Monday, July 29, 2013

Hands Of The Ripper (Blu-ray Review) - Synapse Films

Directed By: Peter Sasdy
Written By: L.W. Davidson, Edward Spencer Shew
Starring: Eric Porter, Angharad Rees, Jane Merrow
Color/85 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A/1

The Film
Anna is a young girl who witnesses her father, who happens to be the nasty British murderer Jack The Ripper, murder her mother. Anna is left orphaned and taken in by a woman who fraudulently claims to be a spiritual medium, using Anna as the voice of the disembodied spirits to fool her customers. After trying to whore out Anna for extra money, the woman is murdered and Anna is taken in by Dr. Pritchard, a doctor of psychology who is heavy into the new theories of Sigmund Freud. Pritchard is dead set on finding out what emotional issues the girl may have. 

As the days go by, Pritchard puts Anna into more and more social situations hoping to help her, but it simply leads to more bloodshed as anytime she sees a flash of light and receives a kiss, like she did on the night her mother was murdered, she goes into a trance like state that ends with someone dying. It is up to Pritchard to stop Anna before she attacks his own son and soon to be daughter-in-law.

HANDS OF THE RIPPER is a later entry in to the HAMMER catalog of films and manages to defy the trend of slipping quality that had befallen the studio by the 1970s. This film can be viewed as an early slasher archetype than any sort of Gothic horror that made the studio famous decades earlier. It doesn't take long for one to read this plot and immediately come up with a slasher film that sounds very similar. And this film is not only violent, it is bloody too. From hat pins, to broken mirrors and a nasty bit involving a sword (and perhaps a nastier bit with the extraction of said sword) this film has a mean spirit behind it. Jack The Ripper possessing his daughter's mind and causing her to kill... there isn't too much meaner than that.

Director Peter Sasdy may be the most notable name to Hammer fans out of the entire cast and crew, as he worked on several episodes of Hammer House Of Horror and also Countess Dracula (coming soon from Synapse) and Taste The Blood Of Dracula. The cast has a shortage of Hammer regulars but that isn't to say they don't do their jobs with precision and veteran ability. The film's beautiful score by Christopher Gunning plays as a nice contrast to the violence that plays out on screen. HANDS OF THE RIPPER will be sure to please any fan of Hammer and even slasher fans. 

The Video
Synapse Films gives HANDS OF THE RIPPER an anamorphic widescreen 1.66:1 transfer that looks very good for the most part. Skin tone is very natural looking, detail in textures is strong, giving a nice depth to the film. There are a few scattered instances of a soft image in which detail and overall picture quality takes a hit but these moments are infrequent. This transfer doesn't scream HD but it looks very nice and keeps the visual style and setting of the film in mind. This is exactly how a film such as this should look. 

Note: Screenshots taken from DVD copy of the film and do not represent the Blu-ray quality. 

The Audio
 A DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track handles the soundtrack, dialogue and sound effects rather well. The mix is strong and steady, and I'm thankful we aren't forced into a newly created surround track that doesn't do the film any justice. The audio side holds up as well as the video side. English subtitles are available.

The Extras
The Devil's Bloody Plaything: Possessed By Hands Of The Ripper - A near 30 minute featurette chronicling the history and production of the film. One interesting point is that there are no known records of who played Jack the Ripper in the opening scene of the film, despite the character having dialogue.

Slaughter Of Innocence: The Evolution Of Hammer Gore -  A motion still gallery chronicling some of the nastier moments from the studio.

U.S. Television Introduction

Original Theatrical Trailer

TV Spots

Isolated Music & Effects Track  

The Bottom Line
We finally have the next Hammer Blu-ray from Synapse! It has to be closing in on 2 years since the trio of titles was announced and while we're still waiting on Countess Dracula (by year's end!) HANDS OF THE RIPPER was worth the wait for Synapse to get the job done right form the presentation of the film itself to the supplements this is another stellar package from the company.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Horny Working Girl: From 5 To 9 (DVD Review) - Impulse Pictures

Directed By: Katsuhiko Fujii
Written By: Shigeko Sato
Starring: Junko Asahina, Nami Misaki, Yuki Yoshizawa
Color/66 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1

The Film
Junko Asahina, who previously starred in I LIKE IT FROM BEHIND!, stars as Chieko Kuwano, a new assistant manager at a corporate office who is willing to do just about anything to get ahead. She knows what she has and how to use it. Her new boss is very into her, and many of the other women in the office even though he's married. Eventually the women decide to band together and punish the boss... by having a four way with him!

Ah yes, more naked fun from Nikkatsu! Heavy on skin and light on plot HORNY WORKING GIRL: FROM 5 TO 9 is a fun and quick romp around the office that barely leaves you alone long enough to catch your breath. Luckily you only have to keep up for 66 minutes!

The Video 
Impulse Pictures presents the film with an anamorphic widescreen transfer in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that looks very nice. Skin is the most important thing about this film and flesh tones look tender and natural. The image is clean with hardly any dirt, hair or dust to speak of. 

The Audio
HORNY GIRL is presented with its original Japanese soundtrack in a 2.0 Mono track that is perfectly acceptable for this disc. Dialogue and soundtrack are mixed so that neither of them has to compete and the track is mostly clean of any sort of disturbances. Optional English subs are available for those of us that don't speak Japanese. 

The Extras
Jasper Sharp's liner notes accompany the film's original theatrical trailer. As per usual. 

The Bottom Line
Spine number 15 in the Nikkatsu Erotic Films Collection From Impulse is another skin flick packed full of "win". The standard package offering may not catch collectors of the series off guard but it has certainly ingrained itself as a reliable companion. You know what you're getting with the series so just keep buying them. 


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Conjuring (2013)

A film promoted as "From the makers of Saw and Insidious" not only doesn't sell me on the film but it makes me never want to see it. This was the case for THE CONJURING, the new James Wan directed horror film that thanks to positive word of mouth (actually it was more of a free ticket that got me in the theater) I sat my ass down in a chair this afternoon to see what all the hullabaloo was about.

Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are a married team of paranormal investigators with ties to the Catholic church. They have helped some of the nastiest and most infamous cases of hauntings and demonic possession along with debunking the vast majority of supposed hauntings. They are called to the Perron family farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island when the mother of the family visits the team at one of their seminars after many strange and unsettling occurrences at their new home involving their five daughters. It is immediately apparent to Lorraine, the clairvoyant of the duo, that there is something not kosher in the house and the ghostly happenings get more frequent, more violent and more disturbing.

The plot doesn't sound like anything new to the genre or that it would even be good. From the title screen and opening credits it was apparent to me that I wasn't in for Insidious 2 or Paranormal Activity 15 which is largely what the marketing campaign made this out to look like. No, this was destined to hearken back to the haunted house and possession films of the 70s. In fact it is set in 1971 and has an oppressively loud sound mix and score, an unsettling atmosphere and characters that aren't fucking retarded. It didn't take long for me to think back to similarities with Peter Medak's The Changeling. THE CONJURING is largely successful throughout. The back story is mean as is our demon who knows not of remorse or mercy. There are a few instances of falling victim to cliched jump scares, which aren't used as often as you'd expect thankfully, bland grey scale makeup on some ghosts and a climax that starts off strong but ends all too quickly. Luckily those faults are balanced by a great ensemble performance, strong soundtrack and solid directing.

THE CONJURING is the best haunted house/demonic possession film of recent years. While it is far from perfect it kicks the ever loving shit out of Insidious, Paranormal Activity and whatever else you want to throw at it. If you are thinking what I was thinking, that the film looked liked dreadful, rehashed garbage, write it off to a totally uninspired marketing campaign that is satisfied in selling more of the same and give it a chance. If you're a fan of the genre, the good films of the genre that is, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

A very solid 7.5/10

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Street Trash (Blu-ray Review) - Synapse Films

Directed By: James Muro
Written By: Roy Frumkes
Starring: Mike Lackey, Bill Chepil, Vic Noto
Color/102 Minutes/Not Rated
Region Free

The Film
The 80s were a wonderful time in film. Sure they weren't perfect, and many films relied too heavily on excess instead of quality film making during the decade many of these films were a load of shitty fun. STREET TRASH was to be director James Muro's film school thesis and while it was denied at being a thesis it became a cult classic. A very messy, dirty and colorful cult classic.

An auto wrecking yard is home to a group of derelicts who live in the towers of tires out back. The movie is little more than the story of these bums and their encounters with the law, each other, and a case of Tenafly Viper, a decades old case of wine that a local liquor store owner has set out for a dollar a bottle. At that price even our dirty friends can afford it. The only problem is that when you drink it you get really sick... and melt into a pile of day-glo colored slop. You also have to watch out for your penis being ripped off and tossed around.

This isn't high art folks. The plot of the film is thin and just sturdy enough to hold together our scenes of violence, gore and comedy, and there is plenty of each. The melted neon mess will have you smiling until the next joked comes about and cracks you up (the grocery store scene remains one of the single funniest things I've ever seen in a movie). If you like gross out horror comedies you'll love STREET TRASH.

The Video
I have to put it bluntly- Synapse Films' transfer for STREET TRASH on Blu-ray is simply a revelation. For a low budget, student made horror, gross out comedy splatter fest, made in the early 80s this disc is breathtaking. The DVD released several years ago by Synapse was a fine release itself, one I didn't think could be topped for this particular film, but I was wrong. If you've never seen the film, the bright neon colors of the melting bums explodes off the screen without ever being "too hot". Flesh tones look nice and natural, and there is no sign of any DNR or edge enhancement. This is pretty much a perfect transfer for this particular movie.

Note: Images do not represent Blu-ray Disc quality and are for reference to the film only.

The Audio
The sound side of things may not blow you away but with two options, a 5.1 surround DTS-HD mix and the original 2.0 mono mix in DTS-HD. I prefer the original 2.0 mix myself as I've found many soundtracks that are remixed for surround sound that didn't originally have that many channels to sound awkward and not true to their production. The 2.0 track is totally enjoyable and just how I've always remembered loving this movie.

The Extras
This Special Meltdown Blu-ray edition ports over all the previous extras from the special edition DVD with the same name from a few years earlier including:
Audio Commentary w/ director James Muro
Audio Commentary w/ producer Roy Frumkes
The Meltdown Memoirs - A feature length "making of" documentary featuring rare footage and interviews
The original short film version of STREET TRASH
Original trailers and teasers
Replica Tenafly Viper bottle sticker

And new to this Blu-ray edition:
Video interview w/ Jane Arakawa
Deleted scenes

Can we say "stacked"?

The Bottom Line
If you own the previous DVD you'll want to buy this release. If you don't own the previous DVD you'll want to buy this release. If you've never seen the film and like funny, clever and just all around awesome splatter horror flicks you'll want to buy this release. Honestly, this is an incredible release that will surely be a staple for best release of the year lists in a few months. Don't be left out.

STREET TRASH: Special Meltdown Edition Blu-ray is available HERE

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Nurse Diary: Wicked Finger (DVD Review) - Impulse Pictures

Directed By: Shinichi Shiratori
Written By: Rokuro Kumagai
Starring: Etsuko Hara, Asami Ogawa, Hiroshi Unayama
Color/68 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
 Ryoko is a young nurse who has just moved out of the nurse's dormitory in order to keep her affair with one of the doctors at the hospital a secret. The doctor is a married man but certainly not committed as he also has an ongoing affair with a burlesque dancer who regularly visits him complaining of fake symptoms to get his sexual attention. The doctor loves Ryoko though, and their relationship is quickly becoming public knowledge as Ryoko has a very nosey neighbor who has fallen for her along with a shy, younger nurse who wants to be like her and be around her all the time. The affair between doctor and nurse falls apart when the doctor's wife finds out about it. 

NURSE DIARY: WICKED FINGER is a slapstick driven sexual romp around the hospital. The comedy is poured on in heavy doses, even in moments where you wouldn't normally expect comedy. The skin factor is of course on display frequently and that is the star of the show. This movie is fast moving and greatly gratifying to the viewer who gets plenty of what they came to see, with some laughs and silliness on top. 

The Video 
Impulse Pictures presents NURSE DIARY with a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that is a rather nice looking presentation. The colors within the houses standout nicely compared to the drab looking interior of the hospital scenes. The image is clean and stable and has a nice natural look to it.

The Audio
The 2.0 Mono track is in the film's native Japanese and includes optional English subtitles. The track has a bit of background noise at times but is a perfectly satisfactory track with dialogue never getting lost in the mix with the soundtrack. The subtitles are newly translated and read perfectly. 

The Extras
The original theatrical trailer, accompanies reversible cover art and liner notes from Jasper Sharp.

The Bottom Line
This is the 15th entry into the Nikkatsu series from Impulse Pictures and it continues to provide a very diverse and entertaining series of skin flicks from Japan. You'll be doing yourself a disservice if you're a fan of the series and don't pick this one up.


Monday, July 15, 2013

The Vixens Of Kung-Fu / Oriental Blue (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Bill Milling
Written By: Cho En Young / Valentine Mu Rana
Starring: Bree Anthony, Peonies Jong, Jamie Gillis
Color/175 Minutes/Not Rated 

Who knew there was so much cock in Kung-Fu? Paula is a young woman is walking alone in the woods when she encounters a trio of sleazy men (including sleaze kings Jamie Gillis and Bobby Astyr) who proceed to shoot her with a tranquilizer gun and have their way with her in full juicy hardcore action. After they're done Paula is rescued by the leader of an all woman Kung-Fu group, who like to practice outdoors in the nude. Of course they train not only physically and spiritually but also sexually to be able to take on any man who may attack them.

It just so happens that a fellow Kung-Fu-er does attack them, during a lesbian sex session of course. The ladies handle him easily with some of the most hilarious editing used in place of special effects I've ever seen. And apparently their prize is to have sex with him. Embarrassed, the man tracks down a master of the Golden Dragon Raising Head technique and studies under her to get his revenge. His training includes jerking off wildly in the woods and little else that we see. The rematch involves a lengthy fuck session between him and Paula where the man apparently emerges victorious, though when you see what happens to him you'll question if he is the real winner and the girls bow down to his master.

What a fucking ridiculous plot and porno flick, and that is exactly what this is... a 70 minute, almost entirely outdoor public fuck fest. The Kung-Fu has so little to do with the movie it wouldn't make a difference if it was removed or not. However the movie is entertaining on a "What the fuck am I watching?" level and I fully appreciate it for that alone.

Another porno featuring Gillis and Astyr, ORIENTAL BLUE features the shady dealings of Madame Blue, the woman running a brothel that specializes in "acquiring" exotic women for her clients. Madame Blue also deals a bit in blackmail and often using her body to get what she wants.

There isn't a ton of plot to ORIENTAL BLUE, it is simply another vintage porno flick, full of hardcore scenes with various races of women. Technically speaking it is a competently made erotic film that fans of the genre will appreciate. The downfall is that someone looking for something a bit different within the genre could pass this up as "standard" fare after viewing the oddball VIXENS OF KUNG-FU.

THE VIXENS OF KUNG-FU has a 16:9 transfer that looks pretty good considering the natural light used during filming which doesn't always translate to a great looking product. There is some wobble in the early parts of the film but overall Vinegar Syndrome does a nice job on this weird movie that nobody would think twice if they dumped a much worse looking effort on disc. The transfer on ORIENTAL BLUE is even better. Another anamorphic widescreen presentation has good detail and black levels, with skin tones looking nice and natural. There is some speckling of dirt but it doesn't take away from the presentation at all. These look quite a bit nicer than I expected them to.

Both films have instances of crackling and pops but it never reaches a level of distraction or annoyance. The majority of both films dialogue is just moaning and groaning but it sounds solid and does its job nicely. 

Bare bones.

The Bottom Line
This double feature of Bill Milling directed pornos will prove to be an excellent addition to fans of the genre. If you've made it this far into the review chances are you're a fan and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to you.

THE VIXENS OF KUNG-FU/ORIENTAL BLUE Drive-In Collection Double Feature is available HERE

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Punk Vacation (Blu-ray Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Stanley Lewis
Written By: Lance Smith, Harvey Richelson
Starring: Sandra Bogan, Stephen Fiachi
Color/93 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
By 1990 the vigilante revenge film had dozens and dozens of entries and more than a few became legitimate cult classics. From Charles Bronson as Paul Kersey in the Death Wish series to the wonderfully gritty Exterminator, PUNK VACATION was a late entry into the popular genre that helped close the door on it. 

When a young motorcycle riding punker is pissed off that a soda machine doesn't have orange soda and then eats his money without giving him his drink he begins unleashing his rage on the machine. The owner of the diner where the machine sits comes out, immediately shoving a shotgun into the youth's face, telling him to leave. The punk returns shortly, bringing his gang with him and they begin to torture the diner owner's young daughter and end up murdering the man. When the cops show up the leader of the gang, our extremely tight wound orange soda fan, is injured in the incident and brought to the hospital to heal while being watched by the police.

After trying to get revenge for her fallen father, the diner owner's older daughter is kidnapped by the gang and tortured. This is where the movie really gets its meat and potatoes from as the small, tight-knit town tries to recuse one of their own as the gang of punks tries to do the same. It is a bit of cat and mouse from the punks and the desire for cold blooded revenge for the town which culminates in a wild shoot out climax in the hills of California. 

PUNK VACACTION is an entertaining enough revenge story but never goes far enough to make it a must-see in the genre. The small town setting is never utilized as the punks stay out in the hills and woods outside of town. This is a missed opportunity as seeing them confront other townsfolk in their shops, restaurants and neighborhoods could have made for a more exciting and tense viewing experience. From a technical standpoint this was Stanley Lewis' only directing credit and he does a fair job at the helm of the film, but there are a few instances with awkward framing and poor focusing of the camera. The cast is a bit hammy at times, especially the punks early on in the film, who come across as more of a bickering group of teens than a vicious group of outlaws. They do eventually come around to become a nasty bunch, thankfully. 

A bit fun, a bit violent, PUNK VACATION doesn't go the distance into exploitation classic but it does manage to be an overall decent and entertaining flick.

The Video 
This Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is region free on both discs courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome and is another knock out for the company. The 16:9 anamorphic widescreen transfer is taken from a 35mm print and looks pretty damn good from start to finish, with flesh tones looking nice and natural and colors of the punk's wardrobe and makeup being vibrant but not too hot. There is a bit of dirt and debris throughout the film but it doesn't take away from the quality of the transfer. I didn't notice any nasty mess-ups with the transfer such as excessive DNR or edge enhancement.

Please Note: Screenshots taken from DVD copy of the film

The Audio
The audio portion of the disc also fares very well with a DTS-HD track that is free of any pops, crackling or hissing.

The Extras
Along with an extensive still gallery, there are a pair of video interviews with actor/producer Stephen Fusci and Steven Rowland (producer's assistant and stuntman). Both men provide some insights into shooting the film.

Oh and if that isn't enough there is a bonus feature film, NOMAD RIDERS. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but hell yes, what a great special feature. 

The Bottom Line
If the entertainment value of PUNK VACATION wasn't enough, the high quality package that Vinegar Syndrome has put together should be. Oh yeah, the fact that you get a bonus film in the special features makes this one a no-brainer.

PUNK VACTION is available HERE

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Stitches (2012)

Stitches the clown is hired to entertain Tom and his friends at his birthday party. The rather nasty looking clown is ridiculed and taunted by the children who are more amused by their own jokes than his juggling and balloon animals. When a prank involving tying Stitches' shoelaces together goes wrong, Stitches ends up face down in the dishwasher with a butcher knife through his face, leading to his death. While spying on the funeral for Stitches Tom witnesses an ancient clown ritual inside one of the buildings and is discovered by the clowns who tell him that no clown who dies during his show can ever rest in peace until he can finish the show.

Six years later the kids are now in high school, having grown up and gone on to their separate cliques Tom is a quiet kid, with a long standing crush on Kate, one of the girls from his party. When his friends find out he will have the house to himself on his birthday weekend they plan a big party inviting everyone they know and then some. While the party rages on around him, Tom does his best to strike up conversation with Kate when a fake clown scare sends him crashing to the ground and cracking his head. The bigger problem is that an invitation to the party found its way to Stitches' grave and now he has found his way to the party to claim the lives of all the kids that were at the party where he lost his.

It is surprising how many horror movies have been made revolving around killer or evil clowns and how few of them are any good. STITCHES isn't anything groundbreaking but it does rise above many clown horror films and is an entertaining slasher flick. The special effects, part practical and part CGI are all well done, filled with blood and rather amusing. The cast is full of high school character cliches but everyone does a good job in their role from "emo" girl to gay boy and everything in between.

If you're looking for a new horror flick, or a slasher in particular, I suggest grabbing a bowl of popcorn, a few beers and a couple friends and enjoying STITCHES.