The Burning (1981)

One from the regularly re-watched pile…

The Burning (1981)

Film: Those who have read reviews here at the ol’ To Watch Pile will know I have a special fondness of the films of the eighties. Hot off the exploitation scene and riding on in the wake of late seventies classic fright flicks like Dawn of the Dead and Halloween, the eighties started with a bang. Some of these films were branded ‘Video Nastys’ in the UK due to the ‘extreme’ lengths they went to, and some of them were either heavily cut or banned outright. These films became sought after collectors items on VHS, and when released on DVD, usually have a platoon of fans anxious to add them to their DVD library, and now, we have to collect them all over again on Bluray, or 4K.

The Burning is an 80s gem and is chockablock full of blood, gore and tits and (there’s also some men’s busts, if that’s your preference) and is a wonderful example of a mean-spirited slasher that easily holds up against most of today’s horror movies, and honestly, mostly exceeds them.

The Burning tells of the alcoholic and violent caretaker of summer camp ‘Camp Blackfoot’, Cropsy, who one night has a practical joke played upon him by a group of kids who are staying at the facility. As with all horror movies, the practical joke goes horribly wrong, and Cropsy is severely burnt. Flash forward 5 years later as Cropsy is finally released from hospital, horribly disfigured and filled to the teeth with rage. He makes his way back to Camp Blackfoot, where he has now become the stuff of legend, to exact his vengeance on a new batch of campers, one of whom is one of the original teenagers, now older and wiser, working as a camp councilor. The kids are dispatched in traditional slasher style, thanks to the brilliance of Tom Savini’s special make-up and gore effects, but who will survive?

This film could be technically described as the first film by Miramax. Harvey Weinstein has a ‘Story by’, ‘Created by’ and ‘Produced By’ credit, Bob Weinstein has a ‘Screenplay by’ credit (along with Peter Lawrence) and mother Miriam (the MIR in MIRamax) worked as a pre-production assistant. While this film has a lot of never-see-again actors, it did have several people that went on to become name actors in it: Tony award winner Brian Backer, Short Circuit’s Fisher Stevens, TV regulars Larry Joshua and Ned Eisenberg, not to mention Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander and Academy Award winner Holly Hunter!

The Burning stands up with the big boys of the slasher genre for several reasons: Tom Savini is at his best with the effects, the soundtrack is incredibly impressive, and most slashers have the teens dispatched one by one, this one has one amazing scene where the killer performs an act of mass murder than has to be seen to be believed!! My favourite thing about this movie, other than the female nudity and gore, is the fact that it was never belittled by a series of sequels that either don’t make sense, or just plain out suck!

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the Arrow Video Bluray Set, which runs for approximately 91 minutes and is presented in a clear and bright, 1.85:1 image with a fairly standard but nevertheless clean mono audio track.

Score: ***

Extras: A super bunch of extras on this Bluray, which is to be expected from Arrow:

Blood and Fire Memories is a great mini doco starring make up legend Tom Savini. This doco has some great ‘tricks of the trade’ bits and some excellent behind the scenes footage, and has comments from Savini about the filming of the Burning, and some wonderfully scathing ones about the Friday the 13th series, and how Jason shouldn’t even exist in the 9 of the 10 sequels the original spawned. This is an older extra that featured on previous releases of the film.

Slash and Cut is an interview with The Hidden director, Jack Sholder, who acted as editor on this film.

Cropsy Speaks is an interview with the actor Lou David who played Cropsy, who I reckon would leap on an opportunity to make a sequel.

Summer Camp Nightmare is an interview with female lead Leah Ayres.

Synthy the Best talks to composer Rick Wakeman, keyboardist from 70s band Yes, who wrote the score for the film.

There some behind the scenes footage which is some cool looks at SFX and stuntwork.

There’s a trailer for the film and a series of image galleries featuring the Make-up effects and posters of the film.

There is three (!) commentaries on this disc, one with Maylam and film expert Alan Jones, one with Shelley Bruce (Tiger) and Bonnie Deroski (Marney) and finally one with the guys from the podcast The Hysteria Continues.

There is also a booklet with an essay on the film by Justin Kerswell, and a DVD version of the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: The Burning is one of the all time great slasher movies and it’s on almost constant rotation at my house.

The To Watch Pile’s GoFund Me campaign

You may have heard, like Arnò above, that running a website isn’t free. I don’t mind that either as the To Watch Pile is a passion project and I enjoy doing it cost is something that can accompany ANY hobby.

I want to change things up a little though, and start a comic related podcast, and extend my YouTube stuff up a bit more, but need equipment to do so, and unfortunately I DON’T have the capitol for it.

So, I have started a GoFund Me Page to try and acquire better cameras, microphones and stuff so I can make more content for you to enjoy.

I can’t offer anything in return, but just a bit of spare change thrown towards the TWP will not just keep the doors open a bit longer, but also give me an opportunity to make more engaging content, maybe even with an occasional co-contributor!

The link for the page is right here: https://www.gofundme.com/keep-the-to-watch-pile-website-afloat?pc=ot_co_dashboard_a&rcid=e28632772b5242a08151aafce5b9b0a0

Night of the Comet (1984)

One from the rewatch pile…

Night of the Comet (1986)

Film: As a horny oversexed teen, this was probably one of the top ten most borrowed VHS films that I hired from my local video shop. Was I because of the high quality acting and drama? The exploration of mankind’s survival at the end of the world? The two gorgeous babes who were the main characters?

Well, I’d like to say it was the first two, but as you probably all will know, it was the hot girls.

No apologies: it was all hormones.

Anyway, having already been a fan of both the book and the BBC TV series of John Wyndam’s Day of the Triffids and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (not to mention the 80s teledrama of Triffids and Boris Sagal’s The Omega Man), I was on board with this film from the premise, the addition of Kelly Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart were just a bonus.

This film was written and directed by Thom Eberhardt, who also gave us Soul Survivor, which, like this film, is reminiscent of another uncredited text (in that case Survivor by James Herbert).

Everyone is excited by the comets that are about to fly above the earth, especially Samantha’s (Kelly Maroney) step-mother, whom, while her father is away, is throwing a ‘comet party’ with a bunch of neighbours and her sleepy potential boyfriend. When Samantha and her get into an argument, Samantha runs away and hides, missing the comet event.

Meanwhile, Samantha’s sister, Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) is also stuck inside while the comets fly over, but instead, she is staying in the cinema she works in with her ‘boyfriend’, whom has made a deal and has to wait for a guy to arrive with some film reels.

The problem for them both, though, when they wake the next morning, is that they find that everyone who has watched the comet has been reduced to dust, except for an unfortunate few who have become a kind of sun-hating, vampiry things.

They make there way to the city, and have fun (to a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’) in the abandoned malls and meet up with another survivor, Hector (Robert Beltran) who quickly leaves them to see if his family survive, and with a promise to return.

Whilst he is away the girls get in trouble with some of the mutants, but are saved by a team of scientists, one of whom is the friendly Audrey White (Mary Woronov), but does this team of scientists have an ulterior motive to help the girls, and if so, will Hector be able to save them?

This film is a real distillation of the 80s: it features a bunch of characters straight out of a Valley girl/ John Hughes movie nut in a horror/sci fi situation that contains liberal amounts of humour with its walls.

The cast are likeable enough, though Beltran gives off a weird vibe… like he doesn’t want to be there… to the whole preceding. I think the girls and the ‘zombies’ and the scientists are such a charactures that Beltran seems too ‘real’ and he rings untrue within the confines of the movie. There’s no doubt that he is a fine actor, but I’m not sure he is a perfect fit here.

If I’m to criticise the film at all, it must be as to how quickly our two teenage heroines get over the death of…well… everyone. They have a few moments of existential crises, but manage to rise above and get back to shopping and hanging out at the empty mall pretty quickly. There personal issues with the situation are not what the story is about, so on with the show, I guess.

It’s a fun story, if you overlook the ‘influences’ I mentioned earlier, and the special effects suit its age and it’s look.

Score: ****

Format: This review was done on the Arrow films, Region B Bluray release which runs for 95 minutes and is presented in a clear 1.85:1 image with a decent 2.0 audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: As one would expect from Arrow, a shedload of extras!

There is three different commentaries on this disc, one by actors Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart, another by writer/ director Thom Eberhardt and the last one by production designer John Muto. Each of the commentaries gives an interesting take on the making of the film, and ultimately they combine to make a pretty cool total experience of the making of the film.

Valley Girls at the End of the World is a really nice recollection of the movie from Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney.

The Last Man on Earth? is an interview with Robert Beltran where he talks about his starring role in the film, and he kind of sounds like a bit of a demanding self-involved jerk. I do like his idea of Eberhardt making a sequel now to see how the characters recreated their new world.

End of the World Blues is an interview with cult movie legend Mary Woronov, and she talks a little about her career and her experience with this film. She is still the coolest person that I’ve never met.

Curse of the Comet is an interview with make-up supervisor David B. Miller and his effects used in the film

There is also a trailer for the film.

This package from Arrow video also contains a DVD copy of the film, a reversible cover with alternate artwork, and a booklet featuring an essay about the film by Moviemail’s James Oliver.

Score: *****

WISIA: I have fond memories of this film and no matter what future format may surface, I’ll buy it again and again.

Rawhead Rex (1986)

One from the to watch pile…

Rawhead Rex (1986)

Film: I don’t wish to sound pretentious or elitist, but if you are a horror fan who has never heard of Clive Barker, you should perhaps stop, re-assess and use a different term other than ‘horror fan’ to describe yourself.

Seriously. It’s like saying you don’t know who Stephen King or Richard Laymon are… ok, I’ll forgive it if you don’t know who Laymon is (he is the writer of several books that would be a FAR better source of new horror films rather than remakes and sequels: The Beasthouse trilogy would be an amazing franchise).

My first exposure to Barker though, was with the first Hellraiser film, and I became an avid reader of his works though that fandom did wind down the less horror and more fantasy entered his novels. So of course I watched the Hellraiser films and his other works but somehow, Rawhead Rex completely bypassed me. I knew it existed, as Fangoria back in the day had an epic front cover from the film, but I never had the opportunity to see it, and never actively sought it out either.

Thankfully though, Arrow films have presented us with an apparently uncut version of the film! Packed full, typically from Arrow, of supplemental features!

Rawhead Rex tells of a small Irish town that has a horrible secret, and when a farmer moves an obelisk from his property, it gets released back upon the town! It is the ancient beast Rawhead Rex (Heinrich Von Schellendorf), a pagan thing that wants nothing but carnage and to kill!

American historian Howard Hallenbeck (David Dukes), his wife Elaine (Kelly Piper) and their two children (Hugh O’Conner and Cora Venus Lunney) happen to be in the town taking in the sights when Rawhead is released, and get caught up in the hullabaloo that follows, especially when one of them is taken by the beast…

It is common knowledge that Clive Barker wasn’t a fan of this film (apparently a myth according to the director, George Pavlou on one of the extras), which caused him to take more of a role in the making of Hellraiser, based on his novella, The Hellbound Heart, and there is plenty not to like about it.

The costume of the creature is a pretty solid, big monster costume… for a Corman film from the 60s. It appears to be quite firm and fake, and the performers mouth can be quite obviously seen within the creatures own mouth on several close-ups. For a creature with such an impressive head design, the articulation is quite minimal. The noise that emanates from the creature is quite daft too.

Interesting, for a film which contains two kids, the children are not the source of unpleasant characterisation:Kelly Piper’s portrayal of Elaine makes her come across as the most bitchiest of bitches and you honestly pray that she’ll be taken next. Imagine Christine Baranski’s portrayal of Leonard’s mother in Big Bang Theory being played as a ‘real’ serious character in a horror film that is taking itself quite seriously.

The worst thing is the sloppy screenplay. Within the confines of the scene of the first murder, it is quite obvious why one of the potential victims isn’t taken (which obviously gives a massive hint as to how to kill the monster), and it is projected quite hamfistedly. Some of the dialogue has a set-up with no pay-off. Now seeing how Barker himself wrote the screenplay, I assume the direction is at fault, or their was a little bit of freestyling amongst the actors.

For the most part the film LOOKS quite solid, but tends to fall apart a bit under even the slightest scrutiny. It’s identity suffers because it looks like it was trying to be a bit gothic like a Hammer Film, but it’s a little too bloody to successfully do it.

Score: **

Format: Rawhead Rex was reviewed on the Arrow UK release Bluray which runs for approximately 89 minutes and is presented in a fairly clean 1.85:1 image with a decent 2.0 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: It’s an Arrow Bluray, so sure enough that means heaps of extras!

Call Me Rawhead is an interview with actor Heinrich von Bünau, and by actor, he’s been in this interview and Rawhead Rex. It’s a pretty long interview for someone who keeps claiming to have forgotten so much.

What the Devil Hath Wrought is an interview with Roman Wilmot, who is charming and has some amusing anecdotes.

Rawhead FX: A Cock and Bull Story sees Peter MacKenzie Litten, John Schroonraad, Gerry Johnson, Sean Corcoran and Rosie Blackmore talk about the effects of the film.

Growing Pains; the Children Of Rawhead is a brand new Interview with Hugh O’Conor and Cora Lundy who played the kids in the film.

Rawk ‘n’ Roll is an Interview with score composer Colin Towns, and what an intimidating score it is too!

Rawhead Rising is an interview with comics legend from Death Rattle, Taboo and The Saga Of The Swamp Thing, Steven R. Bissette talk about Barker’s work, and The never published Rawhead Rex comic.

Audio Interview with George Pavlou is, as the name suggests, an newly recorded audio interview with George Pavlou, played over a series of stills from the film, behind the scenes pics and merchandise from the film.

The is an image gallery which features monster design sketch art and behind the scenes pictures, played as a slideshow with the score playing over the top.

The is the original trailer.

There are two commentaries on the disc, one with George Pavlou, moderated by Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower, and with with podcast favourites The Hysteria Continues.

The disc itself has a pretty cool reversible cover, one drawn by lowbrow artist Wes Benscoter and the other ordinal artwork, and a booklet featuring an essay about the film by Kat Ellinger.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’m glad I’ve seen it as it fills a hole in my watch-history, but I won’t see it again.

Tenebrae (1982)

One from the very top of the rewatch pile…

Tenebrae (1982)

The cover of my well worn Arrow edition of Tenebrae.

Film:

In 1929, Italian publishing company Mondadori started publishing a series of crime books that had garish yellow covers. It is from here that the Italian thriller/ horror film gets its name: giallo, the Italian word for yellow. The films from the early sixties started as adaptation of these early thrillers, but eventually became a genre of their own. The main characteristics of the giallo film take elements from detective stories and slasher films, with operatic elements and a large dose of blood, gore, violence and nudity. While many films from Italian directors can come under the ‘giallo’ title, the masters are truly Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Dario Argento, son of producer Salvatore Argento, began his career as a writer for a film journal, before heading into screen writing. He worked for Sergio Leone on such films as Once Upon Time in the West before heading into his own movies, thrillers that kept in mind his childhood love of Italian folk lore, the tales of the Brothers Grimm, but most of all, the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. Argento is responsible for some of the greatest horror films ever: Deep Red, Suspiria, and this one -Tenebrae.

Author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) has come to Rome to promote his latest novel, titled Tenebrae. His arrival is marred, however, by a series of killings that copy those in his novel. The police, Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma) and Detective Altieri (Carols Stagnaro) are frustrated by the murderer, who is directly referencing Neal by leaving pages from his novel at the crime scenes.

Anthony Franciosa asks Daria Niccolodi how one can star in more Argento films.

Neal, along with his agent, Bullmer (John Saxon), his assistant, Anne (Daria Niccolodi)and his other employees begin their own investigation to uncover the identity of the killer…but what Neal doesn’t realise is that someone, an ex-lover, Jane (Veronica Lario) is in pursuit of him, but what is HER connections to killing? Does she even HAVE a connection?

John Saxon – legend.

Tenebrae is the film that saw Argento return to traditional giallo after his sojourn into the supernatural with his previous two films Suspiria and Inferno, two chapters of his so called (and as of early 2006 unfinished) ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy and then right back into it with his next film Phenomena. With its rich exterior shots of some exquisite Italian locations, and an unusually bright palette for a horror film…a lot of the murders take place in broad daylight, Tenebrae is a pleasure to watch. Some really great performances by the actors, and some great bloody effects, particularly a brilliant axe murder.

I must admit that Tenebrae is one of those ‘perfect storm’ horror movies for me. My favourite director, an interesting story, a great soundtrack, a big dash of violence, John Saxon and beautiful Italian women. I honestly think there is only one horror film that is better than this one and that is Re-animator.

Score: *****

The menu for the Arrow Bluray Of Tenebrae.

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow Video multi-region Bluray release from 2011, which runs for approximately 101 minutes. It is presented in a grainy, but clear 1.85:1 and a good mono audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Some amazing extras on this disc, but you’d expect nothing less from Arrow! Before the disc, though, the package contains four options for the cover of the disc, a poster of the new disc art and a booklet about the film written by Alan Jones.

There are two commentaries on this disc, both which are super interesting. The first is with horror journalism legends Kim Newman and Alan Jones, and the other is with screenwriter Thomas Rostock.

Screaming Queen! Daria Niccolodi Remembers Tenebrae is an interesting interview where she talks about her character in this film, and her history in cinema and with Argento.

The Unsane World Of Tenebrae: An Interview With Dario Argento where he talks about his career and Tenebrae.

A composition for Carnage: Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae sees the lead player in the band Goblin and composer (as well as hero of mine) Claudio Simonetti discuss his work on this film and his career.

Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches is footage from 2011 of Claudio Simonetti and New Goblin playing live. I admit I caught them in Sydney in 2015 so seeing this brought back fond memories.

Trailer is, well, the trailer for the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: Tenebrae is one of my favourite films of all time so it gets regularly rewatched, and it should be by you, too!

Sometimes, guests arrive when you are still getting ready.

Mondo Topless (1966)

One from the rewatch pile…

Mondo Topless (1966)

Film: You have to love ‘mondo’ movies! Titilation and cheap thrills disguised as serious documentaries by directors looking for a quick buck for a budget price, because stock footage and not having to pay for actors and special effects is cheap cheap cheap!

The most famous of these mondo movies usually feature animal slaughter, executions and bloodshed designed to disgust/ thrill the viewer… but these are NOT the ones for me. I prefer the soft, less violent films that feature what used to be called ‘the fairer sex’ before that became a totally sexist and outdated term. Now this film is certainly a product of its time, and today this type of film wouldn’t be produced and shown at a mainstream cinema, but when this was produced, these types of films, like Teaserama and others, replaced the ‘men’s’ club burlesque shows.

Every fan of exploitation should have a basic knowledge of Russ Meyer: World War 2 combat photographer who couldn’t get a break making ‘legitimate’ movies, who then moved into cheesecake photography for Playboy, and settled on making films, the way he, a self-confessed ‘titman’, wanted to see them. Over his career he made 23 films, the best known being John Waters’ favorite film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! KILL!

Mondo Topless starts as a travelogue of San Francisco, where a nubile naked wonder drives us around town showing us not just the city sights, but a couple of hers as well!! The footage is narrated by John Furlong, a Meyer regular, who introduces the city and each of the well-endowed women as well. Over the next 60 minutes we are treated to the sights of 15 women, performing pulsating pastiches of gyrating go-go, irresistible writhing and thrilling thrusting. The film travels to Europe, visiting various strip joints around the world with accompanying footage of dancers from each country. Also as an added bonus, some stock footage of Lorna Maitland, star of Meyer’s film ‘Lorna’, is also seen in random scenes, showing off her ample assets. The display of dynamic dames with dominating domes is not all the film is about though, each of these marvelously blessed misses has a lot to say about the troubles in their lives: the curse of curvaceousness, their opinions towards men who find them sexy or exciting, what they think of the problems in South America, and the threat of the Cuban missile crisis… Ok, so maybe they DON’T discuss some of those subjects, but at times, their now-dated opinions are hilarious, and to a younger viewer, possibly quite scandalous!

Now rest assured this is no soft core or hard core pornography… no no no!! It is pure go-go, GO!!! This is low-priced kicks at their finest, and filmed by King Leer, the Fellini of the sex industry himself: Russ Meyer, you know these women are going to be filmed at obscure angles aimed to excite!! Not all of the footage in this flick was filmed for this flick; some of it comes from Meyer’s 1963 Europe in the Raw feature, which was essentially the same film, but with only European performers in it. The surf guitar soundtrack is supplied by The Aladdins and is a classic example of its type, to be sure!!

Even though this was banned when it first was released in many countries, it is quite tame by todays ‘pornographic standards’… which I guess is an oxymoron, but you, dear reader, know what I mean!!

I would like to end this review with a quote from Meyer himself which sums up the film perfectly: ‘nothing is obscene providing it is done in bad taste’.

Score: **1/2

Format: This film was reviewed using the Arrow DVD release which is presented in an average 4:3 image that does contain a bit of grain and an occasional artefact. The audio is present in 2.0 stereo and isn’t special but the era of the film, and type of film don’t really lend itself to needed high quality sound.

Score: **

Extras: There is a bunch of really cool extras on this disc, not a huge amount, but a decent set… um… of extras… anyway:

Trailer Reel features trailers for Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Blacksnake, Mudhoney, Vixen, Wild Gals of the Naked West, Supervixens, Beneath the Valley Of The Ultravixens, Cherry, Harry & Rachel and Common-Law Cabin, which is a pretty fair overview of Meyer’s output, though a trailer for ‘Lorna’ was conspicuous by its absence.

Photo Gallery is 18 promotional pics from the film, and whilst I am normally not a fan of this sort of thing, it does show the advertising campaign for the film.

Johnathon Ross: Interview with Russ Meyer sees a very young Johnathon Ross (from 1988) interview the master himself, taken from his series of docos ‘The Incredibly Strange Film Show’. It runs for about 40 odd minutes and is a nice look at his history and a selection of his films. Also featured in this doco are Tura Satana, Roger Ebert and Malcom McClaren.

Score: ****

WISIA: Like all of Meyer’s films it’s not one to sit around and watch with the family, but I have to admit to having seen it several times but not due to the boobs: the dialogue is occasionally hilarious and the lounge music soundtrack is pretty awesome.

The Slayer (1982)

One from the to watch pile…

The Slayer (1982)

Film: Even though I am taking this from the ‘Re Watch Pile’, I am actually regarding it as a ‘To Watch Pile’ contender as the only way I have seen it before was on a pretty awful DVD release from the UK from several years ago. I remember seeing the video cover at my local video shop, but never got to hire it as there must have been some other horror fan in my area who totalled bogarted this tape and no one else EVER got to watch it. He’ll, I even had a copy of the poster hanging up in my bedroom as a kid.

The Slayer was written and directed by J.S. Cardone, who also gave us Puppetmaster and the remake of Prom Night, and co-written by Bill Ewing, who also produced the film.

Artist Kay Church (Sarah Kendall) has always had nightmares, and she exorcises the images from them through her art. On the eve of an important art show, her husband David (Alan McRae), brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) and his wife, Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook), decide to take her away to a secluded island to rest and relax and wind down after the child up to the show.

Once on the island, though, Kaye gets a weird feeling like she has been there before, even though the island is mostly abandoned during the off tourist season, and she starts to recognise places on the island that she has painted from her memory.

Kaye feels off the whole time on the island, and when her husband goes missing, things begin to unravel.. has she actually been here before or has she been getting premonitions about the place that feel like a warning, and when the deaths start happening, who, or what is responsible….

For its time, The Slayer is unusual as the trend was really mainly sexy, slutty teens being killed and this clearly features adults in peril. It also doesn’t feature a murder event ten minutes to keep the short attention spanned audience interested either, and instead slowly tells a story of a woman who may be descending into madness.

I really like this movie. It’s not just a good watch, it’s also a charming document of the time (smoking in a 6 seater Cessna is something no-one under 30 could even comprehend, let alone pass by without a complaint to the management) and has some pretty creepy bits in it, and a left field ending that in lesser hands could potentially have not worked, but actually works really well within the context of the universe the film exists in.

Score: ****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Arrow Video multiregion Bluray, and is presented in a nicely restored 1.78:1 image with a decent Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It was nice to actually SEE this film for the first time and not on some terribly mastered DVD.

Score: ****

Extras: It’s an Arrow Video release, so you expect there to be HEAPS of extras, and there is!

First, the film is available here on both a Bluray and a DVD version, and the packaging has a reversible sleeve, one with an original image from the film, and the other by Justin Osbourn, which is amazing! There is also a booklet with articles by film historian Lee Gambin and Arrow’s Ewan Cant.

Nightmare Island: The Making Of the Slayer is an exhaustive almost hour long documentary about the making of the film and a great mix of talent are interviewed for it, including writer/ director Cardone, actress Kottenbrook, production executive Eric Weston and a bunch of others. It is a fascinating look at the whole process with some interesting anecdotes from all involved.

Return to Tybee: the Location Of The Slayer is a look at Tybee Island, where the film was made, today. The best thing is in the film there us a dilapidated old cinema which has been restored to its former glory, and enjoying a showing of The Slayer.

The Tybee Post Theatre Experience features the screening mentioned above (which can be watched on this disc with the sound of the audience played as well), and also has a speech from Arrow’s Ewan Cant and a Q&A with the films DoP Arledge Armenaki.

There is a stills gallery which is a slideshow with a combination of behind the scenes stuff and stills from the film, with the soundtrack played over the top.

There is a trailer.

Finally, there is a commentary with Cardone, Weston and Kottenbrook, another one with The Hysteria Continues (a horror podcast from the UK), an isolated composer score track with accompanying interview and finally a repeat of the Tybee Post theatre audio track!

Score: *****

WISIA: As I mentioned, I’d only ever seen this as a pretty poor quality DVD which was a chore to watch, but now I’ve seen it in this cleaned-up version, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back.

Future Shock! the Story Of 2000AD

One from the re watch pile…

Future Shock! the Story Of 2000AD (2014)

The cover of Arrow Video’s release of Future Shock

Film: Truly, the best comic fans I know are the ones who grew up with the English comic, 2000AD. Sure, like many comic fans, I bought Marvel and DC as a kid, but these companies had (and still have) ‘style guides’ and even though we like to think we like one artist over another, the companies control the look to fit a company wide aesthetic… even Jack Kirby whilst he worked at DC in the early 70s had the heads of Superman that he drew redrawn by Curt Swan, an artist who probably drew Superman MORE than anyone else, ever!

I think if I had have been Kirby I would have been totally insulted and would have told them to stick their job right up their Hall of Justice.

2000AD was a totally different animal.

2000AD is a science fiction comic which celebrates the diversity of writing and art and within a single weekly issue, you were treated to at least 4 different artist and story teams, telling stories from all of the galaxy, and very rarely from the superhero sub-genre. It introduced the world to characters like Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Bad Company, Rogue Trooper and Slaine, just to name a few. It was more like the French comic Metal Hurlant (which is known in the English speaking world by its ‘other’ name Heavy Metal) mixed with an London punk attitude which shouted ‘UP YOURS’ to authority.

Creator of 2000AD, Pat Mills speaks of its origins.

It interesting to point out that even DC realised that maybe they could do something different, something that didn’t have a style guide, and came up with the comic line Vertigo in the 90s which abandoned the strict Comic Code Authority restrictions and made a comic line truly for adult comic collectors, and by adult I don’t mean it was full of tits and violence… well not, always.

(It’s interesting to point out that Stan Lee experimented with doing more adult comics in the 70s and it always fell short, mainly due to the content still being somewhat juvenile rather than truly ‘adult’. DC’s Karen Berger understood better than Lee as to what adults wanted, stole all of 2000AD’s talent, thrived with Vertigo comics whilst Marvel, in the 90s, highjacked Image comics aesthetic and very quickly almost went into bankruptcy)

That’s enough of the history lesson though, what are we here for? Well, this documentary talks to the brains, the original talent and the past fans who became the talent of the comic, and how it thrived even beyond the time of its name! Future Shock is mainly a talking heads styled documentary but it’s subject is fascinating as the comic truly was a document of the time it was released, which is important for ANY science fiction to be relevant.

Comic legend Kevin O’Neill discusses his involvement in the comic.

A massive amount of the UK’s comic talent pool are interviewed here, from Pat Mills to Neil Gaiman, Brian Bolland to Dave Gibbons, Cam Kennedy to Peter Milligan, Emma Beeby to Lauren Beukes… so many talented people with such interesting things to say about the history of UK comics, their own careers and what was happening historically in the Uk at the time.

The documentary is intercut with some pretty cool animation of the old art, and a decent heavy soundtrack that carries the subject changes along nicely (as an aside, seeing Dredd ACTUALLY punch his fist through Judge Fear’s head may have been one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen).

I’ve watched a lot of comic docos and honestly, I find all of them to be really engaging and definite rewatchers, but this one stands out as being a superstar. It never gets boring, it travels along at quite the clip. If I’m to criticise it at all it’s not due to the makers, but due to writer Alan Moore’s resistance at being interviewed about his craft, and his absence is really quite obvious and unfortunate as his comics that 2000AD published (The Ballad Of Halo Jones and Skizz, just to name a few) are an amazing introduction to his work.

Score: *****

The menu screen for the Bluray Of Future Shock

Format: Future Shocks was reviews on the UK, region B Bluray release which is presented in an excellent, except for archival footage, 1.78:1 image with a perfect LPCM 2.0 audio track, which is fine considering most of the audio is Interview dialogue.

Score: *****

Extras: Arrow have provided a Mega-city full of extras, some of which were made by Arrow Video and are great supplements to the original doco:

Steve MacManus Interview is a 25 minute discussion with MacManus who was the editor of 2000AD from 1979 to 1986 and author of The Mighty One: Life in the Nerve Centre. His reflections on this amazing period for the comic is quite fascinating.

Extended Chapter featurettes just expands some of the discussions in the doco, specifically heap Entertainment” The Appeal Of Comics, Dredd Extended, Dredd 2012 True in Sporit and 2000ad VS The USA.

2000AD Strip Featurettes look at a bunch of different characters through the eyes of the creators, including Bad Company, Tharg’s Future Shocks, Rogue Trooper, Sláine and Strontium Dog.

Art Jam shows some time lapse footage of artists Jock and Henry Flint drawing pictures of Judge Dredd and Nemesis the Warlock.

King’s Reach Tower sees Pat Mills revisit the place where 2000AD was born, King’s Reach Tower.

Soundtrack Studio takes a look at the production of the soundtrack by Justin Graves from Crippled Black Phoenix.

Extended Interviews has more comic knowledge from Mills, Morrison, Gaiman, Gibbons and Berger.

Blooper Reel proves that even in a documentary, people can foul up what they were saying. Special mention goes to the Australian Women’s Weekly for getting a mention.

There is also a teaser trailer and the Uk Launch trailer.

In addition this package contains a booklet with an essay from Pádraig Ó Méalóid about the history

of the comic, some cool art and a few little notes about the disc itself.

Score: *****

WISIA: Seeing as how I love comic documentaries, this will get revisited regularly, especially considering how many extras there are!

The early mock-up of what 2000AD should look like.

Nightmare City (1980)

One from the re watch pile…

Nightmare City aka Incubo Sulla Cittá Contaminata (1980)

Film: We have SO much to thank George A. Romero for. Not only did he give us a bunch of amazing films that have risen above their lowly horror roots, he also generated an entire horror sub-genre that has become so popular it not only appeals to horror fans, but the general public are totally into it as well, as can be seen by the popularity of TV shows like The Walking Dead and even events like the annual Zombie Walks that several cities worldwide get involved it.

After the splatterfest that was Dawn of the Dead in 1978, every producer was looking for an avenue to deliver a zombie movie down, and Italian director, Umberto Lenzi (The Cynic, The Rat and the Fist) was offer a small script to produce.

He realised this script was too short for a feature and didn’t want to just produce a zombie movie that emulated Romero’s, so he created a world where human beings (not zombies) who suffered from nuclear radiation poisoning would end up with a blood disorder that required them to consume the blood of the Living to survive. His ‘zombies’ were more ‘nuclear vampires’.

The story starts with a mysterious airplane landing with no advice to the control tower as to their identity. Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) is a reporter at the airport who goes to deliver a story as to what this mysterious plane is, but when it lands, he, and a bunch of incompetent soldiers, find that the plane is full of these nuclear vampires, who immediately go on a spectacular, unstoppable rampage which doesn’t stop when they are all killed as everyone they bite gets irradiated and turns into another nuclear zombie.

The military, led by General Murchison (Mel Ferrer), is trying to keep a clamp on this news getting into the general public’s hands, but the wave of monsters is seemingly bottomless, and the threat increases exponentially.

Will humanity survive this horrible invasion, or was it just a horrible dream?

This film is dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb, but so enormously watchable because of that. The script is terrible. I remember once reading an article about the economy of cinema and how every scene should move the story forward and if it doesn’t, it should be excised from the script. This film has a weird discussion about a work of art that has absolutely no payoff.

The vampire’s motivations are odd as well. They seem to be smart enough to fly a plane, use a gun, even cut a phone line, but are easily distracted during an important feeding session by a new victim, even though they haven’t ‘finished’ the victim they have off… maybe the love of the hunt is just as important to them and the actual catch.

All in all it’s a pretty stupid film that is so bat-guano crazy at times that it’s hard not to like it. Give it a go.

Score: ***

Format: On this Arrow Bluray release, there is two different versions of this film, the original negative version and the dupe, both are present in 2.35:1 and neither are perfect. The dupe is not very sharp and the negative transfer has several spots where the image has stains on it, but both versions are entirely watchable. The audio is presented in a mono 1.0 and again, isnt fantastic but clear enough.

Score: **

Extras: There’s a great amount of extras on this disc:

There is an interview with Umberto Lenzi which is quite informative, about the production of the film, and how is well-known zombie film, is NOT a zombie film at all!

Maria Rosario Omaggio is also interviewed on this disc and to assist in her English she reads a charming letter to horror fans that she previously prepared.

Hostel and Cabin Fever director Eli Roth talks about the importance of Nightmare City within the history of cinema.

The Limits of Restoration explains the difference between the a negative transfer and a dupe reversal transfer. It is just a text extra with examples, but an interesting look at a process I knew absolutely nothing about! This is accessible here and on the main menu when you are able to choose which version you would like to watch.

There is a Trailer for the film and alternative opening credits, which has the title Attack of the Zombies!

Finally we have a commentary by ex-Fangoria Horror Movie Magazine editor, and Uwe Boll’s punching bag, Chris Alexander, who doesn’t in any hold this film in any way precious, so he’s very honest with his interpretation of it which makes for an amusing commentary.

The Arrow release also has a cool reversible cover, and an interesting booklet on the inside featuring an essay y John Martin, author of the book Seduction of the Gullible.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s as dumb as a box of hammers but it has enough charm to make it a repeat viewer.

Phenomena (1985)

One from the re-watch pile…

Phenomena (1985)

Film: The works of Italian director Dario Argento feature prominently in my top ten horror flicks, because with Tenebrae, Suspira and Phenomena he really appeals to my internal, and occasionally external horror nerd. His ability to make violence look like a beautiful choreographed dance has always amazed me, though in his more recent films, he seems to have lost it.

Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) is a young girl who starts at a Swiss boarding school in a town where several murders have taken place. The investigators have employed a local Entomologist Professor, John McGregor (Donald Pleasance), who is assisting them with his knowledge of the time of death on the victims using the lifespan of the various bugs that consume rotting flesh. Jennifer, as it turns out, is quite special and has the uncanny ability to communicate with insects, and this gift may be able to help the investigation move forward. Her power though puts the investigation closer to the murderer, and puts her at great peril.

As the synopsis would suggest, Phenomena falls among Argento’s supernatural work, like Suspiria or Inferno but with elements of his giallo, like Tenebrae or Sleepless.

In this picture, Argento has created a bizarre world with quite possibly the most unusual plot within his output, which features bugs, serial killers, a chimp and a mutant just for good measure. The locations and camerawork are wonderful to watch. The treatment that Arrow have given the film really shows just how beautiful the camerawork is as the presentation is crisp and pure. There are some stunning tracking shots, and the opening exterior shot (you know the film, of the girl missing the bus) is just perfect. That’s not to say the interiors are inferior, as they too, look magnificent. When Argento gets to stage a scene how he wants to see it, he really is at his best.

The cinematography is typically excellent Argento, but what is a surprise is the quality of the performances he gets from the actors, which has occasionally been his downfall. The acting in Phenomena is mostly of a particularly high standard, with Connelly, Pleasance and regular player Daria Niccolodi being the stand-outs. Actually, Connelly needs to be commended in particular as Argento really puts her through her paces as an actress and as a performer, with some physical work that most actors would flatly refuse.

The soundtrack is another high point. Goblin are on top of their game with this film, and the addition of other artists makes for a great audio experience.

Phenomena is a brilliant piece of, not just Italian cinema, but of cinema in general, and I simply can’t recommend it enough. Not having this in your collection is a crime worthy of having your head pushed through a glass window.

Score: *****

Format: The film is presented in 1.66:1 and is nothing short of spectacular: sharper than a film reviewers wit! Occasionally the image does lose some of its clarity, but I assume that is due to this most complete film getting some of its material from varied sources. The audio on this disc is in LPCM 2.0 and is as fine as it could ever get, I believe. The actual film content changes from English to Italian or German and back but it remains clear throughout, and is appropriately subtitled when the language changes. The music track is a must for fans of soundtracks too, with music from Bill Wyman, Motorhead and Iron Maiden… not to mention Goblin, on it.

This Arrow BD release of Phenomena is something of a revelation to me, as I had previously only seen it as the disastrous edit Creepers or the somewhat visually lacklustre Umbrella DVD release. There is no doubt this version both looks and sounds the business.

Score: ****

Extras: There are some great extras for Argento enthusiasts on this disc courtesy of High Rising Productions. Typically they are all interesting and I reckon even the most stalwart of fan will come away with something new

Dario Argento’s Monkey Business: The Making of Phenomena is a retrospective look at the making of the film with Argento, actress Daria Argento, visual effects Luigi Cozzi, cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia and special effects Sergio Stivaletti. Most of this is is subtitled Italian.

Music For Maggots: Claudio Simonetti Remembers Phenomena sees Goblin’s Simonetti recall details of the musical selections for this film.

Creepers and Creatures: Sergio Stivaletti Live Q&A Sessions is a Q&A hosted by High Rising Productions Calem Waddell with the Italian special effects master. The sound is somewhat muddy but some of the harder to hear comments are subtitled.

This BD edition from Arrow also has a double sided poster of the film, and a booklet with a piece by Alan Jones in it… I imagine it is not 2GB’s Alan Jones though. Also, as with many of Arrow’s BD release, this film comes with four different covers for the cardboard slipcase.

I must admit to wishing the filmclip Valley by Bill Wyman and Terry Taylor was included, like on the aforementioned Umbrella release, but you can’t have everything.

Score: *****

WISIA: Being one of my favourite horror films, it gets rewatched regularly and I love it! You will too! As I stated earlier, this film is a standard in my top ten favourite films, and this release is the best I have seen. A horror fan’s must have!