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!

The Mutilator aka Fall Break (1984)

One from the to watch pile…
The Mutilator aka Fall Break (1984)

The cover to Arrow Video’s The Mutilator


Film: 80s slashers are totally my jam. I mean, love zombie films, and I totally dig schlocky action crap, and adore a low-budget scifi drama, love a big budgeted superhero film, but give me a slasher over any of those, any day of the week.

Slashers are my bacon, my ice cream, my chocolate. They are sex mixed with candy.

You get the point: I’m a little keen on them.

Anyway, during the VHS era, I watched hundreds of slashers, that is I had my favourite films that I repeatedly watched over and over, but I always jumped on a new slasher whenever a new one came into the video store I worked in.

This however, was one that passed me by, and I don’t recall ever seeing anything about it anywhere. I baulked at it when Arrow first offered it up, but picked it up cheaply via a sales website as I figured ‘it’s cheap, what the Heck?’

The Mutilator: Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler) contemplates his beer.


The Mutilator tells of Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler) who as a child was cleaning his father’s Big Ed’s (Jack Chatham) guns as a birthday pressie for him, when one accidentally discharged and blew a whole in dear old mother.

Big Ed, a hunter and all round manly sportsman, never quite got over it, and many years later, when Ed Jr is about to go on fall break, he contacts his son and ska him to go and close up their holiday condo on a small island, but does he have ulterior motives to get his son on an abandoned holiday island? And what will happen to the bunch of friends who accompany him?

The Mutilator: hunt, kill, repeat.


This film is directed by Buddy Cooper and John Douglass, from a script by Cooper: both of whom were ‘one and done as far as directing is concerned. This might have something to do with just how terrible the performances of the actors are, but that might have more to do with their skill (or absence of) than Cooper’s as his actual cinematography is actually quite good. Some of the scenes are corny though, and I mean, the Madman jacuzzi scene corny, that may be more to do with the accompanying score for what are supposed to be cutesy lovey dovey parts of the film, and the title track is something you’ll come to loathe, but that’s more because it features heavily on the menu screen… looped.

There is also some absolute stupidity in the film too which I imagine was perceived as being ‘comedy’ but comes of as out-of-place here, especially when you consider just how nasty some of the violence is… and there is some lady-parts that are just horribly done-over!!

None of what I have said should necessarily be taken as a wholehearted negative though, as this film is kitschy enough to be enjoyable in one of those eye-rolling, forehead-slapping ways. 

Score: ***1/2

Arrow’s animated, and audibly annoying menu screen for The Mutilator


Format: This UK Arrow films bluray release of The Mutilator runs for approximately 86 minutes and has a nicely restored, though occasionally artefacty 1.78:1 image with an excellent Mono 1.0 audio track, apparently retired from ‘original vault materials’ in 2k.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Before the films starts you have an option to start the film with an introduction from Cooper and make up/ editor assistant Edmund Ferrell. 

Typically, Arrow offer alternate cover for the bluray, and a booklet with essays about the film by Ewan Cant and Tim Ferrante, which are both informative and enjoyable.

Fall Breakers is a feature lengthen documentary/ retrospective about the making of the film. If only every release had something like this.

Tunes for the Dunes sees composer Michael Mainard talk about the films score. It’s an interesting look at the creation of tension and other filmic emotions using music.

Behind the Scenes reel is about 15 minutes of stuff that happened on set.

Screen Tests is just that, some screen tests of the Stars of the film.

There are two audio commentaries on this disc. The first one is labeled as ‘Cast and Crew’ and is hosted by Ewan Cant from Arrow video, with Cooper, Douglass, Mitler and Ferrell, and it’s a nice and informative commentary, well led by Cant. The other commentary is hosted again by Cant, and with Cooper again, but this time with final girl, Ruth Martinez.

Opening scene storyboards is a pretty cool look at the pencil sketches done to work out how the beginning of the film was going to look. It’s done to the audio of the opening scene of the film to give it clarity.

Trailers and TV Spots is a series of promotional bits for the film, some as Fall Break and some as The Mutilator.

There is an alternate opening title sequence with the title card of the Mutilator on it.

The is an option called ‘music’ which allows you to hear the title track from the film, but you hear it over and over on the menu screen, so it’s doubtful if you make it all the way through. It’s performed as both the original and as an instrumental only.

Gallery is a stills gallery of behind the scenes shots, but the song that by now you absolutely hate is being played again. I’m not normally a fan of stills galleries but this has some pretty cool behind the scenes images.

Score: *****

WISIA: 80s? Slasher? Hell yeah!

The Mutilator: put your toys away!!!

Nerds of Oz: Week Ending 6th January 2017

Week Ending 6th January 2017
Happy New Year, everyone, from the TWP and from the Nerds of Oz. Sales were continuing this week, so a bit of crap was grabbed!
Comics


Only managed to read a couple before this post, so only a few gets proper commentaries.

Batgirl #6 from DC Comics.

Harley’s Little Black Book #5 from DC Comics.

Justice League VS Suicide Squad #2 from DC Comics. I had to grab this variant cover one as I love Terry Dodson’s work, maybe as it’s slightly derivative of Adam Hughes’.

Teen Titans #3 from DC Comics.

Titans #3 from DC Comics.

READ! Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #3 from Marvel Comics. Writer Robbie Thompson and artist Javier Rodriguez have sculpted an amazing story here where the Sorcerers Supreme through time are banded together to fight one evil. It’s a pretty cool tale focusing on a Native American character who is possessed by the Spirit of Vengeance from Ghost Rider.

READ! Hulk #1 from Marvel Comics. Wow! Occasionally a comic comes along that changes your perspective about comics, and this is one of those. Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk, has discovered that her cousin Bruce, the Incredible Hulk has been killed by a friend, Hawkeye during the second superhero civil war, a war that left her in a coma. She’s better now, but having trouble adjusting to being a regular person again, and resisting ‘Hulking out’. This is a story about loss and trauma, and making an attempt to restart your life, even though you are no longer the same person. Incredible storytelling, and subtle art.

Infamous Iron Man #3 from Marvel Comics.
Blurays and DVD


Grabbed an Australian DVD called ‘Red Billabong’ which looks bloody awful, but it’s Australian, so I thought I’d give it a go. Actually, I was wrong, it’s pretty good but has some ordinary CGI.

On bluray I grabbed the Australian release of The Hallow, based on a trailer I saw on the All Through The House Bluray. From Shameless Screen Entertainment I grabbed The Church and The Sect, and from Arrow Video I scored Hell Comes to Frogtown and The Guyver. Don’t Breathe was from last week, but cheekily made its way into this pic!


At the last minute, I also grabbed a steelbook of Stephen King’s IT!
Books


A ‘Strange’ week this week! See what I did there? I grabbed the Art of the Doctor Strange movie book, and one of the D&K encyclopaedias of Dr Strange!


Also I grabbed an awesome book about my favourite types of films, Euro horror, called Euro Gothic by Johnathon Rigby. 
Toys


Many years ago a had a full set of the Justice action figures until my Superman and Brainiac figures suffered from a little water damage, and now I have at least been able to replace the Superman one! I also have a Justice Society Superman one which has suffered the same fate, and I spend my days searching.

This other is a Figma Archetype Next: [she] which I intend on using as a model for drawing. I have been thinking of doing a comic again, and thought this would be a good idea to use as a model for it… and it’s cool!

Video Game Stuff


I grabbed Titanfall 2 when it first came out, but didn’t want to make the investment of $400 odd bucks to grab this helmet… thankfully, the Boxing Day sales continued and this, helmet only, not the game and other stuff, I managed to grab for $65. I’m as happy as I could be, this thing is awesome, and goes nicely with my Assassin’s Creed Hidden Knife and my Gears of War gun!