Friday, March 27, 2015

THE SURE THING (1985) (30th Anniversary Edition)

THE SURE THING (1985) 
Label: Shout! Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Rob Reiner 
Cast: Anthony Edwards, Tim Robbins, John Cusack, Nicollette Sheridan, Daphne Zuniga, Boyd Gaines

In this Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride) directed comedy from the '80s we have the myth, the legend John Cusack as college freshman Walter 'Gib' Gibson. A freshman at some small New England university where he is completely bombing with the ladies on campus. Meanwhile his high school best friend Lance (Anthony Edwards, Revenge of the Nerds) is out in Los Angeles partying it up '80s So Cal style and apparently doing quite well for himself, Lance assures his pal Gib that if he can make it to L.A. over Christmas break he has a sure thing (Nicolette Sheridan) waiting for him. That's right, Gil is willing to travel thousands of miles just to score with a babe he doesn't even know. It might seem a bit desperate and far fetched but probably not too far from reality, after all guys do a lot of crazy stuff  in the name of getting laid, not that I would know anything about that. 

Searching one of the college ride share boards Gib finds a ride out to L.A. with annoyingly young republican type couple named Gary (a very young Tim Robbins) and Mary Ann (Lisa Jane Persky). Also along for the ride out the L.A. is Alison (Daphne Zuniga), a young woman from college that Gib has a bit of a crush on. Alison's previous interactions with Gib at college make for an uncomfortable ride share, he's a bit of a wild spirit and she's a buttoned-down prep and their differences sort of rub each other the wrong way. A particularly heated backseat argument ends with Alison baring her breasts to passerbys and with Gary being fines by the police, which puts him over the edge, dropping he two off on the side of the road, left to thumb their way to California. Forced to spend time alone  they do some bonding over shotgunning beers and such, fighting off a blossoming attraction for each other, more so Alison, who is on her way to Los Angeles to see her boyfriend, who it turns out is the same boring sort of straight-laced prep she is, but after spending so much time with the spontaneous Gib she starts to feel differently 


The story is a pretty simple and not a very original 80s offering. It's part teen pic, part romantic comedy and part road film, sort of like a teen-romance version of Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), only instead of trying to get home for the Thanksgiving, one of them is trying to get laid over Christmas Break, and it's fun stuff. 


Sign me up for anything from the '80s with John Cusack,it's safe to say that I may have had a man-crush on him since way back in the day, so damn likable all the way around, even if he played pretty much the same character through the '80s. Then there's Daphne Zuniga who is an uptight character but as cute as a button, and once the icy exterior begins to melt away her character is quite lovable. Horror fans will recognize her from the teen-shocker The Initiation (1984) and The Dorm that Dripped Blood (1981), and of course as Princess Vespa from Mel Brooks' Space Balls (1987). 


Sure, there's not a lot of depth to this one and that's just fine, it's a fun opposite attract film wrapped up in a road film and the casting it perfect, these two have some great chemistry and by the end of the film I was in love with stuffy Alison myself. Of course Nicolette Sheridan as the titular sure thing is pure '80s sexiness from head to toe, dripping with lust and smoking hot, the dream sequences of her are a lot of male egocentric fun. 


The disc from Shout! Factory looks good overall. While it does suffer from some of the '80s film stock softness and there's evidence of some too aggressive digital manipulation the colors are vibrant and offers a pleasing amount of depth, clarity and fine detail. 


Viewers have the option to watch the film accompanied by the original mono presentation via the DTS-HD MA 2.0 or a slightly more immersive DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix. The front-centric presentation exports score and discreet audio effects to the surrounds which definitely sweetens the '80's soundtrack featuring Huey Lewis and the News, The Cars and Wang-Chunk among others. 


Advertised as the 30th Anniversary Edition I was a little bit disappointed we do not get any new content other than what was on the previous release, totalling about 46 minutes worth of interviews with director Rob Reiner, writers Steven L. Bloom and Jonathan Roberts, producer Roger Burnbaum., production designer  Lilly Kilvert, casting directors Jane Jenkins and Janet Hirshenson and stars John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga which are split up among four featurettes. There's also an audio commentary with Reiner who only seems to pop-up from scene to scene with long pauses. Additionally there is a trailer. A decent array of extras but it is my belief that if you advertise a release as an anniversary edition it should contain something new to commemorate the occasion. 


Special Features
- Commentary With Director Rob Reiner
- Road To The Sure Thing (26 Mins)
- Casting The Sure Thing (7 Mins)
- Reading The Sure Thing (3 Mins)
- Dressing The Sure Thing (9 Mins)
- Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins) 


It doesn't take much to convince me to watch vintage '80s comedies, to be honest there just aren't many I don't enjoy, and this one has John Cusack! A lot of which has to do with the fact that it was the era during which I came of age, and I could sorta of relate to Cusack's character at the time, and even this sweetly romantic comedy comes loaded with nostalgia. I don't think this one gets all the love it deserves, sure it's not one of the top tier '80s comedies but it's worth a watch and John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga are a great pairing.



Thursday, March 26, 2015

SCREAM FACTORY PRESENTS A SPRING OF CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURES ON MAY 26th




SCREAM FACTORY PRESENTS
A SPRING OF CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURES 

FOOD OF THE GODS / FROGS and 
EMPIRE OF THE ANTS / JAWS OF SATAN
ON BLU-RAY MAY 26, 2015


THE FOOD OF THE GODS (1976) / FROGS (1972) 

This spring, nature strikes back! On May 26, 2015 Scream Factory presents Food of the Gods and Frogs, two nature-gone-berserk shockers on Blu-ray for the first time. This release comes complete with bonus features, including new interviews with the films’ stars Belinda Balaski and Joan Van Ark.

THE FOOD OF THE GODS (1976)

Legendary director Bert I. Gordon (The Amazing Colossal Man, Attack of the Puppet People) – the father of the "gigantic creature" genre – delivers this spine-tingling tale of ecology gone berserk. Based on H.G. Wells' classic horror novel, The Food of the Gods predicts a terrifying future where oversized animals are suddenly at the top of the food chain and ready to take over!

On a remote island, a mysterious substance is oozing from the ground. A farmer sees that it acts as a growth hormone and thinks his fortune is made. But when rats, chickens, worms and wasps begin sampling the potent substance, they morph into bloodthirsty giants! Now, it's up to the island's few residents and visitors to destroy "the food of the gods"... before the animals take over for good!

FROGS (1972)

"A shocker reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds" (Variety), Frogs is an amphibious horror flick teeming with thousands of nasty-tempered creatures that are hopping mad – and murderous.

Jason Crockett (Ray Milland, X: The Man With The X-ray Eyes) is an aging, physically disabled millionaire who invites his family to his island estate for his birthday party. The old man is more than crotchety... he's crazy! Hating nature, Crockett poisons anything that crawls on his property. But on the night of his shindig, it's nature's payback time, as thousands of frogs whip up every bug and slimy thing into a toxic frenzy until the entire environment goes environ-mental. Sam Elliott (The Legacy, Road House) and Joan Van Ark (The Last Dinosaur) also star.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Food of the Gods
· New Audio Commentary with Director Bert I Gordon
· New Interview with Actress Belinda Balaski
· Radio Spot
· Photo Gallery
· Theatrical Trailer


Frogs
· New HD transfer
· New Interview with Actress Joan Van Ark
· Radio Spot
· Photo Gallery
· Theatrical Trailer

EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977) / JAWS OF SATAN (1981) 

Another double feature of creepy crawlies comes to Blu-ray with Scream Factory’s release of Empire of the Ants andJaws of Satan on May 26, 2015. These terrifying creature features come complete with extras, including new audio commentary with Empire of the Ants director Bert I. Gordon.

EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977)

Brace yourself for mutant mayhem and pestilent payback in this "scary" (Los Angeles Times) creature feature about good bugs gone BAD! Starring Joan Collins (Dynasty, Tales from the Crypt), this incredible insect extravaganza is swarming with flesh-crawling chills, hair-raising thrills and spine-tingling terror. Directed by the great Bert I. Gordon (Attack Of The Puppet People, The Amazing Colossal Man, Village Of The Giants), Empire Of The Ants is a towering H.G. Wells tale come to terrifying life!

JAWS OF SATAN (1981) 

Satan takes the form of a cobra in this spine-chilling tale of terror. Commanded by the Prince of Darkness, snakes terrorize a small town in Alabama just as the town’s new dog racing park is about to open. The local doctor, the town priest and a “snake expert” must band together to save the town from his evil scheme! Fritz Weaver (Creepshow), Gretchen Corbett (Let’s Scare Jessica To Death), Jon Korkes (Syngenor) and a young Christina Applegate (Married With Children, Streets, Anchorman) star!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Empire of the Ants
· New Audio Commentary with Director Bert I. Gordon
· Photo Gallery
· Radio Spots
· Theatrical Trailer


Jaws of Satan
· New HD Transfer
· Theatrical Trailer

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

GONE WITH THE POPE (1976)

GONE WITH THE POPE (1976)
2-Disc Deluxe edition DVD/BD Combo 

Label: Grindhouse Releasing
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 82 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English Dolby Digital Stereo, English Dolby Digital Mono
Video: 1080p widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Duke Mitchell
Cast: Duke Mitchell, Jim Lo Bianco, Giorgio Tavolieri, Peter Milo, Lorenzo Dardado, John Murgia

I was still recovering from Duke Mitchell's gonzo crime film Massacre Mafia Style (1974) when his follow-up feature, the long lost Gone with the Pope (1976), aka Kiss the Ring, arrived on the doorstep. I must say that Grindhouse Releasing have just been knocking it out of the park this past year with a string of strange, violent and often times weird cult movies. In a lot of ways the release of these Duke Mitchell movies seems to be the perfect culmination of what that company is all about, bringing lost, forgotten and obscure grindhouse cinema to the masses, each loaded with Criterion worthy deluxe packaging and in-depth bonus content. 

Paul (Duke Mitchell) has just been released from prison when he is contracted by the Chicago mob to execute seven men in Las Vegas and Los Angeles for the sum of 100K. Afterward Paul charters a yacht and sets sail for Rome along with his three former prison pals, We have The Old Man (Lorenzo Dardado), Luke (Jim LoBianco), and Peter (Peter Milo), once in Rome he reveals his plan to kidnap the Pope and ransom him for a dollar from every Catholic in world! Love that set-up, a bit pure genius and that alone should be enough put asses in the seats for this one. 


While not a sequel to Massacre Mafia Style it does have the same tone and aesthetic, a mobbed-up crime caper starring Mitchell in the lead that follows the exploits of a foul-mouthed Italian American and his band of merry criminals, upping the ante by setting his sights on the Catholic guardian of the world, the damned Pope! 

On a technical level the film is sub-par compared Massacre Mafia style but that's just part of the b-movie experience, some shoddy audio and out of focus camerawork mar the production slightly. Mitchell is is fine form here with a few choice monologues and the usual racial insensitivity of the previous film. When he's not poignantly condemning the Catholic Church for their silence during the Holocaust he compares an African American woman's naughty parts to a Brillo pad before asking her to do some housework. Never a man to mince words you will find that most of the dialogue is laced with numerous f-bombs and politically incorrect observations, yet somehow he delivers it with a disarming charm, he's charismatic, I'll give him that. 



The film largely lacks the manic energy of his previous film but is heavy with strange vignettes, such as a surreal three-way with a rather large woman that ends with her ripping a bathroom door off the hinges, all of which is shot with a fish eye lens. The odd detour doesn't seem to fit into the loose narrative but who gives a damn, just go with. The crime story lacks the strong(er) narrative structure of MMS but proves to be quite entertaining though and through, after watching the extras on the disc it becomes pretty clear that Mitchell shot the film with only a loose script on weekends and was often improvised, and it shows. 

The crooner turned actor/director is pretty solid here, a standout among a cast of amateur actors comprised of friends and acquaintances, each sort of fits the mold but are not the most adept actors, again, all part of the b-movie charm.


Gone with the Pope, or Kiss the Ring as it was then known, began filming in 1975 following Massacre Mafia Style and shot on weekends while Duke scraped together funding for the project. Filming was completed but the film sat in an unfinished state in Mitchell's garage until after his death, where it was discovered by Sage Stallone and Bob Murawski from Grindhouse Releasing, years after the director's death. It took a decade to restore the original film elements and reassemble the print from Mitchell's own handwritten script notes before releasing the film into select theaters beginning with the 2010 World Premiere at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

Audio/Video: The brand new 2K restoration offers a somewhat surprising amount of depth and clarity with nicely managed grain structure that does not appear to have been overly manipulated digitally. Colors are warm and strong, those garish '70s textures and intricate patterns pop off the screen and the neon glow of the Las Vegas lights look fantastic. restoration afforded the film is a thing of beauty, there are moments of minor vertical scratching and speckling but looking at some of the before/after image comparisons on the extras is proof of the love and care that went into making this screen-worthy.   


Emmy award-winning sound mixer Marti Humphrey has created brand new DTS-HD MA Mono and 5.1 Surround mixes for the audio track, plus a Dolby Digital Stereo option. Each are solid given the audio limitations of the source material with select scenes of dialogue coming through muffled from time to time, but for most of the film the dialogue is consistently clear and the music score comes through nicely. I preferred the original mono mix to the surround, the flatter sound better suited the period and aesthetic. No subtitles option is offered on either the Blu-ray or DVD discs. 

Onto the substantial extras we begin with Gone with the Pope - The Players (67 Mins) featuring interview with film editors Bob Leighton and Robert Florio, cinematographer Peter Santoro, actors Jim LoBianco and John Murgia, and, cult film producer/director Matt Cimber. This making of doc makes for a storied accounting from all the players about their experiences making the movie with recollections of the foul-mouthed Mitchell and his death from cancer.

Up next is Shooting Gone with the Pope (23 Mins) with cinematographer Peter Santoro who goes into some depth about the sub-standard cameras and lenses used during the shoot, the various film stocks used and pulling double-duty as the sound man  on set, which does explain some of the audio problems on the disc. Santoro again returns for the brief Restoring Gone with the Pope (3 Mins) discussing the art of film restoration including scanning the original negative, color correction and various amounts of digital manipulation to remove vertical scratches and tastefully managing film grain.  



The disc offers seven Deleted Scenes (17 Mins) which don't offer too much of interest, an extended take and a few additional scenes that don't seem to feed the loose narrative. Out-takes (13 Mins) features video clips and audio of Mitchell sounding agitated at blown line deliveries and obtrusive noise fro passing planes.

Once again Peter Santoro returns for an introduction to Insert Shots (6 Mins) in which he sort of red-faced explains that Duke wanted to film hardcore sex scenes to sell to production companies to help fund his movies. Apparently it didn't go so well but the footage starring Duke and a young woman has survived and is on display here. 

I very much enjoyed the comedy-musical stylings of Frankie Carr and the Nov-elites who are showcased during the film, here we have the raw footage of that performance in Las Vegas (8 Mins). I wish I knew more about this band, I was captivated by the towering ginger-haired guitar player, she was a cutey. 


Then straight into footage of the 2010 Hollywood World Premiere at the Egyptian Theatre (21 Minutes) featuring a discussion panel  with Murawski, Murgia, Lo Bianco, Santoro and Florio. You can glimpse Blue Underground's own Bill Lustig in attendance as well as actor Clu Gulager (The Initiation).

The bonus content on the disc is finished-up with the Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins), Production Material Gallery(26 Images), a Theatrical Release Gallery, (25 Images), a very  lengthy Grindhouse Releasing trailer reel, plus a Duke Mitchell Filmography featuring trailers for Massacre Mafia style and Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. Aside from the DVD-Rom content which includes the story treatment, script pages and various written materials there are several Easter Eggs buried away on the disc including additional interview material with actor Jim Lo Bianco, a silent rough-cut version of the three-way scene and video of actor John Murgia watching the completed film for the first time and looking quite bemused. 

The whole package arrives in a Criterion style clear case housing both the Blu-ray and DVD, plus a collectible fold-out poster of the artwork featuring writing on the film from John Skipp. 
Special Features:
- Spectacular 2K digital restoration from the original 35mm camera negative
- Gone with the Pope - The Players (67 Mins) 

- Shooting Gone with the Pope (23 Mins) 
- Restoring Gone with the Pope (3 Mins) 
- 7 Deleted Scenes (17 Mins) 
- Out-takes (13 Mins) 
- Insert Shots (6 Mins) 
- Frankie Carr and the Nov-elites Live in Las Vegas (8 Mins) 
- Hollywood World Premiere (21 Mins) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) 
- Still Galleries: Production Material (26 Images), Theatrical Release (25 Mins) 
- Duke Mitchell Filmography 
- Grindhouse Releasing Trailer Reel 
- DVD-Rom Extras: Story Treatment, script Pages and Written Materials 
- DVD Easter Egg: Mugia watches the Film for the First Time (6 Mins)
- DVD Easter Egg: Roll 23  (2 Mins) 
- Blu-ray Easter Egg: Additional Jim Lo Bianco Interview (2 Mins) 

The journey of the long forgotten Gone with the Pope (1976) from dusty cans of film in Duke's garage to the silver screen and now onto a dual format DVD/BD from Grindhouse Releasing is a proper testament to the late Sage Stallone and Bob Murawski's dedication to the preservation of cult-cinema, not to mention the further story of how lounge-crooner Duke Mitchell somehow became a legend of underground filmmaking. It's a very strange and wonderful story that might make for n interesting film itself along the lines of Ed Wood (1994) or Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) .  

CLASS OF 1984 (1982)

CLASS OF 1984 (1982) 

Label: Scream Factory 
Release Date: April 14th 2015 
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 98 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Mark Lester
Cast: Merrie Lynn Ross, Roddy McDowall, Michael J. Fox, Lisa Langlois, Perry King, Timothy Van Patten, Stefan Arngrim, Erin Noble, Neil Clifford, Keith Knight 

The '80s cult-classic Classic of 1984 (1982) scared me beyond belief in the early 80's, the nihilistic vision of urban decay and violence in the classroom were the stuff of nightmares for me. I was only in middle school at the time this is exactly what I imagined would be waiting for in high school, though it turned out that this could not have been further removed from my own experience, but that little fact didn't prevent me from stressing out about it. This was a very affecting film for me and I probably caught it at just the right time for it to have the most most complete affect on me. 

In the film Andrew Norris (Perry King, Big Love) is the new music teacher at inner-city high school Lincoln High. The school overrun with unruly youth, drugs and violence. Peter Stegman (Timothy Van Patten, Catacombs) is the charismatic leader of a group of punkers comprised of Drugstore (Stefan Arngrim, Fear No Evil), Barnyard (Keith Knight, Meat Balls), Fallon (Neil Clifford) and the lone female of the group Patsy (Lisa Langlois, Deadly Eyes), the latter of whom is a true vision of punk girl naughtiness, a very bad girl with shocks of pink hair and an awesome '80s punk aesthetic. 


Walking into this urban jungle of a school nice guy teacher Norris is taken aback by the unruly and violent students who show not one ounce of respect for the teaching staff. On his first day he befriends science teacher Terry Corrigan played my genre veteran Roddy McDowall (Fright Night), after years of abuse Terry has given up any hope of  getting through to the students but the idealistic Norris refuses to give up, does his level best to develop meaningful teacher-student relationships. Peter and his crew prove to be quite a menace for both the teacher and for his star pupils, particularly band students Arthur (a very early Michael J. Fox) and Deneen (Erin Noble). Arthur's best friend scores drugs from the gang which leads to him falling to his death from atop a flagpole, an event which sets in motion an escalating series of altercations ending with a murderous finale during an orchestra performance at school. 

Perry King turns is a solid performance as the good natured teacher who is pushed to the edge by the violent punkers who brutally rape his wife before kidnapping her. After which Norris flips the switch and becomes a serious revenge seeking badass, setting punks on fire and sawing  off limbs in the woodshop, brutal stuff and way darker than I had remembered it to be. There is one scene that always make me laugh a little, when punker Patsy taunts Norris in the hallway and squeezes her titty in a mocking gesture, a quirky scene that has just stuck with me through the years. 


Norris is not the only teacher pushed to the breaking point by the gang, Roddy McDowell goes off the deep end when the punks break into his lab and kill his rabbits, after which he cracks and holds his classroom at gunpoint before attempting to run the thugs down with his car, which doesn't end so well for him, the vile punkers gather round the ensuing inferno and celebrate his death. 

Directed and co-written by Mark L. Lester (Commando), Class of 1984 has original story and screenplay co-written by Fright Night (1985) writer/director Tom Holland and benefits from a strong cast of characters inhabited by some very good young actors. Notably Timothy Van Patten is fantastic as the charismatic head of the gang, he's definitely one of the great assholes of '80s high school cinema. 


The movie features a decent rock tinged score from composer Lalo Schifrin (THX-1138) and the song "I Am the Future", a fairly awful synth tune performed by classic rocker Alice Cooper from his nuwave Zipper Catches Skin album. There is some redemption as we do get a live performance clip from he Canadian punk rock group Teenage Head during which we are treated to scenes of teenage punks slam dancing and a snarling punk chic baring her titties for the band.

Audio/Video: The nihilistic Class of 1984 debut on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer framed in widescreen (1.78:1) with a pleasing amount of natural film grain allowing for some damn decent fine detail and some clarity, quite a nice upgrade from the Anchor Bay DVD, it definitely benefits from the new HD transfer afforded it. Color saturation is strong an natural looking, the school looks plenty run down and gritty as it should. The black levels are deep and inky and skin tones look authentic without any ruddiness. 



The disc comes with the option to watch with English DTS-HD MA 2.0 and DTS-HD MA 5.1 with optional English subtitles. Not surprisingly the surround mix is pretty front-centric with discreet effects and the Lalo Schifrin score providing some additional ambiance through the surround. 

Onto the extras we begin with the Blood And Blackboards Featurette ported over from the Anchor Bay DVD as is the audio commentary with director Mark Lester and Anchor Bay DVD Producer Perry Martin. Scream have stuffed this one with over an hour of new interviews with Director Mark Lester, Composer Lalo Schifrin, Actors Lisa Langlois And Erin Noble and an expansive forty-seven minute career retrospective with star Perry King who speaks about lessons learned from his father and the various directors and actors he's had the privilege to work with through the years, plus condemning a TV Guide reporter who once wrote an article that portrayed him as being ashamed of playing a gay character in a film before going on to discuss his turn in the TV series Riptide. 


The still very cute Lisa Langois speaks of wanting to be cast against type as the fatalistic punk rock chic and of being nearly beat down by the extras at the punk show. Unfortunately the Erin Noble interview is marred by some inferior audio making it sound boxy and clippy. Leading man Perry King covers most if not all of his films including is turn on the '80s TV series Riptide of which I was a huge fan as a kid.  

The disc extras are capped off the original trailer, a few TV spots and a still gallery featuring promotional still, poster art and VHS covers. As with all the Scream Factory Collector Edition Blu-rays this one comes with a slipcase with new artwork by graphic designer Justin Osbourne, which is also features on the sleeve of reversible artwork.


Special Features

- NEW High-Definition Transfer Of The Film From The Interpositive
- NEW The Girl Next Door - Interviews with Actors Lisa Langlois And Erin Noble (16 Mins) 
- NEW History Repeats Itself - Interviews with Director Mark Lester and Composer Lalo Schifrin (21 Mins)
- NEW Do What You Love Career Retrospective Interview With Perry King (47 Mins)
- Audio Commentary With Mark Lester and Perry Martin
- Blood And Blackboards Featurette – Featuring Interviews With Director Mark Lester, - Actors Perry King And Merrie Lynn Ross (36 Mins)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- TV Spots(1 Mins)
- Still Gallery (56 Images) 


Class of 1984 (1982) manages to hold-up surprisingly well after thirty plus years, and it  actually turned out to be a somewhat prophetic vision of classroom violence and urban decay that is not too far removed from the sad reality nowadays. A classic slice of '80s violent classroom cinema and the Scream Factory Blu-ray gets a gold star for offering up brand-new hi-def transfer with a wealth of satisfying new extras, a high recommend for both fans and newcomers. 


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

THE SINS OF DRACULA (2014)

THE SINS OF DRACULA  (2014) 

Label: MVD VIsual 
Region Code: 0 NTSC 
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 81 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 
Director: Richard Griffin
Cast: Michael Thurber, Jamie Dufault, Sarah Nicklin, Samantha Acampora, Steven O'Broin, Carmine Capobianco, Elyssa Baldassarri, Johnny Sederquist, Derek Laurendea

There are precious few micro-budget film makers out there right now churning out cheapie movies as consistently entertaining as Mr. Richard Griffin, the man has dipped his venerable big toe into softcore exorcism with Disco Exorcist (2011), nunsploitation with Nun of That (2009), vintage sci-fi with Atomic Brain Invasion (2010), Lovecraftian horror Beyond the Dunwich Horror (2008), and campus slashers with Murder University (2012). His body of work is infused with a sharp wit and a charming type of campiness that are immensely watchable, now he returns to vampyrism with The Sins of Dracula (2014), a subject he explored with Pretty Dead Things (2006).

Billy (Jamie Dufault) is a faithful Catholic joins a local theatre group after being cajoled by his girlfriend Samantha (Sarah Nicklin). Billy is a wide-eyed and naive Catholic boy, a good guy but just a a little narrow-minded after a lifetime of dogma and nightly prayer group meetings. The theatre director is Lou Perdition (Steven O'Broin) rus the theater troupe along with his busty partner Kimberly (Elyssa Baldassarri), and the group is made up of a  half dozen weirdos, we have druggie Bandilli (Derek Laurendeau), gamer queen Traci (Samantha Acampora), scenester NuWave (Jesse Dufault) and theater fag Lance (Aaron Peaslee), and given the sexual orientation of Lance we see how uncomfortable Billy is based on his religious beliefs, but he adjusts after a bit of an awkward introduction. Missing from the group is Scott (Johnny Sederquist) who has disappeared under mysterious circumstances a few days earlier. We soon discover that Lou is actually the leader of a Satanic cult bent on resurrecting Count Dracula (Michael Thurber) from beyond the grave, and the small theatre troupe he has amassed are merely food for the undead bloodsucker. There you have it, that's the whole movie in a nutshell, a very simple set-up and a fun cast of characters.

The cast is uniformly good throughout, with the standout going to gamer Samantha Acampora and Jamie Dufault as the naive Catholic, his wide-eyed performance is fantastic and drives the film home. His struggle to reconcile his religious upbringing against this cast of new found friends and his newly throbbing libido make for fun viewing, there's plenty of witty condemnation of the Church but it's playful and not at all malicious. 

In the role of Lou we have Steven O'Broin who has a fun stage affected flair of drama about him, I can absolutely see him as the director of a small town theatre group, every one of his line readings if fun stuff. In the role of the mostly silent bloodsucker we have Michael Thurber recalling a slightly camper (and balder) version of Christopher Lee in Dracula Prince of Darkness (1966).

There's a sweet love story between Billy and Samantha in here among the scenes of vampires being anally staked and beheaded, played for campy laughs the films is quite a bit of fun, not one of my favorite films from Richard Griffin and the Scorpion Film releasing crew but certainly an entertaining romp with homages to the old Hammer vampire movie, '80s classic Fright Night (1985) and Salem's Lot (1979) among others with Griffin's own campy twist.  

The disc from MVD Visual looks good, a solid anamorphic picture that looks micro-budget but definitely on the higher end of the spectrum with some keen cinematography with good use of colored lighting techniques adding loads of atmosphere to the proceedings. The English Dolby Digital 2.0  is crisp and clean, dialogue, score and effects are balanced and the retro '80s synth score from Timothy Fife is awesome. 

Extras on the disc include two audio commentaries plus the bonus short films 'They Stole the Pope's Blood!' and 'Los Pantalones Contra Dracula', both are cool slices of retro grindhouse entertainment. 

Special Features
- Commentary Track with Director Richard Griffin and Writer Michael Varrati
- Commentary Track with Stars Sarah Nicklin and Jamie Dufault
- Bonus Short Film 'They Stole the Pope's Blood!' (4 Mins) 
- Exclusive Easter Egg Short Film 'Los Pantalones Contra Dracula' (2 Mins) 

MUCK (2015)

MUCK (2015) 
Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment 
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 98 Minutes
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Steve Wolsh
Cast: Kane Hodder, Jaclyn Swedberg, Lauren Francesca, Bryce Draper, Lachlan Buchanan 


A group of five friends emerge from the marshes of Cape Cod of a dark night, bruised and battered, the three women are nearly naked and they have just survived a harrowing night of... no idea, because this is the middle installment of a trilogy of films, of which the prequel and sequel have yet to be made. So we are thrown right into the middle of something and left to figure out just what as the movie trudges along with a steady stream of boobies, choppy editing and old school practical effects. 


The group take refuge is a very nice vacation home on the edge of the swamp, we are unsure what they have been fleeing from but it must not have been that frightening for the first thing they do is start looking for some alcohol to consume while  the trashier of the tree young ladies heads up stairs for a shower cause she just can't wait to whip out those titties.

There are two men in the group, one has had his leg punctured and is immobile, so the more able of them decides to hoof into town to call for help. He arrives at a bar and doesn't seem to be in too much of a hurry to find help, he takes a moment to wash up in the bathroom before buying a young woman a drink and then calling the cops...err nope. Doofus calls his cousin who is at another bar with his best friend and a piece of ass seems to have picked-up. With nothing better to do the three pile into a car and make for the area of West Craven to rescue the group of alarmingly dim-witted twenty-somethings. So many indie horror films have name-dropping homages to horror directors, naming characters and towns after the masters of horror that influences them but dropping West Craven in there might be one of the worst of the bunch, with a character going so far as to say that West Craven use to be an interesting areas but not so much these days, sweet Jesus

Muck has been advertised as a throwback horror film, much like Hatchet (2006) was, with old school practical effects and stunt work, without the use of any digital effects which I applaud. Some of the kills and action are pretty good but the limited story, amateur acting and the gimmickry of it being a middle film far and away overpowers any of the more enjoyable merits of the movie.

The antagonists in the film seem to be a cult of some sort, bald-headed muscular men covered head to toe is some pasty white tribal paint or mud with scars and some sort of rune being visible, they stalk the kids without any sort of known motive and there might be a creature involved though it s never revealed, surely in the prequel and sequel there will be more revealed. Notably Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood) appears as one of the cult members, or creepers as they are referred to in the film. 

Now when I was twelve this would have been a blast, a steady parade of scantily clad cuties showing off their wares for ninety-minutes was about two-thirds of the reason I watched all those '80s horror movies to begin with, and if that's what you are looking for you probably won't be disappointed. The other highly marketed ploy with this film is the casting of Playboy Playmate of the Year 2012 Jaclyn Swedberg, who is certainly attractive and not even the worst actor of the bunch, but that's sort of like choosing which turd in a yard full of dog shit smells the worst. Okay, that's a overly harsh, the acting here is not awful by any means when compared to other indie films and some of the corny lines are delivered with some verve, particularly from the wisecracking Lachlan Buchanan (Pretty Little Liars) as Troit and Puja Mohindra as Chandi who work well against each other. 

The film was shot on the 4K Red Epic camera and it looks quite nice, plenty of nicely lit and detailed cinematography with some interesting framing, didn't care much for the color grading or the crack-addict editing style which was all over the place with way to many slow-motion sequences. It was hard to follow the action with the chopping quick cut editing

While it may be advertised as a throwback of sorts to a bloodier era Muck is far too dependant on filling the screen with nude and nearly nude women which I am sure might sell a few films but won't give this one much of a life. The prequel Muck: Feast of Saint Patrick.(2016) has already been funded through Kickstarter and will also feature Playboy Playmates of the Year 2013, Raquel Pomplun, and 2014, Kennedy Summers. Not sure director Steve Wolsh could do anything to bring me back to the series after this dreadful entry, from the sounds of it it just seems like more of the same with twice the amount of Playboy cuties. At best I would hope for some sort of Lovecraftian creature to emerge but then again, I don't really care at this point. 


NIGHT GAME (1989)

 
NIGHT GAME (1989)
Label: Olive Films
Region: A
Rating: R
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo 
Video: HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Peter Masterson
Cast: Roy Scheider, Richard Bradford, Lane Smith,Karen Young, Lane Smith, Paul Gleason

Night Game (1989) is a crime-drama with some very minor slasher tendencies and a killer with a novel baseball-themed motivation. We have Roy Scheider (Jaws) playing Detective Mike Seaver, a former minor league baseball player turned copper who is investigating the murders of several young women in and around the Galveston area of Texas. The killer is slashing the throats of young women with some sort of hook implement and leaving condescending notes on their corpses. Spoiler alert, if you have seen the artwork on the Blu-ray just what that hook-type weapon might be will not be a surprise. 

Det. Seaver is an avid fan of the Houston Astros and soon pieces together that the murders are only happening during the Astros night games at the Astrodome and only when they win the game. There are bot too many sports themes slashers out there, in fact the only two that I can think of are Graduation Day (1981) and Night of the Dribbler (1990), and maybe with good reason after watching this one.

Aside from The French Connection (1971) and Jaws (1975) I must say I have never been a fan of Roy Sheider's work for the most part, the guy to me does not have a leading man presence and never was that truer than with Night Game. He seems to be just sleepwalking his way through this one, everyone does. Karen Young (Jaws: The Revenge) plays his much younger fiance Roxy, a short-haired cutie who is kind enough to flash some titty for the film but I must confess that the scenes of intimacy with these two made my skin crawl. The May-December romance is sort of creepy, particularly when you factor in that Seaver dated Roxy's mother in high school...gross, are there any women out there who would marry their mother's high school boyfriend? 

Another issue is the slow pacing of the film and connecting scenes of Seaver sleuthing the murders which go nowhere fast with convoluted detours into his own father's connection with organized crime, some seriously snooze-worthy stuff. Even though the film flirts with the most basic of slasher-esque tendencies the actual stalking scenes have zero atmosphere and and the kills scenes are uninspired and flat. There's a death on the beach, another in a construction area and one that happens in a carnival funhouse of mirrors which had potential but there over so quickly and without any fight from the victims, this is just a lazy film all the way around. 

On the plus side we have some fun side characters throughout the film, the Police Chief played by an aspirin-popping Richard Bradford (The Untouchables) and an appearance from Paul Gleason (Breakfast Club) as the county cop with a distaste for the base ballplayer turned cop, and the always enjoyable Lane Smith (Dark Night of the Scarecrow), unfortunately for the film spotting these cameos are about as exciting it get which does not make for a very interesting viewing experience. 

The Blu-ray from Olive Films looks quite nice, presented with AVC encoded hi-def transfer in the proper widescreen aspect ratio. Grain is nicely managed and does not appear to have been subjected to any heinous digital manipulation, there's a fair amount of fine detail and clarity to the image but this will not be a stunner of an HD presentation by any means. Minor print damage that does crop of throughout but the source material looks to have been in decent shape, colors are strong but the image does feel a little soft at times, skin tones are natural looking and the black levels are good throughout. 

The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track and it is solid and offers a nice balance of crisp dialogue, effects and the Pino Donaggio score, which is decent but not one of his more memorable efforts. There are no extras on the disc, not even a trailer. 

Night Game (1989) was not my cup of tea, a weak-pulsed late '80s cop-drama with no atmosphere and only a few sub par death scenes. You'd have to be a pretty hardcore Roy Scheider fan to need this one on Blu-ray but here you go, on DVD and Blu-ray for the very first time from the folks at Olive Films.