Tuesday, April 24, 2018

ADULT FAIRY TALES (1978) (88 Films Blu-ray Review)

ADULT FAIRY TALES (1978)

Label: 88 Films 
Rating: Cert. 18 
Region Code:
Duration: 82 Minutes 
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Harry Hurwitz
Cast: Quigley, Don Sparks, Sy Richardson, Brenda Fogarty, and Martha Reeve

Synopsis: Little Bo Peep, Old King Cole, Little Tommy Tucker, Snow White, and many others, have all grown up and are ready for action! These enchanting characters from beloved nursery rhymes sing, dance, lust, and romance their way through this hilarious, naughty, and twisted tale where music, mirth, and merriment are the rule of the day. In a clothing optional land of make believe where everything is possible. See “Scream Queen” Linnea Quigley star in her first feature role in this erotic musical funfest!!

This 70's soft-core fairy tale open with the Prince (Don Sparks, TV's L.A. Law) who awakens on his 21st birthday and is told he must prove to his father the King that he can sire an heir to the throne or risk losing his future Kingdom. To that end the King sends a trio of docs; Dr. Eyes (Irwin Corey, Car Wash), Dr. Ears (Robert Harris) and Dr. Moustache (Simmy Bow, Alligator) to the Prince's bedroom first thing in the morning, they've brought along a gorgeous blond (Idy Tripodi) who mounts the young Prince in his bed but the Prince's limp-dick cannot rise to the occasion. Now, to my eyes this Prince seems not to favor women if you know what I mean, but after not performing to expectations he tells the docs that the reason is that his true love is blond woman as seen in portrait hanging on his bedroom wall, sure, but it is said that the Princess in the portrait disappeared years ago and has not been seen since.

The Prince is sent off to the Land Of The Fairies to find a cure for his limp prick, his first sexy encounter is with the buxom Little Bo Peep (Angela Aames, Chopping Mall), a cutie in a yellow and white bonnet and a dress that leaves little to the imagination, and even that bit of fabric melts off her pretty damn quickly, but still the Prince's prick once again fails to rise to the occasion. Peep advises the Prince to seek The Little Old Lady Who Lives in a Shoe, Madame Gussy (Brenda Fogarty, Trip with the Teacher), and of course the shoe turns out to be a whore house run by Gussy, with a wise-cracking doorman played by Roberts Staats, and let me tell you this fast talking and wise-cracking guy steals the whole show. The Shoe is also visited by the smooth pimp Sirius (Sy Richardson, Repo Man), who also steals every scene, these two guys are 70's comedy gold.

While traveling through the kingdom on his way to the Shoe the Prince encounters Jack (Jeff Doucette, TV's Alien Nation) and Jill (Lindsay Freeman, Boardinghouse), the latter of whom of course tries to get in his pants without success, c'mon ladies this guy just ain't into women! Arriving at the Shoe the Prince discovers that each themed room in the shoe is home to a different fairy tale story, we have a kinky Snowhite (Anne Gaybis, Bachelor Party), and her horny seven dwarfs, with my favorite musical number of the show, fun and raunchy stuff! Of course there's also an Evil Queen and her sexy mirror image, a trio of dominatrix's including Evelyn Guerrero, Toolbox Murders) who perform a song along the lines of the WWII era swing jazz classic boogie woogie bugle boy, which was all sorts of awesome, but it also fails to get the Prince's royal dick hard. 

Strangely Martha Reeve's of Martha And The Vandellas fame shows up for a fine disco-soul number as a voodoo priestess in a bubbling cauldron, and according to Band's commentary the soul singer didn't even realize she was performing in a softcore sex-comedy until she brought her Church group to see the movie - if that's true that is amazing! Also notable is the appearance of a sex-loving Old King Cole (Bob Leslie, The Florida Connection) who receives a rather pleasant and oiled up erotic belly-dance from the exotic dancer Nai Bonet (Nocturna). The Prince has no luck fixing his wang-thang until he becomes privy to a secret room on the upper floor of the shoe which may or may not contain Sleeping Beauty (Linnea Quigley, Return of the Living Dead), the future scream queen's first movie role and looking so fresh-faced and cute.

The movie is so silly and fun, loaded with hairy-bushed nudity, and eyefuls of softcore orgies, and raunchy musical numbers that are surprisingly catchy, this thing never wears out its welcome, not even for a minute. Sparks is decent in the role of the naive Prince but the movie is stolen in my opinion by motor-mouthed doorman played Roberts Staats, he seemed so familiar to be, a wonderful combination of used car salesman and 42nd street carnival barker, telling Bo Peep he cannot see the future but can tell by her bruises what she did last night, I just loved this guy, though I couldn't remember what I know him from.

Adult Fairy Tales (1978) was low-budget and strapped for cash (it was a Charles Band production after all!) which probably necessitated the cheesy sets and tacky costuming, but that's all part of the charm of it. I like the shoe house/brothel they constructed, it sort of looked like it belonged at a miniature golf place, you know, cheap.  While it was low-rent the cast are a fun bunch and the musical numbers are rather excellent, there's a lot to love about this raunchy sex-comedy cum musical, if you get-off on cheesy 70's sex comedies cum musicals look no further, Adult Fairy Tales (1978) is the stuff you're looking for.

Audio/Video: Adult Fairy Tales (1978) arrives on Blu-ray in the UK from 88 Films on region B locked Blu-ray, the 2.35:1 widescreen image is restored from its original 35mm negative. The film was also released in the U.S. via Full Moon on Blu-ray last year and the presentation looks to be sourced from the same restoration, but the encode shows some minor but notable differences. The Full Moon Blu-ray looks more vibrant to my eyes, bit the 88 Films image has better managed grain and less video noise throughout. There's a fair amount of grain present and some minor print damage is visible from time to time but overall this is a good looking release. 

While Full moon still go with lossy audio on their Blu-Ray 88 Films step-up to the plate with an English LPCM 2.0 stereo track, and they've also included newly created subtitles, which the FM disc did not. The track is solid and well-balanced, with the ribald musical numbers coming through with some nice nuance but it is a basic stereo track, nothing too special here. 


Onto the extras we get an audio commentary by writer Frank Perilli and Charles Band who do a seemingly by-the-seat of their pants, which is still informative and entertaining but not the most scholarly of listens, this is the same commentary as the Full Moon release. The only other disc extras is a two-minute widescreen trailer for the film, which was not on the Full Moon release. 

The single-disc release comes in a 16mm Blu-ray case with a limited edition first-pressing slipcover featuring the same key artwork as the Full Moon release with the "Adult Fairy Tales" alternate title, the same artwork is featured on the a-side of the reversible sleeve, the b-side featuring yet another variant movie poster with a equally fun though more cartoon-ish illustration. The disc itself features an excerpt from the b-side artwork. 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary by writer Frank Ray Perilli and producer Charles Band
- Fairy Tales Trailer (2 min) 
- Reversible Sleeve with alternate original poster

If you're region-free and are wondering which version of this film to buy I say go with this 88 Films version, the image is better encoded, the audio is lossless and you get a sleeve of reversible artwork, and this thing has some mighty fine shelf appeal. The movie itself is a delightfully naughty softcore sex-romp full of 70's campiness, nudity and a load of surprisingly fun musical numbers, c'mon you know you want to see it, so have it you dirty birdies. 

Bruce Willis Stars in Eli Roth's DEATH WISH Arrives on Digital MAY 22nd and on Blu-ray & DVD on JUNE 5th


DEATH WISH
(2018) 

ARRIVES ON DIGITAL MAY 22 AND BLU-RAYTM & DVD ON JUNE 5 

DEATH WISH
Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures presents director Eli Roth’s reimagining of the 1974 revenge thriller Death Wish. Dr. Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a surgeon who only sees the aftermath of his city’s violence as it’s rushed into his ER – until his wife (Elisabeth Shue) and college-age daughter (Camila Morrone) are viciously attacked in their suburban home. With the police overloaded with crimes, Paul, burning for revenge, hunts for his family’s assailants to deliver justice. As the anonymous slayings of criminals grabs the media’s attention, the city wonders if this deadly avenger is a guardian angel…or a grim reaper. Fury and fate collide in the intense action-thriller Death Wish.  
 
Updated from the original novel by Brian Garfield, director Eli Roth, screenwriter Joe Carnahan’s (The Grey, Narc) and producer Roger Birnbaum’s Death Wish also stars Vincent D’Onofrio (The Magnificent Seven, TV’s Daredevil and Law & Order: Criminal Intent), Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas), Camila Morrone, Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) and Kimberly Elise (The Great Debaters). It’s a knife’s-edge portrayal that challenges our assumptions, and pushes our buttons.
 
DEATH WISH arrives digitally on 4K Ultra HD and on HD on May 22nd and Blu-ray™, DVD and Video on Demand 4K Ultra HD and HD services on June 5th.
 
SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE:
- Commentary w/ Eli Roth & Roger Birnbaum
- Deleted scenes with optional commentary w/ Eli Roth & Roger Birnbaum
- Mancow Morning Show Extended Scenes
- Sway in the Morning Extended Scene
- Vengeance and Vision: Directing Death Wish
- Grindhouse Trailer 

Blu-ray™ Disc Specification
Street Date: June 5, 2018
Screen Format: Widescreen 2.40:1
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Total Run Time:  107 minutes
 
DVD Disc Specification
Street Date: June 5, 2018
Screen Format: Widescreen 2.40:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Spanish, Surround Dolby Digital 2.0, French Surround Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Total Run Time: 107 minutes
 
Digital Specification
Street Date:  May 22, 2018
Screen Format: SD, HD, 4K, HDR Dolby Vision
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Total Run Time: 107 minutes
 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

SINFONIA EROTICA (1980) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review)

SINFONIA EROTICA (1980)

Label: Severin Films

Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 84 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Audio: Spanish DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Lina Romay, Susan Hemingway, Armando Borges, Georges Santos, Aida Gouveia,, Candice Coster, Armando Sallent 


The same year that the prolific euro-cult purveyor turned out the reprehensible cannibal film Devil Hunter (1980) he also returned to the the more baroque carnal pleasures of the Marquis de Sade with Sinfonia Erotica (1980). The film stars his long-time muse Lina Romay (The Hot Nights of Linda) as wealthy estate owner Martine de Bressac who returns to her palatial mansion in the countryside after a stay at the asylum following a nervous breakdown. Soon after arriving she is informed by her sympathetic housekeeper Wanda (Aida Gouveia) that while she has been away convalescing her mind her philandering husband Armand de Bressac (Armando Borges) has taken up with a young male lover named Flor (Mel Rodrigo, Slave of Crime) who now lives at the mansion, and that furthermore the young lover has has been a corruptive influence on her already morally challenged husband, a man who even prior to her stay at the hospital was cold and dismissive towards his wife. Despite this Martine makes an effort to win back the attention of her husband, who continues to be more drawn in by the charms of Flor's rear-end than his voluptuous wife. The discovery of a wayward nun named Norma (Susan Hemingway, Women in Cellblock 9) who is found unconscious and bloody on the property also proves to be a further distraction for the husband, with Armand and Flor having quite a bit of fun corrupting her into their sexual plaything.

During a visit to the home Martine's physician Dr. Louys (Albino Grazian, Oasis of the Zombies) informs Armand that his wife is physically frail and the slightest strain on her mind or body could prove fatal, thus a scheme is hatched to poison her and invoke a shock that will send her over the edge and into the chasm of death, a plot that the naughty nun Norma is to be complicit in. 


The film is nicely lurid but is not one of Franco's more erotic and sex-filled outings, though there's plenty of sex, including some a surprising man on man love and a not-so-surprising graphic lesbian love scene with the voluptuous Lina Romay and Susan Hemingway. This time around Romay is a blonde which is not my preference, but her role is interesting, playing a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, helpless to not love her awful man, her expressive eyes telling a lot of the story as her character narrates flashbacks and inner monologues. This was has a seriously delicious and delirious final leg with so many wonderful twists and turns and wrapping up quite nicely with a wholly satisfying psych-sexual finish with a surprising amount of murder, proving to be one of my favorite Franco entries of this era with it's sensual mix of sex, arthouse atmosphere and lurid twists.

The film set in a grand Victorian era mansion on a sprawling countryside estate with gorgeous gardens and mazes, the baroque setting has a whimsical dreamy quality highlighted by some artful soft-focus cinematography that brought to mind the lurid arthouse films of Walerian Borowczyk (Immoral Tales), it definitely feels like an older early 70's Franco film, not one from '80, a credit to Franco's savvy eye for the period setting, realizing it with minimalism and not grand overkill.

1
Audio/Video: Sinfonia Erotica (1980) arrives on Blu-ray from Severin with a new 4K scan of the only known decent film element, a 35mm print, framed in 1.66:1 widescreen, which is similar to the Sadist of Notre Dame Blu-ray, but this print is in significantly better shape than Sadist, it's got some natural wear and tear, but nothing egregiously awful. The grain can heavy in some of the oddly lit scenes but physical damage is mostly relegated to minor white speckling and some occasional scratches. The diffused light and soft focus cinematography looks great but doesn't offer a lot of fine detail, more atmospheric than crisp, that said the colors look accurate and but tend to fluctuate a tiny bit, all things considered, given the scarcity of any other elements this is a very pleasing presentation. Audio comes by way of a Spanish DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track with optional English subtitles, the track is dubbed and has a lot of reverb layed on it, with the lush score coming through nicely.   

Extras include a 7-min interview with the late Franco who discusses his first wife Nicole Guettard - it seems slightly skewed in regard to facts and timeline but it's touching, he also discusses his relationship with Soledad Miranda and Lina Romay. There's also a 22-min interview with Franco-authority/author Stephen Thrower, author of 'Murderous Passions - The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco'. Thrower is always a welcome addition to any Franco reissue, a vast well of euro-cult knowledge never failing to stun and entertain, going into the works of Franco with direct or indirect De Sade influence, speaking about the locations and visual style, and that damn anachronistic earring worn by Flor, plus Franco's ability to make a sumptuous meal with only a few small potatoes. 
  
The single-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in a cool looking black Blu-ray case with a one-sided sleeve of artwork, a painting of a blond Lina Romay in a lustful way,  the disc itself featuring an excerpt of the same artwork. This is obviously from the same artist that did the illustration for the Sadist of Notre Dame Blu-ray for Severin, so they look great on the shelf right next to each other with Romay on one spine of one and Franco on the other, so you might as well buy both!

Special Features:

- Jess Franco on First Wife Nicole Guettard - Interview with Director Jess Franco (7 min) HD 
-  Stephen Thrower on Sinfonia Erotica - Interview with the author of "Murderous Passions - The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco." (22 min) HD

Sinfonia Erotica (1980) is a lush, erotic and deliciously twisted psycho-sexual thriller from Jess Franco, the new Blu-ray from Severin looks as good as it can, all things considered. I wasn't expecting to discover an all-time Franco favorite with this first time viewing, but this is right up there with She Killed In Ecstasy (1990), making this a top five Franco film for me. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

SOCIETY (1989) (Umbrella DVD Review)

SOCIETY (1989) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment 
Region: Region-Free 
Rating: M
Duration: 99 Minutes
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.77:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Brian Yuzna
Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards

Synopsis: Legendary schlock producer Brian Yuzna (Re-animator, Return of the Living Dead), creates a tense and gory work of horrific social satire in his directorial debut. Billy Whitney (Billy Warlock - Baywatch, General Hospital), a model rich kid and prefect at the Beverley Hills Academy who enjoys rubbing oil into his girlfriend around the pool, is inexplicably embroiled in a spiraling web of fear and paranoia, a surreal, psychotic world that is fast becoming a nightmare. His worst fears are realized when he crashes a perverse socialite gathering that turns into a shocking, and sticky, shunting ritual. The sick and disturbing finale was made possible through ultra-special effects by Screaming Mad George! After 4 minutes were censored for its American release, Society is now presented totally uncut and uncensored, including full restoration of the infamous orgy scene.

High schooler Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock, Halloween II) seems to have it all on the surface, he's a good looking teen with a cute looking cheerleader girlfriend, and he comes from an affluent Beverly Hills family. He even drives around in a Jeep Wrangler, which in the 80s was what every teen wanted, at least I did, until I realized that most people in Wranglers were sort of douche nozzles, you ever notice that? Despite his good breeding, fortune and affluence something has always seemed a bit off to him. Billy doesn't seem to fit into the Beverly Hills high society crowd, he's an affluent outsider. He regularly sees a therapist, Dr. Cleveland (Ben Slack, My Chauffeur), to address the paranoia-laced nightmares he suffers from, but when Blanchard (Tim Bartell, Meatballs, Part II) approaches hims with an audio cassette with what sounds like a bizarre incestuous orgy involving his sister and their parents things begin to spiral out of control for the young man. When he approaches his therapist with the wild story the doc doesn't believe his story, only prescribing a stronger prescription for happy pills, but it will certainly take more than Prozac to set things right for the troubled teen when he discovers the grotesque truth about high society in Beverly Hills.


Society begins like a nightmare version of Beverly Hills 90210 with some affluent high school drama, teenage angst with a few small scenes of weirdness, such as when Billy walks in on his sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings) in the bathroom, she's in the shower but appears to have breasts on her backside, which is confusing to say the least. This contorted bit of kinky weirdness is just our first glimpse at the weird body horror elements that await us in this one, but certainly not the last, there's plenty more to come as the layers begin to peel back exposing the awful truth of the matter. 

The money-shot of the movie is an extended orgy of stretched out flesh, a strange celebration of twisted bodies and kinky oddness that drives home the point that upper high society has always fed off the lower classes. The surreal special effects of Screaming Mad George (Curse II: The Bite) are in full force, creating a dizzying series of body-horror sights like you've never seen before, this is why I love the 80's -- the over-driven special effects were awesome. The strange feeding/orgy scene is bathed in red light with a the darkly comic tone about it, very weird and wonderful, while the tagline for the film Screamers (1980) promised a scene of a man being turned inside out, this film actually delivers on that promise with a very memorable "shunting", body-horror fans are gonna love this one, it's so damn creepy, gross and gooey.  


While I do love the movie I admit that it suffer a bit from stiff acting, particularly the attractive young ladies cast in the movie, they're easy on the eyes but maybe not the most gifted actresses ever put onscreen, nope, these gorgeous ladies were cast for certain other top-shelf criteria. In a weird sort of way the flat line deliveries work in the film's favor, creating a strange atmosphere and that feeling that somethings not quite right. This was Brian Yuzna's directorial debut which probably attributed to the stiffness of the film, but overall this is a solid movie, and a body-horror powerhouse of a film. It does help that Warlock as Billy is an easy guy to get behind, he does a great job tapping into that weird teen paranoia that I think we all experienced at one point at that very transitory age. I remember as a young boy I watched the original Invaders from Mars on TV, afterward I was convinced the neighbors were aliens, I can only imagine what sort of fucked-upped weirdness I would have suffered if I'd watched Society in my early teens, it's a strange one, lovers of bizarre body-horror should seek this one out.

Audio/Video: Society (1989) arrives DVD (What? No Blu-ray, c'mon Umbrella!) framed in 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen, it's a good looking transfer, not sure what the source is, but it's free of blemishes and colors looks solid. The film has always had a certain softness about it, but this looks accurate to the source as I've seen it represented on various other home video releases. The English Dolby Digital 2.0 audio sounds good, clean and free of distortion, there are no subtitles. 

The extras are slim, offering an audio commentary from director Brian Yuzna (I believe this is the same commentary as the Arrow release), a trailer for the film and a handful of Umbrella trailers.  The single-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in a standard DVD keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of featuring the original movie poster illustration, which is also featured on the disc. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary by Director Brian Yuzna
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- Umbrella Propaganda: Spontaneous Combustion (2 min), Candyman (2 min), Bride of Re-Animator (1 min), The Stepfather (2 min)


That Society (1989) is only available from Umbrella on DVD is a bit head scratcher, it's already received the deluxe treatment from Arrow Video on Blu-ray in other territories, here's hoping that down the line this ends up as part of Umbrella's recently announced  Beyond Genres: Worlds on Film series, which has already announced three Yuzna productions slated for deluxe Blu-ray releases in 2018, those being Bride of Re-Animator (1990) and Beyond Re-Animator (2003) - both directed by Yuzna - and Dagon (1001), which he produced for director Stuart Gordon, so that would make sense, but we will have to wait and see. 






SCREENSHOTS USED IN THIS REVIEW WERE SOURCED 
BY ME FROM THE UMBRELLA ENTERTAINMENT DVD

THE BLACK SCORPION (1957) (WAC Blu-ray Review)

THE BLACK SCORPION (1957) 

Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 88 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English (ALL CAPS) Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Edward Ludwig
Cast: Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro, Carlos Muzquiz, Pascual Garcia Pe?a, Fanny Schiller, Pedro Galvan, Arturo Martinez

This low-budget 50's giant-bug movie features the stop-motion magic of Ray Harryhausen mentor Willis O'Brien (King Kong), a black and white creature-feature that borrows pretty liberally from Warner's own superior giant-ant film Them! (1954). When a volcano erupts in Mexico an American geologist named Hank (Richard Denning, Creature from the Black Lagoonteams-up with his Mexican counterpart Arturo (Carlos Rivas, They Saved Hitler's Brain) to study the geological phenomena near the village of San Lorenzo. Arriving at their destination via Jeep they find a badly damaged police car, a dead cop with a look of horror on his face, and the village in near total ruin. While rummaging through the ruins for signs of life Hank discovers an unattended infant in a crib, and in perhaps the most alarming single scene in the whole damn film Hank points the kid out to Arturo using his pistol as a pointer, aiming directly at the kid, goddamn Richard Denning had no paternal instinct whatsoever.

The scientists take the kid to a neighboring village while curiously pondering what could have caused such catastrophic damage to town, with the local folk attributing the damage and death to a demon-bull said to haunt the area. Only slightly less ridiculous than a demon-bull is the truth, that giant black scorpions are to blame. In a nice change-up the insects are not made monstrously big by radiation from the atom bomb - which was a popular monster catalyst at the time - but just prehistoric creatures that were released from their subterranean cavern-prison by the recent volcanic activity. 

When the Mexican military prove themselves to be near useless the  scientist end-up descending into the cavern to scope out the enormity of the situation, finding not just the nocturnal black scorpions they figured on but also other gigantic insects, including a creepy over-sized worm and spider - the latter of which tries to make a pint-sized meal out of an annoying kid named Juanito (Mario Navarro, The Beast of Hollow Mountainwhom has unbeknownst to the scientists tagged along on their underground exploration. 

The Black Scorpion (1957) doesn't offer anything particularly new of inventive for those who have indulged in more than just a handful of creature-features from he 50's as a kid like myself, it's by-the-numbers stuff, there's even a leaden love-interest for the American scientist by way of sexy pin-up queen Mara Corday (The Giant Claw) as a rancher named Teresa, those scenes slowing the movie down considerably. What saves this one from being a standard issue giant bug movie is the stop-motion carnage provided by Willis O'Brien and his trusty assistant Pete Peterson, offering up some great stop-motion fun with the scorpions attacking a crew of telephone linemen, taking on helicopters, military tanks and even a passenger train, plus the stuff down in the cavern with the oversized worm, scorpions and that spider are well executed. Not all the effects are fantastic, the film switches back and forth between the miniature stop-motion effects of the scorpion and the close-up of a working model of the insects head, the copious amounts of drool pouring from it's mandible always makes me laugh, the two images don't blend well and look nothing alike, but stuff like that's all part of the schlocky charm of 50's sci-fi and creature features. 

Audio/Video: The Black Scorpion (1957) arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Archive with a new 2018 scan in 2K, framed in 1.78:1 widescreen the black and white image looks decent but problematic. There's quite a few source elements competing for screen time, we have combination of stop-motion creature effects, stock footage of erupting volcanoes and some newsreel footage, they don't exactly mix seamlessly. The image is not ideal but it's the best I've seen it look on home video, but this is no one's idea of reference material when it comes to home video on Blu-ray with fluctuating film grain, varying softness and a general lack of fine detail. 

The DTS-HD MA mono English audio is fairly flat, with the Paul Sawtell (It! The Terror from Beyond Space) score and creature sounds fairing the best, dialogue is never hard to decipher but there is hiss present on the track. Optional English subtitles are provided, the usual yellow all-caps variety that's standard issue for WAC. 

Onto the extras WAC carry-over all the extras from the previous DVD, we get a 3-min featurette with late Ray Harryhausen speaking about his mentor Willis O'Brien, particularly how he adored King Kong and how it is he came to work for him. We also get Harryhausen's and O'Brien's animation sequence from Irwin Allen's The Animal World (1956), a wonderful color sequence of dinosaurs battling with an introduction by Harryhausen. A nice addition is the inclusion of two brief silent animation test footage films shot by Willis O'Brien and his assistant Pete Peterson in the 50s, one of a large mutated baboon and the other of a horde of alien creatures on the move, both are intriguing snippets, there's also a brief text detailing how the footage was found. The last of the extras is a trailer for the film, which references the film Them! 

Special Features:

- Stop Motion Masters with Ray Harryhausen (3 min) 
- Harryhausen's Dinosaur sequence from "The Animal World" (12 min) 
- Las Vegas Monster and Beetleman Test Footage (5 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 

I'm always happy to welcome vintage schlock onto Blu-ray, Warner Archive come through with another wonderful b-movie blast from the past, a black and white creature feature sure to please fans of schlock, giant-bugs and vintage stop-motion special effects. It's all wrapped-up in a kitschy 1950's veneer that really got my retro monster movie pulse racing, highly recommended for monster kids both young and old!  .   

 

THE SOULTANGLER (1987) (AGFA DVD Review)

THE SOULTANGLER (1987)

Label: AGFA/Bleeding Skull
Region Code: ALL
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 90 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 
Video: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Director: Pat Bishow
Cast: Bill Bernhard, Jennifer Brown, Tom Ciorciari, Pierre Devaux, Ginny Dunlevy, Jamie Kinser 

Synopsis: If Re-Animator was shot on Long Island for the price of a used car, The Soultangler would be the result. Insane genius Dr. Anton Lupesky has developed a drug that allows users to inhabit corpses and transform into rabid maniacs! Can reporter Kim Castle stop the carnage and save our species from annihilation?! This epic of outsider filmmaking is a dream-like wasteland that’s punctuated with severed heads, evil beasties, and hooded slashers. Filmed in basements and garages, director Pat Bishow’s earnest devotion to storytelling in the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft elevates The Soultangler beyond kitsch and into heavenly territory.

Shot on the cheap in Long Island back in 1985 this lo-fi Re-Animator (1985) riff from backyard movie maker Pat Bishow is the mind-bending tale of Dr. Anton Lupesky (Pierre Devaux), a greasy sort of Herbert West character who like the Lovecraftian mad doc has also created a nightmarish green-serum, not a re-animating agent, but a drug he calls "anphorium" that allows him to project his soul into the bodies of corpses (as long as they have eyes), but it also afflicts the user with horrific hallucinations and sends them careening into a void of insanity. 


At the start of the film Lupesky has been expelled from legitimate medical practice at the Whitewood Institute by Dr. Janet Simpson (Ginny Dunlevy) who objected to the docs unorthodox experiments on the insane, an expulsion and professional disgrace which sent him to Germany in search of more medical freedoms abroad, but after a year he returns to the U.S. after finding that Germany's medical facilities were not up to his high standards. After returning to Long Island he settles into a makeshift basement laboratory, and with the help of adoring assistant Jessica (Louise Millmann) and hammer-wielding henchmen Carl (Bob Cederberg) the doc begins his mind-altering experiments anew, with Bob cruising the streets in a van and procuring a supply of fresh souls/corpses for the doc to experiment on. The scenes of Bob in a hooded mask chasing down and hammering his chosen victims is an inept sort of low-budget spectacle, hammering folks in their front yards and stalking a woman in a basement, ripping off his mask and stiffly (maniacally?) laughing. 


Lupesky's return to Long Island draws skepticism from Dr. Janet Simpson who unwisely decides to confront the doc face-to-face, and then there's a local reporter named Kim Castle (Jamie Kinser) who is obsessed with the doc, looking for a connection between him and her late religious father who warned against the maniacal madman. Castle becomes entangled in the story, also managing to rope-in her boyfriend Zack (Tom Ciorciari) and her concerned roommate Sandra (Susan Chase). 


This cheap splatter film is poorly made but the director's love of horror bleeds through with a trippy homegrown aesthetic that I can get behind, the low-budget gore is actually quite astounding once it gets going, but the film starts of deathly slow with a lot of boring filler-scenes. Apparently the director was contracted by the distributor to turn in a ninety-minute version of the movie, and it's padded with numerous scenes of people walking and/or driving around and close-ups of eyeballs!  However, once we get to the final third it ramps up nicely with scene after scene of exquisitely cheap practical effects. We get all sort of gooey stuff, decapitations, gouged eyes, cadavers in various states of dissection, nightmare zombie dreams, and a doll stuffed guts, all sorts of nasty fun to be had, including a memorable scene of a soul-tangled corpse with a wildly flicking tongue strangling someone with it's own bloody intestines, and a scenes of a disembodied brain that looks like Gary the snail from Spongebob Squarepants with two eyes attached via optic nerves! It's all very cheaply done but I have to give it up to the folks who made it for going all-out with the imaginative gore in the final stretch, it was breathtaking in in a lo-fi sort of way. 


Now the acting throughout is bad, real bad, the cast is made-up of friends and relatives of the director doing their best but somehow still coming up short in the traditional sense. Pierre Devaux as the mad doc turns in the best of the bunch, and by best I mean absolutely unhinged, he goes for it with a lot of heart and overshoots it by a mile with an enthusiastic bit of scene-chewing fun, he's out of his mind high on his own mind-bending drug, it's endlessly entertaining. The Soultangler (1987) is a trippy bit of homegrown horror cinema, the line "Re-Animator was shot on Long Island for the price of a used car" from the synopsis really captures the essence of the film, if you're the sort of demented horror fan who craves micro-budget gore and cheap backyard production values you could do a lot worse than The Soultangler, a film that wears it's heart on it's sleeve and is dripping with cheap atmosphere and plenty of blood-colored Karo syrup.  

Audio/Video: The Soultangler arrives on DVD from AGFA/Bleeding Skull, having previously been issued as a limited edition VHS release from Bleeding Skull/Mondo a few years back. The gory lo-fi nightmare was originally shot on 16mm film but transferred to and then edited on 1" videotape, as the original 16mm elements are no longer in existence the film was transferred from the original 1" master tapes for this release. It has a bit of that lo-fi shot-on-video sheen, but considering the source the colors look fairly good and the details are relatively, well, not crisp, but decent enough you know? The image looks a bit soft and the darker scenes can be a bit murky murky but this is pretty impressive looking all things considered, it certainly looks better than the average SOV oddity, but you still get some video scan lines showing up from time to time. 

Audio comes by way of an English Dolby Digital mono, it's on par with the visuals and maybe a bit worse with poorly recorded natural audio, strangely overpowering overdubbing, and startling loud music cues in place of where some dialogue should be. There's also a wonderfully cheesy 80's synth score, there are no subtitles are included on this release. 




Onto the extras we get an audio commentary from director Bishop who is very forthcoming about the quality of the film, it's equal parts praise and a realistic awareness of how bad it is, it's a good listen detailing what it was like making this splatterific cheapie with friends and family in Long Island in '85. 

Also included is a shorter 62-minute director's cut of the film which trims a lot of the slower parts - which were only added at the insistence of the distributor who demanded a longer cut, but for the record I prefer the longer cut as it has a strange otherworldly quality about it, it's hypnotic in a stoner watching a bad horror movie sort of way. 



The disc also include 12-min of behind-the-scenes footage shot on a camcorder during filming, it's fun peak behind the curtain of the film, it made me wish me and my like-minded friends would have made a movie back in the 80's.  There are also trailers for The Soultangler and Bishow's previous film Dead of Night Town, a music video for Long Island rockers Hypnolovewheel's "Wow" directed by Bishow, plus a 12-page Blu-ray sized booklet with liner notes/conversation with Bishow penned by Bleeding Skull's Zack Carlson. The single-disc release comes housed in a clear DVD case with a sleeve of reversible artwork, the a-side featuring a gore-a-dellic illustration from Matt “Putrid” Carr, the b-side looking like a VHS-style image, it very well could have been the original artwork for the movie, not sure but I prefer the a-side 

Special Features:
- Transferred from the original 1” master tapes!
- Unseen 62 minute alternate director’s cut!
- Commentary track with director Pat Bishow!
- Behind the scenes footage!(12 min) 
- THE SOULTANGLER Trailer (1 min)
- DEAD OF NIGHT TOWN! Trailer (1 min) 
- Music video for “Wow” by Hypnolovewheel! (3 min) 
- Liner notes by Bleeding Skull’s Zack Carlson!
- Reversible cover art!


Fans of homegrown horror and lo-fi gore need The Soultangler (1987) in their lives, while it's not a shot-on-video film it certainly fits right in with the strange 80's backyard productions you'd associate with SOV, plus we gets loads of gooey and gross special effects which are totally fun. You can tell the director was in love with the film Re-Animator, it doesn't rip it off but he's definitely riffing on the whole madman with a strange serum idea, and I had a blast with it, but at the same time I could see more mainstream horror fans thinking this was one of the worst movies they've ever seen, they're not wrong, they're just not demented enough to love it the way I do. 












 SCREENSHOTS IN THIS REVIEW WERE 

SOURCED BY ME FROM THE AGFA DVD