Friday, June 24, 2016

FEVER - Artsploitation Films (DVD Review)

Directed By: Raphael Neal
Written By: Raphael Neal, Alice Zeniter
Starring: Martin Loizillon, Pierre Moure, Julie-Marie Parmentier
Color/81 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: May 24, 2016

The Film
A pair of high school students commit a murder with no motive and for no real reason and have gotten away with it until a neighbor makes a possible connectino to them. The teens now have to worry if she really has proof it was them but their own conciesnce may break on them first.

FEVER is a psychological drarma/thriller partially based on the Leopold and Loeb case from the 1920s but frankly the film is never as interesting as the story of that case or other works that used the famous case as a foundation. While the film is technically sound, including straight forward and competent direction from Raphael Neal and performances from the entire cast that don't have a real weak spot it's simply a boring film. I never felt a deep connection to either of the boys and again, it wasn't due to their acting, it was just that there was never anything in the script to connect the audience to them.

When the film starts the crime has already been committed, we only see with them as they handle it over the passing days as their time in high school is coming to an end and there's never a key moment that could be seen as more important than any other. It's just time passing, saying they'll never break until one of them possibly does. It's a waste of a good cast that is capable of putting on good performances because the script doesn't give them anything to do.

I wish I had more to say about FEVER but I really don't. It is what it is.

The Audio & Video
Artsploitation Films gives FEVER an attractive DVD release for it's North American home video debut. The film has a strong, sharp look with vivid colors and a nice overall clarity that I think could only be improved upon with a HD scan and presentation. The French language audio is handled through a crisp sounding and crystal clear 5.1 surround mix that is stable and well mixed throughout. English subtitles are included and are timed perfectly and read naturally.

The Extras
A trailer is included with a small selection of trailers for other Artsploitation releases.

The Bottom Line
The idea behind FEVER is an interesting one but the film didn't strike a visceral chord or an emotional note with me which left me feeling distant and uninterested from the characters and their story.

FEVER is available HERE

Monday, June 20, 2016

THE HUMAN TORNADO - Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Cliff Roquemore
Written By: Jerry Jones
Starring: Rudy Ray Moore, Lady Reed, Jimmy Lynch
Color/96 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: May 31, 2016

The Film
It's bigger badder and blacker! It's THE HUMAN TORNADO!

After a successful stand up comedy tour Dolemite returns home and wants to have a party to celebrate. The party grabs the attention of the local hick sheriff because any gathering of black folks just can't be good! Upon breaking up the party the sheriff finds his wife making love to Dolemite which leads to the sheriff shooting his wife and pinning the blame on Dolemite who's now on the run and looking for solace with Lady Bee until he finds out that some local gangsters have taken control of Lady Bee's strip joint and making her girls work for them. Dolemite is now fighting battles on two fronts as he tries to elude capture from the honky sheriff and take down the dirty gangsters who are roughing up his friends.

THE HUMAN TORNADO (or as Dolemite repeatedly calls himself "The Human Tornada") is an action packed, "don't give a fuck" whirlwind of blaxploitation goodness. While this movie wouldn't exist without the first Dolemite film which is a classic of its own, THE HUMAN TORNADO is just a crazier take on what made the first film great. One liners, bad martial arts action that is sped up to cover up the lack of choreography, Ernie Hudson, Ernie Hudson's brother in a bald cap playing Ernie Hudson's character, explosions, titties, sex tornados, torture dungeons and more. It's all here and you have to ask yourself where else you'll see an entire bedroom get smashed to the ground in a sex tornado of Dolemite's sexual prowess. Nowhere!

Director Cliff Roquemore creates a picture that is still rough around the edges as this is still an exploitation film despite having a slightly larger budget. Roquemore's debut film shows more style and natural ability than you may expect as he uses different tricks and techniques to cover up some of the film's technical shortcomings. The cast is good from Rudy Ray Moore on down to karate champion Howard Jackson who lends the the film's lone sense of martial arts credibility. Jackson isn't asked to do much besides show up and kick ass so he's successful in what was asked of him.

THE HUMAN TORNADO is a rollercoaster of emotions - you'll laugh, you'll cry, and you might just discover yourself. Nah, who the hell am I kidding? Grab a 40, pack a bowl and grab some buddies to watch this incredible piece of 70s blaxploitation cinema.

The Audio & Video
It is going to be hard to not compare the transfers of the Dolemite movies as they're released by Vinegar Syndrome so I'll do my best to keep that to a minimum. THE HUMAN TORNADO is presented in a new 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer taken from a new 2K scan and restoration from 35mm vault elements. Now, I said I wouldn't compare but it's definitely worth mentioning that you shouldn't expect the damn near pristine PQ that was delivered in the first Dolemite film's Blu-ray. THE HUMAN TORNADO's elements were obviously in far worse condition than that of the first film and where Dolemite was restored from an original negative this film isn't quite as fortunate. The picture quality is decent, with some areas looking good and having really solid detail and sharpness while others show just how rough the elements were. And that of course shows just how much work Vinegar Syndrome put in to this release to make it look as good as it does. There's still scratches, speckling and various other damage but overall this is a big improvement over the decade old DVD that was bordering on unwatchable.

The English audio comes through a DTS-HD mono track that sounds good. The audio was in far better condition than the video and while it isn't the sharpest sounding audio mix you'll ever hear it is clear and mostly free of any damage. The mix is stable and steady and you won't have any issues listening along. Optional English subtitles are available.

The Extras
VinSyn has put together a nice collection of extras including:

-"I, Dolemite part 2" - More documentary interview footage with Rudy Ray Moore and others involved in the Dolemite series. - I really hope these continue through the rest of the Dolemite releases.
-Audio Commentary with Rudy Ray Moore Biographer Mark Jason Murray and Co-star Jimmy Lynch
-Audio Interview with Director Cliff Roquemore and Howard Jackson
-German dubbed version of the film "Der Bastard"
-Radio Spot
-Theatrical Trailers
-Promotional Still Gallery
-Reversible Artwork

The Bottom Line
THE HUMAN TORNADO fits right in line with Dolemite. It's rough and tough and wild as hell! Highly Recommended!


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

CRIMSON - Kino Lorber/Redemption Films (Blu-ray Review)

Spain, France/1973
Directed By: Juan Fortuny
Written By: Marius Lesoeur, Juan Fortuny
Starring: Paul Naschy, Silvia Solar, Olivier Mathot
Color/98 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: June 14, 2016

The Film
Surnett (Paul Naschy) is the leader of a gang who have planned a jewel heist but end up in a police chase that leads to Surnett getting shot in the head. Requiring surgery to survive his gang take him to a secluded doctor who has made many advances in brain surgery while experimenting on animals. They hold the doctor and his wife hostage until he does the surgery but a transplant is needed so they decide to take out their head rival who is known as The Sadist. After the transplant Surnett has absorbed many of the personality traits from The Sadist and is even more violent and deadly than ever before.

CRIMSON aka THE MAN WITH THE SEVERED HEAD is a messy take on classic horror film ideas. Transplanted body parts containing pieces of their donor is an plot device as old as horror cinema and it leads to rather sleazy results here. CRIMSON is a mash up of Euro crime, horror and sleazy exploitation. Unfortunately this triangle of ideas never meshes together into a cohesive and successful formula. While individual pieces of the film, including the scene where the gang acquires The Sadist's head and some rough nudie scenes are entertaining enough to keep the viewer engaged the rest of the film is a missed opportunity at something better. Paul Naschy certainly had the ability to be the best part of this movie and when he's given an opportunity to do something other than lay around in a bed in various states of conciousness he generally is.

But the messy mash up of ideas proves time and time again that it just doesn't work. There's far too much down time and unnecessary subplots such as various members of the gang looking to take revenge for being left behind. Only touching on horror elements and never fully becoming a horror movie, CRIMSON is probably best described as a horror influenced exploitation film but it's much more than that while being less than that as well.

It all comes back to to the messiness of the execution. Director Juan Fortuny's visual style is straight forward and it works but bringing the elements of the story together obviously was not his strong suit and CRIMSON ends up being just a fraction of the success that it had the potential to be.

The Audio & Video
Redemption Films is back with their first Blu-ray release in a number of months once again in conjunction with Kino Lorber and they've picked up right where they left off. CRIMSON starts out a little rough around the edges with some noticeable wear and tear to the original 35mm film element source material. That doesn't last too long and the picture quality quickly turns around into a natural film looking transfer with healthy and fleshy skin tones, vivid colors and strong detail levels in surfaces and textures. Speckling remains throughout but the vast majority of the this 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is great. There are two audio options depending on which version of the film you watch - the shorter English version features an atrocious English dub that sounds ridiculous. Now the quality was fine but the dub itself is laughable. I only scanned through that version as I was more interested in watching the extended French version that has a French audio track with optional English subtitles. The sound is crisp and clear, with a stable mix and no damage or background noise. The subtitles are translated properly and are timed perfectly.

The Extras
An audio commentary by horror film historian Richard Harland Smith is included.

The Bottom Line
There's a couple reasons to pick up CRIMSON and they include Paul Naschy being under represented in your collection and supporting Redemption Films because I want them to get back to a more frequent release schedule!

CRIMSON is available HERE

Monday, June 13, 2016

CIRCUS OF FEAR / FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS - Blue Underground (Blu-ray Review)

UK/1966, 1967
Directed By: John Moxey, Jeremy Summers
Written By: Peter Welbeck
Starring: Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski
Color/195 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: June 28, 2016

The Films
This pair of films based on the work of novelist Edgar Wallace each feature, appearances by the late great Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski. That was enough to get me excited about them, especially CIRCUS OF FEAR which is a film I've long wanted to see but the film and I never ended up at the same place at the same time. FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS was of less interest as the Harry Alan Towers produced spy film's I've seen don't really get my blood pumping but again, Lee and Kinski in the cast made it a must see.

CIRCUS OF FEAR is from 1966 and directed by John Moxey who is best known to me as the director of City Of The Dead aka Horror Hotel which is a brilliant gothic horror film from 1960 starring Christopher Lee. He would pair up with Lee once again here where an armored car heist leads London's detectives to a mysterious circus where a disfigured lion tamer (Christopher Lee) is one of several suspects in a series of accidents and murder but nobody is as innocent as they seem.

I enjoyed CIRCUS OF FEAR it's a well made crime mystery with a strong cast including Suzy Kendall, Margaret Lee Leo Genn and Klaus Kinski. There's enough action to keep things moving along at a comfortable pace and the plot is constantly thickening. The danger of the lions add an element of horror to the picture and there are a couple of more gruesome scenes that had been cut in some releases.

The film's mystery is quite obvious and there's little surprise to the big reveal that comes in the third act. The weak reveal doesn't hurt the picture too much thankfully as the movie is never more than just good. I'd never call the film great but it is an enjoyable watch from start to finish.

FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS is easily the more visually appealing of the two films. This Jeremy Summers (House of 1,000 DollsVengeance Of Fu Manchu) stars Bob Cummings in what would be the former Hitchcock cast member's final feature film. Cumming stars as Bob Mitchell, a wealthy American playboy type (why they chose a rather washed up actor at the end of his career for this doesn't make sense to me) who is quickly thrown into a dangerous and life threatening situation between local mobsters and a group known as the Five Golden Dragons who hope to take over the world's economy without revealing their identities to each other until some grandiose ritual of key turning, box opening and gun shooting. It's up to Mitchell to reveal the identities of the Five Golden Dragons if he can survive long enough.

FIVE GOLEN DRAGONS is easily the more visually stimulating and appealing of the two films. Shot at Shaw Brothers' Studio in Hong Kong this film has a very exotic flavor filled with beautiful bikini clad women, boat chases and strikingly colorful costumes including the golden dragon masks. The visuals of FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS are its best asset as the writing is awful. The film is apparently a comedy because Bob Mitchell takes the entire thing as joke despite very real danger and attempts on his life he's laughing and joking throughout. That may be forgivable if the movie didn't have extremely out of place and down right bizarre music and sound cues that would fit more in a 3 Stooges slapstick act than a spy thriller.

On top of this the majority of the cast is given nothing to do, including Klaus Kinski who shows up every half hour for about 15 seconds and Christopher Lee who is relegated to taking off a mask and is given about 10 seconds of screen time. I like the art direction in this film but sadly that's about it.

The Audio & Video
Blue Underground makes sure you have no reason to search down any other version of these films as they've presented both films uncut with gorgeous 2K scans from the original negatives. Both films feature strong detail in textures, surfaces and especially in close-ups. The grain in wood and the fabric in clothing is immediately evident. Colors are faithfully reproduced from the darker and drearier CIRCUS OF FEAR to the far more bright and vivid color palette of Hong Kong and the costumes in FIVE GOLDEN DRAGONS. The black levels are deep with no signs of blocking up and the more vibrant colors shine without bleeding or looking artificially enhanced. Each film features an English DTS-HD Mono mix that are free of any background noise or distortions. I feel that CIRCUS sounds slightly better with a more crisp and clear sound overall. There's nothing drastically wrong with DRAGONS audio but I don't think it was quite as crystal clear sounding to my ear which leads me to believe it has to do with how the audio was originally recorded.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary with Director John Moxey on CIRCUS OF FEAR
-Theatrical Trailer Collection
-Poster and Still Galleries

The Bottom Line
Blue Underground's excellent presentation of these films is probably better than the films themselves but I found CIRCUS OF FEAR plus the appearances by Christopher Lee and Klaus Kinski in both films to be enough to warrant a recommendation.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

CONDUIT - Brain Damage Films (DVD Review)

Directed By: Sixto Melendez
Written By: Sixto Melendez
Starring: Wes Martinez, Monica Engesser, Mike Watkiss
Color/100 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: April 12, 2016

The Film
Eddie is haunted by a tragic event from his childhood when his mother brutally murdered his father and sister leaving Eddie for dead. Now dealing with a recent divorce Eddie enters group therapy to try and put the pieces of his life together and continue on. He meets Amy who is beautiful and alluring and dealing with a drug addiction. Amy eases Eddie's pain with a series of hookups but soon after meeting her people around Eddie start turning up missing and dead and Eddie learns that Amy may be a demonic force that needs to spread her evil to others.

CONDUIT is the feature film debut from writer and director Sixto Melendez and he creates a pretty good looking independent horror film. The film feels bigger than it's limited handful of locations would normally allow. The photography studio is sparsely but smartly decorated giving it an eerily empty but genuinely authentic feeling.

The cast is good and better than most similar direct to video horror films from top to bottom. Wes Martinez is a solid backbone for the cast as Eddie and plays well alongside Monica Engesser and Carrie Fee as the new women in his life. Mike Watkiss is also worth mentioning as Gabriel, the reclusive man who knows all about Amy's history.

I found CONDUIT to be engaging even though it isn't the most exciting horror film you'll watch this year. The film is very much a thriller as it is a horror film with only a couple of explicit horror movie moments and far more moments dealing with the unsolved disappearances and murders. It's really the third act where CONDUIT turns into a horror film and it certainly leaves you wanting more in that regard, selling it a bit short. The movie's 100 minute runtime gives plenty of room to develop the story and characters and work in a more exciting horror element that isn't so fleeting when all is said and done.

CONDUIT ends up surprising me and being better than I would have expected. It's far from perfect but there are far worse films that get higher praise and more attention than CONDUIT.

The Audio & Video
Brain Damage Films gives CONDUIT home on DVD with a 16x9 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The picture is clean has pretty good sharpness for a standard def release. Much of the film takes place in darker locations and thankfully this release handles black levels fairly well. There are some instances of blocking and compression but overall it's fleeting and more often than not the black levels are decent. The English audio sounds good with either a 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround mix. The audio is clean and dialogue comes across clear and stable.

The Extras
Bare bones.

The Bottom Line
I don't love CONDUIT but I certainly didn't hate it and it's better than I thought it would be. Worth a look.

CONDUIT is available HERE

Sunday, June 5, 2016

REEL GORE RELEASING - A New Blu-ray/DVD Releasing Company


Los Angeles, CA (June 2016)

For immediate release. Cult Epics founder Nico B and film producer Steve Aquilina will be launching a new horror label REEL GORE RELEASING as of August 2016, distributed thru CAV (home of Cult Epics, Synapse, Grindhouse) in North America. With the recent success of the horror films of Jorg Buttgereit (Nekromantik) and Angst, Nico B teamed up with Steve Aquilina from 8-Films to launch a new label for newly produced gore horror films to premiere on video and digital. The first three films are VIOLENT SHIT - THE MOVIE (August 2016), a bigger budget revamp of the cult-schlock-gore classics from the 80s, shot in Italy featuring a soundtrack by Claudio Simonetti's Goblin, followed by MASKS (September 2016), German giallo gore feast from the director Andreas Marschall (Tears of Kali, German Angst), and the return to directing of Luigi Cozzi (Contamination) with BLOOD ON MELIES' MOON (October 2016) with guest appearances by Dario Argento & Lamberto Bava. For more info see and join us for updates at

Friday, June 3, 2016

PSYCHIC KILLER - Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Ray Danton
Written By: Greydon Clark, Mike Angel, Ray Danton
Starring: Jim Hutton, Julie Adams, Greydon Clark
Color/90 Minutes/Unrated
Region FREE
Release Date: May 31, 2016

The Film
Arnold is a quiet and reserved man who is very close to his mother. Arnold becomes falsely implicated in a murder he didn't commit and is put away in an asylum. While locked away Arnold meets another man who isn't crazy and is simply waiting out his time until he can take revenge on the pimp that turned his daughter into a whore. This man teaches Arnold the method of Astral Projection - the power to project yourself in an out of the body experience to another place and physically manipulate items. When Arnold is released he comes home to find that his mother has died and decides to take revenge on the people responsible for locking him away while his mother was dying using his new found psychic abilities.

PSYCHIC KILLER could easily have been a corny, poorly made film that would have felt dated only a decade later. Instead the talent behind the film created a really solid horror film that works as well in 2016 as I suspect it did when it was originally released 40 years ago. Ray Danton uses his decades of experience acting along with the knowledge gained in directing two previous feature length horror films to make PSYCHIC KILLER an engaging and straight forward but effective horror film. The screenplay by Greydon Clark creates some memorable moments and murder sequences while seamlessly working in doses of dark comedy that never feels out of place. The construction site murder sequence features the heaviest dose of that dark comedy, enough to bring about an actual laugh or two but it's sprinkled throughout the film and feels completely natural to the film.

The cast is great, giving the film a sense of class that a lesser cast may not have been able to do. From star Jim Hutton as the quiet but vengeful Arnold to Julie Adams who is famous for her role in The Creature From The Black Lagoon and Aldo Ray who has hundreds and hundreds of credits and became a staple of horror and exploitation films in the 70s and 80s, the cast is chock full of veritable A-listers who could carry a film with a pedigree and budget 10 times that of PSYCHIC KILLER. There's no questioning the talent in front of and behind the camera.

While watching the film I had a strong feeling of memories towards the 1986 demonic horror film Witchboard in which a student is terrorized and eventually possessed by an evil spirit after communicating with it through a Ouija board. While the film's are two different beasts they feel very similar at times, especially before the possession occurs in Witchboard. The death scenes largely catch their victims by surprise and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a bit of inspiration from PSYCHIC KILLER in the Kevin S. Tenney film that came a decade later.

PSYCHIC KILLER is almost the total package. It has solid effects, a dark sense of humor that compliments the tone of the film but never becomes the leading emotion or feeling and a rock solid production. There are a few moments where the film takes on a meaner and nastier feeling and gets a bit gory as well. It's not perfect as I think the beginning and ending are both rushed along, particularly the beginning where you sort of just have to accept that Arthur learned the methods of Astral Projection but it's easily forgiven when you settle in and the rest of the movie plays out.

The Audio & Video
There's just a couple fleeting moments that keep Vinegar Syndrome's new 2K restoration and transfer taken from the original 35mm negative from being absolutely pristine but I probably couldn't be any happier than I am with the look and sound of this disc. PSYCHIC KILLER has a very basic style based totally in reality. The locations and interiors look like it could be taking place just about anywhere and you could be there. These locations are brought to life with exceptional crispness to the picture with no digital noise or waxiness. The level of detail is high in textures and surfaces and skin tones are healthy and fleshy. Colors are reproduced faithfully and while the the color palette is far from exciting it looks as it should. It's just a wonderful 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer while the DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix takes the original audio mix of the film and makes it sound just as good if not better than it probably sounded during its run in theaters in 1975 and certainly any time since. It's not possible that any other home video release could stand up to VinSyn's stunning quality and clarity and crispness on either the audio or video side of things and I don't have to have seen them to say that. There's nothing distracting to speak of and no damage to note and English subtitles are available.

The Extras
Along with a theatrical trailer and a few different TV spots Vinegar Syndrome rounds out the special features with a trio of video interview featurettes -

"The Danton Force" - Interviews with Ray Danton's sons Mitchell and Steve, Co-star Julie Adams and 1st AD Ronald G. Smith detailing Danton's life, time in the film business and production of PSYCHIC KILLER.
-"The Psychic Killer Inside Me" - Interview with Greydon Clark speaking of how he broke into the film industry and became attached to this film and had to fight to be a bigger part than he was ever intended to be.
-"The Aura Of Horror" - Interview with Producer Mardi Rustam that is a bit fascinating about how this Iraqi native got into the film business almost out of sheer luck and created his own production company that was a success.

Finally reversible cover art is also included with the package.

The Bottom Line
I'm a bit dissapointed in myself for never taking the numerous opportunities that I've had to see this film earlier. I think PSYCHIC KILLER has a lot to offer horror fans that appreciate the drive-in cinema era of the 70s and this release should get people talking about the film. It deserves it.