Sunday, December 30, 2012

ASYLUM (aka I Want To Be A Gangster) (DVD Review)

Directed By: Olivier Chateau
Written By: Olivier Chateau
Starring: Julien Courbey, Jean-Marie Lamour, Jacques Frantz
Color/82 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
ASYLUM opens in a warehouse type room, largely empty where a trio of men play games of Russian Roulette for money. The man running the game is Jack, a small time criminal aspiring to be like the gangsters from the movies he watched as a child. Fixing the games to go in his and his partner's favor and letting the loser walk away with both legs if he's lucky, Jack finds himself in a tough situation after a kingpin's drugs were put up for the stakes of the game and now he wants them back. Jack is given his chance to prove himself and fall in with the man who spared his life but Jack decides to go bigger and be badder.

For an aspiring gangster Jack has proven himself lucky and at least somewhat capable and now has his golden opportunity with the biggest crime ring in the area. Unfortunately for Jack he gets a little too far ahead of himself and the head honcho's nephew is killed in an accident while being watched over by Jack. As he tries to get out of town, Jack is tracked and eventually captured and tormented. Jack will pay for his deeds by being chained to a tree like a dog and left for dead. With only a few chance encounters with passersby Jack quickly begins to lose his grip on reality and his physical condition suffers from hunger and thirst until he can find a way to free himself.

ASYLUM aka I WANT TO BE A GANGSTER is the first feature film from French director Olivier Chateau and is a mixed bag. The film starts out strong as Jack climbs the ranks in the world of crime. The acting is quite strong (surprisingly so at times) throughout. Without a doubt this is the film's strongest point. It is around halfway through the film when Jack is chained to the tree that the film hits a bit of a snag and drags on. Jack has an assault rifle in his hands for a good chunk of the film and never once shoots it at the chains to try and free himself. There is a reason shown for his rationalizing but it really becomes a thin thread holding that plot point together as Jack gets hungrier, thirstier and more delusional. If you have a means to free yourself, even with a half decent chance of it working, after 3 weeks of being captive you're going to take that chance. The movie is a very mixed bag for me. Good acting from the ensemble has to deal with hit and miss writing and crappy digital photography.

The Video
I'm almost positive the minuscule budget, which was less than $10,000, plays a large role in the sub-par look of this film. The digital photography is cheap, muddy and just not pleasing to look at in certain parts of the movie. The film has a sepia-like tone through most of the duration in which objects sometimes become muddled together. Synapse Films doesn't have a whole lot of good things to work with on the picture quality side of this thing but they do bring it to us with an anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) presentation and undoubtedly did the best they could. Again, this is more of an issue with the budget the filmmakers had to work with and not an authoring or transfer problem.

The Audio
The sound quality on the other hand is pretty nice. Free of any distractions or crackling, dialogue comes across clear in the Dolby Digital 5.1 track in the film's native French. English subtitles are available. The levels are mixed very well and the audio side of this disc is a job well done.

The Extras
-"Making Of" Featurette - This is a 20 minute interview with the director and features some footage from the set of the film. Some insight is given into the various aspects of production from writing the script to casting and funding along with some influences that made it into the film.

-"Homer" - A short film from Chateau about a rabbit getting loose from his cage and doing rabbit things.

Also included is the original promotional trailer for the film.

The Bottom Line
ASYLUM probably isn't going to make your top 10 list anytime soon but it is a competent thriller despite its setbacks. Perhaps most importantly it shows solid potential in its director for bigger and better things. If you're into gangster flicks or thrillers set in the woods this one is worth a shot.

ASYLUM is available HERE

Monday, December 24, 2012

Hell Comes To Frogtown (1988)

 If there's a list for best professional wrestlers turned actors Roddy Piper has to be on it. Appearing in a few dozen films since the mid 80s and starring in about half, Piper is no stranger to being in front of the movie camera. His natural charisma that has been showcased for decades in wrestling was perfect for a transition into film. Piper's most notable role is John Carpenter's sci-fi/action cult classic They Live but just a year before that he appeared in a piece of 80s gold.

Ten years after the nuclear war wiped out the majority of the population and leaving most of the survivors either mutated or sterile. The war isn't over, its simply on hold until both sides repopulate, which is difficult with so few fertile women and potent men. Sam Hell (Piper) is an arrogant con who is freed from his jail time only under the condition that he serves the US Army with his extremely high sperm count. Hell agrees and he is forced into the most dangerous and uncomfortable chastity belt device you'll ever come across. The device can only be unlocked by his partners in the mission and if he strays to far from her he suffers a painful electric shock. The mission is to extract a group of fertile women being held captive in the mutant reservation area known as Frogtown. Frogtown as you may have guessed by now is a slum area controlled by mutant frog people and controlled by King Toty.

The mission hits a snag as Hell and his commanding officer, Spangle, are captured by Frog Guards. Spangle is thrown in with the rest of the women and forced to dance to make Toty's "3 snakes" happy. Hell is tortured and abused until his codpiece device is removed by the frogs so they can study the technology. It is at this point that Hell jumps into action hero mode and rescues Spangle and the women and bust them out. They are tracked by Toty and other frog soldiers along with a man from Hell's past hellbent on becoming the biggest warlord in America.

HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN is a piece purely of the 1980s. It is ridiculously cheesy but has a message beneath its leathery, green skinned surface dealing with the dangers of nuclear bombs and the Cold War. Directed by Donald G. Jackson who directed a bunch of low budget genre fare during the 80s and 90s and R. J. Kizer who is probably best known from this film, deliver an extremely entertaining 86 minutes. There isn't an over abundance of style or flare but the duo competently puts together scene after scene of fun. The frog creature designs look good and the makeup is really solid. Hot Rod doesn't quite get as "Rowdy" as he would a year later when he's fighting aliens in special X-Ray glasses but he's still a blast to watch.

Yes, this movie is cheesy. No, the acting isn't great. And no, this isn't a piece of art. It doesn't need to be and it doesn't want to be. This movie is fun. We have Rowdy Roddy Piper running around in an explosive codpiece kicking frog mutant ass and being paid by the US government to get laid a lot. Need I say more? Didn't think so.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

CHILLER The Complete Series (DVD Review)

Directed By: Bob Mahoney, Lawrence Gordon Clark, Rob Walker
Written By: Stephen Gallagher, Anthony Horowitz, Glenn Chandler
Starring: Nigel Havers, Martin Clunes, Sophie Ward
Color/265 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
CHILLER was a short lived horror anthology series in the UK that originally aired in the Spring of 1995. Horror has a grand tradition of horror anthologies both feature length film and syndicated for television. From Tales From The Crypt to Creepshow and more recently Masters Of Horror and American Horror Story this genre loves one-off stories blanketed under a single series title. While CHILLER won't go down in history as being as good or memorable as some of the more popular series it does offer up some solid stories.

The first episode of the series is "Prophecy" which starts with a group of friends doing a bit of partying in their van on the way to an old cafe owned by the family of Frannie, one of the girls in the group. After a round on the Ouija board and getting the message that the spirit they talked to wants to prophecize something a woman is struck by a car and killed outside of the cafe. A few years later Frannie begins a relationship with a single father and begins having a series of bizarre dreams and a plague of tragic accidents befall her friends that were in attendance at the seance and it all seems to tie in with her lover's son until she comes to a startling realization. The next episode is called "Toby" and involves a young woman who is in a car wreck which costs her the life of her unborn son and puts her into a coma. After the woman awakens she moves into a new home with her husband next to a crotchety old woman who seems to only care for her cats. It isn't long before the mourning woman believes she is pregnant and is showing the signs of it despite doctors and specialists saying otherwise. The couple try to overcome her sickness until the problems become all too real and familiar. "Here Comes The Mirror Man" rounds out disc one with a story about Gary, a troubled youth avoiding the social workers that want to bring him back into the real world. Gary seems to be a puppet for a mysterious friend of his who pulls the strings and tells Gary what to do which puts the people desperately trying to help him in grave danger.

Disc two features the final two episodes of the series, the first of which is "The Man Who Didn't Believe In Ghosts". This is a classic haunted house story featuring a man who professionally writes about debunking ghost and paranormal stories and his family who have recently moved into a home with a strange caretaker who has an attachment to the house from his past. As the odd occurrences pile up the man has to question his own professional beliefs. The series comes to a close with "Number Six" which is actually number five. In this story there has been a series of child murders going on with few clues and just a couple of patterns to go off of the police and parents of the town have to work together to stop what may be ritualistic Celtic sacrifices. This episode is chock full of kids doing what they do best- being creepy. Each episode opens with a creepy alien type monster with his mouth wide open in a white hallway. It is a pretty chilling visual that sets us up for the actual story at hand. I'm disappointed this monster never made it into an episode of his own. Each story is a bit on the minimalist side of things, letting the story do the work. There isn't a ton of gore or special effects to speak of but thanks to some pretty decent to above average acting (Here Comes The Mirror Man having the best) the stories don't need too much in the way of excess. All of the stories have a similar tone and feel with dreary England locations being used as a natural atmosphere. The series doesn't have any real stinkers but on the opposite side of that coin it doesn't have any that truly stand out from the pack either. I'd say that the final episode would have to be my favorite but they all have similar results as far as I'm concerned.

The Video
CHILLER is presented in its aspect ratio of 1.33:1 preserving the way it looked on TV back in 1995. The material was film on 16mm film and has a certain graininess to it throughout. The source material seems to be in good shape however with dirt and debris having been kept to a minimum. I doubt this looks much better than it did during its original run but it certainly doesn't look any worse.

The Audio
A Dolby 2.0 Mono track gets the audio across very nicely. The mix is balanced well and there is no distractions from pops or hissing.

The Extras

The Bottom Line

Synapse Films brings CHILLER to American audiences for the first time on DVD with a suitable presentation of the episodes. It would have been nice to see some special features on this disc such as an interview with producers or directors to provide some insight into the series and possibly why it was so short lived. Even a brief introduction to each of the five episodes like they did on the Complete Hammer House Of Horror set would have been nice. That said, horror fans will be pleased to be able to see these mid-90s works on disc, likely for the first time and that is the most important thing.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Great Silence (1968)

Sometimes when you first discover a movie, whether by accident or recommendation, it sticks with you. Everything about it lingers in your memory until you visit it again and again. It takes a special type of film to do that. THE GREAT SILENCE is one of those films for me.

Silence is a mute gunslinger with the fastest draw in the west. He has been left scarred and unable to speak after a violent childhood incident that took the life of his parents. The man is hellbent on righting the wrongs done to innocent and helpless victims. In the snow covered frontier of Utah the nasty Loco (Klaus Kinski) leads a group of bounty hunters to prey on a group of persecuted outlaws who have taken refuge in the hills, coming out only when they need to for food. The outlaws are hiding because their crimes aren't serious enough to condemn them to death despite the bounty on their heads. Silence is the only man that can stop the corruption within the town that effects every single person one way or another.

The town's new sheriff does his best to try and turn this town around to become a more civilized America where all races live in peace and murder isn't a profitable living. The town's Justice Of The Peace is deep into the corruption forcing innocents into a life of crime to get a price on their head for his bounty hunters to kill and split the profits. Silence is hired by such a man's widow to take down Loco who has captured the entire group of mountain refugees and is holding them hostage waiting for Silence in an epic showdown.

The plot of THE GREAT SILENCE doesn't seem too far off from many other westerns of this period or any other. The difference lies within the details. Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is our main protagonist however he is similar in many ways to our lead antagonist Loco. Both men charge for their services despite their principals, and both men refuse to draw their gun on the other man first to avoid jail. Silence tries to bait Loco into drawing first as is his trademark style of picking the fight but not starting it. Loco is as smart as he is ruthless and doesn't fall for it. It really is the meeting of two master minds, two sides of the same coin if you will. Kinski played in quite a few westerns but this is without a doubt his finest role in any of them and an argument can be made that it is his best ever. The sadistic cockiness Loco even when he seems beaten is perfect. Trintignant is just as good without speaking a word. He conveys emotions brilliantly with just facial expressions and his pistol, which despite what the sheriff thinks, is incredibly accurate.

Director Sergio Corbucci (Django, Companeros) is a master of the western, probably the second most famous spaghetti western director behind only the great Sergio Leone, and proves it here. His incredibly skilled and stylish direction coupled with Silvano Ippoliti's gorgeous photography that captures the scope of the blizzard stricken landscape is a match made in heaven. Ennio Morricone's score is one of his finest efforts for any western and fits the incredibly somber tone of the film perfectly.

THE GREAT SILENCE is not a typical western, in fact it has been described as the "anti-western". Everything you know about westerns, Italian or not, is turned on its head. Spoiler Alert The ending which includes every single sympathetic character in the film being mercilessly killed is a day ruiner. There is no heroic triumph of good over evil here folks. This is simply a depiction of how nasty life can be and was in the old west. Our hero is mutilated and then shot dead preceding a bloody massacre. The ending was such a downer that producers made Corbucci film a "happy ending" which is included on the DVD. And while that ending is just fine and dandy it is the downer ending that completes this film as it should be. End Spoiler.

This film is stunning both visually and thematically. It is crying out for a Blu-ray release and a wider audience. While this is widely considered one of the finest spaghetti westerns produced it still needs to be more widely known. This is a masterpiece of filmmaking that stays with me long after each subsequent viewing. For no reason at all I will find myself humming the score or picturing the wide shots of Silence riding his horse through the snow covered hills. THE GREAT SILENCE is in my personal top 3 westerns.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sex Hunter: Wet Target (DVD Review)

Directed By: Yukihiro Sawada
Written By: Atsushi Yamatoya
Starring: Aoyama Miyoko, George Harrison, Isayama Hiroko
Color/69 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
Okamoto learns that his sister Natsuko has been raped and killed by a group of drunken American soldiers while he is stuck in prison with extra time for trying to escape. After his release Okamoto tries to get information from the police but an international security treaty prevents them from giving him any information. Okamoto is harassed by a pimp and his prostitute while walking down the street and decides it is proper payback to rape her and beat him up before getting his sister's old live-in bartending job at a strip bar to try get some clues.

Its at the bar where he meets the man in control of many of the entertainers at the bar, including a girl that was attacked alongside his sister. After confronting the man for information, and a serious fist fight the man agrees to tell him details about his sister's death. The man tells Okamoto how Natsuko was also one of his girls and that he stumbled upon the event and watched as the men beat, raped and urinated on her and then forced a passerby to lick the urine off of her. They then proceded to hang her from the gate of a shrine. Okamaoto sets off to enact his vengeance on the soldiers one by one only to find each has already been ravaged by the horrors of war. The realization hits Okamoto hard and breaks him down until he is pushed too far by high ranking American military men at his bar and snaps in a bloody climax.

SEX HUNTER: WET TARGET is one of the earlier titles from Nikkatsu after they changed production over to adult films and it shows it with the style and artistry within the film and its themes. Okamoto is a mixed race man and feels the heat of it from his own countrymen, and everyone feels the pressures of living with the American military bases surrounding them with the Vietnam War goin on a short distance away. The film is far more revenge thriller than a piece of sexploitation despite the lengthy and numerous nude and sex scenes to pad the runtime. The biggest problem with this film is in the writing. Okamoto is often just as despicable as the people he is trying to make pay for their actions. It doesn't take more than the scene where the pimp and his woman harass him for his racial makeup and he proceeds to force himself upon the girl to show us this. Sure, they deserved some sort of punishment but rape makes him no better than the G.I.s that attacked his sister. It makes it difficult for the viewer to root for Okamoto because of how the writing handles his character.

The film does use its exploitative themes to be largely entertaining despite the flaw in our main antagonist. The nudity and sex we've become accustomed to in these Nikkatsu erotic films are plentiful and the story and violence give it more body than the films that rely solely on tits and ass to gain the viewers attention. The only question I really have is what in the blue hell the title has to do with the film.

The Video
Impulse Pictures presents SEX HUNTER: WET TARGET on DVD with a 16:9 (2.35:1) widescreen presentation. The transfer is clean and the resources used seem to have been in pretty good shape. The picture is on the soft side but I attribute that to the way the film was shot more than the transfer on this disc.

The Audio
The audio track is a clear and steady Japanese 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. As is par for the course with this series of releases the track won't give your surround sound a workout but is a very serviceable track with a nice mix.

The Extras
The original theatrical trailer is included along with liner notes from Jasper Sharp in which he details the history of Nikkatsu and breaksdown this particular film a bit more.

The Bottom Line 
In just one year Impulse Pictures has released 10 titles in the Nikkatsu Erotic Film Collection (not counting the trailer compilation disc released in 2010) and done a very nice job on each. Between the solid presentation of the films, the very informative liner notes and the attractive numbered spines for collectors, this one deserves a spot alongside the other 9 discs.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Contest Giveaway


First off, the boring stuff.... The Rules

1. This contest is open to anyone
2. One entry per person (if all answers are correct- feel free to re-submit a new entry to add in additional answers. Please submit an entire entry form if you're adding answers so I don't have to keep track of multiple emails)
3. To enter send an email to and put "XMAS CONTEST" as the subject. Please include your mailing address in case you win!
4. The winner will be the person who answers the question and all 12 screen shots correctly. If there is more than one person with all 13 answers I will use a randomizer to pick a winner.
5. Winner will be notified via email and name will be posted on the blog's Facebook page. If you don't like that please don't enter.
6. The contest runs from December 10, 2012 until December 17 2012.

The prize is the recently re-released SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT 1 & 2 DOUBLE FEATURE DVD from Anchor Bay/Starz (who are in no way affiliated with this contest). I reserve the right to choose an alternate prize for the winner if I so choose.


 1. What film has cult filmmaker John Waters referred to as "the greatest Christmas film ever made"?

The Screenshots

Identify these screenshots (please use a numbered list in your entry submission so I know which answer goes to which screenshot)

Hint: One of them is a television episode













Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Love It From Behind! (DVD Review)

Directed By: Koyu Ohara
Written By: Kazuhiko Ban
Starring: Junko Asahina, Yumi Hayakawa, Mari Kishida
Color/66 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
Mimei is a young woman who just recently moved to Tokyo from the small town of Sopporo and on a mission of completing her collection of 100 penis inkblot prints before her arranged marriage in a month. She collects these prints from men she sleeps with and needs the final 30 before she becomes a married woman. Also living in the same apartment are Rei who is scarred from being sexually assaulted by a co-worker and wants to turn the table on him now that he's returned from a long trip and Masumi, a girl pretty much obsessed with masturbating with any phallic item she can find. As Mimei quickly heads toward completing her goal she finds the man for number 100 but realizes that his stipulation for getting the inkblot print isn't as easy as she is. Along with that she helps her roommates overcome their apparent lesbian urges for each other.

I LIKE IT FROM BEHIND! is one of the lighter sexploitation films I've ever seen, especially from this collection. Clocking in at a brisk 66 minutes the film moves quickly from one sex act to another in a very light hearted nature, even during the nastier scenes. That said, this is pure exploitation. Girls are more often naked than clothed, and having sex, though the title seems to pertain more to the men of the film than the women, and there are plenty of classic exploitation themes on display. Director Koyu Ohara directs the film in such a way that you can't help but smile and almost laugh along with the film instead of being repulsed by the acts being committed on screen, though the film doesn't enter comedy territory luckily. Ohara walks a fine line with the tone of the film and largely succeeds. It doesn't take long for the film to let the viewer know that you're in for an hour of naked women and some debauchery but you don't need to feel bad about it.

Compared to the Women In Prison and rougher sex films of this collection ILIFB comes off as almost the PG entry of the collection, if that is even possible for a film such as this. There are plenty of attractive ladies without their clothes, and the classic Japanese sensor effects (we get the cloud and a pixelation effect in this one) that almost have a bit of charm themselves and a few stand out scenes including the camera being totally covered in jizz. On second thought, maybe that "PG" thought was a little crazy.

The Video
I LIKE IT FROM BEHIND! is presented in an anamorphic widescreen print with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The disc transfer comes from an obviously clean source that has been well preserved. No distracting dirt, debris, cuts or distortions were noticed. Though the bland lighting schemes that are common for these films don't allow for any of these films to be particularly flashy, Impulse Pictures provides a quality transfer.

The Audio
The film is presented with a Japanese 2.0 mono track with optional English subtitles that have been newly translated. The sound is free of any annoying hiss or hum and levels stay even throughout with no drop off. Dialogue never has to compete with the soundtrack or background noise and the subtitles are clear and well synced.

The Extras
The continued series of liner notes from Japanese film historian Jasper Sharp are worthy of being the main extra on each subsequent title in this series. The original theatrical trailer is also included.

The Bottom Line
Impulse Pictures continues the Nikkatsu Erotic Films series with its 9th entry and yet again delivers an entertaining movie and a quality product that any Nikkatsu porno fan will want for their collection.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hate Thy Neighbor (1968)

Bill Dakota arrives in town with his wife and child frantically looking for the sheriff. A notorious gunman named Gary Stevens (George Eastman) is chasing him down and nobody, including the local law enforcement want anything to do with helping him. After Stevens mercilessly kills Bill and his wife for a map to a goldmine Bill's brother Ken sets out for revenge. Stevens is partnered up with a powerful gangster named Malone to split control of the mine (and the map itself) 50/50. It doesn't take long for Malone to double cross Stevens and have him dangling over a pit of snakes being forced to give up his half of the map. Its at this point that Dakota finds the helpless Stevens and makes a deal that he will only make him stand trial instead of killing him if he gives up his half of the map. After being sentenced to death, Stevens narrowly avoids the gallows with the aid of Malone who wants him to retrieve the missing half of the map. After more double crossing Stevens finds himself in a game of life or death at the hands of Malone until Dakota breaks up the party to finally get the revenge he's been seeking.

Directed by Ferdinando Baldi (TEXAS ADIOS, DJANGO PREPARE A COFFIN) in 1968, HATE THY NEIGHBOR is a frustrating film to watch. While it has plenty going for it including really solid performances from the cast, especially Horst Frank as Malone, and a solid score, the film suffers from extremely messy writing. Focusing more on the characters than a bunch of action scenes, the film has potential to set itself apart but two of our three leads are handled poorly to say the least. Ken Dakota is simply a bland protagonist. It takes until the climactic shootout scene for him to really do anything interesting other than be a goody two shoes stand up citizen and after that he goes right back to it. Gary Stevens is supposed to be this well known, notorious baddie but is often outsmarted, and out-muscled. George Eastman does a nice job portraying Stevens but the character is just too weaselly to be taken seriously as a major threat. On the other hand, Malone is handled well as the rich, tough, gangster that is a step ahead more often than not. The action scenes are hit or miss, sometimes being exciting and captivating like the end at Malone's estate and sometimes hokey and filled with forced comedy. The coffin maker character fills up almost all of his screen time with annoying comedy.

The story itself, as you can probably tell, is nothing out of the ordinary but the shift in focus to the three leads playing cat and mouse games could have made this a stand out spaghetti western but the writing leaves a lot to be desired and really drags down what could have been something special.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

They Call Him Cemetery (1971)

I love watching spaghetti westerns when the weather gets chilly out. I guess it may be because of their warm setting and how hazy it looks that it helps warm me up, but even those set in snow covered landscapes are better in the winter for me so it has been a perfect time to catch up on  genre I love.

THEY CALL HIM CEMETERY (aka They Call Him Graveyard, A Bullet For The Stranger) is a film from Giuliano Carnimeo who is perhaps best known within the genre for creating the Sartana character. He teams up with Sartana himself, Gianni Garko, again in this film in which he's referred to as Ace Of Hearts just as, if not more often than Cemetery. The McIntyre boys return home as young adults for the first time in many years to find their father's small town being extorted by a group with an unknown leader. John and George McIntyre are attractive blond haired boys from "back east" that don't quite understand the law of the land where gun play is the way to settle things and babies suck on bullets to calm down. They try to settle the issue with their father's land with civility until one too many times their life is nearly ended had it not been for Ace saving them. Along with their friends and helpers, Chico and Pedro they enlist the help of Ace to teach them how to shoot to protect themselves.

With a new found set of skills and a new friend shadowing them the McIntyre boys set out to discover the identity of the gang's leader and settle the score. Along the way Ace comes in contact with a man from his past named Duke who we find out gets hired by the gang for added protection. The film boils down with local politicians and peacekeepers in on the corruption until the final showdown and duel.

By the time this film was released in 1971 the parody/comedy cycle was going strong. While some of the dirtier and grittier films that made the genre famous were still being produced most of them had heavy doses of self parody. THEY CALL HIM CEMETERY certainly doesn't escape this, but it uses it in light doses and it never becomes overbearing. The two barroom fight scenes are a bit hokey and overstay their welcome but they're probably the worst offenders in the film as far as the parody goes. The film itself isn't anything super original, a basic story plays out but our cast is pretty solid. Garko is more often than not great in his roles and he shows it here. The way Ace and Duke (William Berger) play off of each other is simply fantastic. They have an obvious respect for each other but go about it in different however complimenting ways. The McIntyre boys also do a good job of trying to do the right thing but being totally out of their element. The photography from Stelvio Massi is gorgeous, even with the underwhelming print I watched from the 44 film set that I'm sure most SW fans own. Add in a really solid score by the legendary Bruno Nicolai that is driven by whistles and Carnimeo (as Anthony Ascott) puts together a really solid flick that would probably be held in higher regard if it didn't fall into the comedy pitfalls (no matter how well they were handled).


Wednesday, November 14, 2012


United States/1985
Directed By: Roy Frumkes
Written By: Roy Frumkes
Starring: George A. Romero, Richard Rubenstein, Tom Savini
Color/102 Minutes/Not Rated
The Film
In 1985 a documentary from Roy Frumkes was released called DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD which chronicled his time spent with director George Romero on the set of his 1978 classic Dawn Of The Dead. The documentary featured interviews with key cast and crew and looked at Romero's films to that point and his work in the commercial field. The film was originally used as a learning tool for budding filmmakers.

It has been over a quarter decade since the film was originally released and Romero has made several more films and become more of a household name than ever before. Frumkes has visited the set of some of these films and along with compiling other footage from the set, conventions, and various other meetings with the people involved in Romero's films, has made a new cut for THE DEFINITIVE DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD. This cut clocks in at well over 20 minutes longer than any other cut of the film and features footage from Romero's early commercial work up through his latest film Survival of the Dead. His techniques in directing, writing and editing are all mentioned along with how he handles each stage of the filmmaking process. Along with extensive footage with Romero himself, other names interviewed include Tom Savini, Judith O'Dea, Dario Argento, Greg Nicotero, and members of the classic Dead trilogy.

This documentary is an interesting and informative look in to the process of one of horror's greatest directors. Apart from that it is a genuinely entertaining movie. There are quite a few laughs to be had and some cool moments of actors from various movies realizing who each other is after almost 30 years. Some looks into special effects setups and stunt work make it all the more fun.

The Video
Synapse Films delivers this documentary in a very nice looking print with varying aspect ratios. The majority of the film is presented in a natural full frame 1.33:1 ratio but with several cameras used it does change from time to time. The footage from the original film is still in nice shape and while not particularly sharp, it features a very clean transfer. The newer footage naturally looks better and sharper. The new cut of the film wasn't mastered in HD by Frumkes so there is no Blu-ray (only of the original  film) which is a bummer. This DVD does have a very solid video presentation however.

The Audio
A Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is the lone audio choice and it is perfectly serviceable. Aside from the opening claymation sequence being a good bit louder than the rest of the film the sound is quite good and mixed pretty well. There are moments throughout where the setting of the filming is obviously going to be louder (a crowded hotel room) than a sit down interview but they are mixed well enough to not create a distraction. Overall the audio is in nice shape and is of very good quality

The Extras
 Roy Frumkes provides further insight into his time spent developing this documentary over 25 years in a brand new commentary track. This is like a 2nd film's worth of information. 

The Bottom Line 
THE DEFINITIVE DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD will appeal to any fans of Romero, horror or filmmaking in general. While a much longer cut could dig deeper into various aspects covered, Frumkes' point wasn't to make an exhaustive How-To. This is as fun as it is educational.


Friday, November 9, 2012


United States/1991
Directed By: Frank Henenlotter
Written By: Frank Henenlotter, Robert Martin
Starring: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Gil Roper, Denise Coop, Annie Ross
Color/90 Minutes/Rated R

The Film
Director Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Brain Damage) returns for the 3rd and final chapter in his twisted series with BASKET CASE 3: THE PROGENY, picking up just where part 2 left off. After a brief recap of the climax of the previous film Duayne has lost his mind and decides the only way he'll be happy is if he and his freak of a twin brother are once again conjoined at the hip. A ball of yarn and a crochet needle make this happen in very bloody fashion. We move forward a few months and Duayne is now in a straight jacket inside a padded room where Granny Ruth (Annie Ross) has been taking care of him, along with her house full of deformed freaks. We learn that Belial's girlfriend is now pregnant so the whole group has to take a bus trip to the only doctor Granny Ruth trusts with her loved ones and what bus trip is complete without a sing along of the "you've got personality" song?

Once at the doctor's house the most bizarre, violent, and just insane birthing sequence ever put to film is captured. Octomom has nothing on Belial's new family. The wild birth sequence is followed up by a ridiculous dream sequence in which the word "trapezoid" is used as a sexual turn on for possibly the first and only time in film history. After the fun of the birth Granny Ruth realizes that Duane is missing as he has landed in police custody and they find out about the doctor and Belial, who is a fugitive. The cops sneak in to the house and shoot Belial's lover Eve, thinking it was him. The pair of bumbling cops are chased from the house by the rest of the freaks, leaving Belial furious. 

Belial arrives at the police station in his trusty basket and exacts his bloody gruesome revenge. Including ripping an officer's head off by biting his lip, having a young girl be shot, twisting a head around and more. Belial and Duane are finally reunited and flee the police station but not before Belial is injured when his basket is shot. Helping Belial heal and have an easier time in the future, Duane and the doctor's son construct a robot suit (think a crude version of Kraang from TMNT) that Belial uses to continue his revenge on the people responsible for killing his love while Granny Ruth proposes a deal to trade Belial for the babies the police still have. Of course it's a setup and there is a showdown between the sheriff and "Robo-Belial" resulting in a terrible death for the sheriff. 

BASKET CASE 3 is a fun romp of crazy creatures, violence and dark humor. This is the type of film that director Frank Henenlotter was put on Earth to make- A nasty, comedic look at human deformities. The makeup effects are simply amazing and without a doubt the best part of both sequels in the series. The film plays out in a simple fashion with your heart going out to the freaks, especially Belial and you certainly feel for him and are applauding his revenge. The biggest downfall that this film (and part 2) has is that the Times Square, NYC location of the first film was simply perfect. It was a seedy place where the "normal" people were just as crazy and freakish as Belial and the story was far more original than this rather by-the-numbers piece of revenge. No matter, if you're looking for a fun time that you can sit down with a few beers and some popcorn and watch some ridiculousness, BASKET CASE 3 is a solid choice.


The Video
Synapse Films brings BASKET CASE 3 to us in an anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 transfer that is very nice looking. There is a healthy natural grain level but is clean and free of dirt and debris. Flesh tones, both human and prosthetic look natural and lively. The quality of the print allows us to see the special effects makeup in all its glory and the bloody reds look great. I don't have the old MGM disc to compare but this new release probably looks as good as the DVD format will allow. A fantastic job.

The Audio
A Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track provides a crisp and clear presentation and is perfectly suitable for the disc. Dialogue and the soundtrack are mixed nicely and never have to compete with one another. Levels remain stable throughout so you won't have to reach for the remote every few minutes to adjust the volume.

The Extras
The lone extra on the disc is a theatrical trailer.


The Bottom Line
Synapse Films brings BASKET CASE 3 back in print for the first time in almost a decade in the United States with a really solid DVD presentation of a film that will certainly find its niche once again. Some more extras would have been nice, but just getting to complete the trilogy is the true prize here. Recommended for anyone that is a fan of weird horror comedies or any fan of Henenlotter's other work.

BASKET CASE 3 is available on DVD HERE