actors exited the small stages.

It was a time of great freedom and creativity, though very little financial reward.

To make a bit of extra money, he did appear in some early television as an actor, though how many he appeared in is not quite clear (Imdb lists 4 shows, but not what he played in them).

The greater though secretive freedoms of homosexuality in New York City also allowed him to explore that aspect of his life.

Andy Milligan  

This led him into creating a 30-minute short called VAPORS (1965). Milligan assumed a lot of alias but seemed to have done almost everything but act to get this film made. It plays like a one act by writer Hope Stansbury (a member of his film family before and behind the camera). It is a sad tale of sex and a failure to connect with others (though only a male male kiss is shown, and a character opening his robe walking towards the camera is shown. In most prints, there is a black line across the nudity.) .

Like most of his films, the film deals with rejects, degeneracy, and a palpable gloom. VAPORS is probably one of his most thoughtful film and shows the direction that he could have gone.

Milligan moved to Staten Island to a large house where he would shoot a large portion of his NYC area made projects. As always, he handled almost every job, probably including the catering. His budgets were never very large, but his ambitions were.

Sadly, for him, he got involved with distributors who took advantage of him, so that he rarely saw any real money for his projects.

He ran a hotel in Staten Island (which probably provided some of his funding) as well as running a theater on West 39th Street for several years, from 1979 until he left NYC in 1985.

His move to California only produced three more films as well as briefly running a dress shop and another theatre company. Nearly penniless, ill health took him in 1991.

Since the early day of video, Milligan’s films have been offered on tape. The transfer was often taken from prints that were dupes. Milligan shot often on 16mm, with his films blown up to 35mm. The duplicates seem to have been reductions from 35mm to 16mm again, meaning the films had been through several transfers.

Framing was off, and grain was often a major problem, as well as color shifts and sound warbling. Mind you, these may have existed in the originals, but so many of his film negatives have disappeared (indeed many of his films have vanished as well, again due to shady distributors).

Having worked in a film storage house, it is amazing how films can be mislabeled and put within the wrong film cans. Perhaps one day we will find a cache of his original prints as well as his lost films and be better able to judge his works.

 

As I was researching this piece, I discovered that someone had posted a print of one of his “lost “sexploitation films, COMPASS ROSE (1967) https://youtu.be/00AS-GaLe78 . I reached out to playwright Robert Patrick, and identified the opening bedroom set as being one for a Landford Wilson play at Caffe Cino ! Just a little more info on this never released film .

 

That said, now to this Alpha DVD double feature. The prints are worn, and the sound has a bit of warble in places. That said, they are in better condition than copies of these films that I have seen in the past. The scratches on the film also increase the grindhouse feel of the theatres in which these films were unspooled.

GURU, THE MAD MONK was released September 1970. The film was shot for an incredibly small $11,000. PINK FLAMINGOS (1972) was produced for only $10,000, but that was a modern-day project. GURU was an ambitious period piece, which required several costumed characters, as well as furniture, props and locations that would suggest the time.

 

The main part of the filming took place around and in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church ,346 W 20th St in NYC. The Church, established in 1832 on land donated by, among others, Clement Clarke Moore, author of “A Visit From St. Nicholas/The Night Before Christmas”.

 

The Church, which is still a major part of the Chelsea Community to this day, has dedicated outreach programs, food banks, and permit a lot of performances upon the property.

Nothing, I think, was quite like the craziness of GURU THE MAD MONK. One wonders what the director did to convince them to film this hysterical historical within these sacred walls?

The film was obviously shot with haste, with some shots carefully composed (a nice travelling shot is quite impressive within the Church) as well as many obvious one take blunders that remain in the final print (an actress stumbles upon her line, a character steps upon the train of Guru, a loud rip being heard. Nothing is made of this, so it appears to be unintentional. A light switch is quite visible in one shot in this medieval tale, as well as the title card for the screenplay is misspelled!

Some of the costumes are quite good, some, like the dress of the leading lady, are an obvious 1960s sun dress with alterations. The makeup is never blended, with one character playing an older man wearing obvious white and blue make up, while poor Igor, the hunchback, suffers most from non-blended applications to his face.

Producer M.A. Issacs ( whose initial form the first letters of Maipix Organization in what seems there only attempt at producing, the film later being released by Nova International Productions)seems to have suggested the story to Milligan, perhaps inspired by Hammer’s RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK (Fox, 1966).

Milligan upgraded his equipment on this project to 35mm, which may explain why this film is a bit slicker looking than a lot of his earlier projects. However, it is also more expensive film stock, so even using short ends (left over unexposed film sold back to the labs from other productions), it increased the costs on his already tiny budget. Milligan, later in life, felt that this was his worst film. While it is not a classic, it is certainly far from his worst.

Set upon the fictitious island of Mortavia during the Middle Ages, a young woman named Nadja (Judith Israel, her only film credit) is imprisoned upon a false charge of having killed her baby.

Everything seems to center around the Lost Souls Church of Mortavia, which seems to contain the prison as well as the Church wherein sentencing is carried out.

Carl (a very monotonic Paul Lieber, who went on to a long successful career on television and on stage in L.A., winning 5 Dramalogue Awards and an L.A. Weekly Award for his performances), her jailer, is smitten with her, and seeks to save her.

He appeals to FATHER (not a mad monk as the title suggests) Guru, the religious leader. Guru is played by actor Neil Flanagan, who also appeared in Milligan’s SEEDS (Aquarian,1968,) and TORTURE DUNGEON (Constitution,1970, an earlier “period” film that was shot on 16mm with a $15,000 budget).

Flanagan was a staple of the Village theater scene, winning an Obie in 1967 for his starring role as an aging drag queen in Lanford Wilson’s hit ‘THE MADNESS OF LADY BRIGHT” and a second Obie in 1976 for his contributions to over 10 years of Off Off-Broadway Theatre. He died from AIDS in 1986 at age 52. He relishes his plummy role in this film and plays it to the hilt.

 

Guru makes a deal with Carl to save the girl, but it involves Carl having to help finance the Lost Souls Church by a bit of body snatching. In exchange, Guru will keep Nadja hidden until his three-month morbid indenture is over.

Carl is sent to see Olga (Jacqueline Webb) who will provide a potion to make it appear that Nadja is dead (a la Juliet in Romeo & Juliet). Olga also requires a price, which is to supply human blood from the executed for her experiments. Carl reluctantly agrees, and Olga seals the deal by pricking his palm with a needle. It is almost laughable when he lifts his hand, for it is drenched in blood!

 


We see various accused brought before Guru within the Church, wherein he gives them a blessing and then brands them before they are dragged away. Igor (Jack Spencer) the deformed hunchback, stirs the fire and hands over the torture instrument. When Nadja is brought before him, he slips the drug into some sacrificial wine, and gives it to the young woman.

The medicinal works and Nadja is buried, only to be dug up by Carl, and hidden within the church. Carl is really not too observant, as both the mad mon…er.. Priest and Olga have plans for the young woman . Guru and Olga are, it seems bumping uglies, and enjoying torturing and killing others from Milligan’s stock company. Olga, it seems, doesn’t want the blood for experiments, but for herself, as, it is revealed, that she is a vampire! One thing about a Milligan film, is sometimes things can appear out of nowhere.

Next up on the disc is THE BODY BENEATH. In 1968, Milligan had gone to England after making a multi picture deal with producer Leslie Elliot. Eliot had been involved with producing the MGM film THE LIQUIDATORS (1965) but  he also ran the privateThe Compton Cinema), and ,having released some of Milligan‘s earlier work in the U.K.,  he may have been on the lookout for inexpensive product that he would own.


Their first production was NIGHTBIRDS (Cinemedia, released in 1970). The dark kitchen sink drama barely got a release and vanished for years. Thanks to Nicolas Winding Refn (director of NEON DEMON, Broad Green 2016) and the BFI, the film was been restored and released to DVD in England in 2013, where it has been getting mixed reviews but better than one often associates with Milligan’s work.

Refn is obsessed with Milligan’s work, buying up prints from various sources, including those in the private collection of author Jimmy McDonough, who wrote the must have biography of the director, THE GHASTLY ONE (Chicago Review Press,1st Edition, October 1,2001). For more on the fascination by the one director for the other, read
https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/jun/14/obsession-andy-milligan-cult-movies .

For some reason, Leslie Eliot dissolved the partnership during the making of one of the remaining films (no doubt the director’s caustic personality) , and Milligan was forced to deal once again with William Mishkin.

Mishkin and his Constellation Films were known mostly for cheap nudies and sexploitation films. He was willing to help distribute films by Milligan because even if they just played the NYC grind circuit he could make his money back. Unfortunately, distributors could and would sublease titles out to other regional distributors, so filmmakers would be at the mercy of the original distributors for a full accounting. Neglect by the distributors is also how many of these and other films were lost (it is said that Mishkin’s son destroyed the films rather than pay for film storage fees). Is it any wonder after a lifetime of mistreatment that Milligan’s negative world view seeped so heavily into his work?

 

It is doubtful that Milligan ever saw more than what he spent on making his films, and, like poor Ed Wood, did not retain the rights to his own work. Mishkin had backs Milligan’s sexploiter THE PROMISCUOUS SEX (1967, “Made in Greenwich Village! “  for about $10,000, returning a profit over 13 times its budget), and so he was willing to back the four remaining British films, if they were exploitive.

The results were BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS (released January 1970,on a whopping $18,000 budget, with certain scenes filmed when Milligan returned to the U.S.),THE RATS ARE COMING, THE WEREWOLVES ARE HERE (released in May,1972, again an $18,000 budget ,with some footage shot in Staten Island to complete /pad the film after Milligan returned to the U.S. in 1970), THE MAN WITH TWO HEADS (released June 1972,shot on a “massive” $20,000 budget) ,and the film we are reviewing here THE BODY BENEATH (released September, 1970,again with a budget of $20,000 estimated).

THE BODY BENEATH is one of Milligan’s most uniformly acted production. There are less overly over the top histronics, though still many plummy performances. Like all his British films, this was shot with his 16mm Auricon camera. These cameras were popular with journalists as they were a single system machine that recorded sound DIRECTLY to the optical track, thus eliminating the need for a separate audio recorder. A major liability was the camera were parallax view, meaning you were not looking directly through the lens, but what you saw from your viewfinder was slightly off from what was really being filmed.

In a wide shot, this is not normally a problem, but Milligan’s style were tight shots to cover perhaps how little set decoration there was in the scene, giving the framing an often claustrophic effect. Plus, one of the characters might be barely in the shot due to the framing problem combined with the parallel view. Retakes, alas, would cost too much.

     Auricon 16mm camera rig used by reporter Tony Hamilton not Milligan

The film begins with Anna Ford (Susan Clark,NOT the Canadian actress of the same name who played Mary Kelly in MURDER BY DECREE ,Avco,1979. This British actress seemed to have done mostly minor roles, with this being her largest part.) going to place flowers at her mother’s grave just as the graveyard is about to close. Never a good thing, as Barbra (Judith O’Dea) found out in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD(Continental,1968).

Moments after the caretaker alerts her to the closure, Anna finds herself surrounded by several bluish tinged blonde women. “Hellloooo” says one with an almost childlike quality. This is a bit chilling, but the print has very warbly sound at this point (though I don’t know if any other print that I have seen is any better, so it may have been in the original recording and Milligan never bothered to redub it later.).

 


Just a side note: the original poster declared that the film was “filmed in the graveyards of England”. This was probably to make ticket buyers assume they were going to see a Hammer or Amicus Film. The one thing these films shared was filming in Highgate Cemetery, which was also used in Hammer’s TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970) and AmicusTALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) and FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE(1973).

 

      Highgate today and as it appears in TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA

 

 

Back to this film. Graham Ford (Colin Gordon.I think IMDB is mistaking him for another actor with the same name so I cannot tell what his credits are.) is awaiting his wife’s return when he is visited by the Reverend Alexander Ford (Gavin Reed,who had small roles in films like CARRY ON LOVING,Rank ,1969, relished his leading role here ) and his wife, Alicia (Susan Heard,who played a maid in Milligan’s NIGHTBIRDS as well as various crew roles on his other  U.K. films .).

 

                                          IMDB : not the same actor who appeared in this film !


Gavin Reed is delightful, making Milligan’s overwrought writing roll easily off his tongue as if he is in an Oscar Wilde play (who is referenced during their exchange), giving the part some much needed wit. His talk of the family genealogy reminds one of Ernest Thesiger in THE OLD DARK HOUSE (Universal, 1932). Graham we discover is Canadian and finds that the Reverend and his wife are freshly arrived from Ireland to re-open All Souls Church (a satellite of the LOST Souls church from GURU?) and he has a lease on Carfax Abbey (a clue for all you Dracula fans) next door. To put a point on it, Graham says that it is right next to Highgate Cemetery. In real life Carfax is near Whitby, nearly 264 miles from London.

 

Anna comes home but reacts startled by seeing the Reverend. We abruptly cut to another couple, Susan Ford (Jackie Skavellis,who also appeared in Milligan’s THE RATS ARE COMING….) and her boyfriend Paul (Richmond Ross,his only listed film credit). We find out that Susan is pregnant and that she is going to Carfax to meet a relative who recently contacted her, namely the Reverend.

We are introduced to one final relative, Candace Ford (Emma Jones,in her only major role). As she is about to leave her home, her maid answers the door a hunchback, Spool (Berwick Kaler ,who appeared in all of Milligan’s British films, and who since 1981 has appeared as The Grand Dame in York Theatre’s Royal!He has little recollection of his three day’s work on this, other than Milligan wanting him to stoop more) hands her flowers. When she turns, one of the blue faced woman is behind her. She sends the maid to deliver the flowers and steal some blood from Candace by pricking her finger.

Gavin Reed discusses with Berwick Kaler how to stoop lower

 

      Berwick today,in a costume that Milligan would have loved!

The basic plot unfolds that the Ford family line have been vampires, but they need to replenish. Thus, the gathering of the family to restore the bloodline with Susan popping out vampire babies while the other relatives supplying blood.

There is a lot of shaky camera work that is meant to add style but instead induces motion sickness, and many scenes are very ill lit. Gore is low in this film, though a second maid Jessie (Felicity Sentence,who played First Girl in NIGHTBIRDS) ends up with knitting needles to the eyes and dragged off by Spool, while the Reverend seems to need leeches applied to him to keep his blood pressure down, and poor Spool, perhaps the most sympathetic character, is cruelly crucified by the Reverend.

At the end of the film, there is a vampire gathering that shows that Milligan had seen several of Roger Corman’s films, particularly aping the Vaseline smeared lens that Corman employed for his dream sequences. While giving the scene an arty effect, it also perhaps helped hide the improvisational nature of the costumes, which often look they were made from grandma’s sofa!

      Hazel Court  hazy in Masque Of The Red Death

 Milligan’s attempt 

No one ever addresses why many of the vampires are blue skinned, while the Reverend is not (a question, though, that also comes be questioned about the superior RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, A.I.P.1971, wherein his brides look the worse for wear while he looks handsome, at least until he attacks).

I thought having a vampire as a priest was a unique idea, which allowed Milligan to express his feelings about religion through the character. However, it was pointed out to me that the title character in VARNEY THE VAMPIRE by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest (serialized beginning in 1845) posed as a monk (but was he mad??)at one point and he told his story to a sympathetic priest, before he hurled himself into a volcano . Varney’s subtitle would have fit a Milligan film by the way,  FEAST OF BLOOD.

Neil, are you wearing Grandma ‘s curtains? ” ” No, Ma….”

Andy Milligan’s films , unlike Ed Wood’s , are hard for many to take. One cannot certainly warm up to them as one does with Wood.

Wood, no matter how inept his films, had a certain positiveness to them, a definite “Let Me Entertain You” sincerity, no matter how many wobbly cardboard headstones one saw on display.


Milligan was a more complex individual, dealing with a lot of anger issues, a rage against the world, that he used his theatre work and his films to lash out at what he perceived a cruel world. From all he endured in his life, one is not surprised, but his cruel streak still emerges.

A few of his films have some animal torture which simply pure sadism is (THE RATS ARE COMING had Milligan himself mutilating a poor mouse in the Staten Island shot footage, as well as his killing a pigeon in NIGHTBIRDS) that cannot be condoned.

 

Luckily none of that is in these two films (just the poor abused actors!).

I cannot say that I find his films entertaining, but that said, they are hypnotically fascinating. Had he more money, a proper crew and support, one wonders what he might have accomplished? Maybe it would have tamed the anger in him. Perhaps he would have eased from the horror films into more films like NIGHTBIRDS and VAPORS, which seem to be where his heart truly was.


What we are left with is a collection of odd films that seem to become more and more a time capsule of what grindhouse truly was.

This ALPHA dual feature could have been called the Andy Milligan Deliver Us from Religion Co bill, and it is nice to get the two films on one affordable disc to recreate the original theatre release from Nova.

If you are curious about grindhouse, microbudget, or seeing what all the cult buzz is about Andy Milligan, then definitely pick up this release.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

 

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DE LIFT/THE LIFT and DOWN(THE SHAFT) Blu Ray/DVD Combo packs from Blue Underground

THE LIFT/DE LIFT 1983(Ltd Ed Blu Ray/DVD combo)Blue Underground $39.98 region 0
Color / 99 min. Dutch /English

https://www.amazon.com/Lift-Limited-Combo-Blu-ray-Stapel/dp/B074BNZP7G/

DOWN -2001 (Ltd Edition Blu Ray /DVD combo ) Blue Underground $39.98 region 0
Color /111 minutes English
https://www.amazon.com/Down-Shaft-Limited-Combo-Blu-ray/dp/B074BNB14B/

Back in 1982, ‘Twilight Zone” by Golden Earring was a music video in constant rotation on the new channel MTV. The catchy tune  referenced the
popular TV.series as a suspected spy is caught and interrogated . Several music video directors went on to make popular fantasy films ,such as David Fincher ,Russell Mulcahy, and Alex Proyas.

Also among them was Dutch director,writer,producer, and musician Dick Maas. Since then he has given us many Dutch thrillers and horror films like AMSTERDAMNED(1988,also available from BLUE UNDERGROUND https://www.amazon.com/Amsterdamned-Limited-Combo-Blu-ray-Stapel/dp/B071GW2L2Z/ ), SINT (SAINT) 2010,up to 2016’s PROII (PREY). His films are marked by their style as well as dark humor that permeates them.

His first film that drew him to international attention was DE LIFT . In a modern apartment building in Amsterdam, strange things are happening ,most of which seem to involve the bank of elevators . The company who are responsible for the maintenance of the three conveyers (or lift of the title ) send Felix Adelaar (Huub Stapel ,later to star in MaasAMSTERDAMNED )to check out the systems.

While working, he runs into reporter Mieke de Boer (Willeke van Ammelrooy, star of the art house hit and Oscar winning ANTONIA’s LINE ,1996)who is investigating the strange events.

Among the occurrences are two drunken couples who are trapped in an elevator while the heat increases to dangerous levels , a blind man who falls into an empty shaft (and which the building owners declare is a suicide) ,and the gruesome decapitation of a security guard .

The more the Felix & Mieke investigate, the more strange things become. Is the company RISING SUN,who provides microprocessors for the system ,somehow involved with the strange things?

 

Their detection leads to Adelaar’s wife leaving him and taking the children, thinking that he is having an affair with the journalist. His boss also suspends him. Felix has nothing to lose as he goes to building one final time to find out what is happening and confront the evil within.

DE LIFT seemed to have done well in Europe, but it was not as well received in the United States.

Released to a limited number of theaters in July ,1985 , critics were indifferent to the foreign title ( “Mr. Maas leaves the elevator’s potential fiendishness largely unexploited.”-NY Times,July 4,1985)and 6 year old distributor Island Alive folded shortly after .)

Luckily ,video stores were booming and Media Home Entertainment released it on VHS in 1986 in a dubbed version, and in 1988 through their foreign film division Cinematheque Collection in a Dutch language subtitled print.

Maas continued to create wonderfully off kilter films through his First Floor Features .He creates three popular Dutch comedies and a T.V. series (FLODDER)as well as the marvelous already mentioned AMSTERDAMNED (1988) and even an episode of the THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES (‘Transylvania Transmission”).

It seems that for years people kept after Maas to do a sequel or a remake to DE LIFT. Finally in 2000, Maas raised sufficient funds (fifteen million Euros) for a larger version that expands on several of the ideas from the original film, and hires American actors as the leads as well as several marvelous character roles.

While set in New York City , the majority of the film was shot in Holland on some of the biggest sets ever built for a Dutch film .Some street scenes and aerial photography were the bulk of the American footage. The blending is for the most part flawless, and even the Dutch actors blend in convincingly in this English language film.

In DOWN (also known as THE SHAFT ,which makes one expect it to be a film about Richard Roundtree ), the setting is in a modern NYC skyscraper. In the Millennium Building, one of the elevators malfunctions and traps a group of pregnant women ,overheating the air and several of them give birth !

The building managers call in the Meteor company that maintains the elevators, who send Jeff (Eric Thal ,Sam Nevins in Buena Vista’s adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s THE PUPPET MASTERS,1994 ) and his new young assistant Mark Newman (James Marshall ,who is best known for portraying James Hurley in the original and revival of TWIN PEAKS )to check them out. Newman wants to do a more in depth review of the systems ,but his partner feels that will be too much of an inconvenience to the building, and expensive. Mr Milligan (Edward Herrmann, LOST BOYS ,W.B. 1987),the building owner, agrees.

Not long after that , a blind man and his seeing eye dog fall (literally) victim to the killer machines. One of the security guards who finds the corpses hanging in the shaft gets his head caught in the door and decapitated when the elevator descends .

Reporter Jennifer Evans (Naomi Watts, later to star in Peter Jackson’s epic KING KONG ,Universal,2005) starts to investigate, and she interviews Newman ,quoting him in her article as saying “ 9 out of 10 people make it out of an elevator alive.”

Newman is chewed out by his boss ,Mitchell (the always wonderful Ron Perlman, HELLBOY,Columbia,2004). Shortly thereafter, another bizarre death happens ,when a skateboarder is pulled supernaturally into an elevator and within seconds hurled up to the 86th floor, and then flung out violently ,through a glass partition and off to the ground below .

A press conference is held by Milligan and Police Lt McBain (Dan Hedaya,THE USUAL SUSPECTS, MGM,1996). The official statement is that the skateboarder committed suicide, and that it had nothing to with the previous accidents .

Evans does not believe it ,and she visits Newman’s home .She has gotten several surveillance tapes, and it shows the skater’s death. Most mysterious, the elevator trip, which should take at least 40 seconds, is accomplished in less than two!

Jeff refuses to believe them ,and so they go to Evan’s newspaper office . Their research keeps bringing up the name of a researcher named Gunther Steinberg (Michael Ironside, forever typecast as a villain thanks to his brilliant work in SCANNERS,Avco Embassy ,1981). Gunther ,who had worked with the army on mixing dolphin brain mass with electronic circuits ,was hired by the elevator company to develop microchips .

The next morning Milligan is horrified when he has the body of Jeff drop through the ceiling of the elevator he was occupying. Jeff had probably been checking the elevators but Milligan and company use his death as a means of scapegoating. At the conference, they call Jeff deranged and say that he had been responsible for all the events, and probably died trying to set up another incident.

The story is believed and the building conducts business as usual. That is ,however, until one elevator speeds upward, the bottom dropping out and passengers, including a small child, fly helplessly downward to their doom . Those who hang on are not safe, as the container hurls at extreme speed through the roof ,stopping with a crushing Impact.

The President of The United States holds a White House press conference ,where he announces he feels that the events are due to terrorists and a terrorist team is sent to protect and prevent any further incidents.

Evans and Mitchell continue to investigate the bizarre history of the building, and the experiments of Steinberg .

Since the Army let him go, it seems that he has continued,only now their may be human DNA ,and the chips have become sentient, and evil.

Can they get in the building, pass the militia and Steinberg to stop the evil ? The film ends like a supernatural DIE HARD (Fox,1988)

DOWN was given a token release by Buena Vista International on May 20,2001. It seems to have come and gone quickly ,and the home video rights were acquired by Artisan . It seemed to have also made little impact on the dwindling video store market ,and with fandom .

Now BLUE UNDERGROUND has done stellar work on finding the best material possible on these two films, and put them on Blu Ray.

THE LIFT is a 1080p HD resolution print 2 K restoration from the original negative , presented in 1:66:1 wide-screen.The film is available in it’s original Dutch Language (5.1 DTS-HD or 2.0 DTS-HD) or English (2.0 DTS-HD). The sound is very clean and clear, with sound effects and original music jumping out at certain points.

Dick Maas also composed the score , and it is one of those now dated sounding synth scores as well as electronic whooshes and sounds .

The English track uses terms like “lift” (a direct translation of the title)rather the more common American usage.

The subtitles seem to be based upon a direct translation of the Dutch dialogue ,as it does not always match the English language dialogue. They are clear and easy to read. There are also English SDH and Spanish subtitles as well.

Other extras are :

-A running commentary by director Dick Maas and editor Hans van Dongen who talk about the difficulties of making this film on a 350,000 Euros budget.

-”Going Up” an interview with star Huub Stapel

-”Long Distance”-a short 4 minute short that has the feel of a Twilight Zone episode ,wherein a father who has had a car accident, calls his home and speaks to his daughter . Beautifully filmed and acted.

-Trailers from the U.S. and Holland

-A poster and still gallery .

-a nice newly written essay booklet by by writer /filmmaker Chris Alexander . He nicely covers the film ,plus discusses the more relaxed mores of European filmmakers about sex and nudity as well as comparisons to Stephen King works about machines gone wrong. He prefers the original film to the 2001 remake.

For DOWN , the film is also a brand new 2K restoration from the original negative, 1080p HD Resolution , presented in a 2.35.1 wide-screen all region print .

The audio is available in the original English as well as French in both 5.1 DTS-HD or Dolby Digital Stereo .

The sound is more mixed for multi speaker presentation (due no doubt to it’s larger budget ),with sounds being very crisp and clean.

The Yellow Subtitles are easy to read, though whomever wrote them , they need to learn the difference between “Your “ and “You’re” .

Spanish subtitles are also available.

Other extras include :

A running audio commentary with Maas and stunt coordinator Willem de Beukelaer . Maas at times seems to have forgotten how certain scenes were done ,but is reminded by de Beukelaer (an example is the opening shot that moves from C.G.I.  and model shots to the live action.On the extras ,we see how the shot was accomplished.More on that later.). It is fascinating to hear the two say how they have worked together since AMSTERDAMMED ,and the difficulties of doing a film like this. The recreations of New York interiors is perfect ,and it seems the diner was actual functional (too bad they didn’t move it to an actual building.I am sure it would have been a hit with tourists to have an American diner in Amsterdam!).

The same director of photography (Marc Felperlaan )worked on both films ,and they recreate some shots ,while using a little C.G.I. to blend between the real actors and effects(such as the beheading in the elevator).

The director seemed to have had disagreement with Marshall on the exact tone of the film, but it does not come across in the finished production.

Director Maas mentions that the film opened the weekend before 9/11, but he is referring to the European opening. It seems it opened well, but after the events, the film did no business.

It is easy to see why. A New York Skyscraper ,people falling to their death, the President referring to terrorists (dialogue was actually copied from President Bill Clinton referencing the Feb 26,1993 bomb attack on the Twin Towers). It is quite creepy ,and not in the way the film intended. Needless the film ended up being a financial failure.

The use of Aerosmith’s “Love In An Elevator” was a big expense but is a nice button to the film.

Other extras are

The Making of Down : a behind the scene look at the making of the film, including the construction of the huge sets, and the mix of CGI and live action,as well as the various stunts.

The Blu Ray exclusive is a more detailed behind the scenes documentary.

-There is also the American teaser and theatrical trailers.

-A poster and still Gallery

– A Collectible booklet with a new essay by Michael Gingold.

 

Both films have much to recommend them . The original has a nice gritty quality to it , though oddly, I lean more to the slicker American remake. It is probably because of the expanded story-line plus the dark humor comes more to the fore . The remake does seem to fluctuate as to whether there is a supernatural element or is it a sci fi A.I. story (or both) , but it doesn’t take away from the film.

Maas handles possessed machinery better than Stephen King film adaptations like MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986,D.E.P.). It also predated supernatural skyscraper films like the little seen  DARK TOWER (Sandy Howard, 1987 ;directed by Freddie Francis (as Ken Barnett), Ken Wiederhorn  (as Ken Barnett)(!!) starring Jenny Agutter and Michael Moriarty) and elevator terror films like DEVIL (Universal,2010) or ELEVATOR ( Inception ,2011) .

 

I would definitely recommend both films ,especially if you wish to see an example where a foreign director remakes his film in English and doesn’t mess it up (a la THE VANISHING (Argos Films,1988  and  Fox,1993).

Both Recommended.
.
-Kevin G Shinnick

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1950s, Beverly Garland, crime drama, Drama, dvd, Film Chest, FILM NOIR, New York City, review, reviews, t.v., tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized

DECOY (dvd collection -Film Chest )

DECOY  (1957 Television series) (Film Chest Media) DVD set (all 39 episodes on 3 DVDs) $19.98 First episode date: October 14, 1957 episodes run about 25 minutes each. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06Y18TNQ1/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=tvobscur47-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B06Y18TNQ1&linkId=24b5dd7a881e2acaab9606c6f8f612bf

Back in 1992, I had the extreme pleasure of interviewing actress Beverly Garland .The interview appeared in issue ten of SCARLET STREET (to read and see the issue, go to http://scarletstreetmagazine.blogspot.com/2015/10/ )

Best known for her films with Roger Corman as well as her later appearances on MY THREE SONS (74 episodes,Don Fedderson Productions 1969-1972) ,in the late 1950s she starred in a syndicated New York lensed series called DECOY (Official Films ,39 episodes, October 14,1957 -July 7,1958) .

In our SCARLET STREET #10 interview , she called the series the “biggest mistake of her life” as it ran only one season but rerun for seven, and she was labeled a TV actress, thus being forced to start her career all over again.

Now ,in hindsight , we can see how forward thinking the show was, as well as a time capsule of ideas and mores of the period . For one, she was an independent woman who knew self defense and how to work a side arm, as well intelligence. That said, reactions to her show the difficulty of a police woman being looked at as an equal.

 

The series has had certain episodes available from several public domain companies as well as on line video sources, but this is the first time that the entire series has been released in a three DVD collection.

“Presented as a tribute to the Bureau of Policewomen, New York City Police Dept.”(opening credit ).*

 

Ms. Garland was Policewoman Patricia ‘Casey’ Jones . She seems to live up to the Decoy title , as she is often undercover to investigate and stop crime in a no nonsense style reminiscent of the then popular DRAGNET (Mark VII,Ltd. ,1951-1959). She often breaks the fourth wall to address the audience about the case that has just been solved.

She often finds herself in dangerous situations, like becoming an inmate at an insane asylum while pursuing a lead in an heroin case (“Dream Fix”). We know very little about Jones’ personal life except that her boyfriend was a police officer who was killed by a person he was sent to arrest (“The Sound of Tears”), but like her counterpart Joe Friday from DRAGNET ,it was the cases, not her personal life, that were front and center.

Being shot in New York on location gives the series a grittiness often lacking in other series from the time . It also is a time capsule of the many sites and sights no longer around in the city that never sleeps, such as Colony Records and Steeplechase Park ,as well as several that still are (John Jovino’s Gun Shop in Little Italy. The photographer Weegee had a room above the store that overlooked the large pistol replica).

 

                                                (Weegee from his apt fire escape, same locale today)

 

Also, the New York location gave them a talent pool of up and coming actors from the New York Theatre scene .Larry Hagman ,Frank Campanella,Ed Asner , Colleen Dewhurst, Martin Balsam ,Suzanne Pleshette, Diane Ladd and Al Lewis all appeared on the series.

As a syndicated show, it was shot quickly ,and some continuity errors exist .For example, Al Lewis is with a cigar in his mouth in wide shot but cutting to closeup ,we see him putting the cigar into his mouth again.The exteriors were often filmed with a hidden camera , as they did not have the funds to get permits and shut down streets.

The show probably slipped into obscurity due to it’s noticeable lack of violence ,concentrating on gathering evidence and good police work .Plus, with so many people wishing to be “politically correct” , there is a lot of smoking on the show (amazing that Westinghouse rather than Winstons Cigarettes sponsored the series.).

 

That said, it is historically important that it is one of the first dramatic shows to star and be built around a female character, who didn’t have to “sex” it up , or need a male side kick. Indeed, Ms Garland is one of the few recurring characters, having her instead work with officers in different departments to solve the week’s story .Without Policeman “Casey “ Jones, we may not have had an Angie Dickinson’s Sgt. Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson , Teresa Graves’ Christie Love , or Mariska Hagitay’s Olivia Benson .

In other interviews, Ms Garland said : “Throughout my life, I’ve had ten or twenty women come up to me and tell me that they saw me on ‘Decoy’ and because of it they became a policewoman.”

I think that was a source of pride for the actress.

FILM CHEST has done a great job of presenting these full frame black and white episodes. Images are sharp and clear ,with no noticeable dirt or film damage. The mono sound was clear and serviceable. Each of the three discs has 13 episodes ,and can be either played straight through or episodes played separately .

-Recommended.
Kevin G Shinnick

 

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