Tuesday, February 21, 2017

FRANCO FEBRUARY! COUNT DRACULA (1970) (Blu-ray Review)

COUNT DRACULA (1970)

Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English DTS- HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Full Screen (1.33:1)
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski, Herbert Lom, Soledad Miranda, Maria Rohm, Paul Muller, Fred Williams


The late horror legend Christopher Lee (Dracula: Prince of Darkness) had taken a years long break from portraying the bloodthirsty vampire he made famous with Hammer Films, but when he was approached by Spanish director Jess Franco to make a vampire movie that more closely followed the original Bram Stoker novel, he came back to the role. Franco, along with infamous producer Harry Alan Towers, assembled quite a cast and brought us a memorable adaptation indeed, though largely devoid of Franco's signature eroticism and surreal visuals. We find Jonathan Harker (Fred Williams, She Killed In Ecstasy) travelling to the castle of Count Dracula in Transylvania to oversee the purchase of a new property in London for the Count. Along the way he is warned by his stage coach driver of the strange goings on at the castle, but he attributes the warning to the usual local superstitions. Once he meets Count Dracula he finds his aged host to be a welcoming sort, that is until after dinner when he finds himself imprisoned within his room, soon to discover that the Count is a bloodsucking vampire with a trio of vampire brides who also want to feast on his blood.

Harker manages to escape through a window and returns to London, recovering from his ordeal at a sanitarium run by Dr. Seward (Franco regular Paul Muller, Vampyros Lesbos), where he also encounters Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Herbert Lom, Mark of the Devil). Harker's lovely fiancee Mina (Maria Rohm, 99 women) visits him at the sanitarium, along with and her sublime friend Lucy (Soledad Miranda, She Killed in Ecstasy), unfortunately both women become entranced by Count Dracula who has since moved to London and into his newly acquired property. Madman Klaus Kinski (Aguirre, the Wrath of God) appears as Renfield, a disturbed patient at the sanitarium, he plays it appropriately unhinged, eating bugs and generally being weird, giving Dwight Fry a run for his money. Kinski makes a damn fine Renfield but I feel he gets a bit short-shrifted and is not onscreen nearly enough for my own tastes, I wanted more of the Kinski!

Harker's wild stories about his trip to Transylvania go largely unheeded by Dr. Seward, a man of science who attributes the weird tales to a disturbed mind. However, his peer Van Helsing is well aware of the legend of Dracula and soon joins forces with Harker and Lucy's boyfriend Quincey (Jack Taylor, Pieces) to face-off against the threat of Dracula, the trio form a vampire hunting alliance against the centuries old bloodsucker. Lee is fantastic as the titular blood-drinker, to the surprise of no one I would expect. A moustached version of the legendary Count appropriately fanged with bloodshot eyes, the aging make-up looks great, the blood drinker becoming more vital and younger as he drains each victim of the red stuff, Lee is a class act through and through.

Herbert Lom as the legendary vampire hunter is wonderful, the man brings a certain amount of gravitas to the every role, even a few of the trashier ones. Fred Williams is quite good in the role of Harker but he does fade a bit into the background when standing in the shadow of Lee and Lom, not to mention a roomful of Franco regulars like Jack Taylor and Paul Muller. Add to that the beauty of Maria Rohm and Soledad Miranda and the poor guy was bound to get lost a bit, which he does, to no fault of his own. Kinski as the wild-eyed Renfield is wonderful as I have said, a fantastic performance from the madman as a bug-eating madman, but I wanted more of him and I found it a bit odd that his own connection to Dracula is a bit obscured in this version of the story.


Shot largely in Spain the exterior shots and scenic wooded locations looks fantastic, Franco makes great use of the Castle location. His work with producer Harry Alan Towels produced some of his best work with his biggest budgets, and this one has a great aesthetic, you can see the production value up on the screen. The story itself does tend to have a certain amount of paciness about it, dragging in certain parts, which is not unusual for a Franco movie by any means, but certainly not enough to derail the production, there's a lot to love about this movie.

As much as I enjoy it there are some things that don't quite work in it's favor, notably a trashy rubber bat on a string that lingers for far too long, it is laughable. Franco-philes who know his body of work will not be surprised by the copious amount of zoom-lensing present in the movie, a choice that doesn't work for the period piece, but the lensing for the most pasrt looks great with nicely framed composition. Perhaps the biggest cinema-beef I have with the film is that we never get any scenes of Lee with either Lom or Kinski together in one shot, their scenes were filmed separately and assembled, what a missed opportunity!


Audio/Video: Severin Films have a reverence for Franco's movies and have gone above and beyond yet again. Count Dracula arrives on Blu-ray framed at the original and correct 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio. The print used for the new HD transfer would seem to be French as evidenced by the French title card. There's a modest amount of improved depth and clarity over the previous standard definition release from Dark Sky Films, but only slightly to be honest. They have restored a missing scene of a mother pleading at the castle gates for the return of her doomed baby, it's sourced from a 16mm print and the drop in quality is noticeable but it is nice to have it back in place. The English language LPCM 2.0 Mono sounds fine, the dialogue is crisp and the Bruno Nicolai (The Case of the Bloody Iris) comes through clean and strong, there are no subtitle options on this release.

Onto the extras Severin have been kind enough to carry over all of the extras from the Dark Sky Films release beginning with the twenty-six minute interview with Director Jess Franco, with a cigarette in hand discussing the film in heavily accented English. Also carried over is the eighty-four minute recording of Christopher Lee reading sections of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula over a music score, the hypnotic reading of the source material is fantastic and quite a treat for Lee and Stoker fans.


Onto the brand-new extras from Severin Films we have a commentary track featuring actress Maria Rohm and moderator David Del Valle. Rohm was married to producer Harry Alan Towers and has unique insight into the making of the movie, sharing some great stories about her experiences on set and behind the scenes making the movie. For his part film historian David Dev Valle does a great job, informative and animated, he keeps the commentary focused and insightful. I just heard his commentary from another 1970 bloodsucker film, Count Yorga, Vampire, he knows his stuff and it makes for a great commentary.

A nice added extra is the inclusion of the Pere Portabella experimental making of doc Cuadecuc, Vampir, shot in black and white and without sync sound, which makes for a somewhat arty behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie with shots of the effects being composed with many of the main cast, with the exception of Klaus Kinski.

There's also a new ten-minute interview with Eurocult legend Jack Taylor (The Ninth Gate), plus a twenty-six minute interview with actor Fred Williams, both discuss their careers with Franco, commenting on Maria Rohm, Harry Alan Towers, Soledad Miranda, and Christopher Lee. Finishing up the extras there's an eight-minute appreciation of the movie by Filmmaker Christophe Gans (The Brotherhood of the Wolf), discussing the movie and offering theories on how Franco and Towers convinced Kinski appear in the movie, there's also a German trailer for the movie plus the German, French, Italian and Spanish Alternate Title Sequences, all in all a well-fanged special edition of the movie.

Special Features:

- Uncut Feature in HD (Includes Controversial Previously Deleted Baby Scene) at Franco’s Approved Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
- Cuadecuc, Vampir (1970): Experimental ‘Making Of’ Feature By Pere Portabella (75 min)
- Audio Commentary with horror historian David Del Valle and Actress Maria Rohm
- Beloved Count Interview with Director Jess Franco (26 
min)
- An Interview With Actor Jack Taylor (10 
min)
- ‘Handsome Harker’ Interview With Actor Fred Williams (26 Mins) HD
- ’Stake Holders’ An Appreciation By Filmmaker Christophe Gans (8 
min) HD
- Christopher Lee Reads Bram Stoker's Dracula (84 
min)
- German, French, Italian and Spanish Alternate Title Sequence (8 
min)
- German Trailer (3 
min)

Jess Franco's Count Dracula (1970) is not a perfect movie, very few of his movies were to be honest, but it does have an atmospheric charm and an outstanding cast, starring none other than the legendary Christopher Lee as the titular blood-drinker, and strong supporting roles from Herbert Lom and Klaus Kinski, plus the sultry curves of lovely ladies Maria Rohm and Soledad Miranda. On top of that we have Franco regulars Paul Muller and Jack Taylor, if you've seen any of Franco's movies from the 70's you will know their faces, if not their names. The movie is dripping with atmosphere, and while it's true that it does get a bit pacey at times and a few of the special effects are awful, for Franco fans and lovers of Eurocult this is a fine time all the way around. 3.5/5 

Friday, February 17, 2017

FRANCO FEBRUARY! VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970) (Blu-ray Review)

VAMPYROS LESBOS (1970)
Special Limited 2-Disc Collector's Edition BD/DVD

Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 89 Minutes
Audio: German PCM 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Soledad Miranda, Paul Muller, Jess Franco, Dennis Price, Ewa Stromberg


Countess Nadine Carody (Soledad Miranda, Count Dracula) is a vampire who performs nightly as a local nightclub where she catches the eye of a cute young American tourist named Linda (Ewa Strömberg, She Killed In Ecstasy), who becomes obsessed with the blood-sucking stripper, plagued by erotic dreams of her nightly. No longer able to resist the attraction Linda seeks out Countess Nadine on her island home, despite warnings from a hotelier named Memmet (played by director Jess Franco), a crazed weirdo whom Linda discovers has a penchant for torturing and murdering young women in his home, which turns out to be connected in a way to the Countess. 

Linda seeks out the Countess on her island home where she is told that the home on the island once belonged to none other than the notorious blood-sucker of legend Count Dracula and that the Countess is a direct descendant. Afterward the two enjoy a few glasses of wine, and as so often happens in the Franco films, the gorgeous women get naked and start fooling around with each other, with the Countess drinking blood from Linda's jugular. When the partially drained Linda awakens the next day she finds the Countess drowned in the swimming pool. Linda winds up at an asylum seeking treatment from Dr. Seward (Dennis Price, Nightmare Castle), apparently remembering nothing of the encounter with the Countess. The doc becomes suspicious when another patient turns up with visions of the Countess Nadine, but the film plays a bit with the reliability of Linda's encounter, leaving open the option that the supernatural enchantress may have been a figment of her damaged psyche. 


At this point the film sort of goes off the rails and becomes a blur of Eurocult convolution, we have the Countess's servant Morpho (José Martínez Blanco), Linda's boyfriend Omar (Andrés Monales) and the creepy Memmet (dir. Franco) entering the picture for a confusing finale that pits Doc Seward (Price) against the sensual vampire, not to stake her through the heart as you might expect, but to become one of the undead, or some such foolery. Cohesion is not the strongest point of this, or many, Franco entries, the story is a bit of a mess and only loosely held together with lurid imagery and some surreal atmosphere, which for a Franco film is par for the course, and this is one of the better ones. 

Thankfully we have Franco again teaming-up with cinematographer Manuel Merino (99 Women) who fills the frame with sultry and surreal imagery, plus the magnetic beauty of Soledad Miranda, truly a vampyric vision of blood-draining sexiness, she with the supernaturally soulful wide-eyes and just the right amount of 70s curviness, her cult-status in not difficult to comprehend, she was a stunner. So, we have some eye-candy and surreal imagery, but the frosting on top of this erotic slice of weirdness is the groovy lounge score from Manfred Hübler (She Killed in Ecstasyand Sigi Schwab. While it might not be a great slice of 70s cinema it's a fun Franco film with enough softcore delights so as not to disappoint the pervs, such as myself. Honestly I could see this being a hard watch for those not already steeped in Eurocult and the other works of Jess Franco, it's a bit slow and strangely paced in places, but for the Franco-philes this is prime stuff. 


Audio/Video: The film arrives on Blu-ray from Severin Films looking very nice, it is not as sharp as Severin's Blu-ray of She Killed In Ecstasy, but it looks pretty damn good. Overall there is a bit softness to the film but it is not not awful by any stretch of the imagination, just not on par with the aforementioned She Killed In Ecstasy. Sourced from a quality source the image is fairly free of defect and debris, there's some texture to the close-up and skin tones look natural and appealing. 

Audio chores are handled by a German LPCM 2.0 Mono with optional English subtitles, again the highlight is the psychedelic lounge score from Manfred Hübler and Sigi Schwab, a cool pastiche of loungey grooviness and fuzzed-out electric guitars. If you dig the score be sure to pick up the Blu-ray of She Killed In Ecstasy which includes a bonus CD with the score from this and that film, plus another, worth the price of purchase alone!

Extras are plentiful beginning with an interview with the now deceased auteur Jess Franco, sprawled out on the couch chain smoking while discussing the making of the film and his collaboration with producer Karl-Heinz Mannchen and his love for Soledad Miranda, and her tragic passing. They've also included the Interview with Soledad Miranda Historian Amy Brown also found on the She Killed in Ecstasy Blu-ray. The typically entertaining author Stephen Thrower offers an appreciation of the film and this particular era of Franco film making and his team-up with Miranda.Other extras include a German Trailer for the movie, Alternate German Opening Title Sequence – ‘Dracula’s Heiress’ and a short outtake from the Jess Franco interview. 

There's also a bonus disc which includes a Spanish version of the film that had had all of the nudity removed per censorship of the era, it also features an alternate and inferior soundtrack, but it makes for a fun curio, even if it is ported from an ugly  VHS source, sorry VHS collectors. The 2-disc set comes in a Criterion-style clear Blu-ray case housed in a dye-cut slipcase with new artwork by Wes Benscoter, it an attractive package. 

Special Features: 
- Newly remastered HD presentation of the feature in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio
- Vampyros Jesus: Interview featurette with Director Jess Franco (21 min) 
- Sublime Soledad: Interview with Soledad Miranda Historian Amy Brown (11 min) 
- Stephen Thrower on Vampyros Lesbos: Interview with Author of ‘Murderous Passions –  The Delirious Cinema Of Jess Franco’ (20 min) 
- Jess Is Yoda Clip (3 min) 
- Alternate German Opening Title Sequence – ‘Dracula’s Heiress’ (1 Min) 
- German Trailer (3 min) HD 
- Bonus DVD: Las Vampiras – Alternate Spanish Language VHS Version With Optional English Subtitles (75 min) 


Vampyros Lesbos (1970) might have failed to usurp the top spot on my Franco favorites, a spot held by She Killed In Ecstasy, but this is right up there with a few of my other favorites, along with How To seduce a Virgin. A fun slice of Eurocult with a nice blend of softcore vampire fun and the usual Franco-weirdness. Star Soledad Miranda is pretty stunning in HD, and while the role does little more than showcase her beauty and splash a little shocking-red blood around atop a somewhat confusing plot line, it's a Franco film, and you know damn well you didn't come for the script-writing anyway! Severin have put together a wonderful edition of the film, I would highly recommend a purchase of the of both She Killed In Ecstasy and Vampyros Lesbos mandatory buys for the Euro-cultists. 3.5/5 

FRANCO FEBRUARY! HOW TO SEDUCE A VIRGIN (1973) (DVD Review)

HOW TO SEDUCE A VIRGIN (1973)

Label: Mondo Macabro
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 87 Minutes 
Audio: French Dolby Digital Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Full Frame (1.33:1) Original Aspect Ratio
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Robert Woods, Alice Arno, Lina Romay, Tania Busselier, Howard Vernon, Alfred Baillou 


When Jess Franco passed away not that long ago the Spanish purveyor of sleazy erotic cinema left behind a massive legacy with over 200 films to his name. Sure, not all of these were celluloid gold but Franco was a prolific auteur and 1973 was a particularly fine year for the director with over 12 films in production, many of which are considered some of the his finest works, and How to Seduce a Virgin (1973) is a pretty great watch. Filmed back to back with Countess Perverse (1973) it features the same principle cast, namely Alice Arno (Female Vampire) who stars as Countess Martine de Bressac who's just been released from an asylum where she spent a year after castrating of a former lover, ouch.

On returning to her gorgeous seaside villa the first order of business is a visit to the basement where she curates a museum of macabre cruelty, a place where women in various states of submission and torture have been frozen in time, it's a pretty bizarre collection. Next on the agenda is to procure a whore to add to her collection, she lures the prostitute into the macabre museum under the pretense of nude modelling but it ends with the Countess whipping the slut into submission. Martine is enjoying every salvo of pain she inflicts on the woman, completely turned on by the experience she quickly moves to the bedroom with her husband, Charles (Robert Woods, The Sinister Eyes of Dr. Orloff). Afterwards Charles brings to her attention a sweet young woman named Cecile (Tannia Busselier, Countess Perverse), the daughter of a wealthy neighbor, someone perfect for his wife's weird art collection. 

The Bressac's peep on Cecile through binoculars while the young vixen masturbate intensely through a bedroom window. It's like a dirty softcore version of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954), can you imagine Jimmy Stewart jerkin' it while watching his naughty neighbors, now there's a mental image! Cecile puts on quite a show as the two peepers feverishly masturbate each other, they find her irresistible  and quickly hatch a plot to seduce, corrupt and murder the seemingly naive young woman. It's a very strange scene as the Bressacs grope and grind on each other while their super-cute, mute, sex-slave Adele (Lina Romay, The Hot Nights of Linda) latches onto their leg like a horny cat all the while caterwauling with obscene pleasure.

Jess Franco is definitely in his zone right here, we have sadism, voyeurism, cruelty, gorgeous scenery, awesome 70's fashions and lurid eroticism on screen in spades, it's a non-stop frenzy of sleaze, everything you would expect from Franco is right here, and best of all it's one of his better composed entries, a very attractive film with noteworthy lensing from cinematographer Gérard Brisseau (The Hot Nights of Linda). 


We have a small cast of Franco regulars, Woods and Arno are great as the corrupted couple out to seduce the younger Cecile who's turns out is not so virginal nor naive, she's quite a seductress herself. Aside from pressing the flesh with the Bressacs she even goes after the mute sex-kitten Adele, how could she not, Romay is irresistible and oozes sex in every film, mmm. The cast is rounded out by Alfred Baillou (Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay) as a creepy gardener and a chauffeur played by Howard Vernon (Delicatessen), all of whom are complicit in one way or the other to the Countess's depraved fantasies. 

So, we get a great cast, some attractive scenery and the sleaze is abundant with some extended masturbation sequences, sweet moments of lesbianism and an orgy of depravity that leads into a fun twist ending, plus we the added bonus of what's most likely the most erotic molestation of a mannequin ever put on celluloid, and for that we say thank you Jess Franco!

Audio/Video: Mondo Macabro give Jess Franco's How To Seduce a Virgin (1973) its first ever US release, presented in it's original full frame aspect ratio (1.33:1) the image appears quite nice in standard-def with strong colors and some decent clarity, film grains intact and the contrast is strong. I did notice some very minor telecine wobble and softness on occasion but otherwise we get a nice transfer from a gorgeous print of the film. Audio is French language Dolby Digital Mono and is very clean and well-balanced, dialogue and score sounds great,  there are optional English subtitles for us non-cultured lovers of sleaze. 



Mondo's disc has a few decent extras beginning with introduction by UK journalist/film critic Stephen Thrower, the feature touches on Franco's prolific year, with 12 films in production in 1973, many of them among his finest work. A second interview with writer Alain Petit (11:51) features the Franco collaborator speaking about the director's fondness for the works of the Marquis De Sade and the many films inspired by and/or adapted from his works, mentioning the unfinished Juliette de Sade film with Soledad Miranda and the later hardcore sex version filmed with Lina Romay which was recut by Joe D'Amato at the request of it's Italian producer, apparently turning a nightmarish film which featuring Romay shooting herself in the vagina, into a sex comedy of sorts. Petit also mentions his distaste for Franco's hardcore-sex films, and turning down a role in one of them. Extras are rounded out by text cast and crew profiles, production notes and a seven minute Mondo Macabro preview reel of their films, fun stuff, the Wilde Side of World Cinema indeed. 

Special Features: 
- Brand new transfer from film negative
- Interview with writer Alain Petit (12 min)
- Introduction by critic Stephen Thrower (21 min)
- Newly created optional subtitles
- About the Film 
- Cast and Crew Profiles
- Mondo Macabro previews (7:43) 

How To Seduce a Virgin (1973) is a wild-eyed orgy of lurid depravity and lesbian delights, one of Franco's best and most composed features. Euro-cult goddesses Lina Romay, Alice Arno and Tania Busselier are enthralling and Franco captures their charms from every angle, gotta love it. 4/5






We've been reviewing the film of Jess Franco all this month - it's FRANCO FEBRUARY!



Check out all the reviews so far, more to come till the end of the month!


MARQIOS DE SADE'S JUSTINE (1969)
http://mcbastardsmausoleum.blogspot.com/2017/02/marquis-de-sades-justine-1969-blu-ray.html

SHE KILLED IN ECSTACY (1970) http://mcbastardsmausoleum.blogspot.com/2017/02/she-killed-in-ecstasy-1970-blu-ray.html

THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF (1973) 
http://mcbastardsmausoleum.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-sinister-eyes-of-dr-orloff-1973-dvd.html

COUNTESS PERVERSE (1973) 
http://mcbastardsmausoleum.blogspot.com/2017/02/countess-perverse-1973-dvd-review.html

THE HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA (1975) 
http://mcbastardsmausoleum.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-hot-nights-of-linda-1975-blu-ray.html

JACK THE RIPPER (1976) 
http://mcbastardsmausoleum.blogspot.com/2017/02/jack-ripper-1976-dvd-review.html

PAULA-PAULA (2010) 
http://mcbastardsmausoleum.blogspot.com/2017/02/paula-paula-2010-dvd-review.html


Official Trailer for IFC Midnight's THE DEVIL'S CANDY

Synopsis: A not-so-average family wrestles with Satan in a house from hell in this heavy metal-charged shocker from the director of The Loved Ones. Diehard metalhead and struggling artist Jesse (Ethan Embry) moves with his wife (Shiri Appleby) and daughter (Kiara Glasco) to a middle-of-nowhere Texas town, unaware that the new house they got for an unbelievable deal comes with a grisly history. Disturbing demonic goings-on culminate with the appearance of Ray (The Walking Dead’s Pruitt Taylor Vince). He’s the home’s former resident, and he’s here to do the Devil’s bidding. The cranked-to-eleven soundtrack blasts Metallica, Slayer, Pantera, and a thunderous original score by doom rock legends Sunn O))).


Two Of The Most Insane ‘90s SOV Shockers Come To DVD For The First Time Ever!

DREAM STALKER / DEATH BY LOVE 

Intervision Picture Corporation has returned to the mom ‘n’ pop video shop to retrieve two underseen shriek fests from the bottom row of the “Horror” section. DREAM STALKER and DEATH BY LOVE are both brain-busting, reality -decimating slices of artsploitation from the outer edges of the shot-on-video universe. On April 11th, scorch your mind with a double feature disc of these lost gems, newly transferred from the original video masters.

DREAM STALKER:

“It fits right in with THINGS and SLEDGEHAMMER,” raves Outpost-Zeta.com. “DREAM STALKER is something special!” When a Sacramento supermodel is haunted by the super-mulleted corpse of her dead motocross-racer boyfriend, it will unleash an erratically ambitious nightmare of cheap lighting, bad sound, bizarre plotting, gratuitous nudity and grisly effects that Bleeding Skull says is “guaranteed to make you feel like you’re trapped in a lo-fi psychedelic abyss of fun!” 

DEATH BY LOVE:

In this inexplicably obscure psycho-thriller, a studly sculptor (producer/director/writer/star and Texas building contractor Alan Grant) fears that a devil-worshipping childhood pal is murdering his every new girlfriend. Filmed in the suburbs of Dallas and packed with soft-core sex, scattershot performances, thick regional accents and a WTF? plot twist, it may be the most astounding SOV horror vanity project you’ve never seen.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

- Remembering Ricky: With Actor
- Dirtbike Dreams: Executive Producer Tom Naygrow
- Alan Grant Remembers Death By Love Via Video Skype
- Yvonne Aric and Brad Bishop Remember Death By Love Via Video Skype








The Notorious CATHY'S CURSE (1977) makes Blu-ray debut from Severin Films!

CATHY'S CURSE (1977) 

The Infamous ‘Canuxploitation’ Classic

Now Fully Restored For The First Time Ever! 

On April 11th, Severin Films will possess the souls of genre fans with the first ever fully restored presentation of Canadian nightmare generator CATHY’S CURSE. Fans can now experience one of the strangest EXORCIST/OMEN/CARRIE-inspired grindhouse hits like never before, transferred in 2k from recently-found film elements and featuring revealing new Extras with long-lost star Randi Allen and producer/director/co-writer Eddy Matalon.

Forget what you’ve seen in blurry bootlegs and crappy budget packs. This first- ever restoration of the depraved Canadian shocker is being hailed as the genre rediscovery of the year: In 1947, a young girl is roasted alive in a car accident. Thirty years later, her grown brother returns to their childhood home with his mentally unstable wife and sweet daughter Cathy. But when the dead aunt’s vengeful spirit possesses the child, it will unleash an unnerving nightmare of creepy mediums, demonic dolls, and plenty of sick ‘70s foul-mouthed moppet mayhem.



SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Director’s Cut
- Alternate U.S. Release Cut
- Tricks And Treats: An Interview with Director Eddy Matalon
- Cathy And Mum: Interview with Actress Randi Allen and Costume Designer Joyce Allen
- Audio Commentary on U.S. Cut by BirthMoviesDeath critic Brian Collins and Filmmaker Simon Barrett
- Introduction to Cinematic Void Screening At American Cinematheque by BirthMoviesDeath Critic Brian Collins
- Theatrical Trailer






Tuesday, February 14, 2017

FRANCO FEBRUARY! MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE (1969) (Blu-ray Review)



MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE (1969) 
3-Disc Limited Edition BD/DVD/CD

Label: Blue Underground 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 124 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English DTS-HD Mono 2.0, Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 with optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Romina Power, Maria Rohm, Klaus Kinski, Akim Tamiroff, Howard Vernon, Rosalba Neri, Jack Palance



Synopsis: Romina Power (18-year-old daughter of Tyrone Power) stars as Justine, a nubile young virgin cast out of a French orphanage and thrust into a depraved world of prostitution, predatory lesbians, a fugitive murderess (Mercedes McCambridge), bondage, branding, and one supremely sadistic monk (an outrageous performance by Jack Palance). It's a twisted tale of strange desires, perverse pleasures and the ultimate corruption of innocence as told by the Marquis de Sade. JUSTINE is one of the most lavish and bizarre erotic shockers ever made by the notorious Jess Franco (SUCCUBUS), bursting with wanton nudity, sexual perversion, and an all-star cast that also includes Akim Tamiroff (TOUCH OF EVIL), Maria Rohm (EUGENIE) and Klaus Kinski (NOSFERATU) as the Marquis de Sade. Also known as JUSTINE AND JULIET and the heavily-cut DEADLY SANCTUARY, this infamous film is presented completely restored and uncensored in a gorgeous new 4K transfer from the original camera negative!

More Jess Franco in HD will always be a good thing for us lovers of Eurocult and '70s cinema sleaze, praise be to cult movie distributor Blue Underground for bringing one of Franco's most lavish '70s productions to Blu-ray for the first time in North America! The first of Franco's partnership with producer Harry Alan Towers spawned an adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's story of Justine, wherein sisters Justine (Romina Power) and Juliette (Maria Rohm, Venus in Furs) are orphaned after the death of their father. With no money to pay for their education the young women are booted from the convent and sent out into the streets with only a small amount of gold to see them through. The more lascivious sister Juliette takes refuge as a whore at Madame de Buission's brothel where she becomes the lesbian lover of whore Claudine (Rosemary Dexter, Eye in the Labyrinth). The younger and more virginal sister Justine chooses not to live the life of a whore and puts her faith in a priest she meets n the streets, only to be cheated of her gold by the frocked bastard, and so begins her descent into a series of unfortunate depravity and corruption. 


Justine finds shelter as a maid working for an innkeeper named Monsieur du Harpin, but when she refuses his direct orders she is framed for the theft of an amulet and sent to prison as a thief. In prison she encounters an aged murderess named Monsieur Derroches (Mercedes McCambridge, 99 Women) who enlists the young woman's aid to free themselves from the prison prison, which she does, the daring escape involves a fire which burns to the prison ground, killing both guards and prisoners. Once freed Justine is betrayed by Derroches who offers the nubile woman to her lecherous henchman as a reward for their service, she only narrowly escapes the rape when the men begin to fight among themselves, quarrelling over whom should have the honor of deflowering the young woman first.As viewers we are privy to the parallel adventures of her sister Juliette (Rohm), who along with her lover Claudine have murdered Madame de Buission and made off with her gold, but Juliette turns on her lover in a moment of greed, drowning her for her share of the gold. Meanwhile Justine finds herself a servant to the Marquis de Bressac who asks for her help in poisoning his wife, when she refuses the Marquis proceeds to frame her for murder of hs wife, branding Justine with the mark of a murderess on her breast. Afterward the suffering Justine end up at a monastery where she feels she may have finally found salvation, only to realize she's ended up amidst a cult of sex-crazed Monks lead by deviant Father Antonin, actor Jack Palance (The Shape of things to Come)in one of his most crazed performances, and that's no small feat my friends, drunk and slurring his words, chewing-up the scenery like you won't believe. Spotted amongst the cult members are Franco regular Howard Vernon (She Killed In Ecstacy), whom torture the poor young woman, before she escapes their clutches and into the awful hands of fate who continue to deliver blow after blow to the virtuous young woman.In true Sade form those with vice profit from their deviancy while the virginal Justine only finds cruelty and betrayal at every turn, each vignette of her story further worsening her situation as she slips from one corruption to the next. Unfortunately actress Romina Power is a bit too doe-eyed and non-expressive in the role of the tortured Justine, she's truly not as awful as Franco recounts in the Blu-ray supplements, but she is not on par with Rohm, or the revered Soledad Miranda (Vampyros Lesbos) either, though she does exude a certain naive innocence. At times she looks like she might me a be strung-out or otherwise emotionally disengaged. Madman Klaus Kinski (Jack the Ripper) appears in a weird and unnecessary framing device as the imprisoned Marquis de Sade, the white-wigged author who seems to be penning the story of Justine as he paces around his cell looking bored and more than a bit little frustrated. At over 120-minutes long I think the movie is a bit of padded with fluff that could have been excised, but it's always nice to see Kinski in a Eurocult-classic, the guy's face is worth a thousand lunatic word and he exudes madness, even in a wordless role. 

As mentioned previously we have Jack Palance as Father Antonin, on the extras Franco says the actor would start drinking red wine at 7 a.m. and not let up from there, and it shows in his performance, he is unhinged and completely unrestrained. Maria Rohm (Franco's Venus in Furs) doesn't get a lot of screen time but she's solid, I can see why Franco used her more prominently in Eugenie just a few months later, she has a classic old Hollywood beauty about her, but is also sexy and charming.This is a lavish production from Franco and producer Harry Alan Towers with wonderful period costuming and some great locations, with some great lensing from cinematographer Manuel Merino who lensed a few of Franco's finest, notably Vampyros Lesbos. There's also a great symphonic score from Ennio Morricone acolyte Bruno Nicolai (All the Colors of the Darkthat complements the movie with a wonderfully dramatic score with sweeping orchestral compositions. This might mark the beginning of a familiar Sade theme among the movies of Jess Franco, tales of the elite and powerful of society corrupting the innocent and the naive, themes we've seen in How To Seduce a Virgin (1973) and the even more erotic (and x-rated) The Hot Night of Linda (1975), but it was the movies with producer Harry Alan Towers that were the most lavish and beautifully shot. If you're only familiar with Franco's more cash-strapped productions this might be an eye-opener for you, he was a a capable craftsman when give the proper resources and this is proof of that. 

Audio/Video:Marquis de Sade's Justine (1969) arrives on Blu-ray with from Blue Underground a brand new 4K transfer from the original camera negative and the results are outstanding. Grain is nicely managed, colors are vibrant, and there's some wonderful clarity and openness to the image with loads of fine detail accenting the period costuming and the tender flesh, this is a fest for prying eyes. Onto the audio we have a solid English DTS-HD Mono 1.0 track that has a nice fidelity about it, balancing the dubbed-dialogue and the symphonic Bruno Nicolai score very nicely, optional English SDH subtitles are provided.



Blue Underground offer a few informative bonus features, beginning with carrying over the The Perils And Pleasures Of Justine featurette, with interviews with Co-Writer/Director Jess Franco and Producer Harry Alan Towers, Franco goes into the tone of the screenplay, the shooting locations, how this was an expensive production for him at the time and touching on the various cast, including the notoriously drunk Jack Palance, his unhappiness with the casting of Romina Power and her performance, and how he found it rather easy to work with Klaus Kinski, who is famously portrayed as one of the most tyrannical actors of cinema by directors such as Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the Wrath of God) and David Schmoeller (Crawlspace). Franco also speaks about the censorship the movie faced and the various cuts of the film.

There's a new 18-minute interview with author Stephen Thrower on Justine who speaks about the movie and the differences in the source materials and what ended up onscreen, and for someone like myself who is not well-versed in the literary works of Sade I found it very interesting. He also puts the movie into context among Franco's other movies, this being one of his largest budgeted productions at the times, also speaking about the cast of the movie, though he doesn't savage Power's performance quite a much as Franco himself.
Additionally on the disc we have a gallery of 70-images featuring various production stills, international poster artwork, and the video releases. There's also a French language trailer for the movie. separate from the disc we have a 20-page booklet with writing on the film from Thrower adapted from his book "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco", featuring promotional images and poster art, a CD track listing, and production credits for the movie.  Additionally there's a DVD featuring the movie with the same extras, plus a CD of the Bruno Nicolai score, and a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original 2004 Blue Underground DVD artwork and an alternate option.

Special Features: 
- The Perils And Pleasures Of Justine - Interviews with Co-Writer/Director Jess Franco and Producer Harry Alan Towers (20 Mins)
- Stephen Thrower on JUSTINE - Interview with the author of "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco" (18 Mins) HD
- French Trailer (4 Mins) HD
- Poster and Still Gallery (70 Images) HD
- 20-Page Collectible Booklet includes writing by author Stephen Thrower
- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD by Bruno Nicolai (27 Tracks, 58 Mins) licensed from Beat Records

Marquis de Sade's Justine (1969) gets a top-notch release from Blue Underground with a fantastic 4K transfer from the original camera negatives, the A/V presentation is one of the best I've seen this year, with some great extras and the added bonus of a Bruno Nicolai score on CD. Franco-philes and Eurocult lovers are in for a real treat, this may not be my favorite Jess Franco movie but this is one of the best Franco releases on Blu-ray to date, on par with Severin's superb Blu-rays of She Killed in Ecstasy and Vampyros Lesbos, it's has been a banner year for Jess Franco in HD.3/5