Sunday, September 14, 2014

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS - THE PRODUCER'S CUT (1995)

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS - THE PRODUCER'S CUT (1995) 

from
THE COMPLETE COLLECTION 15-DISC [DELUXE EDITION]

Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment / Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Video: 1080p Anamorphic Widescreen (1:78:1)
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles: English
Director: Joe Chappelle
Cast: JC Brandy, Paul Rudd, Donald Pleasance, Mariah O’Brien, Leo Geter, Devin Gardner, Mitch Ryan

One of the Holy Grails for Halloween fans for years has been the infamous Producer's Cut of HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS (1995). After test screenings of the film didn't go so well the meddlesome Weinstein's at Miramax ordered re shoots which included more gore to punch up the death sequences and trimming out a lot of the Cult of Thorn stuff with a completely different finale which was choppy, you could tell it had been stitched together. This new version ended up being what we watched in cinemas and the original version became known as the producer's cut and has widely been available for years via a bootleg dubbed from a crappy third-generation VHS source - but no more! 


We we're lucky enough to get a preview of the HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS - PRODUCER'S CUT from the new HALLOWEEN - THE COMPLETE COLLECTION 15-DISC DELUXE EDITION from Anchor Bay, so enjoy a small taste of the set which is released on September 23rd...

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS PRODUCER'S CUT much as the theatrical cut picks-up six years after THE REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS which ended with Michael and Jamie Lloyd being abducted from the Haddonfield Police Dept. by the mysterious Man in Black. We pick-up with Jamie (
JC Brandy, KINDRED: THE EMBRACED) who is now 15 and pregnant  and being held against her will by the Cult of Thorn and impregnated by dear old Uncle Mike... that's right, this one goes the incest route! That was implied by the theatrical cut but here we have some black and white flashbacks that confirm it - sort of gross.  Naturally the incest baby is born on Halloween and the Cult of Thorn mark the baby with the Thorn rune and intend on having Michael sacrifice the child. Before this can happen Jamie and the baby escape the cult's underground compound with the help of a sympathetic cult member who dies shortly after when Meyers who rams her skull against a sharp implement protruding from the wall. With Michael not too far behind Jamie steals a pick-up truck but not before Myers  snaps the neck of the vehicles owner. She stops off at a bus depot to alert the authorities from a payphone but when she can't get through she opts instead to call radio shock-jock DJ Barry Simms (Leo Geter, NEAR DARK) and pleads for help on-air from Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) who  just happens to be listening. Knowing Michael will catch-up with her she leaves the child in the bus depot bathroom before continuing. Expectantly the Cult of Thorn and Myers catch-up and force her off the road where she crashes into a pumpkin patch and is stabbed by Myers. Jamie's discovered just barely alive and taken to the hospital but the baby remains safe, at least for now. 

Also listening to DJ Barry Simms that night was Tommy Dolye (Paul Rudd, KNOCKED UP) who was the boy Laurie Strode babysat in the first film. Now an awkward young man Tommy is  consumed with Myers. Playing back a recording of Jamie's desperate phone call (which he conveniently recorded) he manages to traces her whereabouts to the bus depot and finds the infant in the restroom.  At the local hospital where Tommy encounters Dr. Loomis and the two start trading Myers theories and the two join forces. Tommy lives across the street from the infamous Myers home which is currently inhabited by relatives of the Strodes.

The Strode family living at the Myers home are Kara Strode (Marianne Hagan, STAKE LAND), her young son Danny (Devin Gardner), teenage brother Tim (Keith Bogart), mother Debra (Kim Darby, BETTER OF DEAD) and a shit-turd of a father John (Bradford English, WOLF). Playing into the Cult of Thorn mythology is young Danny who is having visions of the Man in Black telling him to "Kill for me". It is revealed by the creepy babysitter Mrs. Blankenship that a young Michael Myers also heard voices telling him to kill before he murdered his sister. 


Eventually Kara, Danny, Tommy and Loomis cross paths and converge and Tommy explains what the Cult of Thorn is and we sort of piece together what they're end game is. Turns out that most of the Smith's Grove Sanitarium staff are cult members lead by Dr. Wynn (Mitch Ryan) and they intend for Michael sacrifice the baby and for Danny to sacrifice his own mother - it's up to Tommy and Loomis to stop the madness.

The film starts off strong with an authentic Midwestern Halloween feel about it, there's some great sets and the atmosphere throughout that are evocative of the season with jack-o-lanterns and kids in costumes, the setting just feels appropriate. The Myers mask is one of the better variations since the original film - this one is creepy. Director Joe Chappelle (PHANTOMS, TV'S FRINGE) keeps things on track with some decent kills and some nice atmosphere, this is a pretty great looking Halloween entry.

Far from a perfect film there are plenty of things that irk me about it.  Let's start with Michael burning the image of the Thorn rune into a stack of hay which is stupid but you  might be able to chalk that up to the handwork of the cult. I hated the introduction of the Man in Black in the previous film and I didn't care for it here either. I didn't mind the Cult of Thorn mythology but the spur-wearing MIB is just silly. A scene with Tommy stopping Michael in his tracks my having him step into a circle of rune stones is just laughable. Paul Rudd had yet to go onto success following CLUELESS when he took on this film and doesn't quite have the acting chops but he does weird-guy pretty well enough, at least he;s not as awful as the kid who played Danny, oh-boy.

This was the last film to feature Donald Pleasance in the role of Dr. Loomis he gives it a solid go but is obviously in a very poor state of health and died shortly after the film wrapped. I loved his introduction at the top of the film and I think his exit in the producer's cut - while not perfect - is way better than the chopped finale is the theatrical version.

Things missing from the producer's cut are a lot of extra gore scenes like the head explosion of Mr. Strode and the bone protruding from the snapped neck of a victim. Pretty much the entire finale was re shot so you don't have the operating room massacre or Michael being injected with a syringe full of nitric acid, but what you gain with the Cult of Thorn mythology makes for a more complete story. This cut of the film is just more enjoyable with more atmosphere and is not as disjointed. I enjoyed the previous version of the film to a degree and I like this only a hair more, it's still not a perfect film but I do like the further exploration of the Cult and the references to the previous film with flashbacks and some exposition.

BLU-RAY:
What we have here is a new HD Master from the original inter-negative and it looks very nice with a decent grain structure that provides some nice moments of fine detail and clarity. Colors are crisp and properly saturated while the black levels offer some decent shadow detail - there's no comparison to what's been available previously - this is like watching it for the first time with new eyes .


We have the choice of English 5.1 DTS-HD MA or English 2.0 DTS-HD MA and both are strong options. Alan Howarth's score sounds great and there are some nice sound design elements which make for a entertaining surround experience. There are optional English subtitles provided. The score is different that the theatrical which included some off electric guitar flourished added to many of the scenes, this is much truer to the original Halloween score.

Just having this version on Blu-ray with superior video and audio would have been enough but Anchor Bay and Scream Factory have stuffed this release with loads of fun extras beginning with a commentary from Screenwriter Daniel Farrands and Composer Alan Howarth. Farrands speaks extensively about the original script and what ended upon screen - which is quite different even in the producer's cut.

An hour's worth of new and vintage interviews with cast and crew which go into about anything you could ever want to know about the producer's cut of the film. Noteworthy is an interview with Danielle Harris who did not return as Jamie in this one, she speaks very candidly about what transpired behind-the-scenes.

On top of the interviews we have behind-the-scenes footage shot by the screenwriter during the first week of production with some shots of scenes being set-up and a tour of the sets. There are also seven-minutes of deleted and alternate scene not featured in either cut of the film plus an electronic press kit. 





SPECIAL FEATURES:

- NEW High Definition Master from the original inter-negative
- NEW Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Daniel Farrands and Composer Alan Howarth (Producer’s Cut)
- NEW “Jamie’s Story” – An Interview With The Original “Jamie” Actress Danielle Harris (7 Minutes)
- NEW “The Cursed ‘Curse’” – An Interview With Producers Malek Akkad And Paul Freeman
- NEW “Acting Scared “– A Look At The Film’s Cast With Actresses Mariah O’Brien And J.C. Brandy (19 Minutes)
- NEW “The Shape Of Things” – A Look At Michael Myers’ Murders And Mayhem With Special Make-Up Effects Artists John Carl Buechler And Brad Hardin And Actor George P. Wilbur (Michael Myers) (11 Minutes)
- NEW “Haddonfield’s Horrors” – The Sights of Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers With Director of Photography Billy Dickson And Production Designer Brad Ryman And Director of Photography (Additional Scenes) Thomas Callaway (10 Minutes)
- NEW “Full Circle” – An Interview With Composer Alan Howarth (7 Minutes)
- NEW Cast And Crew Tribute to Donald Pleasance (3 Minutes)
- Archival Interviews And Behind-The-Scenes Footage (8 Minutes)
- Behind-The-Scenes Footage (approx. 30 Minutes)
- Alternate And Deleted Scenes (Not Present In Either Cut Of The Film) (7 Minutes)
- Teaser Trailer: Halloween 666: The Origin Of Michael Myers ( 1 Minute)
- Electronic Press Kit (5 Minutes)

VERDICT: 

I am not one of the fans who proclaim the producer's cut to the superior version of the the film, both versions are flawed and neither is completely satisfactory but the producer's cut is less disjointed with a clearer vision and focus with superior suspense elements. This new Blu-ray is a very nice restoration of the film and comes with a bunch of great extras. Anchor Bay were wise to team-up with Scream Factory who knocked it out of the park with their Collector's Editions of HALLOWEEN II and HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH. Unfortunately this disc is exclusive to the HALLOWEEN: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION [DELUXE EDITION] so you're gonna have to shell out for it at this point, though I would have difficulty believing this won't be released as a stand alone release at some point. 

Will have a review up of the BONUS DISC from the set later this week!

Friday, September 12, 2014

NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984) arrives on UK Blu-ray 9/22 from ARROW VIDEO



DUAL-FORMAT BLU-RAY + DVD RELEASE – 22nd SEPTEMBER 2014
IT WAS THE LAST THING ON EARTH THEY EVER EXPECTED

Arrow Video is excited to announce the UK Blu-ray and DVD release of Night of the Comet, the 80s cult-classic which since its initial release in 1984, has gone on to amass a legion of loyal fans with its hugely entertaining riff on the apocalyptic sub-genre of movies, paying homage to such classics as The Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth. Infact this might be the most purely entertaining depiction of the aftermath of a catastrophic event, not just in movie history but possibly... well, ever.

But what makes Night of the Comet stand out above its peers, would be its unique female lead characters, wonderfully played by Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney. This is a film driven by its female characters. It is those characters who anchor the film, who give the film the heart which makes it so much more than a string of homages: the fun is balanced by the genuine emotional connection the audience develops with our heroines. Even if they have the occasional ditzy moment, this is a very genuine portrayal of two teenage girls and the film likes both of them far too much to mock. Although much of the surface details date it to a very specific era – the tinny synth ‘n’ saxophone music and that big hair!– the heart of the film still feels fresh because its two lead characters are so well drawn, so well played and so damn likeable.

Intriguingly, for a film with such obvious antecedents, Night of the Comet has proved to be extremely influential, inspiring a number of other films which attempt the same trick of placing unlikely characters inside a foursquare genre format and sweetening the mix with humour. Most obviously, there’s Tremors (1990), in which a couple of good ol’ boys do their best to deal with an underground monster straight out of a ’50s creature feature. Writer/director Joss Whedon has professed admiration for Night of the Comet too, citing it as partial inspiration forBuffy the Vampire Slayer (1992 on film, 1997-2003 on TV). More recently, there’s Shaun of the Dead (2004). It doesn’t take much to see Night of the Comet as one of that film’s (numerous) influences, most obviously in the graceful juggling of comedy, character moments, and genuine genre thrills.

Such things are only to be expected of a film with such a pronounced cult following. If it’s smart, witty handling of the genre was a little too sophisticated to meet with general approval upon original release in 1984, then it has ensured a strong afterlife, and its reputation continues to grow. Far more than ‘just’ a pastiche, Night of the Comet both celebrates the genre and contributes to it, updating the concerns of the golden age science fiction films for a new era and a new generation. Far more importantly, it remains thoroughly entertaining; and in an age like ours, when the world again feels increasingly apocalyptic (war, terrorism, environmental collapse... take your pick), such things are welcome indeed.

The movie will make its UK Blu-ray debut on 22nd September 2014 in a newly restored transfer with a host of extra features including interviews with stars Kelli Maroney, Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Beltran and Mary Woronov. The disc will also feature an audio commentaries with writer/director Thom Eberhardt, stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart and production designer John Muto

Alongside this, the Blu-ray disc will also feature the original theatrical trailer, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin and a sizable collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver

Synopsis
Life can be tough when you’re a Valley girl. First, there’s making sure you’re on time for pep squad practice. Then there’s having to live under the same roof as your bitchy stepmother who, you suspect, is making it with Chuck from across the road. And then, of course, there’s having to keep on the lookout for the occasional marauding zombie hungering after your flesh!

Eighteen year-old Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart – Weekend at Bernie’s, The Last Starfighter) misses out on the event-of-a-lifetime when she ditches watching the comet in favour of copping off with the projectionist at the cinema where she works. But this turns out to be a wise move when, the next day, she discovers that the entire population has been reduced to piles of red dust – leaving only Reggie, her sister Sam (Kelli Maroney – Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Chopping Mall) and a handful of other survivors to fend off the roving gangs of glassy-eyed zombies.

Taking its cue from classic “doomsday” movies such as The Day of the Triffids and The Omega Man (and with a healthy dose of Dawn of the Dead thrown in for good measure), Night of the Comet is an irresistible slice of Reagan-era B-movie fare which features Cyndi Lauper dance-alongs as well as some truly gravity-defying bouffant hairstyles… Well, it was acceptable in the 80s!

Special Features
· High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements by MGM
· Original 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
· Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
· Audio commentary with writer/director Thom Eberhardt
· Audio commentary with stars Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart
· Audio commentary with production designer John Muto
· Valley Girls at the End of the World – Interviews with Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart
· The Last Man on Earth? – An interview with actor Robert Beltran
· End of the World Blues – A brand new interview with Star Mary Woronov
· Curse of the Comet – An Interview with special make-up effects creator David B. Miller
· Original Theatrical Trailer
· Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
· Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by James Oliver illustrated with original archive stills and posters

SPECS

Release Date 
Monday 22nd September 2014
Certificate: 15
Formats : Blu-ray and DVD
Language: English (English SDH Subtitles)
Running Time: 95 minutes
Number of Discs: 2
Region: B
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: 2.0 Mono



Thursday, September 11, 2014

CLOSED CIRCUIT EXTREME (2012)

CLOSED CIRCUIT EXTREME (2012) 

Label: Jinga Films LTD
Region Code: ALL
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 98 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 
Director: Giorgio Amato
Cast: Stefano Fregni, Francesca Cuttica, Guglielmo Favilla, Gaia Inseng



 While THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT didn't inspire a wave of found footage cash-ins the success of PARANORMAL certainly did and in the aftermath the we had waves after wave of both studio and indie found footage films flood the marketplace, a wave on par with the no-budget zombie dreck that's clogged up Netflix and Red Box for years. Of course there are occasional moments of cleverness and inspired creativity (LAKE MUNGO)  but for every PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and [REC] there are a dozen more along the lines of THE DEVIL INSIDE and PARANORMAL ENTITY. The result if that the term "found-footage" does not fill me with enthusiasm and hasn't for quite some

Now onto the latest found-footage entry CLOSED CIRCUIT EXTREME (2012) coming from the boot-shaped shores of Italy, a country known for borrowing a few good ideas in the name of exploitation cinema going back to the granddaddy of all found-footage, the gut churning classic CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Here we have a young couple whom suspect a a man in the disappearance of their dear friend.  When the authorities don't follow-up on it to their satisfaction the two decide to investigate on their own. They monitor the suspects daily activities and break into his home and install several closed circuit video cameras throughout the home in strategic locations - the living room, the bathroom, bedroom and a view of the front yard and the basement. The closed circuit devices only have a certain amount of storage capacity so every few days the couple must return and pull the footage, which as you can imagine is risky business. They suspect this guy may have murdered a friend and they were lucky to get inside once and install the cameras but visiting the home repeatedly is beyond nutty. 


At first the cameras don't catch much out the ordinary - this guy leads a sad and solitary life. He comes home from work, slips on a pair of slippers and drinks a beer while sculpting his bonsai tree. He's interviewing women for a low-paying child care position which seems a bit suspect for several reasons and very slowly things start to become a bit more interesting. Eventually we observe a few more seriously events but not before I nodded off at least twice - this movie is moving in slow-motion and I was growing tired of watching this guy walk around in his undies - not that it got much better when he started walking around in the nude, nope, not at all..

I didn't think the set-up was awful but the execution is certainly faulty, so very slow and  not that much interesting happens for the better part of an hour. The couple are only glimpsed briefly - not enough to get to know them but we at least understand what they are up to and why. What bothered me was how comfortable they were inside the home pouring through drawers and personal belonging, moving furniture and frequently returning to the home time and time again. If I was in the home of someone I suspected  to be a murderer I would be trembling but these two are way to comfortable. You just know they're going to slip up and sure enough that's exactly what happens 

The minimal cast is decent but the broken English dialogue was quite a slog to get through and sounded so unnatural which was a little annoying. Without spoiling too much the film does go to some dark places which includes rape, murder and dismemberment with a fair amount of nudity which is captured on closed circuit cameras so the fine detail leaves a lot of gore and nudity to the viewer's imagination, which doesn't detract from the film at all. 

There's a brief text introduction explaining how the footage came into the possession of the authorities and is edited to include character pop-ups for each person giving their name, age and other information plus additional text pointing out fingerprint and blood evidence as if the film were edited by the authorities to be used as evidence. It's an odd sort of exposition which took me right out the film every time it popped-up. 

CLOSED CIRCUIT EXTREME moves along at a snail-crawl pace and execution is stiff. When the more interesting stuff comes around I was too far gone to care about it even a little bit, there's zero suspense to be found in even one frame of this overlong found-footage flop. SKIP IT! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SCREAM FACTORY™ PRESENTS 'THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS' (1985) ON BLU-RAY NOVEMBER 14, 2014

THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS (1985) 

Murder was just the beginning...

A man of medicine… A pair of murderers… An unholy alliance. Scream Factory has announced a November 14th Blu-ray release of the murderous thriller The Doctor and the Devils.

Directed by Freddie Francis, Executive Produced by Mel Brooks, and based on Dylan Thomas' original screenplay, this shocking horror-thriller stars Timothy Dalton as Thomas Rock, a brilliant young anatomy professor in 1820s Edinburgh. At first accepting only the cadavers provided him for study – those of a few hanged criminals per year – Rock eventually recruits two grave robbers (Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea) to secure a better supply of corpses. Coming to the gory conclusion that they will earn more the "fresher" the corpses, the two begin committingmurder and delivering warm bodies to the doctor's lecture chambers. Also starring Julian Sands, Patrick Stewart and Twiggy, The Doctor and the Devils brings classic chills from start to finish.

Special Features:
- Commentary With Author and Film Historian Steve Haberman
- New Interview With Executive Producer Mel Brooks, Producer Jonathan Sanger And Former Brooksfilms Development Executive Randy Auerbach
- Theatrical Trailer
           
1080p High-Definition Widescreen (2.35:1)/DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo/1985/Color/R/93 mins./Subtitles: English

Monday, September 8, 2014

SCREAM FACTORY™ PRESENTS 'PUMPKINHEAD II: BLOOD WINGS' (1993) ON BLU-RAY OCTOBER 28

PUMPKINHEAD II: BLOOD WINGS (1993) 

They couldn't leave dead enough alone. On October 28th, Scream Factory will release Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, with new bonus features.

When five teenagers unwittingly resurrect a demon in In Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, nobody is safe from the creature’s bloody rampage. But this monster is different – inside its demonic frame dwells the soul of a boy murdered years ago. Can the evil creature be killed without destroying the innocent boy trapped within? Starring Amy Dolenz (Witchboard 2, Ticks), Andrew Robinson (Hellraiser), Soleil Moon Frye (Punky Brewster), Hill Harper (CSI: NY), J. Trevor Edmond (Lord of Illusions), Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead) and Kane Hodder (Hatchet), Pumpkinhead  II: Blood Wings unleashes a non-stop barrage of gruesome gore from one of horror’s most iconic monsters.

Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings Special Features:
  • NEW Audio Commentary with director Jeff Burr
  • NEW -  RE-CREATING THE BEAST featuring new interviews with special effects artists Greg Nicotero, Gino Crognale and actor Mark McCraken (Pumpkinhead) (32 minutes)
  • NEW MAKING MOVIES an interview with director Jeff Burr (60 minutes)
  • Behind-the-scenes footage

LEGEND OF THE HILLBILLY BUTCHER (2012)


LEGEND OF THE HILLBILLY BUTCHER (2012) 

Label: Whacked Movies

Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Region Code: ALL
Duration: 99 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 
Director: Joaquin Montalvan
Cast: Paul E. Respass, Theresa Holly, Ron Jason, Suzanne Rick, Chris Shumway

Enter the backwoods domain of Carl Henry Jessup, a simple man who spends his days swilling homemade moonshine and carving-up tender vittles sourced from the unfortunate trespassers on his wooded property. 

Carl was orphaned when his demented father sliced up his ma before taking his own life. Despite the fact his father was a demented turd of a man Carl would do just about anything to have both his parents back, to that end he makes a blood sacrifice to the demon Sam Bakoo - offering his own soul in exchange for his parents return. 

Carl's taken care of by his half-sister Rae Lynn who visits often to clean and cook meals but she has no idea that the meat she's frying up is of the human variety. However, when she discovers her brother's nightmarish slaughter room she better run for her life!

I loved the aesthetic of the film, a sweaty image that appears to have been put through the Instagram toaster filter approximating the look of a well worn VHS tape, it suited the retro vibe of the film quite nicely and appears more natural and authentic than a lot of the grindhouse type filters I've seen on recent indie films. 

Paul E. Respass as the cannibal redneck does a pretty decent job getting across the murderous delirium of his character and manages to give a character, which must be pretty flat on the page, some small amount of depth. The supporting cast is less effective in my opinion but his half-sister played by Theresa Holly is not without her white-trash charms and she's the only sympathetic character in the entire film. 

The carnage is decent with a solid body count with some blood and guts but the film certainly doesn't quite live up to the promise of butchery the title implies. At the end of the day we have a decent set-up with an odd occult detour but not much story to speak of, just a series of gruesome events with long pauses in between. 

While I enjoyed the vintage grindhouse aesthetic and retro electronic score the film suffers from a deathly sluggish pace that proved quite a chore to sit through at nearly 100-minutes. 
It would be hard to recommend this across the board unless you have a fondness for vintage SOV horror or willing to trudge through the muck of lo-fi film making to get your backwoods horror fix. There's definitely a sub-sect of horror fans out there who will appreciate this one, it's just not gonna be for everyone. 

EXTRAS:
- Making Of Documentary
- Short Film: Straight Razor
- Horror Happens Interview
- Trailers
- Press

Sunday, September 7, 2014

STAGEFRIGHT (1987)

STAGEFRIGHT (1987) 

Label: Blue Underground
Region Code: ALL
Duration: 90 Minutes
Rating: Unrated 
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD; 2.0 DTS-HD with Optional English SDH, French, Spanish Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Michele Soavi
Cast: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Ulrike Schwerk, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Mary Sellers

A group of theater actors under the direction of opportunistic director (David Brandon) are rehearsing for a new musical set to open is just a few days. The musical is The Night Owl and involves a serial killer that is raped by his victims. During rehearsals star
Alicia (Barbara Cupisti) injures her ankle and sneaks off to the nearest medical facility for treatment - which just happens to be a sanitarium for the criminally insane. One of the inmates there is a former actor turned serial killer named Irving Wallace who has murdered over a dozen people. Unfortunately for Alicia and her co star Betty (Ulrike Schwerk) the notoriouskiller escapes the asylum and hitches a ride with the ladies back to the theater unbeknownst to them. The killer dispatches Betty with a pick-ax to the face and her body is discovered by Alicia.

The cops are called in and they haul away the body and reveal that the killer must be the escaped Irving Wallace who murdered a male orderly at the asylum with a syringe to the neck. The authorities station a patrol car outside of the theater and the theater troupe lock themselves in the theater as the opportunistic director attempts to rework the musical to capitalize on the gruesome murder by making the notorious Irving Wallace the villain of the play - unaware that the murderous actor is inside the theater and as bloodthirsty as ever. 

That's the set-up for what is a pretty great late-entry slasher and one of the better Italian films of the era from first-time director Michele Soavi who honed his chops as not only an actor in such films as CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and ALIEN 2 ON EARTH but as the first-assistant director working for Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci and Terry Gilliam. The man has style and it shows with his first feature film which is an assured,  stylish and violent piece of Eurocult cinema. 

The theater troupe provide a fun cast of bitchy characters beginning with a pompous theater director (Brandon) and a sleazy producer Ferrari (Piero Vida) and then there's the cast highlighted by Giovanni Lombardo Radice of CANNIBAL FEROX as a gay actor who trades catty barbs with theater diva Laurel (Mary Sellers) - these two are a fun pair. Much of the other cast are forgettable more or less but they all have memorable deaths so who really cares. 

So we have a ton of awesome visual flourished but did I mention the kicker - the killer Irving Wallace wears an owl-headed mask! This is the most outrageous masked killer since the bear mascot in GIRLS NITE OUT! It helps that our killer has access to a wide range of weapons and uses them to their fullest potential, beginning with knifing an actress to death n front of the entire cast - the outfit he's wearing is one of the signature costumes of the musical and no one realizes the deranged actors intentions until the blood starts to flow. So far we've had a syringe to the neck, the pick-ax to the face and now a knife plunged into a a poor starlet' guts and they only get more violent throughout as the killer makes use of a power drill, a hatchet and a chainsaw - some seriously grisly stuff. 

Now the script is a bit of a let down but these Italian horrors were never reality based in my opinion and were quite fantastical. Logic more or less takes a backseat to blood-spattered visuals and gruesome dismemberment and I am alright with that trade-off - the gore gags delicious and completely make-up for that hilarious final ending. 

Stylistically this is a gorgeous film with some great stylized lighting, scenes are bathed in electric blue light and the colors are vibrant and very nineteen-eighties, very loud and obnoxious. A particular scene of the killer on stage with his victims displayed around him stands out as something quite special, almost hallucinatory as he sits upon a throne admiring the carnage while he strokes a cat named Lucifer and bird feathers float in the air around him, very surreal stuff. Adding to the atmosphere of the film is an effective electronic score from composer Simon Boswell who also scored the films DEMONS, DUST DEVIL and PHENOMENA just to name a few. 

BLU-RAY:
Stage Fright arrives on Blu-ray from Blue Underground in stunning fashion and framed in the original widescreen aspect ratio with a fine looking grain structure. The restoration is top notch - the print is damn near flawless to my eyes. Colors are vibrant and the level of clarity is quite pleasing. Black levels and shadow detail are strong and there's a fair amount of fine detail in the close-ups, this is quite a step-up from the already quite nice standard-def DVD.

Audio option include DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo or 5.1 Surround Mix with optional English, French or Spanish  Subtitles. Not overly dynamic but clean and balanced with no distortion, the score sounds great and the surround mix adds to the atmosphere with some nice use of the surrounds. 

Already a home run wit sweet PQ and audio Blue Underground have stocked this disc with some great new extras beginning with a 19-minute interview with the director who discusses his early career and producer Joe D'Amato offering him his first feature film which was written by George Eastman ((ANTHROPOPHANGUS) going onto describe with some depth what it was to be a first-time director and the film's poor reception at the cinema.

the 12-minute interview with star David Brandon  begins by revealing he first met Soavi on the set of CALIGULA 2: THE UNTOLD STORY where his character cut out Soavi's tongue. As a theater writer/.director he was intrigued by the role of the theater director in the film and was impressed by the director's passion. He speaks of insisting that the director himself handle the very real chainsaw during his death scene and finishes up with a anecdote about Joe D'Amato. 

Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice (THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK) begins by revealing he stole two roles from Soavi before being cast in the director's first film. Apparently he helped doctor the script a bit and was quite good friends the Soavi at the time, admitting he had some difficulty working with a few of the non-professional on the set. 

Composer Simon Boswell speaks about his band LIVE WIRE and a fateful meeting with Dario Argento around the time of PHENOMENA that launched his film scoring career leading to gigs on that film and Lamberto Bava's DEMONS films. He speaks about the director's peculiar way of editing his scores at times and his own style and experimenting with synths and sound. He ends with a weird tale of making two albums with two separate Popes and his new band the UNDEAD who he brought together to perform his scores live. 

Extras are finished up with an 11-minute interview with make-up effects artist Pietro Tenoglio, the original theatrical trailer and an image gallery with 75 pics of stills, poster are of the various titles (AQUARIUS, DELIRIUM, STAGEFRIGHT)  and some cool VHS/DVD artwork from around the globe. 

SPECIAL FEATURES:

- Theatre Of Delirium - Interview with Director Michele Soavi (19 minutes)
- Head Of The Company - Interview with Star David Brandon (12 minutes)
- Blood On The Stage Floor - Interview with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice
- The Sound Of Aquarius - Interview with Composer Simon Boswell (18 minutes)
- The Owl Murders - Interview with Make-Up Effects Artist Pietro Tenoglio (11 minutes)
- Theatrical Trailer ( 2 minutes)
- Poster and Still Gallery (74 images) 


VERDICT:
A fun slasher film with more than a few stylistic nods to Dario Argento - and that's something to celebrate in my opinion. The enclosed space and the bird-brained killer are inspired choices and while the script falls short the damn thing is peppered with a number of creatively gruesome kills - there's just a lot to enjoy here. Blue Underground are white hot streak of superlative transfers and value-added extras, fans of Italian horror should want this on on their shelf ASAP.